Friday, 22 June 2018

After Divorce: 8 Tips for Reinventing Yourself

8 ideas to help you shape your post-divorce life.

It's over. You've signed the divorce papers, and the relationship you entered with so much hope is officially dissolved.

Everyone's divorce story is different. Maybe you had been married for decades, maybe just a year or so. Maybe you have children, maybe you don't. Maybe the divorce was your idea and maybe it was your partner's, or maybe you both agreed that separation was best. Maybe you're relieved, maybe you're heartbroken -- or a bit of both.

But however you got here, the question now is where do you go from here? And how do you figure out who you are and what you want as a newly single person? What is your new life going to look like, and how do you start moving in that direction?

Here are eight of the first steps:

1. Let yourself mourn.

Nobody gets married thinking, "I sure hope we can get divorced someday!" Even if, by the time you split, the divorce was something you wanted, a divorce still represents a loss.

"Whatever your marriage and divorce experience has been, there will be emotions that have to do with grief," says psychotherapist Florence Falk, PhD, MSW, author of On My Own: The Art of Being a Woman Alone.

"You may feel remorse for what you did or didn't do, or wonder what you did wrong. Don't dwell on those feelings, but make room for them," Falk says. "Loss is loss. There is an empty space where something once filled it up, even if that something may not have been desirable."

2. Work through your feelings.

Don't tote that heavy baggage from your previous relationship into your new life. Find a way to work through the lingering emotions from the demise of your marriage, advises psychologist Robert Alberti, PhD, co-author of Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends.
That may mean talking out your feelings with a therapist or focusing your energy in a healthy activity you enjoy. "It's common to sweep these emotions under the table, but you have to work through them or they'll pollute your life going forward," Alberti says.

If you find yourself resisting the idea of therapy, you might want to keep in mind that therapy doesn't mean you have a problem or that you're in crisis. It can be a way to work toward a better life, with someone who has no agenda but YOU.

3. Learn to like yourself.

That may sound cheesy and New Age-y. But the fact is that many people feel a lot of self-rejection after a divorce.

"You might think that there must be something wrong with you if you couldn't make this relationship work," Alberti says. "You have to work on getting confidence and faith in yourself and ability to believe in your own worth."

This is also something you could pursue in therapy, or through Tip No. 4:

4. Rediscover who you used to be.

Especially if you were married for a long time, you may have given up a lot of the things you enjoyed as a single person because they didn't fit with your "couplehood."

Maybe you loved to go out, but your spouse was a homebody. Maybe you always loved going to the theater but your husband hated it.

"What were your hobbies and activities before the marriage? What did you defer in favor of the relationship?" Alberti asks. "Exercising your interest in those again is important to rebuilding yourself."

5. Discover a new side of yourself.

The life-changing period of divorce, though often difficult and unwelcome, holds a silver lining: to shake things up and try on a new lifestyle.

Maybe it's as simple as a pixie haircut after a lifetime of wearing long, flowing locks. Maybe it's trying a new sport, considering a different place of worship, or going back to college. 
Maybe you realize that you'd like to move to a new city or even spend a year living in Paris.

Of course, you can't just flit away and throw caution to the wind. Chances are, you have some very real considerations -- kids (if you're a parent), a job, and a budget (which may have been hurt by the divorce).

But chances also are that although you might not be able to do whatever your fantasy is, there may be other changes that ARE within your reach. So don't reject the idea of any change, just because you can't make every change.

"As long as the changes you make are healthy and constructive, these are very appropriate," says Alberti. "Think about who you want to be -- the person you were before the marriage, or maybe a new person? What are some of the things you can do differently?"

Look for changes you can say yes to, instead of dwelling on what's out of reach.

6. Dare to be alone.

Being alone doesn't mean being isolated and never seeing anyone. It just means not being coupled up, or in a rush to do so.

Society is much more accepting of singles than even a decade ago, when solo restaurant diners often got the hairy eyeball.

"There are more than 30 million people living alone in this country today," Falk says. "That's a lot of people, and there are a lot of opportunities for social connection. There are possibilities to pick up new friends and enter different kinds of groups that have to do with your interests. The social dimension after a divorce can be very rich."

