Grandchildren Benefit From Grandparent Support During & After Divorce!  

By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC

When divorce with children takes place grandparents often get caught in the emotional turmoil and drama. Many grandparents are eager to help in any way they can. However they often don’t know how they fit in the equation, especially when it comes to their former daughter- or son-in-law.

Most grandparents put their focus on easing the hurt, anxiety, confusion and other difficult emotions affecting their innocent grandchildren. They know that love and support is vitally important for children at this time. Even teenagers benefit from their grandparent’s presence and nurturing.

If you are a grandparent trying to navigate your adult child’s divorce, here are some guidelines to help you be there for your grandchildren at a time when it really counts.

Be a trusted and loving confidant:

If you haven’t been close to the kids beforehand, developing a relationship with your grandkids now is not a smart move. However, if you already have that bond established, strengthening the connection at a time when the kids are facing so many unknowns is more important than ever. Visits, phone calls, texts, email notes and video chats can all be supportive. These conversations also take a child’s mind off anxiety about the divorce and onto thoughts and activities that are just plain fun.

In addition, grandparents with a strong communication and trust bond are well positioned to address difficult issues. Kids are more likely to confide their frustrations, fears and insecurities with a loving grandparent. Keep in mind that it’s always more effective to offer advice when the child initiates the conversation. Then you can share your wisdom in an age-appropriate manner.

An important note of caution: If you are going to discuss topics related to divorce or other difficult subjects, it is essential that you first talk to your adult child, or both parents, to get permission in advance!

Be a safe source of support:

Remember, grandparents should never interfere where you are not welcome — as tempting as it may be. Explain your concern on behalf of the children. Discuss the message you’d like to share with the kids. If one or both parents approve, then give it your best shot. If this is an area of contention between the parents, step back and find another way to be of support to your grandkids.

When a child is resistant to your conversation with them, don’t push the issue. You’re better off retreating into safer territory. If they do confide in you, be careful never to make judgments about their parents. Listen, offer helpful advice they can use, and end with hugs and words of support. Then talk with the parents about sensible next steps.  Discuss ways you believe both parents can provide healing, reassurance and comfort   for their children during this difficult time.

If the issues are complex, it’s wise to suggest bringing in professional counselors to suggest the best options for everyone in the family. They are trained to handle heavy emotional and psychological challenges. So leave it in their hands. You want to be valued for your role as a loving grandparent – not as a therapist or judge!

Be a grandchild advocate:

If your own son or daughter doesn’t understand how the emotional turmoil related to the divorce is impacting your grandchildren, schedule time for a serous conversation together. Arm yourself with resources in advance. Visit the Child-Centered Divorce Network and other websites for relevant articles, study results, and other valuable information about how children can be adversely affected by family drama and divorce. Share these important messages during your conversation. Have some positive and concrete suggestions on hand about where they can get help and support. Let them know you’re there for them. Explain that you’re on their side but also an advocate for the kids who can’t always speak for themselves.

It’s important that you don’t accuse, judge, dismiss or demean your adult child’s   parenting. Remind them they are not alone and that most families coping with divorce face similar issues. Help is available both locally and online. Your goal is to make sure they find it.

Emphasize to both parents how much your grandchildren mean to you. Stress that you don’t want them to overlook your relationship with the kids in the months and years ahead, especially if relocation or other major changes are in the works. Explain that children need, want and value the safety and reassurance of their grandparents’ love. Your goal is to be there for your grandchildren as an asset in their adjustment to life’s many challenges for a long time to come.

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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:

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All rights reserved. © Rosalind Sedacca


10 Warning Signs Your Marriage Is in Serious Trouble

By Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

The most common complaint of couples today is that they’ve fallen out of love. However, falling out of love usually doesn’t occur overnight. Likewise, relationship repair takes time and effort on the part of both partners and includes practicing forgiveness and becoming more emotionally connected.

There aren’t any foolproof ways for couples to repair problems in their marriage but ending destructive relationship patterns is a good first step. If couples don’t make a commitment to do this, and take responsibility for their part in the negative dynamic, they could be at risk for a divorce.

Put an End to Harmful Relationship Patterns

According to experts, the most common reason couples 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.

Another common reason why couples split is the blame game. Dr. Johnson writes: “If we love our partners why don’t we just hear each other’s call for attention and connection and respond with caring?”

In other words, instead of focusing on your partner’s flaws and looking to blame him or her, try spending your energy fostering a deeper connection. Stop assuming the worst of your partner and put an end to demanding your partner change. Instead focus on your needs and how you can communicate them in a loving, respectful way. Take responsibility for your part in a problem – none of us is without flaws.

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 than 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 was worried when you didn’t call me. We agreed that we’d check in when one of us was running late.” In comparison, criticism might be: “You never think about me, you’re so selfish.”

Further, Dr. Gottman informs us that the reason why contempt is so damaging to a marriage is that it conveys disrespect. When we communicate disrespectfully we might use sarcasm, ridicule, mimicking, an icy tone of voice, or resort to name-calling. The goal is to make the other person feel despised or worthless, which almost always backfires or makes the situation worse.

