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.

Divorce Made You Angry? How To Move On

Three steps for leaving your divorce anger behind you.

When my ex-husband and I decided to divorce in 2002, we came to the decision rationally just like we’d come to most decisions in our marriage. Being two rational human beings who had never fought, we thought it would be in our best interest to save money and effort by continuing to live together until we were able to sell our home.

Sounds reasonable, right? Well, it wasn’t reasonable at all.

Neither of us had been through divorce before, and we had no idea of the changes we would be going through or the intense anger we would feel toward each other. I remember one instance when we were talking about something that made my husband angry. So angry that he punched the wall in front of my face. I had never seen him do anything of the sort before and it made me angry in return. Instead of punching the wall, though, I took it out on myself. I remained outwardly calm, but internally I blamed myself for the divorce and generally made myself miserable.

Now I realize that the intense anger we were experiencing during divorce was actually the accumulation of all the little angers that we had never addressed during our nearly 18 years of marriage. For years, we had been sweeping our angers and irritations under the rug because they just didn’t seem to be worth dealing with in the moment. Unfortunately, we didn’t forget them; we hid them and they grew. They grew so much that by the time we decided to divorce they had turned into a mountain of frustration and anger. There was no longer a reason to try to make our marriage work and so the slightest insult or frustration could set us off. Our anger was like Mt. Vesuvius erupting; it threatened to explode and erase all evidence that our marriage had even existed.

We all have similar experiences when we divorce. Some of us experience the eruptions during the marriage. Some of us experience the eruptions once the decision to divorce is made. Some of us even experience the eruptions long after the divorce is final.

Believe it or not, divorce anger can serve an important purpose and it’s not all bad. Divorce anger can help you to separate and sever your marriage bonds. However, you don’t need to experience the anger for prolonged periods. In fact, if you do, then you’ve probably gotten into the habit of being angry and are stuck.

If you’re stuck in the anger, don’t worry; you can get past your divorce anger. Here are some steps to help you get unstuck and defuse your divorce anger.

  1. Accept that everyone (including your ex and his or her attorney) is doing the best they can with what they have at every moment. You’re just not going to be able to make your ex be someone they’re not. Lisa Nichols has a great way of teaching this. She says you can’t supersize people. Some people just have a 24-ounce capacity and when you expect them to give you 64-ounces, they just can’t do it. So if you’re expecting your ex to be kinder, smarter or more responsible than they’re capable of, you’re going to be disappointed. When I teach this concept to my clients, I suggest they take a picture of a shot glass and use it as the screen saver on their phone. That way the next time they get angry at their spouse, they can look at the shot glass and remember that their ex just isn’t capable of giving or doing any more than they are.
  2. Acknowledge that you and your ex have different priorities, capabilities and motivations. When you and your ex were married, your priorities and motivations probably were the same, but that is no longer the case. Only you can decide what’s right for you. Only your ex can decide what’s right for him or her. And if your ex didn’t have the capabilities you wanted them to have in the marriage, there’s no way they’re going to magically develop the capabilities now that you’re divorced.
  3. Check for residual anger and express it — appropriately. Anger is an energizing emotion. I’ve never heard of someone who was so angry they fell asleep, have you? So, even though you’ve defused the anger intellectually, chances are that you’ve still got some adrenaline flowing around your system that needs to get used up. To check this out, take a couple deep breaths. Is there still a part of you that wants to do something active like taking your ex to task, cleaning out the junk drawer or punching a pillow? If so, you need to burn up the adrenaline. Some of my favorite ways to do this are exercise, punching a pillow, screaming into a pillow and dancing to some really loud music. Find an activity that allows you to safely and appropriately work your frustration out while you adjust to your new thoughts of acceptance and acknowledgment.

Taking a deep breath and following these steps the next time you start to feel furious with your ex will allow you to defuse your divorce anger and get on with living your own life instead of continuing to be entangled with theirs.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment

Think of one recent situation that you’re angry with your ex about. Sometimes the easiest way to learn something new is to practice, so let’s take this situation through the three steps above.

