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.


How to Let Go of Your Ex After a Break-Up

“He left me. He said he didn’t love me anymore and just walked out.” A client sobbed on the sofa in my clinic a six months ago. Her heart had been completely broken by her partner of 11 years. (I have changed names and some scenarios to protect confidentiality)

She was completely overwhelmed with sadness and an acute sense of loss. She had a high flying career and was angry at herself for falling apart yet she had no control over the crying or the obsessing over what she might have done wrong.

The truth is that she had suspected for the last 18months that something was wrong. Her ex, who I shall call James, had become gradually more distant and less affectionate. He had always bought flowers home on a Friday but that dwindled, as did other little gestures that she used to take for granted like a cup of tea in bed on Sunday’s and buying her the latest book from her favourite author when it came out.

At first Susie had been too busy to really notice but over time she started to feel sad about it. Whenever she brought it up he told her he was sorry and that he had been busy too. Whenever they argued about it and she said she didn’t feel as loved by him anymore he would accuse her of being too demanding.

Their sex life petered out in the last six months but she assumed it was all down to the length of their relationship and that it was natural that sex would not be as frequent after 11 years. Susie busied herself in work and tried not to think about it. After all they still had a good circle of friends and a fun social life together so it wasn’t all bad.

So the break-up hit her like a freight train. She felt broken inside and her self confidence was at rock bottom. Susie came to see me to find out how to feel better as James had made it clear he was not coming back. She felt partly responsible and wishes she had done more about the problems and not allowed them to fester.

The interesting thing about heart break is that it really physically hurts inside. It’s an exquisite pain that can grab hold of you and paralyse you from moving forward with your life. The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to help you let go of your ex. It’s not easy but with practice and a determination to get back in control of your feelings will help you to get there.

Don’t be afraid to face any negative emotions. It’s ok to cry and actually helps you to heal. It’s all part of the loss cycle and a natural part of your recovery process. It’s normal to grieve the loss of your relationship. Susie was so relieved to find this out that she relaxed. She had thought she was depressed and would never feel happier. But the truth is that sadness is part of the natural recovery process.

The key to letting go of your ex is to change your focus from the past and what happened to the future and put your energy and attention into creating your new single life. Stop telling your sad story to everyone who will listen and start to talk about all the new things you want to achieve and have in your life. Susie had been talking about her break-up for hours with her mum and best friend. They meant well but actually gave her negative reinforcement as they were hurt and angry too. Susie and I worked on some exciting new goals that she wanted to create for her future. It gave her a new focus with her mum and best friend and they were able to support her in a more positive way.

Make some changes to the way you do things, especially your daily routine. This will enable you to experience new things and not end up doing the same things alone that you used to do together. You could introduce a morning walk or move some furniture around in your home which will give the room a fresh feel. Even little changes can make a huge immediate impact on how you are feeling. Susie decided to clear out James’ clothes from the wardrobe and pack them away. Whilst this was tough for her to do she felt much better immediately after.

Write a bucket list of all the things you would love to do over the next 12 months but you would never have been able to whilst in your relationship. Turn your loneliness into a sense of freedom to do things that make you happy. Susie had always fancied going on a fitness retreat but James was horrified at that idea and preferred to lie by a beach. So she booked herself 5 days on a retreat abroad and came back fitter, more confident in herself and with a tan. She carried it through into her daily routine and joined a gym as she recognised how having a healthy body gave her more mental strength and a better ability to move forward with her life.

Susie now has the tools and techniques to feel better and move forward with her life. She feels back in control of her emotions and has created a future she is excited to live and is loving it.

She still pops into my clinic from time to time as new challenges arise as she now appreciates the importance of dealing with issues immediately and not allowing them to fester. She came in recently as she felt ready to start dating again and wanted some help to get started. She has let go of James and is ready to start looking for a new love.

Letting go of your ex is never easy if you loved them deeply. They may always hold a place in your heart, however this place should be pain-free and full of happy memories.


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

Moving on After Divorce Without Losing Your Kids

You can have a great life after divorce AND still be a great parent too.

