As difficult as a divorce can be for a married couple, it can be just as upsetting and confusing for the children of the relationship. Not only are you trying to cope with a major life change, but you are also responsible for inflicting as little trauma as possible to the children of the relationship. Parents want what is best for their kids and often fear the effects a potentially long, drawn out court battle can have -with good reason!! Battling parents in long litigation can be catastrophic for the family and for your little ones.
One alternative to a litigated divorce some families find success with, is divorce mediation. Through mediation, you can often talk through each aspect of your divorce agreement without needing to take things to court or work with multiple lawyers and at a fraction of the cost and time of traditional divorce.
Mediation also allows you and your spouse to set an example for your children by reconciling your differences in a healthy and mature manner.
Creating a Parenting plan, not a custody battle
When it comes to deciding the specifics of custody and how each parent will spend time with their children, there are several options. One is fighting it out and going to court for a judge ultimately to decide what is best for you, your children and your family unit going forward. Often, if things get ugly other professionals are brought in to give an opinion of you as a parent and the other parent – amicus attorney’s (an attorney for the children) and mental health professionals are common place in custody battles. The stress, personally speaking, is breathtaking and the fees add up quickly. Many of these divorces can cost upward of $60,000, $80,000, and more. The second option is through mediation and collaborating with a team of professionals to determine what is best for your kids and your continued co-parenting relationship. Your mediator will work with both of you to create a parenting plan that works best for the entire family. Mediation is about forward looking at what life will look like for all of you. What are your schedules? What is most important to you? What special needs, wants or issues need to be addressed around your children? This is a place to really focus on the solution, not the blame game or the past. You are getting a divorce. Emotions aside, there are important decisions to be made about your family. Mediation helps you do this in an effective, timely manner.
Save the dirty laundry for another day
We often hear concerns that going to court will air all your family’s dirty laundry and past parenting mistakes. Unfortunately, this often causes damage to co-parenting relationships and can lead to anger and resentment. In mediation, the goal is not to place blame for past wrongs, but rather for both parties to focus their energy on working to raise their children in the future. The end result is the desire to preserve the family unit and make positive decisions about your child’s care moving forward.
Co-parenting for better or worse
You may not be married anymore but you still must have a relationship with the other parent for years to come. Children have a base need to feel safe and secure. Healthy co-parenting during a divorce often involves a lot of self-editing, communication with your ex-spouse, and consistent rules and expectations for kids. Unless there is a valid concern or the wellbeing of a child is in question, there is no room for negativity. Family dynamics are going to change, but it should not be at the cost of your children.
Mediators don’t take sides
Most couples fear that the court system is biased and that a contested divorce can end up pitting one parent against the other to the detriment of the children. In a litigated divorce, a judge can ultimately decide your parental rights. Mediation allows for negotiations and more control over the custody agreement.
Mediators are highly trained to act as neutrals in divorce cases. She/he will take both parents worries and concerns into consideration and work with you both to create a plan of action. If you and your spouse are willing to work together for the sake of your child, you can likely come to an agreement in mediation that you both agree is in the best interest of your child. You are also able to help craft an agreement you are vested in.
Many of the people I meet with tell me they are married to a narcissist. As cutting as this may seem, many people are divorcing someone with a personality disorder. One therapist we refer states many people who divorce have issues like narcissist personality disorder because the people who do not have this or other personality disorders are able to work through problems in the marriage and stay married. So, if you are married to someone you think is a narcissist, know you are not alone. Also know there is a way out of this with your sanity intact, it will just take a little extra effort.
What Is A Narcissist?
A diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder can only be given by a mental health professional. There are signs and symptoms you can identify and read about all over the internet. A general internet search will typically identify this as a disorder in which a person has an inflated sense of self-importance. Narcissistic personality disorder is found more commonly in men. Symptoms include an excessive need for admiration, disregard for others’ feelings, an inability to handle any criticism, and a sense of entitlement.
Although understanding and recognizing the characteristics involved is helpful, this knowledge will not give you the help you need to divorce and save your sanity. It can be frustrating and emotionally draining.
