After Divorce: Building a Safe Financial Future

I received the text at 11:42pm on a Tuesday. I’d just finished getting laundry folded, and kid prep completed for the morning, when my text tone cut through the quiet. It was just a few words, “My god, it’s his high school girlfriend!” but it flashed me back to my own life, so many years ago. I knew all too well what the next year or more would look like for my good friend. We talked for a while by text, and in the end, she told me that her divorce would soon be final.

This could be any one of us because we’ve all either been that woman, had that friend, or more than likely, both. These are the major life moments when we feel forced to fight. We make enormous decisions about our children, employment, finances – yet, these are the absolute worst times to trust our fragile hearts and minds. Often, we’ve been raised with bad examples of how to handle conflict, and fear takes over. Fear does not help us make good decisions. In my line of work as a realtor, I help clients in all phases of their lives, including divorce. In this case, and with the goal of helping others, I’ll share a bit of my story.

Back in 2005, I found myself in the unhappy position of filing for divorce. Although I was educated and had previously held good professional positions, I had been a stay home mom since my son was born seven years earlier. I was terrified. My son was terrified. To be fair, I’m sure my then husband was also terrified. I remember collapsing onto the kitchen floor one evening well after midnight, crying so hard I couldn’t breathe. Where would I live? Could I afford a place to live? Would my husband try to take my son? What would I do with my horses? How could I have let this happen? What would everyone think of me? FEAR. Every day. Every night. Months and months of mounting fear. There seemed to be no end in sight. It was through this lens that I made the major financial decisions that would impact my life for many years to come.

My fear dictated that my son had to have a comparable house immediately. I used most of my divorce settlement money, approximately 90,000, for a down payment on a property I could not afford. I withdrew all the money from my 401k, incurring steep penalties, and built a small barn so I could bring my horses home. I secured a home equity loan, (interest at the time was just over 7%) so I could pay my bills while I got myself fully employed. At the time of this writing, I have four more payments on this loan – thirteen years later! These major financial decisions were made at the most emotionally charged time of my life, and they have made an enormous negative impact on my fiscal stability.

In preparation for this article, I reached out Edythe M. De Marco, CFP ®, of the De Marco-McCarthy Group, Merrill Lynch, Providence, RI, for suggestions that will help anyone, but especially women, plan their financial way through a major life change. Edythe shared this advice, “Seeking the advice of an experienced Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®) would be my recommendation right from the outset.  Any woman contemplating divorce, or one in the process of divorce, can best prepare herself for the next chapter in her life by seeking the advice of a trained professional who can help her prepare a net worth statement, budget and cash flow analyses, which would factor in both taxes and inflation.  By going through a “financial stress test” analysis like this, she would be empowered with the knowledge to best prepare and care for herself and her family. Our team conducts these types of analyses, as would most CFP®’s.” Edith also offered a downloadable guide to financial stability specifically designed for women, which you can download here: Women & Wellness

Four tips to help you build a safe financial future:

  1. Break the taboo around money talk. Encourage conversation between friends, family, and financial professionals, and in the press and in schools. Seek mentors and learn more about money and finances. This is an area where women especially have gaps in experience.
  2. Turn longevity into an asset. Start a retirement plan as early as you can, take advantage of tax-efficient retirement plan options such as 401(k)s that provide the opportunity to grow with compound interest, work longer, if possible and maximize Social Security and pension benefits.
  3. Acknowledge financial challenges that impact women. These can include career interruptions, longer lives to fund, or increased healthcare costs. Save and plan for these eventualities. Every little bit makes a difference.
  4. Plan early and often. Consult a professional, discuss life priorities and goals, create a plan that matches any unique circumstances and revisit that plan often and make course corrections along the way.

As a realtor, I meet people who are buying and selling homes at various stages of their life. When I meet someone going through the divorce process, especially a woman, I always try to help them process more than just the buying and selling of their home. If I’m able, and it’s appropriate, I give them resources that can position them for a future of financial success, rather than the hardship and rebuilding I endured.

I’m grateful that I was able to raise my son on that little farm and build an amazing career at the same time. Even so, my finances will never be what they could have been if I had worked with a counselor and a certified financial planner to help me process my fear and make a solid financial plan. If you are going through any heavy life change, find a team to help to ensure you have a solid financial plan. It will secure your future, empower you emotionally and make you stronger.

Kimberly McHale is a real estate agent with Mott & Chace Sotheby’s International Realty and works with buyers and sellers state-wide. She is also a professional vocalist and an avid equestrian. www.KimMchaleRealty.com Email: Kimberly.mchale@mottandchace.com 401.692.1644



Why I Kept My Debt Secret from My Husband

Learning how to have productive, low-conflict discussions about money is essential to handling finances in a healthy way. Finances are a touchy subject for all couples and a leading cause of divorce. However, when you get married, your spouse should be made aware of any debts that you have in your name. And after you wed, having regular discussions about expenses, income, and debts is essential to having a happy, long-term marriage.

Anything less than full disclosure about money matters will breed an atmosphere of mistrust in your relationship. Being in debt can result in a great deal of stress and being open about it with your partner will enable you to come up with a plan to improve your situation.

Despite the fact that financial issues and money problems are the number one subjects couples argue about and a leading cause of divorce, there are few studies that address the issue of financial secrecy or financial infidelity. The reason why many people keep secrets about money is fear of being abandoned, shame, and fear of being vulnerable due to past betrayal by a parent or partner.

In my case, I was a single parent raising two school-age children when I met my second husband Craig, and feel in love. Truth be told, I had accumulated debt from living beyond my means as a single parent, but I was ashamed to tell him about this fact. Wanting to impress Craig with my financial independence, I felt embarrassed about my debts and feared losing him. But after several years together, it was becoming more obvious to him that I didn’t enter our marriage with a clean financial slate and I realized that by keeping secrets about my debt and financial obligations, I was breeding mistrust between us.

