Thursday, 31 August 2017

Helping Kids Cope with Your Amicable Divorce

When divorce is an obvious solution to a disastrous marriage, it’s easier for kids to understand. If either parent is abusive to partner and kids, an addict whose habit has thrown the family into poverty, or a criminal in the world and a tyrant at home, it makes sense to children that the more balanced parent would want to take them away from all that. When home is a place filled with tension, where everyone has to walk on eggshells to avoid a blowup, where the primary contact between the grownups is fighting and violence or seething hostility, kids often want out as much as one of their parents.

But what can the kids make of it when the reasons for the divorce aren’t so obvious? Adult reasons aren’t always appropriate to share with kids. The reasons you can share may seem lame to them. You’re not happy. You and your partner don’t share the same interests, activities, or goals. You or your partner is attracted to someone else. Sex isn’t what you think it should be. Daily life is boring at best; clouded by low-grade hostility at worst. Little decisions get left to one or the other. Big decisions seem impossible. Maybe there is a hidden addiction (gambling, shopping, Internet porn) that is eroding the marriage but isn’t visible to the children. You and your partner aren’t a team. You aren’t in love. You think life has to be better than this. But you’ve been wise enough to shield the children from your growing unhappiness.

Adding to the kids’ confusion is that you and the other parent have managed to work out a way to be responsible parents in spite of growing apart from each other. Maybe you’ve divided the turf, with each of you taking on different tasks — one becoming the caregiver; the other doing specific routines. Maybe you can’t talk to each other but you can both talk to the kids. Most important, the kids know you both love them. Kids, being kids, think the way you are together is the way all parents live. They think your family is no different from anyone else’s. They think everything is fine.

Although an amicable divorce is what most adults would want and what is ultimately better for the kids, it only adds to their bewilderment. If you guys can get along so well, they think, why couldn’t you just stay married and keep our family together?

Make no mistake. For the children in such a situation, your divorce is their catastrophe. They can’t believe it. From where they sit, you’ve got a good family. They love you both and don’t believe that you don’t love each other. Their usual reaction is panic and protest. They don’t want it to happen. They worry it’s their fault. They fantasize they can do something to stop it or fix it. They worry their parents will divorce them, just as they are divorcing each other. They hate it. They may even hate you for disrupting their life, for making the other parent leave, for changing things that seemed just fine to them.

Helping your kids through your amicable divorce is a long-term proposition. Since there was no obvious blowup and blowout, the kids will return to questioning the decision at each stage of their development. If you expect it, if you respond with age-appropriate answers, if you can avoid being defensive, the issue will quiet down again until the next developmental milestone. It often takes until they are adults and have had experience with adult relationships for them to really understand.

There are some common and predictable issues at every “why did you have to go and get a divorce?” conversation along the way:

  • The kids will wonder if somehow the divorce is their fault. Since they don’t understand adult reasons for separating, since they are by definition narcissistic little beings, they will assume that it is something they did or didn’t do that drove one parent away or made the other one unwilling to stay a couple. Little kids will think it’s because they did something “bad.” Older kids will think they didn’t do well enough in school or didn’t obey enough of the rules or weren’t the right kind of kid. Teens are especially vulnerable to thinking it’s all their fault. You and their other parent will need to reassure them many, many times that the divorce is not about them.
  • The flip side is that they will fantasize that they can get you two back together. They may even try to engineer it. They will try hard to be extra, extra “good” so that you will want to be a family again. They will try to manipulate situations so that you and the other parent have to get together and talk. They may try to sabotage a new relationship. You and their other parent will need to relieve them of their imagined responsibility for recreating the family. You’ll need to explain many, many times that the divorce is permanent.
  • The kids will worry you will “divorce” them too. Their reasoning is that since you once loved your partner but left, you could leave them too. You and their other parent will need to explain to them frequently that partner love is different from parent love and that there is nothing they can do that will make either of you stop loving them or being their parents.
  • In their efforts to make sense of the situation, kids will sometimes decide that one or the other parent is really the bad guy. Sometimes in a moment of temper, they will say terrible things: “You’re such a ____, it’s no wonder my father/mother left you!” “My dad/mom must have an awful secret or you wouldn’t have left!” Whatever your own feelings about your former spouse, kids need to feel that they have two good parents. You both will need to explain many, many times that the other parent is a perfectly good person but wasn’t a good partner for you.
  • Often kids will make threats in attempts to get their parents to stay together or reunite. “I’ll run away.” “I’ll hate you forever.” “I won’t cooperate with your arrangements for where I should live or who I should be with.” You and their other parent need to repeat many, many times that you understand why they are so upset but that threats don’t solve the problems. You’ll need to have many, many serious talks about what might make things work better for them.

There’s no such thing as an easy divorce when there are children. Divorcing amicably doesn’t guarantee that the children will go along with the new arrangement without turmoil. They need empathy. They need your support. They need you to acknowledge that you are disrupting their lives. They need to be validated that you are making the choice that, yes, you are really so unhappy that at this point your happiness comes before theirs.

