Friday, 28 June 2019

My 5 Biggest Fears As a Divorced Parent

I'm afraid that she will grow up to hate me, that I can't show her how to be married.
It’s now been seven months since my decision to divorce and, while many things have settled in my mind and heart, there seems to be the same core of fears gripping on with both hands. Questions with answers that never satisfy, angst that haunts me at night. I’m positive I’m not alone in these fears, but they plague me nonetheless.

I am afraid…

  1. That she will grow up to hate me.This is pretty extreme, I realize it, but it’s my number one fear. I’m afraid she’ll never get beyond her hurt enough to see the struggle I went through. That I didn’t flippantly leave her dad and turn her little world upside down. I hated my mom for years and years over something that, now as an adult, I totally sympathize with her over. How do I keep my daughter from making that mistake? How can I help her have compassion on my choices now rather than twenty years from now.
  2. That I can’t show her how to be married. How in the hell am I supposed to teach her about marriage? I always assumed that I would show my daughter how to have a successful marriage by example, by being a walking advertisement for what a healthy, mutually exclusive relationship looks like. Will she ever heed my advice when I so obviously failed?
  3. That she won’t want to be like me. Naturally, there are flaws in me that I’d never want her to model herself after, but when it comes down to it, who doesn’t want their child to be like them? I want to be good enough that, should she behave like me, she will have a good life. Have I messed up too much?
  4. That she won’t open up and talk about it. Right before I moved out of town she started seeing a therapist who she really liked. I had such high hopes because my little girl, who historically refused to cooperate with counselors, actually LIKED this woman. But after just a few sessions the therapist left for another practice and sent us back to square one. What if she never talks to anyone again? What if she holds it all in, bottles up her feelings till they spill out in forms of depression, self-harming and eating disorders … oh-my.
  5. That I will be blamed for everything unpleasant in her life. I don’t have the thickest skin and being told I’m at fault for anything sets off a panic in me like you wouldn’t believe. She very well could turn all of her life’s misfortunes right back onto me and the divorce I put her through. How will I handle that? Will I live year after year feeling like a scolded pet?

Now, let me balance some of this crazy talk with a little truth, because even I know that a tad of grace goes a long way. To date, I’ve managed to raise a lovely, caring human being and when I push these fears back for a moment I can admit that it’s unlikely that she should suddenly abandon her personality. She has always been reasonable and considerate and I need to plug into that reality when my anxieties rise to the surface. When I can’t find it in myself, I need to lean into people who love me and accept me. No parent is perfect, even the married ones, and all I can do is wake up each day and do my best, whatever my best for that day is.

"Divorce isn’t such a tragedy. A tragedy’s staying in an unhappy marriage, teaching your children the wrong things about love. Nobody ever died of divorce.” –Jennifer Weiner, Fly Away Home


Thursday, 27 June 2019

The Power of Optimism

Whether you’re determined to achieve a tiny goal or to change your entire life, believing that you can is the first, most important step.

It’s a bit of timeless wisdom perhaps best immortalized by the Star Wars character Yoda, who bestowed it upon a young Luke Skywalker — and by extension, the rest of us: “Do or do not,” Yoda said. “There is no try.”

That message triggered something extraordinary in Luke, of course, empowering him to harness “the Force” and master his own internal resources. But I think many o
f us have yet to realize how relevant and evergreen the lesson is in our own lives.

Yoda’s quirky syntax notwithstanding, the message here is clear: Our ability to achieve a particular goal hinges mightily on our belief that we can, and on our determination that we will. You either decide to do something and immediately begin doing it, or you don’t.

We love saying that “we’ll try,” as a way of implying that we’re agreeing to work on something. But I think that, far too often, that’s a cop out. “Try” is a state of effort without complete intention and commitment — and so it generally turns out to be little more than a way station on the road to failure.

In my experience, if you’re hopelessly or halfheartedly trying — expending your energy without a powerful sense of connection to a positive outcome — you might as well not try at all.

So why do many of us continue to be stubbornly attached to toiling away in the “try” state? I suspect that part of it is fear of the unknown. We know what it’s like where we are, even if it’s painful and frustrating. We don’t really know what life is going to be like out beyond our next meaningful achievement.

Frankly, it can feel a whole lot safer and more familiar on this side of our excuses for why what we most want in life can’t possibly happen.

I remember a young employee I had years ago. He desperately wanted a shot at success, and he was a hard worker. I coached him and encouraged him. I kept giving him opportunities to grow. But every time he got a shot at a really important endeavor, he put all of his attention on worrying about whether or not he’d be able to pull it off — rather than envisioning his success and focusing on how he’d go about achieving it.

“I’m trying,” he’d say. And there was no doubt that this guy took his efforts seriously. But he stressed about every bad indicator, and saw the shadow of his own self-doubt lurking around every corner. He advertised his worst fears rather than articulating his most inspiring hopes. It diminished his confidence and energy, and scattered his attention. It also pulled down the people around him.

Eventually, this young man moved on to a different job. I hope he achieved something great, but unless he experienced some kind of break-through in his outlook, I suspect he’s still stuck in neutral.

People tend to think that when they are successful, they will feel confident, but I really think it works the other way around. The people who absolutely believe they can do something are the ones who commit themselves so fully that they ultimately can’t help but succeed.
Do confidence and optimism guarantee success in all things? Of course not. But I would argue that they are essential ingredients. It works like this: If you know you will win, you might win. If you think you might win, you will lose.

That said, success is a little like sourdough: If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll need a bit of a colonizing bacterial culture to get the desired reaction started. So if you’ve been struggling to make any meaningful progress on a goal for a long time, or if you are lacking confidence that you’ll ever get there, it’s important to create some “starter successes” that help you amplify your belief that you can do whatever you set your mind to.

Start with one very doable, immediate goal — something you can do today (self-care fundamentals like drinking an extra glass of water, eating some fresh vegetables or getting some activity can be a good place to start). And then, with single-minded focus and complete commitment — right away, so you can’t forget or get distracted — go do it.

Chalk up that success, feel it, and then set another, slightly bigger goal. Continue exercising your success muscles this way, knocking out doable goals daily for a couple of weeks, and soon your entire life will feel different. You will feel different.

Keep in mind that both the feeling of winning and the feeling of losing are totally contagious. Success or failure that begins in one area of your life tends to naturally spill over into other areas. So don’t make the mistake of tolerating a sense of hopeless, halfhearted “try-ing” in any part of your world.

Instead, take Yoda’s advice and simply decide to “do.” You’ll be amazed at the results. And, like Luke, you’ll discover that the Force was with you all along.


Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Confessions of a Part-Time Mom

Divorce and shared custody suits me, and it suits my kids, too.

