Monday, 16 October 2017

Reduce the Stress of a Divorce

No matter how frustrated you may have become with your partner, the decision to divorce never is an easy one. Strong emotions often arise on both sides. But there are healthy ways to cope.

Making the Decision

The decision legally to end a relationship sets off a long and difficult process. Even without complicated legal and financial issues, the upheaval is often enormous, affecting children, grandparents, friends and the extended family. The chances are that some of the family members involved will experience a drop in their standard of living. All will face an emotional challenge.

So before deciding to divorce, make sure you have done all you can to improve your relationship. Are you certain that there is no alternative, such as separation? Think about talking it over with a marriage and family therapist or getting other expert advice and help. A consultation with a lawyer can provide an idea of the likely legal and financial outcomes. 

Often lawyers will provide free initial consultations. Look in the Yellow Pages under “attorneys” for those who specifically handle divorces, as lawyers often specialise.

Coping with the Stress of Divorce

Separation and divorce are two of the most painful life events there are. They can lead you to question everything in your life, including your own identity and your ability to cope by yourself. Divorce highlights your fears and sensitivities, so old wounds from the past might resurface. You will need to recover your self-esteem, which will take time.

Below are some coping techniques to help you take care of yourself and others.

  • Consider joining a support group, and going through mediation. It can lead to better communication and fewer confrontations with your ex-partner.
  • Rather than withdrawing socially, surround yourself with friends. Remember how important they are in providing support, perspective and practical help.
  • Learn how to balance giving and receiving. You don’t have to be perfect.
  • Don’t beat yourself up over what you should have done. Stop the negative self-talk and guilt. You can’t change the past, so try to learn the lessons the present offers, then focus on a positive future.
  • Set aside time just for yourself to help you find balance.
  • Don’t worry about what other people might think.
  • Declutter your environment. If something is too painful to look at or is useless to you now that you’re alone, throw it out.
  • Determine what most needs doing and in what order. Then break up the tasks into smaller steps that can be done in several shorter periods of time. That way larger tasks seem more manageable and you are more likely to get them done.
  • If you have been a stay-at-home mom and out of the workforce for some time, you probably will need to go back to school for training in a marketable skill. Bringing home your own money is satisfying and creates independence. It also sets a positive example for your children.
  • Work toward forgiveness and moving on. Don’t deny your anger, but don’t let it drain your energy by getting stuck in resentment.
  • Don’t be scared of going out on your own and opening up to new people.

Divorce and Money Issues

In addition to the difficulties of ending a relationship, you also will have to deal with finances. This can be particularly tricky if there is an atmosphere of mistrust because of the break-up. Many divorces actually are caused my money issues.

If your partner used to deal with all the financial matters, make it a priority to learn how to budget and manage your finances. Get advice on the financial decisions you need to make, especially if you are selling your house. Ask for help from your lawyer or an organization which supports those going through a divorce.

Most couples agree on a financial settlement without going to court, but even so, a typical divorce settlement can take over a year to finalize. Deciding on child maintenance payments can be especially difficult. Make a list of all your assets and debts, close joint accounts as soon as possible, and get advice on how your pension, savings and investments will be affected.

Divorce’s Effect on Children

While most adapt well, some children will suffer significant adjustment problems. They will at the very least be anxious about their relationships within the family and about the disruption in their own lives. A lot depends on how you handle it — you can make an enormous difference in how well they cope.

Below are some ways to reduce divorce’s emotional impact on children.

  • Give them as much reassurance as possible. Keep telling them that they are not responsible for the break-up.
  • Talk over what is happening in an age-appropriate way.
  • Be open to their questions and encourage them to talk about their feelings, but don’t force them to talk.
  • Encourage them to maintain their relationship with the other parent. Don’t criticize the other parent, demand exclusive loyalty, or use them to hurt your ex-partner.
  • Avoid looking to your children for support or guidance. Ask friends or a therapist instead.
  • Maintain normal household routines as far as possible.
  • Look for signs of distress: increasingly clingy behavior, tantrums, fear of separation, anxiety at bedtime, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, headaches or stomachaches, increased aggression or perfectionism.
  • If you observe these symptoms, let the child know that you understand they are upset and it’s OK to talk about it to you or another trusted adult. Help them express themselves as best they can and seek professional help if signs of distress continue.
  • To reduce conflict around holidays, keep expectations realistic, including expectations of yourself. Don’t make younger children decide which parent to spend the holiday with; this will cause enormous distress. Parents should not try to outdo each other, or make up for problems, with presents or other indulgences.


Sunday, 15 October 2017

"Making it work as a single mom of 3 boys"

'I LOVE being a mom, I love watching them grow... they astonish me daily'

Recently, we published a story You can be a happy divorced family. This Parent24 reader responded, telling us about her experience and the journey she's taken on with her three sons.

"I am a single mom with three boys. I was separated while pregnant with my third, and even when we were together, my ex would be gone for 16 hours a day, 6 days a week.

"Anyway, I think back to those times now, and it only made me stronger and more ready to deal with divorce and raising kids alone.

"My first was a hard won baby, almost 4 years in the making, my miracle boy. When he was 9 months old, I discovered that I was pregnant with baby no. 2, my first two are only 18 months apart.

This was not going to be easy...

"We were very happy, my first was such a dream and having another did not scare me at all. I knew that it was by no means going to be easy with an 18 month old and a new born, but I felt ready.

"Well, my second was/is a very difficult child, from the womb I could feel him constantly moving and jumping. Sometimes, it feels like we have a daily battle of wills, him and I, and I don’t always win!

"Hence, when I discovered that I was pregnant with baby number three, I cried and cried and cried. How was I going to cope? Single with a 3.5-year-old, a 2-year-old, and a newborn? But my baby was just the pudding, he fit right into our already established routine.

Let them get involved

"The absolute key: do not alienate the other children when a new one comes along, keep the children involved. We would all sit on the three-seater couch while I breastfed, bonding together. They all bathed together, dressed together, went to bed together, changed nappies together, got muddy together... you get the picture.

"Frankly, it was so much easier for me to work it this way, they just loved being totally involved in everything.

