So, I get it. You’re confused. You’re not sure what to do when contemplating divorce. Sure, life might be less confusing after divorce, but, are you giving up too soon? What of you and your relationship with your kids? Will it change? Will it be better? Or will it get progressively worse? Will your Ex go ballistic and start alienating your kids, thus destroying your relationship with them? And, will she go for the jugular, seeking to destroy you financially when you tell her that you’re contemplating divorce. Regardless of what happens, we’re here to help steer you through the craziness of the divorce process.
At The Beginning
Let’s start at the beginning. You met the love of your life; or maybe you didn’t, but you wanted to settle down after years of struggling to find your “plus one” at your friends’ weddings and work gatherings. Maybe you wanted kids and wanted the security of marriage and the stability that you expected would come along with marriage. And you thought you’d found a willing, compatible partner with enough common values to make it work.
You know as well as I that there were problems there from the beginning, but you ignored them because the truth is, life was good. The sex was great and married life expanded your social circle. Your boss took you more seriously, as did your friends. Your mom stopped haranguing you about grandkids. You two traveled, made plans and reached goals. You concluded that nobody’s perfect and that if other couples could figure it out, you could too. You reasoned that, given time, the conflicts would iron themselves out. They didn’t.
So, you read the how-to books, watched the YouTube clips offering relationship advice. You went along with using the stopwatch on your phone when airing out your differences, allotting three minutes of uninterrupted speaking time each. You tried arguing from the other person’s point of view for clarity. You agreed to counseling and weekend retreats with other couples struggling to work through their issues, opening up about your problems; surprisingly, you came away with a new understanding and a renewed sense of genuine bonding with your spouse. But a week or two later, you were both back to your old patterns.
Then Things Got Worse
You considered reaching out to family and friends for help but didn’t, afraid to involve those closest to you and raise flags prematurely. Tired of the constant conflicts at home, you avoided them, spending more and more time out with your single friends. You found yourself flirting with the barista at Starbucks and following random yet attractive strangers on social media. Maybe you went further. Maybe your spouse did, too.
So Now What?
Trust me, I’ve been there; after 10 years spent in a marriage that should have never happened in the first place, it took me seven long years before I started to examine the idea of splitting from my partner. And, it was then when contemplating divorce that I realized that divorce really was the only sane option left on the table. I was honest with my spouse from the start, which gave us both the time we needed to exhaust every conceivable option and accept the eventual outcome if we couldn’t improve the situation. Because we were both informed from the beginning, we were able to part ways in peace when it didn’t work out, with no animosity and little cost. This isn’t always the case.
The One Question to Ask When Contemplating Divorce
While there are many factors to consider when contemplating divorce, they all boil down to one question:
How Much Are You Willing To Give Up?
Legal Fees. Legal fees are no joke. Whether you’re using a court-appointed attorney or private counsel, if you’re not divorcing amicably, it’s in every lawyers’ best interest to drag the divorce process out for as long as possible. And they will.
Alimony. Many states require that the spouse with the most money continue to financially support their ex until they either increase their income or get remarried. Your ex can legally receive alimony even after they’ve started a committed relationship with someone else. It’s unfair, but it’s the law.
Child Support. Unless your children are going to be adopted by your ex’s new spouse, you’re going to have to pony up. They’re your kids and of course they have a right to your financial support but KEEP RECEIPTS. Of everything. If you work for a company, have your wages garnished ASAP so you never have to worry about missed or late payments. When you take your kids out or buy them anything, do not use cash. Keep a digital trail and set up a spreadsheet to keep track of expenditures.
If you own stocks and bonds, real estate, and/or a business with your spouse, you’ll need to get comfortable with the choice of either continuing to share these assets with your soon-to-be-ex or sell the assets and share the gains with them. This may include inheritances, so check with a lawyer.
If the divorce is amicable, there’s no reason you can’t continue a financial partnership if it’s working out for the both of you. If you can’t separate amicably however, splitting the assets will be tough, especially if you’ve spent years amassing financial security only to watch it disappear seemingly overnight.
If you’re not the custodial parent, you probably won’t get to see your kids as much as you’d like after divorce; come to terms with this as soon as possible. Life will go on whether you want it to or not; realize that either you or your ex (or both) may meet someone new or get offered a better career opportunity and might end up relocating to another state or country making it difficult for you to stay in touch with your kids, especially if they’re very young.
If your ex is hostile, you’ll be in court repeatedly for visitation rights. If you can afford it and your ex is cooperative, you could conceivably follow your kids around the globe; but if you remarry, have other children, or have a career that requires you to work out of a certain city, this scenario probably won’t be an option. If you can’t bear the thought of this reality, STAY MARRIED until you can.
- Friends and Family.
After years spent living with your spouse, you probably share good friends and have (hopefully) gotten close to some members of their family. Divorce sometimes changes that. You’ll probably get to “keep” your friends – the people you knew before your marriage – but friends you’ve amassed during your relationship will most likely take sides.
This can get tricky, especially if those friends are also business connections or have become an integral part of your life. And even if your ex’s family remain friendly, they probably won’t be there after you split up. While this is normal, it can cause loneliness and separation anxiety. Understand that their absence is necessary to make space for new people to enter into their lives and yours; it’s not a rejection of you.
- Peace and Happiness.
Divorce incurs loss, but so does staying in a relationship that works against you. If you decide to stay married, you might get to keep the money, the assets, the kids, and the friends and family, but not without giving up your peace of mind and self-fulfillment in return.
How Much Is Your Happiness Worth?
Understand that most anything can be replaced, while your time cannot; once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. Take a step back and realize that the losses you might think unbearable actually are; your willingness to let them go will help you make gains that you never thought possible.
Letting go isn’t a sign of weakness or failure, but a fact of life. Learn to let go without bitterness or contention, or the divorce will negatively affect the rest of your life. Like all baggage, it will hold you back from experiencing a happiness and will only recreate your past conflicts in the future.
How to Mediate Loss:
When contemplating divorce, speak honestly and openly with your spouse about the situation as soon as you can; don’t blindside them. Catching them off-guard causes hostility and will backfire. Explain why you’ve reached your decision and ask for their input; respect their point of view and try to come to some type of an agreement based on mutual interests. If you don’t think your spouse will be open to a civil uncoupling, or if they are and you’d like to avoid legal fees, hire a mediator. The more you can agree to before lawyers are involved, the smoother the process will be.
When contemplating divorce it can become confusing when you don’t know what you really want; identify this and the choice becomes clear. It’s not how you got here that matters most, but where you’re going next and how you decide to get there that will define the rest of your life.
Well, it’s finally over, the divorce I mean. But, way can’t you rest? What the heck is going on? You keep re-hashing the old tapes of the relationship in your head. And, a single thought can trigger your emotions to go back to those God forsaken times in your relationship when nothing seemed to go right, and everything you did was wrong, all of which culminated in your failed marriage and the bitter disputes that followed during the divorce. You’re still pissed off all the time and living with sleepless nights, stress, body aches and pains, headaches, maybe even migraines. Fact of the matter is, you may be suffering from PTSD after divorce.
What Causes Symptoms of PTSD After Divorce
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as “a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.” The Anxiety and Depression Association of America explains that PTSD is a reaction to a traumatic event, including experiencing or witnessing natural disasters, combat, sudden death of a loved one, violent personal assault or other life-threatening events.
If your marriage was a disaster, and the divorce was a long, losing battle, you may have experienced your whole life spinning out of your control. The sustained emotional trauma was real, and has lasting effects.
Let’s be honest, most divorces are not easy. You enter into a bond with someone who you plan on building a life with. The fear of things falling apart never enters your mind. Then the unthinkable happens: one day the divorce papers are signed, and life as you know it is over. While that thought alone is traumatic, it is the in-between times that leave lasting scars.
The arguing and fighting takes its toll. The mistrust, the understanding your marriage is ending, or even worse; it all buries deep in your subconscious. Then when these thoughts and feelings are pulled back to the surface, those reactions bring back some extreme emotions. When this happens and you are powerless to stop it, this might be a form of PTSD.
Signs and Symptoms Common to PTSD
While reviewing the signs, remember this is not an all-inclusive list. You may see yourself in some or all of these. Maybe you don’t associate with any but there are different symptoms for you. In either case, the things you are feeling are real, and deserve attention.
Recurrent Distressing Memories
If you’ve become consumed by remembering past upsetting events from your marriage and divorce, and you find yourself getting upset over and over again, it may be a symptom of PTSD.
Can’t sleep? Do you stay up all hours of the night even with an early morning alarm looming? Does your mind race into the wee hours of the morning with thoughts of what you could have done differently? Insomnia is linked to suffering from trauma.
Sustained or Uncontrollable Anger
After my divorce, I was angry constantly. There was little happiness or joy in my life outside of my children. Everywhere I looked I saw reminders of the life I once had and was now gone and every day the anger grew. I finally reached out because if I didn’t, the fire inside me would have consumed me.
