How To Move On After Divorce

A moving truck helping someone move on after divorce.

Three things you need to do to successfully move on after divorce.

When I think about all the work I do as a divorce and personal life coach and how I help people navigate the chaos and confusion of divorce so they can get on to living the best of their lives, I realize that the bulk of my work really involves 3 tasks.  I work with people who want to move on after their divorce people so they can:

  1. Take care of themselves
  2. Separate the present from the past and create their future
  3. Realize they’re not alone

These are three tasks everyone is required to complete to be able to successfully move on from divorce.

So many people who get divorced give up on themselves.  I was one of them.  I gave up on myself when I got divorced.  I thought that since I’d failed at my most important relationship what’s the point?  Why bother doing anything more than go through the motions of living?  Yes, this was the voice of me experiencing melodrama and situational depression.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, my work as a divorce coach over the last few years has taught me that most people feel a version of this when they get divorced and that it’s not a place anyone should stay for long.

It’s vital that you take care of yourself when you get divorced.  It’s the only way you’ll be able to move on and discover what’s possible for you.  (You’ve also got to take care of yourself to take care of your kids too.)  Taking care of yourself involves things like eating appropriately, getting enough sleep, finding employment if you don’t have it already and asking for help when you need it.

The next big piece of work everyone who’s ready to move on from their divorce needs to complete is separating the present from the past and taking the steps necessary to create the future they really want.

This recognition of the difference between the past, present and future is the focus of any type of coaching.  Most coaches call it closing the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.

However, with divorce, things are a bit trickier because there’s usually such a strong pull back to the past and wanting to understand why the divorce is happening not to mention grieving the marriage and all that went with it.

Don’t worry if you feel like this is the hardest part of moving on from your divorce because this is the one task that most people have the most difficult time with.  The key to completing this particular task quickly is to have appropriate support.  You might look for the support you want and deserve from a family member, friend, clergy, therapist or divorce coach.  Just make sure that the person or people you’re getting support from really know what it’s like to get through divorce and can help you move on from your divorce quickly and completely.

The third task is the one that really helps people make quantum leaps toward their desired futures post-divorce.  Getting involved in a divorce support group or workshop that focuses on both commiserating AND accountability is the quickest way for you to realize that you’re not all alone when you’re going through divorce.

Unfortunately, not all divorce recovery groups are created equal, so you’ll want to do a bit of research to find the one that will work best for you.  You’ll want to ask anyone you know who’s taken a divorce workshop if their workshop provided both an opportunity to share what they were going through AND accountability for moving forward between classes/sessions.  You can also ask your attorney for a recommendation of a good class in the area.  Here are three websites for organizations that offer divorce recovery workshops that you can check out: Divorce Care, Rebuilding Workshops, and When Your Relationship Ends Workshops.

If you’re ready to successfully move on from your divorce, realize that there are only 3 things you need to do: 

  1. Take care of yourself
  2. Separate the present from the past and create your future
  3. Join a community so you recognize that you’re not alone in getting through your divorce

Once you start your work on completing these tasks you’ll develop the focus and determination to not only move on from your divorce, but to get on to making the rest of your life the best of your life.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

Which of the three tasks to moving on from divorce do you need to pay the most attention to right now?  Most of us like to think that we need to multi-task to get things done – including healing from divorce, but that’s just not true.  All that anyone can truly focus on at any instant is one thing, so start at the top of the list and see, if you need to take care of yourself, if you need to separate now from the past and design your future, or if you need to search for and join a divorce support group.

What help do you need to accomplish this one task?  When you’re going through divorce, just about everything becomes a bit more difficult to do because of the huge changes divorce brings with it.  It’s 100% OK to ask for some help.  So go ahead and ask for the help you need.  You’re worth it!

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 or take the first step to work with me as your personal coach.

© 2013 Karen Finn. All rights reserved under all copyright conventions.

Separated Or Divorced: The Easy Road?

Undulating 2-lane road passing through a forest.

