Monday, 30 September 2019

Parenting after divorce: the art of not being ugly

Having separate homes may not qualify as ‘bird’s nest custody’. But by building a whole new relationship with your ex, the spirit of nesting can help maintain a healthy environment for your children

Ten years ago, roughly nine months into our divorce, my ex and I started to build a relationship. The immediate aftermath of our split had been a sour blend of quiet and hurt. We tried to make politeness our default position, and it occasionally held. What kept us connected was our boys, then six and nine. They cut through whatever anger sat between us. We held to that one point of agreement: change the boys’ lives as little as possible. After children have seen their lives inverted, that all sounds a bit feeble, but it was a seed.

Their mother retained primary custody. The boys lived with her in the only house in New York they had known, a loft in lower Manhattan. Before moving back to my childhood neighborhood in Brooklyn, I spent two years in an apartment close to Ground Zero, then a generally inactive construction site. In 2006, it was just a way to live near the boys’ home and school. The ghosts were quiet and my kids liked the hotel restaurant next to my building.

When a central home is maintained, and parents cycle through it while the kids stay put, it’s called “bird’s nest custody” or “nesting”. We were improvising, with the help of therapists, and didn’t know what nesting was, even if we mimicked it. We maintained two separate homes, so our arrangement didn’t qualify, though we kept the boys’ concerns central. Our interactions with each other in the first year were the least generous. But a second rule went into effect early: no badmouthing the other parent, whatever the topic. And we were lucky – we liked and respected each other, beneath the turbulence. That’s where we had started. 
So the irregular interactions led to a committed decision to not be ugly, even when that seemed impossible. There was enough doubt and hurt for all four of us – anything to clean the air helped. It was a way of being both selfish and considerate.

Even when there wasn’t much of it, talking was a boon. When living together, decisions can be made by default, without negotiation. Sightlines become assumed statements: “There she goes with the morning drop-off. I guess she’s OK with it.” But when you live in two places, and children aren’t old enough to travel alone, every movement has to be discussed. Who will take whom where and when? Can you take Friday night, because Thursday I need to do something for work? Generosity encouraged reciprocity. The marriage cynic would say: “Well, sure. You had to get along because you can’t engage in the silent warfare of marriages.” But of course you can fight, if one parent doesn’t care about seeing the kids. That wasn’t the case, and a cold war never came. We had no choice but to talk.

Whatever else may vex me about cellphones, beginning with my own dependence on them, they allowed a reliable line to my kids. In the past 10 years, we’ve rarely gone a day without talking or texting, even when one of them had a Soviet-style flip phone that could only burp four words a minute.

Not everything clicked smoothly into place. Talking involved just as many unpleasant standoffs as reasonable compromises. “You’re letting them see what? And do what? And miss what school event?” But the distance between households in two different boroughs meant disagreements needed to end quickly. We couldn’t pretend the proximity of a shared house was some simulacrum of “dealing with it”. If we didn’t table a problem, we wouldn’t know how the other parent felt, or what we were supposed to be doing, empirically, minute by minute.

Parents make decisions that are as constant as the subjects are varied. They can involve, but are not limited to, middle schools; high schools; unexpected silences from a normally chatty boy; punishments for ambitious, unauthorized parties; whether or not 48 Hours is a comedy; the choice of a party restaurant really far uptown, way the hell away from Brooklyn; and other traditional life events.

I had no control over the most useful development. Two years into our divorce, my ex reunited with her college boyfriend. (Facebook is not entirely evil.) They became permanent partners, both wearing engagement rings to this day. “Marriage ruins everything,” they said, so suspended in love they remain, without any help from the state. Her partner became a third parent to my boys. It is hard to accept that he’s seen them more than I have in the past eight years. It would be harder to accept someone into our family who wasn’t willing to talk through whatever came up, and continues to come up.

Which is not to say the ache overwhelms the memories. For every breakfast I’ve been absent from, there is a trip to Junior’s Restaurant just for cornbread and coleslaw. For every Broadway play missed, there’s a duet of two fools twisting to the Fearless Four on dishtowels.

Right now, all three are driving back to New York with my youngest son, now 16, after visiting a few colleges in New England. Not being there does not get easier for me. 

Debriefing helps.


Saturday, 28 September 2019

How 'bird's nest parenting helps my kids cope with our divorce

I'm really excited to share that I've just had an article published in The Daily Telegraph, a national newspaper in the UK, on our experiences of raising our daughters using bird's nest co-parenting following our divorce. 

You can read the article at the link below:

Friday, 27 September 2019

How To Talk To Your Kid About You & Your Partner’s Divorce In A Way They’ll Understand

With divorce comes turmoil, tears, heartbreak, and pain — all things parents want to protect their children from. Which is why knowing how to talk to your kid about you and your partner's divorce is of the utmost importance. During the very emotional time of separation, so many feelings are being sorted out and, when considering children, there must be a thoughtful way of delivering the news.

First, know you are not alone. According to the American Psychology Association (APA), stats say that 40 to 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. Because of this high rate and the effects divorce can have on families, there are many experts who have weighed in on the best ways to talk to your kids. According to Psychology Today, how a child is told about the divorce will stay with them for a lifetime and, in order to help with any lasting trauma, it's best to "give much thought to the setting and circumstances when you break the news." That setting should include mom and dad telling the kids as a family. This allows kids to understand that, even though the living dynamic is changing, the love, care, and security will always be there.

"The most important things for a child to understand as their parents separate is that the split is in no way their fault, that they are safe and loved by both parents no matter what, and that things will change, but who their parents are will never change," Rebecca Nidorf, licensed clinical social worker and therapist,says in an interview with Romper. "Family is family, even in this new configuration."

Not only should parents make sure their child knows it's not her fault, but psychotherapist Lisa Herrick wrote on her website that they should also reiterate that point even months later. She also wrote that it's good to avoid blame so, "the children are free to continue loving each parent fully without fear of betraying other parent or feeling disloyal."