When parents are honest about how hard the divorce is on their children, the kids usually eventually accept it. It’s unfair to expect them to like it. It’s unreasonable to look to them to support the decision. But when children and teens feel heard, they are more likely to join in constructing a new idea of their family. The parents’ job is to work very hard to be cooperative co-parents and to do as much as possible to accommodate the kids’ needs for predictability and stability in the midst of the major disruption that even the most amicable divorce creates for them.


What we do today and how it can affect what we get tomorrow

"What we do now, echoes for eternity"

-Maximus, Gladiator

This video considers the quote above from the movie Gladiator and proposes that we would all do well from time to time to consider the lasting impacts of our actions in the outcomes that we can expect to see in our own lives.

Fixating on negativity, getting bogged down in difficulty or settling for too little and taking lowly actions aligned with lowly aspirations for life will likely ensure that we get more of the same and see the consequences of these actions in our lives. Conversely, if we can raise expectations and live in alignment with higher goals then we can reasonably expect bigger and better things back from life.

How to Heal From Feeling Rejected After Divorce

When a marriage ends because our partner leaves or betrays us, it’s natural to experience feelings of rejection. When we are left, it can be a devastating experience and it can leave us feeling angry, sad, and self-critical — at times, ruminating about what went wrong. We may be in shock and feel shaken to the core of our being. Self-defeating thoughts can grab hold because we are vulnerable and trying to make sense of things. However, it’s important to realize that this is a normal part of grieving and letting go after a marriage dissolves.

While it’s natural to go through a period of self-reflection when you are rejected by your partner, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Ask yourself if your fears of being alone are preventing you from looking at the breakup honestly. For instance, it’s likely that there have been problems in the relationship for some time and that one or both of you have been unhappy.

Part of the grieving process at the end of a relationship is accepting that what you wanted to happen no longer will happen. Thoughts might range from: We will never have children together, to the mundane: We won’t ever eat another meal together. For example, Kerry told me during a counseling session that the hardest part of being left by her husband Jake was watching TV alone after he moved out.

However, when we feel rejected, we might be listening to destructive “inner voices” which are rarely based in reality, according to author Dr. Lisa Firestone. She writes, “When we are listening to these destructive thoughts, we’re more likely to feel humiliation than real sadness over our loss. Our inner critic fuels feelings of not being able to survive on our own, often saying that no one will ever love us. When these voices aren’t viciously attacking us, they are often raging at our partner, which only supports a victimized orientation to a situation.”

Feelings of rejection are closely tied to feelings of self-worth and self-love. Part of the healing process after divorce is recognizing and accepting that the way you feel about yourself affects the way you relate to people in the world. As you learn to accept what happens and begin to love yourself again, your feelings of rejection will diminish. When you’re connected to feelings of self-worth, you’ll have more energy to relate to others in meaningful ways.

Let’s take a closer look at rejection and examine whether someone is a dumper or a dumpee in the divorce process. These two terms were coined by divorce expert Dr. Bruce Fisher in his groundbreaking book, Rebuilding When Your Relationship Ends. Fisher writes, “Dumpers are the partners who leave the relationship, and they often feel considerable guilt; dumpees are the partners who want to hang on to the relationship, and they often experience strong feelings of rejection.”

It’s important to remember that the roles of dumper and dumpee aren’t always clearly defined and that sometimes they can be reversed. For instance, a partner might be told by their spouse that their marriage is over, and then they decide to file for divorce. Surprisingly, it’s not always the dumper who files for divorce. Sometimes the dumpee simply gets tired of waiting and takes this bold step as a way to take charge of their life.

When you think about it, aren’t guilt and rejection two sides of the same coin when it comes to emotions after divorce? It makes sense that a partner who decides to terminate the marriage would experience more guilt, while the person who is left would suffer from feelings of rejection. Notice the difference in their priorities. The dumper typically focuses on personal growth and will say things like ,”I have to find myself.” On the other hand, dumpees usually express a desire to work on the relationship and will say things like, “Just tell me what you want me to change and I’ll work on it.”

Although it’s not an exact science, we might expect that roughly the same amount of people would identify themselves as the person who was left (dumpee) as the one who decided to leave (dumper). However, in a small percentage of divorces, people say their divorce was mutual. In these cases, it’s normal to feel both guilty and rejected at times.

Here are six ways to heal from feelings of rejection:

Accept the fact that it’s normal or typical to have emotional reactions to the ending of a relationship. They’ve probably been there all along (in your marriage) and are simply intensified during and after the divorce process.

Acknowledge that all relationships end due to breakup or death. Just because your marriage is over, it doesn’t mean you’re inadequate or inferior — or there’s something wrong with you. Give yourself a break.

Work on self-love. You are a worthwhile person who doesn’t have to let the end of your love relationship define your self-worth. No person can complete you.

Accept that feeling rejected is an expected part of the ending of a marriage and it takes time to heal. Discover that relationships are our teachers.

Adopt a mindset of getting to know yourself better. Stay open to new experiences, hobbies, or interests that you couldn’t pursue with your partner.

