Thursday, 30 November 2017

The Importance of Self-Care For Men During Divorce

To be both physically and mentally fit, it’s important to focus on your health during this stressful time.

Going through a divorce or legal separation can be one of the most stressful events in life. This process requires decisions that involve child custody, parenting, legal and financial matters as well as juggling the demands of everyday life while not skipping a beat at work.

During the divorce process, you will be faced with life-changing decisions which will affect the quality of your family’s future. You will want to be both physically and mentally fit during this stressful time.

Here are a few ways to practice self-care during divorce.

Make Yourself a Priority
Although divorce requires many decisions and much effort on your part, it is wise to find time to take a mental break to focus on you. As a father, learning to intentionally take time to focus on yourself without the stressors of divorce is a must in order to practice self-care. It is not uncommon during the divorce process to experience grief and stress which can lead to depression if left unattended. Learning the symptoms of depression can help you identify signs in order to seek professional help. Make yourself priority daily to focus on your mental and physical well-being.

Create a Nurturing Support System During Separation and Divorce
Having a support system can be crucial for your emotional well-being. This system can be comprised of friends, family, co-workers or even a counselor. Having a personal network of people that you can depend upon in your time of need brings an invaluable peace of mind. Sharing with others who have also experienced separation and divorce can offer a wealth of knowledge as well as reassurance. Creating a support system also helps with feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Maintain a Positive Outlook
Separation and divorce in most circumstances create a negative connotation. The divorce process can be lengthy and over time create anxiety and negativity. Being aware of this from the outset encourages you to focus on finding positives in your everyday life. Train your thoughts to find at least one positive aspect each day in order to create a more positive outlook and peace within. Sometimes you must train yourself to search for the rainbows in the midst of the storms.

Incorporate a Healthy Lifestyle During Divorce
Searching for ways to create a healthier lifestyle can prove to be beneficial. Increasing your exercise regime can offer benefits for your mental and physical health as it releases endorphins. Exercising at the local gym or walking in the park may lend an opportunity for new friendships. Also, establishing better eating habits assists with unwanted weight and overall better health. Incorporating a healthy lifestyle may help all family members when faced with changes and stress that divorce brings.

Divorce is a lengthy and stressful process that affects all family members. Utilizing techniques such as making yourself a priority, creating a support system, maintaining a positive outlook and incorporating a healthy lifestyle can help when practicing self-care during divorce. The goal is to optimize your family’s post-divorce future and there is no better way to do this than to be physically and mentally fit throughout the process by practicing self-care.


Coping with festive holidays when you are divorced or separated

Seasonal and festive holidays like Christmas can be really hard for parents not living with their children. When non-resident parents call our helpline around the Christmas period, they often feel jealous, lonely, sad, angry and resentful. Separated families may feel as though everyone else is enjoying the perfect family festivities, while they feel more isolated and alone than during the rest of the year.

This situation can be distressing and tense and it can really help to talk to someone about how you feel. Some non-resident parents who call us are sad that they can’t watch their children open their presents at Christmas. From a legal point of view, it can be very frustrating for non-resident parents if the resident parent doesn’t grant access
 over Christmas, but it may be possible to come to an informal arrangement.

It's usually best to start the conversation with your children’s other parent as early as possible, to give yourself plenty of time to come to arrangement about times and days to see the children. If, for example, the resident parent has the children on Christmas Day, you may want to arrange a time on Christmas Day when you can give the children their presents.

You could suggest an arrangement of alternating the years, so that you get to spend Christmas Day with the children every other year. In the other years, you could even arrange a 'fake Christmas', when you get to do all the traditional festive things you like to do with your family, just on a different day. That way, everybody gets to have a full festive experience, and the children get to celebrate twice.

Making long-term plans

Reaching a long term deal and being flexible will work to everyone’s benefit. A separated mother said: “My eldest daughter is going to be with her dad for Christmas day this year. I'm going to miss her terribly but need to be fair to her dad.

“It might sound a bit extreme, but I find it helps to plan what will happen at Christmas a year ahead. I have a rota with my daughter's dad as to who has her when. It doesn’t make it less painful not being with her when it's not my turn, but it makes it easier to plan early celebrations and visits to relatives so no-one feels they're missing out."

Seeing grandparents

This situation can also affect grandparents. The parents of the non-resident parent will be unlikely to see their grandchildren at Christmas which can be upsetting. Like the non-resident parent, grandparents could try to organise a special day, or a time around Christmas, when they could give their grandchildren presents.

One separated parent said: “I find it extremely difficult handling the upset that not spending Christmas Day together causes my daughter’s grandparents who want to see her. We've arranged to have Christmas earlier so we can all be together.”

Another said: “It gets me down that my ex-wife always has the children on Christmas Day and I have to wait for Boxing Day. Some years she has taken them away for Christmas and I haven’t seen them until New Year, which is really upsetting.”

How to make time together special

The time that you do spend with your children over Christmas should be special. Many separated parents try to outdo each other, which is likely to lead to stress and disappointment, as you often can’t live up to the expectations and may end up feeling second best. Similarly, non-resident parents sometimes feel that they must compete with their children’s other parent when it comes to buying presents. When one parent is spending a large amount on expensive gifts, or taking the children on a costly holiday, the other parent may feel that he or she can’t offer the same amount. This can lead to heartache, as parents may feel like they have let their children down if they cannot afford to compete.

Christmas present competition

A separated father said: “My ex-wife always seems to turn Christmas into a competition to see who can outdo the other by buying the ‘best’ presents. Every year I ask her to let me know what she’ll be buying the children so I can make sure I don’t buy the same thing, but she doesn’t. So I feel I can’t get them what they really want in case she’s got there first. In previous years I’ve been delighted to buy them something I knew was on their list, only to have them unwrap it on Boxing Day and say: ‘Thanks Dad, but Mum bought me this too.’ It’s disappointing for the children and means I’ve had to waste a lot of time changing presents afterwards.”

Explaining to your children that you aren’t giving them the presents that they want can be hard, but your children will appreciate your honesty. Try not to give throw-away responses such as ‘because I said so’, but instead justify yourself, telling your child that you don’t think a gift is suitable or is overpriced. You can try to compromise with older children by saying that you will contribute towards an expensive present if they make up the difference.

Parents who have to spend Christmas alone

If you will not get the chance to see your children on Christmas Day, and will be alone, see if you can make arrangements with your friends. If anyone close to you is in the same situation, why not organise to see them; volunteer or invite them round for lunch so that you will not be by yourself. Sometimes the parent living with the children can be caused stress by a non-resident parent who doesn’t want to see his or her children over the festive period, or is unreliable.

