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Marry Yourself First: My Marriage to Myself in Guatemala

My solo trip to Guatemala was my first solo trip. I had left my corporate job and was working on my own. I decided to take almost four weeks and journey to Guatemala to find myself after the end of a relationship.  Solo travel after the end of a relationship turned out to be a pattern: I would go and find myself after a relationship ended.  A perfect way to move on and enjoy life fully again! Traveling solo for me is extremely therapeutic.  I’ve met so many amazing men and women, and I’ve seen so many things I would have never seen had I just taken a tour.  Usually on these trips, I would show up with no big plan in mind.  I would “go with the wind,” which felt like the most freedom I had ever had in my life.

During my first solo trip in Guatemala, I was grieving the loss of a recent relationship that was as close to abusive as I have ever experienced. The really good news is that as soon as I knew there was abuse potentially going to happen, I made a decision in that moment that this person was not for me.  I truly had asked the Universe to send me a sign if I should or should not stay with him: Just days later the prelude to abuse occurred.  I was actually fearful of this man, so ending the relationship took a bit of time but was a very healthy step for me.

Young girl looking at the seaI was free, and the land was so rich in Guatemala. During this trip, I was staying at a wonderful hostel location in San Marcos near Lake Atitlan, my favorite place in Guatemala, where I had fun and met a lot of people.  There was a stone sauna, and we would all do a sweat together in a stone house and bond with everyone.  Some people did not wear clothes.   I loved that the level of inhibition is so different and much lower in other countries.

I connected with a very important teacher in Guatemala.  Hugh, a man from Australia, and I made an instant connection. It was like I had known him forever—and he was certainly a teacher for me. The small town of San Marco was having a fair, and there was a ferris wheel we decided to ride.  We were stuck at the top for awhile, and his friend yelled up to us, “That is how gringos die!” Yes, that ferris wheel was truly beyond old.  I remember yelling to the operator “mas dispacio” (go slower).  I was afraid. But when you travel solo, you really don’t focus on fear as much.  That is part of the freedom.

Hugh would become a part of my self-healing journey. We connected so easily and deeply.  I did not want him to leave, and he invited me to travel with him. I said YES.  We decided to travel to a beautiful waterfall with amazing pools, Semuc Champey, Guatemala.  Hugh got sick before our trip was to leave, so I went ahead riding in the back of an old truck the entire bumpy, dusty road to this magical place.  I really hoped that Hugh would join me.  I waited, and he finally showed up but was still very sick.  Taking very good care of him and feeling so close and connected, I truly felt like his long-term girlfriend. We then decided to head to a place very near Honduras, Livingston. However, once we got there, things started to change. We met an Australian woman with whom Hugh connected, and he chose to spend the day with her. That was my cue to leave.  As I was leaving the next morning on the early boat, I remember Hugh looking me in the eyes and saying to me, “I am sorry. You deserve to be treated better.”  Yes, I did.  Hugh taught me once again that loving myself was the most important aspect of my life at this point.

I had used my limited Spanish and booked the early boat that they over packed by probably 50 people over to Puerto Barios.  I was so scared, and I literally thought to myself, “if I die now, my mom will never know what happened.”  But the boat was the quickest way to get back to Lake Atitlan. Lake Atitlan had become my safe haven.  I was hurting from this experience with Hugh.  I took the boat, a bus and then a chicken bus—yes, there was a chicken—and then a boat all the way back that day.  That was a true feat to make all of those connections! Times like these really allow you to realize your strength. This was a large part of my lesson on this journey.

I had a few days left, so I focused on taking care of me and continued my healing. One night I rented a nice room at a small hot springs in a neighboring town.  I was the only one there and had an idea as I gazed up at the twinkling stars: I did a wonderful little ceremony and vowed to love and respect myself for the rest of my life.  I married myself that evening. I first was married that evening in Guatemala, and I was married to me.

This vow and accompanying ceremony proved to be a turning point in my life.  I knew that I was loved because I loved me. I bought myself a beautiful jade ring on that trip, which I wore as my wedding ring.  I recommend this initial marriage to anyone who is single. We must truly marry ourselves first. It is such a wonderful way to acknowledge our love for ourselves. My journey had truly just begun, but I was finally looking forward to it with anticipation. I realized I had the power to make myself happy.  I am forever grateful to Hugh and all he taught me.

