Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Holidays Post-Divorce, 2012

Every year I do a post-divorce holiday blog. The focus is always different, reflecting the things I'm working on myself or with clients post-divorce. I started in 2009 talking about focus on the self with things like stress management and acceptance. In 2010 it was about being more other-focused with things like becoming more social and doing volunteer work. In 2011 it was about focusing on doing things your way and identifying your goals for the holiday.

And for this year, you know how people and their dogs often look alike? Sometimes they even seem to have the same personality. It can be that way with spouses as well. Live together long enough and before you know it you eat the same food, dress the same way and do the same things. It's easy to lose yourself in the relationship, subjugating your wants and needs in the name of peace and harmony. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. As we head into New Year's resolution time, I'm taking this opportunity to remind you that you can change a lot of those things now that you're divorced.

Consider these eight areas and ask yourself if you're where you want to be.

1.      Living space. People often like to move out of a shared space. If that works for you, great. Often, it's just not possible. Think about how you can make the space more yours and less his/hers. Getting rid of items that remind you of your ex can get expensive, but sometimes it's worth it. Painting, rearranging, redecorating and leaving your personal stamp on each and every room is helpful. Even small changes can have a positive impact.

2.     Style. I'm talking hair, clothes, makeup, nails and anything else you created with your now ex-partner in mind.  She liked wired rim frames to make you look more intellectual or a day-old growth to make you look like Bradley Cooper. He liked long, blond hair, blood red lipstick and stiletto heels to make you look like, well, you get the picture. Ask yourself if you really want to be driving that mini-van now that you're single again. Take back control and decide how to express yourself with your style choices.

3.     Interests. Much as we like to consider ourselves individuals, it's tough not to take on the interests of our significant others. It's great to expand one's scope by trying new things. Now you can decide if you really want to continue going on that annual wilderness camping trip, watching football or cooking gourmet feasts. What are you really interested in?

4.     Schedule. Early bird or night owl? Dinner at 8 or 6:00? Exercise in the morning or afternoon. Getting up earlier to have time with your significant other and doing things that please them is great. But now that they're gone, you can do things on your own schedule and it may be one that works better for you. After all, it's your biorhythm.

5.     Relationships. Whether it's how you handle your relationships with friends or how you relate to your children, couples tend to morph into the same patterns. You can break out of those patterns now. Want to have your friends over for a game of Bunco or poker on a school night?  Want to spend Saturday night with your kids watching movies and eating nachos in bed? Go ahead. These are all choices you can make.

6.     Work. How much time we spend at work is often a flashpoint for couples. Somehow, one's own work always seems infinitely more important than one's spouse's. Now it really is. Maybe those extra hours you put in to be able to afford the luxury vacation no longer seem worth it. When you perform those labors of love at home like laundry, grocery shopping and cooking are also things over which you now have decision-making power. It's all about figuring out what works for you.

7.     Vacations. Vacations can be very challenging in the newly single. Sometimes it's difficult to imagine a solo vacation, or a family vacation without two parents. Decide what your dream vacation is and what you can manage. Ask the kids what they want. Travel with a friend, a sibling or anyone who will be fun, or go it alone. But be sure to schedule a break from work, even if it's to stay at home and relax.

8.    Holidays. Holidays and other celebrations, like birthdays, tend to be tradition-bound. This is the time to create your own traditions and decide how you'd like to do things. There are no rules. If you can't afford those expensive gifts this year, no worries, people will understand. If you can afford that trip to the Bahamas for the holidays, why not? Want to stay at home? Visit friends? Go to the movies? Anything goes.
Don't eat caviar on New Year's Eve if you're a nuts and granola kind of person. Don't continue to act like a fancy poodle if you're really a down and dirty hound at heart. Figure out the authentic you…and be yourself.