It did not start out this way. They may have started out showing you how much they loved and cherished you. You believed it would always be that way. When did it change? Do you wonder if maybe they will change their mind and go back to loving and cherishing you like they used to? It is normal to hope for that, but it is likely keeping you frustrated and stuck. And, if you are reading this, it is probably not going to happen.
And Here’s Why . . .
If you are dealing with a narcissist, you have likely already tried everything! Not only does it get tiresome it can wear down your own self-esteem. It takes a massive amount of your time and energy with nothing in return! Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq., creator of New Ways for Families and founder of The High Conflict Institute has 4 Tips on How to Deal with a Narcissist Without Getting Stuck and Disliking Yourself:
Do not call them a “narcissist!”
As tempting as this is, it absolutely backfires and makes things worse. Instead, they become obsessed with proving you are the one with the problem.
Do not argue with them.
You do not need to defend yourself because it is not about you. It is about them and their personality. They have no insight into their own behavior and see things in all or nothing terms. They see themselves as the victims and they feel it is your fault.
Set limits on what you will do.
You have probably spent years trying to figure out how to placate a narcissist, right? Bill Eddy has a saying he uses…”FORGETABOUTIT!” You are not going to change them so work on changing how you react to them.
Do get support and consultation.
Your self-esteem may be worn down from all the insults, criticism, embarrassment, and shame. Bill Eddy suggests getting help from professionals like a coach or therapist.
How to Move Forward
You will need a step-by-step course of action. You may have to cut ties and build some distance emotionally. The key takeaway is you will need support and guidance on how to successfully navigate this difficult time. You will not want to do this alone.
Please reach out for your complimentary initial consultation. We will give you the information and confidence to decide how to best move forward and have the life you deserve – a life of joy, love, and peace of mind. Contact us today!
Your first Christmas or other major holiday after divorce can be tough, and it will no doubt be different. I still remember my first Christmas without my child. I was able to negotiate having my child for the very first Christmas after divorce, but the second one was without my child, and it was a whopper. The first holiday without our children provokes a special circle of emotions. It was, frankly, awful. However, I am proof you can survive the first one and learn how to thrive for many more after. The key is finding the tools which help you cope and creating new routines.
So, my friend, if you’re going through this, I really feel for you right now. It will get better (I know, it doesn’t feel like it, but it will) and hopefully these resources for getting through your first holiday after divorce will help.
Tools to Cope
While it may sound silly, coping tools, in my experience, really do work. I’ve tried many different tools and have found some to be more beneficial than other.
First, be kind to yourself. This is a new affair and it’s tough. If you notice negative self-talk tell that voice to kindly shut up, go away and leave you alone. That voice is a lie. You are a survivor. You have this. You deserve a little self-care. Bubble baths, naps, facials, massages, quiet time – do what you can to provide yourself with a little self-care on a regular basis.
When circumstances around me are spinning out of control, grounding myself in reality is very helpful. It provides a level of safety and security when I cannot control the circumstances or people around me. I do this by connecting to my physical surroundings. Standing in the grass barefoot and focusing on the feel of the grass, counting the number of legs on chairs in the room, focusing on the physical shape of objects or touching something hot or cold in the room are all examples of grounding tools I have used.
Journaling is another tool I have used over the years which has proven helpful. I had a special chair in my bedroom which was soft and comfortable during and after my divorce. I would read an inspirational saying or daily book of quotes and then journal about how those quotes applied to me. I would also just start writing some days. When life was really stressful, I commited to journaling at least 10 minutes per morning. Some days I started off by writing, “I’m having the feeling of…..”. Journaling not only helped me unpack my emotions, it helped me sort through what I wanted and needed. Some journaling entries were vents, some were profound, and some were just silly.
When I am in stress, deep breathing really helps. I use the breathing I learned in yoga class – deep breathing in the nose and out of the mouth. Count to 5 on the breathe in, hold for a count of 3 and then exhale for a count of 5. I use my apple watch a lot which actually tells me when my heart rate is elevated and tells me to breathe. If my watch is not on and I’m feeling anxious, stressed or scared, taking two minutes to breathe helps me relax, calm down and focus.
