Sunday, 30 April 2017

Is Death Easier Than Divorce?

Last week a woman said something to me that stopped me in my tracks. It had occurred within the context of a conversation we were having about the death of my husband last year when she asked me how I was coping. I explained that I was getting back on my feet. It was then she said,

“You’re lucky; death is so much easier than divorce.”

Had I heard her correctly? She went onto explain, saying that before she’d divorced her husband she had often wished him dead because all her troubles would have disappeared overnight.

I’ve often heard people in unhappy marriages discuss how much easier it would be if the other person died rather than going through a breakup. I must say that when I was in a miserable relationship, I once had that thought, and, as fleeting as it was, the shame of it stayed with me long after the relationship had ended.

In the cold light of day, death would seem to instantly resolve many problems: not having to make the decision to leave, not having to risk breaking up the family, or threatening the security of the family home or finances, no on-going power struggle with the ex, no co-parenting problems, no loss of self-esteem or friends, and no legal battles.

Divorce, on the other hand, seems to be more complicated as it can create a sense of failure for not making the marriage work. You can experience guilt, even, as a result of feelings of not trying ‘hard enough’. Having to continually communicate with your ex can cause issues to arise, especially if there are children involved.

If the divorce is particularly acrimonious, one of the hardest things to endure is the inner conflict of wanting to be a good single parent and be nice to the ex in front of the kids versus wanting to scream at him/her for ruining your life!

Interestingly, a study from the University College Dublin in 2004 revealed thatchildren suffer more from the effects of a divorce than the death of a parent. It stated that the children of divorced parents were more likely to suffer from depression, have poor social skills, and do worse at school compared to children who experienced parental bereavement. Does it also challenge the view that a child would be better off with divorced parents than to be raised in a ‘bad marriage’?

Having experienced both divorce and death as a partner, and a mother, I can report several correlations.

In both cases, the grief centrally revolves around the loss of your future life. It’s natural to assume that you’ll be with your partner forever and you feather that dream by building a fantastical life about how the two of you are going to drive your campervan into the sunset and live on the Islands of Dreams.

The loss of those fantasies- for that’s what they are- creates an ocean of grief that nothing and no one can fill. The only remedy is to bawl your eyes out while saying goodbye.
The main difference that I’ve found between going through a divorce, or bereavement, is the way that people treat you. Someone going through divorce can be regarded as an emotional wreck, and other people may stay away for fear of being embroiled in the breakup drama.
Once the divorce is complete, friends often take sides, potentially leading to an even more painful loss of the friendship group that you previously turned to in your time of need.

Conversely, grieving the death of a spouse seems to solicit a different responselike friends offering a shoulder to cry on, placing a thoughtful lasagne on the doorstep and gently encouraging the bereaved to step back out into normal life again.

The two are extreme by comparison yet, for me, the feelings of grief were as intense in both divorce and bereavement.

One obvious difference is that divorce is a choice and death is not. I have shared many evenings with friends while they debate whether or not they should leave their spouse. Some of their debates have raged on for years! Making a decision to leave a marriage when children, family structure and finances are intuitively sewn up together is often a painful and drawn-out process.

Of course, with death the decision is made for you.

If I could return to that conversation with that woman (me) who was so unhappy in her relationship, I would encourage her to leave it - pronto. What is the point in continuing with something that brings you heartache, or perhaps more truthfully, makes you think that death would bring a solution to the problem?

Having the had the experience of being in a marriage with someone that I truly loved and then having to watch them die, I can honestly say that I do feel fortunatefor having been left with the happy memories of a joyous life spent together.

The pain of the loss of someone whom I loved and who I know loved me who I spent many happy years with does, to me, seem preferable than the pain of being moored in the bitterness, agony, and disillusionment of not being able to have made a - once loving - relationship work out.

It’s easier, for me, at least, to grieve someone that I loved who is now gone, than it is, perhaps, to grieve the living when love has gone.


Saturday, 29 April 2017

Confronting one of my fears and moving forward with action!

Taking some of my own advice from my last video message, I thought I'd better confront one of my own minor fears and get back on the bike after a winter off; fear of failure (thanks to the lost fitness) and fear of success (if it went well I'd have to do it more regularly!) were both at play! Fortunately all was well in the end!

Hope you're having a great weekend!

Divorce With Dignity: Don’t Throw Daggers

So you and your ex have decided to split, perhaps your ex dumped you and you’re hurting. Or your ex made you so miserable that you dumped them. Either way the relationship is over and you’re getting divorced. Emotions are going to be bouncing off the walls; anger, sadness frustration, perhaps elation. You name it, you will experience them all.

And then comes the Divorce and financial settlement. There are several ways you can handle your divorce legally; mediation, arbitration or litigation but in emotional terms you can do it calmly, sensibly or with a fight. Now you may be the most reasonable person on the planet and your Ex could be a total arse, so you won’t have complete control of it being all “happy-clappy” but you do have the control of how you conduct yourself through a Divorce.

Unless you are an experienced divorce lawyer or a serial divorcee, the whole process may seem incredibly daunting and the approach you take will be guided by your lawyer. If your lawyer has an aggressive style, then hold on to your hats because it will be an all-out war.
Often people mistake an aggressive style for being more effective but this just simply is not true. Anything that holds both you and your ex in the ‘Anger’ zone will just cost more money and more pain. So when you pick your lawyer, make sure you are picking someone who is a good reflection of your personality. If you want to Divorce with Dignity, then get yourself someone with a dignified approach.

Even with the best lawyer on your side, you will undoubtedly want to take some pot-shots at your Ex. Perhaps he never put his dishes in the dishwasher or she was too busy on the phone to her friends and you just want to make the point One-Last-Time. But think about it this way, what is that actually going to achieve?