Have you ever heard someone say that instead of working things out a couple is taking the easy road by deciding to separate and divorce? I have and all I can say to those ignorant people is “Seriously? You have no idea what it takes to get divorced.”

Making the decision that a relationship in which you’ve invested YEARS of your life is better off ending than continuing is FAR from easy. In fact, it’s usually gut wrenching. Although there are the extremely rare people who enter into a marriage with the intent that it end with divorce, the rest of us jump into marriage with both feet, a sense of commitment and a willingness to make things work whatever that takes. And did I mention we usually spend YEARS trying to make things work before we ever think of separation or divorce. I certainly don’t see how any sane person can look at a couple who’s divorcing and say they’re taking the easy road.

Reaching the decision to separate and divorce is hard. It was one of the most difficult decisions I ever made not only in the moment the decision was made, but in the fall-out of that decision. EVERYTHING changed in that moment. Not all the changes were for the better – at least not in the short-term. I came face-to-face with some hard truths about me and how I was living my life. It wasn’t all pretty and took a whole lot of really hard work to get me straightened out. BUT I am a much healthier and happier person now.

The road I’ve taken since my separation and divorce hasn’t been easy, but it has felt much more alive and real than the road I was on in my first marriage.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are contemplating divorce. Should you stay, or should you go is a powerful question and I’m here to help you make a smart decision that will lead to your greatest happiness… whether you stay OR go. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly adviceAnd, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.

If you’re looking for more help answering the question “Should I stay or should I go?”, read more articles in Unhappy Marriage?.

How To Slay Your Dragons

When’s the last time you heard someone say, “I feel stuck!”? It probably wasn’t that long ago. Heck, it might have even been you hearing yourself uttering or muttering these words.

When I went through my divorce and the process of rediscovering myself, I felt stuck. Everything in my life was changing, but I felt stuck. I had repetitive thoughts that got in my way. I had beliefs about being less than others and these beliefs often kept me from having, doing and being what I wanted. In short, my divorce derailed the life I was living and I was feeling overwhelmed by all the changes.

What I know now that I didn’t know back then is that all of my feelings of stuckness were just my personal dragons that I needed to slay before I could fully engage in my life again.

So just to be clear about what it feels like to be stuck these are some common things my clients say to describe being stuck:

  • Stressed out
  • Feeling misaligned with what’s going on
  • Experiencing strong unpleasant emotions
  • Needing to get more knowledge about something, but not sure what or how to do it
  • Repetitively trying things that just don’t work
  • Not able or willing to take the actions needed

(Of course there could also be a medical reason for experiencing these feelings of stuckness and those folks need to work with their healthcare provider too!)

Maybe these descriptions of stuckness seem familiar to you. Maybe you’ve seen your own fire-breathing dragons and are tired of being at their mercy. If that’s you, I’ll bet you’re wondering “How do I slay my dragons?”

And that, dear reader, is exactly the question I hoped you would ask.

It turns out that there’s been quite a bit of amazing research done over the past hundred years or so on the human body and discovering that we each have “multiple brains”. If we define a brain as a collection of a large number of ganglia along with sensory and motor neurons, neural cells with inter-neurons, support cells and components such as glial cells and astrocytes. In addition a brain has certain functional attributes such as perceiving, assimilating and processing information, memory and storage access, ability to mediate complex reflexes via an intrinsic nervous system and a storage warehouse of neurotransmitters. With this definition and capabilities, it turns out that we each have at least 3 brains (You can read more about multiple brains in Oka and Soosalu’s book mBraining: Using Your Multiple Brains to do Cool Stuff). Your 3 brains are located in your head, around your heart and in your gut. By understanding how to connect with each of your brains and in a particular order you can slay your known dragons.

Here’s how I suggest you go about slaying your dragons:

  1. Relax. The exact method here isn’t as important as that you just do it.
  2. Step into the logic of the issue to get really clear and specific about what the current situation is and what your desired situation is.
  3. Tune in with your heart. What is your heart telling you about the situation?
  4. What is your head/logic telling you about the information from your heart?
  5. Tune back in with your heart. What adjustments to the thoughts from your head need to be made?
  6. Tune into your gut. What does your gut say about this information?
  7. Ideally, at this point your gut has given you an indication of what actions need to be taken and given you the energy to take them. If not, then take the information from your gut and return to step 3.

