How to Add Some Happiness to Your Holidays

Forget the pasted on smiles. Here’s a practical way to add real happiness to your holidays.

Unlike Grandma’s fudge recipe, the first holidays post-split aren’t usually a recipe for happiness. More often than not, you’re trying to paste a smile on your face during the day and facing long nights of extreme sadness. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be like this.

A few years ago, Martin Seligman released his book Authentic Happiness, and in it he explained the Equation for Lasting Happiness. (An equation really appeals to my geeky side, but don’t worry if math isn’t your thing. I promise this is an easy equation to understand.)

The equation looks like this: H = S + C + V
H is Lasting Happiness
S is Inherited Happiness Set Point
C is Conditions of Living
V is Voluntary Actions or Daily Choices You Make

What this equation means is that to experience more lasting happiness, you can try to improve your inherited happiness set point, your conditions of living, and the daily choices you make.

Let’s start with your inherited happiness set point, S. We all have one of these, and one set point isn’t better than another. Your set point is just your set point. According to Seligman, adjusting S isn’t so easy. Just like we can’t really adjust our genes, we can’t adjust our S higher to have more lasting happiness.

What about C, conditions of living? Obviously, when you’re going through divorce your conditions of living are different from those when you were married. If you’re like most people going through divorce, your conditions of living have changed for the worse. This is a hit to your happiness that often gets exacerbated during the holidays because of the intense emphasis on family during this time of the year. After all, it’s natural to want to look at all the differences between this year’s holidays and the traditions you enjoyed while you were married.

The interesting thing is that Seligman found that conditions of living for most people only have a 10% impact on their level of lasting happiness. This means that the conditions you’re living in may not be playing that big a role in the unhappiness you’re experiencing.

Well, if your conditions of living aren’t really what’s making you miserable and you can’t really change S, your inherited happiness set point, you’re left with V, your voluntary actions or daily choices you make, as being the major culprit in why you’re feeling especially miserable during the holidays.

(If I had read that last sentence during the holidays when I was getting divorced, I would have been pissed! Just in case that’s how you feel, please take a deep breath, and stick with me for just a bit more. I promise what I have to say isn’t as bad as you might be thinking.)

I want you to know that I don’t think you’re consciously making decisions every day to choose to be miserable. I just think you might have either forgotten how to choose to do things every day that bring you happiness, or you’ve simply forgotten what brings you happiness. (It’s natural to forget how to be happy when you’re caught up in the chaos of divorce.)

Let’s try to discover something that brings you joy right now. Think about your happiest childhood holiday memories. What made your childhood holidays so special? Was it a sense of anticipation? Was it all the delicious cookies and Grandma’s fudge? Was it playing with your new toys? Was it seeing your favorite cousin?

Now here’s the key question that will help you increase your happiness over the holidays right now despite your divorce. What can you do today to experience even a little of that joy you felt during the holidays when you were a kid? If you ask yourself this question every day and then do what you can do to recreate some of that joyfulness, you’ll be taking major strides toward adding happiness to your holidays.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
If you haven’t already, take the time to think about your happiest holiday memories from your childhood. What made those holidays so wonderful? Be as specific as you can in answering this question.

What can you do today to bring some of that holiday joy you had when you were a kid to today?  Granted, you might not be able to be a kid again, but you can still figure out ways to enjoy the holidays like you did then. Maybe you loved watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, then rent the movie and watch it today. Maybe you loved the fudge your Grandma made, then see if someone in the family has the recipe and make it yourself.

Ask yourself what makes you happy every day of the holiday season. Every day you have choices you can make about how much happiness you allow yourself. If during this holiday season you spend a bit more effort doing something every day that brings you joy, you’ll be sure to have merrier holidays.

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.

21 Tips To Survive Divorce And The Holidays

Woman drinking coffee happily looking at the lights because she's discovered how to survive divorce and the holidays.

The holidays are typically a time for celebration with friends and family. Yet, when you’re divorcing, the holiday season can feel anything but merry. To help you enjoy this holiday season instead of dreading it, here are 21 tips you can use today to survive your divorce and the holidays.

1. Be patient

Even in the best of times, the holidays can be a bit hectic. However, when you’re celebrating the holidays for the first time on your own, they can feel more than hectic. They can feel overwhelming! You’ve got so much going on emotionally with your divorce that the added tasks, events and scheduling of the holidays can all be just a bit too much.

Be patient with yourself, your kids and the rest of your family as you navigate the holidays. This is new and different for everyone and a little patience will go a long way toward making your first holidays post-separation/divorce more enjoyable than you might believe they can be right now.

2. Be flexible

The holidays are about celebrating with family and friends and don’t HAVE to occur on only one specific day. Many of my clients who are celebrating the holidays for the first time as a single parent will get tied up with the idea that holidays can only happen on the official day marked on the calendar.

For example, it’s not unusual for them to think that Thanksgiving Day can ONLY happen on the fourth Thursday of November (as it does here in the US). However, with a bit of advance planning (more about that in hint 16), you may decide that Thanksgiving will actually happen the Saturday before the fourth Thursday of November so you can celebrate it with your kids. Having an early Thanksgiving even has the added benefit of allowing you to avoid the crowd buying their last-minute turkey and fixings!

