Friday, 28 December 2018

The Reality of Conscious Uncoupling

According to the, “consciously uncoupling” refers to “the act of ending a marriage or relationship, but in a way that is viewed as a very positive step by both parties, who mutually believe their lives will be better for doing so.” The couple makes a serious attempt to remain friends and co-parent if they have children. It is a very respectful way of terminating a long-term relationship.

The expression was thrust into the media in 2014 after being used by actress Gwyneth Paltrow and her spouse, rocker Chris Martin, who announced the breakup of their marriage online while writing that they intended to. The use of such embellished terminology is just a euphemism for an amicable separation or amicable divorce. The term has been viewed critically in the media as typical celebrity-invented nonsense. Its mockery by journalists, however, has brought further attention to it, only popularizing the phrase.

Katherine Woodward Thomas is the one to credit with the term after she penned a self-help book with the same title. Her intentions are, of course, to help couples split up peacefully. Regardless of what people might think of the term, the concept is an ideal that all couples should aim for if they are at such a point in their lives. Science, however, tells us that this rarely happens.

The Reality of Breaking Up
Researcher Diane Vaughan discusses in her book, Uncoupling: Turning Points in Intimate Relationships (1990), how couples really split up. Several conclusions can be drawn from her extensive work with couples ending their relationship. First and foremost, all uncoupling begins with a secret.

One partner (the “initiator”) usually feels unsatisfied with the relationship or believes that it was a mistake. The initiator stays quiet and processes their feelings on their own. Uncoupling most often begins way before someone actually initiates a break-up.
Instead of directly communicating thoughts and feelings with their spouse or partner, initiators engage in these types of behaviours:

  • The initiator makes direct and indirect attempts to "fix" their partner who is frequently clueless about the thoughts the other one is having.
  • The initiator begins to find satisfaction outside the relationship. Energy gets channeled into hobbies, friendships, the kids, or an affair.
  • The initiator makes important changes unilaterally. There is no more discussion and negotiation. There is a shift from “we-ness” to “me-ness.”
  • The initiator starts to re-define their partner and the relationship in negative terms. History gets re-written…good times are forgotten. Attempts are made to justify the thoughts and feelings around wishing to end the relationship.
  • The initiator finds ways to create distance from the partner. This may be in their body language, mood, spending time away, becoming overly critical, complaining or acting passive-aggressive.
  • The initiator operates out of fear and is plagued with uncertainty. He or she confuses known problems vs. unknown problems. It is very difficult to face the truth when making a drastic life decision.
  • The initiator finds a “transitional person.” The initiator begins to confide in someone who will instrumental in bridging the gap between the old life and new life. This may be a lover, friend, divorce lawyer, or a therapist. It may be someone who has gone through the divorce process who can serve as a role-model of sorts.

Daily routine of life makes it easier for the unhappy partner to slowly and gradually slip away, at first only psychologically, and eventually physically. Initiators have the benefit of time to gather the resources necessary to uncouple when they are good and ready. Lack of such resources may create major barriers to separation.

The uncoupling process usually starts in this covert and rather “unconscious” way. Or, at least only consciously to the unhappy partner. The initiator fails to communicate their intense dissatisfaction with the relationship. As a result, when the initiator makes a bold move to end things, it’s frequently too late for the other partner to do anything to change the decision.

The Facts
This is not a condemnation of the initiator or a judgment of the reasons why people choose to leave their marriage or long-term relationship. It is strictly based on the collection of data on how people go about it. Understanding this may help couples take a braver and more open approach and take corrective action sooner rather than later if one or both are unhappy in their relationship. A result of early action and discussion may be that couples actually end up staying together for the long-haul.


Friday, 21 December 2018

8 Tips to Help You Deal With Mixed Emotions After Divorce

After the divorce, you may find you have mixed emotions about your ex-spouse. While you may know that the divorce was for the best, you may find that some days you hate your ex-spouse, and, surprisingly, other days you miss him/her.

You may wonder why you feel any fondness for someone you are divorcing. It is perfectly normal, and most divorced people report these mixed emotions. So how do you cope with these changing emotions?

Here are 8 Ways to Deal With Mixed Emotions About Your Ex After Divorce:

1. Emotions are not good or bad. They just ARE. When a couple divorces, the bad times they shared may be a recent memory, but there are times when each person feels vulnerable, lonely, or scared of the changes taking place. At these times, you may think of the good times. (Hopefully, they were not all bad!) Allow yourself these trips down memory lane. Don’t try to push down your emotions, but allow yourself to feel all the emotional stages of divorce. Expect that you will have your ups and downs.

2. Divorce means change. Realize that every divorce brings about such change, and change is not always easy. There are times we are tempted to look back because it is easier than facing the fact that you now have to rebuild your life. Trust yourself that you can handle anything that comes along and that you have made the right decision to divorce.

Don’t let fear overtake your judgment.

3. Make lists. It helps to make a list of the reasons you divorced, and the differences you had. Also, make a list of the good parts of your former relationship. Many newly divorced people are so focused on the bad that they grow resentful and hold such a grudge against their ex - spouse, it is hard to move on with their lives.

Everyone has some good traits and some bad.

4. Don’t blame. It’s easy to make your ex the villain, but in order to be successful in your own life and future relationships, you need to take time to look at your part in the failure of the relationship. Only one person does not hold most marriages together, and they don’t end because of one person either. So, deal with the anger you feel in a constructive way.

