When you got married, chances are it was a happy occasion and you had dreams of “Happily Ever After.” Leaving the idea of “Happily Ever After” and getting to the point in a marriage when divorce becomes a viable option is usually extremely painful and confusing. Actually making the decision to divorce is rarely easy.
Although the decision to divorce is strictly between you and your spouse, there are 3 different ways you can know when it’s time to make a dramatic change in your marriage.
- You’re feeling robotic and just going through the motions. If you find that your marriage is just kinda there – you each do the minimum to maintain the relationship – it’s time for something to change. You deserve to have your marriage be meaningful. Overall, your primary relationship should contribute positively to the quality of your life.
- You’re stuck in analysis paralysis. If you can’t make up your mind about whether or not something needs to change in your marriage, then you’re experiencing analysis paralysis. What I’ve discovered when I find myself in situations like this is that I’m lacking courage. If I have an inkling that something needs to change, it does! Debating with myself about whether or not I trust myself is a waste of time and has the potential to further damage the relationship. My time is better spent by figuring out what needs to change and then taking the action to make things better.
- You’re hiding yourself. We all wear masks of one form or another to get along. It’s part of our socialization. Think about it, how many times do you automatically respond “Fine.” when someone asks you how you’re doing? We may be having a miserable day, but we still respond “Fine.” The problem with purposely hiding yourself in your marriage is that besides denying who we are we’re also preventing ourselves from having the real benefits of being in an intimate relationship with our spouse. Relationships are meant to support us and prove a safe place for us to be us. If you feel like you can’t be you, it’s definitely time for something to change.
It’s natural for every relationship to grow and change over time. Each of the situations described above is just an indicator that a change is needed – not that you need to divorce. By recognizing that your marriage is in one of these situations, you might even be able to make the necessary changes to save your marriage and avoid divorce altogether. However, to accomplish this takes courage, the willingness to be vulnerable and a determination to eliminate robotic responses.
Your Friendly Coaching Assignment:
Which of these situations remind you most of your marriage? Every relationship needs to change at various times. Sometimes the change that needs to happen is one that you need to make, sometimes it’s something you need to discuss with the other person and ask them to make, and most of the time you both need to make adjustments.
What adjustments would make your marriage or your next relationship better? Getting clarity about what would improve the relationship in your opinion is vital. You might be able to do this on your own or you might need to discuss it with the other person. Once you have the needed clarity it will be much easier to improve your marriage and/or avoid the same situations in your next relationship.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.
(c) 2013 Karen Finn. All rights reserved under all copyright conventions.
It’s only natural to feel some anger when a marriage breaks down to the point of no return. It is understandable to be angry when feeling betrayed by anyone, especially a spouse or ex-spouse. Anger is such a powerful emotion that sometimes it is nearly impossible to keep it to ourselves, even during moments when we know we should. This is not to say that anger should be avoided or hidden. Recognizing and dealing with anger is an important part of healing and moving on from a divorce. There are right times, right places and right ways to acknowledge, express and work through anger towards your ex-spouse…none of which are in front of your children!
Regardless of how angry you are and regardless of how justified your anger might be towards the other parent, burdening your children with your anger towards the other parent is not only unfair to your children but can cause them very serious emotional harm.
Children naturally love both of their parents, regardless of their adult mistakes and regardless of how flawed or imperfect the parents may be. When one parent disparages the other parent to or in front of a child, it is like a knife in that child’s heart. Disparaging the other parent to or in front of a child can present itself in many forms including the following…
- Making verbal comments that insult, ridicule, discredit or disrespect the other parent. This includes comments about the other parent’s physical appearance, financial status, employment or any other aspect of that parent’s life.
- Physical gestures or body language that implies the other parent is not worthy of respect. This can include gestures such as eye rolling or loud sighs or sarcastic laughs or even a certain tone of voice that implies a negative message regarding the other parent.
- Actions of custody interference towards the other parent out of anger or to seek revenge. This includes any behavior that crosses the appropriate boundaries established by separation or divorce. Some examples include obsessive and intrusive questioning about time spent with the other parent, frequent interruptions of time spent with the other parent and refusal to comply with the custody schedule.
In addition to children naturally loving both parents, children also naturally want to please and have approval from both of their parents. Burdening children with your anger towards the other parent places your children in an impossible loyalty bind by making them feel that may must choose to support and endorse your anger. While on the outside your child may seem supportive and in agreement with your hostility, it is a fact that on the inside your angry words and actions against their other parent are breaking your child’s heart. As if children of divorce don’t have enough to deal with, these inappropriate actions towards the other parent known as “alienating behaviors” causes children additional unnecessary stress. Just as a train without brakes picks up momentum, alienating behaviors pick up steam and escalate if the brakes are not put on. Sadly, alienating behaviors gone out of control ultimately lead to lifelong emotional and relationship issues for the children who are unfairly put “in the middle” of parents with unresolved and misdirected anger. Studies show that children put into this situation often suffer from anxiety, depression, substance abuse, self-harm and thoughts of suicide.
