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Getting through a divorce

Getting Through a Divorce: How to Keep Your Head Straight

Getting through a divorce will be one of the most difficult experiences of your life. And your difficulties will start at the very beginning.

If you were the one who decided that divorce was the best way to change the difficulties in your marriage, you know the agony you experienced in coming to your decision. You second-guessed yourself again and again, and throughout your struggle to reach a decision, you faced uncertainties and fears.

Yet, because of your uncertainties and fears, you gathered information, worked through some of your emotions, and maybe planned a bit to make your transition from married to singledom easier.

Easier, but not easy. Telling your spouse you’re finished is definitely not easy. And once he* knows, things will get more difficult because it isn’t just about you anymore — and what your thinking and feeling internally. Now you’re both dealing with the repercussions of your decision. But your partner, or soon-to-be Ex, will not be in sync with you. He’s going to need time to metabolize what all this means.

If your divorce has been forced upon you, then the beginning of your divorce journey was probably shocking. Maybe it was upsetting because you never thought your spouse would actually go through with it. Or maybe you never even saw it coming.

And because your divorce isn’t of your choosing, you’re stuck playing catch up. You must find some way to not only make sense of what’s happening but to begin taking the necessary legal steps to end your marriage.

You also need to accept that you’re not in sync with him. He has been preparing for divorce emotionally, practically, and maybe even legally before you even knew what was happening.

Whichever side of the divorce decision you were on, there are times when you’re probably thinking, “It’s not fair.” And you’d be right. It’s not, but fairness has nothing to do with the realities of getting through a divorce—only (hopefully) with the legal divorce process.

So, no matter how your divorce journey begins, getting through a divorce is not intuitive. It’s difficult emotionally and logistically.

Yet, there are concrete thoughts that you can hold onto that will help you as you continue on your divorce journey:

You’re getting divorced for a reason

It’s heartbreaking to think about ending your marriage when you consider the shared hopes and dreams you and your spouse had at the start. Yet there’s still an important reason your divorce is happening right now; your marriage is broken beyond repair. So, take a deep breath and remember you are here, going through a divorce. It’s in motion.

Seeking justice for your emotional pain will not serve you

No-fault divorce is a very good thing. It means that people can get divorced without having to prove that one or the other has done something so reprehensible that it requires the marriage to be dissolved.

What it also means is that the courts don’t care about your emotional pain. They know divorce hurts. They know that getting through a divorce is probably one of the most difficult things you’ve ever faced. But that doesn’t change the fact that there are no laws to help you extract justice for the hurt you’re feeling.

All that insisting the courts make your spouse pay in some way for the pain you’re feeling will get you is higher legal fees. It will never ever truly ease your hurt.

Create goals that you can stay focused on

In general, goals are like guideposts. They allow you to channel your energy and thoughts toward achieving them.

When you’re going through a divorce, good solid goals can be the touchstones that remind you to stay focused on the big picture.

For example, if you have children, you may want to make their safety, security, health, and happiness throughout and beyond your divorce a goal. To reach your goal, you’ll want to develop your list of nonnegotiables. You’ll also want to know where you can be softer in your negotiations.

Remember your children are watching and learning

As you’re getting through a divorce, you are modeling for your children how to deal with stress, disappointment, and monumental life changes. Would you want your children to behave and react as you are?

If you don’t have children, get clear on the image of you and who you want to be

At one extreme you could be the woman who is completely unclear about what she wants outside of wanting her soon-to-be Ex to suffer horribly not only through the divorce but for the rest of his life. You might be willing to do whatever you can to ensure his suffering.

At the other extreme, you could be the leader through this challenge. You could focus on what you want and go about making it happen.

Keeping these thoughts in mind will definitely help you get through your divorce.

Yet, it’s almost impossible to do on your own

The real key to getting through a divorce is having someone you can turn to for support, someone who is your partner in thinking through every step of your divorce. A thinking partner is someone who can help you not only make it through your divorce but put the plans in place so you can thrive after it, too. A thinking partner has perspective.

The mistake most people make is using their lawyer as their sounding board. There are a couple of real problems with doing so. First, a divorce lawyer is an expert in the law—not how to help you get through your divorce. Second, when you use your lawyer as your thinking partner for anything other than legal issues, you’re wasting your money and energy—both of which are precious.

Having a strategy for how to think is just part of what you need to keep your head straight as you’re getting through a divorce

You also need to know it’s not only OK but necessary to let go of a few things:

  • Ancillary characters in your life and their less than helpful opinions. Save your energy, and do not overshare.
  • Continuing to be a superstar at work and everywhere else throughout your divorce. You cannot do everything well right now. Pick and choose where you put your efforts.
  • Being available to everyone for their needs. The simple truth is that you can’t be everything to everyone else right now. You’ve got to focus on you, so you come out strong in the end.

Without question, getting through a divorce is hard. However, you know now what’s important to keep straight in your head. And with this knowledge, you’ll be able to take the appropriate actions and make the appropriate decisions to get through your divorce, lessening the pain and diminishing your risk of regrets as much as possible.

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.” – SAS for Women

 

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

Coparenting with a narcissist

Coparenting with a Narcissist

A person with narcissistic personality disorder has a veneer of generosity and kindness, but after marrying him*, when you really get to know each other, you discover that’s not who he is at all.

A narcissist controls and manipulates his spouse. But at first, this behavior seems so at odds with the person you thought you knew, that you feel confused, convincing yourself it’s nothing. Once the convincing becomes harder to do, the anger settles in.

Day in and day out, he dismissed your truth in favor of the “truth” he made up for you. Then he blamed you for how your “truth” made him feel.

Even after treating you poorly, he was confused when you didn’t feel like putting on a smile and happily meeting his needs. And that was on a good day.

On a bad day, he had a temper when you didn’t do what he thought you should. He would emotionally attack, verbally abuse, and possibly even get physical with you if you weren’t behaving the way he expected.