Unfortunately, I dug myself into such a deep hole by keeping secrets about money from Craig for many years that I could barely distinguish when I was telling the truth from a lie. In retrospect, I’m not sure how forthcoming I would have been if Craig hadn’t discovered a credit card bill laying on the kitchen counter when he was grabbing a cup of coffee one morning.

Getting caught in the act of being deceptive felt awful, but it was the first step towards being vulnerable and open about my past debt and problems living within a budget. After twenty-one years of marriage, it’s still a challenge for me to be open about financial matters. But when I stop and remember the guilt and anguish I felt about concealing details about my past and current debts, I’m inclined to be transparent with him about even the smallest purchases.

Being in debt can result in a great deal of stress and being open about it with your partner will enable you to come up with a plan to improve your situation. Here are some steps you can make to address debt head-on as a unified couple:

  1. Having weekly one to two hour discussions about money.
  2. Taking the time to create a budget together.
  3. Seeing a debt counselor or financial advisor.
  4. Looking into debt relief or consolidation companies.

The first two steps above will help you to look at your assets and expenses, and to decide on strategies. For instance, Craig and I decided that one way to get out of debt was for us both to take on a second part-time job until our debt was payed off.

If restructuring your budget and coming up with solutions doesn’t seem to relieve your stress and help you to pay off your debt, seeing a debt counselor may be a good idea. Having a financial plan in place will help you to have less stress and you’ll probably argue less and feel more content.

In hindsight, my financial infidelity didn’t foster love and intimacy with my husband. It definitely contributed to our trust and communication problems. What I have come to realize is that when a partner withholds important financial information, regardless of their reasons, it is normal to feel betrayed. Many couples that I counsel have worked hard to restore trust. Others have chronic arguments over money matters because they don’t have the skills to communicate about touchy topics such as who pays for big things including educational expenses. Even smaller purchases like buying a car for your children can unleash other concerns such as who pays for car maintenance and insurance.

If couples have not established a bedrock of trust and vulnerability together, they might be more prone to committing financial infidelity. If you consistently feel uneasy because you can’t trust your partner, even minor mistakes or errors in judgment can make you feel vulnerable, in spite of your partner offering a good explanation for their actions. In other words, by keeping secrets or lying to your partner you put your relationship in jeopardy because he or she may have lost a sense of trust and security that couples need to thrive and grow resilient together.

Even though I have made progress in practicing full disclosure about finances, I still struggle with being open about money with Craig during times of financial stress, such as when our youngest daughter went to a private college a few years ago. Soon after she was accepted at one of her first choices, we began arguing about money until we both decided to restore our commitment to changing the way we communicate about finances.

Fortunately, we have reached the point where we have open dialogues about money weekly, and I feel safe enough with Craig to be transparent about my past and present debts. We have also begun seeing a counselor to discuss ways to communicate about money and other important issues in our marriage since we are dedicated to staying together and want to preserve our love.

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

 

 



6 Ways to Stop Being Defensive with Your Partner

During tough conversations, it’s helpful to choose battles wisely and to distinguish between petty issues and important ones. Many experts agree that bickering can lead to the demise of a relationship. It’s like chronic warfare that erodes the quality of a relationship and makes it tough to discuss difficult topics. When dealing with differences with your partner, the key is to listen attentively, understand each other’s perspective, reign in defensiveness, and stop criticizing and blaming each other.

For instance, Jackson has become resentful of Becca over the last few years because she spends money without informing him. From his perspective, Becca has been increasingly detached and secretive about her spending habits. During our session, they had an argument that left them both feeling defeated and bitter. I encouraged them to listen to each other and not focus on who was to blame for their problem.

Jackson glanced at Becca and put it like this: “My anger and resentment started to mount when you told me two months after you put a trip with your girlfriend on a credit card without telling me. You were literally charging large amounts for clothes and air fare without telling me – even when I asked you why our balances were going up. I can’t trust you anymore since you kept this secret. If you hadn’t lied to me, I might feel differently.”

Becca explains, “I understand how bad this sounds but I needed to get some new clothes to go on a trip with Caitlyn which we planned a year ago. I didn’t tell you because I knew you’d object and we’d argue. You often criticize me because I don’t earn enough money. I’m starting my own business and it will take time.”

Jackson and Becca need a way to stop blaming each other and to stop their pattern of trying to prove a point. The first step toward changing this negative pattern of relating is awareness. They can benefit from embracing the mindset that working together is more important than being right.

While it’s tempting to launch into expressing anger and to get into the attack mode when you feel hurt or frustrated, it can alienate your partner and drive a wedge between you. That said, you’ll accomplish more and improve your communication if you tell your partner what you need in a positive way.

For instance, if Jackson says to Becca “I would appreciate it if you’d do a budget for your trip with me,” this “I” statement would be more effective than saying, “You never worry about money. In most cases, a“You” statement that sparks her defensiveness.

In marriage, one of the biggest hurdles couples face is how to approach difficult conversations without getting defensive. This leads to an unfortunate pattern of attack and defensiveness where both partners believe they must prove they’re right and must defend their positions.

In After the Fight, psychologist Dr. Daniel B. Wile, explains that if this defensive pattern continues over time, it can diminish love and respect between you and your partner The following are ways to stop being defensive with your partner before it becomes a bigger issue.

6 Ways to Stop Being Defensive With Your Partner:

1. Keep a calm composure and state needs clearly: While it is natural to raise your voice and get agitated when you feel attacked, lower your voice and adopt a friendlier tone. If you feel yourself taking things personally, press the pause button and suggest a 10 to 15-minute break to your partner before continuing a conflictual conversation. You might say “I’m trying to listen but I can feel myself getting defensive. Can we start this conversation again in 15 minutes?

