Wednesday, 17 July 2019

12 Unexpectedly Wonderful Things About Life After Divorce

It’s hard to get out of bed some days after divorce, let alone map out a future spent on your own. But at some point in the process, you start to realize that you’re so much more than your relationship status and that life goes on — and gets better — after divorce.

Our readers and bloggers will tell you as much. Below, they offer 12 silver linings of divorce that surprised them most.

Your free time is entirely yours.

“These day, I’m able to do whatever I want at night. ‘Greys Anatomy’ marathon? Yes! Browse Pinterest for hours on end? Done! Not having to worry about ignoring or upsetting someone? Priceless.” -Callie McCartney

You don’t expect divorce to be a confidence booster — but it can be.

“After my marriage ended, I doubted my ability to handle the divorce — and definitely felt inadequate during and immediately after — but once the dust settled, I was proud of myself for getting through it. Not only did I not fall apart, I was building a great life. I found myself on the other side and now know I can handle anything.” -Rebecca Neville

If you have sole custody of the kids, you have full say in how they’re raised.

“I always enjoyed spending time with my kids but getting to raise them on my own, I didn’t know how much I would enjoy just being immersed in their lives. The rewards of being solely responsible for their well-being were enormous: The school conferences, concerts, sporting events, taking care of their worries, talking with them about first girlfriends, first boyfriends — all of it — gave me more joy than I ever thought possible.” -Joseph Seldner

Those eggshells you used to walk on? They’re no longer there.

“My decisions are the ones that actually get made. I’m watching my daughter grow into the kind of woman I still hope to be when I grow up. Eggshells are simply eggshells now and not a metaphor I have to walk on.” -Jayne Schroeder

Bye bye, in-laws.

“Let me tell you: The slow realization that you don’t have to sit there and listen to your mother-in-law anymore is magical.” -Amy Matthis Marsh

Being an every-other-weekend parent has its perks.

“I get to be an off-the-clock parent every other weekend. I don’t get a lot of time to myself, but when those weekends come, I can live like a 20-year-old bachelor. The dishes pile up in the sink and I can stay out as late as I want (or just be lazy and veg out on the couch and watch shows and eat junk food). I might see my kids at their lacrosse or soccer games, but if a change in the schedule happens, it’s not my problem that weekend!” -Jennifer Iacovelli

You realize you were both good people who were simply bad for each other.

“It’s great being able to laugh and be myself without feeling guilty. He is a good man but we didn’t make each other happy and he didn’t ‘get’ me. I can be myself again now.” -Rebecca Kenne

This is an opportunity to become a much better parent.

“Prior to our separation, I came home daily to a house that was riddled with stress created by me and my ex-wife. The cloud of tension was palpable. The stress of a marriage that was failing made me short, bitter and incapable of appreciating my children the way they deserved. Now I revel in the little moments that happen all the time in fatherhood. I don’t blow up at small things that kids just do and it’s made me and my sons closer than ever even though we see each other less.” -Doug Zeigler

Your goals are no longer on the back burner.

“I’ve learned to take care of myself. I’ve gone from couch potato to finishing a half Ironman!” -Kris Fava

Every side of the bed is your side.

“Now that I’m divorced I can lay across the whole damn mattress.” -Kelly-Anne Foley

Your post-divorce relationship with your ex may end up being better than the marriage itself.

“I come from a very small family. Divorce left me feeling alone after suddenly losing the only family I ever had, including in-laws and aunts, uncles and cousins on my ex’s side. When I became friends with my ex’s new wife, I was slowly included in family functions again. Over the years, my family has become larger than I ever dreamed possible — including my son’s stepmom’s family. Despite our ‘ex’ titles, we’re completely connected as a family. All of us.” -Shelley Wetton

You get to rediscover who you are as a person.

“I’m rediscovering and building upon the once strong and independent person I had lost along the way. I’ve learned to like myself again.” -RenĂ©e Benson


Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Can a Temporary Separation Make a Relationship Stronger?

Living apart for a while could ultimately keep you together for longer.

