Frozen

Frozen

Frozen

Even in the worst of marriages, we try. We work on the relationship. We offer to go to counseling. We try to hear our partner’s viewpoint. We have compassion. We work and we work and we work on getting along, on finding common ground, on seeing the other side.

When we split up, our relationship is frozen in time. There’s no more work, no more understanding the other person. No more attempt, even, to see from their perspective.

And since many divorced couples are still intertwined through their children, that’s not such a good thing.

In marriage, we find ways to compromise when we are in situations we don’t like. I give, you give, and we meet somewhere in the middle.

A divorce freezes us in the stagnant place of how we used to be, even as we, as individuals, progress and develop and become better in every other area of our lives. In this relationship, we stay stuck.

That makes divorce more challenging than it already is!

Is there any alternative? Is it unreasonable to think there are things we can do to better that post-divorce relationship? It is a different relationship, after all.

Recently, a couple that had been divorced for seven years met for coffee to discuss some parenting time planning. It was the first time since their divorce that they finally had a tenable peace to allow it to happen.

It is never too late. We must be realistic: it takes time to cool off, but down the road, what can you do to help that relationship?

You’re not married anymore. You can’t change parenting styles even as you continue to co-parent. At a certain point, you have to let go of the need to control and realize that there will always be areas where you need to connect and it IS worthwhile to work on the relationship in whatever way you can muster.

I love this compelling blog by Jackie Pilossoph in the Huffington Post about melting away all the bitterness and hatred for her ex when their son was rushed to the ER with a head injury. “The incident brings you back to what is truly important in life, and it makes you realize that the pettiness and the hate and the anger are a waste,” she writes.

Read more Kids & Co-parenting posts

Changes in Parenting Once You Divorce

Changes in Parenting Once You Divorce

Changes in Parenting Once You Divorce

In Growing Up Fisher, the one-season TV sitcom featuring a newly divorced family learning their way in their new arrangement, the mom, played by Jenna Elfman, tries to be cool with her daughter, played by Ava Deluca-Verley, rather than acting as the mother. It’s a way to try to win her daughter’s affection and loyalty – and confirm that she’s the favorite parent.

While this story comes from a TV show, it’s not uncommon in real divorced families. After you get divorced, you know your life will be different. Just how different, exactly? And how will it affect your relationship with your children?

First, you are parenting alone – your former spouse lives in another house and makes different decisions than you do. Since the emotions are still acute, you don’t check in with each other to confirm consistency. It’s your approach vs. your ex, every man or woman for themselves.

That can lead to a sort of competition between former spouses, which isn’t good for anyone, least of all the children. Too many divorced parents unknowingly compete for attention and favor with their children. That’s a tug-of-war the children live every day, and they shouldn’t have to.

When parents are insecure about their place in their children’s lives, they try to win them over – and the kids come to expect gifts and entertainment as the norm.

We can’t protect our kids as much as we think we can. Divorce hurts everyone involved. But we get over the hurt and build strength in its place.

Our society is so used to protecting kids – not just emotionally but financially, too. We must accept that with divorce, things change. And it will all be OK in the end.

It’s hard to endure a difficult time. The dissolution of family as we know it requires time to adjust – for everyone – and believe it or not, your kids will weather the changes better than you will.

Sometimes we have to let our kids fall in order to learn how to stand up and dust themselves off and try to climb to the top again.

And sometimes we have to do the same. We can’t cushion anyone’s fall.

So accept that when you divorce, your relationship with your children will change. You will still be the parent, they will still be the children, and you will all still love each other. Different does not necessarily mean bad. Ride the waves. They always eventually take you to shore.

Read more Kids & Co-parenting posts

Changes in Parenting Once You Divorce

Changes in Parenting Once You Divorce

Changes in Parenting Once You Divorce

In Growing Up Fisher, the one-season TV sitcom featuring a newly divorced family learning their way in their new arrangement, the mom, played by Jenna Elfman, tries to be cool with her daughter, played by Ava Deluca-Verley, rather than acting as the mother. It’s a way to try to win her daughter’s affection and loyalty – and confirm that she’s the favorite parent.

While this story comes from a TV show, it’s not uncommon in real divorced families. After you get divorced, you know your life will be different. Just how different, exactly? And how will it affect your relationship with your children?

First, you are parenting alone – your former spouse lives in another house and makes different decisions than you do. Since the emotions are still acute, you don’t check in with each other to confirm consistency. It’s your approach vs. your ex, every man or woman for themselves.

That can lead to a sort of competition between former spouses, which isn’t good for anyone, least of all the children. Too many divorced parents unknowingly compete for attention and favor with their children. That’s a tug-of-war the children live every day, and they shouldn’t have to.

