Postpartum Depression and Divorce

Postpartum Depression and Divorce

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.

 

The One Question to Ask When Contemplating Divorce What you need to know now!

The One Question to Ask When Contemplating Divorce What you need to know now!

When contemplating divorce things can be confusing; are you jumping the gun and giving up too soon? What will your life look like post-divorce? What about the kids/house/money? And how exactly did you get here? For sure, we’re here to help you answer the one question you should ask when contemplating divorce.

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?

  1. Money.

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.

  1. Assets.

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.

  1. Kids.

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

7 Important Steps for Avoiding Blended Family Chaos Mediating the Challenges to Step-parenting

7 Important Steps for Avoiding Blended Family Chaos Mediating the Challenges to Step-parenting

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 Blended Family Chaos

So, to avoid Blended Family Chaos, I urge you to consider these seven steps:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

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

 

Image courtesy of stockunlimited.com

Letter To My Daughter On Her Graduation Sensitive and Inspiring Words from a Divorced Dad

Letter To My Daughter On Her Graduation Sensitive and Inspiring Words from a Divorced Dad

For my incredibly amazing, magnificent and beautiful daughter on her graduation from High School, I give this ‘Letter to My Daughter on Her Graduation.’ 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. 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 wrote 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.

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,
Dad

Do You Want To Be Right or Happy?

Do You Want To Be Right or Happy?

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.

Ranking the Greatest and Nastiest States for Alimony What You Should Know About Alimony Before Getting Married

Ranking the Greatest and Nastiest States for Alimony What You Should Know About Alimony Before Getting Married

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:

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:

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.

Nevada:

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:

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.

New Hampshire:

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.

Alabama:

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:

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.

Kansas:

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:

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.

Utah:

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

California:

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.

New Mexico:

This state’s laws allow scorned spouses to bring suit against their former partner’s new lover.

Talk about holding a grudge!

Mississippi:

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:

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:

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?

Florida:

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.

West Virginia:

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.

New Jersey:

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

The Benefits of Re-Partnering You are Worthy of Unconditional Love

The Benefits of Re-Partnering You are Worthy of Unconditional Love

Ten years after my own divorce I am absolutely going to go to bat for the benefits of re-partnering. In my unqualified opinion the single most important thing I have done over this decade of separation, divorce and single parenting is to have fallen in love again.

So much of the advice I have received, read, and listened to boils down to the ‘truism’ that time heals all wounds. I don’t agree. I think that if I focussed on feelings I have dealing with my ex-wife, the mother of my two kids, even this far down the track, I would be as defeated and confused as I ever was.

The amount of space on the internet devoted to people trying to deal with anger years after the event of separation and divorce shows that regardless of how much energy you devote to being ‘successful’ in divorce you are likely to be disappointed.

Whether you like it or not you probably divorced for the sort of reasons that can’t be reasoned and negotiated away. You are trying to reason and negotiate with someone who can’t be in the same building with you anymore.

Love heals. The feeling that you are worthy of unconditional love is what heals everything. That is one of the huge benefits of re-partnering.

Katie Hafner, in her blog in The Huffington Post cites research done in the early 1990’s which pointed to the serious adverse health effects divorce could have, especially for men. It’s more than just the bad habits that can creep back in once a man is on his own, the late night burgers and the extra carton of beer. No matter how much we shy away from intimacy as a man, feigning disgust, deep down we all know how good it feels to be touched and to be able to touch. And to simply be around someone who really loves you.

My First Marriage

I was unlucky in that I was part of a marriage which was not much more than cohabitation at its end. And on reflection it was a marriage that didn’t hold many of the pieces needed to make up a marriage that does work.

We didn’t have shared goals in life; we didn’t even really have the same world view. We had no shared interests, and crucially we had very different ideas about raising kids. All those differences meant that in the end we didn’t respect each other as we should have to be married to one another. It can’t become a task to simply like the person you wake up next to.