Cultivate supportive relationships. Being with people who accept and support you can help ease feeling of rejection. Get energized by the possibilities ahead for you.

In closing, looking at how feelings of rejection that may be impacting your behavior can help you gain a healthier viewpoint. Are you neglecting your health, interests, family, or friends due to grieving the loss of your marriage? Consulting a counselor, support group, or divorce coach may help to facilitate healing. A person whose marriage ended due to their spouse making a decision to end the relationship must fight against falling prey to a victim mentality and take care of themselves. Lastly, developing a mindset that you don’t have to be defined by your divorce experience can help you to heal and move forward with your life.


Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Social media tips for separating parents

The widespread use of social media has presented new opportunities and challenges for people experiencing family separation and/or parenting disputes, and can frequently change the nature of evidence in the family courts. Family Law Accredited Specialist Simone Green shares some of the positives and negatives of social media in Family Law cases.

Beneficial use of social media in Family Law

One of the benefits of the widespread use of social media is that the courts can serve documents via Facebook or similar social media accounts in circumstances where the other party cannot be located through any other means.

In the case of Macguire & Klein [2016] FamCA 874 (5 October 2016), the father made an application for sole parental responsibility for his eight-year-old daughter after he discovered the mother had left the child with her grandparents and essentially disappeared. Despite extensive efforts by the father to locate the mother and serve her with court documents, he was unsuccessful. The father did manage to contact the mother through her Facebook Messenger app and received a reply. His solicitor then forwarded a cover letter notifying her of the date of the hearing, together with the Court documents, via her Facebook account. 
The mother did not attend Court but as the Court was satisfied that she knew of the Application because the message had been marked as ‘seen’, the father was granted sole parental responsibility for the child by way of an undefended hearing.

Ugly side of using social media in Family Law

The darker side of social media presents itself when people vent their anger, frustration or hate for their former partner on social media pages, post hateful memes or photos, or even post photos which contradict statements otherwise made in evidence. For example, one party may be tagged in photos by others in situations they have otherwise denied in statements to the court; for example drinking alcohol while caring for children, or bragging about new possessions in circumstances where they deny having means to pay spousal maintenance and child support.

To avoid the social media traps that can come back to haunt you during separation, 
Streeterlaw advises you do the following:

  1. Delete all your social media accounts during the separation process
  2. If not possible or not willing to delete social media accounts, then do not post content.
  3. If you must post content, ensure that you do not say or infer anything that you would not say, write or show to your grandmother. Do not say anything negative about your ex-partner, his/her friends, family or children, or (and yes, it has happened) the judge.
  4. Assume that anything you post will appear in your ex-partner’s affidavit, be read in court and make great cross-examination material for your ex-partner’s bulldog barrister. The same goes for text messages and emails.
  5. Encourage your friends and family not to post negative material about your former spouse online.

Monday, 28 August 2017

What Marathon Runners Can Teach Us About Coping With Suffering

We are picking up the pieces once again from a great tragedy that has taken innocent lives and shattered our sense of safety in the world. Again we see before our eyes that what is good and noble on the Earth can be brought down in an instant by the evil that lurks in the shadows.

The bombing that occurred at the finish line of the venerable Boston Marathon is deeply ironic in that it threatened those who had already proven their greatness by running 26.2 miles, along with the supporters who cheered them on. Many of those runners who were nearing the finish line were already carrying stories of triumph over tragedy. They were running on Patriots’ Day to celebrate a personal victory or commemorate a deep loss or champion a heartfelt cause.

Having run two marathons in the past, I know firsthand the dedication and inner fortitude it requires to train for and complete a marathon. What marathon runners know about suffering can help us all learn how to cope with this tragedy and rise above it:

1. You must be willing to change yourself. 

Marathon training requires a new schedule, new priorities, new diet, and a new way of looking at life. Surviving any tragedy requires you to open up to the possibility of change and even to celebrate that change. Many of the problems in our society arise because people demand that things around them change, but are unwilling to change themselves.

“You cannot change a single thing on this Earth except yourself. And when you do change yourself... it changes everything.”

2. Change happens one step at a time. 

No one can become a marathon runner overnight. It takes patience, time and a step-wise process to train the body to perform at a high level for 26.2 miles. How much more then does life itself require patience, time, and taking simple steps?

“You must overcome your need for instant gratification and prepare yourself for ‘the long haul’ of life.”

3. Be passionate about the goal without attachment. 

Training for a marathon, like surviving a tragedy, is never a sure thing. There are no guarantees that the runner will make it all the way to the race or be able to finish it after starting. But the possibility of failure is not a deterrent to the training process, and marathon runners are able to stay true to the goal even when there is no certainty of getting there.

“You have to be willing to stay on the path even when you don’t know for sure where it is leading you.”

4. Commitment must override comfort. 

Many marathon runners have to endure injuries, illness and failure on their path toward successful completion of the run. Training itself, even on the best days, is a difficult process that requires discipline and focus. Many aspects of our society promote pleasure and comfort as achievements, without an appreciation for effort and determination.

“You must choose commitment to your goal over comfort in the moment if you want to change yourself and the world.”