This blog was originally published at YourTango in a slightly different form.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Post-Divorce On-Line Dos and Don'ts

Who can resist the urge to look at their ex's Facebook page? Admit it. It calls your name and whispers, Check it out…no harm done. An astute researcher in England would beg to differ. A recent study concluded that the more time you spend on your ex's Facebook page, the more psychological distress you experience, the greater your desire for your ex, and the more difficulty you have moving on.

Admit it. You are not really surprised. That's because most of us realize that the toxic connections we have with our exes are stoked by talking about, thinking about and looking at stuff about them. While lurking on their Facebook page may not morph itself into stalking, it's just not healthy.

Here are my on-line dos and don'ts:

·         Do not look at your ex's Facebook page, Twitter account or other social media presence. I often strongly suggest defriending them and unfollowing them. If you don't, you'll wind up seeing posts you don't need to see. You'll learn about people they are now friends with which will be upsetting. I'd include the ex-in-laws and ex-friends here as well.

·         Do not post things about your ex. This is just asking for trouble from them, their friends and their family. If you want to have a private conversation with someone about your ex, that's great. You just don't need to be doing it on a social media platform. Your goal is to decrease the time you spend ex-watching and ex-bashing, preferably sooner rather than later

·         Do not friend your ex's new honey or family members on Facebook, or follow them elsewhere. This may seem self-evident, but you'd be surprised. In fact, don't lurk on these pages. Doing so does make you start to look a lot more like a stalker. It's also about TMI. You probably get more information than you need already. Don't add to it unnecessarily.

·         Do consider getting off Facebook, and similar sites, entirely. If you know staying away is going to be really tough for you, it's a solution. I know it sounds radical, but do you really need to know where the high school friends you haven't seen in umpteen million years got drunk last Saturday night? You talk to or text your real friends, and maybe even see them in person occasionally.

·         Do use social media to advertise your singledom and to meet people. I'm a big advocate of on-line dating post-divorce. If you're feeling like this is somehow unfair or disrespectful to your ex or their family, don't. You're completely entitled to move on however you see fit, regardless of the circumstances of the demise of your relationship.

·         Do ignore postings you think are about you. Your ex, their friends and family may post things about some unnamed party you believe to be you. It may or may not be you. Even if you're 100% sure it's you, don't bother responding. You'll feel better taking the high road. Forgiveness is a virtue. Practicing it makes us happy.
Admit it. You know that if you want to feel better and move on with your life, surveilling  your ex is not the way to go. Besides, defriending is empowering. It doesn't whisper, it screams, WE ARE NEVER, EVER, EVER GETTING BACK TOGETHER.

We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together, Taylor Swift

Originally published at YourTango in a slightly different form.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Virtual Group: Move into Post-Divorce Life…Enjoy the Journey

It's holiday time. Negotiating the challenges of post-divorce life is a unique and personal experience.  If you need a little support and a little push after your break-up, this group is for you!  My virtual group travels the common, and uncommon, roads that we encounter post-divorce. Virtual groups are conducted by phone. You can be anywhere.

This 4-session virtual group will help you address the challenges of moving on from a long-term relationship by:

* Establishing a positive post-divorce mindset
* Using personal strengths to move forward
* Learning to enjoy the journey by working toward new goals
Using the tools of coaching, the group will help you discover strategies to effectively negotiate new terrain in your unique journey.
My holiday gift, your first call is free!
Contact me for more information.
Read about post-divorce adjustment here:
Music for the post-divorce journey: I Look So Good Without You, Jessie James

Saturday, November 17, 2012

What Can You Do About Toxic Connections With Your Ex?

As Christopher Columbus said, you can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. It's hard to let go of that shore post-divorce or after any relationship tanks. No matter how bad the relationship was or how much you wanted out, it's still what you've known, possibly for a very, very long time.

