SHOULD YOU SPEND THE HOLIDAYS WITH YOUR EX?

Recently, several photos were posted on social media of Jennifer Garner and her ex, Ben Affleck spending Thanksgiving together with their three young children.  Articles accompanying the pictures stated that they plan to spend Christmas together as well and, in fact, spend all important holidays together as a “family”. This is in spite of the fact that Affleck has dated several women—including a much younger Playboy model—since he and Garner split and in spite of the fact that she is ‘seriously’ dating a new man now.

You may be thinking to yourself (or shouting at this article), “Well, of course it’s easy for her to do that; she’s Jennifer Garner! She’s rich, famous, pretty and her Insta feed is full of charming videos, including cooking with the Barefoot Contessa! She doesn’t have any problems.”

Let me remind you that allegedly Affleck was unfaithful to her during their marriage (with the nanny!), he has been in and out of rehab during and after their marriage and the most recent time was through Garner’s insistence. She even drove him to the rehab.

Why does she do all this?  Because she’s made the decision that their children are her only priority and despite what their father does, he is still their father and it is up to her to support his emotional and physical health because that is what is best for her children.  That is why they spend holidays together as well. She believes that is what is best for the kids, even if it’s not best for her.

When you divorce, there is always that awkward and difficult decision about how you spend important holidays with your children.  Many women choose not to file for divorce until after the holiday season is over for that reason. But then, there are birthdays, graduations, parent/teacher conferences, school performances, etc. Those also have to be navigated.  Do children prefer to see their parents together for these occasions? Provided the parents can act in a non-conflictual manner, yes they do. Is that always possible? No, it’s not.

The important take-away from this article is this: little people did not ask for or create big people problems. This holiday season, ask yourself what YOU can do to create more harmony and peace in your children’s lives.  That may not include spending them with your ex but it may involve a more cordial atmosphere at drop offs and pick ups or speaking nicely and generously about their dad or helping them to pick out a gift for him.  Why? Because it benefits your children’s emotional health.

Adam and I wish you the happiest of holidays, peace and happiness for you and your family.


Divorce Rates are Dropping, and the Reasons are Surprising

Wow.  A recent article by Time Magazine is chock full of surprising information about divorce, and there is a lot to unpack here.  First, let’s start with the debunking of a statistic that has been long held as absolute truth – that 50% of marriages end in divorce.  Not true, according the Time article.  The actual figure is closer to 39% and has been trending down since the 1980s.  I have to say this is somewhat surprising given our overcrowded court system and how most family law attorneys I know could not be busier.  So what’s going on here? 

While the article explores many possible causes, there is one that stands out. It states that “Young couples are delaying marriage not because they’re waiting to find The One, but so that they can feel financially secure.”  I find this fascinating because it suggests that couples are, maybe more than ever, making informed decisions about marriage that go beyond feelings.  As a result, it also may mean that one or both parties may feel more empowered in the event they do eventually divorce. 

If a person doesn’t contemplate financial security as a major factor when getting married, they certainly will when getting divorced.  You can be sure that anxiety levels go up if a person doesn’t have a firm grasp on their marriage’s financial landscape, which many do not.  I cannot tell you how often people going through divorce feel powerless when they don’t know or have access to financial information.

However, by focusing on financial security before getting married, a person becomes familiar with finances, income, assets, retirement and the credit of their spouse, which will put them in an informed position to make decisions before, during or after divorce. This will serve them well in event they later need to contemplate divorce and forecast what a post-divorce life would look like.  Without this information, they are just guessing.  No one should rest any part of his or her divorce decision on a guess. 

In a future post, we’ll address other points in this article, including the idea that marriage is becoming a luxury only for those who can afford it.

TO YOUR EX: THANK U, NEXT?

This week, the popular singer, Ariana Grande released a new song: Thank U, Next.  It explains what she’s learned from her many high-profile relationships and is an instant smash hit.  Among the lyrics are these:

One taught me love

One taught me patience

And one taught me pain

Now, I’m so amazing

I’ve loved and I’ve lost

But that’s not what I see

So, look what I got

Look what you taught me.