As you can see from the steps above slaying your dragons is all about getting clear and energized about taking actions because you’ve been able to think about the situation (dragon) in a different way. I think Einstein said it best – “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Solving the challenges and problems that come along with divorce requires you to think and act differently than you have been. Once you can see them from a different perspective, it usually becomes fairly clear about how you can slay your dragons. How do I know? Because I’ve done it myself.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

  • Identify a dragon you’re ready to slay. I recommend starting small. What’s one small thing that’s keeping you stuck?
  • Apply the process above. Allow yourself the time to experiment with this process. I think you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll be able to get in touch with each of your brains and get moving in the right direction for you.

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 or schedule a confidential consultation with me.

© 2013 Karen Finn. All rights reserved under all copyright conventions.

How YOUR Anger Affects Your Children During Divorce

Wendy Archer is a parental alienation expert.

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…

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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…

  1. 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.
  2. 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/.
  3. 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 wendyarcher@rocketmail.com. 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.

 

You might also enjoy reading…

The 8 Keys To Trust In A Post-Divorce Relationship

 

If you’re looking for more help on how to navigate the challenges of your life now, read more articles about Life After Divorce.

A Designer’s Perspective

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.

The 8 Keys To Trust In A Post-Divorce Relationship – Part 2

Happy couple who have discovered how to trust again after divorce.

Divorce can shake a person’s ability to trust someone else to the core. Yet, in order for any relationship to thrive, trust is a necessity. In this Part 2 of The 8 Keys to Trust in a Post-Divorce Relationship, I’ll share keys 5-8 on what characteristics must be present for a deep and abiding trust in another person to exist.

As a quick reminder, the first 4 keys were clarity, compassion, character and competency. (You can read the detailed discussion about these keys here.)

The last 4 keys to trust in a post-divorce relationship are

5. Contribution – What’s important about contribution in a relationship is recognizing how you each contribute to the richness of each other’s lives. The contribution should be overall positive, yet not necessarily positive all the time. The rough patches are where growth can occur and the opportunity for growth is where you can begin to evaluate the presence of the next key – commitment.

6. Commitment – Commitment is more than just a declaration. The kind of commitment that makes relationships work is action-based. It takes action to display commitment – a willingness on both parts to roll-up your sleeves and do what needs to be done to maintain the relationship if that’s what’s in each of your best interests.

7. Connection – Connection is all about relating to each other. It requires being able to communicate clearly with each other. It’s also the unspoken communication that develops that sense about what each other is thinking or needing.

8. Consistency – Dictionary.com gives some great definitions of consistency that are all necessary to developing and maintaining trust in a relationship. Consistency is about agreement, harmony, or compatibility. It also refers to the condition of cohering or holding together and retaining form. All of these are necessary to build trust in a relationship. There must be a consistent agreement to maintain the relationship and there needs to be compatibility and harmony so it can thrive in an environment of trust.

When you take a look at this week’s keys and the ones from last week, there’s quite a bit that goes into building trust in a relationship. Isn’t there?

It’s funny how sometimes looking ahead at what you want in a relationship can sometimes cause us to do a little examination of past relationships and look at them in a different way. If this has happened for you, then you’ve got a really great indication of what you might need to make sure happens in your next relationship to be able to again place your trust in a relationship.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

Get clear about what you want in your post-divorce relationships. Yes, this is the same first step as in last week’s Your Functional Divorce Assignment, but my guess is that after learning what the rest of the keys are you might want to adjust your idea of what you want in your post-divorce relationships just a bit.

How might you determine if you and the other person are contributing positively to each other? What positive contributions would you like the other person to make to your life? What contributions are they willing to make to your life? How do these answers match?