These are things people tell me that scream, I want to stay connected to my ex! I humbly offer detoxes for these toxic connections. I say toxic because, when you look closely, you can see how unhealthy they are.
·         I can't stand for him to be with anyone else. If I had a top ten list, this would be at the top. It's tough, but you know it's inevitable that you will both move on to other relationships.  Detox. Embrace reality and be grateful. When your ex moves on, in case you were harboring thoughts of reuniting a long time from now, in a galaxy far, far away, this tells you it's really over. You can be grateful for that wake up call. It's also good for kids for whom it can close the door on remarriage fantasies. And you know what, you can stand seeing him with someone else and there are probably other reasons to be thankful. Gratitude always trumps jealousy.

·         I want her to still want me. You've finished with someone, probably don't even want them anymore, but you expect them to be waiting in the wings. You still want to be loved, but that ship has sailed. Detox. Know that you will be fine on your own. You don't need your ex to love you to recognize that you're lovable. And if you really think you're not, this is a great time to start figuring out how the next relationship can be better, and what you need to work on personally. It's time to man up, make the changes and find your next sweetheart.

·         I hurt, and I want him to hurt too.  Do I have to point out that this is just plain mean? Detox. Feeling loving kindness is linked to improved mental and physical health and increased confidence. Part of the meditation involves loving kindness for those toward whom we feel unkind. It's a way of downloading those negative feelings, and allowing them to float out of your head. You will be nicer to be around and you'll probably hurt less.

·         She really needs to apologize to me. "Needs to," does not ever belong in the same sentence as your ex. Your ex probably didn't do a lot of things she "needed to do" when you were married.  You think you're going to get her to do them now? Nope, you're not. Detox. You don't actually need an apology. Forgiveness is something you give because, among other things, it's good for you. And you don't need an apology to forgive. You do it because you're ready to unmoor and sail on. An apology is not going to get rid of the pain. Only letting go does that.

·         I just want us to be friends. Maybe you can be friends. Equally possible, you can't. It doesn't matter. It would be good for the kids, but it's not essential. Detox. You have friends to hang out with and talk to. If you don't, you best get out and make some. Friends have a longer shelf-life than many relationships. It's important to focus on other relationships, not just your personal Titanic.

·         He should respond to my calls or texts immediately. Really? Most people don't respond to our needs immediately, so don't expect it from your ex. Detox. If you're calling and texting repeatedly, stop. Ask yourself whether the situation is really that much of an emergency. Don't wait until the last minute to make arrangements for the kids, or get something you need from your ex. Start planning your course ahead of time, the way you do with most people, and don't expect your newly insignificant other to drop everything for you.

To sum it up, be grateful, be kind, forgive, and don't expect things to be better than they were in the relationship. Letting go is entirely up to you. It means moving on toward the unknown, always a scary prospect. But hey, there's a new world out there. So keep your focus on what's ahead, while you breathe in that clean, detoxified air. Smudge sticks can help with this too.
Have a listen to Taylor Swift's Mean
This blog was originally published at YourTango.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