This is an excerpt from Shannon’s new book “In Love With Me: The 7 Self-Love Strategies for Successful Relationships, Parenting and Performance”.

Shannon R. Rios Paulsen MS LMFT (www.inlovewithme.com) has spent the last 12 years learning, writing, and coaching about self-love. She is a professional life coach and a licensed marriage and family therapist. She is the author of two best-selling guided meditations: The Healing Journey Within: Meditations for Abundance and Love, Volume I (Deserving) and Volume II (Manifesting) (bit.ly/meditat3). She also wrote the best-selling book, The 7 Fatal Mistakes Divorced and Separated Parents Make: Strategies for Raising Healthy Children of Divorce and Conflict (www.healthychildrenofdivorce.com).  Shannon lives in Denver, CO with her Swedish husband whom she met on one of her solo self-love journeys in Thailand.

Vamos gringa! Let’s go single women: solo travel is the path to self-love and successful relationships

Traveling solo as a female has been one of the best things I have ever done in my life.  I recommend it to anyone.  In my 30s, when everyone else was getting married and having kids, I decided to love my single life.  When I decided this, everything changed.  I was able to look forward to the wonderful trips I took during those years.   Working on my own, I was always able to set aside 2-3 weeks each year.  It truly does not matter the amount of time but my advice is just do it.  Traveling solo has its highs and lows but when you return, truly you only remember the highs.  I believe this is because you learn so much about yourself that you can only see the trip as positive.  I work now as a life coach and coach women who want to travel solo.  I can not imagine those years single without my constant companion, solo travel!   It helped me learn to love myself more so I could be the best partner possible once I did find that relationship I hoped to create in my life.  My new book  In Love With Me:  The 7 Self-Love Strategies for Successful Partnerships, Parenting, and Performance highlights some of my travels and there will be more books to come dedicated to self-love and my trips!  Solo travel prepared me to think of life as a journey in whatever I do.  I even met my Swedish husband on my “last” solo trip to Thailand, little did I know it would be my last solo trip.  The article below discusses one of my “lows” that turned out to be a “high”.  I encourage you to learn, grow, love yourself and TRAVEL SOLO!

solo healthy single womanI was a 37 year old solo female traveler in Peru.  The previous day I had left my ATM card at the ATM and had missed my upgraded bus.  The 10 hour bus ride was now on the economy bus in Peru.  As we were driving through the middle of a huge, what looked to me like, a desert, the bus had a mechanical issue.  I was the only tourist on this bus, we had been sitting there over an hour and it was growing dark.  I knew a robbery was very possible and I began to feel afraid.  I began to pray and within 15 minutes the bus was moving, however you could tell it was still having issues.  We made it to the nearest town and everyone started getting off the bus.  I have very limited Spanish skills and I had no idea what was going on, when all of a sudden this huge Spanish woman with all of her petticoats looked at me and I am sure sensing my worry and said “Vamos Gringa!”  I knew what that meant, “let’s go white woman!”  She and I were fast friends, even though we could not communicate.  What I have learned from traveling in other countries that I can not speak the language well is that a smile is worth a thousand words.   Once we were safely on another bus, she was very proud of herself for helping me; she was smiling from ear to ear and telling others in Spanish.  I will never ever forget this amazing woman that helped me in a time of complete fear.  As a solo female traveler, I have met so many people along my journey that give me faith in the goodness of others, whom I will never see again.  I want to dedicate this story to all of them and thank them for their kindness and for the difference they have made in my life.  I would not be the person I am now without all of them.  I am so very grateful.

Shannon R. Rios Paulsen MS LMFT (www.inlovewithme.com) has spent the last 12 years learning, writing, and coaching about self-love. She is a professional life coach and a licensed marriage and family therapist. She is the author of two best-selling guided meditations: The Healing Journey Within: Meditations for Abundance and Love, Volume I (Deserving) and Volume II (Manifesting) (bit.ly/meditat3). She also wrote the best-selling book, The 7 Fatal Mistakes Divorced and Separated Parents Make: Strategies for Raising Healthy Children of Divorce and Conflict (www.healthychildrenofdivorce.com).  Shannon lives in Denver, CO with her Swedish husband whom she met on one of her solo self-love journeys in Thailand.

How Can You Love Yourself Today?

