My Letter to Janay Rice on Her Abusive Marriage.

Kim, it’s brutal,” my friend warned me. So I braced myself as I watched the latest footage of former Ravens player Ray Rice knocking his wife out cold in an elevator. I have to admit I wasn’t all that shocked though. The only thing I said was, “I hope Janay doesn’t pay for this.”

When the first video came out a few weeks ago, and I saw Rice drag his wife out of the elevator by her feet, I knew it was bad.  It didn’t take much for me to imagine what preceded it. So I posted an article on Your Tango, Thoughts On Ray Rice & The Secret Life Of Abused Women.  In that piece I put it out there that I was pretty sure Janay was in an abusive marriage. The whole thing felt too familiar.

But now as this second video has emerged, and my article has gone on to be shared more than 700 times on YourTango and Facebook, I am certain.  Janay is in an abusive marriage and a lot of people are concerned. Some even see themselves in her. So rather than talking about Janay Rice this time, I want to talk to her:

I want to say: Janay, listen to me.

I know you love him.  I know there are wonderful, amazing things about Ray and I know you’ve had good times together. You have a beautiful little girl. You have a lot invested in your family. I know it’s hard to imagine walking away, and I know you don’t really want to.  But you have to.

I am sure that on many levels, Ray cares about and loves you.  But at the same time, he fundamentally doesn’t respect you.  No one who respects you would hit you with such force and such venom, ever.  He crossed a very important line in that elevator and it’s impossible for either of you to go back.   He showed you and the world that he is violent man.  And no amount of love or time will change that.  The potential for him to snap will always be there, like a giant hammer waiting to come down.  Things will never be the same, ever again.

What will you say when your daughter sees this video one day?  How will you justify staying in a marriage to a man who so brutally attacked you?  How will she feel when she sees that video of her father?  How will you keep her from marrying into her own abusive marriage, if you are sending the message that it’s ok to stay after this?

Luckily, you have been given a gift, though I’m sure you cannot see this either right now. You literally can’t, because you are in the middle of the forest and you can’t see the trees.  I know you have rationalized his behavior somehow in your head.  Maybe you’ve told yourself it will never happen again. Maybe you believe you deserved it, or that you started the fight. I’m sure you’ve told yourself he would never hurt your daughter.  But a little part of you knows that he will lose his temper again eventually, if he hasn’t already.

The gift you have been given is in fact an exit ramp.  It’s right there, paved with help and support.  You have PROOF, yes for others to see, but more importantly, for yourself.  Did you see what he did to you? It was bad Janay, really bad.  Most of us don’t get any proof.  We don’t get a video to point to and say– “Look what he did to me.  Look how he treats me.”  Most of us don’t have millions of men and women and ESPN behind us, rooting for us to break free. YOU DO.  Please Janay, take advantage.  If not for yourself, for your daughter.

I wish I could have had proof.  Many times I took pictures of the bruises, but then I would panic and delete them, knowing he would find them and lose his mind and come after me. I thought about writing about it in my journal, but I was too afraid he’d find that too.  My black and blue proof would fade. And so I had nothing to point to or look back at.  And after awhile, the memory would soften and it didn’t seem like such a big deal anymore.

Way down though, I knew it wasn’t right. Unconsciously almost, I waited for someone to notice. Once or twice someone asked quietly, “Does he hurt you?”  But it was always at a moment when he was nearby and my instinct would kick in and I would lie. Because what were they going to do if I told them the truth?  Eventually, my Ex’s behavior escalated and things got really ugly.  I had to leave in a hurry for my own safety.  Don’t wait that long Janay, don’t wait for things to get worse than getting knocked unconscious before you realize you deserve more. Don’t stay in an abusive marriage, hoping for years and years that things will change, like I did.

And it can be so much better Janay. There are men out there who would never in a million years dream of hitting you.  Men who don’t have tempers that get out of control, and men who will respect you as an equal.

Oh, Janay, please call me.  I know that even if you happen to read this, you will think I’m just another person capitalizing on your personal pain. But you know what? I’m not. I’m just a girl who has been where you are.  And when I got out, I decided to dedicate my life to helping other women get out, too.

I know this:  sometimes it is hard to do things for yourself. You can ignore your own feelings and hurt because you love him.  But if this is how you feel Janay, you must take this opportunity to show your daughter what it means to be brave. Show her a strong woman who not only deserves respect, but insists upon it.

To read my original article “Thoughts on Ray Rice and The Secret Life of Abused Women” follow this link to YourTango.com.

