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That courage and dedication you so generously share with the world, has inspired me to push myself a little harder, persevere at each task a little longer, dig a little bit deeper to where the answers just “feel” right to both my humanity AND my spirit. Your insights have reinforced my direction and given me additional tools that help me clear my path. I’m wired into my creativity as never before and the new music is pouring out of me faster than I can record and produce it; this is the Un…
Brenda has truly opened up a space for introverted types on the ‘net, and her self-revelations are always inspiring. Her voice is one I always look forward to. She is one of the writers that actually played a part in my return to writing.  — S.E. of Sunflower Solace Farms
S.E. of Sunflower Solace Farms

“I was struggling with my daughter (16 at the time) and our constant fighting. You said something to me that changed my life! You were speaking about your own situation and you said to me “my child could not handle my emotions”. This was a HUGE “lightbulb moment” for me and it forever changed the way I dealt with my emotions when I was around my daughter!

I am happy to say that things have never been better between my soon to be 18 year old daughter and myself! I honestly never thought we would…

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I met Brenda and took the MBTI… I had a fairly good understanding of these types before the meeting but was impressed by the depth of knowledge that Brenda shared with me. She clearly has a passion for this work and a gift in imparting the information. There have been doors opened for me because of our talks… — Alan Hintermeister
Alan Hintermeister
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This is me. This is me from the day I was born. For so long I felt misunderstood and rejected, even by the people closest to me, because they could never understand my need for solitude, and I had no idea how to explain it to them. Even now that I know more about Introversion and have a more informed understanding of my hard-wired need for solitude, it’s still very difficult sometimes to help my loved ones understand this profound craving for time and space all to myself. This is one of the best…
Your site has saved my sanity and my life. Maybe even my marriage. I work part time and have two young boys at home, my husband is supportive of me but until recently I thought I was going crazy. … Reading your writing not only inspires me to pick up the pen again, but gives me nourishment in the deepest places. I will fight for balance. Everything you write is spot on… And wellness is so incredibly multifaceted.  I was ready to give up hope, but understanding myself through your words is bring…
I think I want to print out your articles and hand them out as a sort of relationship waiver form. “You want to be my friend?….You are interesting in going out? Here read this first. Sign here to acknowledge that you have read and understand the enclosed material. Thank you.” Seriously. I think it would work. — Guerin Moorman
Guerin Moorman
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Living with Negative People: Owning Your Nature and Growing Despite Them

She never even knew she had a choice and that’s what happens
When the only voice she hears is telling her she can’t
You stupid boy

Oh, you always had to be right but now you’ve lost
The only thing that ever made you feel alive

Stupid Boy by Keith Urban, lyrics by Sarah Buxton

It was 2008 and I was in Bay City, Michigan with an old friend. We were at a small venue to see country singer, Jimmy Wayne, perform. The opening act was a virtually unknown singer/songwriter named Sarah Buxton. Her claim to fame was that she had written the song, Stupid Boy, which country star, Keith Urban, recorded on his album Love, Pain and the Whole Crazy Thing. I had never heard the song before, but my friend, knowing the struggles I was going through at the time, said, You’ve got to listen to it. You’ll hear yourself in it. 

Sarah Buxton performed Stupid Boy that night, but before she did she lightly touched on the fact that the song was personal to her and that she was doing her own thing now, no longer held back by anyone.

Stupid Boy has been one of my favorites ever since.

This is not right for me

For four years after that concert, I gathered strength and courage to break out of the ill-fitting life-style I  found myself in. The lifestyle valued income more than fulfillment. Schedules, achievement, conformity and competition were valued more than freedom, kindness, creativity and relationships.

It was a hard place to be vulnerable, open, tender-hearted and loving.

It was a hard place to be me.


My former husband’s leadership style called for compliance over engagement. In our home, there was more criticism than appreciation, thus making it difficult to speak or act freely without fear of judgment. It did not feel safe to make a mistake.

Keeping your guard up is exhausting.

Being an IFP type in Myers Briggs, an introverted feeling type with a deep discomfort with conflict and negativity, I stuffed emotions inside, and slowly built a wall between my husband and me. There was so much stimulation and tension going on inside of me, eating up all of my energy, I could barely demonstrate outward affection. If I wanted to be the woman and mother I wanted to be I knew I had to make a change.

when a flower doesnt bloomHow I tried to fix it

Everyone always says surround yourself with positive people and distance yourself from those who bring you down. That’s not easy when you live with or are related to the ones who bring you down.

I admit to seeking validation and understanding from outside sources, such as my writing group and my guitar teacher. I started doing volunteer work with abused and neglected children. I found kindred spirits and meaningful work away from home.

I felt valuable, understood and downright blissful for the first time. Ever.

Looking back, I realize avoidance and outside emotional attachments were not the best way to handle the situation, but the free benevolent time away from home felt like love.

