Saturday, 16 December 2017

What are the legal implications of dating during and after divorce?

Not surprisingly, new relationships are often forged between one spouse and a third party while the spouse is still married to their husband or wife. Even more often, divorced parties seek out and begin new relationships after their divorce has been brought to judgment. Most people believe that there are no legal implications to beginning those relationships, and most often they are right. However, sometimes there may be negative or even positive legal implications stemming from those new relationships.
When spouses begin outside relationships during marriage, the bulk of possible negative legal implications arise.  While 33 states currently provide (and recommend) divorce based on irreconcilable differences, the remainder of the states, and some of the states that also allow no-fault divorce, permit parties to file for divorce based on fault. One of the legal grounds for a fault-based divorce is adultery. The implications that could arise and the legal effect of an adultery claim in a particular divorce case will vary under each state’s law. In some states, criminal implications could arise when a spouse has been found to have committed adultery, although the prosecution of such crimes appears to have gone by the wayside in the past decades. As one example, if a court finds that one spouse has committed adultery and allows a divorce on those grounds, usually the legal implication extends to the issues of spousal support (alimony) and the division of assets and debts wherein the court would allow more or less alimony and assign property differently as if there were no adultery.
The primary legal significance of a person dating before or after marriage, however, arises when children are involved.  When child custody and visitation is an issue during a divorce case, or even during post judgment proceedings, the presence of a new person in the mix can be important both negatively and positively.  In every state, a divorce court is charged with ensuring that the best interest of the children is the focus, and child custody and visitation orders are based on this premise. If a parent brings a new dating relationship to the presence of the children to quickly, it could negatively impact the children because they may believe that the other parent is being replaced. Family Court judges are cognizant of the fact that many people want to move on with their lives, but they balance that right with the children’s best interests.  It is often most appropriate for a parent beginning a new relationship to introduce that person to the children slowly over a period of time.
There can be severely negative impacts for a parent that begins dating a person with a questionable history, including a criminal past. The mere possibility of a person with a criminal history spending time with children is grounds for the court to significantly limit the dating parent’s custody of the children. Conversely, in some cases a state court family law judge may consider the presence of a new person as having a positive impact on the children. For example, if a divorced father begins dating a woman who is a pediatric nurse, the inclination may be for the judge to view that in a positive light due to the possible benefits to the children. However, keep in mind that there are a significant number of cases that unwaveringly conclude that a “two-parent” household cannot be preferred over a one parent household when a judge is determining child custody and visitation orders. These rules and holdings vary state-by-state.

Friday, 15 December 2017

He’s making a list, checking it twice

I love Christmas time. It’s the most wonderful time of the year (if the song is to be believed).

Once Halloween has passed and the supermarket displays of mince pies, sherry and tinsel start to seem less-ironic and vaguely seasonal I feel justified in allowing myself to enjoy the run up to it. I get excited, I daydream and I anticipate.

I’ve been the same all my life. As a child, the countdown was marked with an advent calendar (which to the shock of my kids didn’t used to feature a nugget of chocolate behind every door, but instead a small festive picture; a robin, a sprig of holly or perhaps a scene from the nativity to mark each passing day; very low-key). Not content with the calendar I would re-read festive books and re-watch favourite Christmas TV series’ and movies; with the skills of a marketing genius I would build myself into a frothing frenzy of festive anticipation by the time Christmas day came around.

I may have matured a little to the extent that I’m able to sleep uninterrupted on Christmas Eve without listening for sleigh bells, but it hasn’t stopped me from feeling the joy of the anticipation. If anything, the sensation is heightened now. I’ve compounded it too by banning from the house all decorations, Christmas movies and music and the consumption of mince pies and mulled wine until December 1st or later. It’s not a standpoint that has won me many fans, but my motives are positive; I want to maintain a sense of perspective, to reinforce for my nearest and dearest that if we’re truly going to enjoy the end-of-year festivities and celebrate for a few days by exchanging gifts and overeating and drinking, then surely we can confine the joy and the anticipation to just one month of the year? Better to make it one good month than a tedious two?

At risk of this descending into a ‘things aren’t the same as they used to be’ piece, I wanted to get the above disclaimer in to ensure that you don’t think of me as someone who can’t feel festive delight or revel in the anticipation of something just as much (if not more than) the event itself. Scrooge, I am not.