But on the flipside, that made me lucky in that we had been leading very separate lives for some time when it became evident our marriage was over. I read pieces talking about how on separation you lose half of the man that you have become. I didn’t.

Moving On

I left and reinvented my life, which was lonely and had the feeling of starting over from scratch. My daughter drew a picture of dad’s new home; it was a trestle table and four chairs in one room and the two single beds for her and her little brother in another. As always, I was a stick man yet somehow she managed to get a certain wistfulness into the smile that was the usual curved line.

A decade later I look back at all that has gone on. I can only speak for myself in terms of what has worked and what hasn’t. One thing stands out for me more than anything else. Successfully re-partnering and falling in love.

The Benefits of Re-Partnering

Like every man with young kids I worried about how they would react to the idea of dad re-partnering. It seems to be something akin to grieving. It’s so hard to quantify when is the appropriate time to begin to think about meeting someone else.

So many people have strong opinions about the subject. Some people, my parents included, seemed to labour under some misapprehension that there wouldn’t be any re-partnering. Perhaps that was to do with the kids, I’m not sure. I think on the part of my mum and dad it was largely because they had been together forever, and the notion of pairing off for life made absolute sense to them. If your partner disappears, you just go on, continuing with life but taking a moment at the end of the day to gaze off into the distance ruefully thinking of the things that have been lost.

As I said, I didn’t feel the sense of loss that many do. I was ready to see what life could be outside a relationship that didn’t bring any of the safety and fulfillment it should.

So it was strange to realize that many people seemed to look at me as only part of the old me now that the married part was gone. They would begin conversations by asking about my ex-wife and so on. And more than that, they did seem to treat me as if I would always be missing a part of myself.

There is a lot to be said for the time spent on your own after separation. It was a time when I rediscovered a lot of things that were important to me as a person that had been subsumed by the fact that I was a husband.

I looked after my kids for most of the week. But they were young and we had a good routine of reading together before bedtime, then them reading in bed for a while longer and then lights out. So, I could get back to an evening for myself where I sat down with a glass of wine and watched the evening news. It made me feel part of the world, informed, interesting, lots of things I hadn’t felt in a while.

During the marriage, especially towards the end, I had given up these things. We were just different people, she would deride the news I watched, ABC or SBS, as being for people with tickets on themselves. The sort of people who saw themselves as superior to the Channel 9 watchers.  And alcohol became problematic, she didn’t drink and made out that drinking during the week was a bad behavior and not a good thing to teach the kids.

I could go to the gym again and did so on the nights the kids were away. I worked shifts so that the kids would be at their mum’s when I worked during the day and then with me on my days off. So it meant that in the evening after work I could go to the gym as I had before kids came along, and I could say yes to going out after work, which I hadn’t in a long time. It wasn’t that our kids were difficult. I found towards the end of the marriage things became a contest, if I was to go out, or to have an evening at the gym or playing sport there would always be a period of ill will afterwards, as if I was not being fair.

As the time as a single father lengthened I still enjoyed all of the parts that made up a healthy life after separation. I did a lot of exercise, I had always been a good cook and kept eating well, I had a good network of friends through work and outside. I had friends I had met through the kids so that as a family unit we could spend time with others. I always saw that as a very important part of the kids remembering that dad was a good man, people liked me, they respected me as a man and as a parent and it was natural for life to go on with me being with my kids without their mum.

But, over time I began to find that it is the same as perhaps it had been before marriage. It is great to watch the news. But it is exponentially better to be able to watch it with someone and ask their opinion, realize there are things they know you don’t, and visa-versa. Things you can talk about going forward that you know interest them.

It is great to recognize that you are cooking a good meal, and continuing to eat well and maintain your health through a very stressful time. Eventually, it just becomes eating alone. Or eating with people who may well invite you over, or come over, or meet at a café, and they are with their partner.

Those can be great times, and less stressful perhaps than it was before you separated. I’ve been out a number of evenings where the discomfort between a married couple almost chokes the room. But you are still the odd one out.

