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Global Guide to Divorce

Jack Jack the Cat

Tips for life

Wisdom Gained in Divorce

Divorce can be a horrific event to experience or can be the greatest life teacher. While no one I interviewed enjoyed it, many stated that they gained such wisdom from it. As with other transitions, divorce can be a catalyst for a major life change or new career path. Some felt as if they were merely drifting through life and their divorce came as a big wake up call.

Inner strengths

The overwhelming response to my interviews was that people discovered inner strength. Some felt like they would fall apart or have “A nervous breakdown” during divorce proceedings. Post-divorce they are much stronger people. Hidden skills, talents and positive character traits emerged during this calmer period. One woman retrained as florist and opened her own shop. Another women did not learn until her divorce that she is a world class mother. She is proud that she nurtures and passes along her newly found strength to her children.

Patience was another life lesson. Several quoted “This too shall pass” and continue saying it post-divorce when irritations and problems crop up with their exes. Instead of exploding or shutting down, as was done in the past, they face complications more calmly with patience. Ironically, when dealing with someone patiently, the situation is less likely to escalate. It takes two to Tango and two to fight.

Resilience. Some echoed my sentiments, “If I can make it through this divorce, I can make it through anything else that life throws at me.” Instead of feeling like a victim, some are now thriving. When my finances take a nose dive or my ex decides periodically to stop alimony early, I am confident that I will get through these disasters okay. Some reiterated that learning to manage their finances had an impact of being in control of all areas of their lives.

Annette said that divorce gave her the opportunity to learn how to forgive. She has forgiven her ex in order to move on and was surprised how useful forgiveness is in other situations too. When co-workers are catty or family members inconsiderate, she does not dwell on this. Annette does not agree with these actions, but forgives people so she keeps looking forward and not backwards.

Others contemplated their spirituality and turned to their faith or a Higher Power to get through divorce proceedings. Post-divorce, they get their spiritual “batteries” recharged on a regular basis.

Others felt inclined to learn imperative life skills, such as meditation, yoga, or mindfulness. They have mentioned how invaluable these are to their lives today. Several became a yoga instructor, Nia teacher, massage therapist and cosmetologist and in other disciplines that were useful to them in this traumatic situation. Now they help so many others while enjoying the well-being from these new careers.

Independence. Being able to make one’s own decisions is liberating and some expressed that they did not realize how oppressed they were while still married. One woman was told by her spouse that visitors (including family) were severely restricted and had to leave by 7:30 pm. She was exhilarated post-divorce to entertain on her own schedule. A few told me as soon as their spouse moved out during the divorce they redecorated or rearranged their bedrooms. Sometimes when we are trying to hang onto a marriage, our preferences go out the door to keep the peace.

Going through an especially dark period enables one to appreciate relationships on a deeper level. Friendships that were taken for granted can blossom. Family members that were supportive are valuable allies when post-divorce complications arise. Many joined groups and expanded their social networks which upped their happiness on a long term basis. Showing compassion for others, such as through volunteering, lessened the focus from them during divorce and enabled these folks to feel better in this turbulent time. Be open to the wisdom and life lessons learned as a result of divorce.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine  thedivorcemagazine.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Self Growth During Marriage

Sometimes people discover new talents and career paths during  marriages that lead to self-fulfillment. This can be challenging for one’s spouse who may resist this change and can lead to divorce. Others’ spouses are thrilled to witness this metamorphosis and be an observer on this journey. A lot depends upon the partner and if the change seems threatening or unbalancing to them.

Carla was a secretary in a large hospital and enjoyed the atmosphere. She had a  desire to be a nurse which grew stronger as time marched on. When her daughters became teenagers, she decided to take the plunge and go back to school to fulfil this dream. Her husband became more discontent when supper was not on the table by 6 pm and there were other changes to his routine. The girls were proud of their mother and did not require much of her hands on time, like her husband felt he should have. The marriage limped on until Carla filed for divorce once the youngest was almost through with college. Carla was so happy with her career change and the salary increase was helpful post-divorce.