Think about it from your kids’ point of view too. Most kids love the holidays and having double the holidays – one with Mom and one with Dad – might be something the kids think is great!

3. Focus on others

Another way to enjoy the holiday season is to focus on those less fortunate than you. Now I get there are times when you feel like the most unfortunate person around (at least that’s how I felt at times when I was going through my divorce), but you really can survive your divorce and the holidays by being willing to recognize that it could be worse.

You might want to consider volunteering at a soup kitchen or at a center that provides holiday “shopping” for needy families. I can guarantee that when you focus on providing joy for those less fortunate than you an amazing thing happens; you forget about your troubles and appreciate what you do have even more.

4. It’s not about the stuff!

Gift giving is often a big part of the holiday season. With separation and divorce, the funds available for gift giving are usually less than they were before. However, gifts don’t need to be purchased to be appreciated. Sometimes the gift of time and attention means more than any store-bought gift ever could.

5. Let happiness happen

For a lot of people going through divorce, it can seem strange to experience any emotion other than some form of upset. Divorce is an upsetting event that can be almost all consuming. However, if you start to feel happy as a result of the holiday events, ENJOY the feeling! You deserve to be happy and enjoy the holidays just as much as everyone else does.

6. Reach out to family and friends

Almost everyone I know wishes someone could read their mind and offer help when it’s needed. On the other hand, I don’t know anyone who can read minds with any real reliability. The message here is if you need a little extra help to get your holidays to feeling merrier, be sure and ask for it. Don’t wait for someone to guess what you need because there’s a chance that they might not guess correctly.

7. Make new family traditions

With divorce so many things change. Some of these changes are not so comfortable, but some of these changes are good and might even be fun. What new family tradition can you introduce this holiday season to keep things fun?

When I got divorced, my new tradition was spending Christmas with my family. We had almost always spent Christmas with my in-laws when I was married to my first husband. I’ve had fun spending the holidays with my parents, siblings, and their families since then.

8. Nix the guilt

So many divorced parents feel guilty about how the kids’ holidays will be different. The thing is different doesn’t necessarily mean bad or wrong. Different is just different. If you nix the guilt and embrace the new way your holidays will be, then your kids will enjoy the holidays too. After all, if the kids are now having double the celebrations it’s worth making sure they’re having fun with you even if it is different.

9. Work with your ex in a cooperative manner for the kids’ sake

One of the things I always tell my clients is that their divorce is between them and their former spouse. The holidays can be a wonderful experience for the kids provided that’s the shared goal you and your former spouse have for them.

I know of one couple who have agreed for the kids’ dad to have them for the holidays because his parents are still around and hers aren’t. She celebrates the holidays with the kids at another time.

The result? Everyone’s able to make the most of the holidays!

10. Continue your traditions, but simplify them

You may have holiday traditions that are important to you, but they just are not possible now that you’re divorced. What can you do to tweak these traditions so that you can still have them?

For example, maybe you have had a holiday tradition of going skiing. If that kind of a trip isn’t possible this year, you may choose to do something else that captures the essence of the traditional ski trip. You may decide to play ski jumping on the Wii, have a marshmallow fight instead of a snowball fight and drink hot chocolate afterwards. Let your creativity flow and I know you’ll be able to create a modified tradition this year that you’ll still enjoy.

11. Don’t spend the holidays alone

It can be tempting to crawl into a cave and hibernate during our first holidays alone – especially if your ex has the kids. However, I urge you to resist the temptation. There’s no reason to punish yourself, for that’s what hiding in a cave during the holidays is. I’m not saying that you don’t need time alone. You very well might. I’m just suggesting that instead of spending all of the holiday season alone, make an effort to go out and spend some time with others. I promise that you’ll get a different perspective of your first holidays as a re-singled person if you open yourself up to even a little fun celebrating the holidays with others.

12. Take care of your health

The funny thing about the holiday season is that it coincides with the cold and flu season. This, along with the stress that usually accompanies divorce, makes you a bit more susceptible to catching a bug. So, take good care of yourself by getting plenty of rest, adequate exercise and good nutrition (in addition to all the holiday goodies).

13. Give yourself a gift

This being the first holiday season post separation/divorce, chances are you won’t be receiving a gift from your ex. You probably won’t be buying them a gift either.

Since your gift giving list has decreased by at least one, why not add yourself to your list? If you do, you’ll be able to buy yourself something that you’ll truly enjoy this holiday season. (You may also want to make sure it’s not something that you’ll regret purchasing in the New Year when the payments for it start!)

14. Count your blessings

It’s easy to get caught up in what’s different this holiday season – in the negative sense.

If that’s happening to you, flip that upside down and count what’s different AND positive this holiday season. Maybe you don’t have to listen to your ex’s Uncle Jeremiah’s continual belching during the holiday meal or suffer through listening to the never-ending story of all your former mother-in-law’s aches and pains.

15. Lean on your faith

Whatever your beliefs are, you just might be able to find solace in your faith when you’re not feeling the “Ho Ho Ho!” in the holidays. For many, the holidays are a celebration of faith and spending some time remembering this might be just what you need to experience a bit more of the holiday spirit.

