Conquering Coronavirus Fears In Your Kids: 4 Things To Know And Do!

By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC

Talking to your kids about the Coronavirus is certainly one of the most difficult conversations you’ll ever have. Equally significant, it’s a topic that you’ll likely be addressing for some time to come.

Stop and think about it. We’re expecting our children to cope with circumstances beyond their control. Chances are it’s also beyond their scope of comprehension. As a result, your kids are looking to you not only for comfort, but also for answers to help make sense of a new normal that’s different from the life they’ve always known.

This is also the time for co-parent conversations, as well. Discuss your child’s mental and emotional well-being. Use consistent messages to reassure your kids that you are both there for them throughout this stressful period – even if only one parent is physically nearby.

Here are some thoughts to keep in mind as you try to ease each child’s anxiety and confusion.

1. Remember, we’re all in this together!

No one one alive on the planet has ever experienced anything quite like this before. That means we’re all in this together. It’s comforting for your kids to know that every child around the world has had their lives and schedules changed by the virus. And they all have similar questions. When will this end? Will I go back to a normal routine in school soon? Why are my parents not at work? Why can’t I go out to play with my friends? They also have similar fears. What if one of my parents gets sick? Will grandma be all right? Will daddy get his job back? Will I still go to camp this summer? What about my SATs? What if we run out of food?

This is the time for reassurance. Explain that answers will be coming and those in charge are making the best decisions for us all. Acknowledge the validity of their concerns. Remind them, too, that this is not only happening to them. “You’re not alone. So try to relax and find worthwhile ways to spend your time each day!”

2. Keep your answers succinct and simple!

As a parent you know the importance of talking to your children in an age-appropriate manner. So you may want to take each child aside and have a different conversation if their ages vary. It’s especially important that you not say more than they require. Often we scare our kids by overwhelming them with details or explanations beyond what they need or can absorb. You’ll be having many discussions in the weeks ahead. Answer questions as simply and clearly as possible. Then ask your kids some questions about how they will use this information. Get them thinking about their options and plans for tomorrow. Take things one day at a time.

3. Empower your child to conquer fear!

Fear can consume a child with anxiety, dread, anger and depression. That’s why we want to talk to our kids about identifying and acknowledging their fear. Once they do, they can take steps to let it go and replace fear with other thoughts and action. For young kids you can create a “Coronavirus spray” to use in their room before they go to bed. You can read books on fear to help them feel more brave. Parenting expert Jean Tracy has helpful advice that engages your child in drawing pictures of their fear followed by pictures of how they want to feel instead.

With older children you can talk about fear being a state of mind. Remind them we have a choice in what we think about and what we do with our time. Let’s create a positive mind-set and recognize the positive aspects of life as we know it now. Are you getting more video, TV or tablet time than before? Are you enjoying spending more time with mom or dad at home? Are you playing more with your pets? Are you less stressed about tests and homework? Is life simpler than it used to be?

4. Step up to new opportunities!

There are opportunities all around us for new experiences and adventures. Online learning programs abound. Interested in starting a new hobby? Now’s the time to learn more about it. Want to practice a sport, get more fit, learn an instrument, begin painting, dancing or a new craft? Check out all the online programs and courses available. Educational resources as well as private industries are offering how-to videos for children of all ages. Encourage your child to test the waters and have a Facetime call with friends or family to show what they’re doing and learning. Use this special time as the chance to explore talents and test skills they’ve never tried before. It’s like an unexpected vacation from your normal routine. Here’s your child’s chance to step up, break out and get free from past insecurities or self-imposed limitations.

As a parent you’re there to spark ideas, initiate conversation, and support new activities despite Covid-19. This time of physical restriction doesn’t have to be a time of mental or spiritual restriction for your kids. You can help them discover some of the blessings hidden in our circumstances. They may even thank you!

Don’t lie, mislead or disappoint, but do focus on the positives in your new version of family life. Encourage conversation, especially with their other parent. Be understanding about mood swings. And remind your kids that this too will pass. Life will go on. And there will be brighter days ahead.

*** *** ***

Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
The Voice of Child-Centered Divorce
Rosalind@childcentereddivorce.com
Author: How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce?

www.childcentereddivorce.com

www.childcentereddivorce.com/kids

Founder, Child-Centered Divorce Network

Host: Divorce, Dating & Empowered Living Radio Show & Podcast

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How Can You Get Out From Under the Shadow of Your Parents’ Divorce?

By Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

Do you ever wonder if you’ll get out from under the shadow of your parents’ divorce? Do you worry about repeating the patterns of the past?  The challenge of creating and maintaining a healthy, long-lasting relationship is where your parents fell short. But you have an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and build the kind of relationship that eluded your parents.

There are many reasons why adults raised in divorced homes get stuck in the past and have difficulty establishing healthy relationships in the present. You might find yourself in relationship patterns that mirror your family of origin. It’s understandable that you might repeat patterns that you observed in your childhood home. Another factor may be what Freud referred to as repetition compulsion. This is a tendency that people have to repeat patterns from the past as a way to gain mastery over them. In either case, becoming more aware of the unhealthy relationship patterns that contributed to your parents’ divorce can be a good first step.

Abby, in her late thirties, spent over two decades struggling with ghosts from the past and experiencing turmoil in romantic relationships. Because she had little insight into her past, she found herself reenacting the painful memories of her parents’ marriage and subsequent breakup. Abby’s parents split when she was nine years old when her mother discovered that her father had been cheating on her for years. Her adolescence was a time of turmoil as she lived between her parents’ two desperate worlds and acted out due to the conflict she experienced.