How often do you feel defeated and alone? Depression is real. Your pain is real. Feelings of defeat and isolation can lead to severe depression after a tough divorce. There is no shame in accepting depression as a by-product of divorce. Understanding this as another sign of PTSD will lead you to recovery.
Body Aches and Pains
Body aches and pains tend to appear right along with depression or PTSD. Your body reacts to stress in different ways. One is chronic pain that can last until your stress is dealt with.
These are just a few of the many signs of PTSD. Others include: panic attacks, hyperventilating, flashbacks, and issues having or starting future personal relationships.
What You Need to Know
Whether or not you have developed full-blown PTSD after divorce, if you are experiencing many of these signs, you deserve to use every resource you can find to move on to a happy and stable life.
Now that I can look back and recognize many of these symptoms, I can say with certainty that I suffered with symptoms of PTSD after divorce. After many years, I have come to a place in my life where none of these bother me anymore. However, if I would have recognized these symptoms much earlier, I could have saved myself and my children a lot of struggling. This is why you are here, and we are understanding PTSD together.
I am not a psychologist. I can show you from personal experiences of my life and I can point you in what I feel are right directions. But, to beat this, you have to be willing to step outside of your comfort zone and get a little tough. Are you up for it?
Solutions for PTSD
So what can I do Dwight? I don’t want this to control me but I feel powerless to stop it. My friend, there is good news and greater news. You can, with a lot of hard work, overcome symptoms of PTSD after divorce. There is a life out there for you that is free from debilitating trauma.
It won’t be easy. There is nothing wrong with getting help, even at a professional level, and I encourage it. At the end of the day, you know what works for you.
Acknowledge the Stress
A good starting point is acknowledgment. You have seen the symptoms in yourself, it’s now time to accept them for what they are. By understanding what has brought you to this point, you can begin the process of healing.
Research-based ideas published by Psychology Today emphasizes the need to take care of yourself after a rough breakup.
I want to start with what you can do for yourself, before we get into what someone else can do. Taking care of yourself should start now. Here are a few ideas to get you going:
- Get active – Exercise releases endorphins which are natural mood enhancers and help with pain.
- Eat better – Studies upon studies have been done on the benefits of eating healthier. Bottom line: it will help the body while you are focusing on the mind.
- Connect with yourself – Whatever your preference: meditation, yoga, tai chi, fishing, take some time to connect to yourself and listen to what you’re saying.
- Be prepared to move forward – There is no going around this, you must go through it. Learn, understand, and be open to lessons learned
- Take it easy – Resting, getting extra sleep, and taking time out to relax are all positive steps to help you
Professional Help and Support
Getting off your butt and getting professional help can be a daunting task. Asides from the fact that we men are taught not to let anyone help us when it comes to problems, depression makes it hard to make the effort to do anything. Do it anyway.
Never take professional help for granted.
Military veterans return from war suffering from PTSD every day. They live with the terror and troubles it brings. Many have sought help, sadly many more do not. Traumatic events in our lives need not control us nor keep us from living productive lives. It is time for a change.
Do this for yourself – You’re Worth It
Divorce is rated right up there among the most traumatic events a man can face. Is it any wonder we now understand the impact it can have and the havoc it can cause?
Take some time to evaluate what you have gone through since your divorce. If you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD after divorce, admit it. Then take active steps to conquer what is holding you back. You’re worth it.
Does this sound like you? Tell us how you’re dealing with symptoms similar to PTSD in the comments below.
You’re not the only guy struggling with life after divorce. That’s why Real Men Join Divorce Support Groups. Maybe you never saw it coming? Check out How To Keep it Together When Divorce Blindsides You.
Don’t keep it to yourself.
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The mother of my daughter hates my guts. She doesn’t just dislike me; she loathes me with a passion
And yet, we have no choice but to learn to co-parent together. To be perfectly honest, she’s not really my favorite person in the world, either. However, strange as it might seem, it is more common than we might want to think in this world that you can share your greatest love with your worst enemy.
While she and I are barely civil to one another, we have never allowed this to influence how we set ground rules for our daughter.
This fact alone has allowed us to navigate the last fifteen years of our daughter’s life with a mutual understanding and respect, while maintaining a safe distance from one another.
I am proud to say that my daughter is a sweet, charming, thoughtful and delightful young lady who graduates high school with honors next month, and her mother’s and my early decision (we separated when our daughter was less than two) to keep our personal feelings for one another out of the parenting equation apparently had good results. We didn’t have to like each other to keep teaching our child to make good decisions. In a way, we are very fortunate that we were both raised with the same general principles, social mores and taboos, though we often have very differing opinions about them. And while there are certainly grey areas and some difficult negotiations along the way, we are both coming from basically the same place; we want our child to be happy, and we want to support her growth in learning to think for herself and make choices that will serve her best throughout life.
While we worked hard at putting aside our feelings and personal biases in discussing what is best for our kid, we’re polar opposites in the way we manage our personal lives, and we both take responsibility for exposing our daughter to both the good and the bad of our own personal choices, so that she might make up her own mind.
For instance, my daughter has been raised religiously non-denominational for the most part. This is not because her mother and I don’t both have our individual beliefs; but that they are not the same beliefs, and rather than force one upon our child, we decided to just let her make her own choices and make ours available to her. Her mother is a non-practicing Catholic who still celebrates Christmas and Easter; I am a reasonably practicing Jew. (Which is to say, I observe high holidays and try to at least acknowledge Shabbat.)
The fact of our different heritage has another interesting aspect for raising our daughter. Since Catholicism is passed down patrilineally, and Judaism is passed down through matrilineally, our daughter does not belong inherently to either religion. This oddity in our religious backgrounds actually forced her mother and I to take this issue very seriously and were probably some of the longest discussions we ever had concerning her upbringing. (The other big issue for us became medication, as our daughter was diagnosed with ADHD early in her life, and it has been an area where we disagreed on appropriate treatment, which in turn forced us to have very passionate dialogues about what was important to us.)
While this could have become a really difficult part of parenting, instead it became perhaps the most important aspect for us in learning how to parent together while separate. Because this particular aspect of raising our daughter was a bridge that could not be crossed, what we had to learn early on was how to share our differences to our daughter without making the other party out to be “wrong”.
Now, in some ways, I have to admit that this particular aspect of my parenting might leave others angry or questioning. Even from members of my own faith I have experienced a small and subtle backlash in choosing not to push my personal beliefs upon my child. Still, I am fortunate that her mother shares similar views. So we choose to focus instead on things that we both agree are important. Instead of teaching about Jesus or God (or Buddha, Mohammed, etc.) we talked about sustainability, responsibility, compassion, conservation, philanthropy and other core values we mutually consider important. These are principles that are demonstrable and have proven results. We are also pretty solidly agreed on our lessons concerning work, school, play, friends, and a host of other subjects, so in the grand scheme of “what our kid needs to know”, religion really is pretty low on the totem. We feel that we can talk about religion when she brings it up.
I believe the only truly morally responsible act to take as separate parents is for both to strive to keep the welfare of the child or children the most significant part of any communication, and to strive to create harmonious outcomes (or at least ones that are fair compromises) concerning consequences and rules.
Whenever possible, you should agree on basic principles and expectations and be consistent in both homes:
- If a behavior is not allowed at one house, for example, it shouldn’t be tolerated at the other
- If a punishment is meted out by one parent, it should be upheld by the other
- Curfews should be consistent, as well as what “grounding” means in your home.
- Don’t try and out-do one another on things like allowance and tooth fairy visits – take turns or divvy them up, but always keep them equal
- Compromise on things like healthy eating and the amount of sugar intake, have zero sugar at one house and a veritable treasure trove of gummy bears at the other won’t help anyone
While your child might seem innocent and you are confident they have been brought up well, the urge to play one parent off the other, especially when the parents hate each other and can barely communicate with one another, is just to delicious and irresistible to a child who wants something really, really bad. It becomes easy, and before you know it, they will master the art of lying and manipulating to get their own way. Don’t ever underestimate how smart they are, and don’t make the mistake of thinking they aren’t listening and seeing what is going on when you least expect it.
Don’t Forget Another Very Important Factor
Make sure your new partners respect your wishes with your ex, and are on board with your plans in being consistent. It isn’t a competition. If you aren’t in agreement with your ex, and your new partner supports you in that decision, you can escalate very quickly to a situation that is not manageable without being in a constant state of anger and frustration, or heading back down the very expensive road of court costs.
You don’t have to like your ex, but you have to work together where the kids are concerned. After all, you made them together, right? Well, now you have the responsibility of raising your kids together…and that means getting on the same page when it comes to parenting, even if in no other aspect of your relationship. You owe it to your kids.
For those new to blended families, you may find the title confusing. If you are one about to set up a blended family, you may not understand what I mean by blended family chaos when you are planning your future. After all, the kids have been hanging out and playing nicely up until this point. Your story will be different. I’m here to tell you, if you are looking for a key piece of divorce advice for men, read this whole thing! Odds are you will one day attempt this very thing.