It's also helpful to be direct when talking to your kids and to keep it simple. "Your child needs to know only one truth. Mom and Dad don’t love each other anymore the way that moms and dads need to love each other to stay together," licensed clinical psychologist Edward D. Farber told HuffPost. "Your child has absolutely no need to know the reasons Mom and Dad don't love each other." Blame shouldn't be placed on either parent — bad mouthing your ex will only hurt your child.

In talking with your kids, let them know how the divorce will change their day-to-day. This is where, Nidorf says, you need to get specific, "to make it the new normal rather than the 'dark unknown.'" She suggests you let your kids know what life will look like in terms of their house, room, and where they will be on what day. "Explain that you will continue to co-parent, to attend school performances, sporting events, and anything that their children are involved in," Nidorf says. "And discuss their health and well-being as always, and that their well-being is the most important thing to both parents."

This reassurance helps to calm worries and concerns your kid will naturally have. Divorce creates a feeling of uncertainty for everyone involved, but when parents navigate the early days with care and consideration for the future and everyone's happiness, children get the sense of security that they need.

With creating secure feelings in mind, avoid words of apology because, as Nidorf says, "apologizing is taking blame for something and indicates to your child that you did something wrong." Instead of saying "I'm sorry" to your child, show empathy. Nidorf recommends saying something like, "I understand that this is painful for you, and I want to help you through that pain any way I am able".

When my ex-husband and I were going through a divorce, we let our 3-year-old twins know that we were still a family, we just live in different houses. This is something we continue to talk to them about four years later, especially now that our children have more questions about it since they were so little when we separated. In doing so, we've created a happy and healthy environment for our children.

"Modeling for your child that life deserves to be lived in a happy and healthy way in happy and healthy relationships is a positive message," Nidorf says.

Divorce is going to be difficult and it's key to take the time to breathe and stay calm for your child as well as yourself. It's all about going through this time thoughtfully, and with the love for your child and self in your heart.


Thursday, 26 September 2019

10 ways to cope with adversity

Sometimes life throws a challenge or problem at you that seems insurmountable. Here's how to clear a path in the jungle of adversity to give you space to move on. By Sharon Marshall.

1. Take baby steps

Break down complex situations into smaller, more manageable tasks, says journalist Laurence Gonzales, who frequently finds himself having to cope with adverse situations. "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! The smaller the steps you take in a difficult situation, the better." By employing this simple strategy - like doing a practical task like housework in a stressful situation - you allay your anxiety, restore organised thinking and get your brain back on track to help plot your next move.

2. Deny denial

Gonzales says, "One of the first stages of grief and other forms of adversity is usually denial. We refuse to accept that bad things are happening to us." Sandy Miller, whose brother was arrested wrongly, says her immediate reaction was one of denial. "My first reaction was to keep it quiet and not tell anybody. As the case dragged on,I realised it would hit the press at some stage anyway," says Sandy. "Allowing others to know helped me to cope with the reality of the situation, and face the consequences rationally." The quicker you accept the reality, the better your chances of moving on.

3. Bounce back

The biggest lesson for life coach Jana Beutler Holland, after working in a juvenile court, was learning what makes people resilient. "Just as there are some children from great families who mess up, there are, too, many children who come from dysfunction and despair, who somehow make it, and somehow survive amazingly well - despite poverty, affliction, criminal families, lack of education, and a lack of social or moral values or role models." The answer, she discovered, lay chiefly in love, support and opportunity for growth. "Those who have an internal locus of control, a sense of purpose and support structures learn to be resilient and go with the punches," says Jana. Now is the time to draw on your internal strength.

4. Don't panic

"As a young child, I was thrown into a pool by one of my brother's older friends. Though I have been afraid of water all my life, the one memory that sticks with me from that experience is that I intuited that I would drown if I panicked," says Carl McDonald, now 70. Resisting panic is also the first lesson that survival course instructors teach. Trauma counsellor John Dokes explains: "Whether it's a natural disaster, civil unrest or something more minor, the bottom line is that panic can lead to death. In the pool situation, by remaining calm and relaxing your muscles, you can actually gradually bring your head above water. Once you are calm, you are much more likely to resolve the situation ina positive manner."

5. Surrender, but don't give up

Pessimistic though it may sound, imagining the worst possible outcome allows you to relax and accept it. "In a survival or terminal illness situation, many learn to accept that they may die. Once they do, they find a sense of peace about it," says psychologist Jana Lund. "They stop trying to control things they have no power over and focus on those actions they can take. It sounds almost contradictory, but by accepting your limitations, you diffuse the emotions that can work against you."

6. Be pro-active

When her uncle's left hand was amputated after being injured in an accident with a log splitter, inspirational writer Deanna Mascle learnt a valuable lesson, "It was devastating to those who love him and certainly no one would have blamed my uncle for becoming depressed and grieving." However, instead of choosing that path, says Mascle, her uncle focused on what he could do, rather than on what he couldn't. "And if he discovers something that he can't do one-handed then he puts his considerable problem-solving abilities to work on a solution. He isn't simply reacting to a tragic accident, but proactively seeking solutions."

7. Get support

There is no need to do it alone. Ask for help. While diet, health and scientific research may come up with interesting theories of longevity, one common factor amongst survivors of adversity tends to be their connection to other people, says Mascle, regardless of religion or ethnic background.

8. Ditch the past

In a nutshell, victimhood is caused by being a prisoner of your past, says Rohini Singh, author of The Only Way Out is Within (Hay House). "You feel betrayed and let down by circumstances, people, and perhaps life itself. Energetically, you're wounded and bleeding. Obviously, you'll feel joyless and drained. Burdened with it and expecting it to repeat itself, you'll allow the very people or circumstances ‘cheating' you to continue to repeatedly ‘abuse' you," she says. By giving up blaming and complaining, you take charge of your life, assume responsibility for your state of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being and give up the burden of manipulating all the circumstances and situations you face, says Singh.