"I also gave up fighting to keep them in their own beds. The baby was in the cot pushed up next to my bed, and often, my other two would crawl into the bed with me sometime during the night. Getting them back into their beds was not worth the fight or the loss of sleep. And they won’t do it forever, they will grow out of it.

"My second still gets into my bed during the night on occasion, but there will come a time when I will have all the time I please to sleep, and will miss the nightly cuddles.

'I work hard to keep our heads above water'

"I am a full time mom, I work full time, I have to be super organized to get through my days. Yes my social life is non-existent, I rarely go out, but I prefer to go home to my boys and spend as much time as possible with them.

"I do not have the luxury of being home by 5pm everyday. I work hard to keep our heads above water, and to give them all the opportunities that they would have with a father in the house and the added income.

"I try and keep a good balance between it all, another key to keeping a happy home, and of course, a happy mom. Time is precious, and it goes by so fast.

'I know I am strong enough'

"For me, it was dealing with the here and now, always being prepared, and continuing with routine. Don’t think too much.

"On the rare occasion that I do have time alone, if I allow myself to think too much about the massive task still ahead of me, I start to feel totally overwhelmed. But I know I am strong enough, I will keep my head up and keep forging on.

"I LOVE being a mom, I love watching them grow, and I love the things that come out of their mouths; they astonish me daily.

"I can’t wait to get home to them."


Saturday, 14 October 2017

You Can't Fool Yourself: Acting Like You Don't Care Isn't Letting Go

It can be difficult to let go of certain things or to let go of certain individuals in your life. Our minds are funny that way.

Although we understand that, in theory, we have control over ourselves, our minds, our thoughts, etc., in practice, taking and exercising control proves much more difficult.

Sometimes it's a matter of quieting the mind enough to navigate through all the thoughts running loose, bouncing off each other, making clear focus and full control unlikely.

Sometimes it's about giving ourselves time to re-navigate our course in life and restructure our lifestyle – often it's the habits we're accustomed to that make change so incredibly difficult to achieve.

Other times still, what we're trying to let go of and forget has influenced our lives and the people we are today so greatly that letting go seems basically impossible.

The truth is, there are things in our lives we can't easily let go of. There are things and individuals we won't ever forget, nor – to be honest – should we forget.

Most importantly, you need to remember acting or pretending like you no longer care, like you are no longer somehow connected to that particular point or path in life, like you've moved on or forgotten isn't actually letting go.

You may be fooling the rest of the world, but you aren't fooling yourself.

Distractions can really only get you so far.

Whether we're talking breakup, career change, traumatizing event or any other life-changing experience, distracting yourself after the initial fallout does have its benefits.

It allows you to cap your emotions, giving you time to breathe – which can sometimes prove to be exactly what we need.

Taking your focus off the issue you're dealing with and focusing on other things going on in your life can make transitioning into a new life more seamless; however, distracting yourself can only take you so far; in fact, it's only good in the beginning.

Eventually, continuously distracting yourself will remove you from reality. Of course, this is the goal in the beginning, but continuously removing yourself from reality inevitably does even more harm.

Sooner or later, you're going to have to come to terms with your situation.

Likewise, it's important how we're distracting ourselves. People tend to make some of the worst decisions when trying to distract themselves from someone or something causing them emotional pain.

What we ought to be doing is our best to avoid such bad decisions, and instead force ourselves to focus on more positive things.

Acting like you don't care can actually make things a whole lot more difficult for you.

You can lie to the whole world, which is usually what pretending not to care starts off as, but you can't allow yourself to lie to you.

Everyone else in the world can – and likely will – lie to you at one point or another in your life – you have no control over that. You do, however, have control of how honest you are with yourself.

I can understand saving face, saving yourself from feeling embarrassed and from having people snoop around your business when it's none of their business.

What I can't understand is building a delusion for yourself. I want to say you aren't ever going to fool yourself, but the truth is that is exactly what may happen.

The human mind is incredibly powerful. So powerful in fact that sometimes the shifts in realities we experience, we don't even notice.

If you play a part for long enough, you may very well end up believing you actually are the person you're pretending to be. Until, however, reality comes crashing in – because it almost always inevitably does.

When that happens, you're going to have a difficult time finding yourself, once again figuring out who you are and – most importantly – what it is you want in life.

You've been acting so nonchalant for so long that you forgot where it is you actually stand.

Have you ever stopped and wondered why you feel the need to let go?

Obviously, you feel the need to let go because holding on is painful. We don't like pain because it makes us feel uncomfortable, and therefore, we want to do our best to avoid it.

At the same time, some things you simply can't, and never will, let go of. So what the hell are you to do then?

This is the point that, when most of us reach it, we begin to drown in the realization that we are never going to be able to let go and move on completely.

We will never let go entirely because we can never forget. So what are you supposed to do? Accept that you're going to be dealing with intense emotional distress for the rest of your life?

Not at all. You see, it's one thing to let go and forget and another to accept, learn from and move on. The former isn't always possible, while the latter is really the only wise and viable solution.

Some misfortunes, mistakes or people you will never fully let go of or forget, but this is a good thing. If we were to go through life forgetting all the pain we've experienced on our journey, we would never learn or make progress.

Instead, we'd keep making the same mistakes, never learning, never finding peace or happiness.

The most painful moments in our lives are not ones to be forgotten, to be let go of and left behind.

On the contrary, they are moments we should delve into, dissect and try to understand as best as possible.

If we made mistakes, we need to understand what mistakes we made and why we made them.

If things didn't work out for other reasons, we need to figure out what those reasons are. Trying or pretending to let go won't get you anywhere in life.

Being in denial of all that you've been through and experienced will only make the likelihood of you repeating the same mistakes much more likely.

Some things – and some people – you will never be able to fully let go of. Why? Because they changed you. They added their stroke with their paintbrushes, which added to the composition you are today.

Embrace it. Don't hide from it or ignore it. Accept it. Understand it. Learn from it. And grow from it.


Friday, 13 October 2017

How to Win Your Next Co-Parenting ‘Conversation’

These 5 tips will help you feel victorious!

Making the transition from one half of a married couple with kids to being a co-parent is tough. One part of you never wants to see – much less communicate – with your ex ever, Ever, EVER again!