Carla’s example is not the only time where a divorce happened when there was a career change. In a similar case, a women went back to school when there were children at home and her husband refused to pitch in and help. That marriage too ended in divorce. The people that I spoke with that had life changes during marriage and divorced, had very traditional male and female roles. The husband took care of the outside, including vehicle maintenance and the women did child care and “inside”  work. When the roles were suddenly altered then there were hard feelings on both sides. When the roles were more fluid, these were the marriages that I saw adjusted and even thrived when changes occurred.

There are plenty of stories in magazines such as “Women and Home” and “Good Housekeeping UK”  where women started businesses and their husbands not only kept the home fires burning but gave assistance with the new enterprise. A lot depends upon if the spouses are rigid or can bend with the winds of change on how the  marriage will weather.

Gaining Self-Awareness Post-Divorce Before Dating Again

Before jumping back into the dating pool post-divorce, get a clear sense of self. Knowing your values and who you are is paramount for personal growth. It does not make sense getting to know another individual if one is confused about their own desires, needs and interests. Take a break after your divorce for personal introspection. Rediscover your passions & dreams first.

Author Elizabeth Gilbert felt trapped in her Suburban marriage, but was not sure what she wanted out of life. She was cognizant of what she did not care to repeat. Ms. Gilbert went on a yearlong quest to discover herself in the book “Eat, Pray, Love.”  She challenged herself by learning Italian, living on her own in a foreign country, and having new experiences. Next on the agenda was spending time in India for an inner journey of meditation and self-reflection. Ms. Gilbert faced her problems, accepted her part in the marriage’s demise and obtained wisdom. Gaining clarity in Bali boosted her self-esteem and opened her eyes to what she was seeking in a future relationship. With this self-exploration behind her, Ms. Gilbert was ready to recognize a stellar man with values that aligned with hers. She finally moved on with her life and they later got married.

Learn to recognize your problems so you do not carry them into the next relationship. Take an inventory of yourself and see what mistakes have turned into valuable life lessons. Discover your strengths and weaknesses to challenge yourself.  One divorced woman who had been fearful and clingy in her marriage, took a trip to Europe by herself. It got her out of her comfort zone and was life changing. Serena is now independent and self-sufficient, claiming she does not need a partner in order to survive life.

Your answers to these questions can lead to greater self-awareness before dating again:

  • what adds meaning to your life and brings you joy.
  • Could your hobbies and interests lead to a new life path that increases your fulfilment?
  • Did you live up to your potential in your marriage or is it beneficial to explore different areas of opportunity now?
  • Are you clear about your values and expectations with others?
  • How do you nurture yourself and have fun?
  • What have you learned that you do not want to repeat?
  • Are you pursuing your dreams or were they put on the back burner during your past marriage?

Some people feel writing in a journal helps to bring understanding and answers to their issues. Taking up meditation, yoga or other activities has helped others. Some divorcees have taken tours to exotic locales and discovered new insights. If you seem to be losing yourself in relationships and repeating mistakes then see a life coach or therapist to get you unstuck. Hypnotherapy aids in changing faulty self-beliefs and gaining self-awareness.  I have asked friends for brutal honesty and took their comments to heart. The important thing is to truly know yourself before entering into a new relationship post-divorce.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine  thedivorcemagazine.co.uk

 

Loss of Identity Post-Divorce

When one’s identity was wrapped around the ex, such as being a doctor’s wife, it is especially challenging to reinvent oneself post-divorce. Suddenly the role of being the social director for the office staff and charming sidekick at far flung medical conferences is gone. If you owned a business together, you may lose your job in the divorce, particularly if your wife was the solicitor in the law practice and you had another role. In a divorce, the stay-at-home spouse or one to leave the family business, may get a lump sum for job training. A new trend in collaborative divorce is to bring a career coach on board to determine how much it would cost to get this career training. Or the career coach may assist in determining alimony if one spouse did not work and now has to start over in the job market.