It can be heartbreaking to explain that their other parent won’t be visiting over Christmas, but it will be kinder if you remain positive, and try not to criticise him or her too much in front of the children, no matter how angry you feel.


Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Extremities: The Pain and Promise of Divorce

As the divorce process unfolds, especially within the first several months, you will probably go through a series of emotional extremes. The divorce, as it tears apart the fabric of your marriage, will probably tear you up as well. You will be astounded by the intensity of raw pain that can sweep over you, sometimes quite unexpectedly.

This is a dangerous time psychologically, and it may not be clear how this emotional eruption could lead to extreme consequences. The person you thought you knew and loved is no longer there, “replaced” by some scary, spiteful stranger. Frightening scenarios, involving both yourself and the other person, become immediately present as possibilities; you will no longer know what to expect from your former spouse or even from yourself. Even if you struggle to hold onto some shred of love, or at least positive feeling, for your former spouse, you will be afflicted by thoughts and feelings that seem to flood into your mind from some primitive, nightmare side of reality.

In such moments, you may feel like you are losing your mind. You can go places emotionally where no one else can reach you. You may scream, cry, shake, or rage uncontrollably. You may feel exhausted one moment and then keyed up the next. Sleep is difficult. You do not know what to do with yourself.

Violated and violent, perhaps even filled with thoughts of hurting yourself or others, you may experience the urge to act on these extreme emotions, to enact the evils which now plague you, to overcome fear by becoming frightening, to overcome alienation by making your hell real for others, to inflict what you are suffering on the one “responsible” for it, to let others know how it feels to be in such pain, to give vent to the rage, to destroy the marriage that is “destroying” you. You want your day in court; want the indifferent world to know you have been wronged!

You may be appalled at yourself, and yet continue to hold onto this desperate “remedy,” as if it were a perverse life saver, as if this pain is all that holds you together and keeps you emotionally connected with the marriage you are losing. You know that you need to “get over it,” as friends would recommend if they knew what you were feeling and contemplating, and yet it seems that “getting over it” would leave you with nothing.

This extreme state may last for a brief moment, or several days, or longer. You may be able to suppress or contain it, for the most part. Some people may not even feel it. But most do.

If you ever find yourself on this pathway toward extreme action, do not give in. Hold on. Give life a chance to make things better for you, even if you can’t see any hope and don’t have a clue about how to keep going. Take a long walk. Call someone who loves you. Seek professional assistance if necessary, but remember that the extreme pain will eventually pass, while the consequences of extreme actions may not. You are bereft now, but not forever. Seeds of new life will eventually spring up. You can look for these little hints of life, simple, small, seemingly inconsequential moments in which you catch a glimpse of something and feel yourself respond and know that you might survive.

In the throes of divorce, people experience the pain of disrupted emotional attachment. The roots of emotional attachment go very deep in our lives. Establishing and maintaining attachment is the most crucial thing at the earliest point in life; without it, we would have died as an infant. Even now, as adults, any threat to emotional attachment feels highly upsetting and dangerous. We can feel like we are dying emotionally, like there is no more life in our life.

We may try to fill the “blankness” with the “stimulation” of sex, or with endless hours of work, or with concern about the kids, or with a new relationship. But the blankness tends to remain. With time and reflection, however, there may be a shift of feeling and new emotional connections may become possible.

Surviving the breakup of a marriage or, for that matter, surviving the loss of any cherished individual, can leave us a little wiser about love. By getting a little distance from the pain, we come to know that:

  • relationships can and do end;
  • love has many unforeseen, but inevitable, twists and turns;
  • love is based as much on a decision to remain steadfast, in spite of the inevitable twists and turns, as it is on the fulfillment of fantasy or gratification of unmet needs; and
  • we can survive loss.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, by distancing ourselves from the intensity of extreme pain experienced during a breakup, we are able more fully to appreciate the gift of a meaningful, satisfying relationship and, with time, take steps to build such a relationship in the future.


Tuesday, 28 November 2017

10 Ways to Prevent a Divorce From Ruining Your Finances

Here’s how to protect your money when your marriage is falling apart.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie aren't the only people getting a divorce. Plenty of Americans go through the process each year of dissolving their marriages, splitting their assets and making custodial arrangements for their children. While every divorce situation is unique, separating spouses should do the following 10 things to up their odds of coming out of the proceedings on financially stable ground.

Take stock of your marital assets, but don't move them. Ideally, both spouses should already have a firm grasp of account balances and the value of joint assets. But if not, now is the time to review old bank statements and inventory safe deposit boxes to ensure your spouse hasn't been trying to move money or hide assets from you.

However, resist the urge to make significant withdrawals or large purchases prior or during divorce proceedings. "Judges go crazy over that," says Steve Azoury, a financial planner and owner of Azoury Financial in Troy, Michigan. "They think you're trying to hide money."

Prepare for a new career ASAP. As soon as people know they are getting a divorce, they should think about how they will support themselves in the years after. "If you're not employed, this is a time to boost your career or even start one," says Allen Gibson, a chartered divorce financial analyst with Gibson Private Wealth Advisors in Dallas. He says a common mistake people make is waiting until a divorce is finalized before beginning their job hunt. By that point, they may have squandered precious months, or even years, which could have been spent polishing skills or networking with others.

Stay put for the time being. While moving out immediately may seem like a logical decision during a separation, Azoury cautions against it. "Don't move out of the house before consulting with an attorney," he says. "[Your spouse] could say you've abandoned the family."

Don't get emotional about your home or other items. Too often, people give up valuable assets or other rights in order to keep the family home, says Kira Gould, a certified divorce coach and a certified real estate divorce specialist. While it may seem traumatic to sell the house, it is often for the best. "When we finally manage to wrestle them from their house, they're happier," Gould says.

Other spouses may become emotionally invested in keeping certain items simply out of a desire to one-up their soon-to-be ex. "People are really blinded by the power of the win," says Carrie Rollings Meynet, a real estate agent at the real estate firm Gibson International. As a result, they may spend extra on legal fees or give up more valuable assets in order to keep something of lesser value.

Think about the tax implications. Next to a house, a retirement fund may be the most valuable asset a person owns, but Gibson says couples shouldn't expect to simply cash out and split the proceeds. "If it's not done properly, a person could pay a penalty," Gibson says. "Plus, there's taxes." Spouses should consider the tax consequences of trading one asset for another during the divorce proceedings. "The house on the lake is a tax-free benefit while the 401(k) is taxable," Azoury says.

Check for legal obstacles. Even if a couple agrees to split a 401(k) plan, it may not be possible. A judicial order known as a qualified domestic relations order, otherwise called a QDRO, is needed. However, even if granted, the order can only be fulfilled if the 401(k) plan administrator allows it. "The law of the plan is the law of the land," Gibson says.

