Unpacking Emotional Intimacy

By Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

One of the keys to long-term happiness in any relationship is emotional intimacy. After the “honeymoon phase” for a new couple wears off, the emotional bonds that hold partners together become a sustaining force beyond their physical attraction.

Experiencing emotional intimacy with a partner is one of the most satisfying experiences in life. For many couples, it’s almost as if they’re on a tightrope and balancing feelings of security with tension. This can cause them to experience anxiety when they are off balance but create a sense of calm when they are in harmony with each other.

In Hold Me Tight, Dr. Johnson explains: “To stay on the rope we must shift with each other’s moves, respond with each other’s emotions. As we connect, we balance each other. We’re in emotional equilibrium.” This may be especially true of couples who don’t share a long history of responding to bids for connection and learning to trust each other.

According to Dr. John Gottman, a tendency to turn toward your partner is the foundation of trust, love, and establishing intimacy. After studying thousands of couples over 40 years, he discovered that we have three ways of responding to our partner’s overtures and that turning towards your partner is an incredible way to deepen intimacy.

 Bid examples:

“Did you notice that I washed the cars when you came home?”

Turning Towards Response

This type of response enhances your emotional bond with your partner.

  • “I didn’t notice you washed my car. Thanks for telling me so I can check it out.”

Turning Against Responses

Another option is to turn against your partner’s bid for attention, be defensive, or shut them down.

  • Why do you always want credit for doing things around here?

Turning Away Responses

This last option can create disconnection and resentment between partners.

  • Turn on your computer when your partner makes a request or starts a conversation.

For instance, Tim, 43, and Jenny, 40, a remarried couple living in a stepfamily, are beginning to understand the importance of responding to each other’s bids for connection by “Turning Towards” each other. By sharing emotions and affection with one another, this couple became more intimate.

Tim reflects: When I’ve had a tough day at work and can look forward to spending time with Jenny unwinding at the end of the day, it helps lower my stress level. I used to feel that we were missing the mark, but lately we’re more in tune with each other’s day. I tell Jenny to let me know if she wants me to grab take-out on the way home so we can have more time to relax.”

Emotional intimacy can only occur when two people are devoted to taking total responsibility for their own feelings and needs. Couples must be aware of their personal experience in the moment and committed to working together as a team. It’s not possible to for a couple to do this without having a deep emotional connection. Ideally, both partners need to talk about their feelings in terms of positive need, instead of what they don’t need. Positive need is a recipe for success by the listener and the speaker because it conveys information and requests without criticism and blame.

In this example Jenny tells Tim what she needs without pointing out his faults or what he’s doing wrong. She put it like this: “I feel happier when you ask me what I have planned and give me a suggestion like “Can we eat dinner together and watch a movie Friday? This words much better for me that when you accuse me of being a workaholic or not spending enough time with you.”

When couples like Tim and Jenny can say what they need in a specific way, why they feel that way, and avoid being critical and making pointing their fingers at one another, this strengthens their bond.

In a recent article for The Good Men Project’s website, writer Raymond Michael, breakdowns the components of emotional intimacy and offers insight into how to maintain that closeness as couples grow together in a relationship.

Michael defines emotional intimacy as “more of a ‘feeling’ thing,” writing that “it involves a perception of being close to someone. This often creates feelings of being supported, comforted, and loved by that individual.” Building this quality for a couple requires sharing our “deepest vulnerabilities without the fear of judgement.” But beyond establishing trust, Michael lays out a roadmap to maintaining that closeness, and ensuring a successful, long-lasting union.

First, Michael argues that couples should be committed to sustaining “self-revealing behavior” — essentially, the “willingness to drop your defenses.” Next, couples should be mentally and emotionally present during their time together, or what Michael calls “positive interaction.”

Another tenet of fostering emotional intimacy is cultivating a “shared understanding” with your partner. In other words, developing a shared view of the world and a common experience, or as Michael puts it, “knowing or understanding aspects of the other spouse’s inner experiences… [and] knowledge of their private thoughts, feelings and beliefs.” According to Michael, this also “entails a knowledge of their characteristic rhythms, habits and routines.” Simply put, be there for each other, and be a part of each other’s inner world.

All told, practicing these behaviors will support emotional intimacy, and is a great predictor of relationship success. Couples will naturally start to develop shared feelings about their strengths and weaknesses, and these supportive behaviors will follow naturally, reinforcing and building upon an already strong bedrock. In the end, Michael sums up the effects of consciously nurturing emotional intimacy as the ability to “build a foundation from which new strengths can emerge.”

Find Terry on Twitter, Facebook, and, movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award-winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website. Her new book The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around was published by Sounds True on February 18, 2020.

 



7 Signs Your Relationship is Healthy

By Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

I have often heard it said that the best partner will compliment you and bring out your finer qualities. When you are with him or her, you will begin to see untapped possibilities within yourself and in the world. However, in any relationship, you will face difficulties and your love will be tested.