6 Lessons Yoga Taught Me About Divorce

About 10 years ago a friend invited me to a yoga class.  Just divorced, I was feeling open to new things. Yoga was really not something I'd considered before, but I didn't evaluate it, overthink it or analyze it to death. I just went. It was my first lesson. Here's what I learned about divorce from yoga.
1.       Beginner's mind. Imagine what it would be like to see a sunrise for the first time, as if you have never seen one before and you will never see one again.  This is beginner's mind. It involves letting go of your expectations for how things were yesterday, ought to be today or might be tomorrow.  It was with beginner's mind that I accepted the invitation to yoga. I had no expectations. When you experience things with beginner's mind, you forget your opinions and desires and are open to seeing things as they are right now. Forgive the pun, but I don't think it's much of a stretch to see how this applies to being divorced. Instead of stressing about what's different, what you don't have anymore and what you need to have by tomorrow, beginner's mind tells us to just see things as they are right how.
2.      Bearing discomfort. Just what it sounds like, in yoga, sometimes you hold the pose long enough to create a bit of discomfort. You learn that you can bear that discomfort. You learn that after you release the pose, you feel stronger for having tolerated that discomfort. Sometimes you even notice that you're still holding the pose, the discomfort has passed and your downward dog is so happy it's wagging its tail. The thing about divorce is that the pain is never far away, no matter which side you're on. Whether you're the abandoner or the abandonee, the righteously indignant or the pretend indignant, or just one of the parties, divorce is never a pain-free enterprise. There are too many changes, too many upsets and too many discomforts. Like your downward dog, learning to bear the discomfort, to tolerate it for just a few more minutes, days or weeks, results, finally, in one happy dog.
3.      Moderation. How many sun salutations does it take to feel your daily practice is complete? Just enough to feel energized, but not so many that you've exhausted yourself and can't do anything else. You want to be feeling the stretch, but you don't want to be twitching or shaking. You must find the moderation, the balance, the intelligent edge. So how many sun salutations is that? It's different everyday and for everyone. Whatever you start doing post-divorce, and I encourage you to start doing new things, do it with moderation. There's no need to be out every night, to make 20 new friends, to have a date every weekend or to take up 15 new hobbies. There's no need to lose those extra pounds this week or to find the perfect house tomorrow. It feels good to know that you decide how much is enough.
4.      Nonjudgment. Yoga can be demanding. There's always something new to learn, someplace new to go. You can't always be the best in the room and it's helpful not to think in those terms. Some teachers advise that you not look beyond your mat. You can be most happy with your tree when it's the only tree in sight. It's neither good nor bad. Think about your divorce. It's unlike anyone else's. Each divorce has its own peculiarities, twists and turns. There is no perfect divorce. It's very liberating to accept your situation as it is, without believing you have to grow faster or better than someone else.
5.      Patience. I've been working toward headstand for a long time. I'm not there yet. Patience is knowing deep inside yourself that things will happen in their own time. They can't be rushed. Another way to think about it is accepting where you are, instead of trying to get someplace better. I will do headstand when I'm ready, or not, and where I am in the practice right now is fine. It doesn't mean I won't keep practicing. Patience is not an excuse to give up and sit on your butt. Patience is a way to approach the changes that are happening post-divorce. It's a way of knowing deep inside yourself that you will keep moving toward the new goals you have and into the new life you are creating. Some days it will seem like you are moving forward at a good rate. Some days it will seem like you are not. Knowing that you can't rush it, that where you are today is fine, is a good place to be. After all, what's the rush?
6.      Commitment. To learn yoga, you have to get to the mat. In class teachers often remind you to praise yourself just for getting to the mat today. It's part of your commitment to the practice. Committing sincerely and wholeheartedly to practicing yoga is necessary. The more you practice, the more you want to practice and the more committed you become. There are many things you might commit to post-divorce. First there's survival: I'm gonna make it. You commit to getting up every day, getting through your day and getting it done. Then there's flourishing: I'm gonna be great. You commit to growing, thriving and become more fulfilled every day. Perhaps there's even gratitude: I'd never have gotten here without this opportunity. With commitment you will master new things, become someone different and recognize that the divorce provided you with this opportunity.
I am forever grateful to my friend for inviting me to my first yoga class, but you don't have to practice yoga to practice these six ways of being. I highly recommend them as lessons for the stressful post-divorce period, and beyond.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Enhance Your Post-Divorce Well-Being With 5-Minute Mindfulness Practices

