Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Children and Divorce: What I Wished My Divorcing Parents Had Known

I was 10 when my parents told me that they were getting a divorce. It’s not like it was a huge surprise or anything. The writing had been on the wall for a long time. But somehow it was still a huge shock to the system when they finally told me the news. I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel. I felt guilty — like it was my fault that it had happened. I felt hurt, angry and betrayed. I felt very sad. I was confused. I had so many questions and things that were really worrying me but I couldn’t find the words I needed to talk to my parents about any of it.

I wanted to share with you some of the things I really wish I had been able to tell my parents at the time. I hope it helps you have a better understanding of what your kids might be going through and what they need to hear from you.

Tell me it’s not my fault.
The thing I remember the most about that time is thinking that it must be my fault. If I’d just tried a bit harder at school... if I’d fought less with my younger brother... if I hadn’t answered back so much... if I’d eaten my vegetables... gone to bed on time... the list went on. I came up with so many different and creative reasons that clearly proved it was my fault that my parents were splitting up. Your children need to know unequivocally that your separation is in no way their fault, and that in fact it has nothing to do with them. They need to hear that this is a decision that you have made because of how you feel about each other, not because they didn’t do their homework!

Tell me that you love me (and that you always will).
Mostly I just wanted my parents to tell me that they loved me very much and that this was something that would never change. Because I was so busy blaming myself for the whole thing, I felt like my parents probably didn’t even like me anymore, let alone love me. How could they when I had caused them to get a divorce! What I really needed to hear from both of my parents was that even though we wouldn’t be living in the same house anymore, they both still loved me and that this would never change. It’s so important for your kids to hear this often when going through a divorce or separation. Children often suffer from separation anxiety during this difficult transition and it’s really important that they have the security of knowing that you both love them unconditionally.

Don’t say bad things about my other parent — I’m half them, remember.
Think about the impact that bad mouthing your ex has on your children. Any criticism leveled at the other parent is also being leveled at your child. They are 50% you and 50% the other parent. Anything negative that you are saying about him or her, you are saying about your children too. Kids can identify characteristics and features in themselves from both parents — this is something they should still get to celebrate and feel good about. However badly the other parent may be behaving, keep the criticisms away from your children.

Also parental alienation can be very damaging to your children and lead to a number of psychological problems for them down the road. So think twice before throwing out a negative comment or withholding visitation. Any attempts to pit your child against the other parent can lead to serious negative effects in your children’s life.

Please don’t tell me how to feel.
We can’t help the way we feel and kids have a harder time than we do regulating their emotions. I remember withdrawing into my own world at the time of my parents’ divorce — somewhere far away from all the bad stuff that was going on. Other kids misbehave and act out in an attempt to get your attention. This bad behavior is a cry for help — they need you to support them through their grief. Lots of children feel a huge sense of loss when one parent moves out. You can’t take this pain away, but it is important to be empathetic to how they are feeling and try to help them process these emotions.

Don’t ask me to be your messenger or your spy.
No kid wants to come home to a barrage of questions about the time they spent with their other parent, or even worse, questions about the other parent’s new life. I remember cringing on the inside when this happened to me. I also remember feeling really guilty when I forgot to pass on an “important” message from my mum to my dad that ended up with them fighting about it next time. Don’t put your kids in this position. They are very busy thinking about their next football game or the homework they haven’t done for tomorrow. Let them spend their time daydreaming and dealing with the important business of growing up.

Find a way to parent together.
I don’t think the term “co-parenting” existed at the time of my parents’ divorce and if it did, my parents certainly didn’t know about it. Find a way to get along with your ex. This is often easier said than done. If it’s not possible to completely bury the hatchet, you need to find a way to be civil to the other parent and do the work you need to do to move past any unresolved negative feelings that you still have. Trust me — your kids will notice and they will thank you for it in the long run.

Most kids want to know that they can contact both parents anytime. When they are at one parent’s house, they want to know that they can call or text the other parent whenever they want. Some parents don’t encourage open access to the other parent because of the anger or hurt they are feeling. I remember what this felt like when I was a child and it wasn’t good!

Do your best to co-parent as a team. You need to put your feelings aside and move forwards. It’s not about you anymore — it’s about always doing what is in the best interests of your children.

What kids really need from you during and after your divorce or separation is your time, your attention, your compassion and your love. Help them to understand that it is you and the other parent who are splitting up with each other, and that neither of you are splitting up with your children.


Tuesday, 27 February 2018

The Conflict Connection: Figuring Out What Makes Your Difficult Ex Tick

Joe was at his wits end. Ever since his divorce he tried to do everything he could think of to get along with his ex, Maria. It seemed like no matter how hard he tried nothing worked.
While they would go through periods where things were fine, it usually didn’t last for long. Eventually Maria would unexpectedly explode over something trivial and a slew of angry email, texts and voicemails would ensue.

When this happened, Joe would usually drop what he was doing and immediately respond to Maria’s outburst. Most of the time Joe did his best to calm Maria down and work things out. If she sent him an accusatory email, he would reply with an equally long email explaining his perspective point by point. Every voicemail and text she left, he would return, resulting in numerous back and forth exchanges and heated debates.

Joe knew none of it was good for his 10-year-old son, Sammy. While he wasn’t willing to be Maria’s doormat, he desperately wanted to do right by his son.

What Joe didn’t get (and most parents don’t) is that he was giving Maria lots of incentive to stir the pot.

When dealing with a contentious ex it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the drama and miss what’s really driving the train. Let’s take another look at our buddy Joe. Every time he and Maria got into a spat, Joe unknowingly was giving Maria exactly what she wanted, his undivided attention. This dynamic is sometimes referred to as negative intimacy. In other words, since Maria no longer passionately loved Joe, she put her energy into passionately agitating Joe. For Maria, the conflict had become the primary outlet for keeping her connection to Joe alive.

Keep in mind that there can be lots of different payoffs for a conflictual ex. For some, it may be the need to feel in control or powerful. Others may try to offset feelings of helplessness while another may use the ongoing conflict to assert a false sense of superiority or importance.

Without a doubt, dealing with the unrelenting antics of a contentious ex can be exhausting. If you’re tired of feeling emotionally drained, frustrated and hopeless, here are a couple of tips for minimizing the BIG payoff and curbing divorce drama.

• Respond don’t react
Just because you share parenting responsibilities doesn’t mean you have to be at your ex’s beck and call 24/7. Aside from emergencies, very few situations require your immediate response. When a demanding email from your ex pops into your inbox, resist the impulse to rifle one back. Instead give yourself some time to consider what the issue is and if it truly requires a response. Remember you don’t need to swing at every pitch your ex tosses your way.

• Stay consistent
If your ex has a track record of playing nice one day and nasty the next, do your best to make your interactions consistent. Regardless of how your ex behaves establish healthy boundaries for day-to-day interactions.

