Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Optimism in the Wake of a Divorce

It’s difficult to believe that it’s been over a decade since my twenty- three year marriage ended. I hadn’t really thought much about it for quite some time, but the recent survey that states marriages are in decline reminded me of those last few stressful years before I waved the white flag and called it quits. I didn’t like the message I was sending to my children in the decision I made. I felt like I was telling them that commitment meant very little to me and nothing is forever. And I didn’t want my experience to keep them from falling in love in the future. Yet, getting out of a bad marriage overrode those concerns.

I was young when I married, but no less sincere in my intentions. Both his and my parents stayed married till death did they part so I believed it would be the same for us. Over time, though, it became apparent that was not to be. Where was that young man — that very young man—who traveled close to 400 miles every weekend to see me? Where was that young woman—that very young woman — who once had no idea how she’d ever get by without him? It’s difficult to say exactly when, but the hope I had for racking up one anniversary after the next till we were silver-haired, wrinkled and hunched over was lost in the reality of what time can do to young, hopeful love. But I’m apparently not alone, since divorce is becoming more common than those ‘til-death-do-us-part vows. There are many reasons for this development; we are living longer and most women do not need to be supported by a man or feel obligated to create a family.

Yet, there are those who are still grasping onto the same ambition I once had and willing to take that optimistic stroll down the aisle. Apparently, the high divorce rates haven’t frightened them from wanting to make the marital commitment. For instance, in spite of Prince William’s parents’ bitter break-up played out ubiquitously in the media, he has plans to marry. And, as it happens, my daughter recently became engaged and I couldn’t be happier for her and her fiancĂ©. I’m also grateful that even after witnessing the drama her father and I went through when we divorced, my daughter still believes in the institution. I suppose that is what love can do and instead of considering marriage to be a burden, no matter the challenges or issues, it is an expression of optimism.

For me, though, I think I’ll remain single.

Source: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/carol-hoenig/optimism-in-the-wake-of-a_b_790085.html

Monday, 19 March 2018

Coping with a Difficult Ex: Divorce, Child Custody & Co-Parenting

10 strategies for reducing frustration and conflict – and increasing respectful communication and peace – between divorced co-parents.

On rare occasions, spouses choose to part in a gentle and respectful way: After looking across the breakfast table, after affirming their care for one another, they agree that they have "grown apart," quickly settle their affairs and move on to raise their children as friends from two separate homes. A wonderful scenario for children who are losing the nest as they have known it.

For a very real percentage of divorcing parents, however, the process of parting and the years that follow involve the cascade of frustrating, infuriating, and hurtful exchanges. Two people who once vowed to spend the rest of their lives together may suddenly view one another as enemies, or at least as deficient or irresponsible parents. The groundwork is laid for years of angry, difficult encounters – anger that he doesn't send the soccer shoes back after the weekend. Sadness that she fails to show for visits with children who miss her. 
Anxiety that he won't buckle the children safely as he drives off with the kids and his new girlfriend. Fear that she will lose control of her volatile temper and say hurtful things to the children. Frustration when he again arrives late to get the children in an apparent effort to stall their mom from making it to work on time. Resentment over her refusal to help pay for school clothes.

The list of frustrations and fears goes on and on, and many divorced moms and dads can offer their own twists on the common theme of an ex-partner who behaves in ways that are infuriating, disrespectful, irresponsible, or downright nasty.

After almost 20 years of working with divorcing families, I now have deeper compassion for how frustrations with a difficult ex-partner can derail a parent's life. However, as a psychologist, I have had the privilege of having skillful and resourceful divorcing parents teach me over the years about a path to personal peace that is available for distressed moms and dads. Here is what they have taught me.

1. Give What You Long to Receive
"What goes around, comes around," or, in more biblical terms, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." All of the major wisdom traditions teach us to focus on giving respect before expecting it from others. Behaving with your ex-partner in the way that you long for your ex to behave toward you is the first step toward not only creating a more civil relationship with your child's other parent, but also toward reclaiming your own personal power. Begin by looking in the mirror and asking the following question: "Am I consistently and regularly acting toward my ex in the way that I long for my ex to act toward me?" The dictate to "Do unto others" is not easily achieved and requires discipline and compassion. It is always sad to watch a divorced parent railing about the vindictiveness or insensitivity of their ex, when they themselves regularly behave in uncivil ways – the cycle of family pain is going to continue, often with little ones in between. Most importantly, remember that you and your ex are always modeling for your children behavior for their futures. You and your ex are always, in a sense, standing before a blackboard, holding pieces of chalk and writing life lessons on the board. Remind yourself that it is your children who are sitting in the classroom scribbling in their life notebooks. If they witness hurtful behavior between their parents, they will hurt others. If they witness civility and peace, they will be a resource of peace in an already angry world.