There are three main reasons why couples separate—as a step in the divorce process; to gain perspective on the marriage; and the one I will focus on in this post, to enhance the marriage.

I am a big believer in the therapeutic value of a separation to strengthen the marriage if it's done in the right way for the right reasons, and if there are clear agreements from the start.
This separation can be done at any time and, indeed, is being done by more and more couples. Yet we still think something is "wrong" if couples live apart, and we usually see separation as something used mostly by couples that have reached the breaking point. 
They have usually tried various other interventions and tactics to get the marriage back on track and are now at a place where there's nothing left to do but split up, physically separate, and, ultimately, divorce.

Rather than a means to an end, however, separation can be a helpful tool to stay together. This seems counterintuitive when a marriage is in trouble and relations are fragile. Most of us believe that when we feel our spouse slipping away from us, we should merge more, get as close as we can, and do more 'to make the marriage work."

The thought of creating distance at such a time instills a great deal of fear of losing control of your spouse and your relationship. This option is especially challenging if the bond between the two of you has been weakened by a betrayed trust. But employed carefully and skillfully (and usually with some type of professional support), this tool can be quite effective in bringing two people closer together.

Guidelines for an Enhancement Separation

Here are some thoughts on how to go about creating your own Enhancement Separation.

Get Third-Party Support. While some couples can do this on their own, I highly recommend seeking out some type of neutral third party to help facilitate this process. It can get tricky, especially if this is being done while there is currently some tension or problems between spouses. This can be a therapist, clergy, mediator, or lawyer.

Set Clear and Reasonable Expectations. Ground rules are a must to maintain a sense of trust between the parties. If one person expects to communicate every day but the other doesn't, this could cause hurt feelings. Knowing what to expect avoids this type of situation.
Know Your Goal. Don't assume that you both have the same goal. You both really need to agree that your intention in living apart is to enhance your marriage. Again, if one spouse thinks the separation is a step in the divorce process but the other thinks it's a temporary "time-out," this can cause a major rift in the trust between the two. Having the same goal in this exercise is particularly important in making it a successful exercise.

Maintain Regular Communication. Having no contact at all for an extended period of time may actually begin to hurt the marital connection. Instead of an "Absence makes the heart grow fonder" mentality, it may end up being, "Out of sight, out of mind."

The average length of an Enhancement Separation is about six months, but some couples have enjoyed it so much, they continue it indefinitely.

Who Should NOT embark on an Enhancement Separation

There are some people for whom this tool will not work. It is crucial that each spouse is honest with themselves and honest with each other about why they are doing this exercise: If you or your spouse is trying to make the splitting up process gentler and easier, this is NOT the tool to use. If you don't intend to stay with your partner, the worst thing you can do is pretend to be interested in working things out.

If you are confused about whether or not you want to stay in the marriage, it's important to state that up front. It's far harder on your spouse's heart if you've led him or her to believe that you will be coming back fully committed to the marriage once the separation is over, only to find out later that you wanted to leave the whole time.

Those who have had repeated breaches in trust, or those who have a hard time trusting, should not try an Enhancement Separation. This exercise requires a great deal of maturity and it can raise more anxiety than it's worth for those who are dishonest or insecure.

An Enhancement Separation can be tapered specifically to your needs and your situation and can be implemented or rescinded at any time.


Monday, 15 July 2019

Essential Requirements to Maintain Emotional Maturity in Divorce

It is not unreasonable to expect a certain level of emotional maturity, from both parties before, during and after divorce.

Two adults entered the marriage, two adults are divorcing.

In order to maintain as least a minimum of civility and respect, especially when children are involved, emotional maturity is crucial.

Be an adult.

Emotional maturity is comprised of many things and varies with individual perspectives. However, during the divorce process, the following are essential:

Take responsibility for your thoughts, words and actions. Emotions are running high, everyone is hurting. What you do and say in this situation matters. The repercussions of hurtful, negative words and actions will continue to ripple for years. Be mindful.