2. Listen to your partner’s side of the story and validate him or her. Instead of focusing on your own agenda and the points you want to get across, ask your partner what is bothering them and really listen before responding. When you respond, validate their perspective and use a soft start-up such as “I value your input and I’d love to hear more from you.” Be sure to use good eye contact and reassuring touch to comfort your mate such as holding their hand.

3. Focus on the issues at hand. When you focus on the past, you miss the opportunity to work together to come up with a solution. You are no longer on the same team. Instead, focus on the issues at hand or in the present to meet both of your needs. Resist the urge to bring up baggage or touch on your partner’s raw spots or issues you know might trigger his or her defensiveness.

4. Use “I” statements to express yourself in a positive way. State what you want such as “I would like you to share more information about your spending with me. Avoid using “You” statements such as “You never talk to me about money.” Remember to focus on expressing your feelings in a way that invites your partner to communicate, rather than pushing them away.

5. Take responsibility. If you focus more on your part of the problem, you will be less likely to point your finger at your partner or take things personally. Reflect on how your words and actions might make your partner feel and let him or her know that you own your part in a disagreement. Try to focus on changing your approach to communication, rather than trying to change your partner’s perspective or personality.

6. Apologize if you have done something to hurt your mate – even if it was not intentional – after they’ve had a chance to describe how you hurt them. This will ensure it’s a sincere apology. Be brief and to the point without making excuses. For instance, Becca might simply say, “I am sorry for keeping a secret from you. I love you and won’t do it again.” By taking responsibility for her part in the dispute, even just a small piece, this will validate Jackon’s feelings, promote forgiveness, and allow them both to move on.

Becca put it like this: “When we disagree, I try to apologize to Jackson when I overreact to something he says and not take it so personally. I know that when I blow things out of proportion, it’s often my own baggage. When he apologizes to me after he’s said something hurtful, it really helps me move on and feel better. I’m working on accepting his apology, letting go, and I’m trying to be a bigger person.”

When you are having an argument with your partner, stop and try to remember the positive qualities that drew you to him or her in the first place. It’s a good idea to give your partner the benefit of the doubt rather than attacking them or getting defensive. Being defensive or negative will only push your partner away. The next time you feel upset at your partner, examine your own thoughts and responses — before you point out his or her faults—if you want your relationship to endure the test of time.

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



How Do I Choose a Divorce Lawyer?

Going through a divorce is a challenging process.  There are so many details to arrange in your new life without your spouse.  A good deal of those details will be handled by your attorney so it should be a huge relief to hand off that responsibility to a professional.

Before you outsource your problems to an attorney, you have to be sure you’re hiring the right attorney for you and your case.  This is a process that I, as a divorce lawyer, will walk you through step-by-step.

  • Do you know a lawyer?

If you know a lawyer, just call them up and ask for a recommendation.  The worst they can say is, “I don’t know any divorce lawyers. If the lawyer you know has a recommendation, that is a great starting point.  In most communities, most lawyers know who is good and who is…not so good.  While the lawyer you know may not have direct experience with the divorce lawyers’ style, strategy and fees, the lawyer you call will know the divorce lawyer’s reputation.

Still, the lawyer may only know the divorce lawyer by his golf swing at the country club. So, you probably should do some additional investigation.

  • Is The Divorce Lawyer On The Internet?

If the divorce lawyer you’re interested in does not have an internet presence, it is a problem.  It does not mean that he or she is so busy that they never needed a website.  It means that the divorce lawyer does not keep up with the times.

Does a lawyer with no website review the current appellate decisions that are released on the internet every month?  I’d be surprised if they did.

A lawyer’s website is also telling.  We all know what an old, out dated website looks like.  It’s a reflection of how the divorce lawyer chooses to present him or herself.  If the divorce lawyer’s website looks cheap and sloppy, how do you think the lawyer looks in court?

A divorce lawyer should also have a small internet presence outside of his or her website.  This means a Yelp and an Avvo page.

The best sign of a good divorce lawyer is if he or she publishes content on his or her website and/or in local bar association publications.  This is a sign that the divorce lawyer both knows their stuff and wants to share and help others.

  • Does the Divorce Lawyer Have Online Reviews?

Online reviews are great.  Perfect strangers are giving recommendations or warnings to the public at large.  But, not all online reviews are created equally.

Online reviews encourage cheating from both the merchant and his competitors.  While all lawyers should be honest, some lawyers will just adopt 20 different online identities and give themselves good reviews.  Other lawyers, both dishonest and spiteful, will give their competitors bad reviews under aliases.

Some online review sites have strict policies to ensure that the reviews are from actual people who have experienced the divorce lawyer’s services.  Yelp is the gold standard. You have to publish your picture, have a history of reviews and the service provider can contest ever having served the reviewer.

Facebook reviews require you to publish your picture but have no feedback mechanism to deal with unverifiable reviews.  Beware of reviews without a photo of the reviewer.

Google reviews are available to anyone with a gmail account.  These reviews should be taken with a grain of salt.

Mostly, look at the content of an online review.  Are there lots of details? If so, the review is probably both real and well informed.

A good review for a divorce attorney is such a wonderful sign that he or she is a professional and a good human being.  Divorce is a difficult process and the client will associate the attorney with the divorce even if there’s a successful outcome.  If the divorce lawyer left a good impression on the client at the end of this horrible process, you know they did a great job.

  • Call The Attorney And Find Out If You Like Him Or Her!

All divorce attorneys have phone numbers.  Just call and ask if you can speak with him or her.  A lot of divorce attorneys will not speak to you on the phone or offer a free consultation.  This makes the attorney seem exclusive but this is not a sign of quality.  If the divorce lawyer won’t take your call as a potential client, will they take your call when you’re an actual client and they already have your money?

Most divorce lawyers are happy to chat about a potential case for a few minutes to learn more.  After a few calls you will immediately be able to separate the masters of their craft from the amateurs.

A lawyer without much experience in divorce law will make vague statements like, “Well, I’d have to know more about your case before advising you.”