Anyone out there living the “joy” of a blended family today? Do you find it as shown on television? The world is never as portrayed on television. The best divorce advice for men regarding blended family chaos does NOT come from the Brady Bunch! Here a man with three boys marries the woman with three girls and they all get along wonderfully, and resolve minor conflicts in less than 30 minutes. The real world laughs at this absurdity!
Several years ago, I attended a wedding that set the stage for blended family chaos. The bride’s parents had divorced when “Holly” was in elementary school. Her mother remarried shortly thereafter, and the stepfather, “Tim,” was instrumental in Holly’s life. So important that, when it was time to plan the wedding, there was no question that Tim would walk her down the aisle.
But at the wedding reception when the emcee announced the father-daughter dance, both Holly’s biological father and her stepfather walked onto the dance floor. A shouting match ensued, and it was uncomfortable for everyone. Especially the bride.
How awful do you think this made the daughter and bride feel? It’s easy for us to analyze this from the comfort of our seats and recognize the behavior was pathetic. But when you are the one in the heat of the moment, emotions are flared up, you see your ex happy with another and old feelings kick in, and you potentially have some alcohol giving you a boost, your personal decisions may not be the best. Weddings are hard enough anyway. Non-blended families have their own stresses at the wedding as discussed here. Throw in the old wounds of divorce and you have to be ready to not ruin the event for your kids.
Not All Stepparents are Evil
What did we learn from this awkward scenario? Well, the obvious lesson — anticipate these moments when planning the wedding and reception, and communicate the decisions ahead of time. But what about the subtle lesson? Not all stepparents are evil. Some even have the ability to love beyond their own progeny. Step-relationships do not have to result in blended family chaos.
Let’s take a look at a couple of scenarios you might be able to visualize.
Scenario #1: Your ex remarries, and her new husband has kids of his own. The newlyweds are able to sync their custody/visitation dates together so that they either have all their respective kids, or none. When your kids spend time with you, all they do is complain about their evil stepfather and his obnoxious children. What words of wisdom do you pass along to your own kids about their new blended family?
Scenario #2: You remarry, and your new wife has kids of her own. She has primary custody of her children, and their father is pretty much out of the picture. So now you’re a stepdad, essentially raising and supporting somebody else’s kids. How do you navigate this newly blended family without affecting your relationship with your wife?
Could you be reading about anyone you know?
Exploring the New Family Dynamic
Bringing up the role of a future stepparent isn’t generally discussed during divorce mediation. But subsequent marriages and blended families may eventually happen. This could be the perfect storm, or it could be a perfect opportunity to revisit your divorce mediator, only this time to talk about issues within the new dynamic. Sometimes, it’s even a good idea to bring along the entire blended family.
In my mediation practice, I have achieved success in helping families avoid Blended Family Chaos.
Imagine you, your new spouse, and your respective children all sitting in a conference room. The kids are spinning around in their chairs, your wife is clutching her Starbucks cup with both hands, and you are nervously tapping the end of your pencil against the table top. I walk in with a smile on my face, and immediately address the kids; writing down their names and ages.
This seemingly simple tactic of writing down the name of each kid and his/her age is my way of showing that the kids are as important in this process as the adults. Next, I’ll explain the ground rules – that I’m here to listen and to make sure each person has an equal opportunity to talk, uninterrupted, with the goal of achieving some understanding.
I’m not saying this produces instant results. Kids need to feel comfortable with their counselor to even begin to open up. Kids with other mental health challenges present unique challenges. However, all kids need time to get comfortable before the real therapy begins. For you parents this means be patient. Your kids aren’t going to respond right away, that’s the one guarantee.
Not too long ago, in my very own conference room, I empowered a 10-year-old girl to express her concern about sharing a bedroom with her eight-year-old stepsister. Everybody listened to understand her fears and concerns, and then both sisters created a code of conduct about their stuff. The entire family talked about acceptable behavior and also about consequences. I took notes, and then prepared a written agreement between the two girls. They solemnly signed it as though they were entering into a contract to rent an apartment. The impact was unmistakable. And the parents took it very seriously.
Of course, there are different issues when it comes to teenagers. If the stepparent’s teens are allowed unlimited use of cell phones, computers, and automobiles, but the biological parent’s teens are not, whose rules govern? This is another opportunity for a neutral third party to help the entire family brainstorm about what is reasonable, fair, and enforceable. Once decided, the Mediator may draw up a written agreement for the entire family to sign, outlining the new rules. Naturally, after the agreement is has been signed, it’s binding, and you and your spouse must also agree to the terms, including enforcement of the consequences.
When Kids Hate the New Partner
So what happens if your new partner’s kids take an instant dislike to YOU? (Or vice-versa?)
I recently had the opportunity to work with a blended family where the stepmother’s dislike of her new husband’s 14-year-old daughter wreaked havoc on their marriage, and she was ready to file for divorce. The teenager had been in therapy, but it obviously was having no material effect on the family dynamic. The husband chose not to play the adult card with his belligerent daughter, and opted instead to seek out the help of a family mediator. Within the first 20 minutes, it was obvious that the daughter was able to open up more to me than she had in several therapy sessions. Why? Because I’m a mediator, not a therapist. Mediators are trained to listen and ask questions without judgment. In this case, the daughter desperately wanted her biological parents to reconcile. We all heard her say the words, and then I gently asked her what would happen if the reconciliation was impossible. She literally took a deep breath, sat up straighter, and began to talk about her future.
Helping people in conflict move forward is what Mediators are trained to do.
Helping people in conflict move forward is what Mediators are trained to do. Families, especially those with teenagers, seem to find something less threatening about choosing mediation over family therapy. And let’s not forget that it’s likely way less expensive.
Blended family mediations have tremendous success because all of the family members have an equal voice. It’s no surprise that many second (or subsequent) marriages fail because of the chaos caused by conflict about the kids and stepchildren.
Critical Steps for Avoiding Mixed Family Chaos
So, to avoid Blended Family Chaos, I urge you to consider these nine steps:
- Don’t show favoritism.Whether you’re obviously favoring your own children over your stepkids, or you’re over-compensating by favoring your stepchildren over your own, the kids will call you on it. And they’ll be right to point it out to you.
- Don’t be played.Your kids know just how to get to you, whether it’s by dishing out some guilt, or by acting out, or by other devious methods to “punish” you for divorcing their mom and marrying their Wicked Stepmother. Recognize it and avoid it like the plague.
- Be consistent.When you and your spouse establish new ground rules, whether with the help of a family mediator or not, make sure those rules are enforced equally and without exception. Your entire family will benefit if you and your spouse put up a united front.
- Stand by what’s important.You and your new spouse will not always agree. Often the stronger personality will win on many rules and standards for the blended home. As dads, we sometimes seek the compromise and by doing so, can force our kids into a setting that is drastically different for them. Know your key stances on home environment and don’t give in when setting the baseline with the new spouse just to get it moving.
- Compliment each kid.Find something to praise each child about frequently. I’m absolutely not suggesting that you hand out participation trophies simply for being a member of the family. Rather, I’m encouraging you to find something noteworthy and express it to each child, preferably in front of everybody. Dinner table compliments are an easy habit to establish and you’ll not only be boosting their self-esteem, but also your own ratings.
- Meet your new kids. Yes, don’s show favoritism. But you also need to get to know your step kids. This doesn’t take much, however you need to be aware of your human nature to go to your comfort zone. You know your kids. So you will naturally chat with them. Get to know the new ones…make an effort. You will likely have to remind yourself.
- Nurture your marriage.I saved this one for last because in my opinion, it’s the most important. Have regular date nights with your spouse. Remind yourselves (and each other) why you’re together in the first place, and why you’ve committed yourselves to raising this blended family in the best way possible.
- Flexible holidays. When you blend a family, you increase the number of families that have to work together. Your new step-kids have another parent, and your kids have another. At holiday time, the different groups of kids will be heading in different directions. Just remember to stay flexible. Your kids are the ones really feeling the stress of going between households. Do your best to make their time at your home low-stress.
- Go almost all-in. You’ve got to be ready to push all the chips in from the start and fully commit to the new family for any hope of making it work. However, just like Vegas, keep a chip or two in your pocket for cab money, or Uber for the younger crowd. Never forget who the #1 advocate for your children is (hint: it’s you)! If you’ve gone the full road and applied your soul to making it work, but your partner has not or it is just tearing your kids apart, you may need to use that saved chip to pack it up. Sad fact, but they come first. Don’t let them know this, or they’ll do everything to get you to depart. But you’ll know when.
Don’t Give Up On Your Blended Family
Okay, now what? You say you’ve made the effort to avoid Blended Family Chaos by following the five steps above, but your relationship with your stepchildren is still causing stress in the family, and in your marriage? Or, what if your blended family needs a tune-up because the kids are older and the issues have changed accordingly?
Find a family mediator in your community and schedule an appointment. Be proactive and you won’t have to deal with Blended Family Chaos.