7. Consider transitional relationships.

This isn't about rebounding. It's about considering dating (once you feel ready) outside your comfort zone -- someone who's not your type -- without thinking that it has to head toward a permanent relationship.

"For example, maybe you've always dated people from a certain socioeconomic background," Alberti says. "Or perhaps you always preferred sensitive musicians, or athletes, or the quiet, shy type. Turn your usual preferences inside out and stretch your dating horizons a bit."

8. Embrace your new roles.

Especially if you were coupled up for a long time, your partner probably handled certain aspects of life while you managed others. Now it's all up to you. And it's not likely to go perfectly, but that's OK.

"If your partner was always the one responsible for the money -- earning it, managing it, investing it -- suddenly you have a whole new realm of learning and responsibility," Alberti says. "Dealing with those can give you confidence in your own ability."

You don't have to figure it all out yourself. Look for help.

"Even if you make mistakes, like paying too much for a car, you can learn from that experience," Alberti says. "Mistakes give you life skills and teach you that you can handle being alone."


Divorce Is Your New Beginning

Just as a brand new year is upon you, after divorce you have a new life in front of you.

It’s true that you may be overwhelmed, stressed, sad, frustrated, excited, enthusiastic, full of anticipation... or all of the above.

There are some powerful ways to make the most of your new life and this new year, and I’m sharing several of them with you here:

1. Put out a BOLO.
It can be easy and/or tempting to dread what could come next. I mean, seriously, you’ve just been through quite an ordeal and it’s a challenge to put on some rose-colored glasses. I get it.

Instead, try expecting positive things to happen. BOLO is police slang for “be on the lookout,” as in “we put out a BOLO for the suspicious character.” I suggest choosing to put out BOLOs for miracles, magical happenings and positive outcomes.

2. Work it out.
Release the heavy baggage from your previous relationship and lean into your new life. Find a way to work through the lingering emotions from the end of your marriage by talking out your feelings with a therapist, divorce coach or support group, and focusing your energy on a healthy activity you enjoy.

If you find yourself resisting the idea of therapy or coaching, you might want to keep in mind that neither means you have a problem, something is wrong with you, or that you’re in crisis.
 Each can be a way to work toward your new and better life, with those who have no agenda but the agenda you set!

3. Learn to love yourself.
The idea of loving yourself may sound cheesy or ridiculous, and it’s a fact that many people feel a dip in self-esteem and lot of self-rejection after a divorce.

If you think there must be something wrong with you because you couldn’t make your relationship work, you’re not alone. It’s important to work on increasing your self-confidence and faith in yourself, and recognize you’re just fine and on the way to getting better and better.

Let this time, and this year, be the year you really fall in love with yourself.

4. Rediscover who you used to be, and discover who you want to become.
If you were married for a long time, you may have stopped doing some of the things you enjoyed as a single person. Maybe you loved to go out, but your wife was a homebody. Maybe you always loved going to the theater, but your husband hated it.

Make a list of the hobbies and interests you had before your marriage, and give them another whirl. You might find renewed interest in them again, or even discover new ones you like better. Both are important to rebuilding yourself after divorce.

5. Discover your new self.
The great news about a life-changing period such as divorce is this: you get to shake things up and try new things, go new places, and meet new people.
Get a new haircut, wardrobe, or occupation. Try new sports, places of worship, or go back to school. You might even be able to move to a new city, or spend a year living somewhere amazing like Paris or Tuscany.

You can’t completely just lose your mind, turn your back on real-life obligations, and throw caution to the wind (although that sounds fun and exciting, doesn’t it?). Chances are you have some very real considerations like kids, a business, and a budget {one that may have been seriously impacted by the divorce}.

I’m going to bet there are some real changes and opportunities that are well within your reach. As long as the changes you make are healthy and constructive, go for it!

6. Go it alone. For at least awhile.

Being alone doesn’t mean being isolated and never seeing anyone. It just means not being in a rush to get re-coupled up.

Many newly-singled folks jump out of the frying pan and into the fire. Without taking the time to get to know yourself again, heal your wounds, and find your new equilibrium, you run of the risk of finding yourself right back here {on the other side of a divorce or break-up} in short order.

Take the time it takes to find yourself again.

7. Meet new people ... of the opposite sex.
Just because you need to spend some time alone doesn’t mean you need to spend all your time alone.