Divorce hits with a particular brutality when small children are involved. My ex-husband and I agreed to joint custody, and we co-parent amicably, so our situation is better than most. And yet, adding to my initial anger, disappointment, and shame about the end of the relationship was a heavy layer of guilt for forcing our children to trundle back and forth between us, wishing there was a GPS tracking device for the baseball gloves, soccer cleats, library books, and loveys that always seemed to be at the wrong house.

Those transitions were awful at first. Kissing my daughter’s tear-stained face while she clung to me—and trying not to cry myself—was wrenching in a way that seemed to symbolize the larger demolishment of our family. And don’t get me wrong: I still have those moments. But after we settled into a familiar schedule, part-time parenting turned into a strange kind of gift.

Here’s the truth: Having my two children half the time is exactly the right amount, and I cannot imagine my life any other way. Unhappily married in a 1,200-square-foot flat with two toddlers and an aggrieved spouse, I was physically and emotionally suffocated. Now the same space feels positively palatial, particularly when I am the only person in it.

I know how I am supposed to feel about my divorced-parent reality. A good mother would be devastated to lose thousands of dinner-bath-bedtime-story evenings. A good mother would be heartsick to wake up alone. Deprived of her children full time, a good mother would feel sorrowful and bereft.
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Not me. I rarely feel bad when my kids are with their father. For a while, I felt bad for not feeling bad. Finally, I realized what plenty of other divorced moms figured out long ago: Divorce suits us, and actually, it suits our kids. Staying together “for the sake of the children” is not doing them any favors. Kids know everything. They know when they’re serving as the glue to hold together a teetering house of toothpicks that should have been dissembled a long time ago. They need joy and security. Cordial exes may be in a better position to give them those things than a married couple who make each other miserable. Most women don’t say so, though, for fear of getting tarred and feathered.

I am far more able to be present knowing that, sooner or later, I get to be absent.

There is, rightly, a growing acceptance that it is not necessary to be Ward and June Cleaver to produce happy, successful, well-adjusted offspring. Families come in all shapes and sizes now, biological, fostered, and adopted, and in any number of racial, ethnic, religious, and gender combinations. What’s less accepted is the idea that divorced co-parents can produce happy, successful, well-adjusted offspring. Nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. Many more are deeply unhappy, even toxic. Some people stay together out of fear—of being alone, of the social stigma of divorce, of what are often profound economic consequences. Fear that the alternative could be worse is not a foundation for a happy union, and yet we cling to the idea that children need two full-time parents under the same roof to thrive.

Could the converse be true—that some parents are better as part-timers, and their children are better off as a result? I have always liked to spend time by myself. What I did not realize is how much my parenting would improve if I got to spend time by myself. Many of the things I need to feel human are child-unfriendly. These include having time to write, work, go running, and have long, lazy conversations with friends over drinks and dinner. Many of the things that make me feel subhuman involve the endlessly repeating, mind-eating, vocabulary-impoverishing rituals—the butt wiping, teeth brushing, and hand washing of wriggling, resistant bodies, the “no, no, NO”—that constitute much of child rearing.

When I was married, my coping method was to retreat to an inner world with virtual but soundproof walls. “You’re not present” was the common refrain. Often that was true. Rather than live in the slow-motion moments of tantrum throwing and sibling-on-sibling violence, my mind went elsewhere: to the book I was writing, to a case I was working on, to anything except the two small people actually in front of me. Who wants to be “present” for this? I wondered as I crawled around the kitchen floor on my hands and knees trying to sop up every last smashed Honey Nut Cheerio with a wet paper towel.

“You are getting on my last nerve.” That is what my eighth-grade math teacher used to tell my class before the hammer came down. I envied her, because the warning implied that she had more than one nerve that we could hop on before she lost her mind.

I told myself to be grateful. Not everyone who wants children gets to have them. But knowing that motherhood is a piece of good fortune did not help me enjoy rainy weekends, endlessly accumulating laundry, and the nonstop whack-a-mole of tidying up.

Now it is different. Time reduced by half becomes a scarce and precious resource. I am far more able to be present knowing that, sooner or later, I get to be absent. I like the control that comes with deciding when we will do what. I like the freedom that comes with having my approach to motherhood go unremarked upon. My lapses in judgment occur in relative privacy, and as a result I have fewer of them. It is so much easier and more joyful to be a mother without an ever-present accusatory eye. It is so much easier and more joyful to be a mother knowing there is a reprieve.

By Day 5 with the two of them—outnumbered, outsmarted, and outrun—I am done. Seeing my ex-husband’s car coming into the driveway, I exhale with relief.

On the flip side, by Day 5 on my own, I am sad and lonely, particularly if there were no intervening school events, sports games, or joint family outings. But missing my kids has a positive effect on my parenting. When their dad drops them off and they ring the doorbell over and over, yelling “Mom!” as they jump up and down, I rush down the stairs to let them in. I feel happy and grateful and head over heels in love.


Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Depression as a Starting Point for Change

It takes guts to admit to yourself that things aren’t going really well. It takes courage to talk to your nearest and dearest friends about the difficulties that you’re going through. There is certain stigma in society, built upon the foundation of an egotistical thinking, which implies that having problems — being depressed — is a sign of weakness.

Research shows that in America, the main cause of stress in a household is associated with stress at the workplace. Dealing with lousy managers, lazy coworkers, and being exposed to a pressurizing environment will undoubtedly start to take a toll on you.

The world, in this regard, can certainly share a similar sentiment: we’re living in the dark ages of economic and emotional stability, even equality for that matter.

Becoming an adult.

Although depression, anxiety, and social stigma exist during the period of adolescence, the aftermath starts to become visible only after a certain age, perhaps at a time in your life when you’re being exposed to a larger number of adults who are not only dealing with their own stresses, but manage to provoke difficult emotions within yourself; all of which are associated with the things that have happened to you in the past.

It takes a certain determination to switch depression off, to use it as a tool for growth, rather than a tool for self-sabotage.

The answer lies in the question.

It’s easy to numb your pain. It’s easy to go out for drinks, to cry about your problems and then forget about them momentarily. It’s easy to reinforce anger and sadness by rehashing the same experience in your mind a thousand times. It never did any good to me, so I can’t image it doing any good for anyone else. Numbing pain is not the answer for finding a solution as to why you’re depressed in the first place. If I learned anything from spending several years in lonely solitude, it’s this: the answers to your depressive behaviors and patterns lie within you, not somewhere in the external world.

When you prepare dinner for yourself, and your family, why did you do it? Was it because you love them, or because it’s something that needs to be done every single day as part of life? What if the core reason for doing it was the fact that humans need to feed their hunger, a quintessential part of the human life is to nourish the body with food. So, if you can find the core reason for needing food, can you not do the same for finding the ultimate reason for your depression?

Why am I depressed?

Just by asking a simple question, without judging yourself, it’s possible to hear the underlying reason for why you’re feeling a certain way. Whenever I’m going through a difficult time, that is my ultimate question to ask myself, because unless I do — I find myself drifting away deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of an endless loop that starts to creep up on my awareness as some sort of a hatred machine for everything around me.