But another part recognizes that your ex is your kids’ other parent. And this part knows that your co-parent will be part of your life F.O.R.E.V.E.R…

You’ve got (at least) these two different perspectives warring within yourself every single time you have to interact with your ex. Every contact is a battle for you. And it’s got you completely stressed out.

You flinch when you hear your phone notify you of a new text. Your blood pressure soars when you see an email from her in your inbox. And when you know you’re going to see your co-parent you hardly recognize yourself.

The unhappy truth is that even though you’re not married any longer, your ex is still controlling you. And because she’s controlling you, she’s winning and you’re losing. Losing is not what you need right now. You’ve already lost enough with the divorce.

So it’s time to take control back, to get strategic about your co-parenting conversations, and to start winning again!

These 5 tips will help you feel victorious when you need to interact with your ex:

Limit conversations to only those necessary for conducting the business of co-parenting.
One of the most difficult parts of communicating with your ex is the emotional toll it takes on you. And the more you communicate the more painful it is. So limit your conversations to ONLY discussing co-parenting issues.

Decide on how you will communicate with your spouse.
There’s no way you’re going to get out of communicating with your ex because it’s a critical part of co-parenting, but you can choose how you will do it. Not every conversation needs to be through text or by phone. Decide what types of information sharing needs to happen by text, by phone call, by email, or in person.

Ideally, you’ll make this determination with your ex. However, if you need to do this on your own, do it today. Then, politely and firmly inform your ex of what you’ve decided. (She might test your resolve on holding to your decision and she might honestly forget what you’ve told her, so be ready for these situations.)

Decide when you will communicate.
Unless there’s an emergency, there’s no need for you to jump to respond to your co-parent right when she reaches out to you. You can choose when it makes sense for you respond. For example, you might want to set up a separate co-parenting email address and only check that inbox once a day for messages from your ex.

And if you’ve already implemented the first tip you’ll know when you have to respond to something immediately.

Be business-like in your communication with your co-parent.
Choosing to interact with your ex in a business-like way and only for the purposes of co-parenting will go a long way toward helping you feel more in control of yourself and the communications.

(Business-like communication means that you’re brief, informative, friendly, and firm. To learn more about BIFF communication, check out Bill Eddy’s book on the topic.)

Visualize how you want to behave before you interact with your ex.
You probably go over every interaction with your co-parent that you feel like you’ve lost a million times thinking about how you could’ve or should’ve said or done things differently.
And what happens when you do this? You feel like sh*t.

Instead of beating yourself up for what has already happened, start imagining yourself behaving differently the next time you have to interact with her.

You might picture yourself using the irritating way she looks at you as a positive trigger instead of the negative one it is now when it makes your blood boil. Instead, imagine that when she looks at you that way you feel thankful you’re not still married to her. Then you can see her as just your children’s other parent who needs to be as good a parent as she’s capable of being because your children deserve that. And once you see her like that, you can easily imagine yourself interacting with her in a business-like manner because you’re doing it for your kids.

Repeat your visualizations of how you want to interact with your co-parent often. The more you imagine interacting with her in this new way, the more natural it will be for you to behave that way.

There’s nothing easy about learning how to co-parent. You’ll still have “conversations” with your ex as you begin using these 5 tips. And you may still feel like you’re losing some of them.

But persevere and be patient with yourself as you develop the skills to fully adopt each of these new ways of communicating with your co-parent. The rewards for doing so are that you’ll start feeling like more victorious and in control. But even better, your kids will win big because they’ll have at least one parent who sees themselves as a co-parent and not a battle-weary ex who is also a parent.


Thursday, 12 October 2017

The Health Benefits of Expressive Writing

Putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, can really pay off.

Whether you put pen to paper or type on a computer, writing about stressful experiences or emotionally charged issues in your life can be good for your health and emotional well-being. In fact, expressive writing, which basically involves pouring your heart and mind into words, without worrying about spelling, punctuation, grammar and other writing conventions, is good medicine: In recent years, research has found that it improves symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis; helps with recovery from childhood sexual abuse and postpartum depression; and improves the state of mind in those with Parkinson's, cancer and many other health conditions.

It can even promote faster wound healing. In a 2013 study, researchers at the University of Auckland in New Zealand had 49 healthy adults, ages 64 to 97, spend 20 minutes a day for three consecutive days writing about upsetting events in their lives (expressive writing) or their daily activities (time management): Two weeks later, the researchers gave participants small puncture wounds on the inside of their upper arms then monitored their healing. Eleven days after the wound infliction, 80 percent more of those in the expressive writing group had fully healed compared with those in the other group.

The Magic Behind the Act

"Writing about an emotionally charged subject or an unresolved trauma helps you put the event into perspective and give some structure and organization to those anxious feelings, which ultimately helps you get through it," notes James Pennebaker, a professor of psychology at The University of Texas–Austin and co-author of the new book "Opening Up by Writing it Down: How Expressive Writing Improves Health and Eases Emotional Pain." "This can help people sleep better, feel and think better, and have richer social lives, all of which can bolster immune function and improve health."

Not surprisingly, writing about emotionally charged subjects also can improve mental health, including symptoms of depression, anxiety, major depressive disorder and even post-traumatic stress disorder among veterans. What's more, in a 2014 study involving 149 women in a residential treatment program for substance abuse disorders, researchers from the VA Connecticut Healthcare System in West Haven, Connecticut, found that those who engaged in four 20-minute writing sessions (about emotional topics) on consecutive days had greater reductions in the severity of their post-traumatic symptoms, depression and anxiety after two weeks than participants who wrote about neutral topics.

The mechanisms behind these emotional benefits aren't entirely understood. One theory is that describing your feelings with words may be somewhat cathartic, releasing pent-up feelings that may be dragging you down. Another is that the act of writing can help you organize disorganized thoughts into more cohesive ones that give meaning to an upsetting or traumatic experience. It also may be that the process of writing enables people to learn to better regulate their emotions because they gain a sense of control over upsetting experiences life throws at them.

Meanwhile, a pair of studies published in the April 2016 journal Emotion found that expressive writing helps people distance themselves from a distressing life experience, which in turn makes them less emotionally reactive to it. "We think the process of creating a coherent story out of disorganized emotional memories facilitates self-distancing because this process requires people to adopt other people's perspectives and focus on broader contexts," explains lead author Jiyoung Park, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst.