16. Plan ahead

The most important thing to have when you want something to happen at a certain time is a plan. Wanting to have happy holidays requires a plan too. The plans don’t have to be elaborate or come with a detailed time table of when events must happen. But, by giving some thought to what you want to have happen and then doing what needs to be done will make it more likely you’ll have a happy holiday season.

17. Cultivate gratitude

Developing an attitude of gratitude does wonders for the way you view the world. This was one of the most important skills I developed when I got divorced. It helped me to be more positive and proactive about changing the things that needed to be changed not just at the holidays, but year-round. (It’s also a skill I continue to use today more than 10 years later.)

What are you thankful for this holiday season?

18. What do you love most about the holiday season?

People like the cooler weather, giving and receiving gifts, decorations. Whatever it is that you love most about the holiday season, figure out a way to get more of it. Once you do that, you’ll definitely have happier holidays.

19. What activities put you in the holiday mood?

When I ask my clients this question I hear answers like shopping, parties, decorating, watching football, Christmas lights and caroling. The next question I ask them is “How can you do more of these and get even more enjoyment out of the holiday season?”

So, what activities put you in the holiday mood?

Now, how can you do more of these?

20. Be realistic

Your life is in the midst of a major change. For most people, separation and divorce bring increased responsibilities along with decreased financial means and free-time. Be sure and factor these facts in this holiday season. If you do, I’ll bet you’ll find it easier to be realistic with the expectations you have of yourself, your family and the holidays this year. (It will also make it easier to develop realistic plans. See tip 16.)

21. One holiday at a time

The holiday season can easily be a blur of activities that pretty much start as soon as the jack-o-lantern is off the front porch on the morning of November 1st. Prevent the blur by focusing on just one holiday at a time. Avoid multi-tasking and the potential for overwhelm by taking the holidays just as they come, one…at…a…time.

Your Assignment To Survive Divorce And The Holidays:

Choose one of the tips to implement immediately. Sometimes seeing a long list of tips can cause us to start to gloss over them. I know these tips work, so take a moment now and choose one of them that you can implement right now and then do it!

Choose a tip that addresses your biggest concern about the holidays and put it to use. It’s pretty normal for the tip that can be most helpful to not necessarily be the easiest to implement. If that’s the case for you, take a moment now and select the tip that would address your biggest concern. And, when you’re ready, take a deep breath and figure out how you can implement that tip to help you enjoy your holidays just a bit more.

Come back to the tips frequently throughout the holiday season. Just because you’ve tried a tip out once doesn’t mean that you’re done with it. Keep these tips handy and visit them throughout the holidays anytime you could use a little bit of help.

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.

If you’re looking for more tips on making it through the holidays, check out these articles:

 3 Tips For Coping With The Holidays While You’re Dealing With Divorce

4 Ways To Give Kids Of Divorce The Gift Of A Guilt-Free Holiday

3 Ways To Make It Through The Holidays When Your Marriage Is Over!

What I Wish All Kids Of Divorced Parents Thought About The Holidays

Divorced? 3 Tips For Taking The Horrible Out Of Your Holidays

How To Create Your Short-Cut To Divorce Recovery

Divorce is devastating. In the beginning, it can leave you feeling lost, alone, confused, depressed and even unlovable. Then, you start to feel angry and vengeful on top of feeling lost, alone, confused, depressed and unlovable. After a while you just don’t know which horrible emotion you’re going to experience next. It can be kind of like being blindfolded, tied up and stuck on a run-away rollercoaster of misery. All you want is to just feel “normal” again.

Unfortunately, for most people, finding their way back to “normal” isn’t obvious or easy after divorce. Because of this the divorce rollercoaster ride can seem never ending.

But, there is a way to short-circuit this horrific ride of negative emotions. It requires you to know 10 specific things about yourself.

By knowing just these 10 things about yourself, you can start to feel more like you because you’ll be directly disproving one of the most horrible negative thoughts anyone can have – believing that you are unlovable.

Knowing that you are lovable is one of the most critical beliefs for living a happy life. It’s part of our wiring as humans. We need to have a sense of belonging and love to thrive.

But that’s exactly what divorce strips away from us – our sense of belonging and love. That’s why it’s vital that you develop a new sense of belonging and love independent of your ex ASAP.

You can create your new sense of belonging and love by knowing 10 things about yourself. The 10 things you need to know are 10 reasons why you like yourself. These 10 reasons can be anything, anything at all.

When I was going through my divorce and was first introduced to this idea, I had a really difficult time coming up with my list of 10 reasons I liked myself. I mean REALLY difficult. I remember 2 of the items on my first list with a sense of pity and compassion that I had such a poor sense of who I was. One of those items was “I like that I know how to drive because it means that I don’t have to rely on anyone else to take me where I want to go when I want to go there.” The second one was “I like that I can bake good cookies.” I saw so little to love in me that I had to resort to appreciating things that I could do instead of who I was. BUT the really great thing about this was that I was willing to do the exercise and truly think about things I liked about me.

And, believe it or not, this list of 10 things I liked about myself was the beginning of me starting to feel better about being me. It allowed me to start slowing down my rollercoaster of misery. It was also the beginning of me being able to start seeing me as lovable again because I was willing to start loving myself for just being me.