Nancy Gabriel is the principal and managing partner of Mediation Around The Table, LLC., a Las Vegas-based private mediation company. Ms. Gabriel is a founding director of Nevada Mediation Group, a non-profit corporation focusing on the education and training of mediators, a volunteer for the Neighborhood Justice Center of Clark County, Nevada, a member of the divorce panel for MWI, a Boston, Massachusetts firm specializing in alternative dispute resolutions, and a volunteer at Three Square Food Bank. She is a graduate of UCLA, an avid gourmet cook and NFL fan. She may be contacted through the firm website at www.MediationAroundTheTable.com
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Cheating, lying and creating family chaos – yeah, that’s infidelity for ya. Nothing is more challenging to a relationship than infidelity. Child rearing, financial strains and interpersonal struggles pale in comparison to the challenges that infidelity dumps on a relationship. Rebuilding your marriage after an affair has shredded the bonds of marriage is possible but it’s one of the most trying and arduous efforts that a couple can face together. The challenge is faced by the couple together, but the really hard work is on the one who has been ‘cheated on’ as he or she attempts to rebuild trust in their partner after its been completely destroyed by the affair.
But we guys are not alone in this infidelity struggle, because we are no longer alone in creating the family chaos. With the emergence of the internet, social media and dating apps, women are quickly catching up to their male counterparts in creating family chaos. In fact, the Kinsley Institute at Indiana University reported that women are cheating at nearly the same rate as men for the first time in history. In fact, 19.2 % of the women in the study had admitted to cheating during their current relationship compared to 23.2% of the men.
And, although rebuilding your marriage after infidelity is possible, the methods to do so may differ depending on who caused the issue.
Rebuilding Your Marriage When You, the Man, Cheated
1.Come clean. The first step toward repairing the rift is to be honest. It’s likely going to be brutal to step up and admit that you have hurt your wife, but if you want to save your marriage, you need to have the courage to face the truth, no matter the anguish it will unleash on you both.
A study of married couples by UCLA and the University of Washington concluded the one proven road back to marital stability and satisfaction was: admitting the affair. The numbers don’t lie. At the end of the 5-year study, 43% of couples who confessed their unfaithfulness were divorced compared with 80% of the couples who hid their adultery when their spouse later discovered it. Honesty was the key distinction in whether the relationships survived. In fact, when the cheater accepted and acknowledged responsibility for the affair, the marriage could survive and could be rebuilt to sustain the test of time. At the conclusion of the study, couples who survived an affair experienced comparable levels of marital stability and satisfaction as the couples who had not experienced adultery at all.
2. End the affair. It’s just that simple. Maintaining an illicit affair is just damaging beyond belief, mindless, cruel, self serving, disrespectful and selfish. It does nothing in favor of your marital relationship and, if anything, threatens the very existence of your marriage and both of your financial futures. Nothing is more devastating to a woman than to find out that her husband is having an affair. If you’re not suspected of having an affair, STOP. As much as there may be physical attraction and fleeting physical rewards for you personally, it is destroying you and your marriage. The lies, the tardy arrivals, and the missed events will ultimately expose your infidelity and your affair will be discovered if it hasn’t been already. Regardless of how secretive and discrete you think you may be, your infidelity will be found out, and you will destroy your relationship in the process. If there is any hope for rebuilding your marriage, the affair must end. Then and only then can real healing begin.
3. Give her space. If and when you break the news that you’ve been unfaithful your spouse will be devastated and she’ll be blitzed with a storm of raw emotions: shock, rage, betrayal, shame, depression, sadness. Temper your confession with compassion and understanding. As your wife rages and begins to attack you, be kind. Be gentle. Agree with her as much as humanly possible. She’s going through a very difficult time and arguing with her at this point is not in your best interests, not if you have any hope of rebuilding your marriage. Getting through this torrent of emotions will not be easy. Seek therapy and marriage counseling if at all possible. As financially challenging as therapy and counseling may be, consider it a financial investment into your future with your wife. Getting into deeper issues, like why you strayed, is best done when you are in a safe, counseling environment. You likely didn’t cheat one day out of the blue. There were multiple factors that led to it. And you won’t recover from the infidelity overnight either. It’s a very lengthy process and one that will likely take four to five years to regain some relative normality. Take your time. Eventually you will both come to understand what incited you to begin the affair and how each of you had some level of responsibility for its inception. The good news is that your marriage can emerge rock solid and more gratifying once you grapple with and solve those deeper underlying issues.
4. Consult a marriage counselor. Should you and your wife decide to try and work through the affair and the damage it has caused in your relationship, it is highly advisable that you not try to work out your challenges alone. A marriage counselor or mediator would be an expert guide to get the two of you back on the road to reconciliation. There are likely multiple underlying issues that lead to the betrayal and each of you share some level of responsibility for the existence of those issues. Only a qualified counselor, clergyman or mediator may help get you both to the core of those issues and give rational direction on how to resolve them. An affair is most likely a result of unhappiness that exists on both sides of the relationship. Discovering, facing and resolving the root of that discontent will lead to a healthier and more satisfying marriage than you had before the infidelity.
5. Rebuild trust. Trust is a delicate thing. It is a product of prolonged physical and emotional fidelity. And while it would be a huge relief to be able to confess and move on right away, that’s just not in the realm of reality. Once your infidelity has been exposed, whether through your wife’s discovery or by your confession, her trust of you and your actions will be gone. Everything you do, everywhere you go, everyone you see or might see will be questioned, over and over again. Her trust in you and your intentions has been lost, gone, and it won’t return anytime soon. If you’re patient, the seed of trust can grow again. but it’ll take time, patience and endurance on both your parts. Trust can build slowly, over years, by a long series of small commitments and verified successes, each event, each schedule, each meeting, each announcement planned, and each reality checked, challenged and found to be truthful. Through these seemingly endless commitments and successes, its possible to break through the hard, cold distrust of your actions and rebuild trust in your actions.
6. Forgive. While forgiveness may happen, forgetting won’t. But it doesn’t have to: only forgiving matters. Again, this won’t happen overnight, and you can’t impose any kind of definitive deadline on it. But with continued commitment to your marriage and your relationship it is possible to restore trust and intimacy in your marriage. By facing the issues that led to your urge to stray together, your wife may see that while flawed (as we all are), you are worthy of forgiveness. If she refuses to forgive, you have run up against a wall to healing and moving forward. Try and convince her to give therapy a shot as professional help may be needed to get over the barricade and back on track to reconciliation.
An affair doesn’t have to be the last chapter in your marriage. Your adultery can be a wake-up call that your marriage is in serious trouble and on a dangerous path to destruction. If you’re upfront and honest, willing to face the consequences and put in the work in rebuilding your marriage and fix the problems, your honesty about your extramarital affair may prove to be a turning point toward a more satisfying relationship and a brighter future for both you and your spouse.
Rebuilding Your Marriage When She Cheated
1. The Discovery. Well now, since you’re not the one that has to come clean it’s likely that she has already come clean or that her secret was ‘discovered’. If she’s already come clean, then start concentrating your efforts on the other items below.
If on the other hand you are the one that discovered her infidelity, challenges abound for you. Challenges with trust are overwhelming you. You can’t sleep. You can’t think. You want to know where she is every moment of the day. Has she stopped the affair? How do you know? Do you trust her answer if and when she gives you one? The idea of spying on her surfaces and you want to take action. Read her emails? Check her phone logs and text messages? These are all invasions of privacy and are ILLEGAL. DO NOT DO ANY OF THIS. Focus, focus, focus on what you can control. You can only control your own actions. You cannot control hers.
2. Give Her Space Whether she has admitted the affair or she’s been discovered, she’ll need space. Space to collect her thoughts. Space to change course, if that’s still needed. And, space to help bridge the divide of trust that’s been broken. That trust can only be built up slowly over time.
If it’s suspected she’s still involved in the affair, there is nothing you can do about it personally. But you can focus on your actions and IGNORE her actions. To not ignore her actions will only cause you more heartache and dismay. You’ll focus on her whereabouts and what’s she’s likely doing, or at least what you suspect she’s doing. These are only harmful thoughts and will only lead to destroying those parts of your relationship that’re not already destroyed.
Instead, you need to focus on everything else. Focus on your work, on your kids, on their activities, on your hobbies and on your friends. But, ignore your wife and her actions until she decides to end the affair. For help in this and many other divorce related issues, buy and read Michelle Weiner-Davis’ book Divorce Busting. It’s a wealth of time proven tips and assistance for controlling yourself, your emotions, and your actions so as to not chase your wife away with the constant accusations, guilt, anger, fear, rage and frustration that you’re going through.
3. End the Affair. Ok, so you have no control over her ending the affair. But you can talk with your spouse and encourage her to end it. If she refuses, suggest joint marriage counseling. She may or may not be willing to spill her guts to you or to a stranger but you’ve got to try. If she agrees to the counseling and you can afford it, GO. It will do you both a lot of good and it’s is the best chance you have of salvaging your marriage.
4. Consulting a Marriage Counselor. Ok, so assuming she has agreed to go and try to reclaim some of what ‘s been lost in your marriage. There, once each of you has had a chance to yopen up about yourselves to the counselor, you’ll be able to open up about your marriage. What was going right, what was going wrong, what was going sideways in your relationship that may have led to the affair. This is where you dig deep to unveil the secrets and feelings of what has not been expressed, or if it was expressed, what was not acknowledged by one of you or both of you. The challenges in your relationship that led to the infidelity have got to be addressed for there to be any real healing.
