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.