9. Be practical

When crisis strikes, everyday life seems inconsequential and insignificant in the face of the disaster, but it is often those little routine measures which keep the fabric of normality in place. For Joan Didion, author of A Year of Magical Thinking (Fourth Estate), in which she describes her reaction to the sudden loss of her husband, the solution was food. "When someone dies, I was taught growing up in California, you bake… You drop [the baked goods] by the house. You go to the funeral. If the family is Catholic you also go to the rosary, but you do not wait or keen or in any other way demand the attention of the family. I will not forget the instinctive wisdom of the friend who, every day for the first few weeks, brought me a quart container of scallion-and-ginger congee from Chinatown. Congee I could eat. Congee was all I could eat."

10. Laugh last

Using the example of a man ensnared by a bear trap, self-help writer Jon Glassett expounds the following theory: "The greatest weapon against adversity is laughter. No matter how serious the situation, you can - with time and proper training - wield laughter as you might a sword or chainsaw. Reach down into the depths of your bowels and muster a laugh so intense - so disturbingly hysterical - that immediately the situation takes on an entirely different tenor." In fact, adds Glassett, experts in this technique have managed to generate enough leverage using ‘crazy laugh' that bear traps will actually spring open and leg wounds will spontaneously heal.


Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Extension course teaches parents to cooperate in divorce

Divorce can be one of the most traumatic events in a child's life. A course taught through Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service is working to help reduce that trauma to Oklahoma's children by teaching parents to better communicate and cooperate after divorce.

Lesa Rauh, Garfield County extension educator for family and consumer sciences, said the extension designed the "Co-Parenting for Resilience" curriculum more than 20 years ago. 

Enrollment in the program statewide has increased since 2014, when a state law went into effect requiring divorcing couples with minor children to attend a parenting education class.
Garfield County was one of the first counties in the state to offer the program, Rauh said, and it is offered once per month.

Rauh said each class begins with sharing statistics on how divorce affects children.
"It's one of the most traumatic things that can happen to a child, and it can take five years for a child to recover from that trauma," Rauh said.

She said children often exhibit emotional outbursts, changes in behavior patterns, regression in development and can carry depressive symptoms into adulthood, all as a result of emotional trauma experienced during their parents' divorce.

"Children of divorce are more likely to drop out of school, to get involved with drugs and alcohol, and to get in trouble," Rauh said. "We want to break those statistics and we think co-parenting can do that."

After educating parents on the damage divorce can do to their kids, Rauh said the program moves into helping parents plan for ways to effectively communicate in the child's best interest after divorce.

"We help them design arrangements to agree in a non-confrontational manner, to put aside past differences and hurts for the good of the children," Rauh said.

She said a lot of the challenge for newly divorced parents is to simply communicate with each other without forcing the children to carry information back and forth between parents.
"Often in a divorce situation what gets put in the middle is the children and their possessions," Rauh said. "We encourage them to use technology to communicate, rather than passing messages through the children."

Setting aside the emotions that attend divorce can be difficult. Rauh said many couples find it easier to maintain objectivity when they can step back and look at co-parenting in a new light: as a business.

"We like to tell parents it costs about $250,000 to get a child from birth to age 18," Rauh said, adding that figure is about how much it costs to purchase a fast food franchise.

"What would it look like if you went into business with a partner and bought a franchise?" Rauh said. "How would you work with your partner? Would you argue and get into conflict with them, or would you use professional communications and manners to work with your partner for the good of your business?"

She said many parents are better able to plan for co-parenting in divorce if they can set aside the hurt feelings from a lost marriage, and think instead of their ex-spouse as a "business partner in the business of raising a child."

Like any good business, effective co-parenting requires a solid plan.

"If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there," Rauh said. "We want co-parents to create a roadmap and a vision for where they want their kids in the future."

Many divorced couples end up with inflexible guidelines that don't meet their needs, simply because they didn't plan ahead for how they would manage child visitation, exchanges of property and how to share holidays.

"We want them to work out the details and go to the judge and say, 'This is what's going to work for our family,'" Rauh said, "because if they don’t have a plan the judge is going to make one for them."

Rauh said most parents aren't receptive to the training when they first arrive, especially since it's a court-mandated class. But, she said, surveys taken at the beginning and end of the class, and again six months afterward, show parents' perceptions of the co-parenting curriculum shift significantly.

"What we find is the majority of the parents who come in are really emotional, they’re hurt and they just want to get this over with," Rauh said. "But, they leave feeling like 'I’m going to be a better parent,' and they have hope for the future of their family."

"Everyone seems to walk away with some nugget of truth, some inspiration they can use with their parenting skills," Rauh said.

According to survey results provided by Rauh, 96 percent of participants in the class report they "learned new ways to be an effective parent during and after divorce," and 21 percent answered that they "increased their confidence and ability to parent."

Rauh said the co-parenting class is open to all parents; you don't need to be going through divorce or a paternity or custody proceeding in order to attend the class.

Anyone who wants to sign up for the class can do so at the extension office, 316 E. Oxford. Attendees must register at least three days prior to the desired class.

More information on the class is available at

"We want to teach parents to work together now, and to put aside past hurts and tensions," Rauh said. "The best reason for the class is the children. If we can make a difference in one child's life with co-parenting, it's worthwhile."


Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Blaming social media for divorce is shortsighted

Social media has been increasingly blamed for marital disputes and divorce, not only in the UAE but around the world.

A recent US study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, found a link between social media use and decreased marriage satisfaction. Researchers found that the use of social network sites is negatively correlated with marriage quality and happiness and positively correlated with experiencing a troubled relationship and contemplating divorce.

In the UK, reports also say that social networks have become a significant threat to many marriages and a major factor in an increasing number of divorce cases. The law firm Slater and Gordon reported a rise in the number of clients who said that Facebook, Skype, Snapchat, Twitter, Whatsapp or other social media networks had played a part in their divorce.