I also began implementing little rituals at home, like having everyone at the dinner table say what made them happy each day. But five minutes of mindfulness before dinner was not enough to compensate for the berating, inhibited conversation and quick eating that comprised the rest of the meal. I hosted small gatherings at our house and called them inspiration parties. But two hours of warm, open-minded companionship only made the emptiness afterward that much more pronounced.

startseeing yourworth

Not helpless or a victim

I do not mean to make this sound like, Poor me, my life was all suffering and victimhood. 

The truth is, I chose that life, dominant partner and all. I had a beautiful house, a personal trainer and I got to stay home with my children. It felt nice to have someone make decisions, provide financial stability and get things done. I could focus on creating a home. I could foster the emotional and relationship aspects of things.

I chose security, loyalty and a family. All lovely things, but chosen before I knew who I really was.

What I didn’t have was authenticity. I traded that for security and belongingness.

I wanted to spread my wings but my husband was not ready to give up his security. He wasn’t ready for me to grow, to change the picture.

He did not support my volunteer work, downplayed my writing and taught the kids that my way of thinking was ‘hippie talk’.

I was not meeting his expectations. I no longer valued what he provided. I couldn’t appreciate all of the material goods and concrete information he contributed. He probably thought I was the negative one. I’m sure resentment ate him up.

Contempt silently poisoned our home.

It is incredibly defeating when you are not valued for what makes you, you.Bernd Vogel Coris

I became less attracted to and less supportive of him. I  withdrew from his negativity. Our personalities, once complementary, were in daily competition. The conflict wreaked havoc on my sleep and I started to have anxiety attacks. The children undoubtedly felt the tension. We maintained a relationship in that manner for four years.

Grow together or grow apart

I recently watched a webinar by relationship coach and former psychotherapist, Jayson Gaddis. In it, he said the best relationships are ones where the people involved have each other’s backs. Both partners have a growth mindset. They foster growth in their partners and continue to grow themselves.

encourages growth

I had my husband’s back for the first ten years of our marriage, but then I couldn’t do it anymore. My key values — freedom to be yourself, freedom to do meaningful work, harmony over winning— were dismissed. I didn’t feel he had my back. It always felt like a zero-sum game. If I won, he lost and vice versa.

It was hard. Really, really hard.

It would have been easier with mutual support but we could not do that. We could not honor each other’s differences. Our core essences still butted heads. I felt I always lost. My growth felt stunted within the marriage. I had to leave.

 It took awhile for her to figure out she could run
But when she did, she was long gone, long gone

— Stupid Boy, lyrics by Sarah Buxton

Unintentional gifts

We grew apart instead of together but my ex-husband fostered my growth unintentionally. All of the conflict between us — most of it internal — pushed me out of my comfort zone. I learned how to stay engaged and communicate about the tough stuff. I learned (still learning) to own  my way of being and show the kids a different way of living. I became more confident. I wrote more. I started space2live. I found new positive relationships. For those, I am grateful.

I know he’s done growth work too.

Since the divorce, three years ago, my former husband and I still struggle within our co-parenting relationship. In fact, I’ve been up since three this morning mulling over why we are adversarial instead of having each other’s backs. It is a tremendous loss of energy and a huge source of stress. Then I remembered a quote I recently read, Discomfort and pain accompany every transformation.

Stupid boy, you can’t fence that in
Stupid boy, it’s like holdin’ back the wind

Stupid Boy, lyrics by Sarah Buxton

Is there a negative person in your life you can’t escape? Does your partner encourage your personal growth? Do you foster his/hers? Did you trade authenticity for the stability of a relationship?

If this post hit home with you, I would appreciate it if you shared it with your special people.

Thank you,


P.S. I just noticed Keith Urban is playing near me at the State Fair in St. Paul tonight, August 28, 2015. Sweet!

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  1. kath unsworth October 22, 2015 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    This post is so raw and honest, I am blessed to have a partner who celebrates my creativity and encourages me to go for it. And I also do the same for him. But I do know friends who are living with what you have described and sometimes I don’t know how to help them but I just let them vent. Sometimes all they need is somewhere to vent, so they can work it out for themselves. One relative is now free of the anxiety and downward spiral you describe here. She said it feels weird to sit and enjoy her crotchet work without someone coming and ordering her around. I cannot imagine what this must be like. Thank you for your honesty.

    • Brenda Knowles October 22, 2015 at 3:20 pm - Reply

      I worry that this post comes across as too negative. My former husband is a good man overall. He just had a hard time understanding and promoting my interests. I think he has done some major self-discovery (as have I) since our tension-filled married days. We both know better now how to support others with different personalities and passions. Thank you for your thoughtful comment and support. I am always thrilled if my writing resonates and/or helps anyone who reads it.

  2. marie September 8, 2015 at 12:48 pm - Reply


    • Brenda Knowles September 9, 2015 at 7:33 pm - Reply

      I definitely hesitated before hitting ‘publish’ on this post. I feared sounding bitchy or like a victim but at this point in time it is my truth. I am thrilled it resonated so deeply with you. I am sorry you are going through such a stressful time. Stay strong. Do what makes you feel alive. Surround yourself with positive encouraging people. Be true to yourself but be as compassionate as possible. You won’t regret it. Sending you peace and courage.

