move on after my divorce

How Taming My Ego Helped Me Move On After My Divorce

move on after my divorce

 

As a married woman, I lived a comfortable middle-class wife type of life. Life, if not always great, was easy. I took comfort and some pride in the fact that I had a husband by my side. Awful as it is to admit now – I was a ‘smug married’. Being a wife was a balm to my somewhat fragile ego.

I assumed I’d be married forever. I had no reason to think otherwise. Suffice it to say then I was completely blindsided when, during our seventeenth year of marriage, my husband announced that he wanted a divorce. I was paralyzed with grief – grief not just for the loss of him, but for the life I’d so carefully and neatly constructed.

And the funny thing about grief? It has a way of clouding judgment – of telling us things that simply aren’t accurate. In my pain, I somehow convinced myself that every successful woman who had ever lived had been married, and remained married, for the course of their entire lives.

Truth is, being ‘abandoned’ was a massive blow to my ego. And, I eventually realized, taming said ego was key to my healing and moving on from divorce.

Here are 3 things I did to tame my ego and move on after my divorce:

I removed my wedding and engagement rings

This was a BIG deal for me.

I used to take comfort in the fact that I had two rings on my ring finger, and would often find myself gazing appreciatively at them. To me, they were badges of honor. They were a symbol, to all who cared to notice, that I had made it in the world. That I hadn’t been left on the shelf. That somebody had clearly thought that I was good enough to marry.

And when that somebody suddenly decided that he, in fact, didn’t want to be married to me anymore, the idea of losing those badges of honor damn near killed me. I didn’t want to take them off. Yet in my pain and heartache and grief I still somehow instinctively knew that I had to let go. That there was no chance of reconciliation, and therefore no need to keep those rings on.

So reluctantly, I removed them. And for a time I acted a little crazy because of it. On very bad days I would scan the ring fingers of everyone in my immediate vicinity (usually the local shops) to see if like me, they were social rejects, or if they were lucky and whole and perfect enough to be married.

I would then construct ridiculous stories in my head about how happy and normal the marrieds must be, and how desperate and lonely the unmarrieds surely were. If a professional could have seen inside of my head during those moments, I am quite certain I would have been diagnosed with a disorder of some sort.

Eventually, I’m happy to report, I came to my senses and realized that I could not – and would not – be defined by a couple of pieces of jewelry. I accepted it was my EGO that had been telling me otherwise for years.

I eventually came to love the freedom of a bare ring finger. And I eventually moved on.

I reconnected with single friends

Let me be clear here – I never actually stopped being friends with my single counterparts. Over the years I guess I just fell into the routine or habit of hanging out more with other married people. It seemed that I had more in common with the marrieds – married since twenty-two, I actually had very little memory of what it was like to be single. And my ego liked it this way.

Suddenly single, I had no idea what to do with myself. I assumed that I probably just wouldn’t leave the house much. Then a single friend (actually my best friend since high school) suggested a night out with her. During the early part of the night, I was nervous. I just couldn’t shake the loneliness that came with the realization there would be nobody waiting for me at home.

Yet as the night wore on, I could feel myself loosening up. I ordered drinks on my own, I talked, I laughed. I saw couples being cozy with each other – this didn’t kill me. I saw singles mingling – this gave me hope.

Over time, hanging out with a variety of people – single, married, divorced, widowed, whatever – helped me realized that essentially we are ALL single. We are all single souls just doing the best we can with the life that we have been given. I realized that there are plenty (plenty) of unhappy married people on the planet – and PLENTY of insanely happy single people.

I realized that happiness does not come as a result of our marital status – it truly comes from within.

I practiced calling myself a ‘Single Mother’

In my previous life, I very much felt sorry for single mothers. I guess I unknowingly bought into the stigma and assumed that these poor women were more often than not sad, down on their luck, low on money and lonely. The thought that I may one day join their camp seemed incomprehensible to me, a married mother.

Then, just like that, I did join. With the breakdown of my marriage, I was a single mother. Needless to say, I had to work pretty quickly at letting go of my (completely inaccurate) notions about single mums.

As with most mothers, I love my children more than anything – being single changed nothing in this respect. This realization alone helped quell my fears and worries about single parenting. Yes, things got a little harder at home. Some days were a complete struggle – physically, mentally and emotionally. Some nights the loneliness was near debilitating.

But, it is in our struggles that we find our strengths and those early days of being a single mother taught me that I was a LOT stronger than I’d previously given myself credit for. In time, I came to relish my new status as ‘single mother’. Once I let go of both my ego and the stigma, I truly thrived. And now, I can’t imagine life any other way.

The post How Taming My Ego Helped Me Move On After My Divorce appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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divorce hangover syndrome

Book Excerpt: Are You Suffering From Divorce Hangover Syndrome?

divorce hangover syndrome

 

Divorce is a profound, life-changing experience. It’s painful, it’s confusing, and it turns your world upside down. But at some point, it should be over. If it’s not – if the pain, anger, resentment, depression, or emotional confusion seem to go on forever – then you’re in the clutches of a divorce hangover.

A divorce hangover is an ongoing connection with your ex-spouse or former life that keeps you agitated or depressed, unhappy, and stuck in the past.

You deserve to come to peace with your divorce so that you can begin a new and richer life. To do that, you must first understand your divorce hangover.

Divorce Hangover: Pain That Won’t Stop

Jan thought her divorce was over when the judge’s gavel swung down and the decree was final, but months later she was still crying herself to sleep.

She thought the pain and frustration would end when she received the financial settlement, but she still caught herself lashing out for no apparent reason at the children and strangers. There were days when her emotions, her finances, and her life seemed completely out of control.

Later, she thought the anger and resentment would finally end when she moved to a new city…when she began seeing someone and remarried…when her ex-husband, Tom, remarried and had a child.

But the knot in her stomach still hasn’t gone away, even after eight years. She still finds herself replaying the marriage and divorce over and over in her mind, and often feels angry, depressed, or victimized when she thinks about Tom. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to set her off – a wedding invitation, parents’ night at the kids’ school, a Fourth of July picnic, anything that reminds her of all that she has lost.

For Jan, the emotional loose ends and unresolved bad feelings have become a habit. Ever since the divorce, she feels as if she’s living at only half-speed or underwater. Her feelings about Tom and the divorce still control her life. So much of her attention and energy are focused on the past – which she can do nothing to change – that she sees even her new marriage to John through the filter of this “failure.”

Jan’s “hangover” has little to do with external events like signing the final papers or starting to see other people. Rather, it is an internal state of mind that she carries with her everywhere as a shield against the loss, change, pain, and devastation of her divorce – and the fear that something even worse could happen in the future. This shield, which is keeping her from moving forward with her life, is a divorce hangover. And Jan is not alone.

Divorce Hangover Scenarios

Does any of these situations sound familiar?

  • Seven years after the divorce, Fran calls her ex-husband’s new wife, Isabella, and shrieks into the phone, “Give me my husband, you bitch!” Robert, now Isabella’s husband, passively sits by, refusing to get an unlisted phone number, thereby causing a rift in his present marriage.
  • George has been divorced for three years and is happily remarried, but he continues to pay for his first wife’s subscription to TV Guide.
  • Stacy continues to drive the old Mustang that she and Rick shared when they were married, even though she can afford a new car. Each time it breaks down, she calls Rick immediately, convinced that he is the only one who can fix it.
  • Jennifer, 10, tells her mother “all kinds of things” after weekends with her father, particularly about his “rotten new girlfriend.” She will do anything to keep her divorced parents “together,” even if their only connection is arguing on the phone.
  • Two years after his divorce, Ed is still living in the same small apartment, complaining about the unfair financial settlement. He bitterly claims he doesn’t have enough money to date and spends his energy bad-mouthing his ex to anyone who’ll listen.
  • Allen’s ex-wife, Judy, has been living with her boyfriend ever since their divorce four years ago, but he still thinks she will one day come back to him.
  • Mary “accidentally” packs dirty clothes for the children’s weekends with Dan, remembering how much he always hated to do the laundry.
  • Bart is convinced that the only reason his ex-wife isn’t marrying her “live-in” is that it would end his alimony payments to her.