During young adulthood, Abby struggled through a series of unhealthy, short-term relationships until she met her fiancé, Rob, at age thirty-five. Prior to meeting Rob, she hadn’t had a healthy relationship for many years. She admits to sabotaging her relationships by being mistrustful and controlling. As Abby describes her issue with trust, she says, “My first serious boyfriend in college cheated on me several times. He betrayed me just like my dad cheated on my mom. After college, I dated someone named Kyle who was wonderful and treated me right. But since I wasn’t used to wonderful, I left him and picked guys who were the opposite of him. After that, I dated a lot of guys but didn’t have a serious relationship for many years.”

For nearly two decades, Abby avoided making a commitment because she was mistrustful and fearful of ending up like her parents. Like many daughters of divorce, she needed special permission to grieve the loss of her original family. With support from a seasoned therapist, Abby gained the insight to break the self-defeating pattern of mistrust and fear of commitment. When I asked Abby what the most difficult parts of an intimate relationship are, she stopped and nodded: “Trust and intimacy are not my strong suits. I hope that my marriage is nothing like my parents. I hope that it will be based on commitment and communication, which Rob and I have been working on.”

Penny provides another example of a woman who replayed patterns of the past for many years without conscious awareness. In love with the idea of marriage, Penny was looking for the nurturing and intimacy she lacked as a child. Like her mother, Penny was self-sacrificing and was attracted to someone who was her opposite – self-absorbed and unwilling to consider her needs. Ignoring the red flags early in the relationship, she was caught up in a pursuer-distancer pattern with her fiancé Bill, who could never fully commit to marriage. They had been engaged for six years and he was unwilling to set a date for their wedding. Unfortunately, Penny allowed herself to pursue a partner who bore a strong resemblance to her emotionally distant father.

There are many reasons why people have difficulty letting go of the past and moving past divorce. Sometimes, children take their parents’ offenses to heart and blame themselves. After all, all children want to admire their caregivers and so when they do things that are untrustworthy, children blame themselves as a way to make sense of their world. Some people even create a narrative for their life that focuses on suffering and blame. The following tips will help you to heal from the past and to make healthier choices in relationships in the present.

  • Gain awareness about past hurt. For instance, both Abby and Penny learned that their parents’ unhealthy patterns had impacted their choices in partners much more than they realized.

  • Acknowledge the damage that was done and shift to an impersonal perspective.   

  • Find ways to repair the damage by writing a new narrative for your life – one that includes picking partners who are trustworthy and willing to work on a committed relationship.

  • Examine your expectations about intimate relationships. You might be focused on your dream of how a relationship should be rather than the reality of how it is – leading to disappointment.

  • Focus on the things that you can control. Abby realized that she couldn’t control her father’s infidelity but she could choose a life partner who shared her view of fidelity and commitment.

Crafting a new story for your life includes not allowing your parents’ divorce or unhappiness to define who you are as a person.  Develop and use positive intentions or affirmations such as:

  • I accept that I don’t have control over all aspects of my life, but I can exercise the power of choice. I will attempt to make good choices and let go of those things that are beyond my control.

  • I won’t let my parents’ divorce or my past prevent me from making positive choices today.

With time and patience, you can begin to visualize the kind of life you need to thrive. You don’t have to let your past dictate the decisions you make today. Restoring your faith in love includes building relationships based on love, trust, and intimacy. Remember to be gentle with yourself and others on your journey.

Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

Do you find yourself repeating patterns from the past? If so, share your experience or ask us a question. I’d love to read your comments on this page. Be sure to order my new book “Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship.”

Terry’s new book, The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around, was be published by Sounds True in February of 2020 and can be ordered here.



7 Tips to Fall Back in Love with Your Partner

By Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

The most common complaint of couples today is that they have fallen out of love. However, falling out of love usually does not occur overnight. Likewise, relationship repair takes time and effort on the part of both partners and includes rekindling sexual intimacy and emotional attunement. There are not any foolproof ways for couples to fall back in love but ending destructive relationship patterns is a good first step.

Put an End to Harmful Relationship Patterns

Mariah puts it like this: “I love Jackson, but I’m just not in love with him anymore.” When Mariah drops this bombshell, Jackson responds, “I know we don’t have sex much anymore – but it just seems like a phase we’re going through. I was shocked when Mariah took our kids and slept at her mom’s house for a few days.”

Mariah explains that her feelings have been building up for years and she feels guilty because she is starting to fantasize about being with other men.  Jackson says, “I’m devastated and feel so betrayed. You have no loyalty to me and our sons – there’s no way I saw this coming.”

As Mariah and Jackson describe their typical pattern of relating during their ten years of marriage, it amounts to Mariah seeking out Jackson for emotional and sexual intimacy and Jackson withdrawing.  Jackson describes his disengagement from Mariah as a struggle. “It just feels hard to meet her expectations for always being so close. By the time, I hit the bed most nights I’m dead to the world. I just don’t have the energy I used to because I’m a manager at an exclusive restaurant and on-call several nights a week.

According to experts, the most common reason couples fall out of love and divorce is because of a pursuer-distancer pattern that develops over time. Dr. Sue Johnson identifies the pattern of demand-withdraw as the “Protest Polka” and says it’s one of three “Demon Dialogues.” She explains that when one partner becomes critical and aggressive the other often becomes defensive and distant.

Renowned relationship expert Dr. John Gottman’s research on thousands of couples discovered that partners that get stuck in this pattern the first few years of marriage have more than a 80% chance of divorcing in the first four or five years of marriage. He posits that men have a tendency to withdraw and women to pursue.  This pattern is wired into our physiology and reflects a basic gender difference. In his classic “Love Lab” observations, Dr. Gottman noted that this pattern is a major contributor to marital breakdown.

Nurture Emotional Intimacy

If Mariah and Jackson want to fall back in love again, they need to stop focusing on each other’s flaws and spend their energy fostering a deeper connection. In other words, stop assuming the worst of each other and put an end to demanding their partner change.

