As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce Or Breakup” I had the pleasure of interviewing Prestell Askia. Prestell is The Couples Cure™ Lady. She is an award winning author and has dedicated more than 25 years to finding solutions for committed couples that struggle in their relationships. During her conversations with hundreds of couples, Prestell uncovered the critical solutions to help you and your partner resolve relationship challenges, such as communications, sex, money issues and how to enjoy healthy, fulfilling relationships. By using The Couples Cure™ Book, Mastering the Art of Relationships in 7 Easy Steps, you can easily transform your life.
#1. Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Human relationships have been a passion and career path that beckoned me for decades. My internal GPS and basic personality have always motivated me to ask questions about people, life and the greater good for humankind.
Frankly, I’ve innately known — since I was a young girl — that my curiosity for human engagement would ultimately guide me to a career that enabled me to inspire, train and help transform people to live their best life. Although I was unable to identify where my career path would take me… I knew what I had, what I felt and what I wanted to offer was truly a gift; even though it was unidentifiable at the time. That dormant gift simply needed to be cultivated and given the opportunity to blossom into special talents to help other people.
I realized that relationships played an integral part in one’s mental stability and health and well being. I also started to ask questions, take serious note and become aware of the relationships in my family, friends, neighbors, and anyone with whom I came in contact. That realization developed into a conscientious effort to capture the essence of healthy, fulfilling relationships.
My humanities education and degree in Public Administration from UCLA, the 19 years in leadership positions I held with major aerospace firms and the launch of my consultant firm in 2002 also played a significant role in the prep for my current career as an author, innovative training professional and life and relationship coach.
In retrospect, I now know it was that curious personality that led, NO… drove me, to ask the following three questions about human life: 1) What are the primary characteristics necessary for healthy relationships; 2) What differentiates people who have and enjoy a fulfilling life from those who are unhappy, and 3) What is needed to achieve both?
#2. Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about “divorce“?
My expertise, training, and authority come from the ultimate resource — individuals and couples that have been there and done that — when it comes to divorce and/or who knows what it takes to preclude divorce. In addition to my certification in Life Coaching, my competence and SKAs (skills, knowledge, and abilities) come from conversations, discussions, and interviews with more than 500 people over the course of 30 years in various stages of healthy, happy relationships, single/unattached, those in unhappy partnerships and/or divorcees. Included in that vast cross-section of individuals and couples were those who are happily married between six months and 68 years, those who have divorced and/or those in prior committed relationships, now severed because their challenges and issues in the partnership could not be repaired. Those 500 plus people also represent people who are young, old, straight, LGBTQs and individuals from every racial and ethnic group imaginable — ensuring that my data and conversations included representation and experiences across all human platforms. This diverse cross-section of people who willingly shared their experiences, opinions and perceptions about the pros cons of divorce and how to avoid it has enabled me to truly become immersed in the topic of fulfilling human relationships (or the lack thereof); hence, enabled me to garner the most effective authority possible — empirical data from experienced individuals.
#3. Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
One of the most interesting stories that I encountered since starting this career was a conversation I had on an airplane with a woman who told me about the demise of her marriage. She gave me a vivid description of the events that eventually lead to her divorce. She educated me on what she called “chipping away at her marriage.” Her story follows:
I was on a Delta Flight from Washington D.C. to San Francisco. I brought up the topic of relationships with the delightful lady sitting in the seat next to me. When I asked her opinion about the three elements that make for a healthy, fulfilling relationship, the subject of communications surfaced. After several minutes of discussing her top three elements that make a healthy and fulfilling relationship, I paused as I asked, “Norma, why was the art and science of communications so important to you and your former marriage?”
As she shook her head, she said: “Note the use of former marriage, had my husband and I understood the fine art and delicate science of effective communications between two people in a committed relationship, we’d probably still be together now. That was the primary thing that destroyed our relationship. It also destroyed our respect for one another.”
