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divorced women

What All Divorced Women Have in Common

Years ago, when I was still shell-shocked from learning of my husband’s infidelity and angry that I had become a divorced woman, I went out to dinner with two friends. Both were divorced women, so we had that in common. But one was talking easily about co-hosting her son’s graduation party with her Ex and his* new wife—the woman he’d left her for.

She barely even rolled her eyes when she said his name!

I couldn’t believe it. “How can you stand to be in the same room with him?” I asked, thinking of my own Ex-husband and the knot of dread and anxiety I felt just seeing his name pop up on my phone.

“It’s been five years,” she said. “After a while, I stopped caring about the past. You’ll get there too.”

She said this casually, with so much assurance, that I felt I had to believe her. But how could I?

I couldn’t imagine a day when I could be civil to my Ex

And I considered this pretty normal. Certainly, my other girlfriends who were newly divorced weren’t planning parties with their Ex-husbands. Like me, their scars were too fresh. They were still reeling from divorce fallout that seemed unending: Sandy was constantly facing her Ex in court, while Roxanne’s Ex refused to see or speak to her for more than a year. Linda was grieving not just the loss of her husband but the loss of her best friend, with whom he had an affair. Katie, in her sixties, had given up her retirement plans and savings for her second husband only to be abandoned and forced to navigate the harsh realities of a grey divorce.

What I knew for sure was that my friends and I, and many women like us, had been thrust into situations we never asked for.

As divorced women, how could we stop caring about the past when the past wouldn’t leave us alone?

I gave this a lot of thought. And I kept hearing my friend’s confident voice saying, “You’ll get there too.”


For more suggestions on how to move forward, check out What to Do After Divorce: Your Top 15 Best Moves


Then a funny thing happened. The more I thought about the past, the more I began seeing it through a different lens. In the same way that I had never imagined getting a divorce, I’d never imagined doing other challenging things, like not getting permission from the judge before moving my children to a safer, less expensive apartment. Or buying my own car without consulting with my Ex. Or enrolling in a course to become an energy medicine practitioner. Or learning to say no (full stop!) when my Ex tried to control my life.

When I focused on all the strong, independent moves I made throughout my divorce, the past didn’t seem so suffocating. In fact, I saw that I actually came through my divorce with the best gift imaginable: I met the best version of myself.

And this has been true for my friends too. We have something wonderful in common.

Divorced women have a secret superpower; it’s the strength to rise again

Not all of us look wildly successful on the outside. All of us still face challenges and struggles, but we share an inner strength that we never knew existed.

Here’s what that strength looks like:

Sandy spent so much time in court that she connected with someone who offered her a job as the office manager of an all-female law firm.

The extended cold shoulder Roxanne got from her Ex gave her the space to meet an amazing new partner.

Linda kept loneliness at bay by focusing on her education and career. She earned a doctorate degree and became a department head at a Big Ten university.

Katie, like me, wrote an award-winning memoir about surviving divorce.

Now, when I meet someone going through a divorce, I want to be the one offering assurances. I want to share what my friends and I have learned. I want to take that baffled, disbelieving woman gently by the shoulders, look her in the eyes, and tell her to have faith.

Divorced women are the strongest women you’ll ever meet

A divorced woman knows that the best version of her has gone ahead and is pulling her forward.

A divorced woman has earned a seat at a table loaded with resilience, clarity, wisdom, and freedom. And yes, it’s the very same table where she may, one day, have dinner with her Ex and her Ex’s new wife.

And it will be no big deal. I promise.

Tammy Letherer is an author and writing coach. Her most recent book, The Buddha at My Table: How I Found Peace in Betrayal and Divorce, is a Gold Medal Winner in the Living Now Book Awards and in the Human Relations Indie Book Awards. It was also a finalist in the 2018 Best Book Awards and National Indie Excellence Awards. Join her and author Maureen Muldoon for their July 10 online event, Divorce Unscripted: An Off-the-Cuff Conversation on Finding Your Peace and Power and find out how to turn one of life’s most difficult challenges into your greatest blessing.

* At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

parental alienation syndrome

Parental Alienation Syndrome: What Is It? And How to Cope

Children who have been trained to not like one of their parents are often seen in custody disputes. Such training, programming, or what some might call “brainwashing” can be labeled as parental alienation when its goal is to somehow strengthen the role of the abusing parent. Parental alienation becomes a “syndrome” when the child, having been programmed to denigrate the other parent, now plays a role at keeping the “targeted parent” estranged and alienated.

Parental alienation syndrome may sound clinical and technical, but it refers to an all too common occurrence during and after divorce: one parent who attempts to poison their children against the other parent—and who, through control or emotional abuse, succeeds in having the kids adopt and enforce this view.

Many of us recognize examples of parental alienation—your spouse tries to monopolize your children’s time. He* paints a one-sided portrait of you and your marriage (ignoring all the good parts), while reminding the children of how many times you’ve failed them. He tries to provoke you so that you’ll take him to court, and because he is convinced of his own moral high ground, he will relish in it when you do.

Your perpetrator will make you a victim and then turnaround and call himself one. He will say he’s trying to protect your children and “do what’s best for them”, but he is so focused on hurting you and your relationship with them that he’s lost sight of what is healthy, what is indeed beneficial to the children. His tactics inevitably result with your children becoming the worst kind of collateral damage.

What’s happening to the kids

When a parent is successful at turning the children against their other parent, the children’s respect for the targeted parent quickly erodes. For example, your children may begin to openly insult you, or they may demand to spend more time with your Ex. They may begin to act out, or shut down, and their academic performance may slip. If you and your Ex find yourself in an argument, your children may repeatedly (overtly or covertly) side with him.

Your children might adopt the language of your Ex, as they process the world through “his eyes.” This goes beyond the subtle (and perhaps not so subtle) manipulations of your Ex coming to fruition.

Your children are now choosing their other parent over you, yes, but they too are suffering for it.

With so much at stake, healthy coparenting means avoiding parental alienation at all costs and being conscious of good parenting skills.

However, an insidious dimension to the problem is that perpetrators of parental alienation often display behaviors associated with good parenting: meaning, they show up for school events and pickups. They are deeply involved in their children’s lives such that it looks like they are doing everything right as a parent. And yet their engagement is often tightly wound with control and personality disorders, like narcissism. They use lies and manipulation and power as their weapons. At the end of the day, what they really care about is winning.

So, how do we “fight” against parental alienation and its syndrome?

First, we must learn to recognize it. And part of recognizing it is accepting that we women are often the perpetrators.

Until the 1990s—when women were more often the traditional, stay-at-home parent—it was mothers who had more time with their kids and therefore more time to “emotionally overshare,” or to use their children as a sounding board for marital problems. And it was fathers who were more often the targeted parent. Today, as more and more men are the primary caregivers or at least sharing a greater portion of that responsibility, the traditional roles played out in parental alienation are shifting, too.