That said, if your expectations are for an effortless relationship, you might be at risk for throwing in the towel at the earliest sign of any discord. Think of how many good relationships have been discarded before they matured, dismissing a life partner while searching for a soul mate.

The idea of a soul mate is romantic but also damaging because healthy relationships are developed and don’t just appear. Author Lisa Arends explains: “A fulfilling relationship occurs when both partners are open and vulnerable, creating an environment of mutual understanding, and intimacy. It takes time – often lots of time – and effort to reach this point.”

In Hold me Tight, Dr. Sue Johnson, explains that we all have raw spots (in our emotional skin) that are tender to the touch and deeply painful. Sue Johnson explains: “A responsive partner helps us work through our painful feelings.” It is natural to feel exposed as we allow ourselves to fall in love and it takes determination to work through each partner’s vulnerabilities and wounds.

Jena and Trevor, in their mid-thirties, have navigated many challenges together such as Jena’s trust issues and emotional baggage leftover from her ex-husband’s infidelity.

Jena put it like this: “I didn’t realize how fearful I was until I was with Trevor. Because he was worth me working on myself and being aware of my mistrustful feelings. Thankfully he has been very patient, the only patient person I have dealt with. And he’s helped me to be more trusting.”

Jena and Trevor’s successful ten-year marriage illustrates how a supportive partner can help you deal with the unpredictable, ever changing aspects of life as your vulnerabilities are exposed and you face challenges or disagree.

What is the secret of finding a healthy relationship? In his book The Relationship Cure, distinguished observer of marital relations, Dr. John Gottman writes: “It’s not that these couples don’t get mad or disagree. It’s that when they disagree, they’re able to stay connected and engaged with each other. Rather than becoming defensive and hurtful, they pepper their disputes with flashes of affection, intense interest, and mutual respect.”

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

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

5 Dimensions of Chemistry according to Mira Kirshenbaum:

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

Are you wondering if you are wasting your time in a relationship that is wrong for you? Here are seven signs that can help you decide if your relationship is worth pursuing.

7 signs your relationship is healthy:

  • You admire your partner for who he or she is as a person. You like and respect who they are and how they carry themselves through the world. If you can’t respect the way a person lives their life, let alone admire them, it’s hard to keep any relationship going.
  • Your partner is trustworthy. He or she calls when they say they will and follows through on promises. It’s impossible to build trust in someone who does not keep their agreements.
  • Your partner makes time for you on a regular basis. He/she makes you a priority because they value your relationship. Even when he/she is swamped, they stay in touch. This includes regular communication to show they’re thinking of you.
  • Your partner accepts you for who you are, doesn’t try to change you, and accepts responsibility for their actions. Life is messy at times. While it’s natural to assign blame when things go wrong, in a healthy relationship partners take responsibility for things they do to hurt each other, apologize, and make amends.
  • Your partner is your cheerleader and listens to you. He or she listens more than they speak. Your partner asks you questions about your hobbies, friends, and family. He/she doesn’t make you feel badly for being in a bad mood or having a tough day.
  • Your partner is affectionate. They’re comfortable holding hands and showing other signs of physical affection in private and in public.
  • Your partner talks about your future together so you can create a shared vision of your relationship. Don’t waste your time on someone who doesn’t include you in his or her future plans. Author Howard J. Markman Ph.D. writes: “Couples can choose to protect their relationship by setting aside time to enjoy each other, renewing their sense of closeness and togetherness.”

 Foster Admiration and Friendship with Your Partner

There is recent evidence that happy, lasting relationships rely on a lot more than a marriage certificate and that the secret ingredient is friendship. Look for qualities you admire in your partner and remind yourself of these admirable qualities regularly.

When it comes to matters of the heart, where admiration and respect are found, love will be sustained. But where these things are absent, love will die.  Finding a partner who likes and respects you as much as you do him or her will give you the best chance of finding lasting love.

Follow Terry on Facebook, Twitter, and movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parent’s Breakup and Enjoy a Happy Relationship was published by Sourcebooks.

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.

This blog appeared previously on HuffingtonPost.com

 



Why It’s Hard to Receive Love and How to Overcome Shame

Often many people, in particular codependents, find it hard to receive. Codependents are more comfortable giving or even self-sacrificing than receiving. Yet they wonder why they’re in relationships with “selfish” or narcissistic partners. They might fantasize receiving, but keep right on giving and not suspect that their predicament is not just due to their partners’ selfishness, but also due to their own difficulty in receiving.

It is a symptom of deeper issues that may be hidden in our unconscious. Until unresolved issues are dealt with, they can remain obstacles to receiving real love.

How do you feel when you receive a compliment or a gift? Do you ever ask for a favor or help, or would you rather do it yourself? These are just small examples compared to being in a relationship where you receive love, help, and cooperation daily. Here are a few of the obstacles and beliefs that prevent us from receiving:

Shame

A major reason we have trouble receiving is that we don’t feel worthy. We feel too flawed, undeserving, or unlovable. We might not trust people’s intentions or find it hard to believe they care enough about us to give or do something for us unless there is an equal exchange. We think, “Why would someone do that for me or say those nice things?”