In Memory of Leanne

Recently a woman went missing that had lived in Denver.  I saw flyers in my neighborhood.  She had just returned to the US from a 22 month round the world journey.  She was an amazing woman and people were searching for her.  She had actually been in TX staying with family until their home was again ready in Denver.  She and her husband had rented it out while they were on their voyage of love and life.

I read Leanne’s blog from her trip and really connected with her.  She was an amazing spirit.  She and her husband had enjoyed life so fully on that trip.  After she went missing it started to emerge that readjusting back to the US had been stressful for her. 

I understand this feeling, I have traveled outside of the US a lot.  After about 3 weeks I could just stay wherever I am, it feels like so much pressure when you think about returning to your life back in the US.  You can travel and be free and not have to live up to anyone’s expectations.  You don’t have bills to pay, people to answer to, work to do.  It is a wonderful experience that everyone should enjoy.  I have really ever felt more freedom than when I have traveled on my solo journeys.

denver lady photo

However upon return, it can feel stressful.  Leanne went for a walk but actually committed suicide during her hike.  The truth is that on one hand, I truly completely understand.  She loved life, you can see it from this photo.  When you love and feel so deeply it can truly be hard to be on this earth with so many things out of integrity or when you see so much pain.   I know I struggle with this at times, I can not watch the news and I can not watch violent movies ever.  Other people’s pain hurts me at my core.  I can only send prayers and love and light when I hear of a tragedy.

I don’t even want to not honor her by not honoring her choice.  It was the choice she felt was best for her at this time.  We probably will never understand why exactly but we know she was a beautiful spirit. 

However, if you do feel this type of pain, please reach out for love and support.  So many love us and we sometimes can forget that in the depths of pain, fear and anxiety.

In Leanne’s Honor, I simply ask you:  What can you do to love yourself more today?  What can you do to love those you love more today?

What I know is that you are a brilliant bright spirit here to do a lot of amazing work on this planet.  I thank you for being here, reading this blog and remembering the beauty that you are.

You are pure love (close your eyes and breathe into this).

You are pure love (close your eyes and breathe into this).

You are pure love (close your eyes and breathe into this).

Shannon R. Rios Paulsen MS LMFT has spent the last 12 years learning, writing, and coaching about self-love. She is a professional life coach and a licensed marriage and family therapist. She is the author of two best-selling guided meditations: The Healing Journey Within: Meditations for Abundance and Love, Volume I (Deserving) and Volume II (Manifesting). She also wrote the best-selling book, The 7 Fatal Mistakes Divorced and Separated Parents Make: Strategies for Raising Healthy Children of Divorce and Conflict .  Shannon lives in Denver, CO with her Swedish husband whom she met on one of her solo self-love journeys in Thailand.

Parenting & Divorce: Meeting The Needs of Our Children Part 2

See part 1 of this article here: Parenting & Divorce: Meeting the Needs of Our Children Part 1

Role of Parents During Divorce

At the end of this blog post is a tool entitled, The Parent’s Promise and no matter what stage of divorce you are in, some or all of these items will apply to you. This document was written by children of divorce for children of divorce. Please ensure that you are adhering to these promises should you move forward towards the divorce decision. Prior to, during, and after your divorce, when interacting with your children always ask yourself, “Is this behavior helping or hurting my child?”

Your role as a parent is to put your children first. No matter whose choice the divorce was or whose fault it was, one thing is for sure — it was not the choice of the children. We must look out for their best interests during this time.

DiscussionCommunication

Communication is another responsibility of the parent. Depending upon the stage of divorce that you are in, it is very important for you to communicate with your children about this event. In the initial communication to the children, it is optimal if both parents can communicate about the divorce together; however this may not always be possible.

Children are very perceptive and it is best for you to be open and honest with them. It is very important that your children know you are not leaving them and that both of you still love them very much. For further information on communicating with your children about your divorce, please refer to the book, Good Parenting Through Your Divorce by Mary Ellen Hannibal (2002).

The Parent’s Promise

Written by Children of Divorce for Children of Divorce

For the greatest good of my child ______I hereby agree that:

  1. I will not speak negatively about my child’s other parent to my child.
  2. I will not say to my child “that (insert negative behavior or characteristic) is just like your father/mother”.
  3. I agree to not put my child in the middle of issues with their other parent (esp. child support).
  4. I agree to not use my child as a pawn to get back at their other parent.
  5. I agree that if my child’s parent has a new relationship that I will not speak negatively of this other person to my child.
  6. I will not expect my child to support my emotional health.
  7. I will periodically ask my child how they are doing.
  8. I will do my best to fully support my child during this process.
  9. I will allow my child to be a child during this time.
  10. I will seek outside professional counseling if I need to speak with someone about this situation or if I am having difficulty maintaining this agreement.
  11. I agree that if I do not uphold the above promises that I personally am not acting in the best interest of my child’s physical and emotional health.
  12. I will speak with my child’s coach/counselor once a month to gain further insight.