Remember, she may have been the one that strayed, but each of you share some of the burden for the affair in some way. Maybe she was telling you all along but you weren’t really listening to her ‘issues’. Maybe you just turned a deaf ear to her rants and bitching. Therein may lie some of the issue.
Maybe she clammed up and said nothing to you, living in desperate silence, not giving in to what was bothering her, and not being honest about her loneliness, her struggles, her issues, and her not feeling loved by you.
This is exactly why a trained professional is so vital to the unveiling of the truth. We as individuals are unwilling or unable to be that brutally honest with ourselves, and certainly not that brutally honest with our spouse without the gentle and non-judgmental encouragement of the counselor. The counselor can help ‘peel the onion’, one layer at a time to get to the root of the despair, and find a way to seek healing from each of you.
5. Rebuild trust. This is a tough one. She cheated on you. And you’re mad as hell. You have every right to be. But, that won’t bring her back and that won’t help rebuild your marriage. Rebuilding trust will take time, lots of time, and there is no guarantee that it’ll be successful. But with guts and determination, on both your parts, you can slowly plant the seeds of trust and water them regularly.
The seeds of trust are just that – seeds. Each event that is planned, each time she is on her own and you have to trust her to arrive on time, each successful event allows the seed to start to take root and grow. One by one, event by event, the seed starts to take root and the trust begins to emerge out of each successful event.
Truth be known, this process will likely take three to five years to have any lasting affect on you and on her. It just takes time, and it is a slow rebuilding process that cannot be rushed.
6. Forgive. We both know that the infidelity is something that will never be forgotten, never. It’ll always be in the back on your mind and you’ll always be mindful of the possibility that it could happen again.
You’ll have to put in a lot of hard work to make your marriage work in a way that it never did before. But, by doing the ‘hard time’, working at rebuilding your marriage after an affair, and with the rebuilding of trust, you have the chance to forgive. And, you have the chance to be more thoughtful, more aware, more sensitive to your partners needs and wants.
And, it is that sensitivity that may be the key to rebuilding a lasting relationship that could endure any challenge and could last a lifetime. With sensitivity, you’ll be better prepared to sense your partners wants and needs, and it’s that sensitivity that can help to make you a more caring and loving partner, maybe the kind of partner she’s wanted all along.
And that is worth fighting for.
Well son, soon you’ll be married. Just seeing those words on the page fills me with a mix of emotions that surpasses my ability to sort them all out. Where do I begin to express everything I want to say? All I want you to know about life, about marriage? About loving someone for the rest of your life? So, what do I say to my son on his wedding day?
Of course, I realize that my best opportunity to convey all these things has already passed. I had my chance to teach you by example. All those years as you grew up, there were days, weeks, and months where I could demonstrate in real life how to be a good spouse; a good parent. And I did. I did my best. Not every day was a success, obviously. Okay, some days were total disasters.
But here we are now. And I just feel like there are some things that still need to be said from a parent to a child; well, from me to you, specifically. So, here goes. (Forgive me if you’ve heard some of these things before. Surely by now you’re used to me repeating myself.)
Think More of Her, and Less of Yourself
When confrontations occur, and they will, big egos can spell disaster for a marriage. This is something I’ve learned from personal experience. If you let your ego take over, it will eat away at your marriage from the inside out. Big egos make the owner of the ego push their side of an issue during an argument when, in fact, they should just let go. A big ego can make one ignore the signs that really hurt their partner. Big egos make people do really stupid things like deny that they made a mistake, or deny them the ability to say they’re sorry. This isn’t to say you need to think less of yourself. Not at all. But humility is a fine attribute that will give you the opportunity to build a stronger marriage.
Little Things Really Matter
Small, loving gestures are meaningful to your partner. And, so are small, irritating habits. It’s important not to overlook the little things in a marriage. Things like not drinking out of the milk jug if it really bugs your wife. Things like bringing home a bouquet of flowers “just because.” Things like putting the car keys in the same place every night, and turning the lights off in the room when you leave. The small, loving gestures are a gentle reminder to your wife that you truly love her. But the small, irritating habits can also make her think you really don’t care. The truth is, they both have meaning, and they both matter.
The Laundry Can Wait
As your marriage grows, try not to get bogged down in the day-to-day routine of life. It’s easy to get caught up in domestic chores and daily tasks that rob you both of the joys of marriage. Yes, the garbage has to be taken out, the laundry has to be done and dishes have to be washed. But, if you’re not careful, these chores can take over your whole lives. This is especially hard when you own a home. Now you have this big “thing” you have to take care of. Leaves to rake, garden hoses to untangle, a new furnace install. Let me tell you something. As much as you might enjoy being a homeowner, over the years these things get boring with a capital B. And, if you’re not careful, you can project that boredom onto your spouse. You grow to mistakenly think she’s the one who’s boring. In reality, she’s probably just as bored as you are.
I don’t know what the answer is to this one. The answer won’t be the same for everyone. Maybe you won’t want to even own a house. Lots of people these days prefer to live in a condo just so they can avoid yard work. Or maybe you’ll be able to afford to pay someone else to take care of some things. Who knows what life will bring you? All I know is, you shouldn’t let domestic chores rob you of the real joys in life. The laundry can wait.
What Do I Say To My Son – Be Consistent
Please do your best to keep your promises. If you tell your wife you’ll pick her up at 2:15, be there at 2:10. Being true to your word is so important in a marriage. It builds trust. It instills a sense of security in the marriage. Imagine if you have a marriage when if you don’t show up, your wife knows without a doubt that something is wrong. People might say to her, “Oh, he probably forgot. You know how men are.” But your wife will say, “Not my husband. If he says he’ll do something he does it. Something must have happened.” Be that guy. Be true to your word. Be dependable. Show up. Be on time. And, show her you care, about her.
Realize Your Own Vulnerabilities
Lots of people will disagree with what I’m about to say. I don’t care. (This is something else you’ll learn when you get older. You care less and less what others think.) You have to realize your own vulnerabilities. Be honest with yourself. You’re a man. Other women will be attracted to you, married or not. You’ll still be attracted to women, even after you get married. (Surprise! You’re human and you’re not yet dead.)
Don’t put yourself in situations where your natural vulnerabilities may cause you to do something stupid. So, here’s what I suggest. Don’t have women friends outside your marriage. It just doesn’t work. Maybe it does work in a small number of cases. But is it worth the risk? Is it worth hurting your spouse when it makes her uncomfortable that you have a standing tennis date with your woman “friend”? Trust me when I say you’re just putting yourself in a tempting situation when you engage in a friendship with a woman outside of your marriage. Maybe it doesn’t seem fair, or maybe you’ll say that your spouse shouldn’t be so jealous. Nevertheless, it’s not good for your marriage.
Say Something. Anything.
You don’t need to be a chatterbox to be a good husband. But engaging in conversation and small talk, anything, just a little something helps tremendously, even when you just don’t feel like talking. In fact, if you cannot engage, then just say, “I don’t feel like talking right now.” That works. But the worst thing you can do, especially in an argument, is to clam up. THAT is infuriating. Try to say something that will give you a little time to think, at least for now. Anything will work. “Can we please talk about this later? I need some quiet time to think.” Or, “I’m busy right now but this is important to me. Can we talk over dinner?” And really, talking later is often better. It allows both of you to calm down, take a break. It prevents you both from saying something you’ll regret later. But, say something; just don’t say nothing.
Stop. You know what I mean. Just a little pat on the shoulder as you’re walking by. A touch to her hair. Holding hands on the couch. These tiny little gestures of physical affection are very meaningful and important to your wife. They’re like an unspoken, “I love you.”
Ask for Help
This might be the piece of advice that will be hardest for you to swallow. Things won’t always be rosy. There will be times when you need help. Don’t be shy about asking for it. You don’t have to be the big, strong, tough guy. You have lots of supportive people who love you and want to help. When things get overwhelming, ask for help. If you hit a rocky patch in your marriage, ask about counseling. Ask your wife to help you understand the problems. When you ask for help, miracles can happen. People are there for you. I’m there for you, too.
What Do I Say To My Son
Honest, it is difficult to know what I should say to my son on his wedding day. Today you will live through a life altering event and there are no right or wrong words for me to say. What do I say to my son? In guess, the last pearl of wisdom I want to bestow on you son is – be humble. Be yourself but be gentle. Like most men, you’re a strong man with strong opinions and strong attitudes. And, in gentleness there is strength. In dealing with your wife, gentleness will reap its own rewards in love and understanding. And you will be the recipient of those rewards if you just treat your wife with love and respect.
God Bless you and may you shower your wife with the love that’s deep in your heart on this momentous day.
For you, my incredibly amazing, magnificent and beautiful daughter on her graduation from High School, I give this ‘Letter to My Daughter on Her Graduation.’ It was hard to write this then, and still hard to read today. Several years have passed since I first wrote this to you, and as I read it again, I’m struck by how true it still is! It will still be valid in another couple of years, and even more beyond that. You continue to amaze me daily and I’m struck so often by how you “have it!”