A lawyer who truly knows the divorce process will give you definitive advice immediately and explain why he or she is giving that advice based on the law and their personal experience.

More important than testing the divorce lawyer’s knowledge is finding out if he or she has compassion.  Divorce is difficult and the lawyer that guides you through it should care about you as a person.

  • What About Price?

This is a very difficult thing to assess.  Different divorce lawyers charge different retainers and different hourly rates.

There is no difference between a $200 an hour lawyer who takes 20 hours to finish your case and a $400 an hour lawyer who takes 10 hours to finish your case.  There’s almost no way gauge a lawyer’s efficiency in advance.

The one thing you can use to determine if your lawyer is efficient is whether he or she has paralegals or not.

If the lawyer does not have paralegals, you will be paying his or her hourly rate for typing up letters, sending out correspondence and organizing the file.  A paralegal usually charges a much lower rate and performs these more mundane tasks for the lawyer.

The same goes for a retainer.  A retainer is a way for a lawyer to establish he or she will get paid by the client. The money gets deposited in the lawyer’s trust account and the lawyer withdraws the money as he or she earns the money.  A divorce lawyer’s retainer of $ 5000 does not mean the lawyer is more expensive than a lawyer with a $2500 retainer.   It just means they need more money to start the case.  Once the retainer is exhausted, the lawyer will just ask that you replenish the retainer.

Finally, choosing a divorce lawyer is not a final decision.  You can always hire a different lawyer if you are no longer satisfied with his or her services.   It’s very common, in fact.  Keep in mind that you are paying for his or her services and should approach this process as an informed consumer.

Written by Russell D. Knight who is the owner of The Law Office of Russell D. Knight in Chicago, Illinois



Handling Sabotage of Your Parent-Child Relationship After Divorce

While many divorces are settled amicably between ex-spouses, some divorces involve long battles over property division and custody arrangements. If these become too heated, some spouses resort to bad-mouthing their ex in front of their children. This cycle of one parent turning their children against the other parent is commonly known as parental alienation, and the consequences can be devastating for everyone involved—especially for the couple’s children.

Trying to parent a child who has been conditioned to believe you are a bad parent is extremely difficult. If you think your ex has swept you and your children up in a vicious storm of parental alienation, there are ways you can escape the cycle and re-establish a healthy, loving bond with your children.

1. Follow the Directions of your Attorney
You will first need to know what you can and can’t say to your child about the case. Your attorney may advise you not to discuss any part of the case with your children. This is especially true when an attorney is appointed to determine the best interest of the child or children.

2. Address Lies and Rumors Head-On
Sometimes, conventional wisdom states that we should ignore the lies and untrue rumors we hear about ourselves. Unfortunately, this can hurt alienated parents even more in the long run. If your child tells you that you left home because you don’t love her, don’t remain silent. Tell her that you love her, and the divorce was an adult problem that had nothing to do with her.

Focus on simply stating the truth with an emphasis on your love and support for your children. Be careful about attempting to discredit the source of the rumor and do not lash out at their other parent, especially if you’ve been advised to avoid discussing the case by your attorney. Anything negative said about the other parent reflects poorly on your children, it can even extend and exacerbate a feud.

If your ex falsely accuses you of abusing your child, you may want to seek the assistance of competent legal counsel. Rumors involving physical, sexual, or emotional abuse can have serious legal consequences for you and your family, so you will want to address any of these rumors with the help of an attorney knowledgeable about family law in your state.

3. Encourage Your Child to Speak to You Directly
Make sure your child knows they can ask you about things they’ve heard about you from other people. Encourage your kids to come to you if they have questions about your relationship with them. Remember not to discuss the case with your child if your attorney has advised against it.

All kids need to be able to speak to their parents directly without using other people as a go-between. Even if your child doesn’t believe your answers at first, at least they are hearing your side of the story directly from you and can decide what type of relationship to have with you over time. Your efforts may not seem to make a difference right now, but they may give your child reason to reach out to you on their own in the future.

4. Control Your Emotions
Although it’s normal to feel defensive and angry when your ex is spreading lies about you, it’s extremely important that you manage your emotions around your kids. If your ex tells your kids that you’re out of control and then you act angry and frustrated around your kids, you’ll just bolster your ex’s allegations. If you need emotional support, seek out the assistance of adult friends or a therapist. It may also be helpful to join a support group for parents affected by parental alienation. Parental alienation support groups take place in person and on the internet all over the world.

It can be difficult to resist the urge to retaliate, but instead, try to focus on yourself and your own values. What may bring you greater peace of mind than an attempt to get back at your ex is to remember the values you have to offer your children. The values you pass on to your children will remain with them for the rest of their lives. For example, demonstrating empathy, kindness, strength, stability, and love in the face of ugly behavior on the part of your ex allows you to show your kids which values are important to you, and it allows you to model appropriate behavior for them. By engaging in pro-active parenting, you are basing your actions on what is best for your child.

If you can show yourself and your children consistent, unwavering strength through the process of living with integrity, you may be able to minimize the damaging influences of the other parent. This may be one of the most important things you can do for your children.

5. Keep in Contact With Your Child
Even if you no longer have custody or your child refuses to see you, don’t stop letting your child know you are there for them. Send cards, texts, and attend school events. You may not get a response, but by reaching out, you’re letting your child know that you care and that you want to be his or her parent. Over the years, these actions on your part may help your child to develop their own feelings about you.

It may be difficult to continue contacting your child if they respond negatively to you. They might be rude, hostile, or indifferent to your phone calls or text messages. Make sure you are in a good frame of mind before you reach out to him or her so that you don’t overreact to any negative behavior they might display. You cannot expect to win your children’s affection by yelling at them or fighting with them. Any aggression that you show will only bolster your ex’s case.