What I’ve been reflecting on since the Christmas season arrived, is prompted in observing the annual ritual of my kids preparing their Christmas lists.

When I was a child (there’s the statement you were no doubt expecting) I recall the challenges of compiling my Christmas list of gifts I hoped to receive. Writing it down made sure there could be no misinterpretation, and thanks to my parents who seemed helpfully to have a fast-track in getting it sent to the North Pole, ensured that at least some of the items would appear beneath the tree on Christmas morning.

As a kid, I wasn’t so much focussed on the season of good cheer, but more on the opportunity to get some new toys or to push the boundaries of my material life, to request some coveted item that would bring new meaning to my life. I can’t remember a single Christmas spent feeling anything other than delighted with the gifts I received, surrounded by love and festive joy; for that reason and many others I feel blessed for my childhood and upbringing.

As my reminiscences become wistful and my hindsight more rose-tinted it strikes me just how much the very act of preparing a Christmas list has changed. As a child, with the advent of the Internet being at least 30 years away my research was confined to toy commercials on TV, items I may have spotted in a shop or occasionally from flicking through a home-shopping catalogue. There was a logistical limit around my expectations, and on what my parents (sorry, Santa) might provide me with. It was assumed that what I wanted was available from a shop somewhere in a town near me. At a stretch, it might be something available from a shop in London (in my juvenile mind, a mysterious and wonderful place where shop shelves groaned under the weight of exotic toys the likes of which I could only dream).

Today the assumption is that pretty much any product, be that a toy, article of clothing or item of technology can be obtained for the right price and within little more than a few days priority shipping from anywhere in the world thanks to the web. Therein lays the quandary for the accommodating parent who is hoping to keep their kids’ feet on the ground when it comes to composing their list. The only limit is that enforced by the parents and their budget, and I believe the kids know and believe this too even if their belief in Santa remains intact.

I recall a particularly landmark year for my eldest daughter. She’d turned 12 or 13 that year and as Christmas loomed it was clear that she knew exactly what she wanted and expected. For context, she’s a hard worker and academically astute but like most teens, prone to taking the path of least resistance when it comes to school work. Contrast this work ethic with the time that had been devoted to writing the Christmas list that was presented to me and other members of the family and it was obvious where her priorities lay.

The list itself was truly a thing of beauty, and no small miracle of desktop publishing; A single side of A4 paper, it detailed desired items (ranging as I recall from a very specific tweed jacket through to a number of high-end make-up products) with a list of retail stockists and their web addresses, current prices and even a ranking system to ensure we understood her priorities. The finished article was rolled up like a University Diploma, and tied with string in an ornate bow. She’d even gone as far as holding initial briefing calls with her grandparents, aunts and her mother to ensure they were agreed on what each was expected to buy for her.

The arrival of the list elicited mixed emotions; I’ve still got my copy in a file-box as I want to reminisce over it in years to come alongside finger-paintings and past-school reports with a sense of nostalgic amusement. There was also a sense of slight despair though when we considered how our baby could have become so materialistic and fixated on organised material gain. The spirit of Christmas had well and truly evaporated.

As with most kids these days it was apparent just how materially focussed she had become. Far from criticising her for this (for she is a product of the world she lives in and the parenting she has received from us) I now see the same traits emerging in her younger sisters and brother (now aged 13, 11 and 8).

One evening this week, child number three (the 11 year old boy) undertook 10 minutes of maths homework with begrudging-resistance, his mantra being to get the bare-minimum done in the least time required to the lowest acceptable standard. Following this, he applied himself to a diligent hour and a half on an iPad researching and then documenting his Christmas list (the third draft) and annotating and cross-referencing the already comprehensive notes prepared the previous evening. If the work ethic applied to the two tasks were reversed I’m confident that he’d be graduating from Harvard within 5 years.

I’ll confess at this point that the rest of this article in its first draft descended into a rant over the challenge of combatting materialism in kids and how Christmas plays-to and encourages this trait. The article also reflected on the year-round frustrations I feel as a parent in response to the relative efforts my kids will apply towards the tasks that they want to do in comparison to those (e.g. homework) that they have to do.