Feeling Is Believing

For as long as she can remember, Erin Morris had anxiety that would interfere with her ability to make decisions. In the fall of 2015, she started writing about whatever was on her mind for 15 minutes in the morning. "The important part for me is to not stop and judge myself or my writing but to let it flow and express everything that is in my head," says Morris, 36, a graphic designer who splits her time between Costa Rica and Columbia, South Carolina. Besides easing her anxiety, the writing habit has brought a considerable improvement in her previous sleep troubles, greater energy and "mental clarity when it comes to making decisions and dealing with complicated relationships," Morris reports.

Clint Evans, who spends up to 15 minutes writing in his journal in the morning and the evening, can relate to these perks. "Expressive writing reduces my stress and helps me sleep better," says Evans, 36, a business consultant and content service provider in Austin, Texas. "I feel release when writing in my journal – my mind stops racing and slows to a calm." The writing practice helps him fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly.

Most of the research has explored the benefits of writing about one's deepest thoughts and feelings about a stressful event using the first-person point of view (the "I" voice). A 2013 study from the University of Iowa suggests that assuming a distant, third-person perspective (using "he" or "she") may be even more beneficial because it's associated with less intrusive thinking and fewer physical symptoms. "Taking an observer's vantage may be vital to maintaining composure and making progress when trying to sort through a distressing or angering event or moment in life," explains lead author Matthew Andersson, now an assistant professor of sociology at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. "It's a short leap from picturing a difficult personal event from an observer's perspective to actually using a third-person pronoun, as if you're looking at a completely different person going through what you did."

Of course, "these potential pathways aren't mutually exclusive," Andersson notes, and there may be cumulative benefits. Whatever the mechanisms may be and whatever voice you choose to use, engaging in expressive writing can yield major benefits. "The beauty of this intervention is that it's cost-effective, low risk and [offers a] high payoff," notes Katherine Krpan, a psychologist who investigated the effects of expressive writing on major depressive disorder while at the University of Michigan. "People seem to like the idea of a non-pharmacological intervention. You can also do it wherever you are."

How to Write Yourself Well

To harness the power of expressive writing, Pennebaker recommends choosing a time and place where you're unlikely to be uninterrupted. Vow to write continuously about something that's upsetting you for at least 15 minutes on four consecutive days. Don't worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation, verb agreement or other writing conventions; simply pour your deepest, most honest feelings onto paper or a computer screen. "It can be related to something you're dreaming, thinking or worrying about a lot, an issue or memory that's affecting your life in an unhealthy way, or a subject you've been avoiding for days, weeks or years," Pennebaker says.

Try it for at least a few weeks and see if it helps. If it does, stick with it. Ultimately, what you do with your expressive writing is entirely up to you: You can save it for future reference, throw it away, burn it or shred it, Pennebaker says. The important thing to remember is that it's meant to be for your personal benefit and your eyes only.

Self, Self Reliance and Selfishness

"Self-reliance is the best defence against the pressures of the moment"
-Carl Von Clausewitz

We all bear a right and a responsibility at times to ensure that we put ourselves first; we need to take care of ourselves, serve ourselves and ensure our own needs are met for daily existence and growth if we're going to be able to serve and meet the needs of others.

As we work through times of challenge, it's essential that we ensure that we're being selfish when needed to give ourselves and our lives the oxygen we need both metaphorically and literally. If we can't breathe, we're unable to help others.

Give yourself the support you need, put yourself first occasionally!

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The phenomenon of divorce regret

There is a tiny chapel perched in the meadow above Judge's Bay, in Parnell. White and wooden, it's the perfect setting for a romantic summer wedding.

A 10-minute drive from there, crouching low over the wind-tunnel of Albert St, is the Auckland District Court. Above the entrance, a large patch of mould is creeping down the facade to meet the New Zealand Coat of Arms.

Of the 10,000 or so couples who marry in New Zealand yearly, roughly a third will eventually end up filing the papers here, on level 6, to dissolve their marriage.

Divorce has never been easier and, for marriages where abuse or genuine incompatibility is at play, shooting the horse can be the best option. But for others it's not so straightforward: according to several British studies, upwards of 33 per cent of those who divorce will regret their decision within five years.

Google "divorce regret" and you will find the internet is littered with those regretting their decision to end it. Whisper, the app where people anonymously share secrets, logs confessions from people wishing to turn back the clock, side by side with those happy to be moving on.

William Michael, a Wellington man now in his 50s, is in the former category. He and his wife divorced nine years ago, after seven years of marriage and two children.

He found that the intimacy of marriage unearthed flaws in him that hadn't been triggered by the less intense bonds of friendship and work relationships.

"I tend to withdraw when I'm facing difficult issues," he says. "It's hard to deal with that behaviour because it's largely unconscious."

He worked hard to change his flaws but found it challenging. "At a certain level we don't want to learn to change them," he says. "They're part of our sense of who we are."

Immediately after they split, he felt happy - the break-up had relieved the pressure. But later the truth seeped in. "There was a reason we were together, there was a way we complemented each other. There was something I should have done, which I didn't do."

He urges people in a similar position to learn from his experience. "In one lifetime you just don't have that many deep relationships," he says. "And to lose one ... so if you think there's something fundamentally right, do all you can to look at your own processes, who you are, the way you do things."

Clinical psychologist Trish Purnell-Webb, founder of the Relationship Institute Australasia, says most of her divorced clients have to resolve their regret. Mostly regrets take the form of "Why didn't I make more of an effort?" and "Why couldn't I see how great they were?"

She estimates 90 per cent of the couples she sees could happily go on to have a successful relationship, providing they up-skill to overcome their individual and joint weaknesses. The other 10 per cent have genuinely made a mistake in their choice of partner.

But even in marriages that are fundamentally sound, when things get tough, as they inevitably do, a proportion of people choose the quick death and perceived fresh start of divorce, rather than hanging in there for the hard slog of overcoming difficulties.