To not engage in alienating behaviors, separated or divorced parents must learn how to interact in a healthy way under the circumstances of no longer being in the same household. This is known as co-parenting. We must be realistic that this can be easier said than done at times so it’s important to utilize tools to help us navigate through the anger without making our children casualties of our adult issues.
Fortunately, there are tools and resources available to specifically help in this area. A few tools and resources that can help are as follows…
- Counseling or therapy with a licensed professional. Recognize that if you are unable to stop yourself from exposing your children to any alienating behaviors due to your anger, YOU need help! Again, it is understandable to feel anger when a relationship ends especially if you feel betrayed. There is no shame in needing help to deal with and get through such a painful time in your life. Take an honest look at your behaviors and do what you need to do improve your emotional health for the sake of your children.
- Co-parenting classes. Due to recent awareness of the damaging effects of alienating behaviors on children, co-parenting classes are readily available. Co-parenting classes can be found through community centers, counseling offices, life coaches and other resources. Classes can be taken in person or online. Obviously, it takes both parents to commit to properly co-parenting. It might be difficult or sometimes impossible to get the other parent to commit to co-parenting. If you are still going through the divorce process, ask your attorney to have co-parenting classes court ordered to be completed by both parents before the divorce is finalized. One example of co-parenting classes can be found at http://www.childreninthemiddle.com/.
- Co-parenting communication tools. Establishing and following proper boundaries is the key to co-parenting. To properly co-parent is to “stick to the business of parenting” and to not cross the new boundaries put into place by divorce. A co-parenting communication tool such as Our Family Wizard can be invaluable in this regard. Co-parenting communication tools such as Our Family Wizard provides parents with email accounts, calendars, file sharing and other resources tailored to facilitate proper and respectful co-parenting with appropriate boundaries. Children can also be engaged with the use of email accounts and calendars while utilizing filters that prevent the children from being burdened with the adult communications and decisions. Using co-parenting tools such as Our Family Wizard can alleviate a lot of stress and anxiety when trying to establish and honor the boundaries of proper co-parenting. If you’re still going through the divorce process, ask your attorney to have the use of a co-parenting communication tool court ordered in your final divorce decree. A resource such as Our Family Wizard simplifies co-parenting by giving parents the tools needed to “stick to the business of parenting.” For more information about Our Family Wizard, visit http://www.ourfamilywizard.com/ofw/.
Your children love and want a relationship with the other parent even if you no longer love or want a relationship with the other parent. Not only do your children want a relationship with their other parent, they NEED a relationship with their other parent. It is not about you or about your anger towards the other parent. It is about the health and well-being of your children.
The bottom line is you must put your love for your children above your anger towards their other parent. Putting your love for your children above your anger towards their other parent is the greatest gift you will ever give your children and while you might not believe it today, someday you will see it was also one of the greatest gifts you ever gave yourself.
For more information about co-parenting, alienating behaviors and parental alienation please contact Wendy Archer of Parental Alienation Awareness Organization USA at firstname.lastname@example.org. The North Texas Chapter of Parental Alienation Awareness Organization USA holds monthly meetings on the 2nd Wednesday of every month in Southlake Texas. More information can be found by joining the PAAO USA North Texas Chapter facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/paaonorthtexas/.
Your Functional Divorce Coaching Assignment:
How have you inadvertently let your anger about your divorce affect your children? This is a tough question. No one is a perfect parent regardless of whether or not they’re dealing with divorce. The purpose of this question is to allow you to examine where you might be able to improve your parenting. After all, it’s awareness that is the first part of changing for the better.
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This week Hugh Scarbrough, ASID, RID, owner and founder of Hugh Scarbrough Interior Design, LLC, is our guest blogger. Hugh realizes design dreams for his clients that reflect their lifestyles, building client relationships for a lifetime. Touting more than ten years in the industry, he seamlessly blends his exprertise, education as a registered interior designer, and retail/worldwide travel experiences that serve his clients well.
To learn more about Hugh and his work, visit www.hughinteriors.com.
Summertime. June has arrived and so have the “lazy, sunny, and hot days” of summer! It is time for picnics, water sports and relaxing vacations. It is also a perfect time to create a new look in your home or summer retreat.
This year colors abound in design for summer. As I walked through the new fabric showrooms recently, I noticed the bright and colorful prints and paint colors: Chartreuse green; magenta pink; sunny yellow; striking blue; powerful red. Truly colors of the season! Seeing these beautiful colors sparked my excitement about the fun it is to incorporate summer colors into a home.