5. Get support. Sometimes you may need a sounding board or a shoulder to cry on. Don’t shy away from seeking support and validation from friends and relatives. If you feel the need, get into therapy to help you sort through your shifting emotions and the resulting stress.

6. Take care of yourself. Riding this roller coaster of emotions is taxing, so make sure you develop good self – care habits during this time. Get plenty of rest, avoid stress as much as possible, put non-essential things on the back burner for now, and eat a healthy diet. Self-care during and after a divorce is a requirement if you want to maintain your health.

7. Spend time doing things you enjoy. Most people say when they went through a divorce, it was on their mind every waking moment of their day. Take some time to do something you enjoy, something that will “recharge your batteries.” This could include spending time with friends or spending quiet time alone with a good book.

Let your mind concentrate on something other than the divorce when you are feeling overwhelmed.

8. Tell the truth. Be honest with yourself about your feelings. Journaling is very helpful for most people undergoing a major life change. If journaling is not for you, then maybe you need a counselor to help you deal with your emotions. It is helpful to have a professional you can share your innermost feelings with, and never have to see again when therapy is completed.

Divorce brings about changes, and you may feel like it’s hard to feel centered. By following these tips, you can cope with these changes in a positive way and be better able to make a new life for yourself.


Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Holiday survival guide for divorced parents

David Murphy hasn't started shopping for his two boys yet, and he knows he had better get started. The divorced father of two boys, ages 11 and 14, has custody for a full week around Christmas Day this year and needs to get a tree and start buying presents.

Every other year, Murphy (who didn't want his real name used to protect his children's privacy) doesn't have Christmas custody. So, he tries to do something completely different. Divorced for four years, he has traveled with his mother to visit England, where she was born. He has joined his father and stepmother on a trip to Carmel, California.

He hasn't crashed his ex-wife's Christmas Day plans, even though she lives only three miles away from his home in suburban Virginia.

"We try not to mess with the schedule when we don't have to because it's easier on both parties," said Murphy. "As each party has moved on, it happened to work that way. We try not to interfere with each other."

With the U.S. Census Bureau counting nearly 4 million divorced parents in this country, many parents are facing the challenges of negotiating holiday custody schedules, battles over presents, new significant others and simply the pain of being apart.
Whether you have the children for Christmas or not this year, going through a separation or divorce means giving up the dream of a perfect Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanzaa. With the fantasy of the perfect nuclear family obviously over, it can be lonely even with the kids -- but much worse without them. Facing the first holiday since the split, how do people ever survive this holiday season? And eventually even thrive?

Many like Murphy -- who credits his ex-wife with keeping the focus on their sons' well-being during the divorce -- have found a new way of parenting beyond divorce. Here are some things that work:

Keep it focused on the kids

You may not expect to have a happy holiday but wouldn't you like your kids to have a reasonably nice time? Even if you're right, do you want them remembering you put them in the middle of your battles? And no child wants to feel pressure to choose you over the other parent, whom she loves as much as she loves you.

Parents learn about the payoff later, when their grown children make their own choices about where they spend their holidays. In her book "We're Still Family," about adult children of divorce, psychologist Constance Ahrons learned that some adult children refused to visit either parent if the bickering continued. "The children were happiest where parents at least communicated," said Ahrons, also the author of "The Good Divorce." "They didn't want to get caught in the middle, and they wanted to be with both parents."

Sort out details in advance

Nail down the specifics about who gets which days around the winter holidays, including pickup times and locations. Sometimes the details are in your custody agreement, sometimes not. Put it all on e-mail or in writing and stick to the deal -- at least until it becomes routine. If you're a more casual, less detail-oriented parent, know that you'll score points with your more time-obsessed ex if you're on time at drop-off and pick-up. If you're the detail-oriented parent, plan for your always-late ex to be late as usual and you'll be less stressed. Do not fight about time or anything else with the children present.

"Put aside the warfare that so often accompanies divorce," said Steven Grissom, president of DivorceCare, a Christian-based divorce ministry with chapters around the world. "If that carries into a special time in the eyes of child, it makes the holiday experience excruciating."

Don't out-Santa each other

If you can speak civilly with your ex, talk about a general budget for presents, the number of presents and what Santa is getting your children. Santa knows which address to deliver the bike or the castle or the Wii, so don't screw up his planning by having one at each house (unless you both want one at each house). Don't outdo each other. Remember the spirit of the holidays and avoid trying to buy the children off with fabulous presents. And don't buy that violent video game for the specific purpose of angering your ex. The same goes for grandparents and new significant others. If they're interfering in your co-parenting plan, remind them they are not helping your child. At the same time, accept that parents may have different standards about what are acceptable gifts. If you are opposed to electronic games, you may need to accept they will exist at your ex's house.

Keep some traditions, within reason

Children love routine and ritual, so keep a few family traditions if you can. If you baked dozens of different types of cookies for everyone in your life, reduce the number and type of cookies during your annual baking party but keep your daughter's favorite snickerdoodles. If your family liked to take a trip into the woods in your ex's truck to cut down a tree, you may have to explain that your smaller car can't haul such a tree. "To the extent you can, talk with your children ahead of time and find out what is really important to them," Grissom said. "If that won't be possible, maybe you can create a new tradition."

Don't push too much togetherness

While some ex-spouses can sing carols around the Christmas tree or light the Hanukkah candles together with the kids and both sets of grandparents, that's not the reality for everyone. Some do not want to spend time with people who left them or whom they chose to leave. Some people fight every time they see each other. Do not force more togetherness than either of you can handle, and don't feel guilty about it. (That said, if you haven't broken up yet, wait until January. Don't be the Divorcing Grinch Who Stole Christmas.)