2. Trade Eyeballs
Longfellow, the renowned nineteenth century poet, once said the following: "If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we would find sorrow and suffering enough to dispel all hostility." Rosy words? Maybe. Timeless truth – definitely. All of the injuries that the divorce process creates can cause parents to demonize their ex-partners, to deny their humanity and their vulnerability, or to forget that there was a time when spending the rest of their life with this person was the most important thing in the world. This means that in the middle of angry or frustrating exchanges, it is easy and understandable for a parent to forget that the person they are now viewing as foolish or rigid is actually another human being with needs and concerns of their own. On one level, choosing to view the world, or a particular problem, through your ex's eyes is a path to compassion that can dampen some of your own suffering: Remember when Toto, in the Wizard of Oz, peeks behind the curtain to reveal a frightened, insecure person behind the false image of the fuming, frightening wizard? 
Peeking behind that same curtain with your ex can help you to remember his or her humanity and to feel less distress. However, if the idea of seeking to understand your ex's position or struggle feels distasteful, remember that it is the choice to view a problem through the other person's eyes that is often the most practical and skillful step employed by the world's greatest negotiators. Trading eyeballs is a critical step toward negotiating successful solutions with your child's other parent. You can't come up with "win-win" proposals about such matters as visitation times, support questions, etc. without thoroughly understanding the needs and desires that are behind your ex's demands, even if these demands appear foolish.

3. Become Clear Which Problems Aren't Yours
In the complex relationships between ex-partners that often ensue after a separation, it is all too easy to become confused about which problems are actually yours to solve – it's all too easy to become confused about which balls you need to pick up and dribble and which need to be passed to your ex, to your children, or to someone else all together. Your ex may call you to complain about your child's behavior, implying that somehow you need to do something about it. Or he may call and simply state that he won't be taking the children for his appointed week because he is going on a vacation. Or your child may come to you complaining that her mom is refusing to pay for her prom dress – as she had promised. You may be accustomed to instinctively protect, defend, or speak for your children, or you may be accustomed to taking care of a dependent, complaining ex-spouse. All of these scenarios involve the same dilemma: A divorced parent is presented with a problem by someone else ("Mommy won't buy my dress," "I can't take the kids – I'll be away"), a problem that is not actually their responsibility to solve. You can help yourself gain clarity about which problems to become tangled in and which problems to detach from by learning to recognize "unnecessary burdens": problems presented by others that are actually the responsibility of others to solve. If it is your ex who is expressing the concern or making the complaint, if it is your ex who is feeling the most emotion about the dilemma, and if it is your ex whose life would most improve if the problem were solved, you are likely being confronted with an unnecessary burden. This simply means that you can choose to gently pass the ball back to your ex, indicating that you trust he will be able to solve the dilemma on his own (after all, it was not your choice to schedule an adult vacation during your custodial week – it was your ex's choice). You may still choose to help with an unnecessary burden (you might find it to be a joyful opportunity to have your children with you for an extra week), but by spotting the unnecessary burden, you have at least alerted yourself to the option of passing the problem back to your ex.

4. Use the Five Cs of Good Communication with Your Difficult Ex
Despite any fantasies that you may have to the contrary, having children means that your ex will never be excised from your life and that the two of you will have to talk to one another – again, and again. Details will have to be worked out. Problems will have to be negotiated. Report cards will have to be passed back and forth. The five Cs of good communication with ex-partners can go a long way to smoothing troubled waters between the two of you.

Before a hot topic conversation with your ex become Centered. Know what you want to say, and rehearse it. Consider multiple solutions to the problem in advance. Create a "won't-do list" of the plans that will be entirely unacceptable to you. Keep your expectations low for the conversation: don't anticipate respect, and then you can be surprised if it comes your way. Becoming centered means becoming self-aware and focused before ever laying eyes on your ex.

During the conversation, be Civil. Offer your proposals or your complaints without attacking language, without references to past history, and without character slams. Behave as you would with a frustrating, yet vital business partner.

Seek Compassion. This doesn't mean pretending that you agree with your ex. It simply means seeking to understand their dilemma, while expressing yours, and letting your ex know that you have an understanding of her perspective. It means listening attentively to what your ex is saying and making it clear that you have heard her. Surprising your ex with understanding ("Suzanne, this sounds difficult I know you want more time with the kids on weekends") can go a long way to disarming an angry ex.

Remaining Calm during a hot topic conversation is critical to responding logically, creatively, and without creating a volcanic event. As you feel your emotions rise, stop yourself from responding defensively and concentrate on bringing yourself into more of a state of calm. Quietly practice deep breathing, count to ten before you speak, imagine your ex-partner's angry words striking a protective shield you have visualized in front of you and imagine his words falling harmless to the ground – whatever works for you. Simply choosing a strategy that effectively helps you to lower your own emotional arousal will prevent you from saying things that you later regret. The simple choice to propose a time out (or to say you have to go to the bathroom!) can help rational minds prevail.

Creative responses are often needed in the dance between two angry ex-partners. These include finding one or two things to agree with in what your ex is proposing and stating this out loud. Poke fun at yourself. Find things to express appreciation about while you stick to your position ("Jack, I wanted you to know that I really appreciate the way you do Suzie's braids before you bring her back to my house. She really loves it! Now, about the Christmas holiday...").

