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

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

Some may find the title confusing. If you are one about to set up a blended family, you may not understand what I mean by blended family chaos when you are planning your future. After all, the kids have been hanging out and playing nicely up until this point. Your story will be different. I’m here to tell you, if you are looking for a key piece of divorce advice for men, read this whole thing! Odds are you will one day attempt this very thing.

Anyone out there living the “joy” of a blended family today? Do you find it as shown on television? The world is never as portrayed on television. The best divorce advice for men regarding blended family chaos does NOT come from the Brady Bunch! Here a man with three boys marries the woman with three girls and they all get along wonderfully, and resolve minor conflicts in less than 30 minutes. The real world laughs at this absurdity!

Several years ago, I attended a wedding that set the stage for blended family chaos. The bride’s parents had divorced when “Holly” was in elementary school. Her mother remarried shortly thereafter, and the stepfather, “Tim,” was instrumental in Holly’s life. So important that, when it was time to plan the wedding, there was no question that Tim would walk her down the aisle.

But at the wedding reception when the emcee announced the father-daughter dance, both Holly’s biological father and her stepfather walked onto the dance floor. A shouting match ensued, and it was uncomfortable for everyone. Especially the bride.

How awful do you think this made the daughter and bride feel? It’s easy for us to analyze this from the comfort of our seats and recognize the behavior was pathetic. But when you are the one in the heat of the moment, emotions are flared up, you see your ex happy with another and old feelings kick in, and you potentially have some alcohol giving you a boost, your personal decisions may not be the best. Weddings are hard enough anyway. Non-blended families have their own stresses at the wedding as discussed here. Throw in the old wounds of divorce and you have to be ready to not ruin the event for your kids.

Not All Stepparents are Evil

What did we learn from this awkward scenario? Well, the obvious lesson — anticipate these moments when planning the wedding and reception, and communicate the decisions ahead of time. But what about the subtle lesson? Not all stepparents are evil. Some even have the ability to love beyond their own progeny.  Step-relationships do not have to result in blended family chaos.

Let’s take a look at a couple of scenarios you might be able to visualize.

Scenario #1:  Your ex remarries, and her new husband has kids of his own.  The newlyweds are able to sync their custody/visitation dates together so that they either have all their respective kids, or none.  When your kids spend time with you, all they do is complain about their evil stepfather and his obnoxious children.  What words of wisdom do you pass along to your own kids about their new blended family?

Scenario #2:  You remarry, and your new wife has kids of her own.  She has primary custody of her children, and their father is pretty much out of the picture.  So now you’re a stepdad, essentially raising and supporting somebody else’s kids.  How do you navigate this newly blended family without affecting your relationship with your wife?

Could you be reading about anyone you know?

Exploring the New Family Dynamic

Bringing up the role of a future stepparent isn’t generally discussed during divorce mediation. But subsequent marriages and blended families may eventually happen.  This could be the perfect storm, or it could be a perfect opportunity to revisit your divorce mediator, only this time to talk about issues within the new dynamic.  Sometimes, it’s even a good idea to bring along the entire blended family.

In my mediation practice, I have achieved success in helping families avoid Blended Family Chaos.

Imagine you, your new spouse, and your respective children all sitting in a conference room.  The kids are spinning around in their chairs, your wife is clutching her Starbucks cup with both hands, and you are nervously tapping the end of your pencil against the table top.  I walk in with a smile on my face, and immediately address the kids; writing down their names and ages.

This seemingly simple tactic of writing down the name of each kid and his/her age is my way of showing that the kids are as important in this process as the adults.  Next, I’ll explain the ground rules – that I’m here to listen and to make sure each person has an equal opportunity to talk, uninterrupted, with the goal of achieving some understanding.

I’m not saying this produces instant results. Kids need to feel comfortable with their counselor to even begin to open up. Kids with other mental health challenges present unique challenges. However, all kids need time to get comfortable before the real therapy begins. For you parents this means be patient. Your kids aren’t going to respond right away, that’s the one guarantee.