  1. How can you change your thoughts about your ex so that you can accept they were doing the best they could in this situation? Remember that accepting that someone is doing the best they can doesn’t mean you have to like what they did. It also means that you’re never going to be able to make them into someone they’re not.
  2. How can you acknowledge that your ex now has different priorities than you do? Even if the only priority you can think of that your ex has is that they want to live their life without you, it’s still different from your priorities.
  3. Take a deep breath and check your body for signs of residual anger. Can you feel that your blood pressure is elevated? Are you clenching your jaw or your fists? Are you feeling energized to just take action? If you answered yes to any of these, then it’s time to get active and burn off that residual anger.

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 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.

Knowing Your Limits is Critical for Successful Divorce Recovery

Divorce recovery requires you to know your limits.

Know what behavior you will – and will not – accept.

Life changes a lot when you separate and divorce. Things that used to be a regular part of life just aren’t anymore. And when things change in unexpected ways, everyone can get scared, frustrated and angry.

When my clients and I begin our work together, they’re usually experiencing some combination of fear, frustration and anger. One of the first things we do is dive into what’s behind or at the root of these emotions. What we usually discover on our deep dive are limits or boundaries that have been disregarded in some way. The limits could be behaviors, expectations, thoughts, beliefs or even habits.

The identification of your personal limits is a critical part of restructuring your life during and after divorce. Some people are quite adept at identifying their limits – what they can and can’t do, what they think and why they think it, what they expect and why they expect it, and what their habits of thought, belief, response and action are. Others aren’t as aware of their limits. They aren’t quite sure of what their limits are or even if they want to know. These people tend to do and think what others tell them to. And then there are people everywhere in between these two extremes.

Regardless of your starting point, knowing and understanding your limits is critical for successful divorce recovery. Your limits can help you understand what’s truly important to you as you negotiate your settlement. Knowing your limits can help you take appropriate care of yourself. And knowing your limits will even allow you to ask for help and support when you need it.

It’s probably not a surprise to you, but your limits will be tested, pushed, prodded, and beat against before, during and after your divorce. Who’s doing all of this “exploring”? EVERYONE. Or at least it will probably feel that way. However, the chief explorers are usually your soon-to-be-ex, your kids and you. I’ll bet you already get how your soon-to-be-ex and kids figure in here, but did you expect to also be one of the chief explorers? The thing is that by virtue of going through the divorce process you’re asking yourself to completely redefine what your life is like. And anytime you change, you’re testing and exploring your limits.

All the testing, pushing, prodding and beating against limits was at minimum uncomfortable and at times excruciating for me as I went through my divorce recovery. However, the payoff was always worth it. I learned all kinds of things about my limits during my now successful divorce recovery. I learned that I was tired of putting up with the work schedule I had. I learned that I didn’t know how to date and then I learned how to. I learned that I didn’t know how to tell people “no” and mean it. I learned that despite how miserable I felt, that I was worth loving if only by me. Exploring, changing and affirming my limits helped me to be better able to communicate with myself and others.

I found that what didn’t kill me made me stronger – and happier. What made the whole experience easier for me was when I was able to let go of what I thought I knew for a certainty was true about me. I allowed myself to be flexible and to genuinely explore my limits with no judgment or expectation.

There’s going to be some struggle and then things will be better. Not exactly new information, right? Well, here’s the trick for making the experience easier on you: be flexible and loving while you’re exploring your limits so you can evaluate them by choice instead of by force.

By allowing yourself to be flexible as you explore your limits you’ll be much more able to understand and choose what to do with your limits and your life as you move toward your successful divorce recovery. Being flexible will also allow you to negotiate from a more confident spot because you’ll be able to more easily see the options available to you. Developing the ability to be flexible will help you now as you’re navigating your divorce and throughout your life – I know because it continues to work for me.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

Know your limits. As you’re proceeding through your separation and divorce process take note of your limits. You’ll probably become aware of them most easily when you’re experiencing a strong emotion.

Explore your limits. Once you’ve identified a limit, ask yourself questions like “How did I develop this limit?”, “What’s the benefit of this limit?”, and “What might adjusting this limit be like?” Take note of what you discover about yourself.

Adjust your limits. Exploring limits almost always gives you new ideas of how to be, act and think. Take advantage of your discoveries and adjust your limits in ways that make you feel wonderful!

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 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 recovering from your divorce, read more articles in Healing After Divorce.

3 Tips for Dealing with Divorce

Woman dressed in black holding black balloons and sitting on fallen trees.

Overwhelm is common in divorce. Use these 3 ideas to beat it as you’re dealing with divorce.