In over 40 years of research on couples in his “Love Lab” Dr. Gottman discovered that the two leading causes for divorce are criticism and contempt. In his book Why Marriages Succeed and Fail, he reminds us that criticizing our partner is different from offering a critique or voicing a complaint. The latter two are about specific issues, whereas the former is an attack on the person. For instance, a complaint is: “I want to be included in financial decisions. We agreed that you’d discuss big purchases with me.” In comparison, criticism might be: “You never consider my needs, you’re so selfish.”

Instead, couples who want to rekindle their passion and love need to “turn towards” each other. In The Science of Trust, Dr. Gottman explains that practicing emotional attunement can help you stay connected in spite of your differences. This means “turning toward” one another by showing empathy, and not being defensive.  In other words, both partners need to talk about their feelings in terms of positive need, instead of what they do not need. The speaker is really saying. “Here’s what I feel, and what I need from you.”

Ignite Sexual Passion

During the early phase of a relationship, many couples barely come up for air due to the excitement of falling in love. Unfortunately, this blissful state does not last forever.  Scientists have found that oxytocin (a bonding hormone) is released during the initial stage of infatuation – which causes couples to feel euphoric and turned on by physical affection – such as touching and holding hands. Oxytocin works like a drug, giving us immediate rewards and binding us to our lover.

Author Teresa Atkin advises couples to rewire their brains to experience feelings of pleasure so they can experience emotional and sexual closeness.  She reminds us that the human brain, while wonderfully complex, does not always work in our best interest and we need to rewire it in order to experience pleasurable feelings. She writes, “Research shows that we get a healthy shot of dopamine (the feel good hormone) when we are seeking reward, and when there is something new to experience. Also excitement is transferable, so the heightened arousal that follows say, a roller coaster ride, can be used to rev up your sex life.”

The struggle between Mariah and Jackson is a common one for hard-working couples balancing jobs, parenting, and intimacy.  Sex therapist Laurie Watson, author of Wanting Sex Again: How to Rediscover Your Desire and Heal a Sexless Marriage writes, “Most sexual concerns stem from an interpersonal struggle in the marriage.”

7 tips rev up sexual intimacy and fall back in love:

  •  Get in touch with your pattern of relating. This include ways you might be denying your partner or coming on too strong sexually. Avoid criticizing each other and stop the “blame game.” Mix things up to end the power struggle. For example, the pursuer can try being shy and quietly seductive – perhaps encouraging the distancer to move toward him/her.
  • Break the pursuer-distancer pattern. Distancers need to practice initiating sex more often and pursuers need to find ways to tell their partner “you’re sexy,” while avoiding critique after sex.
  • Increase physical affection. According to Kory Floyd, physical contact releases feel good hormones. Holding hands, hugging, and touching releases oxytocin (the bonding hormone) causing a calming sensation. Studies show  it’s released during sexual orgasm and affectionate touch as well. Physical affection also reduces stress hormones – lowering daily levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Dr. Michael Stysma recommends couples double the length of time they spend kissing, hugging, and touching each other if they want to improve their marriage.
  • Allow tension to build. Our brains experience more pleasure when the anticipation of the reward goes on for some time before we get the actual reward. So take your time, share fantasies, change locations, and make sex more romantic.
  • Vary the kind of sex you have: (gentle, loving-tender sex; intimate sex; highly erotic sex, etc.). Break up the routine and try new things as your sexual needs change.
  • Make sex a priority and set the mood for intimacy before TV or work dulls your passion. A light meal and your favorite music and wine can set the stage for great sex.
  • Separate sex from routine. Try a variety of activities that bring you both pleasure. Avoid discussing problems, household tasks, and your children if you want to bring back the sexual chemistry with your partner. Have fun courting and practice flirting with him or her. Don’t forget to cuddle on the couch and surprise your partner with a kiss.

It’s a good idea to make time for physical affection if you want to enhance the quality of your marriage, according to experts.  It can also reduce your stress level so you feel happier, more loving, and satisfied with your partner. Even if you’re not a touchy-feely person, increasing affectionate touch can help you to sustain a deep, meaningful bond.

Follow Terry Gaspard on Twitter, Facebook, and movingpastdivorce.com. Her book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website.

Terry’s new book, The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around, was published by Sounds True in February of 2020 and can be ordered here.

 

 



Refuse to Be a Victim After Your Divorce

By Lisa Arends

“Let me introduce you to the victim advocate,” offered the policeman who had arrested my husband the day before.

I stopped short. That was the first time that word – victim – had ever been applied to me. I certainly felt victimized. My partner of sixteen years had just abandoned me with a text message, stolen all of my money and then committed bigamy. Yet even though I was still in the acute phase of suffering, I startled at the application of the word “victim.”

Because even though I had been hurt, I did not want to see myself as a victim. Although it felt good for the pain and unfairness to be recognized, the term also made me feel minimized. That word embodied weakness in my mind and I wanted to feel powerful. It spoke of a lack of control and I wanted to be the one to drive my life.

I did not want to be a victim.

But for a time, I was.

In the beginning, I spoke about what was done to me. I looked for resolution and justice from outside sources, hoping for an apology from him and a conviction from the courts. I embraced my pain, feeling justified in holding on to it. Meanwhile, I demonized my ex, removing all semblance of humanity in my view of him.

There was a certain comfort in accepting a role as a victim. I garnered sympathy and commiseration from those around me. I had limited control and limited responsibility. But those same conditions that sheltered me also confined me.

As long as I saw myself as a victim, I would remain one. As long as I was limited by my past, I would remain a prisoner of what happened.

When the desired justice from the courts failed to appear and the hoped-for apology never came, I was left with a decision to make: I could either bemoan the circumstances or I could change my response.

I chose the latter.

I used the following ideas to help shed the guise of victim and make myself the hero of my own life:

Rewrite Your Story

When we are harmed, we often feel powerless, as though we are simply being led through someone else’s story. One of the first steps to renouncing victimhood is to take control of your story. Rewrite it. Reframe it. Narrate it. Change the perspective. Take yourself out of the role of victim (done to me) and put yourself in the role of hero (I did…). Write it or tell it until you believe it.

