Friday, 14 June 2019

A Look at How Social Media is Impacting Divorce Cases

Most people with a smartphone are constantly tapped into some form of social media. Sharing cute pictures of kids and pets is simply a routine part of life these days. Some people even use social media to vent frustrations or look for advice.

In a divorce case, however, shares on social media can create ample evidence that can be used against one or both parties to affect alimony, child support, child custody, and more.

Email and Text Messages

Email and text messages are admissible in court and can even be subpoenaed. If one party in the marriage reveals something about a new job or an upcoming bonus that hasn’t been revealed in court, this can be used as evidence that the person isn’t being honest in his or her financial declarations.

Someone once claimed in court that he didn’t have a job, yet he posted about his job online (along with the expensive vacations he took with his girlfriend). With this evidence in court, his request for alimony was denied.

Lawyers advise people to keep all written communication free of sensitive information during a divorce. If you wouldn’t want a judge reading it, don’t write it - anywhere.


Most people don’t list their income on social media, but they find plenty of other ways to brag about their financial prosperity. If someone claims a low income to avoid high alimony or child support payments but posts pictures of expensive vacations or purchases, this can be used against him or her in court.

Even when a spouse is blocked from seeing his estranged wife’s social media, he can still often see what her friends are posting. If she goes on an expensive vacation with a mutual friend and that friend makes a post about the trip, the spouse can use this evidence to prove that his wife isn’t being honest in her finances.

Ben Carrasco, a divorce attorney in Austin, Texas, reports once using a LinkedIn profile to show the existence of a side business (another source of income) that a party had not disclosed in discovery. This information helped his client secure more child support than she would have otherwise received. “It’s amazing the wealth of information now at our fingertips in a divorce case” says Mr. Carrasco. “What would have once taken weeks of research to discover, if at all, can now be found in the click of a mouse”.

Dating Sites

Creating a profile on an online dating site before a divorce is finalized is foolish. Not only does it show evidence of potential cheating, but most people present themselves differently in an online profile than they do in person. If someone is caught saying something different on a dating site than is said in court, it can lead to problems in the divorce case.

Child Custody

Social media reveals what people are doing, where they’re doing it, and when it’s happening. If a mother is working through a child custody case, but posts pictures that show she was drunk when she should have been watching the children, a judge may rule that the children will not be properly cared for by her.

If one party is supposed to be searching for a job, but posts pictures and status updates that reveal he’s playing video games all day, the judge may rule harshly on alimony and child support decisions.

How to Prevent Negative Effects From Social Media

The best thing to do to avoid social media ruining any portion of a divorce case is to simply stop using it. Many people may be tempted to actually delete their accounts and scrub their online lives. However, once litigation has begun, social media becomes evidence. Deleting accounts is actually a destruction of evidence and can cause a lawyer to be sanctioned.

One thing is for sure. If you’re going through a divorce, you can be certain your spouse and lawyer are combing through your online life. Protect yourself by staying away from all of your social media related accounts until the divorce is finalized.


Thursday, 13 June 2019

How Long Will it Take to Get Over Your Divorce?

Knowing these 3 phases of divorce recovery will help you understand exactly how long it will take.

The pain and confusion of divorce is so intense that at times you wonder if you’ve lost your mind. At other times, you worry that this agony is just how life will be from now on.

In less tortured moments, you know you’re still sane and that life will get better. But then you wonder when because you aren’t sure how much more of the misery you can take.

A quick Google will show you there are plenty of people who will willingly tell you exactly how long it will take you to get over your divorce. What you need to know is that they’re ALL WRONG.

These authorities are all wrong because they base their guidance on averages, observation, personal experience and personal bias. There’s no way any of that will be able to predict exactly how long it will take YOU to get over your divorce.

Divorce recovery is a process. You’ll get through it on a timeline that’s unique to you – not according to someone else’s.

So instead of looking for an exact time when you’ll be over your divorce, it makes more sense to look at other indications that you’re over your divorce.

One of the best ways to gauge how far you’ve come and how much more you have to do is to look at your primary motivation for how you’re living your life.

There are three different phases of motivation that people go through as they heal from their divorce.