6. Realize That Healing Takes Time
Rebuilding your relationship with your child may take months, years, or even decades. Look for signs of how well your child is adapting to the divorce and give them extra support where needed, but be realistic. Your child may be an adult before he finally reconnects with you for good. The important thing to remember is that your child needs a steady parent on his side with his best interests at heart. It’s your job to be the mature adult in a situation that is very difficult and confusing for your child.

It’s not easy to co-parent with someone who is hostile towards you, and it can be even more difficult when you want to keep your negative feelings about your ex from reaching your kids. How you handle the situation speaks to your maturity and dedication as a parent. Regardless of what your children think of you today, they will remember your actions—and reactions—to this difficult situation for the rest of their lives. Make the best choices you can.

________________________________________

Author Bio:
Alfredo Ramos is a writer specializing in issues important to parents and families – leveraging his experience in divorce, adoption, and other cases through work with the Ramos Law Group. In the past, he has served in the US Navy as the Medical Department Head with the primary mission of mobilization readiness of reserve personnel.



5 Ways Dating is Different for a Divorced Parent

By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC

When you’re a divorced parent, dating again takes on new challenges. Here are five areas that should be of major concern to you when making any decisions about finding a new love partner. Keeping this advice in mind will steer you in the direction of a healthier, more fulfilling relationship ahead.

  1. You have children: mention them early on.

As a divorced parent, you come into dating as a package with your children. Never lie about or keep that a secret. And don’t be apologetic about that fact either. It’s part of who you are and what you offer to your new relationship. You want a partner who will like and hopefully come to love your kids. So don’t start a dating relationship by pretending they don’t exist. The first few dates are not the time to talk excessively about your children. But always be forthright about them and their ages so there are no surprises in your budding new relationship. Never look at your kids as baggage; they’re an instant family for the right lucky person!

      2. Be authentic about your needs and expectations.

Don’t pretend to be who you’re not. It’s tempting when you start dating to pretend to be someone different – to act more “polished” and sophisticated or interested in sports or other topics when you really aren’t. That’s a form of “bait and switch” — teasing your partner into thinking they are with someone who isn’t you. Instead be real, share your authentic self and be proud of who you are — warts and all. They’re going to show up anyway, so why pretend to be different? You’d resent your partner if they did the same thing to you. Dating is a form of qualifying prospects for a future romance. If you don’t reveal the true you, you can’t attract a good fit for a meaningful relationship. Don’t waste your time or theirs. Be REAL!

  1. Be aware of unresolved baggage from your past – and theirs.

Divorce can take its toll on you. And unresolved issues from your past can easily sabotage a new relationship from both perspectives. So identify when you’re experiencing feelings of anger, hurt, pain, guilt, or disillusionment and accept these feelings as lessons learned. It then becomes easier to move on. Work on forgiveness issues, both with your ex and with yourself for having come from a “failed” marriage. Don’t stay stuck in the past. You can never move forward successfully if you’re looking or thinking backward. And you don’t want to choose a partner who isn’t fully focused on you, either!

  1. Trust your intuition and red-flag warning signs.

Intuition is that part of you with knowledge vital to your well-being. This internal antenna continually sends you messages and if anything or anyone makes you feel uneasy don’t ignore it. In the past, you may have dismissed those inner warnings, but now you need to learn from your life experiences and not repeat old mistakes. So being cautious is okay. Just don’t be so hyper-fearful that you avoid good partner material and become afraid of commitment. At the same time, notice any uncomfortable behaviors that would be a sign of impending abuse.  Jealously, too quick attachment, mood swings, anger issues, verbal threats or distorted accusations are the “red flags” that spell caution.

  1. Be sure your expectations are realistic.

Are your demands about weight, age, height, financial success and other factors limiting your ability to find the right partner who will love and appreciate you?  Now that you have true “life” experience, consider the importance of being flexible, objective and fair in your expectations. That way you won’t set yourself up for pain and disappointment next time around. You also won’t overlook great potential partners by putting more superficial qualities (looks, height, weight) ahead of the much more important ones (shared values, integrity, honesty, compassion, wisdom, mutual respect). Don’t look for Mr. or Miss Perfect. He or she doesn’t exist. Seek your Mr. or Miss Right and give him a chance to show you why he’s “the one!”

Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Dating & Relationship Coach, Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach and Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network for parents. She is also the author of several books on divorce and parenting and dating after divorce. In addition, Rosalind is co-creator of the DatingRescue eCourse and Create Your Ideal Relationship Kit for women. Her free ebook on dating for single women is available at www.womendatingafter40.com. Author: How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce?

www.childcentereddivorce.com

www.childcentereddivorce.com/kids

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How Apologizing Can Improve Your Marriage

Recent studies have found that apologizing to your spouse and asking for forgiveness are crucial ingredients in a successful marriage. Apologizing to your partner when appropriate will validate their feelings, promote forgiveness, and allow you both to move on from mistakes.

Rather than pointing fingers in an effort to identify who is at fault, humbling oneself and confessing to the words or behavior that have caused your partner pain, upset, or harm can go a long way toward strengthening your marriage. It’s not about who is right or wrong if it’s a matter of your being “right” at the expense of causing pain to your spouse.

Jake feels resentment and anger towards his wife Erin since he found out that she spent some their savings on a down payment for a vacation with her sister. Over the past month, Jake has shut down emotionally and he’s been giving Erin the silent treatment. After their second couples counseling session, Erin apologized to Jake and his positive feelings and goodwill toward her are slowly being restored.

Jake puts it like this: “Erin says she deserves a nice vacation with her sister Caitlin but I was resentful that she didn’t tell me about it and it drained our savings. But now that she said she was sorry in a sincere way, I’m beginning to see that she made a mistake and is still the love of my life.”

When Erin was able to confess her wrongdoing and ask Jake to forgive her, this had a positive effect on his ability regain trust and had a healing effect on their marriage.

