When Your Relationship Ends….Part IV – Bargaining

              

After you wrestle with your anger and find yourself winning, you arrive at the bargaining phase.  You’re not dancing a jig yet, but you are beginning to see the light. Your emotional investment moves from couplehood to yourself. After looking inward, begin to recognize your input that you don’t want to repeat old patterns of behavior in a new relationship .  Work on your self-concept and interaction with others.  You see opportunities on the horizon and there is a developing new normalcy.  Consider your options and build on them. 

Children:

As your household becomes less emotionally chaotic, your children are calmer and more ready to embark on some new routines in two homes.  Cooperative co-parentingconstructs the foundation of their future emotional growth. As they experience two civil parents, there is no need to take sides and they understand that they can’t manipulate you both [though most children will try].  Open communication is key as they grow and develop.

Your Task:

  1. I know me and I like me.
  2. I am confident that I can tackle what comes up.
  3. I think of my partner/spouse less emotionally.
  4. I am less angry about my situation.
  5. I rarely discuss him/her with my friends.
  6. I accept that we will not get back together.
  7. I fantasize about moving on, with clarity and confidence.

When Your Relationship Ends…Part III – Anger

 

As grief and loneliness subside, your emotional temperature rises.  Anger is a human emotion when we are hurt and can be useful if we can control it.  While sadness induces a wish to shut down and hide under the covers, anger is energizing. It has many levels, from feeling annoyed, frustrated and piqued to rage, boiling, incensed, stewing, to name just a few.  The latter recall fire, which keeps us warm and cozy, when managed but fire, of out control, is dangerous, out of the body and in the body.  It can lead to headaches tension, ulcers and more.   Feeling angry can help you emotionally distance from your partner/spouse to pursue your own path.

Have your anger help rebuild your life but titrate it. In private, allow yourself to cuss, cry, yell, write a letter [but don’t send] or dance your anger away.  Fantasy is a creative means to discharging anger as long as you don’t act on it. I have heard  many disasters befalling on partners/spouses who were leaving.  Thankfully, none of them occurred and the fantizers felt relief. With some friends, sarcasm and humor will work  but share your anger only with those you trust most.

Children

Expect your children to be angry with you for changing their lives.  If they learn that one parent wanted the breakup/divorce, they will likely be angry toward that parent and protective of the other.  It’s usually best to not share that information.  When parents are positive role models, children will have an easier time coping.  They need to express their anger by being listened to and hearing calm, age appropriate explanations.  If your partner/spouse is unable to do that, then it’s up to you.  Sometimes they need to hear the truth, just some, not the whole picture.  For example, s/he is an alcoholic or “parents who abandon children have a hard time with parenting”.  Make it brief facts, not a condemnation.

Your task:

  1. I understand why I couldn’t express my anger better.
  2. I will not harbor my anger.
  3. I am able to communicate with him/her calmly.
  4. I don’t put all the blame on him/her.
  5. I don’t need to ‘get even’.
  6. I can express anger constructively.
  7. I am moving toward forgiveness, for myself and him/her

 

When Your Relationship Ends…Part II – Sad and Lonely

 

After getting through the first phase (please see my prior post on this topic) of denial and isolation, you understand that it is not just a bad dream.   Grief and loneliness creep in as you miss many aspects of being with your partner/spouse and your former lifestyle.  You feel alone, perhaps unlovable and contemplate impending changes in your life.  This is a stage of grief over loss –  of a partner/spouse, hopes and plans as well as a new family life.  Grief is a process and you need to go through it before you move on.  It is a time to withdraw and allow introspection, to develop inner resources, as long as you don’t brood, feel the victim or completely blame or isolate yourself.

In this second stage, eating and sleep patterns may shift, either more or less.  You may feel out of control and drained emotionally, with reduced concentration or guilt.   Don’t be afraid to express those feelings.  Cry, shout, whatever, when you are alone, as you feel the pain, which can lead to important learning.  Unresolved grief will stall your progress and can affect you physically. Develop a healthy balance of alone time and being with trusted and supportive friends and family.

Children

Children also need to be able to experience their sadness and loss. The difference is that most parents do not ‘divorce’ their children, even though there will be changes in their living arrangements and parent time.  Be a role model for them.  Articulate hope and assure them that they will always have two parents who will work together to raise them, even though it will be in two homes.

Your task:

  1. I will feel my sadness and pain and work through it.
  2. I will not be so busy to avoid being alone.
  3. I will only be with people I like.
  4. I will develop activities that are important to me.
  5. I will not withdraw socially.
  6. I will not see another love relationship to avoid loneliness.
  7. Grief and loneliness will not control m

Feel free to pass this along to those you know who are trying to cope.

Please check back for the next phase – Anger.

