8 Reasons Why Infidelity Is So Common

Two gold wedding bands lying upon each other upon printed wedding vows. Eight reasonswhy infidelity is so common.

Understanding why infidelity is so common is just a first step to understanding more about

yourself and your responsibility to your marriage.

Couples stand at the altar (or under a flowered arch on a destination beach), exchanging rings and vows of fidelity. They can’t imagine not making it through thick and thin with one another — and only one another. And yet, enough of them end up cheating that one can’t help wondering why infidelity is so common. 

Statistically speaking, infidelity is both “obvious” and “not so obvious.” 

It’s no secret that its frequency is almost concernedly commonplace. For all the anguish it causes, we’re probably more surprised if a marriage survives without cheating than we are to learn that someone strayed.

What makes infidelity “not so obvious” comes down to a couple of problematic components of the research process.

For one, there is a broad spectrum of definitions for infidelity. 

Some people think of it purely in terms of sex outside of marriage. 

Others consider emotional closeness with sexual attraction outside of marriage as sufficient cause for a guilty verdict.

Then there is every form of tryst in between, as well as the presumption of heterosexuality in the relationships studied.

Also complicating reliable research and statistics regarding the presence and frequency of cheating is the way in which subjects are asked about potential infidelity.

Are the subjects questioned in person or via a written questionnaire? Are they alone when answering questions, or are their spouses present? Is infidelity strictly defined, or are the subjects left to interpret its criteria on their own? 

It’s easy to extrapolate, then, that figuring out why infidelity is so common may likewise have some inherent ambiguity.

On the one hand — at least in the US and western cultures — monogamy is expected. It’s what couples sign up for, even if they subconsciously pray they won’t be tempted beyond the tenacity of their vows.

On the other hand, not everyone is convinced that monogamy is even natural, let alone possible or healthy.

Beyond the anthropological study of relationships throughout civilization, there are plenty of “happy” marriages that openly avail themselves of outside relationships.

From swingers to threesomes to “open marriages” and couples “with an understanding,” these outliers complicate any would-be irrefutable conclusions about infidelity.

But still the majority of people who enter into marriage do so with the expectation that both partners will remain faithful.

So, when one or both partners stray, there have to be some underlying motivations.

The benefit of understanding why infidelity is so common is that it can help you be more self-aware in your marriage

It can also help you be aware of signs that your marriage may be unhappy and therefore vulnerable to an affair.

The challenge of that understanding, however, is that it can be easy to use the reasons for infidelity as excuses for infidelity. And cheating excuses will never help you heal if and when infidelity happens.

Let’s look at 8 of the primary reasons, according to Scientific American, that infidelity is so common:

  1. Anger:

    Unresolved anger can fester into negative emotions like indifference and even a desire for retribution.

    When communication between spouses isn’t healthy, it’s easy for anger to build up and seek “resolution” in any way that makes the angry person feel better.

    Having an affair may not be an intentional way of resolving anger. But carrying around a lot of anger can make you forget your love for your spouse. And it can weaken your commitment to healthy conflict-resolution.

  2. Self-esteem:

    Having low self-esteem can carry over into problems in your marriage. It can make you doubt your worthiness of love and therefore your spouse’s genuineness in expressing love.

    It can also make you jealous and suspicious. If everyone else is better than you, then surely your spouse must be cheating.

    If you’re not careful, you could create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Likewise, you, too, could be vulnerable to an affair simply for want of the attention and validation that can boost your self-esteem.

    Marriage, after all, can get boring as the years go on and responsibilities and stress increase. Attention from an admirer outside your marriage can be invigorating to your self-esteem.

  3. Lack of love:

    Being married but feeling unloved creates a very lonely existence. And that loneliness created by the void of love can make a wanting heart seek love elsewhere.

  4. Low commitment:

    If either or both of you have a low commitment to your marriage, infidelity is a lot more likely. It’s like keeping the doors of your house unlocked in a high-crime neighborhood. You may not go looking for trouble, but trouble will be looking for you.

    And your low commitment will make it a lot easier to make excuses for straying, especially if you don’t plan to remain in your marriage.

  5. Need for variety:

    As an explanation for why infidelity is so common, the need to “mix things up” probably isn’t one readily admitted.

    And yet, for those people openly not sworn to monogamy, the need for variety is the most natural justification for being unfaithful.

  6. Neglect:

    Like lack of love, neglect creates loneliness and isolation within a marriage.

    But neglect takes that lack of love to a level of deliberateness by completely ignoring the needs of the other person.

    It is, essentially, an abandonment of the other.

  7. Sexual desire:

    While it’s unrealistic to expect “hot ‘n’ heavy” sex all the way through your marriage, sex is important.

    There is a proven direct relationship between a vital sex life and a happy marriage. It’s not about adhering to a formula, but about finding a frequency and “style” that work for both of you.