  3. Pugs In The City September 4, 2015 at 9:29 pm - Reply

    I just want to tell you how helpful your blog is to me. I am an INFJ and feel like you’re writing to me each and every time. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    • Brenda Knowles September 5, 2015 at 11:54 am - Reply

      I sometimes come up as an INFJ. I think the NF (Idealist temperament) comes through in my writing. I am so happy it resonates with you and it is helpful.:)

  4. Sweetish August 31, 2015 at 6:51 pm - Reply

    I’m sorry for your pain. I’m also a Hippie Talker and I say that with pride. If someone else used it “against” me even with a negative tone, I say thanks. I get told all my positive talk is delusional but I have facts that go beyond confirmation bias that tells me who I’ve become (as a result of trauma) is absolutely a wonderful way to live so cheers to you becoming who you want to be.

    I believe if you focus on your ex’s wonderful points and ignore the ones that rile you up, your perspective on your co-parenting relationship will change to the better.

    I wish you well, love, light, peace & harmony

    • Brenda Knowles September 1, 2015 at 2:22 pm - Reply

      Thank you Sweetish! Always nice to meet a fellow hippie talker.;) I will try to focus on my ex-husband’s wonderful points. When speaking to others, I do quite often justify his behavior even when it is hurtful. If he could just leave me alone and stop pulling on my skirt I could quite easily move on and focus on loving my kids and doing my work. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  5. Beatriz August 29, 2015 at 12:03 pm - Reply

    Hi Brenda
    I feel very identified with your feelings. I´m a daughter of a narcissistic mother, so it seems I tend towards to a negative people who bring me down easily. It has been very hard but I´m in the process to heal myself.
    Is there a negative person in your life you can’t escape?
    Yes! My son´s father. We are separated. I´m trying to have a healthy and a polite relation with him. I´m trying to have boundaries but not always give results. He has a strong personality, dominant and he express himself in a agressive way. So I feel in a prison. I try to be cordial because I´m scary and I only want to be calm. You never separate at all of your children´s father. Never. I think it´s important to have nice people to support you. It´s very hard.
    One year ago I separated and this year was very long. I hope the next years are better. I know there will be problems in the future but I hope feeling stronger. He lives at ten minutes by car because we think it´s better for our son but sometimes I think distance is better.
    I admire you. Follow your way.

    • Brenda Knowles September 1, 2015 at 9:09 am - Reply

      Bea, You are learning and growing through all of this. I truly know how disheartening and stressful it is. My best advice is to engage as little as possible in negativity with your son’s father. Do your thing with your son and be the best most amazing woman and mother you can be. The more whole you are the less he can bother you. Fill yourself up with what makes you feel alive and gather supportive people around you. These will get you through and be excellent examples for your son. Sending you much strength and peace.

  6. Terry August 29, 2015 at 11:22 am - Reply

    Your story seems to parallel that of Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. She too took vows with a man who offered a particular life and then abandoned him as part of her “growth.” Your acknowledgement of your own role and attempt to understand some of your husband’s perspective is admirable, but you continue to characterize him as the negative one. It seems instead as if you became the negative one – starting out as someone who loved, appreciated and supported him, then becoming critical, oppositional and withdrawn. Clearly it wasn’t a good match, but that doesn’t make him the negative one, just different from what you are and more aligned with what you pretended to be. The reason your co-parenting is adversarial is because you became his adversary after he trusted you enough to have children with you. It is you who makes it adversarial, but you can choose not to engage in conflict. You chose him to father your children. You can let him be their father or continue to oppose him. Your choice, as it has been all along.

    • Brenda Knowles September 1, 2015 at 9:04 am - Reply

      I do identify with Elizabeth Gilbert. You are right. Eat, Pray, Love came out as our marriage was falling apart and it resonated deeply. I will admit to withdrawing from my former husband later in our marriage. I supported and appreciated him but did not get the same in return when I didn’t want to accept him as the authority on how life should be lived. We both trusted each other enough to have children together. As I said, I appreciated his loyalty, decision-making and confidence. I wanted the same respect and appreciation for mine once I grew enough to express it. I didn’t get it. I believe both partners need to respect and learn from each other. Support each other’s growth too.

      I know it takes two to tango. I contributed to the dissolution of the marriage, no doubt. I am learning to not engage in conflict but when children are involved, values and egos roar. Minimizing conflict is the healthiest thing for everyone but harmony shouldn’t be the duty of the same parent every time. It’s a give and take. Opposition is my kryptonite. At this point, I just want our children to be happy and loved in both homes with little to no interference from the opposite parent. He is not satisfied with that. I would never not let him be their father. No way. He is important! He’s a good father, even better, in my opinion, now than when we were married. I do appreciate your perspective Terry. Thank you for taking the time to comment so thoughtfully.

  7. Brett de Villiers August 29, 2015 at 8:31 am - Reply

    You’re awesome.

  8. Mr. Militant Negro August 28, 2015 at 4:43 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on The Militant Negro™.

    • Brenda Knowles August 28, 2015 at 4:53 pm - Reply

      Thank you for sharing. I appreciate it.:) Was there something that particularly resonated?

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