What to do with the answer.

You might be wondering, what’s next? What comes next after getting the answer? It’s simple, what comes next is internal change in how you approach your depressive behaviors, fears and anxieties about anything in the external world. It’s unprecedented how many of us have become professional suppressors of our own emotions, yet all it takes is to bring awareness into that which is driving us crazy, and within that split moment things start to change immediately.

The ego begins to lose its grip over what has happened in the past, because you’re starting to actively seek a solution, you’re seeking the underlying root cause for the emotions that you’re feeling.

During my teenage years, I developed the habit of being a bully. I bullied people because it was “fun”, my close friends liked to do it as well, and I didn’t really know any better. Then a few years later, I found myself on the other side of the coin, and became a target for others to bully me. At that time, things like karma or cause and effect never crossed my mind, but now in my mid-20’s it is starting to make a lot more sense.

I had built this pitch-perfect picture in my mind of how another person should appear, and if he wasn’t living up to those insane standards I was in the position to condemn him for not having the same luxuries as I did, of which I had very little regardless.

Pain stores itself in your body, your subconscious.

Our past experiences shape our present moment, the more we hold on to those experiences the less we get to experience of that which is already here in this moment. The more difficult our past experiences, and the less we invest to resolve emotions associated with them, the less joyful becomes the present moment. It’s a time tested theory, yet we’re still learning to navigate this concept for the purpose of becoming a better version of ourselves. In society today, it’s hard to really take time for yourself to rejuvenate and heal, without having someone yell at the back of your mind that what you’re doing is stupid, and pointless.

The irony lies in the fact that whoever does condemn you, for your humble choice to change, is likely to be dealing with emotional pain himself. My life changed completely at the age of 20, my old life had ran its course and I began to dedicate myself to mindfulness and meditation as a daily thing. It took my parents 3 years to accept that things have changed in my life, it has taken some of my friends to this day to learn how to let go of a version of me that is no longer there.

Yet, such is the journey of life. We, you, have the choice as to whether we want to hold onto things, or learn from them — to accept the inevitable and push forward in a new direction.

Change will always start within.


Monday, 24 June 2019

How Long Does "Typical" Divorce Recovery Take?

If you're not moving beyond your divorce, you may be doing something wrong

One of the most common questions newly divorcing people have for me is, "how long will it take before I'm over this divorce ordeal?

My answer is always the same: "How long it takes to "recover" from a divorce depends on a number of factors, including how long you were together, how good the relationship was and how committed you were to your spouse, whether the divorce was a surprise to you or not, whether you have children together, whether you or your spouse are involved in a new relationship, your personality, your age, your socio-economic status and on and on.

I liken the undoing of a marriage to trying to disentangle two trees that have grown next to each other for years. The more intertwined the root systems are, the longer it will take for the trees to go their separate ways.

In addition, grief has a life of its own and you are done* when your grief process is done, and not a minute before. There is no magic formula and no way to get through your grief on the fast track. But you can do things to slow your process down, which I discuss below.

*(I'd like to qualify this statement by saying you're never completely "done" grieving if you had a sincere love and attachment to your spouse. By done, I mean recovered to the point where you are no longer weighted down by thoughts and feelings about your spouse or your marriage and the pain of the split is a distant memory.)

While no one can tell you exactly when this will be, I can tell you there are things you can do to make the process harder, and there are things you can do to ease the process. I've created a chart so you can see the difference by comparing actions side by side.

Top Ten Don'ts for Divorce Recovery

  1. Don't ask for help and try to do it all alone
  2. Don't talk about your grief/feelings
  3. Count on others to tell you what you need (don't be in your own power)
  4. Stick your head in the sand and hope it will go away
  5. Pretend you're fine or try to hold it all together
  6. Be upset with yourself for "still" feeling bad, sad, scared or angry
  7. Try to push your "negative emotions" away and be only in better feeling emotions
  8. Don't accept your new reality and move on
  9. Don't trust that things will work out
  10. Be a perfectionist and think you mustn't make any errors

Top Ten Do's for Divorce Recovery

  1. Ask for help & let help in
  2. Talk about your grief with others
  3. Get as much information as you can about the divorce process
  4. Face each obstacle as it arises
  5. Let others know when you're not feeling well
  6. Allow your feelings to come to the surface
  7. Allow yourself to feel whatever you feel
  8. Accept your new reality and move on when it's appropriate to move on (this doesn't mean you have to like it!)
  9. Have trust/faith that things will work out
  10. Be willing to make mistakes (mistakes are going to happen no matter how well prepared you are - it's just part of the process

While I know there are more ways people have to impede or improve their recovery process, this list gives you a general overview of the do's and don'ts as well as the reminder that you can get through it but you'll need a good set of emotional and mental "tools."

I will add a note here also to those may be beyond the time it "should have"taken. If you are three or four years post-divorce and you find that you are not letting go, my best guess (without assessing you personally) is that you are practicing one of the top 10 "don'ts and that you don't have adequate emotional support.


Thursday, 20 June 2019

4 Habits That Can Derail Your Divorce Recovery

Divorce is in many ways similar to death. Like death, there are different stages of divorce a person must transition through before they can completely move on.

The final stage, recovery, might be the most difficult. It’s natural for many men to want to cling to that failed relationship and replay in their minds what went wrong. It’s a vicious cycle that can lead to feelings of blame, self-loathing, anger and depression.

Men and women often deal with breakups differently, and men face a myriad of different health risks after divorce, including an increase in early mortality rate by up to 250 percent.
During this recovery process, it is important to realize that life will eventually go on and you can even come out of it better off than before.

It is critical during this time to take the proper steps to take care of yourself, both mentally and physically. There are many positive things you can do to help speed the recovery process, — including taking up a new hobby, working to maintain a positive social life, and giving yourself the proper amount of time you need to grieve.

At the same time, there are quite a few things you need to avoid that can hinder your divorce recovery.

Here are four habits to stay away from during the divorce recovery period:

Avoid holding everything inside.

Many people consider divorce to be a private matter. It’s incredibly frustrating and annoying when you know there are friends, neighbors and family members gossiping about what happened between you and your spouse.

When that’s the case, it’s natural to want to shut everyone out. While it’s not necessary, or healthy, to share details of your divorce with everyone, bottling everything up isn’t a good idea either.

Depression is a common side effect of divorce and it isn’t something you should have to take on alone. Find some people you know you can trust to confide in. Simply venting and letting off some steam can be one of the most effective coping strategies post-divorce.
You might also consider counseling. Counselors and therapists can play a key role in your divorce recovery.

Don’t cope by turning to alcohol.

One of the most common mistakes men make after a divorce is trying to numb their pain by drinking alcohol. This is one of the most self-destructive decisions you can make.

Statistically, men are more likely than women to turn to drinking after divorce. Abusing alcohol or other substances can delay the recovery process and lead to a myriad of other mental and physical health problems.