    If one of you is avoiding sex and physical affection all the time while the other is longing for it, your marriage is going to suffer.

    Likewise, if the two of you aren’t in sync regarding the way you have sex, your marriage could be vulnerable to an affair.

  8. Situation/circumstance:

    For example, “The alcohol was to blame.” Or the two affair partners were on the same business trip and used that as an excuse to let their guard down. 

Understanding why infidelity is so common is really just a first step to understanding more about yourself and your responsibility to your marriage.

The time to discuss the uncomfortable topic of infidelity isn’t after one of you has cheated and your marriage is at risk of not surviving.

It’s actually before you even get married (ideally). 

It’s up to you and your partner to discuss and agree upon the definition of infidelity. What does it mean to each of you? And what is it going to mean to both of you as a married couple?

When you embark on your marriage with reasons to protect it, you won’t have to provide reasons for betraying it.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I work with individuals struggling with how to get over infidelity. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

Looking for more information about working through the repercussions of cheating? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Surviving Infidelity.

12 Classy Ways To Keep Your Dignity During Divorce

Woman confidently looking over her glasses because she's got her dignity during divorce.

Dignity is your best friend during divorce (or any crisis).

Look, I know divorce hurts and you’re looking for just about any way possible to feel better (because that’s what I did). The thing is that sometimes what you do to feel better backfires and the next day (or even within a few heartbeats) you wish you hadn’t done or said what you just did.

This is why it’s important to choose dignity during divorce – so you don’t have (too many) regrets about how you handled yourself.

Dignity is our best friend in a crisis because it reminds us that, although we may be at the mercy of uncertain circumstances, we can at least be in control of ourselves. Psychologist Susan Quilliam 

Choosing dignity is being grounded, centered and in control of yourself. And there’s a huge upside to choosing the high road. You feel good about yourself which means your self-esteem gets a (much-needed-when-you’re-going-through-divorce) boost.

Here are 12 ways you can choose classiness as you navigate your divorce:

  1. Put down the ice cream scoop, chip bag and wine glass. Drowning your sorrows in ice cream, chips, alcohol or any comfort food will at best provide a temporary comfort (Rutgers). But they won’t help you long term and in fact may make maintaining your dignity more difficult.According to USC neuropsychology professor Dr. Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, “Food is like a pharmaceutical compound that affects the brain. The more balanced you make your meals, the more balanced will be your brain functioning.” And you definitely need to have your brain working at its best to remain classy.
  2. Pick up a vibrator or bottle of KY. Having indiscriminate sex is just a patch for the need to feel sexy, to feel lovable, to feel connected to someone and to meet your sexual needs. Spend some time pleasuring yourself until you’re ready to date like an adult instead of a horny teenager.
  3. Be a problem solver. There’s a great line in the movie “The Martian” – Work the problem. Everyone who wants to divorce with dignity should choose this as their motto. Rather than getting side-tracked by being overly emotional at inappropriate times, being a victim, playing the blame game, being vengeful or being defensive, look for solutions to whatever the immediate problem is.This doesn’t mean you have to solve all of the issues or challenges on your own. Do your research. Ask for help from those who are more knowledgeable than yourself and be open to examining their suggestions so you can take their input and choose how you want to solve whatever problem you’re facing.
  4. Act as an equal – neither superior nor inferior – to your ex and whomever else you deal with during your divorce. For you to maintain your dignity you need to know that you’re just as 100% human as the next person. You need to treat others with respect and expect that they treat you with respect as well. If they don’t then you need to get clear with them about your expectation that things will change.
  5. Be clear with your legal representation that there will be no fighting. Attorneys learn to litigate and fight for what they believe is in the best interest of their clients. By taking the initiative to set the rules with your legal representative, you’ll be better able to stick to the highroad. Your time is too precious to waste it on unnecessary and lengthy legal battles.
  6. Know what’s important to you and don’t fight over piddly sh*t. Important is your kids and their welfare. Important is an equitable (notice I didn’t say fair) division of the assets and debts. Unimportant is anything that is replacable – like the iTunes library.
  7. Do not keep your social media network updated on the latest in your divorce. Just because you have the technology doesn’t mean you should use it. Airing dirty laundry about your divorce just isn’t productive and for goodness sake don’t go changing your relationship status until your divorce if final.
  8. Wait to find your next relationship until after your divorce. Finish up the work on ending your marriage before bringing anyone else into the picture. But, if your new relationship is the reason for your divorce, then the least you can do is avoid flaunting it.
  9. Stand up for yourself and ask for what you want and need. It’s imperative that you take care of you. There’s no guarantee that your ex will do it even if they’ve promised to.  You may not get everything you want, but be sure and get what you need. Remember being a doormat is neither classy nor dignified, so ask!
  10. Be fair. Don’t hide or dispose of assets to prevent your soon-to-be-ex from receiving them. Do your part to move the divorce forward by providing requested information in a timely manner or by taking the actions you need to take (i.e., getting the house ready to put on the market) as quickly as possible. Don’t be so generous that you suffer. Being fair is about both of you.
  11. Don’t drag your kids into the drama. No matter their age, your kids shouldn’t be involved in any of your divorce drama. They’ve got their own challenges to deal with as a result of your divorce and don’t need exposure to yours.
  12. Express your emotions constructively. No temper tantrums, ultimatums, pity parties, stuffing (aka ignoring) your feelings, or displaying your emotions to manipulate your former spouse or anyone else. Your emotions are important and should be honored and felt, but they don’t need to dictate your actions or the actions of anyone else. If you need to schedule time to get them out in a healthy way, then schedule the time.