Mary was married to a plastic surgeon and enjoyed the perks that went along with being a doctor’s wife. They entertained, went to extravagant parties and took some nice trips.  She appreciated being able to stay home with their children. Mary was in a devastating car accident and underwent months of rehab therapy. During this time her husband began an affair with his secretary and filed for a divorce before Mary was completely recovered. Mary was blindsided by this and stated that being a doctor’s wife and stay-at-home mum was her whole life. It took a bit of adjusting not to be part of the medical community anymore and have to seek a part-time job. Mary also changed her volunteer venue from the hospital to another one, in order to avoid her ex and was happier with her new choice. It took over a year for Mary to develop a new life. You are more than a job or spouse of a professional.

Tom was a stay-at-home father for their daughter and money became especially tight when she turned nine. There were after school activities and less of a need for one parent to be home. Tom just could not give up his identity of house-husband and this was one factor in his divorce. Much to his family’s dismay, he only held a part-time job for a brief time. He later married a woman who saw herself as the stay-at-home spouse, so this marriage too ended in divorce. Tom is fixated on his house-husband or stay-at-home parent role and still has not adjusted to a change in identity.

Loss of the “Family Man” identity has been difficult for many men when they no longer see their children 24/7. Their work mates change their label from “Married Man” into the category of “Single.” A few men have expressed that they do not see themselves as swinging singles and that their married colleagues have been more distant. Others have indicated that their father role has contracted when they are not hands on every day. Some divorced men in my community have volunteered with Boy Scouts and other youth programs to transform the father role into mentoring others along with their own children.

Several women have expressed anxiety over losing their housewife identity and sense of structure post-divorce. They had a daily and weekly routine of tasks and activities and took great pride in running an efficient household. My older friend was one of these women who felt a bit lost without a schedule, but learned to enjoy having the freedom of not catering to someone else’s needs.

First steps in dealing with loss of identity is to realize that one’s former identity is gone and not coming back. Mourn this change and share these feelings of identity loss with friends. A support system allows you to vent and points out new opportunities on the horizon. Look at other components within your identity, nurturer, events planner, and so forth to develop them for hobbies, jobs or volunteering. See what new tasks you can do for a favorite charity, which is fulfilling and can lead to a paid position. Losing my job in divorce, turned out to be a great thing. Discovered that I had been stuck in a rut, and my job post-divorce is an adventure.

Look at your different roles in life, such as aunt, daughter, and volunteer to expand them. Spend more time with family or become a more involved aunt. When you are losing one identity, seek out new ones, by becoming a member in social, book, religious, political or other groups. The trick is to discover what obstacle is hindering leaving the past behind. Be open to new opportunities and friendships. Getting through an acrimonious divorce made me stronger and more resilient. Find people and activities that support your newly single status. Uncover your hidden interests and talents that will enrich your life.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine  thedivorcemagazine.co.uk

 

 

 

Use Language to Propel You in Right Direction

Language is a powerful tool to enable you to reach goals. Or it can derail you.  Use positive words to point you where you want to go and to achieve your desired outcomes. I f  you want to remember your lunch for work then state it that way, not “I can’t forget my lunch.”  Otherwise you are putting forget and lunch into your brain. Certainly in a divorce situation, you would think, “I have to get the house”  not “Oh, I might lose the house.” Stating what you want is clearer to your divorce attorney. Say what you desire to achieve from asset division or visitation, not what you do not.   With a little practice, it becomes easy. Think where you want to go and phrase words accordingly. Don’t make statements about what you don’t want to happen.

A school district in the US, spent about $40,000.00 writing a conduct code manual which included bullying behavior and consequences. This took months to complete. When the committee went over the final results the whole project had to be scrapped and redone from the beginning. The entire manual contained “don’t” statements, not what students and staff  were to do.  It had behaviors and strategies that were unacceptable, not clear instructions about what was  expected. Using positive language of what is expected is also a more effective way to deal with children.  “Bums in the chair” or “feet on the floor” is clearer than “don’t jump around here.” Even instructions to dogs are positive words for outcomes, “sit” instead of “don’t run around.” Before I used positive language, there was more confusion. I got a call from my  son “where are you?”. I had said that I could NOT pick him up and later he remembered something about picking him up. Stating “walk home from school today” (desired outcome) would have been the way to go. In life, determine your goals and use language in a positive way to help you obtain them. Use upbeat language to help you visualize your dreams.