Throwing back a few beers or cocktails probably will numb your pain temporarily, but alcohol is a depressant that has been linked to depression and many other health problems.

Don’t become a recluse.

You’re probably not going to feel very good for a while after your divorce as it takes time to adjust to being single again.

That’s OK. Just don’t totally shut down and become reclusive.

Try to turn the idea of being alone into a positive. Look at it this way, you now have more freedom than you’ve likely had in years. This is a perfect time to take up new hobbies, refocus on your career and reconnect with old friends you’ve lost touch with.

Embrace being a bachelor again!

Don’t jump into a new relationship right away. (But don’t give up on dating again either.)

While it’s important to stay active, you can also go too far the other way by immediately getting back into a relationship.

Just because your last relationship failed doesn’t mean you will never find love again. Plenty of people resume dating following divorce and are able to build happy, healthy relationships with a significant other.

However, immediately jumping into a rebound relationship before you’ve had time to fully recover is a crucial mistake many men make. Like alcohol, a new relationship can help take your mind off your pain temporarily, but if you haven’t taken the proper time to heal, it will likely lead to more hurt and confusion.

There is a reason the failure rate of second and third marriages are so high.

Additionally, dating too soon after a breakup can create stress and hurt for your kids. If you introduce a new girlfriend to them too soon, they might resent you both for trying to replace their mother. While you need to look after yourself, it’s also important to put your children’s best interest before everything else after a divorce.

Just because you’re not actively dating doesn’t mean you can’t lead an active social life, but make sure you take your time before getting back into the game.


Wednesday, 19 June 2019

24 Ridiculous Divorce Lies You Should Never EVER Believe!

The biggest lies you've heard about divorce recovery... debunked!

Maybe "lies" is a bit strong; maybe the words "myths" or "stories" work better. Regardless, there is a lot of pervasive misinformation (and bad advice) about divorce out there. So I'm here to help debunk it—because divorce is hard enough without accidently making it even harder.

I've seen so many people suffer needlessly when trying to recover from their divorce as a result of believing these untruths; if you're starting over again, don't let these lies influence you.

I also suffered from divorce recovery lies when I divorced. I believed the notion that all divorces are basically the same AND that I'd get over my divorce more quickly if I didn't think about it or allow myself to feel much anger about it.

I believed that if I started dating, it meant I must be over my divorce. I didn't understand that those were such false misconceptions. But I learned—the hard way. I don't want that to happen to you. There is no one way divorce "should" go. So here are the most false ideas about divorce out there. Don't let these "lies" limit you, your healing, or your truth:

1. All divorces are basically the same. Divorces are all different. Laws vary depending on where you live. Your marriage was not like anyone else's marriage because you and your ex-spouse are two unique individuals. Your divorce will be just as unique as you are.

There might be similarities between your divorce and someone else's that you can use to help with your divorce recovery, but it won't be the same.

2. It takes one year for every four years of marriage to get over your divorce. False.
From my experience as a divorce coach, everyone is different and requires a different amount of time to recover from their divorce. Some people who stayed married for years find it fairly easy to get through their divorce recovery, and others never do.

What I believe is that it depends on how much effort you're willing to invest in yourself and moving on with your life, as to how quickly you'll start to feel better again.

3. Everyone going through divorce has the same emotions in the same order. This is just so wrong. There are similarities to the emotions that people experience when dealing with divorce recovery, but everyone experiences them in a different order, in different intensities, and for different durations.

4. The pain of divorce decreases linearly over time. For most people, the pain of divorce is more cyclical than linear. At first the emotions of divorce are intense and change rapidly, but over time they tend to decrease in intensity and variety. Flare-ups occur at any time after they've decreased.

5. Once you think you're over your divorce, it never comes up again.As I mentioned in the discussion about the previous lie, the painful emotions of divorce can flare up after you think the worst is over. The times when people might see a flare up are at the holidays, anniversaries, or other special occasions, but not everyone does.

6. Your family members will always help you as you go through divorce. As much as I wish this wasn't a lie, it is. It's not so much a lie because you can't count on your family, but because most families don't know how to help you get through divorce ... unless you're getting through it exactly as they expect you to.

So, although most people can count on their families for help, they won't always provide the exact help you need and want, when you need and want it.

7. It's not OK to feel sorry for yourself. Now, I'm not advocating becoming a puddle of self-pity, but it's OK to feel bad for yourself when you're going through a divorce. The hopes, dreams, and expectations you had when you got married won't come true.

Most people experience grief when that happens. It's OK for you to feel some sadness for yourself; however, if that's the only thing you're feeling, you might want to reach out to someone and get more support to heal.

8. You'll get over your divorce quicker if you just avoid thinking about it. Stuffing your thoughts and feelings about your divorce is not the best answer. When I did this, I wound up with health problems, including anorexia and anxiety attacks. So, at least in my case, trying to ignore what was going on actually made things worse.

9. You should feel really angry at your ex. Most people feel anger at their ex at some point during their divorce, but it's not a requirement. There are examples of people who get divorced and actually gain the ability to communicate with each other.

I have some neighbors who are recently divorced; they went through a period of intense anger, but now communicate better than in the marriage.

10. Everyone gets depressed when they go through divorce. Most people experience sadness (sometimes intense sadness) when they get divorced, but sadness is not synonymous with depression.

11. If you haven't been married for very long, you should get over it quicker than someone who remained married for many years. There really are no rules about how long it takes you to get over divorce. I know of one woman whose husband asked for a divorce after nine months of marriage. Devastated, it took her about a year to get over the grief.

I know of another woman married for about a year and got divorced, but she was over it within a couple of months. I also know of people married for 10+ years who were over their divorce before the decree finalized.

12. There's a reason there's no divorce ritual/celebration or marriage funeral—they aren't needed. Despite the fact that for every two marriages in the US this year there will be approximately one divorce, divorce is still looked at as a process that isn't something to celebrate or recognize. Maybe we consider it too personal.

For many people, having public recognition of the fact that the marriage is over is extremely helpful in putting an end to the marriage and a beginning to a newly single life.

13. The intensity and length of your anger, depression, and loneliness are directly proportional to how invested you were in your marriage.Bull. The intensity and length of your emotions is directly proportional to your ability to accept and work through them.

14. There is something wrong with you if you feel like part of you died when your marriage ended. It's pretty common to feel like part of you died when your marriage ends. The part of you that was the spouse in your marriage is no more, and it's OK to grieve the loss of that role.

15. Every divorce attorney only has their client's best interests at heart.How I wish this wasn't a lie. Unfortunately, it is. Just like in any profession, there are good ones and not so good ones. Having an attorney who truly does have your best interests at heart can make your divorce recovery that much easier, as you're not as stressed about the legalities of your divorce.

