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Coparenting Children’s Birthdays after divorce

Coparenting Through Children’s Birthdays After Divorce

Despite the high divorce rates, the end of a marriage is never easyespecially when you’re the one getting divorced. Obviously, it’s not easy for you or (most likely) your Ex. And it’s definitely difficult for your children. Children of divorce tend to wonder about things like what part they played in the breakup of their family and how their lives will change. For this reason, successful coparenting through children’s birthdays can be especially important.

Ideally, you will be able to coparent with your Ex and continue to provide your children with the love, support, and structure they need so they can begin to understand that your divorce isn’t about them. One way this can happen is if you’re able to celebrate your children’s special events like birthdays, graduations, and weddings as one happy, well-adjusted, expanded family.

As ideal as this sounds, it may not be a reality for you right now. (And it might never be if your ex is a narcissist and/or unable to coparent.) Right now, you might need to work toward truly being able to successfully coparent through your children’s birthdays after divorce. If this is your situation, remember that working toward something is hugely important to making it happen!

The Importance of Birthdays

Children love celebrating their birthdays. They excitedly wait for their special day to arrive. And when it does, they are the center of attention.

As adults, it is easy for us to believe that if we cannot work together right now to throw a joint birthday party for our child, that two separate ones will be just as goodif not better! (Assuming, of course, that you don’t turn the 2 parties into a competition.)

However, that’s not how young children (3 – 5 years old) view it. Children in this age range tend to believe that they age because they have a birthday party, according to research by Dr. Jacqueline Wooley. So, children in this age range would tend to believe that two birthday parties would mean they’ve aged two years instead of just one.

As adorable as this might be to contemplate, it is quite confusing for the child. And if their parents have also recently divorced, it is just confusion on top of confusion.

As children age, however, the idea of 2 birthday parties can become more appealing. Yet their ideal is still to have one party which their entire family attends.

Navigating Expenses for a Shared Birthday Party

If you can celebrate your child’s birthday together, who pays for what can often become a point of contention. It is not unheard of for one parent to plan the event with no regard to budget and simply expect the other to pay for it. This is not successful coparenting.

Coparenting through a child’s birthday after divorce requires communicationjust as every other facet of successful coparenting does. It doesn’t mean you each have to do exactly 50% of everything involved in throwing the party. It simply means that you don’t surprise the other with a bill or anything else at the end.

The size or extravagance of birthday celebrations after divorce may also be different due to differing financial situations. Your children may be disappointed that instead of the usual trip they had become used to, this year’s celebration will be a gathering of friends and family at home.

And as sad as you might feel about not being able to do this, the truth is that so long as you and your coparent take time to celebrate your child and let them know how much you love them, that is what your child needs more than a trip or a new iPhone.

Quality Over Quantity

Coparenting through your child’s birthday after divorce is really about the quality of the connection you have with your childnot about the number of gifts, the number of friends in attendance, or which parent spent the most. It is about the love, support, and structure you provide for your child as you celebrate their birthday and every other day of the year.

Divorce isn’t easyespecially for the kids. However, if you and your Ex can find even small ways to successfully coparent especially for special occasions like holidays and birthdays, you can go a long way toward building a strong foundation for your entire extended family. And, who knows, you may wind up being one of those families who can come together with new spouses and step-kids to celebrate life.

 

Whether you are considering a divorce or already navigating the confusing experience, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce. 

“A successful divorce requires smart steps, taken one at a time.” ~ Liza Caldwell, SAS Cofounder.

Make a move to support what’s possible for you and your children, hear feedback on your challenges, and learn specific black & white steps to take based on your story: schedule your free consultation now.

Causes of Divorce

The Most Insidious Causes of Divorce: 107 Women Tell Their Truths

Whether you’re considering divorce or working through its aftereffects, it’s normal to fixate on why. What caused this and where did the problems begin? Who or what is to blame? In an effort to uncover the most common causes of divorce, SAS surveyed 107 women about why they are divorcing their husbands*, and some of their responses may actually surprise you.

Infidelity, as one of the most viscerally painful causes of divorce, gets a lot of press as a catalyst for ruining a marriage. What the SAS survey uncovered as the biggest trigger for divorce, however, was something seemingly less explosive and certainly teachable.

Top Causes of Divorce: You’re Not Listening

The leading cause for divorce was “bad communication,” or just a lack of it. Not feeling heard or understood was what 18 percent of women said led them to dissolve their marriages. Add that to the 12 percent who said “constant fighting” was the biggest cause of divorce and the one percent who simply named “silence,” and that means that faulty communication made up 31 percent of women’s reasons for divorce.

That’s a huge portion of divorces: almost one third of the 107 women we surveyed.

In fact, when this writer asked a small group of five people (three women and two men) who describe themselves as “happily married” what their the secrets were, “good communication” was among the top two most important building blocks to their success.

The first answer that two of the “happily married” women gave was simply “Therapy!”

The same two followed that up by saying that they went to therapy in large part to learn how to communicate better, and that good communication was hugely important in keeping their partnerships functional and strong.

One of the “happily marrieds”, a woman in her early 50s, has been married for 17 years. She owns and runs a successful business with her husband and was previously married. The other, in her early 30s, was also married once before and has been with her current husband for 11 years. Both of them have children from both marriages and work in and outside the home.

“If I say to him, ‘you’re this’ or ‘you did that,’ he shuts down, but if I say ‘It’s hurtful when this happens,’ he’ll listen,” said Makenzi.

Darby said therapy taught her to process first and come back to the conversation later, to pick her battles, and to breathe through her own reactions before speaking.

Dancing in the Sheets and Dating Your Husband

“Someone asked me why we’re so happy together if we fight so often,” said Darby, laughing. “I said ‘Well, the sex is phenomenal.’”

The SAS survey rooted out 7 percent of women naming a “lack of intimacy or connection” and another 7 percent identifying “infidelity” as the leading causes of divorce. They did not disclose whether the extramarital affairs were their own or their husband’s. On that note, though, women of the millennial and baby boomer generations are upending the old stereotype of the hubby coming home with lipstick on his collar. In fact, millennial women are running neck and neck with men for cheating on their respective spouses.

Sexual expression is a foundational part of connection, trust, joy and loving actively. It is an important indicator of good mental and emotional health for a lot of people. Happier couples identify sexual compatibility and having sex at least once a week as one of their important indicators of happiness.

Child-Free Life

Ironically, while regular and enthusiastic sex is part of a happy marriage, the product that can come of this activity is not. Despite how fulfilling it is to raise children, they are a significant stress factor. It may not be a popular perspective, but remaining sexually active yet child-free is often a mark of a vibrant, less taxed marriage.

Of the five people I interviewed, three named sexual compatibility among their top three priorities. Both Darby and Makenzi said that having regular date nights and staying sexually connected are critical to their own happiness and the health of their marriages.

After all, if a marriage is more of a family business or a merger, then it leaves out a foundational, biologically inscribed part of what it means to be human.

If you’re both not interested in sex, fantastic. But if only one of you is uninterested, perhaps it’s time to let the one who is still sexually percolating have a boyfriend or a girlfriend. Because, otherwise, isn’t it a little selfish and withholding?

Paul, a 49-year-old father of two who has been married for more than 20 years to the same woman, put it most succinctly.

“Sex I don’t have to fight for,” was his off-the-cuff description of what makes a good marriage.

Working Together

If marriage is a bicycle, the wheels do need to roll in the same direction. When one partner spins off on a new life path, as often happens with dynamic, self-actualized human beings, the other partner can’t carry the whole thing forward alone. If both people can’t work in tandem, one of them inevitably breaks off. Understandably, this inability to work together is one of the top causes of divorce.

A good marriage takes into account not only the journey of the couple, but the individual experience of each person.

“You have to have time to yourself and with each other,” said Sherry, who has been happily married to her husband for 53 years. They married when he was 18 and she was a pregnant 16-year-old. They have two daughters, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. They’ve also made it through her husband’s personality-changing stroke.