This said, the “stay-at-home” factor does not necessarily dictate who the perpetrator is. There are ample examples of the moneyed parent using his or her economic edge to offer “a more privileged lifestyle” to a child—resulting in the child favoring the privileged parent.

What is clear is that parental alienation can be perpetrated by either parent and by either gender, but the result always impacts the children.

If you are feeling the stress of a difficult marriage, or struggling with independence as a single mother, we encourage you to find a healthy place to vent and get support for the challenges facing you. It may be hard, but strive to speak respectfully of your Ex to your kids. In our work supporting women through and past divorce, we’ve seen all too often what happens when a woman ignores this advice: her children grow older, and as they eventually circle back to their estranged parent, she is held responsible for the traumatic breakdown of the past.

The remaining information is directed toward our female readers who feel they may be at risk or are currently suffering from parental alienation syndrome.

Distorted memories and perception

If you’re suffering from parental alienation syndrome, your Ex is likely a master manipulator—he’s so successful at this, in fact, that he can distort your children’s memories and perception.

Mom isn’t tired and overworked. She isn’t casual, or maybe, even a little bohemian. No, “she’s let herself go,” “she can’t keep a home,” “she’s a mess,” or “she can’t be trusted because she’s lazy, irresponsible” or “she never grew up.” Or maybe your marriage ended because of an affair, and when your children gather the courage to confront your Ex, he plants the idea that you may have been sleeping around too—or that you, not him, are the adulterer. You broke up the family.

Suddenly your children look at you and what “they know” differently. Men who do this tell themselves they are simply keeping it real or they “just want their children to know the truth,” but more often they’re projecting or downright lying—they are trying to lessen your role, connection, and significance.

Strained familial relationships

The sad fact is that if your Ex is truly successful at alienating you from your children, he’s likely successful at separating them from your extended family, too. The pain and disappointment your family feels from being barred access to your kids will be real and will heighten your pain, too. Your Ex might invent or bend truths to make your parents and siblings (your children’s grandparents, aunts, and uncles) look like strangers or worse, enemies. He’ll find reasons and excuses to keep your kids from being with your family because he’s “protecting them,” but really it’s because your family is an extension of you.

Low self-esteem

How we define our sense of self worth is complicated. If your Ex is targeting you, he’s teaching your children to view your traits and interests as negative. But your children, being part of you, likely share some of those traits and interests. Suddenly they might want to hide parts of themselves away. They might feel ashamed because they know they are part of you.

One of the worst parts about being a victim of parental alienation is that your children don’t usually realize what’s happening.

They don’t have the distance or maturity to understand it either. Even though they are feeling and suffering through all of the above, they will, still, often choose your Ex. It’s a toxic relationship in which your children are constantly seeking validation from the very person who is least likely to give it to them—or, more to the point—to the person whose validation is likely to be fleeting.

This is an abusive relationship: for the love your Ex is extending is conditioned on your children’s rejection of you.

Parental alienation syndrome and support

Abuse and parental alienation have become central issues in some divorce cases.

If you’re dealing with an abusive Ex (and, arguably, alienation in any form is abuse) then we suggest finding a lawyer who understands and recognizes an abuser when she sees one. Do not underestimate your Ex. Do not allow your positive, rose-tinted memories of him to sway your ability to do all you can to protect yourself and your children.

And because you’re here, reading this, know that if you are suffering from parental alienation syndrome, there’s a real chance your children are suffering with you, perhaps in silence.

There are research support groups and organizations nearby that will educate and empower you. Learn about parenting tools that can help you maintain healthy boundaries yet communicate essential information between you and your Ex. Relying on the old way you communicated never worked before, and confronting your Ex about his behavior won’t help either.  Let go of the concept of “coparenting” — the otherwise healthy approach to communicating regularly with your Ex. (because it’s in the best interest of your children’s development). And understand that your endeavoring to survive as an estranged parent. Know that trying to talk to your children directly about how alienated your feeling can backfire as well. Your children may be punished by their other parent just for engaging with you. Don’t give your Ex an invitation to stir things up and make your divorce recovery harder. You’ve got to keep going, working on yourself, because one day, chances are your children will circle back to you. When they do you want to be everything you can for them. Strong. Independent. Healthy.

Parental alienation syndrome is real and coping with it may be a long and lonely battle—and indeed, it’s a battle that may not even be possible for you to truly win. Divorce, as with much of life, isn’t that black and white. But don’t give up. Find regular time for self-care with a therapist trained and experienced in parental alienation. Cultivate a support system with other parents who understand how isolating your experience is right now. They can give you perspective and help guide and protect you during those hours you feel your most alone.

If you already find your children slipping away from you, leave room in your life and in your heart for the possibility that they will one day come back because we’ve seen it all, my friend—and it’s not all tragedy. Sometimes we do get our happy endings, but we have to play the long game, to let go of the idea that we are in control of the where and when.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the challenging experience of divorce and re-creation. Now you can secure female-centered support and smart next steps coparenting and rebuilding your life with Paloma’s Group, our virtual group coaching program for women post-divorce. To learn if Paloma is right for you, schedule your quick 15-minute chat now. To promote sisterhood and protect confidentiality, space is limited. 

*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.

References: Clawar, S. S. and Rivlin, B. V. (1991), Children Held Hostage: Dealing with Programmed and Brainwashed Children. Chicago, Illinois: American Bar Association.

get over my ex

14 Ways I’m Going to Get Over My Ex!

What makes a post-divorce break up different than a divorce? Listen in as one divorced woman talks about how she’s going to get over her (latest) Ex…

Dear Jack,

I’m going to tell you everything I think about you, felt for you, and feel for you. I am going to EXPLODE!

And cry.

And you’re never going to know.

In fact, I’m going to record myself so I can evaluate this whole thing later—this whole thing being you, me, and what was us. But for now, I need a witness. A listener. And it can’t be you anymore.

I’m going to walk around a piece of paper I’ve placed on a table, and depending on how I feel at different moments, I’m going to attack it—with bitterness, outbursts, and wet fingers from swiping away tears.

I am scribbling things like …

Rejected! LIVID! HOWLING at the moon!

MISSING you.

I am FEELING old.

Why did you let this go on for so long?

Why are you such a coward?

I surprise myself at my depth of raw hurt. It’s clear I unequivocally love you, loved you, yes, love you even now. Because look at me and what I am reduced to.

When my paper is looking more Jackson Pollack than diary entry, I step back and wait — to let it catch more. Because there will be more, I know — waves of rollercoaster shock and grief for what you’ve done. And for me, for being in this place. For feeling this pain. The anguish of what is right now.

And then?

I’m going to put my dark, smeared masterpiece in an envelope.

I am not going to mail you this testament, this letter, because it would be lost on you. I am going to put it on a far shelf in a cellar closet. Not forgotten, mind you, but contained. I’ve learned I need to work you and what this story really means out more, and when I have, when I am ready, I’ll pull out this hidden envelope. In sacrament or something else, I’ll burn it. Or bury it. Or maybe post it to a wall of cork and throw darts at it.