Consider all insurance options. Divorces commonly require one spouse to pay child support or maintain health insurance for dependents. But if that person should be unable to work in the future, both of those financial safety nets could disappear. To avoid that from happening, spouses may want to consider requiring disability insurance or other coverage as part of the divorce settlement. "Make sure any document is binding even if a death occurs," Azoury says.

Get your own team of professionals. Divorce can be messy, expensive and emotionally wrenching, so it's best not to go it alone. "See a therapist beforehand so you can clearly go into the situation," Azoury says. "I have one client who was so emotionally distraught that she used [her husband's] lawyer. He took advantage of her." In addition to a therapist and a lawyer, bringing in a financial planner can also be helpful. In all cases, look for someone experienced in divorce cases. "Better to find people with specialty knowledge than jacks of all trades," Gibson says.

Do your own legwork. Paying a divorce attorney can quickly deplete a bank account, but people can save money by coming to meetings with all the pertinent information. Bring Social Security numbers, tax records and other documents rather than having an attorney research that information at a hefty price tag. "The attorney will be glad to overcharge you," Gibson says about looking up records you could find for free.

Be realistic about your future financial needs. Even the most amicable divorce means a significant life change for both spouses. "In divorce, reality changes for everyone," Gould says. Azoury suggests people plan to live on half their previous household income, but maintain about 70 percent of the expenses. That may seem like a tall order, but one that can be met with proper planning.

Not every divorce is as high-profile as the Pitt-Jolie split, but you don't have to be rich or famous to walk out of a divorce on financially stable ground.


Monday, 27 November 2017

6 Lessons I Learned From My Darkest Days of Marriage and Divorce

I'm happier than I've been in years, but it hasn't come without a cost.

In December, it will mark the three-year anniversary since my initial separation and more than a year and a half since my divorce was made official. In that time, my life has literally turned 180 degrees and I’m happier than I’ve been in years.

But it hasn’t come without cost.

Leading up to my life changing decisions, I was a different man; a shell of a man.

Some of you may already know my story, but I spent more than 8 years in a marriage that was full of struggle, stress, and heartache. I had converted to the Catholic faith prior to getting married and never considered divorce an option, especially since my parents split when I was 6 and it affected me deeply.

But there came a time when it seemed all but hopeless and life started to lose its meaning. Despair was followed by insomnia, which was followed by heart palpitations and night sweats, which was followed by me thinking I was literally going to die from a heart attack.

Months of counseling and workshops did little to help us better understand each others’ needs, and if they did, they didn’t help us actually do anything about it.

And in the end, it was an emotionless 30-minute conversation that felt more like a work luncheon that decided our fate and the decision was made to separate.

share this with you not so I can relive all the painful memories, the sleepless nights, and the endless tears I cried, but to help you use what I’ve learned to make your life better.

Starting Over

As I said, my life has changed about as much as is humanly possible and I’m incredibly grateful for the new lease on life I was given. Scratch that; that I took.

To highlight some of the major life changes I’ve made in the last two years:
  • Left my first home, great neighborhood, and friends to start my life over.
  • Left my career of 11 years as a financial advisor to pursue my passion for fitness. My income dropped significantly and although my child support/alimony payments were high, I chose to struggle and be happy.
  • Recommitted to my health and went from 188 pounds at 20% body fat to 170 pounds at 14% in a handful of months.
  • Went from a miserable and depressed man to someone who wakes up each day with purpose and meaning.
  • Am in a new relationship with a woman who is by far the most supportive person I’ve ever met. She is someone who defends my dreams even when I’m ready to give up on them and someone who has talked me out of three jobs because she knew it was the wrong decision long-term.

All I’m saying is that change is possible; huge changes are possible. For anyone.

I’ve spent a ton of time working through my emotional issues, learning more about myself, and growing as a person. I’ve thought about all the things I’ve learned throughout my marriage and now divorce and I’d like to share 6 of the most significant lessons I’ve learned.

Here are the 6 Lessons I Learned From My Darkest Days of Marriage and Divorce

1. Put yourself first.
This may sound selfish at first, but it’s not. It’s actually quite the opposite. So many men, including me, put their spouses and kids first and anything that’s left over is theirs. The problem is that there is rarely anything left for you at all.

All your work, energy, and time goes into making them happy and unfortunately, it comes at your expense. When we sweep our needs under the rug, and sometimes for many years, it builds up resentment, anger, and frustration. That emotion has to go somewhere and often it leads to passive aggressive behavior, guilting your spouse, and ultimately a huge disconnect between the two of you.

I love my kids more than anything in the world. I’d die for them without a second thought and have always put them first. And while you may be thinking “you’re supposed to do that, they’re your kids”, you have to look at it in a different way.

Yes, they will always be #1 in their father’s eyes. This is true for any good father. But when we focus so much on them, we neglect our own well-being. I believe there is a balance that must be found in order to be the best father you can be.

How can you or I be a great dad when we’re caught up in stress, anger, and emotional duress? We can’t. We have to get ourselves right and keep it that way in order to be the best and most effective parent we are capable of.

Does that mean neglect your children? Of course not, nor would any of us ever consider that. I’m talking about making time for your emotional and physical health and making it your priority.

If you are messed up in the head, lost, down on yourself, or any of the other things that happen to us when we divorce, how can we reasonably expect to be at our best as a parent?

Make time for you. Do what makes you happiest, whether that’s playing Halo, being part of a fantasy football league, or shooting pool, you need it.

It was only at the end of my marriage that I found my passion. It was writing and sharing my journey with thousands of like-minded people. I loved it and if my ex had been supportive of it, we might be having a different conversation right now.

2. Communicate.
Yes, it’s a cliché and we’ve all heard it a thousand times: Communication is the key to a successful relationship. Thank you Dr. Phil and Oprah.

I do believe open and honest communication is essential to a successful relationship and of those people I know who are in lousy marriages, they have poor skills when it comes to this area.

Let’s look at the effects on a relationship that has poor communication. I’ll use mine as a perfect example.

Going into the marriage, we had two totally different expectations about what married life was supposed to be like. I thought it would be an extension of the previous 5 years we had dated, and would only get better. I didn’t expect things like sex to change as a result of marriage.

Her expectation was far different. She looked at it from the Catholic viewpoint and planned to live as close to God as possible. Well I had just converted and religion up to that point was never present in my life. You can see where I’m going with this.

So as the marriage began, we each had different ideas of what a good marriage should be. We were way off. For example:

  • I thought that sex with my wife would be far more intimate. It turned out to be used for procreating and not much else. Strike 1.
  • I thought we would rekindle the old days when we had fun, laughed, and actually enjoyed each others company. In reality, within a few months, we didn’t really want to be around each other and the silences were deafening. Strike 2.
  • I expected us to make health and fitness part of our lives when in reality, we both fell apart physically and stopped caring about how we looked. Strike 3.