While the legal process of divorce is fairly simple – one entity is divided into two separate entities – the emotional experience of divorce can be complex and devastating. When a divorce does not promote healing and lay the past to rest, you feel the pain and paralysis of a divorce hangover. A divorce hangover is the unfinished emotional experience of the divorce.

When you have a divorce hangover, life is a battlefield – and unfortunately, you and the people in your life are often the worst casualties. Anger, resentment, bitterness, depression, and frustration can also cause physical illness if you keep them around for long periods of time. Ultimately, you only hurt yourself with vengeful or bitter thoughts and actions.

Recognize your Divorce Hangover

Recognizing your divorce hangover is the first step towards healing the pain. You’re in the grip of the divorce hangover if:

  • You still have strong emotional ties to your ex-spouse. These ties may be negative. These ties may be negative – a confusing, chaotic storm of anger, depression, bitterness, fear, resentment, guilt, blame, anxiety, or frustration – but they still keep you connected. You get upset when you think of your ex-spouse or hear his or her name, even bursting into tears if something reminds you of that person. You think about what you could do to get back at the other person, or what you could do to get him or her back.
  • Your energy is galvanized by these feelings; sometimes, they’re the only things that get you going or keep you going.
  • You feel victimized by your ex-spouse, the lawyers, or the divorce in general. You want your ex-spouse to be punished, to suffer for all he or she has done to you… or you just want to crawl under a rock, letting the world go on without you.
  • You think obsessively about your ex-spouse. You wonder who he or she is seeing; what sex is like with that new partner; how your ex-spouse looks now; what he or she would think of the person you’re seeing; what it would be like if you got back together; and whether there was something you could have done to avoid the divorce –or you look back in anger, preoccupied with what your ex-spouse did to you or what you’re going to do to him or her.
  • You see him or her more often than necessary. You could have called a plumber to fix the faucet, a decorator to arrange the living room furniture, your mother for a recipe, or a financial advisor about buying this or that stock – but you didn’t. Instead, you called your ex-spouse. You could have handled that matter with the kids or the finances over the phone, but instead, you met for cocktails.
  • The past seems more real to you than the present.
  • You still feel as if your life is on hold.

These feelings can be conscious or unconscious, explosive or subtle. If they focus your attention and energy on the past, or if they make you angry, anxious, depressed, or wistful about what might have been, then they are not healthy. As long as you are still emotionally engaged and entangled with your ex-spouse in these ways, you can’t live in the present or move forward into the future.

The divorce hangover doesn’t discriminate. It can affect anyone, regardless of sex, social or financial status, or even who initiated the divorce. And it doesn’t matter how long ago your divorce happened. If you still think about it or about your ex-spouse in emotionally charged ways, if your fists clench or your body tightens when you hear his or her name, if that former life is as real to you as your present life, then it’s time to stop and take stock of where you are.

Healing Your Divorce Hangover

Everyone experiencing divorce is held in a maze of devastating emotions. The one that seems to be the most shattering and the hardest to endure is loneliness. The fear of being alone has held many in intolerable marriages.

Friends and clients alike speak of the loneliness of divorce and afterward. “I have been divorced for 15 years,” one said. “The pain is as sharp and exhausting today as it was the moment the whole thing began. Maybe even more so.” In order to escape, anything is preferable – running to relationships, bad or good; alcohol; drugs; work – to numb the pain.

You can cure your divorce hangover. It may take some patience and attention, but the most important ingredient is your own desire to be free of the hangover.

STEP 1: MOVE FROM FEELING TO THINKING

The emotional tailspin of a divorce hangover is fueled by feelings of anger, depression, confusion, and loss of control. It’s a vicious circle. As long as you are in an emotional tailspin, you are motivated by fear – and fear feeds the tailspin. Before you can do anything else, you have to stop that downward spiral.

It’s hard even to do grocery shopping or walk across the street when you’re in an emotional tailspin. You’re at the end of your rope. One more question from the kids, one more bill in the mail, one more harsh word from your boss, one more “chance meeting” with your ex-spouse’s new partner, and you’re going to lose it.

Tailspins don’t stop by themselves; you have to pull yourself out of them. At some point, you have to reach out and consciously begin to manage your emotions. This will become easier to do as you begin to understand how the hangover starts, what keeps it in place, what yours looks like, what it’s protecting you from, and how you can release it.

The minute you start to consider those answers, you begin a mental process that pulls you out of the emotional freefall. At this point, you start to take charge.

Moving from feelings to rational thinking is the way to stop the emotional tailspin. If you can think about something, you can put it outside of yourself. You may still have some of those feelings, but they don’t have you.

Step 1 Exercises

  • At the time of the divorce, which feelings hit you the hardest? Rank the following: anger, depression, anxiety, tiredness, fear, loss, helplessness, aloneness, bitterness, vindictiveness, feeling exploited, others.
  • What are your feelings now?
  • What caused and continues to cause these feelings?
  • What can you do about each of these feelings?

If you’re in the process of a divorce now, these questions will be the basis for all your other decisions and help you avoid a hangover. If you’re healing a hangover, they will help you clarify what really happened in your marriage and divorce, why it happened, how your hangover developed, and what you can do about it now.

STEP 2: ANSWER THE KEY QUESTIONS

If you’re in the process of a divorce now, these questions will be the basis for all your other decisions and help you avoid a hangover. If you’re healing a hangover, they will help you clarify what really happened in your marriage and divorce, why it happened, how your hangover developed, and what you can do about it now.

Here are the key questions to ask yourself:

  1. Was your divorce inevitable?
  2. What was the cause of your divorce?
  3. What were your expectations going into the marriage?
  4. How long did you want it to take to get the divorce?
  5. What was your first priority in the divorce?
  6. What was the greatest benefit to you?

As you answer these questions, you’ll begin to see exactly how your divorce hangover took shape.

1. Was your divorce inevitable?

This is the first question you should ask; not asking it is a primary cause of the confusion surrounding divorce. If your divorce was inevitable, then at least you know that you’re in the right place. You can put to rest forever all the doubts, worries, fears, and second-guessing about whether you did the right thing. You did! There was never really an alternative.

This seems like an obvious question, but I know some very bright men and women who never asked it and spent the next 20 years wondering:

  • “If I’d given in on that one issue, would we still be together?”
  • “If he’d just stopped drinking, would the kids have had a father over those important years?”
  • “Maybe if we’d seen a therapist, or if I’d just overlooked those two affairs, we might be happy today.”

This kind of backward, “coulda, woulda, shoulda” thinking keeps you trapped in the past. It can also keep you trapped in the present when it’s time to move on. In deciding whether or not to stay in a relationship, I’ve heard equally bright men and women say things like:

  • “He just drinks because he doesn’t know what it is to be really loved. I’ll show him, and then things will be better.”
  • “I’m sure once we’re married awhile, she’ll change her mind and want to have kids.”
  • “If I’m patient with him, he’ll open up to me emotionally.”

These people were all walking into a trap, the false hope that maybe the other person would change. None of us would be divorced if it were possible to change other people into who we think they should be. Thinking that the other person will change is like dropping a pencil and expecting it to fall up instead of down. Things just don’t work that way. Rather than thinking about how things might have worked out, the question to ask is: “If the other person had never changed – and if I had never changed – would I still have wanted to stay in that relationship?”

As you were then, and as the other person was then, would it have worked? Answering this question eliminates all the false hopes, the self-delusions, and the “what if’s.”