The human brain is hard-wired to identify and focus on the negatives in the surrounding environment. It's a survival strategy: being aware of threats helps us avoid hurt and injury. It can, however, lead us to seriously underestimate the positives until it's too late.

"It's easy to focus on the dirty socks in the middle of the lounge floor, rather than appreciate the bunch of flowers on the dining room table," Purnell-Webb says. "It's once those flowers are removed that we begin to miss them."

Regret can be very hard to let go of, and it delivers the double blow of shackling a person to the past, while diminishing their appreciation of the present. Left unresolved, it can lead to depression and anxiety.

So what helps? Research shows starting a new relationship is the leading factor in moving on from the regret associated with divorce. Being a woman helps too: statistically women tend to fare better because they are more likely to have better support networks, whereas men tend to pin their emotional and psychological resources on their partner.

The New Zealand "just get on with it" ethos also plays its part in isolating people dealing with uncomfortable emotions like regret. Rather than sucking it up and boxing on, it's more helpful to focus on developing the thinking skills and mental toughness to let go of the fantasised "other life".

For those who have genuinely made a mistake and for whom divorce is the best option, there is almost invariably still regret, but it takes a different form.

Simone Ellen, a brand strategist who split from her ex-husband five years ago, is sure she made the right decision. But looking back, she wishes that during their 11-year marriage she had ditched her flaw of being a people-pleaser, and fought harder to be herself. Instead she spent much of it conforming to rules she didn't believe in - making a thousand small concessions she lost herself in.

She also regrets not being kinder to herself in the first year after the split. "I just did bravado instead of recognising how much I hurt."

For her there was a silver lining in the trauma of the divorce: it forced her to take a long look at how she operates in relationships. "We're savvy at blame," she says, "to keep our pride intact. Courage is the game changer - it takes courage to take responsibility."

Dr Nickola Overall, associate professor of psychology at the University of Auckland, agrees regret can motivate self-examination. "Why do we have to figure out who we are if everything's fine?" she says.

We've never expected more from marriage. It's an institution that started life as a strategic alliance between families, and has morphed into - ideally - a legally binding love relationship between equals. The job of the modern spouse includes being emotionally available, loyal and supportive, as well as helping the other's dreams come true, and encouraging them to become all they can be.

These high expectations coincide with the point, historically, when we are the most time poor we've ever been. The demands of children, work, and modern life lower the chances of converting these expectations into reality. Overall says it's a cocktail for disaster that can spell the end, even for sound marriages.

One Hamilton woman, now in her 50s, says this was the case in her former marriage. They allowed, she says, the chaos of having a young family to swamp, and eventually capsize, their marriage. "That joy you have on seeing your partner come home is lost to desperately needing them to be home so they can share the load," she says. "While there's great happiness in having a family, it's a lot of pressure on a relationship."

Their marriage drifted, and in the end her husband made a stupid mistake - seeing another woman. It would be easy to blame him for their eventual divorce, but she is adamant that's not the case. "Blame is completely out of line because you're just as responsible," she says. "You both got to that point. If you honestly look back at the previous time, you can see cracks."

They tried marriage guidance, but she had already checked out, even before his adultery. "You leave it until everything's about to break."

Divorced more than a decade, she says, "I regret not hanging in. I have lain awake, years after, in the middle of the night, woken up thinking, 'Oh my God.'"

Sir Paul Coleridge, a retired family law judge in London, has seen exactly this scenario play out many times. He spent 42 years in the family law system, 30 as a barrister and the remaining 12 as a judge, divorcing couples. He was so frustrated by witnessing what he felt were many unnecessary divorces, that he founded a think-tank, the Marriage Foundation, in 2012. While the family court provides a remedy for the problem, the foundation is his attempt to address its cause.

Most divorce is concentrated in the first 10 years of marriage, when the stress of young families, hectic lives and money pressures can be overwhelming. He says more than half of the divorce cases he heard were salvageable, despite reaching litigation. They hadn't hit the point of no return, things had just got much tougher than they would like.

If the marriage is sound, the way through, he says, is for spouses to confront the aspects of themselves and their marriage that they would rather ignore, and address those difficulties head-on.

Overall agrees that spending time on your marriage, making it strong and stable, insulates it against the inevitable down times.

She says one block to facing and resolving difficulties is the phenomenon of "destiny beliefs", where a person believes their relationship was "meant to be". Romantic, yes, but it can destabilise a marriage because, hand in hand with the belief that the relationship is destined, goes the belief that it should be easy and conflict-free.

Overall says people with these beliefs respond more negatively to conflict. Rather than working to resolve it, the presence of the conflict prompts them to question the "rightness" of the relationship. They're more likely to break up marriages, says Overall, and are more likely to find themselves in a state of regret afterwards.

The key is understanding that conflict is a normal part of marriage. "Even anger and hostility can have a positive effect," she says, "because if traversed well, conflict can be a catalyst for improvement, and both personal and relationship satisfaction."


Dr John Gottman of the Gottman Institute in the United States, says that more than any other relationship factor, divorce can be predicted by the presence of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse": criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling (withdrawal). The answer, he says, is to replace them with better skills. So what does that look like? His 40 years of research have identified nine skills that will lead those horses back to the stables for good:

1. Know your partner's world. Understand your partner's psychological world, history, worries, stresses, joys and hopes.

2. Give out love and admiration. Practise showing your partner appreciation and respect.

3. Respond openly to your partner. Reward your partner's attempts to connect with you, however flawed, with listening and encouragement. Reciprocate by voicing your own needs.

4. Positive perspective. Have a positive, can-do approach to problem-solving.

5. Manage conflict. Conflict is natural, and can be functional and positive. Learn the difference between solvable and perpetual problems, which need to be handled differently, and use the right tool for the job.

6. Help make life dreams happen. Encourage each person to talk honestly about their hopes, values, convictions and aspirations.

7. Create shared meaning. Find a common purpose by finding shared values, goals, life philosophies and ways of connecting.

8. Trust. Treat your partner like they have your back.

9. Commitment. Believe, and act on the belief, that this is your lifelong partner. Compare your partner favourably with others.