Pick up a pen and write your happy ending.

Create Purpose

Whatever happened, happened. There is no changing the past. But you can use the past to create something better in the future. Find some anger about what occurred and use that as fuel to drive you to create something better. Look around and see others suffering and use your experience to render aide. Use your rock bottom as a foundation for your life’s purpose.

You have the power to create something wonderful out of something terrible.

Make Changes

When unwanted change is thrust upon our lives, it’s easy to feel hopeless. Learn to recognize the potential hidden within and use the opportunity of uncertainty to create change of your choosing. There is no better time to release what no longer serves you and to embrace new beginnings.

When you’re rebuilding your life from the ground up, you have the power of choice and the wisdom of experience. That’s a powerful pair.

Find Gratitude

One of the powerful and difficult exercises that can empower the victimized is practicing radical gratitude. Face what has caused you the greatest pain, the most suffering, and write down why you are grateful for it. It is an amazing reminder of how much our thoughts rather than our circumstances are responsible for our happiness.

When gratitude is your wrapping paper, everything is a gift.

You are only a victim if you imprison yourself. Release yourself from the shackles of your past and let your spirit soar.

By Lisa Arends, her website is  https://lessonsfromtheendofamarriage.com/

 



Valentine’s Day Traps – 6 Tips to Avoid Them

By Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT

Valentine’s Day is fraught with landmines and expectations, often unrealized, and whether you’re in or out of a relationship, the grass isn’t always greener. Is your situation described here? Read six tips to having a great holiday.

You’re Alone

I can recall Valentine’s Days I wished I were in love with someone who loved me. Worse, were Valentine’s Days when I missed an ex or spent time thinking about someone who wasn’t in love with me. Looking back, what was sad was that I made myself unhappy and ruined one, if not more days, thinking about “if only.”

You’re in a New Relationship

Another Valentine’s trap happens when you’re newly in love. It may be the first Valentine’s Day of your relationship, and you wonder whether your partner will surprise you with something special. Will he or she ignore the day or hopefully say the unmentionable, four-letter L-word?

You’re stressed about whether your card should be funny or mushy. Fears of humiliation and abandonment restrain you from being more vulnerable with your feelings than is your partner. You don’t want your feelings rejected or to scare off him or her off.

If you’re a guy – usually – you could be afraid of hurting her feelings by not doing or saying enough, yet are reticent to do or say too much, which might be misinterpreted as a commitment you’re not prepared to make.

You’re in a Fight

One of the worst feelings on Valentine’s Day is to be in a fight with your partner. Any other day wouldn’t be as painful, but on Valentine’s Day, your worst fears and disappointments about your partner and the relationship are highlighted. In addition to being hurt or angry about the argument, you compare how you feel to how you imagine the day should be and how you want to feel.

Another unhappy situation is if your partner is an addict. You don’t have to be fighting to be on egg-shells all day and disappointed because he’s practicing an addiction, ignoring you, or is looking for a fight to avoid admitting he didn’t plan anything or doesn’t want to go out. You can easily spend the entire day looking and waiting for cues, wondering whether or not you will spend the evening together. It’s hard to generate loving feelings seeing your wife neglecting the children or drunk all day.

You’re in a Dull or Dead Relationship

Many couples in long relationships have lost the spark of love. Valentine’s Day may be a cruel reminder or an opportunity to rekindle it. When romance fades, it can be replaced with love based on deep caring and shared life experience. You might decide not to do anything special. Yet you can still acknowledge your love for each other – even if it’s not romantic love, it’s deep and abiding.

Some relationships have died. Intimacy’s gone, but the couple can’t let go, whether due to age, children, health, or finances, but usually, despite those reasons, there’s a deep attachment. Often one person imagines he or she is staying for the other and is in denial of his or her own attachment needs and fears about leaving.

You’re in a Loving Relationship

You’re among the fortunate few if you’re in a long, loving relationship. Valentine’s Day may still present problems, especially for husbands who don’t want to disappoint their wives. You can get caught in the dilemma of not being able to decide whether to surprise your wife or ask her what she’d like. It’s okay to ask. Some people rather know, but beware of a common trap, advises Jeff, when your significant other replies, “It doesn’t really matter, I’m just happy with all you do, and you shouldn’t get me anything.” Jeff wisely cautions, “Get him or her something special, and don’t fall for this gambit. You fail to act at your own peril.”

Wives, too, can get caught up in waiting and wondering, and not wanting to upset plans their husbands’ may have made. Nancy recalls ruining the day worrying because her husband had forgotten Valentine’s Day the year before.

Six Tips:

  1. Stay in the present reality. Take the label off, and just enjoy the day. Don’t look up an ex or waste time fantasizing about someone with whom you’re not involved. Don’t think about your relationship’s future or troubles or replay past disappointing holidays.
  2. Take responsibility for your feelings. If you’re experiencing painful emotions honor them – for a half-hour. Then plan a great day. Remember it takes two to have an argument. Take responsibility for your contribution and your feelings. Own them, apologize if necessary, and make a fresh start with your partner. You’re the one who suffers if you don’t. Waiting for an apology feeds your resentment.
  3. Let go of expectations. They plant the seeds of disappointment and resentment. Instead, be open to what your partner and the universe have in store for you.
  4. Focus on giving love. Remember the love you feel is the love you give. Even if you’re in a relationship, write yourself a love letter about your wonderful traits and acts of courage. Tell yourself you love you. Read it aloud in the mirror. This may sound foolish, but it works and boosts your self-esteem! You can also focus on the positive traits of your partner. Imagine opening your heart and sending him or her love. If that’s difficult, recall a time when you shared love, and then bring that memory fully into the present.
  5. Be creative. It shows an investment of time, love, and thought when you create something special. You can create a treasure hunt for your partner to find a gift or card. Instead of roses, sprinkle the bed with flower petals. Give a sensuous candlelit foot rub, massage, or body wash. Write your favorite, shared memories with colored pens. Make a collage of your dream home, family, or past or future adventures together designed with leaves, dried flowers, photographs, or magazine clippings.
  6. Whatever you do, be real. Authenticity is romantic. Your true feelings are apparent anyway, and hiding them creates more problems. That doesn’t mean you have to spill your guts, but in a dicey situation, choose words that are true for you.