And the time suck! Your Ex demanded your attention regardless of the space you needed or what plans you had. He wanted every minute of your time to be spent with him or on activities he approved of.

Living with your narcissistic Ex was hell. And divorcing a narcissist is never easy. But that’s over. Now you’re on your own.

Yet your Ex isn’t completely out of your life. You still need to interact with him because you have children together. But coparenting with a narcissist isn’t easy either.

But there is some good news . . .

Now that you’re divorced, you’re not with your Ex all the time. You have some space to breathe and think without the persistent and all-consuming fear of how he will react.

You can choose to use this separateness to your benefit. Maybe this breather can give you perspective, so you can work on making yourself strong and becoming realistic about how your Ex is going to continue to behave.

He isn’t going to change—unless he embarks on an arduous and lengthy journey of healing.

It’s important to keep in mind how his personality is affecting your children. When your kids spend time with their other parent, whom they yearn to love and be loved by, they’re stepping back onto a minefield.

Coparenting with a narcissist means that you have to be the calm, reasonable, and affectionate parent. Narcissism prevents your Ex from reliably being an empathetic and nurturing parent. Your Ex’s focus is on his own experience and not your children’s.

As you continue thinking about coparenting with a narcissist, you’ll find yourself asking some serious and important questions:

How do you coparent effectively knowing that your Ex is always out to discredit and blame you—even in front of your children?

The truth is coparenting with a narcissist isn’t possible in the truest sense of the term “coparenting.” A narcissist is incapable of the collaboration and respect required to successfully coparent. He will always be looking out for his own interests regardless of what your children need. And because he isn’t able to put the children first, a narcissist can’t coparent.

The only way to share parenting responsibilities with a narcissist is to let him do his own thing while you do yours.

You must also be ready to help your children deal with the confusion they will have after spending time with or even just talking to their other parent.

Which brings up another great question . . .

How do you talk about your Ex with your kids?

This may be challenging, but when you talk about your Ex with your kids, you need to keep your opinions and experiences out of it. Focus on empathetically listening to your children and allowing them the space to come to their own conclusions and guide them into having the healthiest relationship possible with their other parent.

You may need to remind your kids that you are always available if things get to be too tough with their other parent. And you’ll also need to be aware that children are very good at getting what they want. Be on the lookout for your children trying to use your concern for them inappropriately.

How do you model “taking the high road” for your kids?

There’s greater pressure when you’re “coparenting” with a narcissist than if your coparent didn’t have a personality disorder. Not only do you have to deal with a narcissist, but you must be the model parent, so your children can learn what it means to deal with difficulty—how to deal with their other parent, how to be resilient, and how to be a well-adjusted adult.

This means that you aren’t getting sucked into drama with your Ex. That’s not the easiest of tasks since he knows how to play you like a fiddle, but you can start by setting clear boundaries.

When you know what you will and won’t tolerate, you can communicate that to your Ex. Then, when he disrespects those boundaries (as you know he will), you can firmly, calmly, and dispassionately let him know his behavior is unacceptable and that you will now take the appropriate and necessary action to remedy the situation.

These are just some of the questions that will come up with you attempt the court-required coparenting with a narcissist. One of the governing ideas to keep in mind as you continue raising your children together-ish is that your children’s other parent is all about himself.

His behavior and what he says is all about gaining the advantage over you and your children. The more you disengage from him, the more he will struggle to maintain control. However, by persistence and refusing to rise to the bait, you can successfully “coparent” with a narcissist and raise amazing children despite your Ex.

*For the sake of simplicity, in this article, we will refer to your spouse as “him” or “he” even though we know same-sex marriages exist and your spouse may be a “she,” or you are a man reading this article and your spouse is a “she.”

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the unexpected challenges they face navigating and recovering from divorce. Now, wherever you live, you can secure female-centered support, information, and next steps if you are thinking about/dealing with divorce or recreating your most meaningful life … post-divorce in our virtual divorce support groups for women. Classes start again in September. To keep the space safe and confidential, space is limited. Visit here for details.

Image about breaking up with a narcissist

Divorcing a Narcissist? Here’s What You Need to Know

Calling someone a narcissist is so commonplace these days that, in many ways, the term has become nothing more than a buzzword. People use it loosely to refer to someone who’s behaving “selfishly”.

But a true pathological narcissist is a person who’s much more than selfish. According to the Mayo Clinic, narcissistic personality disorder “is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”

Most women who fall in love with a narcissist do so because narcissists are so charming. They’re incredibly loving and affectionate. They treat you like no one has ever treated you before and sweep you off your feet. They seem too good to be true.

And that’s the truth of it—they are too good to be true, and their personality and behavior will change dramatically over time.

If you recognize the following as being “normal” in your marriage, you know you’re divorcing a narcissist:

  • Your husband* is controlling.
  • He doesn’t listen to or care about your opinions.
  • He makes everything about him.
  • He lies often.
  • He is emotionally abusive.
  • He has no emotional connection to your children.
  • He blames others for his actions.
  • He is manipulative.
  • He is exceptionally aggressive—perhaps dangerously so.
  • He is unaware of his bad behavior.
  • He feels entitled to what he wants.
  • He sees himself as perfect and worthy of unconditional admiration.
  • He rejects change initiated by anyone but himself.

Because of this last point, divorcing a narcissist is extremely challenging. He will fight you every single step of the way. He believes he is a victim and is willing to do just about anything to prove it.