In China, local lawyers say that popular social networks, such as Alibaba-backed Weibo and Tencent’s WeChat, have been fuelling the rise in the country’s divorce rates, which rose by 3.9 per cent to 3.6 million cases in 2014.

In this country, experts say that the situation is no different. A Dubai psychotherapist, Jared Alden, said in an interview with The National that social media has been one of the major reasons behind relationship problems, with "easily 85 per cent" of the couples who visit him suffering problems that could be related to social networks.

Local statistics across the Emirates show that divorce rates seem to be steadily increasing. The current generation seems to be more willing to file for a divorce than the generations before them. Current divorce rates, experts say, are comparable to Europe but growing faster.

Now the question is: are social networks really a "major reason" in marriage break-ups? Can such a relatively small factor alone lead to such a serious issue like divorce? Or does it only play a part in intensifying existing problems?

Divorce is one of the most complicated social issues. There are both general and specific local causes for high divorce rates.

UAE society is changing as the country develops. It’s true that social media is playing a role in altering young people’s perceptions of marriage, but so is popular culture, education, social interaction, globalisation and many other factors.

There are reasons to believe that social media plays a negative role in relationships. For example, social networks’ addictive qualities can create (or widen an existing) emotional distance between couples. It can also create an environment for misunderstanding or jealousy. It can open doors for comparisons that can lead to marriage dissatisfaction.
But doesn’t all this point to a deeper issue? If the relationship was strong and solid enough, would it be so affected by external factors? All those apparent causes of conflict linked to social media can actually occur offline. Social networks have only made it easier and faster for people to engage in them.

A married person can spend hours on social media websites talking to other people. The same person can also spend hours socialising offline or doing something else, if they are not keen enough to spend the time with their spouse.

Online social networks may help facilitate extramarital affairs by allowing people to connect with other people, including past lovers or people with similar interests, which may cause emotional and physical cheating that lead to divorce. But, again, doesn’t this mean there is already an issue of infidelity or lack of commitment?

What social media sites basically do is provide an environment for individuals in an already fragile or unstable relationships to escape their issues and find an alternative environment or a support system online. This doesn’t necessarily make them a major cause of marital problems.

There are deeper drivers of human and social behaviours that lead to conflict. And because conflict is inevitable in any human relationship, communication is always critical in resolving issues and protecting relationships from reaching a breaking point.

When it comes to Emirati society, it’s important to discuss the effect that arranged marriages have on the sustainability and success of marriage. One can argue that in such marriages, intellectual compatibility, and therefore good communication, between married couples is a matter of luck.

If a marriage is not based on understanding, on the harmonious sharing of thoughts, ideas and opinions and on compromise, the chances that it survives are very slim.

It’s easy to blame social networks for our problems, but it’s hard to dig deeper and try to understand the root causes. The truth is that online social media networks could only be a symptom if the relationship is already ill.


Monday, 23 September 2019

The phenomenon of divorce regret

There is a tiny chapel perched in the meadow above Judge's Bay, in Parnell. White and wooden, it's the perfect setting for a romantic summer wedding.

A 10-minute drive from there, crouching low over the wind-tunnel of Albert St, is the Auckland District Court. Above the entrance, a large patch of mould is creeping down the facade to meet the New Zealand Coat of Arms.

Of the 10,000 or so couples who marry in New Zealand yearly, roughly a third will eventually end up filing the papers here, on level 6, to dissolve their marriage.

Divorce has never been easier and, for marriages where abuse or genuine incompatibility is at play, shooting the horse can be the best option. But for others it's not so straightforward: according to several British studies, upwards of 33 per cent of those who divorce will regret their decision within five years.

Google "divorce regret" and you will find the internet is littered with those regretting their decision to end it. Whisper, the app where people anonymously share secrets, logs confessions from people wishing to turn back the clock, side by side with those happy to be moving on.

William Michael, a Wellington man now in his 50s, is in the former category. He and his wife divorced nine years ago, after seven years of marriage and two children.

He found that the intimacy of marriage unearthed flaws in him that hadn't been triggered by the less intense bonds of friendship and work relationships.

"I tend to withdraw when I'm facing difficult issues," he says. "It's hard to deal with that behaviour because it's largely unconscious."

He worked hard to change his flaws but found it challenging. "At a certain level we don't want to learn to change them," he says. "They're part of our sense of who we are."

Immediately after they split, he felt happy - the break-up had relieved the pressure. But later the truth seeped in. "There was a reason we were together, there was a way we complemented each other. There was something I should have done, which I didn't do."

He urges people in a similar position to learn from his experience. "In one lifetime you just don't have that many deep relationships," he says. "And to lose one ... so if you think there's something fundamentally right, do all you can to look at your own processes, who you are, the way you do things."

Clinical psychologist Trish Purnell-Webb, founder of the Relationship Institute Australasia, says most of her divorced clients have to resolve their regret. Mostly regrets take the form of "Why didn't I make more of an effort?" and "Why couldn't I see how great they were?"

She estimates 90 per cent of the couples she sees could happily go on to have a successful relationship, providing they up-skill to overcome their individual and joint weaknesses. The other 10 per cent have genuinely made a mistake in their choice of partner.

But even in marriages that are fundamentally sound, when things get tough, as they inevitably do, a proportion of people choose the quick death and perceived fresh start of divorce, rather than hanging in there for the hard slog of overcoming difficulties.

The human brain is hard-wired to identify and focus on the negatives in the surrounding environment. It's a survival strategy: being aware of threats helps us avoid hurt and injury. It can, however, lead us to seriously underestimate the positives until it's too late.

"It's easy to focus on the dirty socks in the middle of the lounge floor, rather than appreciate the bunch of flowers on the dining room table," Purnell-Webb says. "It's once those flowers are removed that we begin to miss them."

Regret can be very hard to let go of, and it delivers the double blow of shackling a person to the past, while diminishing their appreciation of the present. Left unresolved, it can lead to depression and anxiety.