10 Warning Signs that your marriage is headed for divorce:

  1. You argue about the same things over and over (and over) again and never seem to clear the air. You both feel like you’re the loser and that you often have to defend your position.
  2. You feel criticized and put down by your partner frequently and this leaves you feeling less than “good enough.” According to renowned relationship expert Dr. John Gottman, criticism is one of the main reasons why marriages collapse.
  3. You have difficulty being vulnerable with your significant other and when you do your worst fears are actualized – you’re left regretting that you revealed your feelings and desires.
  4. You rarely spend time together and don’t have a desire to change this pattern. Intimate relationships require nurturing and couples who spend time together regularly report that they are more emotionally connected.
  5. You don’t enjoy each other’s friends or families so begin socializing away from one another. This may start out as an occasional weeknight out. But if not nipped in the bud, it can spill over into weekends – ideally when couples have an opportunity to spend more time together.
  6. You have ghosts from past relationships that surface because they were not dealt with. You may overreact to fairly innocent things your partner says or does because it triggers a memory from a past relationship.
  7. Your needs for sexual intimacy are vastly different and/or you rarely have sex. Relationship expert Cathy Meyer writes, “Whether it is him or you that has lost interest, a lack of regular intimacy in a marriage is a bad sign. Sex is the glue that binds, it is the way us adults play and enjoy each other.”
  8. You and your partner have fallen into a pursuer- distancer dynamic – one of the main causes of divorce. Over time, it erodes the love and trust between you because you’ll lack the emotional and sexual intimacy that comes from being in harmony with each other.
  9. When you argue, you seldom repair your relationship and get back on track. You fall into the trap of blaming each other and fail to compromise or apologize. As a result, you experience less warmth and closeness.  According to Dr. John Gottman, the number one solution to this problem is to get really good at repair skills. He tells Business Insider that you’ve got to get back on track after a fight if you don’t want issues to fester. Practice giving an apology that’s specific such as “I’m sorry that I kept you waiting” rather than “I’m sorry that you got mad at me.” You also need to accept your partner’s apology since no one is perfect.
  10. Emotional, verbal, or physical abuse that causes a partner to feel unsafe. For the most part, experts agree that any type of abuse erodes feelings of security, trust, or sense of belonging in a relationship and these issues can’t be resolved in the context of a marriage.

In closing, for your marriage to thrive, it’s important to create daily rituals of spending time together, show physical affection, and learn to repair conflicts in a healthy way.  Practicing emotional attunement while relaxing together can help you stay connected in spite of your differences. According to John Gottman, this means “turning toward” one another, showing empathy, and not being defensive.

Be sure to pay close attention to the role you play if you are drifting apart and focus on what you can do to reconnect with your partner rather than resorting to the “blame game.”

Follow Terry Gaspard on Twitter, Facebook, and 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, will be published by Sounds True in February of 2020 and can be pre-ordered here.


A Lawyer’s Tips for Keeping Your Divorce Records Private

Unless your last name ends in the word “Kardashian” you’re probably not a big fan of making a public scandal out of your private life. Like it or not, though, your divorce records will be public. Because of that, it’s worth investing some time and energy into making sure that those rA Lawyer’s Tips for Keeping Your Divorce Records Private

Unless your last name ends in the word “Kardashian” you’re probably not a big fan of making a public scandal out of your private life. Like it or not, though, your divorce records will be public. Because of that, it’s worth investing some time and energy into making sure that those records aren’t scandalous.

Why Your Divorce Records Matter

Thinking about “the public record” when you’re in the middle of a divorce isn’t easy. Your head is already spinning, your heart is shredded, and your entire world is falling apart. Keeping your private life out of public divorce records is just not your #1 priority at that point.

Yet, it matters – and not just if you ever plan on running for public office.

Employers today routinely run background checks on job applicants. While you may think that a potential employer clearly won’t care about your past marital history, if that history includes allegations of domestic abuse, adultery, alcoholism, or addiction, you better think again.

Even if you are a model citizen, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about anything in your divorce. Contested divorces can get ugly very fast. People (especially spouses embroiled in a divorce war) often say things in court documents that are less than 100% true.

Lawyers are paid to spin facts into arguments that support their case. They can take true facts and weave them into a presentation that paints a very different picture of reality than the one you remember.

The problem is that once something is in writing in a court record, it usually stays there forever.

But My Spouse Lied!

Hopefully, if your spouse lies about you in a court document, you will be able to prove your innocence. But many times you never get the chance.

In divorce, what often happens is that one party files a petition claiming that his/her spouse did all kinds of horrible things. Before the judge rules on the petition, the case is settled. So the only thing in the court file is the petition with all of the horrible allegations in it. No one ever knows whether the allegations were true or not.

Other times, the judge may actually hold a hearing on the petition. Assuming the judge finds in your favor, s/he will enter an order that says, “Petition denied.” Often, that is ALL it says. There is no detail about WHY the petition was denied.

Was the petition denied because it wasn’t true? Was it denied on a technicality? No one knows.

Now the truth is that you are supposed to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Just because your ex filed court papers claiming that you were the devil incarnate, that doesn’t mean it’s true.

But human beings make a lot of assumptions. And many human beings assume (wrongly) that if anything is in a public document, it MUST be true. (Just like it must be true if you read it on the internet!)

Are All Divorce Records Public Information?

Courts in the United States are open to the public. Divorce records are public information. Anyone can look at any court file they want, usually whenever they want to look at it.

In the past, that may not have mattered much. Like the Ark of the Covenant that Indiana Jones buried in a government warehouse, finding court documents (especially old court documents) used to be a chore.

Today, though, everything has changed.

In today’s digital, hyper-connected world, it is relatively simple for anyone to access someone’s divorce court records. If you’re not technologically savvy enough to do it yourself, for under $100 you can hire an agency to do a background check on whoever you want.

Employers routinely do background checks on their employees.

If you value your privacy at all (or if you just prefer not to air your dirty laundry in public) what are you supposed to do? How can you keep your private life, private?

2 ways to Keep Your Private Life Out of Public Divorce Records

The problem with divorce is that the only one who can divorce you is a judge. That means that, if you want to end your marriage, at some point you (or your lawyer) has to go to court to do it. You have no other choice.

Since every document you file in court automatically becomes a public record, it might seem that there is no way you can keep your divorce private. To a certain extent, that’s true. No matter who you are, or what you do, if you get divorced, there will be a record of your divorce in court.

But, there is a big difference between filing standard documents with simple “boilerplate” language, and filing motion after motion full of allegations about how your spouse is an alcoholic, and abusive, and has done a whole host of horrible things.
People will always be able to discover that you got divorced. But, if you’re smart, they may not be able to discover much more than that.
Here are two ways you can control your public divorce records:

1. Ask the Court to put your documents under seal.

Filing documents “under seal” is a procedure for keeping sensitive or confidential information out of the public record. While this may sound like the perfect way for you to keep your divorce information private, the truth is that before you can do this, you have to get permission from a judge.