The best thing about dinner parties is always the reliving in bed afterwards the things you remember, the things she remembers. When you roll over and there is no one there, then it isn’t the same.

My ex-wife became very angry during the divorce process when any mention was made of the future, in terms of she and I meeting new people. Whether that was raised by court registrars, the family relationship people that you meet as part of the process, even the magistrate. She saw that as a negative, not a positive. Especially for the kids.

Personally I found that the process of separation moves towards re-partnering. Eating habits, exercise, sleep, interests. Great. Those things are really important as a base, they can become hollow if that is all there is.

I think a natural part of remaking yourself is recognizing that you are someone very worthy of being part of a relationship again.

You have come to the end of a marriage. You played a part in that and it is really important to understand what that part was, for you and your kids, your ability to relate to your ex-wife. But most importantly for any other woman who is going to be part of your life.

I have re-partnered, and will remarry shortly. One of the biggest things that we recognize in each other is that we have looked honestly at ourselves back when we both came to the end of a marriage. And we looked at ourselves now, and compared the two. We both agree that what we see most in each other is the lack of the things that drove us apart from the person we married, the things that were innate in them, or that they simply refused to discuss that made things untenable for us.

We’ve been looking at the vows celebrants suggest for the wedding. A lot are cringe worthy, just because. Some are cringe worthy because they are just wrong in my opinion. No one completes anyone. You get divorced for a lot of reasons. You give up a partner. You don’t give up any part of yourself. You are still one hundred percent there from day one of separation.

It’s about finding the things that you gave up of yourself that have made you unhappy in the loss. And recognising the things in yourself that really shouldn’t be part of any relationship, being honest enough to admit what they are because sometimes we all revert to bad habits.

But, more than anything, it is meeting someone who recognizes you are who are now, a single man. That is the day that you realize a lot of the time spent as single has been about people unconsciously, for a thousand reasons, treating you as being ‘okay’.

Okay simply means – you could be doing better. For me, the benefits of re-partnering was about remembering that I am a hell of a lot better than just okay. A lot of the grieving process that goes on at the end of a marriage seems to make the mistake of talking about the loss of love, so much so that I think you can begin to believe that it is like death, there is no coming back. You will never have this thing again.

Some of the vows we have seen are recommended for remarriage. ‘I’ve finally moved on and am giving it another go’, ‘ready to see if we can do it again’. I don’t want to do any of that again.

Re-partnering for me personally seems a very natural end to a decade of change.

How a Parenting Coordinator Helps With a Horrible Ex Get Help When You Need It

How a Parenting Coordinator Helps With a Horrible Ex Get Help When You Need It

Do you have a former spouse that continues to make your life miserable after divorce? Do you feel as though there is way too much interaction and she believes it’s too little? Did you get divorced so you didn’t have to deal with her and now it feels like all you do is hear from her? A parenting coordinator helps get through this communication impasse. It’s true that the stress of prior relationships can weigh heavily on all of us. When you share children, especially young children, interaction will likely happen for many years. Learning to manage the communication is vital to supporting what’s best for your kids and what’s good for you too.

How a Parenting Coordinator Helps

A parenting coordinator helps people figure out how to support their kids and communicate with their former spouse. Often, it’s important to sit down with both people, as parents of the children, to figure out what went wrong and where it can get better. In my practice, I have found four critical tools to success for parents where communication is non-existent to extraordinarily high conflict. You can make it better, for you and your kids, by using these practical tips, either with the help of a Parent Coordinator, or by trying to implement them on your own. My experience suggests the higher the level of conflict the more necessary a parenting coordinator may be, but getting started somewhere is better than having things continue as they have. Give it a try and reach out as needed.

Manage Expectations Around Communications

Does your Divorce Agreement set out how to plan for your children? Is there already a method in place to do so? If so, this is a great “jumping off point” for your communication. Although quoting your Agreement can sound formal and off-putting, it may be time to suggest it. Often, my clients do much better when a structure is in place for their communication. They do better when they have a framework for success.