I would not have been able to survive divorce without my friends. I had 6 women on speed dial and I called them daily for a while. If all of your friends were from your married life, I encourage you to reach out to groups where you can make new friends. There are multiple groups for divorce recovery, one is DivorceCare.org. I personally went to this and found it very helpful. I also reconnected with friends from my past who I knew were single. Lastly, Divorce Recovery for Women is another resource specifically for women after divorce to help them connect, learn and thrive.
Even if you have great friends, reaching out to others in your same phase of life for support and encouragement can be very helpful. We do life better together and walking through one of the most difficult things in life is better done with others by your side.
Professional Therapy or Life Coach
Going to therapy or a life coach also has proven very beneficial in my life. I went to therapy for 2 years during and after my divorce, and on and off since then. I’ve received so many good tips tools and walked through how to build my own self esteem in therapy. I also learned why I picked the men I did, and how to change my “picker”.
A healthy routine of eating well and exercise is another great coping tool. We all know we should do it, but really doing it is important especially during stressful times. I joined hot yoga when I was in the divorce process and it was so helpful. I have also joined other group exercise classes or just ran on mu own. The best thing I found was to create a routine, so my body knew what to expect each day and when as far as working out, eating and working.
How to Share with Family, Friends and Co-Workers
Talking to your friends, family and coworkers about your divorce, especially if it is recent, is something you will no doubt have to deal with. Be prepared for this. Having a script prepared will allow you to present only what you want when talking about your divorce. Decide what you do and don’t want to share, prepare a script and follow it. I had a standard script for why the divorce happened, how I am doing and my thoughts on dating again. These are the three main topics I was repeatedly asked about so I had a set script for each. This helped me move on and avoid saying anything I would later regret.
Social media is inherent to our days, as much as breathing or drinking water it seems! So, before you post that rant or that picture…think long and hard about it! Make sure that you’re keeping your social media usage reasonable, so you don’t have to explain anything or show pictures to anyone that you don’t want.
I hope you find courage, peace, and joy in these tough times. You can do this! We are here to help. If you would like help finding a support group or getting your life in order contact us. We are happy to help you. We get it, we’ve been there. If you are a women we also encourage you to check out Divorce Recovery for Women for helpful information, workshops and meet ups with other women in your life circumstance.
Let’s face it. Change is tough for many people and divorce changes just about every facet of your life. Divorce can often test one’s ability to handle change to an extreme. Some people struggle more than others with change. They fight it, avoid it, fear it, and sometimes feel guilty about it. These notions would make anyone want to keep things as normalized as possible. One would think only adrenaline junkies and dysfunctional people would want to disrupt what could be a perfectly normal situation. However, change can be very positive and powerful, especially if you have been in an unhappy or abusive marriage. Here are five truths in my life I’ve experienced with change. Hopefully this will help readers cope with their own life changes.
1. Change is inevitable
While divorce may not be inevitable, relationships will evolve. Whether you cling to what you have or long for something more, change is unavoidable. Nothing can or will stay the same. You have power when it comes to change. Your actions or reactions to change will determine how positive or negative the change is. Get comfortable with the notion of change as part of the evolution of life and stop resisting.
My divorce meant not only losing a spouse, but losing his entire family, the life I had envisioned and dreams I had of being a stay at home mom. Oddly, I have a relationship with my ex-spouses family today. It’s different than it was, but it’s good. I also had the chance to be a “stay at home” mom for a year, and I found I really didn’t like it. I love to work and I’m a better mom because of it. I own two businesses today which I never would have had the chance to own if I had stayed in my marriage – he would not have given me the freedom to explore these opportunities. What was the absolutely worst thing in 2007 is a gift today.
2. Change helps your brain stay healthy
Science suggest our brains need new and varied problems to work on. When our minds aren’t working out problems, solving mysteries, or figuring things out we can become weak. Change is one of the best ways to keep our brains healthy. This means our lifespan will be healthier, and our mind will not be as susceptible to diseases like dementia. It’s good for your brain to embrace the change in your life as a puzzle you can solve.