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Men’s Mental Health Suffers After Divorce

A new case study suggests that the toll of divorce may be particularly hard on men.
The study contradicts the notion that men are somehow bulletproof and much less susceptible to psychological trauma than women.
Researchers now report that divorced men have higher rates of mortality, substance abuse, depression, and lack of social support.
The new case study is found in the Journal of Men’s Health.
Authors Daniel Felix, W. David Robinson, and Kimberly Jarzynka contend there is an urgent need to recognize and treat men’s divorce-related health problems.
Divorce has been associated with a variety of psychological and behavioral disorders. Previous studies have shown that unmarried men live significantly fewer years than married men and tend to have more health problems.
For the specific case of the divorced 45-year-old man described in the case study and review, the authors recommend how to evaluate his complaints and plan a course of treatment based on current clinical guidelines.
“Popular perception, and many cultures as well as the media present men as tough, resilient, and less vulnerable to psychological trauma than women. However, this article serves as a warning signal not to follow such unfounded perceptions,” said Ridwan Shabsigh, M.D.
Said Shabsigh, “The fact is that men get affected substantially by psychological trauma and negative life events such as divorce, bankruptcy, war, and bereavement.
“Research is urgently needed to investigate the prevalence and impact of such effects and to develop diagnosis and treatment guidelines for practitioners.”

Monday, 9 October 2017

Divorce From A Psychopath Or Narcissist Is Never Easy

Psychopath - Noun- A person suffering from chronic mental disorder with abnormal or violent social behaviors

Narcissist - Noun- A person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves

These two types of ex tend to be by far the worst kind of people, you can both be married to and therefor divorce from, as their lack of empathy and obsessive need to win and inflict pain on others, seems in many cases to have no end.

Almost unanimously when I hear of people taking their exes to court over and over, or divorces that drag out for years even decades, I already in my mind have a presumption that there is a good chance that these cases involve a person with one of these disorders.

Besides the obvious facts that divorce from these people are often, more dismal, and highly contentious, they are often harder to move on and recover from, here are a few of my tips on moving on from a psychopath or narcissistic ex.

1. Realize that in most cases, you would have been targeted by your ex for your giving or passive nature, generally a psychopath or narcissist are looking for the givers of the world to feed off, as emotional vampires do. You will have often been young, naive or have the persona that you want to believe the best in people, these traits in you are on the surface great traits, but to a narcissist or psychopath they make you the perfect prey. Forgive yourself for the lack of judgment in marrying these people, they often are extremely charismatic and won’t always reveal their true motives, until after marriage and or children, when they know it’s harder for you to escape. Once you can forgive yourself and see the pattern or red flag behaviors it will be easier for you to spot this in new people and break the cycle.

2. Understand that even though for many years you were probably emotionally abused and made to feel not worthy or enough, you are and always were enough, this projection on you is nothing about your worth and always everything about your ex’s tactics to control and hurt you. Your reaction to them would have been their drug of choice for many years, and this dynamic must be broken once and for all.

3. Let go of the fact that many people around your ex will probably buy into their dramatic victim playing, you may feel anger towards, your ex’s friends, family or work colleagues who have bought into the narcissist or psychopaths award winning dramatic acts, over the course of the divorce. Let this anger go, remember those people are now no longer a part of your life as your ex shouldn’t be, don’t blame them, as they can only see the side they have been shown by your ex. Anger is always a wasted and draining emotion you owe it to yourself to let it go.

4. Spend some time analyzing the true dynamics of what your relationship and marriage were, often in these abusive relationships we are so bam boozled by the gaslighting, playing victim, and emotional abuse inflicted we can’t see the wood for the trees. Once we have divorced and exited these relationships, it will take a while for you to begin to see things exactly how they are. If you are looking for clarification, there are a lot of great articles about narcissists and psychopaths on the internet, that will explain in more detail their behaviors and relationship dynamics, once you really understand what you are dealing with things seem clearer.

5. Seek support, whether on dreamsrecycled or join our Facebook group or any one of many online support groups, understand you are not alone, when you connect with other people who have been through or have recovered from these relationships you feel a lot less isolated and making new friends after a divorce is always an important part of moving on.

6. The top 1 thing everyone after divorce from a narcissist or psychopathy needs to do is disengage. I cannot stress how important this is, disengage fully and forever. These people are not fixable, and will never change. Expect at first the antisocial behaviors to escalate, but whatever they do to get a reaction do not fall for it. Stand firm in your disengagement, three-word text response only for child coordination, no emotion, no aggression, no anything, whatever you feel good bad or otherwise, never let them see your reaction. Eventually the abusive ex will start to look and then sadly find a new target/victim to emotionally feed off.

7. Lastly and in my mind most importantly work on yourself and self-love, your psyche and ego will often be shattered by this type of ex, the stronger we make our selves the less our ex will be able to hurt us, and the stronger and happier we will be in ourselves. Daily positive action, whether, in work, health, or goals gets us to this better place quicker. Throw in a huge heap of daily positive affirmation, and you will feel much more like your old self quicker.

The process of healing and moving on from any divorce won’t be easy, an abusive relationship, will be even harder, but rest assure you leaving these abusive unions, is a huge victory for you, and you should be applauded for having the courage to stand up and say enough is enough. Once you realize that in that act alone you have already won, the possibility to create a happy new life are endless. Having the strength to leave makes you unstoppable, so go out and create the best life you can, you may not feel like it at this moment but you are already halfway there.


Sunday, 8 October 2017

Children Without Fathers Are Likelier to Be Stressed

When a father is not physically present in a child’s life — due to death, divorce, incarceration or another reason — the child is more likely to have shorter telomeres, a part of human DNA that’s linked to stress and disease.

In the groundbreaking new study, researchers from the University of Princeton found that, at age 9, children who were in a fatherless situation had telomeres that were 14 percent shorter on average than other children whose fathers were not absent.

Telomeres, which mark the end point of a chromosome, “are thought to reflect cell aging and overall health,” report the researchers. The main job of telomeres is to protect DNA after a cell divides. Other studies have implicated shortened telomeres with heart disease and cancer.

To gain their findings, the Princeton researchers analyzed a group of about 5,000 children whose health and social status have been under observation for more than a dozen years. While they found that the absence of a father was linked to shorter telomeres no matter the cause, the most significant impact appears to occur in situations where the father has died. In that case, telomere length was 16 percent shorter on average.