Divorce forces loss after loss after loss – loss of your marriage, loss of your home, loss of your life style, loss of your future together, and loss of your kids. Well, maybe you don’t really lose your kids, but it sure feels that way when you don’t get to see them every day.

When you’re used to being there for your kids and knowing everything that’s going on in their lives being without them is devastating. So, you do whatever you can to make the time you do have with them count more than ever. But when they’re with their other parent, you’re lost.

You know that it’s time to get on with your life, but the simple thought of moving on after divorce brings up fears of moving on from your kids and leaving them behind so their other parent can raise them. These terrifying thoughts are so crushing and abhorrent that you struggle to function.

So, you don’t move on. You continue to cling to your children and only really come alive when you’re with them.

The problem is that living only for your kids isn’t fair to your them. They notice that you’re not really living your life and they can tell that you’re becoming more and more insecure.

This is not the parent you want to be and it’s not the parent your children deserve.

You don’t have to choose between having a great life after divorce and being a great parent.

Moving on after divorce doesn’t mean that your new life doesn’t allow you to continue being a great parent.

The first step to moving on after divorce is to do your divorce recovery work. That means that you dig into the emotions you’ve locked away and grieve the losses. You accept that you had a part in the demise of your marriage and figure out what you can or should do differently in your next relationship. And you plan for and create a life that you love

(Admittedly, healing after divorce is much easier to read about than to do. Most people benefit from working with a helping professional – therapist, divorce coach, clergy member – to fully heal.)

The second step to moving on after divorce is to figure out new ways to connect with your kids. This requires that you ask yourself, “How can I be just as involved with them as I was before the divorce?”

You might make more time to go to their games or recitals. You might have lunch with them at school. You might teach them about the new hobby you’ve found as part of your healing process. You might take them and their best friends out on some adventure. The possibilities really are endless (and much easier to see when you’re over your divorce).

What you choose to do now to connect with your kids will differ from how you connect with them in the future because they’re growing up. So, your job as a parent will continue to change and you’ll be challenged to discover new ways to build your relationship with them just like you were before the end of your marriage.

Your divorce has already forced you to make a bunch of really tough adjustments and the thought of making even more changes is probably a bit discouraging.

But this is the home stretch of the adjustments you’ll need to make because of divorce and these changes are for your kids. Knowing that should be great motivation for you to build a life after divorce that works not only for your kids, but for you too.

And the best part is that when you’re living a happier life that includes focusing on building your relationships with your children, you’ll realize that your fears of losing your kids once you moved on from your divorce were just a sign that you had an opportunity to become an even better parent than you already are.


Successful Post-Divorce Parenting With a High-Conflict Ex

While co-parenting is advised by experts as an optimal situation for a child’s well-being after divorce, attempting to do so with an ex who has a high conflict personality or a personality disorder is usually unsuccessful. In most cases, an amicable relationship can’t be achieved between parents and parallel parenting is the only paradigm that should be attempted.

Co-parenting, at its best, is a wonderful opportunity for children of divorce to have close to equal access to both parents—to feel it is okay to love both of their parents. Dr. Joan Kelly, a renowned psychologist, reminds us that the outcomes for children of divorce improve when they have positive bonds with both parents. These include better psychological and behavioral adjustment, and enhanced academic performance. However, few experts discuss the drawbacks of co-parenting when parents don’t get along or one parent has a high-conflict personality.

What is the solution for parents who want their children to have access to both parents but have high conflict? According to Dr. Edward Kruk, Ph.D., “Parallel Parenting is an arrangement in which divorced parents are able to co-parent by means of disengaging from each other, and having limited contact, in situations where they have demonstrated that they are unable to communicate with each other in a respectful manner.”

In other words, parallel parenting allows parents to remain disengaged with one another (and have a parenting plan) while they remain close to their children. For instance, they remain committed to making responsible decisions (medical, education, etc.) but decide on the logistics of day-to-day parenting separately.

According to parenting expert, Dr. Kruk, children of divorce benefit from strong and healthy relationships with both parents and they need to be shielded from their parents’ conflicts. He writes: “Some parents, however, in an effort to bolster their parental identity, create an expectation that children choose sides. In more extreme situations, they foster the child’s rejection of the other parent. In the most extreme cases, children are manipulated by one parent to hate the other, despite children’s innate desire to love and be loved by both parents.”