Some of the biggest and most predictable challenges of divorcing a narcissist include dealing with the following behaviors and beliefs:

  • A narcissist MUST “win.” Because of this mindset, negotiating in good faith with a narcissist is impossible. He must prove he is right and a victim—regardless of what the truth is. He doesn’t care what it takes to “win” the divorce, even if that means depleting the marital finances (except for money he’s hidden), destroying relationships, and destroying you.
  • A narcissist will play games with you as long as he can. He needs to feel in control. He does this by being manipulative. He will keep you off balance by making false accusations, criticizing you one minute and telling you how much he loves you the next—anything to wear you down, so he can win.
  • A narcissist doesn’t care how anyone else feels about his actions, including his children. Narcissists only care about their own needs and desires. If someone can help them get what they want, then they will use that person without regard for the consequences.
  • A narcissist will use you to feel good about himself. By engaging you in a court battle (which he will absolutely do), he is using his control of you to make himself feel powerful. He wants the divorce process to take as long as possible. Yes, that does mean he will lie to prolong the process. It’s unlikely he will stop trying to use you after the divorce settlement—even if he is in another relationship. The more people a narcissist can control the better.
  • A narcissist wants you to admit defeat. He wants you to give in to his demands and bow to his power. But not just once—he won’t ever get tired of you surrendering to his superiority.
  • A narcissist wants everyone else to see him as a victim. No matter how horrid he is behaving toward you (and maybe even his children), he craves the pity and support of others, so he can use that pity against you.He will lie repeatedly and quite convincingly (especially if he is charming and wealthy) to perpetuate his role as victim and paint you as a heartless villain. He will even lie to your children and family about you. He wants to turn those closest to you against you because he wants you to have nothing left.
  • A narcissist will attack your weaknesses. That usually means he will go after your children and money. He will remove you from joint accounts or withdraw all the money from them. He will hide money. He will run up your bills any way he can think of. He will also do his best to turn your children against you.
  • A narcissist will take you back to court again and again. As far as he is concerned, the battle is never over so long as he has some leverage. And the leverage is usually your children. He will register the children for activities during your time with them without consulting you. He will “forget” to pick up the kids when he knows you have other plans. He will return the children later than agreed to. He will not respect the custody agreement.

But since you now have an idea of what divorcing a narcissist is like, you can prepare for the battle ahead instead of being ambushed.

Here are some steps you’ll want to take to minimize the damage you suffer during and after your divorce:

  • Make sure your attorney is aware of the problem and is proactive. You want your attorney to have experience dealing with high-conflict divorces and know what to expect from a narcissist. When they’re properly experienced and prepared, they can shut down at least some of the standard tactics a narcissist will use in court (if you must go there).
  • Get a therapist who specializes in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If you were married to a narcissist, your marriage was full of emotional abuse. Any kind of abuse can lead to PTSD. You will probably want to consider working with a therapist to help you regain your emotional footing.
  • Hire a divorce coach. Learning how a divorce coach can help you stay anchored (and using one!) could be one of your most important moves for securing perspective, strength, and support. Your divorce coach will also help you process the grief, loneliness, anger, and other tumultuous emotions you’ll have before, during, and beyond. If necessary, your divorce coach can even join you throughout the court proceedings. But your “beyond” is critical. Your divorce coach is going to make sure you stay mindful to creating the life you DO deserve.
  • Keep copies of EVERYTHING. Especially when it comes to expenses, you’ll want to keep detailed records of everything. It’s VERY likely that you’ll be going to court repeatedly. The only way you’ll be able to quickly put an end to each new drama when it arises is to have indisputable facts. And that’s what the detailed records are—indisputable facts.
  • Assume all communication with a narcissist is risky. Whenever you communicate with a narcissist, keep things direct, to the point, and non-confrontational. This is the only way to prevent him from using your written or spoken words against you.

When divorcing a narcissist, you must prepare for war. You will face many battles because a narcissist wants to destroy you at virtually any cost.

But when you understand more about a narcissist’s profile (what you can and cannot expect from him) and begin to value your own self-worth—getting the full support you need and deserve—you will eventually have the peaceful life you’re looking for, the life you were meant to live.

SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to navigating divorce—on their own terms. If you are considering or dealing with divorce, you are invited to experience SAS for Women firsthand and schedule your free, 45-minute, private consultation. Whether you work further with us or not, we’ll help you understand what your next, black and white steps are for walking into your brave unknown—with compassion and integrity.

* SAS for Women fully recognizes same-sex and common-law marriages. But for the sake of simplicity in this article, we refer to your spouse or mate as “he,” “him,” or your “husband.”

Conscious uncoupling it is still a thing?

Conscious Uncoupling: Is It Really Still a Thing?

Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin brought conscious uncoupling to our collective attention when they announced their split in 2014. But very little has been said about it since. If you’re wondering if conscious uncoupling is still a thing or if it was just a flash in the pan, celebrity fad, you’re not alone.

Conscious uncoupling is still around. In fact, it has been since the 1970s.

Its longevity reflects the fact that more and more people don’t want to experience divorce the way people used to. They’re frustrated with the obligatory acrimony. They want a divorce that’s as peaceful as possible and hopefully a whole lot better for bringing their marriage to a conclusion.

Why are some spouses choosing a different ending for their marriage?

Because everyone close to them is watching—their families, friends, colleagues and, most importantly, children. They want to be an example of how to respect someone even when you disagree with them, and they want to continue working together to raise their amazing children.

In fact, successfully coparenting is one of the primary goals of most people who choose a conscious uncoupling approach to divorce. They know that having a relationship with their children’s other parent is necessary because coparenting means parents work closely together to raise their children even if they’re no longer married, living together, or romantically involved. People who choose conscious uncoupling understand that it’s important for their children to have equal access to and foster their relationship with both parents.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the way most couples approach divorce or parenting post-divorce.

“Unconscious uncoupling” is the norm

When spouses unconsciously make choices that affect both their and their children’s lives, they behave in reactionary and unfortunate ways.

Some examples of poor behavior common among couples who divorce unconsciously are blaming, raging, and attacking—verbally, emotionally, or financially. The problem with this, beyond the obvious pain these couples inflict on each other, is that their children often witness this behavior, leaving them confused and feeling the need to take sides.

How horrible that any child should feel the need to choose between their parents—yet this is what happens. Every. Single. Time. That is, every single time a couple unconsciously uncouples. No exceptions.