Make the pain stop.

This the is the most difficult part of divorce recovery. Living in pain and confusion is the only constant amidst the chaos of your divorce.

You struggle to figure out a way to stop hurting so much as you go through all the phases of grief. You are greatly tempted to medicate the pain away in this phase. You might ask your doctor for a prescription or you might self-medicate with food, alcohol, other mood-altering substances, and/or sex.

The biggest challenge here is to not over medicate yourself so you avoid feeling what you need to experience to actually heal so you can move on to the next phase as you fight to move on with your life after divorce.

You’ll also look for guidance form just about anyone for ideas to make the pain stop. The challenge is that not everyone you’ll be tempted to ask for help will be able to really help you. They’ll each have their own reasons for offering help which may or may not have your best interests as reason #1.

Focus on others.

As the pain starts to subside, you’ll feel numb compared to the tumultuous emotions that were besieging you in the previous phase. You’ll look outside of yourself to keep moving on.
You might start to real focus on your kids or work or your pets or even your friends. This external focus allows you to re-establish and redefine the relationships and your responsibilities that suffered the most as you were dealing with your pain.

Looking at life through this lens of connection and contribution can be extremely motivating. The challenge is that it can also lead to burnout because you’re not necessarily taking care of yourself.

Creating the life you want.

Eventually, you’ll get your relationships and responsibilities stabilized. You may not have everything exactly the way want it, but you’ll accept the way things are with the important people and activities in your life.

This is when you start becoming motivated by what you want in your life. You’ll find it easy to take the steps necessary to make your life great.

This shift in focus doesn’t mean that you start ignoring what you’ve built up in the last phase, but that now you are motivated on making your life really work for you. The goal now is to feel fulfilled and happy.

And when you reach this phase you’re over the bulk of your divorce recovery work. You may still have a few triggers that hurl you back to the first phase of pain and confusion (like when you find out your ex is in a serious relationship, or when your anniversary rolls around), but you won’t stay there for long.

You know that what lies ahead of you is so much more motivating and appealing than what happened in the past.

As much as knowing these phases will help you get a feel for how much longer you’ll be dealing with getting over your divorce, they can also make it more challenging if you’re one of those people who like to push to accomplish things.

Super-achievers will be tempted to start focusing on what they want to create in their life NOW instead of allowing themselves to thoroughly work through each of the phases.

If this is you, remember that completely recovering from divorce is a process. You can certainly accelerate the process by focusing on the best ways to get through each phase, but not by short-circuiting or skipping any portion of one.

So allow yourself to progress through each of them with intention. As you do, you’ll find that you’ll have dealt with the pain, confusion and outward focus to the point that you’re able to truly create an amazing life for yourself post-divorce.


Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Toxic Relationships

Sometimes you can see a toxic relationship heading your way like a bullet train and at other times they creep up on you so slowly you are unaware you are in one until it’s nearly impossible to get out. Most of us have experienced – or are currently in – one or more toxic relationships. We question how they can be avoided and maybe even if we are the toxic person. We may also ponder why, after experiencing past negative toxic relationships before, we continue to draw them into our lives, or why we are continually vulnerable to their lure by Mr. or Ms. Toxic Agent.

The many faces of toxic relationships

Toxic relationships have many faces; they pop up in both our personal (parent-child, siblings, friendships) and occupational (supervisor-employee, coworkers) lives. You know the type – you lend a family member money, or a co-worker your car; or you care for their children while they go on vacation hoping they will one day return the favor. Unfortunately the toxic person doesn’t pay you back, returns your car damaged with no offer to repair it and asks you to watch their children again next vacation without ever offering to watch yours. It doesn’t happen once, it happens repeatedly in different forms. You feel hurt, taken advantage of and angry – at the offender and yourself. Bottom line is: you are consistently being brought down. You feel “used.”

Past negative time perspective and the toxic relationship
The tendency to unconsciously seek out toxic relationships frequently starts with past negative experiences when we are children and might carry on throughout our lives. They can become so deeply ingrained in the way we think and feel that we don’t realize we are steeped in toxicity until—or hopefully when- someone else points it out. The toxic person in our lives (and maybe it’s us), is generally concerned about themselves and their needs; the relationship is classic codependent. The worse form is when that other is your partner or mate, supposedly there forever!