SAS for Women gives women a place to go to be safe, to make a plan, and to reinvent themselves. Schedule your free consult with a SAS coach today.

The challenge of coping with divorce can be like putting a puzzle back together

What the Hell’s Wrong with Conscious Uncoupling?

We all made fun when Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin first announced their Conscious Uncoupling.  The UK Guardian called it “deluded tosh.”  The Daily News said it’s a “pretentious break-up phrase”. And individuals around the world chimed in with scathing comments and mocking tweets and ranting posts. But now with the news suggesting that Gwyneth and Chris have reconciled, can we consciously uncouple them from the conversation we should be having?

Regardless of your moral stance or your marital status, you need only look around to see that divorce is a social phenomenon with tragic consequences, and that the word “divorce” carries a social stigma, a stain of shame as much as it is a legal term for coming-apart. It’s not a pretty word, and it encases an even uglier experience. But we’ve grown used to the word, begrudgingly.  It’s the word that is used.  It’s the medal that marks us as losers.

I admit I have not listened to the five Conscious Uncoupling videos created by Katherine Woodward Thomas, the LA-based therapist and author who has suggested we look at break ups in a less destructive manner.  I have listened to her online seminar as way of entrée in, however.  And I was jolted.   Not because Woodward Thomas seemed shallow, or so ethereally new age-y as to be totally dismissed as gobbly “GOOP”; or that her five videos are priced at a remarkable $297 total, and thus not only for the rich and truffle-eating; but because Thomas’ words make perfect sense.  If only our culture were different.

Conscious Uncoupling asks that we reconsider how we break up and how we move forward.  For a lot of people this sounds radical for coping with divorce is supposed to mean blame and anger.  We are usually hell bent that the Other is to blame and as a result, this experience can only mean that it will be ugly. It may be litigious. We should hate our Ex and the time spent with him/her.  We should hate ourselves for having made the decision to couple up. We should regret.  We should self-loathe. Mea culpa, mea culpa.

But what Katherine Woodward Thomas begs us to recognize is a reality: “relationships have changed more in the past 50 years than in the past 50,000.  What we need and want from relationships is different from before. Due to our higher life expectancies, most of us are destined to go through 2 to 3 break ups during a life time.”

And that is precisely why it’s important to avoid mistakes as we separate and evolve the way we are breaking up. We need to develop ourselves so we never experience this kind of suffering again and to find a way to joy, to heal, and for restoring our lives and those of our loved ones.

Accepting that separations are an unavoidable reality of modern living allows us to develop the capacity for navigating through them and for finding the power within ourselves to move forward, to live more thoughtfully and to thrive because of all our hard-won wisdom.

We encourage you who are going through divorce to know that by jumping off the cliff and getting divorced, by some measures, you are already going against our cultural norms of “appropriate behavior.”  If you own that you are already flying in the face of convention, that your daring to live otherwise has you somewhere outside the box, then why would you buy into what others say you must do?  Why accept how others say you must behave, or how others say you must resolve your break up?  Dig deep and consider what is right for you and your family. Look into various means of getting through. What will be the healthiest journey for arriving on the Other Side? The real damage comes from ending and repeating the same mistakes that sabotage our own power to take hold of our lives.

We need to begin to challenge the idea that the end of a relationship is a defeat, a loss, a moral collapse; or that the 20th anniversary of marriage signifies some kind of morally-superior, seal of personal success. We need to accept that with people living longer than ever before, we evolve and grow; and that sometimes for people to thrive, to live life to the fullest, we must grow apart.  Sometimes, we must separate to live.

How will you consciously move forward? We offer free consultations so that you can ask questions and find out more about how we can support you — a woman who is looking to cope with divorce the healthiest way possible. Contact us to schedule your free 45-minute consultation (in person or via telephone) today.

children and divorce

Will the Kids Be All Right? Long-Term Effects of Divorce on Children

Talk to any splitting parent, and it’s the kids.

No matter where you are in the process — deliberating, looking for divorce help, separated, or even, “I’ve signed the divorce papers, but I still feel like I’m going crazy,” — if you are like I was, you worry: what about the kids?  How will my personal story play out?  How will my kids fare as “children of divorce?”

When I was debating my own divorce, I was fixated on my girls. Their well-being was the single most-deciding factor as to whether I would or not pursue the unspeakable. I had to find out.

In a detached “social scientist” kind of way, I asked various friends and acquaintances who were children of divorce. Did they feel okay? Did they think of themselves as reasonably adjusted? How screwed up were they as a result of their parents’ split? What I heard and discovered were answers that were decidedly mixed.