5. Don’t run away from suffering. 

Marathon training is all about learning how to manage suffering to enhance strength and endurance. The best athletes know where the balance lies for them between discomfort and overexertion, which is the point of maximum growth. The attempt to avoid suffering at all costs leads to addiction and hopelessness, which are common problems undermining our society.

“You cannot achieve greatness or fulfill your true life purpose without suffering.”

When senseless tragedy befalls us — which seems to be happening frequently these days — it is important to remember the larger picture of life. These moments in time that would seem to crush us can also bring out the sweetness and strength we carry inside — like grapes being prepared to become fine wine.

We must accept the crushing forces brought to us by life and allow ourselves to be broken, so that we can emerge from our own process of change and transform everything around us. The world needs us now — there is no time to wait.


Sunday, 27 August 2017

Bumping Into Your Ex!

It’s the moment we all dread. Bumping into our ex!

With the festive season upon us and social events filling up our diaries the chances are high that if you move in the same circles you may both be at the same event.

So what do you choose to do? Would you rather stay in and avoid that moment? Or would you rather go out and run the risk?

It does depend on how your relationship ended and how amicable you still are. If you are heartbroken and unable to function when they are around you it will feel like a bigger decision to make.

The reality is that life goes on and if your ex chose to end your relationship then they are not the person you hoped they were. It’s better to find out now rather than later. Sometimes good things come to an end so better things can come together so it’s not all doom and gloom.

If you ended it and are worried that they may be unhappy to see you then its key to be sensitive to their feelings but not to allow that to prevent you from living your life.

The best thing you can do is prepare yourself. Make an effort to look good as this will boost your confidence. It’s much better to bump into them at a party when you look a million dollars rather than at the shops when you haven’t had time to brush your hair!

But what happens if I bump into them off guard? It’s always good to have a plan and to think through how you will react if you do meet them again somewhere.

A smile is a great weapon to deploy when you get a sudden shock. It is disarming as it puts the other person at ease and also makes you more relaxed. It will also buy you some time to take a deep breath and ask a question to deflect from you. If you have the strength to add in a nice comment that again will help the situation to go more smoothly.

1. Smile
2. Deep breath
3. “Great to see you/You look great”
4. “How are you doing?”

After all you want to leave a good impression and leave them thinking good thoughts about you. However the relationship ended you will feel better about yourself if you take the higher ground and appear friendly. It may even make them realise what they missed out on!

Don’t feel you have to stay and chat. Be comfortable to say “I have to dash as I have someone to talk to”

Remember that people will always come and go in your life. By being out and about during the festive season you are much more likely to meet new people, make new friends and create exciting opportunities for yourself.

Don’t let past relationships hold you back from having new ones. You never know what is around the corner or who you might meet under the mistletoe!


Friday, 25 August 2017

Coping with Adversity from "Inside Out"

Pixar film offers fun, valuable insights into maintaining emotional well-being.

The brilliant Disney/Pixar film, Inside Outhas taken the country by storm.

How is it possible that a cartoon about emotions could become so popular?

It succeeds because it reaches out and touches us, from the outside in. It plumbs the depths of our own human experience. And it’s a rich emotional rollercoaster, at turns hilarious, poignant, suspenseful, fascinating, and heartfelt.

It’s also like attending a 102-minute therapy session, the way it shines a light on the inner workings of our brains and our emotional lives and why we struggle at times. It demonstrates clearly and accurately how memories are formed and managed, how personality develops, and most of all, how our emotions drive our behavior, decisions, and our interpretations of reality. (For a swell overview, see the film's trailer here.) Most powerfully, its metaphor of Emotions at Your Central Control Paneloffers up a useful way to reflect on our own feelings and how they can push us to react, sometimes to our disadvantage.

The film begins with the main characters, 11-year-old Riley and her parents, living happily and quietly in Minnesota. But then Dad gets a new job in San Francisco and we witness their struggles to adjust to this big move. With humor and an accurate understanding of our emotional brain, the film spends most of its time in Riley’s head, showing us how Joy tries to stifle Sadness, but the result is that they both get lost, leaving Anger, Disgust, and Fear at the controls, whereupon chaos reigns.

This simple story line will captivate young viewers, and the profound emotional insights will captivate grown-ups.

Listed below are just some of the film's insights, all of which can enhance your own emotional intelligence and spark meaningful conversations with others, including the children.

Insight #1: Joy mustn’t stifle Sadness.

Joy stifling Sadness is a very common condition. We are taught, “don’t cry over spilt milk” and “count your blessings”. We routinely try to get others to look on the bright side, in misguided attempts to help them avoid feeling the pain of sadness. While finding the silver lining is a hallmark of resilience, this film clearly demonstrates that the way you get there is to first allow Sadness to flow through you.

Insight #2: Without Sadness, there is no Joy.

When Joy stifles Sadness, they both get lost. This central storyline is an ingenious demonstration of how and why people who suppress their grief also lose their capacity for joy. Indeed, the more Joy tries to stifle Sadness, the more manic, obnoxious, and lost Joy gets. And the more stifled Sadness gets, the more destructive and pervasive it becomes, leading to core personality breakdown and melancholy.