What are the contributions they want you to make to their life? What positive contributions are you willing to make in their life? How do these answers match?

It’s important that the answers be fairly similar in order for the contribution key to be present in your post-divorce relationship.

What kind of consistency is present in your relationship? Do you both have the same vision and interpretation of the relationship? Without the same vision, there’s no way there can be consistency within the relationship. That’s why I believe it’s important to check in periodically and make sure you’re both in the same relationship.

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 adviceIf you’re ready to take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

© 2013 Karen Finn. All rights reserved under all copyright conventions.

Do You REALLY Trust Yourself?

Man quizzically peering from behind a blue wall wondering about trust and divorce recovery.

Divorce is one of those life events that can cause you to question EVERYTHING.

At least that’s what happened for me. Somehow my change of marital status caused me to wonder if anything about my life was what I thought it was– was any of it real? How could I know what was real and what wasn’t? After all, I had thought I’d be married to my ex-husband for the rest of my life and that wasn’t true so what really was true about the rest of my life? I felt hopelessly lost.

Slowly, though, I began to understand that the only path out of a life of being hopelessly lost was to begin to trust myself again. I needed to believe that I could trust myself and that I was the only one who would know what was and wasn’t true for me. Knowing which path to take is different from actually walking down the path. The walk, for me, took a while because I was walking blind-folded.

When I look back at that time in my life, I know that it took me longer to walk the path to self-trust than it might have. I didn’t know where the path was headed or what was required of me to successfully walk it. But I know it now. I know the path now because of my own journey and because of the journeys I’ve been honored to watch my clients make too.

I’m going to share my knowledge with you so you will be able to walk your own path back to self-trust without a blindfold.

Before I start with the how-to’s of building self-trust, it’s important to define the term. Self-trust is the ability to make decisions, to know that your emotions and feelings are real, and to take care of yourself. It’s a fairly lengthy definition, isn’t it? Basically, self-trust involves trusting yourself on EVERY level – cognitively, emotionally, logically, intuitively and physically.

I’ll bet you’re wondering, “With a concept this big, where do I start?” You start with a decision to build your self-trust and then you roll up your sleeves and begin to work. It won’t be (at least not for most of us) a magical process that once you make the decision you’ll automatically have a wonderful sense of self-trust, but with consistent work you’ll definitely make significant progress in a fairly short period of time.

Here are 6 steps you can use to build your self-trust:

1. Eliminate victim mentality. Victim mentality is living in the belief that things happen to you and you have zero impact, influence or control over what happens to you. I’m not suggesting that you can’t be a victim. What I’m suggesting is that you don’t want to let that be your entire story. Yes, bad things do happen and you can choose how you move on from those things.

As an example, suppose you are divorcing because your spouse cheated on you. You can either live the rest of your life feeling like a victim of your spouse’s choice or you can come to accept that your spouse’s choice was hurtful and you can still move on with the rest of your life regardless of what your spouse has done.

2. Eliminate negative thoughts about yourself. Regardless of whether or not you’re going through divorce, most of us have negative self-talk – you know, those voices in your head that are constantly criticizing you in some way. A friend of mine calls them the shitty committee. Learning to quiet those voices and recognize them for what they are is an incredibly powerful skill.

Most of the time, those hyper-critical voices are that way because they’re trying to protect you from something. For years, my negative self-talk revolved around not liking myself. It took a while for me understand what was behind those messages, but I finally realized that it was because I wasn’t trusting myself to know what was best for me. I would often defer what I wanted to what my ex-husband wanted. Once I came to this realization, it was much easier for me to quiet those negative thoughts and pay more attention to what I wanted.

3. Recognize your strengths and successes. This has a lot to do with self-esteem and knowing that you are capable because you have innate strengths and because you’ve been successful in the past.

I’ve written a previous blog post about how to do this and instead of re-writing it here, I’ll just direct you to that post: https://drkarenfinn.com/divorce-blog/dealing-with-grief/118-a-quick-and-simple-way-to-dump-divorce-depression

4. Become aware of what you’re thinking and feeling. Now that you’ve eliminated a bunch of the stinking thinking in the first 3 steps, you’re ready to start being pro-active with building your self-trust and it all begins with paying attention to what you’re thinking and feeling (both physically and emotionally).