Divorce isn’t easy. It will be one of the most difficult life changes you’ve ever experienced. Displaying dignity and class throughout the process will require great self-discipline, but the hard truth is that you will slip up at least a little (or maybe even a lot). There will be at least one moment when you wish you could take back what you said or did.

But don’t beat yourself up over it. It really is OK because everyone who chooses the highroad makes at least one and usually several mistakes along the way.

It’s also OK because I know that as soon as you recognize your mistake you’ll correct it to the best of your ability and avoid further inflaming the situation. How do I know? Because that’s what a classy, self-respecting person who’s filled with integrity does.

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.

This article first appeared on YourTango.com.

3 Annoying People To Ignore While You’re Getting Divorced

Sometimes those closest to you can be the most annoying when you’re getting divorced.

Divorce is hard. There’s absolutely nothing easy about turning your life upside down and inside out. 

Divorce is something most couples stumble into unexpectedly. You just can’t prepare yourself for something like that, so when it happens just about everything feels unfamiliar and phony.

Of course you’ll ask for help, guidance, or just a strong shoulder to lean on when the going gets tough. But, believe it or not, the very people you’re likely to rely on may end up making your divorce even harder than necessary (or, at least, more annoying). So, what’s a great tip for getting through divorce well? 

Spend less of your precious time and energy listening to people you’re better off ignoring.

You need to focus on making a new “normal” for yourself and your kids, healing from your divorce, and moving on with your life. All things you just can’t do if the people in your life bring you down. 

Who are these people you’d do better to ignore? Surprisingly, they’re the exact people you usually turn to first:

1. Your ex

Most likely the things your ex is saying sounds like nagging or them trying to control you (“Haven’t you talked with your attorney yet?” or “If you don’t put the house on the market next week, I won’t let you have the extra day with the kids you asked for.”) They might even sound whiny or critical and judgmental.

Look, I know you’ve spent your entire marriage caring about what this person thinks, feeling obligated to please them, but that’s not your job anymore. It’s time to start setting new boundaries around what you will and will not accept from them and then do your part to make sure your new boundaries stick.

It’s also time for you to start changing your expectations for your ex. They aren’t the same person you married. They’re trying to create their own new normal, heal from their divorce, and move on with their life, too. (Or, maybe that’s too optimistic and they’re just trying to function on a day-to-day basis). The bottom-line is, though it’s painful, your ex is more focused on their own life than on you. You just can’t expect much from them. And, changing your expectations is probably the single most important thing you can do to prevent them from remaining an annoying splinter in your life.

2. Your friends and family

I know! It’s hard to believe I would suggest ignoring the people you thought you could count on for sure. But I am, if they’re second guessing your decisions, complaining about how your divorce is affecting them, feeding negativity, or making things even more difficult with your ex. None of that is helping you right now.  

It’s time to start tuning these people out as sources of comfort or guidance. Realizing that people you’ve relied on for most of your life are more interested in how your divorce and decisions are impacting them, instead of being there for you, often feels like another betrayal. However, the truth is that everyone cares about themselves and how things affect them. Some people just can’t put the needs of others first. Unfortunately, this is just another of the hurtful realizations of divorce. Your relationships with friends and family may change during this time of transition. Hold on to the folks who lift you up and help you grow, but create better boundaries with anyone who tears you down or makes your struggle more difficult.

3. You

Yep, you might need to start ignoring some of the stuff you’re saying, thinking, and doing too.

If you’re feeling victimized by your divorce, you can’t let that feeling consume you. Parts of divorce feel really hard and super scary, while others just piss you off … but focusing on the fear, anger, and “injustice of it all” without taking positive action to change your situation is just really annoying!

Or, perhaps you’re beating yourself up with a bunch of shoulda, coulda, wouldas. If you’re being hard on yourself, I hope you feel irritated with that part of you! Beating yourself up when you’re already down is NEVER going to make things better. Realize that you’re doing the best you can in every situation. Being gentle with yourself moves you much further along toward creating a new, healthy normal in your life.

I know, setting new boundaries isn’t easy during times of change and strife. But this is what divorce requires. To really heal from your divorce and move on (without dragging unresolved baggage along with you), you must start tuning out toxic voices that hinder your clarity … even if those toxic voices come from loved ones, or your own self.  