• Are you hoping that they will finally realise what you have been saying all along and roll around on the floor begging for forgiveness? If they haven’t understood that throughout the relationship, then they sure as hell won’t understand it now.

• Are you even trying to save the relationship by getting them to see the error of their ways? Let’s be real, hurting someone has never been the way of winning someone over.

• Are you wanting some acknowledgement of your hurt? Then I get that, but then you also have to also accept that your Ex is hurting too and you are a part of their pain. You are going to need to acknowledge their hurt as well.

The hardest part of letting go of a relationship is actually accepting that you had a part to play in the demise of it. This may seem like a really difficult thing to do if you are in the early stages of a break up but it will be the most freeing thing you will do to move on.

Throwing daggers is actually just an expression of your hurt; trying to convey how you feel. 
And the more you keep doing it, the longer the relationship will take to get over. Feelings and thoughts form an attachment, so the longer you have feelings (even anger or hate) the longer you remain emotionally attached to that person. The sooner you stop throwing daggers at your Ex, the quicker the pain will be over.


Friday, 28 April 2017

When Divorce Happens

If you’re one of the many couples who have spoken about divorce or who are actually in the process of filing for divorce, the one thing I can tell you right now is that you will be all right. It may not seem like it but you will.

Having been through the process twice, I know that these next few weeks or months will be, very likely, shrouded in anger and hurt, and accompanied by a seemingly bottomless bucket of resentment.

The divorce process has a habit of bringing out a not-so-nice side of you that you didn’t even know existed such as a burst of creativity in finding ways to hurt your ex emotionally and mentally and feel nothing... for a while.

If you didn’t initiate the divorce, then you’re a couple of steps behind your soon-to-be-ex in terms of accepting that the relationship is indeed over which will in turn hurt you or confuse you even more as you wonder, how come they are managing so well! 

Well, the reason for that is that they have already done some processing of the situation while still married to you. There was a time they were where you are now.

You will do certain things believing deeply that they are in the best interest of the children like telling them that it’s really your partner’s fault that the family is breaking up and you would never do that to them.

If you’re going through solicitors (have you considered family mediation?), you will at some point, confuse them for a therapist and pour your heart out to them not caring that you’re then, at that moment, paying them for a service they are not qualified to handle.

If you have lived for months in denial that this day will come, accepting that it’s here, that it is what it is, feels impossible to do. You go through moments of thinking, “I’m sure I can rescue this,” only to realise that you can’t, which immediately makes you jump back on the ever rotating wheel of very powerful negative emotions.

When it comes to the children, you swear that you will get full custody of them because, suddenly, in the space of what seems like 24 hours, your soon-to-be ex has become the most incompetent parent you have ever encountered! Even when someone explains to you that there is no such thing as full custody in the UK, you believe deeply that that is not fair and you will change the law if need be to “protect your children.”

When it comes to friends and relatives, you prefer, in the beginning at least, to consult with the ones who will not only listen to everything you say, but that they also back you up so much that they, and you, don’t realise that they are only fanning the flames of your anger, hurt and resentment. Who wants to speak with the objective, sensible ones?
Also watch how friends will fall away like autumn leaves, especially the ones whom you believed would be there for you.

When this happens, don’t worry too much about it, you will deal with it later on down the line. For now, just know that they would have fallen away anyway at a later date in time divorce or not.

You’re probably beginning to think about all the meaningless sex you’re going to have with everyone and everybody because you haven’t had it for such a long time!

You begin to hope that the guy who works on second floor will finally ask you out because now you can say yes, skip dinner, coffee and straight to his/yours. Or you start planning how you will finally get to tell Susanna in Planning Department how much you’re hurting in the hope that she will take you home and look after you.

If you have recently decided to separate, you will be going through this and a whole other lot of emotions including fear, shock and a whole lot of loss of actual memory, which is quickly replaced by a whole lot of selective memory.

The next few weeks, months or even couple of years will not be easy but I promise you that you will get through this tunnel.

Divorce, unfortunately for some of us, is truly part of our life’s journey. You’re going through it now but it doesn’t need to define who you are just like being laid off work, which also brings on fear, shock and a sense of loss, doesn’t define who you are for the rest of your life.

You will find love again.

You will laugh again.

Your children will be fine again.

And your life will go on again.

If you allow it....


How to TRULY be in a Relationship After Divorce Broke Your Heart

You’ve worked hard to get over your divorce. Don’t let it get in the way of your future happiness.

Living through the tumultuous end of your marriage is one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do. And the repercussions of it echo through your life in often surprising ways – and sometimes for a long time after your divorce is a done deal.

One of the most common ways to experience the fallout of divorce long after it’s final is in your new relationships.

So, when you meet someone you really like, it’s natural to wonder how to be in a relationship with them or if you even want to be in a relationship again. You wonder if it’s possible to find love after divorce.

Questioning whether you want another relationship usually driven by fear. When your heart has been broken by divorce, it’s very difficult to believe that you could ever have a good relationship.

You struggle with how to be in a relationship again. Maybe you simply fear the past repeating itself. But here’s the thing, the ONLY way this fear is real is if these two things are true:

You’re exactly the same person you were.

Your new love interest is just like your ex.

Now, if you’ve done your work – really done your work – to heal from your divorce, one of the things you now understand is your part in the failure of your marriage.

And because you’re smart and determined, you’ve taken the steps necessary to make sure you no longer behave in that way and you know how to spot it quickly when you do. This alone guarantees that you’re NOT exactly the same person you were.

