Friday, 18 January 2019

How to Let Go of Anger After Divorce

You know that feeling — the one where your heartbeat quickens and your head starts to pound. Your throat starts to close and it takes all the strength you have to keep from screaming at something that your ex said or did.
Anger. Being ticked off. Feeling rage.
While anger is a natural emotion, learning how to manage it as you navigate divorce is crucial to moving on and taking your life back. Although it takes time, the following advice will get you started on the road to recovery.
Anger is a thief. Don’t let it rob you of your chance to move on and be the person you have always wanted to be.
You work hard to maintain the things you love. You keep your house nice and cozy, and you probably have homeowner’s insurance. Your beloved heirlooms and mementos are probably tucked away with the greatest of love and care.
You wouldn’t leave your door unlocked and invite a thief in to destroy those things in your home that you love, would you?
Heck no!
So, why on earth are you leaving the door to your life and the door to your happiness, inviting anger in on a daily basis? Just as a thief will break into your home, wreck it, and take away everything that is dear to you, so will anger.
It’s time to lock the door. It is time to protect one of the most precious things that anger will rob you of: your happiness and chance to heal.
Anger = your reaction to other people’s silliness trying to control you. Why let it?
When you are angry at something, the body lets you know. Your blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate increase because your adrenal glands are being set into “fight or flight” mode.
This physiological reaction may have served cavemen and cavewomen when it was time to fight off whatever prehistoric beast threatened their survival, but the same anger that disrupts your calm and will only keep you from moving on.
The fact that your ex didn’t treat you right, the fact that the marriage is ending or has ended, and the fact that the ex and their lawyers may still be doing stupid shit is just that. They are only facts, but they are not indicators of how you must react.
How you choose to react to the problem — in this case how you choose to react to the facts (the events that are making you angry), is what makes the difference between navigating this process with less drama and stress for yourself, or letting all the madness drag you down and leave you exhausted.
You’re better than getting pissed off at something that you cannot control in the first place. It’s time to focus on the things you actually can control.
If it does not serve you, then let it go.
Some years ago, I was sweating my tail off in a hot yoga class, frustrated that I could not get into a back bend, I heard the yoga teacher say, “If it does not serve you, then let it go.”
Although the yoga teacher probably meant it for the students to be kind and patient with themselves, those words stuck.
It wasn’t about being upset about not being flexible enough during that moment in time.
It was about not letting the fact we were inflexible cloud our ability to just be and move on.
It was about understanding that if a negative emotion was not going to improve our lives, then we needed to show it the door. There is no place for anger holding us hostage.
Beating the Anger Exercise
The next time you start to get angry about the divorce drama, do the following.
  1. Close your eyes and take 3 deep breaths.
  2. Remember that whatever BS is coming your way does not have the power to make you made.
  3. Remember that if the anger is not contributing to your well-being, then breathe that negativity out.
  4. Inhale in the fresh air and focus on the beautiful life and calm that will be your guide.
  5. Carry on, because you have way too many awesome things going on to waste your precious emotional energy on anything toxic.

Learning to let go of anger after divorce can be a long process. But with patience and being kind to yourself and mindful, you will navigate it and take your life back in no time.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Get back on the horse when you fall off - Recapturing good habits and po...

We've all no doubt experienced times in life when we lose the resolve and resilience to carry on with good habits and positive practices. It can be as simple as falling out of the habit of going to the gym, meditating, carefully managing our money or giving our relationships the attention they deserve. When this happens, we have a choice whether to quickly acknowledge this, and pick up the good habits again, or to lament the fact, hating or judging ourselves and delaying getting back to the good habits. When this happens, we NEED to get back on the horse and pick up with the good habits again to see their effects in our life. 

Inspired by one of my recent blog posts ( this video explores what our reactions can be when we lose the good habits and how to approach picking them up again. I refer to my own experiences of losing the habit of going to the gym and looking after my health. I managed a solid 6 months of gym going in 2018 before losing the habit! I found the excellent book, the Four Hour Body by Tim Ferriss which helped me to rediscover my resolve and to start looking after myself again, but it was only at the start of the new year when I started back at the gym in earnest. You can pick up the Four Hour Body at 

If your plans, habits and good intentions have been knocked off track, maybe this video will help you to restore your motivation and get back on the horse! 

If you have any comments or feedback on this episode you can reach out by email on 

If you'd like to receive the occasional message from me containing thoughts, information or inspiration related to living a better life after divorce, you can join my mailing list at the following link:

Thanks and have a great day! Toby

The Psychological Effects of Divorce on Children

Take steps to help kids bounce back faster

As a marriage dissolves, some parents find themselves asking questions like, “Should we stay together for the kids?” Other parents find divorce is their only option.

And while all parents may have many worries on their mind—from the future of their living situation to the uncertainty of the custody arrangement—they may worry most about how the children will deal with the divorce.

So what are the psychological effects of divorce on children? Researchers say it depends. While divorce is stressful for all children, some kids rebound faster than others.

The good news is, parents can take steps to reduce the psychological effects of divorce on children. A few supportive parenting strategies can go a long way to helping kids adjust to the changes brought about by divorce.
The First Year After Divorce Is the Toughest

Divorce rates have climbed across the globe over the past few decades. It’s estimated that 48 percent of American and British children live in divorced single-parent homes by age 16.

As you might expect, research has found that kids struggle the most during the first year or two after the divorce. Kids are likely to experience distress, anger, anxiety, and disbelief. But many kids seem to bounce back. They get used to changes in their daily routines and they grow comfortable with their living arrangements.

Others, however, never really seem to go back to “normal.” This small percentage of children may experience ongoing—possibly even lifelong—problems after their parents’ divorce.

The Emotional Impact Divorce Has on Kids

Divorce creates emotional turmoil for the entire family, but for kids, the situation can be quite scary, confusing, and frustrating:

  • Young children often struggle to understand why they must go between two homes. They may worry that if their parents can stop loving one another that someday, their parents may stop loving them.
  • Grade school children may worry that the divorce is their fault. They may fear they misbehaved or they may assume they did something wrong.
  • Teenagers may become quite angry about a divorce and the changes it creates. They may blame one parent for the dissolution of the marriage or they may resent one or both parents for the upheaval in the family.

