Sunday, July 22, 2012

Painfully Powerless

One of the most painful aspects of divorce is the feeling of powerlesness that is an inevitable and intrinsic part of the process. Feeling you have little or no control over your life is true in almost every divorce and for EACH PERSON regardless of whether or not you were the initiator or whether your divorce is amicable or hostile. It is normal to feel scared, angry and powerless and I can assure you that your former spouse feels the same way.

Divorce is one of the most stressful life experiences a person can have. It is a restructuring of your life in almost every aspect: your finances, where you live, how/when you parent your children, socially and possibly even your job or career. The person you're divorcing is driving the shape of much of this restructuring and as such, they have a great deal of influence over your life, certainly more influence than you are likely to want them to have. If they are hostile, manipulative, stubborn and destructive this can become frustrating and distressing to the point of feeling close to losing your sanity.

However, you are not powerless, there are things you can do:
*Validate your feelings. You are not losing your mind, you are going through a painful, upsetting and scary process.

*Find good legal support. Ask around, check references, make a list of important questions and make sure your attorney or mediator is giving you an accurate picture of what to expect and not selling you false hopes.

*Remind yourself that your soon-to-be ex-spouse is probably feeling very similarly to you. Even if you feel that things are going against you and the scales are tipping unfairly in your spouse's favor, chances are good that they are feeling the same way. Divorce is very rarely an all-or-nothing situation; you are both making compromises and searching for new ways to move forward.

*Ask yourself if you truly are powerless. There are things you cannot change and you're going to have to adapt to things you won't like, but you probably have a lot more power than you realize. Reach out to professionals, look on-line, get second opinions, speak to other divorced people and see what options may be available to you to feel more empowered.

*Take care of yourself physically and emotionally by getting good sleep, eating right, exercising, nurturing yourself with massages, yoga, meditation, retreats, anything that brings you peace. Seeking support from a therapist can help you regain inner peace and find ways to cope so things feel more manageable.

*Lastly, remember that this will end at some point and you will have much more control over your life again.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Co-Parenting Is NOT Easy

The single most important gift you can give your children is to maintain an amicable co-parenting relationship with your former spouse.
I’m not saying this is easy, not even remotely.  One of the biggest issues for divorcing couples is how to co-parent.  Clearly, there are reasons you are separating and chances are you and your former spouse have not been getting along for a while.  Most likely there are now feelings of hurt, anger, hostility and resentment.  How do you co-parent when you can barely stand talking to the other parent?
While you may feel rage, hatred and disgust towards your former spouse, your children probably still love him/her and, even more importantly, they need your permission to do so.  Children see and feel themselves to be a blending of both parents.  When one parent expresses hostile feelings towards the other (even non-verbal hostility such as sighing or rolling-the-eyes), your child feels that you are expressing that hostility and rejection about them.  They are not able to separate your feelings towards their other parent from your feelings towards them.
I often give my divorced/divorcing patients an article by Bill Ferguson “Tips For Parents In Divorce”.  His website is or he can be reached at 713-520-5370.  It’s an excellent article that can serve as a solid guideline for parents.  Here are some of the main points:
·         Do everything you can to have the family unit continue
·         Let your children know that it’s ok to love both parents
·         Reinforce the idea that your children have two homes
·         Let your children know that you will always love them
·         Tell your children that the divorce is not their fault
·         Maintain a good working relationship with the other parent
·         Keep the other parent advised on all important matters
·         Make it easy for your children to express their feelings
·         Speak positively about the other parent
·         Allow your children to stay children
In most divorces, these are not easy tasks to accomplish.  It’s essential that you focus on the emotional needs of your children rather than your anger and hatred towards your former spouse.  Acknowledging your children’s love of their other parent does not negate your own feelings of hurt and anger.  Both are valid and real, but you should strive to separate the two.  Some professional support and guidance can be very helpful in accomplishing this.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A New Kind Of Happiness

Divorce is painful and scary, we all know that. It's much easier to blame the other person and feel like the victim, but if you can embrace the opportunity to examine yourself and how you may have contributed to the end of your marriage, either directly or indirectly, you may be on the road towards a happier life.

"What is the outcome you're looking for?" This is an important question to ask yourself about your divorce. If you are looking for peace, a fresh-start, a path towards a life that is more fulfilling, then you are on the right track. If you are looking for revenge, retribution, retaliation or "winning", you may need to ask yourself if that's ultimately going to bring you happiness. When children are involved, it's critical that you consider the effect it will have on them when you wrestle your spouse to the ground in the courtroom and declare victory (more on that in a future blog).

Often in divorce the feelings of betrayal, hurt, anger and self-rightous indignation can become overwhelming. I've seen even the most calm, non-reactive people get sucked into a bitter fight to "win". A wise divorce attorney recently said to me "it's not about getting revenge and making the other person miserable; it's about finding a way to feel comfortable in your life". This was very important advice and I knew I was speaking to someone with the skill and wisdom to help people through one of the most difficult challenges they may face.

Ultimately, divorce is about a new beginning and finding a new kind of happiness. It takes a lot of work to create that happiness, rarely is it attained by achieving victory over your former spouse. True happiness comes from taking a close look in the mirror, not just any mirror - the kind that magnifies all your pores and lets you see every nook and crany. It's scary to look so closely because we might see things we don't like; however it's only in having the courage to really see that we can create change. Change is scary but it is also where great opportunity comes from.

You deserve to have happiness and peace in your life. If you can embrace your divorce as a part of the journey towards that, you are already heading in the right direction.

Monday, February 13, 2012

You Are Not Going Crazy...

...just getting divorced.
There is nothing simple or easy about divorce. It is the ending of a union, the death of hopes and dreams and the end of life the way you knew it.  Some divorces are simple and others are very complicated with children, assets, property, debts.  Whatever the circumstances, it is a loss and will most likely create feelings of grief, fear, confusion, powerlessness and anger.  It can put strain on all your relationships, create stress levels beyond anything you've exprerienced before and may even make you wonder if you're loosing your sanity a little.  These are all normal feelings during divorce.  Most likely you are not going crazy, but you might need some support, some sound legal advice, good friends and a healthy outlet for your stress.  It's important to take good care of yourself physically and emotionally because, from this scary, stressed place you will need to make important decisions that will affect you (and your children if you have any) for many years.
                     Some ways to relieve stress:
                               Get good, regular sleep
                               Eat healthy, nourishing foods
                               Spend time with understanding loved ones
                               Get a massage
                               Treat yourself to some time away
                               See a funny movie or show

Check back soon.  The next post will be about Finding a New Kind of Happiness