©2012 Darlene Lancer, MFT all right reserved

To learn more about Darlene’s work, read Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You. You can also watch my Youtube on toxic shame.
Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT
Author of Codependency for Dummies and Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You
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5 Ways to Deal With Feelings of Guilt and Rejection Post-Divorce

By Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

When a marriage dissolves, it’s a natural to experience feelings of guilt or rejection. Guilt can arise when a parent feels responsible for bringing pain to their children or for their behavior toward their ex-spouse. On the other hand, feelings of rejection probably stem from feeling left or betrayed by your ex. Whether a person is feels more guilt versus rejection is probably related to the reasons why their marriage ended.

So let’s take a closer look at both guilt and rejection and examine two common scenarios – whether someone is a dumper or a dumpee in the divorce process. These two terms were coined by divorce expert Dr. Bruce Fisher in his groundbreaking book Rebuilding When Your Relationship Ends. Fisher writes “Dumpers are the partners who leave the relationship, and they often feel considerable guilt; dumpees are the partners who want to hang on to the relationship, and they often experience strong feelings of rejection.”

Since relationship patterns are complicated, it’s important to remember that the roles of dumper and dumpee aren’t always clearly defined and that sometimes they can be reversed. For instance, a partner might be told by their spouse that their marriage is over, and then they decide to file for divorce. Surprisingly, it’s not always the dumper who files for divorce. Sometimes the dumpee simply gets tired of waiting and takes this bold step as a way to take charge of their life.

By the way, some people have a strong negative reaction to the words “dumper” and “dumpee” while others can relate to these terms and like using them. In spite of these qualifications, I firmly believe that these categories are relevant to understanding both feelings of guilt and rejection after divorce.

When you think about it, aren’t guilt and rejection two sides of the same coin when it comes to post-divorce emotions? It makes sense that a partner who decides to terminate the marriage would experience more guilt, while the person who feels left would suffer from feelings of rejection. Notice the difference in their priorities. The dumper typically focuses on personal growth and will say things like “I have to find myself.” On the other hand, dumpees usually express a desire to work on the relationship and will say things like “Just tell me what you want me to change and I’ll work on it.”

Although it’s not an exact science, we might expect about that roughly the same amount of people would identify themselves as the person who was left (dumpee) as the one who decided to leave (dumper). However, in a small percentage of divorces, people say their divorce was mutual. In these cases, it’s normal to feel both guilty and rejected at times.

Guilt is a complex emotion, which probably explains why Dr. Fisher outlines two types. Appropriate guilt and free-floating guilt differ in their intensity and impact on a person’s life. Most people feel appropriate guilt when they believe they’ve done something wrong that hurts another person. Some parents feel guilty because their marriage was abusive and they didn’t take action sooner. Others may feel guilt or regret because their child may be struggling emotionally with post-divorce life. On the other hand, free-floating guilt usually exists from our childhood reservoir of unexpressed guilt feelings and it leaves us feeling anxious and fearful about many situations. Appropriate guilt can be worked through more easily than free-floating guilt. In my experience, both types of guilt can be resistant to change and can lead to depression if they aren’t dealt with. For many people, therapy is an essential tool to help process these difficult emotions.

Feelings of guilt or rejection are closely tied to feelings of self-worth and self-love. Part of the healing process after divorce is recognizing and accepting the way you feel about yourself inside affects the way you relate to people in the world. As you learn to accept and love yourself, your feelings of guilt and rejection will diminish.  When you’re connected to feelings of self-worth, you’ll have more energy to relate to others in meaningful ways.

Here are five ways to deal with feelings of guilt and rejection about your divorce:

  1. Accept the fact that it’s normal or typical to have these emotional reactions to the ending of a relationship. They’ve probably been there all along (in your marriage) and are simply intensified during and after the divorce process.

  2. Get to the root of your feelings of guilt and/or rejection. Self-awareness is the first step in recovering from painful emotions. Examine whether you consider yourself a dumper or dumpee and the impact this has on your emotions.

  3. Apologize to your ex or children if you behaved badly during or after your divorce. It’s never too late to make amends. A sincere apology can help you to forgive yourself and can promote healing for your children. Asking your ex for forgiveness, if you feel it’s warranted, can help mend the past and promote friendship post-divorce.

  4. Acknowledge that all relationships end. Just because your relationship is over, it doesn’t mean you’re inadequate or inferior – or there’s something wrong with you. Give yourself a break.

  5. Cultivate supportive relationships. Being with people who accept and support you can help ease feeling of guilt and rejection. Get energized by the possibilities ahead for you.

In closing, looking at how feelings of guilt or rejection may have impacted your behavior can facilitate healing. A parent whose marriage ended may experience guilt because they brought pain to their children. An apology can go a long way to promote forgiveness. Lastly, developing a mindset that you don’t have to be defined by your divorce experience is a crucial step to moving forward after divorce.  We’d love to hear your reactions to this blog and would appreciate your comments.

Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

Follow Terry Gaspard on Twitter and Facebook.  She is pleased to announce the publication of Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-lasting Relationship (Sourcebooks).

Terry’s new book, The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around, was published by Sounds True in February of 2020 and can be ordered here.



How Do I Repair My Wound With My Father?

By Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

Dear Terry,

My parents divorced when I was nine years old. When I was young, I was Daddy’s Little Girl, and never far from his side. I have fond memories of my dad taking me to the park, helping me with homework, and coming to my soccer games. The saddest day of my life was Christmas Day of 1991, when my dad left suddenly due to an argument with my mom over where they were going to put the Christmas tree. I know now that they didn’t breakup because of the tree, but since that day I’ve always hated Christmas.