So the next time you start feeling annoyed with others during your divorce, take a deep breath. Changing your relationships with these folks won’t happen overnight. But, it is totally worth doing because you’re the only person who can live your new life and you’re the only one that has to live with the consequences of your decisions.

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

This article was originally published at YourTango.

Why Choosing The Right Divorce Process Will Make Your Divorce Easier

Karen Covy is an expert on how to get a divorce.

Guest post by Karen Covy, divorce lawyer, mediator, educator, and advisor. She’s also the author of “When Happily Ever After Ends: How to Survive Your Divorce Emotionally, Financially, and Legally”.

When you start thinking about divorce, the first question that pops into your head is probably not going to be: what divorce process should I use? Yet, there really is no question that is more important. The divorce process you choose dramatically affects your experience of divorce, and your life after divorce. Here is a summary of your divorce process options, and a few ideas about how to choose the process that will work best for you.

Divorce Process Choices

  1. Mediation – Mediation is a process in which an independent, neutral third party (a mediator) works with you and your spouse to help resolve your divorce issues yourselves. The mediator can not give you or your spouse legal advice. The mediator also can not force you to make an agreement. The mediator can facilitate a discussion between you and your spouse, as well as brainstorm options to settle your case that will result in a “win/win” situation wherever possible.Mediation Works Best for: People who want to resolve their issues outside of court and decide as many issues as possible themselves. Mediation works best for people who are willing to voluntarily produce financial documents and want to work together to come to an amicable resolution of their case.Mediation Does Not Work Well for: Couples with an extreme power imbalance, i.e. cases involving domestic violence or extreme emotional abuse. Mediation will not work if one spouse is purposely trying to hide information, or will not abide by the terms of the agreements s/he makes.
  1. Negotiation – Negotiation is known by many names, and can take many forms. You can negotiate directly with your spouse and reach an agreement that way. (“Kitchen Table” divorce.) You and your spouse can hire attorneys to negotiate for you. (This is usually in the context of a traditional divorce.) Or, you, your spouse, and your attorneys, can all sit down and negotiate together outside of court. (Co-operative divorce.) The key principles of negotiation are that you and your spouse are working toward resolving all of your issues without going to trial.Negotiation Works Best for: Everyone who is reasonable and has a spouse who is reasonable. Ultimately, every case either involves some sort of negotiation, or it is decided by a judge. The question is not whether you should use negotiation, but whether you should use it together with mediation, litigation or collaborative law.Negotiation Does Not Work Well for: Anyone who keeps changing his/her mind, or who can’t follow the rules. If someone is determined to get their “day in court,” negotiation is pointless. If someone refuses to honor any agreements they have made, litigation is usually the only way to deal with them.
  1. Collaborative Divorce – In collaborative law, you and your spouse each hire a collaboratively-trained lawyer, and together the four of you put together a team, including a divorce coach (or two), a neutral financial expert, and, if necessary, a child specialist. The team works together to help you resolve all of your issues before anything is filed in court. If, for any reason, the collaborative process fails, then all of the professionals withdraw and you and your spouse have to start over with different lawyers. This provides a huge financial dis-incentive for anyone to cause a fight or walk away.Collaborative Divorce Works Well for: Couples with a lot of issues to resolve who want to stay out of court. If you have been in a long term marriage, have a complicated financial situation, own a family business, or have children with special needs, collaborative divorce could work really well for you.Collaborative Divorce Does Not Work Well for: Couples where one party won’t be honest, or voluntarily provide complete financial information. If one spouse refuses to abide by the terms of the agreements s/he makes, or is determined to seek revenge, collaborative divorce is probably not going to be the best option.
  1. Litigation – Litigation is traditional divorce. It is going to court and fighting until you and your spouse either decide to settle your case, or you go to trial and a judge decides your life for you. It is expensive, nasty, and time-consuming. You can do it with or without lawyers, but going to court without a lawyer is never a good idea and generally does not work out well (particularly if your spouse has a lawyer and you don’t.)Litigation Works Well for: Couples who can’t resolve their case any other way. If one spouse is determined to fight, wants revenge, or refuses to be reasonable, litigation is the only way you can resolve your issues. If your spouse refuses to do what s/he is supposed to do, or follow the rules, or disclose information, litigation will help you resolve your case.Litigation Does Not Work Well for: Anyone who wants privacy, flexibility, or control of their case. If you want to have a decent relationship with your ex, or you want to be able to cooperatively co-parent after your divorce, going through litigation is not for you. Also, if you would prefer not to pay your life’s savings to lawyers, you should choose any way to resolve your case other than litigation.
  1. Online Divorce – The truth is: there is no such thing! Getting an “online” divorce really means getting your documents written by an online divorce site. Once you have your computer-generated documents, you then need to take them to court yourself, present them to the judge, and get divorced.Online Document Production Works Well for: Anyone with a simple case, no property, no kids, and a short term marriage. While the quality of the documents you get may not be the best, if you don’t have anything together with your spouse, online documents may work just fine for you.Online Document Production Does Not Work Well for: Anyone with a long-term marriage, kids, property, or anything worth fighting about. Also, if you are afraid to go to court alone, or you don’t have the time or energy to figure out how the court system works for yourself, getting your documents produced online and doing your divorce yourself may not be the best choice for you.