I certainly fought the divorce in the beginning, and I went through the stages of grief for at least a year if not longer. No doubt, there was a grieving process to walk through. However, my divorce also brought about new changes which were fun and unexpected, like meeting new friends and having a fun, loving social environment. I was also able to thrive with my career after the divorce which meant learning a lot of new things and experiencing new challenges. When I was no longer subject to emotional abuse I was able to really thrive and grow.
3. Change creates maturity
Sometimes change comes with a price tag. Sometimes change comes with a penalty. Sometimes change requires risk, and sometimes change is forced on us. No matter how change occurs, it causes us to grow. From learning we are tougher than we realized and having to do some difficult things – change creates maturity.
When my divorce was over I made a list of gifts. To my suprise, I had three pages of small, single spaced gifts. Many of them had to do with personal strength and fortitude. I’m so much stronger today. While I certainly would not have chosen this path voluntarily, I’m so grateful today for it.
4. Change teaches you to overcome fear and anxiety
Whether stepping out towards change in doubt or being pushed into the unknown without your consent, change can be scary. The devil we know is easier to manage than the one we don’t. Once the fears are faced, they are often scarier in theory than reality. Change teaches you to overcome fear and anxiety as you learn new coping skills or how to talk yourself through fear.
I was a single mom of a 2 year old child when my divorce was final – that is big change. It was scary. Looking back I’m convinced there is no stronger force than a parent protecting their child. Being a single mom of a young child drove me to bigger and better things with my career. It also lead me to be a better mom and person. I no longer fear financial insecurity (for the most part). I no longer fear being alone. I no longer fear many things – all because of what I went through.
5. Change gives you choices
Once the spirit of change is validated and embraced, change can become part of your normal routine. If you choose something and don’t like it, that isn’t the end of the line. Change things again! From changing your coffee order to the brand of cereal your family eats this week, change can be fun. From picking a new wall color to a new genre of book to read, change can be exciting. From changing where you volunteer your time or which organization you donate to, change can matter to more people.
When my divorce was final I made big changes to my house – I repainted rooms, moved furniture around, rearranged the cabinets and made changes to the yard. These small changes made a big difference. Small things like which cabinet your plates are in can help facilitate change in your head and heart which can give you courage for more change. In my first marriage I really wanted multiple children. As a child I was much younger than my siblings and as a result raised as an only child. I did not like it. I decided very young I would have no children or multiple children – but not an only child! Even though my first husband and I had decided on two or three children when we married, after our first (and only) child was born he decided he didn’t want any more. Well, guess what. When I remarried it was to someone with three young children, and now we have five!! Talk about an evolution of change. It is a beautiful blended crazy mess which this extrovert absolutely loves.
There are many truths about change – some scary and some not so much. Embrace the concept of change, and it will lead to enjoying the realities of change. We at Divorce Strategies Group are here to help you navigate changes from married to single. Schedule a strategy session or call us at 281-210-0057 to schedule your first mediation session today. No matter what your situation we strive to help our clients walk through divorce with confidence, strength and courage!
If love is a battlefield, then co-parenting teens is a battlefield with landmines. Teenagers can swing from adolescent to grown-up feelings (and back again) in the snap of your fingers. This confusing age is hard enough already for them to navigate. Throw in the challenges of being a teen with divorced parents and watch the fun multiply!
Luckily, it doesn’t have to be fraught with turmoil and anxiety all the way. Knowing where some of the landmines are hidden, or what to do to avoid them outright, will make this period smoother for everyone.
The thing to remember is that right now, teens are becoming independent and striving to express themselves. They will have their own ideas about how things should be, and those ideas may go against what you’re thinking. At the end of the day, I know you want to keep them safe and happy. With these suggestions, you can navigate the challenges you may face as you co-parent your teen through divorce.
3 Things to Remember when Co-Parenting Teens
It’s important to recognize that teens are trying to figure out what they want and who they’re becoming. With that comes lots of hormones. Sometimes it’s easier for teens to mask shame, sadness, and loneliness they could be experiencing with anger. Other times, kids think they’re angry when really they’re feeling those deeper, more vulnerable feelings. At any rate, it’s your job as a parent to be there for them with support and compassion.