Own your part in the marriage and the divorce. This isn’t the time for outward blaming or playing the victim. Maybe things were unfair. Maybe things didn’t work out as you had hoped. It is over now. Own your part of it. It takes two to tango.

Stop wallowing in negative emotions. Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D., author of My Stroke of Insight, documented the biological time-span of an emotion as 90 seconds. What you do after those 90 seconds is up to you. Challenge your beliefs to see how they match up with reality. If you need help, get help. Don’t take your negative feelings out on others.

Avoid using “you” statements.

Respond, don’t react. Negotiate, don’t argue. Be wise, not defensive. Divorce isn’t about winning or losing, right or wrong. The marriage is over, pointing fingers, keeping score, tattle telling…there is no place for it.

Try to see the bigger picture. Step back from your ego self and negative judgment.

Release the need for comparison. Both of you are disappointed, hurting and grieving.

Strive for acceptance and compassion. The choice is yours to grow from this experience or let it define you.

Apologize when necessary. Not the “I’m sorry, but…” kind of apology either. Apologize and mean it. “I apologize. What I did/said was wrong and hurtful. I wish I could take it all back but know I can’t. I will try my hardest to not let this happen again. I hope you can forgive me. I am sorry.”

Be an adult.

Your children will thank you.


Friday, 12 July 2019

In Whose Best Interests?

In divorced families, whose needs count for more: those of parents or those of children?

When parents divorce, their child custody plans are supposed to place the “best interests of the child” first. We know children’s needs change as they grow. Unfortunately, the way we develop and maintain custody schedules ignores that, and often makes children feel helpless by denying them any influence over the arrangements that govern their lives.

Today, most divorces involving children include a parenting plan that dictates where children will live and which days they will spend with each parent. The process of agreeing on a custody arrangement is often very difficult for parents, who naturally have little desire to revisit the divorce experience. As a result, the legal agreement they reach typically will govern the daily rhythm and schedule of children without change until they turn 18.

In reality, a custody agreement that meets the needs of a toddler is unlikely to be right for a teenager. Imagine yourself as a 13-year-old who wants to spend more time with your friends over the weekends. Unfortunately, your parents are divorced, and you spend weekends with a parent who lives two hours away. You would be unlikely to request a change in custody because it would mean altering a longstanding agreement and plunging into a morass of conflicting loyalties and guilt over betraying whichever parent would lose out. Faced with such dilemmas, children in divorced families frequently end up suppressing their own needs to reduce conflict with, or between, their parents. Even when children are driven to speak up and request custody modifications, their voices carry little, if any, legal weight.

Rendering children voiceless and powerless to meet their own changing needs, or burdening them with guilt if they try to do so, is in no one’s best interest. It either creates hardship for children who grin and bear it or instigates a string of provocative and damaging behaviors in those who embark on increasingly desperate attempts to make someone notice that something is wrong.

Although the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children have a right to meaningful participation in decisions affecting them, adults, from some misguided notion of protection, often seek to keep children from making choices in custody matters. But accepting certain kinds of responsibility for their own lives and learning from the consequences of their decisions, even poor ones, is vital for the growth and well-being of all children.

Once children have reached the age of reason — generally agreed to be about 7 — they should be recognized as the ultimate experts on their own lives. We all resent it when others say that they know better than we do how we feel and what is good for us. Nevertheless, we subject children to this when we call in experts to evaluate their lives over a period of days or weeks, as part of the custody process, instead of just listening to them.

To remedy this, all parenting plans should be subjected to mandatory binding review every two years. The review should include a forum for children to speak privately with a mediation-trained lawyer. The conversation should be recorded to ensure that the child was not pressured or asked leading questions. Children should not be forced to state preferences but invited to speak if they choose. Many children will decline, as they are deeply reluctant to hurt a parent. But occasionally, the need to advocate for themselves outweighs these fears. When they do speak up, their wishes should be honored as stated, not as interpreted by an expert or lawyer.

The lawyer should meet with all family members, individually and as a group, to ensure that the child’s wishes are respected in the next two-year parenting plan. Children’s wishes should be decisive, in place of those of experts and judges, as long as at least one parent agrees with them.