It is somewhat ironic then that it was during a bit of lunchtime Christmas shopping today, listening to the excellent audio book ‘The Values Factor” by Dr John DeMartini that an alternative angle to this topic crystallized in my mind.

Undoubtedly modern life encourages greater consumerism in our kids who are able to identify absolutely any material product that exists in the world and which they could conceivably want. They also know that with the money and a short wait it can be theirs. I believe that social media and the cult of celebrity also tend to instil the belief that anyone can have anything they want, and no substitute should be accepted. This trait is simply a reality of modern life and it is down to the individual parent to find their own balance between giving their children the things they are able to and want to whilst (hopefully) also ensuring that the kids don’t develop a sense of entitlement or a failure to appreciate the value of things in the process.

As far as my other frustration, well when did any kid ever get on and do their homework willingly and voluntarily when faced with a choice between that and something they really want to do?

The key factor is the relationship between the task at hand and, in Dr DeMartini’s words, the child’s own higher-values. The simple and obvious aspect in each of the two scenarios that I described earlier is that my kids were doing more than just reacting to an inherent desire to accumulate more and add to their armoury of material possessions. Sure, they are kids and are allowed to be excited about Christmas and the prospect of asking Santa for new things. In each example however, they were both demonstrating this desire but in a way that brought out their passion, their values, and emphasizing and honing skills that I am sure will one day become a large part of their identities, their adult lives and their work.

In the case of my daughter, she was using her passion and skill as an artist to create a list that was not only filled with facts and information to convey her wishes, but that was also visually appealing and tastefully presented. Over-engineered certainly, but pretty, nonetheless. She is now an arts student at college and I’m sure that whatever she does in adult life, she will always tend towards the visual and the aesthetic in whatever work she produces, especially when trying to convey a subject or relay content that she is passionate about.

In the case of my son, he has a keen mind for detail and an encyclopaedic knowledge on topics that fire his imagination. He may not leap with joy at the sight of a sheet of mathematics problems, but he can relay details of the 2015/16 Manchester United Football season (and the one before it) to an impressive level of detail and he can identify and recall the key skills and signature moves of hundreds of superheroes at will. In researching the content of his Christmas list to the level of detail that he did, he was demonstrating diligence and an attention to detail on topics that align to his higher values and interests that I’m sure will serve him well in life and his career. Similarly, his skills in employing modern technology to collate his list with zero assistance and supreme focus demonstrate just how seamlessly technology and its use is embedded in him and how he thinks.

As with many things I’ve learned (and continue to learn) as a parent, it’s very easy to jump to conclusions when your child does (or doesn’t do) something. Understanding the cause doesn’t always excuse the action (or effect) but at least it can help offer an alternative perspective and aid your understanding. In some instances, like the above, it can also help you recognise the positive traits and behaviours arising from the situation which are to be encouraged, not quashed. In turn, that can help you to plan future strategies so that when you are next confronted with a similar challenge you can adapt your behaviour or expectations rather than blindly hoping for something different. That is my lesson learned for today.

I have numerous memories of Christmases past, and many that are no doubt artificially vivid thanks to oft-viewed family photos. One such memory (and possibly representing my best ever Christmas present) was of a Cowboy dressing-up costume comprising a fringed trouser and waistcoat combo made by my Mum and a Leather pistol holster crafted by my Dad. At the age of about 5, the photo of me and my sister that Christmas morning (she wearing the nurses outfit with similar home-made provenance) epitomises to me the sentiment that I want to recapture for my kids in giving them memorable Christmases for years to come.

That isn’t to say that I’ll be ignoring the lists they’ve all so diligently crafted and eschewing the crowds heading out to Black Friday sales in the pre-Christmas shopping frenzy, in favour of hand-made gifts. Or maybe I will, after all there’s that other adage about gifts and giving;

“It’s the thought that counts!”

Toby Hazlewood

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Dating After Divorce: 10 Rules For A Stress-Free Love Life Post-Split

Think nothing could be more stressful than going through divorce? Try dating after a split, which can be a major source of anxiety for recently-separated singles. Navigating the dating scene after divorce does involve getting out of your comfort zone — but it doesn’t have to be stressful, if you’re able to embrace a healthy mindset and follow a few basic dating rules.