That’s exactly what I want for you. I want you to be able to short-circuit your rollercoaster ride of negative emotions by knowing just 10 things about yourself – 10 things you like about you. Knowing this can be exactly what you need to start to feel more like you again, to move on from your divorce more quickly and on to living the BEST of your life.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

Create a list of at least 10 things you like about you. Taking the time to do this is so important to you getting over your divorce quickly. However, for many people making the list is kinda tough. If you find that you’re having difficulty coming up with 10 things, go ahead and ask a friend or family member to tell you one or two things they appreciate about you. It will probably be just the thing to help you get going to discovering 10 things you like about yourself.

Just making the list isn’t enough. You need to read it out loud to yourself with positive emotion in the morning when you first get up and at night before you go to bed. Reminding yourself of what’s great about you at least twice a day every day will start to shift those negative thoughts to more positive ones and allow you to short-circuit the negative-emotion rollercoaster ride we all go on with divorce.

At some point, you’re going to want to change your list. You may want to add to it, or you might want to just replace one of the items with something else. Go ahead! Make your list of reasons why you like yourself a “living document”. Update your list as frequently as you’d like. Before too long, you’ll discover that the things you like about yourself will shift to being even more positive. When that happens, you’ll also notice that you’ll be feeling better overall and well on your way to feeling “normal” again.

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.

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?.

No More Robots!

When you got married, chances are it was a happy occasion and you had dreams of “Happily Ever After.” Leaving the idea of “Happily Ever After” and getting to the point in a marriage when divorce becomes a viable option is usually extremely painful and confusing. Actually making the decision to divorce is rarely easy.

Although the decision to divorce is strictly between you and your spouse, there are 3 different ways you can know when it’s time to make a dramatic change in your marriage.

  1. You’re feeling robotic and just going through the motions. If you find that your marriage is just kinda there – you each do the minimum to maintain the relationship – it’s time for something to change. You deserve to have your marriage be meaningful. Overall, your primary relationship should contribute positively to the quality of your life.
  2. You’re stuck in analysis paralysis. If you can’t make up your mind about whether or not something needs to change in your marriage, then you’re experiencing analysis paralysis. What I’ve discovered when I find myself in situations like this is that I’m lacking courage. If I have an inkling that something needs to change, it does! Debating with myself about whether or not I trust myself is a waste of time and has the potential to further damage the relationship. My time is better spent by figuring out what needs to change and then taking the action to make things better.
  3. You’re hiding yourself. We all wear masks of one form or another to get along. It’s part of our socialization. Think about it, how many times do you automatically respond “Fine.” when someone asks you how you’re doing? We may be having a miserable day, but we still respond “Fine.” The problem with purposely hiding yourself in your marriage is that besides denying who we are we’re also preventing ourselves from having the real benefits of being in an intimate relationship with our spouse. Relationships are meant to support us and prove a safe place for us to be us. If you feel like you can’t be you, it’s definitely time for something to change.

It’s natural for every relationship to grow and change over time. Each of the situations described above is just an indicator that a change is needed – not that you need to divorce. By recognizing that your marriage is in one of these situations, you might even be able to make the necessary changes to save your marriage and avoid divorce altogether. However, to accomplish this takes courage, the willingness to be vulnerable and a determination to eliminate robotic responses.

Your Friendly Coaching Assignment:

Which of these situations remind you most of your marriage? Every relationship needs to change at various times. Sometimes the change that needs to happen is one that you need to make, sometimes it’s something you need to discuss with the other person and ask them to make, and most of the time you both need to make adjustments.

What adjustments would make your marriage or your next relationship better? Getting clarity about what would improve the relationship in your opinion is vital. You might be able to do this on your own or you might need to discuss it with the other person. Once you have the needed clarity it will be much easier to improve your marriage and/or avoid the same situations in your next relationship.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly adviceAnd, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.

(c) 2013 Karen Finn. All rights reserved under all copyright conventions.

Changing Your Mood Might Be As Easy As Changing Your Shirt

One of the most curious things that happened when I was going through my divorce was that I started to wear black almost all the time. What was so curious about it was that I had always loved color, but for some reason I didn’t understand then, I was drawn to wearing all black for quite a while. It was really different for me and many of my friends commented on my new wardrobe choices.

At the time, I didn’t think too much about it. And after about 6 months, I started to wear more colorful clothing again.

A few years ago, while doing research about emotions and ways that environment affects our moods, I found there is a wealth of research on how colors affect our moods and vice versa. I was really surprised by what I learned because it explained why I had been drawn to different colors while I was going through the worst of my divorce.

Here are some of the things I’d like to share with you about color and how it can affect or reflect feelings:

Black Many of us associate the color black with mourning and that was my first guess as to why I was drawn to it during the worst of my divorce.  Well, according to color therapy theory, black is also the color that gives us space for reflection and inner searching.  I have to tell you that I was doing a whole lot of thinking and trying to figure things out while going through my divorce and so this makes a lot of sense to me.
Blue Blue is the color of a beautiful Caribbean sea and the color of a sunny sky.  Like a sunny day spent lazing on the beach, blue is the color of relaxation.  Color theorists say that blue also promotes relaxation and healing.
Red Red is a VERY energizing color.  You probably remember from watching cartoons when you were a kid that when characters were angry their eyes became red.  You’ve probably also heard the phrase “seeing red” to indicate that someone is angry.  Red intensifies emotions, especially anger.
Yellow Yellow is an interesting color from a color theory point of view.  It is said to stimulate mental activity, promote feelings of self-confidence and increase alertness.  Who wouldn’t want a healthy dose of those feelings?
White White light contains all the colors.  If you need clarity in your thoughts, white may just be the color you need to see more of.