Shame also makes us reluctant to reveal aspects of ourselves we disown (don’t know about) or disparage. Particularly when we’re in need of help we might feel ashamed of our limitations or feel “weak” and unlikable. If needs, wants, or dependency were shamed in childhood, then we learned to be self-sufficient and not ask or want anything from someone else—a far better solution than to experience shame when we’re vulnerable. As adults, we expect or attract other people to react as our parents did. If early shaming was chronic or severe, we might repress our needs and wants so much that they’re buried in our unconscious. It might never occur to us to ask for help.

Control and Safety

When we receive we’re in a more vulnerable position. Imagine someone listening to us talk long time, helping us physically, unilaterally sexually pleasuring us, or even driving us somewhere. Receiving requires that we trust to allow someone to have “power” over us. If we’ve been abused or controlled in the past, being in such a vulnerable position could make us feel unsafe. We don’t want to be judged or be controlled. We rather be in control than have someone control us. This is based on past dysfunctional experiences of being in relationships based on control, rather than respect and cooperation.

A corollary to this is the fear that we might owe the other person. We fear that we’re a burden or that we’ll be indebted to someone who now has our IOU. To avoid this, we might want to even the score and immediately give back in some way or pay for what we get. We don’t believe that we have a right to say “no” to any request they may make on us in the future.

Do you ever feel guilty receiving or feel you must return the favor? This is irrational, false guilt. Would you rather suffer than call your doctor after office hours? Giving for free is a novel concept when we grow up with parents who give with strings attached or parents who complain about or envy what they give and do for us.

Fear of Intimacy

Being vulnerable allows other people to see us and connect with us. Receiving opens up parts of ourselves that long to be loved, seen, and understood. It tenderizes us when we’re truly receiving. My heart melted when I received a tremendous outpouring of support on social media following a serious car accident I had. I felt gratitude and appreciation toward all the people who offered their kindness and caring. In an intimate relationship, this fosters love.

When we’re a “one-person show” and do everything for ourselves, we feel self-sufficient and in control, but the price is loneliness and isolation. We don’t realize that it’s human to need and that giving and receiving rewards both participants. It’s a natural flow of energy that permits love, closeness, and intimacy.

Training and Culture

Perhaps, we were trained to be self-reliant or learned that having our needs meant we were weak or needy. In some religions and cultures, it’s considered selfish or impolite to ask and receive. In the Persian culture, it’s considered proper to refuse compliments, to initially decline a gift and rude to ask for one.

Our natural need and requests for comfort, love, and support may have been ignored, rejected, or belittled. These false, shame-based beliefs can make us withdraw or behave in needy ways, rather than to directly ask for what we need and want.

You can change your beliefs. Ask yourself whether you give too much, and why. Analyze your beliefs around receiving. Read how to overcome guilt. Heal shame you carry from your childhood in Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You.

© Darlene Lancer 2020

 



3 Ways to Destress When Going Through a Divorce

Divorce is, perhaps, one of the most difficult things you can go through in life. It’s a harbinger of enormous change for you and your family. For many, it’s also fraught with hurt, anger, and sadness.

As such, divorce can be an extremely stressful experience. Studies show that 10-15% of people struggle substantially with the process, and that this struggle may lead to adverse health risks and even a higher mortality rate.

If you’re looking to lower your stress levels while going through a divorce, read on for our 3 favorite ways to destress.

1. Try to Sleep

One of the most common reactions to stress is sleeplessness. Racing thoughts and overwhelming feelings take control of the brain, keeping people up at all hours of the night.

One of the most challenging things about sleeplessness is that it can quickly turn into a cycle. Exhausted people resort to extra caffeine to stay alert throughout the day, or throw off their sleep schedule with naps. As such, the sleeplessness continues. In fact, over time people who are sleep deprived can develop a sleep debt and this makes it harder and harder for them to catch up on their sleep.

Unfortunately, the effects of lack of sleep can be dire. In the short term, sleeplessness can lead to memory loss, slower cognitive abilities, and slow reaction time. In the long term, sleeplessness can lead to high blood pressure and subsequent health issues.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, there are many steps you can take to improve your sleep hygiene. Turn all electronics off at least 30 minutes before bed. Consider incorporating a sleep supplement into your bedtime routine. A nighttime CBD supplement like CBD vape juice to help you sleep can be a lifesaver.

2. Practice Meditation

Meditation is an ancient practice that dates back at least 7,000 years. While it originated as a part of religious life for many Eastern religions, it’s now a common practice in Western society.

In meditation, practitioners practice deep breathing while sitting in a relaxed position. Some choose to utter a single word, such as “Om”, while others opt for a guide to talk them to the process. During meditation, people learn to acknowledge their thoughts without getting carried away with them. Through this, they learn to let stress go and feel more relaxed while breathing deeply.

It’s no wonder that meditation has become such a critical part of so many people’s daily life. Meditation trains people to acknowledge stressful situations without getting consumed by them. In addition, the deep breathing techniques used trigger the body’s relaxation response, imparting a sense of calm.

