Friday, 28 February 2020

Four Steps to Making Change an Opportunity Not a Threat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, 27 February 2020

What are the legal implications of dating during and after divorce?

Not surprisingly, new relationships are often forged between one spouse and a third party while the spouse is still married to their husband or wife. Even more often, divorced parties seek out and begin new relationships after their divorce has been brought to judgment. Most people believe that there are no legal implications to beginning those relationships, and most often they are right. However, sometimes there may be negative or even positive legal implications stemming from those new relationships.
When spouses begin outside relationships during marriage, the bulk of possible negative legal implications arise.  While 33 states currently provide (and recommend) divorce based on irreconcilable differences, the remainder of the states, and some of the states that also allow no-fault divorce, permit parties to file for divorce based on fault. One of the legal grounds for a fault-based divorce is adultery. The implications that could arise and the legal effect of an adultery claim in a particular divorce case will vary under each state’s law. In some states, criminal implications could arise when a spouse has been found to have committed adultery, although the prosecution of such crimes appears to have gone by the wayside in the past decades. As one example, if a court finds that one spouse has committed adultery and allows a divorce on those grounds, usually the legal implication extends to the issues of spousal support (alimony) and the division of assets and debts wherein the court would allow more or less alimony and assign property differently as if there were no adultery.
The primary legal significance of a person dating before or after marriage, however, arises when children are involved.  When child custody and visitation is an issue during a divorce case, or even during post judgment proceedings, the presence of a new person in the mix can be important both negatively and positively.  In every state, a divorce court is charged with ensuring that the best interest of the children is the focus, and child custody and visitation orders are based on this premise. If a parent brings a new dating relationship to the presence of the children to quickly, it could negatively impact the children because they may believe that the other parent is being replaced. Family Court judges are cognizant of the fact that many people want to move on with their lives, but they balance that right with the children’s best interests.  It is often most appropriate for a parent beginning a new relationship to introduce that person to the children slowly over a period of time.
There can be severely negative impacts for a parent that begins dating a person with a questionable history, including a criminal past. The mere possibility of a person with a criminal history spending time with children is grounds for the court to significantly limit the dating parent’s custody of the children. Conversely, in some cases a state court family law judge may consider the presence of a new person as having a positive impact on the children. For example, if a divorced father begins dating a woman who is a pediatric nurse, the inclination may be for the judge to view that in a positive light due to the possible benefits to the children. However, keep in mind that there are a significant number of cases that unwaveringly conclude that a “two-parent” household cannot be preferred over a one parent household when a judge is determining child custody and visitation orders. These rules and holdings vary state-by-state.

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Why Women Should Rethink Their Finances After Divorce

Your budget is likely to take a big hit when your marriage ends.

Getting a divorce stands to be as budget-breaking as it is heart-wrenching, especially for women.

"The dynamic is changing a little as more women are staying in the workforce and continuing and accelerating their careers, but typically, divorce hits women harder than men," says Nicole Mayer, a certified divorce financial analyst and partner at financial planning firm RPG Life Transition Specialists in Riverwoods, Illinois.

Indeed, marriage tends to offer some financial advantage. Married women's median weekly earnings were about 20 percent higher than those of women of other marital statuses, including never-married, divorced, separated and widowed, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They even earn 9.6 percent more than unmarried men (but 23.4 percent less than married men). After divorce, specifically, women's household income fell by 41 percent, on average, almost double the loss men experience, according to a 2012 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Why is divorce so much more detrimental for women financially?

One reason is that women overall earn less than men. Based on median weekly earnings, for every dollar men earn, women make just 82 cents, according to the BLS – and the disparity can be much greater for certain races, as well as job types. For example, in the first quarter of 2017, white men earned a median $977 a week while white women made $790 a week and black women earned just $645 a week. By job, personal financial advisors have the biggest gap, with men earning a median $1,714 a week compared with women's $953 a week.

While income inequality is a much more deeply seated cultural and societal issue, traditional gender roles play a big part of the problem, says Chris Chen, certified divorce financial analyst and CEO of Insight Financial Strategists in Waltham, Massachusetts. Specifically, the demands of caregiving, which tend to fall on women whether it's for children or aging parents, contribute to lowering lifetime earnings. Taking time away from the workforce to do the job of a caretaker means fewer hours at a paying job, which also leads to lower Social Security benefits or opportunities to save in general.

"With regard to women, the pay gap has been narrowing, but it's still there," Chen says.

And the impact of those traditional gender roles goes beyond the numbers. Women were often not in charge of their household's overall finances; money management was the husband's domain.

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

"Traditionally, women end up taking on a lot of the household duties, [which] might be paying the bills and doing some of those kinds of things," Mayer says. "But they never really handled the finances."

So divorcing your income-providing, money-managing spouse is bound to do damage to your bottom line – and force you to make a change. Taking an optimistic point of view, uncoupling presents you with an opportunity to step up your independence and flex your own financial power.