So does this color theory work? Many believe it does. I know that I enjoy being surrounded by colors and that some days I prefer one color over another. I know that when I feel confident and calm, I do tend to wear blue. When I’m feeling vibrant, I tend to choose red. And when I need things to be more organized and clean, I tend to choose white.

What color are you wearing today? Is it a reflection of your mood or thoughts? Is it just the first clean thing you grabbed to put on? Or is it your signature color? You just might be surprised about what the color of your shirt says about how you’re feeling and thinking.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

Determine if color therapy could be useful in your life. This week, have some fun noting the colors you wear each day and how you feel. At the end of the week, compare your color/mood combinations to the list above and see if your moods matched the colors.

If you find a correlation between the colors you wore and your moods, experiment with adding more of the colors you were wearing when you felt good. Adding pops of the colors that help you to feel good into your home and office could help you to get back to and maintain a good feeling.

If you don’t find a correlation between the colors you wore and your moods, don’t worry, it just means that you’re probably not especially sensitive to colors right now.

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 to change your mood after divorce, read more articles about Healing After Divorce.

WHY??

At some point in your divorce, you’re going to ask yourself, “WHY?” Your why may show up as “Why did our marriage end in divorce?” Or it might show up as “Why can’t we make it work out?” At the core of your question is a quest for understanding the cause of your divorce.

More often than not, these questions of why turn into blame. Blame because it’s so much easier to put the blame on them for making us hurt so much. And in a way it makes sense because they’re the one that had the affair, or they’re the one that wouldn’t be open about their feelings, or they’re the one that kept nagging, or they’re the one with the addiction, or they’re the one that fell out of love, or they’re the one with the mental health problems, or they’re the one that’s so selfish, or …. And you know what? These are all FABULOUS reasons to be upset with the other person and to know that the end of the marriage really is THEIR fault.

But if you really want to move past the hurts, pain and blame and be happy again, there’s another side to the story of the end of your marriage. The other side is your part. What was your part in the ending of your marriage? This is where the real understanding of the end of your relationship lies and what you’ll need to know before your next relationship if you don’t want your personal history to repeat itself.

In addition to giving your next relationship an even better chance of surviving, understanding your part in the end of your marriage has another important benefit. The other benefit of doing this work is that you’ll likely develop a deeper sense of self-love because you’ll know and appreciate yourself even more.

So I’ll bet you’re wondering how to start identifying your part in the ending of your marriage when it’s so obviously THEIR fault? Well, the first step is to become clear about what a good, healthy marriage is. I believe the easiest way to explain it is with the diagram in the upper right of this blog. (I wish I knew how to put the image here, but I’m word press challenged.)

The diagram shows two people each in their individual bubbles of healthy boundaries and their own interesting lives. These two independent people choose to be together inside the larger bubble of the marriage.

If you’re getting divorced, it’s highly unlikely that this diagram represents your marriage.

Now that you see what a healthy marriage looks like, getting down and dirty with the truth of what your marriage diagram would look like is the next step. In the diagram representing your marriage, maybe only one of you had your own personal bubble. Maybe one of you left the marriage completely up to the other person. Maybe neither of you had personal bubbles. Maybe the kids were part of the marriage instead of part of the family. Maybe neither of you had personal bubbles. Hopefully, you’re getting some ideas of what your marriage looked like and are able to draw a diagram representing it.

After you have created the diagram that represents your marriage, I believe the next step is best described by the Serenity Prayer.

Serenity Prayer

God, Grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

This simple prayer is jam-packed with meaning.

First, it says there are some things you just cannot change – things like the weather or the past or another person. The best you can do is to accept those things.

Second, it says that for everything else, everything that you can change that you have the courage to change it. The funny thing is that just about the only thing that you have the truest ability to change is you. You can change what you do and you can also change your thoughts. Beyond that, you don’t have a whole bunch of control or ability to change. But, believe it or not, changing your thoughts is probably the most profoundly powerful thing you can do.

Finally, it says that it takes wisdom to know the difference between the things you can change and the things you can’t. It really does! How often do we confuse what we think someone else should do to make us feel better as something that we can change? Pretty often, in my experience.

Now that you’re clear on the fact that you can only really change you, take another look at your marriage diagram. What can you do differently in the future to change that diagram to be more like the ideal, good marriage diagram? What different thoughts might you have in the future to create a new diagram in the way you want?

Once you have those answers, you’ll know what your part in the failure of your marriage was. You’ll understand why.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

Assess your readiness to do this work. Just because you’re reading this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ready to do the work. This is deep work and it’s completely fine if you’re not able to do it right now. If this is you, save this and revisit it when you are ready. Maybe you’re only able to do part of the work now. That’s great because you’ll be part of the way to understanding why. Or you might ready to do this work now. If so, get to work and be sure to be gentle with yourself.