With the beginning of summer and a transition in your life, perhaps this is an excellent time to create a new look for your home, make a fresh start, and build lasting memories. Whether your style is contemporary or traditional, the bright summer colors may be integrated into the design you choose.
You may have a reluctance to create a new look in your home due to painful memories, including items of certain colors. If one or more of the bright summer colors ignite uncomfortable and/or angry feelings, for example, you may want to look at the colors from a different perspective. As it is important to have the “right” balance of color in a room, using those colors differently may create a fun and uplifting environment.
If you seek guidance from a professional interior designer, express the style you would like to create and the challenges you may be having with certain feelings, such as anger or anxiety. Colors have enormous impact on our moods. Red, for example, increases physical energy and vitality; at the same, it may provoke anger. If red is negative for you, focusing on greens, blues, and even yellows may be the wise direction for re-doing the design in your home. The color green supports balance and harmony. Blue denotes calmness and peace. And yellow increases lightness and personal power. A true balance for our homes and our lives.
As you are making plans for the summer, it is the perfect time to take a look at your home or “escape” retreat. Perhaps a new and nurturing design look may just be the answer!
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
How can you add a bit of summer to your home? I love glass sculpture and I’ve recently added some beautiful aqua vases to my office to make it more summery. You might want to add a throw pillow or a throw to your home to bring the sunshine inside.
© 2013 Karen Finn. All rights reserved under all copyright conventions.
Have you ever noticed that there’s all kinds of conflicting information “out there” about anger? You’ve probably heard that frequent anger is deadly. Maybe you’ve heard that anger is an important part of getting through your divorce. You might think that anger is bad and you shouldn’t express it. You’ve probably heard that anger needs to be expressed or else it eats away at you. You might have learned that girls and women aren’t supposed to be angry. Maybe you believe that only adults are supposed to be angry. You might have learned that boys and men are allowed to be angry. You might have learned that anger only leads to violence. There are just all kinds of confusing ideas we’re all taught about anger.
There are messages about anger being both good and bad. Then there are messages about anger being OK for only some people to express and not others. It’s just plain confusing!
Let’s clear up some of the confusion about anger and come to a healthy understanding about it – especially as it applies to divorce.
Frequent anger is deadly. FACT.
For people who experience frequent HIGH levels of anger, their anger can be deadly. Those of us who are “chronically angry or hostile adults with no history of heart trouble might be 19% more likely than their more placid peer to develop heart disease” according to WebMD.com (http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/features/how-anger-hurts-your-heart). If you’ve already got heart disease and have an especially angry temperament WebMD.com states that you’re “24% more likely than other heart patients to have a poor prognosis.”
Anger is an important part of getting through your divorce. FACT.
There are two reasons anger is an important part of getting through divorce. First, part of healing from divorce is going through a grieving process and anger is a natural part of the grieving process. Second, anger in divorce is one way you learn to distance yourself emotionally from your former spouse. It helps to break that marriage bond or habit.
Anger is bad and shouldn’t be expressed. MYTH.
Anger is a normal, natural emotion that pops up when you need to know that something needs attention and that action needs to be taken. Last week’s newsletter shared 3 reasons why anger is good.
Anger needs to be expressed or it eats away at you. FACT and MYTH.
Not expressing anger can cause you to feel misunderstood, resentful, and angry! And having these emotions unexpressed for the long term can cause serious health issues. However, just expressing anger by exploding in a rage, screaming, throwing a temper tantrum and the like aren’t helpful for dissipating the emotion. Anger needs to be expressed in constructive ways in order to have it dissipate.
Girls and women aren’t supposed to be angry. MYTH.
Anger is a natural human emotion. All humans can experience anger. We all need to know how to recognize it and express it in constructive ways.
Only adults are supposed to be angry. MYTH.
Children are human too! Since anger is a natural human emotion, kids will experience it. It’s the role of the adults in their lives to help them recognize what anger is and to be able to express it in constructive ways.
Only boys and men are allowed to be angry. MYTH.
Again, anger is a natural human emotion. All of us need to be able to express it appropriately.
Anger only leads to violence. MYTH.
Goodness knows there are plenty of movies out there depicting how anger always leads to violence, but it’s not true that all anger leads to violence. Anger appropriately expressed is rarely violent.
Hopefully, this list of myths and facts about violence has cleared up some of the confusion about the conflicting messages we all get about anger. Perhaps it’s also caused you to think about some of the other things you think about anger.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
What do you believe about anger? List everything you think about anger. Then, go back through the facts and myths about anger and see if your beliefs are myth or fact.
Do you need more support to constructively express the anger you have about your divorce? I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And if you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
© 2013 Karen Finn. All rights reserved under all copyright conventions.