Some may fear this system would result in young children being manipulated by their parents. But my almost 40 years of practice as a family and child therapist have taught me several things that suggest otherwise. First, that children can tell the difference between being bribed and manipulated, and being respected, understood and having their needs (including those for discipline) met. Second, that children consistently choose the latter over the former, if given the chance. And finally, that children have a clear understanding of their own needs — even if they are unable to articulate justifications or reasons for their wishes.

Of course, even after listening to children, the success of custody plans must still be evaluated. A proper assessment of children includes their functioning at home, at school and in having age-appropriate peer relationships. If, after following a modified custody plan for two years, a child is failing in two of the three areas, then it is time to consider whether a different plan is needed.

In 1970, no-fault divorce made its first appearance in the United States, in California, bringing recognition that both parents have an equal right to have access to their children. Forty years later, in 2010, New York became the last state to adopt no-fault divorce. But children’s rights are still routinely ignored. Will it take another 40 years for children to be heard?


Thursday, 11 July 2019

Personal Growth: Five Steps to Positive Life Change (And the Big Payoff!)

Ready to take the five steps to positive life change?

In my first post in this exploration of how we can produce meaningful and last life change, I described the four obstacles that prevent change. In my last post on this topic, I introduced you to the five building blocks of change. These steps I just described set the stage for change, but the real work lies ahead. Change can be scary, tiring, frustrating, and repetitious. And change takes time. How much?, you might ask. It depends on your ability to remove the four obstacles to change and embrace the five building blocks I discussed above. It also relies on your ability to commit to the minute-to-minute process of change. But I have found that when someone makes a deep commitment to change, they can expect to see a positive shift in 3-6 months.

With the foundation for positive life change now in place, it's time to take action. Here are the five steps you must take to turn possibility and hope into real change.

Explore Your Inner World

Perhaps the most difficult part of changing your life involves exploring your inner world. True change cannot just occur on the surface or outside of you. Change means not only
understanding who you are, but also why you are who you are, in other words, what makes you tick. The first step you must take is to identify the obstacles that are preventing you from changing. You need to "look in the mirror" and specify what the baggage, habits, emotions, and environment are that are keeping you from your goals. Understanding these obstacles takes the mystery out of who you are and what has been holding you back. It also gives you clarity on what you need to change and gives you an initial direction in your path of change.

These explorations of your inner world can enable you to finally understand why you have been the way you have been and done things you have done even when neither have worked for you ("So that's why I've been this way all of my life!"). This process will also help you to remove the obstacles that have stood in your path to change. These insights also, at a deep level, liberate you to move from your current path to another that will take you where you really want to go. Most importantly, truly understanding your inner world will allow you to finally put the past behind you-when most of your life you have been putting your past in front of you.

Change Goals

Once the path to your goals has been cleared, you still need to have a clear idea about your final destination. Think of its like GPS; you can't get directions unless you input where you want to go.

When you establish clear objectives of the changes you want to make, you are able to better focus your efforts and direct your energy toward those changes. These goals should identify what areas you want to change, how you will change them, and the ultimate outcome you want to achieve. Moreover, the goals should be specific, objective, and time defined.

Action Steps

So far, everything you have done to change has been talk. Now it's time to actually make change happen. Action steps describe the particular actions you will take to achieve your change goals. They may range from adhering to an exercise regimen to maintaining emotional control in a crisis situation to staying focused when surrounded by distractions. 
Action steps give you the specific tools you need to act on the world in the present and to give you alternative actions that counter your old baggage, habits, emotions, and environment.

Forks in the Road

Taking the action steps and achieving your change goals depends on recognizing important forks in the road. I make the distinction between the bad road and the good road (there can actually be multiple bad and good roads, but let's keep things simple). The bad road is the one that you've been on for so long driven by the four obstacles I described above; it's a "feel bad, do bad" road. In contrast, the good road is the one you want to be on; it's a "feel good, do good" road.

This fork in the road is simple, but not easy. It's simple because you would, of course, want to be on the good road. It's not easy because you have years of baggage, habits, emotions, and environment continuing to propel you down the bad road.