If you’re contemplating divorce, don’t let that scare you into staying married for the children’s sake. That’s simply a recipe for misery (not only for you but for your children too).

The beauty of conscious uncoupling is that it’s an attitude. And it’s an attitude you can have whether your spouse does or not.

Conscious uncoupling is about having compassion and recognizing that your divorce allows your spouse to teach you something about yourself.

By carefully contemplating your relationship and your reactions to your spouse’s behavior, you can evolve spiritually and emotionally. Your spouse may not be your favorite teacher, but they can teach you lessons no one else can.

Regardless of whether your spouse chooses to adopt an attitude of conscious uncoupling, you can.

When you make the decision to use your transition from married to single to grow and become a better version of yourself, your children will notice. They’ll come to understand that they can also choose how they react to the obstacles life presents them with.

How to develop the right attitude for conscious uncoupling

So, how do you develop this attitude when you’re uncertain of how your spouse will behave and simultaneously terrified of what the future may hold for you as a single woman?

You get support. You surround yourself with people who understand how you want (and need) change and fully support your intentions to take the high road. These people could be friends and family, a legal professional, a therapist, a divorce coach, or even a single mom from your kids’ school who has a great coparenting relationship with her Ex.

Adopting this attitude also means that you CHOOSE not to divorce the way a friend did or how your lawyer claims things must be. Consciously divorcing is all about empowerment and choice. You are firmly in the driver’s seat, and you get to decide what’s best for you in the long run. Backseat drivers are not welcome on this journey—no matter who they are.

The easiest way to adopt this attitude is by being smart and compassionate. When you bear in mind that your decisions will impact everyone, it gives you the nudge you need to handle your divorce—dealing with the legalities, healing after the end of your marriage, and moving on with your life—in the healthiest way possible.

Being smart and compassionate is NOT about staying married. It IS about choosing the path forward that’s best for everybody.

Who knows? The example you set and your steadfast determination to remain conscious and grow throughout your divorce could inspire your spouse to do the same. And wouldn’t that be the best outcome possible?

So, yes, conscious uncoupling is still a thing (not just a celebrity trend). It’s an attitude that everyone who is brave enough to persistently pursue growth and compassion can choose to adopt at any point in their divorce journey.

Whether you are considering divorce or already navigating the 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. Schedule your free session to learn about you and your possible next steps to a better day of living with courage, compassion and integrity.

Grown up woman talks to divorced mom

What My Grown-Up Self Would Tell My Divorced Mom

Parents always wonder about the children when they get divorced. Will they be okay? Will they understand? What will they remember? My parents divorced when I was eight years old. My father told me he would have stayed, if my mother would have tried. My mother told me all she ever did was try. And for many years, finding out “the truth” mattered to me. I wanted someone to blame. Sometimes that person was my father. Sometimes that person was my mother. Other times it wasn’t a person at all but the very idea of love itself.

For half my childhood, my single, divorced mom raised me and my three siblings. We survived on her bookkeeper salary and the child support check my father sent (mostly) every month. As a teenager, it was easy to believe in the way most teenagers do that I knew best. That if I were my mother I would do it all differently. Now, only a couple years older than my mother was when she married my father, I’m not so sure. Her shoes fit more comfortably. So, what do I wish my divorced mom would have known? From the practical to the personal, here I go.

It’s better to lean into your pain together than hide it away

My mother’s optimism has always impressed me, but her optimism is something that I now, as an adult, see in myself as something else: a mask. In other words, my mother was good at faking it. When I was growing up, we both faked it for the same reasons. I was a good student who read books, stayed out of trouble, and faded into the background. I said “fine” when she asked how I was doing, instead of saying how sad or lost I felt. I developed a sort of apathy and tried to unburden my mother. To take one more thing—raising me—off her plate, so, in many ways, my siblings and I raised each other. In doing so, I’m afraid we may have made my mother feel like we didn’t need her, which could not have been further from the truth.

I’m afraid we may have made my mother feel like we didn’t need her, which could not have been further from the truth.

Optimism is a mask that’s hard to keep on forever. Hiding becomes a habit that’s hard to break, further isolating you from your loved ones, and turning to substances like alcohol to cope is all too easy. That’s why it’s so important to find a support group outside of your usual social circles—women who understand your situation because they are going through it too or have already been there. Wanting to “be strong” for your children is understandable, but needing help is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, knowing when to ask for help is a great lesson for your children to learn.

As a divorced mom, your relationship with money will change, and that’s okay

Because my mother never remarried and had no college degree, finances were often a struggle. Little luxuries, like attending ballet classes, disappeared. We stopped bringing lunch to school and instead began typing our ID numbers into keypads in the cafeteria while women wearing hair nets discreetly pointed out what food the government would pay for and what food they would not. Then it got worse—my mother explained how we were losing the house. The car went missing from the driveway one night, and again, my mother explained, only this time we learned what a repo man was.

My mother was drowning. If I mentioned anything to my father, he’d mumble something about child support and the conversation would quickly shift to a diatribe of all the ways my mother was failing us.

My mother was not failing us. She was not alone, and neither are you. According to the US Census Bureau, nearly 40 percent of households led by single moms are living below the poverty line. Even today, when articles rethinking the value of a college degree seem prevalent, the impact having a bachelor’s degree makes on your earning potential can’t be ignored. In 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median biweekly paycheck of someone with a bachelor’s degree was $928 more than a person with a high school diploma.

But if you’re drowning in debt and stretched thin, like my mother was, then attending college likely seems out of reach. Single mothers might be surprised to find out there are often more resources available to them than they think. If you’re a divorced mom, you can also take advantage of  online finance classes geared toward women where you can learn about budgeting, paying off debt, and saving.

There’s a line between honesty and therapy

I grew up in a house full of women (and one little brother, poor him) who loved to talk. We prided ourselves on our ability to be honest with each other. Even so, as a child, if I overheard my mother or anyone else speak poorly of my father, I took it upon myself to personally defend his honor. I didn’t condone his actions, I said, but he was my father and I loved him and that was that as far as I was concerned.