For example, while one female twenty-something friend was matter-of-fact, telling me the divorce in her family “was not even an issue,” another man in his forties still sounded tired. “There was so much fighting,” he sighed, “I wish they had done it earlier.” Others were more emotional. An old friend I went to college with seemed personally injured (all over again) when I conceded the question was really about me. I was considering divorce and I needed to know how she felt today. She was and is “scarred,” she replied growing cool. It may have happened more than thirty years later but she was still not willing to “forgive her parents.”

Then I looked to the professional community, I asked doctors, shrinks, and counselors, “What is best for the children?” But here, too, I learned no clear-cut answers. The uniform professional response was that when it comes to divorce they had seen both good and damaging results; but everyone I spoke to, in one way or another, encouraged me to reflect on the issue of conflict in the household.

How much conflict is too much?

I wondered. And by what standard of measurement?  We all know that in any relationship no two people always agree, but at what point does the number of disagreements cross the line? My husband and I were not good conflict-resolvers, so, as we grappled with divorce, how could we expect to resolve conflict over our conflict? It sounded like a vicious circle to me. I reflected and Googled more.

If only I could find the data on the long-term effects of divorce on children, I reasoned, I’d have clinical evidence. This information could guide my decision-making then and going forth. But what my forays in the dark turned up, was that just like the story of any marriage, there are always dissenting opinions and mitigating factors that prevent absolute clarity. There are few longitudinal studies that conclude anything decisive about kids and divorce.

The work of two of the better-known researchers, Judith Wallerstein and E. Mavis Hetherington seems at odds.  In The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: The 25 Year Landmark Study (2001), Wallerstein reports long-term negative effects on children of divorce. In For Better or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered (2003), Hetherington reports that not all kids fare so badly, and that divorce can actually help children living in high-conflict homes.

Seemingly oppositional, these studies also remain controversial for their methodologies.  They compare “children of divorced parents” as a group to kids whose parents “did not divorce.” The first group is never compared to those kids whose “parents almost divorced,” or to those whose parents “kept it together but fought every day,” or to those whose parents never fought.  It’s a flawed comparison.  It reveals only that being part of a happy family is better than being part of an unhappy one.

What is especially strange and surprising is that as much as divorce is a reality in American society, social science has not yet figured out a way to measure the nuances of our reality.

To some extent, Wallerstein and Hetherington do agree on one thing; as do all the studies and serious commentaries ranging from scholarly work to the more legit blogs to parenting magazines: divorce is bad. Divorce is a stressor that poses short and long term risks.

Learning from experience

What I have learned from my own divorce and subsequent divorce recovery work with clients is that the long-term effects on your children will usually depend on your divorce itself. A peaceful divorce ( — if that is not an oxymoron) or at least a more amicable divorce will have less negative impact on your kids.

Understand that conflict in the home does not always mean out of control fights or domestic abuse. Too few of us realize that all of our words and actions during and after a divorce affect our children. In fact, the actions and words shared between fighting parents are the leading cause of unhappiness in divorced children. For this parents must hold ourselves responsible. Individually or together, we splitting parents often send negative messages to our kids.

You’ve heard that “children are like dry sponges”? So are they also incredibly receptive to their parent’s feelings and the emotions one parent is feeling toward the other. Of course, no one intends to send the wrong message to his or her kids. But there is something about the crisis, our own drained, sleep-deprived or adrenalin-fueled state going through divorce that often has us letting loose or withdrawing, just when our kids need us the most.

Look to yourself first

If you are concerned about your children and divorce, then you must consider your own words and actions.  How will your behavior impact their recovery? Don’t look to others for how the divorce played out on their kids. Do focus on your goal: to minimize your children’s exposure to conflict and negativity.

Suggestion 1: Every day as you face and interact with your children, help them understand that the divorce is not their fault. Be open and available to them when they need to talk. As one client told me recently, her daughter is more anxious than she is usually, now that the separation is starting.  But to my client’s credit, she recognizes it’s not just words her daughter needs: “It’s the extra hug.”

Suggestion 2: Be there for your kids and also try to put in place a way for your children to receive additional support.  A therapist or counselor, as an objective sounding board, can do a lot to help your child understand what is happening and alleviate his/her sense of guilt for the circumstances.  Look for developmentally-appropriate books, videos and resources, too, that will help your child understand what s/he is going through.

Suggestion 3: Above all, show your children that you are a still a family no matter how you define your marital status. Your kids need good parents now more than ever, and this is your chance to do your best regardless of how things have been in the past.