A key to the change process involves recognizing the forks in the road when they appear because without seeing the forks in the road, you obviously can't take the good road, that is, makes positive changes. This awareness isn't as easy as it seems because all those years of obstacles has created a myopia that can limit your field of vision causing you to miss the forks when you come upon them.

In all likelihood, you will initially only recognize the forks when you are long past them ("Darn it, I wish I had seen that fork earlier!"). But, with time and vigilance, you will see those forks earlier and earlier until one day an amazing thing will happen; you will see the fork when you arrive at it.

Unfortunately, because of the Sirens' call of the four obstacles, you will still probably take the bad road at first. But, one day, another amazing thing will happen. You will recognize that fork in the road as you approach it and, yes, you will take it! And you will never be the same person again.

Don't get me wrong; you don't have it made yet. You'll have setbacks and struggles because you will still go down the bad road sometimes; those obstacles take time to dismantle. But every time you take the good road, you'll see what a great road it is to be on and it will encourage you to continue to resist your baggage, habits, emotions, and environment and to take the good road at the many forks that lay ahead.
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Three Ps
One of the most difficult aspects of change is the need to make a day-to-day, hour-to-hour, and minute-to-minute commitment to change (Every time you miss an opportunity for change, you further ingrain your old obstacles). A helpful reminder of this necessity is what I call the Three Ps.

The first P, patience, is a constant reminder that change takes time and that if you maintain your commitment, you have a good chance to make the changes you want long lasting.

The second P, persistence, means you must keep vigilant and, as the saying goes, "keep on keeping on" in your journey to change.

The third P, perseverance, refers to your ability to overcome setbacks and maintain your
motivation and confidence in the face of periodic failures and disappointment.

The Payoff

There is an immense payoff for your commitment and efforts at change: A life-altering shift in who you are and how you think, feel, and behave. A new direction that your life will take. And finally moving toward achieving your life goals. As a former client told me so poignantly: "I realized that I would never have to go back to the way I used to live my life, and I have never been so happy!"


Wednesday, 10 July 2019

How To Make A Hard Divorce Easier On Your Kids

What are some tips for parents who are divorcing who have small children?