According to experts, the capacity to seek and grant forgiveness is one of the most significant factors contributing to marital satisfaction and a lifetime of love. Forgiving others and yourself is necessary for achieving healthy relationships. It is about being willing to acknowledge that you are capable of making mistakes, of being wounded, and can also risk being vulnerable.

Why are apologies important?

Often people equate apologizing with weakness and it’s widely believed that if you apologize to someone you’re making yourself too vulnerable. However, apologizing can also be seen as a strength because it shows you are able to show goodwill toward your partner and it promotes forgiveness. Studies show that forgiving someone is one way of letting go of your baggage so that you can heal and enjoy a better quality of life.

Apologizing and practicing forgiveness is about giving yourself and your partner, the kind of future you and they deserve. In The Science of Trust, Dr. John Gottman explains that couples who are emotionally attuned can fully process and move on from negative emotional events, forgive, and ultimately create a stronger relationship. In other words, couples who are able to give sincere apologies to each other can rid themselves of the toxic hurt and shame that holds them back from feeling connected and emotionally attuned with their partner.

You may stubbornly hold onto the belief that you have nothing to apologize for – especially is your hurtful behavior or words were not intentional. However, apologizing to your partner is a key aspect of a successful marriage because it allows you to let go of large and small transgressions.

If you do apologize to your partner, be sure to do it in the right way that does not include excuses for your actions or words. Not all apologies will be the same but most will contain some of the following elements.

  1. Identify two reasons you feel sorry for the hurt that your behavior or words caused your partner. Gaining awareness of the emotions you experience about your own past hurt can help you feel empathy for your partner. Ask yourself: why did I feel the need to behave in a way that caused my partner pain or upset? Was my behavior intentional?
  2. Accept responsibility for your hurtful actions or words. Acknowledge that you messed up by saying something like “I take responsibility for my actions and I’m sorry that they hurt you.” One person’s ability to do this can change the dynamic of the relationship. Dr.’s Julie and John Gottman write: “one person’s response will literally change the brain waves of the other person.”
  3. Use the words “I am sorry” and “I was wrong” when you apologize. Your apology will more likely be heard and accepted if you use these words. Be specific about exactly what you did to hurt, humiliate, or embarrass your partner.
  4. Explain to your partner how you plan to repair the situation (if this is possible). For example, if you said something to hurt your mother-in-law’s feelings, you might offer to apologize to her over lunch or by writing her a note.
  5. Describe why you said or did what you did without making excuses or blaming your mate or someone else. Using “I” statements rather than “You” statements can help you avoid the blame monster. For instance, you might say “I yelled at you because I had an awful day and need to go back to work. I very am sorry for treating you this way” rather than “You promised to have dinner ready at 6 pm and it aggravated me when you didn’t keep your promise.”
  6. Ask your partner to grant you forgiveness. Be specific about your actions and words that need to be forgiven. Be sure to do so when the setting is conducive to a private conversation and there aren’t any distractions (TV, cell phones, children in the room, etc.).
  7. Don’t let wounds poison your love for your spouse. Be vulnerable and don’t let your pride cause you to hold on to being “right.” Discussing what happened with your spouse and taking responsibility for your actions will allow you to let go of resentment so you can improve the quality of your relationship.

Apologies are an essential ingredient of a strong, healthy marriage. Accepting that you and your mate do the best you can will help you be more understanding. This does not mean you condone his or her hurtful actions. You simply come to a more compassionate and realistic view of your spouse.

When you acknowledge your flaws – the things that make you human – it means that you can be vulnerable with your partner rather than allowing your fear of rejection or failure to overwhelm you.

Apologizing and practicing forgiveness are about giving yourself and your partner, the kind of future you and they deserve – unhampered by hurt and recycled anger. It is about choosing to live a life wherein others don’t have power over you and you’re not dominated by unresolved anger, bitterness, and resentment.

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

This article appeared previously on HuffingtonPostDivorce.com



6 Signs Your Partner is Good Marriage Material

Who we choose to marry is one of the most important and costliest decisions a person will make, yet it’s not uncommon for lovers to make errors in judgment. Why does this happen? One reason is that most of us aren’t raised with a healthy template of marriage to follow. We also lack self-awareness and may be afraid of ending up alone.

Another factor is unrealistic expectations of marriage because we grew up in the first generation for whom divorce continues to be accepted and common. According to author Pamela Paul, lots of marriages seem to be trial marriages and people tie the knot with the notion of “If it doesn’t make me happy, I’ll just move on.” Since more and more individuals grow up in divorced homes where they witness divorce being the solution to marital problems, they may not approach marriage with a thoughtful mindset.

Unfortunately, many of us marry without obtaining critical information about our partners. For instance, we may not know that our father-in-law is a substance abuser or that our mother-in-law has a family history of mental illness. Sadly, we may put our faith in someone who we fall in love with blindly and fail to ask some of these crucial questions.

5 questions to ask potential marital partners:

1. Who are their parents? Include questions about marital history, mental illness and substance abuse, etc.. Don’t shy away from asking questions now that may blindside you later. It’s better to be forewarned because some qualities have a genetic component.
2. What is their typical way of dealing with conflict? Don’t assume that your partner has good anger management skills. Does he/she usually take responsibility for his/her actions or blame someone else? Do they tend to stonewall or withdraw from conflict or see it as an opportunity for growth?
3. How does your partner feel about having children? How many children do they consider the best number if they want them? Do they believe that couples should share chores and childcare responsibilities?
4. What are their values and beliefs about infidelity?
5. What is their view of divorce? What would they consider a good solution to a period when your marriage is rocky?

Perhaps the first step in deciding whether a person is a good risk for marriage is to get clarity around “deal breakers” and “deal makers.” It’s crucial to know those things that are important to you from the list above (or other questions) and to not compromise too many of your values and beliefs.