SAS for Women is an invaluable resource for women contemplating a divorce or in the actual throes of divorce. SAS women are educated and prepared, while making smart and thoughtful decisions for everyone they love. You are invited to talk with SAS and learn what is possible for you through a FREE consultation. Schedule your confidential conversation here

bubbles floating in the air

Would You Believe Me If I Told You There Is Life After Divorce?

There is life after divorce. You probably don’t believe me because you are in a dark and lonely place right now. It feels like a black cloud is hovering over you and everything feels gray and ugly. You can’t imagine that you will love anyone else or that s/he will want to love you. You feel as if everything is broken and ruined. If you don’t have kids, you may think that window is closed. If you do have children, you may be overwhelmed by the idea of being a single parent after the divorce. The future seems dismal and the thought of simply getting up in the morning is exhausting. You sleep too much or you don’t sleep at all, you eat too much or you don’t eat anything. It feels like life has ended but you are still here, biding time, painfully and slowly.

It will change, though.  Slowly, but surely, you will feel better.

New people will come into your life and fill those awful empty places.

The black cloud will show up every other day at first; then once a week, then once a month, and then only once in a great while.  You will get small bursts of energy and feel inspired to exercise a bit or call a friend or clean out a closet.  These small accomplishments will lift your spirits and spur you to consider more and then tackle the next thing. You will idly wonder, “Would I ever get married again?”

New friends, new neighbors, perhaps a new love will show up and you will be able to see things through their eyes. These people will come into your life and breathe fresh air into it. Maybe you will decide, “It’s quite lovely to be single and only answering to me!” or perhaps you will think, “Ok, I might get married again, if the right person came along.” It all depends on what you want and what you re-discover about yourself.

During the dark days of my own divorce, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be tangled up in a relationship, let alone a marriage, ever again. In fact, I swore I wouldn’t. But later as I progressed through my divorce recovery, I realized that I liked being married once upon a time.  I liked having a companion, someone to come home to, a partner in life.  And I realized that I could like it again, with the right person.

One day I met someone who changed the way I viewed the world.  He gave me perspective and compassion and love. Slowly I started to trust it, to trust him, and the dark stormy days faded to a distant memory. Eventually we married, we bought a house, and now? Now I have a beautiful little boy at the age of 44. I am fulfilled in a way that I never knew was possible.

I don’t tell you this story to imply that “In your life after divorce, you, too, can have a new husband, a new house and bouncing baby boy!”  That’s what I discovered I wanted.  What I am telling you is that you can have what you want and right now, you might not even know.  It may take you awhile to figure out what that is, but that’s ok.  Take your time.  The more you invest in yourself now, the more you commit to working on you, the better you will be.

To be honest, this is not just about someone walking into your life and turning everything around, though that would be nice. No, it’s about a process that unfolds. It’s about healing.

What I had to do, and what you must do now, is go on a journey to deal with the divorce.  It’s not easy; sometimes there is a steep learning curve, with many ups, downs, twists and turns.  You must wade through the legal process, the financial process, and the logistics of getting through each day so that you can get on with the most important element of your recovery: your emotional healing.

I had to do a lot of reflection and take active steps before I could allow myself to even envision a future with someone new. I had to find out if I could cut it alone. I had to face my own lack of confidence and learn to trust myself. It took time and a focus on myself. I had to work on getting myself anchored before I could dream and hope again.

So trust me when I say, be kind and be patient with yourself.  With time, this blinding storm will pass, the skies will clear, and the vista that appears will take your breath away.  You will figure out what you want your life to look like as you step into it.  There is life after divorce, I promise.

I founded SAS for Women with my partner Liza Caldwell to help women cope with divorce. Liza and I remember what it feels like to be in your place, where the possibility of love or happiness sounds like fiction written for somebody else. You can stay in that place for a very long time, we know. Or you can choose to do something about it.

SAS for Women is an all female practice dedicated to the unexpected challenges of Women in Divorce. Women have untold things to consider when contemplating a divorce. And experience even more chaos when actually faced with divorce. SAS clients find much needed clarity when clarity can actually determine an outcome. Schedule your free consult to experience how.

listening to divorce advice when you're ready

Your Shocking Post-Divorce Behavior

We all know her. She’s that crazy divorcée.  But she’s not interested in your opinion or your divorce advice because “how would you know??” She’s fine. In fact, she’s better than ever!

She’s just signed up for THE BEST tantric workshop, a class she’s always “longed to do” but never had the time for. You wonder how she’ll make it to that class, this woman you used to know, because she seems so tired these days. Is she carousing?