• Be realistic
While it’s fine to hope that some day things will change, be realistic about your situation. 
Come to terms with the fact that you cannot change what your ex does, the choices they make or how they behave. Instead of turning yourself inside out, stay focused on what matters most — how you handle the conflict, the way you process the issues with your kids and limiting the energy that you give to divorce drama.

• It won’t get better overnight
When you repeatedly refuse to take the bait, expect your ex to up the ante. Do your best not to impulsively respond to situations that come up. Over time as you continue to hold your ground chances are your ex’s conflictual behavior will become less frequent and intense.

• Keep your eye on the prize.
Dealing with a contentious ex is without a doubt mentally and emotionally draining. Make sure you have other supports in your life to help you go the distance when your ex is being especially difficult. Often working with a good life coach or counselor can help your gain clarity and emotionally disconnect from the conflict.

Although you may not see the results of your efforts immediately, in the long run staying committed will pay big dividends for your kids.


Friday, 23 February 2018

How to Protect Your Children When Dealing with a Difficult Ex

Divorce is never easy and if you think you will never have to deal with your ex after the divorce; think again if you share children. When divorced couples share children, there is no end to their relationship. This can make moving on rather difficult because not only do you have to deal with the ex, you now have to often deal with all the aspects of him or her that you tried to divorce.

While it sometimes is impossible not to react to a difficult ex, there are ways to find self-control in order to protect the emotions of the children. Sherrie Campbell, PhD, a licensed psychologist, lists some tips to follow if you have a difficult ex:

1. Make your communication to your ex as pithy as possible. Only communicate the necessary information regarding issues with the children.

Try not to communicate anything emotional in front of your children. Just stick to the facts and make the conversation brief.

2. Don’t talk about money or financial issues. Consider eliminating money games by getting wages garnished. Keep all finances private and away from the children as money issues only cause children stress, worry and heartache.

3. Try to keep the communication with your ex private. You can do this through writing emails and text messages or by using programs like My Family Wizard. This will allow you to avoid possible conflict in front of the children and give you a line of documentation to go over with your legal team, if necessary.

4. Use self-control. If your ex responds to your communication with attack, re-read what you sent and see if you communicated all the necessary information. If you have, take the high road. If you receive a manipulative or combative text or email in front of your children, stay calm and rise above it. The emotions of your children are more important than what you cannot solve with your ex at the moment.

5. Be aware of covert and overt manipulation used by your ex to get you upset. Educate yourself on how to strategize so you are prepared and don’t get sucked into a reactive and bashing dispute in front of the children.

6. Respect the custodial schedule by minimizing asking any favors from your ex like switching weekends. This will only be used against you in the future. Consistency is best for the children and do as little switching as possible to maintain a life of predictability for the children.

7. Respect custodial time by limiting your contact with your children to one time daily when they are with your 
ex. Respect their time with the other parent and be supportive in that relationship.

8. Eliminate tensions for the children. Only attend athletic practices and extra-curricular activities on your time and not your ex’s time as this can create tension and conflict. But when there are major events where both parents need to attend, be respectful and non-combative with your ex when in person.

9. Show your children you can be cordial and socially warm to your ex. This in turn sets an example for your children to be kind, mature and respectful to the other parent and will alleviate uncomfortable tensions and the creation of loyalty conflicts.

10. Only worry about your own life and not your ex’s. Let your ex be free to be whoever he or she is as there is no way to control his or her life. After all, you are divorced. Be yourself, be mindful of your own business and respect the emotions of your children.

Focus on the best interests of your children first and then yourself. Children usually have a multitude of questions. Talk to your children and answer their questions honestly. Don’t be negative. When dealing with your ex, let go of the need to control, the need to defend and the need to fight. If your ex chooses to hate you, either overtly or covertly, then let it be. 
Take the high road; be cordial, mature and loving and be the peacemaker. This creates a safe haven for your children.

Love your children and create as little drama as possible by being the peacemaker. The truth of your ex will likely come to them in time. It’s best to let them discover it on their own. Just remember, your ex spouse is still their mother or father and will always be. Connecting with him or her through hate only divides whereas love binds. Children do better when they have both parents and when those parents are not fighting.


Thursday, 22 February 2018

Divorce And Kids: 5 Ways Divorce Benefits Kids

Contrary to popular belief, divorce isn’t always negative for kids — sometimes it’s excellent for kids. Here are five ways that your children can benefit from your divorce:

1. When Mommy and Daddy are happier as individuals, their kids will be too. When there’s ugliness between the couple, no one’s happy. Once the halves of the couple move on and find their grounding, each one as an individual has the opportunity to be happier than ever. 
When children have a happy mom and dad, they’ll do much better.

2. When the tension dissolves out of the house, kids will be more relaxed. Children are like barometers. You can measure the level of tension in the air by their behavior. Once the split happens and the nasty intensity in the environment fades, watch how the children’s behavior follows.

3. When you model that you deserve to be in a satisfying and supportive relationship, you model something wonderful to your kids. If you stay in a bad relationship “for the kids,” don’t fool yourself that the kids will really benefit. Although there will be certainly be an adjustment when you divorce, the end result is positive. You’re showing your children not to settle for an unhealthy marriage.

4. With shared custody, kids have the opportunity to experience each parent as a full and competent parent. Usually when both parents are together, one of them takes on most of the nurturing and/or logistical planning. After a divorce, the children can have each parent completely focusing on them with the time they have together. They can also see each parent fully taking care of home business.

5. There’s the potential for your kids to either witness you being happy on your own or finding a better partner, both of which are a good thing. Whether or not you decide to pair up with another mate, your kids can benefit by watching your joyful independence or new positive relationship. Either way, your children will benefit.

So, if you were thinking this article would be about the horrors your children will experience if you divorce, at this point you’re either hugely disappointed or greatly relieved. What’s most important to remember is your newfound single life after divorce is what you make it — and your children’s attitude and well-being will follow suit


Wednesday, 21 February 2018

The Do's and Don'ts of Co-Parenting Well

Effective problem solving can help you avoid getting depressed.

Living with a chronic condition, like depression, requires you to focus on creating balance and well-being on a daily basis. For those who are separated, divorced or sharing custody of a child, the struggles of co-parenting can produce enormous stressors.

Co-parenting, sometimes called joint parenting or shared parenting, is the experience of raising children as a single parent when separation or divorce occurs. Often a difficult process, co-parenting is greatly influenced by the reciprocal interactions of each parent. So, if you're parenting in a healthy way but your Ex isn't, your children will be at risk for developmental problems. Same goes if you're being too permissive and your Ex is too stern. 
Co-parenting requires empathy, patience and open communication for success. Not an easy thing to achieve for couples who've encountered marital issues. However, placing the sole focus on your children can be a great way of helping to make co-parenting a positive experience. Here are some tips.

Two Ways of Problem Solving
When co-parenting, there are two problem solving techniques to keep in mind: Strategic problem-solving and Social-psychological problem solving.