Hi. This is your father. Many things below I’ve said to you in person. But I believe important things are best backed up with the written word. Most of this letter is a bunch of stuff you may, or may not, decide is useful. I know when I was graduating high school I didn’t give my father’s advice much thought. But I promise you, if he had written it down for me, I guarantee I would find it valuable today. Hopefully you’ll find a few nuggets buried in this letter to my daughter now and later.
You’ll excuse me for overstepping my boundaries if you feel I have in writing it down. Since I can’t buy you a car for graduation or fly you around the world as a present when you turn 18 soon (both things I’d love to do, but alas, it ain’t gonna happen), what I can do is this. I can write a letter to my daughter. Sure, I can write you a letter any time, but I’ve decided to pour out what I consider to be the real morsels of truth in life. I’ve found these over the years, with most coming from pain and wrong choices. You’ll make those too, but maybe this letter will help you avoid the ones I made so you can go make your own, less painful ones.
To My Daughter
So… here’s the most important stuff (read this next paragraph if nothing else, please):
In all the time you have been on this planet, I have loved you more than words will ever express. You are my daughter, and I am amazed by you. Always and forever. I wish I had more to offer you than simply my pride and love, though I hope they will suffice in this moment. I’m truly in awe at what a smart, sweet, kind, caring and optimistic young woman you have become. You are quite simply the best thing that ever happened to me, and I’m really glad you’re here. I love you. Looking good, kiddo!
Now, on to the graduation address…
That I am sitting here writing to you on the eve of your high school graduation and a month before your official status as a young adult has me simply flabbergasted. I could not possibly have prepared for this day, and yet here it is. What I find more odd is how vivid my memories are of my own graduation and then later your birth. I can still see you as you were before school began for you, when the world is full of wonder. And now you are about to set out on the next chapter. I can’t describe the joy and sadness that swirl in my emotions.
You are a young lady now, hardly the small child of my memories. I haven’t the foggiest notion of how to really talk to you, though it is absolutely my honor, privilege and duty to keep trying, for as long as I live.
Truth told, I’ve never considered myself a very good father, and in many ways I’ve been simply lousy. I’m sorry is about all I can really offer. The older you get, the older I get, the more likely the struggles of my adult life will become things you know more about, and in so doing, will likely shift some of the distance between us, though it will never excuse the places where I failed you. For this, all I can do is say I’m sorry and ask for your forgiveness.
Of course, there are also many little things that I have had a part of along the way that have certainly helped shape the fine young woman you are today. I’d like to think that some of the adventures, people and places I have shown you had an impact, and that my family has had some positive growth for you as well.
Your mother and I made a deal a long, long time ago that no matter what happened, we would always do our best to teach you about the world as best we could without disparaging the other. I think it served you well. I hope it did. It wasn’t easy, for either of us.
Somehow, I missed the part where you stopped being a little girl and started becoming a young adult, and it definitely happened along the way. The young woman I see before me is really an amazing person, and I want to do everything in my power to help ensure she stays that way.
So, I’ve been watching you for awhile now, and I’d like to offer some insight into the world you are about to enter. There are things your father still knows that you do not. There are some pieces of advice you’re unlikely to hear from anyone else, and some of them may piss you off a bit, but if I don’t tell you, no one else will, and forewarned is forearmed.
Know that first and foremost, what I want for you is a joyous and happy life filled with love, friendships, adventures, learning and growing. I also know that there are going to be tough days. I hope you’ll count on me as a voice of reason and wisdom as you grow into adulthood.
Know also that no matter what anyone ever says, you are perfect just exactly as you are. You’re never going to be too short, too fat, too dark, too weak, too dumb, or anything else that people may come along and tell you that you are. Surround yourself with people who remind you of how awesome you are, and avoid the ones that don’t. The only person you need permission from, from now on, is you.
I hesitate to say this part, and I think it is necessary. The world is sometimes cruel and evil people really are out there. You have been incredibly blessed so far that perhaps the worst hardship you have endured is your father’s lack of presence. I’m not aware that you have broken any bones, required surgery or had any close friends die on you or really fuck their lives up horribly while you had to watch. While I truly don’t know what personal struggles you have overcome (though I do know that you have a perseverance about you that is admirable, and that simply learning itself has been a life long challenge for you, and may well continue to be), what I do know is that you really have lived a fairly sheltered life compared to what many children in this world endure. There are a great many “bad” places on this planet, and I hope you’ll steer well away from them, or enter only safely with a good guide. I mean this as much about real, physical places and people as I do about bad decisions and poor judgment, your father being somewhat of an expert on bad decisions and poor judgment.
Your conservative father is deeply concerned that you may not give enough credence to the idea that capable as you are, you are also diminutive, attractive and generally optimistic. While these are cherished things, they are also traits a bad person will try to capitalize on. I don’t want you to be afraid of the world in any sense, and I do want you to be prepared.
My second really important point I want to get through to you is this: There is a huge, amazing world out there, too. Go see it.
You aren’t in a hurry, of course, and I don’t want to see you wasting a minute of your life longer than you have to here. There is an entire planet out there, and you should strive to see as much of it as you can. My largest regret in life is that I didn’t take advantage of the opportunities presented to me to travel in my youth. I got scared and stayed put. Don’t let your fear of the unknown keep you from travelling abroad or moving out of state for college.
This point you seem to grasp really well, but I want to say it anyway: Do what makes you happy! Find your passions and do them! They are absolutely the most important real life work you have to do. When you are passionate, you energize others. When you are working with purpose, you show the way. Trust the little voice in your head when it tells you that you should make art, or plant a garden or help someone. It’s a good voice. Too many ignore it, and after some time, they lose it. I can’t imagine how different and wonderful the world might be if more people listened to that good side just every now and then. Be unique and be that one that does!
Lastly for now, (since I expect to write you again at 21 and offer you a few more pieces of wisdom that you would currently call “lecturing”), I want to remind you again of something that is becoming more and more relevant as you mature.
You are a creative person. Unquestionably. So is your dad.
So, please, help me help you.
I don’t know enough about your inside life to really know what to offer, though I am quite certain that I have some answers for you, and I don’t want to pretend I know which ones are relevant. I just hope you’ll still consider asking me when you feel you have a tough one. This old man might know some things. My life hasn’t been easy. I haven’t followed the cookie-cutter path. I’m certainly not perfect. That’s where I can help. If there is one guarantee in this life it is that you will make mistakes and you will fail at something, and actually several things. I know I have. Dealing with it is extremely tough. I can speak to you as one that’s fought through many tough times, and continues to do so. Don’t seek advice from those that just don’t know.
My dearest daughter, all I really want you to know is that you are loved and supported by many.
I am so proud of you.
With Much Love,
You’ve joined forces and tied the knot, in the name of holy matrimony. And now, baby makes three (or four or five). Marriage brings with it challenges of its own; adding a baby to the mix can further disrupt harmonious functioning. Postpartum depression and divorce are linked and postpartum depression may be to blame. Postpartum depression is no longer reserved solely for women; research suggests men too can struggle with postpartum depression all their own.
Known also as paternal postnatal depression, studies as recent at 2010 suggest that as many as one in ten men struggle with depression following the welcome of a new child into their lives. Truth is, the rates may be much higher as countless men struggle without seeking professional support. While depression itself may not be the culprit for trouble in a relationship or for divorce for that matter, the ripple effect of resulting behaviors triggered by depressive symptoms can place strains on a relationship and divorce may seem the only option.
Postpartum Depression and Divorce
Symptoms of postpartum depression mirror those of major depressive disorder. The onset of the symptoms, dubbing the name ‘postpartum depression’ follow the addition of a child (through birth, adoption or fostering) to the family dynamic. The most common symptoms of depression, per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th Edition, include:
- Feelings of sadness, worthlessness, hopelessness, and/or guilt; most days, for nearly the entire day
- Changes in sleep patterns (difficulty sleeping or desire to sleep all the time)
- Extreme fatigue, and loss of energy
- Difficulty concentrating and/or indecisiveness
- Restlessness and/or irritability
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Changes in eating habits that result in either weight loss or gain
- Recurrent thoughts of death
Professionals working closely with men who struggle with depression – whether postnatal or not – identify some symptoms that seem to be unique to men that include:
- Feelings of anger, frustration and irritability that may include conflict with others (violent or non-violent)
- Isolating from family and friends
- Tendency to work longer hours
- Increased use of substances (alcohol and/or other drugs)
- Risk-taking and impulsive behavior
Risk Factors for Postpartum Depression
You might be wondering what may put you at higher risk for struggles with postpartum depression and divorce. The following variables are all contributors:
- A previous personal history of depression: If depression is something you’ve struggled with previously, for whatever reason, even if you conquered that mountain and moved on, you are at higher risk of depressive symptoms returning. Additionally, a family history of depression may also increase your risk of developing depression yourself.