Hallmarks of a True Partnership

She and her husband play Mr. and Mrs. Claus together every Christmas, but Sherry’s individual activity is a lot less fluffy: she’s been doing cardio kickboxing classes for years. And incidentally, working together was her first rule of thumb for a good marriage, but good communication was the second. After all, how would you work together if you’re not talking and listening to each other about what and how well you’re doing it?


Thinking about divorce? But too scared to take a step, because any step could be one you’d regret?

Breathe. Then read “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.

 


Sherry’s comments touched on a few other catalysts for divorce that the SAS survey unearthed. Among them? Growing apart or evolving in different directions. Women also cited “Empty Nesting,” as one of the main causes of divorce because it makes a couple realize their kids kept them together as their only common ground.

Additionally, sometimes a union suffers too many traumas. Sherry and her husband climbed some steep hills right out of the gates, which primed them for challenges. But had they both sustained a life-altering illness, for example, or a career change turned the partnership into a long-distance one, it may have taxed the elasticity of their marriage too much.

“Sometimes when illness happens, you have to re-learn each other, and that can be challenging, but all of us change every five years or so,” she said.

“You have to know who you are so you can grow together, and so—when the kids leave the house and all the dust settles–you’re not staring at each other across the table, thinking, ‘I don’t know you… and I’m not sure I like you.’”

We Don’t Want the Same Things

A lot of factors identified in the SAS survey break down a couple’s ability to function as a team. Eight percent of respondents said a “disconnect in the value system” was their cause of divorce. That term covers a lot of ground. It could be just another way to describe sexual incompatibility.

“I still think monogamy is the answer to most people’s need for physical and emotional connection,” said Sam, a 49-year-old therapist and a divorced father of a teen.

“But it’s still a hard expectation for one person to meet all those needs.”

Needs don’t just refer to sexual ones. Value system changes also incorporate midlife crises in women and men; giving too much weight to the opinions of extended family members; addictions that one or both partners refuse to surrender; not seeing eye to eye on how to raise the children, and money problems. These causes of divorce can run the gamut from shopping or gambling addiction, hiding credit card debt, underemployment, or not telling your spouse about an investment or business venture that fails. Or, perhaps one spouse supports the other during advanced college courses but never sees the financial reward because the newly degreed trades them in for a new model.

Value Imbalance in the Household

Value imbalances are some of the top causes of divorce. One type of this imbalance involves the “second shift,” the housework that women almost always shoulder when they finish their day job.

Housekeeping is essentially a second, part-time, unpaid job and it is often ignored by male spouses. Women often feel like the maid or hired help. Men may prefer having clean clothes in the closet, not tripping over Legos in the living room, or being able to see the bottom of the kitchen sink, but not enough to actually contribute to the labor. They will even feign ignorance of how to perform a household chore (such as “I didn’t know which part of the dishwasher this went in.”) Right.

Couples who communicate about their housekeeping expectations, define their jobs clearly and then do them without their spouse having to ask or remind them are the ones creating marriages defined as “happy.”

Abuse

It’s frightening how many women who SAS surveyed named domestic abuse as the reason for their divorces: 15 percent. Abuse can be physical, emotional, or psychological. Women are more likely to encounter physical abuse, but men are coming forward with stories of psychological abuse by their wives, such as lying, verbal abuse, and manipulation.

Abuse often stems from a loss of control or a need for power. Sometimes abuse stems from physical illnesses that affect the brain, such as MS or stroke, but in other cases, personality disorders and other mental illnesses are a factor.

ADHD and anger management issues can be managed very well, but only if the individual is willing to unlearn behaviors. Abusers must take responsibility for the damage they’re doing to the people around them. Abuse is frequently exacerbated by drinking, drugs and other addictions.

Four percent of SAS surveyed-women identified narcissism as the final straw for divorcing their husbands. Narcissism is defined by an inflated sense of importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a total lack of empathy for others. Narcissistic traits such as gaslighting, lying, redirection, taking no responsibility for self, having no empathy or regard for other people’s feelings are subtle and hard to spot at first. If your gut is telling you something is wrong, don’t discount it. Talk to a professional and get help getting out.

Loveless Marriage

He may even just come right out and say it: I don’t love you anymore. There are few things that will hurt as badly. At the end of the day, there is no way to salvage a marriage where love doesn’t live in both people. Sometimes, he won’t say it but you know anyway. We can tell when we’ve become invisible to our spouse or when we are no longer cherished.

Monogamy and marriage take tenacity, imagination and an ability to see each other as the new beings we become over the years. Comfort is one thing but too much laziness in a marriage will starve it.

As Sherry said, “You have to remember why you first fell in love.”

 

Notes

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer, former print journalist, and feature writer living on the West Coast. Nicknamed Verbose at a young age, she loves word craft but has to keep a short leash on her fondness for the profane. Jennifer enjoys compelling content and the liberty to write about interesting contributors and innovative ideas. Connect with Jennifer at verbosej@hotmail.com.

 

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce or rebuilding your life post-divorce, the most important decision you can make is to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. SAS offers all women six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you. Join our tribe and stay connected.

*At SAS, we support same sex marriage. We may refer to your Ex as “he” or “husband” for the sake of ease.

Support kids through divorce

7 Ways to Lovingly Support Your Kids Through Divorce

Whether you’re contemplating, planning, or coparenting after divorce, if you’re a parent it’s vitally important that your children are your top priority. Before making any decisions regarding divorce issues, put yourself in their shoes in order to best support your kids. Think about the consequences for them. See the outcome through the eyes of your five, ten, or fifteen-year-old. Ask yourself, what will they say about this when they are grown adults? Will they thank me for the way I handled the divorce, or be angry and resentful about my attitude and behavior?

The choices you make will affect your children for years and, yes, decades to come. For their sake, try to take the high road and be the role model they will come to respect and later want to emulate.

Here are some helpful tips for mindfully supporting the children you love before, during, and long after your divorce.

Before Divorce: Avoid Showing Conflict Around the Kids!

  1. Studies show time and again that conflict and tension around children creates the most difficulties for them related to divorce. It’s not the divorce itself! Parents can ease the process for their kids by eliminating battles, disrespectful behavior, and emotional outburst anywhere near the kids. That means no fighting on the phone, in another room, during pick-ups and drop-offs, or when talking with friends within earshot of your child.
  2. When you belittle, put down, or in any way disrespect your child’s other parent, regardless of how justified it may feel, it hurts your children in deep and long-lasting ways.

    Kids innately love and feel connected to both their parents. When you insult their other parent, it creates confusion, guilt, sadness, anger, insecurity, and low self-esteem.

    Instead, support your kids by reminding them that you will always be their parents and will always love them. Reassure them that no one will replace their parents either. “We will both always love you and be there for you, no matter where we live or how things should change.” Then make it your business to do the right thing on their behalf.

  3. Don’t wait for emotional or behavioral problems to appear. It is often wise to talk to a coparenting coach or family therapist in advance about issues worth your attention when assisting your children through divorce. Or schedule a few sessions with your children so they can express their anxiety, fear, anger, etc., and feel heard by an objective, third party. Ask friends, pediatricians, clergy, divorce coaches, or school professionals for referrals to professionals experienced with helping children through divorce.

During Divorce: Separate without Blaming or Shaming Your Kids

  1. It is common for children to blame themselves for the divorce no matter how bad their parents’ relationship has been. The younger the child, the more likely it is for this to occur. Sit down together and talk to your kids, emphasizing that they are in no way at fault. You can say something like:“Sadly, Mom and Dad* don’t agree about certain key issues and that has created conflict. Even when some of the things are about you, it does not mean you are to blame. You are an innocent child we both love. We disagree about some things—but not about our love for you. You are not to blame for our divorce.”
  2. Divorce always results in change within the family. Some of those changes can be challenging. Others will be beneficial and create a more peaceful environment for your children. It is important to address these issues. Remind the kids that the family is changing in some ways, but change is an inevitable part of life and not necessarily bad. Let your children see that everything around us keeps changing. “You grow bigger every year. Seasons change, clothing styles change, your school classes change. Sometimes it takes a while to get used to changes, like when you get a new teacher or try a new sport. In time you may come to like these new changes. Let’s give it a try.”