Strategic problem-solving model looks just at the issues at hand. The behavioral aspects of your child's problem are highlighted as is the co-parenting trouble spots. Do not address the emotional reasons why problems are happening. As co-parents you will identify the problem and negotiate choices and solutions as objectively as possible. Strategic problem solving directs each parent to resolve conflict through a careful approach of 1) exchanging information about needs and priorities, 2) building upon shared concerns, 3) and searching for solutions. This is done without getting into yours or your Ex's emotional needs, wants and desires.

Social-psychological problem solving is a more emotional way of resolving issues. The focus here looks at your attitudes and the emotional reasons for co-parenting blind spots. 
While the social-psychological model, like the strategic model, assumes that parenting conflicts are bound to arise, it differs from the strategic model by focusing on the psychological factors that drive conflict and negotiation impasses. Talking with your Ex using this model can be tough, and it's okay if you never reach this way of problem solving. But if you do, remember not to be accusatory or critical. Invite your Ex to see your side with empathy, compassion and authentic concern for the children.

  • Commit to making co-parenting an open dialogue with your Ex. Arrange to do this through email, texting, voicemail, letters or face to face conversation. There are even websites where you can upload schedules, share information and communicate so you and your Ex don't have to directly touch base.
  • Rules should be consistent and agreed upon at both households. As much as they fight it, children need routine and structure. Issues like meal time, bed time, and completing chores need to consistent. The same goes for school work and projects. Running a tight ship creates a sense of security and predictability for children. So no matter where your child is, he or she knows that certain rules will be enforced. "You know the deal, before we can go to the movies, you gotta get that bed made."
  • Commit to positive talk around the house. Make it a rule to frown upon your children talking disrespectfully about your Ex even though it may be music to your ears.
  • Agree on boundaries and behavioral guidelines for raising your children so that there's consistency in their lives, regardless of which parent they're with at any given time. Research shows that children in homes with a unified parenting approach have greater well-being.
  • Create an Extended Family Plan. Negotiate and agree on the role extended family members will play and the access they'll be granted while your child is in each other's charge.
  • Recognize that co-parenting will challenge you - and the reason for making accommodations in your parenting style is NOT BECAUSE YOUR EX WANTS THIS OR THAT, but for the needs of your children.
  • Be Aware of Slippery Slopes. Be aware that children will frequently test boundaries and rules, especially if there's a chance to get something they may not ordinarily be able to obtain. This is why a united front in co-parenting is recommended.
  • Be boring. Research shows that children need time to do ordinary things with their less-seen parent, not just fun things.
  • Update often. Although it may be emotionally painful, make sure that you and your Ex keep each other informed about all changes in your life, or circumstances that are challenging or difficult. It is important that your child is never, ever, ever the primary source of information.
  • Go for the high notes. Each of you has valuable strengths as a parent. Remember to recognize the different traits you and your Ex have - and reinforce this awareness with your children. Speaking positively about your Ex teaches children that despite your differences, you can still appreciate positive things about your Ex. "Mommy's really good at making you feel better when you're sick. I know, I'm not as good as she is." It also directs children to see the positive qualities in his or her parent too. "Daddy's much better at organizing things than I am."
  • Don't burden your child. Emotionally charged issues about your Ex should never be part of your parenting. Never sabotage your child's relationship with your Ex by trash talking. Never use your child to gain information about things going on or to sway your Ex about an issue. The main thing here is this: Don't expose children to conflict. Research shows that putting children in the middle of your adult issues promotes feelings of helplessness and insecurity, causing children to question their own strengths and abilities.
  • Don't jump to conclusions or condemn your Ex. When you hear things from your children that make you bristle, take a breath and remain quiet. Remember that any negative comments your children make are often best taken with a grain of salt. It's always good to remain neutral when things like this happen. Research shows that your child can learn to resent and distrust you if you cheer them on.
  • Don't be an unbalanced parent. Resist being the fun guy or the cool mom when your children are with you. Doing so backfires once they return to your Ex - and sets into motion a cycle of resentment, hostility and a reluctance to follow rules for all involved. Remember that children develop best with a united front. Co-parenting with a healthy dose of fun, structure and predictability is a win-win for everyone.
  • Don't give into guilt. Divorce is a painful experience, and one that conjures up many emotions. Not being in your child's life on a full time basis can cause you to convert your guilt into overindulgence. Understand the psychology of parental guilt - and how to recognize that granting wishes without limits is never good. Research shows that children can become self-centered, lack empathy and believe in the need to get unrealistic entitlement from others. Confusion understanding the dynamics of need versus want, as well as taming impulsivity becomes troublesome for children to negotiate too.
  • Don't punish your Ex by allowing your child to wiggle out of responsibility.Loosening the reigns because you just want to be a thorn in your Ex's side is a big no-no. "I know Mommy likes you to get your homework done first, but you can do that later." "Don't tell Daddy I gave you the extra money to buy the video game you've been working towards." If you need to get your negative emotions out, find another outlet. Voodoo dolls, skeet shooting and kick boxing can yield the same results, but with less of a parenting mess. Remember, work before play is a golden rule - and one that will help your child throughout their lifetime. Making sure to be consistent helps your child transition back and forth from your Ex - and back and forth to you too.
  • Don't accuse. Discuss. Never remain quiet if something about your Ex's co-parenting is troubling you. If you don't have a good personal relationship with your Ex, create a working business arrangement. Communication about co-parenting is extremely vital for your child's healthy development. No finger pointing or you-keep-doing-this kind of talk. The best approach when communicating is to make your child the focal point: "I see the kids doing this-and-that after they return home from their visit. Any ideas of what we can do?" Notice there's not one "you" word in there. No accusatory tone or finger-pointing either.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Coping With a Difficult Ex-Spouse

These 10 tips will help you in your discouragement.

Wouldn’t it be nice if adults could remember that parenting is not about them, and that it is about the children? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the pain of the broken personal relationships of the past could be kept separate from the practical parental concerns of the present? 
Wouldn’t it be nice ...

Yes, it would. But sometimes people aren’t nice.

Dealing with a difficult ex-spouse can be very discouraging and defeating. Yet we are called to continue trying to pursue good, to “turn the other cheek,” and “walk the extra mile.” Hopefully the following tips can aid you in your efforts to cope:

1. Be sure to notice your own part of the ongoing conflict. Christian ex-spouses, for example, often feel justified in their anger toward their irresponsible ex-spouses. It’s easy, then, to also feel justified in your efforts to change him or her in whatever ways you feel are morally or practically necessary. Unfortunately, this sense of “rightness” often blinds good-hearted Christians from seeing just how their own behavior contributes to the ongoing cycle of conflict. Any time you try to change a difficult ex-spouse—even if for understandable moral reasons—you inadvertently invite hostility or a lack of cooperation in return. Learn to let go of what you can’t change so you don’t unknowingly keep the between-home power struggles alive.

