Real Men Do Ask For Directions

Real Men Do Ask For Directions

Well, that’s it. The divorce is on.  And now you start to wonder – Where do you go from here? Where do you ultimately live? Where is it best to reside to start anew? These and many other questions will abound as the divorce comes into clear focus. But, real men can get help. Amazingly, real men do ask for directions, and real men ask for advice. So, prepare for battle because it’s going to get bumpy ahead.

Within weeks or in the coming months, friends and acquaintances will be asking tough questions of you. How’s it going? What happened? I thought you guys were great together. What went wrong? So, ask yourself a few basic questions as you traverse this treacherous new path.

Real Men Are Prepared

Why do they want to know? It’s okay to be skeptical.  Real men get divorced, and a divorce is a very personal matter, and you have a right to privacy.  Does this person have a genuine interest in your well being, or are they only genuinely interested in gossip?

Unfortunately, you will find yourself on the receiving end of prying questions at the most inopportune moments. Rather than find yourself caught off guard, be a real man and prepare a few canned responses which will make the situation a bit less awkward.  The following are three options, commonly referred to as the Three D’s:

  • When in doubt, deflect.  It’s a gracious way to handle any situation, as you are not refusing to speak — you’re just refusing to speak at that moment.  It may sound something like this, “I would love to chat, but now is just not a good time.  Call me and we’ll have coffee.”  By putting the onus of follow up on to the person asking, you are increasing the likelihood the coffee date may never happen.  Gossips can be lazy and opportunistic.  If they have to call and schedule a gab fest, it likely won’t happen.
  • Be diplomatic, yet vague.  If you don’t want to divulge any information, yet the possibility of a future coffee date is unappealing, choose the vaguely diplomatic option.  It may sound something like this, “You know how things are. It was just time.”  Assume they know what you mean and move on.  People skilled in this method will add reinforced body language, give a knowing nod and perhaps a grief stricken arm squeeze.  Instinctively, the person asking the question will mimic your body language and find themselves nodding knowingly without understanding why.  Once it registers that they do not, in fact, know how things are you will be a safe distance away.
  • Divulge.  Have a good purge.  This person may be truly interested and now may be the best time for you to be a real man and have a good chat.   They may offer helpful insight, an understanding ear and may very well offer you a hug at just the right moment.  A helpful tip is to get a clear picture in your mind of who these people might be prior to leaving the house.

Consider the source. In any divorce, division of friends is inevitable to some degree.  But some friends are sincerely Switzerland, and can maintain respectful boundaries with both parties.  These friends will make themselves clear fairly early on.  In the event you’re not sure, trust them with small pieces of information.  You’ll sense a leak early on and will know that this person simply isn’t to be trusted with matters of the heart at this time.

Other friends will be like “Cleanup on Aisle 6”.  These friends will seem as though they are all about a compassionate shoulder when they run into you at the grocery store, however they are on their phone spilling your business to God knows who before you reach the checkout.  Be careful.  Choose your confidants carefully, and keep up a brave front when those outside your immediate circle ask for too many details.  The emotion that you’re feeling now will pass, as will your perception and understanding of what happened.  Best to work these things out in private than in the theater of public opinion and gossip.

Consider the approach. “How are you?  So I heard that…”  Sigh. Whatever people say or is being said about you is truly none of your business.  This bears repeating, so I’ll say it again:   whatever people say or is being said about you is truly none of your business.

Rather than enter a discussion either explaining your position, defending yourself or wading around in the murky waters of hearsay, simply stay dry and don’t engage.  Why?  Because you know what happened.  You know your role is the demise of your marriage and the part you played.  That isn’t anybody’s business.  You also know her role in the demise of your marriage and the part she played, and that isn’t anybody’s business either….especially people who begin a conversation with the latest gossip about you and your situation.  Rest assured whatever you contribute will continue to be conversational fodder.  True friends will approach with kindness, compassion and with a gentle look of understanding.  Maybe a hug or a warm pat on the arm.  They won’t ask you anything because they don’t need to know, they just understand what you’re going through and will respect your privacy.