There is no such thing as a perfect partner. You might want to ask yourself this question: Is there something about the way that he/she treats me that makes me a bigger and better person? If the answer is no, ask yourself: Am I settling for less than I deserve in the relationship?

Looking to the experts can help you gain clarity about marrying the best person for you. In particular, Mira Kirshenbaum’s book “Is He Mr. Right?“ offers a valuable model for looking at compatibility. One of the central premises of her groundbreaking book is that chemistry is the best way to figure out if someone is right for you. Surprisingly, she’s not just talking about sexual chemistry but also the feeling that you enjoy being around your partner and have fun together.

5 Dimensions of Chemistry according to Mira Kirshenbaum:

1. You feel comfortable with each other and it’s easy to get close. In other words, you feel that you can be yourself.
2. You feel safe in the relationship. Your partner can take care of him/herself, and you feel comfortable being vulnerable and honest with your partner.
3. It’s fun to be together. Kirshenbaum writes, “Couples who have this dimension of chemistry going for them have a shortcut to intimacy and a buffer against the stressful times we all face.”
4. You have real affection and passion for each other. This is where sexual chemistry comes in and it should go hand and hand with affection.
5. You feel there’s real mutual respect. You accept, admire and respect each other for who you are. Kirshenbaum posits that if you don’t have respect for your partner, it will eat away at chemistry until you have nothing left.

Are you wondering if you are wasting your time with the wrong person? It’s understandable that you’d have a need for certainty before continuing to pursue the commitment of marriage. However, don’t panic and jump into a commitment because you believe that the clock is ticking or most of your friends are married.

6 signs your partner is good marriage material:

1. You admire your partner for who they are as a person. You like and respect who he/she is and how they carry themselves through the world. If you can’t respect the way a person lives their life, let alone admire them, it’s hard to keep any relationship going.
2. Your partner is trustworthy because they keep agreements. Their actions are consistent with their words. When you share something personal you trust they will keep it to themselves.
3. He/she makes time for you on a regular basis. They make you a priority because they value your relationship. Even when he/she is swamped, they make time to spend with you. This includes regular text messages or phone calls to show that they’re thinking of you.
4. Your partner is comfortable talking about the things that interest you and asks you questions about your hobbies, friends and family. They appreciate you for who you are right now and aren’t trying to change you.
5. He/she makes you feel good about yourself. A partner who truly cares about you is a boost to your self-esteem. He/she values you and gives you compliments and praise.
6. You share a vision. Sharing a dream for your life together can help you gain a healthy perspective. When couples possess a shared vision, the inevitable ups and downs of marriage are less bothersome. Creating a larger context of meaning in life, can help couples to avoid focusing on the small stuff that happens and to keep their eyes on the big picture.

If you feel that your partner is the right person for you but you still fear commitment, you might want to consider the following: Know that no relationship is conflict free, but you are worthy of having a relationship that makes you happy. If you aren’t there yet, embrace where you are now. What is it that holds you back from achieving a satisfying relationship? And once you have it, what will you do when you get there?

The best partner will compliment you and bring out your very best. When you are with him or her, you will begin to see untapped possibilities within yourself and in the world. In any relationship, you will face ups and downs and your love will be tested. However, where admiration and respect are found, love will be sustained. But where these things are absent, love will die. Finding a partner who likes and respects you as much as you do him/her will give you the best chance of finding long-lasting love.

Follow Terry Gaspard on Facebook, Twitter and movingpastdivorce.com where you can order her book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-lasting Relationship

This blog appeared previously on HuffingtonPost.com



Divorce Advice: 3 Tips to Help You Overcome Fear of Loneliness

Of all the anxieties that are regularly induced by an impending divorce, those centered on loneliness are, in my experience, the most profound.

With this in mind, I recently commissioned a survey that saw our company contact more than 2,000 people who had been divorced for at least three years. My intention was to produce a study that would dispel such concerns with cold, hard facts. While the survey did reveal a number of positive statistics, though, it was within a few select pieces of qualitative feedback that I believe the most important, calming and poignant findings lay.

Here are the three best pieces of advice divorcees had for anyone worried about finding themselves isolated as a result of their divorce:

“The best things in life happen when you’re least expecting them”

As simple as this statement is, it resonated with me. Most of the very best things in my life came about not as a result of concerted and consistent efforts but from simple circumstance and coincidence.

Yes, there are things we need to work for: our job, home and most material items, for example, but the beginnings of relationships – whether romantic or otherwise – just seem to happen. They certainly need to be maintained once established, but those with real long-term potential tend to be easy at first.

So, don’t worry about meeting someone new. Go about your life, enjoy yourself and allow things to find you!

“You need more than a partner to be happy”

I know from personal experience that it’s all too easy to become overly-reliant on your spouse – particularly if you have children. What I also know is that this left me feeling dissatisfied – a feeling I know friends who found themselves in similar situations have shared.

Ultimately, we’re social creatures and we need a broad circle of friends to remain happy as a result. Indeed, it’s certainly noteworthy that there’s no reason someone can’t be happy and single – and this is largely because of the presence of effective support networks comprised of friends and family.

“You can view your anxiety as a reason to be fearful or excited”

This particular piece of advice was truly unique and not only made me rethink the negative emotions associated with divorce, but feelings of anxiety in general.

By simply choosing to reframe our emotions, we can turn those that would otherwise be debilitating into something empowering. The anxiety so often brought on by a divorce can, for example, be seen as excitement for our future lives post-divorce rather than something to fear.

This is a piece of advice has been met with overwhelmingly positive feedback when I shared it with clients; it’s truly enlightening and it goes to show just how powerful positive thought can be.

Conclusion

While it’s far from unusual for divorcees to worry about meeting new people, such concerns are largely irrational.

If you need more convincing, our survey revealed that:

  • 84% of respondents stated that they were much happier following divorce than prior to it;
  • 73% of respondents were now in long-term relationships; and
  • 23% were now co-habiting with their partners.