When is it Parental Estrangement and when is it Parental Alienation?

Read more and learn the difference.


As challenging as it may be, always keep from pointing fingers or blaming their other parent when talking to the kids about the divorce. It bears repeating: they love both parents and shouldn’t be judged nor shamed for this. Remember, it’s your divorce, not theirs!

After Divorce: Coparent with Mindful Love and Attention to Support Your Kids!

  1. Prioritize spending time and attention with your children. With all the stress in your life, it’s easy to overlook your kid’s need for stability and security. The best source for that support is you. It’s easy to take solace with friends or bury yourself in work, but keep in mind that your children need your support more than ever right now. Your love and attention are the most valuable resources you can share with them. Make sure you are generous with both!
  2. Let your kids still be kids. That means never burdening them with adult responsibilities beyond their age level. Your children should not become your messengers. Use texts or online scheduling tools for that! They are not your confidants either. Contact coparenting coaches and counselors for vital support you need. Never share adult content with them, as tempting as it may be, even with your teens. It halts their childhood innocence and throws them into your parental drama. Their brains aren’t developed enough to digest it. And they certainly can’t fix your damaged relationship. So, it’s not only foolish, it’s selfish.

Remember, divorce imposes changes within the family that your children never asked for. With these suggestions in mind, support your kids in ways that deepen your relationship at a time when they need it most. They’ll thank you when they are grown!

Notes

Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach. She’s the author of How Do I Tell the Kids About The Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide To Preparing Your Children – With Love! To get her coaching services, programs, e-courses, and other valuable resources along with her free ebook on co-parenting success strategies, visit her website here.

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

*At SAS, we support same-sex marriage. For simplicity, we may refer to the spouse as “he” or “husband.”

Life after divorce

How to Overcome the 6 Hardest Things About Life After Divorce

People talk a lot about what it’s like to get a divorce, but those conversations don’t often extend to what life after divorce is like. Because, unless you’ve been divorced, you don’t quite get what this next phase is really all about.

During divorce, there’s a certain process: you have items to research, things to get educated about, decisions to make, meetings to attend, paperwork to file, and on and on—all of which are black and white steps you had to take to complete the business transaction of “dissolving” your marriage. And while those steps felt overwhelming, frightening, and generally all over the place (you may be or have been sad, in shock, mad as hell, disappointed, betrayed, in denial, or numb), the process, nevertheless, had a way of keeping you grounded. You had a goal. To get through a “negotiated” document, sign it, and obtain a divorce.

Now, as you look around in your new life after divorce, your sense of time — and what to do with it — is different. Even if you are struggling and fighting for survival, your mind and heart may be ruminating on the past and on “the who” you will become.

Yes, your life after divorce will be your juiciest stage if you are open to it

This is the “finding yourself” stage, and we urge you to have no shame about it.

Discovering and taking care of yourself will include preparing for what’s coming in your life where possible (implementing best practices that give you structure) and also learning to let go. This stage involves taking time to consider deeply your story so far, what brought you to the end of your marriage/relationship, and the good and bad roles you played.

Discovering who you are can get messy in a different way than where you’ve been. You can’t blame your husband for everything anymore. It’s time to pick up your baggage.

Based on our work coaching women, here are six of the hardest things about life after divorce—and more importantly, what you can do about them to make room for the good stuff. Okay, now deep breath…

1. It’s gone. Your life as you knew it

Sounds obvious, but a few of us are Resistors to Reality, women who spend months (years?) in denial about the fundamental impact divorce will have (or has had) on our lives.

A Resistor to Reality might strive to or blindly maintain the lifestyle she had when married—going on similar vacations, eating out at trendy, higher end restaurants, or placing groceries inside her cart without checking the price or quantity (so accustomed is she to buying “for everybody”). She might be paying the mortgage on an oversized and overpriced home because she either feels she is owed it, can’t face the prospect of change, or doesn’t want a move to “affect the kids.” She might be worried about downscaling for fear she’ll lose her friends or her social standing.

But now we all know, no matter how “amicable” the end of our marriages were, divorce has a way of turning our lives upside down. Divorce will take you outside your comfort zone. Divorce is about change.

Ideally, you started to metabolize these changes during the divorce process, and if you haven’t, your life after divorce is going to be harder—not just materially but psychologically and emotionally. The sooner you come to terms with your new reality the sooner you can adjust, redirect, and start shaping the future you want. Working with a divorce coach –during the divorce process, or as you rebuild your life — will help you understand what you can and cannot do as you actualize your best next chapter.

You may not feel it yet, but inside this vast unknown of Life After Divorce — there is a great, big beautiful life waiting for you.

2. Even when you do your best, your children will feel the effects of divorce

You’re a woman, not a robot. During and after divorce, your emotions may remain scattered, frayed, or short-wired. Everyday decisions may seem insurmountable. You try to be strong, to let it all roll off your back, because you want to be the best mother possible. You want your children to see you stand tall instead of falling apart. But you will have bad days, just like we all do. You slip. You might vent about your Ex to your children. Or they’ll overhear (eavesdrop?) you badmouthing him to a friend or family member in a moment of frustration or desperation.

No matter how old your children are—even if they are adults or not living at home anymore—divorce will impact them. It may affect their outlook and their ability to connect with others, including you and your Ex. Your splitting up will alter holidays and family functions. And although you may feel some closure with your Ex after the divorce document is signed or he’s no longer living in the same house, if you have children, he* will always be in your life.

Divorce may mean communicating with your ex-partner whom you never communicated well with before. You may be dealing with things like support orders and visitations, drop-offs and pick-ups. Your children’s lives will be disrupted, and afterward, each of you will have to figure out how to move forward and create a new life together.

According to the research, you can best support your children (and thus, yourself) through divorce, and life afterward, by being mindful of the ongoing conflict between you and your Ex. Children who suffer the most are those whose parents keep the hostility alive, who don’t aim to try to do things as amicably as possible. It is not, as you might guess, the history of your marriage when you all lived together in the same house, but how you two (you and your spouse) navigate the divorce.

When dealing with your children directly, among the best things you can do is to acknowledge their pain and perspective and not badmouth their father. Listen to them. Understand that while the reasons for your divorce might be obvious to you, they are less so to your children. You can help them feel less confused by being straight and honest and keeping the lines of communication open instead of shutting yourself off from the world. This does not mean treating your kids as an equal (even if they are “old souls” or “smart” or so-called “adults”) but being open about issues surrounding the divorce in an age-appropriate way.

Should you tell your kids you are leaving their dad because he cheated? Because he embezzled money? Because he’s an addict? We urge you not to share the gorier details until you and your children are out of the heat, down the road, when your kids are grown up.

If you wonder how to break the news to your kids, need support parenting as a single woman or coparenting with a challenging Ex, or would even like books that you could read aloud to your children, consider our post on the 35 best books on divorce.

3. Certain friends and family have “disappeared”

Divorce means change and you’re probably feeling this, socially and family-wise. It’s a huge awakening for many of us that friends we thought were so tried and true have disappeared or become mute. It’s as if they fear your divorce might be contagious.

Though we’ve come a long way culturally, lessening the stigma of divorce, meaningful people in our lives might still pick sides—whether they are forced to by your Ex, feel compelled to out of a sense of fierce loyalty, or have a preference to be with the “more fun” or more moneyed-spouse. This hurts. And it not only shocks, but it cuts to the bone, especially if you have little or no friendships outside of those you formed with your Ex during your marriage. You may be feeling bereft as you start off your new life.

When it comes to family, it’s clichéd but true: blood is often thicker than water. You may have had a great relationship with your Ex’s family, for instance. Maybe they’re a big clan and fun and tightknit—and you always had a particular connection with some of them. Getting a divorce, though, can cause them to draw a line and side with their blood relative. The wonderful relationship you had with them is no mas.