- Strained relationships: Tension within relationships, including with your partner, parents, in-laws, and friends set the stage for depressive symptoms to occur. Everyone has a unique opinion on how to raise children, right? Inability to agree with your partner or filter through the ‘suggestions’ from friends and family (yours or hers) can create insurmountable tension within your marriage. Add to it, strained relationships with friends and family can lead to further isolation and limited access to much needed support.
- Extreme fatigue due to lack of sleep: Babies sleep a lot. In theory, sleep shouldn’t be hard to come by with baby snoozing 16-20 hours per day. The trouble is babies don’t always sleep for long durations of time, for a variety of reasons. So, when baby is awake often through the night and you struggle to return to sleep yourself, or there are other variables keeping you awake (i.e. stress), sleep can become extremely hard to come by. An extremely fatigued adult has less capacity to tolerate or deal with the curveballs of life productively which can further strain relationships and now a vicious cycle has begun.
- Lack of support: Humans were created as social beings, and support from friends and family is essential. Particularly during significant life changes like adding a child into your mix. Whether the support is hands on (giving you and your partner a much needed break), or emotional (allowing you an opportunity to vent, their normalizing your experience and re-assuring you to the best of their ability that you CAN do this, etc.).
Trying to take on too much yourself and declining invitations for help, or being isolated creates an environment in which depression can thrive.
- Limited economic resources: We hear all the time that “money isn’t everything”. While we know that to be true, it’s also reasonable to admit that having money <versus not> sure makes things easier. If you were strapped financially prior to your child being born, or if the strain hit with the additional expenses that came alongside baby, economic challenges can place an incredible burden on a marriage. Adjusting to parenting a new baby brings with it challenges enough. The additional stress of wondering how the mortgage will be paid, if you’ll be able to scrape together enough to keep the lights and heat on, or how food will land on the table (and diapers on that sweet babe’s bottom) can – and in many cases WILL – contribute heavily to the onset of depression.
- Hormonal changes: That’s right fellas. Hormonal changes happen for you during and after your partner’s pregnancy, too! Not only do they change but they fluctuate, which, you might remember is one of the reasons puberty is so darn hard for teens (and perhaps even harder on their parents). During pregnancy estradiol (hormone found in higher levels in females) increases, and testosterone (hormone found in higher levels in men) decreases for males. Just before birth testosterone fluctuates, and increases, but shortly after birth drops once again. Add to it the fluctuation of the stress hormone cortisol (which drops during pregnancy, rises just before birth, and drops again after birth…only to rise again as stress and tensions grow).
Fluctuating hormones (for both partners) before, during and after birth creates a recipe for depression.
- Non-traditional family structure: parenting alongside your partner is hard enough, but when the family structure resembles something less than traditional, the risk is higher for additional stress, leading to depression. Co-parenting first thing out the gate, without any opportunity to first learn together under the same roof can lead to lots of confusion and disagreement about common goals for parenting the new little one. Plus, bonding opportunity is limited when time is shared between two parents living in separate residences (with dad likely taking more back-seat time to mom as a primary caregiver, at least initially). Add to all of it that living separately means limited resource to share the burden with one parenting having to shoulder it all until baby spends time with the other parent.
All these risk factors work in tandem to increase risk of postpartum depression and divorce. While all factors set a person at higher risk, everyone is uniquely designed with different thresholds for tolerating and navigating these factors. It’s also important to know that risk factors don’t necessarily mean postpartum depression will develop. Rather, it’s just wise to be aware of the factors that may exist and to act when/if a problem is suspected.
Seeking Help for Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is not forever, nor does it have to be a contributor to a failed marriage. Depression is easily treatable via several avenues:
- Talk therapy: talk therapy can help an individual verbally process through the events and associated thoughts and feelings, as well as help an individual learn invaluable healthy coping skills. A professional can also make further recommendations for support and point you in the right direction to access services s/he doesn’t provide.
- Medications: antidepressants are an option, most often in conjunction with talk therapy, for helping an individual get in front of the depression that is wreaking havoc on their life. Get the skinny on medications for treating depression prior to a visit with your doctor with this article published by the National Institute of Mental Health.
- Natural Remedies: if medications aren’t really your thing and you’re not sure how you feel about talk therapy, there are a host of natural remedies in existence that are proven to aid in elevating mood. A healthy diet, exercise and adequate sleep are just for starters. Read more on WebMD for additional natural remedy options.
- Crisis Resources: if you or someone you know is a risk to themselves or others due to a mental health condition, do not hesitate to outreach to either local or national crisis resources for immediate support. The national suicide prevention hotline can be accessed by dialing 1-800-273-8255, or you can visit them on the web for additional information.
Get your marriage back on track after baby makes three (or four or five) with an understanding of postpartum depression risk factors, symptoms and options for support. For both you and your partner. As the saying goes “this too shall pass” and there are indeed happier days ahead.
So, you’re getting a divorce or think you’re wanting one. There’s an easy way to tell if you’re ready, truly ready. Are you angry, mad, or upset? Then you’re not ready. If you are really emotional right now you may be ready for a break, have a strong need for answers or may really need to just get away for a bit. Truth is, you need to decide if you want to be right or happy. Here’s something that’s not a secret but is something you’ve heard, but may not really get, yet. When you’re ready to walk away, maybe with sadness, some regret, but without a lot of emotions behind it; then, you’re done. Go for it. But, here’s the thing; if you still have a lot of angst or emotions about whatever is going on right now, you can’t really be sure the right course of action and there’s a chance that ANY action while you’re not crystal clear could make things worse. So, pull up a chair and let’s chat.
I know, there are many reasons you’re going through this right now, some could be your fault, some could be hers, and probably there are some shared faults somewhere mixed in there. I think, if you’re here reading this, on this site, then you must be feeling or looking for some answers, so you are showing some empathy and are probably not the potential asshole who’s thinking, …”it’s all her fault, I’ve done nothing wrong.”. The major issue right now might just be something she’s doing or has done that you can’t live with, and if you’re smart, you’ll recognize the person responsible for her actions, is not you; it’s her but not her alone, in a vacuum. And, consequently, the person responsible for your past, present and future actions, is not her; it’s you. So, let’s get the first step laid out plain and simple. Each partner in a divorce is responsible for his or her actions that lead to here, and will be responsible for their actions to get past and beyond this moment, right here, right now. Past can’t be changed; future can’t really be predicted (unless you keep doing the same things over and over). So, we’re here now, you’re here, she’s there (in the other room, at the other house, with her mom, or maybe even some other guy, and we need to decide if divorce is what we really need to do. If there are kids involved, that could make it even more simple. That’s right, kids can make it easier to decide, but not how you’re thinking. We’ll get to that in a moment.
Nothing anyone tells you is going to be accurate 100% of the time, agreed? But, usually where divorces start to fail is not near the end; it’s almost always at the very beginning. And, we have to understand that and think about that to understand what might be happening now. I think most relationships start like this; two people meet, bump into each other, or see each other from across the room, conference table, bar, or some measure of space, and the bells go off. Some talking ensues, smiles are exchanged and in some short period of time, one of two things happen. Either there’s an immediate hooking up, or there’s a plan for a next meeting, which entails an exchange of numbers, email addresses, twitter feeds, etc… so as to facilitate that next meeting. I know, sometimes it takes a couple of gazes or bumps to get there, but you get the point, you get THERE. One thing leads to another, things get physical, and the horses are out of the gate. I know there are some other paths to the here and now and we’ll talk about them, but give me just a little leeway for the moment. You’re horses, racing. neck and neck, sweating and pounding the track towards some finish line, capiche? Good.
Now, the thing that usually doesn’t happen, rarely does, sometimes, maybe, is that instead of horses, you become turtles. Without getting all psychological or dragging it on and on, there’s a very fundamental piece that gets skipped in the majority of relationships that can predict with some accuracy (not 100% remember) that you’re going to be at this point. It’s the part where each of you, and in this case, YOU, have contemplated life to the point of knowing with some reasonable idea just WHAT it is you want out of life, what is REALLY the most important things to you. Also, HOW you plan on getting whatever it is and WHEN do you expect you’re going to get to it. Also, what things will you not accept in your life and what are you willing to do, without sacrificing your good, happy, self, to protect your life from allowing those bad things to creep in? Remember, right now, you’re thinking about or are going through a divorce and we’re trying to make sure it’s what we want and to be at peace with it. Again, you need to decide – do you want to be right or happy?
This chat we’re having isn’t about her, it’s about you. But, we’ll say that the same applies to your partner or soon to be ex-partner that they should have thought about all that meaningful stuff surrounding them self before they hooked their wagon to you. Statistics are that one or both people in a failing relationship didn’t do that work up front and weren’t really prepared whether it was 2 months or 2 years from the initial meeting, to the wedding bells.