The researchers surmise that financial hardship and emotional duress may be contributing to the children’s stress marks in their DNA.

“The father is being removed from the life of the child and that is plausibly associated with an increase in stress, for both economic and emotional reasons,” said Notterman, a senior research scholar and lecturer with the rank of professor of Molecular Biology.

The researchers discovered that the biggest adverse impact occurred among boys who lost their fathers before the age of 5. Overall, the impact on boys appears to be of a larger magnitude than on girls.

The study holds wide implications for public policy, notes Notterman.

“The fact that there is an actual measurable biological outcome that is related to the absence of a father makes more credible the urgency of public policy e
fforts to maintain contact between children and fathers,” he said.

Such social policy, such as high incarceration rates, would inevitably come into scope given the short-term negative impact that an absent father has on a child.

“The importance of these findings for research on the social sources of health — and health disparities — in the United States can hardly be overstated,” said Christopher Wildeman, an associate professor of Policy Analysis and Management in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University and the co-director of the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect.

“By showing that three causes of paternal absence decrease telomere length, a core biological indicator of health, the authors are able to provide insight into a direct biological channel through which paternal absence could affect the health of their children,” Wildeman added.

Notterman also hopes that the study gives public policy experts more insight into challenging and complex life situations faced by many children throughout the United States.

“We all know that resources are limited and are becoming more limited,” Notterman said. “But by understanding that a social and familial phenomenon — the loss of a father — has biological effects which are plausibly linked with the future well-being of a child, we now have a rationale for prioritizing resource allocations to the children who are most vulnerable.”


Saturday, 7 October 2017

10 ways parents can do divorce differently

Bypass the destructive effect divorce can have on a family, and move into the new territory of mediation and co-parenting.

“Our conventional way of handling divorce is for the parties to engage lawyers whose expertise is limited to the legal matters,” points out Nina Mensing, a counsellor and FAMAC accredited mediator who specialises in family matters.

“Without help, guidance and support around all the other powerful aspects of divorce, it’s no wonder that it so often results in a bitter and traumatic fall-out impacting over the long-term not just on adults, but on children too.”

There’s growing awareness that there are significant benefits to doing divorce differently, and this is becoming more of an imperative if there are children in the family.

Research shows that respondents who went through mediated divorces reported less conflict in co-parenting a year after the divorce, whereas parents who had litigated divorces reported an increase in conflict (Sbarra & Emery, 2008).

“Mediation is based on a model of co-operative dispute settlement,” explains Nina, “The process aims to prevent the escalation of conflict between the parties, which is so easily fuelled by litigation.

"This is vital when there are children involved. In any divorce involving children, the relationship between the parents has to be maintained at a mature and suitable level so that they are capable of co-parenting effectively.”

  • Your child comes first
  • You can be a happy divorced family
  • When parents divorce

Nina's 10 steps to doing divorce differently:

1. Make an informed decision, and be sure that divorce is the way forward

If divorce is presented as an option, it is important that both parties are well-informed about what lies up ahead before this decision is actually made. Reactive decision-making can have long-term negative effects on all involved.

It is important to know and understand all the different impacts and implications involved in a divorce, from the legal and financial ramifications to the practicalities of co-parenting and the effects of the identity shifts.

It gives both parties a sense of control over the process if they’ve done research, gone to counselling and experienced divorce coaching before they reach a decision to divorce.

2. Get the professional help you need

Divorce is an arduous process that can push the limits of our usual support networks. Each party needs to take responsibility for managing their emotions, expectations and the stress.

Going for individual counselling or coaching allows you to tap into a robust resource of independent, professional advice and support.

3. Get your finances in order

Make sure you understand your financial situation before discussing how to split your finances.

4. Empower yourself

Learn about the process. Learn about the law. Learn about what would be best for your situation and your family. You don’t need others telling you what you should be doing – this is your life and your family.

Don’t let others make decisions for you. Learn from others, get support from others, but make your own decisions.

5. Do not discuss adult subjects with your children

First and foremost is to not talk negatively about the other parent.

Children like to know what is happening in their lives. Allow them to ask questions, tell them what is going on, but do not go into details or blame the other parent for anything.

Be the adult, and let the children be children. Learn about how to co-parent effectively.

6. Stop defending yourself

Attacking and defending plays into the game of litigation, and is a never-ending cycle. De-escalate the conflict by not attacking and not defending – except in the case of abuse.

If the marriage is abusive then go through the correct procedures to ensure your safety, emotionally and physically.

7. Work with a financial planner

Do this together for the sake of the children, and also individually.

8. Go to mediation

An accredited mediator will facilitate the process in a collaborative manner, always with the children’s best interests as the focus.

Ongoing communication during mediation allows for more effective co-parenting during this difficult time.
9. After mediation, get independent legal advice before signing
The mediation process will result in the drafting of a negotiated divorce agreement. Go back to mediation if advised by your lawyer that the agreement is not fair.
Starting a litigation process (suing the other person) at any point will escalate the conflict, which will have an adverse effect on the children.

10. Remember that every decision that is made, and every action and reaction between the two of you, will affect the children
It’s easy to fall into a mode where it feels like the divorce is all happening to you. But divorce is never about an individual, it is a family process.

Think always about the children’s best interests – some times that means backing down and lessening the conflict rather than having full control over every situation.

Don’t win the battle to lose the war. Our children learn from us, and will learn how to handle conflict the way we do. Teach them that one can collaborate, and despite the marriage breaking down, that the two of you can still be parents together for their sake.

“It is important to re-frame the way we have always looked at divorce,” concludes Nina, “Divorce does not break families up; it recreates new types of families.

"How you divorce has a big impact on how you will co-parent and interact with your ex-spouse, for years to come. Doing divorce differently through mediation is essentially doing it in a far more mature and constructive way.”


Friday, 6 October 2017

What to Say About an Absent Dad

"Dad questions" come suddenly and at unlikely moments.

Unfortunately, there are no magic answers to your kids' questions because the circumstances that lead to solo mothering differ widely.