“People expect, especially later in life, that dating is going to be the same as it was in their early 20s when they first were dating -– and it’s not at all,” matchmaker and dating coach Kimberly Seltzer tells the Huffington Post. “The pool is different, and people have life experiences and stress to contend with. The first thing to change is your mindset.”

Even though things have changed — both in your relationships and out in the dating world — meeting new people doesn’t have to be an anxiety-inducing process. Scroll through the list below for a 10-step guide to getting back in the saddle with less stress post-split.

1. Get In Touch With Yourself First.

Before you even think about going on your first date post-split, make sure to get back on track with yourself and adjust to your new single lifestyle. Seltzer recommends focusing on exploring new interests, cultivating a healthy lifestyle and renewing your image with a wardrobe update.

“The first step is getting back to basics and figuring out what your passions are, and also feeding your spirit and getting really solid with yourself,” Seltzer says. “It can be overwhelming, so really focus on you first before you get back into the dating pool.”

2. Find Some Single Friends.

Finding a group of single friends is the next step, says Seltzer (she adds, “If you don’t have ‘em, get ‘em!”). Going out and having a good time with friends can be a great way to both boost your confidence, adapt to your new single lifestyle and meet people. You never know who will catch your eye at a bar, coffee shop or play — and if you see someone who interests you, don’t be afraid to say hello (see rule #3).

If most of your friends are married and you’re having a hard time meeting like-minded singles, Seltzer recommends joining groups or clubs based on your interests or attending networking events.

3. Don’t Rush.

If you’re still experiencing anger towards your former spouse and haven’t moved past constant thoughts of your marriage, you may not be ready to start dating yet.

According to Marni Battista, relationship coach and founder of Dating with Dignity, you’ll know that you’re ready when you can talk about your ex without having to put him or her down.

4. Get Online (And Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help).

The new technology of dating can be very stressful, Battista tells the Huffington Post. “Texting, sexting, chatting, Skyping, instant messaging, dating sites...All of that can really stress someone out and they can get overwhelmed and they may not do it correctly, which reinforces many of their fears or beliefs that dating is hard.”

While you shouldn’t feel overwhelming by the changing role of technology in the dating scene, it may still help to educate yourself on new developments so that you can text and date online with confidence. These days, the stigma of online dating has all but vanished — so don’t be shy about turning to others for their wisdom when you’re struggling with that “about me” section.

“Spend some time doing a little research,” advises Battista. “Become educated with information. Seek out your friends and ask for help.”

5. Don’t Get Down On Yourself When Things Don’t Work Out.

Dating always comes with the possibility that things won’t work out the way you hoped. But by viewing dating as practice, you can minimize stress and anxiety around encounters that may not have gone as you’d hoped.

“Try to have a mindset that it’s just going to be fun, and that you have to kiss a lot of frogs to get your Prince Charming,” says Seltzer.

6. Fake It ‘Til You Make It.

Although you don’t want to dive into the dating pool until you’re ready, if it’s been a year and you’re still afraid to go on that first date, it might be time to adopt the old “fake it ‘til you make it” strategy to boost your dating confidence. There is scientific evidence that suggests pretending to be confident can actually make you more confident. In a recent Huffington Post article about how acting in love helps you stay in love, Dr. Craig Malkin discussed the benefits of this technique. The lesson is simple, Malkin writes: “First we act; then we feel.”

7. Don’t Dish On The Details Too Early.

You want your date to see you for all the things that make you who you are — not just as someone who’s recently gone through a tough divorce.

“Save the story of your past for when you have a connection,” says Battista. “Then they can put you in context with who you are now, not to just try to paint that picture against the backdrop of your divorce.”

8. Make Time To De-Stress Before A First Date.

First dates are nerve-racking for everyone — not just recent divorcees. But you can keep the jitters at bay (and make sure not to come across as too nervous) by taking a little time while you’re prepping to get yourself relaxed and centered.

“Take a moment to get calm and take a few deep breaths and envision you going on this date and having a great time,” says Battista. “Spend even 60 seconds imagining the date being what you want it to be, rather than what you’re afraid of.”