Insight #3: Sadness plays an important role in adjustment to loss.

Riley is naturally saddened by the move away from her old house, friends, and activities. Riley’s parents are struggling too, but like most of us, they place a premium on being happy, latching onto the idea that Joy is what leads to adjustment and there is no room for Sadness. So they tell Riley to just smile and be happy. But Joy can only prevail when there is nothing to be sad about. Later, after Joy and Sadness get lost, there is a poignant scene where Joy watches Sadness expertly empathize with an Imaginary Friend who is feeling bereft. Sinking into sadness and letting it flow is what frees this character to move forward with a brighter outlook. In other words, when Sadness is called for, let it flow so Sadness can contribute to your resilience instead of becoming destructive.

Insight # 4: Make room for all your feelings, as they are all important.

Too often we value certain feelings over others. But all your feelings help you authentically handle a variety of situations and realize your needs, wants, and values. For example, Anger helps you get mad and stand up for yourself if you’re being mistreated. Disgust helps you be discerning and reach for what’s right for you. Fear helps you be scared and flee/fight/freeze if you’re in danger. And of course, Sadness helps you feel bereft if you’ve lost something dear to you and Joy helps you feel gratitude and seek contentment where you can find it.

But if you don’t make room for certain feelings, others become magnified, leading to dysfunction at the Central Control Panel. For instance, after Joy and Sadness get lost, Riley can only operate out of Anger, Fear, and Disgust, with disastrous (and sometimes funny) results. It’s only when Riley is able to express Sadness that she eventually also regains Joy and balance is restored in how she responds to life. This emotional flow and balance is what helps any of us recover our sense of well-being.

Insight #5: Anger is easily triggered when we are stressed.

There is a priceless scene at the dinner table, where Riley and her parents, all stressed out, start bickering. For all three of them, Anger is seated at the controls, just waiting to feel justified in launching an attack, and the result is breathtaking hilarious. And sotrue. After all, when we are stressed and irritable, we are easily triggered into throwing darts. That’s why it’s often smart to back off when you know you-- or the person you’re interacting with-- has had a hard day, or is hungry, unwell, or sleep deprived.

Insight #6: Anger can be a cover for Fear.

Often, just before Anger takes over, Fear is the first to be triggered, only to be pushed aside by Anger.

For instance, when Riley tries out for the new hockey team, she naturally worries that she won’t be good enough to make the cut. But her mother encourages her to push aside her fears without airing them. So after she makes a mistake on the ice, we see Anger pushing Fear aside and taking over the controls. The result is that Riley storms off, saboutaging her chances of making the team.

Replacing Fear with Anger is so common that you can easily witness it in yourself and others. For instance, we may get mad at our kids when they don’t do as we say, but it’s a cover for our deep-seated and often irrational fears that they’ll forever fight sleep, be messy, and roll their eyes at us—and no doubt, they’ll still be in diapers at their senior proms. So the next time you feel Anger bubbling up, listen to Fear so you can tend to what’s really bothering you. 

Insight #7: Disgust is exhausting.

Make sure you sit through the credits at the end of the film, because you'll get a look inside many of the other characters, including the lead “mean girl” at Riley’s new school. Inside her head, you’ll see that Disgust rules, and it’s ever so tiring. Used appropriately (and sparingly), Disgust can help us steer clear of putting something icky in our mouths or making bad fashion choices. But when it’s the default response toward everyone and everything, we become judgmental, cold, and mean. And that’s exhausting.

Insight #8: Question the emotional rules you live by.

Besides offering a powerful demonstration of the interplay of emotions and how each emotion has value, this film gives you a way to question the rules you adhere to. For Riley, the rule was “Be Happy.” So Joy ruled, tinging Riley's perceptions and memories, and leaving little room for the other emotions, even when the situation called for them to be relevant. As a result, the Central Control Panel wasn’t well staffed, and Riley lost control when met with adversity.

So the next time you feel yourself “losing control”, it might help to pause and become an observer of your Emotions and your Central Control Panel. Who’s got their hands on the lever? Who’s coloring your perception and memories? Who’s not allowed to have a say? How can you find a good balance, giving each of your feelings room to contribute to your emotional life, your assessment of situations, and your responses?

In my opinion, this film should be required viewing for everyone. It might as well be titled Your Owner’s Manual for the Human Brain. Chapter 5: Instructions for Coping with Adversity.


Thursday, 17 August 2017

Momentum and removing the brakes

Following on from my thoughts on building and maintaining momentum, this video builds on the analogy. 

If you are trying to build momentum as you work through the process of divorce, you must make sure you've taken off the brakes; these 'brakes' may include intrusive thoughts, distractions or fears that slow your progress and prevent momentum from being built up.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Coming soon - My 90-Day Playbook for Thriving After Divorce!

I'm really excited to be able to announce the completion of my 90-Day Playbook for Thriving After Divorce which will soon be available along with my new 90-Day Thriving Coaching Series.