(It’s got to be cork. I won’t want to damage the wall behind the letter, because that would be permanent.)

As a divorced woman who has survived before, I know I will get over you.

But I also know, I will always love you.

Until I can live in peace with that truth, here is what else I am going to do to get over my Ex. To get over you, my latest heartbreak.

1. I am going to moan and cry

I am going to come to terms with letting you go only after much resistance. So, cry I must.

2. I am going surround myself with girlfriends

My girlfriends remind me of who I am and the rings of fire I’ve already been through. I am going to feel their love and savor their bias. And I am going to laugh and let them say whatever they want to say about you — and NEVER defend you.

3. I am going to block you

I know my weakness, my tendency to obsess over you. There will be no more Facebook peeks or Instagram stalking from me. I won’t allow it. I’m blocking your texts and number. I’ve learned I must treat you like a drug and go cold turkey.

4. One night (or more) I’m going to eat WTF I want

Remember how you’re allergic to shellfish and nuts? Well, I am going out with my besties, and we’re ordering lobster tails with peanut saté followed by gallons of pistachio ice cream.

5. I am going to repeat aloud what I know: I am going to get over you

People break up with each other all the time. I’ve been here before, and so have so many others.

6. I’m going to commit to regular exercise

Exercising will help me feel and look better about myself. Feeling healthier is going to help me bounce back sooner.

7. I am going to get drunk and curse you out

I exercised, but now I’m hanging with my friend who could always drink you under the table and she’s reminding me why she didn’t like you either! How do I get over my Ex? I’ve already forgotten him.


Related: Post Divorce: How to Avoid Making the Same Mistakes in Your Next Relationship


8. I’m going to try to rebalance

Recovering from my hangover is going to remind me how fragile and very precious I actually am. I am going to try to regulate my sleep and eat healthily to support my heart and immune system as they metabolize the pain and vodka.

9. I’m reconnecting with a trusted professional

Something I learned through my past divorce—I will feel better if I don’t just talk about the pain I am going through but actually DO something with these feelings. Taking action is really important. Hello, Divorce Coach, remember me? I’m back but in a different, improved way.

10. I’m going to find a home for your belongings

Granted, you’ve not got a lot of things here (and there’s no 401(k)). But I’ve discovered a special place where your toothbrush is going to live. And it’s not at my house.

11. I may reactivate my online dating profile—and act out!

I say I might—not because I’ve healed—but because I am an independent woman, and I can! It may feel good to hear someone say I have a pretty smile. Or to go out for a drink with someone who thinks I am special; someone who doesn’t see the tire tracks on my back from where I’ve been dumped.

12. I am going to smudge the house

The last time I had to get over my Ex, I hired a professional energy clearer. I’ve since learned I can buy the sage myself from the health food store, and on my own, purify my house of all the (stinking, rotten) heaviness you left. Poof! Gone!

13. I am going to consider what missteps I took in this ill-fated Tango

What was my responsibility in the downfall of our relationship? And what have you taught me? (But only after I’ve exhausted myself being small and blaming you.)

14. I am going to be kind to myself

I know getting over you is going to hurt, and it’s going to require time and steps. I learned that through a much deeper, momentous trip — my divorce recovery. That’s right, sir. You are not my first.

 

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the challenging experience of divorce and re-creation. Now you can learn the Art of Reinvention through Paloma’s Group, our virtual, online post-divorce group coaching class for women only. To promote sisterhood and protect confidentiality, space is limited.

* 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.

Bad divorce advice

8 Terrible (But Common) Pieces of Divorce Advice You Should Definitely Ignore

It’s a rare skill to listen to someone without offering up your two cents, and divorce advice is no different. Each and everyone one of us does this. For women, especially, it’s only natural to want to help our loved ones. So we dole out our well-meaning advice. We try to fix whatever’s broken. But we don’t know what we don’t know, and when it comes to someone else’s marriage, there’s just so damn much we don’t know. Will never know.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of this “well-intentioned” divorce advice, just know that you’re not alone in this. Most of it comes from a good place, though much of it is terrible. Here are some of the more common pieces of divorce advice we’ve come across and why they often miss the mark.

Wait until the children are out of the house, for their sake

One of the most common pieces of divorce advice is simply to not get divorced at all. At least, not until the children are old enough to live on their own. This, the advice giver says, is what’s best for your children. But the research shows that’s not the case. Getting divorced and removing your children from an environment filled with tension and uncertainty can be better for you children in the long run.

In this case, the advice giver skirts around everything left unsaid: teach your children that it’s more important to be miserable than happy, to do what’s easy rather than what feels right, to pretend that everything is okay rather than bare your mistakes to the world, to make fear-based decisions instead of taking risks and being brave.

Get it together already

Harsh. But it’s tough love, right? The problem with telling someone to get it together is that it implies there’s a time limit on how long each of us has to wallow in our emotions. To just be. To process the end of a relationship. But sometimes all we feel up to on a given day is planting ourselves in front of the TV and watching When Harry Met Sally on repeat. Yes, Netflix, we are still here.

We get it, no one likes to see someone they love in pain, so when someone tells you to shut off your feelings, to “X or get off the pot” just to make them more comfortable around you simply explain to them that that is exactly what they are doing. You are sad, and that’s okay. If they don’t like what they see, they can leave you to it. Your divorce recovery journey is your journey, and no one but you gets to dictate what that journey looks like.

You just need to try harder

Divorce advice about you needing to “put in the work” almost always includes phrases like “to get that spark back.” Most of these people mean well, but being that they are on the outside of your marriage looking in, they can’t possibly know just how much effort you’ve already put into reconnecting with your partner and “fixing” whatever’s wrong in your marriage.

Working on your marriage is a complicated thing. It might be that all of this burden is being placed on your shoulders—or maybe it’s the opposite. On the advice of your loved ones, you’re constantly having talks with your husband* about trying more, making more time, changing his behavior, and now, he feels as though he’s walking on eggshells. That everything he does is wrong. This isn’t good either.

You and your partner should not feel pressured to perform a role that no longer fits, to be what someone expects of you rather than be yourself. Sometimes we try so hard to make our marriages work that we fail to see that we’ve become two mismatched puzzle pieces being forced together.

And then there’s the flip side.

It’s time to find someone better

It’s hard not to cringe when someone tells you this. Are they implying that you chose the wrong partner? That your Ex isn’t a good person? The truth is there are often a myriad of, and not just one, reasons that cause a marriage to come to an end. There is no winning or losing side. And in the months or even years leading up to your divorce, it’s quite possible that you painted a pretty one-sided picture of your Ex. It’s possible that your loved ones don’t have the full story.

