Are You Afraid to be Courageous?

I recently posted the following quote on several divorce Facebook sites at which I am a member:

“One of the most courageous decisions you’ll ever make is to finally let go of what is hurting your heart and soul.”

What I didn’t expect was the outpouring of commentary about this anonymous quote.  Among the 700+ “likes” and “loves”, there were also many FB members who railed against the idea that one could let go of a relationship or thought pattern that was self-destructive.  Some intimated that it was downright insensitive of me to suggest that someone could do that or that I must think it was easy (not accurate) or that I couldn’t understand on a personal level (also not accurate).  There were also many members who commented that the quote helped them that day or had other positive messages.

Because of the feedback, I began thinking about how brave one must be to be courageous.  Sounds funny, doesn’t it? You have to feel brave to act brave. Oftentimes, that’s very difficult to pull off.  Especially in a divorce situation. Particularly in a divorce situation. Contemplating divorce is crushing. Going through the divorce process can be devastating.  The aftermath of a divorce can be soul-numbing. Yet, the only way to get through all of that is with courage and honest self-reflection.

Letting go of what—or whom—is hurting your heart and soul is not an easy process and it’s not for the faint of heart.  Still in all, what is your alternative? To continue allowing this hurtful person to harm you? To allow him to take you down completely?  To begin harming yourself through unwise or dangerous behaviors? To allow your children to continue living in an unsafe or unhealthy home?  None of those are good alternatives either. So, you must choose: the route you’ve taken that’s hurt you or to put up a shield and plunge through the darkness?

The choice is always yours.  Maybe today is not your day to be brave and let go of what is hurting your heart and soul, but it WILL be the one of the most courageous decisions you will ever make...and I promise you it will be for the better.


DID GAMING CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR DIVORCE?

A recent study conducted by Divorce Online, a UK information site dealing with divorce, found that 5% of the 4,665 divorce petitions filed in that country since January, 2018 cite the internet game Fortnite as the cause.

It is widely believed that gaming and social media are just as addictive as drugs, alcohol and gambling, which are also common causes of divorce. Not only does Fortnite appear to be highly addictive, it is also time consuming and can be quite costly.  70% of gamers on the Fortnite site purchase digital items for their characters with the average spend being $85 at a time. The violent aspect of the game is also questioned as to whether those playing for hours at a time not only spend less time with their partner but also view them differently.

It is not uncommon for women in a relationship to feel ignored or less important than a fantasy game.  Is this your story? It is difficult to reason with the idea that your husband would rather spend time on a computer game in an unreal situation rather than with you.  The resentment, anger and lowered self-esteem are all a consequence of this behavior.

As new technology develops, the concern is that this issue is going to get worse, not better.  Video games have been around a long time and existed as a competitor for a spouse’s attention well before this study in the UK was published.  Now, more than ever, these games are becoming increasingly addictive. This is concerning. Design, ease of use, interconnectivity with a community of other users and a focused competitive nature form a combination that is clearly difficult for anyone to compete with, much less a spouse.

When the era of augmented and virtual reality is upon us, we will have reached a new threshold of immersive technology that may pose challenges in all relationships, including marriages.  This is not to say the future is doom and gloom and the enemy of romantic partnerships. The first step is remaining aware of the role this technology plays in your and your partner’s lives.  It can be an opportunity to create a shared hobby or interest together. At the very least, keep the lines of communication open and try not to let video games or forays into virtual reality be a taboo topic. That way, you can have an open discussion in the event it becomes an issue in your marriage.


CONSIDERING GETTING BACK TOGETHER WITH YOUR EX?

Oftentimes, when going through the divorce process, you might think about getting back
together with your stbx. Divorce can be emotionally, spiritually and physically grueling. There
are many tests to your your emotional fortitude and questions about your children’s current and
future well-being as well as fears about financial security might help sway the decision to just go
back to what you know rather than face what you don’t know.

Well, before you consider jumping back into your marriage, you may want to think about
a recent study conducted by the Family Relations group, which surveyed 545 couples and their
levels of depression and anxiety related to what they term “relationship cycling”—a pattern of
breaking up and getting back together.

The study found that those who relationship cycled had higher levels of psychological
distress and the more times they broke up and reunited, the higher the levels of depression and
anxiety each time. Rather than a reduction in these symptoms, actually the greater the
symptoms. In other words, if you think that getting back together with your stbx will alleviate the
depression and anxiety you feel about the breakup, in reality you may feel much more anxious
and depressed.