There are a couple of different ways to do this. The first is to ask yourself at least 3 times during each day just what you’re thinking and feeling at that particular moment. Once you have that answer you can then decide what if anything you want to do to improve how you’re thinking and feeling. The second way is to journal about your thoughts and feelings. Most people are more aware of their thoughts than their feelings. If this is you, you might want to journal by using the phrase “I feel…” as many times as you need to so you can get everything out.

5. Keep your word to yourself. Believe it or not we all make promises to ourselves every day: “I won’t eat any more sweets”, “I will start a daily exercise routine today”, “As soon as I finish this report, I’ll take a break to clear my head before starting my next task.” The thing is that despite our promises we wind up eating a fresh-baked cookie a friend brought over to share, we skip a day of exercise and soon we’ve stopped exercising all together, and we skip taking a break because we talk ourselves into believing we didn’t really need it after all. Breaking promises we make to ourselves, sets us up to have a poor level of self-trust.

I used to be especially bad at keeping my promises to myself involving rest, relaxation and fun. I’d usually feel guilty if I wasn’t working and pushing myself all the time and yet I’d hate myself for not taking care of me. It was really a vicious cycle. What I discovered by allowing myself to keep my word to myself about rest, relaxation and fun was that I had LOTS more energy for getting my work and workouts done.

6. Learn from your mistakes. This is the biggie when it comes to divorce. It takes two for a marriage to not work. (I know that might be an offensive statement to some, but it’s what I believe and if you’d like to discuss it with me, please do! You can reach me at karen@drkarenfinn.com.) Learning what your part in the divorce was will go a long way toward helping you build your sense of self-trust because you’ll know that you can take care of yourself.

It took me a while to recognize that I played an active part in my divorce, that I wasn’t a victim, and that there were things I could learn from my failed marriage.

Yes, this is really the master’s level of self-trust. Being able to realize that you are going to make mistakes at times and still trust yourself because you are willing to learn from your mistakes will allow you to take appropriate risks and live a wonderful life.

Once you’ve conquered these 6 steps, you’ll be well on your way to trusting yourself again. So, the next time something happens in your life that changes everything, your ability to trust yourself will help prevent you from feeling hopelessly lost again. Even if you do wind up questioning EVERYTHING, you’ll be able to trust your answers because you’ve learned to trust yourself.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

Make the decision that you can trust yourself even if you aren’t sure you do right now. Making the decision is always the first step in making a change. Learning to trust yourself is critical to having a wonderful life. Emerson said “Self-trust is the first secret to success” and I agree completely!

Take the checklist above one step at a time. Start at the top of the list and work your way through each step. Some may be easier for you to do than others and you may want to re-do some steps along the way, but if you work through them in this order it will be easier for you to master each of them.

Know your limits. This is one of those extra bonus things about trusting yourself. As you trust yourself more you’ll know exactly when you need to ask for help and what kind of help you need.

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 or schedule a confidential consultation with me.

If you’re looking for more help recovering from your divorce, read more articles in Healing After Divorce.

3 Steps to Spring Clean Your Relationships

One of the tasks on nearly everyone’s to-do list this time of year is spring cleaning. After having our homes closed up for the winter, it’s nice to open up the windows and make our homes spick-and-span. I guess it goes along with spring in general since it’s when nature is new and fresh again.

As I was thinking about my own spring cleaning, I started to wonder about the possibility of spring cleaning our relationships. (Yes, technically I guess this thought process counts as procrastinating, but I’ll leave that discussion, the bucket of cleaning supplies, and the toilet for another time.)

I realized that relationships, just like our homes, need to be refreshed, cleaned up and have all the junk removed from them periodically.

There is plenty of advice on the web for what you need to do to thoroughly spring clean your home, but I’ll bet this will be your first list of what to do to spring clean your relationships!

