Are You Volunteering for Madness?

Do you ever find yourself going round and round in circles with your ex over the same situations?

It’s enough to make you want to throw up your hands and shout “Why is this happening to me?”

As much as we don’t want to admit it, sometimes we actually volunteer for this madness.

We put ourselves into situations that cause more stress and craziness from our ex.

Why do we do this?

Some of the reasons that we find ourselves in these situations are because we think we are doing what is “best for the kids”, or we are people pleasers, or we don’t know how to live without drama in our lives, or we think we “should”.

How Little League was Making me Crazy

Let me tell you about a situation where I was clearly volunteering for madness.

My ex-husband is a huge baseball fan.  He is also what you would call a “high-conflict personality”.

We were already divorced by the time my son was old enough to sign up for T-ball.

My ex had been dreaming about this moment from the time my son was born and I thought it would be good for my son to start playing sports, so I signed him up.

It started off okay, but as the years went on, my ex’s behavior became more and more detrimental to my serenity.

But I continued to be the ”baseball mom”.  I would keep on top of when the sign ups were happening, make sure my son had all the necessary paperwork, get him signed up, etc.

My ex would get in fights with the coaches – except when he was a coach, then he would get in fights with the parents and his assistant coaches.

We had to keep moving around to different leagues, because my ex would burn his bridges each season.

But I kept being the “good mom” and the “in charge” one.  I would still keep signing him up if my son wanted to play.

And each year I asked him, and he said “yes”.   I told him he didn’t have to, but since he expressed that he wanted to play I thought it was my duty to make it happen.

Until the nightmare season.  My ex was out of control.  We had numerous fights at the field because he wanted to pull our son out of a game due to the coaching decisions or whatever.

We were fighting all the time – all over baseball!

So, as the next sign up season rolled around I decided I had had enough.  If my son wanted to play and his father wanted him to play, they would have to take control of the situation.

I would no longer volunteer for the madness.  Would I still go to games?  Yes, because I love seeing my son play.  But I was not going to do any of the ground work.

I let my son know this in advance as he was now old enough to understand the whole process and told him he would have to let his father know if he wanted to sign up.

Guess what happened – NOTHING.  No sign ups, no games, no comments from my son about missing out, and most importantly, no more nightmare seasons.

Once I stepped back, the problem disappeared.  My son still plays sports but somehow football doesn’t ignite my ex in the same way.

What I Learned

What I learned from this experience is that sometimes by doing what we think is “best”, we are really just giving away our peace and serenity.

Not only are we living in a nightmare, but we are volunteering to be there.  Take a step back and see what happens.

 

 

Is Your Divorce Your Greatest Opportunity?

Despite what science fiction may tell us, there are no time machines in life (at least not yet).

We can’t go back and change anything in our marriage that may have saved it.  We can get stuck in the “what ifs”.  What if I had done something different?  What if I had been a better (whatever that is) wife or husband?

But since we can’t go back, we need to stop beating ourselves up over it.  We need to leave that pity party, release the guilt and realize that this divorce is a great opportunity waiting to be explored.

Yes, there may have been things you did in your marriage that you are not proud of.  Things you would like to change if given the chance.

Guess what?  You have that chance.  You can change those things for YOURSELF.

You may be asking, “Why should I bother?”  The marriage is over and done with.

You should bother because it’s time to make the changes for you, not for anyone else, but for you.

So what are these opportunities that can arise from the ashes of our broken relationship?  Here are just a few.

Face Your Fears

Unless you are facing imminent physical danger, your fears are based on False Evidence Appearing Real (FEAR).

What that means is that we spend a lot of time worrying and being afraid of the things that we tell ourselves might happen in the future.

In reality, he don’t know that those things are going to happen.  It is just as likely that they won’t come to pass.

As long as we concentrate on what is happening today – at this moment – we can see that we are okay.  Stop yourself from predicting the future.  Unless of course, you make your living as a fortune teller.

If you have financial fear, concentrate on the fact that you have enough for today.  And if you truly don’t have enough for today, then get to work getting what you need instead of letting fear paralyze you.

If you fear that you won’t find love again, appreciate the love you have in your life today.  Whether it is from your kids, your parents, your friends – it is enough to get you through today.

Quiet Time Alone

You may be spending more time alone than you are used to.

Instead of letting yourself feel lonely and losing yourself in a pint of ice cream, think of this time as a gift.

Use this gift for self-reflection.  Try journaling, meditation, or reading a book that makes you think and discover new things about yourself.

During this quiet time, reflect back on your life, on your marriage, and try to pick out the lessons these experiences were trying to teach you.

Learn New Things

To continue learning is to continue to grow and live.

What are some things that you always wanted to try, but maybe your ex poo-pooed all over your ideas.