Meditation seems intimidating, but it’s actually quite simple. All you need is a quiet space and a comfortable place to sit. Set a 5-minute timer and focus on your breath. If you’d prefer a guided meditation, you can find free guided meditations online or in the app store.

3. Find a Therapist

There are some things in life that you shouldn’t go through alone; divorce is one of those. Divorce can be a traumatic and emotional experience. If you’re feeling a high degree of stress from your divorce, it’s a sign that you could use help processing your divorce and learning coping skills such as developing a new support network.

There are a few different types of therapy that you may want to seek during divorce. For one, you can attend individual therapy to help with your stress, anxiety, and sadness. A therapist can also help you with goal setting and more.

If you have children, you may also want to seek family therapy. Divorce can cause emotional strain on the entire family. Children and teenagers may feel sadness, abandonment, confusion, and guilt. Family therapy can allow for an open forum in which children can share their feelings and alleviate the some of the pain associated with their parents’ split.

Lastly, couples therapy can be a huge help for a divorcing couple. It can be a safe place where you can set guidelines and learn how this new life will work. It can also lead to an easier and more amicable divorce.

If you’d like to find a therapist, there are a number of different ways to do so. You can ask your primary care physician for a referral to a therapist, or you can ask your child’s primary care physician for a referral if you’re seeking family therapy. You can also use online directories to find a reputable and reviewed therapist. If you’re seeking virtual therapy, you can also do so online or through a number of different apps in the app store.

While divorce is an experience that affects all aspects of your life,  it does not have to define you as a person in a negative way. In fact, you can recover more quickly if you use strategies such as seeking the help of a skilled therapist, practicing better sleep hygiene, and using methods such as meditation to relax and reduce stress.

By Alycia Coloma



4 Ways You Can Be The Parent Your Kids Need Post-Divorce

By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC

Divorce can be devastating when you’re a parent. You can’t just crawl into a hole and grieve, rant or rage. You must still care for the well-being of your children. And sometimes this is a challenge that overwhelms, resulting in parents who can’t cope with the responsibilities of parenting. When this happens, your children pay a high price. And too often, the parents aren’t totally aware of how their kids are being affected.

It’s not always easy to remember that your children may be grieving as deeply as you are during and after divorce. Consider this: It may be even more frightening for them because they were not responsible for the decision. Nor do they understand the complex dynamics that led up to the split. Children’s fears are compounded by apprehension about whether either of their parents will ever divorce them. They also worry about what will happen to them and their family in the future.

As dramatically as your life has been altered, remember, so too has theirs.

Don’t let your kids confuse sadness for rejection!

In their innocence children often mistake their parent’s grief as rejection. They see changes in Mom and Dad’s behavior, attention and state of mind. But they don’t always understand the depth of pain their parents are experiencing and how it can affect their day-to-day parenting. Most kids can pick up on when you are sad. But they may not always comprehend that your emotional pain is keeping you from being with them in the warm ways you were in the past. When you’re not in the mood to play with them, prepare dinner or help with homework, they may simply feel rejected. Or they may believe you don’t love them anymore.

Due to their lack of sophistication, children often fail to understand that your being upset about the divorce may be affecting your parenting behavior. They may question why you’re not as attentive. Or wonder whether your sadness is their fault. Or worry that you’re angry with them for loving their other parent. This can create emotional instability and deep anxiety for some children who don’t have words to express their feelings.

Be the parent your kids know and need!

Here are some suggestions for helping children adjust to the complex emotional changes in family life due to the divorce.

  1. Be generous with your affection: Even if you can’t be “yourself” regarding activities you used to do with the kids, always offer a hug and a smile. A few minutes of cuddle time or kind words of affection will remind them that they’re still loved and important to you.
  2. Be discreet when you need to emote: There’s a time for raging, hitting pillows and venting to your friends. But it’s not when the kids are within earshot. When you need to express your grief, find a place away from the children. Remember, you don’t want to deprive them of their childhood nor make them your confidant or therapist!
  3. Be sincere about your feelings: When you’re overwhelmed with sadness around the kids, be honest. But also be clear that it’s not their fault. Say something like “I’m feeling sad and don’t feel like playing right now. It’s nothing you’ve done. I hope to be feeling better a little later, okay?”
  4. Be receptive to professional help: Having a trusted support system can make all the difference in helping you cope with your divorce. Find a therapist, divorce coach or support group specializing in coping skills for parents. Their insights will help you move through the transitions ahead while being there for your children. Also consider professional resources for your kids. Ask at their schools about programs and professionals who specialize in divorce recovery.

Free Divorce Resources for Parents in January!

January is International Child-Centered Divorce Month. Download free ebooks, coaching services and other free gifts for divorcing and divorced parents all month long. Learn more at https://www.childcentereddivorce.com/international-child-centered-divorce-month-2021/

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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, e-courses and programs on divorcing with children and co-parenting successfully. For instant download of her FREE EBOOK on Doing Co-Parenting Right: Success Strategies For Avoiding Painful Mistakes! go to: childcentereddivorce.com/book

 

Please share this article on social media!