The book is designed and written to help you navigate divorce, deal with the overwhelm and focus your attentions on what can be achieved in the next 90 days and covers the topics of greatest significance and challenge to those divorcing including communication, managing feelings, fears for the future and maintaining focus.

Learn more about the book in the video below.

To register for details, special offers and updates, check out the link below:

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Book a Vacation at a Divorce Hotel and End Your Marriage in Luxury

The thought of an impending marital split got you down? It doesn’t have to be so depressing. Book a room at a divorce hotel and get an all-in-one luxury vacation and finalized separation.

What isn’t included in a vacation package these days? Last year, a Dutch company, aptly named Divorce Hotel, announced plans to spread their message of luxury marital splits to America—and now other companies are following suit. The Dutch business offers a low-rate, all-in-one weekend escape for estranged spouses to settle their differences once and for all. Through partnerships with a variety of hotels in the Netherlands, they bring couples to a high-end retreat for a three-day, paperwork-filled getaway. “We offer you an affordable 5 star divorce made-to-measure,” the website boasts.

While the cost of divorce in the Netherlands usually runs between $5,000 and $10,000, with rates in the U.S. often soaring much higher, Divorce Hotel only charges around $3,000 per couple for the weekend (though more complex cases, like contentious child custody issues or divvying up business assets, can reach higher sums). Here’s how it works: The couple checks into one of the partner boutique hotels and then spends the weekend with lawyers, mediators, and company staff who ensure all the paperwork is completed, assets are divided properly, and guests are emotionally stable. Hotel employees are alerted to the guests’ special status and instructed to be appropriately mannered. All discussions are done in private suites—no public yelling matches in the lobby—so things can be sorted out efficiently and amicably.

Participants are carefully selected through an application process to ensure their split isn’t too vicious or complex for a weekend, founder Jim Halfens told the New York Times. In fact, according to Halfens, many couples enjoy their divorcing vacation—going to the beach, dining together, and even spending a night in the honeymoon suite. Yet, so far, all but one couple have successfully completed the divorce proceedings.

Not long after the Dutch nuptial-nullifying company started gaining publicity, a pilot for a reality show called—what else?—Divorce Hotel was given the green light by Fox. “Are you ready to end the fighting, financial stress, and the painful, drawn out divorce process and start a new chapter in your life?” a casting call on the company’s website asks.

“We’ll show [our process] in an emotional TV show with wonderful moments—something you would never expect in a program about divorce. I want to show that what happens in our hotel is very special,” Halfens told the Huffington Post. “I don’t want to [show] creepy, ‘Jerry Springer,’ horrible shit.”

With its Dutch success, the company now is hoping to spread to America, where the divorce rate has dropped since that ubiquitous "50 percent of all marriages end in divorce" message to around 40 percent. But there may be competition in the market for retreat divorces. A company in Indiana seems to have taken a cue from the concept, and created a program of Destination Divorces for on-the-fritz couples, offering a three-day vacation paired with a divorce, and settled for a flat-fee. A message on their website against a photo of beautiful vistas says, "whether you and your spouse prefer the beach, the mountains, the sun, or the slopes, the destination for your divorce is limited only by your imagination." As long as you don't mind forgoing some of your pool time for a meeting with the lawyers, it all sounds pretty painless.


Building and Maintaining Momentum

"If you're persistent, you'll get it, if you're consistent, you'll keep it."

Have you ever had to push a broken-down car to the side of the road? It takes persistent effort to get it moving and overcome the inertia, and if you don't keep pushing it consistently, it will stop moving. 

This video explores the idea that it can be hard to build momentum as we work through the process of divorce, but by keeping pushing, we gain momentum. It then gets easier, and feels like it takes less effort to keep going. The flip side is that when you then keeping adding effort, your results start multiplying!

Keep going, keep up the momentum!

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

8 Things Positive People Do Differently

Some people go through life carried forward on the wings of good vibrations. These people are the chipper, resilient, Leslie Knopes of the world. But not all of us are born with the superpower to be naturally positive. Luckily, you can acquire positivity. Being positive is a skill that can be developed over time by tweaking small habits. If you build some of these traits into your daily life, things will become brighter day by day. And it’s not because things are any better — it’s because your perspective will be. Here are a few things positive people do differently, and ways you can add a little sunshine to your daily routine:

1) They find something every day to look forward to. Whether it’s catching up on a favorite TV show, trying out a new dessert recipe, or having a phone conversation with a friend in another town, these things don’t have to be big. Having concrete activities to look forward to will make your days unique, distinct, and hopefully give each one a sheen of happiness.

2) They celebrate the small stuff. Don’t prolong happiness. Find joy in even the tiniest things — your favorite song coming up on shuffle, a funny text from a friend, a beautiful sunny day — because it adds up. Soon, you won’t have to stop and smell the roses because you’ll be smelling them all the time.

3) They’re kind. When in doubt, choose kindness. Positive people look on the bright side, sure, but they also tend to pay it forward by passing on their positive energy to others. Giving is generous, but it also makes the giver feel even better. Now that’s a win-win.