So what helps? Research shows starting a new relationship is the leading factor in moving on from the regret associated with divorce. Being a woman helps too: statistically women tend to fare better because they are more likely to have better support networks, whereas men tend to pin their emotional and psychological resources on their partner.

The New Zealand "just get on with it" ethos also plays its part in isolating people dealing with uncomfortable emotions like regret. Rather than sucking it up and boxing on, it's more helpful to focus on developing the thinking skills and mental toughness to let go of the fantasised "other life".

For those who have genuinely made a mistake and for whom divorce is the best option, there is almost invariably still regret, but it takes a different form.

Simone Ellen, a brand strategist who split from her ex-husband five years ago, is sure she made the right decision. But looking back, she wishes that during their 11-year marriage she had ditched her flaw of being a people-pleaser, and fought harder to be herself. Instead she spent much of it conforming to rules she didn't believe in - making a thousand small concessions she lost herself in.

She also regrets not being kinder to herself in the first year after the split. "I just did bravado instead of recognising how much I hurt."

For her there was a silver lining in the trauma of the divorce: it forced her to take a long look at how she operates in relationships. "We're savvy at blame," she says, "to keep our pride intact. Courage is the game changer - it takes courage to take responsibility."

Dr Nickola Overall, associate professor of psychology at the University of Auckland, agrees regret can motivate self-examination. "Why do we have to figure out who we are if everything's fine?" she says.

We've never expected more from marriage. It's an institution that started life as a strategic alliance between families, and has morphed into - ideally - a legally binding love relationship between equals. The job of the modern spouse includes being emotionally available, loyal and supportive, as well as helping the other's dreams come true, and encouraging them to become all they can be.

These high expectations coincide with the point, historically, when we are the most time poor we've ever been. The demands of children, work, and modern life lower the chances of converting these expectations into reality. Overall says it's a cocktail for disaster that can spell the end, even for sound marriages.

One Hamilton woman, now in her 50s, says this was the case in her former marriage. They allowed, she says, the chaos of having a young family to swamp, and eventually capsize, their marriage. "That joy you have on seeing your partner come home is lost to desperately needing them to be home so they can share the load," she says. "While there's great happiness in having a family, it's a lot of pressure on a relationship."

Their marriage drifted, and in the end her husband made a stupid mistake - seeing another woman. It would be easy to blame him for their eventual divorce, but she is adamant that's not the case. "Blame is completely out of line because you're just as responsible," she says. "You both got to that point. If you honestly look back at the previous time, you can see cracks."

They tried marriage guidance, but she had already checked out, even before his adultery. "You leave it until everything's about to break."

Divorced more than a decade, she says, "I regret not hanging in. I have lain awake, years after, in the middle of the night, woken up thinking, 'Oh my God.'"

Sir Paul Coleridge, a retired family law judge in London, has seen exactly this scenario play out many times. He spent 42 years in the family law system, 30 as a barrister and the remaining 12 as a judge, divorcing couples. He was so frustrated by witnessing what he felt were many unnecessary divorces, that he founded a think-tank, the Marriage Foundation, in 2012. While the family court provides a remedy for the problem, the foundation is his attempt to address its cause.

Most divorce is concentrated in the first 10 years of marriage, when the stress of young families, hectic lives and money pressures can be overwhelming. He says more than half of the divorce cases he heard were salvageable, despite reaching litigation. They hadn't hit the point of no return, things had just got much tougher than they would like.

If the marriage is sound, the way through, he says, is for spouses to confront the aspects of themselves and their marriage that they would rather ignore, and address those difficulties head-on.

Overall agrees that spending time on your marriage, making it strong and stable, insulates it against the inevitable down times.

She says one block to facing and resolving difficulties is the phenomenon of "destiny beliefs", where a person believes their relationship was "meant to be". Romantic, yes, but it can destabilise a marriage because, hand in hand with the belief that the relationship is destined, goes the belief that it should be easy and conflict-free.

Overall says people with these beliefs respond more negatively to conflict. Rather than working to resolve it, the presence of the conflict prompts them to question the "rightness" of the relationship. They're more likely to break up marriages, says Overall, and are more likely to find themselves in a state of regret afterwards.

The key is understanding that conflict is a normal part of marriage. "Even anger and hostility can have a positive effect," she says, "because if traversed well, conflict can be a catalyst for improvement, and both personal and relationship satisfaction."


Dr John Gottman of the Gottman Institute in the United States, says that more than any other relationship factor, divorce can be predicted by the presence of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse": criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling (withdrawal). The answer, he says, is to replace them with better skills. So what does that look like? His 40 years of research have identified nine skills that will lead those horses back to the stables for good:

1. Know your partner's world. Understand your partner's psychological world, history, worries, stresses, joys and hopes.

2. Give out love and admiration. Practise showing your partner appreciation and respect.

3. Respond openly to your partner. Reward your partner's attempts to connect with you, however flawed, with listening and encouragement. Reciprocate by voicing your own needs.

4. Positive perspective. Have a positive, can-do approach to problem-solving.

5. Manage conflict. Conflict is natural, and can be functional and positive. Learn the difference between solvable and perpetual problems, which need to be handled differently, and use the right tool for the job.

6. Help make life dreams happen. Encourage each person to talk honestly about their hopes, values, convictions and aspirations.

7. Create shared meaning. Find a common purpose by finding shared values, goals, life philosophies and ways of connecting.

8. Trust. Treat your partner like they have your back.

9. Commitment. Believe, and act on the belief, that this is your lifelong partner. Compare your partner favourably with others.


Friday, 20 September 2019

Divorce From A Psychopath Or Narcissist Is Never Easy

Psychopath - Noun- A person suffering from chronic mental disorder with abnormal or violent social behaviors

Narcissist - Noun- A person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves

These two types of ex tend to be by far the worst kind of people, you can both be married to and therefor divorce from, as their lack of empathy and obsessive need to win and inflict pain on others, seems in many cases to have no end.