This isn’t about rebounding. It’s about considering dating (once you feel ready) outside your comfort zone {try someone who’s not your type} without thinking that it has to head toward a permanent relationship.

Turn your usual preferences inside out and stretch your dating horizons a bit. Dating is supposed to be, and can be, loads of fun.

8. Embrace your new life, and this new year.
You are going to have the opportunity to learn new things, go new places, and meet new friends.

Married a long time? Your spouse probably handled certain aspects of life and even household responsibilities. Now it’s all up to you, and it’s likely to go less than perfectly. News flash: that’s a-okay!

If your partner was always the one responsible for the money, such as earning it, managing it, investing it, then suddenly you have a whole new realm of learning and responsibility. Learning something new can give you confidence in your own ability.

You don’t have to figure it all out yourself. Create a team to help you make smart decisions and wise moves. If you don’t have a financial advisor and CPA, start there. Find new advisors or rely on the ones who have served you well in the past.

Divorce, like every new year, brings with it the opportunity for amazing personal growth and transformation - it is just disguised as an awful period of time that seems to last forever. 

Hang in there, keep putting one foot in front of the other, and expected unexpected moments of fabulousness.


Thursday, 21 June 2018

5 Ways to Thrive Through Adversity

In this video I want to share my 5 top tips for thriving through adversity

Whatever the challenge you may be facing, I believe the same key principles and steps can be applied to help bring you through it successfully; whether struggling through divorce, or facing challenges in your business or personal life the same methods apply and will help.

If you're interested in learning more, and hearing thoughts on other ways in which we can tackle adversity and rise above challenge, I'd love to share with you my new podcast: Kintsugi Life.

You can access the latest episode and all previous ones on iTunes, at:

Dating after Divorce

Supportive friends, healthy self-esteem, and a little patience are some of the keys to get back into the dating scene.

The rate of divorce in America remains high, leaving many adult men and women alone, available and wondering how to maneuver on the playing field. After years of being in a relationship, putting yourself back in the singles market can be a daunting endeavor. Here, David A. Anderson, Ph.D., offers advice gleaned from his own research and that of other experts to help you get back into dating mode.

After 19 years of waking up next to the same person, Yolanda*, a marketing consultant, suddenly found herself greeting mornings alone. Recently divorced, she was overwhelmed by the mere thought of dating again. Yolanda's self-esteem was so damaged by her tumultuous breakup that she worried about her ability to start a new relationship, not to mention her rusty dating skills. And the pool of single men looked more like a droplet compared with the ocean available to her during her younger years. 

Yolanda may have felt alone on the playing field, but she was far from it. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately nine in 10 people will marry, but about one half of first marriages end in divorce. The number of women living alone has doubled to 14.6 million, and the number has nearly tripled for men, jumping from 3.5 million to 10.3 million.

With so many single adults out there, one might guess that there's also a lot of dating going on. Instead, it seems that the older we get, the less we date. In one study conducted at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, social psychologist Jerald G. Bachman, Ph.D., found that nearly 50 percent of 18-year-olds go out at least once a week, compared with only approximately 25 percent of 32-year-olds.

While it's true that some people simply choose not to date, others want to but don't know how to go about it or can't overcome their negative self-thoughts. So how can those who are struggling with these obstacles successfully and healthfully re-enter the dating arena? First, it's important to set appropriate personal standards. In particular, will you play hard to get or be an easy catch? I call the manifestation of these standards one's "social price." The more you have to offer in a relationship, the more you can expect in return, thus increasing your appropriate social price. Factors that help determine your social price include your ability to bring desirable traits such as inner strength, kindness, intelligence, and affection to a relationship.

Working with Shigeyuyki Hamori, an economist at Kobe University in Japan, I researched methods for estimating the qualities and contributions of marriage prospects. We hypothesized that singles seeking relationships assess unseen qualities in others based on social price as it is reflected in actions, body language, and verbal communication. We concluded that those exhibiting self-confident assertions of dating standards are perceived as holding relatively more promise as marriage partners. Conversely, those who appear insecure and desperate, call a love interest excessively or engage in sexual activity too soon, send signals that they hold inferior unseen traits.