After the divorce, I saw my father often. He took us to see movies and let me wander libraries and bookstores while he distracted my little brother. He listened to me, and I could tell he thought I was smart. That kind of thing mattered to me. But I wasn’t going to stay little forever. Sometimes I’d come home to my mother and vent, and it was then the floodgates would open. We became co-victims of my father’s transgressions.

The phrase “talk it out” exists for a reason.

The phrase “talk it out” exists for a reason. Many of us feel better after a good talk with someone who just gets it. But after divorce, relationships with friends and family can feel strained. Because children usually deeply understand the events that led to a divorce, even if they can’t articulate everything they heard and saw, it’s easy for parents to overshare.

A common complaint I’ve heard from other children of divorce is how their parents treated them (and often still treat them) as messengers or, even, as therapists. But your children’s father will always be a part of their lives, even if he ceases being part of yours. Instead of creating a wedge between your children and their father, use divorce as a lesson in setting personal boundaries, forgiving others, and loving someone despite their imperfections. If you find yourself venting to your children, do your best to bite your tongue and speak to a friend or professional instead. Let your children form their own opinions about who their father is or isn’t.

Your children need a parent, not a friend

As I got older, I became my mother’s confidant. The person she could talk to without judgment. Children who find themselves in this position often begin to see their parents as their equal. This dynamic grows worse if you struggle to discipline or provide structure for your children. Do they have chores? Do they have a curfew? Do you ask about their day at school, or review homework assignments together? And when mistakes are made and tantrums are thrown, how do you teach your children?

After divorce, the instinct to “do it all yourself” can be so tempting. You come home tired after a long work day. The thought of barking orders at your children or ticking domestic tasks off your to-do list seems just about impossible. So you let things slide.

When your kids start to think of you as the parent “who lets things slide,” that’s when you have a problem. You become the cool adult friend they just happen to live with instead of their parent.

But when your kids start to think of you as the parent “who lets things slide,” that’s when you have a problem. You become the cool adult friend they just happen to live with instead of their parent.

The importance of creating family moments

I have so many happy memories, even after the divorce, but I also remember how, as we grew older, our daily lives grew more fragmented. My mother was (and still is) fun. She liked to garden and do DIY projects, anything from rehabbing furniture to making lotions and lip balms from scratch. She cooked constantly and never from a recipe. I loved helping her. I’d ask her how much seasoning to put in a dish and the reply was always the same: “Trust your gut.” These things brought us together. Later, we often retreated to our own bedrooms after school, where I’d read a book or my brother would play video games. I found myself feeling nostalgic for a past I knew I couldn’t get back to.

It’s important to continue traditions and begin new ones—to have family dinners, to host game or movie nights. To remind your children that the end of a marriage isn’t the end of their world.

As a divorced mom, it’s important to continue traditions and begin new ones—to have family dinners, to host game or movie nights. To remind your children that the end of a marriage isn’t the end of their world.

You can’t control everything that happens after divorce. What your children will remember more than anything is that you were there for them and that you did your best for them. Show your children that you can fail and keep going. How what’s worse than making a mistake is not learning your lesson. I remember how much my mother tried more than I remember her failures. More than anything, this is what I’d tell her—it’s what I do tell her.

This article was authored for SAS for Women by Melanie Figueroa, a freelance writer and content editor who loves discussing women’s issues and creativity. Melanie helps authors and small businesses improve their writing and solve their editorial needs.

SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future. “Divorce can be on your terms.” – SAS For Women.

Woman celebrating after surviving a nasty divorce.

How to Survive a Nasty Divorce (And Take Care of You, Too! )

Every divorce is heartbreaking because it abruptly ends the dream of living happily ever after together. But a nasty divorce is doubly painful because of the ongoing onslaught of your Ex’s aggressive behavior.

Aggressive behavior during (and after) a bad divorce can take many forms.

Purposeful cruelty

People who resort to purposeful cruelty do things that range from petty to dangerous. At the petty end of the scale, your Ex might spread rumors about you or flaunt his* new relationship.

However, some Exes seem to lose their common sense and do hurtful things simply out of spite. They can get so wrapped up in hurting you that they’ll destroy property, kill beloved pets, or even deliberately attempt to cause you (or your children) physical and/or emotional harm.

If your Ex is behaving in dangerously cruel ways, be sure to get the help you need to protect yourself and your children. Do you need to file a restraining order? Talk to your divorce attorney to hear more.

Making false accusations

Other tactics Exes use in a nasty divorce include calling the police to falsely report you as being abusive, filing restraining orders against you for actions you’ve never taken, and accusing you of stealing marital property.

On the other hand, his accusations can be less legal in nature. He may denounce you for wanting to make his life miserable, for only being concerned about money, or some other perception he has that is not based in fact.

Unpredictable rage

Divorce and anger often go together. However, when you’re dealing with a nasty divorce, it’s a bit different. Your Ex will regularly explode for no apparent reason and be unable to speak to you in a civil tone unless he is compelled to.

His rage can strike fear in you and/or your children. And in the worst instances, his behavior can be emotionally abusive. If this is the case for you, get the protection and support you need to heal.

Each of these behaviors is an attempt to control you. A nasty divorce is all about control.

Your Ex may even use the divorce process to attempt to dominate you. He may refuse to communicate with you to drag out your divorce. He may petition for primary custody when all he really wants is joint custody or simply visitation, and he may refuse to pay support until required to do so by the court or until you do something he wants.

The list of cruel tactics someone who is out for revenge in divorce will take is virtually endless. Feeling hurt by any kind of cruelty is normal.

However, what makes a nasty divorce especially painful is that the person you thought would always have your back has turned on you. He is using everything he knows about you as a weapon in his hate-filled arsenal. He knows your vulnerabilities and is ruthlessly exploiting every single one of them.