1. Get rid of the junk – lots of people have relationships in which they can’t be themselves; they’re always acting and pretending to be what the other person wants. These types of relationships are junk because you’re not able to be authentically you and they’re very draining.

Now when I say get rid of the junk relationships, I don’t necessarily mean get rid of the relationship itself. What I mean is that the way the relationship currently exists needs to change. It needs to change in a way that allows you to be completely yourself and allows the other person to be completely themselves too.

2. Air things out – at some time or another, we’ve all chosen to keep quiet and stew over something that’s happened in a relationship. I know it was probably the best answer at the time we made it, but it’s not the best answer in the long term. The reason is that these things can cause resentment and undermine a relationship.

Taking great care of relationships means that it’s important we take the time to clear the air by addressing what needs to be addressed and/or forgiving what needs to be forgiven so we can breathe easier within each of our relationships.

3. Clean all the surfaces – our best relationships are multi-faceted. They support us in all kinds of ways. We share our lives with each other – the joys, sadnesses, fears and triumphs. We give each other room to dream about how we want our lives to be and we help each other accomplish our dreams. We also have fun together – lots of fun!

It’s worth the time to think about each relationship and figure out how each facet within it is working. Are both people feeling supported and sharing the important stuff along with the superficial? When’s the last time you just had some fun together?

Although this list only has 3 items on it, completing these tasks will definitely require some work. But let me assure you that the work is DEFINITELY worth it because, as my husband likes to regularly remind me, no one is an island and we all do better when our relationships are working.

Now that I’ve completed my thoughts on spring cleaning relationships, I guess it’s time to give my attention back to the bucket of cleaning supplies and the toilet.

Your Friendly Coaching Assignment:

Pick out a relationship you’d like to spruce up for spring. Each of our relationships can use a periodic renewal. Pick the one you’d like to focus on improving.

Start with the junk. What are the ways you’re not being 100% you in the relationship you want to spruce up? Are you suspicious that the other person isn’t being 100% themselves? If there is any lack of authenticity within the relationship, you’ll probably want to help each other to be 100% authentic or else decide the relationship is not going to be a deep one.

Open the windows of communication. Once you know the relationship is worth keeping and nurturing, you’ll want to be sure and air out what needs to be aired. Letting go of past grievances either by talking about them and/or by forgiving them will definitely breathe new life into any relationship.

Get out your white glove and check all the surfaces. Since every relationship is multi-faceted, taking some time to make sure every surface of your relationship is working for both of you is vital to growing and improving it.

Repeat as necessary and enjoy the rest of the year with your renewed relationships.

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 adviceAnd, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.

© 2013 Karen Finn. All rights reserved under all copyright conventions.

Divorce and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

As I’ve mentioned before, I do a lot of reading and I’ll often be reading several books at the same time. I’ll pick up whichever one fits my mood when I have a few moments to read.

One of the books I’ve got open these days is The Seven Wonders That Will Change Your Life by Glenn Beck and Keith Ablow, M.D. I found one particular passage interesting because it reminded me about perspective and how my life has changed since I got divorced. The passage is actually a quote from Robert Pirsig’s book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance which I read about a year after my divorce was final. Here’s the passage:

The trap consists of a hollowed-out coconut chained to a stake. The coconut has some rice inside which can be grabbed through a small hole. The hole is big enough so that the monkey’s hand can go in, but too small for his fist with rice in it to come out. The monkey reaches in and is suddenly trapped – by nothing more than his own value rigidity. He can’t revalue the rice. He cannot see that freedom without rice is more valuable than capture with it. The villagers are coming to get him and take him away. They’re coming closer…closer!…now!…

There is a fact this monkey should know: if he opens his hand he’s free. But how is he going to discover this fact? Be removing the value rigidity that rates rice above freedom. How is he going to do that? Well, he should somehow try to slow down deliberately and go over ground that he has been over before and see if things he thought were important really were important and, well, stop yanking and just stare at the coconut for a while. Before long he should get a nibble from a little fact wondering if he is interested in it. He should try to understand this fact not so much in terms of his big problem as for its own sake. That problem may not be as big as he thinks it is. That fact may not be as small as he thinks it is either.