2. Stepparents should communicate a non-threatening posture to the same-gender ex-spouse. An ex-wife, for example, may continue negativity because she is threatened by the presence of the new stepmother. It is helpful if the stepmother will communicate the following either by phone or e-mail: “I just want you to know that I value your role with your children and I will never try to replace you. You are their mother and I’m not. I will support your decisions with the children, have them to your house on time, and never talk badly about you to the children. You have my word on that.” This helps to alleviate the need of the biological mother to bad-mouth the stepparent or the new marriage in order to keep her children’s loyalties.

3. Keep your “business meetings” impersonal to avoid excessive conflict. Face-to-face interaction has the most potential for conflict. Use the phone when possible or even talk to the ex-spouse’s answering machine if personal communication erupts into arguments. Use e-mail or faxes when possible. Keep children from being exposed to negative interaction when it’s within your power.

4. Use a script to help you through negotiations. This strategy has helped thousands of parents. Before making a phone call, take the time to write out your thoughts including what you’ll say and not say. Also, anticipate what the other might say that will hurt or anger you. Stick to the business at hand and don’t get hooked into old arguments that won’t be solved with another fight. (For more on how to do this, see the “Be Prepared by Borrowing a Script and Sticking to It” section of the free Common Steps for Co-Parents e-booklet.)

5. Whenever possible, agree with some aspect of what your ex-spouse is suggesting. This good business principle applies in parenting as well. Even if you disagree with the main point, find some common ground.

6. Manage conversations by staying on matters of parenting. It is common for the conversations of “angry associate” co-parents to gravitate back toward negative personal matters of the past. Actively work to keep conversations focused on the children. If the conversation digresses to old marital junk, say something like, “I’d rather we discuss the schedule for this weekend. Where would you like to meet?” If the other continues to shift the conversation back to hurtful matters assertively say, “I’m sorry. I’m not interested in discussing us again. Let’s try this again later when we can focus on the weekend schedule.” Then, politely hang up the phone or walk away. Come back later and try again to stay on the parenting subject at hand.

7. When children have confusing or angry feelings toward your ex, don’t capitalize on their hurt and berate the other parent. Listen and help them explore their hurt feelings. If you can’t make positive statements about the other parent, strive for neutral ones. Let God’s statutes offer any necessary indictments on a parent’s behaviour.

8. Remember that for children, choosing sides stinks! Children don’t want to compare their parents or choose one over the other. They simply want your permission to love each of you. This is especially important when the two of you can’t get along.

9. Wrestle with forgiveness. Hurt feelings from the past are the number one reason your ex—and you—overreact with one another. Do your part by striving to forgive your ex-spouse for the offenses of the past (and present). This will help you manage your emotions when dealing with him or her in the present.

10. Work hard to respect the other parent and his or her household. For your kids’ sake, find ways of being respectful even if you honestly can’t respect your ex-spouse’s lifestyle or choices. Do not personally criticize the ex-spouse, but don’t make excuses for the behavior either.


Monday, 19 February 2018

5 Common Post Divorce Parenting Mistakes

Co-parenting is fraught with problems. After divorce or separation, emotions can run high which can make it hard for parents to cooperate with each other and focus on what is best for their children. You will make mistakes. We all do. What’s really important is having the ability to recognize when you’ve made a mistake and take the necessary steps to make amends. Not only does this give your kids a positive role model to follow when they face difficult situations in life, but it shows them that you will do everything possible to be the best parent you can.

There are many things that can go wrong when co-parenting. Here are 5 of the most common mistakes parents make and some suggestions of what you can do when you make these mistakes:

1) Losing your temper
One of the hardest parts of co-parenting after divorce is learning how to put aside your own emotions and focus solely on your children, their needs and what’s best for them. As a co-parent there will be times when you lose your temper. Aside from your children, your co-parent knows how to push your buttons like no other person. There will be times when they say and do things that set off your triggers, cloud your judgement and your ability to be mindful of your behavior and emotions. Sometimes this will be your fault, sometimes theirs.

What can you do? When you’re the one in the wrong, say so. Always apologize, even if the other parent doesn’t reciprocate when they are in the wrong. Not only will this take the fuel out of the fire, you will be showing your children how to deal with conflict and the importance of being able to admit when you are in the wrong. An added bonus is that you might start building some bridges and your co-parent might model similar behavior. Try to avoid conflict by keeping conversations limited to parenting and try to avoid being pulled into an emotionally charged conversation about past wrongs. Try to really listen to the other parent’s point of view and if you still disagree, then work to find a compromise that works for both of you.

2) Making it more about the power struggle than the children
After divorce or separation, emotions are charged. There are times when even the most well-intentioned parent will inadvertently use their child as a way of getting back at their ex. Often parents compete to be the “fun” parent by breaking rules or buying gifts. We all want to make our children happy and staying up late to eat ice cream or a taking trip to the toy store are both quick and easy ways to achieve this. Another common mistake is refusing to compromise when it comes to requested changes to the parenting schedule. Parents often justify these special requests as “unreasonable” or complain that they weren’t given enough notice. Point scoring between parents is an easy trap to fall into and sometimes it can be hard to recognize this behavior in yourself.

What can you do? New toys or possessions are not a very good replacement for your time, love or attention. Kids will see through this very quickly and either judge you for it or manipulate you (or both). What kids really need from you is love, stability and consistency and a positive parenting relationship between you and the other parent. Try to be flexible wherever possible if the other parent needs to change the schedule or wants to see the kids on their birthday, for example. Always try to put yourself in their position and think about what you would want if the tables were turned.

3) Using your child as a messenger or asking your child to choose sides
A common mistake by divorced parents is to communicate through your children. After your divorce or separation is finalized, you might want to have as little contact with your ex as possible. But your parenting relationship will continue for some time and there are still things you need to communicate about. It’s easy to see your child as a way to pass messages between you and the other parent and it can seem harmless enough to ask them to pass a note or tell them you are going to be late for pick up today. But you are literally putting your child in the middle and asking them to be mature enough to deal with the emotional response from the other parent. It’s also showing them that there is still conflict between the two of you and your child will inevitably feel torn. Another trap parents fall into is asking your child to choose a side when there is a scheduling conflict or who to spend Christmas with this year. You may think you are being fair by giving them the choice but you are putting the responsibility on your children to make your grown up decisions.

What can you do? This is a simple rule to follow: never ask your children to convey a message to the other parent or to communicate on your behalf. Find a way to communicate that works for you: if you can’t face speaking to your ex face-to-face or over the phone, then use a co-parenting communication tool so that you can communicate effectively and in a child-centered way. And don’t put your kids in a position where you are asking them to pick a side. It is inappropriate and simply not fair.