As she looked at me, her eyes welled with tears. She became very emotional. I could feel the pain in her heart as she said, “My husband and I chipped away at the one thing we had and shared together — we chipped away at our bond until there was nothing left.”
“What do you mean?” I interrupted. “Ordinarily, I don’t stop my interviews mid-sentence, but I can clearly see you’re upset. Would you like some water? Or a tissue?”
“No, I’ll be fine. As I look back and analyze my marriage and the reasons for its demise, I realize that hindsight is twenty-twenty. I can see clearly now. Long ago I acknowledged that the real cause of our failed marriage was chipping.”
“Chipping?” I asked as I tilted my head with a curious look on my face. “What exactly is chipping? And how and why did chipping play such a significant role in your marriage?”
She paused, and painstakingly said, “Chipping is the process of whittling away, cutting out little chips of your marriage — like an artist who chips away at a piece of wood until she creates a fine artifact or carved statue. Actually, it’s the process of cutting away at the very fabric of your relationship and whittling down to the delicate fibers that hold the relationship together until there is literally nothing left.”
“Can you give me examples of chipping?” “Oh yes,” she confessed, “I can share plenty about chipping. Seems every time my husband and I would get into arguments, we would not only quarrel about the issue at hand, but we’d also complain about things that had absolutely nothing to do with the immediate subject. Invariably, those arguments were the beginning of the end of our marriage.” I continued, “How does chipping relate to the end of your marriage? Are you suggesting that ‘chipping’ was the one thing that was a deal breaker and, if eliminated, could have saved your marriage?” Norma responded, “Yes! That was the one thing I would have changed! The way we quarreled, name calling, and showing little respect for one another was the catalyst that whittled away at our marriage one argument at a time.”
#4. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson did you learn from that?
Early in my aerospace career, I met and had a scheduled interview with a short, rotund, white man in his sixties with a reseeding hair line — blue eyes, blond hair. Needless to say, as a young, African American female who grew up in the greater Los Angeles area, I assumed (much to my chagrin) like most people, that he looked to be a stereotypical, right winged conservative. Turns out he was quite the opposite. We would become fast friends and professional colleagues.
He was not only a champion but an advocate for me and was instrumental in my upward mobility and career advancement. We remained friends until his death. I will always hold much appreciation for Richard A. Sampson (aka RAS to his family and friends). The powerful lesson I learned, goes back to that adage… “don’t ever judge a book by its cover.”
#5. If you had a close friend come to you for advice after divorce, what are the five things you would advise in order to survive and thrive after the divorce? Can you please give a story or example for each?
We don’t live in a fairytale world. We know the statistics of broken relationships. If all relationships were salvageable, the U.S. divorce rate would be significantly lower than the current 50+% for first-time marriages, 67% for second marriages and a whopping 74% divorce rate for third marriages. Other data is often unavailable or inconsistently tracked on the breakup statistics for long-term, un-married and committed life partners, e.g., heterosexual and homosexual partners who are single and live together, and other couples who dedicate themselves as life partners yet do not live together.
Regardless of percentages or lack of data, painful human emotions are often the net result of broken relationships. In addition, we all know couples that break up or go through a bitter divorce and hold contempt for each other the remainder of their lives.
Life is short. Healthy options are available. We have choices when the decision is made to separate or divorce. These remedies and survival tips have both short and long-term benefits. A key factor to the selection process is to minimize suffering and self-inflicted pain. Each progressive step is designed to ensure self-preservation, misery avoidance and helps to maintain sanity when you go through the process of a relationship breakup. The following are my five tips for wholesome alternatives for letting go, having no regrets and appreciating the relationship experience. Equally important, these tips ultimately provide a path to allow you to thrive after dissolution and/or divorce:
Step 1. Acceptance. Accept your relationship as it is, not as you wish it to be.
Not everyone is supposed to be in a committed relationship or married.
Loving from a distance is ok.
Understand that acceptance and forgiveness are more beneficial to you as a giver vs. the recipient of acceptance or forgiveness.
Step 2. Appreciation. Assess the positive aspects of your relationship.
