A STRONG MAN APPRECIATES A STRONG WOMAN. A WEAK MAN WILL SAY SHE HAS AN ATTITUDE.

I heard this quote several years ago when I needed it.  I’ve since repeated this to many of my female patients when I thought they needed it.  Do you need to hear it today?

There may have been times in your marriage when you felt the need to speak up and voice your opinion.  It was the right opinion. You spoke it courageously despite the knowledge that there may be consequences, and what were you told?

*You’re too much

*You’re wrong

*Keep your mouth shut

*Remember when you said... (your opinions used against you later)

*Who do you think you are?

*You think you’re so smart, don’t you?

When men have strong opinions, they’re told that they are powerful and confident.  Oftentimes, when women have strong opinions, they’re told that they are bitches. Women are sometimes raised to be compliant, quiet, accommodating, and not “too smart”.

That’s just wrong.  Despite what you may have learned or experienced, remember that you are always allowed to have an opinion.  Just like everyone else, you’re allowed to share that opinion as long as it is respectfully expressed. If the man you’re with doesn’t like that you are a strong and smart women, then he is clearly not the man for you.  Don’t dim your own light. Don’t doubt your own worth.

A STRONG MAN APPRECIATES A STRONG WOMAN.  A WEAK MAN WILL SAY SHE HAS AN ATTITUDE.

In the UK, a woman is being forced to stay married.

What if you wanted to get divorced, but your spouse didn’t agree – and that meant you had to legally stay in the marriage against your will?  While that may sound farfetched and antiquated to some, this very issue just played out very publically in the British media. 

No Way Out

A Supreme Court case in England recently made headlines because Tini Owens had attempted to divorce her husband, but her request was denied in family court because he opposed the divorce.  As a result, she took her fight all the way to the Supreme Court to get justice.  And that court rejected her appeal, meaning she must remain married until 2020

Shockingly, “Under the current law in England and Wales, unless people can prove their marriage has broken down due to adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion, the only way to obtain a divorce without a spouse's consent is to live apart for five years.”  The five-year time frame runs out in 2020. 

This story resonated with me because I have spoken to so many women contemplating divorce who erroneously believe they need their Husband’s permission or consent to move forward with divorce. 

In California, the other party’s agreement to divorce is not required.  For example, a person in opposition to divorce cannot ignore the petition for divorce or refuse to participate as a way to stop the divorce.  A failure to participate simply means the court will proceed without them.  Otherwise, a person seeking divorce would be forced to stay married, much like Ms. Owens.

So why have my clients mistaken believed they need their spouse’s permission or consent to pursue divorce?  Some have told me they heard it somewhere, saw it in a movie, were misinformed by their spouse or just thought that was the way things worked.  This underscores how critical it is for anyone contemplating divorce to inform themselves about their legal rights so they can make informed decisions about their future.  Relying on inaccurate information to make arguably the most important decision of your life is dangerous – and could keep you in a marriage longer than desired.

I'm not lost. I'm on my way.

Recently, I posted the following quote on several divorce support websites which generated quite a bit of positive reaction:

            “I stopped telling myself that I’m lost.  I’m not.  I’m on a road with no destination.  I’m just driving with hope that I’ll find a place that I like and I’ll stay there.  I’M NOT LOST.  I’M ON MY WAY.”

            Comments such as, “I really needed to hear that today”, “I thought I was the only one feeling lost”, and, “What a great shift in perspective” were common threads.  It started me thinking about how lost we feel when going through a divorce. 

            The ground feels like it just opens up beneath your feet and you lose your bearings.  Suddenly, all the familiar sign posts don’t make sense.  You feel like you’re trying to navigate in a foreign country in which you don’t speak the language.  Confidence that you will find your way back goes out the window.

            When you decide you’re lost, you become even more lost.  Perhaps you are in a foreign country but instead of feeling frightened that you won’t find your destination, you might decide that there isn’t a destination; just an interesting ride.  A ride where you observe the scenery and delight in the new culture and cuisine and the way in which people here live their lives.  Not judging it.  Not seeing if you fit into this country.  Just watching it and being in it.  Maybe you’ll enjoy it there for a while or maybe you’ll want to move there.  Either way, today is a moment in time and nothing more.  You don’t have to make any hard and fast rules about it.  Give yourself permission just to be there.  Maybe you’ll move on; maybe you won’t.  Does it matter today...really?

