Reality Isn’t What You Think! How Cognitive Distortions Harm Us

By Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT

We all see reality through a personal lens shaped by our beliefs, culture, religion, and experiences. The movie Roshomon was a brilliant example of this, where three witnesses to a crime recount different versions of what happened. When couples argue, they usually can’t agree on the facts of what happened. Additionally, our mind tricks us according to what we think, believe, and feel. These are cognitive distortions that cause us unnecessary pain.

If you suffer from anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, or perfectionism, your thinking can skew your perceptions. Cognitive distortions reflect flawed thinking, often stemming from insecurity and low-self-esteem. Negative filters distort reality and can generate stressful emotions. Thoughts stir up feelings, which in turn trigger more negative thoughts, creating a negative feedback loop. If we act on our distorted perceptions, conflict ensues that can give rise to unintended negative consequences.

Cognitive Distortions

Being able to identify cognitive distortions builds our capacity to be mindful. Some are listed below:

  • Negative filtering
  • Magnification
  • Labeling
  • Personalization
  • Black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking
  • Negative projections
  • Overgeneralizing

Self-Criticism

Self-criticism is the most pernicious aspect of codependency and low self-esteem. It distorts reality and your perception of yourself. It can make you feel guilty, flawed, and inadequate. Negative self-talk robs you of happiness, make you miserable, and can lead to depression and illness. It leads to negative filtering, which itself is considered a cognitive distortion. Self-criticism produces to other distortions, such as magnification and labeling, when you call yourself an idiot, a failure, a jerk, for example. (For 10 specific strategies for working with the critic, see 10 Steps to Self-Esteem: The Ultimate Guide to Stop Self-Criticism.)

Shame underlies destructive or chronic self-criticism and causes many cognitive distortions. You might find fault with your thoughts, words, deeds, and appearance, and perceive yourself and events in a negative manner that no one else would. Some beautiful and successful people see themselves as unattractive, mediocre, or failures, and cannot be persuaded otherwise. (See Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You.)

Magnification

Magnification is when we exaggerate our weaknesses or responsibilities. We can also inflate negative projections and potential risks. It’s also called catastrophizing, because we’re “making mountains out of molehills” or “blowing things out of proportion.” The underlying assumption is we won’t be able to handle what will happen. It’s driven by insecurity and anxiety and escalates them. Another distortion is minimization, when we downplay the importance of our attributes, skills, and positive thoughts, feelings, and events, such as compliments. We might magnify someone else’s looks or skills, while minimizing our own. If you’re in a group sharing, you might think everyone’s pitch was better than your own. Stop comparing. It’s self-shaming.

Personalization

Shame also underlies personalization. It’s when we take personal responsibility for things over which we have no control. We might also blame ourselves when anything bad happens as well as take the blame for things that happen to other people – even when it’s attributable to their own actions! We can end up always feeling guilty or like a victim. If you’re plagued by guilt, it may be a symptom of toxic shame. Take steps to analyze and free yourself of guilt. (See Freedom from Guilt: Finding Self-Forgiveness.)

Black and White Thinking

Do you think in absolutes? Things are all-or-nothing. You’re the best or the worst, right or wrong, good or bad. When you say always or never, it’s a clue that you may be thinking in absolutes. This involves magnification. If one thing goes wrong, we feel defeated. Why bother? “If I can’t do my entire workout, there’s no point to exercise at all.” There’s no gray and no flexibility.

Life is not a dichotomy. There are always extenuating circumstances. Situations are unique. What applies in one instance may not be appropriate in another. An all-or-nothing attitude can cause you to overdo or miss out on opportunities to improve and gradually attain your goals––how the tortoise beat the hare. Exercising for ten minutes or only some muscle groups has big health benefits, compared to doing nothing. There are health risks to overdoing, as well. If you believe you have to do everyone’s job, work overtime, and never ask for help, you will soon been drained, resentful, and eventually, ill.

Projecting the Negative

Self-criticism and shame generate anticipation of failing and rejection. Perfectionists also distort reality by assuming negative events or negative outcomes are more likely to occur than positive ones. This creates tremendous anxiety about failing, making mistakes, and being judged. The future looms as a dangerous threat, rather than a safe arena to explore and enjoy our lives. We may be projecting the unsafe home environment from our childhood and living as if it were happening now. We need to recruit a loving parent within us to shine the light of consciousness on our fears and reassure ourselves that we’re no longer powerless, have choices, and that there’s nothing to fear.

Overgeneralizing

Overgeneralizations are opinions or statements that go beyond the truth or are broader than specific instances. We might form a belief based on little evidence or only one example. We can jump from “Mary doesn’t like me,” to “Nobody likes me,” or “I’m not likable.” When we generalize about a group of people or gender, it’s usually false. For example, to say “Men are better at math than women,” is false because many women are better at math than many men are. When we use the words, “all” or “none,” “always” or “never,” we probably are making an overgeneralization, based on black-and-white thinking. Another overgeneralization is when we project the past onto the future. “I haven’t met anyone dating online,” so, “I won’t ever,” or “You can’t meet anyone through online dating.”