After divorce, we each have our own lessons to learn. Could we communicate better? Be more patient and understanding? Are we being honest with ourselves about what we want out of life? Maybe your Ex was exactly who you needed in your life at a given moment, and now, for whatever reason, things have changed.

And if you have children who overhear talk of finding someone better, it’s possible that they’ll develop a negative view of themselves. After all, half of their identity has been formed by their father. If he’s not “good enough,” then maybe you feel the same way about them, too.

Next time, you’ll get it right

Here’s another cringeworthy piece of divorce advice. Marriage, children, the house—for so many, these are the markers of someone who has “made it.” Someone who’s successful and has it all. But now, your marriage is over. If you were once a winner, then logic says you’re now a loser. They (meaning all the people who are still winning, all the “happily-married” couples whose lives you are envious of) have gotten it and are still getting it right.

By now, surely you can see the problem with this kind of thinking. The logic is flawed. For one, there might not be a next time, and you might be perfectly okay with that. But more than that, marriage, and life by extension, is not a game. And you are not a failure for deciding to stop playing one way.

You need a rebound

You need to move on! You need to get “out there” and have some fun. You need to get under someone to get over someone. No matter how they phrase their words, anyone who gives you this advice is telling you the same thing: jump into bed with someone else—it’s the only way to let go of your feelings for your Ex.


Read: How to Avoid Rebound Relationships After Divorce


And hey, if this has helped you, then more power to you, but each of us is cut from a different cloth. There’s a time and place for casual sex, and while you’re recovering from divorce may not be one of them. Instead of helping you feel more alive and in control, it can make you feel even more alone and empty. At the end of the day, there’s that word “casual” attached to the sex. Casual as in no attachments, no feelings, and no promises. When you’re at your most vulnerable, sometimes you need to surround yourself by people who offer more stability than that.

You better dive back into that dating pool—you’re not getting any younger

It seems that for women our biological clocks never quite stop ticking. Our days are numbered in large, bold font with a neon arrow pointing to our expiration date for all to see. After divorce, we feel pressured to quickly find another of those plentiful fish in the sea. To snap one up and lock it down before the wrinkles settle in for good and we grow tired of covering up the grey.

And all this pressure? It puts you at risk of settling for someone who’s not really right for you and ignoring someone who might surprise you. It makes the whole dating experience more of a frantic frenzy than a journey that teaches you just as much about yourself as it does about any man. Give yourself the time you deserve to properly recover from your divorce before you start dating again. You can find happiness at any age, and anyone who tells you otherwise should be ignored. They’re projecting their own fears, but you know better than that.

Squeeze every penny out of that [insert insult here]

During and after your divorce, you’ll likely be experiencing many emotions, with one in particular often rising to the surface: anger. And your loved ones, who are also feeling angry on your behalf, might be stoking those fires rather than helping you put them out. But deciding to go after your Ex “for all that the’s worth” almost never makes those feelings go away. Instead, it prolongs your divorce proceedings. It creates resentment on both sides. It makes successfully coparenting nearly impossible.

In the moment, being angry might feel good, but in the long run, you’re giving both you and your Ex less resources to live your lives and raise your children with.

If you’ve gone through or are currently in the midst of divorce, we’d love to hear from you. What’s the worst piece of divorce advice you received? What “words of wisdom” do you wish you had ignored?

Whether you are considering a divorce, already navigating it, or are recovering from its upheaval, 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 divorce recovery. Experience SAS firsthand. Schedule your free, 45-minute consultation to hear perspective, next steps and the best resources that will honor your life and who you are meant to be.

This article was authored for the all-women website SAS for Women by Melanie Figueroa, a 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.

*At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

post divorce

Post Divorce: How to Avoid Making the Same Mistakes in Your Next Relationship

When you get out of a long-term relationship or marriage, the newfound freedom can feel both exhilarating and daunting, especially if you’ve felt trapped or unhappy for a long time.

In your post divorce/new found life, you can now do things you couldn’t do before.

You can stay out late when your Ex has the kids.

You don’t have to answer to him* anymore (at least not like you used to).

You can be your own woman and show up in the world in a way that you felt you haven’t been able to in a very long time.

You’re a free agent! Part of you just wants to do something different, have a good time, and be who you really are.

You’re conscious of what happened with your Ex

In retrospect, you realize maybe you kind of fell into your past relationships. And now years later, you wondered what truly happened—what about those people drew you to them—and if that pain could’ve been avoided.

Maybe you’re already in a budding romance. There’s amazing chemistry. Things are moving quickly. And you haven’t felt this deep a connection with any other man before. You’re wondering where he’s been all your life.

At the same time, there’s a part of you that’s scared. You really want it to last. But you’re afraid of making the same mistakes. You’re worried about overlooking red flags and ending up with a different version of your Ex.

I feel you. This post divorce stage in life can be exciting and confusing at the same time. But it doesn’t have to lead to heartbreak.

If you want to avoid making the same mistakes in your next relationship, there are five things you can do to help set yourself up for relationship success and give yourself the best chance of finding a committed relationship that lasts.

To be clear, this is not to say that your previous relationships were mistakes or that you did anything wrong. Every experience no matter how painful can bring powerful new awareness to our life.

The truth is, we don’t know what we don’t know. You’ve already acknowledged that you want to avoid making the same “mistakes,” that you want to be more conscious on your dating journey, and that’s the first step.

So how do you actually get conscious and avoid making the same “mistakes”?

Get a clear vision of the kind of life and relationship you ultimately want

Your vision is the dream that lives inside you for the kind of life and relationship that you ultimately want. It’s where you want to live, how you want to live, and the kind of work or career that’s deeply fulfilling for you. It’s the kind of relationship that you really want.

Not just the qualities you’re looking for in a partner but rather a clear and conscious picture of the kind of experience that you want in a partnership. It’s about knowing what that partnership looks like and feels like.

Having a clear vision for the kind of life and relationship you want—before you start dating—is important because being conscious of your vision will help you avoid getting deeply involved with someone who doesn’t want the same things you want from life.

For example, if your dream is to have more kids or travel around the world, getting deeply involved with someone who is done having kids or who hates travel is only going to end in deep disappointment for the both of you.

So, if you don’t know what your vision is for the kind of life and relationship that you want, take the time to explore and get clear before you date to find your next serious relationship.

In the meantime, take a break from dating or date for fun, and avoid getting deeply involved until you’re clear on what you want in life and in a partnership.

Be aware of your relationship history and patterns

Being aware of your relationship history and patterns is about knowing, for example, why you seem to be irresistibly attracted to guys who [insert bad habit, problem, or “character flaw” here].

It’s about knowing what part you might have played in the demise of a relationship. It’s about knowing where you have wounds or scars so that when your insecurities get triggered (and they will), you’ll know where the feelings are coming from. And you’ll know whether a relationship issue is simply a story you’re telling yourself or if it’s a real red flag.