Another benefit of doing your work to get over your divorce is that there’s very little chance you’re attracted to the same type of person you divorced. (Remember that the person you divorced is seldom the person you thought you married.)

So, if you’ve done all the hard work to heal, your fear of not being able to have a good relationship isn’t based on facts. It’s just a fear of the past that’s holding you back fro
m exploring your new life – the life you’ve been working so hard on making great.

Now when you really take a step back to look at it, it’s your ex and the memory of your marriage that’s keeping you from exploring the connection you have with your new love interest. And you sure don’t want your ex controlling your future!

Another reality is that the connection you have doesn’t guarantee that a relationship with this new person will work out or that you should enter it without caution. It just means that you’re attracted enough to want to explore how to be in a relationship with them.

Taking a chance to learn how to be in a relationship again with someone you genuinely care about can be extremely fun – especially after all the effort you’ve put into moving on with your life. And if this new relationship has the potential to contribute to your happiness, you deserve to explore it without fear.

So silence the echoes of your divorce and don’t let them get in the way of your pursuit of happiness.


Thursday, 27 April 2017

Get past the fear and take action

Some thoughts on how our fears whether founded or unfounded can hold us back from achieving our goals or taking actions to achieve our goals.

What fears are holding you back from your intention to thrive?

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

New child-custody law lets Ky. children win with shared parenting

Monday, Gov. Matt Bevin signed a revised law affecting temporary child-custody orders — the starting point for divorces. Kentucky’s House and Senate unanimously approved the law, which creates a presumption of joint custody and equal parenting time.

The new law, House Bill 492, answers many Kentucky children’s prayers. The Easter bunny is bringing children a better chance to see both parents after a divorce.

Children in married families enjoy both their parents. Before the new law, children in divorced families enjoyed whichever parent the court picked (primary custody). These children may be allowed a short visit with the other parent.

However, the new law encourages a better arrangement called shared parenting. In shared parenting, children get to see both parents equally. Instead of a single parent winning, the children do.

Studies show that shared parenting children really are winners. Shared parenting children are more likely to be involved in football or music contests than sole custody children. Children who see both parents are also less likely to do drugs or have premarital sex.

The funny thing is that both parents win, too. Neither is denied his or her half of parenting time. Neither parent is forced to work all day long and then be a single parent all night long every day. They have half their evenings and weekends to focus on their careers, tend to one of their own parents or start a new relationship.

Now, fewer divorcing Kentucky parents will be fighting tooth and nail to “win” their children. Thanks to Bevin and bill sponsors David Osborne, R-Prospect, Jason Petrie, R-Elkton, and Robby Milles, R-Henderson, joint custody is the temporary order law in Kentucky.

Surrounding states are rapidly passing permanent custody shared parenting laws. Illinois started shared parenting last year and Missouri just started it a few months ago. Let’s hope Bevin and the bill sponsors improve Kentucky’s permanent custody order law, also.

It’s so easy to point out our government’s flaws. But today we celebrate our legislators making things better. The entire Kentucky House and Senate have helped children see both parents after divorce. And they should because our kids deserve both parents.


Tuesday, 25 April 2017

8 Surprising Ways Divorce Affects Your Health

No two people experience a divorce the same way, but most can agree that it's an extremely painful and difficult situation, both mentally and physically. Though you'll be busy filling out legal paperwork with your attorney, it's essential to pay attention to your mind and body: Research shows that divorce can take a serious toll on everything from your sleep habits to your heart (no surprise there). Knowing about the following conditions will allow you to take charge of your health and do everything you can to prevent them from developing.


"Typically, after a divorce anxiety levels shoot sky high," says Fran Walfish, PsyD, a psychotherapist in Beverly Hills and an expert panelist on the upcoming television series Sex Box. "You don't have a companion in the big, bad world anymore," she says, and the future that you once pictured no longer exists. Plus, there's a ton of uncertainty, which can lead to feeling insecure. Depending on the circumstances, you might suddenly have to move, get a new job, and survive on less money than before. Your children might need to change schools or get used to a back-and-forth arrangement with you and your ex. Walfish says that anxiety can sometimes manifest itself in controlling behavior, such as sending a gazillion emails to your divorce attorney or emptying your joint bank account to try to take over the finances.

Drastic Weight Change

Gaining or losing a significant amount of weight is something else you might notice during or after a divorce. Some people turn to comfort foods because doughnuts or fried chicken might temporarily perk them up. For others, divorce has the opposite effect. "I had a patient walk in after a long absence. She was very slim, and I remarked upon it. She said, 'Yep, I'm getting a divorce. I call it the Grief Diet,' " says Walfish. "She lost her appetite. Sometimes you can't eat when you're distraught."

Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome occurs when you have several dangerous conditions at once, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess belly fat, and high cholesterol. It increases your risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. A study published in Archives of Internal Medicine found that women who are divorced (as well as women who are widowed or in unhappy marriages) are more likely to develop metabolic syndrome than women who are in happy marriages.


After a marriage dissolves, "many people feel like failures," says Walfish. What contributed to the divorce may also play a role. For instance, if your spouse cheated on you, that knowledge might send you into a downward spiral of hopelessness and destroy your self-confidence. "I really and truly believe that this is the pivotal moment in life where it's beneficial to seek out a good therapist," says Walfish. For one thing, it helps to gain support from someone who is emotionally removed from the situation. This is also your chance to discover why you were drawn to the relationship in the first place—and learn how to avoid a similar situation. "It's a golden opportunity to write a new, brighter script for the next chapter in your life," says Wolfish.