Do you ever feel all tangled up on the inside and didn’t know which direction to turn?

Or maybe you feel that you’re stuck in quicksand and it’s taking all your effort to just make it through each day?

Or worse, you feel that you’re wearing a choke-chain of all your responsibilities and don’t really know who you are anymore?

Don’t worry. I’ve been there. In fact, everyone I know who has been through divorce has been there too. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you’re dealing with divorce. Overwhelm can be hard to overcome and yet it’s a common part of divorce. Knowing how to get through it or stop it all together is a critical skill to develop as you’re dealing with divorce. What I’m going to share with you today are some of the techniques I regularly use with myself, my family and my clients when things start to feel overwhelming.

1. Change your story.

When I was finding my way through the aftermath of my divorce, I used to tell myself really scary stories. They were stories of doom and I told them over and over again – like a broken recording. I was feeling overwhelmed and the stories I told myself made things worse. I didn’t see any way that I could ever stop the chaos I was living in much less get on to dealing with my divorce in any real way. I felt like I was performing and not really living. I was really miserable!

But, things slowly changed when I started changing my internal story. Instead of envisioning a life of doom and destruction, my stories became more about experiencing sadness and then more about being tired of the sadness and imagining what changes I could make. And then, I started actually making changes – some really big changes. I started living again instead of feeling like a prisoner of circumstances.

It can be the same for you. Simply by changing the story you’re telling yourself, you can dramatically (even if it takes time like it did for me) change your life for the better, stop feeling overwhelmed and really begin dealing with divorce in a way that allows you to move on.

2. Take care of you first.

For those of us who have a tendency to get burned out, when we feel stressed about divorce it can be especially easy to forget about taking care of ourselves and just focus on what needs to be done for others instead. After all, they’re depending on us, right?

It’s easy for me to identify a new client who isn’t taking care of themselves because they have a difficult time answering questions like

  • Are you getting enough sleep?
  • Are you exercising?
  • Are you eating nutritious meals?

in the affirmative. They’ll squirm a bit before answering or try to deflect the question with a joke or some explanation as to why they can’t sleep or exercise or eat well.

If you can’t honestly say you’re getting enough sleep, adequate exercise and eating well, you would probably benefit from taking better care of yourself. Taking care of yourself isn’t an afterthought – something you do after you take care of the rest of your responsibilities. Taking care of yourself is VITAL to you being able to take care of your responsibilities. Without your physical well-being, you won’t be able to take care of anyone or anything else, so, please, make sure you’re putting you first and treating yourself well. It’s only when you have the energy that you can begin dealing with divorce in a productive way.

3. See the lighter side and laugh.

Somehow, when things are really miserable and you’re just not sure how you’re going to deal with one more pressure, there comes a moment when you realize just how ridiculous everything is – all the pressure and stress suddenly become laughable. I’ve found the best thing to do when I reach that point is to laugh. I’m not talking about a simple tee-hee-hee or chuckle, I’m talking about a deep-from-the-gut laugh.

Laughter is a great cure for stress and overwhelm. It causes you to loosen some muscles and tighten others. It requires you to breathe differently and it gets some different hormones flowing through your body – the kinds that help you to feel better.

In working with my clients, I often incorporate really bad jokes to get some laughter going. Laughing always lightens the mood and allows my clients to see things from a slightly different angle and break the strangle hold overwhelm had on them.

With overwhelm and stress being such common elements of our daily lives – not to mention divorce, these 3 simple ideas can be a great springboard for you to prevent yourself from succumbing to burn out and begin dealing with your divorce in the most productive manner possible.

Your Dealing With Divorce Assignment:

The next time you’re feeling stressed out, pick one of the 3 suggestions above and try it out. After all what have you got to lose besides your stress? I know that if you consistently take the necessary steps to help you deal with the stress of your divorce, you’ll be better able to manage it.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And, 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 recovering from your divorce, read more articles about Healing After Divorce.

Getting Divorced: Are You Still Lovable?

A celebrity break-up can help you discover that you are definitely still lovable.

I recently read an article ridiculing Robin Thick for giving his estranged wife, Paula Patton, gifts and public apologies to woo her back. What I found so interesting is the obvious derision the author had for his attempts.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning cheating. I’m also not ignoring the fact that it takes a lot of hard work by both parties for a relationship to survive an affair. What I am surprised by is how the author of the article assumes that Thicke’s attempts are obviously wrong.