How so?

Generally in a toxic relationship you don’t bring up how you feel; maybe you don’t want the person to be angry because they hold some sort of power over you, or you are holding on to the dream that one day they will wake up, realize their transgressions and make good. And if you do mention their offense, it’s likely to be a backhanded use of passive-aggressive behavior that only you recognize—so it is ineffectual in changing anything for the better. In a follow up column we’ll delve into passive aggressive behavior and time perspectives. But for purposes of this column, we’ll use the following examples of weenie retaliation in toxic relationships:

What you say: “Wish I had the money to fill in the blank, but I don’t.” (present-centered)

What you meant: “Because you never paid me back that money I lent you!” (past negative)

What you say: “Know of a good auto insurance company because my insurance premium just went up.” (present-centered)

What you meant: “Because you crashed my car and wouldn’t own up to it!” (past negative)

What you say: “We can’t go on that couples retreat because we can’t find a babysitter.” (future negative)

What you meant: “We watched your kids for two weeks but you won’t even offer to watch ours for two days!” (past negative/future negative)

Again, unfortunately, you wish they would pick up on the faux pas but they act like they don’t know what you are talking about. Here are examples of what you might have said to help correct the situation:

“Hey, I think it’s a good idea for us to set up a plan for you to pay back that money I lent you; unless you have it now.”

“How are you planning on paying for the damage to my car?”

“We are wondering if you could watch our kids for a couple of days so we can go on a couples’ retreat. We’d really appreciate it.”

You will open a dialogue to a possible resolution. And if not, you’ll know for sure where you stand in the relationship and make future positive plans to move on.

Five signs you’re in a toxic relationship

In our research for this column, we discovered that author Yvette Bowlin  distilled the myriad indicators of toxic relationships into the following five signs:

1. It seems like you can’t do anything right– The other person constantly puts you down as not good enough. They mock your personality, and you feel ashamed most of the time. You only feel pardoned when you take on the traits of the person doing the condemning or judging.

2. Everything is about them and never about you – You have feelings too, but the other person won’t hear them. You’re unable to have a two-sided conversation where your opinion is heard, considered, and respected. Instead of acknowledging your feelings, they battle with you until they get the last word.

3. You find yourself unable to enjoy good moments with this person – Every day brings another challenge. It seems as though they are always raising gripes about you. Their attempt to control your behavior is an attempt to control your happiness.
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4. You’re uncomfortable being yourself around that person – You don’t feel free to speak your mind. You have to put on a different face just to be accepted by that person. You realize you don’t even recognize yourself anymore.

5. You’re not allowed to grow and change – Whenever you aim to grow and improve yourself, the other person responds with mockery and disbelief. There is no encouragement or support for your efforts. Instead, they keep you stuck in old judgments insisting that you will never be any different than you are now.

If you’re experiencing even just one of these signs, check in with yourself to see if the relationship is doing more damage than good.

Five steps to end a toxic relationship

So how do we get out of toxic relationships? We’ve pared down Borchard’s steps to ending toxic relationships and put our time perspective spin on them:

1. Step out of denial (review past negative behaviors) - Are you energized or drained after spending time with X? Do you want to spend time with X or do you feel like you have to? Do you feel sorry for X? Do you go to X looking for a response that you never get? Do you come away consistently disappointed by X’s comments and behavior? Are you giving way more to the relationship than X? Do you even like X?

2. Identify the perks (discover how you feel in the present) - All relationships, even toxic ones, have hidden benefits. Or why would you stay in them? So identify the perks. Determine what, specifically, you are getting from this relationship. Does X make you feel attractive and sexy? Does helping X with her kids even though it exhausts you relieve your guilt in some twisted way because you feel like your life is easier than hers? Even though X doesn’t treat you well, does she remind you of your verbally abusive mom, and therefore bring you a (toxic) comfort level?