I know what you're thinking, you don't have five minutes to spare, especially now that you're divorced. But I'm here to tell you that you need to make just 5 minutes each day.  This is a little bit of time you can take to separate yourself from the post-divorce madness and stress.
We know that you can reduce stress and emotional reactivity, and increase focus and well-being, and improve your health, all with a few simple practices. Cultivating mindfulness can bring these rewards. Have to deal with an ex-spouse?  Research suggests improvement in emotional control is also associated with mindfulness practices. And who can't use more emotional control post-divorce?
There are as many ways to become more mindful as there are people, so here are my suggestions for cultivating your mindfulness. You have to try them out, and see what fits for you.
Breathe mindfully, by taking slow breaths that start in the abdomen and work their way up to the top of your head, exhaling as slowly as you breathe in. Spend 5 minutes a day breathing this way. Try breathing into your stress, be it a stressed muscle or a stressful thought.
Notice your thoughts without judgment. This means just noticing, not questioning, editing, criticizing or controlling your thinking. This is a biggie post-divorce. Everyone tends to be hyper self-critical in this time. Observe your thoughts nonjudgmentally for 5 minutes each day.
Experience what you're feeling in your body without trying to change it. Take 5 minutes daily to do a body scan. Start at your toes and work your way up to the scalp, just noticing what's going on in your body. Simply be aware of places you're tight, loose or neutral.
Focus on what you're doing with awareness. Whether you're walking (feel the air on your face and your feet hitting the ground), eating (notice texture and taste) or sitting (attend to body temperature and heart rate), try noticing all the perceptions and sensations you experience during a 5 minute period.
Meditate daily. Choose a type of meditation that suits you. There are many options. Do it daily for 5 minutes on your own, or find a meditation center or group where you can practice and learn. Many people find that practicing with a group deepens the experience.
Practice loving kindness toward yourself and others. This is a meditation in which you wish for things like safety, health, happiness or freedom for yourself. Then you extend that wish to your loved ones, to acquaintances, and finally, to your not-so-loved ones, for 5 minutes of your day. Depending on where you are in the post-divorce process, this last one can be very helpful. It's liberating to give up the anger and have positive wishes for your ex. Really.
Practice an ancient healing art like yoga, tai chi or qi gong by spending 5 minutes a day on it. Taking a few classes will teach you the basics. Simple yoga poses can be learned in no time on-line. You can practice alone. As with meditation, sometimes practicing with your kids, partner or a friend is a nice change.
Pick a time you can practice one or more of these daily. Work it into your schedule. As your daily mindfulness practice becomes routine, you will notice that an increase in awareness and a decrease in judgment begins to permeate the whole post-divorce experience. Control over your thinking and behavior becomes easier. It all comes together to reduce stress and enhance well-being. I'm not saying five minutes will bring all the rewards, but I suspect that once you start doing five, it will turn into 10, then 15, and who knows how much well-being you can attain?
Try some Iyengar Yoga Music to get in the mudra.
A version of this article was originally published at YourTango.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

My Top 10 Post-Divorce Lessons

My teenage son bought me a Kavu bag for my birthday to complete my "hippie look." It was the perfect gift given only by someone who really gets you. I thought about how strong our relationship has become. Similar to many post-divorce occurrences, it's not that it couldn't have happened when I was married, it's just that it counts as one of many happy results emerging from an unhappy situation. These are lessons I learned from those happy results.

1.I try to be closer to my child. I'm not saying you can't be married and close to your children. But often there seems to be a unique bond between the divorced and their children. Not having to divide attention between spouse and child accounts for some of it. Maybe the rest comes from having to live together through something so difficult. I'm grateful for that closeness and work hard to cultivate it.
2. I spend more time doing things I enjoy. After the necessary period of wallowing, I started doing things that made me happy.  I ran more. I began studying life coaching. I started practicing yoga. I wasn't a slug before, but post-divorce there was no one to ask me what it would cost, how much time away from them would be involved, who would watch my kid, or how it would contribute to the family.  I made choices that made me happy. Not surprisingly, things that make me happy contribute to the well-being of those around me.
3. I can live without a man. Not only that, but discovered I really like living without a man. I spend more time with friends. I spend more time working. I eat when and what I want. I watch the movies I want.  Don't get me wrong. I love sharing and doing things for others. I love men. It’s just that I learned I do very well without having one around full-time.
4. I do things I never would have thought possible. Getting the wasp nest out of the mailbox, the bat out of the garage, and buying a car may not seem huge. I'm not saying I'm Wonderwoman, but each time I accomplished one of those things I felt absolutely fantastic. It’s empowering to manage things myself instead of relegating them to the honey do list. And the added benefit is that they actually get done!
5. I am not alone. Perhaps it was having more opportunity, perhaps more need, but I met a lot of people post-divorce and made a lot of friends. Support also comes from the legions of divorced people. They write and talk about divorce. You realize many post-divorce experiences are shared. It helps to be part of a community, even one I hadn't planned to join.
6. I have strengths I never knew about. Relationships can be stifling.  It was far too easy for me to subjugate my aspirations to those of my partner and child. It was easy to act out wife and mother roles I inherited from my family. Divorce was a release from all that. Using my creativity and strengths in new ways, like writing, entering races, cooking and tweaking my career, helps me flourish as a single person. Singledom helped me capitalize on my strengths.
7. I do not have to make anyone else happy. People tried to tell me when to date, when not to date, what to do about my kid, what not to do about my kid, what to do in new relationships, what not to do.  I'd spent quite a number of years trying to make someone else happy, and look how that turned out. I don't have to please others by living out their fantasy of what ought to happen in my life or following often unsolicited advice. That's allowed me to return to my hippie look, develop my own parenting style and create a modern relationship that works for me.
8. It gets better. I kept telling myself that it would get better if I kept plugging away. And it does. I kept moving ahead and trying new things until it began to dawn on me that “after” was starting to feel pretty good.  In fact, "after" began feeling a lot better than “before.”