So just as we tend to assume that expensive cars are better than similar, cheaper ones, we may also conclude that those demonstrating high social prices have unobserved qualities superior to those with lower social prices. But be wary: Overselling also occurs. For instance, individuals with a substantial income but little else to offer may exaggerate their social price. And as with any type of price misrepresentation, true quality eventually surfaces. In the dating market, this can translate into a broken relationship.

At the core, inaccurate social pricing is a by-product of low self-esteem and other negative self-emotions. "Fear absolutely devastates some people," says clinical psychologist Michael S. Broder, Ph.D., a former radio-talk-show host and author of The Art of Living Single. "It can be the fear of being hurt, rejected or involved, and it can stem from a history of having been hurt or of traumatic relationships. People can be very proficient in other parts of their lives, but the fear of dating can make them stay alone or pine for the relationship they left."
Others rebound or get involved in another relationship too soon. Their desperation usually stems from sadness, guilt, anger or anxiety about being alone. "You get this feeling that you're in the worst possible situation in your life," Broder explains. "Then you may do what you later consider desperate: a one-night stand, calling the ex or ignoring intuitive warnings and jumping into a bad relationship you would never choose if you weren't feeling reckless."
Fortunately, it is possible to avoid these and other pitfalls when seeking out a new partner. If you're ready to get back in the saddle again, here are five key tips to help you on your way.

1) Develop A (New) Support Group
It's natural to turn to old friends for support. They know and care about you, and they typically have your best interests in mind. But more often it's new friends who will better help you adjust to your new life. That's because friends shared with your ex often unwittingly take sides, and either alliance can prove a hindrance when introducing someone new into your life. Old friends may lack the proper interest or compassion, and they may even be jealous of your newfound freedom.

"My divorce split our extended families and friends," says Yolanda of her and her ex-husband. "But my new friends had a fresh perspective that helped my self-esteem. Those who were single had confidence that was contagious; that really helped me when I started going out again as a single person. And sometimes they offered good advice."

Do use discretion when listening to others' words of wisdom, advises Broder. "Solutions that worked for a friend may be a disaster for you. If you don't want advice, be assertive and let people know that advice giving is off-limits unless it's requested."

For the most part, however, friendship is a vital ingredient in the recovery process. "Facing things alone can take a toll on you," says Broder. "Friends can help you see that dating doesn't have to be so serious."

2) Assess Your Self-Worth
People with low self-esteem tend to create relationships with others who evaluate them negatively, suggests one study on self-concept done by William B. Swann Jr., Ph.D., a University of Texas psychology professor. If you're suffering from a negative self-image, it's vital you take steps to create a positive, healthy self-concept.

Begin by making a list of your positive qualities, then hang it in your home where you'll see it regularly, suggest Bruce Fisher, Ed.D., Robert Alberti, Ph.D., and Virginia M. Satir, M.A., in their book Rebuilding When Your Relationship Ends. Sharing your list with your support group and asking for honest feedback will help you to work on clearing up any discrepancies between your self-image and the real you. Broder also recommends making a list of new beliefs and affirmations that you'd like to incorporate into your thinking system. Read aloud these new self-concepts often, regardless of how you're feeling, to help solidify them in your mind.

For Yolanda, a brief relationship five years after her divorce made her realize she had to adjust her mind-set. "I felt ashamed about all of the times I'd say yes when my answer was really no," she says now. "The consequences were painful, but I didn't believe I could completely change the pattern. Then I took the advice you hear about in 12-step programs and turned it over to God—my higher power. Moving forward and forgiving myself became easier."

People who feel victimized after a breakup may do well to develop a bold—or even defiant—attitude. Psychologists at the University of Washington and Canada's University of Waterloo recently found that feelings of resignation and sadness make people with low self-esteem less motivated to improve their mood. "When you feel defiant you become excited, confident, and ready to take action," says Broder. "You take care of yourself, making it pretty clear that you are not going to be ruined by divorce. It's a very healthy thing to do."

3) Plan Activities
You won't find a new mate—or even a new friend—while sitting on the couch, your television on, curtains drawn. Consider your post-relationship time as an opportunity to do the things you couldn't do while you were with your ex. Create a list of 20 activities you would enjoy doing with a perfect partner, then give the list a second look. "Rarely do people have more than three or four things on their list that they cannot do if they're not in a relationship," says Broder. "Be active; don't feel like your whole life is on hold."