            Reframing the position you are right now in your divorce or recovery process does wonders for your piece of mind and the decisions you make.

            YOU’RE NOT LOST.  YOU’RE ON YOUR WAY.

Your Day in Court: Success in the courtroom starts before you walk in

Sometimes, the courtroom hallways hold more surprises than the courtroom itself.  It is important not to overlook the challenges, and benefits, that can surface in these crowded and often chaotic hallways. I have witnessed clients become completely flustered and intimidated because of something unexpected that occurred while waiting for their courtroom to open.  By that same token, I have also seen parties come to agreements on issues I thought had no chance of being resolved amicably.  For today, we will focus on the challenges. 

Challenges

There isn’t a lot of privacy in the hallways at the courthouse. As a result, parties often see their ex-spouse and have to wait in the same area.  This, in and of itself, can be taxing and emotionally stressful. However, it is to be expected.  Hopefully it doesn’t catch anyone off guard.  It is the unexpected events that can inflict the most damage.

The New Love Interest

These events tend to revolve around who the ex-spouse has with them.  Perhaps the most defeating or unnerving is when an Ex shows up with a new love interest.  It really doesn’t matter who left whom at this point.  A new love interest, witnessed for the first time at court, will have an impact.

Family

The presence of an ex-spouse’s family members can also take a toll.  These are often people who you considered to be your family as well during the marriage.  These are people who you spent holidays with and were an integral part of your life.  People who you loved or still love.  Seeing them on them standing against you, possibly unwilling to even speak to you, can be really hard. 

On any court day, it is so important to expect the unexpected.  Ready yourself for the possibility that there may be new love interest, former trusted family members or even mutual friends standing in the corner of your ex-spouse.  Prepare for this reality in advance so you don’t get emotionally blindsided at court and waste energy processing these emotions.  This will allow you to focus on the legal issues at stake that day and remain focus, hopefully with minimal distractions.  

I NEVER KNEW HOW STRONG I WAS UNTIL I HAD TO FORGIVE SOMEONE WHO WASN’T SORRY, AND ACCEPT AN APOLOGY I NEVER RECEIVED

I recently posted that quote on a divorce website to which I belong and the outpouring of comments were quick and emotional.  It really started a discussion about forgiveness, what is forgivable in a marriage and mostly about the idea of acceptance.

            According to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross—who wrote the groundbreaking book, On Death and Dying—there are clear stages one goes through upon the death of a loved one, with acceptance being the final step.  As therapists, we understand that any loss goes through these steps: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.  This includes the loss—or anticipated loss—you may be experiencing: divorce.

            When I look at the quote above once again, it really reminds me that in a divorce you are well served to accept that you wusband may never tell you that he’s sorry and may never apologize.  That’s really what you’re looking for isn’t it? Contrition? Admission of wrong-doing? A sincere apology? Understanding how his actions affected you?

            You may never get any of those things.

            Still in all, your life needs to move forward and you are the only one who can do that.  Accepting what seems unacceptable doesn’t mean that you approve; it just means that his actions don’t control you anymore.  You are in charge of that.  This gives you strength that is unshakable, that you own.

            What do you think you can forgive in this moment?  What will you never allow in your life again but forgive the fact that you were married to an imperfect, perhaps troubled soul?  Forgiveness gives you freedom: freedom to be happy, freedom to love, freedom to choose your own path rather than being directed by an unhealthy past.

            I hope you will choose kindness, but mostly, kindness to yourself.

Technology, Evidence & Divorce: Smartphones

This is our third blog in a series on technology and divorce.  We previously covered text messages and social media.  Today we are going to focus the phone itself.  As technology becomes more ingrained in our lives, it is important that we are mindful of how it can positively and negatively impact our divorce. Our phones, it turns out, are always working in the background.