Answer by
Alecia Li Morgan, single mum to four kids ages 8, 6, 5, and 3:
These are my tips, some serious, some playful, some in-between:
Remember that your children are the first priority. Sometimes this can get lost in translation, especially if the circumstances of your divorce are exceptionally emotional or ugly.
  • Try to do this with mediation rather than litigation. If you can manage it this way, you’re more likely to be able to have an amicable relationship afterwards, which is pretty mission critical to coparenting. It also just costs far less money. If money isn’t really an issue, then litigation might be necessary, but if you can mediate, I recommend trying it.
  • With that said, bring a picture of your child(ren) and put it up during your discussions. Although this may bring emotions up, it also should help you both remember the priorities. This helps curb dire scare threats like “I won’t help pay for their school!” - if you look at their pictures and then try to say things that you don’t 100% mean, it’s a lot harder to get ugly.
  • Lay out what you agree upon first. Then work from there. By getting things you agree upon written down first, it means it’s less likely you “pull” these things from the table later just to get your way on something else. Your goal is to agree on everything (with compromises), so putting down your groundwork first is really good.
  • Don’t look at support numbers when deciding timeshare. This is hard. We tried not to do this, but it still crept in. The parent who will be paying support often may begin agreeing to letting the other parent (usually the one who has been primary caregiver) have the lion’s share of the children’s time, which is generally in the best interest of everyone involved, but then see the way the support breaks down (it is dependent on both wages *and* amount of time with children in your care) and balk. For us, this meant a change of 20% of the time from what our original agreement was. It’s unfortunate when this becomes a deciding factor in where the kids will be. So as much as you can, set this stuff aside.
  • Do whatever you can to preserve their lives, at least for the first year. One thing I committed to as I went into all of this was that no matter what it took from me, I was going to try to keep their lives “the same” as much as possible for this first year. For me, this meant taking on a 4k a month rent solo, plus paying half of their private school tuition. It meant living month to month on a lot of things and getting help from family. But I have no regrets. Being able to keep the kids in their home and at their school this year as they adjusted to the changes has been invaluable. I’m convinced it is one of the key factors in how well they’ve coped, overall, with the changes.
  • If you were primarily at fault, say sorry. Seriously. Say it. My ex didn’t say this as much as I wish he had (and his affair partner not at all). It would have helped, honestly. You want to lessen the hurt and anger, not just because of negotiations, but because it’s best for your kids in the long run.
  • Force yourself to express gratitude and recognition. Mid-mediation cycle, I sent my ex an email. I just said I knew this was not the outcome either of us set out wanting, but I appreciated that he was working with me to make mediation work so that we could avoid the ugliness and cost of litigation. I told him I recognized his efforts towards being a better dad and more present for our children, and I appreciated that. Those things are true, but they were hard to write. However, it was important to me that I did. I don’t know if it mattered to him; he never responded, but it mattered to me. It helped start me on the new cycle that I needed to be on for coparenting to work. One where the marriage was a dead thing now, and I needed to look at the present to evaluate and react for the kids’ sake.
  • Be flexible. Yes, it might be “your” night, but if your child is crying for home and the other parent, be flexible. There’s debate on whether that’s healthy or not (just like “cry it out”), but just try to be flexible.
  • Be compassionate. Your spouse is hurting. Yes, even if your spouse is the one who cheated and is living with his/her affair partner now. Divorce is still ugly. (S)He may not be hurting the same way you are, but there’s still hurt. It might be simply because change is scary, it might be reputation amongst friends and family, who knows. Try really hard to work up compassion. Your children need *both* of you to be as emotionally healthy as possible. You may not be partners in life anymore officially, but you’re always going to have some obligation if only because it affects your children.
Good luck. Divorce isn’t easy. Get support and do what you have to do. Your kids depend on you.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Shame On You for Getting a Divorce!

How to not buy into feeling like a failure when your marriage ends

Have you ever heard anyone utter these words regarding

“I have two failed marriages.”

“How can you be so selfish?”

“We’re staying together for the kids.”

“But, we
love each other. Why can’t we make it work?”

“But, you’re the perfect couple. Why couldn’t you make it work?”

“People who get divorced are afraid of intimacy.”

“I would never get divorced.”

The list could go on.

In our culture, we have so many preconceived notions about
marriage and divorce—many, if not most, are unconscious. These beliefs include a soul-mate mentality (having to marry “The One”), and the idea that there’s something wrong with someone who cannot find or keep “The One.”

That’s a lot of pressure! In a time when we have so much choice, are these beliefs still pertinent? Or has the time come to stop and take a good hard look at what we’re doing?

In 2014, my, The New I Do, co-author, Vicki Larson, and I started what we called, “The Occupy Marriage Movement.” This wasn’t a message about whether or not gays and lesbians should have the right to marry (of course they should!), rather it was a call to action to stop all the shaming and blaming we do to those who don’t fit into the “one-size-fits-all” mold we call matrimony.

Take my friend, Brett. He is well into his 60’s and he’s never been married. Onlookers are quite sure that there’s something terribly wrong with him because clearly, he can’t commit. But he not only can commit, he does every time he’s in relationship (a state he’s in often!). Brett told me quite matter-of-factly one day, “I just don’t see the point of marriage but when I’m in relationship, I’m monogamous and devoted to my partner.”

Why does society make him wrong? Why is there only one acceptable way to form partnerships?

In my work with divorcing people, I see the tremendous fallout from
shame people are subjected to. One woman told me the reason she never dated after her divorce was that she felt like “damaged goods,” even though the divorce was not her fault (her ex was an alcoholic and a rage-aholic). In her case, it was a sign of good mental health and self-preservation that she got out of that relationship. Yet, she couldn’t view it in any way other than that she had “failed” to keep the marriage together.