Today's singles are finding luck—and love—in nonconventional ways. After her 17-year relationship ended, Lili*, a writer, re-entered the dating arena by joining a telephone dating service. Instead of meeting men for dinner, she invited them for daytime walks in a well-populated park. "They weren't dates; they were interviews," says Lili, who admits that taking the first step was difficult. "If I liked them, we went for coffee." Laura*, a financial adviser, also missed companionship after her 24-year marriage dissolved. "I don't sit with problems for very long," she says. "I knew what I wanted and went after it." Laura joined an online dating service and eventually met her soon-to-be second husband.

Joseph Walther, Ph.D., an associate professor of communication, language, and literature at Troy, New York's Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, found that people who use Internet dating services such as may achieve more beginning-stage emotional intimacy than they do in face-to-face situations. Single surfers don't have to worry about common first-impression concerns such as bad-hair days and wrinkled clothes, Walther points out. Plus, they don't see body-language cues such as shrugging and smirking that can create barriers in communication. Currently, cyber researchers believe that as much as 33 percent of friendships formed online eventually advance to face-to-face meetings.

4) Curb Unhealthy Cravings
When we are in emotional pain, our feelings often don't coincide with our intellect and instead manifest themselves as cravings that can prove unhealthy and self-destructive. 
Cravings usually plague people who have zero tolerance for a single lifestyle and want to jump into a new relationship as soon as their breakup is final. Also susceptible are individuals with low self-evaluation who are convinced they can't make it alone. Fortunately, while such cravings may feel overwhelming and unavoidable, Broder asserts that they don't have to be.

Take Julie*, a middle-aged student in Southern California whose need for immediate passion led her to make decisions despite intuitively knowing they were unwise. "I kept going out with men who did not have the potential for a long-term relationship," she confesses. "One had problems with his ex-wife, another wouldn't marry outside of his religion. After getting hurt many times, I finally decided to be more careful when choosing men. I'm still prone to my old behavior, but I'm more apt to say no to men who are a poor match for me."

To short-circuit cravings, Broder suggests doing something that actively breaks the pattern and makes you approach the situation in a healthier way. Call someone in your support group, share your unwanted tendencies and ask that he or she invite you out when you fall into bad habits. And consider keeping a journal of the things that successfully distract you from your urges, such as renting a funny movie or going for a long walk, that you can turn to the next time cravings crop up.

5) Prepare for Pitfalls
Certain times of the year—holidays, anniversaries and birthdays, for instance—are harder to navigate than others because they are loaded with expectations and memories. After a separation or divorce, social configurations change, making feelings of loss and loneliness more intense. Perfectionists tend to struggle most during the holidays, according to Broder. High expectations lead them to dwell on favorite memories of their past and compare them with current situations.

Garrett*, an optometrist in his 40s, remembers that his first Christmas alone was a tough one. "Weeks prior to the holidays were extremely difficult because the traditions were highly disrupted," he says. "Not being in my own home and not having a closeness with someone was difficult, and I felt very much afraid of not finding someone again."

To cope, Garrett stuck close to his family. "You stitch together the connections that you have," he says. "It was piecemeal and patchwork, but it was critical for me. I also looked for other ways to divert my attention. I organized a staff party, participated in a musical and cooked at other people's homes."

Garrett got it right, according to Sally Karioth, Ph.D., R.N., an associate nursing professor at Florida State University and an expert on stress, grief, and trauma. Karioth points again to planning as the key to reducing stress and meeting new people. Don't be afraid to ask for help organizing new activities, and break tasks into smaller chores to fend off feelings of being overwhelmed. Broder also suggests avoiding holiday comparisons and focusing instead on the enjoyable aspects of current and future ones. "You'll get through, and then you won't fear it anymore," says Broder. "It may not be the best of your life, but it may not be the horror you thought it would be."

Ultimately, the best tip for re-entering the dating game is to explore various action strategies and choose those that are most comfortable for you. For some, getting into the right frame of mind before taking the leap is essential. For others, simply trying something new or even uncomfortable works. You know yourself best, so trust your inner wisdom. If you are ready to find new love, take heart: More than 40 percent of weddings in America are remarriages. But don't feel obligated to rush into another marriage, either—the U.S. Census Bureau reports that 60 percent of second marriages end in divorce. Now that you're single it's perfectly acceptable to remain so if that's what you prefer. As Broder says, "What you do with your life now is up to you."