9. Don’t Be Afraid To Take Risks.

Dating can bring out our worst fears of the unknown, causing us to hold back and avoid taking risks when it comes to our love lives. Once you’ve gotten back on your feet and have established a single life that you love, then you can turn your focus to dating again.

“Ask yourself if you like your life the way it is now –- are you looking for a person to add to it, or to fill in the gaps? You [should be] dating from a place of opportunity rather than a fear,” says Battista.

To get past your fear of putting yourself out there, try to look at dating as an opportunity for self-discovery, rather than just a way to get a new love interest. This way, you’ll be focusing first on your own needs, which will make for a less stressful dating experience — and will help you to find someone who truly meets your needs and contributes positively to your life.

10. Don’t Take Dating Too Seriously.
Although it may be hard to think of dating as fun when you’re just getting started, that’s exactly what it should be. Look at your dating experiences as testing the waters, rather than a race to a new relationship — it will take the pressure off and help you simply enjoy the process.

“For the first three to six months, look at dating as an opportunity to practice. If you fail it doesn’t matter,” says Battista. “Go into it saying that the result is not a reflection of your lovability. Just use it as a practice ground.”


Wednesday, 13 December 2017

My first Christmas… without my children

How I have planned a different kind of Christmas, post-marriage breakup, apart from my young sons

When I finally agreed to let my soon-to-be-ex husband have our children this Christmas, my next decision was not to stay home. Somehow it's more depressing to attempt the familiar Christmas minus the main players than to overhaul the whole thing. Very kindly, several friends invited me. My friend India seemed like the best fit because, like me, she is deranged about Christmas, always going the whole hog and then some – I didn't want to make Christmas low-key and gloomy just because I'm getting divorced. And she has a big, messy, loving family that is by no means without its divorces, separations and step-parents. It seemed the only way I could face Christmas without my own family and not feel like the tragic spinster aunt for whom everyone feels a bit sorry (I cannot bear pity, and Christmas has brought out the dreaded head tilt in even the most well-intentioned loved ones).

I'll be Skyping my children throughout Christmas, but I am tearfully sad not to be able to pour the sherry for Santa (and later drink it), be there when bulging stockings are discovered, try again in vain to sell sprouts as an idea, pull crackers then use sticky tape to make the paper crowns small enough to stay on their little heads, and cuddle up in front of Wallace & Gromit. Being away from one's children at Christmas feels very wrong and it never occurred to me that I might one day experience it. My parents, despite separating when I was tiny, always spent Christmas Day together and it's only now that I realise the gesture (not without its behind-the-scenes tensions, I expect) was meaningful to me. I hope one day to achieve the same. I'd like our boys to remember Christmas as a family occasion, not a splintered gathering spread over 250 miles.

But for this year at least, our kids will celebrate two Christmases, that modern ritual disingenuously and guiltily sold to children as a treat, when in fact it's often the only tolerable way for separated parents to cope. I sat my children down in November and asked if they'd like to spend Christmas Day with Granny, Grandad and Daddy; and celebrate another on New Year's Eve with me. After I assured them that Father Christmas had been given both addresses, they agreed almost too readily. They seem to realise that two whole days instead of a fragmented and forced one is a better deal.

But even when celebrating apart, it's vital that parents remain a team. It's important not to engage in one-upmanship when it comes to presents, say. I can see how easily it might happen, but that way madness lies. As the mother (a single one with a drastically reduced cashflow, at that), I'm more likely to be the annoying one who gives much-needed new slippers and pants, while my ex would instinctively be the superstar who buys them touchscreen tablets. So if boring and underwhelming gifts must be bought, then we're in it together. Everything not from Father Christmas will be tagged from both of us, whether it's a toothbrush or an action figure.

There's no denying that the practicalities of Christmas are less fun post-separation. I can't get the decorations down because the loft has no ladder (my husband used to risk a broken neck in a feat of acrobatics). Instead, I hurriedly bought a pile of cheap supermarket decorations and decorated the tree alone, as though it were just another chore rather than a meaningful family ritual. The next day, our children's Christmas concert – always a soggy-necked display of intense love and pride – wasn't shared by my husband, and I felt sad and guilty to be there alone. At home, I keep staring at the flatpack box containing table football and fooling myself that successful assembly is achievable, despite the fact that just holding an Allen key has historically caused something akin to a breakdown in me. Perhaps most trickily, the financial cost of Christmas is obscene – even when exercising restraint – and post-separation, with a terrifyingly expensive divorce looming, I've had to budget very carefully, buying a couple of presents a week over several months.