Don't lobby for your sweetheart

Bringing a new significant other to the family festivities can really throw the holidays off-balance for the family, Ahrons said. "One parent will say, 'Are you really going to bring her to this table?' or 'You can come without her.' Avoid if it's going to cause trouble, even if the new girlfriend is serious." Remember, it's about your kids, not you.

The exception to the rule

If your ex is currently a danger to himself or herself -- and/or others -- the safety of your children is more important than cooperating during the holidays. In fact, you're probably trying to break the pattern of your ex ruining holiday celebrations. Elizabeth Jones, who didn't want her real name used to protect her child, isn't letting her ex spend the holidays with their daughter for the first time in years. He only recently contacted Jones a couple of weeks ago after disappearing for months. Whenever he sobers up, she first lets him have supervised phone calls for a few weeks, eventually visits with her and their daughter at a neutral location such as a park, followed by visits at her California home. "If my kid weren't so thrilled every time she got to see him, I would be handling this differently," said Jones, who has sole custody. "It's a lot of emotional work for me to put aside my own feelings."

He's a jerk

If you're a saint and your ex is a sinner and won't take any of your thoughtful recommendations to heart, consider this notion: Safety aside, it's better for your child for you to let your ex "win" sometimes, even if you're right. Christmas can sometimes fall on December 27 or even January 6 (the Feast of the Three Kings). Hanukkah is eight nights of fun, so you don't need to control alleight nights. That doesn't mean you're a doormat. It means you're a good parent.

Your adult child will know you tried to make her life better by trying to compromise with your difficult ex (and yes, children know who was difficult).

"How you react to your ex-spouse is how you are teaching your child to handle conflict, stress and anger," said Alan Kazdin, a Yale University psychology professor and director of Yale's Parenting Center. "Giving up a Christmas here or there means you'll have your child long-term. You want your child to have an ally in you later in life. It's not only more rewarding; it's more worthwhile long term."


Monday, 17 December 2018

THE BLOG When Your Ex-spouse and Co-parent Won't Cooperate

It's upsetting to have an ex-spouse continue fighting with you after your marriage is done, particularly when the ex-spouse is your children's co-parent. Taking time to think about why this is happening and exploring the possibilities can yield helpful information and lead to new ideas about how to stop fighting and move yourself forward.

When a co-parent won't cooperate or stop fighting, it can be positively maddening. Ex-spouses can become immersed in rage, frustration, and a sense of powerlessness when their co-parenting partnership isn't working. This can leave little energy for either to move ahead with their post-divorce lives.

You cannot force an uncooperative co-parent to stop fighting. You can take them to court and make their choice to misbehave costly and time consuming (for you both). You can do this repeatedly. Unfortunately, co-parents focused on being destructive or on hurting their ex can always find new ways to do so.

The more you understand about why your ex won't give up the fight the better your chances at figuring out what to do. Here are five issues to consider:

1. What is your ex-spouse getting out of this?

When your ex-spouse engages in uncooperative behaviors, how do you respond? If you react by yelling, sending nasty emails and texts, etc., then what your ex may be after is your attention. They most likely are enjoying the fact that they can still get a reaction from you. 
Perhaps they are mistaking this to mean you still care (enough about them to react). And, perhaps you do, but even if you don't, it's important to discover how not to gratify or reinforce this type of behavior. If you sense your ex is enjoying "poking the bear," ask yourself what it would take to stay calmer in their presence, even while feeling extremely annoyed.

2. What role are you playing in all this?

Are you adding "fuel to the fire" by provoking your ex? Are you not cooperating, because he/she isn't cooperating (which only continues the fight)? For instance, are you arriving late for pick-ups, not returning calls promptly or "forgetting" to send your children's items back? Or, are you subtly (or not so subtly) disparaging your ex-spouse's parenting decisions, questioning their life choices, or using angry tones to respond? (Be honest with yourself as you answer these.)

3. The fighting can only continue if you both continue fighting!

You may feel powerless in getting your ex to behave as you really can't control whether or not he/she will cooperate in co-parenting. But, only you can decide to stop retaliating, arguing, or acting out your frustration. If you simply refuse to engage and lay down your weapons, then your ex will not be able to fight with you anymore, right?

Just like when a toddler has a tantrum, the best response is often no response. If you can summon up your inner strength and not go bonkers when your ex arrives late, forgets juniors' clothing, or otherwise irritates you, this "game" might become less fun. They may decide, in time, to stop playing. This doesn't mean you shouldn't calmly say, "We agreed on 5:00, so please come on time next time" or "Please send Henry's clothes home next time, like you said you would", or whatever... Just don't give them a reaction that shows they are "getting to you" as that may encourage them to continue the misbehavior.

Note: Because it is stressful when a co-parent won't cooperate or provokes you, it is recommended you seek out an experienced, licensed psychotherapist, divorce coach, or counselor. Getting the frustration and tension "out of your system" through talking with a professional might help you stay calm and not react when it matters most!

4. Keep your distance.

When your ex is ranting on the phone, you can say, "If you keep yelling at me, this call is over," and then hang up. Similarly, during a parking lot screaming fit, better to announce, "When you're back in control, I'd like to hear what you have to say" and then leave. Too often, ex-spouses (out of habit, guilt, or something else) stick around once the bombs drop. As a rule, it is better to protect your own nervous system and get out of the line of fire as quickly as possible.