*Names have been changed.


Wednesday, 20 June 2018

How to Move Forward if You’re Getting Divorced But Are Still in Love

Your husband has asked for a divorce and you are blindsided. There have been moments of unhappiness in your marriage, sure, but nothing that you thought would ever make him leave you. You married for life, and never imagined that you would be signing paperwork to put an end to your time as a married couple.

And…you still love him.

He may have betrayed you with another. He may have fallen out of love with you and feels that there is no possibility of rekindling those loving feelings. He may be having a midlife crisis. In any case, his decision is final and there is no going back. You are left to heal your heart, a heart that still is connected to this man, despite him no longer loving you.
What are some ways that you can heal?

Acknowledge that this is happening

It would be a mistake to pretend that “everything is fine” or try to put on a happy face so that those around you think that you are handling this life change like the competent, strong woman you have always been. There is no need to be a hero during this tumultuous time. If you don’t show your friends and family that you are suffering, they can’t offer to help you shoulder the pain. Let it out. Be honest. Tell them you are shattered, you love your partner, and you need them to be there for you as you navigate this significant life event.
Find a support group

There are plenty of community groups where people going through a divorce can connect, talk, cry, and share their stories. It is helpful to hear that you are not alone in what you are experiencing. Make sure the support group is guided by an experienced counselor so that the meetings do not devolve into a series of complaints without any sort of solution-oriented advice provided.

Banish negative self-talk

Telling yourself “I’m an idiot for still loving him after what he did to me!” is not helpful, nor true. You are not an idiot. You are a loving, generous woman whose core is made up of love and understanding. There is nothing shameful about feeling love for someone who has been your life partner for many years, even if that person made the decision to end the relationship.

Give yourself time to heal

It is important to recognize that healing from a divorce, especially a divorce that you did not initiate, will take the time it takes. Keep in mind that you will, eventually, bounce back. Your grief will have its own calendar, with good days, bad days, and days where you feel you aren’t making any progress at all. But trust in the process: those little cracks you see on the horizon? There is light coming in through them. And one day you will wake up and realize that you will have gone hours, days, weeks without dwelling on your ex-husband and what he did.

When you are ready, rid your home of reminders of him

This will help in “casting off” your feelings of love. Remake your home to your own tastes. Have you always wanted a living room done in pastels and wicker furnishings? Do it! Make your home over to reflect you, and sell or give away anything that triggers those wistful thoughts of “how it was when the husband was here.”

Involve yourself in a new and challenging hobby

This is a proven way to feel better about yourself, and help you build new friendships with people who did not know you as part of a couple. Check local resources to see what is on offer. Have you always wanted to learn French? There are sure to be adult education classes at your local community college. What about a sculpture or painting workshop? You will not only keep busy but come home with something lovely that you have created! Joining a gym or a running club is a good way to work off any negative thoughts occupying your head; exercise provides the same mood-lifting benefits as taking anti-depressants.

Online dating can be a positive experience

Just flirting online with a wide range of potential dates can make you feel desired and wanted again, which, if you’ve been indulging in negative self-talk (“Of course he left me. I’m unattractive and boring”) can be a great lift to your self-confidence. If, after communicating online, you feel like meeting up with one or more of these men, make sure you do so in a public place (such as a busy coffee shop) and that you’ve left the details of the meeting with a friend.

The pain you are feeling can be used to create a better version of yourself

Take the sadness and use it to motivate you to get in shape, swap out some wardrobe items that should have been thrown away years ago, review and update your professional resume, change jobs…put this energy into living your best life.

Find the perfect balance of alone-time and friend-time

You don’t want to self-isolate too much, but you do want to carve out some time to be alone. If you were married for a long time, you may have forgotten what it was like to be on your own. You may find it uncomfortable at first. But reframe these moments: you are not lonely, you are practicing self-care. In order to love again, it is essential for you to learn to be fine with being alone. This will allow you to open up to another man (and it will happen!) from a place of stability, and not desperation.