Not too long ago, in my very own conference room, I empowered a 10-year-old girl to express her concern about sharing a bedroom with her eight-year-old stepsister.  Everybody listened to understand her fears and concerns, and then both sisters created a code of conduct about their stuff.  The entire family talked about acceptable behavior and also about consequences.   I took notes, and then prepared a written agreement between the two girls.  They solemnly signed it as though they were entering into a contract to rent an apartment.  The impact was unmistakable.  And the parents took it very seriously.

Of course, there are different issues when it comes to teenagers.  If the stepparent’s teens are allowed unlimited use of cell phones, computers, and automobiles, but the biological parent’s teens are not, whose rules govern?  This is another opportunity for a neutral third party to help the entire family brainstorm about what is reasonable, fair, and enforceable.  Once decided, the Mediator may draw up a written agreement for the entire family to sign, outlining the new rules.  Naturally, after the agreement is has been signed, it’s binding, and you and your spouse must also agree to the terms, including enforcement of the consequences.

When Kids Hate the New Partner

So what happens if your new partner’s kids take an instant dislike to YOU?  (Or vice-versa?)

I recently had the opportunity to work with a blended family where the stepmother’s dislike of her new husband’s 14-year-old daughter wreaked havoc on their marriage, and she was ready to file for divorce.  The teenager had been in therapy, but it obviously was having no material effect on the family dynamic.  The husband chose not to play the adult card with his belligerent daughter, and opted instead to seek out the help of a family mediator.  Within the first 20 minutes, it was obvious that the daughter was able to open up more to me than she had in several therapy sessions.  Why?  Because I’m a mediator, not a therapist.  Mediators are trained to listen and ask questions without judgment.  In this case, the daughter desperately wanted her biological parents to reconcile.  We all heard her say the words, and then I gently asked her what would happen if the reconciliation was impossible.  She literally took a deep breath, sat up straighter, and began to talk about her future.

Helping people in conflict move forward is what Mediators are trained to do.

Helping people in conflict move forward is what Mediators are trained to do.  Families, especially those with teenagers, seem to find something less threatening about choosing mediation over family therapy.  And let’s not forget that it’s likely way less expensive.

Blended family mediations have tremendous success because all of the family members have an equal voice.   It’s no surprise that many second (or subsequent) marriages fail because of the chaos caused by conflict about the kids and stepchildren.

Critical Steps for Avoiding Mixed Family Chaos

So, to avoid Blended Family Chaos, I urge you to consider these eight 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.
  8. Go almost all-in. You’ve got to be ready to push all the chips in from the start and fully commit to the new family for any hope of making it work. However, just like Vegas, keep a chip or two in your pocket for cab money, or Uber for the younger crowd. Never forget who the #1 advocate for your children is (hint: it’s you)! If you’ve gone the full road and applied your soul to making it work, but your partner has not or it is just tearing your kids apart, you may need to use that saved chip to pack it up. Sad fact, but they come first. Don’t let them know this, or they’ll do everything to get you to depart. But you’ll know when.

Don’t Give Up On Your Blended Family

Okay, now what?  You say you’ve made the effort to avoid Blended Family Chaos by following the five steps above, but your relationship with your stepchildren is still causing stress in the family, and in your marriage?   Or, what if your blended family needs a tune-up because the kids are older and the issues have changed accordingly?

Find a family mediator in your community and schedule an appointment.  Be proactive and you won’t have to deal with Blended Family Chaos.