I could easily go on with 15 more strikes, but you get my point.

This isn’t her fault, nor is it mine. It was that we weren’t on the same page and never took the time to try to get there.

In my current relationship, nothing goes unsaid. This has its drawbacks as well as benefits, but being willing to talk about the hard things serves to make us stronger.

I’d advise you to do the same if/when you find yourself in a new relationship or to strengthen your current one. We harbor many emotions from our past and if we don’t make a huge effort to do things differently than we did before, we are destines to end up the same way.

3. Protect your confidence.
Being narcissistic is one thing but being physically fit is quite another.

When I got married, and I know this is true for many of you, I stopped caring about my appearance. The reason being is why do it? We had found the person we were going to spend the rest of our lives with and they would love us regardless if we looked like a tub of lard or not.

Clearly this is not the best way to look at it, but it does happen and very often.

The problem, other than the obvious health reasons, is that this is terrible for our self-esteem. When we stop caring about our appearance, the other things in our life start to lose their appeal as well. This is bad.

We also slowly start to lose our confidence, which really affects every part of our life from our competence in our jobs to our feelings of self-worth as a man.

One my favorite quotes is “The greatest prison people live in is the fear of what others think of them”.

We are so consumed by what others think that we let it control how we feel about ourselves, how we act, and how far we get in life. And all if it may be based on a complete lie!

This was very apparent in my life and for much of my marriage, I felt like a failure.

Sure I was providing a life for my family and as the sole bread winner, I took care of everything. And sure I woke up at 4:45 a.m. to train my clients before going to work from 9-5. And sure I worked my way up from a junior broker to a full-fledged partner in a $300 million practice without having any financial background or experience prior.

But that didn’t mean much to me. And for that matter, her.

All I needed to hear was how awesome I was and I would have felt 100X better. But that conversation never happened and over the course of 8 years, I started to believe I wasn’t much at all.

It got to the point where I had virtually no confidence in myself, despite all that I was doing and had accomplished. This is an awful place to be and I know many of you experienced something similar or are going through it now.

In order to protect your confidence, you have to first acknowledge that you, in fact, are truly awesome. Then you need to surround yourself with people who agree.

These people are invaluable to your personal growth and can mean the difference between success and failure in anything you do.

4. Don’t take it out on your kids.
When we’re in a bad place, mentally and physically, we can’t help how we come across to our loved ones. Since we are knee deep in negative emotions, we are blind to it and often times those we love the most get hurt.

My daughters Georgia and Lily are the loves of my life and I’d never do anything to hurt them in any way. But when I look back on some of the worst years of my marriage, the years when I hated my job the most and things were going poorly at home, they suffered the fallout from it.

It wasn’t that I’d come home and yell at them or punish them, but looking back I think it was worse than that. I was silently miserable and everyone knew it. And while they never said anything to me, they had to see just how unhappy I was. I moped, sulked, and disengaged from most people and didn’t think of the consequences of how it might affect them.

They didn’t deserve to see their daddy so unhappy. They didn’t need to learn that this is how life should be or that a marriage should be nothing but a series of arguments and crappy remarks to each other.

Now that I have cleared my head and can look back at how I was, I feel sad; sad that they had to go through that and I blame myself for not recognizing it and doing better.

I also know that they see a huge difference in me now and the day when my oldest made a comment of how much I laugh and how much fun we all have together, brought tears to my eyes.

That is what they need.

5. It’s not you, it’s them.
No, I’m not assessing blame on your ex. Both of you are responsible for your failings in your marriage and I fully understand my part in my divorce and accept my share of responsibility.
What I mean is that you are an amazing person, full of unique gifts, talents, and unlimited potential. And so am I. I just never saw it until I was with someone whomade me see it.

Sadly, many of us will choose a spouse that doesn’t see all that we are and all that we can become and it’s a real tragedy. It hurt me deeply knowing my ex didn’t believe in me. That’s extremely powerful stuff and when the woman you chose to spend the rest of your life with doesn’t believe or support your dreams and passions, you have very little hope of succeeding.

In the infamous book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill states that one of the biggest causes of failure is choosing the wrong spouse. It’s because they bring you down to their level instead of rising to yours.

You’ve also heard the quotes “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room” or “You become who you hang around” and these are very true statements. Be very careful with whom you spend your time. It can and will have a huge impact on your life.

And please remember this: At this very moment, you have everything you need to become incredibly successful and happy, whatever that looks like to you.

You just need to be in the right support system to let those gifts flourish.

6. Smile.
How many married guys do you know that just appear to be going through the motions of life? Just go to any park on a Sunday, a Target store, or a shopping mall and you’ll inevitably see a dad slowly plodding behind his family, carrying all their stuff and looking like he’d rather be anywhere else.

I see it all the time and it’s soooo depressing.

It seems to me that when many of us get married, we start to accept all the things we “have” to do and forget the things we “want” to do. We give up watching football for watching Dora the Explorer. We give up our poker nights with the guys for visiting the in-laws.

And I’m not saying these things are bad and do believe they are part of what having a family means, but I am saying that our personal sacrifices come at the expense of our personal happiness in many cases.

Of course, not all marriages are like this and many of them are filled with laughter, fun, new experiences, and a sense of closeness.

Just not mine.

Laughter is one of the best antidotes for misery, just ask any unhappily married man. When I was married, I distinctly remember losing my sense of humor. I just didn’t find anything funny because I didn’t want to see it. I was miserable and the small things that most people find interesting or funny, seemed meaningless.

It’s been four years since my separation and d
ivorce and only now am I really seeing the benefits of laughter and joy in my daily life.

I can’t help but feel more positive, alive, and energetic when I find myself laughing so hard that tears are rolling down my cheeks. It just makes us feel good to experience that kind of healthy emotion.

Your Life

My hope in sharing so much of my personal life with you is to open your eyes to all the possibilities that lie in front of you and hopefully help you avoid making some of the same mistakes I made.

Our lives are only so long and the more time we spend doing things that don’t make us better, the less time we will have when we finally figure it out.


Sunday, 26 November 2017

The Psychological Impact of Divorce on Adult Children

I recently viewed the 2013 comedy, “A.C.O.D,” starring Adam Scott, Clark Duke, Richard Jenkins, and Catherine O’Hara. “A.C.O.D” showcases a serious storyline in a comedic light, while addressing the psychological impact divorce can have on adult children. While I can’t speak to such an experience firsthand, I was intrigued by the subject matter. Even though they’re no longer kids, adult children may still carry the weight of divorce and unresolved childhood issues on their shoulders.