In the wake of the space left vacant by others, it’s important for you to touch in with yourself and find new hobbies and interests—this will help you discover new people. Push yourself to get outside so you shift your mindset, to take up an activity you’ve always wanted to but never “had the time” for before, to volunteer or travel. You can even join a support group with other divorced women who understand what you’re going through and who are committed to recreating their lives healthily — with intention — too.

4. An empty house

Coming home after work, making dinner for yourself, eating it alone, and not having someone to share your day with (if you’ve always had that) has a way of making you feel like you have no purpose. This is even the case with divorced women who didn’t have a lot to say to their Ex in the evening hours while married. But somehow watching Jeopardy in silence or a movie you both enjoyed now seems particularly enviable. At least you could hear another person breathing.

If you have children, the silence in your home when they are staying with their dad can be deafening at first. All the sounds children make means lives are being lived, and the emptiness left in their place can leave you feeling lonely and unanchored. Who are you if your children don’t need you?

But know that this is just a phase, new pains that you will overcome. There is a big difference between being alone and being lonely. You may not be able to change the former, but you can change your mindset and decide that you never have to be the latter.

Use this time to reflect, to read, or to enjoy a quiet activity. Maybe you’ll become vegan (ha! Your Ex was such a carnivore!). Or you’ll adopt a dog from the humane society. Or you’ll use this time in the evening to meditate, do yoga, or go to the gym.

This alone time is important to your divorce recovery. You must come to terms with yourself and rediscover who you are before you can rebuild your life in a meaningful way or even show up whole and healed in your next meaningful relationship.

5. The shock of being “replaced”

Your Ex might start dating right after the divorce. He may even begin to date during your divorce proceedings. In either case, this can feel like a punch to the gut. Did he ever really love you? How could he date so quickly? What does she have that you don’t? Even if you wanted the divorce, it’s not easy to keep the green-eyed monster of jealousy at bay when you see or hear that the man you’d thought you’d spend the rest of your life with is hooking up (or more) with someone else. It can feel like torture.

Take heart, it’s not uncommon for many spouses to appear like they are “moving on” immediately after divorce, and some begin to date and sometimes remarry fairly soon. Those who do are often responding to the feelings of loneliness and/or the conventional understanding of what happiness is (to be married). If this is your Ex, he may not be pausing to reflect and heal from what you and he have been through.

The odds that his next relationship will be any happier than yours with him are very low. Very low indeed. He is simply not doing the work you know you must do in the early phases of your life after divorce.

To help lessen your pain, make sure you avoid contact with your Ex when possible, or places that remind you of him for a healthy period of time. Tell your friends (the good ones you still have) that you do not want to be kept au courante to what he is doing socially. It will hurt you. You are trying to look in another direction, with a goal of caring for yourself and nourishing you.

Develop a new daily routine that cultivates you, strengthen bonds with your family and friends, and makes space for you to metabolize all you’ve been through. Which brings us to our critical number 6 on the list. Keep reading.

6. Learning to let go and adapting to the Unknown

When you were married, you had a certain vision of your future. You probably had dreams of how you would retire, where it might be, who your social circles would be, what you would do, and maybe how often your grandchildren would visit. Divorce has changed all that. In your life after divorce, one of the hardest things is accepting that you must let go … let go all the dreams that involved him and, yes, others.

You must grieve and take stock of all the losses you have lived through. And recognize that you may not be grieving your husband so much as you are grieving a way of being and the fantasy that was your marriage.

Letting go means letting go of the idea that we can control everything

Life after divorce can be a painful time—it can also be a crazy time—but it is not a static time. The journey is not over. It’s just reached a particular place where it’s time for you to process your grief and reconnect with you and who you want to be. This is your work now.

After divorce, your canvas is blank. The slate is wiped clean. And as you stare at it, wondering, you might not have a clue what you want to fill it with. But let us assure you, you have no clue the marvelous things awaiting you. The hardest part is just getting started. Dare to discover. Pick up the paintbrush and begin.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS to partner them through the challenging experience of divorce and recreation. Now you can learn the Art of Reinvention post-divorce. Secure female-centered support and wise next steps as you rebuild your life — practically, financially, romantically, smartly — with  Palomas Group, our virtual, post-divorce group coaching class, for women only. To promote sisterhood and protect confidentiality, space is limited.

*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”

When Your Child Refuses to Visit Father

5 Must Do’s When Your Child Refuses to Visit Their Father

One of the more complex issues in coparenting after divorce is balancing your needs with your child’s needs. This is especially challenging when your child refuses to visit a parent based on the agreements made with your coparent, such as visitation time.

Some children do not want to spend time with their father* or other parent and refuse to go. This may be because of inconvenience in their life schedule: preferring to be with friends, participating in a planned event, avoiding the hassles of changing homes, travel, etc.

More troublesome is when the refusal is of a more emotional nature: saying I don’t have fun at daddy’s house, I don’t like daddy, he’s too strict, there’s nothing to do, he doesn’t spend any time with me, etc.

Obviously, the emotional argument demands more attention to unravel what’s going on.

And it requires your most objective perspective focused on listening, acknowledging, and responding as well as looking within.

  1. LISTEN ATTENTIVELY

Ask questions and listen to your child’s response about what they’re feeling—and try to figure out why your child refuses to visit their other parent. Put yourself in your child’s shoes and see the world from their perspective, without judgment. Reflect back to your child what you hear them saying to make sure you’re understanding them correctly. Respond with kindness and compassion, even if you don’t agree.

If you can, come up with alternative solutions or options: a time change, new agreements, more space for their things. Suggest you’ll have a conversation with dad if that’s appropriate—or perhaps they can have that conversation themselves.

  1. ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR FEELINGS

Don’t discount your child’s feelings or wishes. Don’t dismiss them as foolish or unrealistic. Tell them they have the right to anger, fear, frustration or other feelings. They also have the right to express their emotions—but without infringing on other people’s rights.

Children need to know they are not bad or wrong for resisting things they don’t like. However, life is full of obstacles that we have to cope with. Let’s look for solutions. But keep in mind you are the adult who is making decisions. Be sure they are mature, rational, compassionate decisions for everyone involved, including dad.

  1. RESPOND WITH SUGGESTIONS AND QUESTIONS

Can your child come up with a solution that is also fair to dad? Is dad being fair with them? If not, what can we do to make things better?

Should they talk to him so he has an opportunity to respond and address the issues? Should we have a family conference together, if possible?

Other questions: Are their ways to change the circumstances to find a middle-ground or compromise? What can your child do to adapt to the situation more easily? What can dad do to change the visiting experience?

  1. REFLECT ON YOUR OWN INFLUENCE

Are you letting your own feelings about dad impact your child? Kids pick up not only on what is said, but on facial expressions, intonations, and other non-verbal cues. If your child knows you don’t respect dad, or hears you talk about him to others in a derogatory manner, your child will want to refuse to visit in defense and support of you. But is that fair to their father?


When is it parental estrangement, and when is it parental alienation? Read more to understand what’s going on with your coparent and what can happen when your child refuses to visit a parent.


It’s important for you to keep your objections to yourself. Don’t confide negative opinions to your child. Don’t let them feel guilty for loving their other parent. And don’t encourage them to demean their other parent who loves them.

  1. TALK TO YOUR COPARENT

Whenever possible, discuss these issues with dad to create a plan you both can agree on. Encourage more interaction and communication between visits on phone or video to build a low-stress bond.

Consider reaching out to a therapist or divorce coach as an objective party supporting a peaceful resolution. This is especially important before bringing these issues into the court or legal proceedings.

Discuss ways to make the visit transitions as easy and stress-free as possible. In addition, be sure your child can call you when they are away for emotional support. Be positive and reassuring on these conversations. Don’t add guilt to the dynamic at hand by stressing how much you miss them. Let them know you’ll be busy while they’re away so they needn’t worry about you and your feelings.