5. Focus ahead and on you!

Engaging in battle with or letting your ex "rent space in your head" absorbs mental energy, the same energy you will need to move yourself forward, post-divorce. Constantly talking about this with friends or frequently thinking about ways to retaliate just keeps your ex front and center in your mind...something your divorce was meant to eliminate. Save your mental energy for you and your children.

It's upsetting to have an ex-spouse continue fighting with you after your marriage is done, particularly when the ex-spouse is your children's co-parent. Taking time to think about why this is happening and exploring the possibilities can yield helpful information and lead to new ideas about how to stop fighting and move yourself forward.


Thursday, 13 December 2018

10 things I wish I'd known before getting divorced

As a divorce mediator for many years, I thought I was more prepared than anyone for what lay ahead as I faced my own divorce. Well, I was wrong! Here are some of the things no one told me, which I learned from going through it — and coming out on the other side.

1. Even if you are the one who wants to get divorced, you may often feel sad, loss, fear, anxiety.

Whether or not you initiated the split, one is often unprepared for just how big of a life transition divorce really is. It's a time that not only includes the loss of a marriage, but often also includes the loss of other relationships in your life (your ex’s family, certain friends, and less time with your children, for example). In the process of letting go of your past married life, you will need to begin to create your new life, which often brings tremendous personal growth. However, until you get there, you will likely feel a great amount of fear and anxiety of the unknown. It takes work, but you will find happiness at the other end!

2. Just because you are divorced, all of your problems don’t just disappear. You still need to deal with your ex — particularly if there are children involved.

I so often hear from others who are divorced, “Ugh, I cant stand him!” or “She is driving me crazy!” and I always respond with “That’s why you are no longer married to him/her!” Remember that the bad behaviors you lived with don’t just disappear when you get divorced — the buttons they used to press when you were married may still get triggered, and sometimes even more so after you split. Do your best to let it go and not let it get to you anymore. Easier said then done; it takes practice.

3. Once the divorce papers are signed, now the real work begins. You need to heal from the emotional turmoil of a bad marriage and learn to be happy alone before you can enter a new relationship.

Creating two new homes after divorce with the same resources is one of the first big challenges one may need to make. You may need to go back to work, which can be a huge challenge if you have been home with your kids for so many years.

Your self-esteem will likely need a boost after working so hard at a relationship that ultimately failed. I have found it to be so important to take time to figure out who I am again, apart from being someone’s wife: What are my interests and what kind of partner will really make me happy? Finding these answers takes time, and it can be a fun and interesting journey along the way if you let it be.

4. Your kids may not tell you how they feel, though it may come out through their behaviors.

It is so important to watch your kids' acti
ons and behaviors (life if they start to sleep in your bed, fight with each other, or show signs of depression) and not just go by what they say or don’t say. I so often hear “my kids are doing great” but then when I probe a little further, I find out a very different story. Talk to your kids about what they are thinking and feeling continuously — I have been divorced for five years, and my kids are still sad, have questions and wish their parents were still together. Keep communication going.

5. Don’t rush through the process, as tempting as that is. Everyone needs time to adjust and make good, clear decisions that you can live with for many years to come.

During the divorce process there are so many difficult decisions that need to be made, and these should not be made swiftly or without a lot of time to think and process. If you rush, many of these decisions will be fueled by emotions rather than careful consideration. Try and always put your children's best interests first and you will be ahead of the game.

6. You may lose some friends — the ones you thought would be there for you may not be, and vice versa.

This was rather surprising to me: Some people actually think divorce can be contagious! And maybe it is? We all know that there are many unhappily married people out there who are frightened (and I don’t blame them one bit) to get divorced. These people often do not want you around their spouses, giving them any ideas or courage to take that step.

And then there will be the friends, sometimes even the ones you weren’t so close to in the past, that come forward and are tremendously supportive. The largest complaint I hear from divorced people is that their married friends no longer invite them out anymore. So it's important to create new friends — single friends and married friends that are comfortable including you in their plans.

7. Let go of your anger and resentment toward your spouse — this can only hurt you and your children and no good can come from it!

This is so important! Holding on to your anger about what was or what happened in the past will only hurt you physically and emotionally. This doesn’t mean you condone your ex’s behavior, it simply means you need to let go of it. If you feel stuck, seek help — a therapist, a divorce advisor, or a divorce support group.

8. Holidays are so hard, especially in the first few years. Start new traditions and make sure you are not alone.

This is definitely one of the hardest parts for me about being divorced. Holidays to me are about being with family and those you love the most. So each holiday where my ex has my kids, I make sure I do something special that makes me happy and I don’t stay home and sulk. I do continue to spend those holidays with my family and sometimes try and see my kids at some point during that day.

9. Spare your children from bad-mouthing your spouse no matter what: This can actually crush their self-esteem.

As tempting as it may be, bad-mouthing your ex to your children is a big no-no! Children want — and have the right — to love both parents. Saying bad things about the other parent will come back to bite you, as your kids will likely resent you for it (if not now, later).

10. Don’t rush to start dating again!

Our children are not ready to see us with someone new, and you need time to figure out who you are and who would make you happy. Take at least a year off to work on yourself and focus on your children. Trust me, you need time alone to figure out who you are again. 
Until you know that, you are likely to make bad choices and may even choose a partner just like the one you just divorced! Kids too need time to heal and are likely to reject your new partner if they aren’t ready.


Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Life After Divorce: 4 Strategies For Moving On

Coping With Life After Divorce

Use These Strategies to Help You Find Fulfillment in Life After Divorce

Life after divorce can be as difficult as the divorce process itself. You have suffered a major loss and the healing process will continue, for some well after the ink is dry on your divorce settlement agreement.

Your marriage, family, and role as husband, wife, father or mother was your Plan A. Most of us don’t have a Plan B but that is what divorce calls for…the ability to come up with and put into action “Plan B.”

The key to doing this is acceptance of your present reality. You are no longer married; you are no longer someone’s husband or wife. What are you going to do with that reality? You can fight reality or accept reality and get on with your new life after divorce.

My hope is that this article helps you define your “Plan B” and move into acceptance. 
Divorce is not only an ending, it is also a beginning. An opportunity to take life and make it what you desire.

How to Accept an Unwanted Divorce

Few things are worse than the lack of control and emotional pain one feels when a spouse decides to leave a marriage. Questions about why there has to be a divorce go unanswered and fear of what the future holds are constant. And the loss of the one you love is unbearably painful. You can go from feeling hopelessness to hopeful and looking forward to life after divorce.

Finding Your “Plan B” and Rebuilding Your Life After Divorce

To “move on” after divorce you need to be open to new experiences, new ways of looking at things and new relationships. You have to take an active role in rebuilding your life, not sit and wait for a new life to come to you.

Going From Stay at Home Mom to Working Full-Time Mom

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average woman’s family income drops by 37% after divorce. In other words, women suffer more financially than men do from divorce. If you are a woman thinking about divorce I suggest you do some serious financial planning before filing.
If you are a woman already divorced, I have some suggestions that will hopefully help you survive the loss of income and get your finances in order.

Get the Most Out of Being Single Again After Divorce

When someone loses a spouse through death or divorce, that loss can be devastating. A period of mourning follows, even in the case of divorce, because of not fulfilling the dreams they had for the relationship. However, there comes a time when life has to begin again, and many singles feel lost in making this transition.

Moving on after divorce, no matter how strong a person you are, is challenging. I know from experience that divorce knocks the wind out of your sails regardless of who’s at fault or what the circumstances are. I also know, from experience that life does begin again and if you make the most of your “Plan B” life will be more than you dreamed it could.


Fall Down Seven Times, Stand up Eight - Keep on Trying!

"Fall down seven times, Stand up eight"

-Japanese Proverb

Whether we're facing and working through a time of struggle and adversity, or considering taking a course of action to achieve something, there's a real danger that we can get caught in a cycle of procrastination. We may be fearful of our ability to cope, to get the results we need or to muster the necessary energy and enthusiasm. We may feel we're not equipped with what this will require of us. We may be fearful of what will happen if we succeed!

In this episode I discuss why I think it's our imperative to act and more importantly, to TRY and not to allow ourselves to struggle or procrastinate out of a sense of fear of uncertainty. Things may work out, they may not. Either way, we do not know until we try.

If you have any comments or feedback on this episode you can reach out by email on

If you'd like to receive the occasional message from me containing thoughts, information or inspiration related to living a better life after divorce, you can join my mailing list at the following link:

You can also subscribe to my free podcast, Kintsugi Life at:

Thanks and have a great day!


Thursday, 6 December 2018

All we need is just a little patience

In recent videos I've been discussing the many traits and characteristics that I believe will assist us both as we work through times of adversity and challenge, but also as we strive to achieve significant goals; amongst the most significant of these, is patience.

Inspired by one of my recent blog posts ( this video explores why I think patience is an essential skill or trait to employ in all aspects of life, and how I believe its effects can be manifested in our lives.

If you have any comments or feedback on this episode you can reach out by email on

If you'd like to receive the occasional message from me containing thoughts, information or inspiration related to living a better life after divorce, you can join my mailing list at the following link:

You can also subscribe to my free podcast, Kintsugi Life at:

Thanks and have a great day!


I'm Spending Christmas Without My Baby for the First Time

When my ex and I filed for divorce, I never thought about what this holiday would be like.

Last winter, the threads tying my marriage together began to unravel. My husband and I escaped the mild north Texas winter and took our baby to California for a while to try and find our groove again. The air on the West Coast was temperate, and so were we. We didn't even argue with passion. When we got back home, spring was already in full bloom.
By the time summer came, the silence between us was more than I could bear. I filed for divorce.

The time when fall turns into winter has always been my favorite. Cooler temperatures and changing colors makes my heart happy — they're my cue to secretly begin listening to Christmas music. This year, though, everything seemed different.

I didn't get into football season, and I never found myself accidentally singing Mariah's hopeful "All I Want for Christmas Is You" or Eartha Kitt's raspy "Santa, Baby." I refused to put my iTunes library on random for the potential of yuletide cheer; each melody brought too many bittersweet memories. I was already doing a horrible job of convincing folks that my swollen, red eyes were a consequence of the warm weather's high pollen counts.
I tried my best to enjoy the extended lazy days with my son. At my best friend's house one night, I sat outside watching him chase a dog that was chasing a soccer ball. I was glad to not be doing dinner alone. My friend's dad put on some hot dogs for the kids; her mom brought out burgers and wine for the grown-ups. We were all excited to light the fire pit.