The saying is true: those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it. Without conscious awareness of our patterns, we’re not aware of the whys behind our decisions. But when we’re empowered with awareness, we can consciously make different choices that support our relationship goals instead of detracting from them.

Know your relationship requirements

Relationship requirements are your nonnegotiables. Requirements are what you absolutely require in a relationship in order for a relationship to work for you. They’re your dealbreakers.

They’re qualities of a relationship that you feel so strongly about that you would end a relationship if even one of them was missing.

If you’ve thought about or are living your life post divorce, chances are that you have some idea of what you will and won’t tolerate in a relationship.

So looking at your relationship history (all your relationships), in addition to looking at why your marriage ended, will give you valuable clues into what your dealbreakers are post divorce.

We tend to think of relationship requirements as qualities that we want our partner to have.

But the best way to approach this is to think about the experience that you want to have in a partnership.

So, for example, if your Ex cheated on you and you know that that’s a deal breaker for you, then your requirement might be monogamy and being faithful.

Or if you’re thinking you require open and honest communication in a partnership, what’s most important is to know exactly what that looks like and feels like for you in the kind of partnership that you want to have.

In other words: how would you know that you had open and honest communication in your relationship if you saw it?

The incredible value of knowing your relationship requirements is knowing exactly what to look for when you’re dating so that you can more quickly and effectively screen potential partners post divorce.

By knowing your relationship requirements, you’ll know exactly what you’re “testing” for in your relationship as you get more deeply involved, so you avoid wasting your time with guys who aren’t a match and only spend your time with quality men who have long-term potential. The kind of men who vibe with your vision of life post divorce.

Post divorce, get real clear on your needs and wants

Your needs and wants are related to your vision and requirements in that they’re part of what you need in order to have a happy and fulfilling life and relationship.

Your needs are what you need in a relationship in order for the relationship to work for you.

They’re different from requirements in that requirements are dealbreakers, whereas an unmet need wouldn’t necessarily mean you would end the relationship.

We have functional and emotional needs.

Functional needs are what we need in a relationship in order for it to work. For example, if you’re a punctual person but your boyfriend tends to run late, that’s going to create an issue for you.

It might not be a deal breaker, but it raises an issue because your need for punctuality is not being met.

Emotional needs are what we need to feel loved.

For example, for many people, it’s really important to experience affection and appreciation in a relationship. You might be thinking, “Well, of course! Wouldn’t that be a dealbreaker to not have affection and appreciation in a relationship?”

Not necessarily.

The difference between needs and requirements are that requirements are black and white. They’re absolute, they’re dealbreakers. They have the power to end a relationship.

Unmet needs raise an issue, but they’re not dealbreakers.

So if your honey forgot your anniversary once or didn’t give you a kiss when he got home from work, would you end the relationship? Probably not. But it might certainly raise an issue for you.

And then “wants” are the icing on the cake. They’re the qualities of a relationship that you would like to have, but it’s not critical to your happiness or to the functioning of a relationship for you.

It’s so important to know your needs and wants because, like knowing your requirements, it will help you screen potential partners for long-term compatibility. If you’re not clear on what your needs are, how would you know whether your potential partner can even meet them?

Having your needs met is key to your long-term happiness. So dating with your needs in mind will help you make the right choices with men.

Practice conscious dating

The fifth key to avoiding making the same mistakes in your next relationship is to practice conscious dating, which means bringing all these important elements together—your vision, needs, and requirements—and using them as powerful tools to screen for compatibility and (this is a really big one) to balance your heart with your head.

It’s about consciously taking the time to evaluate whether you’re ready for a relationship, focusing on “getting ready” if you’re dating to find a committed partnership, and resolving anything (like legal ties to your Ex) that might interfere with the growth and success of a new romance post divorce.

When you’ve just gotten out of a long-term relationship and start dating for fun, or when you’re head over heels in a new romance, it’s so easy to get caught up in the chemistry and attraction.

Don’t get me wrong, chemistry and attraction are important elements for connection and bringing people together. They have an important purpose in dating and relationships!

But we get into trouble when we make relationship decisions based on chemistry and attraction alone.

Having a clear vision for the kind of relationship you want and being conscious of your requirements, needs and wants (and the differences between them) empowers you to stay objective, avoid getting distracted, and ultimately be deeply true to yourself and your relationship goals.

So whether you’re reveling in your newfound freedom or exploring a new romance, I invite you to go slow in your break up or divorce recovery, date with intention, and keep your eyes wide open.

Take this time for yourself to “get ready” for a relationship. Clarify your dreams and goals for your life and the partnership that you ultimately want to have. It can be an opportunity for amazing clarity and deep self-awareness that will help you find and create a life that you love…with the love of your life.

Melissa Josue is a dating and relationship coach for smart successful women who are frustrated that they keep attracting men who are emotionally unavailable or aren’t ready to commit. She helps them spot red flags before they get hurt, confidently know when to stay or go, and attract a highly compatible partner who’s ready to make them a priority, so they can have a happy, committed relationship. Learn more about how to be a “Conscious Dater” and download free resources here.

*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.

what to do after divorce

What to Do After Divorce: Your Top 16 Best Moves

There is no “after divorce” checklist because what helps one person move forward with her life doesn’t always work for the next. We enter and leave our marriages with our own unique sets of personal baggage. Even so, we find thinking carefully about what to do after divorce can help you feel more in control of your future. If you have children, what kind of parent do you want to be? What kind of relationship do you want to have with your Ex? How will your lifestyle change, and how can you rediscover who you are as a newly-single woman? Are you even ready to move on?

But more than simply thinking about what to do after divorce, you must take action. It’s the best way to start the next chapter of your life, to feel less like a victim of your choices (or your Ex’s) and more like an independent, strong woman whose life can be anything she wants it to be.

From the practical to the unexpected, here are 16 things to do after divorce. You may find that some of these ideas overlap.

1. Find a therapist or a support group

Find someone impartial to talk to, someone who will force you to ask yourself the questions you need to move on and better understand what “went wrong” in your marriage. There are several ways to go about this. You can get one-on-one help by finding a therapist, or you can join a local or virtual online divorce recovery support group. If you have children and are coparenting, finding an objective third-party to speak with—and potentially learn from, is even more important. It’s so easy to lean on your children and overshare, but doing so is never a good idea.

2. Find your support system

A therapist or support group might be a part of your support system, but it’s just one spoke on the wheel. Friends, family members, close colleagues—find your people. These are the people who you turn to on good and bad days, the ones who see “the real you” in a way a therapist or coach might never be able to. Your support system should be filled with the people you trust. People who might actually be able to get you out of the house or who can look at you and say “that sucks” when that’s really all you need to hear. Above all, these are the people who make you laugh. They remind you of who you are!

3. Develop a financial plan

Putting together a financial plan may not be the sexiest thing you can do after divorce, but it’s plain smart. Finances affect divorced women in different ways. A few find themselves with more money than they know what to do with, while most find themselves challenged or even strained to make ends meet. Some women were heavily involved with finances during their marriage, while others feel like they are learning an entirely new language, suddenly forced to grapple with decisions they once left to their husband. Some women were stay-at-home moms while others held down jobs.