If your conversation about the hot topic somehow fails or falls apart, remember that one failed conversation does not mean that all is lost. It sometimes takes divorced parents months, or even years, to develop a way of resolving problems. Consider finding a neutral professional to whom both of you can go for co-parenting counseling or mediation (e.g., a psychologist, clinical social worker, licensed counselor, or mediator). Consider writing business-like letters or e-mails. If talking directly is too difficult, consider using a "kids log" to write important notes about how the children are doing at each home. Most importantly, remember that working again and again to create civil exchanges is one of the best gifts you can give to children who are caught in the middle of an angry divorce.

5. Honor Your Difficult Ex's Role as Co-Parent
Children are born into this world the product of two imperfect human beings. I often say the following to parents, somewhat tongue-in-cheek: "Your children have a right to both of your imperfections." Nice words, yet tough to live by if your ex is behaving in foolish, upsetting ways. However, you may need to remind yourself that, through your children's eyes, that foolish, disrespectful parent is someone that they love. Remind yourself that there are many different parenting styles that create healthy, happy children. Remind yourself that you cannot entirely protect your children from discomfort or unhappiness in their relationship with their other parent. Most importantly, remind yourself that your children are now traveling a somewhat private, sacred path with their other parent that needs to run its own course. Communicate to your little ones that you expect them to respect their other parent and that you are happy when they have a chance to be with that parent (even if you have to fake this last part!).

6. Create Peace Between Your Ears
"If he would only act like less of a jerk, my life would be better." "If she would stop being such a bitch, the kids and I would be better off." Notice the catch: Life will only get better if the other person changes. However, full maturity and even inner peace can only occur once we have embraced the reality that it is our interpretation of events, and not the events themselves, that causes our distress. George's ex greets him at her door by saying, "You're late again – when will you grow up?" He grows fangs and sees red. Sam's ex greets him at the door with the same angry words, and he stays calm, offers an excuse, and apologizes. The events are the same but what happens "between the ears" of these two fathers must be quite different.

Finding peace with a difficult ex often involves doing basic mental hygiene on yourself by softening what is happening between your own ears: Accept your feelings about your ex as a step toward self-compassion while remembering that you are not your feelings and moods and that you always can choose how to respond to your emotions. Avoid extremist thinking: begin to redefine frustrations with your ex as problems to be solved, rather than as catastrophes. Remind yourself that there is more to your ex than his difficult behavior (something other than his foolishness must have urged you to marry him at one point). 
Count the blessings in your life because there is more to your life than your ex's pain-in-the-neck behavior. Ask if you are somehow contributing to the problem between you and your ex and work on your contribution. Finally (get ready – this is a tough one), consider forgiveness. Remember that your ex is going to blow it on occasion, just as you will. And even if you have been hurt in a "big way" by your ex, forgiveness is often one of the only routes to finally and completely letting go of old suffering and ushering in personal peace.

7. Don't Be a Wet Noodle
Peaceful does not equal passive. Yes, it is true that your own sense of personal peace will be increased commensurate with the degree to which you yourself embody a peaceful attitude with your ex. However, acting with respect and civility does not mean becoming docile or passive, nor does it mean surrendering your own needs and desires. The choice to be peace-oriented does not mean that you cannot set limits on intrusive behavior, demand that your boundaries be respected, refuse to tolerate verbal (and certainly physical) abuse, nor does it take away your responsibility to be sure that your children are not being abused or neglected. Embody self-respect and self-protection for your children. Make sure they're safe, and involve the authorities if you have reason to believe they're not safe with your ex.

8. Keep Your Ears Small
Because we love our children, because protecting them is as basic to being a parent as breathing is to being alive, we often become intensely emotional, interested, and wrapped up in our child's tearful or angry complaints about the other parent. In short, our ears get very big. As our little girl complains that Daddy was mean, or as our son complains that Mommy was somehow unfair, our own spousal resentments can quickly get confused with our desire to protect our children and cause us to overreact. Our children quickly see our ears grow large as we seem intensely interested in their complaint, and we fail to exercise the kind of cautious pause used by most good parents as their child runs in the door complaining that they were kicked by someone on the soccer field: we don't quickly run out to angrily confront the child or their parent – we pause, gather more information, and figure out the best response.

Unfortunately, we respond viscerally to our child's complaints about our ex-spouse. We forget that there is a child in the middle who is adding his interpretation to life events and that it is possible we are not getting the full story. When parents respond with emotion and drama, children quickly learn that their complaints are highly valued information and become little cub reporters about their other parent, with the cycle of hostility continuing as the parent with big ears races to the phone to bark at their adversary. Learning to keep our ears small, to respond with emotional detachment, quiet interest, and empathy can go a long way toward dampening hostility in a divorced family.

9. Control the Tribe
When we divorce, we often return to our "tribe of origin," and the tribal members beat their war sticks around us, preparing to attack on our behalf. Loving grandparents, your brothers and sisters, or your new partner can unknowingly contribute to your long-term suffering by further poisoning the waters between you and your ex or by letting the children hear their derogatory comments. They mean well. They are trying to help. But they can often make things worse, both for you and your children. Insist that in your home and theirs, the other parent is always to be spoken of with honor, or not spoken about at all. Make it clear that it does not help reduce your stress when your parents, your siblings, or your partner decide to angrily confront your ex. Tell them that they can help reduce your distress in life by communicating in civil, cooperative ways with your ex, when such communication is necessary, if for no other reason than to create a sense of peace for your children as they move back and forth between the homes.