It’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that the person you married is behaving this way. And addressing this thought is exactly where learning how to survive a nasty divorce begins.

The fact is the person you married is not the person you are divorcing. The person you married does not exist anywhere except in your memories.

The person you are divorcing is someone else—someone who is filled with thoughts of revenge and making you pay for the end of his marriage even if he is the one who wanted the divorce.

Once you begin acknowledging that the person you’re divorcing is a virtual stranger, you’ll find it easier to distance yourself from the nastiness of your divorce by doing the following:

1. Accept that your Ex’s behavior will be unacceptable at times

He will push your buttons because it’s how he can control you. He will be cruel and vengeful. And the longer you remain a victim of your emotions, the longer you will be vulnerable to his attacks.

This doesn’t mean that you don’t feel hurt by your Ex’s actions. It simply means that you begin expecting that he will behave in abhorrent ways. That way when he does something terrible you aren’t completely derailed for a lengthy period of time.

2. Don’t let his behavior change you

It can be incredibly tempting to treat your Ex the same way he is treating you. But don’t. If you do, then you’ll only escalate the situation, and your Ex will have achieved his goal of hurting and controlling you.

Instead, keep your cool. Remember to continue to behave in ways that you’ll be proud of years from now.

3. Get a support team

Surround yourself with people who are on your side, can help you navigate the unfamiliar landscape of divorce, AND can help you keep your cool. Choose to confide in and count on friends, family, a legal professional, a therapist, and/or a divorce coach who can help you achieve your goals.

4. Keep your focus on your kids (if you have them)

Concentrating on helping your kids get through this major transition in their lives is another great way for you to navigate your nasty divorce.

You’ll want to keep in mind that no matter how heinous your Ex’s behavior is, your children still love both of you. And it’s up to you to respect your children’s love.

You’ll also want to avoid putting your children in the middle of the mess which means they aren’t your spy or messenger.

5. Keep communicating with your Ex

The only way to get through your divorce is to do what needs doing which includes interacting with your Ex.

Although it may be tempting, stonewalling or ignoring your Ex will work against you. Refusing to communicate about any of the details required to move things forward will only inflame him more.

6. Shore up your Achilles’ heel

Your Ex knows your weaknesses and is looking to exploit them. If you’re concerned about finances, he can control you with financial threats. If you’re concerned about spending time with your children, he can control you with threats of taking the children away from you.

Whatever your Achilles’ heel is, ask your support team for help to put together a plan to make you less vulnerable.

Even after you’ve accepted that the person you’re divorcing is not the one you married, each of these ideas can still be challenging to act on. You’ll do better some days than others. This is your normal and human process as you continue to heal in your divorce recovery.

So, make it a point to practice self-compassion. Don’t expect yourself to do everything perfectly—just do enough.

Dealing with your Ex’s aggressive behavior will be difficult no matter what you do. However, by disengaging from your Ex and taking care of yourself you will survive your nasty divorce.

SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future. “Divorce can be on your terms.” – SAS For Women

*Disclaimer: We fully understand and respect same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we have indicated your Ex as a male.

Single mother lifting her daughter

Coparenting Tips: 4 Ground Rules All Divorced Parents Should Live by (For Everybody’s Sake)

So that’s it. Game over. You’re all talked out, and the writing on the wall is clear. Something has to change, and you and your partner have decided divorce is the best answer. If you share children with your Ex, then before you can even think about how you’ll fumble through the world of dating (because, at first, there’s sure to be at least a little fumbling while you figure out what you want) you have to come to terms with your new situation. You need coparenting tips and someone to shine a light on the path that leads forward and beyond. So, let’s begin.

You could sit on the couch watching episode after episode of Ray Donovan (cliché carton of mint chocolate chip ice cream included). You could go to the gym and spin yourself silly with endorphins. Or, you could head to Vegas for a divorce party and toast your new beginning. Whatever you do, don’t settle for old stereotypes—images of women plotting their Ex’s demise in the shadows. You’ve got too much to look forward to and to discover. Concentrate instead on creating the best life possible for your children, and redrafting the shared connection you will always have with your Ex. Confront those negative feelings about your Ex, and work on building a successful coparenting relationship. When you realize the positive impact doing so has on your children, nothing else will matter. Trust me.

Stay focused

Remember those negative feelings I mentioned? (Of course you do—right now those feelings are still fresh and raw.) They’re your first hurdle to jump on your journey toward successful coparenting. Everyone needs to vent. That’s what friends, and coaches, and therapists, and groups are for. Sharing your experiences with and supporting others, can help you move past your own feelings and gain perspective. Your emotions can be obstacles when enforcing the following four coparenting tips, so learn to let go.

Focus on creating a warm and stable environment for your children. It’s a difficult time for them too, of course. They need their parents now, possibly more than ever, and they need you to be united. Not distracted by personal squabbles that have nothing to do with your role as parents. When talking to your Ex, try not to bring up the past or allow yourself to be drawn into arguments. Stay on topic.

You are bound to have more than a few disagreements about your differing parenting philosophies. Stay focused on your main goal: doing what’s right for your children. They need time with both their parents without disrupting their entire lives and routines.

Stay positive

Staying positive can be tricky, right? The end of a marriage can feel like the end of your world, but it’s only the start of something new. Your marriage may not have turned out as planned, but that doesn’t mean you have nothing to be grateful for. Your children, friends, extended family, and pets should all add to not detract from your life. Maintaining a positive outlook is one of the best coparenting tips out there. Negative experiences are what you make of them. How you react to those experiences determines whether or not you learn from them.

Being positive helps you proactively pursue an ideal coparenting setup. Explore the potential of mediation, therapy, and counseling, and take time to learn about the processes involved in creating a parenting plan or custody agreement. There’s a lot of information out there. The legal aspects involved in creating a custody agreement can make it seem like a daunting task, but really, forming an agreement can be simple.