Be willing to ask for help. This work is so deep that it’s easy to get lost or confused while doing it. If that happens to you, don’t worry, it’s not your fault. It’s just part of being human and hurting. Just ask for help. You can find help from all kinds of sources – even from blog posts.

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 adviceAnd 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.

How A Small Shift Made A World Of Difference

As I was driving home from a networking event a couple of weeks ago, the low-gas light came on in my car. I was so tired from all the activities of the day that I decided to wait until the next morning to fill my car up.

The next morning, I headed over to the gas station at Walmart. As I got closer to the store, I debated with myself about whether I wanted to cut through the parking lot or wait through an extra light to get to the pumps. If I went through the parking lot, I ran the risk of needing to wait for people crossing the road and other cars jockeying for the best parking spot. If I waited for the light, I was stuck making 2 left-hand turns at lights. I really don’t like having to wait for the lights to make the turns, so I chose to cut through the parking lot.

As I neared the entrance to Walmart, there was this older guy pushing his cart down the middle of the road. My first thought was, “Figures! I knew something like this would happen.” Then I changed my mind and realized that in a few more years, that might be me struggling to maintain my dignity and do my own shopping even though it was hard for me to walk and wanting to minimize the walking I had to do even if it meant walking in the middle of the street to get to my car. That thought immediately changed how I was feeling. Instead of being frustrated and impatient, I relaxed and patiently waited for the man to get across the street.

After he moved out of the middle of the road, I continued on my way and filled my car up with gas. I had a few things I wanted to pick up at Walmart, so I drove back through the parking lot in search for my own spot.

As I was slowly making my way up and down the aisles, I thought I spotted the same older guy walking back up to the store. No, it couldn’t be, I reasoned. It must just be another old man that reminded me of the first. I found a great parking spot and walked into the store to buy a couple of things.

As I was walking out of the store I noticed an old guy sitting on one of those motorized carts with his head in his hands. I almost got all the way out the doors before I realized that it was the same guy I kept seeing! I walked up to him and asked, “Didn’t I see you walk out of the store earlier?” He told me yes and that he was having a hard time finding his car. I asked him what kind of car he was driving and he told me a dark blue Kia. So I started out of the store on a mission to find his car for him.

I got just outside and I realized that I would never spot his car and that I should ask him if he was comfortable with me driving him around the parking lot looking for his car. He about jumped out of the motorized cart he was so happy to have me help him like that. We gathered up his bags and started out to my car.

I could tell he was really pushing himself to walk quickly, but I kept a slow pace and just chatted with him about where I had parked and hoping to give him the idea that I had plenty of time and I was parked close enough that he wouldn’t have to walk too far.

And then, just as we reached the parking aisle, he looked over to the right and said, “Is that my car?” Sure enough, he found his car right away – before we had even reached mine.

As I was helping him get his bags into his car, he admitted that he wasn’t supposed to be out walking without his walker and that he was so thankful to be back to his car.

Now it was a little thing for me to notice that an old man was walking down the middle of the street in a parking lot. It was another little thing for me to notice an old man walking back into Walmart. And it was yet another little thing for me to notice a tired old man sitting in a motorized shopping cart. But it was a big thing to that man.

Little things are like that. Individually, they’re itty-bitty things, but added together, they can make a world of difference. I’m not just talking about how little things can add up for helping someone else, but even for us. In fact, this idea of itty-bitty things added together is a major philosophy behind the work I do. For anyone going through divorce, making little changes in perception and then taking action can create a world of difference.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

What little things have you chosen not to notice that might make a big difference in your life? Just like my noticing the old man walking back and forth through the Walmart parking lot, what might you need to notice about you or your kids as you’re transitioning from married to single?

Now that you’ve noticed something you might have overlooked before what do you need to do to make a difference? The thing you choose to do might be something small, but sometimes something small is all it takes to make a world of difference.

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 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.

I’m NOT In 1st Grade Any More. I’m NOT Exactly Married Any More. Why Should I Send A Valentine?

When was the last time you read Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s sonnet “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…”? I can’t tell you the last time I read it, but when I started thinking about what to write about with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, the first line of this work came to mind. I’ve quoted the entire sonnet for you below.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

By Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love the to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of Being and Ideal Grace.

I love thee to the level of everyday’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;

I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

I love thee with a passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

It’s an amazing read, isn’t it? And for many people dealing with divorce, it’s a painful read too.

So often we marry with the belief that our love is the ideal kind that Elizabeth Barrett Browning writes about. And divorce “proves” to us that our marriage must not have been based on love at all – at least that’s the conclusion I jumped to when I got divorced. It’s also a conclusion I’ve heard many of my clients jump to as well.

What I’ve learned over the years since my divorce is that my marriage was based on love to begin with, but that my marriage didn’t continue to grow in love and that’s why it ended in divorce.

Most people do marry for love. Odds are you and your former spouse did too.

So then why is reading this sonnet so painful to so many people going through divorce? I believe it’s because we forget what love is and assume that because we’re divorced or divorcing that we must not know what it is.

I believe that love is something that extends beyond the romantic type that is most often associated with Valentine’s Day. We’re surrounded by love every day. If instead of getting caught up in the chaos and confusion of divorce along with the daily grind of making a living and meeting our responsibilities we could focus for just a few minutes on the beauty all around we would experience love. Or maybe you can focus on yourself for just a few minutes, be gentle with yourself and allow yourself to breathe slowly and deeply, you’ll experience love. Or maybe seeing the joy in your child’s face when they see you will remind you of the love you’re blessed with despite divorce.