"The silver lining [to divorce] is that most women feel much more confident, much more in control of their finances after the divorce than before," says Natalie Colley, an analyst at financial planning firm Francis Financial in New York. "That's because they're finally the ones in control of their finances."

How can you get going on your fresh start?

First, you need to do an inventory of your current financial situation, including your income, expenses and assets, as well as your financial goals and future plans. And remember, much of this will be all new post-divorce.

Going from a dual-income household in marriage to a single-income household is a big change. And if your spouse was the sole or primary breadwinner, you may need to step back or up in your career. Even if you get spousal and child support, you can't rely on it for the long term, and it's better to adjust to not having that extra income sooner rather than later. "Alimony and child support are not forever," Chen says. "You have to plan for when it ends: Continue advancing your career to progress from a lower-paying job, and make sure your expenses are lined up at the right level."

On the other side of the equation, your expenses are likely to eat up more of your income. "You're really supporting, in some aspects, two households, so you feel like you're living on a lot less," Mayer says.

Looking forward, your dreams and goals are probably different now. For example, your vision of retirement might completely change from what you had been thinking with your spouse. And the path to getting there is certainly altered. "You always assumed there'd be two of you and maybe two 401(k)s and two IRAs, and that's now all changed," Mayer says. "So now it's really updating your picture as a whole, your long-term picture."

Of course, while starting over can be exciting and refreshing, it can also be daunting. Don't let that stop you from charging into making your new financial plan.

"The biggest mistake I see people make is they don't start the process immediately after divorce," Mayer says. "They wait five or 10 years – when child and spousal support stops – and then reality hits. Those first few years are really transitional years, and you have to tackle them head on."

The best way to overcome any fear you might have about taking the reins on your financial life is to get educated. Do all you can to better understand money matters in general and your own financial situation specifically. That might mean continuing to read articles like this, maybe taking free or low-cost classes on the subject or working with a financial professional. Whatever route you take, learning more about what you fear can help you realize you had nothing to fear at all.

"Once they feel they have a good handle on these things, women become much more confident and then much more aggressive in their portfolios," Colley says. "And they can lean into their financial lives even more."


Monday, 24 February 2020

You CAN Be Happy After Divorce (If You Don’t Do These 13 Things)

The key to dealing with divorce is to recognize when you've stumbled and catch yourself before it can happen again.

Happiness doesn’t come without risk.
Devastating. For everyone whose spouse has decided to divorce them, that’s the best description of the experience.

It’s not a place you ever thought you’d be. But here you are – your marriage has failed. You feel like a failure, unlovable, and depressed. These feelings are real and you must acknowledge them, but try not to wallow in them. If you let these emotions rule your world, it will only make you miserable.

The trouble is that these miserable feelings are insidious. They show up in sneaky, unexpected ways. And before you know it, you succumb to undermining thoughts and behaviors. However, you don’t have to stay stuck in the misery.

It’s time to stop:

Feeling sorry for yourself
Say it with me, “no more pity parties!” I get that things aren’t exactly going as you had planned, but to wallow in the hardship and unfairness of it all will not help you cope with your divorce. Instead, be thankful for the good things in your life (yes, there is still good) and begin thinking about your future. Think about how good your life will be a year from now.

Giving away your power
This is a sneaky one because it involves the way we naturally speak. Anytime you say something like “you drive me crazy!” or “you make me so angry,” you’re giving your power away. You aren’t taking 100% responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. You’ll be amazed at what a difference it can make in your life when you alter your speech!

Avoiding change
No matter how you look at it, divorce is all about change. You choose to stay stuck and miserable if you avoid change. The better option is to choose how you will manage the changes you face. Eventually, you may even embrace the changes because you know how to make your life better and better.

Focusing on things you can’t control
This one takes some effort. No matter how much you are hurt by what your ex is or isn’t doing, the more time you spend worrying, complaining or hoping for them to change the more miserable you’re going to feel. You need to put that energy into making your life and situation better because the only person you can control is you.

Worrying about pleasing everyone else
People get hurt in divorce. Unfulfilled dreams and expectations cause anguish. There’s no way you can please everyone with how things turn out. The best you can do is take care of adhering to your values and make the best choices you can. You’re the one that has to live with the consequences of your decisions, not anyone else, so do what’s right for you (and your kids).

Being afraid of taking risks
The end of your marriage propels you into unfamiliar territory. The only way you’re going to find your way back to feeling normal and happy again is to take a few risks. You don’t have to take wild and crazy risks. Calculated ones are just fine.

Dwelling on the past
Now, this is a biggie because it’s confusing – to grieve over what was is a necessary part of healing from divorce but to focus only on the losses and not allow yourself to see the beauty of the present and the potential of the future doesn’t work. Try to have hope that in the future, you’ll most quickly find your way through the pain of your divorce.

Repeating your mistakes
If there’s one thing that’s most helpful in dealing with your divorce, it’s to learn what you need to and make the necessary changes so you won’t find yourself in the same situation again. Spend some time fixing your picker and learning what makes a relationship work before you get into your next one.