Perfectionists tend to overgeneralize by making global, negative attributions about themselves and about their negative projections. When we don’t measure up to our rigid, unrealistic standards, we not only think the worst of ourselves, we expect the worst will happen. If we spill our water at a dinner party, it’s not just an embarrassing accident; we’re mortified, and certain we made a clumsy fool of ourselves. We go one step further with a negative, projection and overgeneralize to imagine that everyone thinks the same, won’t like us, and won’t invite us again. To overcome perfectionism, see “I’m Not Perfect, I’m Only Human” – How to Beat Perfectionism.

©Darlene Lancer, 2018 All rights reserved

Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT

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

Ebooks:

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

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www.whatiscodependency.com

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What Your Children Need Most From You After a Divorce

After a divorce, children are prone to confusion, anxiety, sadness, and even anger. At such an early stage of life, it’s hard to process big changes. Something as significant as a divorce is almost certainly going to hit them hard.

They look to you for comfort and guidance, and it’s paramount that you have it ready for them.

No one’s suggesting it’s easy. But it is possible, and well worth the effort.

Here are the things your kids will need most from you after your divorce:

  1. Positivity

Even a mediocre attitude from a parent can become a breeding ground for a child’s doubts. They’ll need support from you–cheerful, optimistic, joyful support.

You probably won’t feel like it very much. In fact, you may not at all. Still, your kids need your smile, even when it’s hard to put on. They need you to give them hope for the future, even when you’d rather brood.

Save your sadness, your stress, and especially your anger for the appropriate audience. Yes, you’ll need to get it out, but your kids shouldn’t have to bear the burden.

For your kids, you must be a beacon of comfort. It isn’t easy, but it is right.

  1. A Stable Life

This is another one that can be tough for you. Keeping your kids out of your divorce means not interrupting their lives. The best way to do that is to provide them with a stable life.

In the wake of a divorce, you may be tempted to reset your whole life and start over. Your kids need the opposite.

A divorce is a major shakeup, especially in a young person’s life. It’s important to minimize any further changes. You want to keep their lives humming along on as smooth a track as possible.

Ideally, that means keeping them in the same home, social circles, and school.

It also means maintaining as much of their old habits as you can. From play dates and sleepovers to sports and more, they need as familiar a schedule as possible.

Help them form new friendships, too. Do whatever you can to encourage healthy social activity.

  1. A Unified Parenting Plan

We understand you probably don’t want to spend too much time with your ex. No one does.

But whether you like it or not, you and your former spouse must give your children balanced parenting. That means coordination–and cooperation.

Your kids will be dealing with enough confusion as it is without having to navigate conflicting parental styles. Work with your ex. Find common ground on how to raise your children.

You may not agree on everything. That’s okay. Take the time and effort to reach a compromise.

Remember: you aren’t doing this for yourself or your ex. You’re doing it for your children, and they’re worth the hassle.

  1. Constant Reassurance

It’s tough to overdo this one.

You know the divorce isn’t your kids fault. You know that it doesn’t affect your love for them. You know it all–but don’t assume your kids do, too. At least, not on their own.

Kids can be masters at hiding their feelings. Don’t wait for them to broach hard subjects. Ask them. Talk to them. Make sure they know they can always come to you and find an open line of communication.

Make sure they believe it.

You want them to bring their troubles to you the moment any pop into their little heads. No hesitation, no worry that they might be bothering you. Straight to mom or dad for answers, comfort, and boundless love.

You might think that’s the situation already. It may be, but it’s worth reinforcing again and again.

It’s not something you can remind them of too much.

  1. A Childhood

Childhood is about more than just being young. It’s playing, laughing, and running around with friends. It’s pizza parties and hide-and-go-seek.

It’s freedom, fun, and all the giggly joy they can stomach.

It’s lots of hard things, too, and it must happen in the right context. Plenty of rules and structure are important. But don’t let a divorce leave only the structure, only the rules, and only the tough love.

More than ever, your kids need to romp and play and have a blast. Divorce changes a lot, but it doesn’t make them something other than children, and every child needs a childhood.

A lot of that happens on its own, but they still need some help from you. That alone will go a long way to soothing any aching little hearts.

Deborah Bankhead is an Attorney at Varghese Summersett Family Law Group. Deborah believes compassion and patience are required of family law attorneys and she is a relentless advocate for families in crisis. In her spare time, Deborah volunteers to help teens interested in the legal field pursue their dreams and likes to hang out with her cat.



10 Ways to Steer Clear of Partners Who Are Wrong for You

By Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

Many people who are in unhealthy relationships ask themselves “Why do I attract partners who are all wrong for me?” Or, “How can I be sure to recognize destructive patterns in relationships and take steps to change them?”

Claire, a client who sought help with making better choices in romantic partners put it this way: “I have an instinct to “fix” every guy I date. My sister says I’m co-dependent and I say I tend to rescue troubled men. But when I try to turn their lives around it usually backfires — they break up with me. How can I change this dynamic?”