Take piano lessons, learn another language, try cooking something exotic, learn to surf.  Anything that peaks your interest.

Groupon and Living Social are great ways to try out new activities with little financial risk.   Take a chance and click that buy button.

Create a Haven of Calm

Make it a goal to have your house be a haven of calm and peace, not only for you but for your children.

Really concentrate on making your home what YOU want it to be.  Unclutter, minimize, get back to basics.  What do you like?  What do your kids like?  Don’t worry what the outside world may think of your decorating.  Whatever makes you happy, calm, and at peace wins.

The Takeaway

Yes, your marriage is over but that doesn’t mean you stop trying.  Learning, improving, and moving on to greater futures is what keeps us alive.

Don’t get stuck in the anger and resentments of the past.  I know it sounds cliché, but you only have this life, right here, right now – make the most of it for you and your children.

 

 

 

Falling Forward

Life can get discouraging.

We feel like we are making real progress and then BOOM something trips us up and we stumble.

But here’s the thing – as long as we have been traveling forward to begin with, when we trip up and fall – we fall forward.

What do I mean by falling forward?

We may make mistakes in any area of our life – relationships, work, parenting – but as long as we learn from those mistakes, we are better off for having made them.

There is an old saying “God helps those who help themselves.”

I used to think that this meant that God (ok, so I am using the term “God” here.  You can substitute whatever word makes you comfortable – Higher Power, the Universe, Mother Nature – you get the idea) doesn’t like lazy or unhelpful people and he will withhold his blessings if he thinks this applies to you.

But the other day, when I was thinking about falling forward, I had an a-ha moment about that saying.

First, God’s help never appears in the form we would like.  God’s help is contained in those situations which are meant to teach us what we need to learn.

And guess what?  Those situations usually suck.  They are painful and full of struggles and leave us questioning ourselves.

Because these are not happy times (in most circumstances) most people do not recognize them as gifts from God.  In fact they may curse God for putting them through this.

But if you can recognize the gift, grasp the lesson  (maybe not learn it this time, but at least know that it is there) you can help yourself by continuing on that spiritual journey.

By knowing that it is a gift, the problem will seem lighter, solutions may come easier, and overall your attitude will brighten.

But God can only help you if you help yourself by recognizing the gift that is given and attempting to figure out the lesson.

So that stumble on your forward march?

Maybe it is meant to get your attention, to wake you up.  Or maybe it is meant for you to have to sit down and rest.

Whatever the reason for it, you will always end up further forward on your journey than where you were

The Myth of Perfection

I am not perfect.  No one is.

Sometimes when I am having a really hard day emotionally, I wonder how can this be happening.  I write articles about how to move past this stuff, but I still have to remind myself of my own words.

You’ve heard me talk about moving beyond fear, changing what we can, letting go of what we can’t.  This is hard stuff, believe me I get it.

So what do I do when I find myself living in my head, “awfulizing” the future, trying to control the things that I can’t control?

Well, first off, I allow my awareness of what I am doing to work itself into my consciousness.  I have to be careful here because it is very easy to start beating myself up with that proverbial 2×4.  I know better!  How come I can’t practice what I preach?!  I should be perfect at this, will I ever get this down perfectly?!  – Hint, the answer is no – there is no perfection for any of us.

After awareness comes acceptance.  Accept that I still let fear run my thoughts sometimes.  Accept that I still have a long way to go on my journey.  Accept that the universe still has lessons to teach me.

Accept that while I may never reach “perfection”, I am a whole lot better dealing with my fears and thoughts than I used to be.  The same button pushing incident that sent me down this path this morning would have been a major crises not too long ago, but today it is just a few hours of the thought monkeys running around my head before I could manage to get them back in their cages.

So, how did I manage to cage those monkeys?  By taking action.  By controlling the things that I could – my thoughts, feelings, fears.

First I went deep.  Why am I having these feelings?  What do they mean?  I kept going deeper and deeper, like peeling back the layers of an onion.  What am I so afraid of?  What is the deep, dark fear here?

Once I was able to put my finger on it, I pulled it out into the light and really looked at it.  Was it logical?  Would it really be the end of the world if the worst happened?  Is this about me or how other people would perceive me?

If I was home, I would have pulled out a fear meditation and let that help me to move past it.  But I am in my office today so that wasn’t possible.

Instead, I went to a file I keep in my email of inspirational things I have kept.  Some our emails sent by others, some are things I have written and sent, some are just little tidbits I have picked up here and there.

I knew there was one in there that I knew would help me.  It was an email I had sent to a friend when I was having a major “a-ha” moment.  In it I expressed great insights into fear and love.  I needed to remind myself of that moment – of what I had discovered.