3. Fill the hole (practice selected present hedonism) - Find alternative sources of peace and wholeness - nourish yourself. In other words, do things that make you feel better and in ways so that you don’t have to rely on others. For instance, revisit that project you put on the back burner, learn meditation or yoga, call friends, and remind yourself that you won’t feel this way (sad, angry, upset) forever.

4. Surround yourself with positive people (be pro-social) – Hopefully these folks are working on their boundaries as hard as you are; they aren’t enmeshed in their fair share of toxic relationships and therefore become somewhat toxic themselves. The stuff is contagious. Be smart with whom you choose to hang out.

5. Heal the shame (replace past negative with a bright future positive) – Work toward healing the part of yourself that may be attracting toxic relationships. This may mean exploring past toxic relationships, forgiving yourself for the part you played and realizing that you deserve the right kind of love and attention in order to create a brighter future for yourself.

Let go of the negative past and give love permission to enter your life

Let go of toxic relationships – the past negative people - and experiences and focus on the good things – the past positive experiences; makes plans for a brighter future, and live a fulfilling and more meaningful present.

We leave you with one of our favorite quotes:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you make them feel.”
by Maya Angelou.


Tuesday, 11 June 2019

How the trend for 'Facebragging' could be fuelling divorce

In years past the task of impressing one’s friends and neighbours involved the straightforward - if expensive - urge to rush out and buy the latest gadget or embark on some grand home improvement.

But in the age of social media, when Facebook timelines have become a parade of other people’s smiling babies, idyllic holidays, culinary miracles, marathon times or stellar career moves, those determined to equal or outdo their peers face a herculean task.

Now divorce lawyers say the trend for so-called “Facebragging” – using social media to show off under the guise of "sharing" news – is even helping fuel marital breakups as more couples succumb to pressure to live up to unrealistic expectations.

While the old maxim that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence has long been familiar to divorce lawyers, social media has helped take discontent to new levels, they believe.

The internet has previously been blamed for fuelling break-ups because people's bad behaviour was being exposed.

Now it appears an even greater stress on marriage comes from dissatisfied spouses looking online and seeing behaviour which is too good to be true.

Holly Tootill, a family lawyer with JMW Solicitors, which handles just over 300 divorces a year, said around one in five marital splits on the firm's books involve spouses complaining about their “imperfect” marriages.

Social media has became a major conduit for discontent and unrealistic expectations, she said.

“There is a relatively small percentage of cases in which individuals are encountering evidence of improper behaviour by their partners on social media,” she said.

“But it is, if you like, the volume and frequency of apparent perfection portrayed on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and in lifestyle and entertainment magazines which is a far greater problem.

“Family, friends and businesses are so keen to use social media, in particular, as a means of promotion that spouses are being exposed to lots of very positive imagery.

“It all looks so glamorous and so very exciting that people make negative comparisons with their own home lives and their husbands or wives as a result.

“They seem unable to accept what they see as something of a show and not necessarily representative of daily reality for the majority of people.

“More and more clients tell us that they regret how their marriage isn’t perfect in the way that they were led to believe it might be.

“In our experience, the perception that they have failed to attain domestic perfection is rarely – if ever – the only factor in a divorce.

“The pressure which it creates, however, exacerbates existing tensions or fractures in relationships across almost all age groups.”

Photographs – often carefully selected to show people in the best light before being shared – can prove particularly toxic in some contexts, she added.

In some cases husbands or wives have put pressure on each other to be as glamorous as their friends’ spouses, as portrayed on social media.

“There are countless complaints about fitness and weight,” she said. “Couples are under so much pressure to maintain a perfect image.

“Some husbands have threatened to end their marriages and take up with someone else if their wives do not maintain the toned physiques of some of their peers on social media.
“Other marriages have fallen apart because of the strain which the economic downturn has had on the family’s lifestyle.

“As the recession hit, couples had to budget and, on one occasion, a spouse simply tired of having to buy counterfeit luxuries in order to keep up the appearances with those in their social circle as a result.”


Monday, 10 June 2019

Men After Divorce: Ego, Self Esteem, & Recovery

To some, divorce can be a release. To others, it is a devastating blow. For others still it heralds a new and better beginning. So why does the experience vary so much, and why do men especially seem to struggle with divorce?