When I met with Claire for our second session I asked her: Ask yourself this question: Is there something about the way your partner treats you that makes you a bigger and better person? If the answer is no, ask yourself: Am I settling for less than I deserve in the relationship?

Too many of us settle for less than we deserve because we are afraid of being alone. If this is your tendency, gently remind yourself that you are a worthwhile person regardless of whether or not you are in a romantic relationship.

In my Huffington Post blog “7 Reasons Why It May Be a Good Idea To Stay Single” I write: “Very few people know how to be alone and do it well. They aren’t happy to be alone. They fear it and seek love wherever they go. Growing up, most of us weren’t given good examples of how to be alone. Everything we see in the media promotes how to find the right partner and make it work. But being alone can propel us to grow and learn about ourselves.”

The question of what’s more important in a healthy, long-lasting relationship — chemistry or compatibility — is a critical one when selecting a partner. Perhaps the first step in evaluating your past and present choices in partners is examining the difference between compatibility and chemistry.

1. Chemistry: This usually refers to physical attraction but can include intellectual attraction as well. It is about how interesting and stimulating you find the person. Do you enjoy each other’s touch and is their sexual chemistry? It’s essential because without it, you are little more than friends. Author Mira Kirshenbaum writes: “But you can’t say you have good chemistry unless you can say “I feel there’s real affection here.”

2. Compatibility: Is about sharing common values and goals, having fun together, and liking each other: it helps to sustain a couple through tough times. However, both chemistry and compatibility are essential to a long-lasting healthy intimate relationship.

If you find yourself attracted to partners that you don’t have chemistry and compatibility with, you may be inclined to have one-sided, unhealthy relationships. Perhaps you grew up in a family where you were a caretaker or focused more on making others happy. Maybe you even felt that you had to be in a good mood regardless of your true feelings.

According to relationship coach Lindsey Ellison, we are attracted to romantic partners who fill a void from our childhood. Perhaps repeating patterns from the past is our way of gaining mastering over unfinished business or looking for closure with the parent who wounded us.

Truth be told, women are especially prone to become involved in one-sided relationships because we were raised to be “good girls” — people pleasers who consistently put others needs before our own. Girls are often raised to tune out their inner voice and this can set the stage for one-sided relationships because they look for their partner to validate them.

10 ways to avoid relationships that are wrong for you:

1. Work on your fear of being alone. Many people settle for relationships that are wrong for them because they fear being single. Women are especially likely to feel stigma when they are not part of a couple.

2. Give thought to your deal breakers. According to Huffington Post Divorce editor, Brittany Wong, it’s important to ask yourself “What are your deal breakers – the laundry list of things you simply won’t tolerate in someone you’re thinking of getting serious with?” Try making a list of at least ten characteristics that are essential to you in a partner such as being active or affectionate.

3. Don’t settle for less than you deserve. When you compromise too many of the values that are important to you, these relationships usually fail. Focus on your deal breakers and pick a partner who is someone who you can share a life with and deepen your love with over time.

4. Seek a partner who you feel comfortable with and is easy to be vulnerable with. In other words, you can be yourself and don’t have to walk on eggshells. You feel safe in the relationship and free to express your thoughts, feelings, and desires openly without fear of rejection.

5. Set an expectation of mutual respect. You can accept, admire, and respect each other for who you are. If you don’t have respect for your partner, it will eat away at chemistry until you have nothing left. A partner who truly cares about you is a boost to your self-esteem. He or she values you, gives you compliments, and encourages you to do things that are in your best interest.

6. Notice if your partner keeps his/her agreements. Are they someone who you can trust because they demonstrate consistency between their words and actions? When someone is interested in you, they’ll keep their agreements.

7. Make sure your love interest carves out time for you on a regular basis – that he/she makes you a priority because they value your relationship. This includes regular text messages or phone calls to show that they’re thinking of you.

8. Pick a partner who makes plans to do things with you and includes you in his/her inner circle. If something special is going on in his/her life, they invite you and encourage you to come.

9. Seek a partner who you have both chemistry and compatibility with. Even if you meet someone who is not a heart-throb, be patient and see if your attraction grows over time. Look for qualities such as compassion, generosity, and consideration because these are characteristics that describe someone who is a dynamite long-term partner.

10. Select a partner who talks about your future together. If he or she says “I’m not ready for a commitment,” take him or her seriously — they’re just not that into you. Don’t waste your time on a relationship that doesn’t have a future.

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. Author Jill P. Weber writes: “The more you view others’ mistreatment of you as something you have the ability to fix, tweak, or amend, the harder it is to develop a positive sense of yourself. Seeing yourself exclusively from the eyes of others disconnects you from the day-to-day, moment to moment experience of your life.”

Follow Terry Gaspard on Twitter, Facebook, and movingpastdivorce.com

I’d love to read your comments on this page. Be sure to order our new book “Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship.”

This blog originally appeared on HuffingtonPost.com

 



3 Things You Must Do After Your Divorce

Divorce is scary, overwhelming, and challenging. People often panic right after their divorce is finalized because they are officially back on the market and back to being a individual instead of part of a couple. I understand that starting a new chapter is highly intimidating and stress inducing. But it doesn’t have to be like this.