Unless you happen to be wealthy, well-known or well-connected, persuading a judge to seal your divorce court records is not likely to be easy. Judges are responsible for maintaining “the public record.” Most judges take that responsibility very seriously. So, for most average folks, getting their divorce put under seal is just not going to happen.

2. Stay out of court.

If you settle your divorce issues with your spouse outside of court, then the documents you file in court can be fairly “vanilla.” They will contain the information that they absolutely need to contain for legal purposes, and nothing more.
If you and your spouse agree, you can also ask a judge to remove truly sensitive and personal information (especially financial account information, or information that could negatively affect your children) from the court file. Even if you are not rich or famous, a judge is usually willing to grant this kind of limited request to keep certain information private.

(You can also try to remove your personal information from the court file in a contested case. But you will have a much harder time convincing a judge to do that for you, especially if your spouse objects.)

It’s All About What You Know

No matter who you are, you have the power to keep most of your divorce information private. But, like so many other things in divorce, doing so is a choice. The only one who can make that choice is you.
If you want to keep your private life out of the public record, you have to take the steps you need to take to do so. For most people, that means staying out of court.

What’s more, you need to stay out of court from the very beginning of your divorce. Once you have filed reams of paperwork in court, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to get permission to take those documents out of the court file.
Do you care whether your divorce records become public information? Maybe you do. Maybe you don’t. What’s important is that you take the time to answer that question before you get divorced.
Karen Covy is a divorce advisor, attorney, consultant, and coach who is committed to helping couples resolve their disputes as amicably and efficiently as possible. She is the author of When Happily Ever After Ends: How to Survive Your Divorce Emotionally, Financially and Legally and the creator of the Divorce Road Map online program. You can find more of Karen’s articles on marriage and divorce at

The original version of this article was published at this site:

9 Red Flags That Tell You Your Relationship Might Be Over

Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

After decades of being a therapist and lover of self-help books, I’ve come to realize that red flags usually appear fairly early on in failed relationships. For instance, most couples report that their relationship problems didn’t surface suddenly but are the result of buried resentment that can fester for years.

Likewise, when a couple splits, most state that their problems were never processed or resolved in a healthy way. As a result, they felt criticized or put down by their partner and say that they argue about the same things over and over (and over) again. In many cases, couples become detached and eventually lose fondness, admiration, and love for one another over time.

Sweeping issues under the rug only works for so long. Because when couples have deep-seated resentment, it’s one of the signs your relationship is over and can be a challenge to forgive and forget.

A healthy, intimate relationship is built on trust and vulnerability which involves sharing your innermost feelings, thoughts, and wishes. It’s important to remember that all couples have perpetual problems and can develop tools to deal with them.

According to author Claire Hatch, LCSW, “If you’re bottling up feelings of sadness or anger, you end up suppressing your feelings. You’ll find yourself feeling less joy and love, as well.” In other words, if you can’t talk about the hard things, you’ll also feel less warmth and affection; and over time less fondness and admiration for your partner.

Here are nine warning signs your relationship is over or is starting to die out:

  1. You argue about the same things.

And you do it over and over (and over) again and never seem to clear the air. You both feel like you’re the loser and that you often have to defend your position.

  1. You feel criticized and put down.

This leaves you feeling less than “good enough.” According to renowned relationship expert Dr. John Gottman, criticism is one of the main reasons why marriages collapse.

  1. You have difficulty being vulnerable with your significant other.

And when you do, your worst fears are actualized: you’re left regretting that you revealed your feelings and desires.

  1. One or both of you put your children or others first. 

Therapist and author Andrew G. Marshall writes in his book, I Love You But You Always Put Me Last, “If you put your children first, day in and day out, you will exhaust your marriage.” He posits that many parents fall into the trap of putting their children first and the outcome is resentful, alienated parents and demanding, insecure children.

  1. You don’t enjoy each other’s friends or families.

So you begin socializing away from one another. This may start out as an occasional weeknight out. But if not nipped in the bud, it can spill over into weekends — ideally when couples have an opportunity to spend more time together.

  1. You have ghosts from past relationships that surface because they were not dealt with.

You may overreact to fairly innocent things your partner says or does because it triggers a memory from a past relationship.

  1. Your needs for sexual intimacy are vastly different and/or you rarely have sex.

Relationship expert Cathy Meyer says, “Whether it is him or you that has lost interest, a lack of regular intimacy in a marriage is a bad sign. Sex is the glue that binds; it is the way adults play and enjoy each other.”

  1. You and your partner have fallen into a pursuer-distancer pattern.

This is one of the main causes of divorce. Over time, it erodes the love and trust between you because you’ll lack the emotional and sexual intimacy that comes from being in harmony with each other.

  1. When you disagree, you seldom resolve your differences.

You fall into the trap of blaming each other and fail to compromise or apologize. As a result, you experience less warmth and closeness. What are the best ways to break the negative pattern of relating that can lead to the demise of your relationship? First of all, it’s important to become conscious of your expectations.

Author Brené Brown suggests, “The fastest way for an expectation to morph into shame or resentment is for it to go unnoticed.” Dr. Brown also recommends that we drop or prerequisites for feeling worthy based on conditions, such as having our partner’s approval or a perfect relationship.

Now that you know the signs your relationship is over or dying, here are a few things you can try before giving up.

  1. Stop criticizing your partner.

Talking about specific issues will reap better results than attacking your partner. For instance, a complaint is: “I’m upset because you didn’t tell me about the phone call from your ex. We agreed to be open with each other.” Versus a criticism: “You never tell me the truth. How can I trust you?”

  1. Practice resolving conflicts as they arise.

Don’t put aside resentments that can harm communication. Experiencing conflict is inevitable and couples who strive to avoid it are at risk of developing stagnant relationships. Take responsibility for your part in a dispute. Avoid defensiveness and showing contempt for your partner (rolling your eyes, ridicule, name-calling, sarcasm).