If you don’t understand a thing about your finances, or you are kinda shaky about them, figure out how you are going to take steps to learn. We love this financial class designed for women because the lessons are digestible videos you can take in easily. It also helps that the financial advisor teaching the class is a woman and understands our (emotional) relationship with money and what we spend money on!

No matter how your financial reality compares to other divorced women you know, you need to put together a plan and a budget, either on your own or with a financial advisor, to ensure you are taken care of.

4. Visit a social security office

Find out what your social security benefits will be in black and white figures so you can plan on what you’ll need for your later years. If your spouse earned more money than you, and as long as you do not remarry (up to age 60), you are entitled to up to 50 percent of his* benefits (regardless of his marrying again or not). Your entitlement to the benefits does not take anything away from him and his benefits, nor anyone else who may have married him after you.

Google the nearest social security office to your location and schedule an appointment, or go to the office (take a number and wait to meet with a social security rep), and get an estimate of the benefits you will receive starting at 62 as well as the optimal date for you to claim the benefits (70 or 67 years?).

You will need to take your ID and your hard-won divorce decree to show you are officially divorced. You will also need to provide your social security number and your spouses. (Look on the divorce decree!)

5. Put yourself first

Yes, we know this is a little vague, but everyone’s concept of putting themselves first differs. And if you have kids, then of course, you’ll come second until they turn 18 (and let’s be real—maybe even after). One of the perks of not having a spouse is that all of your needs and wants are suddenly the only priority. You don’t have to compromise or carefully balance your time to ensure your spouse feels supported. You now have time for self-care, and we want you to indulge yourself.

Do whatever makes you feel content—garden, take up yoga or pilates, go on a retreat or get a massage or a facial, develop a workout routine, set a weekly bubble bath date with yourself, go on a long walk. Practice (yes, “practice”) self-care. Be kind to yourself, and think of this period of your life as one of rediscovery.

6. Step outside of your comfort zone

Speaking of rediscovery, what about reinvention? Were there activities and interests you stopped making time for during your marriage? Or things you always wanted to do but never got around to? Volunteer in a program that turns you on! Or, maybe there’s a trip you always wanted to take, but you knew your Ex would never be up for it? Find your bliss. Take up rock climbing, start painting, pull a Mrs. Maisel and start a career in stand-up comedy. Create a new bucket list for a future without your husband.

7. Take a vacation

This is about more than stepping outside of your comfort zone. Take a vacation, and travel somewhere you have never been to before. Experience a different culture, a different setting, and maybe you’ll find yourself with a different perspective. Take a friend, maybe even travel with another divorced woman, and allow yourself to be spontaneous.

8. Read books

Books are great for so many things—they make you more empathetic, they teach you things, and they help you grow. You can read digitally, in-print, or listen to audiobooks so that reading becomes a routine habit, part of your daily commute or something you do while exercising. Try reading books by authors like Brene Brown or Ekhart Tolle, who can help you expand your mindset. But you can also turn to fiction like the writings of Elizabeth Gilbert, letting yourself escape into someone else’s world for a bit. Getting out of your own head is exactly what you need right now. Here are specific titles we suggest.

9. Take yourself out to dinner

Go to dinner alone and just let yourself experience the sounds, tastes, and sights. If the idea of being on your own terrifies you but you’re still feeling brave, then bring a book (see above) with you on your dinner date. That way you can still enjoy a night out while giving yourself a portable escape hatch for any potential awkward feelings on your part.

10. Dance—you guessed it—like no one else is watching

Clichéd? Maybe. But dancing is good for your soul. You can go out with friends, or simply turn on some music at home and start shaking your hips and getting lost in the beats. Dancing isn’t just about exercise. Sure, that rush of endorphins feels amazing, but it’s about reconnecting with your body. It’s about letting yourself get silly and letting your limbs loosen. It’s about reminding yourself that you’re still in control—you can flip on a switch and let music pour into your life, or you can shut yourself off.

11. Ask your kids what they want to do for the day

And then, as long as it’s within your ability, go do it. Throw out your schedules and plans. Allow yourself to be surprised by where the day might take you. Not only is this is a fun way to bond with your children, it’s a fun way to shake up your routine and make memories. Coparenting can be rough, especially at first as you and your Ex navigate your new lives, so it’s important to take pleasure in the moments you share with your kids.

12. Stop sleeping on “your side” of the bed

First, if possible, buy a new mattress, sheets and pillows. Then, spread out across your bed. Get a running start, and dive under the covers. Sleep sideways or diagonally. Use those two, or five or more plush pillows you’ve treated yourself to, and surround yourself with them on all sides. Your bed is truly yours now. You don’t have to sleep on one side anymore. Or be any one way anymore. You don’t have to stress out about waking someone up or “trespassing” on “his” territory. So get comfortable.

13. Have a girls sleepover

Remember those? Break out the popcorn, wine, and girly movies. Honestly, your friends will enjoy this as much as you—sometimes we all need an excuse to let ourselves act like our carefree selves and enjoy each other’s company. Take this time to catch up on each other’s lives and to strengthen your friendships.

14. Dress up for no reason

Throw on your favorite lipstick and those jeans that hug your curves in all the right places. You know the ones. Whether you’re staying in for the night or going out on the town, sometimes it’s nice to dress up for no real reason other than that it makes you feel good. Other times, a bit of dress up can help you achieve a new and improved look, and that kind of change might be nice at a time like this.

15. Try out new recipes

When you’re in a relationship, planning meals can be a chore even if you’re not the one cooking them. It can be hard to find common ground if your partner is a picky eater. So when you’re thinking about what to do after divorce, consider pulling out that list of foods you knew your Ex would never try and crossing them off one by one. It’s nice to treat yourself and develop some new skills at the same time.

16. Start a DIY project

This could really be anything—rehabbing a piece of furniture or planting a garden, for instance. Working with your hands allows you to fully immerse yourself in an activity and shut off your brain. Pinterest is a great place to find your next DIY project. Start small, with something you can easily achieve in a single day. You’ll feel accomplished and remind yourself what you’re capable of.

Remember, there are so many ways to help yourself move on after divorce. If your divorce recovery journey doesn’t look the same as other divorced women, don’t concern yourself. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of scenario. It’s okay if the ideas on this list don’t resonate with you. Don’t hesitate to do what feels right for you. And if there’s something that especially helped you, we’re sure our readers would love to know! Comment below, and share your favorite tips for what to do after divorce.

 

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, information, and smart next steps coparenting and rebuilding your life with Paloma’s Group, our virtual, post-divorce group coaching class, for women only. To promote sisterhood and protect confidentiality, space is limited.