To download a simple, one page chart outlining the pros and cons of each divorce process, go to: http://karencovy.com/process-infographic.

If you’re looking for more help on how to deal with the challenges you’re facing now, read more articles about Life After Divorce.

Why Your Breakup Hurts SO Much (And How To Start Healing)

Woman on couch in blue blanket crying while looking at photograph

Knowing WHY you’re hurting can be your first step to getting over it.

Heartbroken. Sometimes that’s the only way to describe the tidal waves of grief that come with a breakup.

Ending a relationship with someone or, worse, having someone break up with you causes incredibly painful feelings because of all the losses. You grieve the lost connection with that person. After all, you loved them so much. But let’s get real about that. Are you sad because you’re not with the person you had a relationship with? OR are you really upset because you’re not with the person who you thought your partner was?

If you’re like most of us, you’re upset to have lost who you thought your partner was. Because, let’s face it, if they really were the ideal person for you, you’d still have a relationship.

Being heartbroken also means grieving lost couplehood. It feels good being connected to someone else — to not have to face the world on your own. Yet, breaking up with someone means you’re suddenly alone. It’s no longer two against the world. It’s just you, feeling naked, isolated and afraid.

There’s another reason for your fear of being alone. Being alone means that before too long you’ll have to look for another someone — someone to love and to love you, and someone who just might break your heart too.

Grieving the loss of your ideal mate and couplehood are the more obvious reasons for being heartbroken, but there are others.

You’re probably despairing your lost dreams of the future and “happily ever after.” Regardless of how long you’re in a relationship with someone, you’ve dreamed of the future with them. Those dreams are part of what brought the two of you together. But now, those dreams are lost forever.

The end of a relationship can also leave you feeling shattered and unsure of who you are without the relationship or your former partner. In the midst of grieving the losses, it seems nearly impossible to recreate and redefine yourself too. Yet, that’s what you need to do because you’re not their other half any more. You’re you.

Finally, what if you’re anguished because of broken trust?

Your former love broke your trust, but you broke it too. You broke your own trust by convincing yourself that the relationship was the right one for you, and by all the little ways you gave yourself away to make the relationship work. Now you’re left wondering if you’re capable of trusting yourself to enter into another relationship and not give yourself away. You’re also wondering if you can trust yourself to choose a better person next time.

Heartbreak is a complicated issue, and so is dealing with all the grief all at once. There are just so many things lost when a relationship ends. However, the more you know about what specifically is causing you to feel heartbroken, the easier it is for you to get over it and choose a better relationship next time.

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.

This article originally appeared on YourTango.

8 Brutal Signs You Hate Your Ex MORE Than You Love Your Kids

Child stuck in the middle as mom and dad sit back to back showing brutal signs that they hate each other more than they love their kids

All is fair in love and war? Not when your kids become casualties!

Divorce changes everything — especially your feelings about your ex. Far from the love you felt on your wedding day, now you probably feel something closer to frustration, anger, or even downright hate.

Hostile feelings during divorce are common but we all know NOT to expose our children to that toxic resentment, right?

In my experience working with divorced families, most divorced parents claim they’re all about their kids. They pat themselves on the back endlessly, thinking that they ALWAYS put the kids first and would never do ANYTHING that might harm or distress their children. But in practice, that altruism is rarely present.

Are parents saying these things to convince themselves or others? I’m not sure. All I know is, those declarations of “my love for my children comes first” are rarely true.

And I challenge you to reflect on your own behavior to see whether you hate your ex more than you love your children!

What do I mean? I mean that when it comes to making choices about your reactions or behavior, your anger for your ex poisons your decisions — you just can’t hold your tongue, or resist sliding in that passive-aggressive potshot. Hating your ex is one of your favorite pastimes. And I get it, our exes are often infuriating.

It’s just too bad the energy you pour into chronicling every evil detail about your ex isn’t being poured into loving, supporting, and focusing on your kids (like you say you want to). Your kids crave a home full of ease and joy, not your unrelenting resentment. But, of course, it’s all your ex’s fault, right? They “make” you act this way.

Wrong! You choose your responses. And your responses currently are hurting your children. Children see the world as revolving around them. They believe your actions (and inactions) are because of them. And all the time you’re stewing about your ex, your children wish loving them was enough to keep you happy and focused on them.