When parents are insecure about their place in their children’s lives, they try to win them over – and the kids come to expect gifts and entertainment as the norm.

We can’t protect our kids as much as we think we can. Divorce hurts everyone involved. But we get over the hurt and build strength in its place.

Our society is so used to protecting kids – not just emotionally but financially, too. We must accept that with divorce, things change. And it will all be OK in the end.

It’s hard to endure a difficult time. The dissolution of family as we know it requires time to adjust – for everyone – and believe it or not, your kids will weather the changes better than you will.

Sometimes we have to let our kids fall in order to learn how to stand up and dust themselves off and try to climb to the top again.

And sometimes we have to do the same. We can’t cushion anyone’s fall.

So accept that when you divorce, your relationship with your children will change. You will still be the parent, they will still be the children, and you will all still love each other. Different does not necessarily mean bad. Ride the waves. They always eventually take you to shore.

Read more Kids & Co-parenting posts

The Cost of Divorce

The Cost of Divorce

The Cost of Divorce

Does anyone believe divorce doesn’t come with a price?

I’m not just talking about the lawyer fees, court fees, mediation fees.

I’m not just referring to the cost of selling a house or moving to an apartment or the cost of not having your kids with you every day.

And I’m not just referring to the cost of a relationship you had thought would last a lifetime that suddenly no longer remains intact.

Plain and simple, divorce is an expensive business; and when faced with the expenses, we lose perspective, feel uneasy and cannot see that eventually, things will balance themselves out.

Recently, I worked with two different clients who both faced financial constraints as most clients do. One client, a man, left a marriage of nearly 25 years, which produced three children. My client was devastated when his wife decided to end the marriage.

While she didn’t work much during the marriage, she did manage the household, the children and the family’s finances.  As part of being the financial manager, the wife kept some of her own assets separate from her husband’s and what the husband believed they were building together during their marriage.

When they divorced, by law, the wife was entitled to keep her separate property, and they split everything they had built and shared during the marriage.

So from the husband’s perspective now, his former wife is doing quite well and the ex-husband is feeling more significant financial constraints because in addition to the wife keeping her own assets, the husband has a pretty hefty bill of child support and spousal support.

There is this concept that money is energy, and it must flow in and flow out. When we are gripped by fear, though, we often don’t feel comfortable letting it go – for fear that it won’t come back.

The thing is, when we cling to our money too tightly, it stalls the energy flow and we create an even bigger problem.

It’s all about perspective. There’s a bit of truth in every perspective, but we all know the grass looks greener in someone else’s yard.

Now, post-divorce, the former wife keeps finding things to fight about (she just can’t let go, as happens with many clients, actually) and she keeps calling in her attorney.

To my client’s credit, he is trying to not involve me but to communicate with his ex-wife directly to work out issues because he knows that it is the better way, and he also wants to avoid having even higher legal bills.

Yes, he created the situation – he believed they’d be married forever, and he was devastated to see that dream crumble. I know my client is having a hard time financially – and there’s nothing I can do about it because it’s what he agreed to.

Still, it breaks my heart to see such imbalance.

Another client, a woman, was young when her marriage ended. She worked an occasional contract job to bring in extra cash during the marriage, but her primary role was to care for the children and manage the household.  She’s now receiving spousal support and looking for permanent work. She’s having a hard time even still because at 40, it’s hard to begin a career.

And the worst part is that the ex-husband is now late in making his payments due to some variation in his  income from a second job about which he is passionate and which largely subsidized their family income during the marriage. The ex-wife stayed in the marital home, and she probably can’t afford to keep it.

We hold onto things because we want to hold onto what was, or because we think it is best for the children – but probably, we need to break free and start over, in a more affordable, manageable way, creating a new life, a new definition of self.

Nevertheless, from this ex-wife’s perspective, her former husband is still controlling the money and purposefully causing her additional financial hardship. The husband is probably thinking his ex-wife can afford everything because of what he is (or is supposed) to be paying for spousal support.

Who really knows – all we know is that it’s a tough financial road for her at this point in time. And the perspectives can be drastically different.

As happens with every divorce, these families are facing very new situations, emotionally and financially. In my experience, I’ve come to see that everything does settle out over time. It just takes time and we’re often not all that patient.

In each of these cases, very different divorces, very different people, one receiving payments, one paying out –both individuals are struggling.

If for even a moment, you can recognize the other person’s perspective, you might feel better. It’s not the time to try to empathize with the person who left you, or whom you left.

But for your own sake, internally accepting that the other person may be struggling,too, may offer moments of peace amongst the chaos.  And, over time, the finances, along with your emotions, will balance out. Try to be patient.

Read more Family Law posts