The first year after your marriage can be a restorative one. You will be forced to overcome new obstacles, struggles, and emotions. However, these will all be experiences that teach you new lessons, bring you new friends, and open your eyes to new parts of the world. Even though it may seem scary, you will survive it and come out the other side.

If you’re unsure about what you should do after you file your divorce papers, I’ve got you covered. Here are 3 things to get you started.

1: Get Organized

This isn’t the most exciting first step, but it is a necessary one. Now that your divorce is final, it is important that you contact your divorce attorney and get all the paperwork and legal documents involved with it. Properly stow away bank or tax records that you might potentially need later in life.

Aternatively, put all your divorce papers in a place that you can’t see. Don’t put them in a place that you frequent. Looking at the papers could stir up unwanted emotions. You should also put your final divorce decree in a safety deposit box. It is possible that you’ll need these when you apply for health insurance or other benefits. Be sure to keep an electronic copy as well.

2: Find A New Hobby

After your divorce is finalized, it could feel like you suddenly have all the time in the world. Many people feel lonely and restless. Combat this by finding a new hobby to master. Pick something that you’ve been meaning to try and sign up for classes or lessons for it. It can be anything from joining the gym to learning how to crochet a sweater.

Be sure to pick a hobby that you are genuinely interested in. Go in with the intention to learn and do something for yourself. While finding new friends and potentially a new partner is an intriguing thought, this is an activity that should help you flourish and grow as an individual.

3: Travel to See A Friend

We all have friends that we always say we’ll visit but never do. Make the time now to see a good friend and immerse yourself in a new environment. It will be rewarding to spend some time with an old friend. Indulge in good food, fun experiences, and even a nice hotel. Treat yourself!

If you are unable to visit a friend, I highly recommend taking a weekend trip on your own. Traveling offers lessons and experiences that one can’t learn from anything else. You will learn how to love spending time with yourself. You will also get the luxury of eating where you want, doing what you want, and trying what you want. You do not need to take anyone else’s opinions into consideration on this trip.

It is not uncommon to feel unsure of yourself after going through a divorce. However, instead of feeling like you’ve lost a part of yourself or your life, try to remember that you’ve gained a new sense of freedom and independence. Get excited about the new opportunities and adventures that you are going to embark on. Don’t concentrate on the losses, concentrate on the wins. Remember, when one door closes, another one opens.

By Amanda Lin

Amanda Lin is a freelance writer based in San Diego. She enjoys writing about personal relationships, music, technology and more. When she isn’t writing, she is exploring the world and finding new restaurants to try.



One Dad’s Remarriage Journey

By Tommy Maloney

In 2008 I found myself getting divorced after a 6 year marriage. I was well aware of the problems my former wife and I were having. Even the couples therapist was shocked that we were ending the marriage. She was “shocked?”

My first priority was to my son and staying connected with him: since now we would not be in the same household. I learned to be a stay at home dad when the only training was “on the job” training. He and I had such a special bond. The divorce ruined me emotionally.

After the divorce the last thing on my mind was dating. All I wanted to do was cry, feel sorry for myself and figure out what red wine goes best with well, red wine. During this period of time my job was as a contracted software trainer. Essentially that meant I was on the road and only came back every other weekend from the road to see my son.

When my mom remarried, I was not expecting that my “bonus” dad would teach me lessons that I would need later in life. Before I go any further you might be asking what a bonus dad is? A bonus dad or mom is the same as a “step” parent but I have never been comfortable with the label of step. The word step in my mind created a negative image. Bonus just sounds friendlier. Don’t you agree?

My bonus dad moved in with us when I was around 17. He did not lay down the “it’s my way or the highway” rule. That was a huge parenting lesson that I would eventually use. He was very respectful and kind. He never raised his voice to me (or my mom). Just more lessons I would need in my own “tool box.”

My second wife (and current, can I say last as well?) and I met at a meeting that I was invited to. The organization was all about how to promote positive fatherhood in our state of Colorado. Many of the people in that room were running non-profit organizations. In my case, I was just trying to build my speaking business and promoting my first book. This was where I met my future wife.  As I stated previously, I was really not looking to date.

My relationship with my son was very important to me. If I was to date then it could mean time being taken away from my son and I did not want that to happen. Let me get very real here about me and dating. I have never been very good at it because of simply being rejected. When I thought of dating I did not want to date anyone who had kids. Plus this might sound a bit of an oxymoron but if I was to get back into the dating pool: I wanted to go younger. Well, there are no such things as coincidences in my opinion.

The future wife and I ended up at the same conference. This was very cool because I was starting to live my dream as a paid speaker. During the time of the conference, I was not what you call a true man of “faith.” The two of us kept bumping into each other and as I joke today; she was “stalking” me (in a fun flirting way, not a creepy way). Maybe God was “pushing” me towards her?

A month after that event she sent me an email asking if I would like to have coffee and talking about divorce and parenting. I was very honored because I knew my presentation at the conference went over like a lead balloon. Our chat lasted for three hours. The time could of gone even longer but she needed to pick up her daughters.