Gary Chapman has done some important work on love languages that is important to consider before an outsider can make any judgments on the validity of Thicke’s or anyone else’s attempts at showing love and apologizing.

Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages, identifies five different ways that people give and receive love: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. We each naturally express love in the ways that we prefer to receive love.

Considering Thicke’s attempts to woo Patton back involve public apologies and lavish gifts, I’m guessing that two of his preferred love languages are words of affirmation and receiving gifts. Based upon the reporter’s article and Patton’s reported response to the gifts, I’m guessing that neither one has receiving gifts as their preferred love language.

What does this have to do with you? A lot! Knowing your love language is a critical step in recovering from divorce.

Being clear about how you receive love can help you know how to make sure you still feel loved despite the end of your relationship. You’ll be able to discover ways to show yourself love. You’ll also be able to explicitly ask your family and friends (a.k.a. your support team) for the things you need to feel loved.

For example, if your preferred love language is words of affirmation, you could speak words of affirmation to yourself as you look into your eyes in the mirror.

If your preferred love language is physical touch, you could get a therapeutic massage or ask your support team to give you more hugs.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

Discover your primary love language. Take this quick on-line quiz and discover your primary love language.

Think of one way you can show yourself that you’re loved. Once you know one way that you can show yourself that you love you, do it!

My primary love language is acts of service. A couple of ways I let myself know that I love me are having a housekeeper in to clean my home and daily exercise.

Think of one way your can ask you support team to show you love this week. If your primary love language is quality time, you might ask a family member or friend to come over for a conversation over dinner and a bottle of wine.

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

What Are You Bringing to Your Divorce?

Whatever you bring with you to your divorce will color your experience. Make sure you’re bringing what you want to have!

My husband and I are going through the process of selling our home and buying a new one. If you’ve ever gone through the sale and purchase of a home, you know how stressful this process can be.

We’d been talking about moving for a couple of years, but hadn’t done anything else about it because it was easier to just stay put and complain instead of being willing to do what we knew to be right for us and move.

Luckily, when we were making some minor remodels to our home, we mentioned to our contractor that we were thinking of moving. Well, this woman heard our deep desire for something different and challenged us to put up or shut up.

We rose to the challenge – mostly. We still had some bumps in the road to getting our house ready to put on the market and fully committing to the work necessary on our parts. But, we did get our work done.

And you know what happened? We had a full-price contract on our home within 48 hours of putting it on the market.

Now you might think that’s the end of the story, but it’s not. You see the fellow buying our house didn’t seem to be fully committed to the purchase. Throughout the 10-day option period, he did strange things including, but not limited to, putting an offer in on another house.

Well, all these strange things the buyer did finally got us when just hours before the end of his option period, this fellow asked to change the closing date into the next month. He wanted to change the date because he didn’t want to have to start paying his mortgage this month – at least that’s the story we told ourselves. We were furious! He had originally requested a closing date that was within 4 weeks of his offer and we jumped through hoops to find a new home that could also close very quickly. Of course our plans were contingent upon the sale of our home to him. It seemed like all of our dreams for a new home in the country were crashing down around us.

Jim, my husband, and I talked and yelled and made up more stories about this guy who supposedly wanted to buy our home and we made up stories about his realtor too. We were furious and miserable that someone else seemed to have complete control over whether or not our dreams came true. We were also feeding off of each other’s negative energy which escalated things even more.

Then a funny thing happened. In the midst of all this drama and misery, we both had a memory – a memory of what it was like to get divorced. We realized that what we were experiencing was almost identical to what we felt when we were going through the legal process of divorce.

Luckily, this is when my training kicked in. I realized three important things:

  1. I was too close to what was going on and making the worst of what was happening. I needed to step out of all of my emotions and look at the sale of the house as the business transaction it was.
  2. As an adult, no one has control over my life unless I give it to them. I could still choose what I want to be, to do, and to have in my life even if this first attempt at selling our home didn’t work out. I just needed to be willing to work for it and accept the consequences of my decisions.
  3. My perception of what was going on was creating my reality. As long as I believed the buyer and his realtor were jerking us around, I was being jerked around. As soon as

I changed my belief and the story I was telling myself, I could see that this buyer just might be afraid of the responsibilities of home ownership and I could more easily put my anger and frustration aside.