Resenting your ex
Don’t make the mistake of spending your time, talents, and energy being resentful of your ex’s ability to move on without you. Take all that effort and put it to use making your life better and you will see a positive change!

Giving up
You’ll probably have a strong need to hide as you work through your divorce. It’s OK for a little while, but not forever. You still have lots of life to live (no matter what your age is).

Fearing “alone time”
Being alone after divorce is gut-wrenching. You may have been alone at times during your marriage, but this is different. Being OK with being alone with your thoughts is one of the hallmarks of successfully dealing with your divorce.

Feeling your ex owes your something
No matter how much you’re suffering or how much you really want to understand why your ex chose to divorce you, they don’t owe you anything besides what your divorce settlement details. Yes, it’s a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s true. The sooner you come to terms with this, the faster you’ll be able to move on from the end of your marriage.

Expecting immediate results
Unfortunately, dealing with divorce is a process. There’s no magic wand or fairy godmother who will magically make things all better for you. You will make it past your divorce. Be patient with your progress as you work through everything along the way to feeling normal and happy again.

It’s so easy to fall prey to these 13 thoughts and behaviors before you even realize you’ve done it because they’re just how we naturally are. But the key to dealing with divorce is to recognize when you’ve stumbled and catch yourself before it can happen again.


Friday, 21 February 2020

7 Financial Management Tips For Anyone Who Just Went Through A Divorce

A divorce is painful, that’s a given. And anybody who has gone through a divorce would admit that if there were anything that would have kept their marriages off a divorce court, they would have readily done it. Divorce obviously affects the children in the union negatively. But apart from that, it affects the couple emotionally, psychologically, mentally and of course, financially.

Yes, divorce hurts the finance and leaves too many loopholes to be filled. Everyone wants a break after a drawn out litigation battle; a break from lawyers and dates and paperwork. But there are still a few things to be done if you want to breathe easy after a divorce.

Life is never really the same after one is freshly single and there will always be those things that remind you of the good times and the bad times you had with your ex, moving on becomes a little difficult, but move on you must! So here are a few tips that could be very helpful to get you to move on while securing your finance as well:

1. Revisit Your Insurance Broker

Contact your insurance broker and update your umbrella liability coverage. Screen Your list of assets scheduled on your homeowner’s policy and screen out the things your spouse received in the divorce also screen them out if they were sold. There is no sense in paying insurance premiums for assets you do not own.

2. Apply for a new credit card

Depending on your situation, it may make sense to apply for new credit cards before you cancel joint accounts. Especially if you have marginal credit and don’t have an emergency reserve of cash.

While credit cards are generally not very good financial helpers, comparing its downsides to what can happen in the short-term if someone does not have sufficient funds to cover their core bills can make it not only desirable, but a priority. A Credit card can provide a temporary bridge fund for you while you get on your feet after a divorce.

Again, you need to make a list of the accounts you had while married, and seek to replace them as soon as possible; Savings accounts, Investment accounts etc.

3. Re-title Your Assets

If you owned any assets jointly with your spouse and that asset was retained by you or received by you in the divorce settlement then you need to re-title them. For instance if you owned your house in a trust with your spouse, you’ll want to re-title it in your name personally or in the name of a new living trust you create.

4. Get familiar with Your Investments

This will apply where your spouse handled the investing, there may now be things you own that you aren’t familiar with or that perhaps aren’t right for you.

You need to do a deep analysis of all your investments to see if it is prudent and beneficial to you financially at the present. Sell off investments that will not help you and retain those that are potentially or presently rewarding.

5. Sell Off Some Valuables and Move On

This tip is reasonable not just because it makes financial sense, but because it also helps you move on while securing your financial future. There might be a few things that you owned jointly that you may need to sell off even if they have or had sentimental value. Resources like makes selling off such valuables more reasonable by giving you a financial advantage.

There are also a few suggestions about what to do with your engagement ring after a divorce for instance, especially if it is the kind of ring either of the Kardashian sisters received which was worth thousands of dollars! You may need to think of selling it and moving on.

6. Consider Moving

Moving from a family house is often an emotional decision, but deciding not to move on the basis of sentiment is “...often the beginning of a very difficult situation because it costs a lot of money and the house is not liquid,” says Pilz.

Since you’ll have to pay for this home with one person’s income, if your budget’s tight, moving to a less expensive home or renting may be a good option to consider. You need to approach it as an investment asset, and you need to make decisions from that context as well

7. Get a new everything

In addition to getting a new account, you might need to make a number of other changes. Divorces can mess up your finance and you will need to re-evaluate your finances in general; what comes in and goes out and what are assets and liabilities, what taxes you now qualify to pay.

You may need to change your will, get a new filing system, and perhaps even get a new name if that will help you sleep better at night.

The point is that a divorce is a major (and sometimes devastating) life change and the earlier and faster you can get back up and on track, the better for you.

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

The Surprising Reasons Why I’m Thankful for My Divorce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wimp. No way. Far from it.

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

I’m thankful for the unexpected lessons.

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

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

I learned how to put an IKEA bookcase together.