16. You attorney is also going to help you recover from your divorce.As caring and supportive as your attorney might be, they probably aren't the best-equipped to help you recover from your divorce. However, they probably have a great referral or two for you to get the help you deserve.

17. Everyone takes anti-depressants when they get divorced. This is like when we were teenagers and told our parents that everyone else was doing it, so we needed to do it, too. 
It's just not true that everyone needs anti-depressants when they get divorced.
In my opinion, we've normalized depression and are ready to take a pill for a "quick fix," instead of really exploring what's going on.

18. Your ex is the reason your marriage failed. Even if your ex behaved in a way that necessitated your divorce, you still played some small role in the failure of the marriage. Even if that role was only agreeing to the marriage, the faster you come to terms with your part in the end of the marriage, the faster you'll be able to recover from your divorce.

19. You should feel really sad when you get divorced. You might feel sad, you might feel relieved, you might feel angry, OR you might feel some other emotion. There's no rule that says the only emotion you should feel during divorce is sadness.

20. You don't need any time to adjust to your newly single life; you should continue doing everything you were doing before just fine. The truth is that for most people, getting divorced is stressful. Any added stress makes doing what you've always done much more difficult. So please, be gentle with yourself when you're going through divorce and allow extra time to take care of YOU.

21. You should start dating right away. Not everyone feels ready to date when they get divorced. There's no reason that you must start dating right away. Take your time and you'll know when you're ready to date.

22. The sooner you get into another relationship, the faster you'll get over your divorce. This works for a few people, but most people need to have a little bit of time to get to know themselves again before jumping into a new relationship.

23. Getting divorced means you are a failure. Getting divorced only means that your marriage didn't work out. It doesn't necessarily mean anything about you as a person.

24. Your friends will always support you. This is another one I wish wasn't on this list of lies. Your friends will support you to the best of their ability. Unfortunately, for some, they might not have any ability to support you. The thing to remember is that they're behaving in ways that make the most sense to them, not necessarily in ways that make the most sense to you.

Be honest, how many of lies on this list do you believe? If you're like most people I work with, you probably believe most of them. Heck, I believed most of them when I got divorced.
So, here's your functional divorce assignment:

Which of the lies were you surprised to see on the list? Most of us don't realize that what we, and those around us, believe about divorce isn't true.

What beliefs do you have about divorce that you now wonder are lies?It's common for lists like the one above to trigger other thoughts about what other lies it should include. Here's your chance to explore some of your beliefs about divorce and decide if you still want to believe them or not.

How has reading this article changed your thoughts about your divorce recovery? When I share these fallacies about divorce with my clients, their first response is denial that they believe any of the lies. Then, when we dig a bit deeper, they recognize they might have bought into one or two of them. Once they make that discovery, we're able to directly address some of the obstacles they've had, and they're able to get through the remainder of their divorce recovery much quicker.


Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Joint physical custody

Is joint physical custody best -- or worst -- for children?

I am a big advocate for joint physical custody. If at all possible, I want children to spend a lot of time - and have good relationships - with both of their parents after a separation or divorce. But there are several problems and potential pitfalls with joint physical custody. I touch on the most important in this entry, including:

  • For children, joint physical custody is the best and the worst arrangement.
  • Joint physical custody is a lousy "compromise" between disputing parents.
  • Joint physical custody is being used, wrongly, to lower child support payments.
  • Joint physical custody is not necessarily 50/50.
  • Joint physical custody requires a lot of logistical coordination.
  • Joint physical custody is less stable over time than sole physical custody.
  • Joint physical custody apparently works only for a minority of families.

Before addressing these points, let me be clear about terms. Different people, and different laws in different states and countries, use different words: "custody," "parenting plan," "parental rights and responsibilities" etc. I have no investment in a particular term. Parents living apart need to decide how to divide children's time between two households (physical custody), and they also need to decide how they will make big and small childrearing decisions (legal custody). So, you can call these issues "time" and "decisions," and drop the sometimes controversial term "custody" altogether. I sometimes do just that, but use "custody" here as convenient shorthand.

Another clarification: I think sharing big decisions - joint legal custody - is a no-brainer. Joint legal custody should be a presumption unless there are good reasons not to do it. But note the "big decisions" qualifier. Joint legal custody does not mean that parents get to second guess each other constantly. More on this in a coming blog.

Finally, a little preface about why I like joint physical custody philosophically. Children have two parents. Most children want to have a relationship with both of their parents after a separation, and most divorced parents want relationships with their children. Family relationships can and do continue despite the many upheavals of divorce. The old model of divorce as a family feud, where only one parent raises and "owns" the children is, well, the old model. Divorced parents can be parents even if they are no longer lovers.
I am a big advocate for joint physical custody. But...

BUT joint physical custody is the best and the worst arrangement for children. It's the best when parents can cooperate enough to make joint physical custody work for children. It's the worst when joint physical custody leaves children in the middle of a war zone. The best research supports this conclusion. In low or controlled conflict divorces, children fare better in joint than in sole physical custody. In high conflict divorces, children do worse in joint physical custody than in other arrangements. Admittedly, existing research is imperfect and very hard to do. But this "best and worst" conclusion also is commonly held by seasoned practitioners, and it makes good common sense.

BUT joint physical custody is a lousy compromise for disputing parents. Why? Because joint physical custody is the best and worst arrangement for children, and it's all but certain to be the worst when parents end up in court (because the parents, by definition, aren't working together). For judges, this means that joint physical custody may seem like a fair middle ground, but that's an illusion that keeps kids trapped in the middle. For parents who want it, this means you have to try to work out joint physical custody with your children's other parent, because wise judges already know it's a lousy compromise for children in high conflict divorces.

BUT joint physical custody is being used wrongly to lower child support payments. In my home state, Virginia, for example, child support schedules define joint physical custody as having 90 overnights per year with your child (for the purpose of calculating reduced child support payments). It's truly amazing how many parents insist that they need 90 overnights with their children. (The magic number differs from state to state, and so do many parents' demands...) If you really want 90, or more, overnights with your children, let's talk. If you really want to pay less child support, well, sorry, but raising children is expensive.

BUT joint physical custody is not necessarily 50/50. When I hear a parent insisting on exactly 50/50, I really worry. I worry that the parent is thinking about getting his or her half of the pie, not about the children. Sure, 50/50 can work. So can lots of different schedules. I consider about 25% of overnights as being joint physical custody in terms of having enough opportunity to have a rich relationship with your children. That might mean a schedule that is a week on and a week off, Wednesday through Saturday, every Thursday and Friday over night, or dividing the school year and the summers. And there are a million other options, many of which I discuss in my book, The Truth about Children and Divorce.

BUT joint physical custody requires a lot of logistical coordination. Kids forget stuff. Be prepared to drive soccer cleats or the tuba or the antibiotic to your ex's house. Oh yeah, and kids take short cuts. Be prepared to communicate regularly with your children's other parent. What about? Not about your own stuff. About your kids' stuff. Homework. Weekend plans. Discipline. Stuff like that.