It is widely acknowledged that couples who reunite may experience temporary relief or
change but toxic relationship patterns quickly return. If you are considering getting back
together with your stbx—and he feels exactly the same way—there are a few things to consider:
*Have you had a deep and meaningful series of discussions about what led to the
breakup,
*In these discussions, has there been blaming and shaming or individuals not taking
responsibility for their own actions,
*Has there been counseling,
*Has there been sufficient time apart to take a clear look at any changes to be made.

If the answer to any of these questions is no, I urge you to consider taking all of these
steps before re-involving yourself in the relationship again, especially if children are involved. It
is emotionally damaging to keep your children involved in relationship cycling.
It’s OK to end a toxic relationship. You will heal and survive emotionally. The emotional
distress will be temporary; however, going back into an unhealthy relationship can have
permanent effects on your—and your children’s—well being.

Take good care.

DIFFICULT ROADS OFTEN LEAD TO BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS

I don’t remember exactly when I heard this anonymous quote for the first time but I do know that I’ve meditated on it at many points in my life.  One of them was as I was going through my divorce more than 22 years ago.

Divorce can be an emotionally daunting process.  Every road seems impossibly steep and impassable.  Your lawyer wants reams of tax returns and other financial documents.  Your kids are acting up. Your family gives you unwanted advice. Your friends think you should just be thrilled that you’re rid of him.  You want to go to sleep and wake up in six months.

Questions run through your head like a thoroughbred at The Kentucky Derby: Why wasn’t I good enough?  What were the signs I didn’t see? Will my kids turn into juvenile delinquents because of the divorce?  Have I made the biggest mistake of my life? Is it too late to turn back? Will he find someone better than me and be a great husband?  Will I find someone better than him and be a better wife?

These roads are like driving through a cul-de-sac over and over: you keep going in circles and there’s no way out.

What if all of the pain you’re experiencing right now—the difficult roads you’re traveling—lead to something better, something unexpected, and yes, something beautiful?  What if the destination is a place you might not have considered visiting but there you are and it’s fantastic? What if you just allow yourself to travel on these difficult roads without an itinerary and believe that when you arrive you will be impressed and awe-struck?

I still think about this quote often.  Not regarding my divorce, because I found my traveling companion 21 years ago and had the good sense to marry him.  I found my destination but there are always life’s difficult roads, aren’t there? This is but one road you are traveling on but when you leave this difficulty, there will be others.  Believing that you will arrive safely at a beautiful destination makes the road a little less bumpy.

I hope your destination is lovely, peaceful and full of wonder.

Why are some Divorces Drama-Free?

Once the subject of front-page headlines, Matt Lauer’s divorce has quietly receded from the news cycle.  Lauer’s wife, Annette Roque, sought a divorce after he was infamously fired from NBC for allegations of sexual misconduct. Roque was, quite likely, humiliated and angry.  And yet, as things stand today, the divorce process has been relatively drama free……what’s going on here and what lessons can we pull from it? 

Lesson #1:  Divorce does not have to be a battle royal that is played out in a courtroom for all the world to see.  Of course, this scenario would have been perfectly understandable given the circumstances. However, alternative pathways to divorce, such as mediation or negotiation, are common and used all the time.  These options are seen as collaborative, and typically focus on keeping the divorce out of the courtroom. 

Divorce is taxing and emotional on its own, without adding the stress of litigating in a court of law.  As a result, Roque and Lauer may have simply elected a collaborative resolution to move through divorce.  And who could blame them, given the amount of press and scrutiny that has befallen them.  

Lesson #2:  Sometimes one party simply wants to get things over as quickly as possible.  It takes both parties disagreeing on issues to escalate a divorce to a courtroom battle.  In this case, Lauer has been said to be open to giving Roque whatever she wants.  It would certainly explain the lack of drama.

Lesson #3:  The children feel the stress of a heavily litigated divorce.  There are times when parents will choose to take the high road to resolve their legal differences and refrain from a hostile or combative approach.  They do this for the sake of their kids’ wellbeing.  No matter how hard a parent tries to shield them, children will absorb the stress and anxiety that accompanies a contested divorce.  In this case, Roque and Lauer have been observed spending time with their children out of the spotlight. 

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.