These three important things are exactly what I work with my clients on to help them identify what they’re bringing to their “divorce party” and then change their experience to one that feels better and more hopeful.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

If your divorce and the legal process have you tied up in knots, here are some ideas for loosening the knots.

Develop the skill of moving between your emotional self and your logical self. There is a time and place for experiencing the rollercoaster of emotions that typically accompany divorce.  There’s also a time and place for putting them to the side so you can make the business decisions that need to be made during divorce.

Decide what you want to be true about your life one year from today. For most of us who go through divorce, the divorce can be all consuming. We can get in the habit of just doing the minimum to get by because of all the energy and effort involved in getting divorced. What we tend to forget is that our lives will go on. By developing a sense of hope or desire for something in the future, you’ll be able to get through what needs to happen with the divorce because you know things will be better.

Which of your beliefs are keeping you tied up in knots? The wonderful thing about beliefs are that they are all yours which means you have complete and total control of whether or not you keep them. If you have a belief or two that are contributing to your misery, you might want to consider what you life would be like if you changed or dropped them. If you recognize that your life would be better without these beliefs, you might have just discovered the oomph you need to change them.

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.

 

30 Awesome Ideas for Valentine’s Friend Dates

Tip #20: Visit a pet shelter for some serious snuggle time.

Whether you’re single by choice or circumstance, Valentine’s Day can seem more like Single’s Awareness Day instead of a day celebrating love. Rather than dreading February 14, why not try something different? Celebrating with your girlfriends is a great alternative to sitting at home alone or feeling jealous about the flowers that co-worker received from her boyfriend.

So in the spirit of love, here are 30 ideas to spark your creativity for celebrating this Valentine’s Day with your besties.

  1. Host a karaoke night.
  2. Have a Wii dance party. You might want to try Zumba, belly dancing, disco or stripper moves.
  3. Go out for manis and pedis.
  4. Treat each other to lunch. Yes, you’ll each still have a bill, but somehow it’s still fun to know you were treated to lunch!
  5. Send each other a gift at work.  Who doesn’t love to receive flowers or chocolate for Valentine’s Day and letting the whole office see?
  6. Send each other “what I love about you” notes. This is your chance to tell her how much you love her brilliance or kindness or sense of humor or…  And you’ll get to hear the same from her!
  7. You’ve heard of Secret Santa. Why not a Secret St. Valentine?
  8. Get a box of Valentines like you did in elementary school and send them to all your girlfriends.
  9. Open a bag of candy hearts and talk about who would be your dream recipient for each message. Then make up messages you wish were on the hears as you drop them in glasses of champagne.
  10. Girl power movie marathon. My favorite is Legally Blonde.
  11. Host a sex toy party. No, it’s not your mother’s Mary Kay party. It’s a whole lot more fun!
  12. Take the day off and do something adventurous or fun outdoors. Maybe this Valentine’s Day will be when you each can cross skydiving off your bucket list!
  13. Retail therapy. A new pair of shoes always make a day better!
  14. Get a massage.
  15. Get Tarot readings.
  16. Giggle about your worst dates ever at the hottest bar in town. You’ll be sure to attract attention.
  17. Commit to a day of good deeds and share the stories with each other over dinner.
  18. Give out Valentine’s Day cards at a retirement home or hospice.
  19. Give out Valentine’s Day cards at your local fire station.
  20. Visit a pet shelter and cuddle or walk the pets.
  21. Have a potluck dessert party.
  22. Have a marshmallow fight. The boys have paintball and we have marshmallows. Each of you gets a bag of stale marshmallows to use as ammunition. (They’re less sticky when they’re stale, but still tasty!)
  23. Update or create on-line dating profiles.
  24. Host a flower arranging event. Get a bunch of flowers from a florist or grocery store. Ask everyone to bring a vase and spend the evening with wine, conversation and flower arranging. 
  25. Setup a wine tasting party at your home, the local wine store or even a winery.
  26. Host a craft party — even macaroni crafts — with prizes for the most outlandish, etc.
  27. Host a dream date party: Everyone brings a picture of their favorite celebrity and a story of their ideal date with them. The best story wins a prize.
  28. Why I like being single! Being single can actually be kinda fabulous. Get together and talk about what’s perfect about being single. You’re bound to get some new perspectives.
  29. Plan and cook a fabulous meal together. Serve it up like a 5-star restaurant would.
  30. Do a “chore” for each other. There are all kinds of ways to feel loved and sometimes getting help doing a “chore” can be a great way to demonstrate and experience love.