Cardiovascular Disease

A study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that both middle-aged men and women are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease after going through a divorce, compared with married people of the same age. It also revealed that middle-aged women who get divorced are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than middle-aged men who get divorced. Why do women have it worse? Here's one explanation: 

Research shows that the stress of divorce leads to higher levels of inflammation in women, and those levels persist for some time, explains Mark D. Hayward, professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. "Part of the reason for the continued elevation in women is that the period after divorce is highly stressful, too. Women often take bigger hits in terms of finances, and they tend to stay single longer than men."

Substance Abuse

Post-split, you might find yourself becoming more dependent on cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs to cope with feeling lonely, anxious, or depressed. One 2012 review of scientific literature published in The Journal of Men's Health found that divorced men have higher rates of substance abuse, as well as higher rates of mortality, depression, and lack of social support, compared with married men. The stress you feel from a divorce is second only to the stress you feel from the death of a spouse, explains study co-author Dave Robinson, PhD, director of the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at Utah State University. "And men are more likely to ignore the significant impact that divorce has on them."


"In my divorced clients, sleep disruption is very common, as well as nightmares," says Walfish. This might mean having trouble falling or staying asleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, insomnia is very common among those who are depressed, so divorce-related depression is one possible underlying cause of the sleep issues. Be sure to follow these tips to sleep better every night.

Chronic Health Problems & Mobility Issues

Many health consequences of divorce are linked. For example, it can be harder to eat well and exercise regularly if you're feeling depressed and not sleeping well. And those unhealthy habits can lead to serious diseases and conditions. A study published in Journal of Health and Social Behavior found that divorced or widowed people have 20% more chronic health conditions (such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer) than people who are married. They also have 23% more mobility limitations, such as not being able to climb stairs or walk a block. Consider this one more reason to make sure you get a physical each year.


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.


Monday, 24 April 2017

When a major change or decision seems too scary.

I was just listening to a podcast and heard something really significant, momentous even, and I wanted to share it with you as I think it summarises the challenge we all face in many aspects of life from time to time, whether:

  • Tackling a project at work;
  • Taking control of our diet or exercise;
  • Wanting to contribute and make a difference to larger scale problems in the world;
  • Setting out to thrive and build a new life after divorce.

The challenge? It is all far too big and scary when viewed as a whole.

The tip, whilst simple, easy to understand and probably something that we have all heard many times in many different forms, really made sense to me today…

“When you find something too big and scary and the very thought of it is paralysing you into inaction, or fear, ratchet the challenge back until you reach a level you’re comfortable with and act on that.”

Simple, right?

In the context of the examples above, our challenge may then be ‘ratcheted back’ to:

Focussing upon what progress we can make against our project today (or this morning, or this hour) rather than wondering how we’ll ever finish the whole thing.

Focussing on eating a healthy breakfast, or building a half hour walk into our day, rather than worrying about each and every meal being healthy or beating ourselves up for not being at the gym each and every evening.

Donating just £1 or $1 to a cause that resonates with us rather than getting demoralised about the plight of those far less fortunate than us.

In the context of setting out to thrive after divorce or separation, this could be as simple as making a choice today to:

  • Create an online dating profile and get back into the world of dating
  • Setting up a new bank account to start saving for a vacation or to invest in some education for yourself
  • Starting to read a book you’d bought but have been delaying reading
  • Focussing some time and attention on yourself by taking yourself out for a coffee or catching up with a friend
  • Opening a debate with your ex that is proactively focussed on the future (such as to float some ideas for how you wish to raise your kids after divorce) rather than rehashing events of the past.

It really depends on where you find yourself on the journey but whichever you choose, each of these steps may help to break down the size and scale of the challenge you face, and by reducing the fear you will increase the action and magnify the results which can only be a good thing.

I hope this is of interest and use to you. It struck me as pertinent, relevant and interesting, hence my desire to share!

Should you wish to check out the podcast in question, it was the Tim Ferriss Show featuring an interview with US Senator Cory Booker; very interesting and enlightening.

If you’re interested in a recommendation for a good read too (see above!) then I can highly recommend the excellent “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss; I’m a big fan of his (can you tell?!). The book is a collection of interviews with loads of really interesting and inspiring people and I’d highly recommend checking it out.

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss -

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss -

Thanks and have a great day!


Sunday, 23 April 2017

Lessons I Have Learned Post Divorce

Today I am reflecting on some of the lessons I have learned during and post divorce.

Happiness is a choice

This may seem obvious to some of you, but when you are caught up in a continual cycle of drama you may not be able to see that removing yourself from a negative situation is your choice. I have learned to remove myself from negative people and negative situations that don’t have a positive impact on my life. In nearly all situations I ask myself “does this make me happy?” or “do I feel good about this?” if the answer is “No” then it’s not something I pursue. You can use the ‘joy or annoy’ method! Bin the things, situations and people that annoy, keep the ones that bring you joy.

Forgiveness is required to move forward

Right now this may seem impossible for you and admittedly I still find it hard to fully forgive my ex and his (now) wife for turning my world upside-down and putting me in a very difficult situation. Not only did their actions affect me emotionally and mentally, being coerced in to bankruptcy and denied rights to an equal divorce has continued to affect my life and financial situation for nearly 5 years.

However, I am reminded of the quote “Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die“ ~ Buddha. I must accept that I will never receive an apology for what they put me through and that by holding on to resentment, the only person getting hurt is me!