In 2012 we got married and yes to each other. As I have mentioned, I had skills unbeknownst to me that I would end up needing as I became a bonus dad.

  1. I know this is very controversial for many of you but it really helped our family become a successful blended family. My wife and I agreed that if the kids did not get along then we were not going to move on with the relationship. The first time the kids met we did it a neutral location: outdoor ice skating rink. If they did not like each other than no stress. In our case they did very much enjoy their future siblingness ( I know not a real word but go with it).
  2. As my bonus dad did by setting the tone, I did not set the rules my first day of moving in with the ladies. I let it organically grow. My wife has two daughters and as of this writing they are 21 and 16. The older one and I get along (more on that) and the 16 year old and I get along very well. The ladies and I created our own bonds. I was very much aware that I had to earn their respect not demand it. Again I learned from my own personal experiences with my bonus dad.
  3. I very much took an interest in the girls lives. When they were younger they both competed in gymnastics and soccer. I attend as many events I could.
  4. Have “The” talk. Not that “talk” but the one I am telling you is still not going to be comfortable. The older one needed a ride to church one night. She and I are very much a like in the sense of not liking serious conversations. However, I needed to be a big boy and let her know that I had zero intention of replacing her dad. The talk is about more of being a supporter. All I wanted to talk to her about was my commitment to her and her sister as best I can. Ya, that went over as well as, that balloon thing. I do feel that even if she did not straight up tell me, she understood my love for our family.
  5. Create individual moments. My son and I have our own things that we do together but so do the girls and I. One example was when I would pick up the younger one, she and I would stop once a week to get ice cream. The older one well: I asked to get her permission when it came time to ask her mom to marry me. We went for coffee and I showed her the ring. We both cried that day.

Overall is our household perfect because of the things we have done to become a family? Hell no. Heck, hash tag hell no. However, I truly believe that many of the skills I learned from my bonus dad have helped create our blended family. My son has always come first and back in 2012 he was right there next to me at the wedding.

For you and your family my hope is that reading this blog will help you become a successful family. The true bottom line is that it is all about the kids and their needs.

Tommy Maloney

TEDx Talk: https://youtu.be/azG2K47iz4Q

Blog: http://blendingthefamily.com/blog/

Podcast: http://blendingthefamily.libsyn.com/

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/tommy-maloney/id958223196?mt=2

Stitcher: http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/tommy-maloney/blending-the-family

Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/thetommymaloney

Tumblr: https://coralbayspirits.tumblr.com/

Calendly: calendly.com/thomasdmalone

 



10 Reasons Marriage Can Be Better the Second Time Around

How can couples avoid the pitfalls that prevent the success of a second marriage? The key ingredients to a successful remarriage are selecting a partner who is a good match for you and both partners willingness to work through the inevitable hard times of marriage. With courage and persistence, you can defy the statistics that say your second marriage is doomed to fail and enjoy long-lasting love.

It’s normal to feel disillusioned about marriage if you’ve endured a divorce and gone through emotional pain and perhaps some financial loss. Then there’s the available census data telling us that second marriages have a 65% divorce rate compared to 50% for first time marriages.

But in spite of these facts, you might decide that you’re up for the challenge that comes with a second marriage. However, it’s key to pause and examine what went wrong in your first marriage – and create a vision for a successful second one.

Janette put it like this “I’ve learned that marriage is a work in progress and that you get out of it what you put in. I feel very connected with my husband and we’re working hard at keeping that connection.”

Janette and Todd have been remarried for seventeen years and each have two children (now grown) from their first marriages. It wasn’t always easy to blend their four children and they dealt with rivalries between their kids. Todd’s daughter never really warmed up to Janette but their relationship has improved over time. As his daughter Kristin has matured, she’s more willing to see that stepmoms often have a challenging role and that Janette wants to be her friend rather than to compete with her mother.

Truth be told, working as a team and creating a second marriage built on a foundation of tolerance, respect, and dedication to each other are essential to a lifetime of love. Todd says “We are a team and work together for the happiness of the entire family. We have mutual respect for each other and we know that we will be there for each other through all of the ups and downs.”

Create a New Vision for Your Remarriage

Creating a positive vision for remarriage is an important first step to making your second marriage a success. Everyone has baggage that can cause them to sabotage a new relationship if they haven’t healed and worked through the issues that contributed to the demise of their first marriage.

Add to that baggage from your first marriage is the realization that there are often a lot more players in a second marriage, such as kids from former spouses, stepkids and sometimes even new kids from this union.

Taking your time to decide the kind of marriage that would work for you can be a silver lining to divorce because you’ll be more likely to go into your second marriage with realistic expectations. And the fact of the matter is that you can create a happy second marriage if you give yourself permission to be vulnerable and take risks.