10. Focus on What You Can Control
It makes perfect sense to wish that your ex would control his or her temper better with the children. It makes perfect sense to wish that your ex didn't feed the children donuts and Happy Meals during his week with the kids. It makes perfect sense to wish that your ex would put the children to bed at a decent hour. Perfectly sensible – yet you have failed over and over and over again to get your ex to listen to your complaints. Your ex isn't budging and thinks your concerns are foolish. In the end, many parents have to face the difficult reality that despite their best efforts, their ex-partner is refusing to change. They have hit the proverbial "brick wall" and sit fretting and frustrated on the couch as the children leave for their other parent's home with nothing having improved.

Unfortunately, for such parents, every bit of additional mental energy that is put into trying to change their ex-partner is a bit of mental energy that they have wasted and that they no longer have available to use for themselves. Make the empowerment shift: begin by accepting your ex for who he or she is. Recognize that each of you has chosen a certain path in life, that you have made reasonable efforts to change your ex, and that it is now time to move on and focus where you really have power: on the way you are parenting your kids. Every time you find yourself mentally focusing on an aspect of your ex that won't budge, quickly refocus on your own parenting and the gifts that you bring to your children. What do you choose to feed your children? How do you choose to handle your temper when you are angry at them? What bedtime do you choose? Continually insisting that an intransigent ex change in the way that you desire is like standing in front of a custard pie and yelling at it to "be apple!" Ultimately, it is a custard pie. If you love apples, go and bake an apple pie with the children that you love.

Source: http://www.divorcemag.com/articles/difficult-ex-divorce-child-custody

Saturday, 17 March 2018

The 7 Habits of Highly Happy People

“Happiness, like unhappiness, is a proactive choice.” ~ Stephen R. Covey

Happiness is the natural result of habitually living and thinking in certain ways. As a matter of fact, happiness is something that is quite predictable for almost all people (those with chemical imbalances, for instance, may be excluded) as we develop certain habits of thought, belief, action and character.

This post highlights some of the most important habits of happiness (7 of them, in fact) and acts as a tribute to the work of the personal-development icon, Stephen R. Covey, who recently passed away. His most famous work, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has impacted a culture.

This is my play on the title of his seminal work …


Some people are unhappy. Others are mildly or moderately happy. Some are even pretty happy. The following, however, are those principles that produce highly happy people.

Highly happy people are possibility and opportunity thinkers. They see the large picture and focus on the immediate steps that lead to the life they imagine. They refuse to dwell on doom and gloom “what-if” thinking.

They think imaginatively, picturing in their mind’s eye the life they want to live, the person they want to be, the way they want to serve, the meaning they want to impart, the family they want to raise, the relationships they want to enjoy.

Their lives are extensions of their vision, of both the way they think and of what they think about most of the time.

People who live highly happy lives are people who have mastered their thoughts, who are not buffeted by ugly, critical, whiny, self-defeating ways of thinking. They don’t harbor grudges or replay old wounds or failures over and over again in their minds, except to learn the lessons embedded in them.

They focus their thoughts on the uplifting and inspiring, keeping them largely free of gutter-think and negativity, prejudice and debilitating fear.


Highly happy people don’t lop-side their lives by focusing exclusively on fun or work or money or sports. They know that pounding a single note in life will create about as much happiness as pounding a single key on the piano will create music.

So they spend time growing in all significant compartments of life, recognizing the exponential growth to their happiness when synergistic growth occurs between each of the major areas of living. Highly happy people are therefore dedicated to personal growth in at least these 6 areas:

Mind: They work to develop their minds by reading good books, challenging their thinking, working at developing insight and wisdom and cultivating intelligence and building a storehouse of knowledge. They have a passion for learning and spend time and resources on its pursuit.

Body: The happiest people are not slaves to a self-limited body. They are not slaves to the appetites of the flesh. They don’t abuse the vehicle of their mind and spirit by filling it with garbage. They respect it as they would a temple. And so they eat good food and exercise regularly and avoid the poison of addictive substances.

Spirit: These people are keenly aware that they are more than mere bodies though. They recognize a higher sphere and look to feed that part of their lives that is in tune with the infinite. They read from scripture and other inspiring works. They fill their minds with uplifting ideas. They serve and bless others. They meditate and pray and connect to spiritual things.

Character: Happy people know their integrity to high values is more important than any earthly reward they could otherwise compromise character to attain. And so they constantly work on the foundation of their lives, the reputation and legacy their characters will create. They know their character is at the core of who they are and that by doing work there, all other parts of their lives will be positively affected.

Relationships: Because relationships are crucial to highly happy people, they prioritize them. In fact, they believe there is nothing more important than the work they do to build trusting relationships with family and friends.

Talents/Skills: Highly happy people know they are capable of great things. They know there is music and poetry and novels and skyscrapers and bridges and healing and improvement waiting inside to be pulled to the outside.

And so they try new things and develop new habits by replacing old bad ones with new good ones. They strengthen strengths and weaken weaknesses and share the talents they work hard to develop, not out of boastful showmanship, but as a humble steward of God-given and God-inspired abilities others can benefit from seeing and learning about … or, frankly, just for the fun of it!