After my dad moved out, he’d pick me up every Wednesday night and we’d go out for fish and chips at his favorite diner, but things were never the same between us. Occasionally he’d come to my games, and he never forgot my birthday, but our time together felt awkward. We rarely spent time together at his apartment because of my stepmother and her two kids. I never felt welcome when my stepmother was around. For some reason, he picked them over me and I’ll never forgive him for that. As I got older, I wanted my dad to become part of my life – meet my friends and boyfriends – but it just didn’t work out. He always had a reason why he couldn’t come to a soccer game or drive me to an event at school.

I’ve been dating the same guy for two years now and we’re starting to have problems. Jake says that I’m too needy and that my trust issues are driving him away. Believe me that’s the last thing I want because he’s the best boyfriend that I’ve ever had. He’s loyal, honest, and caring yet I go crazy when he’s ten minutes late meeting me somewhere or coming over to my apartment to hang out. I’m beginning to wonder if our problems have anything to do with my relationship with my father.

Now that I’m an adult I crave time with my dad but I don’t know where to start. He has my cell phone number but he doesn’t call. I don’t want to just show up at his apartment because his wife or one of my stepsisters might be there. Is it normal for me to want to spend time with my dad at my age? I still love him and I know he loves me but I’ve felt rejected by him for a long time.

Lauren, age 29

Lauren,

Like you, I had a close bond with my father before my parents’ divorce, and our relationship suffered drastically after he remarried. First of all, it’s important for you to realize that you are not alone and that it’s not too late to heal your father-daughter wound. In a divorced family, there are many ways that a father-daughter relationship can suffer. After a divorce, only 10-15% of fathers get to enjoy the benefits of shared parenting. All girls need a loving, predictable father figure to establish a positive identity as a female and feelings of self-worth. Many remarried dads become preoccupied with their new lives or may lack the financial resources to support two families. Consequently, most daughters of divorce have damaged relationships with their fathers. If the damage is severe, a girl can grow into adulthood with low self-esteem and troubled relationships with men.

In terms of how your “Daddy Hunger” affects your relationship with Jake, you are insightful and wise to see a connection. Keep in mind that your father left suddenly when you were nine years old, too young to understand the complexity of divorce. Girls are particularly vulnerable to the loss of an intact family, because they tend to define themselves through relationships and often have a delayed reaction to the powerful effects of parental divorce. Many daughters of divorce have trust and abandonment issues that surface as they emerge into young adulthood. Hopefully, your feelings of mistrust towards Jake will lessen if he continues to show you in word and deed that he is trustworthy. Establishing a healthy level of trust is possible but takes time and effort.

Based on my research, your father fits the description of a passive dad – one who loves you but is mute of passion. He seems to lack confidence in parenting and avoids conflicts at all costs. Passive dads tend to marry controlling women who make decisions for them. In my experience, daughters of divorce who grow up with a distant or passive father tend to grow into adulthood with a diminished sense of trust in men and faith that relationships will last. After all, a father’s presence (or lack of presence) in his daughter’s life will affect how she relates to all men who come after him.

In order to repair your relationship with your father, you need to examine the beliefs that you have about your father and his ability to restore his connection with you. The following are a list of self-defeating beliefs that may be obstacles to healing your father-daughter wound:

  • My father isn’t capable of changing. It might be true that your dad is resistant or isn’t showing much initiative, but maybe you haven’t tried the right approach. For example, calling him would give you more control than simply waiting for him to call you. He might respond in kind.
  • There’s nothing he can do to improve our relationship. The first question should be: have you identified what you want to change about your relationship? Be specific and come up with a plan of action.
  • Rigid thinking such as “If I try something different it might make things worse.” For daughters of divorce, this usually means, it hurts too much and I’d rather be numb than feel the pain.

Once you’ve examined your beliefs about your father’s ability to change, you are ready to begin changing your relationship with him. The following are guidelines for forgiving your father:

  • Give up a dream of a perfect connection with your father and accept that tension may exist and must be worked through. All relationships go through rough patches.
  • Expect resistance and be patient. It may take time to iron out the kinks in your relationship.
  • Explore your intentions and desires. Counseling and talking with close friends can help you to come up with realistic goals.
  • Request a change and be creative. Try one request at a time and lower your expectations.
  • Create healthy boundaries. It’s not necessary to throw in the kitchen sink and dredge up past hurt every time you meet. Asking questions about the past can promote healing but be patient.

In closing, it’s possible to repair your wound with your father so that your past hurt doesn’t have an impact on your present relationships. For the most part, I have noticed that with work and patience relationships between fathers and daughters can and do improve. Examining your parents’ divorce from an adult perspective and practicing forgiveness will allow you to create a new story for your life.

Best Regards,

Terry

Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

Do you ever wish that you could have a closer relationship with your father? If so, please share your comments or questions with us. Be sure to order my new book “Daughters of Divorce: Overcome The Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship.”

Terry’s book, The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around, was published by Sounds True in February of 2020.

 



Don’t Let Fear of Commitment Stop You From Achieving Lasting Love

Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

Do you fear that if you tie the knot, your marriage will end in divorce like many others? It’s not uncommon for people to experience anxiety about making a commitment because most of us were either raised in a divorced home or know someone who was. Americans have a strong tradition of divorce. The divorce epidemic reached its peak in the late 1970’s. Since then, the divorce rate has remained high – over 45% of first marriages end in divorce and more than 60% of second marriages.

In the twenty-first century, many people see divorce as a viable option to the inevitable hard times of marriage. Stable and healthy marriages seem to be in short supply. If you lacked healthy role models for a successful marriage, you may view marriage as disposable and not as essential to your life goals.