Almost unanimously when I hear of people taking their exes to court over and over, or divorces that drag out for years even decades, I already in my mind have a presumption that there is a good chance that these cases involve a person with one of these disorders.

Besides the obvious facts that divorce from these people are often, more dismal, and highly contentious, they are often harder to move on and recover from, here are a few of my tips on moving on from a psychopath or narcissistic ex.

1. Realize that in most cases, you would have been targeted by your ex for your giving or passive nature, generally a psychopath or narcissist are looking for the givers of the world to feed off, as emotional vampires do. You will have often been young, naive or have the persona that you want to believe the best in people, these traits in you are on the surface great traits, but to a narcissist or psychopath they make you the perfect prey. Forgive yourself for the lack of judgment in marrying these people, they often are extremely charismatic and won’t always reveal their true motives, until after marriage and or children, when they know it’s harder for you to escape. Once you can forgive yourself and see the pattern or red flag behaviors it will be easier for you to spot this in new people and break the cycle.

2. Understand that even though for many years you were probably emotionally abused and made to feel not worthy or enough, you are and always were enough, this projection on you is nothing about your worth and always everything about your ex’s tactics to control and hurt you. Your reaction to them would have been their drug of choice for many years, and this dynamic must be broken once and for all.

3. Let go of the fact that many people around your ex will probably buy into their dramatic victim playing, you may feel anger towards, your ex’s friends, family or work colleagues who have bought into the narcissist or psychopaths award winning dramatic acts, over the course of the divorce. Let this anger go, remember those people are now no longer a part of your life as your ex shouldn’t be, don’t blame them, as they can only see the side they have been shown by your ex. Anger is always a wasted and draining emotion you owe it to yourself to let it go.

4. Spend some time analyzing the true dynamics of what your relationship and marriage were, often in these abusive relationships we are so bam boozled by the gaslighting, playing victim, and emotional abuse inflicted we can’t see the wood for the trees. Once we have divorced and exited these relationships, it will take a while for you to begin to see things exactly how they are. If you are looking for clarification, there are a lot of great articles about narcissists and psychopaths on the internet, that will explain in more detail their behaviors and relationship dynamics, once you really understand what you are dealing with things seem clearer.

5. Seek support, whether on dreamsrecycled or join our Facebook group or any one of many online support groups, understand you are not alone, when you connect with other people who have been through or have recovered from these relationships you feel a lot less isolated and making new friends after a divorce is always an important part of moving on.

6. The top 1 thing everyone after divorce from a narcissist or psychopathy needs to do is disengage. I cannot stress how important this is, disengage fully and forever. These people are not fixable, and will never change. Expect at first the antisocial behaviors to escalate, but whatever they do to get a reaction do not fall for it. Stand firm in your disengagement, three-word text response only for child coordination, no emotion, no aggression, no anything, whatever you feel good bad or otherwise, never let them see your reaction. Eventually the abusive ex will start to look and then sadly find a new target/victim to emotionally feed off.

7. Lastly and in my mind most importantly work on yourself and self-love, your psyche and ego will often be shattered by this type of ex, the stronger we make our selves the less our ex will be able to hurt us, and the stronger and happier we will be in ourselves. Daily positive action, whether, in work, health, or goals gets us to this better place quicker. Throw in a huge heap of daily positive affirmation, and you will feel much more like your old self quicker.

The process of healing and moving on from any divorce won’t be easy, an abusive relationship, will be even harder, but rest assure you leaving these abusive unions, is a huge victory for you, and you should be applauded for having the courage to stand up and say enough is enough. Once you realize that in that act alone you have already won, the possibility to create a happy new life are endless. Having the strength to leave makes you unstoppable, so go out and create the best life you can, you may not feel like it at this moment but you are already halfway there.


Thursday, 19 September 2019

9 negative effects divorce reportedly has on children

Divorce is hardly an exception anymore. In fact, with the rate of marriage steadily dipping over the past decade, and the divorce rate holding steady, you are likely to know more previously married couples than those who are legally bound. Accompanying this trend are multiple studies analyzing the effects that divorce has on children. And the results aren't good, even if the stigma of divorce has faded. Here, 9 negative effects divorce reportedly has on children:

1. Smoking habits

In a study published in the March 2013 edition of Public Health, researchers at the University of Toronto found that both sons and daughters of divorced families are significantly more likely to begin smoking than peers whose parents are married. In an analysis of 19,000 Americans, men whose parents divorced before they turned 18 had 48 percent higher odds of smoking than men with intact families. Women had 39 percent higher odds of picking up the habit. Lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson called the link "very disturbing."

2. Ritalin use

Dr. Strohschein, a sociologist at the University of Alberta, wanted to know what was behind the increase in children prescriptions for Ritalin over the past two decades. And so, in 2007, she analyzed data from a survey that was conducted between 1994 and 2000. In it, 5,000 children who did not use Ritalin, and were living in two-parent households, were interviewed. Over the six years, 13.2 percent of those kids experienced divorce. Of those children, 6.6 percent used Ritalin. Of the children living in intact households, 3.3 percent used Ritalin. Strohschein suggests that stress from the divorce could have altered the children's mental health, and caused a dependence on Ritalin.

3. Poor math and social skills

A 2011 study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that children of divorced parents often fall behind their classmates in math and social skills, and are more likely to suffer anxiety, stress, and low self-esteem. The reason that math skills are affected is likely because learning math is cumulative. "If I do not understand that one plus one is two," lead researcher Hyun Sik Kim says, "then I cannot understand multiplication." Kim says it is unlikely that children of divorce will be able to catch up with their peers who live in more stable families.

4. Susceptibility to sickness

In 1990, Jane Mauldon of the University of California at Berkeley found that children of divorce run a 35 percent risk of developing health problems, compared with a 26 percent risk among all children. Mauldon suggests their susceptibility to illness is likely due to "very significant stress" as their lives change dramatically. Divorce can also reduce the availability of health insurance, and may lead to a loss of certain factors that contribute to good health, including constant adult supervision and a safe environment. The risk of health problems is higher than average during the first four years after a family separation, but, curiously, can actually increase in the years following.