  1. Boost up physical affection and sex.

According to author Dr. Kory Floyd, physical contact releases oxytocin (the bonding hormone) that reduces pain and causes a calming sensation. 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.

  1. Nurture fondness and admiration for your partner. 

Remind yourself of your partner’s positive qualities — even as you grapple with their flaws — and express your positive feelings out loud several times each day. Search for common ground rather than insisting on getting your way when you have a disagreement. Listen to their point of view and avoid the stonewalling, which is shutting yourself off from communication.

The best way to create a relationship built on love, trust, and intimacy is to take responsibility for our own actions and to practice acceptance and compassion for our partner.

The truth is that all couples have problems, even the ones who seem like a perfect match. The thing to keep in mind is that realistic expectations and damage control can keep resentment from building and causing serious relationship problems.

Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

Do you want to learn successful ways to resolve conflicts in your intimate relationships? I’d love to hear your questions or concerns at  Be sure to order my book “Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship.”

My new book, The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around, will be published by Sounds True in February of 2020 and can be pre-ordered here.

This article appeared previously on

What is Codependency?

By Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT

Codependency is sneaky and powerful. You may not be aware that it’s the root cause of your problems. Focusing thinking and behavior around someone else is a sign of codependency. We react to something external, rather than our own internal cues. Addicts are codependent, too. Their lives revolve around their addiction – be it food, work, drugs, or sex.


Codependency derived from the term “co-alcoholic,” originating in studies of family members of substance abusers who interfered with recovery by enabling. Family therapists found that codependent behavior developed in their childhood growing up in a dysfunctional family. In the 40s, German psychoanalyst and humanist Karen Horney wrote about neurotic behavior caused by self-alienation. She described personality types that fit codependency and believed that they resulted from faulty parenting and the “tyranny of the shoulds.”

The 12-step program Codependents Anonymous (CoDA) was founded in 1986 by Ken and Mary, two therapists who had grown up in abusive families.


Codependency is not considered a disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, due to lack of consensus on a definition and empirical research. However, the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does list a dependent personality disorder, described as someone more passive, submissive, and dependent than most codependents. In 1989, experts at a National Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona arrived at a suggested definition: “A pattern of painful dependency on compulsive behaviors and on approval from others in an attempt to find safety, self-worth and identity.” Other definitions by experts in the field include:

Melody Beattie:  Allowing another person’s behavior to affect him or her and obsessing about controlling that person’s behavior.

Earnie Larsen:   A diminished capacity to initiate, or participate in, loving relationships.

Robert Subby:   Resulting from prolonged exposure to oppressive rules.

John Bradshaw & Pia Melody:  A symptom of abandonment – a loss of ones inner reality and an addiction to outer reality.

Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse: A brain disorder that leads codependents to seek the relief of soothing brain chemicals, which are released through compulsive behaviors, including addiction to work, substances, gambling, food, sex, and/or relationships.

Charles Whitfield: A disease of a lost selfhood.

Darlene Lancer:  A person who can’t function from his or her innate self and instead organizes thinking and behavior around a substance, process, or other person(s).”

Beattie’s and Larsen’s definition centers on relationship behavior. I agree with Bradshaw, Melody, and Whitfield that codependency resides in us whether or not we’re in a relationship. I also agree with Wegscheider-Cruse that addicts are codependent and that relief is sought through substances, processes, and people. However, unlike Cruse, I believe codependency is learned behavior that’s trans-generational. Other influences are cultural and religious biases. Although research shows that some teens had brain abnormalities even before they became drug addicts, their twins did not become addicted, so the full impact of genetic and organic causes is still unclear, particularly in view of the brain’s plasticity in adolescence.

Core Feelings and Behavior

Codependent feelings and behavior vary in degree on a continuum. Like a disease and addiction, if untreated symptoms become compulsive and worsen in stages over time.

Core feelings include:

Core Behaviors include:

Core feelings and behaviors create other problems, such as, people-pleasing, self-doubt, mistrust, perfectionism, high-reactivity, enabling, and obsessions. Codependents are usually more attuned to other people’s needs and feelings than their own. To quell anxiety about rejection, they try to accommodate others, while ignoring their own needs, wants, and feelings. As a result, they tend to lose their autonomy, particularly in intimate relationships. Over time, their self-worth declines due to self-alienation and/or allowing others to devalue them.

Codependents have varied personalities, and symptoms differ in type and severity among them. They also have diverse attachment styles. Not all are caretakers or are even in a relationship. Some seek closeness, while others avoid it. Some are addicts, bullies, selfish, and needy, or may appear independent and confident, but they attempt to control, or are controlled by, a personal relationship or their addiction. Sometimes that relationship is with an addict or narcissist. A relationship that is one-sided or marked by addiction or abuse is a sign of codependency. But not all codependent relationships are one-sided or abusive.


Untreated codependency can lead to severe anxiety, depression, and health problems. There is help for recovery and change. Recovery goes through stages that normalize codependent symptoms. The goal of recovery is to be a fully functioning adult who is:

  • Authentic
  • Autonomous
  • Capable of intimacy
  • Assertive and congruent in expression of values, feelings, and needs
  • Flexible without rigid thinking or behavior

Become informed. Get guidance and support. Codependent patterns are deeply ingrained habits and difficult to identify and change on your own. It often takes an experienced third party to identify them and to suggest alternative beliefs and responses. Therapy and 12-Step meetings provide this. In recovery, you will:

  1. Come out of denial
  2. Let go of others
  3. Build an autonomous Self
  4. Raise your self-esteem
  5. Find pleasure – develop friends, hobbies
  6. Heal past wounds
  7. Learn to be assertive and set boundaries
  8. Pursue larger goals and passions

Self-Help and Therapy

Codependency is highly recoverable, but requires effort, courage, and the right treatment. A therapist should be knowledgeable in treating codependency, shame, and self-esteem, as well as be able to teach healthier behavioral and communication skills. Cognitive-behavior therapy is effective in raising self-esteem and changing codependent thinking, feelings, and behavior. In some cases, trauma therapy is also indicated.