By agreeing to the Parent’s Promise I am accepting responsibility as a parent to provide the best environment possible during this transition for my child. In upholding these promises, I am also acknowledging to my child that they have no fault in this decision that was made by their parents. I am fully committed to the best interest of my child’s emotional and physical health during this time and to their future growth and development.

Honestly and with much love, I commit to this for my child. (Signed, __________)

Copyright Shannon Rios 2002. Reprinted by permission only.

Shannon R. Rios Paulsen MS LMFT (www.inlovewithme.com) has spent the last 12 years learning, writing, and coaching about self-love. She is a professional life coach and a licensed marriage and family therapist. She is the author of two best-selling guided meditations: The Healing Journey Within: Meditations for Abundance and Love, Volume I (Deserving) and Volume II (Manifesting). She also wrote the best-selling book, The 7 Fatal Mistakes Divorced and Separated Parents Make: Strategies for Raising Healthy Children of Divorce and Conflict (www.healthychildrenofdivorce.com).  Shannon lives in Denver, CO with her Swedish husband whom she met on one of her solo self-love journeys in Thailand.

 

Stay tuned as we answer more questions in this series.

Parenting and Divorce: Meeting the Needs of our Children Part 1

Children are a huge source of love in our lives; they can say one sentence, bring a huge smile to our face, and remind us of the innocence of childhood. Children all deserve that time of play, laughter, and fun as they grow up. This blog series addresses what parents and other loved ones can do for children before, during and after a divorce. You can take this information and pass it along or decide to be mentor or positive role model for the children yourself.

happy children feeding ducksChildren are resilient and they will make it through this event. However, I also want you to know that your behavior and the actions you take will have a major impact on your children and their lives. It is very positive that you are reading this blog series. It says that you are curious and that you want to understand how your divorce may impact or has impacted your children.

I have had the opportunity to know many divorcing parents. From conversations with them and research I have done, I identified some questions you may be asking yourself: “What is my role as a parent as I go through this process?” “Why is thinking about the impact of divorce on my children important?” “What might my children be going through during this time?” and “What should I be doing for my children during this time?” I will attempt to answer these questions over the next few weeks.

Why is thinking about the impact of divorce on my children important?

It is very important to put children first during the divorce process. Research suggests that divorce can negatively impact children. We do know for sure that no matter what, divorce creates stress and disruption in children’s lives, which can be minimized if parents take time to understand the impact of divorce on children and what they can do to minimize that impact. In taking time to think about this impact, you are putting your children first.

Parents may not want to think that divorce impacts their children or read blogs such as this one that may invoke feelings of guilt. If this topic does bring up some feelings of guilt, take a minute to realize that taking a step to positively impact your child’s future should never entail any amount of guilt. The long-term benefits to your child will outweigh the feelings of guilt you may have ten-fold. I can tell you with great certainty that if you apply some of the advice put forth in this blog, you will be going a long way in assisting your children through this process.

Divorce is a decision that will impact your family for the rest of your lives. Take a few minutes to understand how you can play a role in ensuring that your children are well taken care of during this process. That is all that they can ask from you or that you can ask from yourself during this time. You have a lot going on, but taking time to think about your children’s needs is probably more important than you could ever imagine.

Shannon R. Rios Paulsen MS LMFT (www.inlovewithme.com) has spent the last 12 years learning, writing, and coaching about self-love. She is a professional life coach and a licensed marriage and family therapist. She is the author of two best-selling guided meditations: The Healing Journey Within: Meditations for Abundance and Love, Volume I (Deserving) and Volume II (Manifesting). She also wrote the best-selling book, The 7 Fatal Mistakes Divorced and Separated Parents Make: Strategies for Raising Healthy Children of Divorce and Conflict (www.healthychildrenofdivorce.com).  Shannon lives in Denver, CO with her Swedish husband whom she met on one of her solo self-love journeys in Thailand.

Stay tuned as we answer more questions in this series.

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