I think that the key to experiencing love (I’m not talking about the romantic kind here) is being able to freely give it. But you know, I can get so caught up in daily living that I often forget to express the love I have for my friends and family. I know I’m not the only one who forgets. I know that sometimes it can be difficult to express love when you’re struggling with the repercussions of divorce, but I also know it’s vital to making it through divorce and moving on with your life. That’s why believe you can use this Valentine’s Day as a gentle reminder that we each have the opportunity to tell the people (and animals) we love how much we truly do love them. And the best part is that you’ll usually hear how much you’re loved in return.

Who will you say “I love you” to this Valentine’s Day?

Your Friendly Coaching Assignment:

Seriously, who is on your list of needing to get a Valentine from you? Yeah, it’s different than when we were in first grade and gave one to everyone in our class. It’s also different from when you were married and knew who you had to get a Valentine for. These days, you get to make your own list of those folks you love.

A Valentine isn’t necessarily a card. A Valentine can be a quick email saying “hi, I’m thinking about you”, a call, a text, a bouquet of roses, a conversation, a hug, a special event or, yes, even a card. It’s not so important how you tell someone you love them as it is that you simply tell them.

Have fun. I sure hope you have fun letting your friends and family know you love them. To me, that’s the beauty of Valentine’s Day – a whole day set aside to let others know you enjoy your relationship with them.

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.

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

Divorce Is Tough. The Mortgage Doesn’t Have To Be.

Should your life after divorce include living in the marital home?

By Mark Watson, Loan Officer, Guardian Mortgage Company, Inc.
www.guardianmortgageonline.com

This is a terrific article. It’s jam-packed with information that I am so happy to be able to share! I’ve added just a few comments in square brackets [].

If you are going through a divorce, you are probably exhausted by all the details and decisions that have to be made as the two of you separate. Even in the most amicable situations it can be very emotional. [Remember there are the 5 facets of divorce – social, emotional, legal, financial and functional – that all overlap. So it makes sense that in the midst of making the decisions required to divorce that you would experience a lot of emotions.]

There is usually a lot of discussion about the house as it usually represents the family’s largest asset. [Dealing with an asset would be an example of the financial facet of divorce. When dealing with the financial facet of divorce it’s best to remain primarily in a business mindset instead of an emotional one because you’ll be better able to make decisions you can live with for the long haul.]

While divorce is a tough process, resolving the mortgage doesn’t have to be. According to Mark Watson, Vice President of Guardian Mortgage Company in Plano, Texas, there are three things homeowners can do to make it easier on themselves:

  1. Make realistic decisions.
  2. Understand your loan options.
  3. Seek help.

Make Realistic Decisions.

In many divorces, the home is refinanced in the name of one of the spouses and any profit or losses are negotiated between the couple. Sometimes the home is sold, and sometimes there is a long-term agreement in place about the home. Occasionally, a house with no mortgage is given to one spouse as part of the divorce settlement.

“It makes no difference to the mortgage company whether or not the name changes on the mortgage,” notes Watson. “However, the spouse no longer living in the home usually does not want to be responsible for it. Plus, they may want some cash out of it.”

If your house is paid off, a quit claim deed can be an easy solution to home ownership in a divorce settlement and make your life after divorce easier.

If there is no mortgage on the home, and one spouse plans to keep it as part of the settlement, the process is simple. “The attorney prepares a quit-claim deed and records it as part of the divorce,” says Watson. “The home belongs to just one spouse from that point forward.”

Most homes have a mortgage, though. There are a number of questions that must be answered in order to pick the right process for your situation, but the most important is “which spouse can afford to keep the home after the divorce?” It is often the most difficult as there is often a lot of emotional attachment towards the house that may not have anything to do with the financial realities of the situation. [The best way to answer these questions is from a business-minded perspective. The “businesses” to be considered are the financial business of each spouse post-divorce as well as the business of raising happy, healthy children. In other words, you need to keep in mind what your life after divorce will really be like if you choose to keep the house.]

The spouse with primary custody of the children will often want to keep the home to provide a stable environment and to stay near school and friends.

“I often see couples where the wife isn’t working and hasn’t worked in years,” says Bruce Rayburn of The Rayburn Group of Ebby Halliday Realtors based in Plano, Texas. “This makes it very hard to qualify for a refinance. Even if both spouses were working at the time of the divorce, it doesn’t mean either spouse can afford the mortgage with only one salary.”

“Even getting child support is often not enough,” Rayburn adds.

Besides the amount of income required to qualify for a refinance, the source of the income makes a difference. “For conforming loans ($417,000 or less in most areas of Texas), alimony and child support cannot count towards qualifying income until there have been at least three months of steady payments. In addition, the paying spouse must be required by law to pay for at least three years after the closing date of the sale,” notes Watson.

“For FHA Loans, the requirement is six months of payment. Furthermore, if the amount of alimony or child support is greater than 30% of the borrower’s income, then a full year’s worth of reliable payments is required.”