Recovery can generate more anxiety, so it’s important to maintain a self-help support system such as, Al-Anon or CoDA 12-Step programs. Do the exercises in my books, Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You and Codependency for Dummies and my ebooks, 10 Steps to Self-Esteem and How to Speak Your Mind – Become Assertive and Set Limits (see also companion webinars) to build self-esteem and become more assertive.

©Darlene Lancer 2019 All rights reserved

Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT

Author of Codependency for Dummies and Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You


10 Steps to Self-Esteem

Dealing with a Narcissist: 8 Steps to Raise Self-Esteem and Set Boundaries with Difficult People

How To Speak Your Mind – Become Assertive and Set Limits and webinar How to Be Assertive

Breakup Recovery

“I’m Not Perfect – I’m Only Human” – How to Beat Perfectionism

Spiritual Transformation in the Twelve Steps

Freedom from Guilt and Blame – Finding Self-Forgiveness

Codependency’s Recovery Daily Reflections

How to Raise Your Self-Esteem

Self-Love Meditation

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7 Ways Women Can Build Trust in Relationships

Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

Recently, there has been a gush of articles in the media about a common problem in romantic relationships: mistrust between partners that erodes positive feelings and love. While it’s not uncommon for people to worry that their partner has the potential to rove, women are more likely to experience trust issues than men in relationships.

For instance, in The Normal Bar study, the authors collected groundbreaking data from 70,000 participants internationally and found that only 39% of women in their sample (compared to 53% of men) completely trust their partners. The authors ask: What’s wrong with this picture?

Why are women more mistrustful than men? The answer may lie in what can be labeled insecurity or a lack of self-trust. One of the hardest things about trusting someone is learning to have confidence in your own judgment. Trust is about much more than catching your partner in a truth or lie. It’s about believing that he or she has your best interests at heart.

An inability to trust someone may take many forms – ranging from feeling they’re being unfaithful, dishonest, or secretive to doubting they are going to keep their promises or be dependable.

Every person is born with the ability to trust others but through life experiences, we become less trusting as a form of self-protection. The breakup of a long-term relationship or marriage can set the stage for feelings of mistrust. This may be especially true for women who are socialized to place more value on intimacy and mutuality than men are.

Enduring your parents’ divorce can also leave you with lingering feelings of mistrust because their relationship was your first teacher about love and commitment. Makayla, age thirty, is a daughter of divorce who often reacts with fear and suspicion when her husband Erik returns home late from work or there’s the slightest imperfection in his story. It’s no wonder since her father betrayed her mother several times and ultimately left the family and moved in with a family friend.

However, Erik hasn’t given Makayla any reason to mistrust him. He’s a loving, faithful husband who honors his vows and has never cheated on her. Makayla has a tendency to blow things out of proportion when she says “You’re always late and inconsiderate of my needs.” Even when Erik returns home a little late from running an errand or going to the gym, Makayla is often filled with suspicion and sends him multiple text messages. These actions show a lack of confidence in herself and fuel Erik’s feelings of frustration and anger toward Makayla.

But since they’ve been attending counseling together, Erik is working on showing Makayla through consistency in his words and actions that he’s there for her. He’s focusing his energies on being empathetic and listening to her feelings rather than getting defensive or shutting down. Meanwhile, Makayla must learn to examine her thought processes. Is her self-doubt and mistrust grounded in reality or a fragment of her past? She must be willing to let go of self-defeating thoughts – to free herself from the blueprints of her childhood.

In the past, Erik’s defensiveness about Makayla’s accusations caused her to become even more mistrustful. It was entirely the wrong approach but neither one of them were aware of it. Recently, Erik has learned to reassure Makayla and now calls her if he’s going to be more than fifteen minutes late.

However, in order for her to build trust with Erik over the long run, Makayla must be vulnerable and expose her true feelings. If she shuts Erik out or doesn’t express her fears and insecurities, she’ll begin to imagine the worst. They’ve both discovered that open and honest communication is the key to restoring love, trust, and intimacy in their relationship.

7 wise ways to build trust in relationships:

  1. Challenge mistrustful thoughts. Ask yourself: is your lack of trust due to your partner’s actions or your own issues, or both?
  2. Gain confidence in your own perceptions by paying attention to your doubts and instincts. Ask yourself: is there congruence between my partner’s words and actions? Does he keep important promises and agreements?
  3. Gain awareness about how your reactions may be having a destructive impact on your relationship and take responsibility for them.
  4. Don’t always assume that your partner’s behavior is intentional – sometimes people simply make a mistake.
  5. Be open to your partner’s perspective. Make sure your words and tone of voice are consistent with your goal of building trust.
  6. Practice attunement with your partner. In his book What Makes Love Last? relationship expert, Dr. John Gottman defines attunement as the desire and the ability to understand and respect your intimate partner’s inner world. He writes: “Attunement offers a blueprint for building and reviving trust in a long-term committed relationship.”
  7. Keep in mind that learning to trust is a skill that can be nurtured over time. It can be a slow process. With courage and persistence, you can turn hurts from past betrayals into lessons.

In his book, The Science of Trust, Dr. John Gottman challenges the way most of us define trust. He says that trust is an action rather than an idea or belief – more about what our partner does than what you or I do.

You may enter a relationship with fractured trust for a variety of reasons. A recent breakup or divorce is not always the root cause. But as you become more aware of your tendency to mistrust your partner, you can stop yourself and ask: Is my mistrust coming from something that is actually happening in the present, or is it related to my past?

Trust is more of an acquired ability than a feeling. When you sustain the loss of a relationship due to broken trust, it makes you smarter and more keenly able to extend trust to those who are deserving of it. You can learn to trust your instincts and your judgment when you honestly deal with your fears. If you are able to come to a place of self-awareness and understand the decisions that were made that led up to trust being severed, you can start to approach others with faith and optimism.