Go forth and be social knowing you are prepared as a real man to handle any social situation.  Rest assured there will be blunders, you may overshare, and people may stop speaking with you if you don’t offer the juicy entrails of your split and divorce.  But, for a real man, this phase too shall pass, and you’ll come out the other side knowing your true friends, and be that much stronger for it.

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Getting Off The Bench After Divorce

Getting Off The Bench After Divorce

Ok. Your divorce is over. Your done licking your wounds, sitting at home, and mending the battle scars of divorce. Its time to get back into the game and start dating again. GREAT. But, getting off the bench and back in the game is a bit tricky, especially if you’re out of practice. Getting back into the game is all about setting aside the pregame jitters, preparing yourself for what lies ahead, including massive amounts of rejection. But, hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your new dating life. Let’s prep you to put your best foot forward and begin the process of getting you “prepped and ready to rock and roll”.

Getting Off the Bench and Back in the Game

Step one: know yourself on the inside.  This may sound uncomfortable and, honestly, it certainly can be.   Your objective is to avoid making the same mistakes twice.  That means taking an introspective look at what went wrong in your last relationship.  Avoid the knee-jerk reaction to place blame; instead, ask yourself, what part did I play in the relationship failure?  How could I have been a better partner? Take note and be aware so as not to repeat the same habits going into your next relationship.  The unexpected bonus to this step is that the question of what went wrong in your past relationship will inevitably come up, and women find it oodles more attractive when a man accepts responsibility for the role he played.

Operative cliché:  It takes two to tango.  

Step two: know yourself on the outside.  Take a look in the mirror. For argument’s sake, let’s say you’ve been off the market for at least a year, maybe five.  You may have gotten comfortable with your significant other, while time (and fashion) marched on without you. You may be feeling uneasy about putting yourself back on the auction block, and consequently you may feel like dating is not your scene.

But the solution is elementary: the fastest way to get off the bench and increase your confidence is to treat yourself with kindness.  Take heed from your female counterparts in this department and treat yourself to a spa day.  See a barber and get the full grooming package.  Update your look and indulge yourself with a shopping trip. If you find yourself gravitating toward your old standard, find a personal shopper.  A personal shopper is a professional, not the 16 year old at the mall, who will elevate your personal style.   It will still be you, only better.  Put your best foot forward, literally.  When you’re finely groomed and feeling fresh in your new threads, that confidence will radiate.

Operative Cliché: You only have one chance to make a first impression.  

Step three: know thy audience on the outside.   It’s safe to say most men have a type.  Now that you’re single, have you considered stepping outside of your comfort zone in the looks department?  Have your tastes changed over the years?  Women are a beautiful species; have some fun and entertain the thought of what your next special someone might look like.  Used to dating short women?  Smile at someone eye level for a change.  Typically hold doors only for brunettes?  Lend a hand to a redhead and see what happens.  Getting off the bench and taking yourself out of a pigeonhole widens your prospects for happiness.

Operative Cliché:  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  

Step four: know thy audience on the inside.  Put yourself in her shoes for a moment: she’s just met you. Does she really want to spend her evening listening to you unload about your divorce? But how do you know what she wants to talk about?  Simple: you’re going to ask her.

The key here is to have at least 3 open-ended questions up your sleeve to get the conversation started.   Simple questions like “What’s the last good book you read (or movie you saw)?” or “ Where is your favorite place to go on vacation?” or the no-fail  “What do you hate the most about meeting someone on a first date?”   You will have mastered this step once you are able to listen, retain and return.  How will you know when you’ve succeeded?  When you remember what she said and you’re able to bring it back later in conversation.

Unexpected bonus: If you are at all nervous, letting her do the talking is a great way to put yourself at ease while building your confidence.

Operative Cliché:  We have two ears and one mouth for a reason, listen twice as much.  