[Regardless of where you live you need to know a lot about what the legalities and implications of keeping the house are as you make decisions that will impact your post-divorce lifestyle and residence.]

Understand Your Loan Options.

Many couples believe that they have to sell or refinance the home in order to finalize the divorce, which is not always the case. Sometimes sale or refinance of the home is delayed for months to years. 

According to attorney Penny Phillips of Plano, Texas, many families with children want to keep the family home for them until they are older and/or in college. “In this case, one spouse will sometimes agree to wait to get the equity out of the house until after the children have left,” says Phillips.

In Texas, a lien can be placed on the house – called an Owelty Lien Agreement – such that one spouse will own the house, but the other will still retain rights to equity that was present in the house at the time of the divorce. This gives the first spouse the right to make improvements and to own the home, but the second spouse will get his or her share of the equity later when the kids are grown or the market improves or whatever reason the couple has chosen to wait.

“It is a win-win because the owner-spouse gets the benefit of all improvements and equity growth in the meantime, but the other spouse still gets the benefit of all the years of contributing to the equity when they were married,” adds Phillips.

“Since the home is not sold or refinanced, there is no need for the remaining spouse to get qualified for a new mortgage until the cash-out time. They just need to keep making timely payments. This is a good solution for situations where the divorce is fairly amicable and the spouses can work together for this common goal. I always advise that they tell the mortgage company about the divorce, however, as both partners need to continue to get notices about the loan,” says Phillips.

[Keep in mind that just because a divorce starts out amicably doesn’t mean it will stay that way. So making sure that both spouses continue to get notices about the loan is a smart decision. After all, keeping life after divorce amicable between exes requires regular, respectful communication, but tempers can still flare despite the best efforts.]

“We generally see Owelty Liens when a couple is in the process of refinancing the home,” notes Watson. “You don’t need to wait a specific amount of time to use it, and it has the added benefit of letting you do a “special purpose” refinance and go up to 95% of the appraised value of the home. This provides more equity at the end of the process.

“Current “cash-out” guidelines for refinancing in Texas allow for financing up to 80% of the loan value. A special purpose refinance allows you to get an extra 15% out of the home, which is then shared between the couple as per the terms of their divorce. I always talk to my clients about Owelty Liens because it can make a big difference if one partner is trying to buy another home, for example. Also, if the other partner finds out after the fact that they could have gotten more cash out of the refinance and didn’t, it can cause more unhappiness all around.”

Seek Help.

Dividing up the marriage assets is emotional and financially risky if you are not sure what you are doing. Early in the divorce, both spouses should consult their mortgage provider, realtor and CPA as well as an attorney in order to review their options and the financial and tax consequences of certain decisions. These objective outsiders will help you navigate your particular situation and direct you to other resources. In addition, they can act as a go-between if the divorce is contentious.

[One other divorce professional you may want to contact when dealing with the financial questions of divorce is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. These professionals are trained in how to help couples develop different scenarios for an equitable division of their assets and debts so they’ll each have a better picture of what their financial life after divorce will be like.]

“It is a false economy to do a divorce yourself. I’ve seen couples ruin their credit by doing it wrong. In one case, so many mistakes were made; one partner almost went to jail. It’s not worth it,” said Phillips. “Plus the experts can tell you about Owelty Liens and other ways to get the best out of a bad situation.”

“Lack of communication makes the divorce harder,” says Rayburn. “I often will work with both spouses in a divorce to help sell the old home, refinance and/or find a new, less expensive home if that is their post-divorce reality. I’ve even helped people through multiple relationships over the years because I was able to facilitate communications between the parties.”

“I often give my clients a list of good appraisers to call on,” says Watson. “Even if they don’t plan to sell or refinance right away, they need an appraisal in order to fairly determine the value of the home for the divorce settlement. I can then take that appraisal and show them how much equity is in the house so they can have more meaningful discussions.”

As with most issues related to divorce, there is no single best way to handle your mortgage. Divorcing couples must take a long look at their finances, and make realistic decisions based on a thorough understanding of their options.

Have more questions about how to handle your mortgage through divorce? Contact an experienced loan officer like Mark Watson at Guardian Mortgage Company today about your specific situation. Guardian Mortgage Company has been serving North Texas since 1965. Mark Watson (214) 473-7954.

Your Life After Divorce Assignment:

If you’re at the point of trying to decide what to do with the marital home, focus on the business decision you need to make. Despite how much you are attached to your home, the fact is it’s just a thing, a place. Spending your energy deciding how to best deal with this marital asset instead of what it represents will help you come to the best decision for you – the decision that you’ll be most comfortable with financially and emotionally in the long haul.

If it’s difficult for you to separate the business aspect of this decision from the emotional one, give me a call at 817-993-0561 so we can schedule a Complimentary Consultation and together we’ll figure out a way for you to have an easier time making the decisions you need to make as part of your divorce and make your life after divorce as good as it can be.

You don’t have to go through this alone. I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor. I understand what you’re going through because I’ve been through it too. I’ve been helping people just like you who are dealing with all the stress and pain of divorce since 2007. You can join my anonymous newsletter list for free weekly advice or email me directly for a free consultation at Karen@functionaldivorce.com.

Are you looking for more tips about setting yourself up for your best possible post-divorce life? You can find more great information at Life After Divorce.