Obviously, there were reasons you got together and/or married.
List the positive aspects of your relationship.
Do not focus on the negative. Appreciate what you had and understand that not all partnerships are not healthy, fulfilling relationships. Sometimes you and your spouse, partner, lover are better off just being friends.
Step 3. Decide on Self-Preservation. Release the relationship and embrace self-love and the preservation of your sense of self-worth.
Just because you love someone does not mean they are good for you.
“Self-preservation is the first law of nature,” as expressed by Samuel Butler. Protection, maintenance, and love of/for your mind, body, and spirit are essential to your survival and happiness.
If you don’t care about yourself, no one else will.
Cultivate the courage to stand in your own light and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are worthy of love and fulfillment regardless of breakups in your relationships.
Step 4. Let Go. Have No Regrets. Appreciate the Experience.
When a break-up or divorce occurs, let it go. Have no regrets and appreciate the experience.
Don’t get even. Don’t get mad. Let it go. You’re better than that.
Remember…in both life and relationships, according to the words of Haruki Murakami, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”
Control what you can. Let everything else go. Take the high road of appreciating the experience.
Make the commitment to start a new chapter in your life and take action immediately.
Step 5. Get Help If/When Needed.
On occasion, you may need additional help navigating the process of letting go. Even though you may not require a licensed clinician, psychologist or psychiatrist, you may want additional assistance. Know that confidential life and relationship coaches along with religious and spiritual guidance counselors are always available as additional resources.
#6. What are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?
The most common mistakes people make when they divorce or terminate a committed, unmarried relationship are:
Developing disdain or dislike for a former partner. To avoid this common mistake — although easier said than done — take the high road in relationships. Let the past go, appreciate whatever you enjoyed together as a couple and move on with your life. Take the approach that you’ll enter a new phase in your life with a new attitude.
Harboring mistrust for potential, future partners; thereby precluding the development of healthy relationships. While we all realize that not all relationships will last forever, it’s is also important to accept people for who they are; life happens and couples divorce. Just because your former spouse cheated on you or had an affair does not mean that every potential or future partner is not trustworthy. Trust and respect within a relationship is an essential element for committed, healthy partnerships. Again, easier said than accomplished. However with effort and sometimes assistance from professionals, it is possible to regain a level of confidence and trust in future relationships.
Using children as pawns. One of the most horrific ploys divorced partners use in an attempt to punish or control their former partner is to use children as control mechanisms. This cunning action results in adverse impact for not only the divorced persons but may well have unknown, long-term consequences and psychological impact on children for years to come.
Failure to learn from the lessons of divorce. With each experience comes a lesson. Divorce is no different. We should all appreciate the lessons learned from divorce. Ideally, the most beneficial gift you can take away from a divorce is first to identify and analyze the lessons learned and secondly, apply the resulting wisdom gained from divorce as you move forward in life.
#7. Do you have any favorite books, podcast, or resources related to this topic that you would like to recommend to our readers?
The inspirational book by Don Miguel Ruiz, “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom” is the epitome of life lessons to live your life by. His wisdom is short, sweet and truly makes an impact if and when you apply his techniques. The primary purpose of his writings is to rid yourself of self-limiting beliefs that rob you of joy and self-imposed, needless suffering. The abbreviated Agreements below are but a summary of his full text. The four simple philosophies will help you establish your own personal code of conduct and experience new found freedom.
Be impeccable with your word.
Don’t take anything personally.
Don’t make assumptions.
Always do your best.
#8. Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that helped you in this work? Can you share how that was relevant in your real life?