Let’s look at Teresa, whose parents divorced when she was thirteen after many years of conflict and unhappiness. She is an example of a young woman who hedges her bets against failure by withholding a commitment to marriage. Brushing her brown hair from her brow, she says “My relationships are usually short term, and I take long breaks between relationships. I want a healthy relationship, but I have a tendency to go for the guy who I know isn’t right for me so I won’t be tempted to make a commitment.”

Adult children of divorce, like Teresa, have good reason to feel that their marriages are doomed to end badly.  According to sociologist Paul Amato, experiencing parental divorce approximately doubles your chances of seeing your own marriage fail. In fact, daughters of divorce are even more divorce prone than sons, and women initiate and file for divorce 2/3 of the time.

According to relationship expert, Scott Carroll, MD, having divorced parents often makes people either cynical about marriage or excessively cautious, but they sometimes throw caution to the wind and fall head-over-heals for someone they have intense chemistry with. Then this strong chemistry can lead to explosive arguments and an eventual break-up. This is especially true for individuals who have a non-secure attachment style. However, awareness is the first step in breaking this self-defeating cycle,

If you are an adult children of divorce, it’s important to keep  partnerships in perspective. The truth is that all relationships end, either through breakup or death. But many people raised in divorced homes are preoccupied with the fear of a relationship ending. They fear that no matter what they do, their marriage will suffer the same fate as their parents did. Even if they do decide to marry, they may go into marriage with a lingering thought in the back of their heads that tells them it won’t work out.

This skeptical attitude can contribute to the high divorce rate. Don’t let fear stop you from achieving the true intimacy that comes with commitment. Many people hedge their bets against failure and avoid making a full commitment to a romantic partner. By doing this, they miss out on the level of intimacy that comes with making a complete commitment to their partner.

Whether your parents divorced or stayed together in an unhappy marriage, examining your attitudes about love and commitment can help you to explore options that are right for you. As you let go of fears of your relationship failing, you’ll gain confidence in your ability to love fully and make a long-term commitment.

For instance, Becca’s parents stayed together but she has a tendency to fear abandonment because her she has an non-secure personality style. Because her parents argued a lot and were rarely home, she experienced a lot of loneliness as an only child. As a result, she clings to relationships even when her needs aren’t being met. Becca blamed herself when Kevin was distant and unwilling to work on their marriage, saying, “Is there something wrong with me?” She wonders out loud, “Am I flawed in some way – not woman enough, sexy enough?”

Becca is an attractive, educated woman, but her adult intimate relationships have been unpredictable and disappointing. Her craving for a failsafe relationship will always be unsatisfied, because such a relationship doesn’t exist. In addition, she has a tendency to pick partners who are emotionally withdrawn and a poor fit for her since she needs a lot of reassurance and an opportunity to build trust and confidence in herself.

If you have fear of commitment, think about this reality: even people from intact or happy homes are faced with this reality – relationships, even marriages, provide no guarantees.

Examining your attitudes about love and commitment can help you to explore options that are right for you. As you let go of fears of your relationship failing, you’ll gain confidence in your ability to love fully and make a long-term commitment.

The task then, is to learn from your parents’ failed or unhappy marriage and your own past – creating loving relationships that are healthy and lasting. The following tips may help you on your journey for love and moving toward commitment:

  • Go slowly and allow your relationship to develop over time. Expect rough patches and practice the art of patience and forgiveness.
  • Avoid making a long-term commitment before the age of twenty-five. You’ll enhance your chances of finding lasting love if you know yourself and have established a solid identity.
  • Attempt to pick a partner with a similar background and interests. Couples who have vast differences in these two areas have an increased risk of divorce.
  • Stick with a committed relationship for at least ten years. Most marriages dissolve in the first ten years – especially the first five years. Hang in there unless your partner is abusive.

With greater awareness, you can enhance the probability of experiencing long-lasting partnerships. If you are in a relationship do your best to give your partner the benefit of the doubt and stop and examine your part in a disagreement, rather that automatically assuming that they are to blame or are trying to deceive or hurt you.

If you recognize the forces that shape you, and visualize the type of relationship that helps you to flourish, you’ll be on your way to creating a new story for your life.

Follow Terry Gaspard on Twitter, Facebook, and movingpastdivorce.com. Her book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website.

Terry’s book, The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around, was published by Sounds True in February of 2020.

 



8 Key Ways We Sabotage Love

Although we seek love, we may unwittingly damage or derail it. Surprisingly, our fear of not being loved, which includes fear of abandonment, loneliness, and rejection, can lead to eight common behaviors that sabotage love and relationships.

When we lack self-love, although we may have relationships, generally they’re unfulfilling or don’t last.  We won’t find real love if we don’t believe we’re lovable. How this unconscious belief affects us is explained in “The Startling Reason We Sabotage Love.”

This article focuses on behavior that sabotages love. For example, we’ll find fault with intimate partners who love us or we’ll attract someone unavailable or who doesn’t show us love. We allow people to treat us as we treat ourselves. We might even tolerate abuse, believing we can’t do better or because we’re afraid of being abandoned or alone. Here are common ways in which our fears and insecurities derail love.

Conflict

Most relationships deteriorate because of conflict. Conflict usually stems from feeling undervalued or rejected in some way. Our needs aren’t being met, nor communicated effectively.  Healthy communication is the bedrock of fulfilling relationships. Dysfunctional communication leads to conflict or shuts down communication altogether. Researcher John Gottman identified four predictors of divorce: Criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. Partners are either silently resentful or complain or attack in ways that make their partner feel criticized. In either case, both feel hurt and unloved, yet want to be loved and not abandoned. When we feel vulnerable, we usually attack or withdraw, thereby triggering each other in endless, painful cycles of conflict. Often our reactions are caused or intensified by events long ago, when emotional abandonment by a parent would have felt life-threatening. (These dynamics are explained on Conquering Shame and Codependency.)

“We want love,

but sabotage it, because

we fear not having it.”