 

© All rights reserved. Rosalind Sedacca

 

 

 



Do You Admire Your Partner?

What does it take to make a relationship last? Love? Respect? Passion? An ability to forgive? Kindness? Certainly these are key ingredients for a healthy relationship. But even when these qualities are present, some relationships still end. When I talk to women who are in happy relationships, most of them start out with how great their husband or boyfriend treats them. Almost universally, “He treats me well” is the first thing out of a woman’s mouth, especially in a new relationship. And that’s great. The person you’re in a relationship with should treat you well, and you should expect nothing less. But there needs to be more.

So often in love, women focus on how their partner makes them feel. When you think of the person you love, you probably focus on how he acts around you. Maybe he’s thoughtful and surprises you with flowers, or rubs your feet after you’ve had a long day. Maybe it’s something as simple as calling when he says he’s going to call, or taking the time to listen to you. But many women fail to focus on how their partner acts outside of their relationship. Who is he as a human being?

When I read Nathaniel Branden’s book, The Psychology of Romantic Love, I felt like I was hit by a lightning bolt. Branden suggests that admiration is the most powerful foundation for a relationship. If you admire your partner, not just for how he acts with you, but for how he operates in the world as a whole, it helps strengthen your love when it is inevitably prone to falter.

“To ask, “Do I admire my partner?” is to risk discovering that I may be bound to him or her more through dependency than admiration, more through immaturity or fear or “convenience” than genuine esteem,” writes Branden.

It’s an interesting concept, and one I must admit I never examined in my own relationships until I read Branden’s work. It’s fascinating how self-centered love can be sometimes. We focus more on how our partners treat us, how they make us feel, than on who they are as people on a whole. I once spoke with a woman who told me her boyfriend treated her better than any man before ever had, but outside of their relationship, I knew him to be rude and disrespectful. It’s no wonder their relationship had problems. If you don’t admire the core of who a person is, it’s hard to sustain a relationship.

If you’re currently in a relationship, I encourage you to make a list of everything you admire in your partner. If you’re currently single, write the same list for a partner you would like to be with. Remember, you are not writing down his actions. You are writing down his basic, fundamental, human qualities. So you wouldn’t write, “he always remembers to take the trash out,” or “he always pays the bills on time.” You would write, “he’s thoughtful, he’s hardworking.”  

If you’re in a relationship, does your list come up short in any areas? Do you admire your partner for the person he is? Do you wish he was different? It’s important to remember that maintaining admiration for your partner does not mean you put him on pedestal. But it does mean that you like and respect who he is and how he carries himself through the world. When I reflect on long term relationships of my own that have ended, it wasn’t because the spark faded. It was that I no longer respected my partner. If you can’t respect the way a person lives their life, let alone admire them, it’s hard to keep any relationship going.

Mutual admiration is a hallmark of mature love. It is something not simply arrived on by chance, but actively cultivated. It’s important to focus on what we admire in the people we love on a daily basis.  If we neglect what matters most, we may lose sight of the foundation of our love. I’ve often found that what I most admire in my partner is what I most lack. While I have a tendency to worry and overthink situations, I admire my partner’s ability to take life as it comes and approach problems with acceptance and an easygoing nature.  His strengths counteract my weaknesses, and vice versa.

The best partner will complement you and bring out your very best. When you are with him, you will begin to see untapped possibilities within yourself and in the world. In any relationship, you will face inevitable hard times and your love will be tested. Reflect on any relationship of your own that has ended, and you will know the following to be true: where admiration is found, love will be sustained. But where it is absent, love will die. For each and every one of you, I wish for love to be sustained in your lives, and for admiration to flourish.

Tracy Clifford

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.”

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.

This blog was previously published on this website



Divorced Parents: Support Your Children With Love During The Holidays

By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC

The holiday season can be especially difficult for children of divorce – especially during the first few years. Parents need to be diligent in creating new family traditions and activities designed to replace the memories of holidays past. Here are some ways to help your kids have a wonderful holiday season this year, despite changes to the family structure.

  • Show Empathy and Compassion

When talking to your children about the holidays, listen, and don’t lecture. Let them vent about their feelings, regrets and frustrations.  Acknowledge what they are expressing to you. Don’t refute or deny what they are saying. Instead, show compassionate understanding. Some kids will hold their feelings in  to protect you. Reassure them that it’s okay to talk about their sadness as well as anxiety about what the holidays will be like this year.

Remind your children that what they are feeling is okay and normal. Be there for them with reassurance and hugs. Let them know some activities will remain the same. Others will change. Help them understand that much of life will go on in the same way, despite divorce.  Also, suggest that change is a natural part of everyone’s life and it’s easier for everyone when we embrace it.