 

 

When Your Relationship Ends…Part I – Denial

 

Breaking up is hard to do…we know that.  It’s the relationship that is coming apart but you likely feel that you are coming apart.   When you learn that the relationship is no longer viable and about to end, there is  disbelief or outright denial.  For the “leaver” it is likely a developing realization and therefore somewhat less intense, over a period of time.  For the “left” partner, it can feel like a bolt of lightning. “You don’t mean it”!  “How can this be happening to us”?  The emotional storm knocks the wind out of you.

You may be experiencing despair,  disappointment, a wish for retaliation or even revenge  and feel hopeless and helpless.  Once there’s no more denying, you need to believe that there is the possibility for something positive once you can develop a new orientation to life..  There is life after a separation to divorce but it does take dedication to create a newer you.   There is the possibility for something positive once you develop a new orientation to life.  Pay close attention to your feelings and attitudes.

The emotional levels of separation and divorce mirror those of the death of a partner. The stages are denial, depression, anger, bargaining and acceptance. No stage should be skipped as each has its purpose for rebuilding you.

It’s okay to cry and be sad, even useful.  You need to wade through your pain to be able to get to the next phase.  Friends and family are invaluable now.  Seeking a new love relationship would a big mistake at this juncture.   The reality needs to sink in.

Children

      Be gentle but firm, about “the end” with your children and understand that they, too, will be in denial,  In fact, they will hold on to the fantasy of you reuniting for a long time, even if/when you both recouple with others.  They may also blame themselves for the breakup (as they are self-focused) and you should assure them that is not the case.

Your task:

  1. I can accept the end.
  2. I will be able to tell friends and family.
  3. I’m starting to realize some of the reasons that it is ending.
  4. I know it will be hard but believe it can be a positive experience.
  5. I will pursue my own personal growth.
  6. I will learn to be happy alone before committing to another relationship.
  7. Even if we were to reunite, I would still work on my own growth.

There’s a lot to reflect on in this first phase, so I invite you to do that and check back here as we proceed further in the coming days.

 

 

 

 

 

Divorce: Books for Children

 

“Dinosaur’s Divorce”- Lawrence Brown and Marc Brown, 1986

“Let’s Talk About Divorce” – Fred Rogers, 1996

“The Boys and Girls Book About Divorce” – Dr. Richard Gardner, 1977

“Two Homes To Live In” – Barbara Shook Hazen, 1978

“Divorce Happens To The Nicest Kids” – Michael  S. Prokup, 1996

“ When Your Parents Split Up…How To Keep Yourself Together” – Alys Swan-Jackson, 1998

“Was It The Chocolate Pudding?” – Sandra Levins, 2005

“When Emily Woke Up Angry” – R. Duncan, 1989

“My Mother’s House, My Father’s House”, – C.B.Christiansen, 1989

“Always, Always” –  C. Dragonwagon, 1984

“Blue Sky, Butterfly” – J .Van Lewen,  1996

“When Mom and Dad Divorced” – Julian Messner,  1986

“On Divorce, An Open Family Book for Parents and Kids Together” –  S.B. Stein,  1979

“My Life Turned Upside Down, But I Turned It Rightside Up” – Mary Blitzer Field, Henny Shore  1994

“When Divorce Happens” – Kimberly Pressley-Herrick

“Where Am I Sleeping Tonight?” – Carol Gordon Ekster  2008

 

Imaginary Friends

Is your child talking about a friend that you are completely unaware of ? Possibly you are told that the ‘friend’ is currently at your dinner table or on a trip with you  but you can’t see or hear them.  Your child is likely enjoying a special relationship that is only hers/his.   Do you recall having an imaginary friend ?

Not to worry. Imaginary friends are part of normal development.  By age seven, 65% of children have had one at some point.  The most likely children to experience an imaginary friendship are the eldest, shy or only children, for obvious reasons. .

An imaginary friend may be a person, creature, ghost or even a personified object.  It may involve a mirror image of  play that your offspring has had. Think of your child’s invention as an action figure or doll as they serve a similar purpose.  Invisible friends may be positive and soothing company for a child who is lonely or bored.   S/he can practice social skills and be able to be in complete control.   Such play involves  stretching the power of imagination.

You learn more about your little one when you hear what your child is saying to his/her friend or what that friend is quoted as saying. Is your child trying to ‘safely’ tell you about things s/he doesn’t like so it becomes the buddy who doesn’t want to visit grandma or go to school ?.  When does the friend pop up?  Dinner-, bed-, bed-time? There’s likely a message to you there.  If your child wants a certain toy or extra treat, for his/her friend of course,  you can say “Invisible friends get invisible treats”. Maybe the friend exists  in the service of becoming more independent…”my friend will give me a bath”. Sometimes, an imaginary pal may be nice, mean or bossy…more information for the adult to ponder.

No need to jump into the veracity pond. Just dip a toe in and go along with it.  These elusive friends usually fade when a child enters school.  If the friendship continues through  first or second grade, you will want to evaluate why they are still hanging around.

We adults have imaginary situations and conversations in our heads.  Think of practicing for a job interview.  “He’ll say…” and “I’ll respond…”  Or, “The next time my friend says…”  I’ll remind her….!”.  Our little ones are just  practicing in a more concrete manner.