Just because you’re not romantically linked up doesn’t mean you can’t spend Valentine’s Day feeling and spreading the love. Give it a try and you’re sure  to have a blast with your besties!

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 original appeared on YourTango.

Finding Hope Is The Key To Moving On After Divorce

Move on after divorce to find happiness again.

When I was 13, my Grandpa died. I was devastated. He was my favorite person in the entire world and I was never going to see him again.

I wasn’t alone in my grief, my entire family was devastated – especially my Grandma. Grandma and Grandpa were very happily married and they were each other’s world.

Eventually, we were all able to process our grief and move on with our lives – except for Grandma. For the next 20 years, until her death, my grandma mourned the loss of her husband. When things happened that she didn’t like, she’d say, “Your grandpa wouldn’t have let that happen.” When things happened that she did like, she’d say, “Your grandpa would have liked that.”

It was really hard for me to hear her make comments like these. Every time I heard her make one of these statements I would cringe internally. It seemed to me that she must be missing out on life since she was so focused on the past and what she had lost.

I have very similar feelings today when I hear one of my clients tell me about how much they mourn what they used to have in their marriage. Don’t get me wrong, grief is a very normal and necessary part of divorce. No one can tell anyone else how long they need to grieve.

The thing is I also know that sometimes people don’t know how to finish grieving and start moving on after divorce. They wind up keeping themselves imprisoned in what was and what they believe should have been instead of figuring out ways to enjoy what is and what might be. I certainly don’t want that to happen to you.

What I’ve discovered in my years working with people dealing with divorce is that the individuals who are most successful in moving on after divorce are those who have hope that their life can and will be good, if not great, again.

Going through divorce can feel like you’re stuck in a long, dark, dank, cobweb-filled and scary tunnel. Hope can be the light at the end of the tunnel.

One of the quickest ways to find hope and start the process of moving on after divorce is to get in action – directed and planned action. To do this requires thoughtful planning. I’m not talking about the kind of planning that you force yourself to accomplish by a specific deadline. I’m talking about creating plans that inspire you to take action, that make you happy to think about accomplishing and that you are willing to do what it takes to achieve.

For many of my clients moving on after divorce often starts with the hope of being in another relationship. We start to turn this hope into a plan by stepping back from the idea of being in another relationship by figuring out what has to happen before they can be in another relationship. Usually that means they need to be dating. If they’re not currently dating, we take a step back and ask what needs to happen before they can be dating. Usually that means they need to meet people they can date. We continue this process of backing things up until we find an action they can take right now. An action that gives them hope that what they want to have in their life they can!

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

What do you hope to have in your life? Allow yourself to truly dream when you answer this question. You can look at divorce as a chance at a do-over. What do you happily hope for?

As you take a step back from this hope, what needs to happen before your hope is a reality? It’s OK if you don’t know the EXACT thing that needs to happen before your hope is realized, just think about what in general needs to be true before your hope is realized.

Continue taking steps back until you have an action you can take today. Every day you have choices you can make about what you do. Wouldn’t it be great fun if one of the things you did today got you closer to making your hope a reality?

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

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

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

Little girl decorating a Christmas tree.

For way too many kids of divorced parents the holidays aren’t all that merry. Instead, the holidays are filled with confusion and guilt.

These kids experience confusion because they often have a hard time keeping track of schedules about when they’re going to be with Mom, when they’re going to be with Dad and when they’re going to be with their friends. Then layered on top of this confusion is guilt.

Kids of divorced parents often feel the need to be actors. They don’t want to upset Mom by talking about Dad in front of her and they don’t want to upset Dad by talking about Mom in front of him. So, these kids learn to act like their other parent isn’t as important as the parent they’re with right now. The pressure to continue the charade amps up around the holidays and then the guilt comes. Many of these kids feel guilty that they’re looking forward to being with the other parent and that they have to leave the parent they’re with right now to do that.

I got to see this confusion and guilt first-hand with my bonus sons.

The first time I spent the holidays with the boys, I was uncertain what to expect and a little cautious.