Maybe such effects manifest in their romantic relationships. They may be wary of long-term commitment. Maybe they encounter heightened stress when they’re sifting through their parents’ leftover anger and resentment, still feeling as if they have to choose sides.

Jenny Kutner’s 2015 article, featured on, relays the perspective of the ACOD.
“Unlike a child, who is usually an innocent bystander during the end of their parents’ relationship, ACODs are, more often than not, active participants; they’re placed in the awkward position of having to provide emotional support for one or both of their parents.”

Robert Emery, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and author of Two Homes, One Childhood: A Parenting Plan to Last a Lifetime, advocates that regardless of age, a child of divorce will always be considered a child of divorce and sensitivities need to align accordingly.

“Your children are still your children, even if they are 30 years old,” Emory stated in the article. “Information should be shared only on a ‘need to know basis,’ and children of any age don’t need to know much. It isn’t a child’s job to help the family heal. It’s a parent’s job.”
While it’s natural to presume that adults are more equipped to handle the aftermath of divorce, it doesn’t necessarily diminish their challenges.

In a 2013 interview with Redeye, Adam Scott shares his thoughts on divorce’s influence in today’s society, particularly noting how divorce will affect children as they continue to age.
“A lot of us grew up with divorce, and so I see people making much more measured decisions about marriage and children and stuff like that, just because we’ve seen how the generation before us got started a lot earlier with marriage, family and all of that. Just because culturally it was the norm. They saw it backfire for some people, so I think the difference behaviorally and culturally is people are waiting a lot longer now.”

And if ACODs are struggling with familial loss, if they are lugging heavy baggage from divorce, it’s not a total lost cause. By fostering a greater sense of understanding and awareness, confrontation can occur. If need be, those pertinent emotional struggles can be conquered, whether it’s on their own or with the guidance of a professional.

“A.C.O.D” ignites a dialogue, one that isn’t as prevalent when it comes to discussions regarding divorce. Adult children of divorce face their own set of obstacles; however, they of course have the ability to confront and transcend its impact.


Saturday, 25 November 2017

Four Steps to Making Change an Opportunity Not a Threat

In a series of posts from a few years ago, I described the obstacles to and steps needed to produce positive and long-lasting change. This concern continues to be at the forefront of the public’s minds because the world is in a constant state of flux. These changes are driven by ever-evolving advancements in technology as well as the usual challenges of life. The bottom line is that unless people continue to grow, stagnation is inevitable.

In general, people don’t like change. During primitive times, change was perceived as a threat to survival which triggered our ‘fight or flight’ response. Though fighting or fleeing increased the chances of survival for cavepeople, neither are very effective for people in the 21st century.

Unfortunately, though we like to think that we have evolved far beyond our ancestors, the reality is that we are still quite primitive in some basic ways including our response to threats to our survival. In fact, that same reaction still occurs in us when presented with a perceived (non-physical) threat to our lives. So, our instinctive reaction to change is to fight or run away, neither of which usually bodes well for the success of that change or the mental and physical health of those involved in that change.

I’ve returned to this topic because the three meta-stages of change that I describe in that series of posts, and the potential threat reactions that can occur in response, can be made easier if you can understand and prepare for the individual disruption that is likely to occur.
The more you can identify, understand, anticipate, and prepare for the coming wave of change, the better you will be able to buy into, adapt, and benefit from the changes that lie ahead. In other words, the less likely you are to fight or flee from the changes.

As a consequence, before you implement a program of change, significant effort must be directed at removing the threat from the desired change. The apparent dangers of the change can be mitigated with a few proactive strategies.

To best prepare for change, I want to describe four “from-to” shifts that you will need to embrace to gain the most value from the changes you want.

From Something Different to Status Quo
Create a long runway between when you decide to make the changes and taking action on those changes. As I just described, change is discomforting, but, with time, it can becomes more comfortable. So, leave plenty of time for you to wrap your comfort zone around the changes.

From Threat to Challenge
Actively shape your perceptions about the changes. If you allow yourself to instinctively decide whether changes are good or bad, the changes are likely doomed to fail. Because your first reaction will be one of threat, your initial perceptions will be negative. Once a negative attitude begins to develop around change, it will entrench itself and will be difficult to uproot.

You have to get out ahead of the this defensive reaction and frame the changes in the most positive ways with a particular focus on how it will benefit you and your life. This ‘positive management’ of the change will lessen the threat associated with the changes, thus reducing or eliminating the threat response. Instead, with a focus on the upsides of the changes, you will be more receptive to them.

From Unknown to Known
Educate yourself about all aspects of the changes. That which is unknown and unfamiliar is naturally uncomfortable and threatening. The result will be more fight or flight. But, the more you can learn about the changes, the less catastrophizing and hysteria will take place. In fact, with good information, the changes can morph from a threat to avoid into an opportunity and a challenge to pursue.

From Unpredictable and Uncontrollable to Predictable and Controllable
Empower yourself around the changes. A lack of predictability and control is one of the most powerful sources of threat and stress to people. When you actively engage in the change process, from vision to strategy to implementation, you give yourself the power to predict what lies ahead for you and you give yourself a sense of control over how those changes will impact you. And, in doing so, you instill in yourself a sense of ownership of the changes, thereby ensuring that you buy into every step of the way.

In sum, few people like change, but change is inevitable and healthy. Your best chance of fully implementing the changes you want in your life is to give yourself time to assimilate the idea of change, proactively shape your perceptions of the changes, educate yourself about the changes, and, finally, empower yourself around the changes. If you approach change in this way, you increase the likelihood that the changes will benefit you in your life.


Friday, 24 November 2017

7 reasons NOT to fight for money you’re owed from your ex

I got some of what the court ordered, but not all. At some point I stopped fighting, and not because I was weak or lazy. I let go of that money because it was the right thing to do.

Money is often cited as the No. 1 thing divorcing couples fight over. Financial disagreements clog the courts and wrack up attorney bills — not to mention burn untold units of stress and misery for each party, their children and anyone within earshot.

This money-related financial tension carries over after breakups and divorce. Often, women tell me that they can’t move forward with their lives because they are stuck financially because of money their ex owes. They can’t afford to go back to school and advance their career because there is no money for child care, or can’t get out of debt because he won’t pay.

He may very well owe you that money. Morally and legally, you may be entitled to it.

But sometimes you can be so right, you are wrong. After all, the average sum of child supported ordered monthly is less than $300, and total child support owed is actually paid just 40 percent of the time. What if you let that all go and focused on earning big, big money. I want ever woman to understand what it feels like to be financially independent. Only then do you truly step into your power, and live your life in the biggest, most authentic way possible.