While learning to trust can be one of our biggest challenges as women, it’s important to realize that doubts are common in relationships. Practicing being vulnerable in small steps will encourage open and honest communication – a crucial step to restoring faith in love. Trust is essential to helping both partners feel secure and building a happy relationship that endures the test of time.

Please share this article and check out my other blogs on Thanks! Terry

Be sure to order my new book “Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship and to follow me on Twitter!

My new book, The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around, will be published by Sounds True in February of 2020 and can be pre-ordered here.

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Divorced Moms – Parent Yourself First To Be A Better Parent

By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC

It’s that time of year again when all mothers feel the connection with their children. Often they reflect and wonder whether they are being the best they can be for the kids they love. Since none of us are perfect, Mother’s Day can be a highly emotional time for many mothers.

It can be an even more stressful time for a divorced mom!

That’s because divorce is a life-altering experience. It takes its toll on your physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Its ramifications not only turn your own world upside down. Divorce can also seriously affect your innocent children – a dire consequence every loving mother wants to avoid.

Since divorce is a process, often a lengthy one, there are days – yes, weeks and months – when life can seem awfully low. Often overbearing. The weight can seem just too much to carry. The many life changes related to divorce can play a part in these difficult circumstances. And when you’re a parent at the same time … well, you know how it feels!

Then Mother’s Day comes along. Frequently it reminds us of what once was that isn’t the same anymore. We compare our lives with happier times. We question whether we made the best decisions in recent times. We can also dive deep into fears of what may lie ahead for us and for our kids.

If you are being triggered by any of these thoughts, keep in mind: you’re not alone.

Parenting is tough for everyone, even under the best of circumstances. Parenting through and beyond divorce takes enormous focus and a continuous need for compassion, both for yourself and your children. If you take it day by day, it can be easier to find the strength and the insight to make decisions that tap into your innate wisdom and love for your children.

But it’s also essential to parent and nurture yourself at the same time. Take a tip from the airlines when they instruct you to put your oxygen mask on first before providing oxygen to your children. You need to be alert and functioning well before you can make vital decisions on behalf of your children. Because they matter so much to you.

That means it’s crucial that you seek out the help you need to recharge.

De-stress and unwind from time to time. Share your frustrations with a caring friend or family member. Find a compassionate coach or counselor who specializes in divorce issues. Join a support group for divorced Moms. Reach out to community and spiritual resources that empower you. Treat yourself to a massage, concert, evening out, weekend away from the kids or other activity that energizes your psyche.

Don’t suffer or brood alone. We all need help, support and encouragement when times are tough. Find a source that you value and respect. We can’t always give what we need to ourselves. But we can and must let others know when we need a shoulder to cry on, a babysitter for an occasional indulgence or a team of reinforcement when the burden of moving on feels too heavy.

Your kids deserve the best mother they can get.

Remember this as well: sometimes all you need is to take care of yourself for a day – and you’ll be better prepared to handle tomorrow. Stepping away from your routine structure can often give you the clearer perspective you need to make sound decisions on behalf of your children. Unburdening yourself in the hands of an experienced professional can lesson your load and remind you there are other options available when you need them.

Whether you’re a divorced co-parent or single parent, remember your first obligation is to parent yourself with loving compassion. Your family will thank you!

Happy Mother’s Day to you all!

*     *     *

Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Certified Divorce & Parenting Coach, founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting as well as articles, coaching services, co-parenting programs and other valuable resources on divorce with children, visit:

© Rosalind Sedacca  All rights reserved.




Signs You’re Holding On When It’s Time to Let Go

Letting go is hard.
Damned hard.

I first learned this as a young child, exploring my grandmother’s basement, packed to the ceiling with carefully labeled and organized items as though she was preparing to seek refuge from the apocalypse.

Which, in many ways, she was.

She lived through starvation and disaster on the Dakota prairie. Later, she experienced the second World War and the Great Depression that followed. She felt the burden of providing for three children while also caring for a sister and a husband that faced medical crises.

All of this occurred long before I was born. So I puzzled at the multiples of cans stacked on a windowsill that approximated a grocery shelf when a fully-stocked pantry and fridge occupied the kitchen above. From my perspective as a middle class American kid, the grocery store was a constant. I simply couldn’t understand the need to create an additional level of food security at home even as I could see how deeply the need went within her.

Then my parents divorced. And for the first time in my young life, I felt that overwhelming need to hold on to something – anything – in an attempt to create that sense of security and certainty that I needed to feel safe in the world. In fact, that need was part of what drove my attachment towards my first husband. Sometimes I wish that hindsight could be aimed forwards.

At some point, most of us experience that sense of life pulling the rug from beneath our feet. We reach out. And grab on.
Only to realize much later that we’re still holding on long after it’s time to let go.

The following are possible signs that you’re still holding on when perhaps it is time to let go:

The person, object or situation no longer brings you joy or fulfills a purpose.

The first hosta that I planted in my old front yard brought me endless pleasure. I admired its immense green span when I pulled into the driveway and marveled at the unfurling of its new leaves. As the sun intensified over the ensuing weeks, the once-pristine leaves began to brown, turning shriveled and deformed in the face of the sun’s relentless beating. The plant no longer brought me joy. Instead, the sight of the failing foliage brought me guilt and shame and frustration. Even as I refused to admit defeat and replace it with something more suitable.
We all have a tendency to that, to stubbornly hold on to our choices even when we no longer find joy or usefulness with our selection. Life’s too short for placeholders and clutter. If it doesn’t bring joy (to you or someone else) or fulfill a purpose, why continue to hold on?

You show signs of anxiety when you consider letting go that are out of proportion with the actual loss.