Notice that the question is not “Did you want your divorce?” but “Was your divorce inevitable?” You know the answer. Face it head-on. If the other person wanted to leave, and especially if there was a third party involved, it probably was inevitable. If your ex-spouse was involved in something you couldn’t live with – alcoholism, compulsive spending, etc. – you may not have wanted the divorce, but it may have been the only real choice between two evils.

The inevitability of the divorce is your take-off point, the basic piece of information to which you can always return when you feel yourself waffling. Eventually, you must come to feel there was nothing you could have done then, and there is nothing you can do now to bring that marriage back. You must believe that any effort in that direction is a waste of time. Then you’ll see that the only direction to look now is ahead.

2. What was the cause of your divorce?

Some of the most common reasons people give for divorce are drug or alcohol abuse, sexual differences or preferences, infidelity, physical violence, difficulties with the balance of power, money problems, children, and in-laws.

But other, more subtle reasons have surfaced only in the past 30 years or so, as personal growth and fulfilling relationships have become more important in our culture. Today, we are less willing to tolerate stagnant or psychologically destructive marriages.

You may wake up one morning and realize that there is nothing there. You may feel you are in a cage and the walls are closing in. This situation can be psychologically punishing, and in many ways as damaging as being physically abused, even if it appears that the other person isn’t doing any intentional or tangible harm.

We are much more alert and sensitive to these kinds of issues today than we used to be. Before the revelations and revolutions of the 1960s, people were more inclined to stay married and turn to affairs, drugs or alcohol, prolonged absences, or whatever they could find to dull the pain of a marriage that wasn’t working. Today we deal with the issue more directly, and sometimes that involves ending the relationship.

Having differences doesn’t have to be a recipe for disaster. They can be worked out and this process can actually strengthen and enrich a relationship. But often when we feel that our needs aren’t being met, or that our desires aren’t being recognized and appreciated, we have a tendency to withdraw from the relationship, to stop loving or expressing our love as much. That makes the other person withdraw, and can eventually create hurts that are hard to mend.

3. What were your expectations going into the marriage?

Beautiful bride and groom sitting

We all grew up hearing about Cinderella and Prince Charming and may unconsciously hold these stories as life truths. Whether or not we are aware of it, some part of us may still believe that good, passive, beautiful girls get magical help to find eternal love with rich, handsome princes — or that brave, dashing boys who persevere always find gorgeous, angelic girls who become perfect, devoted wives.

Sometimes our expectations about marriage aren’t much more realistic.

Many women think, “I’m going to open up this strong, silent husband of mine. With me, his feelings will come bubbling to the surface and he will be saved.” This expectation is rarely realized. A common male fantasy is finding not only a replacement for mother but someone who is also a fantastic lover. Other common expectations are:

  • “He’ll provide me with financial security forever; I’ll never have to think about money again.”
  • “She’ll be the perfect wife who makes a beautiful home, anticipates my every need, and has a delicious dinner on the table each night. Our life at home will be perfectly harmonious, filled with lovely things and happy, beautiful children.”
  • “He will bring excitement and adventure to my life; I’ll never be bored with him around.”
  • Sex will be absolutely fantastic all the time.”
  • “Finally, someone who appreciates me enough to make my life easy and give me all the strokes I deserve.”

Knowing what your expectations were will give you a deeper understanding of why the marriage didn’t work, and where your resentments may lie.

4. How long did you want it to take to get the divorce?

If you wanted to get it over as quickly as possible and then found yourself in the midst of a long, drawn-out procedure, you probably felt frustrated and thwarted. Resentment or anger at the slowness of your ex, the lawyers, or the court may be part of your divorce hangover.

On the other hand, you may have wanted to drag the process out, hoping that you might get a more favorable settlement, make the other person suffer, or perhaps even get back together. If it went very quickly, you may still feel frustrated or upset. (If you hoped the divorce would be long and painful, you may want to examine your motives.)

If you’re in the process of a divorce now, tell the truth about how long you want it to take. If you realize that you want to draw it out, ask yourself why. If you want to complete it as soon as you can, talk to all the parties concerned and if possible agree on some dates. Be prepared to make some adjustment if your pace is very different. You’ll come out ahead in the long run.

5. What was your first priority in the divorce?

Your first priority may have been getting out of the marriage as quickly as possible, the well-being of the children, having the divorce be amicable, getting a good financial settlement, freedom, or whatever was important to you at that time.

Or, you may not have set any priorities at all and simply “winged it,” handling issues as they arose.

If you knew what your first priority was and you stuck to it, you’re less likely to have a divorce hangover. If you didn’t have a specific priority to guide your steps, or if it was thwarted, the results may have been brutal. You may have residual anger about things not working out the way you wanted them to, or not getting what you wanted out of the divorce.

If you’re involved in a divorce now, I can’t emphasize enough the value of setting your first priority for moving through this process. Your priority determines the answers to almost all the other questions that arise. It gives you a long-term goal and keeps you on track.

You’ll want other things from the divorce and it’s important to rank these lesser priorities, but there will be one thing you want above all else and that thing must be your focus.

6. What was the greatest benefit to you?

You probably weren’t thinking along these lines during the divorce itself, but by now you may have some perspective. You may be aware of some good things that have happened in your life as a result of the divorce, some benefits you’ve accrued by taking that step. Among the benefits that people often mention are:

  • Increased sense of power and independence.
  • Freedom to explore other relationships.
  • Relationships with children that have become deeper through the adversity.
  • Career changes that were difficult at the time, but have turned out to be beneficial.
  • More flexibility to grow in individual ways.
  • Lost 20 pounds.

No matter how difficult your divorce or severe your divorce hangover, it’s likely that something positive came out of the experience.

Step 2 Exercises

  • Answer each cornerstone question according to your reality at the time of the divorce, and then according to your present reality.
  • Make note of your feelings regarding these questions (helplessness, confusion, anger, loss of control, etc.). These are the trigger points of your hangover.

STEP 3: COUNT YOUR LOSSES

Divorce is devastating. It ranks as the #2 life crisis after the death of a spouse. Although divorced people experience enormous loss, they don’t get the support that society extends to people whose spouses have died.

The divorce hangover begins in response to the staggering losses and changes of divorce, and the fear of even greater losses to come. It’s important to understand exactly what you have lost. Remember, after divorce, loss, and change occur for everyone – whether male or female and regardless of who initiated the breakup or how amicable the proceedings may have seemed.

What you Lose

Divorce affects every area of your life: relationships, finances, physical surroundings, personal identity, home, health, family, and social situation. The losses strike at the very core of who you are, how you see yourself, and how others see you, and they seem to go on forever.

Everyone experiences his or her own specific, individual losses; here are some of the most common ones:

  • Loss of the relationship. No matter how bad it was, no matter who initiated the divorce, the loss is painful to both parties.
  • Loss of financial structure and security. For some people, this means reestablishing credit, or a change in lifestyle. But for others, the economic loss can be devastating and become a matter of sheer survival.
  • Loss of the children, or at least daily contact with the children. You may not get to kiss them goodnight every night. You may feel you have to work harder to make things perfect when you do see them. You miss out on the natural flow, the give-and-take that happens when families live together. Even if the children live with you, you must deal with loss when they go off for weekends, vacations, or holidays with the other parent.
  • Loss of self-esteem and self-confidence. In our society, divorce is often mistakenly perceived as a failure or even a sin. No one feels good about not making another person happy or not being able to make a relationship work. For many people, marriage is a way to define who they are and to feel likable, upright, lovable people with a place in their community. Divorce takes away that structure. Very few people have a strong enough sense of their intrinsic self-worth to say, “I’m still okay, I’m still me.”
  • Loss of sex with that person. Sexuality is a large part of who we are. If sex was an important part of the marriage or a part that escaped unscathed when the rest of the relationship fell apart, then this is a tremendous loss. If sex was only a habit or part of a destructive power struggle, there was some payoff in that for you, and you’ve lost whatever the payoff was.
  • Loss of someone with whom to share familiar daily routines, burdens, and experiences. After my divorce, I realized that it was always my turn to change light bulbs. Gardening had been my joy, but it became a chore when there was no one to help. There is no one with whom to share decisions, help with the kids if you’re sick, or talk about the day. You lose your date for social events, someone with whom to go places, eat dinner, and share a bed.
  • Loss of friends. Some people may have seen you as part of a couple and are not interested in you as a single friend. You may even seem threatening to married friends.
  • Loss of approval. As many divorces as there are and as much as attitudes have changed, a social stigma still exists. It doesn’t matter that in your efforts to grow, you simply discovered that you were in the wrong soil and were willing to go through the trauma of pulling yourself up and putting down roots in another, more nurturing place. Divorce is still against the social rules and, in a sense, you become an outlaw. It looks as if you can’t stick to your commitments, as if you have been a bad spouse and maybe even a bad parent.
  • Loss of identity as part of a couple. You are no longer Mr. and Mrs., Sally and Bill. You are just Sally or just Bill. In places where the world moves two-by-two, this can be particularly painful.
  • Loss of order, permanence, and predictability. Your world becomes ambiguous, unclear, uncertain, and you reflect these qualities. You don’t think you can count on anything and feel out of control.
  • Loss of possessions. Old photos, the rowing machine, the blender, the house, the end table, the dog. Often the monetary value has nothing to do with the depth of the loss.
  • Loss of “home.” Even if you get the house, it’s not the same home without the other person. This can be an especially difficult loss for men, who are not as likely to be “nesters” and to create another “home” wherever they are.
  • Loss of power. In some social environments, there is also a loss of power or status in not being part of a married couple. Invitations may not be extended because you are single or because your spouse is the preferred guest.
  • Loss of family – not just loss of being a family yourselves, but also the loss of the in-laws. Many people have strong attachments to their partners’ families. These relationships suffer in a divorce and are sometimes destroyed entirely.
  • Loss of traditional holidays. Whether or not you have the kids, and regardless of how you celebrate or don’t celebrate holidays, you have lost the way it used to be.

Everything Changes

All of these losses have corresponding and equally devastating changes. The blank spot on a wall where a picture used to hang can be a daily (or hourly) reminder of the way things used to be. Changes in your schedule, a change in your name, changes in the way bills are paid – even these kinds of relatively minor alterations can be enormously upsetting. The larger changes can be devastating: a move to a new house or city, life without the children, massive financial upheaval, etc.

Not all the changes around divorce are negative, but all of them are hard. Human beings have a natural resistance to change. We almost always prefer the familiar to the unfamiliar, even if the familiar isn’t so great. A new job can be difficult and uncomfortable for the first few weeks, even if it’s a big promotion. A new house can seem strange, even if we needed and wanted to make the change.

It’s natural to feel disoriented, out of control, helpless, angry, or guilty in the midst of change. This is a time of grasping at straws. Your instinct is to try and get everything back the way it was as quickly as possible. When you can’t do this, when the losses and changes won’t go away, the frustration and pain are almost unbearable. Your very survival seems threatened, and this calls up a natural, primitive instinct to protect yourself. It feels as if the world has been turned upside down, and it has.

Taking Stock

In order to face your losses, you have to know exactly what they are. I asked Stan in a counseling session to make a list of how his life had been before the divorce and how it was now, after the divorce. His “Before” list included “house, yard, neighbors.” His “After” list read, “apartment in concrete complex, no yard, loss of financial equity and security.”

Then I asked him to make lists of how he felt before and after the divorce. The “Before” list was upbeat and optimistic: “self-confident, secure, emotionally supported, good sense of humor, future bright, part of a family and social group, intelligent, alert, strong.” The “After” list was a stark contrast: “scared, a failure, angry, hopeless, anxious, uncertain, bitter, alone, confused, unequipped to cope, helpless.”

Very few people have an accurate idea of what their losses and changes actually are until they sit down and start making lists.

Step 3 Exercises

  • Make a list in a workbook of all the losses discussed in this article.
  • Highlight the ones that have affected you most.
  • For each loss, describe what you felt.
  • List the changes caused by your divorce and your emotional response to each one.
  • What were you most afraid would happen as a result of the divorce?
  • Which of these fears were eliminated in the divorce settlement? Which are still present?
  • How would you describe yourself and your life before the divorce?
  • How would you describe yourself now?

Take the First Step

This hangover can be healed: divorce doesn’t have to be a permanent state of being, a condition that keeps you trapped in chronic pain or numbness. It’s the end of one phase of your life, and regardless of whether it was by choice or not, it can be the beginning of a happier, more satisfying one. By deciding to heal your divorce hangover, you’ll make a courageous commitment to yourself and your future. That’s the first step – and the most important one. The healing process can be a springboard to a whole new way of relating to yourself, to other people, and to life. Your success will give you the skills and confidence to handle anything that comes up. Some of the steps will be easy for you, and some will be more difficult and require more attention. Stay flexible, and stay vigilant.


curing your divorce hangoverThis article has been edited and excerpted from Divorce Hangover: A Successful Strategy to End the Emotional Aftermath of Divorce by Anne Newton Walther, M.S. (Tapestries Publishing, 2001). As an outgrowth of her counseling practice, Walther identified the “divorce hangover” syndrome and developed a strategy for ending it. This book will enable you to put down your emotional baggage and move into new, healthy relationships – with yourself and others. www.annewalther.com

The post Book Excerpt: Are You Suffering From Divorce Hangover Syndrome? appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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How I Got My Financial House In Order After An Unwanted Divorce

financial house in order

 

Tax time. As I dropped by the post office to get the right postage for the thick packet of homework to send to my accountant, I smiled to myself, confident that I had my financial house in order. It brought back memories of all the effort it took to dig a new foundation years ago, after my divorce.

I no longer get weak-kneed and shaky thinking about those months leading to the divorce. The request for a divorce came as a surprise to me. So busy with family and career that I hadn’t been attending to the finer points of our family finances—that was something my trusted husband did.

Evidently, I wasn’t attending to the marriage either.

Rather, I was full throttle busy but confident that it wouldn’t be long before we would have an opportunity to do a reset as a couple once our last child left for college.  My husband was on another page. When the last child was launched, he would also start his new chapter. And, it didn’t include me.

The shock of divorce rattled me, and I don’t rattle easily. In fact, calm is my middle name. My career track steady and upward for the entirety of our marriage, I was now close to the top of my field, responsible for business lines that were valued at tens of millions of dollars. “On the rise” is what people would tell my husband about me at the rare work event of mine that we attended together.

I wonder now if that message didn’t send alarm bells to him—a signal that we were out of sync. After all, he had married a younger woman still in grad school with no prospects, and as he was older, his career was already launched. Perhaps neither of us took stock of what that would mean later.

Silly me, I thought we were happy and about to enter that golden time in a couple’s marriage when the burden of children is lifted, careers are set, and a second honeymoon is around the corner as empty nesters take the time to find one another again.

Some must find divorce a relief after years of strife, or abuse.

I found it confusing, embarrassing and disorienting. It took me months to feel myself again and to assure myself that the kids were ok—or as ok as they could be with their world shaken. But they had new worlds to explore, going off to college was a happy and understood rite of passage.

Divorce at middle-age is not. Although more “gray” adults are divorcing now, it still hurts me when I see a couple that is celebrating their 40 plus wedding anniversary. Surrounded by children and grand-children, toasting one another with loving looks, sometimes sharing a truth about having weathered a storm or two, but toughing it out. Good for them.