Highly happy people love life. They love others and themselves too. They accept the truism that their love for others is limited by their capacity for self-love.

Highly happy people love truth and nature and beauty. They love their faith and human decency. They live lives of passion because they are passionate about so much that life provides.

They love learning and growing and experiencing all life has to offer. Their passion is an extension of the love and appreciation they have for living a life of meaning and purpose.

Highly happy people express their appreciation for all that fills life. They are grateful for the little things most people take for granted and for the big things as well. They express gratitude for acts of kindness and for the challenges that help build their character muscles.

They believe their thoughts and ideas are important enough to express them. They are not intimidated into silence but are not verbal bullies either. They express their interest in others and express their desire to learn from them.

They freely express earned praise and encouragement and forgiveness. They are not afraid to express their more tender and emotional sides because their insides are securely centered on universal principles of character.

So their expressions are honest, forthright, true, authentic, but respectful, honorable, decent, thoughtful and reflect a soul unencumbered by the fears and anxieties less happy people are bogged down by.

Highly happy people are not rudderless ships tossed about on the seas of public opinion or knocked about by the waves of circumstance or the winds of history. Rather, they are self-directed and pro-active. They choose their life’s direction. They choose their thoughts and beliefs and hopes and dreams.

They also choose their emotional responses to life by choosing the thoughts, beliefs and attitudes that create them.

They are not victims to outside circumstance and accept responsibility for the lives they live. 
They don’t blame their pasts or the world or God or life or the government or anyone or anything else for the conditions of their lives today. That’s not to say they blame themselves for every obstacle they encounter, but they do accept responsibility for doing something about the obstacles once they encounter them.

Highly happy people know they are the products of their choices and so make them decisively but carefully and with an attitude that nonetheless allows for flexibility to change plans, direction or timelines as needed.

Highly happy people act. They spend significant amounts of time doing what matters most. They don’t sit around and excessively watch other people live pretended lives on TV. They don’t have the time, even if they had the inclination.

Instead, they take action on plans and goals and ideas and dreams.They play and work and try new things and go to new places. They pick up hobbies and interests and expand their lives and experiences accordingly.

They do those things that add passion and purpose and meaning to their lives. They volunteer and serve and bless and do. They truly live life as the verb it was meant to be.

Highly happy people are accepting. They accept others as they are while they work to train and inspire them to be more. They accept themselves and their imperfections while they work to make them less pronounced. They accept the conditions of life as they dedicate themselves to the work of changing the conditions they have otherwise accepted.

In other words, they are committed to growth and improvement on all levels, while accepting of their shortcomings as they are right now along the path of growth and improvement. They are works-in-progress seeing the obvious that it’s okay to be broken at the beginning of a project, just not at the end.

And so they live their lives as an on-going self-improvement project, recognizing areas of needed improvement without condemning themselves (or others) for needing improving.

“… there are basic principles of effective living, and … people can only experience true success and enduring happiness as they learn and integrate these principles into their basic character.” ~ Stephen R. Covey

Happiness, then, is the predictable outcome of those principles that create it. We choose to apply those principles or to read them passively, brushing them aside as impractical or simplistic or impossible.

But ultimately, the happiness we live is the happiness we choose as the natural byproduct of the principles we embody.

So choose today to grow, love, express, choose, do and accept your way to a life of incredible happiness as we pause to tip our hats to a man who dedicated his life to human potential.

Source: http://meanttobehappy.com/the-7-habits-of-highly-happy-people/

Friday, 16 March 2018

You Are NOT The Father! Should Step-Parents Have A Right to Stay In A Child’s Life After A Divorce?

I once read an article about Jenny McCarthy where she stated that her famous ex Jim Carrey is no longer close to her son now that they’ve broken up. Jenny has a son from a previous marriage who Carrey became very close to during their five-year relationship, which ended in 2010. Fast forward to 2014 and McCarthy is now engaged to Donnie Wahlberg. I’m guessing…or maybe hoping…that Wahlberg’s relationship with her son is just as close, if not closer than the one he shared with Carrey, but child/step-parent relationships can be very complex. Which brings me to this question: Should step-parents be allowed, or required, to stay in a stepchild’s life even after a breakup or divorce?

Some step-parents who have divorced someone with a child might not care if they no longer have contact with the child depending on what that relationship was like. The child might not be extremely affected either, especially if he never really became attached to his step-parent in the first place. But what about the kids who grew up with a step-parent who treated him like his/her own and now has to separate from that parent? The devastation could be the same as if he were separating from a biological parent. And if the couple shared a biological child, then a stepchild might also suffer from the possibility of becoming separated from a sibling that he’s bonded with.

Then there’s a case like Jenny McCarthy, where she’s now moved on to a new guy who will be in her son’s life. Perhaps Jim Carrey felt that it would be best to distance himself from her child because he knew that one day she’d move on to someone else who would play a fatherly role. And if Carrey is dating someone new himself, would she take kindly to him staying in his ex’s life by remaining close to her son? I think a case can be made that if a couple doesn’t share a biological child, and were never married, then there’s no reason for an ex to remain in your life period for the sake of child that doesn’t belong to the both of them.