Of course, each situation is unique. In extreme circumstances, a child may feel relieved by the separation—if a divorce means fewer arguments and less stress.

Stressful Events Associated With Divorce

Divorce usually means children lose daily contact with one parent—most often fathers. Decreased contact affects the parent-child bond and researchers have found many children feel less close to their fathers after divorce.

Divorce also affects a child’s relationship with the custodial parent—most often mothers. Primary caregivers often report higher levels of stress associated with single parenting. Studies show mothers are often less supportive and less affectionate after divorce. Additionally, research indicates their discipline becomes less consistent and less effective.

For some children, parental separation isn’t the hardest part. Instead, the accompanying stressors are what make divorce the most difficult. Changing schools, moving to a new home, and living with a single parent who feels a little more frazzled are just a few of the additional stressors that make divorce difficult.

Financial hardships are also common following divorce. Many families have to move to smaller homes or change neighborhoods and they often have fewer material resources.

Remarriage and Ongoing Adjustments

In the United States, most adults remarry within four to five years after a divorce. That means many children endure ongoing changes to their family dynamics.

The addition of a step-parent and possibly several step-siblings can be another big adjustment. And quite often both parents re-marry, which means many changes for kids. The failure rate for second marriages is even higher than first marriages. So many children experience multiple separations and divorces over the years.

Divorce May Increase the Risk for Mental Health Problems

Divorce may increase the risk for mental health problems in children and adolescence. Regardless of age, gender, and culture, studies show children of divorced parents experience increased psychological problems.

Divorce may trigger an adjustment disorder in children that resolves within a few months. But, studies have also found depression and anxiety rates are higher in children from divorced parents.

Divorce May Increase Behavior Problems

Children from divorced families may experience more externalizing problems, such as conduct disorders, delinquency, and impulsive behaviorthan kids from two-parent families. In addition to increased behavior problems, children may also experience more conflict with peers after a divorce.

Divorce May Affect Academic Performance

Children from divorced families don’t perform as well academically. Studies show kids from divorced families also score lower on achievement tests. Parental divorce has also been linked to higher truancy rates and higher dropout rates.

Children With Divorced Parents Are More Likely to Take Risks

Adolescents with divorced parents are more likely to engage in risky behavior, such as substance use and early sexual activity. In the United States, adolescents with divorced parents drink alcohol earlier and report higher alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, and drug use than their peers.

Adolescents whose parents divorced when they were 5 years old or younger were at a particularly high risk for becoming sexually active prior to the age of 16. Early parental separation has also been associated with higher numbers of sexual partners during adolescence.

Problems That May Extend Into Adulthood

For a slim minority of children, the psychological effects of divorce may be long-lasting. Some studies have linked parental divorce to increased mental health problems, substance use issues, and psychiatric hospitalizations during adulthood.

Many studies provide evidence that parental divorce could be related to less success in young adulthood in terms of education, work, and romantic relationships. Adults who experienced divorce in childhood tend to have lower educational and occupational attainment and more employment and economic problems.

Adults who experienced divorce during childhood may also have more relationship difficulties. Divorce rates are higher for people whose parents were divorced.

Parents play a major role in how children adjust to a divorce. Here are some strategies that can reduce the psychological toll divorce has on children:

  • Co-parent peacefully. Intense conflict between parents has been shown to increase children’s distress. Overt hostility, such as screaming and threatening one another has been linked to behavior problems in children. But minor tension may also increase a child’s distress. If you struggle to co-parent with your ex-spouse, seek professional help.
  • Don’t put kids in the middle. Asking kids to choose which parent they like best or giving them messages to give to other parents isn’t appropriate. Kids who find themselves caught in the middle are more likely to experience depression and anxiety.
  • Maintain a healthy relationship with your child. Positive communication, parental warmth, and low levels of conflict may help children adjust to divorce better. A healthy parent-child relationship has been shown to help kids develop higher self-esteem and better academic performance following divorce.
  • Use consistent discipline. Establish age-appropriate rules and follow through with consequences when necessary. Studies show effective discipline after divorce reduces delinquency and improves academic performance.
  • Monitor adolescents closely. When parents pay close attention to what teens are doing and who they spend their time with, adolescents are less likely to exhibit behavior problems following a divorce. That means a reduced chance of using substances and fewer academic problems.
  • Empower your child. Kids who doubt their ability to deal with the changes and those who see themselves as helpless victims are more likely to experience mental health problems. Teach your child that although dealing with divorce is difficult, he has the mental strength to handle it.
  • Teach specific coping skills. Kids with active coping strategies, like problem-solving skills and cognitive restructuring skills, adapt better to divorce. Teach your child how to manage his thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in a healthy way.
  • Help your child feel safe and secure. Fear of abandonment and concerns about the future can cause a lot of anxiety. But helping your child feel loved, safe, and secure can reduce the risk of mental health problems.
  • Attend a parent education program. There are many programs available to help reduce the impact divorce has on kids. Parents are taught co-parenting skills and strategies for helping kids cope with the adjustments.
  • Seek professional help for yourself. Reducing your stress level can be instrumental in helping your child. Practice self-care and consider talk therapy or other resources to help you adjust to the changes in your family.

Are Kids Better Off When Parents Stay Married?

Despite the fact that divorce is tough on families, staying together for the sole sake of the children may not be the best option. Children who live in homes with a lot of arguing, hostility and discontentment may be at a higher risk for developing mental health issues and behavior problems.

When to Seek Help for Your Child

It’s normal for kids to struggle with their feelings and their behavior immediately following parental separation. But, if your child’s mood issues or behavioral problems persist, seek professional help. Start by talking to your child’s pediatrician. Discuss your concerns and inquire about whether your child may need professional support. A referral to talk therapy or other supportive services may be recommended.

Individual therapy may help your child sort out his emotions. Family therapy may also be recommended to address changes in family dynamics. Some communities also offer support groups for kids. Support groups allow kids in certain age groups to meet with other children who may be experiencing similar changes in family structure.


Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Understanding Divorce-Related Anger

  • Anger is a common emotion expressed during a divorce.
  • Anger can fuel decisions made during a divorce proceeding and color the opinion of a co-parent.
  • There are resources one can use to control their anger.
Marital problems are not always instant. Many of the issues that couples face, such as dishonesty, poor spending habits, or substance abuse, are problems that continue to build over time. Other concerns, such as infidelity or violent behavior, are more instant, but all of these have the potential to lead to divorce.