So, is this you? Do you hate your ex more than you love your children? Here are nine behaviors that indicate the war with your ex is your top priority and your kids are becoming causalities of that war: 

1. You withhold child visitation to punish your ex.  
Don’t like that your ex is dating again or resent an email he sent? Suddenly your kids can’t go to dad’s house. Your kids love both of their parents. Denying your children time spent with the other parent hurts your KIDS. You’re ultimately punishing them! And what did your children do to deserve such severe punishment? Nothing. They aren’t pawns to dangle and withhold. 

2. You skip child support payments.
It’s astounding how many parents do not grasp that child support is for your children, not money you’re giving to your ex. Your children need to eat, a safe place to live, suitable clothes to wear, and maybe even enjoy a treat or adventure now and again. Your children interpret your refusal to pay child support (a.k.a. lack of financial care) as them not being worthy of being cared for. How horrible for them to feel that way!

3. You belittle your ex within earshot of the children.
Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with talking in private about how you feel about your ex. We all need a place to vent. But, there is definitely something wrong with letting your kids hear it — even by accident.

Your children love their other parent (even if you don’t). When you put down your ex, your kids start to wonder if you secretly feel the same about them. They feel forced to take your side when they’re with you because they don’t want you to stop loving them, too. And I call that emotional blackmail (and it’s cruel)!

4. You gripe about your ex’s family.
Just like your child loves their other parent, they also love their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins on your side and your ex’s. Being part of both extended families helps children feel safe and loved. Maybe you’re glad to never see your ex mother-in-law again, but your children still love their grandma.

Do you really want to take that away from them by talking poorly about people who love them?

5. You compare your child to your ex unfavorably.
“You sound just like your mother!” or “Your father never keeps his word either.” Your child isn’t stupid. They know that comparing them to the other parent you clearly hate is an insult to them. This hurts them on so many levels but most they fear they’re at risk of you hating them, too.

6. You grill your kids about the other parent’s actions.
Your kids are not your personal spy. Putting them in that position forces them to take your side when they’re with you and taking their other parent’s side when they’re away from you. It’s a no-win situation for your child that teaches them your love for them is conditional on giving you info that fuels your beloved hatred of your ex. 

7. You guilt trip your kids when they enjoy life with your ex.  
If you really love your kids, you want their genuine happiness … and that includes wanting them to enjoy time spent with their other parent, too.

But when you make snide comments about that trip to theme park or new toy or fun vacation (“Well, I’m sure it’s nice for your dad to afford such things when his child support payments are so low.”) your child feels guilty. The same occurs when you change the subject, or even ignore your child, when they innocently share with you the fun afternoon they had with their other parent.  

Every single time you do this, you undermine your child’s joy. Instead, you’re sending the message that their happiness is a betrayal to you, that they can’t be real with you, that they can’t love their other parent, and that you won’t love them if they do.

8. You “forget” to call or spend time with your kids to avoid your ex.
So, you bail on your kids because you don’t want to deal with your ex? Seriously? Talk about putting the war with your ex BEFORE your kids (and your responsibilities of being the best parent you can)! Nothing hurts a child’s self-esteem more than believing their parent doesn’t find them worth the effort.  

Look, getting (and being) divorced is not easy. I know that. The toxic anger divorce stirs up is extreme and feels all-consuming sometimes. Maybe you’ve never considered how your behavior impacts your kids before now, but now that you know the harm it causes … it’s time to change this pattern.

Your first responsibility (and amazing gift) is loving and nurturing each of your children to the best of your ability. The value of that trumps your annoying ex any day! 

But, breaking the “I hate my ex” obsession isn’t easy. And if you catch yourself focusing on your anger more than your love for your kids, just remind yourself (regularly) just how precious your kids are and do your divorce recovery work. Your kids (and you) are worth it … and, you know what they say: “Living well is the best revenge.”

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 interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

This article originally appeared on YourTango.

Divorce Can LITERALLY Break Your Heart, Says Science

Models of hearts.

Protect yourself from increased cardiovascular risk with these stress-busting tips.

Everybody knows that divorce is stressful, but what nobody knew until now is that divorce actually increases a woman’s risk of heart attack. A new report in the March 2015 issue of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes says that (after correcting for other risk factors) women divorced once have a 24 percent increased risk of heart attack. For women divorced two or more times, this jumps to a startling 77 percent increased risk.

Besides heart attack, divorce can also increase a woman’s risk of Broken Heart Syndrome, which, in some cases, mimics a heart attack. According to Mayo Clinic, Broken Heart Syndrome results from “the heart’s reaction to a surge of stress hormones.”

Given these two bits of data from heart specialists, I believe the best way to prevent yourself from becoming another statistic is to effectively deal with your divorce stress. How do you do that?