But even for me, bereft of my family, the arrangement is not without some perks. I haven't had to buy gifts for my in-laws (it's an unfair state of affairs that when a woman marries, she is instantly assumed to be responsible for all birthdays and celebrations on both sides of the family), and any presents under the tree will be opened Hughes-style in the afternoon, not the morning as my ex's family insisted. Most cheeringly, I will get to see my new partner even though, a few Christmases ago, another relationship seemed an impossibility. He's an important reminder that Christmas doesn't end with the end of a marriage, it just changes. 
And if, like me, you truly love the festive season, you'll have an unwavering belief that the best gifts are always yet to come.


Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Afraid of Divorce? 15 Reasons Not To Be

Are you afraid of getting divorced? I understand. Society places so much value on staying married. There is pressure there.

Some of that pressure is good, it keeps people from taking marriage too lightly. (Except for Kim Kardashian. )

However, there are those on the other end of the spectrum who need to get divorced but don’t, because they are too scared. I understand that side too.

Divorce is stressful. Facing the unknown and facing fears head-on is tough. However, there are upsides to divorce.

As a relationship therapist with 20+ years experience, I have gone through this with many clients and friends. Here are some benefits and upsides to divorce that I have seen and learned:

1. Divorce pain is temporary. It will pass. Staying married in an unhealthy relationship will last longer than the temporary pain of a divorce. Sometimes it is good to pull the old bandage off so that you can heal and move on with your life.

2. Just because society tells you that something is “bad” doesn’t mean it is. After all, caffeine was considered dangerous at one time. Now they are saying if you drink enough of it, you won’t get cancer. Slaves used to be considered okay. The list of societally endorsed mistakes is long.

3. The same people judging you negatively for getting a divorce are probably part of the Miserable & Married crowd. There are plenty of those. Happy, contented and healthy people don’t go around judging and condemning other people.

4. Forever is a long freaking time. The people who made these marriage rules only lived into their twenties. Then they conveniently died of the Black Plague or something worse. Remember this.

BTW: I love the scene on Curb Your Enthusiasm when Larry is supposed to renew his vows. He stands up there and starts coughing and wigging out when he has to say “into eternity.” His argument is “Eternity???!” Isn’t a lifetime enough? LOL.

5. People change and grow, they want different things. That is the reality of life. This is normal, okay and expected.

6. If you squash yourself, squash your needs, and keep down who you really are, you will suffer from depression, stress and anxiety or develop stress related medical problems. Staying miserable due to fear will allow fear to grow in you. This fear will make you feel more dependent and more scared about leaving. If your relationship is severely unhealthy, you will be even more afraid to leave. A total mind f***!

7. What about the kids? Kids will suffer more if you stay miserable in your marriage. This can lead to them feeling fearful of leaving their own marriages if they are unhealthy or dysfunctional. Do you want that for them? Use your love for their care as motivation.

8. No matter how difficult a divorce gets, you always have choices. It is easy to forget this. No matter how miserable your ex tries to make you, you will have choices. In addition, you will have supportive friends, wine, your therapist, girlfriends, various 12-step programs, and your Higher Power.

9. It takes courage to face the unknown. Get support and rely on your Higher Power to see you through. This is good practice of learning where and how to let go.

10. What about the kids again? It is very difficult to maintain integrity when things get nasty. As long as you are doing that, and holding your kids’ needs first, it will be okay. Read the Good Karma Divorce by M. Lowrance and get them as much support as possible. They will get through it.

11. Some fathers actually show up and provide active interaction with kids after a divorce. I have had a ton of friends with spouses who never interacted with the kids or participated in the kids’ lives until they got divorced. Post divorce, the parent has to actually drive to the house, pick up the kids, and talk to them. This can be a wonderful shift for children who are used to dad just slinking off to his man cave.