Buy from a tree farm and help preserve nature

  Think about preserving our open spaces for the wildlife and us to enjoy.  Buy your Christmas tree from a tree farm, particularly smaller family owned ones.  Some people think they are doing their part for the environment by purchasing factory made  Christmas trees and “going green.”  Well, think again.
  Near my house  growing up in the Midwest, was a small, locally owned tree farm.  I would strap on my cross country skis and glide amoung the  firs.  There was a higher concentration of wildlife in this small tree farm and I loved having this bit of nature in the suburbs. It was  in the late  1970’s and artificial trees were in vogue, especially the aluminum ones.  Well you guessed it.  People patronized big box stores instead of this neighborhood oasis of green.  The tree farm couldn’t make it financially without consumers’ support and it closed. It was traumatic seeing it paved over to make a parking lot and several buildings.
  My sons and  I are able to walk down our street and buy trees and wreathes brought in from a small family owned tree farm outside of our city.  The trees are so fresh, that I maybe sweep up 5 pine needles when I take out the live tree in January.  The city recycles these firs for needed  mulch.
  Do you want to support Chinese factories or local families making a living? It’s a no brainer for me.

10 Tips for Getting Through Thanksgiving When Alone

Thanksgiving can be a challenging time especially when going through a divorce or newly widowed.  You may be undecided whether to crawl under your covers or do something more social. If you are experiencing  grief, it compounds the situation. If your children are spending the holiday with your ex, then it can be an extra sad time.  Thanksgiving can be easier if you stay busy.

1. See if there is a singles’ group in your town or church who may be getting together on this day. My local MeetUp. com group is meeting at a fun restaurant for a Thanksgiving Day lunch. This is especially nice when you don’t have the cash or time to travel across the country to be with your family.

2. My sons and I started our new tradition of going to a movie before our feast at home during my divorce. We watch the Macy’s Day Parade, then have a latte near the cinema and see a much anticipated movie. Choose new rituals for this day.  It may be breakfast out and then TV and a hike. New traditions may include  friends.  See what fits for you.

3. Many people volunteer on this day and say they get so much more back than  they give. Classic volunteering is cooking or serving at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. There are other options.  Remember animals still need to be fed, loved and have their cages cleaned at an animal shelter, etc.

4. Go to a restaurant or an upscale grocery store and eat their ready made food at their community table on Thanksgiving. My former  boss goes to Whole Foods and eats turkey while enjoying talking to the others.

5. Shake up your day by having a breakfast feast at a restaurant and  then veg out in front of the  TV. You can do your normal rituals, perhaps in a different order.

6. Have your traditional Thanksgiving Feast, but in a different environment.  If you live in a more tropical area, consider a picnic.

7. Take a trip somewhere, possibly out of the country. If you are on a group tour, there will be camaraderie and a special holiday menu. Or maybe go to a culture that does not celebrate this holiday and do something totally different. This may be the time for your Spa break. I’ve had seafood near the ocean on a Thanksgiving beach vacation.

8. Have an adventure.  Book a trip with Outward Bound or some other outdoor company. Being in nature will recharge your batteries, while distracting you with physical challenges.

9. Remember it is just one day. Get a jump start on writing your Christmas cards or planning your Christmas list.

10. Go through a pile of magazines or save a best-seller book for this day.  If you are staying home, pick up a delectable treat the day before.  Recently read that Thanksgiving as we know it, will be gone in about 5 years, since it is another shopping day already.

 

 

Have Laughter & Fun and Live Longer

The health benefits from having fun and laughter are many. Different organizations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to WebMD agree on the same principles that it increases one’s well-being.  I like the following quote from Roald Dahl:

“A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest of men.”

When you have fun and laugh, that relaxes your muscles relieving or diminishing chronic pain, by releasing endorphins which are natural pain killers. More oxygen and blood circulate around one’s body increasing blood flow to the heart. The stress hormone, Cortisol is lowered which then aids in improving the quality of sleep.