Life is hard. So, when you find someone to hang onto, it is a blessing. When you lose that person, it is difficult, regardless of the circumstances. After the initial shock wore off, and I adjusted to the fact that my husband of twenty years plus didn’t want to be married to me anymore, I wanted to get out of the marriage as quickly as possible. During that period of deep hurt, I realized how little I knew about our finances.

Pulling papers together, going through correspondence, talking to bankers, and finally, my own attorney, I was overwhelmed. I needed help. Someone to take charge of my funds—once I settled out— invest them, and work with me on managing them wisely. I also needed a CPA to help me with tax planning, short and long term.

I was startled by what I didn’t know. 

It’s not like I was a princess who had waited for her prince charming to come along and rescue her. I was a smart woman who had navigated to a high-profile career with a great future ahead of me. But I had not paid attention to the essentials of investing for my own future. Why would I? My future was intertwined with my husband’s, and he was looking out for both of us, right?

I felt powerless and knew I had to take control to conquer that fear. And, I did. But it took years, and a small village, to get me to a place that feels comfortable.

How I Got My Financial House In Order

Fortunately, through the referral from a trusted friend, I found a broker who was indispensable when it came time to receiving my settlement monies and guiding me through the decision making on where to make investments. Another friend referred me to her tax accountant who turned out to be heaven-sent. To this day, she has my back and has recently helped me through the intricacies of college savings for my grandchildren.

As I leave the post office, I realize that my comfort now is due to the fact that I educated myself, took advice from trusted friends, and brick by brick learned to build my financial house on solid ground.

My lesson was learned the hard way. Married couples are partners for financial planning and the tasks should not be delegated to one partner only.  Quarterly meetings to review your financials and make adjustments as needed, with both partners conversant and supportive of the financial plan is the best practice. Things happen, and when they do, the last thing you want is to be distracted about is your financial security.

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6 Summer Child Care Tips For Single Moms

summer child care tips

 

When the kids were younger, Summer break was always a good time for us to spend a lot of quality family time together. We were able to make things work so that one parent was home, or we would enroll the kids in different programs that would work around our schedules.

When I became a single mom in 2015, life suddenly got so much harder trying to juggle the balance between work and family. I suddenly had to find alternatives for childcare so I could go back to work full-time just to support the three of us.

I dreaded the Summer because I had no idea what to do with the kids while I was working. They weren’t old enough to stay at home by themselves, childcare was getting so expensive for both kids, at a young age there wasn’t really many camps or programs they could join. It just became this big ordeal in trying to find something I could afford at their age.

I searched constantly for a work at home job or childcare that would work around my schedules. I juggled friends and family helping me watch the children or get them to where they needed to be. After looking for a few months, I finally found a job that after a few months would allow me to work at home. I live in a small town, so this was a huge deal for me.

Summer Child Care Tips

Plan, Plan, Plan

Summer break may not be the first thing on your mind, but it should be right up there on the list. Save up your vacation days and any earned time off work. Use those days off during the Summer when you may need them. Another option would be setting a little bit of money back each payday to go towards daycare or camp costs.

Ask about changing your work routine or schedule

Do you have a lot of college kids or younger adult coworkers that may be able to switch their hours or days around? Does your employer offer a work from home program that you can work towards? Don’t be afraid to ask your boss about changing your schedule or days to fit your summer break schedule. Be open and honest with your boss and maybe they can offer some help.

Ask Other Parents

You probably know or work with other parents. Start up a conversation about the kids and what they may be doing for Summer break. They may know of friends and family who own an affordable daycare or know of some not so expensive programs that you can enroll your child into.

If your child has made friends with a student who has a stay at home parent, check with them to see if they would be willing to help watch the kids during summer break while you work. You can set up a payment plan with them that would fit within your budget.

Ask Family

Check with your parents to see if they would be willing to help with summer care. Maybe they can watch the kids while you are working. They may also be able to help get the kids to different activities around town. My mom was able to help during the school year, luckily, she only lives 30 minutes away, so she was able to help on her days off.

Last Summer, our family who doesn’t live close, was able to take the kids for a few weeks at a time. This worked out well for both of us because they were able to spend quality one on one time with the kids and it gave me the opportunity to work without worrying. I could also work extra hours at that time for a bigger paycheck.

You can check with other members of the family as well. Maybe the kids have an aunt or uncle they can visit for some of the Summer.

Low-Cost Local Programs

Many places such as the YMCA, schools, and other organizations offer affordable day camps. This was another lifesaver for me. It was both affordable and they often ran until the late evening, so I didn’t have to worry about trying to get the kids from one place to another while I worked.

These programs often offer a low-cost option or can point you into the right direction of receiving financial help to pay for the program costs. Also, check with the state programs or local community or colleges to see what they offer. There is a local college here where they offer a discounted day program to qualifying families so that students get hands-on experience with kids for their degree.

High School Students and Siblings

When Summer hits, there always seem to be high school students looking to make a little extra money. This can be a good thing for working parents. You’ll often find this is cheaper than daycare or camp programs. Of course, you don’t just want any high schooler watching the kids so be sure to do your research and ask around to see if any friends or family can make a recommendation.

If you have older children who are responsible you can recruit them in as well. Since they are on summer break as well, they can babysit.

As kids get older it can get a lot easier to find things for them during the summer. Check with your local and state laws to see how old a child must be before you can leave them on their own. If they are old enough and responsible enough to take care of themselves that is another option. If they are at the right age, you can test their responsibility level throughout the year to see if you can trust them being home alone. Work on a few hours at first then move up to a weekend night. After you know they can handle it you can try it for a full weekend.

As a single mom, it can be tough throughout the Summer. Trying to juggle kids and work can be extremely hard and expensive. Start planning early and looking at different options to see what will work best for your family.

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Suffering An Identity Crisis? How To Find Yourself After Divorce

finding yourself after divorce

With a little imagination and some self-love as a foundation, divorce can be the gateway to living your best life and find your self after divorce.

 

When I had my children all those years ago, I was shocked to learn some hard truths about pregnancy, birth, and motherhood.

Some of the surprising facts no-one thought to tell me about include: there are consequences to natural vaginal deliveries, you can still look five months pregnant after giving birth, having children can lead to marital discontent, and the biggest shock of them all, many women lose themselves in motherhood.

Although it’s not widely discussed, identity loss is a real and devastating side effect of raising children.

I for one was secretly harboring a depressed state of low self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth, behind a calm and collected façade. It took a divorce for me to recognize this truth and eventually restore my sense of self. And now, as a Life Coach to moms, and a friend to many women with children, “motherhood, as an identity theft”, is an issue I see emerging again, and again.

Most recently I came across an interview featuring actress, Jada Pinkett-Smith, who bravely revealed that motherhood had caused her to “lose her groove”. Even as a star, in the throes of raising her children, she too found herself asking “Oh my gosh, where did I go?”.

It does seem to happen that way. You throw everything into raising your children, helping them build their own identities that you lose sight of your own. You wake up one day and realize you’re a distant shadow of the person you once were.

So, here I share my personal story about how I was able to piece together my identity and how you can do the same. 

Art has always been my passion. I’ve loved art since I was a kid.

The most memorable picture I created was that of a bird. An Eastern Rosella, with its fluorescent yellows, bright greens, and deep hues of red and blue. This drawing, at the age of 10, ignited my love for creating beautiful things.

As I got older, I continued to dabble in small pieces of art, mostly paintings I gave to family and friends. But as life got busier with the need to work and the arrival of children, art became something that I only did with my kids. Whilst I focused on helping my children build their creative muscles, my own desire for personal expression was put on hold.

It wasn’t until more than a decade later, during the early stages of my separation, that I reconnected with this part of me.

In the quest to “find myself”, I decided to take up painting lessons under the guise of an accomplished artist. I created artwork that I was proud of and felt myself come alive. As I left the studio each day with paint on my hands and clothes, I also wore a permanent smile on my face that I just couldn’t wash off.