4) Fighting in front of your children or criticizing the other parent to your children
Bad habits are hard to break. Before your divorce or separation, it’s likely that you argued in front of your kids. This can be a hard pattern to get out of and it’s all too easy to fall straight back into the trap of blame and anger if the other parent consistently picks up late or forgets to bring your child’s backpack on a Sunday evening. You may also find yourself making comments like “that’s just like your father” or “That’s typical! Your mom’s late again! Now I’m going to be late”. However it’s important to know that these bad habits are amongst the most damaging for kids of divorce so it’s important to minimize this behavior as much as you possibly can. And ideally, stop it completely.

What can you do? Find an outlet where you can process your feelings and express yourself freely - your friends, a therapist, a divorce coach or support group. Develop some coping mechanisms so that when you interact with the other parent, you are able to do so in a calm and rational way without letting your emotions get the better of you. Also keep in mind that your kids identify character traits in themselves from both parents so when you are leveling criticisms at your co-parent, you are leveling at your children too.

5) Avoiding communication with the other parent
If your divorce was difficult or contentious, chances are you did most of your communicating with each other through Family Law Professionals. It can be hard to break this cycle and start communicating directly with each other again about schedules, school, homework, shared expenses, doctors appointments and everything else that comes along with parenting on a daily basis. Parents who have got used to communicating via a third party can find it a real struggle to turn the page and start communicating one-to-one again as co-parents.

What can you do? Children do best when parents are able to establish a respectful and cooperative relationship. To achieve this, you will need to find a way to transition from your spousal relationship to a more business-like relationship, focused solely on your children and their needs. Be respectful and communicate in the same way as you would with a colleague. If you feel that you are unable to communicate effectively with your co-parent face-to-face, then using a tool such as coparently can really help to facilitate a business-like relationship and help to keep things child-focused and on topic.

How can you avoid making these co-parenting mistakes?

Know your triggers
Spend some time understanding your triggers. Are you annoyed by late pick-ups? Do you get angry about a lack of discipline in the other parent’s house? Fed up with clothes and belongings being lost or frustrated by the eye roll? Once you have worked out what sets you off, you can be mindful of your response when faced with these triggers and make a conscious and positive choice to respond in a calm and measured way.

Set ground rules that you can both fully commit to
Work together to create a set of ground rules that cannot be broken, like a business contract between the two of you. Be sure to do this at a time when neither parent is upset or angry. These ground rules may include things like, don’t use the children as messengers, don’t argue in front of the kids and don’t bad mouth the other parent in front of the children.
Have a strategy for when things don’t go to plan

Once you have agreed on the ground rules, work out a plan of action for when one parent breaks the rules. Basically you need to give each other permission to hold the other parent accountable and to state when a parent breeches your agreement. You might agree to say something like “let’s try to keep within our ground rules.” It’s helpful if you have a contingency plan if one parent is too upset. Perhaps you can agree that the best course of action in this circumstance is to stop the discussion and pick it up again when both parents are feeling calm. We all have bad days - make sure you have a plan in place to deal with them when they happen.

When you’re in the wrong and you feel sorry about something, make sure you apologize sincerely. Apologizing can really turn your co-parenting relationship around and help to move you to a more business-like and civil relationship, rather than an adversarial one.

Parenting after divorce or separation is rarely easy. There will be times when your anger or emotions get the better of you. When this happens, remember your commitment to your children, take ownership of your own actions and do the best you can to put your children first and to learn from the mistakes you make.


Saturday, 17 February 2018

How To Stop Settling And Have A Great Life After Divorce

In order to surround yourself with what you love you have to stop settling for what you don’t.
One of the realizations you’ve probably had as you’ve been healing from your divorce is that you learned to accept less than you wanted during your marriage.

Obviously, you accepted less honest communication, less meaningful connection and less unconditional love than you wanted and deserved or else you’d still be married. But in the name of compromise (or keeping the peace) you also accepted other things that you didn’t really want or like: the nagging, the yelling, the strained relationship with your in-laws, or even the color of your bedroom.

So here’s the great news. Now you can stop settling! But not just on the things that you settled for for the sake of your marriage. Now you can stop settling for everything. You can create your life after divorce full of things, relationships, behaviors and experiences that you love.

However, before you can fully create a life you love you need to learn how to stop settling.

Whenever you ignore your preferences and choose something just because it’s what’s available now and not because you love it, you’re settling. Whenever you do something because it’s easy and not because it’s what you really want to do, you’re settling. Whenever you accept someone’s poor behavior without saying something about it, you’re settling.

It’s important to recognize what settling is because it’s an insidious habit. It’s easy to put your preferences or feelings to the side for the sake of someone else. And why do you do that? So those other people can have what they want!

Well, it’s time for you to have what you want out of life. Since no one is going to just hand it to you on a silver platter, it’s time for you to stop settling and create the great life after divorce that you deserve.

When you stop to think about it, settling feels bad. You feel diminished and less than the person you’re allowing to have their way. If it goes on too long, you wind up feeling victimized and unworthy of what you really want out of life.

Now that you know how settling feels and what its impact is in your life, you can begin to eliminate settling from your life.

Start by taking a good look at your possessions. Are there things you need to purge because you feel bad just looking at them or you feel bad when you use them? Those are the things you’ve allowed into your life that you don’t really want. Those are the things you’re settling for.

But don’t think you have to purge or replace all of that stuff at the same time. You can do it in phases (and as your budget allows). Maybe you’ll start by getting rid of all the pens you have that don’t write well. Maybe you’ll start by throwing out all the underwear that you’d never want someone else to see you in.

The important thing here isn’t how quickly you eliminate all the things you’ve been settling for, but that you begin purging them and have a plan for how to replace (or live without) all of them.

After you’ve cut your teeth with getting rid of the things that you’ve settled for, you can start looking at how you’re settling in other areas of your life. Some of the other areas for you to consider are your relationships, your behaviors and habits as well as your job.

What you’ll quickly discover as you eliminate more and more of the things, relatio
nships, behaviors, and experiences you’ll feel lighter. Your world will seem happier and more comforting because you’re only surrounding yourself with people, places, things and experiences that you want. And THAT will guarantee that your life after divorce is way better than it was before you divorced.


Thursday, 15 February 2018

3 Reasons Infidelity Often Leads To Divorce

Will Infidelity Break Your Marriage Beyond Repair?