Life is not fair. There are laws designed to protect women and children in divorce, and there is also the universal law of what is just. But there is also the legal system, and it is messed up, unfair and is designed to support mainly the right. Unless you’re Elin Nordegren and Tiger Woods, there is often a very low threshold to cross before it stops making sense to spend money on lawyers to get what you are owed. Do the math. Then take a deep breath. Let the breath go. And let that money go, too.

You can’t get blood from a stone, as the old adage goes. Sure, he may owe you tens of thousands of dollars in back child support. You could have the courts take his car and send him to jail. But if you honestly know that he doesn’t have that cash, do you really want to do that? Yes? What do you get in return?

When you create a budget based on money you get from someone else, you are dependent on them. This is never a good idea. For financial reasons, that money may never materialize — or suddenly disappear. Men’s child support and alimony doesn’t show up if he loses his job, becomes disabled and cannot work, dies, refuses to pay for whatever reason, or has another child and is allowed by the courts to pay less. Plus, don’t you just want to stop fighting and earn your own money? Doesn’t that sound really, really delicious — to never be dependent on him or another man again?

Anger and spite are normal. God knows I’ve spent a lot of time being pissed at my ex! But exuding all that negative energy to take revenge is not a good reason to fight for money — even if you’re entitled to it. Good reasons include providing a better life for yourself and your kids and/or because the money is genuinely yours.

Maybe each of your financial situations have changed. Maybe you have indeed moved on and are now killing it financially. Maybe he lost his job and is struggling. Maybe you’re both stable, but you see that the money in question could help him out a whole lot more than it could help you. And now that you’ve moved forward, and you are no longer spiteful and angry, you have the energy to do the right thing.

Divorce is one of the most stressful, draining crises a person can go through. In many cases — especially if there are children and significant assets involved — it is worth taking your time with a good lawyer to negotiate a fair settlement. But until the mailman delivers the manilla envelope containing your sighed divorce decree, you will likely feel that your whole world is in limbo. Letting some stuff go moves everyone forward — including the kids.
After all, the more conflict between you and your ex, for whatever reason, means the children suffer at the hands of it. He might legally owe you, but sometimes you can be so right you’re wrong.

Deepak Chopra tells us that human beings have infinite energy, and I accept that to be true. But we are also physical beings living in the real world, and a girl only has so much to go around.

When you are dependent on his money, you are dependent on HIM.Dependence is never healthy. It holds you back, keeps you embroiled in a romantic relationship that is over, with someone who you likely don’t care for much.

You have a choice: Spend your time, energy and power to fight with him, or invest that time and energy and power in yourself to earn far more money than he owes you from his 401(k). After all, when it comes to earning and building wealth, the sky is the limit!



Thanksgiving and the power of Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving! This video reflects the power of feeling grateful for all the good things in your life, no matter how small as a means of combatting fear, stress and anger. We've all got something to be grateful for, and it's good to remember this year round, not just at Thanksgiving.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Forgiveness, Gratitude, Tomayto, Tomahto

A person who is able to be accountable can also be held accountable.

On my 30th birthday, I received the gift every girl dreams of. Well, OK, maybe not every girl. Maybe just this girl and a few others I know. It arrived on that unusually sunny February morning in England, gift wrapped in an airmail envelope. I must have sensed at some level that its contents were of a rare and mystical quality because I opened it as if in possession of the holy grail itself.

Inside the envelope, shimmering in all of its golden, legal pad glory, was an agenda-free letter of amends from my ex-boyfriend, containing 2 A4 sides of pure, unadulterated accountability for his part in the demise of our relationship. It was poetry, and it made me feel good for exactly half an hour.

It was no coincidence, in my opinion, that this man subsequently met his soulmate and is now happily married to her. He had done his work and was cleaning house from a place of genuine remorse, free from inappropriate shame but without even a whisper of justification. I could feel his heart on the page and it is for that same reason I believe, that my emotional high that morning lasted for a mere 30 minutes. My house was still cluttered with ungrieved loss, unresolved wounds, and the absence of any real clarity or accountability for my own part in what had happened between us. It took an additional three-and-a-half years for me to return the favour. I’m sure, even then I came nowhere close to doing justice to the letter I’d received.

The sense of liberation that I felt, however, in writing those lines of heartfelt remorse, was a lesson I have subsequently carried with me like a treasure. The lesson that any unresolved pain I carry in my heart can never be liberated by another human being. Even if the scenario in question is a place where my role was entirely that of being a powerless victim. 
Recognition, accountability and even an apology from the so-called offender in question will never set me free. Forgiveness doesn’t come as a result of my offender’s awakening but only as a result of my own.

A couple of years ago, my understanding of why and how forgiveness works in this way deepened when a dear friend turned me on to a life-changing book called Radical Forgiveness. Overnight, my perception of everything transformed from three- to four-dimensional. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone in the clutches of unresolved hurts or a painfully-insistent cycle of being or perceiving themselves as being victimized or persecuted.

The author proposes that everything is happening for us, not to us. The book suggests that our souls have made agreements with one other to act out what we need to experience in order for us to evolve into our whole, actualised selves. So, when your boss routinely passes you over for that promotion, you have, according to Radical Forgiveness, at some level agreed that they would do this for you so that you would learn something about your role in this reoccurring pattern. Maybe you need to learn to value yourself more, to speak up or to risk leaving for a new job elsewhere that is a better match for your skills. Or perhaps you are learning that climbing the career ladder is not a reflection of your worth or a match for the emptiness you feel. Or maybe you have somebody in your life who repeatedly through word or deed implies that you are worthless, of low value, unlovable, not good enough, in some way faulty or wrong etc. Through the lens of this same premise, they are consistently offering you the opportunity to begin, in word and deed, to refute those implications, and to out-grow and heal the origins of those beliefs.

I cannot tell you how many times the following scenario has happened to/for me. I have an unconscious belief that is making my life miserable and blocking me from receiving or feeling joy, abundance, love, or any of the good stuff. And I know that I don’t have the good stuff, but I’m not conscious of the belief that is blocking it or creating the circumstances I’m feeling stuck in. So, as if by magic, a character shows up my life (when the student is ready, the teacher appears), and starts speaking, and or acting out my shadow beliefs, and they do it with complete and utter impunity. Usually, I either fall in love with them or I can’t stand them or a little of both depending on the severity of the belief. But always, at some point, they become intolerable to me, because in truth, what is happening is that they are making my own dysfunctional beliefs conscious, and they are giving me the opportunity to start rejecting them.