5. An increased likelihood of dropping out of school

A 2010 study found that more than 78 percent of children in two-parent households graduated from high school by the age of 20. However, only 60 percent of those who went through a big family change — including divorce, death, or remarriage — graduated in the same amount of time. The younger a child is during the divorce, the more he or she may be affected. Also, the more change children are forced to go through, like a divorce followed by a remarriage, the more difficulty they may have finishing school.

6. A propensity for crime

In 2009, the law firm Mishcon de Reya polled 2,000 people who had experienced divorce as a child in the preceding 20 years. And the results did not paint a positive picture of their experiences. The subjects reported witnessing aggression (42 percent), were forced to comfort an upset parent (49 percent), and had to lie for one or the other (24 percent). The outcome was one in 10 turned to crime, and 8 percent considered suicide.

7. Higher risk of stroke

In 2010, researchers from the University of Toronto found a strong link between divorce and adult risk of stroke. However, the vast majority of adults whose parents divorced did not have strokes. "Let's make sure we don't have mass panic," said lead researcher Esme Fuller-Thompson. "We don't know divorce causes stroke, we just know this association exists." She says the relationship could be due to exposure to stress, which can change a child's physiology. She also noted that the time at which these children experienced divorce was in the 1950s, when it wasn't as socially accepted as it is today.

8. Greater chance of getting divorced

University of Utah research Nicholas H. Wolfinger in 2005 released a study showing that children of divorce are more likely to divorce as adults. Despite aspiring to stable relationships, children of divorce are more likely to marry as teens, as well as marry someone who also comes from a divorced family. Wolfinger's research suggests that couples in which one spouse has divorced parents may be up to twice as likely to divorce. If both partners experienced divorce as children they are three times more likely to divorce themselves. Wolfinger said one of the reasons is that children from unstable families are more likely to marry young.

9. An early death

And rounding out the dreary research is an eight-decade study and book called The Longevity Project by Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin. Starting in 1921, researchers tracked some 1,500 boys and girls throughout their lives. More than one-third of the participants experienced either parental divorce or the death of a parent before the age of 21. But it was only the children of divorced families who died on average almost five years earlier than children whose parents did not divorce. The deaths were from causes both natural and unnatural, but men were more likely to die of accidents or violence. Generally, divorce lowered the standard of living for the children, which made a particular difference in the life longevity of women.


Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Sanity and single motherhood

The other day my eight-year-old son caught me dancing in the bathroom. 'Not that you’d ever want to, but if you did that in a nightclub, you’d probably catch a man.' Hilarity filled the house, as it so often does. His daily pint-sized views on life generally guarantee that.
I’m pondering on our relationship and I reckon it’s pretty close. We’re bound by a mutual love of ‘Miranda‘, ‘Friends‘, ‘Impractical Jokers’ and absurd gags, all of which guarantee fun times aplenty (he recently divulged that his book of choice on ‘Desert Island Discs‘ would be a joke book – that’s my boy).

We are, of course, glued together by blood and the searing love that springs from it; and, for better or worse, we live this out against a backdrop of being a single-parent family. In this ‘buddy-free’ system, teamwork reigns supreme. As a result, we have what I’d say is a pretty tight mother-and-son unit.

But like many parents, these times are frequently punctuated by self-doubt as to whether I’m doing it right. ‘He hasn’t lost as many teeth as his friends: am I feeding him enough to ensure he’s growing properly?’ or ‘Is he happy at school or could he be happier if he went somewhere else?’.

Of course my other friends worry too, but for me the usual parenting angst is compounded by the fact that as well as being a single mum, I have bipolar too (mixed affective state, or ‘agitated depression’).

There are times when parenting is hard for everybody, even when you’re hunting in pairs. I get that. But parenting alone can be even harder. I’ve done both and I think the single variety is infinitely more arduous than the coupled version.

Of course, single-parenting comes in many ‘flavours’ and some people are single parents and love it (and would say they’re psychologically healthier as a result of being uncoupled). And not every single parent suffers psychologically as a result of rearing their children on their own.

But when you’re not always feeling 100 per cent, mental health-wise, it can be hard to feel that single parenting is working on any level.

When I’m having a ‘wobble’ – a zinging and terrifying mix of depression and agitation – every mundane task seems gargantuan and every decision I have to make on my own seems petrifying (I rang the milkman in a panic to cancel my milk during my last episode in case it built up on my doorstep and overran my house, such was my anxiety). I start drowning in a sea of excess responsibility and lone decision-making and wonder if this’ll be the last time I come up for air.

Last year, Harry Potter author JK Rowling talked about how, when she was a single mother, she was so depressed that she considered suicide, but was saved by thoughts of her daughter. When I’m not well, I understand where she’s coming from. Although he doesn’t know it, my son locks me into life.

But perhaps the thing I miss the most is the support that would be there for my son when I’m ill. I wish someone else who cares for him as much as I do was there to scoop him up and say, ‘Come on, shall we go to the park?’ so that I can fight tears and demons for a while without feeling there’s the possibility of handing him a sad memory to look back on in the future.

As it goes, he is amazingly compassionate, especially when I’m not well. Despite me insisting that I’m not his responsibility, that I can look after myself and that this ill phase will pass, he tells me it’s OK, that he wants to be there for me (‘because I love you’) and that there’s nothing that his solution of a hug, a box of tissues and a glass of milk poured out into a Lego tumbler can’t solve.

But of course, I still worry about him. I worry about the fine line between his compassion and adaptive behaviour – having to learn how to be that way because, let’s face it, he has no choice.