A child who refuses to visit and doesn’t want to spend time with their father is a child in pain. It’s important to address the underlying factors contributing to this situation as quickly as you can. Get the support you need so you can support your child in the best possible ways while respecting the father-child relationship at the same time.

 

Notes

Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach and author of numerous books, e-courses and programs on divorcing with children and co-parenting successfully. For instant download of her FREE EBOOK on Doing Co-Parenting Right: Success Strategies For Avoiding Painful Mistakes! go to: childcentereddivorce.com/book

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

 

* SAS for Women is an all-women website. At SAS, we respect same-sex marriages.  For the sake of simplicity in this article, we refer to your spouse as a male.

Life after divorce

Life After Divorce: Finding My Footing in Year One

I recently handed in my resignation letter for a job I’d had for only three months. It was a good company but the type of work, the hours, and the pay didn’t suit me. My closest friends expressed tentative support. I knew they were wondering: “Are you sure you know what you are doing? It’s the middle of the pandemic; you have obligations and no husband to support you.” I was rebuilding my life after divorce.

I knew what I was doing: I was listening to myself and following my needs. Also, I was trusting my ability to find a job that is worth my effort. I learned from going through a divorce to follow my heart.

Life After Divorce

It’s been a year since I got my final divorce document. I initiated the end of my 17-year-long marriage after I lost hope to repair it. For many years I was unhappy. Things looked fine on the outside: we had two children, a dog, and a beautiful old apartment in the city center. But I lacked the support that I needed, as well as respect and trust. With age, my husband grew more short-tempered, abusive, and jealous of my success and ambitions. I contributed to our growing apart too, fantasizing that some better man would come and save me, or that I would learn some magic trick at a women’s club that would repair my marriage. My divorce decision came as I lost hope of improving things. I also lost hope of being saved.

As I divorced, I continued to fantasize. I imagined an amicable agreement with co-parenting, staying friends, and dividing the assets fairly. Unfortunately, I had to say goodbye to that fantasy as well.

Gaining Perspective and Distance

The further from divorce I get, the more analysis I do, and different things look important. Currently, I would outline three things that I didn’t expect that are particularly hard to digest. Firstly, separating from an abuser didn’t end the abuse in my life after divorce, as that continued through our lingering communication. The Ex was open with his attitude: you decided on the divorce, now you face the consequences. He insisted I was solely responsible for the break-up and he wanted to get back at me.

Secondly, my eldest son decided to stay with his Father. I don’t see as much of him as I would like. I am learning to live with that, accepting my half-empty nest. But it still hurts.

Thirdly, I didn’t get the fair division of assets. My Ex is living in our apartment with our son in the process of attempting to sell at a very high price. I can’t afford to buy him out and he can’t buy out my half. Even a court can’t order us to sell, so this “sale” could go on for years. Doubly annoying is that it is not common knowledge among my circle of friends how unprotected our rights are. Most people assume and say that I am just not trying hard enough to sort the apartment issue out. Some even see my Ex’s resistance to sell the flat as charming, assuming that it is his way of getting back together with me.

When Trouble Comes — Open the Gates

When the Coronavirus outbreak happened, I found myself with no home, a broken family, and no job. In Russia, there is a saying: “When trouble comes — open the gates.” It implies that trouble never comes alone but accompanied by other things. Since divorce is a major shift in life, it rarely constitutes the only change.

Blessings in Disguise

The lockdown turned out to be a blessing in disguise that allowed me to cocoon. I came to stay and isolate myself with my parents in their countryside home. My parents didn’t ask questions and didn’t offer advice, and I was grateful. I realize how fortunate I am to have parents who welcomed me to live with them.

I am an extrovert by nature. I am friendly, sociable, and feel the need to discuss everything that happens to me with girlfriends. I also used to travel a lot for work and go out often. In my life after the divorce, I turned into a recluse. Content in my own company, I relived recent events while inwardly digesting my emotions. When summer came, I found comfort in gardening. Clad in gardening gloves and crouching between shrubs, I let my anger out with the productive physical work of cutting or sowing.

In sadder times, I allowed tears to run free without being noticed and interrogated. I didn’t need to spend energy on a job, I didn’t need to look good for an event to attend, and I didn’t need to explain to my girlfriends the status of my negotiations with the Ex. I painted, watched comforting movies, and started to learn German. I was on a power-saving mode that was crucial. I called it cocooning.

Listen to Others with Shared Experiences

I read and listened a lot about divorce. It was good to learn that I was not alone. One lady in the U.S. shared three tips that helped her survive her divorce: good anti-depressants, a great lawyer, and a job. She was a stay-at-home Mom. Getting a job allowed her to change the scenery and stop wallowing in self-pity. Taking her tips as an example, I formulated my own trio. Here’s what helped me survive and heal: therapy, cocooning, and learning to let go.

I had to let go of the idea of a happy married life with my Ex. I had to let go of the image of our full family. I let go of a plan to stay friends with my children’s Dad. I had to let go of my eldest son as my little boy. As a consolation, I am developing rare closeness with my youngest son. I had to say goodbye to some friends and even therapists when their advice was more hurtful than helpful. I am letting go of the idea that the property would be divided easily. I have to let go of my old self, a more naïve dreamy version of me who placed much emphasis on romantic love and dreamt of being saved to live happily ever after.

Healing through Technology

For me, technology offered an unexpected helping hand in letting go. Around the first anniversary of my divorce, I got a notice from Google demanding that I either delete or buy additional space for e-mails and photos. I preferred to delete it. It was an emotional and lengthy exercise. I started with e-mails, reliving projects that I was previously involved in. Soon, I was amazed and proud of how much I had accomplished in life. And I was sad to see how many people are no longer part of my life or part of my profession.

Then I got to the photos. I revisited many precious moments of family trips, and of kids being small. I cried a lot. It was a hard choice what to delete and what to keep. I deleted the photos of my Ex in swimwear. And I deleted photos from his trips where — as I later learned — he went with other ladies. I kept all his photos with the kids — he is their father after all and nothing will change that. It is our family history. Analysis of old photos made me appreciate the closeness between my eldest son and his Dad.

Is this the same person? Asked Google showing me my ex-husband in 2005 and 2019. I looked close. The younger version looked naïve, timid, and had a full head of hair. He evoked memories and emotions. The later version was bald and had a strange crooked smile. I felt like saying “it is not the same person.” As I looked at myself in 2008 and 2020 I also wanted to say I am not the same person in my life after divorce.

Now with the 7 Gigabytes of free space on Google disk ready for new impressions, what are my next steps?

After Divorce: A new job, a new home, a new life partner?

Yes, maybe, not yet.

I want to find a job where I feel needed and financially secure. Sooner rather than later I would like to be social again, wear nice clothes, make-up, go to an old-fashioned theater production, and have a glass of champagne. I have a semi-secret goal to learn to speak publicly. It pulls and scares me. A well-paid job will allow me to rent an apartment and move out of my parents’ home.

I may start going out and dating if life gets back to normal, but I am in no hurry to get a partner. This is a surprise to me since I’ve been chasing the “in-love feeling” since puberty. Whereas the idea of having a stable partner feels appealing, I have no energy for butterflies in the stomach or late-night texts. Probably, I will need to learn new relationship-building skills to have a new partnership. Meanwhile, I am investing my time in building new relationships with my sons. All in good time.

 

Anna Ivanova-Galitsina is an international expert in communications and storytelling based in Moscow, Russia. She has two teenage sons and a dog and is building a new happier life. You can reach out to her via e-mail for comment or discussion.

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce, or that confusing place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected

Custody Battle - How to Avoid Custody Issues During a Divorce

What is a Custody Battle and How Do You Avoid One?

A custody battle occurs when divorcing or divorced parents disagree about who should retain legal or physical custody of their children. Unfortunately, this is a common cause of litigation in family court, second only to litigation over support payments.

Custody battles are costly, both emotionally and financially, and can wreak havoc in the lives of the children involved. It’s important to educate yourself about the common causes of custody battles, how to avoid one, how to defend your child’s best interests, and what to do if you must file one.