So, whether you prefer personable advice or cold, hard data, it’s clear that you needn’t fear post-divorce loneliness either way.

Author bio:

Jay Williams is employed by Quickie Divorce, an online services provider dedicated to improving the divorce process in the UK.

 

 



Post Divorce: 3 Keys to Letting Go and Moving On

By Karen McMahon

The season of divorce often feels like we are living on a battlefield as we avoid explosive mines, shield ourselves from incoming attacks and occasionally toss emotional grenades at the other side.

My divorce lasted 3 ½ years, engaging in the battle became my normal way of being for over 40 months.  When my divorce was final, I had to consciously step into a different way of being in order to let go and move on.  Here are a few things I learned and would like to share with you.

Take Off Your Divorce Armor

It is essential that we ‘armor up’ when entering divorce – most especially when it is a high conflict divorce.  At a minimum, this requires us to raise our boundaries to protect ourselves.

For instance, we reevaluate what a healthy level of trust in our soon-to-be-ex looks like.  Perhaps everything he or she says is not to be blindly believed and agreed upon.  Choosing when and how to engage is part of our armor.  Protecting our privacy, personal activities, finances and strategies may all be part of this divorce armor.

Once the divorce is final, much of our uncertainty melts away and it is time to let go and move on. 

We know the exact figures of our equitable distribution, spousal maintenance and child support.

We know the shared parenting schedule we’ve agreed to and the checks and balances we’ve put into place to handle co parenting difficulties.

We know how our ex behaves, what triggers us and what to expect in our engagement with him/her. If we have done our inner work, we have stepped into acceptance of ourselves, our ex and our circumstances. We are free of our old baggage and ready to move forward.

Disarming ourselves means consciously choosing to ‘stop fighting’ so we can let go and move on.  This is where ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ is immensely valuable.  If you are co parenting and your ex is hyper focused on being on time or alternately, often late…expect and accept that this is his/her typical behavior.  Plan for it rather than react to it.  Let go of the ‘it’s not fair’ (it isn’t…but neither is much of life) and engage with what is.  He or she may be telling your mutual friends a story about your divorce that you don’t agree with.  You have no contol over what is said or done, so let it go.

Disarming is noticing the ‘dance’ that the two of you have done for years while married and then through the battle and consciously choosing to step away from it.  It involves creating new healthier responses to your ex and investing your energy away from ‘us’ and into ‘me’.  Which brings me to the 2nd Key:

Shift Your Focus

Your future is an empty canvas ready to express your dreams and desires.  Your past is done, complete and requires none of your attention.

The Windsheild is significantly larger than the rear view mirror –  Likewise your focus should follow a similar ratio – very little on the past and keen attention on the present and future.

Focus is where so many get tripped up.  If you are still watching what your ex is doing, who he/she is dating, how much money is being spent or what time with the kids involves, you are wasting your vital energy which would be better invested in creating your now and future.  If you cannot control it (and you cannot!), let it go.

This is YOUR TIME!  Time to move on! Focus on your new friends, the interests you put aside to attend to your spouse and kids, dust off your dreams of fitness, hobbies, and travel and begin creating your new normal.

If you have kids, use the time they are with their other parent to enjoy resting, socializing, exercising and dating.

If focusing on yourself is difficult, the problem is an internal one.  It is NOT out there, but rather between your ears.  This too is an opportunity.

Begin to explore why it is so difficult to focus on yourself. Perhaps you have been a caretaker all your life and are lost in this new freedom.

What support do you need to begin to strengthen yourself in this area?

If you are hearing excuses in your head such as, “I am too old, too poor, have no friends, just want my old life back, don’t have interests or hobbies…”, it is time to recalibrate!

Which brings me to the 3rd Key

Intentionally Create Your Next Chapter

Begin small and realistic and grow into your greater dreams.  You can and will create the life you desire IF you believe it.  It is that simple.

Have fun with this.  A great exercise is to journal about what you desire and get microscopic in your detail.

What is an ideal day or weekend in your post divorce life?

Want a new job or career?  What does it look like?  Don’t go directly to job searching.  First search your heart and scan your experience.  Once you are crystal clear on what you want to do, you are ready to begin talking to people and searching for it.

If you had no fear and no obstacles, what would you create in your new life?

What does your ideal partner look like?  What do you want and why?  Getting clear on the person you would consider your soul mate is always the first step.  Describe all his/her attributes and describe the flow and essence of the relationship as well.

If your housing is temporary, use the exercise above to find the home of your dreams.

As yu do this exercise, you may watch your mind go to all that you don’t want.  No worries, just start there and then turn every negative into a positive – this in and of itself is a great exercise to begin shifting your mind to a constant positive focus.

Life post divorce is not perfect.  It will be difficult at times yet can be immensely more pleasing than your past.

The beauty is you are free to let go, move on and determine what your new life will look and feel like.

The more you believe in your power to manifest your life’s next chapter through thought and action, the quicker you will move in your desired direction.

We actually never arrive – because life is a journey.  Don’t wait for the destination.  Enjoy the ride.  Learn from it. Get charged by it. Let it blow your skirt up!!

Always pass your wisdom onto your children so they can stand on the shoulders of your struggles and experiences.

Let go.  Move on.  See positives in both the difficult and the delightful.

 Note:  If you feel unprepared for this next leg of the journey, there is no better time than now to begin the work that will free you from past unhealthy behaviors and further upset and set you on a brilliant journey into your new and more pleasing normal!  Get started here

 Karen McMahon is a Certified Life Coach and Founder of Journey Beyond Divorce.  She began divorce coaching in 2010 after recognizing that the agony of her dissolving marriage had led her on a transformational journey into an incredible new life.  Karen and her a team of professional coaches have created a 21st Century Divorce Support Membership Site which has supported scores of men and women to navigate their divorce with greater ease.  Start your trial month here.