If you Agreement doesn’t talk about how to plan, you likely need to create some Agreement about how things will go. If things have not gone well, it’s likely important to consider talking with your spouse with a Parenting Coordinator as a professional is likely able to create a framework to help you begin talking productively again. If you can’t do that, it’s likely you will need to meet, in person, or by email to work together on how to manage what needs to be decided. Remember, most adults don’t like to be told what they must do and how they must do it. If you are starting the communication, use words like “cooperate” and “strategize” to create a collaborative environment. Find out, from your ex, what they need to make the plans for your kids work.

If often makes sense to build in deadlines around when things are decided, and to build in flexibility too. Sometimes one parents gets first choice, and the next year it shifts to the other parent. Whatever you and your ex decide, make certain there is give and take about how it will occur. This step is about how to approach communication and not the actual plan. However, this step is often most crucial to success. Even if you dislike your ex intensely, you love your children. Figuring out how to negotiate with her is crucial to your success. Instead of spending time thinking it can’t be done, figure out how it can!

Develop A Plan

Next, once you’ve opened a chain of positive communication with your Ex about the need to do better, execute on your plan to do so. This is just the beginning so don’t assume just because you want something, and think it’s right, you will get your way. Remember that it wasn’t always easy to convince your intimate partner about parenting issues and it won’t get easier now. However, if you are willing to listen as much as you speak, in email, and give a little to get a little, you and your children may find success. A good plan is the best way to achieve success and prepare for unexpected bumps in the road too.

The most important part of developing a plan is to begin to create a system for decision making that allows you and your ex a voice in what happens. Again, it’s usually fairest to allow taking turns for important holidays or vacation choosing but do what works for you and for your ex too. Remember that BOTH of you need to feel empowered to be good parents to your children and providing that neutral support by creating a framework to allow it will get you much further than making demands.

Also, and this is crucial to planning, try to avoid multiple issue emails and get rid of texting for plans altogether. Limit your communication about an issue to one chain of emails on a particular topic. It’s easy to stay organized this way and to have documentation about what you have agreed to do too. You can easily create folders in your email to save the various threads and they will be a handy referral when you need to check what was said about a particular issue. Keep in mind, too, that email can be an unforgiving medium. Many of my female clients complain their exes are “mean” in email. In some cases, this is true, but in other cases a direct tone, without any softening words, can seem too demanding and stern. You should deal with your ex as you would a business colleague, that is, be direct but also kind. You do not need to express how you personally feel about her, ever, in email to her. Save those words for therapy!

Practice

You will likely need lots of practice with your ex to create the co-parenting relationship you want for you and your kids. This practice happens when you write emails, get the response you hope for, or don’t get that at all. Each communication is an opportunity to learn what works, in general, and in particular for your spouse.

I worked with one couple who seemed at an impasse to plan the yearly calendar. It turned out the mother was overwhelmed by dad sending an excel spreadsheet with calendar suggestions for the entire year. We talked about breaking down the data contained in the spreadsheet to simple lists and, voila, problem solved. Instead of ignoring the info, mom felt she could manage the same material in bite size monthly nuggets. Dad was thrilled and felt he could then plan for the year. Instead of criticizing mom’s aversion to spreadsheets (which he may have internally done), he acted in a way that served him and his kids to get what he and they needed. Mom is much happier too as she doesn’t feel like she’s ignoring critical information.

Inevitably, disagreements will arise. Using your new style of communication, however, you will remember that you do not need to personally criticize the other parent to make your point. Usually, if something can’t be agreed to after three rounds of email, it makes sense to spend a couple hours of mediation so that a parenting coordinator can help figure out if the matter can be resolved. Doing so may save you lots of time and grief in the future too as a new method of approach may be developed in the process.