This is true of most of us. I reject the person or the situation that is bringing the consciousness alive for me because I don’t want to own that I’m carrying it and that I feel powerless to change. So here’s a better idea: Either they should change, or shut up or go away. But that never works. Because if they do, like clockwork, a new character shows up with the exact same script. Or I keep running the script that the character I amputated was running, round and around in my mind. And on it goes until I, myself, become clear around the beliefs that are no longer serving me.

At the point that I become clear and willing to change, the character who apparently had the contract to do this for me either changes, too or disappears. And it’s isn’t always a case of being shown a shadow belief. Sometimes a situation or person shows up that has something I want, something that I have been denying myself, not allowing myself to want, or not feeling good enough to have. Same principle. They bring to life the pain of the denied desire and all the beliefs that are blocking me from having it. Usually the same process too. 
Immediately I either put the person on a pedestal, ie. deny that they are just showing me an unrealised aspect of myself by making them superior to me. Or I degrade the thing I’m telling myself I don’t want or care about having, or easier still the offending character who has what I want, in an attempt to make it all unconscious again. Until the next time. Because, as we all know, that which we resist, persists!

While in the moment it feels excruciating or even impossible to find the gold in the discomfort—especially whenever a perceived injustice is being enacted in my life—and I want to take the person I see as being the offender and throw them off something very tall with an unforgiving landing ground, I am still almost positive that it is all happening for me, not to me.

Every scenario I believe contains a gift for all parties.

I’ve come to see these interactions less as unwanted confrontation or conflict but as shadow theatre. A performance of characters who appear to be dark but are actually being operated by helping hands with a desire to wake me up somehow. I have my so-called antagonists, the Voldermorts and pretty much anyone with an evil laugh at Disney, who are there to provoke me into growth, and the so called support team, the Sam Wise Ganges, C3POs, and Gandalfs, who are there to inspire and nourish me into growth.

Whichever way you look at it, they’re all on the same side. How or why would Luke ever have discovered his connection to the force and his calling to become a Jedi if it hadn’t been for Darth Vader? Antagonists don’t just make for good stories; they are a necessity of life. I have come to see them as my best friends in disguise. The greater the infraction, the further I will have to travel and expand my capacity for compassion and healing and acceptance. From that perspective, the infraction becomes a gift worthy of gratitude.

Here’s the tricky part: To hold the knowledge of that truth, but to act according to the lessons. In other words, we’re not here to be boundaryless doormats in a state of transcendence around abusive behaviour. Nor should we be renouncing accountability for our own offending behaviour on the premise that we were doing someone a favour in order to help them with their personal growth. Sometimes the lesson is learning to draw the line, say no, or to speak up. Or perhaps it is learning to feel remorse or to be able to process appropriate guilt and shame around our dysfunctional behaviour. This isn’t a perspective designed to transcend accountability or difficult feelings; it is, in fact, the opposite. It is a perspective that takes the cycle of being stuck in shame, blame and waiting in order to get the liberation we need to move on or to grow.

Are apologies really only for the apologiser? I don’t think so. To be on the receiving end of an authentic, heartfelt amends can be a profoundly validating and moving experience. More than that, it seems to me to be the only pathway for deepening intimacy. The expression of authentic accountability and remorse builds trust in a relationship. A person who is able to be accountable can also be held accountable. Often it appears that the stronger and healthier a person’s ego, sense of self-worth, and personal security, the greater their capacity for personal accountability, remorse, and processing appropriate levels of healthy shame, all a necessary part of being available for healthy connection with others.

My closest relationships have all weathered a variety of storms, and been made stronger and more intimate by them. During these times we have earned each other’s trust by taking responsibility for our behaviour, and by demonstrating genuine remorse for the impact of our missteps. The desire to change and do better in the future often makes the parties involved feel valuable and valued. So perhaps this is one of the most powerful ways that intimacy is created. Because while the good times in relationships are wonderful, I wonder if our most intimate bonds are forged during times of difficulty or conflict.

People who have weathered storms together are usually closer than people who have only ever experienced the sunny parts of life together. Most healthy relationships, of course, contain a cocktail of shadow theatre and sunny picnics along with the acceptance that no human being is without dark and light. When I come to view the darkness in myself and others with a grateful and investigative mind, the world and everyone in it becomes more like a friendly school of evolution than a battlefield. While school wasn’t always my favourite place to be, I’d much rather be in class than at war.


Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Choose to Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier.

TWENTY-FOUR years ago this month, my wife and I married in Barcelona, Spain. Two weeks after our wedding, flush with international idealism, I had the bright idea of sharing a bit of American culture with my Spanish in-laws by cooking a full Thanksgiving dinner.
Easier said than done. Turkeys are not common in Barcelona. The local butcher shop had to order the bird from a specialty farm in France, and it came only partially plucked. Our tiny oven was too small for the turkey. No one had ever heard of cranberries.

Over dinner, my new family had many queries. Some were practical, such as, “What does this beast eat to be so filled with bread?” But others were philosophical: “Should you celebrate this holiday even if you don’t feel grateful?”

I stumbled over this last question. At the time, I believed one should feel grateful in order to give thanks. To do anything else seemed somehow dishonest or fake — a kind of bourgeois, saccharine insincerity that one should reject. It’s best to be emotionally authentic, right? Wrong. Building the best life does not require fealty to feelings in the name of authenticity, but rather rebelling against negative impulses and acting right even when we don’t feel like it. In a nutshell, acting grateful can actually make you grateful.

For many people, gratitude is difficult, because life is difficult. Even beyond deprivation and depression, there are many ordinary circumstances in which gratitude doesn’t come easily. This point will elicit a knowing, mirthless chuckle from readers whose Thanksgiving dinners are usually ruined by a drunk uncle who always needs to share his political views. Thanks for nothing.

Beyond rotten circumstances, some people are just naturally more grateful than others. A 2014 article in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience identified a variation in a gene (CD38) associated with gratitude. Some people simply have a heightened genetic tendency to experience, in the researchers’ words, “global relationship satisfaction, perceived partner responsiveness and positive emotions (particularly love).” That is, those relentlessly positive people you know who seem grateful all the time may simply be mutants.
But we are more than slaves to our feelings, circumstances and genes. Evidence suggests that we can actively choose to practice gratitude — and that doing so raises our happiness.

This is not just self-improvement hokum. For example, researchers in one 2003 study randomly assigned one group of study participants to keep a short weekly list of the things they were grateful for, while other groups listed hassles or neutral events. Ten weeks later, the first group enjoyed significantly greater life satisfaction than the others. Other studies have shown the same pattern and lead to the same conclusion. If you want a truly happy holiday, choose to keep the “thanks” in Thanksgiving, whether you feel like it or not.