12. After they say it out loud and put the divorce into play, most people are relieved to be done with that constant fighting and tension they had felt. They they can finally B-R-E-A-T-H-E.Ahhh …. Let your lawyer fight it out instead of you. It is a huge relief for many after the hardest parts are finalised.

13. If you are the unlucky winner of a spouse that has left you, I am so sorry. You will need to grieve. Know that the world has something so much better waiting for you. Please try to trust this and carry hope. I have seen it happen over and over so if you don’t believe me, trust that I may be right.

14. If you guys change your mind, you can always get married again. I have a client whose parents got divorced and then remarried 20 years later. This time, they are happy. Everything happens in the time and manner it is supposed to.

15. Last but not least, now you can be like a kid in a candy store in the sex department. Tinder,, Farmers Only. There is a lot of hot sex going on out there with people who are newly divorced. Wahoo!

I am certainly not endorsing divorce. It is best if a couple gets professional treatment before taking this step. It is important to take the time to consider the impact of such a decision long term.

In addition, as a couples counselor, I am proud to say that there have been many couples who have walked through my door thinking they may have to get divorced but then they didn’t. However, staying together isn’t always the best option for every couple and family. 
We don’t always have all the information we need to make good decisions when we walk down that aisle.

“The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t,” really isn’t the best philosophy for joy and richness. Don’t ever let fear be your primary motivation. Let joy, hope, faith, and courage carry you along…


Monday, 11 December 2017

How Emotionally Strong People Avoid Giving in to Anxiety and Stress (It’s Fascinating)

You don’t always have to accept reality.

Remember those old Road Runner cartoons where Wile E. Coyote would accidentally run off a cliff? And he’d spend a few seconds suspended in mid-air, tentatively dabbing the nothingness beneath with his toe, as if to reassure himself that the ground was still below him?

As viewers, we all know that the second Wile looks down and confirms the reality of his situation, he’s going to plummet to his doom.

Human beings do the same thing all the time. We get ourselves into harrowing situations, we surround ourselves in stress and anxious emotions, but we find ways to delay in the inevitable — we force ourselves to NOT look down — so we can spend a few more seconds walking on air before the universe reminds us that gravity does, in fact, exist.

THAT is the power of denial.

And denial’s unique ability to help people stop themselves from falling into an abyss might actually be a good thing, according to Dr. Holly Parker in her new book, When Reality Bites: 
How Denial Helps and What to Do When It Hurts.

That’s right. Despite what you’ve heard, denial is not all bad.

When you think about it, denial is a huge part of the human experience.

In fact, it might just be the most human part of our experience, because it’s something that only people do.

You won’t ever see a dog pretending it’s not hungry when there’s a steak in front of it, or a cat acting like it doesn’t want to come inside when it’s raining. Denying what’s really going on around us seems to be something that’s singular to human beings.

People can get creative in their attempts to pretend that the truth that’s right in front of them isn’t true — and some people are really, really good at it. You could even say that a few people are experts on the art of “evading the unwanted.”

But are those people happier because of it?

Well, as I learned during my eye-opening read of When Reality Bites, they might be.

Here’s how denial can actually make us healthier and happier…

In her book, Parker talks about everyday experiences with denial that we’re all familiar with. Ignoring the bills piling up until they’re late? Yep. Feeling sad but never making an attempt to change anything? Check! Denying that you’re not feeling well until your body throws in the towel? We’ve all been there.

According to When Reality Bites, denial allows us to “dial” our awareness up or down to where we need to be emotionally in those everyday moments.

This presents humans with a unique opportunity — the option to take a step back mentally and deal with the issue later on in our own time, because there are times in life where we simply “can’t even.” And there are times when we need to deal with anxiety on our own terms.

Denial is a key factor in our ability to take on the world around us — it’s like an emotional filter — and it’s actually pretty cool, because denial can protect us from what we can’t handle in the moment.

For example, we’ve all seen movies where the main character is taken from their ordinary world and finds themselves thrust into Oz, Narnia, or some other fantastic landscape. Often, the first reaction of these characters is to deny their new reality. “Ah, this has to be a dream.”

Denial allows them to stave off the panic of dealing with witches, dragons, and talking animals long enough to let them slowly acclimate to their new surroundings without flooding their brains with anxiety and horror.