4) They stay busy. “Busy” isn’t code for “stressed out of your mind.” Instead, being busy means filling your life with fulfilling activities. It relates back to having something every day to look forward to. Start a hobby. Structure your weekends with fun things to look forward to. Most of all, be proactive about keeping busy, because living your life to the fullest is up to you.

5) They accept responsibility for their actions. Being positive doesn’t mean being delusional. By owning up to where you trip up or make mistakes, you’re being honest with yourself. So, since you’re not hiding from yourself, you can then...

6) They forgive themselves. As much as you want to treat others with kindness, you deserve the same treatment. Okay, so we all make mistakes, and we all have regrets. Learn from them. Forgiving yourself will make it infinitely easier to...

7) They know when to move on, and not dwell on defeat. You gotta pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and valiantly forge ahead. A positive person knows that a defeat isn’t the end of the journey, but part of the journey.

8) They resist comparisons. Being positive is far simpler when you do not set yourself against others, as we all have separate strengths and struggles. Instead, work on achieving your own fulfillment, which you can only find by searching inwards — and, of course, by staying positive.


Monday, 7 August 2017

Divorce Was the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me

My daughter runs in a field of dandelions as the ferry we just missed lurches out onto the water. I unwrap a warm piece of flatbread pizza, rip it into chunks and yell, “Lunch!” We spend two carefree hours playing and making priceless memories as we wait for the next ferry to take us to Vinalhaven, Maine. Having small adventures like this one has become our new weekend routine. It’s just one of the new things I love to do now that I’m single.

Two years ago, my life looked a lot different. I was married to my husband of five years and expecting my daughter. A few weeks after I gave birth, I discovered that my husband was having an affair. He said it was purely an emotional one, but the revelation ultimately uncovered a tangle of lies and infidelities. It ultimately led to our divorce.

Yes, my life blew up. But amazingly, it then came back together and improved in ways I never could have predicted. In the two years since I left my husband, I improved my credit score by a hundred points, qualified for my first mortgage, bought my first house and decreased my debt by 80%. I wrote and sold a book to a major publisher. I’ve spent more quality time with my family and friends these last two years than in the previous 10 combined. And I booked a trip with my daughter, our first vacation together, without consulting anyone. All of the energy I used to funnel into my partner I now invest in myself and my child.

All of this compels me to ask: Is being coupled truly beneficial to both parties? Or do long-term, monogamous, heterosexual relationships actually bring down the female partner?
A hundred years ago, women had to marry in order to function in society. In fact, a woman wasn’t even considered her own person in the eyes of the law — she was just a subset of her husband. Unmarried women stayed on the fringes, isolated and scorned. In the U.S., women could be barred from opening bank accounts, owning land and securing mortgages without the help of their husbands — and up until the 1970s, we could still be prevented from getting credit cards independent of a partner.

But I’ve seen firsthand that the bulk of the work still seems in marriages still seems to fall on the woman — even in relationships where couples agreed to split domestic duties. Their houses are clean, food shopped for and cooked, clothes laundered and kids cared for. And, in many marriages, the female partner contributes equally to the household finances — and more and more married women are actually the primary breadwinners in their families. In fact, in my own marriage, I invested a substantial amount of my savings into my husband’s dream of owning a restaurant. I realized later that if I still had that money, I’d be in a much better position to pursue my own dream: a graduate degree in psychology.

The reasons for entering a union are no longer necessarily monetary, because women can now gain financial independence through their own livelihoods. Nor are they necessarily biological, since reproductive technology allows women to become mothers by choice. Single women are buying homes at twice the rate of single men and have emerged as an influential voting bloc, proving our power. We can create the lives we want on our own.

So why is finding a partner something women still strive for? Why is coupling up still idealized in movies, books, songs and magazines? Why are our parents still teaching us that marriage is an essential part of adulthood? Why do we still look askance at a single woman of a certain age, wondering silently if there’s something wrong with her?

Maybe everything is right with her. Maybe her fairytale ending didn’t involve a prince charming. Maybe she’s moving around with agency, thinking: I am creating this life on my own terms. I don’t need a partner to complete me. I am already whole.

Of course, there are certain harsh realities for single women households, and disproportionately so for women of color. Black and Hispanic single female heads of households are more likely to live in poverty than their Asian and white peers. And black and Hispanic women are paid substantially less than white men, meaning that it can often be difficult to live on a single salary.

In my own life, I was fortunate enough that I had the support to strike out on my own. I was able to move in with my parents for the first months of my daughter’s life. I was terrified. 
Eventually though, as my daughter grew out of the colicky newborn phase and we moved into our own place, I started to trust myself. I didn’t always make perfect parenting decisions, but I made the best calls I could on a day-to-day basis — and I learned to be OK with that. It wasn’t until I was forced into single parenthood that I realized raising my daughter alone had been an option all along. It didn’t even occur to me that doing it on my own could be financially and practically easier — and even more emotionally fulfilling.