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

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

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

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

Alanis Morrisette, Thank You

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, 18 February 2020

How to Let Go of Emotions During The Divorce Process

1. What Does "Letting Go" Mean?

According to Dr. Lawrence Wilson, "Letting go can be as simple as recycling or giving away old clothing. It can be as radical as leaving a long-standing marriage or friendship and changing one’s entire lifestyle. Whichever it is, it is always going to be somewhat painful. I mention this because the feeling of loss that accompanies any type of letting go is perfectly normal, and should not be confused. If one expects no pain, then when the pain of separation and letting go and abandonment hit, many people turn away rather than move forward boldly."

When in the throws of emotional pain, "letting go" can be an abstract concept that is hard to grasp. When going through my divorce I heard and read a lot about detachment and moving and all I read seemed fine and dandy. The only problem? No one bothered to tell me exactly how one "lets go" or "moves on" when suffering debilitating emotional pain.

This article is an attempt to give you what I so desperately needed during that time in my life. It is a guide of sorts that will help you get through the "letting go" process while also dealing with the negative emotions that accompany a divorce.

It is about building a new path for your life that is not influenced by the pain of a broken marriage or the anger and resentment toward a spouse who has left. Dreams, hopes and fears are led by beliefs. We marry with the belief that it is going to last forever. We build dreams for a future with another person based on our belief that, that person will not let us down.

Moving forward and detaching during the divorce process means we have to come to terms with the fact that the dreams and hopes we had are now based on self-defeating beliefs. I hear from a lot of clients such things as, "he should not have cheated" or, "she made a vow and promised to stay." These are thoughts or beliefs that keep us stuck in a situation we no longer have any control over.

They also create more conflict during a time when we need to be dealing with the "here and now" instead of our belief that the marriage should not be coming to an end. "Letting go" during the divorce process not only helps us focus on protecting our legal rights, it helps us rid ourselves of old dreams and hopes so we can start building new dreams and hopes for the future. We replace old beliefs with new beliefs!

2. Letting Go With Love

If you are the one who made the choice to leave the marriage it is important to remember the love you once felt for your spouse. Although you feel the marriage is over, no longer fulfills your needs you should strive to transition from married to single with compassion for the one you are leaving behind. Any transition is easier to make if it is done with compassion, kindness and love.

If you are the spouse who has been left, letting go with love will be more of a challenge. I'm not suggesting you not set boundaries with the bad behavior of the spouse who has left. I understand that it is hard to feel compassion for someone who has cheated on you. It is almost impossible to show love toward someone who is victimizing you through the Family Court System.

There will be times when you need to be assertive and set boundaries because you do have a right to be treated with respect. Whether you are the leaver or the one left behind, I suggest you always remember the old saying, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

The easiest path to "letting go with love" is to never do to someone else what you wouldn't want someone to do to you. Keeping this idea in mind throughout the emotional and legal process of divorce will lead to less conflict and in the end a higher sense of self-respect.

It is OK to be angry, it is not OK to stay anger. It is OK to feel resentment, it is not OK to stay resentful. If you need to set boundaries and exert your rights during the divorce process do so kindly and gently.

3. Letting Go of Toxic Anger

"Anger is a powerful and sometimes frightening emotion. It's also a beneficial one if it's not allowed to harden into resentment or used as a battering ram to punish or abuse people." Melody Beattie

The key to being able to use anger productively and in a beneficial way depends on how we react when feeling angry. The healthy way to react when angry is to become assertive. The unhealthy way to react is to become aggressive.

Being assertive when angry means you are able to express your needs and get those needs met without hurting others. I can hear you now, "wait a minute, my need is for him/her to stay in the marriage." And if that is what you are thinking then let me clear it up for you. When I talk of "needs" I am talking of those needs that are within your control. You don't have any control over whether or not your spouse chooses the marriage but you do have control over other issues and how you will be treated, how marital assets will be split and your co-parenting relationship with your ex.

Being assertive doesn't mean stomping your feet and digging in until you get your way. Your marriage is over, the need to keep your spouse in the marriage can lead to the unhealthy form of anger...aggression. Aggressive anger becomes pushy and demanding with no regard to what the other person feels they need or want.

Aggressive anger keeps you stuck, assertive anger helps you move forward with your life after divorce. If you are using your anger to get back at or punish your ex, you will be the one to pay in the end. If you are using your anger to make sure you are taken care of emotionally and legally during the process of divorce, you will reap the rewards of behaving in a healthy manner.

Whether it is divorce, the loss of a job, or the behaviors of a friend, things are going to happen in life that cause us anger. You have no control over the behaviors of others but you do have control over the way you respond to their behaviors. Controlling your anger and responding in an assertive way is the difference between your pain being short-term pain or long-term pain.

4. Letting Go of The Victim Role

I'll share a bit of personal information to make my point of how damaging it is to play the victim. My ex husband wanted a divorce, I didn't. I didn't fight him though because one of my long held beliefs about life has always been, "who wants to be with someone who doesn't want to be with them."