Infidelity leads to divorce and is probably the single most damaging thing that can happen to a marriage. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most common problems a married couple will face. Statistics vary on this subject, but it's widely reported that 60% of men and 40% of women will participate in an extramarital affair at some point during their married life.
If you are experiencing infidelity in your marriage, all the statistics in the world probably mean nothing. Right now, all you can think about is the way infidelity has and is affecting you. If you are normal, you are experiencing a wide range of emotions and, you might fear that you are loosing your sanity because of the deep, negative, emotional impact of infidelity.
It’s the depth of betrayal and emotional pain that often leads to divorce after infidelity. Such negative emotions are hard to put behind you and many people feel there is no way to rebuild trust in the marriage.
If you have found yourself in this situation, take heart, your negative emotions will eventually fade and your life will become normal again. If, for that to happen, you need to divorce, then you are among the majority. That is exactly how most people deal with infidelity in their marriages.
Below Are 3 Reasons Infidelity Leads To Divorce:
1. Denial of The Problem:
This is a very normal first reaction, and most of people will spend some time simply refusing to believe that their spouse is involved with someone else, no matter how compelling the evidence may be. However, try to be honest with yourself, accept what has happened. Only through honesty and clarity can you get through this, no matter what ultimately happens with your marriage.
Infidelity is usually the result of problems in the marriage. If you can't accept your spouse's infidelity, you are left with more problems that you started with. You have to be able to deal, in a healthy manner, the cheating and the problems that lead to the cheating. 
2. Inappropriately Expressed Anger:
You will find yourself experiencing anger you didn’t know you were capable of feeling. An affair attacks the very foundation of our day to day life, robbing us of our security, violating the vows we took when we married, and stripping away all the peace of mind we get from being married.
It is normal to feel mad at your spouse and at the affair partner who has invaded your marriage. Nevertheless, this is also one of the more destructive emotions you'll be working through, so it is important to try and keep it under control. Whether you want to save your marriage or, move on via divorce, anger expressed in a negative manner will keep you from doing either. 
Learn how to use the anger you feel in a constructive manner.
3. Feelings of Rejection:
It's impossible to not feel personally rejected when you find that your spouse has replaced you with another. Your self-esteem will hit an all time low at some point before you recover.
Turn to your friends and family for strength. And, without a doubt, you should not define your desirability based on the fact your spouse cheated. 
Try to surround yourself with those people who love and respect you, draw strength from their feelings towards you, and try not to allow yourself to believe you are unworthy of love just because of the actions of your spouse. Try to understand that your spouse took the actions they did because they are struggling to solve their own personal problems. It is not necessarily your fault, and you are no less a person because your spouse committed adultery
Everyone will experience the unfaithfulness of a spouse differently. This list, though it isn’t complete, is a starting place and will help you understand some of the emotions you are feeling. It’s important to know that your reaction to infidelity is normal and to understand that you may feel different emotions at different times.
If you decide to divorce, the range of emotions you feel will become wider. Therefore, it is imperative that you develop good coping skills to get you through, not only the infidelity but also the divorce process.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

5 Things I Learned From Falling In Love After Divorce

It’s been just over two years since my divorce was finalized. Everything about my life has changed, and I’ll be brutally honest: There were times I thought I wasn’t going to make it. Divorce may be common, but that doesn’t make it any less sad or difficult. I’ve seen rock bottom, and it’s not a pretty place.

My heart goes out to anyone going through divorce right now.

But oh, my heart...

She’s happy these days, and falling in love post-divorce has filled me with a hope I need to share.

I promise, it’s well worth hanging in there through the darkness.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1. You can be 17 again.
In the wake of my divorce, I felt certain I would never fall in love again. (Hell, I swore to it before many a bartender!) For so long, every molecule of me ached with the pain of being discarded, considered less of an asset than the material things the ex and I divvied up in a court of law. My love for that guy seemed a girlish folly I’d best never repeat. But in time, after lots (lots!) of awkward attempts at dating, things so easily clicked into place with a wonderful new someone, my fears slipped away. I found myself tumbling head over heels with all the fervor and bliss of a teenager. Puppy love — at 40-something and post-divorce — is possible. Who knew?

2. Swimming in the shallows is a thing of the past.
Okay, okay — I called it “puppy love,” but there’s a deep dive that happened after that giddy initial fall. Maybe people who’ve suffered failed marriages appreciate the little things more. Maybe they just appreciate being appreciated. Whatever the case, I’ve enjoyed a whole new level of connection and affection in my relationship, and my unofficial poll of divorced-and-re-partnered friends suggests this is an actual thing. One friend said it best, “We treasure each other — and we let each other know.”

3. The sins of the ex must not be visited upon the new love.

Oh, this one’s a doozy! It’s a delicate balance, learning the lessons of a failed marriage, while keeping the heart open to a new and unique relationship. The red flags you missed before can leave you seeing them waving wildly all over the place — trust me, I know. The trick is to remember that you are dealing with an entirely different person. No one deserves to pay for others’ mistakes. And you’re not even the same person you were. You’ve grown, changed, and need to let the past remain where it belongs: in the past.

4. Communication is key — and it’s more readily available than ever post-divorce.
Here’s a silver lining I found in dating after divorce: most divorced folks have learned the hard way that silence is deadly. Talk to any of them for more than five minutes, and odds are you’ll find out that what killed their marriage wasn’t necessarily the underlying issues, but their inability to discuss them peacefully and productively as a couple. That’s a tough truth with a lesson that sticks.

5. The song is correct. You really can’t hurry love.
Some things take time. Healing from the pain of divorce and being ready for new love is one of those things. If, like me, you’re used to making things happen, this is a tough pill to swallow. Worse, there’s no way of knowing if it will take two years or 10 to regroup and find another kindred spirit. But once you get there, to that wonderful place of feeling genuine love for someone new, you’ll know in your soul there was no other path you could have taken, no way to speed things up.

You’ll realize you’ve arrived in just the right arms at just the right time.

And your heart?

You’ll know she’s a brave, resilient thing, happily entrusted to loving hands.


What do you love about your life?

Valentines Day, a day typically associated with love and romance can be among those difficult days if we're working through Divorce or Separation. Negativity and upset can be triggered by the day.

Even if we're not in a romantic relationship, it's a good prompt to have a think about what we love about our life anyway, and to feel grateful for those things. It helps to keep us grounded in the present, and to appreciate the things we have going for us in the here and now without becoming bogged down in the past or the future.

If you'd like to learn more about the services we provide or the products available, simply explore this blog or follow the link below to our Facebook page

Monday, 12 February 2018

When Divorce or Separation Turns Ugly

Ending a long term relationship is always hard but sometimes it gets ugly – really ugly – despite the most courageous efforts for it to be otherwise.
It doesn’t always take two to tango – unless you count one to set the pace and one to get dragged along in a savage tailwind. Of course, when there are two people acting to maim, the ugliness will be all the uglier, but it only takes one person being nasty, unreasonable and manipulative to turn a relationship malignant.

Ending a bad relationship doesn’t make the toxicity immediately wash away. Sometimes it will get worse before it gets better but always, if the relationship was a bad one, it will be worth it. Walking away takes self-respect, self-love and courage and is the only way to position yourself (and your kids if you have them) for the life you deserve.
You can’t change other people, but you would know that by now – it’s probably this wisdom that walked you out the door. If your divorce has turned into a slugfight, there are ways to look after yourself (and your kids) until you reach solid ground – which you will.

1. Be honest. And don’t let them change you.

This is important. It’s also really hard. Ask yourself, with an open heart, if you’re doing everything you can to be reasonable. None of us are perfect and a divorce can make the best of us act … how to put it without losing you … in ways that we might not be proud of.