Don’t Take It Personally

No matter how carefully you choose your words, you may get some unpleasant communication at least occasionally. Remember that you ex isn’t dealing with you in a vacuum and may be having a bad day, month, year for many other reasons. Responding in kind is likely to only escalate conflict so, if you can, don’t respond at all for a period of time. See if a little time allows cooler heads to prevail. Revisit the issue without personal attack and try to get back on track.

In sum, it is possible to manage a situation with even a horrible ex successfully. The key is your mindset towards success and your willingness not to engage, on the same level, as a co-parent who might bring negative energy and intent to your communications. The simple steps above coupled with the help of a parenting coordinator helps to establish open communications. Remember that you bear half of the responsibility for the way the relationship with your ex is managed, for you and your children. You will never control what they think or even say about you, but you can control how you respond and how you communicate directly. Taking the high road may not always feel satisfying in the moment, but keeping your kids from the conflict, and getting support for yourself will reveal success for you and your kids in the long run. It’s a long road when you are co-parenting with an ex, but your kids are worth it. And so is your peace of mind.

Rebuilding Your Marriage After An Affair Building a Stronger Marriage Out of Infidelity

Rebuilding Your Marriage After An Affair Building a Stronger Marriage Out of Infidelity

Of the kaleidoscope of challenges and stresses that strain a marriage—money problems, issues raising kids, making your relationship a priority when just dealing with the day to day of life drains most of your energy—infidelity is the one that goes straight to the core of attacking the binds of your marriage, trust and intimacy. Rebuilding your marriage and healing the wound of betrayal is possible and you come out on the other side with a stronger, more intimate bond. It’s been proven that infidelity doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. The opposite can happen.

Rebuilding Your Marriage

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 accountability, the marriage could rebound to a happy union. At the conclusion of the study, couples who survived an affair experienced comparable levels of marital stability and satisfaction as the couples who experienced no adultery at all.

2. End the affair. Maintaining an illicit affair is just mindless, cruel, self serving and selfish. It does nothing positive for your marital relationship and, if anything, threatens the very existence of your marriage. Nothing is more devastating to a spouse than to find out 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 reward for you personally, it is destroying your marriage. The lies, the missed events, the tardy arrivals will ultimately tip off your spouse to your infidelity and your affair will be discovered if it hasn’t been already. Regardless of how discrete you think you may be, you 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 he 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 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.

Erectile Dysfunction In Your Post-Divorce Dating One man's odyssey with impotence, aging and loving

Erectile Dysfunction In Your Post-Divorce Dating One man's odyssey with impotence, aging and loving

On this late evening, women and crying babies are on my mind, which leads me to write about erectile dysfunction, a condition that many of us have and almost none of us talk about.

This was an almost perfect evening, abruptly interrupted by two facts:

  1. A two year old missing her mother is inconsolable after six hours and
  2. I can’t get it up easily anymore.

My Story Right Now

You may have guessed by this article that I am divorced. Maybe that’s part of the issue, still dealing with the stress of that. But it has been a long time since the divorce, and I’ve had many lovers in my efforts to build my life after divorce.

I had my current lover in my bed much earlier tonight when our focus was interrupted by my housemate’s daughter howling and wailing uncontrollably in the front room, as an exasperated babysitter tried fruitlessly to calm her.

Granted, it is certainly understandable to lose your attention in such a predicament, though it really just served as a reasonable excuse for me to mask the second issue, which was the real reason we hadn’t already conducted our coupling an hour or so earlier.

Few men really talk about erectile dysfunction, the condition formerly known as impotence. There are rampant commercials speaking to erectile dysfunction, but not really about erectile dysfunction. Various ideas are thrown about and quick fix solutions are only a doctor’s prescription or an easy diet change away. And if it lasts more than four hours, call your bookie. Seriously, though, at this point in my life I feel that at least three prior relationships were ruined because of this problem, and I stand at an invisible precipice with my current lover that is disconcerting.