What leads up to the divorce experience, as well as the divorce experience itself, can create some of the strongest emotions that one may feel during the course of their lives. These emotions can guide the decisions being made and color the opinion of a soon-to-be ex-spouse for years to come.

This is anger.

The emotion

Anger is an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage, according to psychologist Dr. Charles Sielberger, published by the American Psychological Association. It is expressed through an instinctive, natural, and adaptive form of aggression that responds to threats and inspires powerful behaviors and feelings.

During a divorce, understanding the anger directed toward a spouse or an ex-spouse seems simple. They did something wrong to hurt you. You did something wrong to hurt them. The children have been hurt as a result of someone’s faults. On the surface, this seems easy.
Because of the complexity of human emotions and how transpiring events are never simple, it’s difficult to call any aspect of a divorce or understanding why someone feels the way that they do, easy. They are entitled to their feelings, whatever they may be.

However, understanding the layers to them and how they affect aspects of your case are part of the first steps in moving forward after the experience.

The action

Many of can forget this, but we, as human beings, have choices about how we act on anger, according to Licensed Mental Health Counselors, Rosalind Sedacca and Amy Sherman, of The Huffington Post. It’s significant to grasp how the anger from a divorce affects others. 
People fearing you or walking on egg shells solves nothing and creates more problems and potential conflicts.

There also is very little excuse, in terms of justifying aggressive behavior to others. As much as we, as a society, say we understand what someone facing a divorce is going through, the truth is that we don’t. Every person is different, and every divorce is different. To say we understand the aggressive and intense behavior of someone facing the complexity of their own situation is to diminish the unique nature of every divorce case and every marital relationship. This makes for little ground to stand on, in terms of justifying one’s anger to others.

Keeping your distance from others, especially children, is the best course of action, when dealing with bouts of extreme anger, due to your divorce. Many believe that these bouts of intense anger are a part of an individual’s grieving process. Due to the mental and emotional damage of the experience, one can feel repelled from their ex-spouse. However, the anger and possible hatred is not because you no longer have feelings for this individual. It’s because you still do and those feelings have been abused, according to therapist Susan Pease Gadoua in Psychology Today.

When a soon-to-be ex-spouse expresses dissatisfaction regarding an aspect of the marriage or asks for something that you consider to be crossing a line during divorce proceedings, the anger can surface, clouding your judgement and adding a level of intensity that can disrupt legal proceedings.

Co-parenting problems

It can get even worse for co-parenting and custody. Emotional baggage is always one wrong word away from being unleashed, and when one of the divorced co-parents is experiencing issues related to parenting styles or scheduling, it can be damaging for the children.

According to Sedacca and Sherman, parents who learn to control their anger and make better choices when emotionally charged, enjoy the privileges of co-parenting more effectively and successfully.

The experience

While control is important, it can be beneficial to let yourself feel the frustration. In getting angry, you can get motivated. According to The Huffington Post, your anger may give you the fuel to fight back In whatever way you feel wronged. It gives you the energy and focus to get back what you deserve or take back from your ex-spouse what you feel they took away.

In getting back whatever you feel that you are owed, you may find yourself letting go of the anger and the grudge. Individuals exploring a life after anger find themselves taking more responsibility for their own behavior and their own feelings and displaying a much deeper appreciation for what it means to love yourself. That can help you move on and find someone who will love that passion and intensity.

Anger management

If you are unable to move forward in your quest to quell your anger, there are resources that you can look to, which will help treat it.

Seeking help from a mental health professional for anger management is not something to be ashamed of after a divorce. It is admitting that the experience and intensity of this loss in your life requires the attention of others who will listen and support you, as you process your feelings and grow healthier and stronger for the experience.

Anger is a common emotion to feel during the divorce experience. It speaks to the intensity of affection you had during your marriage, and when that ended, there was no other way to express the sudden change in the physical, mental, and emotional makeup of your life. Anger was the solution.

However, it does not have to stay the solution. In fact, it would be beneficial to your case if the irrational portions of anger were processed before the litigation begins, but we, as human beings, do not always have the ability to control the processing of emotions. All we can do is learn to control the intensity of our feelings and grow as individuals.


Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Coping with Divorce-Related Anger

Divorce-related anger can literally make you crazy – causing you to say and do things you'd never dream of if you were thinking clearly. Even though it's a normal part of the healing process, anger can become a destructive force in your life. Here's how to cope.

Rose was so mad she could hardly see straight. She and her husband, Jim, were six months into their “trial separation” when she discovered that he had been dating someone else. Reeling from the impact of the painful news, she sped over to his new apartment, intent on learning every last detail about the new woman in his life. Her heart pounded and terrifying questions flashed through her mind as she drove: “How could he have lied to me? Who was this other woman? Was she attractive?” And, perhaps worst of all, “What was I thinking when I suggested that we should separate?”

At Jim’s apartment, a deep and uncontrollable rage rose up inside Rose’s chest as she pounded her fist again and again on the dining-room table. “How could you do this to me?” she cried, as Jim sat and watched, white-faced and speechless as the breakfast dishes flew off the table and smashed into pieces on the floor. He had no idea how to react – or how to begin to defuse the scene that was unfolding in front of him…

Anger is a very familiar emotion for all of us. And in healthy relationships, it can be an overwhelmingly positive force in our lives. “Healthy anger can tell us if there’s something wrong – something painful and threatening that we need to take care of,” says Dr. M. Chet Mirman (Ph.D.), a licensed clinical psychologist at The Center for Divorce Recovery in Chicago. “It helps us protect ourselves, and lets us know when people are crossing our boundaries.”

But for couples who are going through separation or divorce, anger is often anything but healthy. When anger is coupled with divorce, it’s often used as a misguided means of hanging on to a failed marriage; for some people, a bad relationship is better than no relationship at all. Divorce anger allows someone to punish his/her ex while maintaining an ongoing (bitter) relationship with him/her. It’s a situation that leaves both partners in divorce limbo: a perilous situation that obstructs growth and self-awareness.

Some people hold onto their anger so tightly that their rage takes over their whole lives, coloring and informing all their thoughts and actions. They weigh every action to see how much emotional or physical harm it will inflict on their ex-spouse – even simply being a nuisance will do in a pinch – without seeing the injuries they may be inflicting on innocent victims.