We got our divorce, I didn't ask for alimony or make any unreasonable demands legally. He was given liberal visitation rights with our children even though he rarely took advantage of what he was given. He also became angry, aggressively angry.

He had to be angry and point fingers at me and blame me for this, that and the other thing because he had been raised to believe that good men don't leave their families. So, instead of being able to say, "I no longer want to be married," he had to say to the world, "I had no choice, she was so bad I had to leave." That got him off the hook, when it came to being labeled a bad man BUT it also turned him into a victim and he hasn't played that role well. But have you ever known a victim who played it well?

My ex needed the approval of others and since he new leaving the marriage would get attention, he didn't want it to be attention that would reflect negatively upon him. He had to sell me out so that he could look good through and after the divorce process. He wasn't the victim though and neither was I, we were parties to a situation that was changing and nothing more.

No one needs to play the victim role in life to get the love and attention we all crave. In fact, playing the victim role will get us less of the love we so fervently desiring. Bad things happen to good people. Good people make choices that may be viewed by others as a bad choice. Regardless of what happens to us or what mistakes we feel we make, owning our ability to stand on our own two feet regardless is the only way to get what we most need out of life, love and positive attention.

The most disturbing thing I've observed about my ex since our divorce is that he is someone who stands around and watches life happen around him. He is a very passive man who lives life by going with the flow. I can look back now and see that he was this way during our marriage and nothing has changed since the divorce.

And that is who the victim is, a person who doesn't take pro-active steps to make life happen for them. Life is something that happens to them. The victim doesn't make things happen, they wait until things happen to them.

Being the "victim" of your spouse's infidelity or desire to leave the marriage is a sure fire way of missing out on all of life's possibilities. Why not choose to be the victor instead of the victim and take control of the direction your life moves in?

5. Letting Go of The Need to Control

When in emotional pain one might struggle to remain in control of the situation in an attempt to lessen their pain. If we are busy trying to control what is happening to us, we are not able to see what could happen to us if we were more open.

I know a woman whose husband wanted a divorce. She fought him every step of the way during the legal process of the divorce. It was her belief that marriage was forever and she would do anything in her power to keep him from breaking up their family.

Many years later this woman is still trying to control the situation based on her belief that marriage is forever. In a perfect world marriages last, that was not her world though and she can't give over control to the fact that her marriage ended.

Her ex husband has a new wife and has moved on with his life. She is now putting most of her energy into changing state divorce laws to make harder to get a divorce. She and I share the belief that divorce laws are too lenient, the difference between she and I is that for her it has become an all consuming movement. She has shifted her need to control whether or not her marriage survived to controlling the laws that allowed her husband to divorce her.

I often wonder what she would be doing with her life if she had let go of her need to control whether her husband continued to love her. Or whether or not she had control over the legal system that allowed her husband to no longer love her.

Are you trying to control what course your marriage is taking? Are you bent and determined to control how another person responds to or behaves toward you? Stop and think about what you would be doing differently with your life if you only let go of your need to control that person.

When you wake up tomorrow, let go of your need to be in control. Choose to do something that will bring enjoyment to your life. At the end of the day you won't be able to deny that you've had a better day, so much better than those days when you are trying to control and influence others.

6. Letting Go of What You Want

This is a big one, probably the most difficult step you will take when dealing with negative emotions during the divorce process. Letting go of what you want entails changing your own mind about such an issue as whether or not your marriage remains intact. You will be called on, during the divorce process to let go of time with your children, marital assets and much more.

We can want something so desperately that it can feel like an actual need. It is easy to confuse our wants with our needs, especially during the demise of a marriage. You are going to be called on to negotiate and compromise on the issues above. If you can't let go of what you want (need) you won't be able to focus on what is in your best interest during divorce settlement negotiations.

A mother who has been left for another woman may cringe at the thought of giving up time with her children to a cheating husband. She will fight tooth and nail to keep him from gaining shared custody or even liberal visitation.

In her mind, her children are better off with her than a cheating scoundrel. She wants her children and dismisses the idea that even though he cheated on her, this father loves and wants his children also. This mother will put what she wants above what her children want...time with their father and that is when standing up for what you want does harm to not only you but others.

Think of it this way, we don't often get what we want but if we give up the struggle, we can get something better. You may still want your marriage but if you don't give up the struggle to get what you want, you will never know what else life has to offer in it's place.

You may resent paying child support and wish to retain that money for yourself but which is more important, getting what you want or showing your children their needs are important to you, important enough that you are willing to give up a want so they can have?

You are going to sit down with divorce lawyers or mediators and come to an agreement with your spouse about how life will be dealt with once the divorce is final. Coming to an agreement that benefits all concerned isn't going to happen if you are not able to let go of some of what you "want."


Monday, 17 February 2020

The Psychological Impact of Divorce on Adult Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, 14 February 2020

Co-parenting with an Asshole – Or Someone Who Does Things Much Differently Than You

Without question, one of the biggest hurdles in a divorce is how to deal with shared custody.