When I got divorced, I felt like that trapped monkey – terrified and held captive by my fears about what I thought was important at the time. What I thought was important back then was that my life after divorce needed to work pretty much exactly the same as it had before my divorce – except that I now had an ex-husband. This was the fact whose nibbling I ignored. I ignored the reality that one person cannot be as productive as two people working together. I ignored that it would take me longer to do all of the household chores on my own instead of sharing them with someone else. I ignored the fact that caring for 3 attention-loving pets on my own would be more of a challenge than it was when I was married. I ignored these realities and expected that I could do it all with at least as high a quality as had been done pre-separation and divorce.

I kept ignoring all of these facts about my home life and kept expecting that I could and should do it all as had been done before. I also kept expecting the same high-level of performance from myself at work, at the gym and at play. I expected so much of myself that I virtually eliminated any time for myself – any down time to just relax. I had built a very elaborate trap for myself – one that kept me frazzled and eventually led to burnout.

Today, more than 10 years later, I’m amazed by what an elaborate trap I had created for myself.

The thing is, I’m not the only person who got divorced and created a trap. I regularly meet and work with divorced people who create their own elaborate captivities.

Back then, just like the people I meet and work with today, I simply wasn’t capable of identifying my captivity when I got divorced. I thought it was just how my life was and that somehow I was defective because I couldn’t keep up with everything I thought I had to keep up with. Today I know that wasn’t the case. Today, I know that back then I wanted my rice (all my expectations of myself) and didn’t realize I was selling my freedom to have it.

Like most people dealing with divorce, I’ll bet that you are holding yourself captive unnecessarily too. Check out Your Functional Divorce Assignment to help you identify and loosen the bonds of your trap.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

What trap are you in? There are all kinds of traps people create for themselves when they get divorced. Maybe your trap is similar to mine in that you expect your life to be pretty much the same. Maybe your trap is a belief that you’re too old to ever find another significant other. Maybe your trap is a belief that you have no employable skills and no way of getting any. Or maybe your trap is something else all together. It could be big or small, the size doesn’t matter. What does matter is identifying how you are feeling captive.

What are the reasons you believe your trap exists? Come up with every single reason your trap is real no matter how small or how big. You might want to write them down so you can get them out of your head and make sure you’ve got them all covered. Besides, having them all listed in one place will help you with the next step.

For each of the reasons, ask yourself “Is this reason 100% true?” and “What makes this reason true?” I wish I had known how to ask myself these questions when I was recovering from my divorce. What often happens when I compassionately ask my clients both questions is that they’ll start to get a nibble of a fact they had been ignoring. That nibble will often lead to a new idea or a new perspective that allows their trap to be loosened – at least a little bit – which will often entirely change their trap if not eliminate it completely.

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 or schedule a private consultation with me.

If you’re looking for more help recovering from your divorce, read more articles about Healing After Divorce.

How To Calm Your FEARs

When I got divorced, FEAR was my constant companion. I was afraid of almost everything and I spent a lot of time imagining catastrophes that could happen to me. Some of the catastrophes I vividly pictured were being trapped in my home by a tornado (that was the happy version – the worst version was just being obliterated by a tornado), being poisoned by the food I had bought at the grocery store, being killed in a car accident, and even losing my job which would cause me to never work again and having to live on the street where I would die a painful death.

Luckily, none of my catastrophes have come to pass, but I wasted a HUGE amount of energy and time living with the fear of them. And yet, being afraid is a common part of going through divorce. There are so many changes happening all at once that can seem to threaten survival if your FEARs take hold of you like mine did.

Could I have worked my way through my divorce without wasting so much energy and time on being afraid? YES! But I didn’t know how then. I know how now and that’s what I want to share with you – exactly how to calm your FEARs.