10 reasons second marriages are better:

  • You have a clearer vision about what you want from a relationship. Divorce has taught you what relationship dynamic promotes your best self. A second marriage is an opportunity to approach commitment with your eyes wide open.
  • You are making a decision based on strength and choice rather than fear of being alone. For instance, you may have felt a nagging doubt about tying the knot with your ex-spouse, but proceeded anyway due to feelings of obligation or fear of being alone.
  •  You’ve learned to take responsibility for your part in the conflict or dispute. One person’s ability to do this can change the dynamic of the relationship. Drs. Julie and John Gottman write: “one person’s response will literally change the brain waves of the other person.” Apologize to your partner when appropriate. This will validate their feelings and promote forgiveness and allow you both to move on. Love is not enough. Saying you’re sorry can heal a wound even when you didn’t hurt your partner’s feelings intentionally. Resentment builds over time if couples aren’t able to talk about hurt feelings that arise from unresolved grievances.
  • You are smarter about love. Since you’ve learned from the past, you’re less likely to repeat it. And you’ve learned to separate the past from the present and have begun to live in the present. Therapy and/or keeping a journal can help you achieve these objectives.
  • You can allow yourself to take risks and be vulnerable with your partner. Healthy relationships don’t come without risk – so you freely extend to trust to your partner by expressing your thoughts, feelings, and wishes. Since you no longer have to walk on eggshells, you feel more relaxed on a daily basis.
  • You’ve learned the value of having realistic expectations about a spouse. Your partner is not going to change. In other words, you can’t change a cat into a dog. Love just isn’t enough to significantly alter a person’s basic nature and upbringing. For instance, if you fall in love with someone who is reserved and you need outward signs of affection to feel secure, you’ll feel chronically dissatisfied. Most likely, these differences will probably erode loving feelings over time and diminish positive interactions in your relationship.
  • Rather than trying to “fix’ your partner, you focus on improving your own life. Many individuals focus on changing their partner and avoid dealing with their own issues. Rather than investing your energy into fixing your partner, you’ve made a commitment to improve some of your undesirable traits – since we’re all flawed in some way.
  • You’ve learned to communicate honestly about key issues in your relationshipSweeping things under the rug usually doesn’t reap good results. In your second marriage, you make sure to be forthcoming about your concerns and express thoughts, feelings, and wishes in a respectful way. Challenging your beliefs and self-defeating thoughts help you to let go of hurt feelings. When we listen to our partner’s side of the story and process it briefly with them, we no longer need to hold onto hurt feelings.
  • You practice forgiveness on a daily basis. As a resultyou apologize to your partner when appropriate and accept his or her apologies. This validates their feelings and promotes good will. Forgiveness is not the same as condoning the hurt done to you but it will allow you to move on.
  • You’re confident about your choice in a partner and your desire for a life partner comes from a place of strength rather than neediness. You’ve discovered that marriage will never be your sole source of happiness so you pursue your dreams to the best of your ability. However, you’re dedicated to your partner and have an optimistic long-term view of your marriage.

The best way to beat the odds and see your remarriage succeed is to risk being vulnerable with your partner and create a positive vision for your second marriage. Determination, respect, acceptance, and tolerance will greatly improve your chances of success in a second marriage.

Terry’s new book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome The Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship can be found here. This blog was originally posted on Huffington Post.



5 Ways to Know Your Kids Are Adapting Well to Your Divorce

By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC

As a divorced parent you owe it to your children to diligently watch their behavior, listen to their conversations and be aware of any changes that may be due to challenges related to the divorce. Children can adapt well to life after divorce. But it’s up to you to catch signs they may be confused, anxious, insecure or in other ways having problems in their new reality.

Here are 5 ways to know your children are doing well, despite your divorce:

  1. They continue to thrive at school

When school grades fall or aggressive behavior develops, parents need to be proactive and not wait on the sidelines. Conversations with teachers and school counselors can give you a better perspective on your child’s needs. Don’t hesitate to talk to your children as well to learn more about what’s going on and how they feel about the changes and new challenges in their lives. It’s imperative that you listen and not lecture. Allow them to vent so they feel heard. Only then can you be helpful in finding useful solutions.

  1. They’re making and keeping friends

If your children drop close friendships following your divorce they may be feeling shame, anger, embarrassment, guilt or other negative emotions. Some kids feel helpless at home and express these frustrations with classmates and friends. They may be misunderstood or rejected by these friends at a time when support is most needed. Giving them access to a compassionate child therapist can be helpful for them – and for you.

  1. They can talk about the divorce without high emotions

If your children are not intimidated or afraid to talk to you about the divorce, their other parent and time spent with them, that’s a good sign. It usually shows a healthy level of adjustment. Usually it also means both parents understand the importance of keeping lines of communication open. Mature parents don’t compete for their children’s approval or attention and they’re aware of the dangers of making kids feel guilty or shameful for loving their other parent.

  1. Their activity level hasn’t changed

Well-adjusted children have energy for after-school clubs, sports and other programs. If your child opts out of activities they used to enjoy, be aware. Usually that’s a sign that they are having coping issues with changes in family life. It’s wise to talk with a counselor and get involved with a support group for help before things progress in more negative directions.