Have you ever removed a pacifier, favored toy or security blanket from the hands of young child? Did they act as though you were threatening their very existence? This just goes to show how easily we assign great meaning to things that can be relatively inconsequential.
We use these things – whether people or items – much like first responders use gauze to pack a wound. We stuff them in around the bleeding spaces in an attempt to halt the flow of emotion. Their presence means that we don’t have to examine the wound. And we fear that if we remove them, we will succumb to the underlying injury.

The opportunity cost is beginning to be a burden.

I was in contact with a person who was in an on-again, off-again relationship. They were torn. On the one hand, they were afraid of being alone and were appreciative of the positive aspects of this particular partner. On the other hand, there were significant communication struggles and work that both needed to do to past this. Ultimately, this person decided to move on – literally – because continuing to say “yes” to this relationship meant saying “no” to many exciting opportunities that were presenting themselves.

Whenever you are holding on to one thing, you are preventing yourself from holding on to something else. Are you finding that you have goals that you cannot seem to meet because your attention is still directed towards this other thing? Are your hands too full to pick up what you desire?

You find yourself making excuses and becoming defensive when questioned.

My need for my ex husband was extreme. So extreme that I was not able to face the thought of losing him, much less confront the reality of who he was. I made excuses for his excuses and defended him to myself and others. And the one time someone asked if I was afraid about infidelity while he travelled? Let’s just say that they never tried to bring it up again.

We often feed ourselves the narrative that we’ve made choices and now we have to live with them because it’s easier than facing the fact that maybe we made the wrong choice and we have the power to change it. Denial is powerful and it puts up quite the fight when it feels threatened. As such, when you feel yourself gearing up for a battle when there are no weapons drawn, it’s a sign that you may be grasping onto something that would be better off released.

The fear of the leap is the only thing in your way.

It’s scary to take a leap of faith.

The thought of letting go when you fear that you may plummet seems like a fool’s mission.

Yet if you’re always holding on, you’ll never know what you can reach.

Lisa Arends is a moved-forward, re-center, re-purpose divorcee working to inspire others to do so as well. She has written the “How-To-Thrive Guide.” You can learn more about “thriving” and get other inspirations at her blog,

Narcissists’ and Abusers’ Lethal Weapon Targeting Empaths: Projection

Projection is a defense mechanism commonly used by abusers, including people with narcissistic or borderline personality disorder and addicts. Basically, they say, “It’s not me, it’s you!” When we project, we’re defending ourselves against unconscious impulses or traits, either positive or negative, that we’ve denied in ourselves. Instead we attribute them to others. Our thoughts or feelings about someone or something are too uncomfortable to acknowledge. In our mind we believe that the thought or emotion originates from that other person or thing.

We might imagine “She hates me,” when we actually hate her. We might think someone else is angry or judgmental, yet are unaware that we are. Similar to projection is externalization, when we blame others for our problems rather than taking responsibility for our part in causing them. It makes us feel like a victim. Addicts often blame their drinking or drug use on their spouse or boss.

Our coping strategies reflect our emotional maturity. Projection is considered a primitive defense because it distorts or ignores reality in order for us to function and preserve our ego. It’s reactive, without forethought, and is defense children use. When used by adults, it reveals less emotional maturity and indicates impaired emotional development.


Klein famously said that a mother must be able to love her child even as it bites her breast, meaning that a good mother, like a good therapist, with appropriate boundaries and self-esteem, won’t react to the anger and projected badness from her baby. She will love her baby nonetheless. If instead we had a mother who reacted with anger or withdrawal, her boundaries were weak, and a child’s are naturally porous. We absorbed our mother’s reaction, as if it was a negative statement about our worth and lovability. We developed weak boundaries and shame ourselves. The mother-infant bond may have become negative.

The same thing can happen with a father’s reactions, because a child needs to feel loved and accepted unconditionally by both parents. We can grow up with shame-based beliefs about ourselves and are set up to be manipulated and abused. Moreover, if one of our parents is a narcissist or abuser, his or her feelings and needs, particularly emotional needs, will come first. As a result of shame, we learn ours are unimportant. We adapt and become codependent.


It’s common for codependents to have internalized or toxic shame and strong inner critic. As a result, we will find fault with others just as we do with ourselves, often about the same characteristics. We might project our critic onto others and think they’re criticizing us, when in fact it’s our own self-judgment that is being activated. We assume people will judge and not accept us, because we judge and don’t accept ourselves. The more we accept ourselves, the more comfortable we are with others. We’re not self-conscious thinking that they’re judging us.

Declining Self-Esteem

In an adult relationship with an abuser or addict, you may not believe you have any rights. Naturally, you go along or put your partner’s needs and feelings, sometimes self-sacrificing at great lengths to please and avoid conflict. Your self-esteem and independence steadily decline. As your partner behaves like a king or queen, you become increasingly dependent, even though your needs aren’t being fulfilled.  This allows your partner to easily manipulate, abuse, and exploit you. Your self-doubt grows as your partner projects more shame and criticism onto you.

Meanwhile, you accept the blame and try to be more understanding in the relationship. In vain attempts to win approval and stay connected, you thread on eggshells, fearful of your partner’s displeasure and criticism. You worry what he or she will think or do and become preoccupied with the relationship. You stay to prevent your greatest fear—abandonment and rejection and losing hope of finding lasting love. You may begin to believe that no one would want you or that the grass isn’t greener. Your partner might even say that in an attempt to project their shame and fear onto you. After whittling down your self-esteem, you’re prime to believe it’s true.

Projective Identification

When we have a strong sense of self and self-esteem, we have healthy boundaries. When someone projects something onto us, it bounces off. We don’t take it personally, because we realize it’s untrue or merely a statement about the speaker. A good slogan to remember is QTIP, “Quit taking it personally!”

However, when we have low self-esteem or are sensitive about a specific issue, such as our looks or intelligence, we are susceptible to believing a projection as a fact. We introject the projection. This is because internally we agree with it. It sticks like a magnet, and we believe it’s true. Then we react to the shaming and compound our relationship problems. Doing so validates the abusers’ ideas about us and gives them authority and control. We’re sending the message that they have power over our self-esteem and the right to approve of us.