But sadly, financial constraints and altered childcare arrangements meant that I could no longer continue the classes. What started as the equivalent of writer’s block for an aspiring painter.

I lost my inspiration and flow.

Everything I did outside of those classes, felt below par.

Frustration started to build as I was no longer enjoying the process. I bought into the ideals of our productivity-obsessed culture. The guilt of wasting time and money on fruitless activity weighed heavily on me. I felt a need to make my works of art “saleable”.

To that end, I continued with my mission to create big pieces of art. I was stuck on the notion that “large paintings made a bigger impact”. Consequently, I started focusing too much on the end result. I lost sight of why I was painting in the first place – for the love of creating beautiful things.

One after another, half-finished paintings piled up into the corner of a room. Nothing was good enough. It was only a matter of time before I gave up.

Several seasons passed by before I found myself contemplating art again. I moved into a new house and came across my old, boxed up, paints and brushes. So, I decided to give it another go. This time I would ease myself back into painting and only paint for leisure.

Like reacquainting with an old friend, I started to relive the joys of painting again. I chose to do something for myself and it felt great.

From there I started finding more opportunities to do more of what I loved. With each act of self-love, I continued to discover other parts of me that I had left behind or long forgotten.

A beautiful quote by a soulful writer, Beau Taplin, comes to mind, which I believe rings true: “Self-love is an ocean and your heart a vessel. Make it full and any excess will spill over into the lives of the people you hold dear. But you must come first.”

As self-indulgent as it may seem, doing things that bring joy to your heart during divorce is not a self-fish act.

When you do things to look after and love yourself, you become the best version of yourself. Only then, can you give your children all of you and more.

So, what is it that you love or would love to do?

Were there things you wanted to do while married, but couldn’t for some reason (e.g. learn a new hobby, spend more time with family and friends, volunteer, bungee jump, etc.)?

Instead of making excuses about why you can’t do those things, research, make time, plan, find support to care for the kids, and do those things.

If money is a factor then that’s an opportunity to be creative. Brainstorm ways you in which you can engage in similar activities that will bring you joy.

In my case, I traded in big expensive canvases for small sheets of watercolor paper. I also swapped acrylics and oils to watercolor paint. Not only did this make painting more affordable, but less messy too.

Another example is my substitute for a trip to a Day Spa. A full afternoon of professional pampering may be out of reach, but soaking in a hot bath (uninterrupted), donning a face mask, with added bath salts, a good book, and a cup of tea, can make a world of difference to the hamster wheel of life.

There’s also plenty of resources and ideas online that show you how to make pampering products with ingredients straight from the pantry. Who knows, you could enjoy the DIY process more than the pampering session itself.

The possibilities are endless!

You, resilient mom, can now make your own decisions, try new things, make new friends, and eventually find someone to love you the way you deserve to be loved.

With a little imagination and some self-love as a foundation, divorce can be the gateway to living your best life and finding your best self.

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Divorce: Where Does Delayed Anger Come From?

delayed anger

 

Hey, so does this ever happen to you?

It may have been months since your divorce ended, and you thought you were doing okay.

You were picking yourself up financially, making your home your own, and trying some new activities and were feeling pretty good about yourself.

Delayed Anger After Divorce

But then it hits you and won’t leave. 

That anger–that pure rage once you look back and realize just how awful your ex treated you.

The time you found the messages from another woman on his cell phone.

Or when you’d come home after a week-long work trip, only to find the house a complete mess and him sitting on the couch watching football.

Or when you’d go to the gym together, after a few comments he’d made about “you don’t look like you did when we met,” only to have him completely ignore you and pretend he doesn’t know you there.

The list could go on and on. Each memory making you see a deeper shade of red, wondering why you didn’t see the signs–why you didn’t leave.

And it’s that feeling of unfairness and injustice that can make you feel blind and keep you from moving on.

That’s called anger, my friends. And it’s appearing now because you’re getting stronger.

These feelings of rage are coming because you’re healing. You’re moving on from the divorce and you’re getting stronger. But during that process, the present, more confident you have a new set of eyes that are looking back on the past you.

The stronger, more confident you are bearing witness to all the disrespect and mistreatment the past you endured and she wants justice, dammit.

“But Martha, why now? I feel like this is completely derailing my recovery!”

Think of your recovery in a couple of steps. The first step was when you were getting mistreated by your spouse, but you may have blamed yourself or you may have normalized it, thinking it was somehow just how your marriage was.

The next step is where you are now: you realized that the marriage is no longer healthy for you, and you are either in the process of divorce, or you are finished with the divorce and are working hard to move on.

So, the anger gap is actually the delta between those two parts. It is you now realizing that:

  • Getting treated like crap was NOT okay.
  • You deserved better than getting treated like crap.
  • You are now frustrated because you can’t go back in time to change the fact that you were treated like crap.

And it’s this frustration that you’re feeling now? That feeling is the Anger. The anger is directed in a couple of places:

  • It’s at your ex because he treated you poorly.
  • It’s at your ex because they will most likely not apologize and truly regret how they treated you.
  • It’s at yourself because you’re now kicking yourself that you let it go on for so long.
  • What a mess. It’s no wonder why you’re feeling stuck and not sure what to do.

But do you see the commonality with all these things?

They are all things you cannot control.

You can’t go back in time and get your ex to treat you better. He was a jerk who didn’t deserve you anyway. It’s as simple as that. No excuses.

You can’t “make” your ex apologize. You cannot “make” him suffer or feel bad for all the things he did. He’s most likely emotionally unavailable and him feeling bad and truly expressing his regret or sorrow ain’t gonna happen, sweetheart.

Trying to go back and dissect “what should I have done differently?” or blaming yourself for not standing up to your ex, or not realizing his toxic behavior only keeps you from moving on now.

So now what?

Redirect your anger to something productive and healing for you.

No, I don’t mean you have to pick a bunch of flowers in the meadow and make a vision board if you don’t want to.

Hell, I’m not even saying forgive him right now.

But what I am saying, friends is to channel that anger you feel into something that can help you move on with your life. I call this the PPF Model—short for Past Present Future.

Past: What lessons can I learn from this anger?

Present: What can I do NOW to turn this anger into something good?

Future: What will I do in the future to protect myself from this toxic BS?

It’s not easy to just “let go” of all the memories that are pissing you off right now. But you can’t let them keep you stuck in rut and unable to move on with your life. Right now, you have a choice. You can choose to stay stuck in a rut, paralyzed by a past you can’t change. Or you can learn from the past and let that anger remind you that you deserve better. And you’re the work it’s going to take to move on.

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Being Friends With Your EX: 7 Reasons It Doesn’t Work

being friends with your ex

 

While it’s normal to want to undo the past, being friends with your ex usually doesn’t work out. It’s a noble endeavor to want to be a friend to a former spouse but it can fuel your child’s reconciliation fantasies and prevent both adults from healing and moving on with their lives.

It’s especially problematic for the person who was left – or the dumpee – because having regular contact with the person who rejected them can make a person feel confused or give them a sense of false hope. On the other hand, the dumper would probably admit to feeling guilty upon seeing their ex regularly or worry that they are sending the wrong message.

When my marriage ended, I had the misconception that two good people (myself and my ex) should be able to stay friends after our divorce. In my case, I was looking for closure – but soon realized that letting go of the reasons why our marriage dissolved was a healthier decision. I also came to terms with the fact that I didn’t need to have all of the answers to why my marriage failed in order to move on.

There are many reasons why people strive to be friends with their ex after a breakup or divorce. Certainly one of the main reasons is that they have unfinished business that they hope to resolve. Our they may want to keep the non-intimate part of the relationship going because they have caring feelings toward their former spouse.