Divorce anger is also often expressed through the legal process itself. It’s very important to remember that your lawyer is your advocate, not your therapist or best friend. Expressing anger to your ex-spouse through the legal process invariably leads to prolonged, emotional proceedings that will ultimately leave you – and the family resources – drained dry.

Using the court as a venue to vent your anger is a bad idea for a couple of key reasons: it’s the wrong venue, and it’s very expensive (financially and emotionally). Unfortunately, the legal divorce process itself tends to add fuel to the fires of anger. Dividing property (some of which has great sentimental value) and trying to prove your case for custody and/or support can be very emotionally charged because these issues underline what is being lost or changed because of your divorce. Some degree of upset is inevitable, but driving yourself alongside your ex into bankruptcy is truly cutting off your nose to spite your face.

So how can you cope with divorce-related anger? The key lies in understanding its roots, and in finding constructive ways to express the hurt, disappointment, and loss that both you and your former spouse are feeling now as you proceed through separation and divorce. “Anger can really be a very healthy and positive tool, but if we use it destructively, all we do is scare people and alienate them,” stresses Dr. Andrea Brandt (Ph.D. M.F.T.), the author of Mindful Anger: A Pathway to Emotional Freedom (W. W. Norton & Company, 2014). “People have to learn to have anger work for them, not against them.”

Here’s some advice about coping with your own and your ex-spouse’s divorce-related anger.

If You are Angry

  • Write it out. Work through your anger by keeping a journal or by writing letters you don’t mail, suggests Dr. Brandt.
  • Shout it out. “If you can roll up the windows in your car or put your head in a pillow and scream, it can drain some of that negative energy out of your body,” she adds.
  • Talk it out. It’s important when you’re angry to develop your own personal support system. Instead of directing your anger at your ex-spouse, talk to a good friend (or two), or find a therapist who specializes in anger management.
  • Get some professional help. “Remember, anger acts as a shield. Your anger suppresses other vulnerable feelings that may be too hard to deal with. It’s easier to feel angry than to feel lost, confused, and worried,” says Dr. Mirman. “Talking to a professional can help you begin to feel those emotions you’ve been suppressing and move past the anger.” You could also benefit from a support or anger-management group where you can share your story and develop greater self-awareness around you anger.
  • Re-examine your “core beliefs.” Anger can be based on something that you observed or were told in early childhood, and that you grew up believing. Ask yourself if that belief is actually true, and if it’s still serving you well.
  • Take responsibility for your part of the marriage break-up. “It’s a rare couple in which both partners were exactly equal in the breaking of the marriage, but it’s an even rarer couple in which one partner was solely at fault,” notes Dr. Ahrons.
  • Do some personal growth work. Your anger can help you identify old patterns, and then you can take the steps to stop repeating them.
  • Learn what “pushes your buttons.” Try to understand your anger – and what triggers it – before you express it. Don’t be afraid to say that you need some time to think about your response.
  • Protect your children. Never make them part of your conflict with your former partner by withholding visitation or support or poisoning their minds against your ex. “For the sake of the children, if for no other reason, learn constructive methods of expressing anger,” Dr. Ahrons says.
  • Keep conflicts at a moderate level, and choose your battles carefully. Expressing every little irritation and disagreement provokes resentment. Think about the most important issues – and let go of the small stuff.
  • Use “I-messages” when expressing anger. Say: “I feel disappointed when you don’t call,” not: “You stupid idiot, you’re always late!”
  • Give yourself time to recover from the loss of your marriage . On average, experts say that the healing process takes about two years. “It’s important to realize how sad you are,” says Dr. Ahrons. “This won’t necessarily make you more vulnerable to your ex-spouse; your successful handling of your emotions puts you in a more powerful position.”
  • Forgive, let go, move on. Anger can become a comfort, a constant in our lives, but as long as you continue to nurse your anger against your ex, you will never have a happy, fulfilled, post-divorce life. Own your responsibility for the break-up, and realize that you have the power to make the choice to forgive and move on, or stay angry and remain stuck. It doesn’t matter what your ex does, you can still choose forgiveness.

If your Ex is Angry

  • Listen to and validate your ex-spouse’s comments. Your ex may be feeling like he/she isn’t being heard; by really listening to his or her concerns, you may realize where the anger is coming from and identify what you can do to help.
  • Don’t be afraid to take a “time-out.” Walk away from an angry attack if you can’t handle it. Say, “I think we need to take a break and continue this conversation when we’re both calm.” Put limits on what you’ll take and how you’ll be treated.
  • Get some assertiveness training to boost your self-esteem. “Anger is like a fire that must be burned up into the ashes of forgiveness,” writes Dr. Ahrons. “If we are passive, it is like throwing more logs onto the fire…”
  • Defuse the situation . Try agreeing or sympathizing with your ex whenever possible. When you agree or offer a genuine apology, it tends to quiet people down pretty quickly. You’re not feeding the flames, so the anger usually starts to burn itself out.
  • Try not to take your ex-spouse’s comments too personally. Anger is a projection of your ex’s inner feelings; accept that he/she is angry because he/she is going through turmoil right now.
  • Stay calm. It can really help de-escalate the anger. Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, can be effective when you’re listening to someone who’s really angry. A mantra can be helpful, too, adds Dr. Brandt. “If I’m speaking with someone who’s really angry at me, I’ll always say silently to myself, ‘This is good for our relationship.’”
  • Learn to recognize your own hot buttons. When someone pushes one of your buttons, your response is going to be way out of proportion to the offense. Instead, try thinking of you ex’s angry words as simple information rather than an attack.
  • Try to feel a little compassion – no matter how hard that may be. Your ex may be feeling fearful that they’ll be alone forever or that they’ll never see their kids again. Try to hear what’s beneath the anger; quite often, it’s fear, pain, or shame. Showing empathy or compassion for your ex can go a long way to defusing his or her anger.
  • Be honest with yourself. Recognize that when someone is angry with you, there may be something in what they’re saying. “Very often, you might hear something that’s really valuable,” says Dr. Brandt. If your ex is yelling at you, you can choose to think he/she’s a jerk and start yelling back, or you can “dig for the gold” in what he/she’s saying. Keep the gold; discard the dirt and rocks.
  • Value your safety above all else. If your former partner’s divorce anger seems to be headed in a dangerous direction, put some boundaries in place and communicate through a third party. Threats should always be taken seriously: remove yourself from the situation and refuse face-to-face contact if you sense any danger at all.