Step five: be yourself.  It sounds incredibly cliché, but most clichés are not entirely without merit.   In order to find someone who is able to connect with you on a deeper level, they’ll have to know who you truly are.  Maybe you love UFC, but you also write poetry.  Maybe you have a book inside you that is dying to be written.  Maybe you alphabetize your canned goods.  So tell her that.

Operative Cliché:  Nobody is perfect; you just have to find the person perfect for you.   

So, there you have it. The five steps to getting off the bench and back into the game. Good Luck and Be Safe Out There.  

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A Gentleman’s Guide To Attending Your First Public Function Together…But Apart

A Gentleman’s Guide To Attending Your First Public Function Together…But Apart

Congratulations. You made it through your divorce. But at some point, you’re inevitably going to need the “Gentleman’s Guide” to attending your first function together post divorce. Sure, you show up to a function and discover – your Ex. It’s awkward. It’s uncomfortable. It’s painful. You don’t want to be there with her but then again, your attending this function to see old friends and acquaintances or maybe your own child at one of their functions.

While it’s perfectly normal to feel weird and uncomfortable, you need to suck it up and get through it.  Here are four easy tips to make the process as painless as possible.

The Gentleman’s Guide for the Divorced Man

Stay Classy. Plain and simple: stay classy. What does that mean? Keep it clean, keep it elegant. Look and feel your best, carry yourself in the best way possible.

Classy also means your demeanor. Even if you hate your ex or the person she may have brought along, staying classy means that no one should be able to read your mind based on your body language or the look on your face. Pull one from the politician playbook: you’re walking around shaking hands and kissing babies, being so very gracious. How will you know if you’ve succeeded? When you hear people sincerely say with a bit of amazement in their voice, “Wow, you look really good.”

Be The Bigger Man. Unless you lived in a cave prior to this outing, it’s highly likely that the rest of your social circle are also aware that this is your first venture out in public, together yet apart. It’s also highly likely that they feel tension and are dreading the possible negative outcomes. While some may root for a cat fight, others would rather avoid any and all drama. You have the ability to play to the second group by being the bigger man.

The Gentleman’s Guide would suggest this is a public function and neither of you are the focus of the attention. Any and all tension will be diffused by your taking the initiative, and approaching her with a greeting, a polite hello, a firm handshake to her guest perhaps, and then moving on. Then, wham, it’s over.

How will you know when you’ve succeeded? When you hear people, maybe even her companion, sincerely say with a bit of amazement in their voice, “Wow, he is a really cool guy.”

Stay Distant. Now that you’ve diffused any tension and gotten over the hump of the first greeting, you are going to keep things civil by simply keeping your distance. Find something else to do. Find other people to talk to you. The greetings have been made and that’s enough, this time. Maybe next time you can make small talk, but for now just leave well enough alone. Maintain a healthy distance. Don’t spend the duration rubbernecking to find out exactly where she is, simply trust your instincts. You were married to her, you can sense her whereabouts. Stay out of her force field and carry on as your usual, wonderful self. Keep in mind the reason you came to this function in the first place and make that your focus.

How will you know when you’ve succeeded? When you hear people sincerely say, “I’m so glad you came, I know this had to be awkward. Thank you for making the effort.”  Then, you’ll know the Gentleman’s Guide was right.

Stay Sober. This is easily the most important of all four points from the Gentleman’s Guide. Even if you ignore the other three final boarding calls, you will miss your flight entirely if you disregard this advice. A drink might very well help your nerves…but anything beyond that will not. Instead, it will demolish all of the other stuff we’ve talked about: instead of keeping it classy, you will be the drunk hot mess stumbling around with his clothes disheveled, spilling on yourself and quite likely on someone else; instead of being the bigger man and making a good impression, you will overstay, overplay and overspeak; instead of staying distant, you will hover, invade her space with either your person or your comments. You will decide that you have very important, very personal things to say and you will tell them to everyone who will listen and you will repeat them at greater volumes to those who won’t.

Just stay sober. This is the only time you will ever have to handle your first public function apart; do it like the  Gentleman’s Guide suggests and all future functions will be that much more enjoyable.