Try my top five tips for de-stressing during your divorce:

1. Develop Soothing Routines

Nearly everything about your life changes when you get divorced—including the time you used to spend doing activities that calmed you. It’s time to start doing them again. And if that’s not possible, develop new soothing activities. This doesn’t mean you need to get daily massages (although wouldn’t that be nice!). You might find great peace in everyday activities that have recently slipped through the cracks. I know one woman who grooms her eyebrows when she needs to relax and another who takes several deep breaths.

2. Be Active

The hormones released when you’re feeling stressed give you energy. (You’ve probably noticed you feel jittery when you’re stressed.) Getting active by walking, exercising, dancing or even punching a pillow will help you use up that excess energy.

3. Be Kind To Yourself

Yes, even if you don’t feel like it, you still need to take care of yourself. Make sure you’re eating, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and generally treating yourself as the amazing person you are.

4. Build Your Support System

No one should go through divorce alone. So find the people who can positively support you through the stressful transitions that accompany divorce. You might also want to limit your contact with the people (like your ex) who bring you down or stress you out.

5. Grieve Your Relationship

This is a biggie. We all tend to want to avoid pain, but in this case you need to carefully push through the painful emotions of divorce so you can heal. Avoiding grief will only prolong your stress

By following these simple tips to de-stress during divorce, my belief is you accomplish two important things. First, you decrease your risk for both heart attack and broken heart syndrome. Second, you increase your risk of having a happy and healthy life after your divorce, and that’s almost just as important!

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.

This article originally appeared on YourTango.

Why “You Need to Make A Budget” Is Bad Divorce Advice

Person calculating budget on paper with a calculator.

Taking care of yourself has to do with more than how much you spend.

One piece of advice almost everyone going through divorce hears is “You’ve got to create a budget”. Although this is extremely practical advice, I think it sucks.

You’ve just ended your marriage. You might have just moved. You might not have your kids all the time. You might be looking for a job. And, oh yeah, you feel like CRAP! Yet now you’re supposed to figure out how to put more restrictions on yourself and create a budget?! Yeah, it just sucks as far as advice goes.

What you really need is a spending plan. A spending plan is all about you taking responsibility for how you choose to spend or not to spend your money.

OK, so you might think this is just a case of puh-tay-toh po-tah-toh, the word budget has a negative connotation for most people. And who needs more negativity as they’re putting their lives back on track after a divorce? No one I can think of.

Divorce is tough. You deserve to take care of yourself in every way possible. And, yes, this does include the words you use.

Words are incredibly powerful and can completely color your experience. For example, would you rather have a really uncomfortable meeting with someone you’ve just met or a first date? Both descriptions are of the same event, but one sounds horrible and one exciting.

Try it for yourself. What’s something you say to yourself that always makes you feel bad? Now, how can you change that into something more encouraging, or powerful, or even just nicer? (If you’re having a hard time with this idea, read about my experience with learning to use kinder words.)

Language is important. It can make advice completely worthless. It can also make the same advice inspiring and incredibly valuable.

So, would you rather create a budget or a spending plan?

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

How To Effectively Co-Parent With A Bully During Divorce

Father and mother sit on opposite sides of the couch as son stands watching them figure out How To Effectively Co-Parent With A Bully During Divorce

3 tips to help you mitigate the meltdowns while co-parenting during divorce.

A typical divorce is dramatic and traumatic for everyone involved. Divorce means that lives get changed forever – first and foremost your life, your kids’ lives, and your soon-to-be-ex’s (S2BX) life.

Although for some people the thought of things never being the same is a blessing. The blessing is no longer having to deal on a daily basis with temper tantrums, intimidation, insinuations, inquisitions, bossiness, or put-downs – the hallmarks of an emotional bully.

These people yearn for freedom from the drama and trauma of their marriage. They look forward to the end of walking on eggshells around their spouse so they can rebuild both their self-esteem and their self-confidence.

As much as you are looking forward to being divorced, your kids aren’t. They love both their parents. For them the thought of being separated from either of you is painful and scary.

Learning to co-parent with a bully is critical. Your kids deserve to feel as safe and loved as possible during your divorce. Co-parenting is the quickest way to achieve that. And the hard truth is that as the non-bully the bulk of this learning will fall on your shoulders.

Co-parenting is the term used to describe an ideal type of parenting during and after divorce. It implies that the parents are able to work together for the sake of the kids. Although, few parents are able to achieve this during the divorce process, it’s still an excellent model to work toward.

But, when divorcing an emotional bully things generally get worse before they get better. That’s because big changes like divorce can bring out the worst in all of us. Bullies know they can get what they want through coercion and threats. They’ll usually step up their efforts before they ever consider changing tactics.

Most people who divorce a bully feel powerless when the bullying behavior escalates during divorce. Even though you’ve probably been living with your bully for years and have developed your way of coping with it, it’s still pretty normal to feel powerless now.

You just need a few new ideas and skills to work through all that divorce brings with it and to take care of your kids.

You can easily find all kinds of information about how to co-parent. And as great as this information is, there’s a problem with it. Every last bit of it assumes that neither parent is a bully.