  1. There are no new signs of depression, aggression or acting out

Kids who handle divorce well are comfortable with themselves and others. They behave with compassion and sensitivity to other children who may be hurting. Children coping with emotional issues and low self-esteem often show signs of depression, lethargy or age-regression such as bed-wetting. Others may act out aggressively with siblings, friends – even their pets. They lose their capacity for empathy and caring for others. This is a red flag warning that they may be in emotional distress and need a strong support system. Bring in school guidance counselors, co-parenting coaches and other mental health professionals to help you provide this safety net.

Parents who demonstrate a healthy attitude about their divorce usually have children who cope better. Never take for granted that the divorce is not affecting your child. Be diligent in watching for signs of problems. If issues arise, seek professional help immediately. That can make the difference between temporary setbacks and real long-term issues that create emotional and psychological problems with life-long consequences.

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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a 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!  Her innovative approach guides parents in creating a personal family storybook, using fill-in-the-blank templates, family history and photos, as an effective way to break the news with optimum results. To get Rosalind’s free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting, advice, tips, Coaching services and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, visit http://www.childcentereddivorce.com.

 



Sharing Custody: How to Keep Kids Comfortable

By Amanda Lin

Having two places to call home can cause confusion and be a major adjustment to children. This is especially true when a family is going through a separation or divorce. Sharing custody and moving into a new household can severely change a child’s routine, causing them to feel disrupted and in most cases, upset or disoriented. Coupling these two changes together will often result in a challenging time for everyone. Luckily, there a few things that you can do to help smooth this transition.

Here are 4 ways to keep your kids comfortable in two homes when sharing custody.

4 Tips to Help Your Kids Adjust to Two Households

Before we dive into the tips, it’s important to mention this key information and advice. While you and your former spouse may be experiencing an array of arguments and custody agreements, it’s important to stay united around and in front of your children. Kids pick up on things rather quickly and will know when there is tension or anger in the air. This can cause them to act out in anger as well.

You should always show respect to the other parent when you are doing a drop off at their household. Try not to belittle their activities, living circumstances, or decisions. Your child will pick up on the disrespect and could react in an unfavorable way.

Lastly, never use your child as a medium for communication. Try to avoid using them to relay messages or using them as a way to find out information on your ex. Speak directly to the other parent to mediate any issues or concerns.

Tip 1: Get Your Child Involved

Transform the idea of moving from fear to fun by letting your child have a say in their new bedroom if you are the parent who has moved out. Allow them to pick out the colors of their walls, decor, and bed sheets. This will help build their excitement about visiting their new room. Doing this will also allow your child to feel as if they have more control in the situation. This is important since everything else around them is changing without their consent.

Tip 2: Give the Room Some Familiarity

Too much newness can be a bit daunting and overwhelming for a child. Help them adjust to their new surroundings by bringing or repurchasing a few of their favorite toys or decor pieces from home. This will help them feel more comfortable and more at home. If possible, talk to your ex about items that could easily be transported between homes. Packing a few of their favorite toys is often a good solution to this problem.

Tip 3: Establish a Consistent Calendar

Since your child’s routine has been disrupted, the first thing to do is try to give them a new one. Establish a clear and consistent calendar with the other parent and work hard not to switch off any days. Your child should have an exact idea of when they will see you next so that they can get excited and ready to change households. Help your child feel more secure by having a dependable schedule.

Tip 4: Don’t Compete With One Another

If you’re the parent who remains at the original home, it may be hard to hear your child talk about their new room, home, or neighborhood. Don’t use this as an opportunity to compete with your ex. Which means you shouldn’t give your child’s room a makeover or buy them new toys. Your child doesn’t need anymore change right now.

Alternatively, you should try to offer words of support and excitement to your child when they tell you about their new room at their other parent’s home. This is part of putting your child first and showing them that you and your ex will always be united when it comes to them.

Remember, during tough times like these, reassurance is key. Constantly remind your child of your love and support for them. Transitioning into a sharing custody routine will not be easy on either of you, but following these tips will make the process easier.

“Amanda Lin is a content writer, currently writing for Steven D. Miller, P.A. She has written about personal relationships, technology, and music for a variety of verticals. In her free time, she loves to travel, go hiking, and try new restaurants.”



Divorce Report 2018: The Human Side

We all know the divorce rate is high, though it’s thankfully not as high as the 50% we often hear. It’s actually lower but the exact number varies depending on the study. Since divorce is still a common problem and grey divorce (among people over age 50) is on the rise, WP Diamonds decided to do some research on the human side of divorce. To that end, they conducted a survey of 1,018 divorcées in the United States and asked them about their personal experiences and insights.

Study: The Basics

The average age of participants was 23.2 years old when they first married and 38.7 when they separated, making 15.5 years the average length of a marriage. Notably, those who married under 25 stayed married longer (16.8 years) than those who got hitched when they were older (11.3 years).

 Why Divorce?
‘We just didn’t love each other anymore’ say one in five when asked why they got divorced. But the number one reason turned out to be communication problems, though this seems to be a more important reason for younger participants. One in four who married before 25 names it, compared to only one in five who married after 36. So, what does it mean exactly? Well, turns out ‘communication problems’ is a euphemism for some seriously toxic forms of interaction: contempt, criticizing the other’s personality, defensiveness and stonewalling (not communicating at all).