You can look at the word fear as an acronym – FEAR – which stands for False Expectations Appearing Real. Each one of the catastrophic fears that I had were actually FEARs. They were just expectations that I made come terrifyingly alive for me even though they were not real events.

The first thing to remember about FEARs are that they are based on a loss of trust. When you have False Expectations Appearing Real you’ve lost trust in something.

When I was afraid of being obliterated by a tornado, I had lost my trust in being able to take the necessary precautions in a tornado warning. When I was afraid of being poisoned by the food I bought at the grocery store, I had lost my trust in the food production, safety and distribution organizations. When I was afraid of being killed in a car accident, I had lost my trust in my ability to drive defensively and my trust in the fact that most other drivers are going to follow the rules of the road. When I was afraid of losing my job, I had lost trust in my ability to perform at work even though I was still doing so. When I was afraid that I would never work again, I had lost my trust in myself. When I was afraid of living on the street, not only had I lost trust in myself, but I had lost trust in my friends and family too.

Now, losing trust is a normal part of going through divorce. It makes sense to have a questioning about trust with respect to relationships when you’re going through divorce. However, generalizing the loss of trust about relationships to other things is where FEARs start. So as easy as it can be to question your trust of other things in your life when you go through divorce, actually losing trust can lead to creating catastrophes where there are none. And this is exactly what I did when I went through my divorce.

The second thing to remember is that what you’re FEARing is probably not happening now. In fact, that’s the best way to start calming a FEAR. Just ask yourself if what you’re FEARing is true right now. Is it happening right now? Usually, it isn’t. Usually, your mind is just going down the path of creating a wildly vivid movie of your FEAR. But, the moment you’re able to push the pause button on the movie you’ve been creating by acknowledging that it’s not happening right now, you’ve just started calming your FEAR. Your FEARs will calm because you’ve changed your focus, if only for a moment, to the fact that it’s not happening right now.

The third thing is to help your thoughts change the channel from the FEAR movie as soon as you pause it. There are millions of other thoughts you can have instead of becoming engrossed in the movies of your FEARs. The easiest way to change the channel is to become engrossed in something else. For some people exercising works great. But if it’s the middle of the night when your FEAR movie-fest starts, it’s not too practical to start exercising. What I think works even better at any time of the day or night is to write down what your FEAR is and then write down as many things as you can think of to prevent that FEAR from becoming real. Another thing that can help any time of the day or night is to ask yourself what is happening now. What are the sounds you’re hearing, the things you can see, what are you touching, etc. Just by bringing yourself as fully into the reality of your surroundings as possible can help to quell the FEARs and change that channel.

Fears are a normal part of healing from divorce. The thing is that sometimes they can get out of hand and become FEARs (False Expectations Appearing Real). By having a plan in place that can help you change the channel when your FEARs start playing in your mind, you’ll be able to calm them quickly.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

What are you FEARing? People FEAR all kinds of things when they get divorced. Maybe you FEAR being alone for the rest of your life. Maybe you FEAR not being able to find a job when you return to the workforce. Maybe, you’re like me and you FEAR eating the food you bought at the grocery store. Whatever it is that you FEAR, acknowledge it. By acknowledging your FEARs, you’ll have more control over them instead of being ruled by them.

Now that you know what they are, prepare for you FEARs to show up. Understanding that your FEARs might show up again even after you’ve identified them will put you well on your way to calming them. They’ll become a movie you’ve seen a hundred times where you can recite every line of the dialog by heart. You’ll just need to remember to ask yourself, “Is what I FEAR happening now?” as soon as the FEAR movie starts to play again so you can pause it for just a moment.

When the movie is paused, pick one of the three options to change the channel. If your FEAR movie starts playing at a time when you can exercise, you might want to do that. If your FEAR movie starts to play at a time when it’s not possible to exercise, you can either write down your FEAR and as many things as you can think of to prevent it from coming true or you can start becoming firmly engrossed in your surroundings.

Whatever you choose to do to change the channel when your FEAR movie starts will be a HUGE boon to you calming your FEARs and being able to move on with your life after 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.