So how do you effectively co-parent with a bully?

You take the basics that are out there and you overlay these three tips.

  • Keep your communication brief, Informative, friendly, firm (BIFF), and avoid apologies. Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq. is the President of High Conflict Institute. His book BIFF: Quick Responses to High-Conflict People, Their Personal Attacks, Hostile Email and Social Media Meltdowns gives over 20 examples of BIFF responses for all kinds of situations. Learning to communicate in this way will decrease the chances of your bully having a total meltdown based on something you said, texted, or posted.
  • Keep your eye on your end game. This tip is all about strategy. Reaching a divorce settlement requires negotiation. With any negotiation, you need to know your minimum requirements and what you’re willing to give on. Once you know what you must have, it’s much easier to determine how you want to interact with your S2BX. You’ll be able to evaluate your actions and responses against how they might impact your end game.
  • Keep clear about what is and isn’t OK with you. Knowing and respecting your boundaries is important not only for your self-esteem, but also for how you’re modeling adult behavior. Remember, your kids are watching your every move and learning tons about being an adult from you and from their other parent.

Now, just because you are divorcing it doesn’t mean that your S2BX stopped being a bully or that you suddenly know how to deal with them (even after reading this article). You’re going to make mistakes and that’s OK. It’s just all to easy to fall back into old patterns of behavior especially when you’re feeling anxious, stressed, powerless, exhausted, lonely and overwhelmed as you’re dealing with your divorce and learning to co-parent.

So, if you happen to make a mistake and wind up on the receiving end of a temper tantrum from hell, remember that it’s OK and breathe. You’re still learning and this is just another lesson. Your lesson might be to remember that you can’t control how your S2BX behaves. Or your lesson might be there’s no sense in assigning blame to either of you because blame just makes you a victim. Or it might just be that your BIFF communication wasn’t quite as non-inflammatory as you thought.

Regardless of your lesson, remember that it’s OK. You can achieve the freedom you desire for yourself and your kids. You just might need to ask for some help or support to co-parent with a bully during 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 adviceIf you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

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

3 Signs Your Ex Is An Emotional Bully (And How To Handle It)

Man drinking coffee, holding a cigarette and being an emotional bully.

Feeling beat up every time you talk to your ex? Don’t let them get to you anymore.

Do you feel drained after every conversation, text, or email with your ex? If so, you might be dealing with an emotional bully.

For most of us, divorce is already a very emotionally difficult time. We’re grieving the losses and loneliness. We’re afraid we’re not good enough and we even wonder if anyone will ever really love us.

Brené Brown says that the twin fears of ‘not being good enough’ and ‘fear of disconnection’ are at the root of shame. Leveraging these natural shame-based fears against us during divorce is exactly the tactic emotional bullies use.

Emotional bullies manipulate through shame and blame. They’re masters of creating even more misery during a time when we’re already vulnerable.

So, how do you know if your ex is an emotional bully? Here are three of their tactics (and how to deal with them):

  1. Nothing you do is ever good enough. Your ex makes statements like “… and you say you put the kids first,” “you should be ashamed of yourself,” and, “you never were any good at ____.” To deal with this type of bullying, you must do two things. First, remember you are always doing your best no matter what your ex thinks or says. Second, you can respond with either silence or you might say something like, “Interesting perspective, but I disagree,” and then (this is the hard part) leave it at that.
  2. They throw a fit when you don’t do exactly what they want, when/how they want you to do it. In this case, your ex is bullying you by using your fear of disconnection. I know this may sound weird, but if their fit throwing bothers you, then you actually do care what they think of you, and on some level you want connection with them. Dealing with this type of behavior requires that you accept that the divorce disconnected the two of you. It’s time to establish some healthy boundaries for yourself.
  3. Your ex acts like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. You do one little thing they don’t agree with and they have a meltdown that’s completely out of proportion with the situation. But when you offer them any type of praise, they relax with happiness or visible satisfaction. This behavior exposes an emotional bully’s Achilles heel—They also have huge fears about feeling disconnected and not good enough. (Yup, deep down they harbor the same fears they’re preying upon. How ironic.) In fact, they probably feel inferior to you. Knowing this, you can use appropriate praise to defuse potential blow-ups.

Of course, these tips seem easy to implement when you’re in a peaceful place reading them. But, I know that when you’re facing a bully, acting rationally isn’t always what happens. Most of us want to defend ourselves (or flee). Unfortunately, all both do is escalate or enable the situation.

The best long-term defense against an emotional bully is to bolster your self-esteem. The better you feel about yourself the less their behavior impacts you.

Feeling good about yourself means you won’t easily fall for your ex’s tactics of shame and blame, taking their bullying power away. If they can’t bully you, they’ll need to interact with you differently. Hopefully, that will (eventually) include respect.

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

This article originally appeared on YourTango.