9. Healthy thoughts about the divorce keep me positive. Initially there was the inevitable ex-bashing. Then I realized that the negative energy crept into the rest of my life. I started focusing on positives. This means getting others in my world to give up their own negativity about my divorce and ex, or at least to keep it to themselves. It means not feeling sorry for myself. It means spending more time around healthy people.

10. Divorce does not define me. Although it seemed so at first, I learned that being divorced is not my central defining characteristic. Being divorced is part of who I am, and I choose to define it as an experience contributing positively to my growth as a person. I am a healthy, whole, creative woman, who happens to not have a husband.

You don't have to be divorced to make your life more healthy, powerful and positive. But if you happen to be divorced, it's a great opportunity to use your creativity and strengths to make some exciting changes.  And who knows, you just might get a Kavu bag out of it.
Reprinted from YourTango.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

No More Damsels In Distress Post-Divorce

I couldn't find a better post-divorce survivor if I tried, than Sigourney Weaver in Political Animals.  As Weaver said in an interview Friday, "When I look around the world, I don't really see too many damsels in distress." As Elaine Barrish, Weaver is strong, determined, intelligent and competent. So of course Barrish is called cold and calculating by some.
No one exits a marriage sans angst, but what are the successful ingredients in a relatively distress-free post-divorce adjustment? These are my suggestions for damage-control:

Take yourself seriously. Whether it's as a parent, at work or in a new pursuit, whatever it may be, what you're doing is the most important thing you've ever done in your life. Make it real. When you're busy taking yourself seriously, there's not much room for negativity.

Focus on what you're doing. What you're doing deserves your complete attention. The class you've started, the meal you're cooking, the work you're doing, they're all worthy of your focus. While taking care of business, you don't have time to wallow.

Try new stuff. Consider something different.  I doesn't matter if it's yoga, speed-dating, a triathlon or an art class. Shifting some of your time and attention to mastering something new is a good challenge. It creates positive energy and optimism.

Keep busy. Forget about taking time to process.  You'll process enough. Keep yourself scheduled and doing things. Think about the people and things you want in your life, and make space for them.

Be authentic. Let your thoughts, words and deed reflect the things you truly believe in. You may have to figure out what you believe in, since divorce does have a nasty way of shaking up all our beliefs. But these are good things to spend time thinking about. What do I really want, need believe?

Practice stress management. You can cultivate the non-judging, patience and acceptance of mindfulness, increase or change your exercise, make more time for friends or spend more time with nature. Think about what decreases your stress and do more of it.

As Barrish said, "You'll never get to the next great moment if you don't keep going." If you'll forgive the mixing of media, be a Ripley. Be the last survivor.

Survivor, Destiny's Child