The UK legal system is flawed

Maybe I didn’t select the right representation or maybe I was just a small fish in a big pond. If my solicitor had told me right from the start that I would get nothing from my ex due to my bankruptcy then I NEVER would have pursued him to pay my mum back what she was owed from the house. If I had known that he would come after my business/livelihood and that legally he was entitled to, I would have taken steps to protect it and myself. All in all it was a costly and emotionally damaging exercise where he kept everything and my mum only received a fraction of what she was due. I received nothing and still owe my dad for the cost of the divorce. If I could turn back the clock, my choice of solicitor and route to divorce would be completely different. My advice would be; do some research, select the right route to divorce for you and if going down the route of using a solicitor, choose someone you feel comfortable with.

Psychopaths exist outside of the movies

I have dated a psychopath, post divorce, and believe I may also have married one. I believe no decent human being would act in a malicious manner to intentionally hurt a vulnerable person.

It’s ok to ask for help

I fought for ages about seeking professional help. My defense was “I’m fine!”. On reflection, the early days of the split were when I needed help the most, over 4 years on I believe that this lack of professional help in the early stages has impacted on how I deal with my emotions now. Go get help and don’t be embarrassed about it!

Stress is a choice, depression is not

I choose to be self-employed, therefore I can choose whether to be stressed about work, deadlines or life in general. It is in my power to keep stress at a minimum level. For years I thought I thrived in stressful situations, procrastinating on projects and leaving it to the last minute to meet the deadline as working under pressure produced the best results... or so I thought! Having tried to lose weight for over 4 years and consistently putting it on, I am beginning to understand (and be educated on) the impact of stress on the body. Having been diagnosed with depression and ignoring this diagnosis I am now bigger than I have ever been, EVEN THOUGH I eat well and have 3 personal training sessions a week and complete my step goal each day. I have drastically changed some habits to reduce my stress levels and I am working on others. I may just have to succumb to the idea that all though mentally I feel ‘fine’, my body is telling me that I am depressed.

Acceptance is key

In order to move forward you must accept what has happened and learn to find peace with it. Some people may say ‘things happen for a reason’. I used to HATE it when people threw this cliché at me, but now I find myself saying it to others in times of emotional turmoil. I have accepted the role I played in the end of my marriage and have accepted that in order to have a happy life I must follow my own advice and forgive those who have caused me hurt.

Money isn’t everything

Going through bankruptcy alone and living off a small wage was a lesson I would never have wanted to learn in a million years! I was a high flyer in marketing, loved shopping and home-making... But shit happens and I dealt with it, day by day. I am still tarnished with the ‘bankruptcy brush’ as I can’t get a mortgage or write a cheque or get a credit card, but it has taught me that the important thing in life is not how much money is in the bank but how much love there is around you. My family, friends, pets and my home are among the MOST important things to me and I am truly grateful to have them in my life.

Choose your friends wisely

I learned very early on after my split that there are some friends who will be there no matter what, they’ll give you the truth even if it hurts because they care - hold on to them and don’t let them go, and there are some friends who stick around because they a) feel guilty b) are nosey c) love drama & gossip - avoid these at all costs! Delete them from social media, no need to be nasty or cause further drama, just be aware of who in your life makes a positive impact and who doesn’t.

Finally - Embrace change and all the lessons life throws at you!


Saturday, 22 April 2017

A Friend in Need is a Friend in Deed - What Role Do Your Friends Play in Your Divorce?

We all need our friends, especially in times of crisis. Divorce and separation is one of those life crises where you might feel that you need all the friends you can get, or do you? It is interesting to think about what place friends occupy in the new and choppy waters of a painful separation.

Having run many divorce support groups and divorce workshops, I begin to wonder whether friends are always the helping hand and the shoulder to cry on that is needed. If they are, what is the price that is paid for that? It would seem that friends can be the opposite of what is expected simply adding to the feelings of disappointment. It is natural to think that those you thought were closest to you would jump to the occasion and provide all the comfort and security without being asked.

However, friends who you might have been on numerous holidays with as families or as a couple, or friends that you spent nights in the pub with, or Saturday nights having dinner with downing a bottle of wine and having a laugh sometimes seem to disappear. That feeling of taking for granted some very basic elements of security get whipped away at the same time as your relationship. It is incredibly painful to know that your friends are now inviting your ex and not you, and have perhaps ‘coupled up’ with your ex and his or her new partner instead of staying loyal to you. There are also friends for whom you are suddenly not the draw that you were before. I hear you say, that you are not invited anymore for dinner because you are not part of a couple and don’t fit, that somehow if you are female that you are a ‘threat’ to married men.

Then there are the friends who are real friends, but who you feel you are burdening with the looped tape of your divorce. You, of course, need to talk endlessly about your feelings and what your ex has done and continues to do, but your fear is that the friendship can’t sustain it. That’s when you need a local group or workshop or some individual sessions to support you so that you can be free to feel less burdensome of those around you that you love.

There are also friends who are full of wise advice. Is it wise though, or is it a reflection of their own agendas? It is impossible to hear someone close to you saying, ‘it’s time to move on, you should be over it by now, nobody liked him/her anyway. None of those things, although meant well are at all helpful. In fact, they are quite shocking. Those words put a distance between you and your friend who is not as understanding as you thought they were.

With separation come all sorts of changes and losses. Friendships are one of those. Lifestyle changes with divorce and so do friends. Don’t be surprised, be ready and think of it as a way of meeting new people more in keeping with your new life who will grow with you through it. They will be more relevant and fit better.

There is a loss inevitably, but there is also a gain.


Friday, 21 April 2017

Developing Co-Parenting Plans

The organisation of cooperative parenting schedules.