If you are not journaling or keeping some kind of inspiration file, I greatly suggest you think about doing so.  It is so helpful to be able to go back and read what I wrote when I finally “got it” about something.  Because, nothing is linear.  It’s not like we learn something and that is the end.  We keep getting tested and sometimes we need a refresher course on what we learned.

Anyway, after I read what I had written, the knowing was there again.  I “got it” all over again and a great sense of peace came over me.

I closed my eyes and prayed.  I was able to give it over again.  Right when I was done, my phone rang.  All the awful things I was afraid of happening, didn’t happen.  Everything is alright.  But, actually, for me it was finally alright before I even picked up the phone.

So, why am I giving you a play by play of my day?  Why did I decide to pull back the curtain and admit that I have problems implementing all the stuff we talk about on Serenity After Divorce?

Because I want you to know that you are not alone.  Life is made up of taking 2 steps forward and 1 step back, but eventually you will get where you are headed.

Nobody is perfect.  We all think, “okay, this time I’ve got it down” and then realize, “ah, no I don’t.

When you start getting discouraged, it’s time to look back and see where you came from.  To acknowledge your progress.  Only then can we truly appreciate this journey we are on – together.

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Let Guilt Eat You Alive

As we arrive at the end of the FOG (Fear, Obligation, Guilt) series, I have some questions for you.

Is guilt over your divorce eating you up from the inside?

Do you find yourself longing for a time machine?

Are you living in the land of “what ifs“?

Guilt is a very common (and destructive) emotion to feel after a divorce.  This can be true even if the divorce wasn’t your idea.

Join me in the last part of this video series, to get some answers on how you can rid yourself of this insidious emotion.

 

Why “Should” is a Dirty Word

ObligationsWhat are Obligations?

They are all the “should’s” and “have to’s” that swim around in your head, making you feel stressed, overwhelmed, and guilty if you ignore them.

In Part 4 of the Emerging from the FOG of Divorce video series, we explore how to put those “should’s” and “have to’s” in their place and how to replace them with one word that can make all the difference in taking your life back.

So, grab some tea, take 5 minutes to yourself, sit back and give it a look.

Do You Care What Others Think About You?

I think most people do.

The problem is that in reality there’s not a whole lot we can do about what others think or say.  Including what they think or say about us.

In part 3 of the Emerging From the FOG of Divorce series, I talk about the fear of judgement by others, why it’s none of our business what they think and how to move on even if we feel unsupported in our decisions.

 

 

 

Emerging From the FOG of Divorce Video Series – Part II

In part 2 of my video series – Emerging From the FOG of Divorce (where FOG stand for Fear, Obligation, and Guilt), we take a look at the fear of being alone.

In this video we talk about:

  • Changing your mindset
  • How to keep yourself busy while keeping in mind the danger of “busyness”
  • When the kids are at your ex’s house
  • Raising the kids alone

So, please sit back, watch, and enjoy!

 

In case you missed Part 1, you can catch up and watch it here

Emerging From The FOG of Divorce – Video Series Part 1

What is the FOG of divorce?

I’m talking about the Fear, Obligation, and Guilt that can rear their ugly heads as you are making this life transition.

In Part 1, I talk about fear and more specifically the financial fear that comes with divorce.

In the video below, I discuss:

  • How financial fear keeps you stuck
  • Why FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real
  • Why the time to take action is now

Please take a look and let me know what you think.

 

 

 

 

An Emotionally Healthy Divorce in 5 Easy Steps

Today, I am going to talk about the 5 critical emotional needs that every person needs to have fulfilled in order to have productive and peaceful relationships.

In his book How To Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Meeting The Five Critical Needs of Children…and Parents Too! Updated Edition
Gerald Newmark, Ph.D discusses these 5 emotional needs in relation to children, but as we are all just grown-up children, they can apply to adults as well and to any relationship.

When going through a divorce it is important to keep these needs of yourself, your ex, and your children in mind in order to have as peaceful an experience as possible.

1. The Need to Feel Respected

Respect is a word we throw around a lot.  But if you ask someone to define what respect is, they may have a hard time coming up with a black and white definition.  We tend to think of it as a “I’ll know it when I feel it” kind of thing.  And we definitely know when we feel disrespected by others.

Dr. Newmark says respect translates to the need “to be treated in a courteous, thoughtful, attentive, and civil manner – as individuals deserving of the same courtesy and consideration as others.”

So how can we show the people in our lives respect?

We can avoid being rude or discourteous.

We can avoid lying.

We can stop demeaning others when they make a mistake.

We can avoid interrupting, ignoring, or half-listening to others.

It is a sad but true fact that we often treat strangers, acquaintances, co-workers, etc with more respect than those closest to us.

Next time you find yourself in a conversation with your ex or anyone else where you feel things getting close to that respect/disrespect line, ask yourself “Would I say that to a stranger? to my boss?”  If the answer is no, then you probably shouldn’t say it at all.