Monday, 14 January 2019

46 Steps to Ensure Your Divorce Recovery: A Definition and Guide

Divorce recovery describes the all encompassing process of emotional and practical restructuring and healing throughout the phases of divorce. It is a constant, cyclical process in which you are broken down and built back up numerous times until finally, you are whole again. Divorce recovery is painful, yes, but it is also an opportunity.

Based on our background in education and our divorce recovery practice, we’ve identified three phases of divorce (contemplating, navigating, and recovering) and suggest the following concrete steps you can take throughout them to best ensure your full divorce recovery. As you complete each step you will be one step closer to your reconnection with self, independence, and true healing.
No matter what phase you are in, if you are mindful of your divorce recovery, our advice to you is…

  1. Accept that it’s okay right now to not have all the answers. Your job is to begin to study and learn what is possible for your life.
  2. Avoid making any radical decisions for at least a year after your divorce. The self-discovery curve is too steep during your divorce recovery. Chances are you are going to learn things you don’t know about yourself. So give yourself some time before you move to Tahiti. You may end up wishing you’d just moved down the street.
  3. Forgive yourself if you are scared. It’s to be expected. You didn’t major in “divorce” in college. How can you possibly know what your life after divorce might mean?
  4. Make a list of your most critical financial questions. Do you know where you stand today? What are your assets? How much debt do you have? What are your near and far term financial goals? How do you get a job if you are facing your fifties?
  5. Help your children along their divorce recovery path by getting educated and taking action for you and them. At times your children might surprise you with their maturity and resilience. Other times they’re so angry or withdrawn it worries you. Understand your children’s recovery path is not the same as yours. They are not going to see or feel the same things as you. Read books (for you, and to them). Look for more resources, like your children’s school or a child therapist, to help you understand how your children are coping and recovering from the divorce. Learn the difference between what is appropriate and what requires your immediate attention.
  6. Understand that you are grieving (or you will be, at some point) and that this is your own, unique divorce recovery path. Grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss of anykind. While you may not feel you are grieving the loss of the person you divorced (you may actually be happy about that) you will likely grieve the loss of hopes and dreams that you had for your life. It’s a confusing time, because at the heart of grief is a mixture of emotions. You might feel incredibly free and exhilarated one moment, lonely and terrified the next, and hollow or despairing the next. This is the nature of grief, and it’s necessary to acknowledge ALL of those feelings as normal and acceptable.
  7. Appreciate that divorce recovery takes time. While nobody knows exactly how long (some researchers say 17 months, others insist it’s three to five years) we know that to advance through the divorce recovery process it requires intention. You must do something. (Check! You are reading this list now!) It’s far less about signing the divorce decree than it is about recovering a sense of homeostasis and positivity.
  8. Be careful in whom you confide – this includes family. Few people can be objective, and fewer still are marriage or divorce experts. Yet, there are plenty of opinions and judgements. Just because your neighbor got burned by his ex, it does not mean that’s what’s in store for you.
  9. At the same time, don’t isolate yourself. This is not the time to try and figure it out alone. The decisions to make are too big and too important. This is a good time to invest in your divorce recovery by surrounding yourself with people skilled in helping you.
  10. Connect with your friend(s). You need support, understanding, and accountability. You need someone who will listen and suspend his/her own judgment. You might need practical things too, like someone to watch the kids when you have appointments or you need space to simply clear your head.
  11. Make a list of your most critical practical questions. Where and how should you live would certainly be one of them. Is it better to keep the house, or sell it and rent? Who is going to care for the house or the car, or the laundry for that matter when your ex is gone? How can you get a job if you need to be home with the kids? (You will see some questions live on multiple lists.)
  12. Make a list of your most critical legal questions. Maybe you are finished with the divorce but you must put a new will in place, or now, you’ve just been named Power of Attorney for your aging mother. What does that mean?
  13. Make a list of your emotional concerns. What are your fears? Is it the prospect of being alone? Is it how your divorce will hurt your kids? Do you worry you might burn out your friends, because you sound like a whiny, broken record? Write these down.
  14. Reach out for professional, compassionate support. There are a lot of resources for divorce these days. The thing you should know first and foremost, you should not try to do this alone. A certified divorce coach can help you before, during, and/or after the divorce (and no, talking to one does not mean you are necessarily getting divorced). A coach can help you with many of the questions keeping you up at night (Can you afford a divorce? How do you break the news to the kids? How will you cope when your ex has the kids?) and s/he can help you identify your choices (Is mediation right for you? What financial preparations should you have in place for living independently?). A good divorce coach will also help you take your smartest steps (How do you learn to coparent? Go back to work? Change jobs? Will you ever have the capacity to love again?)
  15. Seek to get educated on what’s possible for you. Ask friends or professionals you trust for referrals. Look for experts who can help you answer all your questions. Consider working with those pros (lawyers, real estate brokers, financial, or career advisors) who understand divorce recovery and the rebuilding process, and who seem willing and patient to teach you — and not just talk at you.
  16. Make a list of your other, helping professionals. What other professionals do you need to speak to, if not now, eventually? Who will teach you how to do things your mate used to do? For easy reference, pull together a list of professionals you think you’ll need, like a computer tutor, plumber, locksmith, CPA, electrician, gardener, etc. — for when the time comes.
  17. Come to understand that divorce is a whole life challenge, or as we like to say, “Divorce is a business transaction. How you pick up the pieces and rebuild your life is the mind body challenge.” Evaluate your financial, legal, practical and emotional questions above and notice how divorce has impacted all aspects of your life.
  18. Try tuning into your body. What is your body telling you about your situation? Are your shoulders locked up near your ears? Do you feel like you are suffocating? Are you experiencing panic attacks or getting sick more than usual? How are you sleeping? Try to find ways to take care of yourself and relieve some of the anxiety before it starts to undermine your health.
  19. Again, forgive yourself if you are panicking or just feeling numb. Your body is trying to communicate with you that “something is not right.” Tell your body you will try to listen more going forward.
  20. Starting now, take notes on when you begin to feel certain pains, aches, and headaches. What are the circumstances leading up to these symptoms?
  21. Go to the doctor and get a full physical if you are overdue. Review with your doctor your list of issues if you have them, and share insights to your stress. Get your annual mammogram if you are a forty or older woman (and we recommend a 3D mammogram, and if your breasts are dense, a sonogram). If you are a man, when was the last time you went to a doctor? You must take care of yourself because who else is going to?