Yes, that is right, men struggle with divorce. They are not automatons, things without feelings who can brush off the loss of a long-term relationship with ease and nary a backwards glance. While some studies show that men end up wealthier after divorce on average, it is also proven that men suffer from a higher rate of suicide after divorce, and are more prone to alcoholism, weight gain and mental health issues. So why do some men thrive, while others sink into a pit of despair and destructive behavior?

Men, Divorce, Emotions, and Ego

After divorce, men go through a crisis that is all too often oversimplified in their own eyes and the eyes of society. Being sad and regretful is one thing, but these are transient phases. Anyone (male or female) who loses something important to them experiences what we would commonly call grief. Losing ones wife/family is similar in how it hits our psyche as the death of a family member, the loss of a job, or even the loss of a sentimental item. It is a process to overcome that enormous loss — one that has a profound effect on how we see ourselves and our place in the world. A man who is divorced must come to terms not just with this loss, but how that loss affects his ego.

I should break off here to explain ego. While the term is often used to describe someone who thinks too much of themselves — as in having a “big ego” — the root meaning of the word is our internal sense of who we are as a reflection of other people and society. It is how we view our role and place in society based on a lifetime of interactions with the society in which we live. The ego is a necessary thing for us to function in society, but it also causes some extreme problems when it comes to loss and grief due to how tightly our ego is tied up with family, love and marriage.

Often men who get divorced have to contend with the fact that his entire sense of self worth was tied up with his marriage. He had locked his self worth to his heart as soon as he said “I do” and probably well before that. The binding of marriage to his ego was then reinforced by society’s notions of commitment, love, fatherhood, and responsibility of being the head of the household. A man who has been divorced finds himself adrift without knowing his place or worth because he gained so much of his sense of self from his partner and had not developed a true understanding of his real self. When you feel the pang of loss and grief, this is your ego raging against the situation. This is what causes the anger, the depression, the anxiety and desperation.

Self Esteem and Men Recovering From Divorce

With this information, we can begin to understand a man’s emotional turmoil after divorce. We can also see why certain patterns of behavior appear and what they really mean.
Long have women been amazed at the behavior of some divorced men, where they fling themself into extreme situations that end up being quite self-destructive. Some men turn to work and throw themselves into it with ferocity, some men choose alcohol as a salve, some choose harder drugs, and other still turn to dating well before they are ready. All of these things and more are linked to a single thing — an ego that is hurting and the desperate need to boost their self esteem to feel valued, or feel pleasure in other ways.

This is a terrible trap for the unwary as any activity that raises your self esteem temporarily is followed by a crash when you come back to earth and you still have a shattered ego. 
Bedding a new woman might feel good for the night and makes you feel wanted, but it doesn’t last. Going clubbing makes you feel young, fun, and in control of your life, until the next morning when you do not. The worst offenders continue trying to get these quick self esteem boosts over and over like a drug as they fear the comedown worst of all — but none can escape the inevitability of hitting the bottom of the barrel.

Men recovering from divorce need to put aside the quest to make themselves feel better through short-term self esteem boosting activities, and focus instead on building their self respect. Recovery from divorce for men is about moving through the phases of grief and coming out the end with a new outlook and a new life, not fighting to put your old life back together as your ego wants it.


Friday, 7 June 2019

‘I’m frankly probably the luckiest divorced man on the planet’

BY most measures, Suzanne Vickberg, 45, and Tim Reynolds, 44, have the perfect family life: dinners together with their two kids, ages 10 and 12; family trips to Disney World; an annual Christmas party in their suburban home in New Jersey.
They just happen to be divorced.

Even more confusing to some, Ms Vickberg lives in an apartment attached to the house she and Reynolds bought years earlier and which Mr Reynolds still lives in — with his new partner, Ana De Archuleta.

The three split parenting duties: Ms Vickberg’s on bedtime duty, Ms De Archuleta wakes the kids up and Mr Reynolds walks them to and from school. Ms Vickberg also alternates dinner nights with Ms De Archuleta and Mr Reynolds, and they switch off on weekends, too.