  • Model Responsible Behavior With Your Ex:

Studies show that children whose divorced parents get along with one another have an easier time adapting to divorce.  So talk to your ex about how you can cooperate in giving your kids a happy holiday season. If you can both spend some family time together with the children, without discord, they will appreciate your efforts.  If you can’t, at least make the drop-off transitions peaceful and harmonious.  Never bad-mouth your ex to the children, make kids your messenger or have them spy for you at their other parent’s home. Model your best, most respectful and mature behavior with your ex around your children so they can enjoy being a kid, especially during the holidays.

  • Help Create Wonderful New Memories:

This year will lay the foundation for many holidays to come. So think about new ways to celebrate, new places to visit, new foods to prepare. By creating a fresh set of traditions your kids have something   special to look forward to. When you replace old memories with new ones, the holidays become days  to look forward to again. If they can do the same in their other parent’s home, they get an even fuller experience of holiday celebration!

So acknowledge your kids’ feelings with compassion – and also give them new options for keeping the holiday spirit. Remember, the most valuable gift you can give to your children is: the love and support they need to overcome the challenges of divorce during the holidays and every day!

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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love!  She is founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network providing advice and tools for divorcing and divorced parents. For Rosalind’s free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting visit http://www.childcentereddivorce.com.

© Rosalind Sedacca  All rights reserved.

 

 



Choosing the Right Divorce Lawyer For Your Situation

Besides fighting a traffic ticket, divorce gives most people their first and perhaps only exposure to their state’s legal system and the need to hire an attorney. This article explains how best to approach the selection process given your particular situation, needs, and goals, and is guidance from the noted Philadelphia divorce lawyers at the Schwartz Law Firm.

Start your search by taking the following four steps to find the right divorce lawyer for you.

Know What Your Goals Are in Retaining a Divorce Lawyer

This is likely an emotional time for you, so approach choosing an attorney methodically. The first step is to write down what your goals are in retaining a divorce attorney. They might look something like this:

  1. Negotiate the property settlement agreement.
  2. Deal with your ex and your ex’s attorney.
  3. Be by your side in court.
  4. Negotiate the child custody agreement (if applicable).
  5. Negotiate the child support agreement (if applicable).
  6. Negotiate spousal support or alimony (if applicable).

Having made a shortlist of your goals, think about how you would like your jointly-owned property to be divided and write that down. Think also about whether you require child or spousal support. Be prepared with your financial information so that when you meet with attorneys, they can give you an idea of what you may be entitled to in terms of support.

Do Not Expect an Attorney to Listen to You Rant About Your Ex

You are not hiring an attorney for emotional support. As much as you will come to rely on your attorney, expect your relationship to be purely professional. You should not expect them to indulge you in complaining about your ex or the underlying issues leading to the divorce. Save that talk for a sympathetic friend, or, if you are having trouble functioning because of your anger or grief over the end of your marriage, consider seeing a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist for help coping.

You may become fond of your attorney after they help you through the divorce, but it is best to consider your relationship merely transactional. Time IS money when your attorney bills you by the hour, so don’t waste either by forcing them to listen to you complain.

Interview at Least Three Divorce Lawyers

Just as with hiring a contractor to renovate your kitchen, you need to interview more than one divorce lawyer to compare and contrast different candidates.

Identify Potential Family Law Attorneys

First, ask any local friends or family members who have divorced if they were satisfied with their divorce attorney, and if so, why, and if not, why not? Their answers may surprise you, and they probably will introduce you to issues that may not have occurred to you.

Only ask people about their divorce lawyers who live near you because family law is jurisdictional. You’ll want an attorney who has experience appearing before the family law judges in your jurisdiction.

If your poll of friends and family does not give you at least three potential lawyers, google “divorce lawyer in [your area]” and see who comes up.

Google the Candidates You Have Identified

Once you have identified at least three potential candidates, google them. Often there will be client testimonials you can review, and their websites will give you an idea of how long they’ve been practicing divorce law, what other areas of law they practice, and how big their firm is. There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to these issues. It will come down to how comfortable you feel with how these divorce attorneys are portraying themselves publicly.

Visit the State Bar Association and State Court Website

You should be able to inquire with the state attorney ethics committee online about each candidate and find out whether they have faced any ethics complaints or disciplinary actions.

Also, visit the state court’s website. There you should be able to search for the candidates’ names as a party defendant to any malpractice lawsuits.

Be very wary of an attorney who has a history of ethics violations or has been a defendant in a malpractice suit. This is not to say that a candidate should be eliminated on this basis, but you should be prepared to ask the candidate about that part of their professional history if you find anything.

Be Prepared with Questions

Obviously, ask about any ethics complaints or sanctions or malpractice suits you may have found. If a candidate has a blemish on their record, be sure to bring it up in your initial consultation and ask what happened. Whether or not you are satisfied with their explanation is up to you.

Other than that, you should ask questions about how they expect the attorney-client relationship to work. This way, you will get to know the candidate a bit better and find out what to expect from them and from the process of getting divorced.

Attorney-Client Communications

Ask about the time they will take to answer communication from you, and how best to contact them, either by phone, email, or text?