  22. Be careful how you self-medicate to deal with the stress and aches and trying circumstances you are experiencing. Numbing yourself could prevent you from being levelheaded as you start to learn what is new and possible for your life.
  23. Watch out for where you vent and be wary of social media. If you say something online, it’s there forever and can be used against you. Same for emails. Before posting or hitting SEND, review what you are saying as if you were a judge. Be very careful.
  24. Find a way to process what you are going through. Are you meeting with a divorce coach or therapist regularly? Are you connecting with your friends? Are you journaling? Who is keeping you tethered as you go through this roller coaster of pain and upheaval? Often we find solutions or at least new perspectives when we are forced to process out loud or on paper. What works best for you?
  25. To help you feel anchored, get organized. Start evaluating what you do and do not need and begin purging. Organize your important papers and documents, for example, and list all passwords and login instructions to accounts. Keep that newly minted list in a safe place.
  26. Don’t let the negative voices control you. When we are feeling low, it’s easy to let those negative voices grow deafening.“You failed.You are toast. No one will ever love you again.” Listening to those voices only keeps you in a dark place. So, tell them to hush.
  27. Create a budget. It’s important to understand how much you take in and spend each month. In addition to the obvious (rent/mortgage, car payment, utilities) don’t forget to factor in things like dry cleaning, haircuts, coffees, and vacation expenditures, etc.
  28. Face your loneliness. Now that you are no longer under the same roof as your ex, you are likely confronted with empty space. There you are left facing yourself. Take heart, that’s exactly where you are supposed to be. This is often the time you start really processing what role you played in the demise of the relationship, a necessary part to your full divorce recovery. And if you are not feeling grief, be prepared for it to hit you sometime.
  29. When the grief hits you, just be with it. Or make a list of all the things (material and not) you have lost. It surely is a lot. Now that you are looking at the list, give it some attention. Maybe you didn’t love your ex so much in the end. This makes you feel conflicted. So you are not grieving her as much as you are grieving the end of the fantasy, the identity you both built, the loss of what you invested in and co-created. That is a tragic loss. And for some people, we need to really ponder and be with that loss for a while.
  30. Look for Meet Up or support groups for like-minded people. Identify groups that are facilitated by a therapist or coach and be cautious of groups that focus on complaining.
  31. Embrace the discovery process. Now is an opportunity to get comfortable in your new skin — but how can you get comfortable if you don’t even know who you are anymore or what you want? Get excited, it’s exhilarating to discover what you want and who you are in this next chapter.
  32. Live. Explore. Try things on. Who do you want to be now that you’ve grown up? If you could do anything, what would that look like? Write down your ideas and see how many you can realize. No more pushing them aside, it’s time to try them out.
  33. Write your divorce story. If you still feel at a loss, you can’t get out of bed, start writing. Begin with your earliest memory of divorce and move into telling the story of your own divorce. What did you already know about divorce when it came up with your spouse? Did you have preconceived notions about what divorce should look like? How has your divorce changed the way you think?
  34. Find a way to exercise everyday so your brain chemistry has a chance to relax and rebuild you. Your primary relationship is with your body, your being. Maybe you cannot get to the gym, but can you make sure you walk every day? The Center for Disease Control recommends 7,000 to 8,000 steps per day to see health benefits. Consider a fitness tracker or app on your phone to help you work up to your goal.
  35. Understand your social landscape is going to change. Sometimes it’s tough when you are recovering from divorce to hang out with the same friends you shared as a couple. Some friends will invite you out and you’ll feel like a third wheel. Other friends don’t know what to do, so they don’t invite you at all. You’ll meet new friends as well. Your social world will experience a bit of a shake up and then it will resettle into place. Be open to the changes.
  36. Open your eyes to new adventures and friends. You may find your interests change or you’ll have a desire to do something you never really thought about before. Perhaps you’ll go to Cuba! Or a new friend will introduce you to rock climbing, or you’ll take your bike out of storage and dust it off.This is a time of exploration.
  37. Reconnect with old friends. As you recover from divorce, you may realize that some of your old friends fell off the radar, perhaps because life got too busy or because your spouse never really got along with them. Don’t you wonder what they are up to these days? Now it’s easier than ever with social media to find those old friends. Surprise yourself and them. Rekindle your connections with those you miss and could never forget.
  38. Do things alone. Part of your grieving is being alone with yourself and rediscovering you. Welcome chances to dine out alone, travel alone, see movies alone… this is part of understanding the difference between what it is to be lonely vs. alone and being okay with that.
  39. Be sexually educated. A 2010 study of sexual health from Indiana University found the lowest rates of condom use were among people ages 45 and older, because older people may think they cannot get pregnant or are not at risk for STD’s. Yet according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the numbers of older people with HIV has nearly doubled. People aged 55 and older accounted for 26% of all Americans living with diagnosed or undiagnosed HIV infection in 2013. Be safe. Wear a rain jacket.
  40. Recognize the dating world has changed. Don’t let online dating scare you. Connect with someone who can help you with this and who can also laugh with you. Maybe your funny, kind girlfriend can take pictures of you and help you draft your online profile? Go ahead if it feels right. Enjoy it.
  41. Do be careful of your kids in terms of introducing a new person too soon. Remember, your kids are recovering from this divorce, too. They don’t need to be introduced to everyone you have dinner with. Instead, wait until a relationship becomes significant and you think this person might be around awhile. Have an age appropriate conversation with your children: first, to tell them about your new friend, and then to introduce him/her.
  42. Or don’t have a romantic relationship at all. Have you skipped from one relationship to the next your whole entire life? Well, stop. Your job isn’t to scramble to find your next partner if you aren’t ready or don’t want one. Work it and enjoy your independence!
  43. Understand and appreciate you are part of a new world. Divorce is changing. The stigma is losing it’s grip, the landscape is shifting, and it’s for you to determine who you will be. There will be times that you feel a little out of control. With the damp wings of a butterfly drying, you will be a little unstable, but you are coming out of a cocoon.
  44. Stretch yourself. The divorce certainly took you out of your comfort zone in a not so pleasant way, so why not seek ways to stretch yourself that are more fun? Go master the Tango by Air BnB’ing it in Buenos Aires! Go skydiving! Or buy the pickup truck you’ve always wanted and head fly-fishing. Just go.
  45. Allow yourself to trust again. This can be a tough part of your divorce recovery, because surely you’ve been disappointed, hurt, or even crushed along the way. But as you take these steps, you will feel better. You will meet good people and realize that you are able to trust again. You may even open your heart to love again.
  46. Remember opening to love means loving yourself first. It comes full circle. In order to fully recover from your divorce, you must give yourself a chance to grieve, to rebuild, to discover, to heal, and to love.