Nancy Gabriel is the principal and managing partner of Mediation Around The Table, LLC., a Las Vegas-based private mediation company.  Ms. Gabriel is a founding director of Nevada Mediation Group, a non-profit corporation focusing on the education and training of mediators, a volunteer for the Neighborhood Justice Center of Clark County, Nevada, a member of the divorce panel for MWI, a Boston, Massachusetts firm specializing in alternative dispute resolutions, and a volunteer at Three Square Food Bank.  She is a graduate of UCLA, an avid gourmet cook and NFL fan. She may be contacted through the firm website at www.MediationAroundTheTable.com

 

Image courtesy of stockunlimited.com

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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

Infidelity. It’s the one event that may occur during a marriage that will threaten a marriage to its core. Nothing challenges the bonds of marriage nearly as severely as infidelity, not financial problems, child rearing issues, or day to day strains on a personal relationship. Rebuilding your marriage after your bonds have been challenged is difficult under any circumstances, but rebuilding your matrimonial bonds after an affair is difficult at best, and impossible at worst, but without a doubt it’s one of the most difficult challenges a couple will ever face together.

And, it’s not just men that are challenging their marriages through infidelity. Given our changing social norms, women are rapidly approaching the incidence of infidelity as that to their male counterparts.  Thanks to the increasing emergence of women in the workforce, coupled with the nearing equality of the sexes and technological advances of social media and dating apps, women have been rapidly gaining ground on their male counterparts when it comes to infidelity. In fact, the Kinsley Institute at Indiana University reported that women are cheating at nearly the same rate as men for the first time in history. In fact, 19.2 % of the women in the study had admitted to cheating during their current relationship compared to 23.2% of the men.

And, although rebuilding your marriage after infidelity is possible, the methods to do so may differ depending on who caused the issue.

Rebuilding Your Marriage When You, the Man, Cheated

1.Come clean. The first step toward repairing the rift is to be honest. It’s likely going to be brutal to step up and admit that you have hurt your wife, but if you want to save your marriage, you need to have the courage to face the truth, no matter the anguish it will unleash on you both.

A study of married couples by UCLA and the University of Washington concluded the one proven road back to marital stability and satisfaction was: admitting the affair. The numbers don’t lie. At the end of the 5-year study, 43% of couples who confessed their unfaithfulness were divorced compared with 80% of the couples who hid their adultery when their spouse later discovered it. Honesty was the key distinction in whether the relationships survived.  In fact, when the cheater accepted and acknowledged responsibility for the affair, the marriage could survive and could be rebuilt to sustain the test of time. At the conclusion of the study, couples who survived an affair experienced comparable levels of marital stability and satisfaction as the couples who had not experienced adultery at all.

2. End the affair. It’s just that simple. Maintaining an illicit affair is just damaging beyond belief, mindless, cruel, self serving, disrespectful and selfish. It does nothing in favor of your marital relationship and, if anything, threatens the very existence of your marriage and both of your financial futures. Nothing is more devastating to a woman than to find out that her husband is having an affair. If you’re not suspected of having an affair, STOP. As much as there may be physical attraction and fleeting physical rewards for you personally, it is destroying you and your marriage. The lies, the tardy arrivals, and the missed events will ultimately expose your infidelity and your affair will be discovered if it hasn’t been already. Regardless of how secretive and discrete you think you may be, your infidelity will be found out, and you will destroy your relationship in the process. If there is any hope for rebuilding your marriage, the affair must end. Then and only then can real healing begin.

3. Give her space. If and when you break the news that you’ve been unfaithful your spouse will be devastated and she’ll be blitzed with a storm of raw emotions: shock, rage, betrayal, shame, depression, sadness. Temper your confession with compassion and understanding. As your wife rages and begins to attack you, be kind. Be gentle. Agree with her as much as humanly possible. She’s going through a very difficult time and arguing with her at this point is not in your best interests, not if you have any hope of rebuilding your marriage.  Getting through this torrent of emotions will not be easy. Seek therapy and marriage counseling if at all possible. As financially challenging as therapy and counseling may be, consider it a financial investment into your future with your wife. Getting into deeper issues, like why you strayed, is best done when you are in a safe, counseling environment. You likely didn’t cheat one day out of the blue. There were multiple factors that led to it. And you won’t recover from the infidelity overnight either. It’s a very lengthy process and one that will likely take four to five years to regain some relative normality. Take your time. Eventually you will both come to understand what incited you to begin the affair and how each of you had some level of responsibility for its inception. The good news is that your marriage can emerge rock solid and more gratifying once you grapple with and solve those deeper underlying issues.