So what is the protocol in situations like this one? My guess is that there is no set rule when it comes to step-parent/child relationships since none are exactly the same. It would depend on the bond that was developed…or not. And it would also depend on how the relationship ended between the parents, and the maturity level of the adults involved as well.

Marrying someone with children is not a decision to make lightly when there’s a possibility that you’d have a huge impact on a child. If that child lives with a step-parent, then that person will be in a position to help raise a child, mold him and shape his views and outlook on life. If the child bonds with the step-parent, then the relationship becomes independent of the biological parent, therefore making a breakup very painful. In this case, both adults should give proper attention to the impact their divorce would have on the child. This is where maturity makes all the difference.

It would be a biological parent’s legal right to keep his or her child away from a step-parent in the case of a divorce (unless that step-parent has legally adopted the child or has been granted custody), but if he or she sees that it’s hurting the child, then the best thing to do in that situation is remain cordial with your ex so that the child can maintain contact if he or she wants to. The step-parent should also keep that door open should the child still crave his or her love, attention and guidance. While a step-parent may not be able to demand visitation for a child that isn’t biologically his/hers, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to request some time together if a bond has developed over years that would be no different than if the two shared DNA.

If the child is of an age where he or she can express themselves freely, then consider their feelings in the breakup and ask them what they’d like to do. Some may be so young that they can’t properly express their desires without upsetting either parent, in which case the parents should use their best judgement as to what is in the child’s best interest. But if you’re dealing with teenage children, then they can continue the relationship with the step-parent or let it drift away. In this case, a biological parent should just step aside and allow your ex to come to his games or his graduation and support the child together. And ideally, isn’t that what one would want? After all, more love is always better.

Source: http://madamenoire.com/427603/relationship-with-a-step-parent/

Thursday, 15 March 2018

The Essential Art of Showing Up

In this video* I want to share my views on the importance of showing up in your life. It's one of the core-principles of living a successful life in my view, not to shy-away from doing the difficult things, or from tackling the difficult conversations, but rather to tackle them head-on. Similarly I think we'd all do well to remember that we need to show up in every aspect of our life, giving our relationships, our kids, our work and our business the attention it deserves, doing what we say we'll do and showing up to the challenges that we may sometimes face.

Episode 4 of my Kintsugi-Life Podcast is now available for free and covers the very same subject; Showing Up.

You can download that for free via iTunes at:


You'll also find it at Stitcher and all the standard Podcast Platforms.

*Apologies for the wind noise - the weather was terrible!

8 Simple Rules When Divorcing a Narcissist

Whether you’ve been married for five days or 50 years, it’s hard to imagine the person you’re divorcing today is the same person to whom you once pledged your eternal and undying love. As the saying goes, the very traits that caused you to fall in love with a person are the same traits that caused you to fall out of love at the end of the relationship. The legal, financial, and emotional uncoupling gets even more complicated when you’re tangled up with a narcissist. Divorcing someone with narcissistic personality disorder or even narcissistic features can be a long, drawn-out and arduous affair (no pun intended) if you allow yourself to get sucked into their vortex. Here are 8 healthy and sane steps you can take to divorce on your terms, not theirs.

#1. Determine If Your Ex is a Narcissist.
Your ex can be arrogant, heartless, mean-spirited or an egomaniac, but that doesn’t necessarily make him or her a narcissist. Narcissists are notable for lacking empathy and accepting no responsibility - not even a little bit. People who lack empathy don’t feel sorry for the kitten they ran over, or for the family that is now mourning the loss of its pet, or even for the child who witnessed the accident; they will blame the family for letting its kitten roam the neighborhood, the kitten for not getting out of the way, or they might even chastise the family for the inconvenience of needing to rinse the road kill off their wheels.

Now imagine asking the person who is at the center of his or her own universe for a divorce. Are they going to have any insight to care at all about what brought this on, or what behaviors of theirs led you to this decision? Probably not. Are they going to work with you to co-parent the children and make the children feel safe and secure with the changes and uncertainty in their lives? Probably not. Even if they cheated on you, they will blame you for making them cheat. Even if they physically or emotionally assaulted you, you’re the one who made them do it. They will portray themselves as the victim; they will try to make you pay.

Once you determine and accept the fact that you are dealing with a narcissist, your guard must be up and you must accept that they will be extraordinarily difficult to deal with in a divorce no matter whether it is a child at stake or the steak knives. You can kill them with kindness and they still will go after you.

#2. Save Rational Thoughts for The Right Audience.

Bringing rational thoughts into any conversation with a narcissist is like bringing a squirt gun to a knife fight. Rational thoughts are to the narcissist what vegetables are to a toddler, feed them as much as you want, they will just spit it out. As much as the toddler wants ice cream and will throw a tantrum to get it, the narcissist doesn’t want to hear you, they just want to win. They want vindication to show the world they were right! Their tantrums come in the form of deflections, designed to keep you off balance, distracted, and in defensive mode. You can state, “I want primary custody of the kids because you abuse alcohol.” The narcissist will reply, “I can’t trust you with the kids because you slept with our son’s soccer coach.” While you’re expending energy explaining that you never met the soccer coach and his accusation says nothing about your ability to parent, it’s too late, you’ve already taken the bait and are discussing his or her preferred topic (your inability to parent) versus yours (his or her ability to parent).