For some moms, solo motherhood was a deliberate life choice. Such moms may have used reproductive technology or simply planned their pregnancies with a cooperative partner. 
Other women become solo moms by chance. What began as a shocking surprise evolves into a welcome and life-changing event. Divorced moms often cope with dads who are only inconsistently present or entirely absent in their kids' lives. Other divorced dads rush into another relationship and create "new" families that sadly – and predictably – don't include the kids from a previous marriage. Exclusive relationships sometimes break up leaving the mom unexpectedly and disproportionately responsible for raising the kids.

If you feel angry or upset just anticipating these questions, make addressing your own emotional needs a priority.

Begin by writing down exactly what fuels your anger or brings tears to your eyes. Express your disappointments, regrets and sadness over how your expectations were never met. To add a healing and ritualistic touch, consider shredding or burning what you've written. If you decide to keep what you've written, take care your kids don't inadvertently stumble upon your private writings. If you chose to vent your feelings online, that's your personal choice.

No matter what path you choose, it's challenging to express and sort out painful feelings. If you feel overwhelmed or increasingly upset, seek help through a support group or from a mental health professional. Taking these brave steps forward will ensure you'll be ready to answer your kids' inevitable questions about their dad.

Here's what you need to know to get ready:

Know what to expect. Most kids begin asking Dad questions around the age of 4 or 5. Before that, kids believe all families are just like theirs. Kids at this age begin to notice different types of families at day care and at neighborhood or extended family gatherings. Of course, media influence kids' perceptions, too.

Begin the conversation by talking about what makes your family unique. Build on your kids' observations by talking up the unique advantages and positive qualities of different family types. Celebrating differences in other families sets the stage for your talks about your own unique family. Instill in your kids respect for the life choices other people make.

Keep your conversations age-appropriate. Stick to basic facts. Keep your explanations simple. Your kids are unlikely to understand what commitment, trust or intimacy mean. Reveal more information slowly as your kids mature. Avoid changing the subject when their questions persist or are posed at inopportune times. Kids often ask the same questions repeatedly. It's fine to say you simply don't know or to turn the question around and ask your kids what they think might be the answer. Above all, listen patiently to encourage your kids to talk about their feelings.

Don't lie. Lying never works. When kids eventually discover the truth, the loss of a present and loving dad will be compounded by their loss of trust in you.

Strive to remain positive. Keeping your message positive will be incredibly demanding, especially if their dad is neglectful or routinely dodges his responsibilities. Kids who have been neglected or abandoned will express rage, hurt and anger. Comfort them as only a mother can. Resist the urge to say things which may be factually true, but terribly hurtful to your kids.

Think long term. Staying positive to protect your kids requires all the strength and maturity you can muster. Look for opportunities to say positive and truthful things about their dad. Keep in mind that everything you say about Dad becomes part of how your kids view themselves. So, when you take the high road, your kids gain added measures of happiness and confidence. Think of harsh words about their dad as sharp arrows. Protect your kids from such wounding words just as you would protect them from physical danger.


Thursday, 5 October 2017

So long Shirley Valentine, it's the turn of men to divorce

So long Shirley Valentine, it’s the turn of the men.

The phenomenon of older women ditching their husbands in mid-life, which inspired the tale of a middle-aged woman who finds new love on a Greek island, has been turned on its head.

New figures show that men are driving mid-life divorce as their earnings make them more attractive to younger women.

The proportion of so-called "silver splitters" who end their marriages in their 50s and 60s has increased.

One report, by think tank the International Longevity Centre, found that from 1990 to 2012, the number of over-60s getting divorced rose by over 85 per cent.

Now divorce experts have suggested that men could be driving this pattern as they reach their peak earning power and women worry about the financial implications of splitting up.

In every age group until 45, more women are divorcing than men. But the pattern changes in over-45s, when men overtake women.

For those aged over 60, 9,443 men divorced compared to 5,783 women. Older men are now divorcing in greater numbers, while women's average age has remained static.

The ONS said: "In 2014, the number of divorces was highest among men aged 45 to 49 and women aged 40 to 44.

"This represents a change for men, since between 2005 and 2013, divorces were highest among men aged 40 to 44."

Ellen Walker, a solicitor at Hall Brown Family Law, said increasing financial independence and concerns about the well-being of children meant younger women were more inclined to exit troubled marriages than men of the same age.

Younger female clients often want to minimise the distress caused to children still at home who witness domestic disputes.

However, the picture reversed as husbands’ earnings reached their peak and children left home. In its report, the ILC warned that growing mid-life divorce could have a serious effect on women's finances, as they were likely to earn less and have a smaller pension.

It said that divorce "may lead to financial difficulties, especially for women who may have been stay at home mums who do not have much by way of long-term savings of their own."

It added: "While rising labour force participation has helped to reduce the financial dependence of women on their spouse, the story is complicated with evidence of a continuing gender divide between men and women in terms of pay, particularly at older ages, and a low proportion of women saving for retirement."

Last year TUC analysis found that the gender pay gap was widest between men and women in their 50s, with women of this age group earning £8,504 less a year than men on average.

Previous analysis has also suggested that men reach the peak of their earning power in their early 50s. Ms Walker said that middle-aged women were now more likely to try to keep troubled marriages going because of these money worries.

She said: “There is a stark difference from the mid-forties onwards. With children grown and parental responsibilities seemingly discharged, it is men who are far more likely to lead the divorce process.

“In our experience, this often coincides with the point at which men reach their peak earning potential and, therefore, the possibility of being able to afford to start a new life.

“That increasing income and seniority at work can also increase their appeal to the opposite sex, including among younger women, perhaps placing troubled relationships even further in peril.”

According to the ONS, the difference is also partly explained by the traditional age disparity between couples. It said: "More women than men divorced below the age of 45; at older ages more men than women divorced.

"This pattern reflects the fact that on average men marry women who are younger than themselves."

A breakdown of who petitioned for divorce by age is not available, but the figures do suggest that fewer women asking for divorce is the main driver of a declining divorce rate.

ONS figures show that the overall number of women petitioning and being granted a divorce tumbled from 105,177 in 2004 to 69,803 in 2014, while figures for men fell by just 6,000, from 47,580 to 41,364. During the same period, the overall number of divorces granted fell from 152,923 to 111,169.