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The Holidays After A Divorce

The Holidays After A Divorce

The holidays after a divorce are never easy. Fraught with endless uncertainties, the holiday time period is disturbing and unrelenting in emotional turmoil for the newly divorced, regardless of gender. The holidays, book-ended by Thanksgiving and Christmas, or other religious holiday, are a seemingly unending challenge for who will have the kids? For how long? Will they be able to stay over? All this, creating endless worry and stress for the newly divorced as they suffer through their first holiday period without the kids and their significant other.

The Holidays After A Divorce and Without the Kids

Yeah, the first holiday after a divorce is a scary one. It’s not normal to be without the kids. They’ve always been around and there is great comfort with their presence. But, now, the divorce is over and the kids are with Mom. More importantly, they are not with you. And, it hurts. Wrestling over who will have the kids and when they’ll be over is a great struggle as we try to reestablish some degree of normality. We are resetting or establishing new traditions and new norms that hopefully we can count on and rely on for years to come. That’s what makes life bearable and predictable.

Divide and Conquer. Your first option when it comes to any holiday is to divide and conquer. And by this I mean the day itself, not your ex. What this means is that both you and your ex, and presumably your extended families, get to see the children on the day in question. While this sounds like a win-win for the adults it can be exhausting and confusing for the children, particularly if they are still quite young. Dinner times need to be negotiated. If the unwrapping of gifts are involved, schedules can be very tricky. If a tradition such as a parade or the attending of a service needs to be factored in, your entire day may be spent looking at your watch, clipboard in hand as you wave people on to the next event.

If your children are under the age of 10, the idea of divide and conquer will be even more difficult for them to understand. Offering explanations to the escalating question of “why” can be extremely difficult when family is watching. Consider the holiday from their point of view when answering why they have to leave now when they just got started playing with their cousins, or just unwrapped the coolest toy ever, or they’re just having fun and don’t want to stop. Travel time can be a hassle, weather conditions may come into play and children who fall asleep in the car will not be at their finest when they wake up in a new location, out of sorts, tired and wondering where the other parent went.

If you think you are going to outsmart your ex by taking them earlier rather than later, remember that they will likely be exhausted from the night before. Anticipation of the big day may have kept them awake later than normal. Do your little angels morph into screaming hot messes of taffeta and shirttails when told they have to leave? Do they throw caution and their little backs to the wind when told it’s time to go? The question of “why” now carries much more weight, more syllables and is likely asked at a pitch that makes cats leave the room.

If you think taking them second is the way to go, remember that there will be no naps that day. Let the full implications of that statement settle in before you make your decision. Consider also that whatever festivities you have in mind will have to follow their earlier predecessor. While your little bundles of joy may not be able to fully and adeptly make comparisons, keep your self and your own sanity in mind as you field questions that start with ‘well how come you’re not” followed by any number of innocent queries. Is this is a box you want to unwrap at Grandma’s house?

Concede. If the picture of sugarplum meltdowns sounds a bit much for you during these holidays after a divorce, there is the option to concede. Concede the holiday completely to the ex in the name of peace and tranquility for your children. Allow them a full day of relaxation and enjoyment and allow them to just be where they are. No schedule, no split day. Just presence. The trade off for conceding an entire holiday is that they really do grow up so fast. Phrases like, “No that was the one we spent with Mom, not you.” will happen. While this may be par for the course when the ex lives in another city or state, it may be very difficult to spend a holiday in the same zip code as your children and know that you won’t get to see their smiling faces. Which leads me to our third option. Dust off your tutu and get ready to declare it so.

Declare It So. The silver lining to your first set of Reverse Firsts when your children are young is that you get to make the new normal. You get to decide which traditions stay, which go and the level of enthusiasm and normalcy with which these changes are presented. I call it the Tooth Fairy Effect. Whether your child comes to you the next morning having found a nickel or a hundred dollar bill under her pillow for her lost tooth, your reaction is the same. Your reaction is that she has shown you the most exciting thing ever. And based on your reaction, she will agree. Declaring it so means that you are declaring your own market rate as it pertains to holidays. If you want to celebrate 1 day or 1 week later, then so be it. Just do it with all the enthusiasm and gratitude you can muster. And if you need to wear a tutu, so be it.