I want nothing more than to pass on this idea of self-reliance to my daughter. I will tell her to trust her gut. I’ll teach my daughter that there’s no right or wrong way to grow into herself, as long as she stays open to learning and changing and striving to make healthy choices. That there’s a difference between being kind and being so accommodating that you sacrifice your own needs. I’ll teach her that she’s whole, with or without a partner.

It’s been two years since my divorce, and I’m still reveling in my newfound freedom and close bond with my daughter. Two nights ago, as the temperature climbed to a sweltering 90 degrees, we turned the fan on high, put on Christmas music (her favorite, no matter the season) and danced around the house. I know that someday I may decide to seek out an equal and fulfilling partnership. Right now, though, I can’t imagine adding a third party to the mix.


Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Know your "Why" and live with purpose

"He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how." 

- Victor Frankl

In this video I discuss how living with clarity over why you are doing what you are doing and aspiring to what you are aspiring to, can help you to deal with and accept the sometimes challenging "how" when we have to do difficult things to achieve them. 

The video is inspired by the quote from Victor Frankl who survived second world war concentration camps to live an inspirational life. His book, (linked below) is a must read for all seeking insight in how to live life when faced with adversity and challenge.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

You Have More Than This Requires

I had a powerful conversation recently with my good friend Theo. I was telling him about some of the intense challenges I’ve been facing and my underlying fear that I simply can’t handle all that is going on (and what I fear may unfold in the coming days, weeks, and months). Theo listened to me with empathy and compassion, and then said something simple but profound. He said, “Mike, it’s important to remember that you have more than all of this requires.”

As I took a step back and allowed what he said to resonate with me, I was touched by a few specific things. First of all, I appreciated his acknowledgment and reminder. Second of all, it allowed me to take inventory of some of the adversity I’ve overcome in my life, and, in doing so, it reminded me that I am quite resilient. And, finally, over the next few hours and days after Theo and I had this conversation, I got to thinking more and more about the power of the human spirit.

In just about every situation and circumstance in life, we really do have more than is required to not only “deal” with what’s happening, but to thrive in the face of it. As the saying goes, “if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger.” And while I don’t believe that we have to necessarily suffer and struggle in order to grow and evolve in life, one of the best things we can do when dealing with adversity or challenge is to look for the gifts and find the gold in the situation as much as possible.

Think about how this plays out in your own life and how it has played out in your past. Often we have things happen that initially we don’t think we can handle — sometimes these are things we consider “bad” and sometimes they’re things we consider to be “good.” Feeling overwhelmed is feeling overwhelmed, regardless of what it is we’re feeling overwhelmed about.

However, as we look back over the course of our lives, we can probably find many, many examples of times we were able to overcome challenges, deal with fear, rise above limiting beliefs, and deal with things we didn’t initially think we were capable of. Another great saying that I love is, “circumstances don’t define you, they reveal you.” Ain’t that the truth?
Here are a few things to think about and do so that you can remind yourself, especially when things get particularly difficult or scary in your life, that you do, in fact, have more than the circumstances or situations of your life require.

Remind yourself of all you’ve done, experienced, and overcome. Take some inventory of your life from the perspective of resilience. Think about all the times you’ve dealt with change, loss, newness, fear, pain, disappointment, failure, etc. and been able to work through it. You’ve also probably had many experiences in life where wonderful things and exciting opportunities showed up for you and you were able to step up and take your experience of life to a whole new level. Even though we’re all unique, our stories are different, and we have varying personalities and life experiences, most of us have done, experienced, and overcome a lot in our lives up to this point, and by remembering this and acknowledging ourselves for it, we can create an even deeper and more authentic sense of self confidence.

Remember that you have a great deal of support and you can reach out for it. One of the things that can get in our way when life gets intense, is that we sometimes think we’re all alone. No one understands me. No one really cares about me. No one has time to support me. Regardless of our circumstances, relationship status, or family situation, just about everyone of us has some important and powerful people around us who we can lean on and who would be happy to help us — if we’re willing to ask for and, more importantly, receive their help. This one can be tricky for many of us, myself included, but when we remember that other people love being of service and our request for help is not a sign a weakness, but a clear indication of self care as well as a beautiful opportunity for people to serve, it can empower us to reach out and tap into the incredible amount of resource we have around us.

Focus on what you appreciate about yourself and your authentic power. Self-appreciation and self-love, as I write and speak about often, are the cornerstones of self confidence and authentic power. Having a fundamental belief in our own goodness, power, and beauty are essential to us living an empowered and inspired life. While it’s not always easy to do and can sometimes seem downright counter-intuitive, selfish, and arrogant, self appreciation is truly the “key to the kingdom” when it comes to personal empowerment and resiliency. 
Remembering that we are good enough just as we are and have all that we need within us and around us to deal with the stress, challenge, and uncertainty that is somewhat inherent to being human in today’s world, is essential to our well-being and overall fulfillment in life.

Regardless of what you’re dealing with in your life right now — however hard, easy, challenging, or wonderful things are — you truly have more than is required by any of the circumstances and situations of your life. And, the more we remember this and live from this perspective, the more freedom, power, and peace of mind we’ll experience.