In many post-dissolution relationships, custody disputes are the gifts that just keep giving. And it’s not so much about physical custody or shared time, but, rather, the issues incident to legal custody: your children’s health, welfare, academics and the general topics that are sometimes tough to deal with, even when the parents are on the same page and under the same roof.

When parents split up, there are often shifts in thinking, with regard to many of the tacit agreements made during marriage. Your ex-wife’s agreement to immunize in the normal course falls by the wayside, when one of the members of her women’s group warns that vaccination equals autism. Your ex-husband’s agreement to raise the kids Jewish and get on the Bar/Bat Mitzvah track becomes a pipe dream. Decisions regarding which school your children will attend, in which extracurricular activities they will participate, whether or not they will go to sleep away summer camp, be allowed to use a cell phone, receive allowance or even pierce their ears, all become major debates that can open whole new channels of hatred between you and your co-parent.

As I have written in past articles, and told many a client and friend: pick your battles.
Although, it is true that there are few things more soul crushing than making it through a week of potty training, only to have your 2 ½ year old returned to you after a weekend in diapers.

I have a friend who tried to discipline her 15 year-old daughter by taking away her cell phone for a month, after my friend discovered a second, and far more salacious, Instagram account that her daughter had opened. Three days into the punishment, the teen arrived home from a weekend at Dad’s with a new phone, new number, new Instagram account(s). 

Why can’t parents get on the same page when it comes to raising their children? In some cases, it’s an intentionally passive aggressive (or massive aggressive) move to curry favor with the children and become the most loved parent. Sometimes, it’s a simple lack of consideration (the same kind of behavior that you loved so much when you were a couple). Or maybe it’s laziness about discipline and boundary setting. Whatever the reason, you cannot, in most instances, go running back to court for every infraction. Even if you could, many of the issues co-parents face are not enforceable by a court. (For better or worse, there are no pacifier police who will intervene after you have painstakingly weaned your toddler from the paci, and your ex pops one in his mouth because, during her custodial time, “He wouldn’t go to sleep without it and then….it looks so cute and seems to make him happy when he has it – what’s another couple of months?”)

Big-ticket items, however, like religion, academics and medical (the immunization debate goes on despite the laws enacted in many states that ALL children must be vaccinated in order to attend public and private schools) are within the Family Court’s jurisdiction to determine. But this is a costly endeavor. Not to mention, long after the gavel has banged, you are left to deal with a bitter parent who refuses to participate in church events, notwithstanding the court’s decision that your kids continue to attend Catholic school.

My office often advises parents to work with a co-parenting counselor who can help resolve difficult issues without the need for court intervention. Better communication tools, compromise and input from a neutral third party are all beneficial, in certain situations.
Many jurisdictions also give parties the ability to stipulate or agree to let the Court appoint a Special Master or Parenting Plan Coordinator, who has the discretion to make binding decisions on limited issues surrounding custody.

But really, this article is about the every day coping you do with someone who has equal power, but completely different ideologies about the most important beings in your universe.

A few things to keep in mind:

First, plenty of people were raised with only one good parent, and they turned out fine. Actually, some of the most accomplished people I know had little or no parental guidance. (I grew up in the 80’s.) Be the best parent YOU can be to your kids. Don’t spend so much time worrying about what is or isn’t going on over there.
Next, take the high road – no shit talking about your co-parent. Remember, the way your kids see it is that you bad-mouthing their other parent is you bad-mouthing a part of them. They can’t help that you chose someone with whom to share their DNA.

And hold strong. Be consistent. Set boundaries.

Kids crave consistency (even if they don’t know it), and psychologists tell us that boundaries make kids feel safe. Yeah, you will be the bad guy, the mean mom or uncool dad. But they will get it. They may already get it. While you may feel unappreciated for your efforts, believe me, your kids know. On some, perhaps even subconscious, level, they recognize. There is no need to shove it in their faces.

I have a friend from college, Molly. At her mom’s 60th, she made a toast. It was taken from an essay she wrote in college called, “Mom, I Always Knew.” It harkened back to when she was a kid. Her parents had split up, and she and her sister would spend Wednesdays and alternate weekends with their dad. He would let them wear make-up, stay up as late as they wanted, talking on their princess phone and watching TV in their room. He never made them cook or help clean up because they mostly went out to eat, and he had a housekeeper who came three days a week. At Molly’s mom’s house, there was only one phone line, and there was no TV in Molly’s room. She wasn’t allowed to watch TV on school nights. There were chores and a curfew and lots of yelling and eye rolling and door slamming. But Molly’s essay, and the toast she later shared with her mother and her 60th birthday party guests, spoke of the strength and sense of safety her “mean mom” imparted, simply by being the stronger parent: the parent who said no; the parent who made decisions and stuck to them, even when it wasn’t easy or popular; the parent who often cried herself to sleep because she was certain that her daughters hated her, loved their dad more and would ultimately love whomever he ended up with and want that person to be their mom. But, as Molly’s essay pointed out, she and her sister always knew her to be the stronger parent. Even if they didn’t show it at the time, they respected her for her resoluteness. Yes, they thoroughly manipulated and took advantage of their father’s laissez-faire parenting, but they knew who had the strength and power in their world – who made it all happen. Their mom was their rock, their safe place, and when they became parents, they wanted to be just like her.