Responding to Projection

A projector may exert enormous pressure on you to accept the projection. If you’re empathic, you’re more open, less psychologically defended. If you also have poor boundaries, as described above, you may absorb a projection more easily and identify with them as your own trait.

Understanding how projective identification works is crucial for self-protection. Recognizing the defense can be a valuable tool, for it’s a window into the unconscious mind of an abuser. We can actually experience what he or she is feeling and thinking. Armed with this knowledge, if someone shames us, we realize that he or she is reacting to his or he own shame. It can give us empathy, which is helpful, provided we have good self-esteem and empathy for ourselves! Building self-esteem by disarming our inner critic are our first defense against projection.


Still, you may feel baffled about what to do. When someone projects onto you, simply set a boundary. This gives the projection back to the speaker. You’re establishing a force field – an invisible wall. Say something like one of the following:

“I don’t see it that way.”

“I disagree.”

“I don’t take responsibility for that.”

“That’s your opinion.”

It’s important not to argue or defend yourself, because that gives credence to the projector’s false reality. If the abuser persists, you can say, “We simply disagree,” and leave the conversation. The projector will have to stew in his or he own negative feelings. See “Do’s and Don’ts in Confronting Abuse.” Learn how to communicate with a narcissist in Dealing with a Narcissist and how to overcome toxic shame in Conquering Shame and Codependency.

© Darlene Lancer 2019

Author of Codependency for Dummies and Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You


10 Steps to Self-Esteem

Dealing with a Narcissist: 8 Steps to Raise Self-Esteem and Set Boundaries with Difficult People

How To Speak Your Mind – Become Assertive and Set Limits and webinar How to Be Assertive

Breakup Recovery

“I’m Not Perfect – I’m Only Human” – How to Beat Perfectionism

Spiritual Transformation in the Twelve Steps

Freedom from Guilt and Blame – Finding Self-Forgiveness

Codependency’s Recovery Daily Reflections

How to Raise Your Self-Esteem

Self-Love Meditation

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Understanding Your Love Languages

By Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

According to author Gary Chapman, couples will communicate more effectively and feel happier if they gain insight into their primary way of desiring expressions of love. They can also ask their partner to demonstrate love in this fashion. He explains that deep inside every hurting couple exists an invisible “emotional love tank” which has its gauge on empty. Chapman explains that the miscommunication, criticism, harsh words, and withdrawal that goes on between couples occurs because of one or both of their empty love tanks.

In order to keep your “emotional love tank” full, Chapman believes you need to identify your primary love language. First, ask yourself: what does my spouse do or fail to do that hurts me most deeply? The opposite of what hurts you most is probably your love language. Then, ask yourself: what have I most often requested from my partner? For example, if you are most likely to request time with him or her, your love language is most likely “Quality Time.”

Finally, your method of expressing love is an indication of what will make you feel loved in return.  In The Five Languages of Love, Chapman explains that people have a tendency to desire and express love in one of five ways:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch

Chapman suggests that spouses need more sensitivity so they can help to keep their partners “emotional love tank” full. For instance, Tim has learned to ask Laura for a hug. His primary love language is “Physical Touch,” and this brings him satisfaction. Laura has become aware of his strong desire for affection, and she’s actively trying to be more receptive to his physical gestures and even spontaneously embraces him or holds his hand when they take a walk around their neighborhood.

Likewise, since Laura’s primary love language is “Acts of Service,” she likes to prepare food for Tim and also appreciates it when he offers to repair her car or things that break around their home. These are wonderful gestures that they can both do to show love to each other.

Quality time with a partner can become a ritual for couples. Examples are eating meals together or going for a daily walk. All of these things cement positive communication. Comments such as “I appreciate how thoughtful you were when you made me dinner” are ways to express love to partners who desire “Words of affirmation.” Finally, gifts can include small tokens of appreciation such as notes, flowers, and handmade crafts.

Honoring Your Love Language Through Physical Touch

Physical touch is a powerful way to promote positive communication and to show your love and affection to your partner. It’s important for couples to connect through touch that is non-sexual on a daily basis. A loving touch is completely different from a sexual touch, and when people confuse the two, it can be detrimental to a marriage. For example, if a couple isn’t getting along and a partner attempts to have sex, it is like saying, “I don’t like you, but I want to have sex with you to satisfy my needs.” Yet, when partners frequently touch each other in non-sexual ways, it conveys tenderness and love.

Further, “Physical Reconnect” can enhance sexual intimacy and also communicate love. When you give an intimate kiss to your partner, it’s not just about the meeting of your lips. It usually involves touching with other parts of your bodies, hand on cheek; hand on hair, offering an embrace. Having an additional point of contact during a kiss with your partner creates a deeper sense of emotional attunement and intimacy.

In this scenario, Tim comes home and Laura is watching a TV show and she invites him to cuddle on the couch. They share a loving, intimate moment when they kiss and embrace briefly. Then, Tim runs into the kitchen and makes himself a snack. Then Laura mutes the TV, tells Tim that her show is almost over, and invites him to go for a power walk before they pick up his daughters at gymnastics. Tim has never objected to Laura watching her 4pm talk show. Since she works at home, Laura’s need to take a break is not a problem and by itself does not negatively affect their relationship.

The underlying message that Laura is communicating to Tim in this scenario when she turns toward Tim and invites him to go for a walk, is that she is interested in him but just wants to watch the end of her TV show. Due to his strong need for physical touch and experiencing a difficult day, Tim’s feelings are raw and he feels satisfied by Laura’s offer to cuddle and go for a walk. With some sensitivity to each other’s different love languages and personalities, Tim and Laura are learning to communicate more effectively and this will help to prevent huge misunderstandings or rifts in their degree of love and intimacy.

I would love to hear from you if you have any questions or comments. To find out more about her research, order her book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy Long-Lasting Relationship.

My new book, The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around, will be published by Sounds True in February of 2020 and can be pre-ordered here.