A growing number of ex-couples are seeking unconventional solutions to ending their marriages, saying they want their divorce to reflect not animosity but the love they once shared and still have for their children. Some live together, holiday together and text every day.

Such immersive team parenting is due in part to the ugliness of previous generations’ divorces, says Liza Caldwell, co-founder of Support and Solutions for Women, a divorce-coaching group based in New York.

“[This generation] has lived it, learned it or heard first-hand how disastrous divorce can be if the parents do not strive to co-parent civilly,” Ms Caldwell says. “People can do it the way they want to, not the way their parents did it.”

Which is why, after their divorce in 2010, Ms Vickberg and Mr Reynolds spent about $200,000 to build an additional living space, complete with a bedroom suite that opens up into the main house, as well as a kitchen, bathroom, laundry room and, of course, private front door.

“There are a lot of people out there who get divorced who don’t hate each other,” says Ms Vickberg, a psychologist and researcher who is planning to write a book about such family arrangements. “I think a lot of people probably could get a bit more creative, even in small ways.”

Tore Kesicki, 56, a co-founder of health-and-wellness web site MindBodyNetwork, says that after he and his first wife separated amicably over issues of intimacy, their bond “changed from a married relationship to more of a sister-brother relationship.”

After they split 17 years ago, they even continued to live together for four years to make it easier on their kids. It was only when Mr Kesicki started dating that it was clear he needed to move out. Still, they continue to celebrate holidays together with their kids, now 22 and 29, exchange birthday gifts and get together for Christmas.

“We’re better friends now than we were when we married,” he says.

Lisa, a 51-year-old writer and podcast producer in northern New Jersey, who declined to give her last name for professional reasons, says her ex-husband still comes to the house every morning to help get their 13-year-old daughter ready for school.

They separated three years ago but have gone on group vacations with their daughter and other families. They even hug from time to time, she says, adding that their daughter knows “the boyfriend-girlfriend part is over.”

Others rely on technology to stay in touch. Stephanie, a 42-year-old PR agent who lives in Battery Park and withheld her last name for privacy reasons, says that to keep her ex in the loop with their children, ages 2 and 5, she not only lives near him but texts him every day. Their kids also video chat every night with the parent they’re not with.

“It’s so normal for us,” says Stephanie. “I can sit on my couch and cry for a year about our divorce, but I have two young children who depend on me. That means collaborating with their dad and getting along with him.”

But there can be minefields in such arrangements. Mr Kesicki says his continued close relationship with his first wife was a big reason why his second marriage failed. Vickberg, too, says men she dates sometimes have a hard time accepting her relationship with her ex. She hasn’t had a serious partner because most men “can’t figure out how they would fit into the picture”.

Mr Reynolds even went out with one of her boyfriends to help him better understand what their living situation was all about. But that relationship, too, didn’t work out.

And Lisa says that even after three years of separation, constantly seeing her ex and being reminded of the death of their relationship was a bit like “presiding over your own funeral”.
Still, she adds, when the goal is to help your children navigate a divorce, “you don’t have the luxury of being an a — hole”.

Feelings like these are common and even healthy for the recently divorced, who are making a choice to put their kids’ wellbeing before their own, says psychologist Jeffrey Zimmerman, co-author of The Co-Parenting Survival Guide, who is based in Midtown.

“To take the best care of themselves and their own mental health, the parents need to fully grieve the loss of the marriage and do their own work to heal and recover,” says Mr Zimmerman. “But if the parents can keep their marital issues and dynamics, and the resulting conflict, out of the mix, they can have the experience of sharing many wonderful moments of their children, rather than missing many.”

The bottom line? Such close-knit parenting can depend on whether ex-couples still “like each other as human beings enough to do things together,” says divorce mediator Joanne Naiman, who notes that this approach isn’t advisable for those in abusive relationships. “It just takes conversations. It’s a process.”

“If any one of us wasn’t on the same page, it wouldn’t work,” Mr Reynolds says. “But we all fit together quite well. And we’re good friends, too. I’m frankly probably the luckiest divorced man on the planet.”