Dysfunctional Communication

Dysfunctional communication is a relationship killer. It derives from feeling insecure about ourselves and our acceptability. We won’t express our needs and feelings, but instead harbor hidden expectations and resentments. We blame and complain, manipulate, or are defensive and don’t take responsibility for our behavior and mistakes. Due to fear of rejection, rather than be vulnerable and openly admit our errors and hurt or ask for what we want and need (including boundaries), we withdraw or attack or expect their partner to read our mind. We can’t collaborate causing further resentment, and problems go unresolved. Stockpiled hurts and the lack of assertiveness can diminish sexual satisfaction.

Jealousy

Whether or not warranted, jealousy stems from fear of abandonment and feeling not enough―shame. Jealous accusations and suspicion hurt an innocent partner, ruining a relationship.

Dishonesty

Trust is essential to fulfilling relationships. It takes time to build, but is easily destroyed. Partners sabotage love when they don’t consider the damage of deception. They hide information they fear will lead to judgment and abandonment. Once trust is damaged, it is difficult to rebuild.

Choosing the Wrong Person

Instead of finding a suitable partner, we may be drawn to someone who needs us or is a “diamond in the rough.” Then we try to change the person into a partner we want. Because we feel inadequate, fear commitment or fear being abandoned or alone, we attach to someone who is emotionally unavailable, or who is dependent, needs us, and who we know won’t leave.  An addict is an example. These codependent relationships fuel resentment and disappointment. They’re doomed from the outset. If we stay because we’re afraid to be alone or start over again, or we expect our partner to change, we block the possibility of finding love.

Boredom

Inauthenticity leads to boredom and deadness. Eventually, the excitement of romance fades. Real intimacy and true love don’t develop when we’re afraid to be vulnerable (because we fear rejection). Walls slowly build, and the relationship becomes cold, conflictual, or superficial. Partners blame each other for the loss of closeness and aliveness that drew first them together.

Distancing behavior

Even if we claim to not want a relationship, most of us still want closeness and love. Underneath we’re afraid of being judged, controlled, or abandoned. Perhaps we’ve suffered many losses. By not getting too close, we ensure that we won’t get too invested and be hurt or abandoned. We may sabotage a relationship by having more than one partner at a time, by cheating, or by ending it before we’re rejected. We might push love away by fault finding or withdrawing emotionally. Narcissists do this. They want love, but destroy it by belittling their partner. As a result, they lose interest, get bored, and look for a fresh narcissistic supply of excitement and admiration.

Pursuing behavior

When we’re uncomfortable being alone and desperate for love, it’s because we don’t love and nurture ourselves enough. We can’t tolerate our discomfort. Our unconscious belief is, “I’m lovable if I’m loved.” As pursuers, we need steady proof that we’re loved and are easily prone to anxiety that we’re not. Our anxiety about abandonment is usually conscious. However, our behavior can actually push our partner further away, creating our worst fear.

Our hope, impatience, and excitement can easily camouflage our desperation. It can induce us to mistake limerance and romance for love and ignore our intuition and red flags. We may find people who confirm our negative fears and beliefs – who don’t or can’t love us. We may also be drawn to unavailable partners, whose fear of intimacy may initially be concealed in their pursuit of pleasure. Consciously, we miss and yearn for closeness, but secretly we fear it. We can get stuck in a dance that perpetuates a cycle abandonment, which we may come to both fear and expect.

The solution is to become familiar with and embrace our wounds and our deepest fears and yearnings. The path to wholeness and self-love is not easy or pain free. We need support to get there – the emotional support we missed in our childhood. But as we look within, we gain peace, self-respect, and find the divinity that is our birthright. Watch for my next article on cultivating love.

Raise your Self-Esteem and change your attachment style. Improve your communication by learning to be assertive (ebook and webinar).

© 2019 Darlene Lancer     



Surefire Ways Stepfamilies Can Navigate Holiday Stress

By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC

It’s no secret that the holiday season can be difficult for families following a divorce. However, this stress is readily compounded when divorced parents decide to blend families through a new marriage. Stepfamilies are particularly prone to emotional turmoil at this time of year, especially due to the unrealistic expectations that too often get in the way.

Even though stepfamilies now outnumber first families in the United States, equilibrium can easily be upset by past memories or former traditions that are no longer part of the plan. This leads to feelings of being second best or not a “real” family. Accusations, guilt, blame and a sense of inadequacy easily fuels conflict that will undermine even the most festive occasions or well-meant plans.

Step Out Of The Past

In most cases, family members set themselves up for disappointment by making comparisons with the past. Stepparents and stepchildren can erroneously expect the newly formed stepfamily to replicate the close bonds and sense of security within their original family.

It’s important to talk to one another. Own and address your new realities. Share your expectations and understanding that this new family dynamic is unique and different from the original family. Be receptive to questions and suggestions about how to move ahead. Candid communication releases a lot of pressure within both parents and children. It can also open the door to new traditions, new activities and new ways to spend time together as a blended family.

Expect And Accept Tension

Tensions within a blended family are normal. They’re a natural part of exploring boundaries and interacting closely with new personalities. For this reason, it’s wise to plan holiday activities in advance — with a strategy. Limit everyone-together time for those who don’t get along. Plan lots of alone time with your own children as well as with your stepchildren. Remember stepchildren value time with their biological parents above all else, and can jealously make comparisons when you give attention to others.

Don’t forget to include special parent-only alone time during your holiday plans. If you let go of the Norman Rockwell images of Christmas past it will be easier to design a new present with reasonable schedules and realistic expectations as you move into the New Year!
* * *
Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach and author of numerous books and e-courses on divorcing with children and co-parenting successfully. For instant download of her FREE EBOOK on Doing Co-Parenting Right: Success Strategies For Avoiding Painful Mistakes! go to: childcentereddivorce.com/book

© Rosalind Sedacca All rights reserved.