Instead of arguing with your ex, calmly and rationally talk to your lawyer and let them speak on your behalf. Which brings up the next point…

#3. Hire a Divorce Attorney That Specializes in Narcissists.

If you own a Tesla electric car, you’re not going to take it to a mechanic that specializes in combustion engines. The same logic applies to legal representation, not all divorce attorneys are created equal. Some are good negotiators. Others are loudmouthed, aggressive sharks. But it takes someone who’s well versed in the tactics that narcissists use in court to create a strategy that keeps your divorce and especially custody proceedings moving through the legal process.

#4. Know the Road Ahead.

If you have children, you will need to convince a variety of people, each with their own agendas and biases, that you are the parent best equipped to care for your children. Your audiences include counselors, therapists, and judges. At each step, the narcissist will try to prove you’re unbalanced, incompetent, and a threat to your children. Remember the old movie “Gaslight?” If you react emotionally to any accusation during these proceedings, no matter now ludicrous, you’re playing into the image of you they’ve manufactured. Expect the unexpected and the worst behavior from your ex and you can’t be knocked off balance or surprised.

#5. Document. Save. File. Share.

It’s relatively easy for an ex to edit a text message, e-mail, or voicemail you‘ve left before sending it to their attorney as evidence against you. The only way to counter their claims is by providing the original message that was sent – this includes screen shots from your phone, “sent messages” from your e-mail outbox, and audio recordings of everything you tell them. The best way of keeping track of this is by minimizing communication with your ex and avoiding all possibilities of him or her provoking you, such as the PTA meeting where witnesses can recall what you do and do not say.

If you see proof of their bad judgment, aggressive behavior, or abuse on social media; capture it before you file for divorce, otherwise your ex can delete the offending posts, or their accounts, in a matter of seconds.

#6. Have a Plan, Stick to It.

Your plan is to reasonably divide your assets and responsibilities so that you and your children can move forward with your lives. For your children, this plan probably includes time with your ex even if your ex is a first-class narcissist. For you, it includes as little as contact with your ex as possible. But the narcissist sees things differently. For them, its win or lose; all for them, none for you. Any allowance you’re given is seen as a personal defeat, so they will spare any expense to keep you from your goals. Even if they invest $50k in legal fees to keep you from getting a $25k car, and you still get the car, they will feel justified in their actions because they can blame the unfair judge and take no ownership in the final decision. In fact, the judge’s decision might fuel their martyr complex for years to come, which is a victory for the narcissist. As part of your plan, know what you’re willing to give up, but demand that everything gets divided equally when you first discuss settlement so the narcissist feels he or she denied you something you really wanted, when it was actually a concession any rational person would have made on Day #1.

#7. Circle the Wagons.
In the Wild West, a caravan could best defend all members against an attack by circling the wagons and fighting from all sides. When divorcing a narcissist, you can expect to be hit from all angles, and blindsided when you least expect it. By surrounding yourself with close family members, friends, and counselors, you won’t need to battle your ex alone.

#8. Forgive Yourself.

Coming back to where we began, it is hard to imagine why you ever married a narcissist. Well, forgive yourself. Narcissists, by nature, want to win at all costs. During your courtship, you were the prize – so he or she likely piled on the charm, the romance, the sex, and the affirmation to claim you as their own and prevent others from being with you. In fact, his or her confident, charming, can-do, “always close the sale” attitude might be part of what attracted you to him or her in the first place. It’s after the sale is made, the deal is done, the validation of winning your love has been given, that the narcissist changes – and often turns their attentions to other prizes and goals (from job promotions and gambling to sports cars and lovers). This cold and calculated shift will eventually lead you to asking for a divorce. It’s okay, you didn’t see it coming this time – but now you know what narcissistic behaviors to look out for next time if and when you’re ready to find a new and worthier partner.

Source: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/8-simple-rules-when-divorcing-a-narcissist_us_5a31c967e4b0b73dde46aa0a

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Seven things I wish I'd known before my divorce: an optimistic guide to the future

The abrupt end of my 18-year relationship left me traumatized. But as I round out the first year, I wish I could hug that poor woman and tell her these truths

Last November, my husband sat me down on the living room floor and told me he didn’t see a future for us. The abrupt end of my 18-year relationship left me feeling blindsided and disoriented, and my brain parsed the event as a trauma. I was in a surreal fight-or-flight mode for months, unable to sleep or eat normally, disoriented to the degree that I would walk into walls as I tried to cook for my son, or fall down the stairs for no reason.

On top of this personal shock, I also had to face my readers. In my work as a publisher of an online wedding magazine, I spent the winter of my divorce figuring out co-parenting while also co-producing wedding expos nationwide. I juggled meetings with child therapists and wedding vendors. It was rough.

But as I round out the first year since my divorce, things have calmed down. I look back and wish I could wrap my arms around that poor blindsided woman a year ago and whisper these truths into her ear.

1. Trip out on grief – it’s a hallucinogen
Regardless of how your marriage ends, it’s a death. Maybe it’s a loving euthanasia that you both agree on, maybe it’s a violent one-sided decision that only one of you sees coming, but it’s a death regardless. This means both of you will go through grief – a powerful mind-altering substance.