A co-parenting plan is a written document that outlines how parents will raise their children after separation or divorce. Developed with the best interests of children in mind, a co-parenting plan details how much time children will spend time with each parent, scheduling details, how major and minor decisions about children will be made, exchanges of information and ongoing communicate about the children, children’s extra-curricular activities, and how parental disputes will be resolved. A written plan will help all family members to know what is expected of them and will be a valuable reference as time passes and family circumstances change.
There are numerous formats and templates for developing a co-parenting plan, but the key to successful co-parenting is to focus on the needs of the children, particularly their need to maintain routine relationships with each parent and to be shielded from ongoing parental conflict. There is no one “best” co-parenting plan that families should adopt and follow, as much depends on the unique circumstances and specific needs of family members. Some of the key issues that have to be addressed when putting together a parenting plan include the ages of the children and their developmental needs, the children’s school schedules and extracurricular activities, the parents’ work schedules, scheduling for holidays and summer vacations, the distance of the parents’ homes from each other, and any special needs of the children (such as disabilities or health concerns). Most often, it is best for a parenting plan to be as specific as possible. For example, with both routine weekly/monthly schedules, as well as specific holiday schedules, the exact times for pickup and return of the children, as well as where the exchange will take place (at a parent’s home or in a neutral location, for instance), need to be spelled out in detail. Of course, if parents are able to accommodate each other comfortably, they may not need to follow the parenting plan to the letter, but in the majority of cases, where there is some degree of friction, specificity is important.
In my own practice, I focus parent on five main dimensions of co-parenting, three time dimensions and two aspects of decision-making.  These will constitute the heart of the final parenting plan. Time dimensions include (1) overnight stays (how many will there be with each parent?); (2) routine time (the actual time the child and parent spend together in the daily routines of caretaking and parenting); and (3) activity time (time spent together in recreational and special activities). Difficulties are likely to arise if one parent has little activity time but the main responsibility for routine time, or vice-versa, or if all overnights are with only one parent.  It is also important to separate out the school year, holidays, and special days and observances for each of these time dimensions. Parental decision-making includes (1) daily decisions made in the course of daily child-rearing; and (2) major decisions (including schooling, religious affiliation and training, and major medical decisions). Again, a plan in which one parent has power to make major decisions without any responsibility for day-to-day decisions can be highly problematic.
How best to begin the process of formulating a co-parenting plan? One possibility is for each of the parents to draft a proposal with respect to the five dimensions of post-divorce parenting, and then come together to compare the lists and begin to negotiate. Another option is to have each parent work through a time survey—for example, outlining what a typical week would look like when the child is living with them, and then come together in mediation to compare their lists.  This kind of exercise helps parents consider what will be involved in parenting as separate entities, think about their strengths and deficiencies as caretakers, and identify the skills they will need to be able to carry through their co-parenting plan.
While parenting plans take many forms, it is important to include the following five clauses in the written agreement:
(1) A general statement to begin the agreement: The parents will cooperatively share the parenting of the children, with co-parenting defined as having two core elements:  shared responsibility for important decision-making as well as the daily routine parenting of the children, and parental cooperation with respect to same.  This includes respect for one another's parenting style and authority; that is, parents agree to say or do nothing that will harm the relationship of the other parent with their children.  A helpful clause to include in this section is, "The parents agree to foster love and affection between their children and the other parent."
(2) Sharing of parental responsibilities: The parents agree to confer on all important matters affecting the welfare of the children, including education, health, and religious upbringing.  They agree that each will have access to medical and school records. There should also be a clause saying that day-to-day decisions are the responsibility of the parent with whom the child is living.
(3) The specifics of the actual time-sharing and residential arrangement: This includes overnight stays, routine time, and activity time.
(4) Details regarding holidays and special days and observances: This includes overnight stays, routine time, and activity time.
(5) The agreement time period, and amendments to the agreement: End with a clause indicating the length of the agreement, and that the plan will be reexamined at a later fixed time, or from time to time.  If no revisions are deemed necessary after the agreed time period, the agreement is automatically renewable.  A clause specifying the manner in which parents will settle disputed issues in the future, with an emphasis on cooperation and a return to mediation if necessary, is also essential.
Explicit guidelines for co- parenting can be developed at the time the co-parenting plan is drafted.  These may include: respect the other's parenting rules; avoid criticizing the other parent, directly or indirectly;  avoid placing a child in the middle of an argument or using a child as a messenger;  stick to the time-sharing schedule and keep promises, but also be flexible in a way that meets the children's and the other parent's needs (try to accommodate the other parent's request for changes, but the other parent should remember that even small changes to the schedule that occur with little forewarning can cause major problems);  make transitions as comfortable as possible for the child (be positive about the child's stay with the other parent;  be courteous with the other parent;  once the child settles back in, let her talk freely about the other parent or the other home);  and respect each other's privacy (keep contacts and communications restricted to set times, and to child-related matters).
While the co-parenting plan should usually be highly structured at the beginning, over time, flexibility, creativity, and compromise should be encouraged.  Changes to the plan over time are inevitable; parenting arrangements will require reevaluation and change over time, based on children's changing developmental needs and the parents' own changing circumstances.
Contingency planning sets the stage for needed future changes.  Potential obstacles and areas of conflict regarding parenting can be anticipated; issues such as changing job demands, relocation, and how to deal with children's changing developmental needs need to be discussed.  Remarriage or cohabitation and stepfamily formation may affect co-parenting in a significant way, as the problem of mistrust often reemerges when new members join the family
Once a co-parenting plan has been negotiated and drafted, it should be implemented for a specified trial period, anywhere between 6-12 months.  At the end of the trial period, the plan is reviewed and made permanent, modified, or abandoned.  It is important to know that the plan you initially negotiate is not irrevocable.
Establishing a routine and an environment conducive to children's adaptation to the new co-parenting arrangement are critical tasks for both parents.  Children are generally anxious to know the specifics of their new routine, and the predictability of a clear schedule facilitates adaptation.  They also prefer to develop a sense of "belonging" in both of  their parents’ homes, and will adapt more easily if they have a place of their own in each house, which they have helped in creating.  Other important considerations include deciding on children's items that need to be duplicated (toothbrushes, nightclothes, school supplies, diapers and baby supplies for infants), those that are divided between the two homes (shoes and clothing apportioned in measure with how much time is spent in each residence, toys, books), and those that will go back and forth between the two homes (cherished toys,  bicycles, musical instruments).