A pattern is emerging, and it starts with my dick and the bad messaging in our society that I have somehow gotten into my psyche (and perhaps more importantly, permeating the psyches of potential long term mates) about my ‘performance’ abilities.

Is It New Or Been A Problem For Some Time

I’ll have it known, perhaps only for my own ego and edification, that I am a wonderful lover. I have years of training with dozens of women that have shown me the glories and wonders of the female form in many of its incarnations, and I have delighted in them all. I like slow, long, sensual exploration; I’m well versed in massage, have been told many times I’m a great kisser, and I have a lovely bag of tricks to unveil over time with a willing partner.

What I don’t seem to possess right now is a dick that responds by mere thought, not taking its sweet time to warm up to touch. I have tried various holistic approaches to overcoming this erectile dysfunction deficiency. Blackberries, salmon, avocados, oysters and almonds, while all tasty and healthy, also did nothing for me. Of course, trying these foods and hoping for results only confirmed what I already knew. For me, it’s not about blood flow or testosterone; it’s about feeling connected. No diet will change that.

Two Possible Problems with Erectile Dysfunction

Where the commercials apply their focus is on the blood flow issue. As men age, our blood vessels become weaker for a myriad of reasons, such as poor exercise, buildup of cholesterol or both. The medicines work to solve this issue. Sildenafil and Tadalafil are the most common ones available.

Sildenafil widens the blood vessels and lower the blood pressure. As a result, the hydraulics of our dicks work easier. The effect is somewhat short lived, about 4 hours, but that’s enough time to take care of business. And the onset can be as fast as 30 minutes.

Tadalafil was not originally targeted to help with erectile dysfunction, but through its enzyme inhibitor testing, a common side effect to this heart medicine was erections. The scientists recognized this as a helpful side effect and this medicine was released as a daily option, with its effects lasting about 24 hours, as opposed to Sildenafil’s 4 hour effect.

For many, applying these drugs to the blood flow side of the equation fits their need and they are happy. For some, though, like me, the problem is deeper.

Heart Driven Sex (and not the flow)

Unfortunately for me (and them), it seems we place a huge emphasis on an erect penis. Since I developed this basic problem, well over 20 years ago now (that my cock doesn’t jump to attention when my brain is horny), I have had numerous short-lived encounters, because there wasn’t a second date, or they expected me to act upon them when what I actually require of my partners is the opposite.

Do the pills help? Sure, but I’m not in it. I’ve just got a rod there for the job and that’s all.

I have heard this preference as a ‘feminine heart’ where the partner prefers to be acted upon rather than to act. See, here’s the thing; my Johnson actually works just fine, IF you turn me on. I masturbate on a regular enough basis to be certain I still possess a life below and I have had at least as many positive encounters over these past decades as negative ones. There is always something to be said for basic chemistry and compatibility, too.

Still, my best consistent lovers have had one thing in common; a tremendous patience and genuine deep affinity developed over time. And therein lies the rub…

Just Sex, Or Something More?

See, I certainly appear to be a normal guy and, in everything outside the bedroom, I am clearly a dude and a fairly dominant one at that. I exhibit tendencies of a man who knows himself and his world and is competent in it. I like to be in control in my environment.

So, it certainly leads that women I attract have expectations that my behavior in the bedroom should be aggressive, dominant and, well, manly. The problem is that most women in our culture are taught sex as an act of being dominated and penetrated and objectified, and over time develop exactly the opposite expectations that I have.

In blunt, simple terms; I want to make love to a women and most women I encounter just want to fuck. Truth told, I just don’t fuck that well anymore. There seems to be a disconnection between mind and body, along with the fact that I’m just not 19 anymore. While my mind is desperately fucking you like that wild animal I was in my youth, my Willie just isn’t whistling the same tune these days. I am slipping into late middle age and my desires have become much more intimate than physical. In fact, it would seem the physical aspect only responds when my spirit is properly nurtured. This really sucks when I’m with a new person and trying to find out if we groove.