The sun set completely, and fireflies came out to play. My phone rang just as it had for the past few months, signaling a FaceTime call from my soon-to-be-ex. I put the baby in my lap as always before I pushed the green button. As I absently listened to the baby babble and his father chat, I stared into the fire, feeling peaceful if not content. Despite the fire and the chill in the air, it hadn't quite sunk in that the seasons had officially changed.
Then I heard a pivot in tone and realized my ex was talking to me. He asked if I had "thought about the holidays," because his parents had rented the house in the mountains again. It hit me like a freight train. The baby wriggled away, disinterested, which was a welcome distraction. I walked away from everyone by the fire, far enough into the dark to not disturb their fun — and to hide my face.

He asked if I had 'thought about the holidays.' It hit me like a freight train.

I hadn't thought about the holidays. Not in this awkward way. When I'd thought about what they'd look like after our divorce, it was years from now when we were both healed. When we were possibly remarried to other folks and one (or both) of us might be working to blend a healthy family, one that celebrates together with everyone's kids because love is love and family is family, no matter how we end up putting it all together.

What I hadn't thought was about this holiday. The one when we are both still tender or angry or scared — or all of these at once. The one when we might still be married but days away from it being final, or perhaps, newly divorced, paperwork hot off the printer and sitting in a mailroom bin along with the well-planned, summer-scheduled family photo shoot holiday cards — like the one we sent last year when the baby wasn't even crawling yet.

I hadn't thought about how many ounces of milk I would need to pump and how he'd get it through airport security with only a baby and not a mom. I hadn't thought about how my 16-month-old would do on a plane without me. I hadn't thought about the fact that, at first, it would just seem like he was with his dad for a regular visit.

I took him to see Santa Claus, although he still doesn't know who the man in the red suit is. We made small memories, a gift, a decoration here and there.

While my ex and my baby head to the mountains, I'll be in New England with friends. I'll convince myself that it's just what I need after this challenging year. It's Christmas, no matter where we all are.

When concerned friends warmly ask how I'm handling the season, I'll only mention that the baby has a lingering cold picked up from daycare and I'm grateful for the full night's rest. I'll say that most mothers with a 16-month-old could never dream of getting six days away to sleep alone, go to the bathroom alone, eat a plate of food alone.

I haven't gone anywhere without a baby attached to me in more than a year. I will also try to remember my child development classes' teachings, that because he loves me and is well attached, he will cry during FaceTime with me and push the red button before I can wave bye-bye. I will try not to cry.

And, I imagine optimistically, I will change my flight when I realize the baby and his dad will be back home a day earlier than I'd remembered. The whole flight home, I will wonder if it really was longer, because it felt longer. I will worry that saying yes when his dad asks if I want him that night is selfish since there's a cold front and it will be past bedtime — and his cough has come back.

I will wait in a crisp North Texas night, feeling as if I brought winter to Texas from New England. I'll put my hands into the pocket of my winter coat for the first time this season and touch the soft, well-worn leather. My favorite pair of gloves hadn't shown up when I packed and moved into the new place after the divorce got underway. I'll be glad that I haven't lost them. Then, I'll look up as my ex parks and gets out of his car. And my son will be back in my arms again.


Wednesday, 5 December 2018

First Christmas After Divorce

A newly divorced mother asks what she can do to make the first holiday after the divorce as pleasant as possible.


My husband and I divorced several months ago after eleven years of marriage. He's living in a neighboring town and we share custody of our children, ages nine and seven. It was a bitter divorce and our kids heard far too much anger towards the end.

My question is what to do about celebrating Christmas this year? I want this first holiday after the divorce to be as pleasant as I can make it for them, but I know it's going to be tough on everyone. My ex-husband will probably visit here on Christmas day and take the kids for part of their school vacation. Do I just try to celebrate like we always did? Any suggestions would be appreciated.


Let's be honest, you, your ex, and your kids all will be experiencing some sadness and melancholy this Christmas. Although I'm sure you both have assured your kids that you will always love them and care for them, the reality of spending their first Christmas as a separated, divorced family will hit them hard (regardless of whether they actually speak to you of their feelings). They are going to long for happy holidays the way they used to be (or imagined them to be even if they weren't for you and your ex) and those times are gone.
You can, however, make every effort to provide them with the best emotional environment possible to enjoy this holiday season. Here are a few suggestions on how to deal with the additional stress during this particular holiday and how to satisfy your children's needs at this time:

Show them you understand their feelings and worries: "I know you're going to feel sad sometimes this Christmas and maybe a little angry and worried too. It's going to feel different not being together like we have been. Things will be different this year."

Offer them encouraging words: "You know, we all know how to have a good time together at Christmas. Your dad and I are going to think about all those good times, and we'd like you both to think back to them too. Even though it won't be the same, I know we can all enjoy each other at Christmas time and that your dad and I can each do some fun things with you over vacation. It's not going to be the same but we're going to make it good."
Be cordial with your ex over the holidays. Your behavior during this traditional family time can provide your kids with some hope that you two can and will be cordial with each other in the future.
Talk with your ex about gifts so your children won't be overindulged or let down.
Your kids are old enough to ask directly how they want to celebrate the holidays, given your changed family structure. Asking them what they want to do can lead to a natural discussion of what they're thinking and feeling.

Create some new holiday traditions that your kids can look forward to doing with you. Encourage your ex to create his own different traditions as well.
Keep all extended family, grandparents, etc. involved during the holidays (even if it can only be through email, cards, phone calls). They are still an integral part of your children's lives and provide them with continuity and security in the face of your changed family structure.
If you have done so before, continue to help your children select a present for your ex.