 

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Has Divorce Made You a Couch Potato?

Has Divorce Made You a Couch Potato?

Are you the poster child for couch potato? Does your life consist of a back and forth volley of work and couch? Has “couch” become a verb for you? “Nah, thanks for the invite, but I’m actually going to couch it tonight.” 

It is incredibly easy to get into a brain and heart-numbing pattern after a divorce, mindlessly flipping through channels. After all you’ve been through, going into your man-cave is totally natural and necessary, but the key is to avoid getting so comfortable there that it’s a permanent change of address, rather than a temporary getaway. Luckily, there are several options from which to choose to breathe life back into your life.

Adrenaline Junkie.

We start with the most obvious of choices, and the shortest distance from the couch potato position to the front seat of life: if you want to know what it feels like to be fully alive again, come close to death. Kickstart your heart the old fashioned way and scare yourself. Jump out of an airplane. Bungee jump. Skydive. Run with the bulls. Anything that makes you kiss the ground in thanks once it’s over will suffice. Feel your heart in your chest and the adrenaline rush that let’s you know you’re alive. Repeat as necessary.

Sports Junkie.

The next obvious choice is a good old-fashioned sporting match. A couch potato watches the game on T.V. You can do better. But don’t just go to a game; go to a pinnacle of an event, featuring the best of the best. Attend the World Cup. Feel the full impact of a rugby match. Get up close and personal at lacrosse. Any sport where the athletes are true athletes and fans have more than just the game on the line is a great choice. Attend a sporting match where you are a part of something larger than yourself, where you find yourself surrounded by fans for whom bragging rights, loyalties, and the blood, sweat and tears of generations are at play. Remember that life is about being a part of something greater, and let the energy of the moment lift your spirits.

Rockstar Junkie.

(No, not the usual kind.) Does the thought of singing in front of thousands get your adrenaline going? If you can’t stand-in for the front man of a major band, no worries: go sing karaoke. Don’t laugh! You’re not just gonna simply sing karaoke, you’re going to rock. Big difference. Does your heart start pounding and palms start sweating at the thought? Awesome. That’s a good sign that you are not, in fact, dead. There’s hope for you yet.

If getting on stage terrifies you to the point of inaction, go in front of one instead. Buy the next available ticket to a band in town and just go. Get in front. Feel the bass reverberate through your chest. Get jostled around by people who are swept up in the fervor. Dance. Feel self-conscious? Guess what? Nobody gives two shits about what you’re doing. They are in the moment feeling the music. You can be too.

Altruism Junkie.

This is the least obvious of the four choices, but one that may have the most impact on your heart because, in the long term, it has the least to do with you. Find an activity that allows you to look at life from a different perspective, any other perspective than that from which you currently stand (or rather, sit, if you’re a couch potato). Find a cause that matters to you and volunteer; be a big brother, work with rescue animals, deliver meals to shut-in seniors.

Volunteer at a hospice or visit someone in a nursing home. Understand that there are those that don’t have as much time left on this beautiful earth as you do; maybe it’ll be just what you need to realize life is precious and it’s time to start participating again. Speak to those that are further down the path of life than you are. Listen to their stories of love and loss and understand that you will love and be loved again. Donate blood. Build a house. Anything that is not about you, but that will make you feel alive again.

It’s okay if your pace has slowed to the point where Mr. Snuffleupagus from Sesame Street could run laps around you, but now is the time to take matters into your own hands and resuscitate your life.

If You Need a Couch Potato Intercession

If you can’t muster the energy to make it from the couch to the car alone, email this article to a friend and type “Help” in the subject line. They’ll know what to do next. Getting out the door is the hardest part.


(c) Can Stock Photo / ocusfocus

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