Stay healthy. Try not to allow toxicity to infect your custodial time or your parenting experience. Roll with the punches, as much as is reasonably possible, and see whether you can turn negative experiences into opportunities to teach your child something valuable. If you sign up and pay for piano lessons, and your ex continuously fails (or refuses) to facilitate practice or to take your child to those lessons on his/her days, learn from the experience. When scheduling the next activity, see whether the class or instructor can be flexible and offer alternate weeks, so you can go on your days only and not have to depend on anyone else. At a certain point, your kids will be of an age where they can take some responsibility for their commitments. But for now, ask your kids, “Do you want to take piano?” If the answer is “Yes,” then make certain they understand the commitment involved with practicing and attending lessons.

My friend Cyrus’ ex was angry, and she co-parented with a vengeance. Despite that it made her son uncomfortable, she generally “forgot” to pack his pajamas or special blanket, when it was Cyrus’ custodial time. At the outset, Cyrus would get frustrated, text his ex about what an asshole she was and let her behavior set the course for his precious time with their son. Eventually, Cyrus figured out how to replicate the special blanket, stocked up on PJ’s and anything else necessary for peaceful overnights. Most importantly, he taught his son, at a relatively early age, how to go through and make a list of anything and everything he wanted to pack to bring to his dad’s house. Now, his 18-year-old has gone off to university a super well-adjusted college student who is organized, responsible and makes a mean checklist.

The definition of co (as in co-parenting) is “together, mutually in common.” Cooperation, compromise, co-exist, communication all start with co, and each lends itself to a successful co-parenting relationship. Navigating the obstacle course of parenting can be exhausting – particularly when your co-parent is not much of a co. But as they say, parenting is the best job you will ever have. If you cannot adjust and adapt to the daily trials and tribulations, you are short-changing your child and yourself. Remind yourself why you procreated with your ex in the first place and try to see the good in her/him – even when it’s tough. Then, think about how happy you are that your interactions with this person are limited to those that involve your offspring. Do your best to get through them with grace and strength of character.

You got this.


Thursday, 13 February 2020

Divorce is never easy and your heart may be broken, but that doesn't mean your wallet needs to be too

From before the divorce to negotiations to post-split, follow these common sense tips for a split that is financially fair and fits your family situation

The average cost of an uncontested divorce is $1,845, but a contested divorce can cost anywhere from $6,145 to $87,974, with the average being $13,638, according to Canadian Lawyer’s 2015 legal fees survey. But this doesn’t factor in moving fees, new living expenses, the division of your assets and debts, and possibly child and spousal support.

No surprise then that to reduce money stress, nearly one quarter of divorced or separated millennials and Gen-Xers delayed their divorce because of unexpected costs, a recent TD survey found.

“I have a friend who is in for $280,000 (in legal fees),” said Dean Bergsma, an Edmonton-based divorce mediator. “It’s been going on for four or five years and it’s a complex case … But divorce does not have to be expensive.”

It’s possible, he said, to have a split that is financially fair and that fits your family situation without having to go broke. Here are 13 tips to having a money smart divorce.


1. Educate yourself about your finances

“With so many people, their level of financial literacy is not very high. On top of that, they may not be involved in the family finances,” said Sharon Numerow, a certified divorce financial analyst at Alberta Divorce Finances. “The less you are in the know, the less you’re equipped to make decisions, and divorce demands permanent decision making.” Start by figuring out what you and your spouse have in terms of assets and debts. Print out your financial statements. If you’re lost, consider seeking guidance from a financial adviser.

2. Make yourself a budget

How much are each of you currently making and how is that spent? Now, if you leave, how much will you need to cover rent, living expenses, vehicle costs, child-care fees or possibly child support and maybe spousal support, etc.? “The biggest challenge for couples going through divorce is now we’re going to take the same pot of money and try and support two households rather than one,” Numerow said. “A couple would need 30-per-cent more income to enjoy a similar standard of living in two households as they did when they were in the same home.”

3. Check your emotions

“There are big problems when people decide they’re going to be real jerks,” said Wendy Olson-Brodeur, president of The Financial Divorce Specialist Inc. “You can find yourself a real hard-nosed litigation lawyer and fight for every drop of blood. That is going to cost a lot of money and you just don’t know what’s going to happen at the end of it.”

4. Don’t do stupid sh*t that you’ll pay for later

For example, don’t run out and max out your credit cards or spend all your money on a trip to Vegas with the boys because you’re assuming that half of it will be covered by your soon-to-be ex, Bergsma said. “Once you start into that vortex of conflict and everybody is out to get the other person, you can’t get off the train.”

