Sunday, May 29, 2011

Post-divorce Aphorisms for the Helper and Helpee

David Loxtercamp has come up with 14 aphorisms for country docs like himself.   I liked them all, but it struck me that some of them lent themselves to the post-divorce period.

Risk factors are not disease.  You are at risk for spending the rest of your life alone.  That does not mean you will spend the rest of your life alone.  And, you were always at risk for spending the rest of your life alone; you just didn’t know it.

Aging is not an illness.  Divorce is not an illness.  It’s like the death of one’s parents, infertility, getting fired from a job, and so forth.   Stuff happens.  While not an inevitable part of life like aging, it’s pretty close, as the staggering divorce statistics reveal.  There’s no pill for it.  No surgery.  You just have to figure out how to cope and flourish (my concept of the week). 

To fix a problem is easy, to sit with another suffering is hard.  You suffer post-divorce.  What you may need is to sit with that suffering a bit, and to have someone to sit with sometimes.  You cannot fix it.  It’s a done deal.  Feel it, learn from it, and grow as a result. 

The most common condition we treat is unhappiness and the greatest obstacle to treating a patient’s unhappiness is our own.  Try not to hang out with unhappy people too much.  Others in the post-divorce boat may be empathetic, but they may not be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel any more than you can.  Here’s where coaches are great.  They bring a lot of optimism to their work.

Nothing is more patient centered than the process of change.  Everyone knows what you should do after your divorce, and they’re more than happy to tell you.  The process of change, as Loxtercamp suggests, is highly individual.  You must be free to go through this your own way.  It doesn’t mean you can’t get help, it just means that you know best.

Consider these for your post-divorce recovery, and for those trying to help with someone else’s post-divorce recovery.  There is light at the end of the tunnel.

My song of the week:  Lovely Day. Bill Withers

Saturday, May 21, 2011

What Do You Call Your Significant Other Post-Divorce?

This is not a trick question.  What is your once-significant other now?  My insignificant other?  My formerly significant other?  The person once known as my spouse?  Okay.  What’s in a name, anyway?  But I think it speaks to the issue of change.

Invariably, one party is angry.  If that’s not the case for you, yippee.  There’s always hurt and a feeling of loss.  Often there’s confusion.  It’s useful to consider the emotions you’re feeling.  It’s good to name them and decide how big they are.  This helps you decide what you need to do about the feelings.  There may be some name-calling among friends, initially.  It’s just a way to diffuse some of those feeling.  But it has to stop.

The way you think of your former spouse, and I use this term because it’s benign and non-pejorative, affects how you think about yourself.  I’ve said before, in my top 5 list, instead of ex, just use a name.  It decreases anger and increases control.  Your once-significant is a real person, not a monster or an all-powerful being.  It doesn’t have to be a name, but it does have to be neutral.  This is imperative if you have kids, but also useful if you don’t.  Even your adult kids don’t want to hear one parent berating another.  It puts them in a tough spot.

Now, about those feelings of hurt and loss, they’re part of the grieving process.  Whatever the nature of the relationship, and however good it’s going to turn out to be divorced, there’s loss there.  Whether it’s the person you’re missing, their family, friends you lose, things you did together, memories you shared, all of that is very real and it’s painful.  You can’t avoid it.  You have to feel it, share it, write about it, sing about it, do whatever you do to deal with emotional issues.  Oh, you don’t deal with emotional issues?  This is a great time to start.

When you can use the term you’ve chosen freely and with comfort, you’re moving forward.  Then it’s time to consider where you want to go.

I Call Your Name, The Mammas & The Pappas (I like their version better, so shoot me)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Creative Work-Life Balance

Find your harmonious, happy equilibrium post-divorce with creative work-life balance.

Check out my new eZine article: Create Work-Life Balance with a Flexible, Intentional Plan

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mother’s Day Daze Post-Divorce

Mother’s day, being one of those family holidays, presents the usual dilemmas post-divorce.  What sort of rituals are you abandoning?  If your kids are too young to make you breakfast, what then?  And if they’re too young to make breakfast, they’re too young to do all the things the ex-spouse might have done to give you a break on this day.  If they’re too old to care about making breakfast (read teenager here), what then?  Having to do chores on Mother’s Day can be disappointing.  It triggers those poor- poor-pitiful-me feelings.  It can put you in a daze.

How do you deal with the hurt around being on your own?  Or, how weird is it to have a Mother’s Day without the father, or, also potentially odd, with someone who is not your children’s father?  And who buys the gifts and cards for the mother, or step-mother?  Hint, hint, dads.   And what about paternal grandmothers?  They can get short shrift on this day which is normally reserved for mothers of all generations.  Then there are daughters who are now mothers themselves.  Fathers would like to share in their daughter’s celebration of her own Mother’s Day, but then there’s the ex-wife/mother to contend with.  It can get complicated.

Years later it can bring up feelings you thought you were over.  So what’s the solution?  As usual, you’ve got to figure out new rituals, new strategies and determine that you’re going to enjoy the day even if it is different, or less than perfect.  By the way, was it perfect before?

I’ve heard several people talk about getting chores done on Saturday in order to enjoy the day.  Some of these people are still married.  Recognize that if there’s no one to buy you a gift, you may have to buy yourself one.  How bad is that?  Can you time-share for grandmothers or other mothers that want time with the kids?  Or suggest an additional day for these celebrations?  Recognize that it’s all going to change over time.

About that intention to enjoy the day…figure out what you’ll need to make that happen.  Do you need someone to watch the kids while you run or take a nap?  Do you need to get take-out if you don’t enjoy cooking?  Will buying a book or renting a movie make it more fun?  How about having friends over?  Do whatever it takes.  You know best what will make it relaxing, exciting or dazzling, without being in a daze.  Finally, in the words of Fran Lebowitz, Ask your child what he wants for dinner only if he is buying.

There’s no better excuse for a Beatles song than to honor our day.

Though she was born a long, long time ago…

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Life Balance Post-Divorce

I’ve been writing about work-life balance, something I’ve written about before.  It occurred to me that the topic was relevant to post-divorce in a few novel ways.

First, you’re going it alone, where previously you were a couple.  It’s not necessarily a problem, but it’s different.  I find this a most interesting area.  As a couple, you must place some your desires secondary to the well-being of the couple.  If you didn’t, perhaps this has something to do with why you’re divorced.  If you did, here’s your chance to put you first.  I don’t mean to the exclusion of others in your life, but you simply don’t have that other person whose desires get equal weight.    I’m very happy when people find it possible to prioritize new or dormant interests as a result of singledom.

Second, you’re juggling new things, things you may not have been concerned with before, like dating or spending more time with friends.  This might include, less fun though, more childcare juggling or household responsibility juggling.  You can’t make more time, but you can make the time more meaningful with mindful awareness.  Engaging, focusing and connecting when engaged in various activities makes each one more meaningful.

Third, you may be doing more stress-management for the obvious reasons, necessitating even more time-management.  Managing your stress is important for a variety of reasons including your happiness and that of those around you at work and at home.  Planning is key here.  You must schedule decompression activities, whatever they may be.  Whether it’s walking, reading, puzzling or making music, and the list is endless, you have to include some fun and relaxation in your schedule.
 Sometimes it seems overwhelming, but it can be done.  Prioritizing, mindful awareness and planning all help reduce the overwhelm.