What does all that mean right now? It means a couple of very simple things. Neither of you are perfect and you fell in love with someone at the beginning, who wasn’t the same person you’re dealing with right now. Usually the clichés are offered up like “people change” or “we grow apart”. The reality is most people don’t change, but since most people always present their better selves at the beginning of a relationship, the actual-sized person reveals themselves over time and it’s THAT person that you’re sitting here thinking about, or are, divorcing. Not the one you met, but the WHOLE person which includes the one you met, then one you’re dealing with now and all of the good, bad, and ugly in between. So, you have to take that image or picture of your partner and know in your inner core, who knows himself because you can answer the questions of what you want and what your own boundaries are to get it, is the person you know on the other end of this relationship a person you can spend the same amount of time with in the future that you’ve already spent in the past. Are you ok with that? And the kicker is, YOU CAN’T CHANGE THEM, so are they capable of changing themselves into that person you want in your head, or are they just not the person you thought you married. They’re fine, they’re ok, but they’re just not the person you seem to remember. If they’re not that person and the person they are doesn’t match your path and your boundaries, let them go, for both your sakes. Life is a one-way journey that starts counting down at birth and gives no mulligans for mis-spent moments, days, or years. Time is going, going, gone.
Do you wanna to be right or happy?
Usually, you can’t be both. No matter what is going on right now, she cheated, you cheated, no one cheated but you grew apart, or there’s some extenuating circumstance, it boils down to, do you have the willingness, energy and desire to work on a relationship not with the person you married in the beginning, but the person you’re married to now. If you can’t answer that question, you need to go out to that trail or bench and think about that before you initiate or continue your current course of action. If you can answer it, then fine, you have your answer one way or the other. If your answer is no, you’re not willing and you have boundaries that have been broken and keep getting broken, then let it go now, stop the cycling of on-again, off-again relationships, recognize it for what it was, and move on. Yes, it will take time. Yes, there may be some melancholy. Ultimately, you’ll be better off and you’ll be able to define what you know you do NOT want in your next relationship.
As I mentioned, kids can sometimes, usually, complicate matters in your head and in your heart. Here’s the thing with kids. Is the relationship you’re presenting to them with their other parent the type of relationship you want them to have? Think about it. How did they learn to walk? How did they learn to talk? How did they learn most aspects of their behaviors? I’ll answer it; By listening to and watching YOU. So, if you’re arguing, causing or involved in drama, or some bitter divorce arguments, and if you don’t stop it now, either by working on it or walking away, you’re very potentially teaching them that this is an acceptable way to have or be in a relationship and it’s ok to do exactly what you and your partner are doing. Look at yourself and your partner. Is that relationship what you want for them? You answer that question, and then act.
I hope whatever decision you choose, it leads you to a happier place tomorrow, with less stress and a more peaceful life. After all, as our time is ticking down, what is the most important, to be right or happy? When you’re thinking about that next relationship or trying to fix this one, also remember; BE a TUTRLE, not a race horse. Easy does it. Slow and steady, and all that. Clichés are clichés for a reason. Take Care of yourself.
Alimony may have had its place in divorce, but far too often it is like a punishment for men. In a world where women continue to gain more of a percentage of the workforce, the need for alimony continues to come under fire. Some think alimony has traditionally been used as a way to get men to stay in a marriage they possibly did not want anymore. Whether true or not, thankfully, many states are changing those medieval modes of thinking about spousal support!
The Greatest Alimony States for Men
Georgia has some of the best laws in the country in regards to knocking out alimony from the divorce equation. Sometimes you have to wonder if they named it the Peach State after their alimony laws.
While some alimony can be ordered, usually it is not. They keep trying to improve their laws related to alimony, but as with legislation, it is difficult to cover all contingencies, like this one related to trust protection exclusion related to alimony.
Additionally, if the spousal payee committed adultery, they are barred from alimony payments altogether.
Texas is one of the hardest states to get alimony payments in the country. It often is just not awarded at all.
The only downside is that the Lone Star State is a community-property state. Wealthy breadwinners beware! Property gets split down the middle.
The land of quickie marriages and divorces!
While this might not be the place where you make your last stand with your ex in a long, drawn-out battle, it can go very well in short, somewhat amicable divorces.
Note: Nevada is also a community property state.
Alaska has a non-monetary contribution to the marriage where marital fault may also be considered. But, this could be a double-edge sword.
If your wife contributed to the marriage by raising the kids, then, maybe it’s not so good. Conversely, if she cheated, the alimony gets booted.
Like Nevada, New Hampshire has a quick divorce turnaround time. While this does not always help with the alimony, it does give a failed marriage finality, faster. Then, you can move on with your life.
New Hampshire doesn’t just look at the usual things (earnings, children, education, etc.) but also each spouse’s earning potential outside the marriage.
Fault weighs heavily there, too, as does each spouse’s contributions to their joint properties.
The thorough examination is based on need and not a predetermined formula that might unfairly hurt the paying spouse.
In Alabama, the paying partner’s economic conditions are considered and weighed against the other spouse’s financial needs.
Alimony is ordered on a time frame, and ends:
- Upon the death of either the payer or recipient,
- When the recipient remarries, or
- If the recipient moves in with a new mate
Cohabitation is important because (as you will see below) it means the receiving spouse cannot get away with receiving alimony payments for years while living with a new partner.
Delaware has some factors judges use to determine whether alimony is paid, and for how long.
Alimony is awarded for half the length of a marriage in cases where the divorce comes less than 20 years after the wedding date.
After the 20-year mark, however, it can go on for life.
By far one of the simplest systems in the country!
Kansas says alimony can last for a maximum of 121 months after the divorce. But, the awardee can apply for, and be granted, an additional 121 months in payments. This only happens in rare cases, though.
Tennessee is committed to rehabilitative spousal support.They encourage job training and education.
That doesn’t mean judges will not order alimony to provide long-term support. It just means that spouses cannot receive money without genuine need.
Alimony awards ordered not to exceed the length of the marriage. Also, they stop spousal support upon cohabitation and remarriage. What guy wants to pay an ex to live with some new guy?
The Worst Alimony States for Men
While California was the first state to offer no-fault divorces, they are also one of the most expensive states in the country when it comes to court-ordered support after divorce.
Randall M. Kessler, chairman of the American Bar Association’s Section on Family Law, told Alan Farnham of ABC News,
“Child support in California is typically 10 times what it is…in Georgia or Nevada.”
For that reason alone, California, you made it onto the list of nastiest states for alimony in the country.
This state’s laws allow scorned spouses to bring suit against their former partner’s new lover.
Talk about holding a grudge!
Meet the second state to coddle grudge holders! Hell hath no wrath like legislators in New Mexico andMississippi!
Here, too, a scorned partner can legally sue their former spouse’s new lover for damages. Potentially, a non-guilty party can be held responsible for someone else’s failed marriage. Love to meet the jilted lover who created that law!
New York is one of the slowest states to reform their alimony laws. They held out on legalizing no-fault divorces until 2010. The delay cost litigants thousands of dollars in wasted fees.
That is the heart of the matter. New York has not made it easy for men seeking divorce to move on with their lives.
Colorado does not care if one or the other party to divorce can adequately support themselves.
Instead, they use a formula they call “temporary.” It takes 40% of the higher income deducted by 50% of the lower income. It is not based on financial reality. This “temporary” formula often becomes the long-term, more permanent formula.
Furthermore, Colorado is a community-property state. That means all property is divided equally. So, you could lose half of your property and assets. And then, still pay out 40% of your income.
Imagine getting divorced three times!? Does that mean you owe 120% of your income to your ex?
The best way to sum up Florida’s messed up alimony policies is through the story of Debbie Israel.
The 47-year-old college math teacher from Miami refuses to marry her fiancé because of the state’s alimony for life laws. Once they get married, she will have to give a percentage of her wages to her would-be husband’s ex-wife as part of his household, permanently.
Yep, this makes Florida one of the nastiest states for alimony in the country.
They almost didn’t make the nasty list. Their laws regarding marital misconduct ensure no adulterer, convicted felon, or spouse deserter gets awarded alimony.
But they do allow for the ordering of permanent spousal support. Were it not for that, they’d be on the nice list.
The Garden State probably represents a lot of disheartening news for many spouses. They’re one of the last remaining states where permanent alimony is a possibility. While the system is equitable, permanent is not a sound way to set up alimony for couples who were only together for a few years.
Vermont & Connecticut:
I know I’m going all broken record here, but the thought of paying alimony in perpetuity stinks! It is with that thought in mind that I welcome Vermont and Connecticut to the list of nastiest states for alimony.
They round out the list of the worst 10 for that particular reason.
Residing in the right state is not a Get out of Jail Free, alimony card. However, it can significantly reduce your expenses over time.
While many of us can’t just pack up and move to a different state whenever we want, even if for more favorable alimony environment, we can have influence over the working situation in our home. The key reason for alimony across the country is to provide support while a non-working spouse re-enters the workforce. If both spouses work throughout the marriage, or definitely the years before the divorce, the alimony claims reduce significantly.
Alimony laws in this country ultimately vary from state to state. Pay attention (Now!) to the laws in your state before you get married. Make sure you will not get the screw when (and if) you divorce.
Make sure you’re with someone with whom you want to spend your life. Being sure is a much better alternative to being sorry.
How did your state shape up? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.