I lose what I consider to be potential mates after my particular tendencies are unveiled, either in the first sexual encounter or soon thereafter, if chemistry somehow initially overcomes my usual disconnections. Frankly, this alone is enough for me to really want to go get those little blue pills. I do know that I can cheat and make erectile dysfunction vanish. I’m just not sure I want to, especially at something as important as creating good intimate relations with my partner.

Thing is, at a deeper level, I feel like perhaps erectile dysfunction is some sort of built in protection for aging men that our society doesn’t view correctly. I understand that if I cheat by taking artificial stimulants then I may be capable of performing even when I feel no connection. I’m fairly certain that is a bad way to start, since my partner is going to believe that I am responding to her when actually I am just going through the motions (pleasurable as they might be).

For Me, I Want More Than Sex

I have come to the realization that, at least for me, it’s not that it doesn’t work. It’s just that I don’t give a fuck how sexy you look anymore (well, I do, but not nearly as much as I once did; and the size of the hips of the women I consider attractive has generally expanded through age, as I did) as much as I really want to know if you’ll stick around. Finding a sexual partner in this world of hookup sites and instant messaging is really fairly easy; finding a suitable companion is not.

I was frustrated with all the push to just hook up when dating after divorce.

This makes a sort of evolutionary sense in later adult life. If an adult man chooses his latter life partners based on the same criteria he had as a youth, he would inevitably choose poorly. Erectile dysfunction (our accepted clinical definition) is the male equivalent of menopause in women. Our reproductive interest is waning, even if our mental capacity for even deeper intimacy continues to evolve. We have accumulated more experiences and therefore have even deeper biases for what we appreciate and what we recognize as unsustainable to long term healthy relations.

The Truth

Perhaps (and to my chagrin) the truth is that we aren’t supposed to be competitive in the mating arena in later life. If we do manage to find a partner at this stage it would be to help us not die alone, after all, and that hardly requires sexual prowess or the absence of erectile dysfunction. Of course, the other thing we have to offer is our companionship, which can be a real asset to a younger woman seeking to learn wisdom from us elderly statesmen. As an older man, this is far more interesting to me than finding someone to sleep with. I want someone to talk to, someone who will appreciate me whether my body works or not, since I have the wisdom of experience to know that a shared life is much more about intimacy than sex.

In base terms, men my age who aren’t already in long term relations face a difficult enough challenge in finding a suitable partner without having to also be concerned with performance. Yet, this is the criterion most women use. Well, young women. So, we have to overcome our disadvantage with artificial means just to compete in this society. I think it’s a mistake. We should be willing to wait for a partner who understands all this and embraces it. The irony is that I would spend the rest of my life savings on those little pills if I knew that my partner already accepted me without them.

That’s my issue in a nutshell, or at least a very large nutshell. For many of my friends, though, the problem is purely in the pumps and lines, like having older plumbing in your home that has clogged over time. After all, these pipes aren’t that large. And if we’re worried about clogging the big ones near the heart with our love of red meat over decades, it stands to reason that we likely clogged the little lines at the extreme ends of the system. Unfortunately, those are in our dicks. Fixing those pipes so you can connect with your lover is fantastic, nothing worth shame, and we should all stand behind the need!

The Solution

I’m not going to say that solutions to erectile dysfunction don’t exist or that I shouldn’t be using them to ensure I can always perform for a potential partner. I’m saying that perhaps we shouldn’t be in such a rush to jump into bed and that maybe the ‘problem’ with our penis is really an opportunity in disguise. I’m going to continue to see my dysfunction as a chance to find out where I really stand before entangling myself, simply because I can. I deserve a lover who makes me respond without having to resort to medication. I can’t know this without taking the risk of being honest about my condition up front. So, my decision is to accept this as part of who I am now, and to hold onto the belief that my next long term partner will appreciate me all the more for my willingness to take it slow.

Then again, my advice to you; maybe you should just go get those pills. I’m probably an idiot.

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