Friday, 11 January 2019

Creating Your New Life After Divorce: 10 Tips for Starting Over

Your divorce is over. You’ve separated your finances and divided the furniture. You are officially done with lawyers and judges and the whole divorce system. You know that it’s time to let go of the past and start your new life after divorce. But at this point, you have no idea how!

The Usual Advice About Starting a New Life After Divorce

When most people think of starting over after divorce what they’re really thinking about is: dating! While dating is certainly a part of life after divorce, it’s not ALL there is to think about. You’ve also got the less sexy, more practical stuff to figure out.

You’ve got to learn how to change the storm windows, balance the checkbook, and cook for the kids. You’ve got to do all of the things that your spouse used to do. What’s more, you’ve got to learn to do all of those things alone.

That part sucks the most.

Plus, you may still not be feeling like you’re on top of your game.

Your divorce may have left you drained – financially and emotionally. You may feel broken and bullied, or possibly betrayed. What’s more, it may feel like you’re light years away from “getting over it,” even though that’s exactly what your friends tell you that you should do.

It’s as if everyone thinks that there’s some magic switch in your brain that you can just flip to become instantly happy and whole.

If only it were that easy.

10 Tips for Creating Your New Life After Divorce

Like it or not, there is no “magic formula” for getting over your divorce. There is no “average amount of time” it takes to put your divorce behind you and start creating your new life after divorce.

Every person is different.

Yet, there are things that you can do to make your healing after divorce easier – and faster. Here are 10 tips you can try when you’re building your new life after divorce.

1. Grieve.

Getting a divorce is the second most stressful life transition you can make. (The first is surviving the death of your spouse.) It makes sense then that most people experience divorce as a loss. In a very real sense, divorce is the “death” of your marriage. If you want to get over that death in a healthy way, you have to let yourself grieve.

Yet what most people don’t realize is that a divorce is way more than just the death of your marriage.

It’s also the death of your dream of “happily ever after.” It’s the death of your intact, nuclear family. It’s the death of your role as husband or wife. In many ways, it’s the death of your very identity – who you thought you were in the world.

If you don’t give yourself time to grieve all of these “deaths,” you will never be able to let go and move on. Without meaning to, you will hold on to your anger and resentment. Instead of creating a bright new future, you’ll find yourself clinging to the tarnished and distant past.

If you do nothing else to build your new life after divorce – grieve. Everything else grows out of that.

2. Remember Who You Are.

Lots of people lose themselves in their marriage. They’re so busy focusing on “we” that they lose sight of “me.” Their identity becomes completely merged into their role as husband, wife, father or mother. That’s totally understandable. In order to make a solid couple, you’ve got to compromise bits of yourself.

The problem is that when you get divorced, your identity as a couple disappears. Suddenly, there is no more “we.” But, after you’ve been married for years (or decades!) you may feel like there’s no longer a “me” either!

Re-establishing your identity as a separate individual takes time. It also takes a lot of soul-searching. It’s not as if you can open a book entitled, “Me … Before Marriage.” You have to work to dig up the pieces of you that you may have left behind. You also have to decide which pieces of “the old you” you want to resurrect, and which pieces are better left in the past.

How do you do that? The best way to start is by looking inside.

You need to spend time thinking about the things that you used to love to do before you were married. Think about things you wanted to do while you were married, but couldn’t do because they weren’t practical, or because your spouse wouldn’t have approved. Try doing those things now. See how you feel. Keep doing what feels right. Let go of what feels wrong.

3. Decide Who You Want to Be.

Remembering who you are is a great first step in rebuilding your identity and your life. But if all you do is remember who you WERE in the past you lose the opportunity to create an even better you in the future.

When you’re going through a major life transition, like divorce, you get to wipe the slate clean and start all over again. You get to DECIDE who you want to be, and what you want your future to look like. If that sounds simple and na├»ve, consider this.

Every person who has ever lost a pound on a diet started by deciding they wanted to lose weight. Everyone who has ever created a business, or started a new relationship, or learned to compete in any activity, did so by first deciding that that is what they wanted to do.
There is power in your decisions. But to use that power, you have to actually make decisions.

No matter what you do, life goes on. If you don’t take the time to consciously create the life you want, then you end up getting whatever kind of life you get. Life doesn’t stop just because you haven’t decided what you want. That’s why making a decision now, when you’re at this point in your life, is so important.

4. Hang on to Your Therapist.

Just because your divorce is over, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ready to take on the world alone! Keeping your therapist by your side, at least for a little while longer, can make your transition into your new life after divorce much smoother.

Remember, once your divorce is final, you officially start your “year of firsts” – your first set of holidays alone, your first single parent experiences, your first time checking the box on the form that says “Divorced.” While not all of those “firsts” may be a big deal to you, some of them may trigger emotions that surprise you.

Your therapist can also help you work through any lingering negativity from your divorce. S/he can help you deal with any stifled anger, unresolved resentment, and feelings of hurt and betrayal that you may still be grappling with.

Finally, your therapist (or coach!) can also help you deal with your relationship with your ex. While you may think that won’t be necessary, if you have kids – it’s necessary!

Therapists and coaches are uniquely qualified to teach you the communication skills that will make co-parenting with your ex easier. As a bonus, if your kids have problems adjusting to their new family situation, your therapist can be an amazing resource. S/he can help you understand what may be going on with your kids. S/he can also refer you to a good child psychologist if you need it.

5. Learn to Rely on Yourself.

When you’re part of a couple, it’s normal to divide responsibilities between you and your spouse. You can get a whole lot more done if you’re responsible for certain daily chores and your spouse is responsible for others.