Statistically, it’s been shown that there’s a strong association between single parenting and poor mental health:

Single parenting is associated with poor mental health

Before you even take into account any pre-existing mental health issues, single parenting is associated with poor mental health. A 2007 study by Crozier, Butterworth and Rogers found that single mums like me are significantly more likely to have a moderate to severe mental disability, like me.

In fact, the study shows that prevalence of mental health issues in single mums is almost 30 per cent (i.e. one-third of us) compared to partnered mothers (around 15 per cent).

The study cites the main reasons for single mums having an increased risk of poor mental health as decreased household income, increased financial hardship and a perceived lack of social support.

Dr Ian Drever, consultant psychiatrist at The Priory Woking, says, 'I’m struck by what a lonely place single parenting can be, and relentlessly hard work. I had a single mum tell me very recently, "I’m tired of being strong… I just want someone to look after me".'

Poor mental health is associated with an increased likelihood of divorce

Not only that, but if you have a mental health condition, you are far more likely to divorce than if you don’t. A multi-national meta-study of mental disorders, marriage and divorce, published in 2011, looked at 18 mental disorders and found an increased likelihood of divorce, ranging from a 20 per cent increase to a staggering 80 per cent increase in the divorce rate.

Major depression and addictions were the highest factors, while post-traumatic stress disorder was also significant.

Single-parenting can increase rates of child mental health issues

It seems we all worry about our children’s mental health – research carried out by Action for Children in 2015 found that UK parents are more likely to worry about their children’s mental health than any other health issue – some 40 per cent said their children’s emotional wellbeing was a primary concern (47 per cent for mothers). But single mums like me may have more reason to be concerned than others.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have found that children from single-parent families are twice as likely to suffer from mental health problems as those living with married parents – and it is boys whose parents had split up that had the highest rate of childhood mental illness.

The figures showed that one-fifth of those living with a divorced, separated or widowed parent suffered from at least one mental disorder compared to just eight per cent of boys living with married parents.

I also worry about bipolar in relation to my son – on my bad days I focus on his one in 10 chance of developing it, on my better days I figure he’s 90 per cent likely to be OK.

Catch 22

So it seems like it’s a case of catch 22. I had depression, which I know contributed to my divorce, and, now I’m a single mum, the risk of me becoming mentally unwell has risen. I’m not surprised – raising my son pretty much single-handedly, certainly making around 95 per cent of the decisions about his life on my own, hoping he’s OK whilst wondering how I’m going to be financially OK, does little to garner positive mental health.

It is utterly emotionally and physically exhausting, especially when I’m unwell (I’m just recovering from a two-week episode). Some people may find it a breeze, but for me, being a single mum can at times feel like swimming in my pyjamas with rocks in the pockets, drowning not waving and with no-one around to fish me out.

There isn’t enough help out there for single parents

The fact is, I don’t feel there’s enough help out there for single parents, and especially not single parents who have mental health issues.

Even though estimates suggest that around 50 per cent of parents with a severe and enduring mental illness live with one or more children under 18 (around 17,000 UK children and young people), the support for single parents like me just isn’t around. My local mental health trust doesn’t have anything. When I asked if there was a parenting group, all my psychiatrist could offer me was a gardening course.

Even mental health charities don’t seem to have anythin
g I can tap into. I very much rely on other single-mum friends, who don’t have mental health problems, but understand the pressures of raising a child alone – that goes some way to helping. I’ve been trying to put feelers out in a bid to start my own group locally (with some help for those times when I’m sinking), but I’ve not got very far.

Gingerbread recently launched its Single Parents Decide campaign to shine a light on the issues that matter most to single parents as the May general election comes closer. And these include making childcare affordable and helping single parents take home a decent income.

I think there also ought to be a political commitment to help single parents with mental illness, whether it’s depression, OCD, eating disorders, bipolar, schizophrenia or anything else that makes single parenting even more arduous than it already is. I can’t help feeling that we are a whole subclass whose status of single-parenting whilst battling chronic ill health is like a societal powder keg waiting to explode.

The trouble is, I don’t think many politicians want to touch the topic of single-parenting, at least not in a positive way. For the most part, we aren’t economically powerful (and many think we are even an economic drain – a survey by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research once found that one-third of ex-wives end up in poverty after divorce. We are a group that often needs help).

So why bother trying to court our votes? Add mental health into the mix and we are, arguably, so niche as to be arcane. Mental health is, for politicians, marginally more fashionable than it used to be, single-parenting most definitely isn’t.

But the consequences of leaving single parents with mental health issues unsupported may be catastrophic, both for parents and children alike. As we approach May 7, I’ll be interested to see how mental health issues feature in the manifestos of the main political parties.
In the meantime – like many single parents with mental illness – I live in the hope that I’m doing it right, that my son will be fortified rather than felled by living with me and that, sooner or later, we’ll get the extra support that, as a family unit, we really need.


Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Mum shares intimate post about ex-husband's new wife

A US mother has shared a post to Facebook saying that her daughter calls her step-mother mummy and she's good with that.

Hayley Booth, 26, of Oklahoma, shared the post in which she thanked her ex-husband's new wife for caring for her daughter so beautifully and revealing that her daughter also calls her Mummy. She went on to say that this was just fine with her.

"My daughter calls her bonus mommy 'Mommy'.. and you know what? That's okay, because that's what she is to her, she IS her mommy," wrote Hayley.

"She is there for her always, she takes care of her, she plays with her, she teaches her life lessons and how she should behave, she gives her hugs and kisses goodnight, she does everything any mother would do.. But most of all she loves her like she is her own. It takes a very special woman to take a child that they didn't give birth to, under their wing and become their mother."

The post immediately went viral and was shared more than 20,000 times. It attracted dozens of comments, the vast majority applauding Hayley's stance. Many also suggested that if more separated parents adopted her attitude the world would be a better place. And I have to agree.

But Hayley also said that other women who don't feel the same way are being selfish. And that's where she lost me.

"I see so many women say 'I would never let my child call another woman mom or mommy, because she's NOT her mom I AM!'," she wrote.