BUT joint physical custody is less stable over time than sole physical custody. Several studies show this. And this isn't necessarily a problem. Kids' needs and desires change. So do parents' needs and desires. People move. New partners get involved. The changes can make a lot of sense, and changes can make things work better. So file this concern under "something for parents to consider" not under "why you don't want joint physical custody."

BUT joint physical custody apparently works only for a minority of families. At any one point in time, maybe 10% of children from divorced families are actually living in joint physical custody. (There really isn't great research here, but even the highest estimates I've seen aren't much bigger.) Why is the number small compared to the amount of talk about joint physical custody? I think it's for all the reasons I've discussed. Joint physical custody is definitely an option to consider - it's my preferred option for cooperative parents. But it's only one of many options that can work for divorced parents and for children.


Monday, 17 June 2019

9 Rules to Make Joint Child Custody Work

We asked our experts for their best rules for making shared child custody work for you, your ex, and your kids.

Coordinating schedules. Divvying up holidays. Shuffling kids between houses. Sharing child custody isn't always easy, especially when you're trying to agree with someone you couldn't stand being married to. The good news: "Studies show that shared-custody situations work best when both parents are cooperative, respectful, agree on shared custody, and manage their emotions," says JoAnne Pedro-Carroll, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of Putting Children First: Proven Parenting Strategies to Help Children Thrive Through Divorce. "These qualities make it more likely that parents will help their children adjust to family changes." We asked our experts for their best rules for making shared child custody work for you, your ex, and your kids.

Rule #1: Speak no evil.

Expert after expert (most of whom were divorced themselves) repeated this: Don't speak poorly about your ex. "Badmouthing the ex will be internalized by the child because they are made up of both you and your ex," says David Pisarra, fathers' rights attorney at and author of A Man's Guide To Child Custody. "What you say about the ex is what the child will react to, and also think about themselves." Even though you may be pissed at your ex, your child still loves him or her as a parent. Regardless of your feelings about your ex - justified or not - keep them to yourself.

Rule #2: It's not about you.

The divorce was about you, but custody is about the kids. "Divorce causes emotional tunnel vision and people get so focused on their own hurts and needs that they lose sight of the goal of creating a good childhood," Pisarra says. Custody is not about getting exactly what you want, or even demanding equity at any cost. "The hardest part for co-parents is remembering that time with the child is not a prize to be won, but a gift to be cherished," Pisarra says. Shared custody works best when both parents set aside their ego and realize that what is best for the child is not always what feels good for you as a parent."

Rule #3: Be realistic about your own schedule and commitments.

"Often during a separation or divorce, parents make unrealistic custody grabs based on fear or insecurity," says Laura Wasser, a celebrity divorce attorney in Los Angeles and author of the new book It Doesn't Have to Be That Way. Instead, look at custody as a business arrangement. Remove your emotions from the situation and look at the facts.

Rule #4: Choose a custody arrangement that accommodates your children's ages, activities, and needs.

When deciding on a custody arrangement, you'll want to take the following into consideration.
  1. Your children's ages and personalities
  2. Your family schedule
  3. The career and social commitments of each parent
  4. The academic and extracurricular activities to which your children are committed
  5. Your child-care arrangements and the distance between the parents' homes.
Here are three of the most common joint custody arrangements:

  • 2-2-3 plan Monday and Tuesday with Mom, Wednesday and Thursday with Dad, Friday through Sunday with Mom. Then the schedule flips: Monday and Tuesday with Dad, etc.
  • 2-2-5 plan Monday and Tuesday with Mom, Wednesday and Thursday with Dad, and then alternating Friday through Sunday between the parents (one week with Mom, the next with Dad). This schedule often works better when kids are older and have their own schedule of practices, playdates, and obligations.
  • Alternate week plan week 1 with Mom, week 2 with Dad, and so on.
  • Infants usually remain in primary care of the mothers, but toddlers and preschool-age children actually benefit from switching back and forth between households. "Generally, mental health practitioners who specialize in development recommend that for younger children, more frequent transitions actually are beneficial," Wasser says. A 2-2-3 plan allows the child to see both parents regularly. As they get older, kids can graduate to a 2-2-5 arrangement. Then, if it's easier, parents can switch to an alternate week plan."

Rule #5: A bad spouse doesn't equal a bad parent.

Your ex may have dropped the ball and driven you crazy, but Wasser reminds her clients that "even though he or she may not have been a good spouse, it is still possible for him or her to be a good parent." In most case, Wasser says, "it is unquestionably best for children to have frequent and continuous contact with both parents." Your marriage may not have worked, but your parenting can still succeed. "For good or bad, the child wants and needs to feel the love of both of parents," Pisarra says. How to do that? Put the needs and well-being of your children first. "Remember that when the children are with your ex, they are with the one person in the world who loves and cares about them as much as you," Wasser says.

Rule #6: Find an agreeable way to communicate

For joint child custody to work, communication is key. For the sake of your children (and your sanity), you need to find a method of communication that works for you and your ex. "These days we have so many tools with which to organize custody," Wasser says. "There are Google calendars, icalendars, cell phones, texting, and emailing - all which provide parents with the ability to communicate with each other quickly." Pisarra directs his clients to the website, which offers joint calendars, expense logs, common document storage for things like a child's immunization record or school calendar, and a message board that keeps an accurate and non-modifiable record of your communications that can be admitted in court, if disagreements arise.

Rule #7: Pick your battles.

Let's be frank. Parenting is hard enough on its own, and co-parenting adds another layer of complexity. Prevent as many as conflicts as possible with your ex by open communication, but when disagreements do arise, consider if the conflict is truly worth fighting over. "Try to be as rational about your positions as possible and remember that if a judge has to decide it, no one will like the decision most likely" Pisarra advises. "Fight only for the things that are worth fighting for. School choices, vacations, and parenting time are worth the fight. Things like food choices, unless there's a known medical issue like diabetes or food allergies, are not worth the fight." Save your energy and good will with your ex and the courts for those things that do matter.

Rule #8: Let your child feel heard.

A child experiences lots of change during a divorce. Allowing the child to express feelings and confusions about the divorce and custody arrangement can help him feel a sense of control in the midst of all that change. "Children need to have input in the process, and depending on how old they are," Pisarra says. "That can be a simple matter with preteens, or hard to discern with toddlers." Involving your 5-year-old might mean letting him choose which Lego sets he wants to bring to his dad's house. Involving preteens and teenagers in creating a custody schedule can help ensure the schedule meshes with the teen's extracurricular activities. Plus, a child who feels that his input was received is more likely to be agreeable to the schedule. But, says Wasser, "While it is important to listen to your children and hear their feelings, impressions and preferences, the child's opinion is only one factor that goes into making child-custody decisions." Let your children feel heard, but also make the best decision for their well being.