Then you see her later, driving, in a little lime green thing, a sporty rig, she’s leased. Maybe she’s smoking. She waves and pulls over to chat with you like she’s on some other timeline when you mention, in a well-intentioned kind of way, that nicotine is not so good for her; but that, that purple streak in her auburn locks looks amazing.

She doesn’t hear you. She’s taking another drag and checking her OKCupid emails. You’ve seen the logo before, you recognize the layout.  You mention again that she should take care of herself, when she replies, she’s gotta run. She’s taking her kids out of school. To play hooky. They’re going to have pizza.  And it’s only Tuesday.

You are in shock. But not so frozen that you’ve suspended judgement.

Until now, flash forward, you are facing your own divorce, and guess what?

You may be headed with her.

Oh, you won’t stay there for long, but you will sow your oats, too. You will act out.  You will go backward and frontward and lurch to the side, looking for the life you’ve always thought you didn’t have but always wanted. Then there will come a point where you won’t want to stay there anymore.  You will slow down and grow calmer as a sense of peace begins to come from within. You’ll start to actually listen to whatever divorce advice you’ve been ignoring, letting what works for you into your life and tossing everything else by the wayside. How do we know? Because we’ve been there, tottering around in those crazy-ass stilettos.

It would be good for you to know this now, that there will come a time in your divorce recovery, when you are finally experiencing freedom you haven’t had in awhile, if ever.  And mark our words, it will be THRILLING!  You will not care what people think. You will be doing what you want because YOU CAN! You will only have yourself to answer to, and after all you have been through, this moment feels euphoric because, well, it is.

You will shed your old self, your old hang ups, your old high-waisted pants, and those toxic people who held you down. You’ll experiment with your looks, your hair; you’ll buy stylish new clothes. You’ll reconnect with old friends and find common ground with new ones. You will sleep around—just a little or a lot.

You will open yourself up to new thoughts, new restaurants, and new places to go. Maybe you will get that makeup treatment you’ve always wanted because your energy is coming back, and your self-esteem—it’s growing too.  You will go to the movies by yourself.  You will start a journal because you are becoming more self-aware and more grateful. You will be trying on new things, both literally and figuratively as you find yourself and your new identity.

But as your divorce coaches, and women who have been there…

Let us also share a little divorce advice

You may feel a little “Jekyll and Hyde” when this time comes around. You will seek thrills and yet, you will still be terrified; you will feel victorious and independent one moment and then defeated and lonely the next.  You will have a sense of hopefulness for the future, but still, you will fear the unknown.  Understand that this is where you will need to be then.  It will be perfectly normal and oddly appropriate. This is the erratic part of your divorce recovery. Things will be in flux, but you will need to give yourself permission to work and dance through this phase because it is vital. It’s a rite of passage. And it’s temporary.

But when you arrive here, proceed with caution.

You will still have a lot to figure out. You will have to face the practicalities of life and the aftermath of your divorce, the remaining details and decisions, big and small.  Despite your urge to experiment, you will remember, you’ve come too far to abandon your responsibilities completely.

You will need to help your children adjust to the new rhythms of life at home, and they will need you to be reliable. You will still have to perform at your job or perhaps get your résumé together to go back to work. You might be in the middle of selling your house, hunting for a new one, or setting up your new household.  Whatever life is handing you in your official post-divorcedom, you will have to deal with it. And for your future, you will continue to plan and listen to divorce advice.

Your challenge right then and there will be to find yourself—and your growing power.  How will the new, brilliant and beautiful you manage the tactical requirements of your life?

More unsolicited advice

When you hit this place of being single again, give yourself some rope to swing on.  Enjoy, pump, kick out, and swing high!  But don’t give yourself so much rope that you get caught and hang yourself.  Be careful with the big decisions that roost here.  They may have bigger consequences on your family, your career, your health, and your financial future.  Be patient for the dust to settle and try to compartmentalize your time.  Give yourself permission and time to play. For example, when your Ex has the kids, make your time yours.  When the kids are with you, or during the work week, hunker down and be the best mom possible.

One of the surprisingly, good side-effects of divorce is that you get a fresh start, a chance to make the changes in your life that will make you happy for the long haul. When you hit that place, take care of necessities, compartmentalize, and embrace your inner Jekyll and Hyde. It’s the divorce advice we wish we had received, and it’s the necessary bumpy but exciting ride you must go through to get to the other side.

What do you need to take care of while you swing high? Let us support you as you move through and forward. Connect with us for your free “Map to the Next Step” session.