Get organized, but be flexible

Staying focused and positive are two coparenting tips that will help you create the consistency every family needs, especially those going through divorce proceedings. Having a set visitation calendar helps both you and your coparent understand your responsibilities with little room for conflict or misunderstandings.

Something I’ve touched on in a previous article is respecting your coparent’s differences and parenting style. It’s great to have shared values and rules about how to properly raise children, but there are bound to be points you simply don’t agree on. Structure is crucial, but being rigid is a barrier.

For the initial transition period, it can help if everyone (parents and children) has a routine. The routine will change—that’s just life! If you still need to iron out the kinks in your routine and lock down schedules, a temporary custody agreement might be the best option for your family.

Be prepared to compromise. I know this isn’t easy. You love your kids. Your feelings for your Ex, on the other hand, are complicated (to say the least). But just remember any feelings you have for your Ex can’t compare to the love you have for your children. Any compromises you make are for them.

Communicate often and effectively

In my last article, I also spoke at length about keeping the channels of communication open. Nothing has changed since then. Avoid misunderstandings by communicating often, and be a positive role model for your children (and your Ex).

Keeping your Ex in the dark about important matters will only jeopardize your ability to stay positive and focused. Be civil (even when they aren’t making it easy). Being civil helps control everyone’s emotions, and you will leave exchanges feeling all the better for it.

If you have children, it’s not news to you that your Ex will most likely always be a part of your life. These coparenting tips will help you set aside your feelings and do right by your children. A rocky marriage does not have to translate to a rocky childhood for your kids.

Whether you are navigating the experience and aftermath of divorce, or in that confusing but fertile place of recreating the life you want to lead, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of “After Divorce.” “A successful divorce requires smart steps through and beyond the divorce document.” Learn what we mean and how it will benefit you in a free 45-minute consultation.

This article was authored by Krishan Smith: senior editor and content specialist at Custody X Change, a custody software solution. Custody X Change provides software for developing and managing custody agreements, parenting plans and schedules.

Father coparenting his daughter by tending to her hair.

How to Parent Your CoParent (Without Him Realizing!)

You know that setting an example is always important. And you can guess, I’m not just talking about the model you demonstrate to your kids. When you separate and become coparents, it is so easy to disengage and consequently, communicate less and less with your ex. It can be such a relief! Yet, communication more than ever remains key. If you want a healthy coparenting situation where both parents are informed and active (the best scenario for your children), then how you share information is vital. What’s more, communicating healthily in front of your children provides them with a model to base their own behavior.

The value of setting the coparent example

If you want your children to grow up as kind-hearted, thoughtful, respectful people then screaming at your coparent is not going to cut it. Your ex needs to realize this too.

So, if you lead, if you set the example, this will show your coparent “how it’s done” (potentially, he* may have no idea, otherwise). This might well encourage your ex to emulate you (but don’t ask him to acknowledge that!)

There should be a clear distinction between setting an example for your ex-spouse and making an example of him/her. If the other half of your coparenting duo is failing in some way, don’t complain about this to your children. If your coparent is breaking arrangements or missing dates, speak to him about it whilst keeping the interests of your children the focal point of your conversation. You must always frame things and behaviors as how they impact the children. Try explaining that lateness and missing appointments “are not values we want to instill in our children” and simultaneously how “it’s not fair to keep them waiting or give them false expectations.” “They are excited to see you and disappointed when you don’t show up or appear unreliable.”

This seems self-evident, but your coparent is rarely going to be motivated to please you (–although some ex’s are evolved). So venting to him about your plans being foiled or your appointments being missed because of him and his lateness or no show, is not going to necessarily cause him to be more reliable in the future.  Again, it’s the kids, it’s the kids …

It goes without saying that you then need to do everything to keep your word, and you must honor your appointments. When you reach an agreement, stick to it. Parenting plans and schedules are designed to be flexible but simultaneously need to be stuck to unless enough prior notice is given to all involved parties (including your kids).

Respect your differences

There are many different parenting styles and it’s highly unlikely that you and your ex will see eye to eye on all aspects of raising the children. In fact it’s highly unlikely these days you see eye to eye on anything! That being said you can’t expect each co-parent to share the exact same ideals and try to implement the same parenting methods. Differences don’t mean that one approach is right and that one is wrong. If you want your coparent to see things from your point of view, or if your ex genuinely needs a metaphorical kick up the backside in terms of effort levels, then the best approach is not belittling the parent in front of the children.

Parenting styles you may be familiar with range from Authoritative to Permissive with plenty of room for grey areas in between. Of course, if your coparent is massively lacking discipline in an area of their parenting then you should have a quiet word. You need to agree on values you teach your children and consistent rules regardless of which household they’re staying at. This doesn’t mean being too involved in your coparent’s time with your child though; give your ex room to naturally develop his relationship, solo, with the children.

Don’t give up!

If you can accept your differences then you can work together. Don’t dismiss your chances at having a successful coparenting relationship, because your marriage did not work. Your children are one of the wonderful things that remain of your relationship. And it is for your children that it’s worth doing your best now with your ex. Giving your children the quality of life you want, the parenting relationships they need, and the easiest transition between households are your goals.

Listen to your co-parent, acknowledge his opinion and respect prior arrangements. Reinforce the fact that you are a parenting team. Be considerate towards your ex, co-operate, apologize when necessary and communicate effectively whilst applying restraint. Keep your coparent informed, updated and most importantly involved with your children.

Be prepared to compromise and work on your patience! Apply constructive criticisms SELECTIVELY and be ready for the response. It may seem like a lot to remember but eventually it will come more naturally and once applied you should be able to get a mirrored response from your ex-spouse. If not, he will run risk of being the “bad guy” and in that situation at least your children will have one positive role model to look up to.

Doing the right thing improves your coparenting relationship and your parent/child relationship. It may seem obvious but then again nobody will claim it is easy. When past love, hate, bitterness and emotion is involved it becomes very difficult to be the bigger person and control your actions, words and body language. Nevertheless you must put the hurt and anger aside and separate your feelings from your behavior. Your children must realize that they are far more important than the issues that ended your relationship with your Ex.