Last year, I came across a book that spoke to me in a big way because it carried the same message I’d been trying to get out there about letting go of our righteous indignation when others don’t do what they’re “supposed to” in the
mating arena.

It’s called, Sacred Cows: The Truth About Divorce and Marriage, by Danielle Teller, MD, and Astro Teller, PhD. Both authors had been married and divorced prior to meeting and marrying each other. They compared notes and found that they’d had similar shaming experiences following their dissolutions. They began to talk to others who’d also been given
grief by well-meaning friends and relatives. As they say in the book, these [attitudes] of condemnation “add unnecessary pain to a situation that is already plenty painful.”
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Sacred Cows pushes back and mocks the mockers! Each chapter outlines the behavior of a different attitude that they call “cows.” There are seven:

The Holy Cow: This person is especially righteous and unforgivingly rigid stating simply, marriage is always good and divorce is always bad. (Must be a Holstein – only seeing in black or white!)

The Expert Cow: Every problem a couple has can be fixed and therefore, if the couple divorces, it is undoubtedly because they didn’t try hard enough.

The Selfish Cow: Those who divorce are immature and selfish. Period. They will tell you that you have to compromise and lose yourself in service of the couple-ship. They will also say that you didn’t try hard enough to be in relationship if your marriage ends in divorce.

The Defective Cow: There’s something wrong with you because you couldn’t keep your mate. If I make you doubt yourself enough, maybe you’ll conform and be “normal.” (I didn’t marry for the first time until I was 43 and I can attest to the pressure I felt when people would say to me, “What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you married?”)

The Innocent Victim Cow: These folks will spout the endless studies that “prove” how divorce harms children. They will advocate for the poor kids who, they believe, should stay in the home where the
parents tear each other down and continue to be subjected to unhealthy relationship patterns. One advantage of bringing up kids who see marriage as a battlefield is that they will develop a high tolerance for bad behavior from their mate and will stay and suffer just like their parents did. But at least they’ll be married!

The One True Cow: This is the most romantic of the models and it’s the attitude that has done the greatest disservice to young men and women everywhere (luckily, Millennials aren’t buying into this ideal so much these days). There’s such a tremendous buildup to finding this one true love that when the trivialities of life and the billions of dashed expectations emerge (as they invariably will), the self-doubt it propagates is astounding.
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And, finally, The Other Cow: which states that no one should ever leave a marriage for another person. If you do, you are
evil, weak, commit-a-phobic and a player.

So, what’s wrong with all these attitudes? In a word, presumption. They do not account for the many variables people encounter in their own unique relationship. We can never know what goes on behind closed doors. Like the neighbors I had years ago that clearly loved each other and used to delight in telling us how they met. They dressed alike and went everywhere together. They even looked and talked alike.

One day, they knocked on our door unexpectedly and asked if they could talk to us. They came in, sat down, and announced that they were splitting up. I literally got teary eyed—not because I thought they “shouldn’t” get divorced, but because it really threw me for a loop (Me! A therapist who specializes in divorce!). I thought they were so happy together.

It turns out the woman had been having an illicit affair for years and when confronted by her husband, she refused to give her paramour up. They just couldn’t come to an agreement about this so they parted ways. It happens.

This “perfect couple” that I made assumptions about was not so perfect after all.

One reason we shame people is because we are sad and don't want nice people to split up.

Another reason is because we want couples to obey “the status quo” so we know what to expect. If marriage is between a man and a woman and it lasts (happily) for a lifetime, then we feel safer. If marriage is open to gays and lesbians, if it only lasts five years, if it’s for any reason other than love, we stop being predictable and, therefore, we stop feeling safe. But sticking to an old, outdated script, and being safe are not the same thing and, in fact, they are much more likely to be opposing forces.

There’s no question that divorce can be hard on many people (not the least of whom are the kids), but the time has come to stop adding layers of shame to the pain.

I’ll leave you with a quote from an
article (link is external) the Sacred Cows authors wrote recently:

“When divorce represents a couple’s best chance at future love and
happiness, let’s imagine a world where empathy and support trump our old-fashioned concepts.”