Norman Cousins wrote the book “Anatomy of an Illness.”  He was incapacitated by a spinal column illness and in great pain. He tried both conventional and more holistic types of remedies without a cure. For one month he closeted himself away and watched comedies and read jokes. After that time period, he presented himself to his stunned doctors who could not find a trace of the disease.

At Cancer Treatment Centers of America, CTCA, “Laughter Therapy” is an integral part of cancer treatment. Having fun and laughter boosts the Immune System, increasing natural killer cells which destroy tumor cells.   Laughter aids is boosting one’s positive outlook on life, which is important particularly when facing challenges like cancer or life transitions such as divorce. Having fun connects you to others and various studies have shown the positive affect of socialization on longevity.

Go to a comedy, have lattes with friends, go to Disneyland as I did right before my divorce. Think of what you enjoyed in the past and view this as just what the doctor has ordered, to increase your well-being.

 

10 Ways to Deal with the Empty Nest Syndrome

The Empty Nest Syndrome is especially challenging for single parents who now have a quiet house. When one has recently gone through a divorce or loss of a spouse, it can be traumatic. Expect to mourn for a loss of what was and may never be again. You may go through the anger and eventually moving on to acceptance. This is the time to reinvent yourself and rediscover long lost passions.

1. Start a group up of other Empty Nesters for support and fun.  Tina, a stay-at-home mom, was bereft when her youngest went off to college. This came about when her oldest son was about to get married and possibly move to another city. She called the mothers of her son’s classmates and formed a group that met once a month.  At first it was for tears, but now it is teas and laughter. They claim that getting together is much cheaper than therapy and full of companionship.

2. Wait and do big projects after your kid goes off to school. This is the time to organize and clean out your basement or garage. I bought some bins and shelves and it is easy to find gardening supplies, holiday items plus much more in my garage now.

3.  Expand your social or professional networks. I joined two Meet.Up.com groups and have coffee or go to events every week. The intelligent women are stimulating and now we are discussing quantum physics over lattes. I am a new member of Toastmasters International to make me a more effective speaker. There are many other groups to choose.

4. Challenge yourself and build self-esteem. Join an Outward Bound Expedition in your own back yard or across the globe.  UK charities in particular have fundraisers in far flung places. One charity had a trek up Mt Kilimanjaro and several women raved how that boosted their self-esteem and independence post-divorce. Other charities have had hikes in Vietnam, Costa Rica, and other exotic locales.

5.  Start back to school for pleasure courses (cooking) or to advance your career. I am currently taking a computer course at our community college. One woman went back to school for her teaching degree just as her youngest was leaving for college.  She claimed that she barely had time to think about having an Empty Nest.

6.  Have a foreign exchange student live with you for a few months or even a year. You have someone there who needs your maternal advice and care. You will learn about their culture and may end up with another family member for life.  One mother said after all of the lunches and laundry, this kid will be in her life forever. She has made several trips to Italy and stayed with his family.

7.  Start an exercise program. The boost in endorphins will be an added benefit to your fit body.

8.  Take a trip with a spouse or your pals.  It could be the European river cruise that you’ve dreamed of or a spa weekend with the girls. This is the time to visit your college roommate or other friends.  They may be facing the same challenge as you.

9.  Schedule something fun for immediately after your child leaves.  I had a pampering facial just hours after mine left. The next morning a friend met me for lattes and another friend for a movie later. It is easier if you have something fun to look forward to at least for a few days.

10. Volunteer and give something back to others. This helps you to be less focused on yourself and your own misery. I started volunteering for a cat rescue group right before my son left for college. On Tuesdays I clean, cuddle and feed the kitties and feel so happy and energized afterwards. Another Empty Nester volunteers at the community garden. You could also foster dogs or cats in your home.