Home is where the safety is. Home should always be a safe haven for teens. Yes, they want independence, but that doesn’t mean they don’t also need safety and stability. Make sure you establish a family-first feeling. Let them know whatever is happening in the outside world, their parents both will support and love them.
Teens will have a different idea about how things are going to work. Teens, especially the ones on the cusp of having more independence with access to a license, job, and friends or activities outside the home (ie: that sweet spot of 14-16) will have a lot of ideas about how they want things to work. It’s important to listen to them and meet them where you can. Work as a team with your teens and your ex as you co-parent so they feel respected and heard. If you tend to blanket them with your opinions, they could feel like you have no regard for their wishes and act out. They want to know you’re working with your ex to support and nurture them, even though they seem to be pulling away.
Teens just want to be heard. Sometimes, it could be a challenge to decipher between normal teenage angst and when your kid is really in trouble. Add to that the reality that your teenager may not want to share their feelings with you for whatever reason. Perhaps they wish to avoid confrontation or they don’t know how to express themselves. When you co-parent your teen through a divorce, remember that your kid just wants to be heard. When they talk, listen.
4 Things to Consider in your Parenting Plan as you Co-Parent Through Divorce
It’s challenging to tell your teen what they’re going to do, but you are doing this for a good reason (safety, making sure your teen becomes a self-reliant adult, and so on). Communicate that with them! Let them know you aren’t just making rules because you’re power-hungry; you have a good reason behind that.
Having a parenting plan will help with this. It could also be a struggle at first as you establish new routines for your kids as they turn into teens. Remember: your teens don’t want to be told what to do.
Make them feel like they have a say in it, especially as they get older. Once they hit a certain age, they can communicate their wishes with both of you instead of you telling them what they want. Respect those wishes and honor them as much as you can.
Kids will have time constraints and want control over their own schedule. In your parenting plan, consider that your kids will have new and different time constraints. Teens are busy bees between work, school, friends, and other activities like jobs and volunteering.
Have a plan in place for time for handling scheduling conflicts. When possible, make sure both you and your ex show up at events like sporting games, rewards ceremonies, and the like so your teens can see you’re both showing up for them. Not only will your teen still feel like an important member of the family, but you’ll also get to spend time with your teen and not miss out on activities that are important to them.
How will you navigate chores and other household responsibilities? When kids who are younger experience a divorce, it’s very important to keep a consistent routine between both parents’ households. That gives them a sense of stability and normalcy. Things like bedtimes, chores, and time outs or rewards should stay the same.
As kids get older, their responsibilities will change and they may not need that consistency between both houses. However, what they do need is to know the rules so they can play by them. Communicate your expectations clearly if there is a difference between households. Make sure they understand what happens if they break curfew or get in trouble. I’d recommend that the basic structure remains the same between households (ie: expectations, consequences, and rewards), while the specifics may vary.
What happens when your teen starts to become more involved with friends and begins to date? You may not want to think about your kid growing up and leaving the nest, but they will. As you’re co-parenting teens, you have to realize they are teens. They will have friends and they will want to date.
What happens if their boyfriend or girlfriend wants to sleepover (or they want to stay at their house)? This is another area I’d advise consistency. That way they can’t play you and your ex off each other. No one wants to hear, “Dad lets me!” or have them take advantage of you because the rules around friends and paramours are more lax at your house.
Who will have the final say? Teens will fight you on things, plain and simple. That said there are important considerations to make, like what happens if your teen is sick, wants to get a piercing, decides to join a branch of military service, wants to purchase a car, claims they’ll drop out of school… the list goes on, really. In that instance, these are big discussions that should be considered carefully. When you’re co-parenting your teen, it’s assumed that decisions are mutually agreed upon with both you and your ex involved. The reality is that some parents may think they should have the final word, especially if they are the ones paying for most of it.
Having a discussion about whose decision is final before these issues come up (in other words, when the tensions aren’t running high) will help you stay cool and focus on the matter at hand when it occurs. Will there be times when mom has the final say over dad or vice versa? In what situation does your teen get to make their own decision? Just like who has the final say, think about who pays. You may be sharing financial responsibilities, but what about your teen’s input? If they want a car, do they pay for it or do you? Whose responsibility is it to replace a broken iPad? What if they want a cell phone? Put that language in the parenting plan.