For instance, Ben and his ex-wife Alyssa divorced two years ago and their attempts to co-parent have been disastrous. After interviewing them and their two children (separately and together) it appears that the conflict between Ben and Alyssa is so intense that their two daughters often feel loyalty conflicts. According to Ben, Alyssa frequently bad-mouths him and criticizes his parenting. Describing his ex as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), Ben says that interacting with each other at drop-offs, making shared decisions, or even speaking to her has been an incredible challenge.

In most cases, trying to co-parent cooperatively or having an amicable relationship with an ex who has a high-conflict personality or a personality disorder is problematic and not a realistic expectation because they’re so focused on themselves and their needs. According to family therapist Virginia Gilbert, MFT, attempts to co-parent with a narcissist will keep you engaged in a battle. She writes: “Targets of high-conflict personalities need to accept that it isn’t wise to be “authentic” with their ex. Strategic, limited disclosures and iron-clad boundaries are essential in managing a high-conflict divorce.”

When parents argue excessively and for too long, it can leave children feeling insecure and fearful. Even if it’s not the parents’ intention to cause harm, ongoing conflict can threaten a child’s sense of safety.

Truth be told, parents forget that children are vulnerable to feeling in the middle between their parents’ arguments. High parental conflict can send them into high alert. As a result, children may have difficulty sleeping, concentrating on school or social activities, or be plagued with fear and anxiety about their future.

Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to prevent your children from the damaging impact of long-term conflict during and after divorce. This process won’t be easy but is possible with a willingness to work on changing your approach and using the strategies outlined below.

7 Steps to successful parenting with a high-conflict ex-partner:

Don’t tolerate demeaning or abusive behavior from your ex and be sure that you and your children feel safe. This might mean having a close friend or family member on hand when you talk to your former partner. If you plan for the worst (and don’t expect that your ex will have moved on or be caring) you’ll be less likely to be blindsided by his/her attempts to control or get back at you. Be sure to save all abusive emails and text messages. Don’t respond to them since this can perpetuate more abuse.

Do accept help from counselors, mediators, or other helping professionals. Make sure you have plenty of support from a lawyer, friends, family, and a therapist. Use a third party mediator when needed. Therapists who utilize cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) are usually the most successful dealing with survivors of a relationship with an ex who has a personality disorder. Be sure to ask a therapist if they have experience with this treatment method.

Keep your eye on the big picture in terms of your children’s future. Although it’s stressful trying to co-parent or even parallel parent with a difficult ex, it’s probably in the best interest of your children. Adopt realistic expectations and pat yourself on the back for working at this challenging relationship for your kids.

Focus on the only thing you can control—your behavior! You alone are responsible for your own happiness. Don’t be persuaded by your ex to do something that you’re uncomfortable with just to keep the peace. Adopt a business-like “Just the facts, ma’am” style of communicating with him/her.

Minimize contact and set boundaries with your ex. High-conflict personalities thrive on the possibility of combat. Be prepared and write a script to use when talking to him/her and try to stick with it, using as few words as possible. For instance, if he/she tries to persuade you to reunite, say something like: “I tried to make this relationship work. Nothing has changed and it’s not healthy for us to stay together. I wish you well.”

Don’t express genuine emotion to your ex or apologize for wrongdoing in the relationship. If your ex is a perilous or abusive narcissist, they might interpret your apology as proof of your incompetence and use it against you, according toVirginia Gilbert, MFT.

Make sure you have a parenting plan that is structured and highly specific—spelling out schedules, holidays, vacations, etc. to minimize conflict
. Using a communication notebook to share important details with your ex can be an essential tool and help you stay detached and business-like.

It’s crucial that you take an honest look at the impact your ex’s behaviors and the dynamics in your relationship are having on you and possibly your children. Once you accept that you can only control your own behavior – not a person with a high conflict personality—your life will greatly improve. After all, you deserve to have a life filled with love and happiness! Go for it!