Your Phone Plan

Very often married couples and families use family plans that allow someone to gain access to the accounts in the plan.  For example, on iPhones, parties can set up family sharing settings.  This means that family members can opt in to allow other family members to be able to see their location in Friends and Messages.  What is meant to be a convenient and safe tool, can become problematic when you separate in a divorce and don’t change your settings.

This means an ex-spouse can see where you are at any time.  This can be problematic for a variety reasons and you should change your settings immediately to avoid any issues.  In addition, it’s a good idea to update your account passwords.  With Apple, if someone has your iCloud password, they can view activity on, and even make changes to, your phone, apps, email accounts and the account itself. 

I don’t want this to sound too sinister or nefarious.  But the reality is that divorce is hard on everyone and people make emotional decisions during the process.  Things can get messy when the lure of logging into an ex-spouse’s phone account to see what they are doing is hanging around out there. 

 

DEPRESSION AND DIVORCE

With the news of suicide among two well-known and well-loved celebrities in a one-week period, the conversation about despair and relationships has opened up in a different way than it has before.

            While you may not design beautiful handbags or travel the world as your profession, you may have thought that the pain you are experiencing in your relationship whether deciding to divorce, going through the process of divorce, or the aftermath of divorce would be alleviated if you were no longer here.  You may have even thought that your children would be better off without a mother who was so depressed.  You may have thought that your future looks bleak without hope of improving.  You may have even thought of many ‘rational’ arguments why this is true.

            Relationship difficulties account for 43% of suicides and women are at greater risk of suicide than men.  For these reasons, I’d like you to read what I’m about to tell you closely and seriously.

            While you may not have a plan to end your life, many people think, “I wouldn’t kill myself but I wouldn’t mind if I went to sleep and didn’t wake up”.  Everyone goes through heart-wrenching difficulties; no one is spared, even those you believe “have it all”: wealth, fame, beauty, talent, seemingly wonderful relationships.  Everyone has experienced pain in which they thought they couldn’t move on or just take another breath. 

            If you have loved greatly, you have also felt pain in equal measure.  That is the human condition and sometimes it tests us to the breaking point.

            If you are on the precipice of making a change in your marriage or going through a divorce, your life is going through enormous challenges.  YOU WILL GET THROUGH TO THE OTHER SIDE, I promise you.

            Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain left preteen daughters.  Their lives will never be the same.  Children of parents who commit suicide typically experience guilt, confusion, trust issues, depression, relationship difficulties, self-esteem problems, substance use and more.  No, your child will not be better off without you, even in a divorce.  They need you, however you are right now.  They are still better off than without you.

            If you are thinking of taking your life, remember that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.  Please talk to a trusted family member, friend or clergy.  Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “help” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

            As David Spade said following his sister-in-law’s death: “It’s a rough world out there. Try to hang on”.  Take good care.

SHE WASN’T LOOKING FOR A KNIGHT, SHE WAS LOOKING FOR A SWORD

I found that quote the other day and it immediately resonated with me.  How many women have I counseled who were in a marriage in which they were disappointed by their husbands for not taking care of them, not seeing who they were, not fulfilling their needs, neglecting them, and on and on?       

Of course that’s what we all want, men and women alike.  But, when we define ourselves by our partner fulfilling us or when we don’t know how to provide for our own needs, we set ourselves up for pain.  Why? Because no one can do it all for us.  I find this to be true particularly in women who don’t have a definition of themselves separate from their husband or children.       

When you look for a “knight” to be your everything, you will usually find the court jester who has a good game for a short period of time.  In the meantime, you’ve invested your heart, soul, body and future in this inadequate person who—in the clear light of day—was never your “knight” to begin with.       

What would happen if you actually looked for a sword?  Your sword?  Your invincible weapon that makes you impervious to what is thrown at you?  Ask yourself: what is YOUR sword?  Is it your knowledge?  Your compassion?  Your ability to foresee situations before they present themselves?  Your friendships with other women?  Your mothering skills?  The way you persevere?  How you survived your childhood intact?     It’s time to stop waiting for a knight who only exists in fairy tales and pick up your own sword...and use it!