How is Child Custody Awarded?

Absent any evidence that a parent is unfit, family law judges in most states will apply some form of a “best interests of the child” analysis. They will also factor in the rights of each parent to maintain a relationship with their children.

In determining the best interests of a child, a judge will consider:

  • The child’s age (younger children need more hands-on care);
  • Any evidence of the parenting ability of each parent;
  • What parenting arrangement will maintain a consistent routine for the child;
  • How any proposed change will impact the child’s current routine or lifestyle;
  • The child’s wishes, if the child is mature enough;
  • What parenting arrangement best protects the child’s physical safety and emotional well-being.

Historically, family law judges automatically awarded custody to mothers, but this is not the case today. Unless there are compelling reasons not to, judges will award parents joint legal custody, and either joint physical custody or physical custody with one parent, the other to have liberal parenting time.

When one parent wants to change the custody arrangement for any reason, they may choose to go to court. If the other parent disagrees, this is what is called a “custody battle.”

What Happens in a Custody Battle?

In a custody battle, also called a “custody dispute,” one parent seeks to change the child custody arrangement by filing a motion in family court and seeking a court order. The reasons parents need to do this may vary and can be any of the following.

One parent is:

  • Unfit
  • Emotionally abusive or absent
  • Physically or sexually abusive
  • A drug or alcohol abuser
  • In a living environment that is unsafe for any reason
  • Suffering from mental health problems
  • Unable to financially support the children
  • Attempting to alienate the children from the other parent

With the help of a good divorce attorney, the plaintiff parent must prove that for whatever reason, the children’s well-being is endangered by the defendant parent. “Well-being” includes physical safety as well as emotional and educational nurturing. Defendant parents often bring a counter-suit alleging that the plaintiff parent is unfit.

It’s important to know that the plaintiff parent faces an uphill battle to persuade the court that the defendant parent should not have custody of the children, because the law favors joint custody and the rights of parents to have relationships with their children.

Custody battles can be drawn-out and expensive. Not only will you pay court fees and ongoing attorney fees, but you will probably pay fees to experts for their evaluation and testimony, and perhaps fees to investigators. Custody battles also take an emotional toll on the entire family, especially if the children themselves have to testify. Pitting children against their parents in court can cause life-long emotional damage.


Wondering how to coparent when you absolutely “hate” your Ex? You’ll want to read our post about coparenting with an ex you hate.


How Can I Avoid a Custody Battle?

A parent having sole or joint custody of their children can try to avoid a custody battle by allowing their coparent the custody or parenting time ordered and by doing their best to cooperate and collaborate with their coparent.

Unfortunately, disputes arise. Your coparent may disagree with your parenting style or decisions you make and may make an allegation of abuse or unfitness, even if untrue. In this case, you will not be able to avoid a custody battle.

Consult with an attorney if your coparent files a custody dispute. Although your coparent must satisfy a high burden of proof of parental unfitness, you will need to assert your rights immediately. In cases where abuse of any kind is alleged, your children can be taken from you before it is proven in order to protect the children from possible harm.

What to Do if Your Coparent Alleges You Are Abusing Drugs or Alcohol

If you have a history of drug or alcohol use, this does not automatically make you unfit to parent your children. You should gather evidence that you have sought treatment and have been successfully treated for drug or alcohol dependency. This evidence can include proof of attending rehabilitation and negative drug or alcohol tests. Agreeing to continued drug or alcohol testing will help you retain custody of your children.

What to Do if Your Coparent Alleges You Suffer From Mental Illness

If you have a history of mental illness, this does not necessarily mean you are unfit to parent your children. You should gather evidence that you have recovered or are being successfully treated. This evidence can include the testimony or affidavits of psychologists or psychiatrists or the testimony or affidavit of the doctor who prescribes your medication.


How do you feel anchored when you are thinking about divorce and also spinning with all the information and unanswered unknowns? Check out “Overthinking When to Leave Your Husband.”


I Want Sole Custody of My Children, What Can I Do?

If you feel that the best interests of your children dictate that you have sole custody, you must file a custody dispute. Be advised that this will be expensive and may take months if your coparent defends.

Gather evidence that shows your coparent is unfit. If the reasons your coparent is unfit include any form of abuse, such as emotional, physical, or sexual abuse of your children, contact your local police and file a report. This can expedite the removal of the children from the coparent’s care and keep them safe while the court decides whether or not to change the custody arrangement.

Although a custody battle can be expensive and ugly, sometimes you cannot avoid one. Put your feelings aside about your partner as a spouse and ask yourself, is s/he generally a good parent? If so, it’s time to come to terms with the fact that your children deserve equal time with him/her. On the other hand, do not hesitate to file a custody dispute if you suspect that your children are unsafe or unattended to while in the care of your coparent.

 

About the Author

Veronica Baxter is a blogger and legal assistant living and working in the great city of Philadelphia, USA. She frequently works with Lee Schwartz, a noted child custody lawyer in Philadelphia.

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce, or that confusing place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. 

“A healthy divorce requires smart steps through and beyond the divorce document.” Learn what we mean and what it means for you in a FREE 15-minute consultation.

divorced women share survive holidays

Divorced Women Share 14 Secrets to Surviving the Holidays

The holidays can feel anything but “holy” or “holly-filled” this time of year if you are reverberating from divorce. If you are thinking about divorce, for example, you could be feeling schizophrenic right now, or like a fraud, trying to honor the hallowed rituals at the same time you are feeling fragmented and splintered about your future. If you are dealing with divorce, you are coping with some of the cruel realities of what change genuinely means now for your life (and your children’s). And if you are recovering from divorce, well, let’s face it. It’s a whole new game and you are probably looking at some time alone. All alone.

To help lessen the impact of the season and its expectations, we’ve turned to thoughtful, divorced women who are survivors. We’ve asked them, what suggestions and ideas might they share with you for coping with the holidays? What we’ve learned is that these other women who have come before you — those who have experienced the pain and isolation of living outside the conventional norms — want you to not suffer as deeply. What follows are 14 secrets divorced women want you to know about surviving and indeed, repurposing the holidays.

The reality is, we could all use a little help.

1. Don’t deny reality

“The holidays are a construct! They are celebrated by what seems to be EVERYONE. But don’t beat yourself up if you’re not feeling it because of your divorce or something else. Don’t participate if you’re not into them this year. Give yourself a pass to hang out and do anything you want if you’re alone. Ignore the holidays if you wish. Or go all out if you want. Don’t stop with the tree, hang a holiday light from every inch of your house. Inside and out! The point is, you have a choice and don’t go along with something that’s not comfortable. The holidays will come again. And you may want to lead the Macy’s Day Parade next year.”

June B., Minneapolis, Minnesota

2. Give yourself permission to do it your way—or not at all

“If this is your first (or second or whatever number) solo holiday, my best advice is to be gentle with yourself. Be grateful for what remains and then seek out others. Accept invitations that you historically would have turned down for whatever reason. Try to cultivate a new tradition for yourself and your children that is uniquely your own. Reach out, it gets better…I’m told.”

Susan, Boston, Massachusetts

“If you are in the throes of divorce, instead of trying to figure out how to do the holiday cards like you always have—with you, your spouse, and your children—give yourself permission to skip the holiday cards altogether this year. Or if that’s just not possible (you are too committed to the tradition), create a card that focuses on your children. That’s right—nix you and Mr. X from the photo!”

Molly K., Geneva, New York

3. Make a plan well in advance

“If you don’t have children or they’re not with you this upcoming holiday, make a plan right now on how you will spend that day. Brainstorm ideas. Maybe you are going to connect with long lost friends and have a meal, or go away on a trip or a retreat, or spend the day hiking, or go to a movie marathon. That’s what I did ten years ago, on December 25. That was my first Christmas alone, I mean utterly alone. And somehow sitting in a warm, dark movie theater with strangers — the theater was packed! — and getting caught up in a 4-hour epic drama transported me. It transported me out of my own drama, giving me a sense of warmth and community on a day that could have gone done as one of the worst in my life.”