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Ten Steps To Deal With An Impossible Ex.

Help! My Ex Is Manipulating My Children.

Dealing with divorce is never easy. In fact it is probably amongst the most stressful and grueling experiences one can go through. When we get married we start off with a tremendous amount of hope and expectation. Intellectually we know it will take work but it is truly impossible to really know what kind of work it will take until we are already down the path of the marriage. I believe the reason it is difficult to get an idea of what the work of marriage will look like is because I believe it is individual to each marriage and the specific issues which exist between the partners.

Whatever the issues are which end the marriage being divorced can often be harder than it ever was being married, especially if you share children. When divorced couples share children there is no ending to the relationship which makes moving on difficult because the children bind us together for our lives. We not only have to deal with our ex but we have to often deal solely with all the aspects of them that we tried to divorce. This can be the most frustrating aspect to cope with. Here we have divorced this person to get away from their negative traits and we seem to deal more with them post-divorce then we did married.

This is where the children often become the victims because control (especially for the spouse who was left) becomes the big issue in these circumstances. When this happens so often does parent alienation syndrome. If children start distancing from the other parent we can be sure parent alienation is occurring. There is nothing more debilitating emotionally then when our spouse manipulates the children against the other. The loss of one’s children to manipulation is maddening and very difficult to recover from because the children are not old enough or mature enough to really see what is happening.

When our ex is manipulating our children it can be the hardest thing to let go of. There is no greater pain then watching our children being poisoned. We often feel powerless and heart broken. The only cure for this is time. In time children always come to see the bigger picture. When these circumstances occur, which sadly is more often than not, it can feel impossible to keep any balance in our lives or in the lives of the children because there is so much manipulation being inflicted upon them that they cannot see or understand.

When this type of situation is happening there is only one recourse. We have to stay focused on the love we can give our children when we have our time with them. We have to stay focused on our individual lives and make them so strong that we have fulfillment individually which will make us a happier more emotionally available parent. When we have control in our own world it gives the children the space to feel their own emotions and go through their own experience of the manipulation. In scaling back and focusing on our own lives this will not only start to bring stability back into our world but it will also begin to slowly bring stability into the world of the children when they are on our custodial time.

If an amicable relationship cannot be had regardless of our efforts with our ex-spouse then learn how to treat that person as a business. This relationship should be minimized to talking only about the children and their needs. This is not an easy thing to master especially when you are aware the children are being manipulated and decisions regarding the children are being made without our full agreement or consent. We have to keep in mind that there is no way to control our ex’s or what they covertly do to the children emotionally. 
The only thing that can heal that wound will be time. See, the truth is like the cream in coffee it will eventually raise to the surface.

Ten steps to take to make the relationship with your ex a business:

1.) Only communicate the necessary information to your ex regarding the children

2.) Get wages garnished to eliminate money games.

3.) Communicate only through writing so you have a line of documentation if necessary to review with your legal team. If your ex responds to your communication with attack, re-read what you sent and see if you communicated all the necessary information and if so, do not respond to the attack. Be cordial but say very little when in person with your ex.

4.) Become aware of covert tactics and manipulations by your ex. Educate yourself so you can see them so you can avoid getting sucked in.

5.) Repsect the custodial schedule. Minimize asking favors from the ex like switching weekends as this will be held against you in the future. Also respect your ex's time when he/she does not have the children.

6.) If your children have athletic practices on your ex’s custodial times do not attend them. Attend practices on your time and attend all games.

7.) Remember that the children love you both and deserve for you to both love them rather than barter and fight over them. If one partner stops the fighting the other will soon have 
nothing left to fight with and things will calm down.

8.) Refrain from telling your ex how to parent. Let the children experience your ex in the truth of who they are. Manipulation can be hard for the children to see so just be patient…time will heal this

9). Focus on yourself and making your life happy. You have paid your dues.

10.) Stay out of manipulating offers of friendship by your ex when friendship means that you do whatever your ex wants so they won’t manipulate your children. This is extortion not friendship.

These steps will help to clean up the power struggle which often occurs when people divorce. There is a lot of grief adjusting and loss when our nuclear family falls apart and many of us get caught up in being more commintted to our ex’s in fear or in hate than we were ever committed to them in love and this makes the divorce even harder than the marriage. We can only be committed to fearing or hating someone until we decide it is not worth the energy and time. If we have divorced we need to remember why we made this decision. The decision was made in the thoughts of getting our lives back to happy and we did it for the health of our children. Stay with that mindset. We made this decision to make our lives more at peace and more open for love. No matter who our ex is or how difficult they are to deal with it is up to us how much of this we will tolerate or not.

After a divorce it is our time to focus on loving ourselves. Giving ourselves the love we were in drought of in the marriage. We have to find the places, out of the marriage, where we can see freedom. We have to be creative and enter into new adventures. When we have our kids we need to make the world about them with love and discipline, and when they are with our ex we need to let them be with our ex. When we have our alone time we need to take advantage of this time to focus on ourselves by setting some goals and taking the steps to achieve the happiness we chose to find in making the decision to divorce. It is a new time in our lives and a time for us to celebrate and find love again. It is not a time for us to waste all kinds of energy in trying to either control our ex or spending too much time defending ourselves to our ex. If this is happening then we are not free yet. If the manipulation by our ex has given us the feeling that we have lost our children we need to find people who we can love and trust to share our grief with. Find a good therapist and legal team. Be assured that with time children always see the truth.