4. Consult a marriage counselor. Should you and your wife decide to try and work through the affair and the damage it has caused in your relationship, it is highly advisable that you not try to work out your challenges alone. A marriage counselor or mediator would be an expert guide to get the two of you back on the road to reconciliation. There are likely multiple underlying issues that lead to the betrayal and each of you share some level of responsibility for the existence of those issues. Only a qualified counselor, clergyman or mediator may help get you both to the core of those issues and give rational direction on how to resolve them. An affair is most likely a result of unhappiness that exists on both sides of the relationship. Discovering, facing and resolving the root of that discontent will lead to a healthier and more satisfying marriage than you had before the infidelity.

5. Rebuild trust. Trust is a delicate thing. It is a product of prolonged physical and emotional fidelity.  And while it would be a huge relief to be able to confess and move on right away, that’s just not in the realm of reality. Once your infidelity has been exposed, whether through your wife’s discovery or by your confession, her trust of you and your actions will be gone. Everything you do, everywhere you go, everyone you see or might see will be questioned, over and over again. Her trust in you and your intentions has been lost, gone, and it won’t return anytime soon.  If you’re patient, the seed of trust can grow again. but it’ll take time, patience and endurance on both your parts. Trust can build slowly, over years, by a long series of small commitments and verified successes, each event, each schedule, each meeting, each announcement planned, and each reality checked, challenged and found to be truthful. Through these seemingly endless commitments and successes, its possible to break through the hard, cold distrust of your actions and rebuild trust in your actions.

6. Forgive. While forgiveness may happen, forgetting won’t. But it doesn’t have to: only forgiving matters. Again, this won’t happen overnight, and you can’t impose any kind of definitive deadline on it. But with continued commitment to your marriage and your relationship it is possible to restore trust and intimacy in your marriage.  By facing the issues that led to your urge to stray together, your wife may see that while flawed (as we all are), you are worthy of forgiveness.  If she refuses to forgive, you have run up against a wall to healing and moving forward. Try and convince her to give therapy a shot as professional help may be needed to get over the barricade and back on track to reconciliation.

An affair doesn’t have to be the last chapter in your marriage. Your adultery can be a wake-up call that your marriage is in serious trouble and on a dangerous path to destruction. If you’re upfront and honest, willing to face the consequences and put in the work in rebuilding your marriage and fix the problems, your honesty about your extramarital affair may prove to be a turning point toward a more satisfying relationship and a brighter future for both you and your spouse.

Rebuilding Your Marriage When She Cheated

1. The Discovery.  Well now, since you’re not the one that has to come clean it’s likely that she has already come clean or that her secret was ‘discovered’. If she’s already come clean, then start concentrating your efforts on the other items below.

If on the other hand you are the one that discovered her infidelity, challenges abound for you. Challenges with trust are overwhelming you. You can’t sleep. You can’t think. You want to know where she is every moment of the day. Has she stopped the affair? How do you know? Do you trust her answer if and when she gives you one? The idea of spying on her surfaces and you want to take action. Read her emails? Check her phone logs and text messages? These are all invasions of privacy and are ILLEGAL. DO NOT DO ANY OF THIS. Focus, focus, focus on what you can control. You can only control your own actions. You cannot control hers.

2. Give Her Space Whether she has admitted the affair or she’s been discovered, she’ll need space. Space to collect her thoughts. Space to change course, if that’s still needed. And, space to help bridge the divide of trust that’s been broken. That trust can only be built up slowly over time.