5. Consider your options for the divorce process

In a divorce, people can self-represent; they can seek help from a mediator; or they can also choose a collaborative team that may include lawyers, mediators, counsellors, child specialists and a financial analyst. In Alberta, mediation can range from $300 to $700 per hour. The hourly rate for collaboration will likely be more, because you’re paying for multiple professionals. Meanwhile, certified divorce financial analysts may charge $150 to $300 an hour. “Spend a bit of money on the process in the beginning so you’re not spending a lot of money trying to fix it later on,” said Darren Gingras, chief executive of The Common Sense Divorce. (The average cost at The Common Sense divorce is $4,500 per person for the services of a team.) The Canadian Lawyer’s Legal Fees Survey estimates that a family trial of up to five days costs an average of $35,950.


6. Understand how much you may pay or receive in child support

Child support is mandated by the law and is based on custody. “The more time that a child is with one parent, the other parent is more responsible financially,” said Faisal Karmali, a certified divorce financial analyst at Popowich Karmali Advisory Group CIBC Wood Gundy. In the case of a full custody situation, an Ontario resident making $60,000, would pay $546 a month in child support for one child and $892 for two children. The final amount varies as determining income can become complicated if the calculation includes dividends, bonuses, corporate income, etc.

7. Be aware that spousal support is not a given

It is negotiable. For example, you may offer to give up an asset in lieu of spousal support payments, or agree to pay for a certain period of time. “If applicable, the amount and duration is negotiable. You may offer to pay a lump sum, make periodic payments — which can be reviewed at a future time — or pay a combination of both,” said Matthew Ball, president of Fairway Divorce Solutions, a dispute resolution company.

8. When you split up, you split everything, including debt

“I’m dealing with a young gal who’d been married maybe four years and found out that her spouse has an addiction problem with gambling. The debt keeps going up and up,” Olson-Brodeur said. “The problem is that the law doesn’t necessarily protect us. She will likely be responsible, from a legal perspective, for paying half of that debt back.”

9. Be mindful when choosing your half of the pie

Half today isn’t always half tomorrow. “Let’s say I’ve got a car worth $50,000 and a pension worth $50,000,” Olson-Brodeur said. “I agree to take the car while my spouse gets the pension. Guess who’s ahead in the long run? The pension as an asset grows over time while the car keeps devaluing.” Your assets may also have tax implications, such as taxes owing when you sell profitable equities.

10. Don’t anchor yourself to your home at all costs

“Divorce the house before you divorce the spouse,” Karmali said. “I’ve seen many people, primarily woman, who’ve stayed in a house they can’t afford … They may be giving up on other cash, retirement savings, education savings and, all of a sudden, they’re left with the expenses of taking care of a home and other expenses.”

11. Consult an expert about legal and financial issues

“Don’t make assumptions about the settlement before you have your facts,” Bergsma said. “The Internet is a wonderful place to look at picture of cute kittens. It’s a lousy place to get your legal information.” For example, you may assume that you will receive half your wife’s inheritance in a divorce, but it may be excluded from the division of property if it’s been kept in her name. Or you may be surprised when an Alberta judge uses the current date to determine the value of your assets. (Ontario courts use the date of separation.) Imagine having your day in court four years after you’ve separated and finding out that half of your savings from the last few years is going to pay for the debt that your soon-to-be-ex has since accumulated.


12. Be aware and live within your means

“Many people (think): ‘I’m 40-years-old. I’m pressing the reset button. I refuse to move into a condo. I refuse to not have my Audi,’” Bergsma said. “People make poor choices because they’re emotionally hurt and they’re doing retail therapy, just with bigger numbers.” You also want to be prepared for the unexpected: for example, what if your ex injures himself, can no longer work and therefore does not have income to pay spousal support?

13. Don’t be afraid to revisit the agreement terms

Hopefully, this is done amicably if circumstances change. Some contracts are non-negotiable, others have time provisions written in so couples can revisit terms such as spousal support. “Right from the beginning, set up roads of negotiation because then after the agreement is done, if things need to be addressed, you’ve already got a process in place,” Gingras said. “Choosing a process that is amicable is better for the kids, better for your finances and, ultimately, better for you.”


Tuesday, 11 February 2020

The Importance of Self-Care For Men During Divorce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, 10 February 2020

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

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

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

But it hasn’t come without cost.

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

Some of you may already know my story, but I spent more than 8 years in a marriage that was full of struggle, stress, and heartache. I had converted to the Catholic faith prior to getting married and never considered divorce an option, especially since my parents split when I was 6 and it affected me deeply.
But there came a time when it seemed all but hopeless and life started to lose its meaning. Despair was followed by insomnia, which was followed by heart palpitations and night sweats, which was followed by me thinking I was literally going to die from a heart attack.

Months of counseling and workshops did little to help us better understand each others’ needs, and if they did, they didn’t help us actually do anything about it.
And in the end, it was an emotionless 30-minute conversation that felt more like a work luncheon that decided our fate and the decision was made to separate.
share this with you not so I can relive all the painful memories, the sleepless nights, and the endless tears I cried, but to help you use what I’ve learned to make your life better.

Starting Over

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

To highlight some of the major life changes I’ve made in the last two years:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is what they need.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just not mine.

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

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

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

Your Life

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

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