Don't communicate negative feelings about your ex through your words or behavior. Your kids will be taking their cues from the both of you.

Understanding that this first holiday season after your divorce will be different, while providing your children with compassion and coping strategies will not only help them through this holiday time but also long after the holidays pass. Peace and joy to all of you.


Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Overcome Holiday Depression During and After Divorce

Most any holiday can bring up painful memories of happier times, especially if you are divorced and have children. But keep in mind that with the pain comes a choice. You can choose to acknowledge the past for what it was. You can value the good times you might have had together. Then you can choose to move on and let go.

If you don’t, you will likely get stuck tormenting yourself with the "shoulds." We should still be a family today. He should be ashamed of what he's doing to us. She shouldn’t be able to have the kids on Christmas Day. I should be over this by now. It should be easier for me to move on – but it isn't. You get the idea.

Use this holiday season as a marker for starting a new mindset for yourself. You are creating a future that will be as positive for you as you allow it to be. Close the door to what was so you can open the door to brighter tomorrows – for yourself and your children. This holiday season and the ones to come can be weeks of great celebration for you if you start planting the seeds in your mind today.

Here are some useful tips for creating a positive mindset for the holidays.

Be your own best friend:

Divorce and its related stressors can take its toll on your self-esteem. It’s easy to start falling into cycles of despair, fear, anxiety and depression fueled by messages such as “who’s going to want me now?” or “how can I cope with all this pressure in my life?” This can certainly compound over the holidays, which add another layer of stress to family life. Use this time to celebrate you and starting a new chapter in your life. Look ahead to reinventing yourself in ways you’ve always wanted – and acknowledging yourself for assets you have that can be further explored. Take time to laugh and indulge in some holiday spirit. It’s good medicine for you and the children you love.

Focus on lifting the spirits of others:

Gratitude is a mindset that reminds us of our blessings. Do you have a loving relationship with your children? Do you have your health, a roof over your head, the income to purchase a few holiday gifts? Many people are not so fortunate. Be grateful for your blessings, share a smile or kind gesture with others, volunteer for the less fortunate and you will be rewarded in ways you never expected – physically, emotionally and spiritually!

Integrate – don’t isolate:

Take advantage of this social season to circulate and re-connect with family and friends. Plan some small gatherings with those you care about and accept a few invitations to get out and meet other people. Limit your “pity party” time to an hour or two. Then pick yourself up and get back into life. You’ll be surprised by the support systems available to you. You will also find that you are not alone in the post-divorce emotions and challenges you are experiencing. Be receptive to help and it will come to you.

Initiate New Holiday Traditions:

Remembering holiday traditions of the past can set you into a downward cycle and negatively affect your children, as well. This is the time to develop new ways of celebrating the holidays that you and your children can cherish and enjoy together. Perhaps it’s a special trip, celebrating with new friends and neighbors, attending special holiday events in your community or place of worship. Encourage your co-parent to do the same when the kids are with them, so that they have something to look forward to in each home.

Use this time of the year as the emotional starting point for bringing into focus the “you” you’ve always wanted to be. Visualize the future you desire. Make commitments to positive changes in your thoughts, habits and actions. By doing this, every year to come around holiday time you will be re-energized with positive appreciation rather than brought down by sadness and despair. The choice is yours. Embrace the holiday season as the start of wonderful things to come and you’ll have much to celebrate in your future!


Monday, 3 December 2018

How Not To Do Christmas: Lessons From My Divorced Parents

Actress Kate Hudson and her rocker beau Matt Bellamy announced this week that they’ve separated after a four-year relationship. The couple have a 3-year-old son Bing, and Hudson also has a 10-year-old son from her marriage to Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson. According to their reps, the split was mutual, and although they separated “some time ago,” they are still great friends. And looking at recent photos of the couple attending various red carpet events together, they do look like great pals. In this festive time, it’s great to see this because the last thing kids need is warring parents fighting over who gets custody on the all important Christmas day.

I should know: My parents split up when my mom was pregnant with me, divorced when I was 3, and then reunited for a few fight-strewn years. My mom then moved in with her boyfriend of a year when I was 11 until I was 15. Meanwhile, my father remarried when I was 14. Suffice to say, instead of Christmas being a time of great joy, I always found it ├╝ber stressful.

Between the ages of 7 and 10, my mom would want me to have Christmas with her and my grandmother; our family was small (I had no siblings), so if I wasn’t around, it would have been particularly quiet. I felt duty bound to be with them, but equally I wanted to spend time with my dad, grandpa, and my aunts and uncles. They were a more rowdy bunch and there was more festive cheer going on. My grandpa celebrated his birthday on Boxing Day, so my mom used to argue that my dad should take me then. Never having much interest in how I spent my free time out of school, suddenly they were beyond concerned. It seemed to be less about what I wanted and more about what they wanted.

The feeling of being torn ruined every Christmas. As I entered my teenage years, I assumed that things would change. But no, they got worse. My dad and would-be step-father didn’t get along (mainly because my step-father dared to call my dad out on his lack of parental responsibility), so who got me for “Christmas lunch” was a war. In the end, to keep the peace, I ate two lunches. I felt sick and bloated, but hey, anything to keep the peace.