Rule #9: From time to time, review the arrangement and adjust as needed.

Just as your kids will grow and change over time, so should your custody arrangement. "Many parents find it helpful to review a custody agreement from time to time to assess how it is working for their children and to make adjustments, particularly as children grow and circumstances change," says Dr. Pedro-Carroll. You and your ex may change too. Says Wasser: "If you are hoping to eventually get to an equal time share arrangement but have not historically spent as much time parenting, gradual increases are recommended."


Friday, 14 June 2019

A Look at How Social Media is Impacting Divorce Cases

Most people with a smartphone are constantly tapped into some form of social media. Sharing cute pictures of kids and pets is simply a routine part of life these days. Some people even use social media to vent frustrations or look for advice.

In a divorce case, however, shares on social media can create ample evidence that can be used against one or both parties to affect alimony, child support, child custody, and more.

Email and Text Messages

Email and text messages are admissible in court and can even be subpoenaed. If one party in the marriage reveals something about a new job or an upcoming bonus that hasn’t been revealed in court, this can be used as evidence that the person isn’t being honest in his or her financial declarations.

Someone once claimed in court that he didn’t have a job, yet he posted about his job online (along with the expensive vacations he took with his girlfriend). With this evidence in court, his request for alimony was denied.

Lawyers advise people to keep all written communication free of sensitive information during a divorce. If you wouldn’t want a judge reading it, don’t write it - anywhere.


Most people don’t list their income on social media, but they find plenty of other ways to brag about their financial prosperity. If someone claims a low income to avoid high alimony or child support payments but posts pictures of expensive vacations or purchases, this can be used against him or her in court.

Even when a spouse is blocked from seeing his estranged wife’s social media, he can still often see what her friends are posting. If she goes on an expensive vacation with a mutual friend and that friend makes a post about the trip, the spouse can use this evidence to prove that his wife isn’t being honest in her finances.

Ben Carrasco, a divorce attorney in Austin, Texas, reports once using a LinkedIn profile to show the existence of a side business (another source of income) that a party had not disclosed in discovery. This information helped his client secure more child support than she would have otherwise received. “It’s amazing the wealth of information now at our fingertips in a divorce case” says Mr. Carrasco. “What would have once taken weeks of research to discover, if at all, can now be found in the click of a mouse”.

Dating Sites

Creating a profile on an online dating site before a divorce is finalized is foolish. Not only does it show evidence of potential cheating, but most people present themselves differently in an online profile than they do in person. If someone is caught saying something different on a dating site than is said in court, it can lead to problems in the divorce case.

Child Custody

Social media reveals what people are doing, where they’re doing it, and when it’s happening. If a mother is working through a child custody case, but posts pictures that show she was drunk when she should have been watching the children, a judge may rule that the children will not be properly cared for by her.

If one party is supposed to be searching for a job, but posts pictures and status updates that reveal he’s playing video games all day, the judge may rule harshly on alimony and child support decisions.

How to Prevent Negative Effects From Social Media

The best thing to do to avoid social media ruining any portion of a divorce case is to simply stop using it. Many people may be tempted to actually delete their accounts and scrub their online lives. However, once litigation has begun, social media becomes evidence. Deleting accounts is actually a destruction of evidence and can cause a lawyer to be sanctioned.

One thing is for sure. If you’re going through a divorce, you can be certain your spouse and lawyer are combing through your online life. Protect yourself by staying away from all of your social media related accounts until the divorce is finalized.


Thursday, 13 June 2019

How Long Will it Take to Get Over Your Divorce?

Knowing these 3 phases of divorce recovery will help you understand exactly how long it will take.

The pain and confusion of divorce is so intense that at times you wonder if you’ve lost your mind. At other times, you worry that this agony is just how life will be from now on.

In less tortured moments, you know you’re still sane and that life will get better. But then you wonder when because you aren’t sure how much more of the misery you can take.

A quick Google will show you there are plenty of people who will willingly tell you exactly how long it will take you to get over your divorce. What you need to know is that they’re ALL WRONG.

These authorities are all wrong because they base their guidance on averages, observation, personal experience and personal bias. There’s no way any of that will be able to predict exactly how long it will take YOU to get over your divorce.

Divorce recovery is a process. You’ll get through it on a timeline that’s unique to you – not according to someone else’s.

So instead of looking for an exact time when you’ll be over your divorce, it makes more sense to look at other indications that you’re over your divorce.

One of the best ways to gauge how far you’ve come and how much more you have to do is to look at your primary motivation for how you’re living your life.

There are three different phases of motivation that people go through as they heal from their divorce.

Make the pain stop.

This the is the most difficult part of divorce recovery. Living in pain and confusion is the only constant amidst the chaos of your divorce.

You struggle to figure out a way to stop hurting so much as you go through all the phases of grief. You are greatly tempted to medicate the pain away in this phase. You might ask your doctor for a prescription or you might self-medicate with food, alcohol, other mood-altering substances, and/or sex.

The biggest challenge here is to not over medicate yourself so you avoid feeling what you need to experience to actually heal so you can move on to the next phase as you fight to move on with your life after divorce.

You’ll also look for guidance form just about anyone for ideas to make the pain stop. The challenge is that not everyone you’ll be tempted to ask for help will be able to really help you. They’ll each have their own reasons for offering help which may or may not have your best interests as reason #1.

Focus on others.

As the pain starts to subside, you’ll feel numb compared to the tumultuous emotions that were besieging you in the previous phase. You’ll look outside of yourself to keep moving on.
You might start to real focus on your kids or work or your pets or even your friends. This external focus allows you to re-establish and redefine the relationships and your responsibilities that suffered the most as you were dealing with your pain.

Looking at life through this lens of connection and contribution can be extremely motivating. The challenge is that it can also lead to burnout because you’re not necessarily taking care of yourself.

Creating the life you want.

Eventually, you’ll get your relationships and responsibilities stabilized. You may not have everything exactly the way want it, but you’ll accept the way things are with the important people and activities in your life.

This is when you start becoming motivated by what you want in your life. You’ll find it easy to take the steps necessary to make your life great.

This shift in focus doesn’t mean that you start ignoring what you’ve built up in the last phase, but that now you are motivated on making your life really work for you. The goal now is to feel fulfilled and happy.

And when you reach this phase you’re over the bulk of your divorce recovery work. You may still have a few triggers that hurl you back to the first phase of pain and confusion (like when you find out your ex is in a serious relationship, or when your anniversary rolls around), but you won’t stay there for long.

You know that what lies ahead of you is so much more motivating and appealing than what happened in the past.

As much as knowing these phases will help you get a feel for how much longer you’ll be dealing with getting over your divorce, they can also make it more challenging if you’re one of those people who like to push to accomplish things.

Super-achievers will be tempted to start focusing on what they want to create in their life NOW instead of allowing themselves to thoroughly work through each of the phases.