Happiness and Meaning in Life

Viennese Viktor Frankl was sent to a concentration camp with some family members and he wrote about this ordeal in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning.” While imprisoned he discovered that others who had meaning in life were more apt to survive.  Frankl stated the Nazis could not take away one’s attitude, outlook on life.  He met several men who gave up and were waiting to die. Frankl delved into their lives and found out what was important to them, waiting on the outside.  For one it was a family member safely tucked away from harm, and the other had a special project that was left unfinished.  These two men then became determined to live.  The Center for Disease Control said that 4 out of 10 Americans  have not discovered their meaning in life and that negatively affects their health.

What is the difference between just having happiness or having meaning/purpose in life?  You are happy because you have money to buy expensive gadgets and goods.  If something took those away, then happiness fades.  Having meaning in life is more lasting, not the here and now of happiness without a purpose.  Meaning in life is more enduring, things may not be great now, but you are reaching out to others and enlarging your supportive social network. Frankl stated that the more one is focused outside of yourself  – reaching out to others – the more human you are. Most people that I interviewed, claimed that they got more out of volunteering, than the recipients did.

Since happiness is a more transient feeling there are ways to boost its level every day.  Spend your money on having experiences, rather than on more material goods.  Think about travel for example.  You open your eyes and mind to new cultures, sights and ideas which in turn can be life changing.  You can bond with your kids and have forever memories.

Make a list of what you enjoy doing and gives you pleasure.  Then schedule these on a weekly basis in your calendar.  It may be going out for lattes or margaritas with the girls or perhaps a stroll around a museum.  Pick some free activities, such as a picnic or hike in a leafy area.  Just thinking about what you were happy about that day can give you a more positive outlook in life.

Returning to the Workplace During Divorce

The April 11, 2013  New York Times newspaper’s magazine section had an article by Judith Warner that discussed returning to work after a long hiatus raising children. Some of the women were facing divorce and had to jump back into the workplace.  A question was raised, is it better to get a job during the divorce or wait until it has ended. A woman’s divorce attorney told her “Before you do anything, you get a job.  You have to look at the next 30 years of your life, and if you are in control of the situation, and you have a job that’s paying you money, he’s going to be far less powerful over you in the divorce.”

Before my divorce, I was forced out of my job in our jointly owned business. My divorce attorney also insisted that I immediately find employment. Besides earning a little extra cash in this part-time position, it helped keep my sanity intact and gave me more power in my divorce proceedings.  Since it was far less income than co-owning a business, it may have given me more leverage in my alimony amount. One hurdle with determining alimony is that it can be calculated on what you can potentially earn, even if out of the workplace for many years.  It is a toss up  if quickly finding any old job during a divorce helps with increased alimony, but it can boost self-esteem.

The article discussed how women may be able to get back into the job market.  Schools are great places to network with well placed parents who have contacts in one’s field. One woman said that she did not even have to fill out a resume because these parents knew her talents and a job materialized. Warner stated “those who hadn’t been sufficiently strategic in their volunteering often struggled greatly.” Listing volunteer fund-raising efforts at schools and clubs can especially put one in the path of nonprofit organizations.

It would be interesting to hear what divorce attorneys around the country advise clients about getting a job during their divorce.

 

 

Bobbi Brown’s tips for life

In Bobbi Brown’s new book,” Beauty Rules”, she has nuggets of wisdom which apply to all of us.

She states to “be nice” and that “you must be kind to others”. Also to “tell the truth”. She said “to take risks”, giving the example of going to NYC, without contacts and making cold calls to people in the beauty industry  .Bobbi  Brown said ” never give up”, even working for free on a trial basis to show your skills.

“Be on time” and “be open” to whatever may be coming your way. Feel your passion and to “care about something”, whether it’s animals, the environment or whatever. She suggests “giving back” by finding a cause and that is special to you. Bobbi Brown advocates “working hard” even if this means starting from the very bottom and working your way up the corporate ladder. “Look people in the eyes” to show your confidence, even if you aren’t feeling it at the moment. Bobbi Brown learned that looking and feeling pretty matters to one’s self esteem.

I am helped by reading of successful people’s struggles and the wisdom that they learned along the way. So many people have nuggets of wisdom that we can incorporate into our own lives, whether they are celebrities or a valued elderly neighbor.