I remember escaping to my neighbor’s house every Christmas Eve where I would sit in her room and weep. I worried about not having time for my grandmother because we didn’t live with her anymore; I worried my dad was upset I wasn’t getting to his house until 4pm; I worried that I didn’t have enough pocket money to buy gifts for all of my different families. Instead of feeling excited and loved, I just felt stressed and unhappy. Like I could never make everyone happy. Funny enough, no one ever asked me what I wanted. They just used me in their own battles. I remember hating Christmas; willing it to be over so everything could just be normal again.

So, to parents getting all angsty about wanting to have their children all of Christmas when they’re divorced or separated, I have one thing to say: Think of your kids. No, not about what youwant, but about what they want and how they feel. Chances are they feel pretty darn torn, a little bit sad, and a whole lot guilty — like they’re ruining your Christmas if they don’t do what you want.

Let’s all take a step back and have a new perspective on the holidays: It is one day. Of course we’d all love to spend the whole day as a family, but relationships break down and people remarry and circumstances change. So be a grown up. Ask your kid what they want. Don’t make them feel guilty. And always, no matter if your heart is breaking, act like whatever time you get with them is enough. Cry alone, never in front of them. If possible, talk to your ex and try to work out a system of alternative years with the kids, spend it together, or split up the day. Don’t make the kids feel like they have to see all the grandparents and in-laws, or else you’ll be pissed at your ex. Try and make your kids feel secure and happy in the plans, even if you feel your ex is being unreasonable. If in doubt, be the bigger person. It will make your kids feel great.

Most importantly, remember what Christmas is really about: love, family, friendship, and remembering how lucky we are. (We don’t have Thanksgiving in the UK, so our Christmas is a mix of that as well.) It’s not about winning the battle with your ex and being the parent who gives the best gifts or spends the most money or takes the kids to the best adventure wonderland park. Kids can tell when there is a competition at stake, and it makes them feel bad.
As a kid who went through many teary Christmases (one time I ate my lunch alone, crying, as one parent was busy partying and yet had stopped me from being with the other), I wish my parents had been a bit more mature about the whole thing and made life easier for us all. Ironically, they now get along fine, and when I visit them with my own family, we all get together in the evening for drinks and all is well with the world. Why couldn’t they have done that 25 years ago?! My experience has made me determined that no matter what happens in my marriage, I will always put my kids’ needs first at Christmas.

So grab the egg nog, toast your ex, and wish them well. Don’t sweat the small stuff and no matter where your kids are, just make sure they know you’re fine and happy and will celebrate with them some other time/later that day/next holiday. Then they can have the Christmas they deserve.


Saturday, 1 December 2018

10 Christmas Survival Tips For The Newly Divorced

Divorced with children? Not over it? Plus, it's the holidays....

Missing your kids and feeling alone at Christmas? Try these 10 tips to lift your spirits.
I cannot think of Christmas without a vision of family. What if you are alone this Christmas? 
Not only do you not have your spouse but you don’t have your kids? The first thing I need to tell you is you are not alone; 50% of marriages split up and there are often kids in that mix. Either you or your ex has to be without their children on Christmas Eve or Christmas.

When you are newly divorced or separated this can feel like an overwhelming loss. Hauling out the ornaments and decorations may bring a flood of memories. It is common to ask yourself if the divorce or separation was necessary. Could you have worked through it? This ambiguity is heightened when you go to the mall and see couples hand in hand. You begin to wonder if you could have done something differently to make it work. Remembering the good times makes you more likely to feel depressed when you are newly divorced. Feeling sorry for yourself won’t make the situation go away.

There are things you can do to make this Christmas less heartbreaking and give you a deeper sense of gratitude. Children are barometers for parents, and if they see a parent unhappy it will make them feel sad. Don’t make your kids suffer your loneliness in your first Christmas without them. Make a plan now, and Christmas Eve will be a bit less painful.

1. Think out of the box. You don’t need to have the same traditions you had when you were married. If you are alone it is an opportunity to start over and do what really matters to you.

2. Make a plan to call your children at a particular time. Negotiate with your ex regarding what time would be good so as not to interfere with their holiday plans (the more you support your ex in being a good parent, the better chance your children have of growing up to be confident, well-adjusted people).

3. Invite family or friends over for Christmas Eve.
The more you focus on serving others the deeper meaning Christmas will have for you.

4. If your kids are going to be gone for two or three days and you cannot bear being in the house alone, plan a short trip. Instead of buying gifts no one needs, splurge on a short trip you always wanted to take. People are very friendly this time of year, and most likely you will not have to struggle to make friends.

5. Allow yourself to do whatever you could not do when the kids were with you. Take a hot bath, or stay up and read until 3 a.m.

6. Watch a movie that makes you feel uplifted.

7. Do something creative. Maybe a room in the house needs to be painted. You are alone, and no one said that you cannot decorate or fix up the house on Christmas Eve. Make it your own holiday, and do what takes your mind off your loneliness.

8. Remember that divorce shatters both partners’ self esteem. This is not a good time to be looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right. Much wiser to call an old friend and ask them if they can listen for a while.

9. Write your story. The more people can write about their thoughts and feelings the quicker they can work through them and gain understanding. Who knows, you may be creating a best seller.

10. Light a candle, turn on soft music and pray. You are a spiritual being having a human experience and this part of being a human is painful.

Most people are afraid of being alone. For many the fear keeps them trapped in broken relationships and broken families. If your marriage didn’t work out, and you do find yourself alone at Christmas, celebrate the fact that you aren’t trapped in a marriage that was broken. 
Look to tomorrow, believe in the lessons you learned today. You're going to be okay.

–Mary Jo Rapini