* 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.

what to do when your child acts like your Ex-husband

What to Do When Your Child Acts Like Your Ex-husband

At last, you are finally on the other side of the longest, hardest life change you have ever experienced: your divorce. Your emotions are stabilizing and the coparenting arrangement seems to be working (for the most part). You are free from him* and ready to move forward. You are taking steps to advance your independence. You are beginning to rebuild.

Suddenly, BAMM! Your Ex’s expressions are plastered on your children’s face! Your daughter has the audacity to use a phrase your Ex may as well have coined himself. Your son grimaces and suddenly your reliving the past, remembering the sneers and the way your husband used to dismiss or disrespect you. You are blindsided, triggered, and instantly repulsed. You are so offended—how can your children be so insensitive? Doesn’t she know you used to HATE it when her father said those words? Doesn’t your son understand that you left your Ex because you decided to no longer tolerate any form of disrespect?

One client told me that every time her daughter responded to her with “gotcha,” it felt like a razor’s edge. For my client, “gotcha” was not an innocent word but a word that sounded like a parroting of her Ex when he was “pretending” to listen. And many women feel much the same. It’s not easy figuring out what to do when your child acts like your Ex-husband.

You’re divorced but still haunted by your Ex

What now? You can’t divorce your children. Should you react by yelling at them to stop their behavior? The fact is, none of this—not your divorce and not the ways that your children remind you of their father—is your children’s fault. Your children didn’t choose their father, you did. Besides, have you ever been on the receiving end of a derogatory comment like, “You are just like your mother”? How did that make you feel?

In my experience as a family and teen coach, lashing out at your children and blaming them for your triggers could have lasting damage on your relationship. It could put your kids on the defensive, wanting to protect their father. It could impact their self-esteem because you are attacking your children’s character. And it could compound guilt your children may already be feeling about the divorce.

Yes, that’s right. Kids of divorce sometimes carry guilt because they often think it’s their fault their parent’s relationship didn’t work out. They might conclude this based on what they heard and felt during the events leading up to the divorce, which later manifests as guilt.

Figuring out what to do when your child acts like your Ex-husband is a part of coparenting you weren’t prepared for. While it may feel nearly impossible to contain your reaction in the moment, doing so will leave space to build an amazing relationship with your children in the long run and will help you heal and build immunity to these inevitable triggers in the process.

Manage your response when you feel triggered

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” is a well-known quote by Jim Rohn, motivational speaker and self-help guru.

Not only are your children genetically 50 percent of you and their father, but they are spending time with each of you, so it is only natural that they will pick up some tendencies and expressions from both of you.

Therefore, when your children do or say something to trigger you, the first step is to do a quick analysis. What about this bothers me? Is this my pet peeve or an actual behavioral problem that will affect my children’s personal relationships?

If it’s a pet peeve, use your emotional intelligence to guide your response: “My children are not my Ex. This is not personal. I choose to let it go.” Tony Robbins always says, “What you focus on expands.” Hence, if you don’t like it, don’t focus on it!

Confront behavioral issues

If it’s a behavioral problem, keep your relationship with your children in mind as you parent the behavior from a place of compassion and empathy, in an age-appropriate way. Remember, your children learned this behavior and can successfully unlearn it with proper parenting from you.

If you wonder what “proper parenting” looks like now that you’ve survived divorce and are on your own, consider joining a professionally-facilitated parenting support group for women to get the support you need as a mother to stand strong.

Make time for self-reflection

Finally, if the hurt and emotion you are experience is defeating you, it’s a glaring sign that you haven’t healed yourself. Maybe it’s time to lean in and clear the burden once and for all, for the sake of your relationship with your children and any other relationship you hope to have in the future. Take time to heal through self-help alternatives, or speak to a professional coach who can help you face, explore, and abolish those feelings once and for all.

The topic of this article was inspired by a beautiful client of mine who endured a horrific divorce and custody battle. She was still putting the pieces of herself back together when she noticed that sometimes, if her 9-year-old son was hurting or feeling bad, he would say hurtful or vindictive things to her, such as “You’re fat,” or “You have no friends.” Ouch! The pain went right to her core.

As her coach, I had so much compassion for her as she realized the pain her Ex inflicted could still reach her through her children. Through the power of transformational coaching, she discovered the solutions resided within her.

Today she realizes right away that those comments are not coming from her son but are behaviors that his father often models. As a mother, she can respond with compassion and empathy to disarm him and then let him know that while she understands his frustration, taking it out on her or others is not appropriate or acceptable. She is earning her son’s respect while teaching him an effective way to navigate his emotions and have a healthy, loving relationship, without once mentioning his father.

In closing, the next time your children act like your Ex, bite your tongue and remember that they are not their father. Your loving connection with them matters so much more than your past relationship with him.

Cindy Thackston is a compassionate, certified professional coach and founder of Rate Life a 10!, Youth and Family Success Coaching. She works with families with tweens and teens who are facing various challenges that are causing disconnection and a breakdown of the family unit. To learn how Cindy helps families reconnect and create a thriving family culture, visit her website at www.ratelifea10.com to schedule a free consultation.

*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.

Divorce Stress

7 Ways to Handle Divorce Stress

Stress comes in all shapes and sizes. What tops the list of most stressful life events for most people is moving, break ups, divorce—the latter of which involves dealing with the first two. So if you’re getting divorced and feeling stressed out about it, go easy on yourself. You’re not alone in this — no matter how isolated everything you’re dealing with is making you feel.

How you react to divorce stress is what matters. People cope with stress in a lot of ways—and not all of them are healthy.

So without further ado, here are some positive ways to handle divorce stress:

1. Learn how to enjoy your own company

Yes, we know we just told you you’re not alone in this. And we meant it. Your friends and family members are there for you. There’s an entire world out there filled with other divorced women who understand exactly what you’re going through. We should know because we work with some of those women every single day.

Even so, we know that a person can understand that she has a support network and still feel utterly alone. And yet, its important to learn how to be alone. Sometimes there’s a reason we don’t enjoy our own company, a reason why we don’t want to be left to our own devices, to mull in our thoughts. Instead of avoiding that, confront it.

2. Exercise

Staying active is about more than simply losing or maintaining your weight. Studies have proven that exercise gives people more energy and improves their focus. You need both of those things if you are deciding or navigating your divorce. You need both of those things afterward, too, on your divorce recovery journey. You don’t have to get a gym membership to stay fit either. You could take up tennis if you prefer to make a game of exercise, or you can go hiking if exploring nature is more your thing.

3. Unclench your muscles

Have you ever been “relaxing” only to suddenly notice your shoulders are all the way up by your ears? When we feel stressed out, our muscles tense up, like our bodies are physically trying to keep it all together when our minds feel too strained to do much of anything. You can help your muscles truly relax with a little self-care—meditate, take a hot bath, try to get more sleep, or if possible, treat yourself to a massage.