Advice: Focus on the best interest of your children and focus on the best interest of you. If your children ask you questions answer them honestly. It is in no one’s best interest to stay committed to negativity. Let go. Let go of the need to control, let go of the need to defend and let go of the need to fight. Start to make a list of all the things you would like do and achieve as a single person and make steps each day to reclaim your identity and your life.

When you stop allowing your ex to engage you in drama, you finally sever the last bit of commitment between the two of you. It is a real lesson in humility to do this but it is the one thing that will set you free. At the end of the day we have to let each soul walk its path. The only path you have to focus on is your path. Whether you like your ex as a person or not you will always have to respect that to your children that is their other parent. Not always an easy pill to swallow but those are the facts. When your children see that you accept this it takes pressure off of them to not have to take sides or to feel as if they are somehow flawed and defective if they still love their other parent. Guilt is one of the most covertly manipulative tools used on children.

We all have lessons to learn from the relationships we have, and what we have to trust for our children is that they were meant to have the exact parents that they do or else things would be different. There will be many learning opportunities provided to the children through your ex that they could not get from any other person good or bad. They are meant to have these lessons and so try and back off and trust that. If they come to you in pain be there to understand and comfort them and this will build deep bonds between you and your children based in understanding by experience.

For now, focus on renewal and rebirth. Separate all your emotions from your ex and let them go to be whoever it is they are. If they choose to stay connected to you through their own hate (whether overtly or covertly) then so be it. That is their waste of life and energy and you do not have to engage. Focus on you. Add love to your life. Eat right, laugh, go out with friends, love your new romantic interest if you have one, exercise, sleep well and love your children. That is what life is all about.

Little Life Message: When we take good care of ourselves and our emotions we teach and model our children to the same.


Is Divorce a Career Killer for Mums?

Well, you’ve heard it said once and many times over - divorce is like a death.

So many losses are involved including the future you had once dreamed off. You life’s direction takes a turn that you didn’t plan for and you really don’t know what lies ahead.

You get to see that there are indeed life events that are capable of knocking you sideways and propelling you into a land that you never had any intention of visiting let alone residing in.

Yet here you are. In the land of inner pain, anger, resentment with a touch of relief and anticipation for what the future holds. A place where concentration, sleep disturbance and appetite attacks are all names of avenues, street and roads.

Welcome to the land of “The Divorced Working Mum.”

20 years on and I still recall how one of my daughter’s nursery teachers came to school one Monday morning looking tired, worn out and red-eyed.

Her “new” appearance was easily noticeable to us parents because Mrs Blake-Harrington, let’s call her that, was always very presentably dressed with an air of collectedness and coolness about her.

It turned out, her husband had just left her and the children (both under 9) that weekend. She was not the I-am-in-control teacher whom we used to see. That one had left. 

Mrs Blake-Harrington, stayed on for another couple of weeks but eventually had to leave and take a much needed break. She went to see her parents who lived outside London...never to return.

So what happens when you find yourself divorced and the main carer of your children? How does that affect your career or work prospects?

My own divorce experiences steered me to working in a totally different way than I had anticipated albeit in the same profession - child therapy. I had two children and no family around to help. 

I had to drop out of courses during divorce number one and had to quit one full-time job during divorce number two and opt for a part-time position that was paying me not only a fraction of my previous salary but that was also mind-numbingly dull.

In the meantime, my ex-husbands, had the support and help from their work places. They could work long hours if they wanted to because they didn’t have to get home in time to pick up their children from school and look after them and this reflected back on the successes they achieved post-divorce.

However, and I hope they don’t mind me saying this, these successes were short lived as after a while, they both were burned out having not taken time off to deal with such huge life events. Today they are both working in different fields.

I recently read this quote in Oprah Magazine, an article by Martha Beck:

“If you’ve had a run of horrible luck, you can tell yourself you’re being tortured or punished. Or you can decide you’re being steered.”

So did my two divorces kill my career?

That’s the story I held for a long time. That’s the belief that I carried with me for a long while until one day, I realised that, the divorces shifted me to where I am today, doing what I love.

Remember that mind-numbingly dull job I ended up in? Well if it wasn’t for that job and it’s dreariness, I wouldn’t have taken the huge risk of resigning and working for myself. I had to do something. I just couldn’t stay there.

I am now working with children and families affected by divorce, trauma and loss and I am pursing my other love and passion, which is writing and editing entirely on the topic of divorce and separation.

I work for myself. I control my days and hours. That is what has worked for my children and I.

So is divorce a career killer? Will it be yours? It certainly was mine for a while there, but not anymore.

During divorce, there are many parts of your inner world and being that no longer function as you knew them. You day to day life is affected by your emotions which are affected by your thoughts which then play a role in determining your actions.

The one piece of advice I could give anyone going through divorce to do is to take time off. Do ask for help, take it and accept it when it is offered. Ok, that’s more than one but they hey.

Only when you take care of yourself will you be able to see things clearly and make better decisions and judgments as to which way to go next. This is no time to be a warrior woman.

Grieve if you need to but don’t stay there forever.

Divorce encourages you to reassess your current situation to find and discover very creative ways to get time with your children, earn some money and look after yourself.
It’s not easy. We love spending time with our little ones but bills need to be paid.

But here you are. The change has come. You are being steered. Which way will you go? What will you do? What can you do? Know your options and take it from there.