If I’m being honest (and this is the time for it) I’m not divorced but I can tell you that I’ve had fights with my husband where I’ve been a bit of an arse for a day or so following – not because he’s deserved it, but because I’ve felt so jaded. It may have happened more than once. But definitely probably less than 10 50. I’m sure it will happen again. High emotion, shame and heartache can steal you – I know – but don’t hand over your dignity by acting in ways that are beneath you. Sometimes it’s the only thing they can’t touch. Be honest, brave and always self-respectful. If you’re acting like someone you wouldn’t want to go camping with, stop.

2. A divorce is many things. Failure is not one of them.

The end of a relationship doesn’t mean your decision to be with your ex-partner in the first place was flawed. The success of a relationship isn’t determined by how long it lasts. The investment of love and energy in a relationship will always be worth it, but it won’t necessarily guarantee forever. The past is the past and sometimes love, time, commitment and desire don’t stretch as far ahead in years as we’d like them to – and that’s okay.

People change. Circumstances change. Relationships change. In a Harvard study, psychology researcher Daniel Gilbert and colleagues found that people underestimate how much they will change in the future. We change a lot. Sometimes it’s in the same direction as the person we love and sometimes we veer sharply in a different one. Sometimes we wake up next to each other and realise we couldn’t be further apart. It happens. It’s part of being human.

3. You don’t have to do it all. You just have to do enough.

Life changes sharply when a relationship breaks down. You don’t have to do everything the way you used to. You don’t have to do everything, fullstop. You just have to do enough. Figure out what that looks like and go with it. You deserve the freedom that comes from that.

4. See the response of your ex-partner for what it is.

When a marriage or relationship breaks down it will likely bring shame, and breathe life into every fear of not being good enough, normal enough, successful enough and perhaps most heartbreakingly, loveable enough. People have all sorts of responses to shame, some of which are completely unfathomable to those of us looking in from the outside. When shame is involved, people will do anything to protect themselves. Here are a few. You might also recognise some in yourself from time to time.The more awareness you have around what you’re doing, the more capacity you’ll have to stop it:

♦ They might be cruel.

If you were the one to leave, there’s probably been a shift in power from your ex-partner to you. It’s likely he or she will be feeling disempowered, ineffective and small. Cruelty is an attempt to reverse this by shrinking you. You can’t stop them trying. But you can stop it working.

♦ They might criticise your choices and accuse you of being out of control.

You’re not out of control – just out of their control. Any choice you make in independence will send a message like a slap that yor’re no longer under their influence. As with anything, when what people have always done (control, disrespect, manipulate) stops working, they will do it even more before they stop. It’s human nature. Hold tight and keep going.

♦ They might manipulate.

Manipulation is a way for people to get what they want without being rejected, by taking away the option to say, ‘no’. For people who manipulate, ‘no’ doesn’t feel like a rejection of a request, it feels like a rejection of them. As a result, they’ll do whatever is necessary to get their needs met without putting themselves in the position of being rejected. You might not be together any more, but you’ll still have things that they want – the kids, attention, co-operation, your happiness, your power. Sadly for some people your disrespect will be easier to handle than your ‘no’.

♦ They might get angry.

Anger always exists to protect more vulnerable feelings such grief, fear or inadequacy from pushing to the surface. When a relationship ends, there will be feelings of deep loss, sadness and disconnection that can feel frighteningly bottomless. It’s much easier to attach these intense feelings to a target (you) than to acknowledge them..

♦ They might try to control you.

All control is an attempt to relieve anxiety – around uncertainty, around not getting what they want, about things not going to (their) plan, about losing you. It’s not the best way to go about it and there are plenty of people who deal with their anxiety without needing to control people, but some people don’t know how to do it any other way.

5. Just because it feels bad to stay, doesn’t mean it will feel good to leave.

Even if it’s a change that’s going to be good for you, there will still be huge life adjustments that need to be made. Don’t take bad feelings as a stop sign. You’re acting with courage and positioning yourself for what you deserve – a life filled with love, happiness and security. Keep going. Take the discomfort as evidence of the gap between the life you’ve been living and the life you’re about to. That’s a good thing. You deserve more than you’ve had.

6. Kids: The opportunity to teach them.

If you have kids, know that you’re teaching important lessons, no matter what. Even if your ex partner is being a toxic, nasty, manipulative [insert your own word here], the way you deal with that will model important life lessons for your kids. If everything is always honey and roses, kids won’t have as many opportunities to learn about the challenges that come with living life. Here are some of the lessons you’ll be teaching:

They’ll see: A relationship gone bad.

Teach them: ‘The good ones are worth the greatest risk. The bad ones always have something to teach. It’s always okay to walk away.’

They’ll see: Their other parent is good to them and awful to you.
Teach them: ‘You won’t get on with everyone – and that’s okay. You don’t have. It doesn’t mean the other person is bad, sometimes they can be wonderful. It just means the combination of the two of you doesn’t work.’

They’ll see: The people they love and depend on get sad.
Teach them: ‘Even grown-ups get sad sometimes but that doesn’t stop them from being happy most of the time. I’ll be okay and so will you. People feel better after crying because it’s the body’s way of feeling better.’ (According to biochemist William Frey, sad tears contain stress hormones and toxins that accumulate in the body during stress. Crying is the body’s way of cleansing itself.)

They’ll see: People aren’t always nice to each other and sometimes, they’ll try to turn you against people you care about.
Teach them: ‘When people say mean things it’s always because they’re trying to make someone feel as bad as they do. Just because someone says things, doesn’t mean those things true. People have all sorts of reasons for saying mean things and sometimes the truth isn’t one of them.

They’ll see: Sometimes life gets hard.
Teach them: ‘The greatest lessons come from the hardest things. Whenever you go through anything difficult you’ll always – always – come through wiser, stronger and braver than you were before. Wherever there’s a dip a rise will always follow.’

7. Have self compassion.

It doesn’t work when other people are cruel to you (because you have too much self-respect for that, right) and it doesn’t work when you’re mean to yourself. Self-critism, self-blame and your inner self critic will fall you if you let it. There is a part in all of us that’s vulnerable, receptive and open to love, approval and being noticed. Speak to yourself as though that part is always listening, because it is. Make sure the things you say to yourself are kind, loving and compassionate. If it’s not your way to be kind to yourself, try it – and watch things change for you.

8. Accept that it’s going to get unacceptable.

Unhappiness comes from the divide between what we expect and what we have. Let go of thinking that this whole situation might feel okay soon. You’ll find a freedom in that. If the situation is bad enough, it might not feel okay until the kids are grown and left home and there’s no need for you to talk to each other any more.

If your ex is truly awful, their attempt to win at any cost may be relentless. They’ll decide on the issue and the fight will be on – money, custody, how awful you are, whose turn it is to have the kids for Christmas, whether you should be breathing in first or out first.