The way things worked out, our first holiday together was New Years. Cameron, our youngest, was only 13 at the time, and he was required transfer flights in traveling from his mom’s home to our new home in the other side of the country. Because none of the adults involved, much less Cameron, was comfortable with him doing this on his own, his older brother, Anthony, came along with Cam to visit us.

The boys were extremely happy to be spending time with their dad. I did my best to make sure we all had a fun time and celebrated the New Year in a way that everyone could participate in. (I bought some fun champagne flutes and chilled a bunch of Dr Pepper. Instead of toasting in the New Year with a glass of champagne, we welcomed it with our Dr Pepper and a burping contest. Talk about unusual and fun!)

At some point during their visit, I innocently asked the boys about their Christmas. It was as if I’d hit a switch. Both of them became very quiet, their faces went blank and they gave me an obligatory “It was fine.” I was genuinely interested in hearing about how wonderful their Christmas was, but they just weren’t comfortable talking about it – especially with their dad within earshot.

I also was confused about Cam’s repeated asking about when he and Anthony were going to leave. Back then, I wasn’t sure if he was asking because he was homesick, because he couldn’t remember, or because of some other reason. Now, after learning all I’ve learned about blended families and enjoying my bonus family, I understand that it was probably a combination of all of the above. I understand that the other reason was just a fact of having two different homes – one with Mom and one (in our case, very far away) with Dad.

Luckily our holidays today aren’t tainted by any of the kids feeling confusion or guilt. Of course they’re all adults now, but we’ve all made an effort over the years to encourage them to enjoy the holidays and look at them as opportunities for double the presents, double the fun and double the love.

THIS is what I wish all kids with divorced parents thought about the holidays – double the presents, double the fun and double the love.

The thing is kids with divorced parents need help to get there. And it’s up to us, their divorced parents along with their bonus parents to help. We need to be OK – really, genuinely OK – with knowing the kids love their other parent and bonus parent and that they have fun with them. It’s only by being OK with this knowledge that any of us are going to be able to provide a safe place for the kids to just be themselves and not worry about having to act a particular way in front of us. By doing this we can go a long way to eliminating the guilt that so many kids with divorced parents experience during the holidays.

Eliminating, or at least minimizing, the confusion the kids have about where they’re going to be and when is something that’s fairly easily solved with calendars that gets used and talked about in both of their homes. That’s one thing that I wish I had known about when Cam was still a kid. I know it would have made a HUGE difference in how he was able to keep track of time while he visited with us because I know the HUGE difference it’s made in the lives of other kids with divorced parents.

So how can you help your kids with divorced parents think about the holidays as being filled with double the presents, double the fun and double the love? Take a peek at Your Functional Divorce Assignment and I’ll give you a few ideas.

Your Divorce And The Holidays Assignment:

Get really comfortable and OK with the facts. Your kids love you. Your kids love their other parent. Your kids might even love their bonus parents. Your acceptance of these facts is the first step for you to be able to support your kids in having healthy relationships with all the adults in their lives.

Encourage your kids in their excitement about spending some time with their other parent – especially over the holidays. Have you ever noticed how much more you enjoy something when you’ve been able to anticipate it? The same thing works for your kids. The more you allow them to anticipate the holiday events with you and their other parent, the more they’ll be able to enjoy all the festivities and the more comfortable they’ll be in just being themselves.

Get a calendar. If you haven’t already, get a calendar that you can use as a family to note when the kids are going to be with you and when they’re going to be with their other parent. It goes a long way toward helping the kids be able to plan what they want to do to.

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’d like more help with how to deal with your life now, read more articles about Life After Divorce.

How To Deal With Divorce Depression

Man with stooped shoulders suffering from divorce depression.

You’ve lost something big. It’s OK to grieve. Just don’t get stuck there.

A few months ago, I went to a luncheon for the family law section of the Tarrant County Bar Association. The topic of discussion for this particular luncheon was electronic medical records and how they might impact divorces. 

What I found particularly interesting about the presentation was how much the presenter emphasized the difference between clinical depression and what I call situational depression (the kind that is often experienced in divorce). At first, I was a bit surprised that she would spend so much time doing this. But then I remembered that the popular idea of depression is that there’s only one kind and that there’s only one solution: immediately get a couple of prescriptions.

The biggest difference between situational depression and clinical depression is that loss, like death or divorce, causes situational depression.