It is normal to feel a sense of loss and sadness when the man you were in love with decides that he is no longer in love with you. But remember that you have now joined a large community of fellow-travelers who have survived, and ultimately thrived, in their post-divorce lives. Give it time, be gentle with yourself, and hold tight to the knowledge that you will fall in love again.


Tuesday, 19 June 2018

The Impact of Parental Alienation on Children

Undermining loving parent-child relationships as child maltreatment

What children of divorce most want and need is to maintain healthy and strong relationships with both of their parents, and to be shielded from their parents' conflicts. Some parents, however, in an effort to bolster their parental identity, create an expectation that children choose sides. In more extreme situations, they foster the child’s rejection of the other parent. In the most extreme cases, children are manipulated by one parent to hate the other, despite children’s innate desire to love and be loved by both parents.

Parental alienation involves the “programming” of a child by one parent to denigrate the other, “targeted” parent, in an effort to undermine and interfere with the child's relationship with that parent, and is often a sign of a parent’s inability to separate from the couple conflict and focus on the needs of the child. Such denigration results in the child’s emotional rejection of the targeted parent, and the loss of a capable and loving parent from the child's life. Psychiatrist Richard Gardner developed the concept of "parental alienation syndrome" 20 years ago, defining it as:

"...a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child's campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent's indoctrinations and the child's own contributions to the vilification of the target parent."

Children’s views of the targeted parent are almost exclusively negative, to the point that the parent is demonized and seen as evil.

As Amy Baker writes, parental alienation involves a set of strategies, including bad-mouthing the other parent, limiting contact with that parent, erasing the other parent from the life and mind of the child (forbidding discussion and pictures of the other parent), forcing the child to reject the other parent, creating the impression that the other parent is dangerous, forcing the child to choose between the parents by means of threats of withdrawal of affection, and belittling and limiting contact with the extended family of the targeted parent. In my own research on non-custodial parents who have become disengaged from their children’s lives (Kruk, 2011), I found that most lost contact involuntarily, many as a result of parental alienation. Constructive alternatives to adversarial methods of reconnecting with their children were rarely available to these alienated parents.

Parental alienation is more common than is often assumed: Fidler and Bala (2010) report both an increasing incidence and increased judicial findings of parental alienation; they report estimates of parental alienation in 11 to 15 percent of divorces involving children; and Bernet et al. (2010) estimate that about 1 percent of children and adolescents in North America experience parental alienation.

There is now scholarly consensus that severe alienation is abusive to children (Fidler and Bala, 2010), and is a largely overlooked form of child abuse (Bernet et al, 2010), as child welfare and divorce practitioners are often unaware of or minimize its extent. As reported by adult children of divorce, the tactics of alienating parents are tantamount to extreme psychological maltreatment, including spurning, terrorizing, isolating, corrupting or exploiting, and denying emotional responsiveness (Baker, 2010). For the child, parental alienation is a serious mental condition, based on a false belief that the alienated parent is dangerous and unworthy. The severe effects of parental alienation on children are well-documented—low self-esteem and self-hatred, lack of trust, depression, and substance abuse and other forms of addiction are widespread, as children lose the capacity to give and accept love from a parent. Self-hatred is particularly disturbing among affected children, as children internalize the hatred targeted toward the alienated parent, are led to believe that the alienated parent did not love or want them, and experience severe guilt related to betraying the alienated parent. Their depression is rooted in feelings of being unloved by one of their parents, and from separation from that parent, while being denied the opportunity to mourn the loss of the parent or to even talk about them. Alienated children typically have conflicted or distant relationships with the alienating parent also, and are at high risk of becoming alienated from their own children: Baker reports that fully half of the respondents in her study of adult children who had experienced alienation as children were alienated from their own children.

Every child has a fundamental right and need for an unthreatened and loving relationship with both parents. To be denied that right by one parent, without sufficient justification such as abuse or neglect, is itself a form of child abuse. Since it is the child who is being violated by a parent's alienating behaviors, it is the child who is being alienated from the other parent. Children who have undergone forced separation from one parent — in the absence of abuse — including cases of parental alienation, are highly subject to post-traumatic stress, and reunification efforts in these cases should proceed carefully and with sensitivity. Research has shown that many alienated children can transform quickly from refusing or staunchly resisting the rejected parent to being able to show and receive love from that parent, followed by an equally swift shift back to the alienated position when back in the orbit of the alienating parent; alienated children seem to have a secret wish for someone to call their bluff, compelling them to reconnect with the parent they claim to hate. While children’s stated wishes regarding parental contact in contested custody should be considered, they should not be determinative, especially in suspected cases of alienation.