Liza Caldwell, SAS for Women Cofounder

4. Love yourself this holiday season

“I bought myself a new bed with a good quality mattress and some new bed linens that cater only to my taste. The linens are a very feminine design and are superb to the touch. This new bed gives me good quality sleep and a better mood in the morning as a result. Instead of being upset that I sleep alone, I feel like a queen in a queen-sized bed on my own. This has worked so well that I’ve asked myself what else can I do to love myself. So I’ve changed my diet a little. First, I realized that I get more pleasure cooking for myself than I do eating out. I try to really listen to what I would like to eat and not compromise. I buy ingredients that I didn’t used to buy. They are ones that give me pleasure, like very fresh fish or a mango for breakfast.”

Eva, Moscow, Russia

“At 2:30 am, I admitted it was insomnia and I opened up a free app on my phone called Insight Timer for a guided yoga nidra session. The app offers lots of approaches to stress, insomnia, and more. I don’t know if I was conscious for the whole thing or not but I had an awesome sleep in the time I had left. I plan to listen to it again while awake in the daytime to learn about relaxing while awake and to think about regular breaks from constant focus on how much I have to do in too little time. I would like to reduce the mental energy I spend on problems and share my time with increased experience of what’s good and right.”

Susan W., Bethesda, Maryland


Looking for more suggestions from smart, divorced women? Check out this post on how to cope with divorce like a modern woman.


5. Let your boundaries be known

“By you and others. If you expect to see family, your Ex, or friends (the ones you are still in contact with), share your preferences. Let them know if there are gatherings you will not be attending this year or topics you’d rather not get involved with. If you worry you’ll see your Ex at a gathering, find out for sure and ask for understanding if you are going to beg out of attending this year. This helps manage your friends’ and family’s expectations and may also help ensure their good time lest they be worried about you.”

Alice, San Diego, California

6. Practice your script

“The holidays are a time when you are bumping into well meaning and not so well meaning acquaintances, friends, and family. Practice your lines so you are not taken unawares when people ask you about your divorce—the elephant in the room. I used to get caught off guard and didn’t know when to shut up, always regretting that I said too much when people asked me how was I doing. Now I know it doesn’t help anyone to talk about my feelings indiscriminately. In fact, few people are deserving of knowing what I’m really feeling, especially this time of year. So I keep it neutral. Why ruin their rum punch?

‘Thank you for asking about me. I am doing okay and doing what I must to take care of myself and work on my healing. How’s your puppy?’”

Bernadette, Athens, Georgia

7. Be careful with the rum punch

“Holiday parties and alcohol could be the perfect opportunity to forget your misery. But not really. As tempting as it is to numb your feeling with the spiked eggnog or oddly available drug, remember your emotions are just under your skin and you are still healing, if not hurting. It won’t take much for your emotions to be triggered and for your wounds or anger or hollowness to come bubbling out. Spare yourself and others any unpleasant outbursts or regrettable performances, and save the over indulging for a getaway with your best friends. Ask a friend to accompany you to a party and to take you home if you start acting a little vulnerable. Protect yourself.”

Janet, Boca Raton, Florida

8. Volunteer

“If you don’t have children or you don’t have your children for the holiday, maybe you’re feeling lonely? A good way to get out there and enjoy the holidays is to volunteer. Do it early because places book up! You may also meet some really great people.”

Alina, New York City, New York

“Perhaps volunteer time at a food shelter or church to pass out holiday meals or anything else they need your services for. I have found it to be very humbling and rewarding, and it helps to put the holidays in true perspective. One time I did this with a girlfriend, and after the event, we came home for a glass of wine—okay, bottles, wink, wink. We had goodies prepared for ourselves and had a lovely time reflecting on how blessed we really are.”

Lori, California

9. Focus on your children

“If you have children, you can’t simply write off the holidays. That would be tough on them. But be mindful that you may not have the capacity or resources to do everything you’ve done in the past. Nor should you try to compensate for the divorce by spoiling them with presents. Instead, give your children genuine time with you! Pick the most important rituals you want to focus on—cookie making or holiday decorating or caroling or visiting family and friends. Don’t try to do everything. By striving to stay present with your children, you may find you’ll experience the magic through their eyes, and you will savor some of the joy that is there for you too.”

Pam, Galveston, Texas

10. Get rid of old traditions

“I always hated how we had to get dressed up in fancy party dress every year to attend my in-laws New Year’s dinner. My children were too young to really participate and behave well. And there was always so much pressure and so many eyes on me it seemed, as their mother, to make sure the kids kept it together. Well, guess what? That’s on my Ex now. This year, for Thanksgiving, I am inviting my family, friends, and children to join me in wearing their ugliest Thanksgiving Sweaters, and we’re going to watch football. I am going to show my kids there are many ways of being together. The important thing is being together.”

Kendall, Cleveland, Ohio

11. Create new rituals

“I make an event of watching films that I always liked for the holidays and any day for that matter. These films are ones I couldn’t indulge in before as my husband didn’t like them. In my case, these are French comedies or Woody Allen films. And these are just for me!”

Eva, Moscow, Russia

“The holidays can become redundant, boring, and stiff. I think they are supposed to serve as a comfort, a ritual for celebrating, but I know the holidays can draw attention to what is missing or who is missing. To me that’s one of the biggest reasons for trying to do things differently. To be really conscious of what we love most about the holidays. I try to involve those aspects into plans. For me, as a single person, it’s all about who I will be with. I call those people up a month before a certain holiday, and I say, ‘What are we going to do to remind ourselves we are alive?” I’d rather eat Stouffer’s frozen lasagna from a microwave then spend a holiday faking it anymore.”

Maria, Portland, Oregon

“… For me, as a single person, it’s all about who I will be with. I call those people up a month before a certain holiday, and I say, ‘What are we going to do to remind ourselves we are alive?” I’d rather eat Stouffer’s frozen lasagna from a microwave then spend a holiday faking it anymore.”

Maria, Portland, Oregon

“Organize a ‘SisStar-Giving’ amongst other ladies who may be recently divorced or may not have children, friends, or family locally. To remove the stress of over-planning and being overwhelmed with meal preparation, you can provide one main dish (you can’t go wrong with wings) and ask each guest to bring the dish that people always ask them to make. To guide the menu, you can suggest some categories like appetizers or desserts. There’s bound to be a ‘mixologist’ in the crew. That one may opt to bring wine or other beverages. You could theme it as Jeans & Tee regarding dress code to make it as casual as possible, and look up party games to play. Crank up a mobile device with some good tunes, and you have a night to remember. Keep it simple by not going over the top, but one must have a ‘Thankful Circle’ in which everyone shares at least one thing SHE IS absolutely thankful for.”

Queen V, South Carolina

12. Be present and open

“I always hear advice for divorced women with kids. Sometimes it’s a little lonely and scary for someone who is in their mid/late 30s with no children. We may have expected to have children by this point in our lives and we don’t. To women like me, I say, ‘Give yourself permission to smile and enjoy the people who love you in your life. You are worth it.’”

Alina, New York City, New York

“I was getting concerned about my birthday on Dec 30th. This will be my first birthday after being separated. I was wavering between ‘doing something unusual’ or ‘sulking and doing nothing.’ By accident or by will of the Universe, ladies from work suggested we all go to the ballet on Dec 30th and have a dinner afterwards. I feel so happy and am so much looking forward to my birthday now.”

Eva, Moscow, Russia

13. Have a Plan B and a Plan C

“One of my biggest coping mechanisms, now that I am my own team, is to always have a plan, but if that plan doesn’t work, to be able to resort to a Plan B or a Plan C. Life is always shifting. I know I can dream about my ideal scenario and do everything to make it happen, but if something goes wrong, it’s a great comfort to have a Plan B and C so I am not left out in the cold.