More than likely, the topic will be irrelevant. The issue will be one of control, probably born from losing you. Keep your perspective and remember what’s important. Being good for your kids will always be more important than winning the fight. Let them see you modeling resilience, strength, compassion and emotional muscle. You’ve got it in you. It might take all you’ve got, but it‘s in you. There will be things said and things done that you just can’t control. Fight the important ones, let the others go. Be who you are and let the truth fight it out for you.

We all have within us the courage, strength and wisdom to deal with the challenges that life sends our way. Trust this and reach for it. It’s there. Nothing we go through is ever wasted and it’s important to be open to the learnings. Rather than, ‘Why did this happen to me?’ try, ‘What can I learn from this?’

You might lay awake at night, cry in the shower, scream in the car and fall apart in front of your closest friends. You might wonder how it got to this and when it will end. Just hold steady and keep moving moving forward. When you put yourself on the right path, good things will always come.


Sunday, 11 February 2018

How I Found Love Again Post-Divorce—And With Three Kids

Generally speaking, children are less enthusiastic about their parents' divorce than the parents themselves—and are also less-than enthusiastic about the prospect of any new partner in the picture.

My ex-husband and I separated after 16 years of marriage. High school sweethearts, we married a year after I graduated and by the time we separated we had three kids, ages 14, 11 and 9. The day we sat on the sofa and broke the news, my daughter could only yell, "I just started high school!" My sons were equally unenthusiastic. As for me? Well, I hadn't been in any relationship except the one with my husband since I was 18.

The world of dating seemed terrifying. But I conquered it, and I'm grateful I did. Having personally navigated the scary, thrilling, messy world of dating post-divorce with three kids in tow, here's some advice I can share with other brave souls out there.

Finding Your Next Partner

The truth is, finding people to date post-divorce may be more difficult. Say, like me, you're 35 and have three children. You will now need to consider not only whether or not your prospective partner is suitable for you, but also if said partner is suitable to co-parent. This narrows the field right off the bat. Also, where are you going to meet people? If you're like me you have absolutely zero time to spend bar-hopping/surfing Yahoo personals; you're too busy trying to raise people to spend any time on all that nonsense. My advice is to pay attention to potential singles in the produce aisle, as right away, you know they're healthy. One box ticked.

There is also a lot less frivolity. The nonchalance with which you may have approached dating in the past will likely be replaced with a renewed vigor to find a "partner." Maybe you want to spend a few years post-divorce fooling around because you have soundly sworn off all.serious.relationships. But, at some point your mortality is likely to catch up to you, and you will realize that you don't want to be alone forever. Therefore each first date becomes a sort of internally conducted interview for your future. "Pardon sir, but I would like to inquire, how many pair of dirty boxers are strewn about your bedroom?"

I actually had the good fortune of meeting my now-husband Matt in the 6th grade spelling bee when we were 11. We "dated" in junior high and high school, so becoming reacquainted via the miraculous Internet at 35 was actually pretty easy (even if it was over several hundred miles). Matt is the first and last person I dated, and since I didn't really want to be single (I just didn't want to be married to my ex), we wasted no time getting serious. To quote the great When Harry Met Sally, when you find the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.

Body Image Issues

You may find that you spend more time thinking about your motherly (or fatherly) physique. Marriage has a way of allowing you to become a bit, shall we say, soft. Maybe you haven't been hitting the gym regularly. Maybe if you've had a few kids you have some saggy bits. Wrinkles. Grey hair. Keep in mind that if you're dating in your age range, the people you're dating are probably thinking the same things about their body that you are. Love really is pretty blind, and the right person won't give two shakes about your stretch marks. The first time I disrobed in front of Matt, who hadn't ever seen any woman who had three kids naked, let alone me, I was nervous, and it took a while before I stopped sucking in my gut. Kind of a long while. But those issues were mine, not his, and eventually they dissipated.

Getting Frisky

Sex may be a little, er, weird, and also potentially difficult to orchestrate with kids around. Right off the starting block, if you've been in a monogamous relationship for a long time, you've probably fallen into a Sunday/Friday missionary position (or similar) pattern. Maybe you weren't having much sex at all. Maybe you haven't had many partners overall. The good news is this means the excitement of a new relationship. The bad news is you may carefully plan your sexual escapades only to be walked in on by your toddler (or worse yet, your 14-year-old).

This happened to us. Twice.

Are The Kids Alright?

No matter how much you love the new person you bring into your life, your children are unlikely to share the same warm feelings right away. This is less the case with very young children. Older children will not usually filter their true feelings and may be heard saying something like, "You have ruined my life!" (which my 11-year-old actually exclaimed). Each of the kids had their own reactions to having a new person in our lives. Some were positive. Many were negative. But it got better.

Just know that children have literally zero desire to have the existing parent "replaced." Even if you would sooner see your ex disappear into the Bermuda Triangle, your children are unlikely to share this sentiment. It is helpful if the new partner verbally expresses love and a mutual understanding that they are not the father/mother but rather the boyfriend/girlfriend/stepparent. Our approach with the kids has always been frank honesty. 
"This isn't easy for anyone. How can we make this better?" Matt generally leaves any "disciplining" to me. And we try to talk as a group when things aren't going well. We have made it clear that he loves them like a father, but is not their father.

If the new partner has children of his own, a completely new dynamic exists. Children are naturally competitive, especially when it comes to their parent's attentions. Your children may not want to share the spotlight, and that may never change. Matt came into our relationship with a cat. So that was pretty easy. But we added two more kids eventually. Jealousies arise just as in any sibling situation. We deal with this by trying to spread the attention around.

The Awkward Factor

If you live in a small town you are highly likely to run into your inlaws/shared friends/people from his office. In fact, even big cities can feel pretty small in these situations. This may be awkward. Really awkward. How you handle this is personal. I could be found either holding my head high or, alternatively, cowering in the darkest corner of a restaurant. If you are out with your children, this can be confusing for them. So talk about it.

Depending on how mature your ex is, they may express a distaste for your new partner to your children. This may happen a lot. No matter how much you'd like to say "Your father/mother is a complete moron. Don't listen to a word they say." Resist. The. Urge. Slandering your ex will only make your children hate you, and the new partner as well. When my ex married someone I didn't necessarily approve of, who spent too much money on buying the kids sunglasses instead of school clothes, stayed out too late, drank too much, etc., keeping my mouth shut was . . . not easy. But it was essential. Our approach was to always try to make our house a place of safety and stability.

You may very well find love again. Seriously. You may find it. It may take hold of you with both hands in a grip so tight you can't, and don't want to try to, escape it. It may not be exactly easy to integrate that love into the life you had with your kids before that person came along, but it's not impossible. In fact it's not only possible, it's completely worth it. I know this because I waited a long time to be with someone I really wanted to sit with at dinner and lay with at night and raise a family with. There were some rocky points along the way, but we made it.

And we only got walked in on during sex twice during the process.