How does all this work? One explanation is that acting happy, regardless of feelings, coaxes one’s brain into processing positive emotions. In one famous 1993 experiment, researchers asked human subjects to smile forcibly for 20 seconds while tensing facial muscles, notably the muscles around the eyes called the orbicularis oculi (which create “crow’s feet”). They found that this action stimulated brain activity associated with positive emotions.

If grinning for an uncomfortably long time like a scary lunatic isn’t your cup of tea, try expressing gratitude instead. According to research published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, gratitude stimulates the hypothalamus (a key part of the brain that regulates stress) and the ventral tegmental area (part of our “reward circuitry” that produces the sensation of pleasure).

It’s science, but also common sense: Choosing to focus on good things makes you feel better than focusing on bad things. As my teenage kids would say, “Thank you, Captain Obvious.” In the slightly more elegant language of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus, “He is a man of sense who does not grieve for what he has not, but rejoices in what he has.”

In addition to building our own happiness, choosing gratitude can also bring out the best in those around us. Researchers at the University of Southern California showed this in a 2011 study of people with high power but low emotional security (think of the worst boss you’ve ever had). The research demonstrated that when their competence was questioned, the subjects tended to lash out with aggression and personal denigration. When shown gratitude, however, they reduced the bad behavior. That is, the best way to disarm an angry interlocutor is with a warm “thank you.”

I learned this lesson 10 years ago. At the time, I was an academic social scientist toiling in professorial obscurity, writing technical articles and books that would be read by a few dozen people at most. Soon after securing tenure, however, I published a book about charitable giving that, to my utter befuddlement, gained a popular audience. Overnight, I started receiving feedback from total strangers who had seen me on television or heard me on the radio.

One afternoon, I received an unsolicited email. “Dear Professor Brooks,” it began, “You are a fraud.” That seemed pretty unpromising, but I read on anyway. My correspondent made, in brutal detail, a case against every chapter of my book. As I made my way through the long email, however, my dominant thought wasn’t resentment. It was, “He read my book!” And so I wrote him back — rebutting a few of his points, but mostly just expressing gratitude for his time and attention. I felt good writing it, and his near-immediate response came with a warm and friendly tone.

DOES expressing gratitude have any downside? Actually, it might: There is some research suggesting it could make you fat. A new study in the Journal of Consumer Psychology finds evidence that people begin to crave sweets when they are asked to express gratitude. If this finding holds up, we might call it the Pumpkin Pie Paradox.

The costs to your weight notwithstanding, the prescription for all of us is clear: Make gratitude a routine, independent of how you feel — and not just once each November, but all year long.

There are concrete strategies that each of us can adopt. First, start with “interior gratitude,” the practice of giving thanks privately. Having a job that involves giving frequent speeches — not always to friendly audiences — I have tried to adopt the mantra in my own work of being grateful to the people who come to see me.

Next, move to “exterior gratitude,” which focuses on public expression. The psychologist Martin Seligman, father of the field known as “positive psychology,” gives some practical suggestions on how to do this. In his best seller “Authentic Happiness,” he recommends that readers systematically express gratitude in letters to loved ones and colleagues. A disciplined way to put this into practice is to make it as routine as morning coffee. Write two short emails each morning to friends, family or colleagues, thanking them for what they do.

Finally, be grateful for useless things. It is relatively easy to be thankful for the most important and obvious parts of life — a happy marriage, healthy kids or living in America. But truly happy people find ways to give thanks for the little, insignificant trifles. Ponder the impractical joy in Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem “Pied Beauty”:

Glory be to God for dappled things —
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced — fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

Be honest: When was the last time you were grateful for the spots on a trout? More seriously, think of the small, useless things you experience — the smell of fall in the air, the fragment of a song that reminds you of when you were a kid. Give thanks.

This Thanksgiving, don’t express gratitude only when you feel it. Give thanks especially when you don’t feel it. Rebel against the emotional “authenticity” that holds you back from your bliss. As for me, I am taking my own advice and updating my gratitude list. It includes my family, faith, friends and work. But also the dappled complexion of my bread-packed bird. And it includes you, for reading this column.


The Surprising Reasons Why I’m Thankful for My Divorce

It’s Thanksgiving. The time of year when we pause to remember and mark all the things in our life we are thankful for.

I can count so many things this week as I pause to consider what I have to be thankful for. The blessings are way too numerous to count. But one of the things I’m thankful for this year?

I’m thankful for my divorce and the many gifts hidden inside that darkness.

I’m thankful for the friends and family that my divorce has actually brought me closer to.

Sometimes, a difficult situation can bring people together, and my divorce has definitely brought me closer to several friends and family members who reached out during the stress of my divorce. Some had been through a divorce and understood how cut off and alone I felt. Others just sensed that I needed someone.

I’ve reconnected with old friends and the bonds are even stronger because I’ve been so honest and raw about my train wreck of a life.

And I met new people. In real life and online.

I made friends who were in a similar place and bonded over shared concerns of kids, custody and navigating being newly single.

I made friends through my divorce blog, bonding over coffee with other bloggers and shared horror stories of divorce attorneys.

I’m thankful to divorce for teaching me I’m not a wimp.

I used to think that I was weak. I mistook my own kindness and empathy for other people as weakness. Only after soldiering on through divorce. Only after crying all night and wondering if I’d end up living out of the backseat of my Toyota Prius, did I understand the sheer force of my own determination. My own core of steel.

Wimp. No way. Far from it.

Thank you divorce for introducing me to that incredibly strong unshakeable woman who lives within me.

I’m thankful for the unexpected lessons.

I’ve learned so much since my divorce and so many of those lessons were things that I didn’t even know I needed to learn.

I learned how to kill spiders in my daughter’s bedroom.

I learned how to put an IKEA bookcase together.

I learned how to hang curtain rods with my very own drill. (I left way too many holes in the wall on my way to actually drilling the right hole, but the curtains got hung so I’m counting it as a victory.)

I learned how to enjoy sleeping in a bed all alone and not feeling lonely, only blessed.

Remember that haunting song, “Thank You” by Alanis Morissette? I’ve always loved that song but I’m not sure I truly understood the lyrics.

Now I can truly understand the thanks hidden in heartache and the honesty of her lyrics.

Alanis Morrisette, Thank You

How ‘bout me not blaming you for everything
How ‘bout me enjoying the moment for once
How ‘bout how good it feels to finally forgive you
How ‘bout grieving it all one at a time

Thank you India, thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty, thank you consequence
Thank you, thank you, silence

I’ve learned during my divorce, that you can only see the lesson if you are brave enough to look through the sorrow and the sadness. You can only reach understanding if you are willing to wade through the pain.

Can you find a way to be thankful for your heartache?

Can you find a lesson somewhere in the end of your relationship?

Maybe this week especially, see if you can find the lessons to be thankful for that are hidden in your divorce.