2. The Need to Feel Important

“A person needs to feel – ‘I have value.  I am useful.  I have power.  I am somebody.’”

I know you may feel that your ex should not be an “important” person in your life anymore.

But if you have children together, than you can bet that they are still important in your children’s lives, whether they are there on a day to day basis or not.

Also, at one time, this person was very important to you.  If you suddenly pull that “importance” completely away, you may be met with less than ideal behavior in return.

As humans, we need attention.  If we don’t get positive attention, then negative attention will do.

It is a fine line when dealing with attention, importance, and your ex.  You don’t want to give the wrong impression, but you can do a few things that will help your ex feel important as a person and hence lessen his need to “act out” negatively.

First and foremost, listen.  When having a conversation, don’t just react to the first thing you hear and go off.  Listen hard.  Get to the root of the conversation.  And then act accordingly.

Give positive reinforcement.  I know this sounds like advice for dealing with a dog or a small child (and hey, keeps those snide comments to yourself, we are being respectful here), but it works with adults as well.

When your ex does something positive, whether it is paying his child support on time or taking soccer practice duty off your hands, say “thanks”.  Tell him you appreciate it.  You are more likely to get more of the same in the future.

Involve your ex in the decision making, even if you are not legally obligated to.  Ask his opinion.  You can still make it clear that the final decision is yours (if indeed it is), but by giving him his say you are showing that he is still important in his child’s life.  And who knows, he might have a good idea.

3. The Need to Feel Accepted

I love this quote from Dr. Newmark regarding acceptance: “We need to recognize that feelings are not right or wrong; they just are.  Acceptance does not imply liking or agreeing, nor does it have anything to do with condoning behavior.”

We need to help the people in our lives (yes, even our ex) know that their feelings are accepted – whether or not we agree with them.

That means not trivializing, ridiculing, or ignoring their feelings and ideas.

It also means not trying to talk them out of their feelings.  Feelings themselves cannot be wrong.  You feel how you feel  -  and someone telling you it’s silly or wrong does not make you feel better.

We always want to encourage people to feel free expressing their feelings to us.  It is far better than what happens when people keep their feelings inside only to come out in a negative way later.

4. The Need to Feel Included

When you have gone through a divorce, the family unit has been changed unequivocally.

However, if  you have children together you will always be a “family” whether you like it or not.  If you can’t bring yourself to like it, at least get used to it.

It is important that all members of the family and especially the children still feel as if they belong and that they are connected to other people.

It may be hard in the beginning, but if at all possible, it can be helpful to still engage in some activities or projects together as a family.  Maybe something to do with the holidays or school functions.

In addition, it might be helpful to have family meetings to discuss things that are happening in the divorced family.  This can be especially helpful to figure out how the children are coping with the divorce or to counter-act the playing parents against each other that older children tend to experiment with.

If the parents display a united front and regularly communicate both with and about the children it can help all members of the original family feel that they still belong to that family community.

5. The Need to Feel Secure

Divorce is a time of upheaval for everyone involved.

It can seem like the security and comfort of our previous life is gone in a second.

It is important to settle down into a new routine as soon as possible so that everyone can feel secure and know what to expect.

When dealing with your ex, it is important to not be ambiguous with your expectations.  Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it mean.

That way there is no misunderstandings about rules and/or consequences.

And when something doesn’t go the way you would have liked – don’t freak out.  Be rational.  Avoid inappropriate or excessive consequences.

You want everyone to know what to expect.  When people are constantly afraid that you are going to over-react to every little thing, they tend to keep you in the dark a lot more.

Don’t make threats unless you intend to follow through.  If your ex is doing something you don’t like – ask yourself “Am I really prepared to go to court over this?   Does this really warrant him not seeing his kids?”  If the answer is no then don’t even make the threat.  And if the answer is yes, then get on with it instead of making empty threats.

Nobody likes to live on pins and needles, worrying about what you may do next.  Replace that voodoo doll with a security blanket.

Final Thoughts

As you read this article you may have been saying to yourself “well, it would have been nice if my 5 critical emotional needs were met during the marriage.”

Unfortunately, the fact that the divorce happened probably means that one or more of the needs was not being fulfilled for you and your ex.

But it’s not too late.  Oh, for the marriage it may be, but for the family unit that will continue to be in existence for the life of your children it is never too late to improve.

 

More on Dr. Newmark:  Dr. Newmark is President of The Children’s Project.  He is dedicated to awakening American consciousness as to how failure to meet critical emotional needs of children, and adults too, is a root cause of our recurring crises in schools, families, communities, businesses and society at large.  To learn more about Dr. Newmark  and How To Raise Emotionally Healthy Children go to: www.emotionallyhealthychildren.org