For example, a friend of mine who can be a little whifty said I could bring my kids over to her house on Christmas afternoon, that her brother was coming over to give the kids a pony ride. I thought this sounded amazing and so different from what my kids have done in the past, but I worry. I’m not in control of the event so it might fizzle out and not happen. I’m not going to mention it to my kids until the day of and make it a surprise if it comes about, and if not, I’ve already looked online and found that there will be caroling in the town square at 5pm. We’ll go there. And if not, then we’ll go ice skating (Plan C) at the civic center which I’ve already confirmed is open on Christmas Day.”

Mary Beth, Addison, Wisconsin

“Plan ahead for the time when your children will not be with you. Having a fun plan for myself, such as time with friends, helped me feel loved during the holidays in a new way and helped with the intense feelings of missing my children.”

Laura, Middlebury, Vermont

14. As with everything, we promise it will get easier

“Getting divorced has been MAJOR! It’s meant losing friends who I thought were my besties. Losing possessions. Losing a way of being—not just losing my Ex. There are so many new and good things that have happened as a result of this ‘loss vacuum,’ but I’ve also learned something about me. I’ve been adapting. I’ve been learning and adapting and that makes this major change easier bit by bit.”

Jenny, Kansas City, Missouri

“The first time you do something new, like experience a holiday as a single person, it can summon up all the grief you’ve ever felt about the changes you’ve lived through. It’s okay to feel sorry for yourself. Be kind to yourself, too, though and remember, it will get easier. Your past is there, yes, but so is your future, a future for you to shape. Consciously. And that includes holidays you can and will experience the way you choose. You are not on autopilot anymore. And there’s something about that that is THRILLING!”

Mel, Garden City, New York

Thank you to all the divorced women in our community who cared enough about other women to share their ideas and secrets for surviving and repurposing the holidays.

If you needed this, know that every single one of the women above have experienced the gamut of feelings you’re going through, even if the geographic location or specifics of each of their stories are uniquely her own. And know as well that these women offering counsel are still here, they are still surviving and, yes, sometimes, more than they ever thought possible, they are thriving. We hope you find comfort in this, too. For this holiday season, and all days in your new chapter, find your old and new people who understand you. But above all, follow your own path as you continue onward in your divorce recovery. And as always, always, be kind to yourself. With all you’ve been through, you deserve it.

 

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

“Divorce can be on your terms.” ~ SAS for Women.

Divorce effects on children by Unsplash

Divorce Effects on Children

When considering the consequences of divorce, effects on children are perhaps the most impactful and far-reaching. Children are the innocent victims—the bystanders who get swept into the aftermath of a decision they had no say in. And, while some children rebound on the merits of inherent resilience, others struggle greatly, even into adulthood.

Divorce is never easy. It comes at a high cost across the board—emotionally, financially, socially, physically. Spouses are so focused on what is driving their own discontent and how to assuage or escape it that children often become collateral damage. Everything, it seems, is about whether, when, and how to divorce. Effects on children are too often an afterthought, dealt with (if at all) after the divorce is all said and done.

The big question often explored more in hindsight than at the moment is whether staying together is better at all costs.

How Parental Conflict Harms Children

The unequivocal consensus among psychological experts is that the single most important factor that harms children of divorce is continual parental conflict. Children become damaged when parents fight in front of them, over them, and through them. It literally changes who they are and how they process the world.

The challenge in deciding whether to divorce comes when the homefront is so contentious that constant conflict is a given. In these cases, children do not fare better for having their parents stay together.

For example, a report by Pew Social Trends explains that, while children of divorce are more inclined to one day divorce, conflict is a huge influencer. It turns out that children have a better chance at marital success if their high-conflict parents divorced.

The point is, the immersion in constant conflict does the most damage.

But, even when choosing the better of two bad choices, there is no denying the divorce effects on children. And “high conflict” can follow and damage children even after the divorce.

It should come as no surprise that the first year or two after a divorce are the toughest on children. Imagine that your world is thrown off its axis. Imagine the constancy of even the simplest, most predictable components of your life being tossed into the darkness of chaos, change, and insecurity.

Now imagine having no say in how you navigate that darkness. You don’t know how you got here. You don’t know how to get out. And you don’t know how to recognize, let alone deal with, all you are feeling.

Young Children and the Effects of Divorce

Another “no surprise” is that children of different ages process divorce differently. And the far-reaching effects of divorce, such as high-risk behaviors, are influenced by a child’s age at the time of his/her parents’ divorce.

Young children, for example, may have difficulty processing the idea of having two homes and having to go between them. They may also wonder if their parents will stop loving them, just as their parents have stopped loving one another. They haven’t yet developed the cognitive ability to separate the two concepts.

In an effort to make sense of their world, grade school children may start looking for a place to lay blame. And too often that blame turns inward to themselves. Was this my fault? Are Mommy and Daddy mad at me for something I did?

Teenagers and the Effects of Divorce

Teenagers, on the other hand, have a lot more cognitive development under their belts. But they still have a lot of flux in their emotional development and expression. They are more inclined to feel stressed, angry, and resentful and to place blame on one or both parents.

The successful transition for children of any age really pivots on the behavior and choices of the parents.

Swearing there is a place in Hell for your Ex is akin to sending the same message to your children. They are, don’t forget, a blend of both of you. And, when you hate the other parent in any capacity, your children will subconsciously assume you hate the same in them.

And that unthinkable, albeit unintended, judgment upon a child is life-altering. It destroys their self-esteem and sets them up for mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and extreme emotional sensitivity.

It also lays the groundwork for loyalty conflict and cognitive dissonance. When parents fight in front of or through their kids, they impose an unspoken demand for the children to take sides. They may even divide the children in their loyalties, as if the children were material assets.

Some children are able to detach from the fighting and declare neutrality. But others internalize it. And the mental state of trying to hold two incompatible, contradictory thoughts at once becomes painful and unsustainable.

In an effort to alleviate the discomfort of cognitive dissonance, children will often “choose” one parent over the other. The parental alienation of the other parent has no justification. But the mind simply can’t survive that kind of mental conflict.

Far better to learn how to co-parent. If you absolutely hate your ex, you can still ensure that your children know you love that part of them that came from the other parent. And, by committing to conflict-free parenting post-divorce, you will give them the greatest chance of exercising their resilience.

Signs that Divorce and Conflict are Affecting Your Child

There are so many divorce effects on children, each worthy of and warranting its own spotlight. But here are some additional effects to keep in mind and look for as you navigate your own (potential) divorce:

  • Increased behavioral problems, especially in homes and divorces with high conflict.
  • Decreased interest in social activity. Children of divorce are more likely to feel insecure and alone in their experience and may therefore isolate.
  • Difficulty adapting to change. Even the most amicable, cooperative divorces involve change for everyone. But most involve a lot of uncomfortable change—residential moves, financial hardship, school changes, remarriages, and step-/blended families, etc.
  • Destructive and risky behavior like alcohol/drug use and sexual activity.
  • Decreased academic performance. Constantly changing family dynamics understandably leave children confused and distracted, making it difficult for them to concentrate on studies.
  • Increased health problems. Mental health issues include anxiety disorder, depressive disorder, anger issues, and feelings of overwhelming stress, pressure, and guilt. The internalization of symptoms can lead to somatic disorder, which may present as sleep problems, headaches, stomachaches, and tension. This somatic symptom disorder may become especially evident if parental conflict is high at the “switching hour” when children go from one parent to the other.
  • Decreased faith in marriage and family, and therefore an increased risk of divorce later in life.

The responsibility of parenthood assumes a prioritization of the child over the parent. But, when high conflict, abuse, or addiction occurs in the home, everyone gets lost in the fight for emotional (and sometimes physical) survival.

Tragically, parents often return to emotional childhood themselves. And, if they don’t learn conflict-free parenting post-divorce, they will set up a history that is destined to repeat itself.

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce or that confusing place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice not to do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional, financial, and often complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. SAS offers six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you and your future. Join our tribe now

 

*This piece was written for SAS for Women, an all-women website. At SAS, we respect same-sex marriages; however, for the sake of simplicity, in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.