Timeline and Cost Estimate

Ask them about the timeline of a divorce, given your situation, how the process usually unfolds, and how long the process will take. Also, ask how much they expect your divorce to cost. They should be able to give you a ballpark figure, barring any unforeseeable complications.

Be on the Lookout for Red Flags

In addition to unsatisfactory explanations for malpractice lawsuits or sanctions for ethics violations, look out for the following red flags:

  • Being late to your initial consultation;
  • Refusing to give or avoiding giving you answers to your questions;
  • A feeling that you are being told what you want to hear;
  • An artificially-low cost estimate;
  • A sense that you are being treated as a commodity, not as a person;
  • A feeling that the attorney is not taking you seriously or is condescending.

Besides getting competent representation, you want someone you think you can work with comfortably. It is okay not to retain someone you just don’t care for. Respect your instincts.

About the Author

Veronica Baxter is a legal assistant and blogger living and working in the great city of Philadelphia. She frequently works with Lee A. Schwartz, Esq., a busy Philadelphia divorce lawyer.

 

 



5 Reasons Why It’s Not a Good Idea to Keep Secrets

By Terry Gaspard, LICSW

When people keep secrets from their partner they often rationalize their behavior to themselves and others.  Usually, they lack confidence in their ability to confront unpleasant topics – such as money troubles, or issues related to past or present errors in judgment or mistakes. They simply don’t trust their partner enough to believe that he or she will be there for them if they’re vulnerable and tell the truth. In reality, keeping secrets from your partner is a form of betrayal and signifies a toxic relationship.

I used to believe that a breach of trust was something that couples could bounce back from quickly but I’ve gained insight about the ways this isn’t usually the case. For instance, most marriages don’t survive big betrayals or even a series of smaller ones. My current view is that finding healthy ways to be vulnerable, express your thoughts and feelings, and be honest with your partner, is the best way to build a trusting relationship. Vulnerability is the glue that holds a relationship together over the long run.

But is lying by omission or keeping a secret the same as lying? First, you want to consider how your partner would view your secret if he or she found out and you failed to tell them about it. Also, if you feel guilty or uneasy about not disclosing information to him or her, it’s a red flag you need to be honest or forthcoming about something you’ve kept a secret.

For instance, Claire neglected to inform her husband Jake that she had an emotional affair with Ryan, a male co-worker, and that it lasted a few years.  At times, she would confide in Ryan and fantasize about having sex with him daily. She explains: “I didn’t really see a reason to tell Jake because we just had lunch together but looking back it was bad for my marriage. I see now that I was becoming more emotionally detached from Jake and we stopped having sex and being intimate. But I just didn’t want him to judge me harshly or leave because he is very jealous and possessive.”

When I attempted to explore with Claire the reasons why honesty is essential to a trusting relationship, she put it this way: “I guess I never saw myself as being dishonest but I do feel guilty.” At this point, I asked her to consider that mistrust erodes the quality of any relationship and that keeping crucial information secret from Jake isn’t a way to build trust and intimacy with him. During our sessions, Claire realized that keeping secrets is a form of self-sabotage because she loves Jake and wants to build a future with him and keeping secrets was driving a wedge between them.

Like Claire, many of my clients tell me they keep secrets from their partner because they believe telling the truth will make things worse. Or they’ve convinced themselves that their significant other simply can’t handle the truth and might abandon them. While it is true that some partners will feel angry, hurt, and betrayed when they learn their love interest has done something unacceptable to them, honestly confronting issues is the best way to foster trust and intimacy with a partner.

In fact, recent research shows that one in five people are keeping a major secret, such as infidelity or money troubles, from their spouse in Brittan. Surprisingly, a quarter of respondents in this study said they kept this secret for more than twenty-five years. Further, one in four of those people who kept a secret in this study said that it was so big; they worried that it would destroy their marriage. Common secrets reported include money troubles, viewing pornography, and various forms of betrayal such as infidelity.

When your partner withholds important information from you regardless of their reasons, it’s normal to feel betrayed. Experts agree that trust can be easily broken and hard to repair.  For many people any form of deceit can be a deal breaker.  For example, Karen, a thirty-nine year old teacher explains: “Trust is a huge issue for me. It takes a lot to rebuild my trust and if it’s broken, there’s a chance it may not be earned back.”  Karen is a daughter of divorce who watched both her father and step-father betray her mother – leaving her without crucial financial supports.

According to author Kristen Houghton, relationships are made up of many components and people will put up with many quirks to keep a relationship going. How much will you put up with before throwing in the towel when you feel betrayed?  Houghton writes: “But if you are consistently made to feel uncomfortable or uneasy because you feel as if you cannot trust your partner, then making the decision not to take him or her back is the logical one for you. Life needs quality and a sense of security.” In other words, by keeping secrets or lying to your partner, you run the risk that you will lose their trust and put your relationship in jeopardy.