Thursday, 6 June 2019

Conscious uncoupling is more than a celebrity catchphrase: Modern Family

Author and coiner of the “unconscious coupling” catchphrase Katherine Woodward Thomas talks about how to handle divorce with grace and kindness.

I like to refer to my unusual living arrangement as “conscious uncoupling before it was cool.”
Of course that’s a reference to the phrase catapulted into popular lexicon when Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced their well-publicized split in 2014.

But I’ve been living next door to the father of my children for six years now, long before the actress and rocker announced their split on Paltrow’s lifestyle website, Goop. It’s a situation that allows our two boys to have plenty of access to both their parents, and it’s how we attempt to have the next-best thing to a happily married life for the sake of the kids — even now that he’s remarried.

The woman who really coined the phrase has been helping people find a peaceful way forward through a popular online course of the same name since 2011.

Bestselling author and marriage and family therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas has just released a book detailing that approach. It’s called Conscious Uncoupling: 5 Steps to Living Happily Even After.

Given my own belief that it’s possible to end a marriage without the kind of harmony-destroying animosity that poisoned earlier generations of divorcees against each other and left their children to bear the weight of that hostility for years to come, I was keen to read the book and speak with Woodward Thomas.
Here’s some of what she had to say.

How did you come up with the term conscious uncoupling?

It actually emerged in a conversation I was having with a friend who had also had a very mindful divorce. He was trying to be very responsible in how he was talking about the end of his marriage. It popped for me. I said to him at that moment, “That’s a book that I need to write.”

It was very heartwarming to me when Gwyneth and Chris used the term and people caught it. The thing that I love about the phrase is that it kind of opens up a whole new paradigm for people. It really names the experience that people like you and I are having in how we’re looking to (divorce), which is very different than maybe our parents’ generation.

What did that look like?

Nobody knew how to divorce then — all that fight-or-flight biology and all that history of the antagonistic legal system was kind of in our DNA and they did it so badly. And you and I have spent so many years on the couch trying to sort through the shrapnel of that. We’re the ones saying, “OK, we’re going to find a better way to do this.”

What do you say to somebody who just can’t see past that blame in order to find a way to be OK for their kids?

You can’t deny those feelings. They’re like tidal waves and they’re big and they’re scary and nothing any of us ever want to feel. But I liken it to planting seeds in your garden. If you indulge the knee-jerk negativity of anger and rage and you lash out and hurt the person you feel hurt by, those are like planting bitter fruits right in your backyard. Those are going to turn into a garden and you’re going to be going to be eating the fruits of whatever garden you plant for many years to come.

So what should you do instead?

Rather than lash out when the impulse strikes, try pressing the pause button instead. Take a deep breath and ask yourself the question, “What am I feeling right now?” See if you can name each feeling one at a time: “I’m sad. I’m humiliated. . . ” Once you put a name to your feelings, they begin to diminish in intensity so that they no longer overwhelm you. This practice will help put you in the driver’s seat so you can choose to respond to whatever is happening in a way that is reflective of the wise, mature adult that you are — with graciousness, goodness and fairness.

In the book you mentioned that it can be a good idea to arrange to meet to clear the air. How does that work?

Each partner offers a sincere apology for behaviour, even if you did not intend it to be hurtful, an open-hearted acknowledgment of the negative impact and a sincere offer to make amends. While it might be challenging to drop your insistent efforts to be understood, taking responsibility in this way can disappear years of resentments in one conversation, and leave everyone free to move forward.

Tips for conscious uncoupling:

Do no harm. “Don’t pick up the phone, don’t send the angry email,” says Woodward Thomas. “There are things that we can do in those moments that we can actually never take back.”

Clear the air. If possible, arrange to chat, not to win an argument or to change anyone’s mind, but to listen to each other state the hurts you’re each still struggling with and to make amends for those.

Speak kindly of one another. It’s tempting to play the victim when relaying your breakup story to others, but doing so diminishes both of you.

Expand instead of divide your family. Give your children a sense that you’re one recalibrated family instead of two separate units they have to switch between. It’s up to the parents to “accomplish the necessary growth and emotional maturation” required.