Later in the song, she explains what she’s gained as a result of those losses:

Spend more time with my friends

I ain’t worried ‘bout nothin’

Plus I met someone else

We havin’ better discussions

I know they say I move on too fast

But this one gon’ last

‘Cause her name is Ari

And I’m so good with that

She taught me love

She taught me patience

How she handles pain.

Listening to this song made me think about the deep pain you’ve endured in your marriage and the loss of the relationship as well as the losses you may be going through as a result of the divorce.  It may be too soon to say, “Thank U, Next”, but I assure you that you will in time. I tell my patients, “In five years you’ll write him a thank you note.”

You may be suffering now.  You may be in a very dark hole that looks to have no way out.  I want to promise you that when you regain your footing, you may think: how did I ever survive in that marriage? The only way to go forward with generosity and grace is to think about what you learned about yourself in that relationship; both what you liked about yourself and what you didn’t. What did your marriage teach you that you never want to repeat and what are the character qualities you value about yourself?

Every relationship in our lives is put there for a reason.  Those reasons may not be apparent at the time but if we learn something about ourselves, they weren’t mistakes but lessons.  I invite you to do an inventory of what you’ve learned from your marriage or marriages that has made you the amazing person you are today.  In that way, you too can say, “Thank U, Next”.

https://youtu.be/EEhZAHZQyf4


ARE YOU GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU?

I came across this quote the other day: The most important day is the day you decide you’re good enough for you.  It’s the day you set yourself free.

I began to think about the idea of feeling good enough and the ways in which that affects the way we see ourselves in an unhealthy marriage as well as our ability to leave it and go through the divorce process.

Perhaps your husband has told you that you’re failing as a wife or mother. Maybe he’s let you know that no one else will ever love you. How many times has he told you all the things you’ve done incorrectly today? After a while, you may begin to believe his opinions, especially when the bad times are interspersed with the good times.  Particularly if he’s the father of your children, or helping you raise them.

When did this feeling of not being good enough begin?  Was it when you were a child and critiqued for the way you look, the grades to got, the friends you kept, the attitude that was never correct?  In many meaningful ways, your husband takes the place of your parents and is now—in fact and representation of—your family. Did you transfer your feelings of not good enough from your parents to your husband?  Did it seem familiar and strangely comfortable?

We tend to believe the people in our lives that we love and trust or are dependent upon.  My question for you today is this: When do YOU decide if you’re good enough?  When do YOU trust your own voice instead of listening to others?  This may be a novel concept, so here is what I’d like you to do: Make a list of absolutely everything that you do well and ways in which you are competent.  I mean every little thing. I promise you that it will be a long list. Don’t censor or edit yourself. This is a list only you will see. You don’t need to wonder if you’re being boastful or try to find evidence to the contrary.  Just write them down as you think of them. Then, go back over that list and ask yourself, “If a friend came to me with this list, would I think she was good enough?”  You get my point.

Truly, the most important day is the day you decide you’re good enough for YOU.  It’s the day you set yourself free.  Free from others’ opinions of you. Free from guilt and shame.  Free of impossible expectations. Free from failure. Free of unhealthy relationships. Do you deserve to be free?  Take that step. Today is YOUR day!


Advocating for a Good Cause -- Laura's House

We are very thankful to Laura’s House, a domestic violence nonprofit in Southern California, for the work they do helping domestic violence survivors. And we are thankful for another reason — it’s how we met and decided to write this book together! Dr. Jill supports the agency’s mission as a board member, speaker and philanthropist. Adam is their Legal Director, and once a year we get together to celebrate our work together and raise money for a good cause at the Laura’s House annual gala. This year was no exception as all the advocates and community supporters come together to raise awareness about Laura’s House and fund needed programs. We always marvel at the support and generosity of the community and are proud to be a part of it. We’re already looking forward to next year!

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.