If it’s suspected she’s still involved in the affair, there is nothing you can do about it personally. But you can focus on your actions and IGNORE her actions. To not ignore her actions will only cause you more heartache and dismay. You’ll focus on her whereabouts and what’s she’s likely doing, or at least what you suspect she’s doing. These are only harmful thoughts and will only lead to destroying those parts of your relationship that’re not already destroyed.

Instead, you need to focus on everything else. Focus on your work, on your kids, on their activities, on your hobbies and on your friends. But, ignore your wife and her actions until she decides to end the affair. For help in this and many other divorce related issues, buy and read Michelle Weiner-Davis’ book Divorce Busting. It’s a wealth of time proven tips and assistance for controlling yourself, your emotions, and your actions so as to not chase your wife away with the constant accusations, guilt, anger, fear, rage and frustration that you’re going through.

3. End the Affair. Ok, so you have no control over her ending the affair. But you can talk with your spouse and encourage her to end it. If she refuses, suggest joint marriage counseling. She may or may not be willing to spill her guts to you or to a stranger but you’ve got to try. If she agrees to the counseling and you can afford it, GO. It will do you both a lot of good and it’s is the best chance you have of salvaging your marriage.

4. Consulting a Marriage Counselor. Ok, so assuming she has agreed to go and try to reclaim some of what ‘s been lost in your marriage. There, once each of you has had a chance to yopen up about yourselves to the counselor, you’ll be able to open up about your marriage. What was going right, what was going wrong, what was going sideways in your relationship that may have led to the affair. This is where you dig deep to unveil the secrets and feelings of what has not been expressed, or if it was expressed, what was not acknowledged by one of you or both of you. The challenges in your relationship that led to the infidelity have got to be addressed for there to be any real healing.

Remember, she may have been the one that strayed, but each of you share some of the burden for the affair in some way. Maybe she was telling you all along but you weren’t really listening to her ‘issues’. Maybe you just turned a deaf ear to her rants and bitching. Therein may lie some of the issue.

Maybe she clammed up and said nothing to you, living in desperate silence, not giving in to what was bothering her, and not being honest about her loneliness, her struggles, her issues, and her not feeling loved by you.

This is exactly why a trained professional is so vital to the unveiling of the truth. We as individuals are unwilling or unable to be that brutally honest with ourselves, and certainly not that brutally honest with our spouse without the gentle and non-judgmental encouragement of the counselor. The counselor can help ‘peel the onion’, one layer at a time to get to the root of the despair, and find a way to seek healing from each of you.

5. Rebuild trust. This is a tough one. She cheated on you. And you’re mad as hell. You have every right to be. But, that won’t bring her back and that won’t help rebuild your marriage. Rebuilding trust will take time, lots of time, and there is no guarantee that it’ll be successful. But with guts and determination, on both your parts, you can slowly plant the seeds of trust and water them regularly.

The seeds of trust are just that – seeds. Each event that is planned, each time she is on her own and you have to trust her to arrive on time, each successful event allows the seed to start to take root and grow. One by one, event by event, the seed starts to take root and the trust begins to emerge out of each successful event.

Truth be known, this process will likely take three to five years to have any lasting affect on you and on her. It just takes time, and it is a slow rebuilding process that cannot be rushed.

6. Forgive. We both know that the infidelity is something that will never be forgotten, never. It’ll always be in the back on your mind and you’ll always be mindful of the possibility that it could happen again.

You’ll have to put in a lot of hard work to make your marriage work in a way that it never did before. But, by doing the ‘hard time’, working at rebuilding your marriage after an affair, and with the rebuilding of trust, you have the chance to forgive. And, you have the chance to be more thoughtful, more aware, more sensitive to your partners needs and wants.

And, it is that sensitivity that may be the key to rebuilding a lasting relationship that could endure any challenge and could last a lifetime. With sensitivity, you’ll be better prepared to sense your partners wants and needs, and it’s that sensitivity that can help to make you a more caring and loving partner, maybe the kind of partner she’s wanted all along.

And that is worth fighting for.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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