Most people going through divorce experience some degree of situational depression as part of the normal grieving process over all the losses the end of the marriage brings. If not dealt with appropriately, situational depression can linger for much longer than it needs to.

I don’t want that to happen to you. Because I want you to recover from your divorce depression as quickly as possible, here are my top 5 tips for how to deal with depression that’s triggered by the loss of your marriage. 

1. Write a goodbye letter.

In this exercise, you sit down with a pen and paper and write a letter of goodbye to everything and everyone that isn’t the same now that you’re divorcing.

Some of the things you might want to say goodbye to are your role as spouse, the traditions you had of celebrating birthdays and holidays, and seeing your kids every day. Some of the people you may want to say goodbye to are your ex, your in-laws and your friends who aren’t able to stand by your side during your major life transition.

Writing a goodbye letter takes courage. It requires you to come face-to-face with what you’re losing with the end of your marriage. But the reward for doing this is a catharsis. You’ll know exactly what it is that you’re grieving and begin to have a better idea of how to deal with your situational depression because you’ll be able to see what you can work on to put your grief behind you.

2. Write a hello letter.

In this letter you’ll write about all the things you’re happy about not having to deal with any more and all the new things you’re looking forward to.

Some of the things you might be able to say hello to now that you’re divorced are those things you used to love to do that you gave up for your ex, a peaceful night not disrupted by window-rattling snoring, and no more watching your ex pick their teeth (or nose) at the table.

The hello letter is a great way to start setting your sights on what’s good about now. By becoming more and more aware of what’s truly right about your life right now, your situational depression will start to lessen.

Because it’s such a powerful tool for moving on from divorce, writing a hello letter isn’t a one-time event. As you discover more things that are good about your life now, you could write a new hello letter or add on to your original one.

3. Start paying attention to the conversation you’re having with yourself.

If you’re like most people, your internal conversation is probably something less than complimentary. A great way to change your internal conversation is to start name calling.

No, I don’t mean calling your ex and their attorney names. I mean calling yourself positive, uplifting names.

4. Get more human touch.

What surprises most of the people I work with is how much they miss just the casual contact of marriage — the hugs, hand holding, arm around the shoulders and even bumping into each other in the kitchen or bathroom.

Some of the things I’ll recommend to clients who are missing casual physical contact with another person are get a massage, become known by your friends as a hugger, get a mani and/or pedi, and hug yourself. 

I’ll bet that you’re thinking is that these ideas are great — except for hugging yourself, which seems kinda lame. The thing is that giving yourself a hug is a wonderful way to treat yourself well and goes hand in hand with learning to call yourself positive, uplifting names.

When you give yourself a hug, I find the kind that feels the best is to wrap your arms across your chest so your hands are touching just above your armpits. You’ll want to hold the hug for a bit and focus on it. Before you know it, you’ll probably sigh which is a pretty good sign you’re enjoying the hug. But, don’t just take my word for it. Try it yourself!

5. Imagine the two of us are meeting for lunch one year from today…

As we get seated, I can see that you’re doing great — much different from the person who was struggling with divorce depression. I say to you, “You look wonderful and I can tell you’re feeling great. What’s life like for you now?”

Really think about my question. What life do you imagine for yourself one year from today? Write it all down and include all the details.

Where will you be living? What type of work will you be doing? What will you be doing for fun? How will you be feeling?

Include everything in as much detail as you can. In fact, the more detail you can include the better.

This exercise helps you set the stage for what’s next in your life. The more you are able to focus on creating exactly what it is you want from your life the sooner you’ll be able to stop grieving so deeply for what you’re losing.

Each of my five tips for how to deal with depression resulting from divorce should build one on the other.

Start with writing your goodbye letter. After you’ve really grieved (aka cry or sob) over what you’re saying goodbye to, write your hello letter. Start noticing what is good about now. Then you’re ready to start hearing what you’re saying to yourself and make sure you turn up the volume on the kindness and support.

Once you’ve got your internal dialogue tuned to a positive note, be sure to take care of your need for casual human contact which could be as simple as giving and getting more hugs. Finally, when you can start to imagine how wonderful your life could be a year from now, start painting that picture and taking the steps to make it a reality.

By the time you’ve completed all five of my tips, you’ll be well on your way to making the rest of your life the best of your life instead of being stuck in the quicksand of divorce depression.

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

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