If this is you, remember that completely recovering from divorce is a process. You can certainly accelerate the process by focusing on the best ways to get through each phase, but not by short-circuiting or skipping any portion of one.

So allow yourself to progress through each of them with intention. As you do, you’ll find that you’ll have dealt with the pain, confusion and outward focus to the point that you’re able to truly create an amazing life for yourself post-divorce.


Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Toxic Relationships

Sometimes you can see a toxic relationship heading your way like a bullet train and at other times they creep up on you so slowly you are unaware you are in one until it’s nearly impossible to get out. Most of us have experienced – or are currently in – one or more toxic relationships. We question how they can be avoided and maybe even if we are the toxic person. We may also ponder why, after experiencing past negative toxic relationships before, we continue to draw them into our lives, or why we are continually vulnerable to their lure by Mr. or Ms. Toxic Agent.

The many faces of toxic relationships

Toxic relationships have many faces; they pop up in both our personal (parent-child, siblings, friendships) and occupational (supervisor-employee, coworkers) lives. You know the type – you lend a family member money, or a co-worker your car; or you care for their children while they go on vacation hoping they will one day return the favor. Unfortunately the toxic person doesn’t pay you back, returns your car damaged with no offer to repair it and asks you to watch their children again next vacation without ever offering to watch yours. It doesn’t happen once, it happens repeatedly in different forms. You feel hurt, taken advantage of and angry – at the offender and yourself. Bottom line is: you are consistently being brought down. You feel “used.”

Past negative time perspective and the toxic relationship
The tendency to unconsciously seek out toxic relationships frequently starts with past negative experiences when we are children and might carry on throughout our lives. They can become so deeply ingrained in the way we think and feel that we don’t realize we are steeped in toxicity until—or hopefully when- someone else points it out. The toxic person in our lives (and maybe it’s us), is generally concerned about themselves and their needs; the relationship is classic codependent. The worse form is when that other is your partner or mate, supposedly there forever!

How so?

Generally in a toxic relationship you don’t bring up how you feel; maybe you don’t want the person to be angry because they hold some sort of power over you, or you are holding on to the dream that one day they will wake up, realize their transgressions and make good. And if you do mention their offense, it’s likely to be a backhanded use of passive-aggressive behavior that only you recognize—so it is ineffectual in changing anything for the better. In a follow up column we’ll delve into passive aggressive behavior and time perspectives. But for purposes of this column, we’ll use the following examples of weenie retaliation in toxic relationships:

What you say: “Wish I had the money to fill in the blank, but I don’t.” (present-centered)

What you meant: “Because you never paid me back that money I lent you!” (past negative)

What you say: “Know of a good auto insurance company because my insurance premium just went up.” (present-centered)

What you meant: “Because you crashed my car and wouldn’t own up to it!” (past negative)

What you say: “We can’t go on that couples retreat because we can’t find a babysitter.” (future negative)

What you meant: “We watched your kids for two weeks but you won’t even offer to watch ours for two days!” (past negative/future negative)

Again, unfortunately, you wish they would pick up on the faux pas but they act like they don’t know what you are talking about. Here are examples of what you might have said to help correct the situation:

“Hey, I think it’s a good idea for us to set up a plan for you to pay back that money I lent you; unless you have it now.”

“How are you planning on paying for the damage to my car?”

“We are wondering if you could watch our kids for a couple of days so we can go on a couples’ retreat. We’d really appreciate it.”

You will open a dialogue to a possible resolution. And if not, you’ll know for sure where you stand in the relationship and make future positive plans to move on.

Five signs you’re in a toxic relationship

In our research for this column, we discovered that author Yvette Bowlin  distilled the myriad indicators of toxic relationships into the following five signs:

1. It seems like you can’t do anything right– The other person constantly puts you down as not good enough. They mock your personality, and you feel ashamed most of the time. You only feel pardoned when you take on the traits of the person doing the condemning or judging.

2. Everything is about them and never about you – You have feelings too, but the other person won’t hear them. You’re unable to have a two-sided conversation where your opinion is heard, considered, and respected. Instead of acknowledging your feelings, they battle with you until they get the last word.

3. You find yourself unable to enjoy good moments with this person – Every day brings another challenge. It seems as though they are always raising gripes about you. Their attempt to control your behavior is an attempt to control your happiness.
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4. You’re uncomfortable being yourself around that person – You don’t feel free to speak your mind. You have to put on a different face just to be accepted by that person. You realize you don’t even recognize yourself anymore.

5. You’re not allowed to grow and change – Whenever you aim to grow and improve yourself, the other person responds with mockery and disbelief. There is no encouragement or support for your efforts. Instead, they keep you stuck in old judgments insisting that you will never be any different than you are now.

If you’re experiencing even just one of these signs, check in with yourself to see if the relationship is doing more damage than good.

Five steps to end a toxic relationship

So how do we get out of toxic relationships? We’ve pared down Borchard’s steps to ending toxic relationships and put our time perspective spin on them:

1. Step out of denial (review past negative behaviors) - Are you energized or drained after spending time with X? Do you want to spend time with X or do you feel like you have to? Do you feel sorry for X? Do you go to X looking for a response that you never get? Do you come away consistently disappointed by X’s comments and behavior? Are you giving way more to the relationship than X? Do you even like X?

2. Identify the perks (discover how you feel in the present) - All relationships, even toxic ones, have hidden benefits. Or why would you stay in them? So identify the perks. Determine what, specifically, you are getting from this relationship. Does X make you feel attractive and sexy? Does helping X with her kids even though it exhausts you relieve your guilt in some twisted way because you feel like your life is easier than hers? Even though X doesn’t treat you well, does she remind you of your verbally abusive mom, and therefore bring you a (toxic) comfort level?

3. Fill the hole (practice selected present hedonism) - Find alternative sources of peace and wholeness - nourish yourself. In other words, do things that make you feel better and in ways so that you don’t have to rely on others. For instance, revisit that project you put on the back burner, learn meditation or yoga, call friends, and remind yourself that you won’t feel this way (sad, angry, upset) forever.

4. Surround yourself with positive people (be pro-social) – Hopefully these folks are working on their boundaries as hard as you are; they aren’t enmeshed in their fair share of toxic relationships and therefore become somewhat toxic themselves. The stuff is contagious. Be smart with whom you choose to hang out.

5. Heal the shame (replace past negative with a bright future positive) – Work toward healing the part of yourself that may be attracting toxic relationships. This may mean exploring past toxic relationships, forgiving yourself for the part you played and realizing that you deserve the right kind of love and attention in order to create a brighter future for yourself.

Let go of the negative past and give love permission to enter your life

Let go of toxic relationships – the past negative people - and experiences and focus on the good things – the past positive experiences; makes plans for a brighter future, and live a fulfilling and more meaningful present.

We leave you with one of our favorite quotes:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you make them feel.”
by Maya Angelou.