Erin, a 40-something teacher confides, “I couldn’t understand why two civilized adults couldn’t visit with our kids and hang out like friends. But Jason told me it hurt him too badly because I broke it off and he was reminded of his pain every time we got together.” This experience is a common one for the dumpee who might feel  –especially hurt if their ex has a new partner and they don’t. It can add salt to an open wound that has not had sufficient time to heal.

Guilt Can Drive You Towards Being Friends with Your Ex

Another reason why people want to stay in close contact with a former partner after a breakup is guilt. Sometimes the person who is the dumper feels guilty about leaving the relationship, especially if they were unfaithful, and they want to remain friendly with the dumpee to help to ease their guilt. In this case, counseling with a qualified therapist is a more effective way to deal with these leftover emotions.

Further, some individuals keep their relationship alive because they hope for reconciliation but they don’t necessarily acknowledge it. According to Susan J. Elliott, author of Getting Past Your Breakup, “Examining your quest for contact and being honest about your real intentions will help you stop making excuses to make contact.”

Conner, 48, reflects, “I did all I could to keep in touch with Karen with the hope that we could fix things and one day get back together – even though I knew she was in love with someone else.”

7 Reasons Being Friends with Your Ex Doesn’t Work:

  1. Most of the time, a post-breakup friendship is a setup for further heartbreak, especially for the person who was left and probably feels rejected.
  2. It does not give you or your ex time to grieve the loss of the relationship or marriage. Like all losses, the breakup of a long-term relationship or marriage causes people to go through various stages of grief. In order to heal and move through anger, denial, it’s essential that individuals have the emotional and physical space to do this. Trying to maintain a friendship may extend the healing process.
  3. You need to forge a new identity: After a breakup, it’s essential to lose your identity as a couple and to return to who you were as an individual, rather than half of a couple.
  4. It can cause confusion for your children. It’s normal for most children to experience reconciliation fantasies and seeing their parents spend time together (social events, holidays, etc.) can cause them to long for their intact family. Children benefit from parents who are collaborative but not necessarily friends post-breakup.
  5. You might not have been true friends and it’s problematic to start now. Sometimes, especially when there are children involved, a person may feel pressured to preserve a friendship that never existed or that disappeared during your marriage. So just say “no” and remain cordial to each other.
  6. You need energy to “take care of yourself” and to form new relationships. Maintaining a close friendship with an ex (especially if it’s emotionally or physically intimate) can delay this process.
  7. Acceptance is the final stage of grieving the loss of a loved one, according to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, and a post-breakup friendship doesn’t facilitate this process.

At some point, it’s important to accept the breakup of your marriage and come to a place of “it is what it is.” These anecdotes from bloggers help to explain how acceptance and setting boundaries with your ex can facilitate creating a new chapter in your life.

Katie, a 30-something high school counselor reflects, “When I broke it off with husband Kyle, he took it very hard. I thought that if we stayed in touch and hung out sometimes, it would help him adjust but it only made things worse. I let my guilt and his feelings of rejection be the driving force rather than common sense. It took him years to get over our breakup and I was left feeling even more guilty because of the pain I caused him.”

Justin, a 40-year old accountant shares, “It just didn’t work for Heather and me to remain friends. It got complicated without three kids and they felt more confused when we tried to get together. Then when I started dating Susie, they didn’t like her and kept talking about wanting their mom and me to get back together. It wasn’t fair to them and I didn’t want to give them false hope.”

Truth be told, it’s a great idea to be civil and cooperative with your former spouse – especially when you have children. Being allies with your ex can help children adjust and thrive post-divorce. That said, maintaining a friendship with your former spouse probably won’t allow you both to move on with your life after a divorce. Giving yourself time and space to regain independence and a sense of identity will serve you and your children well in the long run.

This article first appeared on DivorceMag.com

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Divorce Does Not Need To Be Devastating, There Is a Better Way

divorce doesn't have to be devastating

 

I envision a world where peace and love are part of every encounter. And I get it, that seems like a pipe dream at this point. If you look at the state of our country and the world, some would say we’re moving backward. But what I’ve learned over the past two years is that peace and love are possible in any situation, even if it seems impossible or if it’s never been done before.

When I realized in the summer of 2017 that my marriage of almost ten years was likely going to end in divorce, I was prepared to go through the worst experience imaginable. Not because we had extensive problems or because I thought we couldn’t work through it; I knew it would eventually be ok, but I thought it would take years to move through the muck and sadness to get to the happy ending. I truly didn’t know it was possible to maintain peace, love, and well-being throughout the whole process, because I was so attached to the stigma of divorce.

Our society views divorce as a failure, something wrong, something horrible, a disaster.

It took a long time for me to realize that it doesn’t have to mean any of those things. Thankfully, I had an amazing spiritual mentor to open me up to new possibilities and an amazing partner who was also willing to walk the peaceful and loving path.

Over the course of 6 months, my husband and I were able to process the grief and sadness that divorce brings and move through the process of dividing our life to build a new future for our family as friends and co-parents, all done with peace, love, and faith.

There were obviously many sad moments and lots of emotions to process, but I was astonished at how easeful the process was and how non-disastrous it was.

Divorce Does Not Need to be Devastating:

Our divorce was not a tragedy.  

It was not the worst time of our lives.  It was not something that I wish I could forget. In fact, looking back at what we were able to do, I wanted to shout from the rooftops what was possible. I wanted people to realize what I now know, that peace and love really are possible in any situation. It’s how you show up that matters.

When we started sharing the news of our divorce, many people actually didn’t believe the “real story”. They were convinced that it must have been horrible and were viewing it as most people do, a tragic event. This made me realize how much unnecessary pain surrounds divorce and I felt called to share our story and what is possible. I also realized that there is so much involved in divorce, from emotional to logistical to financial issues, no wonder it’s often so difficult and so painful.

The amount of work that goes into this process is staggering. From simple things like who will take the couch, to complex issues like splitting retirement savings, creating a co-parenting plan and figuring out where everyone will live, the choices and questions seem almost endless. When you add in the emotional aspect, it becomes almost overwhelming. I realized in early 2018, that not only do I feel called to share with people what is possible, but I am also uniquely positioned to help others navigate all these issues.

With more than a decade of experience in the financial industry, I have helped people with everything from retirement planning to everyday budgeting, in addition to splitting assets. I also have the unusual combination of being able to help people with the emotional and spiritual side, as when I was pregnant with my daughter in 2015 I began to focus more on my spiritual journey and have spent the past several years studying meditation, spirit, unity consciousness and love activism. I received my designation as a Spiritual Teacher in late 2015 and have led a Spirit-led life focusing on peace, love, and oneness since that time.

I have also spent the past several years as a foster parent to many children, working through the complexities of scheduling visits, differing parenting styles, creating dual homes and the logistics of co-parenting.

All of these things have prepared me for my calling, to bring peace, love, and light into the process of divorce and to help women create a new life after divorce.

To further my financial knowledge, I received my designation as a CDFA® (Certified Divorce Financial Analyst®), which allows me to help people work through the complexities of the financial aspects of divorce like dividing assets, tax implications and transitioning into a new financial situation.

I now couple this with logistical and emotional support to provide holistic guidance through this often-difficult process. As a Divorce Consultant, I help individuals, couples and families find a peaceful path to their new life and help women thrive after divorce.

Divorce does not need to be devastating. There is a better way. Hope starts here.

The post Divorce Does Not Need To Be Devastating, There Is a Better Way appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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emotional abandonment

Emotional Abandonment: When Your Needs Are Being Met In a Relationship

emotional abandonment

 

We may not realize that we’re feeling emotionally abandoned or that we did as a child. We may be unhappy, but can’t put our finger on what it is. People tend to think of abandonment as something physical, like neglect. They also may not realize that loss of physical closeness due to death, divorce, and illness is often felt as an emotional abandonment. However, emotional abandonment has nothing to do with proximity. It can happen when the other person is lying right beside us – when we can’t connect, and our emotional needs aren’t being met in the relationship.