For 24% of those who married under 25, infidelity was a factor. After that, the other main motivators cited for divorce are: the inability to resolve conflict (22.2%), incompatible life goals (10.2%), lack of individual freedom (12.6%) and financial problems (12.6%). Domestic violence was given as a reason by 3.5%, though unfortunately that relatively low number doesn’t mirror data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

 Selling the Wedding Ring
Since 49% of respondents said their separation cost more than $10,000 (the longer the marriage, the costlier the divorce), it’s no wonder many divorcées look for creative ways to bulk up their bank accounts. Interestingly enough, the majority of the participants sold jewelry (the old wedding ring as a symbolic gesture perhaps), clothes and other personal belongings. Women also preferred to borrow money from friends if necessary, whereas men would rather go to the bank for a loan.

 Seeking Help
Most participants sought help from a lawyer (40%) and one in four considered visiting a therapist to navigate the emotional stages of separation. Those people seeking therapy reported dealing with aspects of grief: denial, pain, uncertainty, anger, bargaining, guilt, depression and acceptance.

Tying the Knot, Again
But to end on a positive note, all this hasn’t made us lose our faith in marriage at all. Only 9% of respondents said they would never marry again, compared to almost three-fourths who said they would consider getting remarried or had already even tied the knot for a second or third time!

By Dorien Dijkwel

 Want to know more? Go to https://www.wpdiamonds.com/divorce-report-2018/



Why Divorce is so Hard on Children

To many parents seeking divorce, the final divorce decree can be a very welcome relief from stress and anxiety. The divorce process often emphasizes tension between spouses, and the hassle of attending court hearings or lawyer meetings can cause significant fissures to parents’ every-day schedules and routines. For these reasons, finalizing a divorce can feel as though a significant weight has been removed. To children, however, the finality of divorce can feel like the exact opposite.

Regardless of age, divorce causes significant stress on children. Even infants can feel the tension of divorcing parents, which can lead to irritability and clinginess starting at a very early age. To children, the divorce process can start well before their parents actually file for the divorce itself. For many, especially younger children, the parent’s decision to seek divorce may feel like a result of the child’s own actions. These unfound feelings of blame a child may experience can manifest themselves in negative responses such as regression, fear of abandonment, and trouble sleeping.

For children, divorce is a complete upheaval of their daily lives. Children who have spent their entire lives in a two-parent household are now being forced to split their time with each parent. It is common for children to worry that the non-custodial parent may stop loving them or disappear entirely, because it is hard for children to comprehend the reasoning behind it all. This is especially difficult considering that Courts inherently (and for good reason) avoid including children in divorce proceedings. Although Courts rarely heed the requests of children, it is not unheard of for the child’s wishes to be heard. In many amicable divorces, parents participate in mediation and arbitration to discuss whether the child’s wishes should be involved in the proceedings, often to everyone’s mutual benefit.

Along the same vein, children generally do not experience the same relief a parent may feel after a long and difficult custody battle finally comes to a conclusion. To parents, final divorce papers may be a welcome end to an arduous process. But children have to live with the result of the divorce for the rest of their lives.  For younger children that feel that the divorce is a result of something they did personally, the finality of the divorce may create even more stress. This stress can ultimately lead to intense feelings of guilt, depression, and may cause the child to experience continuing problems with trusting others.

On the other hand, older children, who have a better understanding of what a divorce realistically means for their family and their daily lives, may feel as though it is their duty to salvage the marriage themselves. This can create significant problems down the road, when the child realizes that they cannot bring their parents back together. The final divorce decree can create a feeling of helplessness within children who believe they, alone, can solve their parents’ marriage problems. Unfortunately this means that the conclusion of the divorce may actually be the most difficult part of the process.

Children react differently to divorces based on a number of factors such as age, gender, and disposition. It is not uncommon for boys to become more aggressive and start fighting with other children at school. However for girls, aggression is often exchanged for depression and anxiety. Younger children often need more coddling and attention. Older children may reject affection altogether, as it may be hard for an older child to reconcile seeing the love of between their parents fade.

Understanding the reasons why a child is having a hard time coping with divorce is the first step to understanding how to properly react to the stress. One of the easiest things a parent can do is to talk with their child about the things that are bothering them. Establishing with a child early-on that the divorce is not their fault is vital. For parents of children who feel it is their job to fix the marriage, having an open and honest discussion about the aspects of the divorce that a child can and cannot control can be very helpful. Another helpful option is counseling, which can help a child throughout the divorce by providing a means for the child to communicate without favoring one parent.

Parents can easily get caught up in their own stress during a divorce, but it is important to be aware of the potential problems children may face as a result of the divorce as well. Being aware of why a child is reacting one way or another is extremely helpful towards working through the overall problem. For this reason, understanding why divorce is particularly hard for children is one of the keys to helping said children cope with the stress they are experiencing themselves.

Bio: Trevor McDonald is a freelance content writer, currently writing for Crouse Law Group. He’s written a variety of education, travel, health, and lifestyle articles for many different companies. In his free time, you can find him playing his guitar or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.