5 reasons why it’s a not a good idea to keep secrets:

  1. Keeping secrets is the same thing as being dishonest. Honesty is always the best policy and most of us have a moral code which tells us that keeping secrets is akin to lying. For most of us, being dishonest is only acceptable when we are in dire straits – like trying to save someone’s life. Yet some people rationalize that they need to keep secrets or their relationship will end.
  2. Often keeping secrets creates more problems in a relationship. The more time that passes, the harder it is to fess up. When people keep secrets or tell lies, they often have to tell other lies to cover up the first lie. They dig deeper and deeper into a hole of dishonesty.
  3. Keeping major secrets is a form of deceit and it breeds mistrust. Further, once a person loses trust, it is hard to regain it – especially for those who have been betrayed by a parent or former romantic partner or spouse.
  4. Keeping secrets is a hotbed for betrayal. Leaving out important facts can lead to further deception or betrayal, according to author Lisa Firestone. Whereas being open with your partner will promote trust and honest communication.
  5. People are hurt by secrets and lies and this can destroy a relationship. It’s hard to feel emotionally connected to someone when you catch them in a lie or find out that they’ve kept a secret from you.

Mistrust is a lingering feeling in the back of your mind that your partner does not truly love you, or may abandon you. So much about trust is walking the talk. Your partner may tell you he/she loves you, but do his/her actions support that? All too often, when people aren’t feeling safe enough in a relationship to be honest and open with their partner, it’s because they don’t believe that their partner truly loves them or they are overly protective of their own interests.

Let’s end on the words of Dr. John Gottman: “Despite how dangerous and widespread betrayal is, I can offer couples hope. By analyzing the anatomy of this poison, I have figured out how to defeat it. I now know that there is a fundamental principle for making relationships work that serves as an antidote to unfaithfulness. That principle is trust.”

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

Terry’s new book, The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around, will be published by Sounds True in February of 2020 and can be pre-ordered here.
  • This blog was posted previously on this website.


3 Signs You’re Ready For A Divorce – Especially If You’re A Parent!

Divorce is usually riddled in drama. It’s not an easy decision to make, and it comes with a multitude of challenges. This is especially so if you’re a parent. We can all agree that   divorce should be avoided whenever possible. It’s not a solution to marital problems. In many cases it’s more like an escape hatch – with no guarantee of a happy ending.

If you don’t learn the art of fair fighting … if you don’t use effective communication skills … and don’t show empathy and compassion for the needs of your partner … divorce is not likely to be of value in your life. Chances are you’ll move on to another toxic relationship, bringing with you the same unresolved baggage and issues. And that, sadly, is destined to lead to new discord with your new partner.

There are signals, however, that divorce might be the best option for a couple. These include:

  • Irreconcilable Disrespect: If one or both partners reach a point of disrespect for their spouse there is little that can repair that damage. Sound relationships are based on respect. With awareness and work, relationship problems can be healed. But once the glue of mutual respect is gone there is little that can make a marriage work. And staying in a marriage in which you are feeling disrespected – a marriage in which your children are seeing that behavior modeled around them – is poor parenting, to say the least.
  • Dramatic Parenting Conflicts: No two parents are in agreement at all times. However, constant fighting and discord around parenting issues hurts everyone in the family, especially the children. In many cases, the family dynamics work more smoothly when there are two parental homes for the children — and reduced conflict around them. So first seek out professional guidance from an experienced therapist or coach. Find one who can help you master conflict management skills and better ways to express your frustrations and disappointment. Try an online anger management program that offers usable techniques for making better choices. If counseling doesn’t work out, divorce may be a better option. Children exposed to continuous conflict are negatively affected emotionally and psychologically – damage you don’t want to inflict on the children you love.
  • Emotional, Verbal or Physical Abuse: Abusive treatment on any level is a signal that the marriage is not serving or supporting your psychological needs. Put downs, threats, sarcasm, fear tactics, control strategies and other behaviors are all signs of abuse. Don’t wait for things to escalate to a physical level. Leave as quickly as you can. Or reach out for professional help immediately and create a plan of action for changing your environment and protecting your children from experiencing or watching marital or parental abuse.

You owe it to yourself and your spouse to do everything you can to resolve marital conflict before deciding to divorce. Seeking out professional support is always smart. An objective professional can provide insights that can inject new life into a marriage. However, that’s only IF both parties are on board to give it a chance. Once you’ve explored all avenues, then you can close the door on your marriage knowing there is no unfinished business left behind.

Of course, if you’re a parent, divorce does not end the relationship with your spouse. And, except in rare cases, it never should. For the sake of your children, it is important to make every effort to co-parent effectively and give your children the gift of love from both parents whenever possible.

That too takes skill. It also demands a commitment to put your child’s best interest first, even when you’re angry or hurt by your co-parent’s behavior. There are numerous online Co-Parenting courses available, which address better ways to handle parenting conflict and other challenges regarding divorce and successful co-parenting. Visit the Child-Centered Divorce Network for a free Post-Divorce Parenting ebook and many other valuable resources divorcing parents need.

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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce and 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! To get her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right!, learn about her coaching services and other valuable resources for parents facing, moving through or transitioning after divorce, visit: www.childcentereddivorce.com.

 

© Rosalind Sedacca   All rights reserved.