Emotional Needs

Often we aren’t aware of our emotional needs and just feel that something’s missing. But we have many emotional needs in intimate relationships. They include the following needs:

  • To be listened to and understood.
  • To be nurtured
  • To be appreciated
  • To be valued
  • To be accepted
  • For affection
  • For love
  • For companionship

Consequently, if there is high conflictabuse, addiction, or infidelity, these emotional needs go unmet. Sometimes, infidelity is a symptom of emotional abandonment in the relationship – by one or both partners. Additionally, addiction may be used to avoid closeness. If one partner is addicted, the other may feel neglected, because the addiction comes first and consumes the addict’s attention, preventing him or her from being present.

Causes of Emotional Abandonment

Yet even in a healthy relationship, there are periods, days, and even moments of emotional abandonment that may be caused by:

  • Intentionally withholding communication or affection
  • External stressors, including the demands of parenting
  • Illness
  • Conflicting work schedules
  • Lack of mutual interests and time spent together
  • Preoccupation and self-centeredness
  • Lack of healthy communication
  • Unresolved resentment
  • Fear of intimacy

When couples don’t share common interests or work/sleep schedules, one or both may feel abandoned. They have to make an extra effort to spend time talking about their experiences and intimate feelings with each other to keep the relationship fresh and alive.

More harmful are unhealthy communication patterns that may have developed, where one or both partners doesn’t share openly, listen with respect, and respond with interest to the other. When we feel ignored or that our partner doesn’t understand or care about what we’re communicating, then there’s a chance that eventually we stop talking to him or her.

Walls begin to build and we can begin living separate lives emotionally. Signs are if we talk more to our friends or a relative than to our partner or are disinterested in sex or spending time together.

Resentments easily develop in relationships especially when hurt or anger isn’t expressed. As a result, we may either pull away emotionally, put up walls, or push our partner away with criticism or undermining comments. Unexpressed hurt and needs lead to more disappointment and resentment.

Denial or shame about our feelings and needs usually stems from emotional abandonment in childhood and can cause communication and intimacy problems. Usually, this fear isn’t conscious. In counseling, couples are able to talk about their ambivalence, which allows them to grow closer. Sometimes, abandoning behavior occurs after a period of closeness or sex. One partner may physically withdraw or create distance by not talking or even by talking too much. Either way, it may leave the other person feeling alone and abandoned.

Emotional Abandonment In Childhood

Good parenting provides children security that they’re loved and accepted for their unique self by both parents and that both parents want a relationship with them. Parental failure to validate their feelings and needs is a trauma of emotional abandonment. Often clients tell me that they felt that their family didn’t understand them, that they felt different from the rest of the family or like an outsider. What is being described is the trauma of invisibility.

This can also happen when parent-child interactions revolve around the parent, the child is serving the parent’s needs, instead of the other way around, which is a form of abandonment. Even if a parent says, “I love you,” the child may still not feel close and accepted for who he or she is as a separate individual, apart from the parent.

Emotional abandonment in childhood can happen in infancy if the primary caretaker, usually the mother, is unable to be present emotionally for her baby. It’s often because she’s replicating her own childhood experience, but it may also be due to stress or depression. It’s important for a baby’s emotional development that the mother attunes to her child’s feelings and needs and reflects them back.

She may be preoccupied, cold, or unable to empathize with her baby’s success or upsetting emotions. He or she then ends up feeling alone, rejected, or deflated. The reverse is also true – where a parent gives a child a lot of attention but isn’t attuned to what the child actually needs.

In addition to situations where a parent is physically absent or doesn’t share in parenting, abandonment happens later, too, when children are criticized, controlled, unfairly treated, or otherwise given a message that they or their experience is unimportant or wrong. Children are vulnerable, and it doesn’t take much for a child to feel hurt and “abandoned.” Abandonment can also occur when a parent confides in a child or expects him or her to take on age-inappropriate responsibilities. At those moments, the children must suppress their feelings and needs in order to meet the needs of the adult.

A few incidents of emotional abandonment don’t harm children’s healthy development, but when they’re common occurrences, they affect children’s sense of self and security and can cause internalized shame that leads to intimacy issues and codependency in adult relationships.

As adults, we may be emotionally unavailable or attracted to someone who is. We risk continuing a cycle of abandonment that replicates our abandoning relationships and be easily triggered to feel abandoned. For an in-depth examination of this process and how to heal, see Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You.

Couples counseling can bring couples together to enjoy more closeness, heal from abandonment, and change their behavior.

The post Emotional Abandonment: When Your Needs Are Being Met In a Relationship appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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solo traveling

How Moms Can Use Solo Travel For Self-Care After Divorce

solo traveling

 

Every hard working mom deserves to replenish her batteries at least once a year. Admittedly, I felt a pang of guilt for leaving my kids behind with their grandparents while I embarked on a chase for adventure, but it turned out it was exactly what the doctor ordered!

As I was to find out, the phenomenon of solo-traveling is in full swing right now, dedicated parents from every corner of the globe are in on it, so why wouldn’t you be as well? This decompressing solo journey is one of the cornerstones of self-care, and a treat that every mom deserves to relish in.

Solo Travel After Divorce Allows You To…

Invest in yourself

‘I’ is the most important constituent of self-care solo travel. It is all about investing in yourself and finding the most efficient activities to replenish your energy wells. Read a nice vacation book, stay in a hotel with a pool or accommodation near a natural body of water. Remember – water is a known neutralizer of negative energy!

All in all, traveling solo allows you a welcoming opportunity to reconnect with yourself. My own first solo traveling experience as a fully-realized mother was a road trip (more on that later), but virtually any backdrop can work. If you are thirsty for experiences that are completely exotic in your book, charter a flight to Morocco, Thailand or Bali but keep in mind that your comfort is of absolute priority.

Give yourself some breathing room

If you find the idea of traveling half-way around the world intimidating, especially if it means daunting separation from your kids, then taking a road trip may just be akin to dipping your toe in a lake before jumping in. The upside of this is that it is a flexible journey with a loose schedule. This is a convenient feature of a road trip because it means that you can fully concentrate on the self-care aspect.

But first, make sure that safety precautions are all checked off. I generally take my car for routine maintenance before the trip. It would also be prudent to include a well-equipped survival kit in your car in the case you get stuck in the middle of nowhere. Apart from a basic set of tools, my survival kit also includes extra water bottles, some power bars, and sanitizers. Knowing that you have taken all the necessary precautions, the road trip itself will be so much more carefree.

Make it transformative

One of the most exciting prospects of traveling solo is that you can start your trip off as one person and get out of it as a changed individual. Yes, such experiences, no matter how short, can be immensely powerful. This is what a trip to Guangzhou represented for me. Not to dwell too long on the experience, this sprawling metropolis was a neon-glazed sucker punch of a culture shock that realigned my perspective of the world – and this is what your experience should be!

Choose a destination that puts you in a completely new environment. Your mission, if there is a thing within this context that can be deemed as such, is to create a pilgrimage for yourself that will expand your mind and soul. Urban environments saturated in multicultural influences can have such a profound influence on you, but you can look towards the trips that put you on the path of cultural and traditional landmarks of other countries. Solo-travel for self-care is a wide and empty canvas, so you can go wild and choose the colors that befit your sensibilities the most!

It is perfectly natural to feel a looming sense of responsibility for your children. My own kids are constantly on my mind, no matter the circumstances, but this feeling can also make you feel trapped in a way that is highly unproductive. A week or so of separation can be an adventure for everyone and you have to break the ice eventually. Trust me, the hardest part is taking the first step, but you need to invest in all the aspects of self-care in order to find inner balance and be of use to yourself and your children as well.

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