This article was authored by Krishan Smith, senior editor and content specialist at Custody X Change, a custody software solution. Custody X Change provides software for developing and managing custody agreements, parenting plans and schedules whilst additionally providing free co-parenting resources and a scholarship program for single parents.

(* Disclaimer: For the sake of brevity, this article relies on the pronoun “him” as the gender of  your ex; while we well realize your ex may be a she.)

Should I divorce a woman wonders

Should I Divorce My Husband or Stay, for the Kids?

Your home has become a war zone. You and your husband are always fighting — or it’s eerily silent — and you are both miserable. What was supposed to be happily ever after has become an ordeal you cannot escape. Or can you?

A voice inside your head whispers, again and again, “Should I divorce?”

While another voice asks desperately, “What about the kids?”

If the word divorce sends chills up your spine then you have one thing going for you – you aren’t taking this decision lightly. It means something and this scares you. That’s good – very good. Divorce is never easy – on anyone involved. It changes your life and those changes are not always good — especially for your kids. But will getting a divorce ruin them? If you aren’t sure, then we need to talk.

Divorce isn’t always good. But, it isn’t always bad either. Like any other big decision in life it can go either way. Your job as a mom is making the best decision you can; working hard to limit the fallout; and helping your kids persevere through it all.

The impact of divorce isn’t always clear

If you have been contemplating a break-up, maybe Googling “Should I divorce?” at various intervals in your life, odds are good you have been scouting out information about how it will impact your kids.  Maybe you have read a few articles that cite all kinds of bad things that will happen to your kids: like, they will develop behavioral problems; they won’t be able to sustain a lasting relationship of their own in the future; they will fail in school; or they will become young parents.

As a mother, you may be focusing on these negative reports, fearing the decision you are making. But there is another side to this story. There are plenty of reports that contradict these negative findings. One study done at Dartmouth indicated that 75-80% of children from divorced homes showed no lasting psychological effects from their parents’ breakup. Another study showed that 42% of young adults who came from divorced households received higher well-being scores than their counterparts who came from a two-parent household.

When asking yourself, “Should I divorce my husband?” consider this important fact: a 2012 study at Notre Dame University showed that parents who fight in front of kindergarten age children set their kids up for depression, anxiety and behavioral problems at a much higher rate than those who decide to end their marriages. This study indicates that it is not necessarily the act of divorce that causes problems for kids, but the inability of the parent’s to provide a calm and loving environment that does the most harm.

Other studies suggest it is actually how you navigate the divorce process that dictates how well your children will recover.

How divorce can benefit your kids (Yes, we said that!)

Life is tough sometimes, and kids need to learn that no matter how tough it gets, they will survive. So, while you worry that ending a bad marriage is going to ruin your kids, statistics show that it can actually help make them stronger, happier people.  Here are just some of the things that kids learn when parents divorce:

  • Conflict resolution: Divorce can show kids how to overcome conflict. While it is a dramatic way to solve your marital strife, it does show a positive way to solve problems — as opposed to staying in a spin cycle of pain.
  • Co-parenting can means more parental involvement: statistics show that kids in shared custody situations actually spend more quality time with each individual parent. The Journal and Marriage & Family says that  “quality time with your kids has a bigger impact than quantity of time spent in their presence.”
  • What real happiness is: a household wrought with strife is chaotic and can even feel emotionally unsafe to your kids. But, when the parents finally end the marriage, the stress –and the fighting – is relieved. This can help kids experience life without the chaos; showing them a difference from what they have known. And also, that people have choices as to how they can live.
  • Perseverance: life doesn’t always go as planned. When kids see their parents’ reviving after a failed marriage they learn how to persevere through the tough times and create a new beginning, too.

The negative side of divorce

Of course, we all know that divorce is not always pretty. A bad marriage can turn into a worse divorce.  Ending a marriage can bring out the worst in people, especially when kids are involved. If you cannot find a way to get along with your husband during and after the divorce, ending your marriage could do more harm than good when it comes to your kids’ future.

Statistics show that the trauma of divorce can send kids reeling. In some cases they experience an increase in depression, anxiety, behavioral problems; issues in the future connecting with others; trust issues; and more.

Add to that the negative financial impact many divorces have on mothers and children, and you are getting the picture of a different kind of stress. If you have a hard time financially caring for your children after a divorce, it will impact everything about their life. This may limit their involvement in extra-curricular activities like sports and music lessons; where they live; and the friends they make; as well as their ability to continue their education after high school. All of this can impact the quality of their adult lives.

Should I divorce my husband?

This is a question with no easy answer. If you are living in an abusive or dangerous situation or your husband is an addict, then it may be time to get out. We know that can be hard. But get help. If your struggles are another variety, it may be best for your kids to stick it out and work on those problems.  Consider professional assistance so you learn how to do things differently.  It is always best to work on your marriage, but remember, if your home is wrought with chaos, your kids will be harmed. Unhappy parents = unhappy kids.  With 1.5 million children facing divorce annually, the fact remains kids do overcome this change in their lives – and many actually thrive afterwards.

Is it time to give up on your marriage? Only you know the answer to that. And do not expect 100 percent clarity to the answer. Consider speaking to a professional to help you as a couple; or a divorce coach to help you evaluate what is real and what is not. Your kids are clearly a major part of your decision, but don’t let them be the deciding factor as to whether you stick it out or not. In the end you have to do what’s best for the entire family – including yourself, your husband, and your kids.

As mothers we are hardwired to put our children first. So, if you are stuck wondering, “Should I divorce?” ask yourself if this is the kind of relationship you would want your kids to have in their adult lives? Connect us for a free 45-minute consultation and we’ll help you answer some of these troubling, relentless questions for yourself. So ultimately, you will make the right decision for everybody.