It might be frustrating for the viewers at home, because WE know that’s a real witch, but, for the person dealing with the adversity, having that buffer zone of denial allows them to navigate their scary new reality rather than just shutting down completely.

In When Reality Bites, Parker explains that this behavior is normal and that human beings use denial as a tool to deal with both bad and good things.

We’ve already discussed the bad — denial keeps us from realizing that we’ve fallen off a cliff, that bills are due, or that we’re not in Kansas anymore. But denial can also make good things feel even better.

Delayed gratification is a form of denial. That’s when human beings avoid learning the truth about something — what it looks like, how it feels — to delay its pleasure from eventually ending.

We separate soon-to-be spouses on their wedding day, so they won’t see each other until they walk down the aisle. We refuse to hear spoilers about that show we’re dying to watch.

We wait to learn the gender of a baby until they’re born to make their birth even more dramatic.

Denial can not only protect us from painful truths until we’re ready to deal with them, but it can also make good things last longer.

Denial can, in good times and bad, make us feel like possibilities are endless. That the world is a little more magical than it might really be or that we have more doors open to us than we’d ever imagined.

And, whether that’s true or not, denial can provide us with the emotional support we need to prevent ourselves from lapsing into despair and get us back on our feet, searching for new ways to move forward — even if there actually isn’t a cliff below us anymore.

I started reading When Reality Bites completely skeptical that denial could be a healthy emotion, but I’m a total convert now. Sometimes we all need to ignore what reality is telling us and forge ahead on our own paths, for better or worse. If you’re not sure about the redemptive power of denial, pick up a copy of When Reality Bites and see for yourself.


Sunday, 10 December 2017

How to Grieve After Divorce

Grief is a tricky thing. We understand the process during the death of a loved one but forget its role during divorce.

Not allowing yourself to grieve during divorce means not giving yourself the chance to heal. And not giving yourself the chance to heal means not giving yourself the chance to move on with your life. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Divorce is like death. It is okay to mourn your loss. It is completely normal to feel like your world has crashed into a million pieces and that you will never recover from divorce. When you think about it, you’re actually reeling from multiple deaths during divorce, which makes it really hard to move on if you do not grieve:

  • Death of your marriage.
  • Death of the life you thought you knew.
  • Death of your own identity as a partner and a member of a team.
That is a lot of loss to handle. Remember, you don’t have to just swallow your pain and act tough. Be okay with the fact that you went through something awful and traumatic that rocked the world and the life you though you knew. Unless you’re made of stone, you will feel like you have been hit by a freight train.

It is okay to be angry, in denial, scared, sometimes all within 10 minutes of each other. The trick comes in being kind enough in making peace with this loss, but motivated enough not to let it hold you prisoner, especially when there are so many beautiful things in this world, just waiting for you to discover them.

Turning that grief into insight
It is possible to process grief in a healthy manner. Remember to ask yourself powerful introspective questions that will help you move on. Some of these may include:
  • What emotions can I not get my head around that seem to be ruining my life right now?
  • How will I mindfully manage these emotions so they do not hold me prisoner?
  • I cannot change the past. Moving forward, what steps will I take to ensure that I will heal?
Learning from your own mistakes but not blaming yourself
The things we learn are only as valuable as our willingness and ability to put them into context, determine how we would handle the situation differently, and then make a proactive plan to handle things differently in the future. This approach takes much self-awareness but without it, it may be very hard to heal. Some questions to ask yourself on the road to healing may include:

  • What are some of the things that I blame myself for?
  • What are some of the regrets that you still harbor?
  • How can you change those feelings into something positive moving forward?
Getting support and holding yourself accountable
Regardless of whether the papers were signed years ago and you are still wondering how to make sense of it, or you are knee-deep in divorce drama right now, one of the strongest things you can do is reach out for support and remember that you do not have to grieve alone.

As a way of ensuring that you will reach out to someone, make the following pledges to yourself:

  • By the end of today, I will…
  • By the end of the week, I will…
  • By the end of the month, I will…
These accountability pledges can be as simple or as detailed as you want. The point is to set that intention to reach out for support and follow up on it.

Healing from divorce is a process. But if you remember to show yourself compassion, the journey to the next chapter of your life is possible.