4. Spend time in nature

So many of us wake up indoors, drive our cars to the office, and spend our days sitting beneath fluorescent lighting until we rinse and repeat. On a day-to-day basis, how much time are we actually spending outside? And yet, for centuries, humans lived their lives surrounded by the great outdoors, tuning into mother nature’s clock because their very lives depended on it.

Sure, our lifestyles have changed, but the research demonstrates that our minds and bodies still crave nature and greatly benefit from time away from city life. In nature, we can slow down. A 90-minute walk in nature reduces your brain’s efforts to dwell on the negative. And spending multiple days in nature can improve problem-solving skills by 50 percent. That’s proof that sometimes we have to step away from a problem, from ourselves, to see things more clearly.

5. Find a hobby that you can throw yourself into

Don’t be afraid to get creative. You can take up knitting or join a book club. You can reignite your love of reading—audiobooks are especially great to put on while taking care of domestic duties or slogging through your daily commute.

Anything that requires an intense level of focus is perfect because your mind won’t have the opportunity to be sidetracked by whatever’s bothering you at that moment. Try out things like painting, solving puzzles, climbing, cooking, kickboxing, yoga, archery, or even learning a new language. If it doesn’t bring you joy, then stop and pivot to another activity. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to nourishing your divorce recovery.

6. Take a break from activities that trigger you

Social media, for one, puts people in an endless loop of comparing themselves to others. Life looks so much better through a filter. It’s so easy to convince yourself that the version of people you see online matches the reality. But do yourself a favor: don’t judge your insides by other people’s outsides. What’s more, social media is how many of us keep up with breaking news. And let’s face it, most of what’s on the news is triggering these days.

Being an informed citizen is a worthy goal, but the truth is that all this information doesn’t really serve most of us in our daily lives. While it can feel like everybody spends more time interacting with people online than they do in their “real” lives, social media is a choice. And it’s one that you can opt out of for however long you need, along with any other triggering activities in your life.

7. Talk it out

Keeping your feelings bottled up inside is a recipe for disaster. At some point, they’ll come pouring out of you whether you’re ready or not. Instead, find someone who you feel comfortable talking to about whatever’s vexing you openly. That might mean finding a therapist, divorce coach, or joining a smart, facilitated support group, or making a point to meet up regularly with close friends or family members. It’s not so much about leaving these conversations with solutions to all your problems, but the mere act of speaking your truth can work wonders on your mental health.

Ultimately, there isn’t any one way to handle divorce stress. Often times it’s about finding a routine. Find a group of people or activities that make you feel grounded, and then lean into that newfound sense of calm.

Visualize what your next chapter really looks like—what do you need from life, whom are you with, what does a typical day look like? Take a deep breath, then set about making it happen. Good things don’t always happen in one fell swoop. Appreciate the process. You’ll get there, step by step.

This article was authored for SAS for Women by Melanie Figueroa, a 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. You can reach her at [email protected]

Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to help them through the emotional and often times complicated experience of divorce. For emotional support and structured guidance now, helping you move forward the healthiest way possible, consider Annie’s Group, our virtual divorce education, support and coaching class for women thinking about divorce or beginning the process

*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.

badmouthing your children

Why Badmouthing Your Coparent Hurts Your Child

Once we get married, most of us assume that we’ll spend the rest of our life with that person. We’re in love, we have kids and maybe even a house together—everything is perfect. But then something changes, and all our hopes and dreams are shattered. What are we to do? Do we file for divorce? Or, do we stay in a relationship that’s become toxic?

While this decision can be hard to make, you have to think about what is best for you.

Quite often, women decide to stay married for the sake of their kids. But think about it this way—how can your kids be happy if you and your partner are constantly arguing? Getting a divorce and coparenting might sound like a challenge, but the children should be your top priority. If your heart is in the right place, you’ll find it’s a challenge you’re up for.

Of course, you do need to keep in mind that even after the divorce, you will have to keep seeing your Ex if you decide on joint custody. It can often be difficult to maintain a civil relationship if there is still some lingering resentment. Finances, schedules, and lifestyle changes can all make it harder for you to coexist.

Unless your Ex decides to completely abandon you and the children, you should look for a way to include them in your kids’ lives. Maybe your Ex is a terrible husband, but a great father. Because of this, you’ll want to avoid badmouthing the other parent in front of your child as it can be quite harmful to their relationship with your Ex. Here are some more reasons why badmouthing your coparent can hurt your kids.

Your kid will be adjusting to recent changes

When kids find out about their parents’ divorce, they will probably have a hard time understanding what exactly is happening. Depending on their age, they might cry, become isolated, blame themselves, or understand that this is truly the best option.

If you or your Ex move out, your children will have to adjust to constantly moving from one home to another. If one of you gets sole parental responsibility, the child will probably miss seeing you together and spending time as a family. Your children might also have to change schools. The last thing they need is to hear you complain about the other parent. This will make them feel even more confused and helpless, as they will not know how to act in this situation.

Your children aren’t your confidants or therapist

When you’re with your kids, try to find fun topics to talk about. Ask them about their day, what they want to read or watch, what they learned in school, etc. When the topic of their father comes up, try to stay calm and ask about their time together. Do not talk about your issues and tell them bad things about their parent.

You should not turn to your children to complain about your Ex. They do not need to know every single detail that led to your divorce. No matter their age, they are not your therapist, and you should not rely on them to make you feel better about your problems. Oversharing will possibly make them feel overwhelmed. If they have a good relationship with their other parent, you do not want to ruin this. So, if you need help, seek professional advice or talk to your friends.

The truth always comes out

The worst thing you could do is lie to your child about their other parent. If you spread misinformation, the lies will eventually catch up with you. Seeing as how your kid will still communicate with other members on both sides of the family, it’s quite possible that they will ask someone what the truth is. If they find out you lied to them, it can greatly affect your relationship going forward.

Your kids will feel forced to choose sides

Badmouthing your coparent—even when you’re on the receiving end of the complaints—makes your kids feel forced to choose sides. Even worse, they might develop a bad opinion about both of you, internalizing those feelings and becoming secluded.

This is especially true when children get older and become more self aware. It’s entirely possible that all those “bad parts” about your Ex that you list off are traits your children share, and you don’t want to offend or shame your children. Constant pressure and the stress of going back and forth between homes can often results in deteriorating health in the future, which is something you don’t want to contribute to.

There are so many reasons why badmouthing your coparent in front of our children is never a good idea, from making your children feel badly about themselves to ruining relationships within your family. No matter how you feel about your Ex, you should always try to stay civil and think of what is best for your child.

By Tanya Mayer for women. You can reach her at [email protected]

If you are seeking an education on best practices for coparenting as you support your children through one of the toughest moments in your lives, you will want to know about Gaia’s Group, SAS for Women’s virtual group coaching class for coparenting mothers. We all need a thoughtful, committed plan for helping our children weather and move beyond separation and divorce. Doing it the healthiest way is a choice.