In the darkest of my days, I felt like I was on a low dose of LSD at all times – time was weird, my vision was odd, I threw up for no reason, my emotions were out of control. Even eating was an intellectual exercise (chew, chew … swallow? Is that what you do next?). I generally felt like I was tripping.
This state of mind was profoundly uncomfortable, but also weirdly educational. Never a big crier, I received a crash course in what tear-induced catharsis felt like – and holy wow, it felt good. Like many mind-altering substances, there are lessons there if you want to learn them.

2. Choose healing
In the first weeks of the separation, I desperately tried to hold the space for two parallel realities: on the one hand, I wanted to hold out hope for the salvage of my marriage. On the other, I recognized that I was traumatized and broken – and that I needed to heal.

A month in, I had a panic attack that made it clear to me that it was beyond my capacity to hold both “healing” and “hope”. So abandon hope all ye who enter here. Choose healing, instead.

3. Shift attention away from your former partner
Regardless of how your separation goes down, it’s a waste to expand energy on your ex. This will feel deeply frustrating. You will want to argue over details, assign blame, and defend your actions ... but here’s the cold hard truth: it really doesn’t matter any more.

The longer you keep trying to define yourself in relation to your former partner’s actions or opinions, the longer you keep yourself trapped in the relationship. You don’t want to find yourself “divorced to someone” instead of “divorced from someone”. Resist the urge to rage at your ex or complain about them to other people.

For me, time invested in thinking or talking about my former partner was time away from building my and my son’s new life together. I tried to see my ex as a new person with only one role: a co-parent.

Think of it like martial arts: avoid flailing. Conserve your energy. You’ll need it.

4. Grab reinvention by the balls
This may be the best opportunity you’ve had in years (or even decades) to re-assess where you’re at, who you are, and who you want to be.

My divorce meant a very abrupt disintegration of domestic systems I’d had in place for years – childcare, chores, scheduling, finances. Once I’d gotten over the shock, I realized I had an amazing opportunity to rebuild them on my own terms. Once the domestic systems were reestablished so my son had a stable home, I shifted my attention to my own internal systems: food, exercise, sleep.

My divorce came with a 50/50 custody split, which meant that suddenly I also had a lot of time on my hands. At first it felt oppressive: I grieved losing so much time with my son, and sat alone in my empty house, hours stretching ahead of me into days. Even my self-employment (which gave me the privilege of a stable income and a flexible schedule) started to make me feel adrift in a structureless, empty life.

Then I started to think of rebuilding that empty life as an epic project. Which brings us to ...

5. Try all the things
In part to deal with my own loneliness and anxiety, I started filling my lonely childless days with trying things to see if they’d help me heal.

You don’t want find yourself 'divorced to someone' instead of 'divorced from someone'
I tried boxing and firing ranges, sound healing and reiki. I tried jumping jacks to see if they’d help with panic, sprinting to see if it helped with the fear, making an altar to see if it would help with the existential angst. I tried flooding and doing behavior training on myself, intentionally exposing myself to places and situation that deeply upset me to see if I could burn out my emotional receptors.

I tried sleeping pills from my doctor (who diagnosed me with “acute adjustment disorder”) and indica strains from the local legal pot shop (who didn’t care about a diagnosis). I tried three months of sobriety. I tried floor-length sequin gowns and burlesque instruction from a new age stripper who’s a classically trained ballerina. I tried pull-ups and protein. I tried crying until capillaries broke in my eyelids. I tried grief retreats and keening. I tried weird witchy intention-setting and crystals, and then straight-forward systematic mental exercises and meditation practices.

Some things worked better than others, but I learned a lot.

6. Talk to all the people
When you’re partnered, you focus most of your energy on that one person. Out of my partnership, I had an insatiable hunger for new brains. This started with focusing more energy on my closest bonds: I got closer with my parents than I’d been since high school. 
Then it radiated out to my friends: they held my hands while I lay in bed sobbing, and a year later I’m the one holding hands as they go through their own divorces and illnesses and traumas. There is no longer time for small talk.

From there, I radiated out to strangers: I started complimenting randos on the street, just because I needed to see someone smile.

Then I started inhaling people’s stories: the queer former-cheerleader, the opera singer, the tree climber, the corset-maker, the pin-up model with PTSD, my mountaineering accountant going through her own divorce, on and on and on. As I made more friends, I absorbed all their tales and my circle of beloveds got both wider and deeper. My sense of place in the world broadened.

7. Know that it gets better (even if you absolutely don’t believe it)
One of the hardest parts of my post-divorce depression was dealing with the feeling that the pain was going to last forever. The hopelessness! The darkness! It engulfed everything: you feel bad, and you will feel bad forever. Your brain simply cannot fathom that it is not the case.

You can’t convince yourself of this in the moment, but just let the reality float out there until you eventually feel it: it gets better. Even if all you can do some days is tread water with one nostril above the water, know that there is a shore out there somewhere.

You won’t find it; it’ll find its way to you

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/oct/06/divorce-survival-guide-seven-truths-after-relationship-ends