Hatred is not an emotion that comes naturally to a child; it has to be taught. A parent who would teach a child to hate or fear the other parent represents a grave and persistent danger to the mental and emotional health of that child. Alienated children are no less damaged than other child victims of extreme conflict, such as child soldiers and other abducted children, who identify with their tormentors to avoid pain and maintain a relationship with them, however abusive that relationship may be.

Baker, A. (2010). “Adult recall of parental alienation in a community sample: Prevalence and associations with psychological maltreatment.” Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, 51, 16-35.

Bernet, W. et al (2010). “Parental alienation and the DSM V.” American Journal of Family Therapy, 38, 76-187.

Fidler, B. and Bala, N. (2010). “Children resisting postseparation contact with a parent: Concepts, controversies, and conundrums.” Family Court Review, 48 (1), 10-47.

Kruk, E. (2011). Divorced Fathers: Children’s Needs and Parental Responsibilities, Halifax: Fernwood Publishing.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Rebuilding Life after Divorce

For divorced men, the reality is painful emotionally, physically, financially, and just about any angle you can look at it. It’s simply an unpleasant experience. To rebuild from it or from anything, the anger needs to subside, whatever humor to be found needs to be brought forth, and a renewed spirit developed.

At the same time as rebuilding begins, there needs to be an emphasis placed upon not regressing to less- developed former states. Many men in this situation fall back to a younger adult mentality of late night partying and ill-advised romantic involvements. Instead, focus on using the experience to emerge wiser and more prepared for what is next in life. Remaining stagnate or regressing are traps that usually lead to even more heartache.

There is hope for life after divorce. Divorced men can experience less trauma and create positive growth. There are ways to rebuild life and be a better parent. Here’s how:

Make Time to Grieve

The shattered dreams, the broken vows, and the reality of starting over all cause severe emotion. Shoving that emotion down and not releasing it will cause further damage in every case. Most do not realize the destructive paths they are going down until a lot of carnage is behind them. All the stages of grief come with divorce: shock, denial, anger, and acceptance. But for men, in particular, there can be a deep sense of personal failure. Finding trusted people to share these emotions with is highly recommended. That could be a clergy person, a counselor or just a wise and sincere friend or small group. As you move into this major life transition, being emotionally unstable is not beneficial to your cause. Address your grief.

Regain Individual Identity
Marriage is about partnership and teamwork, and now you find yourself on your own. It’s time to regain your individual identity and figure out what are the things that make life work well for you. It’s important to learn to respect yourself and feel worthy again. Hone the character traits and abilities you possess that lead to positive results in your life, and critically figure out the ones that contributed to the lack of success. Doing these things will enable us to better understand what we need and expect from the next relationship. Most of all, learn to pray with sincerity and purpose. God has not and will not leave your side.

Build a Network of Friends

Just because you’re single now, life after divorce doesn’t have to be lonely. Divorce will wreak havoc on some of your current friendships, but gracefully accept that and retain the ones that reach out to you. Moving forward, carefully work to make new friends in similar situations with similar goals. This is the area that is most vulnerable to regression. It’s certainly expected to have an active and enjoyable social life, but craft it with great care.

Prudent Financial Planning

You have enough stress from the divorce already. Accumulating mass amounts of debt will make life much more miserable as you transition. Alimony and child support are going to force serious restructuring. Doing so bitterly is going to send trauma throughout the entire family unit, especially landing right in the heart of your children. They will feel unwanted and as if they are burdens, when what they need more than anything at the moment is lots of reassurance that dad is still going to be there for them. Make the hard decisions and necessary cuts. It’s going to painful, but you’ll come out of it one day much better off.

Make a Goals Bucket List
Starting over requires deciding what are the things most important to you. Make a bucket list of goals you wish to achieve in this new direction in life. A better version of the man you already are. A better and wiser parent. Be a man that prepares himself for the best chance at happiness and success. Try and feel new things.