A Final Word About Parenting Plans
As your teen is navigating their own changes (and at times feeling like the center of the world), you, too, must navigate changes. It’s different when you’re co-parenting teens than when you’re co-parenting adolescents. Parenting schedules will have to be addressed. Discussions about school, friends, and time conflicts will have to take place. Consequences, structure, and what you present a united front on will be a point to consider. As you’re co-parenting teens, these issues (and more) will come up. So, the more clarity you can provide in your parenting plan, the better. Make sure you actually look at your parenting plan, too. It won’t do any good if you never use it. Help your teen take you seriously by giving them new structure and boundaries as they get older. It will make a huge difference when you have to make decisions for your teen on behalf of you and your ex.
We understand co-parenting teens because we have navigated co-parenting 2 who are grown and 2 more who are almost ready to leave the nest. We, personally, have sought after the help of professional counselors and therapists. For a list of who we recommend call us at 281-210-0057 and also visit us regularly to check out our latest blog on various divorce related issues.
Is this your first marriage? Or your second marriage? Maybe your third marriage? Studies show the rate of divorce for first marriages has dropped to 40%. But the alarming statistic is the rate of failure for second marriages is 67% and for third marriages, it’s a whopping 74%!
What Most People Do
About 70% of people who walk through divorce will wind up remarrying once again at some point in their life. If cohabiting couples are included in this figure, the statistics show over 80% of people take the chances on another relationship. About 29% of all marriages in the United States involve at least one person who has been married at least one time before. Men generally remarry faster than women do after a divorce. Caucasians are more likely to remarry faster than any other racial demographic in both genders. The median amount of time that it takes someone to get married after a divorce is 3.7 years, which has been fairly stable since 1950.
Sadly, the average length of time for second marriages ending in divorce will typically just under eight years. Why do you think this is happening? Wouldn’t you think we would’ve learned from our mistakes? Wouldn’t you think we would be smarter, older, more mature and should know better and know what we want in a new partner?
What We Are All Looking For
Feeling lonely or afraid of being on your own is terrifying and can lead to jumping into a new relationship. Rebound relationships are quite common. Having someone adorn you with attention and praise can be intoxicating – especially if you were the one who was left. We’re just human beings and it’s natural to want to feel loved and desired. So here are what the experts say are the 3 biggest reasons why second marriages fail at such a high rate:
Money is a big issue for many couples, but it’s even more troublesome in second marriages due to child support or alimony payments. When there are children involved, it gets even more complicated financially. I’ve seen many clients who are resentful about how much money is going out to their new husband’s children. It can become a real challenge if it is not discussed openly and honestly.
We highly suggest having a conversation with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst or CDFA. This person is a financial planner with a focus on divorce financial planning. This professional will likely understand how divorce in your area works and understand advanced financial planning concepts. They can help you find common ground in your new marriage and work through financial issues long before they lead to divorce.
Many couples stay together “for the children.” Where natural children might keep a marriage together, step-children can be a divisive factor in second marriages. Many parents deal with the frustration of having step-kids. The biggest issue here is partners not supporting each other when it comes to dealing with each other’s natural children. This can be extremely difficult and frustrating – especially when two families blend together.
A good therapist or parent facilitator can be invaluable. We suggest finding one in your area to help create a parenting plan for the blended family and to help walk through kinks and issues as they arise.
This really depends on the circumstances of the divorce. Typically, the person who was left, especially because of an affair, may be resentful and angry. They may be terribly unhappy that their ex is so quickly in a new relationship or remarried. They may even try to sabotage things to create emotional or financial tension for the new partners. Again, a good therapist is invaluable in this situation. Whether you are the ex struggling with your former spouse finding ‘love’ so soon or you are the one feeling sabotaged, having an unbiased third party trained in these issues helping you is critical.
If you’re struggling with a divorce – whether it’s your first, second or third marriage, let us help you work through this so that you can feel confident moving forward into the next chapter of your life. We also work with many therapists in the area and can help you find the right one for you. Contact our Divorce Strategies Group today to help you find your new you.