As an author and poet who has a great appreciation for both prose and poetry, to identify just one favorite quote is difficult for me. However, there are a number of favorite life lesson quotes that have had a significant impact on my work in human relationships and personal life. Because I was so moved by a number of inspirational thoughts and quotes that served as a guide for my work and personal life, I compiled many of my favorite classic and contemporary inspirational quotes into my first publication: “Prestell’s Principles for Living Your Life With Purpose: Inspirational Quotes to Live Your Live With Purpose.” A free, pdf version of my book is available to download at The Couples Cure Book website: http://thecouplescurebook.com/#/resources
However, if I ABSOLUTELY must offer a single life lesson quote that helped me in my work and life, it would be “Happiness is an Inside Job” by William Arthur Ward. I have used this quote thousands of times. Simply put, the quote mandates every one of us to take individual responsibility for our own personal happiness; rather than placing that burden on their partner or someone else. The quote also ensures that if you are not quite pleased with your given set of circumstances, then it’s up to you to initiate change or modify your situation to gain the happiness you so righteously deserve.
#9. Are you working on any new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, I’m currently working on two projects specifically designed to help people in every aspect of their lives.
The first project is a book. “Sex And The Workplace: The Good, The Bad, The Evil” along with interactive, companion training will address the nuances of sex with coworkers. Sex And The Workplace boldly speaks the candid truth about romantic relationships, intimate flings, sexual exploitation and assault in the workplace. This easy to read publication is the much-needed handbook for what’s right, what’s wrong and what’s evil about sex — solicited or not — between men and women who work together. Consider Sex And The Workplace the ultimate source for culture changing guidelines in any industry.
Not all relationships are wrong. To be clear, history has shown that many wholesome relationships and ultimately marriages begin with two people who cultivate a relationship in the workplace. These couples were all employed with the same company or law firm. Some had challenging starts because of the awkwardness of conducting a professional relationship during business hours while also maintaining an interpersonal relationship after hours.
Notable healthy partnerships include prominent couples such as former U.S. President Barack and Michelle Obama, humanitarians Bill and Melissa Gates, and marketing power couple Michael and Olga Willard.
At the opposite end of its spectrum are those relationships that are ill-formed, abusive and sometimes downright evil. It’s these putrid associations, typically initiated by powerful people in a position of dominance. Sex And The Workplace will delve into all aspects of both the former, healthy relationship as well as the following power-driven encounters.
Both the book and the training will address how to deal with the nuances of relationships and sex in the workplace — from an individual and corporate standpoint.
The decision to write the book is driven by the dire need to craft guidelines for people who work together to understand the good, bad and evil of interpersonal relationships in the workplace.
This relevant and timely publication will make a clear distinction between healthy, romantic relationships in the work environment and those encounters that are unhealthy and/or evil.
The second project is a series of fun, progressive soft skills training courses that will help people address their hidden cultural biases. The purpose of this training is to help personnel in any area of public or customer service become more culturally competent with a focus on intelligent civil engagement when interacting with others.
Most people don’t realize they have personal biases. Our personal biases, likes and dislikes impact our values and ultimately our behavior. The fact is, as human beings, we all have personal biases. Because we are emotional beings, we have preferences and partialities. Why? Our prejudices are innate; we can’t avoid them. Our personal biases are in our DNA — part of our basic human nature.
However, with the proper training and coaching, you can become culturally competent and become more culturally aware to respecting the complexities of cultures, ethnic values, behavior, communication (verbal and non-verbal, male & female protocol, elder behavior, hierarchal family interactions, physical attributes, etc.)
The training will incorporate theory and conceptual ideas, interactive group discussions, case studies and video — all designed to awaken and enlighten attendees to function at a higher level of cultural competency.
#10. Because of the position that you were in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. ????
If I could inspire a movement that would bring the most good to the most people, I would want to inspire, coach and help people recognize and mitigate their personal fears. Why a movement to eradicate personal fears? Because your fears are the most significant inhibitors that prevent you from living a more fulfilled life.
FEAR = False Expectations Appearing Real.
It’s all psychological — yet debilitating. As emotional human beings we are afraid to fail, to lose, to be embarrassed or to speak to someone for whatever reason.
#11. Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this if we tag them ????
I would love to have a private breakfast with President Barak Obama, Michelle Obama, Warren Buffet, Bill and Melissa Gates because of the magnificent accomplishments and philanthropic graciousness to humankind.