It’s definitely more efficient for you and your spouse to do different things when you’re married. The problem is, once you get divorced, you often have to become a jack-of-all-trades. Either that, or you have to be willing to pay someone else to do what your spouse used to do for you.

Since money is usually tight after you get a divorce, most people find themselves having to learn to do all kinds of things that they never thought they would have to do. Believe it or not, that’s actually a good thing.

There are few things in life that are more empowering than being able to say, “I did it myself!” Being reasonably self-sufficient gives you a tremendous amount of control over your life.

You don’t need to spend money hiring someone to do things for you. You also don’t need to hang around and wait for the person you hired to show up, or to do the job well. You can do what needs to be done yourself AND feel confident and accomplished in the process.

6. Consciously Cultivate New Friendships.

You lose a lot of friends when you get divorced.

Couples that you and your ex used to hang out with now avoid you like you’ve just contracted a highly contagious case of MERSA. Friends you’ve had for years take sides with your ex. Neighbors keep their distance as if getting a divorce was some sort of social disease that they’re afraid they’ll catch too.

Losing all those friends – on top of losing your spouse! – can make you feel isolated and lonely. That’s why getting out and making new friends now is so important.

If you haven’t got the faintest idea how to make new friends, start small. Go to lunch with a co-worker. Join a health club or a Meet Up group and start talking to people. Volunteer to work at a church or a charity. Once you get used to it, you’ll find there are a million ways to meet new people.

Of course, if your divorce has left you feeling rather anti-social, that’s okay too. It’s perfectly fine to hibernate for a while. But if your divorce has been over for months (or years!) then it may be time for you to force yourself to come out of your cave!

7. Release, Rearrange and Redecorate.

Whether we think about it or not, our homes have a huge impact on how we feel. Our surroundings directly affect our mood.

Unfortunately, when you’re going through a divorce, you’re not always in control of your surroundings. They’re also generally one of the last things you have time to worry about. But, once your divorce is behind you, focusing on your environment can be a quick, easy way to dramatically improve the way you feel.

If you got the house in your divorce, chances are that it is still full of all kinds of things that remind you of your ex. Even if you didn’t get the house, chances are you still have all kinds of “stuff” that brings back memories. If those things make you feel good, awesome! Keep them. If not, then now may be the time to do a little household purge.

While you’re throwing out what you no longer want or need, you may also want to think about redecorating in a more major way. Believe it or not, this doesn’t have to be expensive.

A fresh coat of paint in a new color can totally change the way a room feels. Re-arranging the furniture can make your house look and feel completely different. Not only will changing your environment change the way you feel, but it’s also a symbolic outward sign that you’ve started a new life.

8. Tie Up Your Loose Ends.

Just because the judge pronounced you divorced, that doesn’t mean that you’re done with your divorce paperwork! (Sorry!)

If you and your spouse have any joint accounts, or are co-signors on each other’s credit cards, now is the time to separate those things. If you need to formally divide your retirement accounts – do it now!

It doesn’t matter that dealing with all this legal stuff is the LAST thing you want to do. Not dividing your assets or debts immediately after divorce can create a legal and financial disaster later. Plus, putting off dealing with all your “loose ends” only makes you dread dealing with them more. (It also makes it less likely your loose ends will ever get tied up!)

Now is also the time to re-do your will and change the beneficiary on your life insurance policy. Notify your employee benefits department of your divorce. If you need to get your own health insurance after divorce, make sure you do that right away. Health insurance companies have strict deadlines. If you miss the coverage deadline, you may end up going without decent health insurance for months until the next open enrollment period comes around.

Finally, if you have kids, you may want to set up a joint “kids’ calendar” with your ex. This could be a simple Google Calendar. Or you can use special co-parenting
software. Setting up a joint calendar will help you and your ex keep your kids’ lives running as smoothly as possible after your divorce.

9. Create a Bucket List.

When you’re married, you have to compromise. You put aside your dreams of going to exotic places where your ex doesn’t want to go. You don’t do things you’d love to do if you know your ex would hate doing them.

Now is the time to dust off your dreams and create a “bucket list” of things you’d love to do and places you want to go.

Not everything on your list needs to be expensive or unusual. If you’ve always dreamed of planting a garden in your backyard, or getting a dog, that’s fine. It’s YOUR bucket list. What matters is that the things you put on that list matter to you.

That’s not to say that you’ll be able to do everything on your bucket list as soon as the ink is dry on your divorce decree. But that’s not what matters anyway.

The point of making a bucket list is not to DO everything on the list at once. The point of making a bucket list is to let yourself dream about what you want. Creating those dreams is the first step in making them real.

10. Forgive.

This is, by far, the hardest part of building your new life after divorce. It’s also the most important.

If the thought of forgiving your ex still makes your blood boil, go back to tip number 4 and talk to your therapist. (Sorry, but you’ve still got some work to do!)

The truth is the anger and resentment you carry against your ex doesn’t hurt your ex. It hurts you. It makes you unhappy and upset. If you hang on to it for too long you become bitter. Meanwhile, your ex can live his/her life in whatever way s/he wants while your anger eats you alive. (True, you can go out of your way to create drama for your ex. But, that ups the level of drama in your life – and in your kids’ lives – even more!)

Your ex isn’t the only one you have to forgive though. Step by step you need to work through your anger against your ex’s lawyer, the court system, the judge, your ex’s “sweetie” and all the friends you lost in your divorce. Most of all, you need to forgive yourself.

Whether you want to admit it or not, you’re human. Humans aren’t perfect. They make mistakes. You probably did too. It’s okay. Resenting yourself, or constantly feeling like you are a failure, or a helpless victim, or a bad person, is counter-productive. Those feelings stand in your way. Until you let them go they will keep you from moving forward with your life.

Creating the Life of Your Dreams

Divorce may not have been what you wanted for your life. It plucks you out of your comfort zone and shakes you to your core. It turns your world upside down and threatens everything you hold dear.

Yet, even the worst divorce can have a silver lining. But, you have to look for it. To start, you have to want to look for it. You have to be willing to let go of the pain and the drama. It’s hard. But, if you do, in time you may find that the worst experience of your life also brought with it the greatest opportunities to create the happiness you crave.