 

 

Mothers and Mothering

With Mother’s Day on the horizon have you thought about your mother? What was she like when you were growing up?

* What was her parenting style… strict, laissez-faire?                                                        * What did you like to do with her?                                                                                    *  Did you confide in her?                                                                                                    *  How did she discipline?                                                                                                    *  What are you favorite memories?                                                                                                                          * How was she, in your eyes, with your father?                                                                                                                                 *  How will you honor her?

Are you a mother?

*  How would your child[ren[ describe you?                                                                      *  Do you say/do things you swore you wouldn’t – because your mother did ?               *    How do you think your child[ren] will quote you?                                                      *    What memories would you hope they have?                                                              *    Do you see your mother differently now that you are one?                                         *   Do you consciously emulate her ?                                                                               *   Do you appreciate how hard – and joyful -it is to mother?

We are all our mothers, to some degree.  We are all human.  Let your mother know how much you appreciate her now that you know what a struggle it is and also how wonderful…to be a mother.

 

 

 

 

A Good Divorce? Oxymoron?

General opinion is that the two simply don’t go together. I say ‘no’. Coming apart because a relationship/marriage hasn’t worked means that two personalities (or, at least, one of them) couldn’t get beyond their different needs, wants, styles, expectations and disappointments.  Initial attractions have likely waned and living in close proximity has become too difficult.  Does that mean dislike and worse need to ensue?  Hopefully not, but if there are no children from the union, each person can go forward separately with no further contact.

When there are children, parents are connected, for life, with each other – decisions, of all kinds  (religious, academic, camps, medical, etc.) need to made.  Experiences such as birthday parties, school and sports events, recitals, communions, graduations, weddings, and grandchildren, bring on a whole new cycle of events and need to be discussed, decided and shared in some manner.  When there is no  flexibility and parents can’t discuss and negotiate solutions, the children suffer.   Parents who do not get along model a kind of negative relationship behavior for their children, demonstrating that coming apart means bad feelings and/or interactions.  Children, of all ages listen to and watch us and learn from our behavior.

There is another way. Parents can demonstrate that although love is gone, respect and civility prevail.  Acknowledging each other and conversing, when you are both present, reminds your children that you are still able to perceive positive aspects of the person with whom you created your offspring.  They are the product of that love and are part of you both.  If one parent diminishes the other, in word or deed, the child feels that he/she is diminished as well.

Show your children that you both can get past your differences to create a better family environment for all. Yes, you are still family, in two homes, even when one or both of you have recoupled. That civility is likely to be absorbed by your children and played out in most of their future relationships.

If you are considering coming apart, mediation and collaborative divorce are available.

Collaborative, A Mindful Divorce

There’s a lot of talk about mindfulness lately….focusing on being in the moment, being fully present without being overly reactive or overwhelmed. Add awareness and non-judgmental to the list. We can take a class in mindfulness, do the exercises and help develop greater inner peace.  Harder to imagine is mindfulness going through divorce… a life altering experience, the angst, the pain…but… there is a way, collaborative divorce.

Unlike traditional divorce, with two attorneys often strategizing to get the best deal (which can cause considerable strife between partners/spouses) , the collaborative method consists of a team (trained in mediation and the collaborative process), dedicated to making your divorce respectful and out of court. The attorneys work cooperatively, while still protecting their client.   All work together to come up with a plan that serves both parties and children in a non-judgmental yet purposeful atmosphere.

In addition to the attorneys are licensed mental health professionals who help maintain the emotional temperature in the room.  It is not therapy, but a supportive way to know what you want and need, going forward, without emotionally damaging either partner/spouse.  The collaborative facilitator is there if you or your partner/spouse get ‘overheated’ and need to take a break.  They offer assistance and guidance to calm partners/spouses and to more effectively present their thoughts and needs.   The facilitator can help inform the attorneys on the best way to proceed, considering the personalities and situation.

The collaborative child specialist informs parents, after briefly meeting with the children, of their concerns to better tailor the Parenting Plan to  meet the specific needs of their family. They are trained to understand children of all ages and make them feel comfortable and safe as their parents navigate through the divorce process.  The result is a more cooperative  co-parenting team  to continue as a family, but in two homes.  Children learn, via parents, that coming apart does not need to tear people apart.

When appropriate, a collaborative financial expert joins the team to help couples divide their assets and establish a realistic budget that will work for both. These experts are not only skilled in dealing with figures but also dealing with the stress people experience and helping them toward a more relaxed way to ‘divide the pie’.

In collaborative divorce, you do not go to the court, in itself a stressful environment. No, you are settled in a lawyer’s quiet consultation room, with conscientious seating so all are equal and comfortable.  You are assisted in focusing on what is important to you and to state that in a manner that expresses your needs without offending or distancing your partner/spouse.  None of us can change the past.   Team members help couples stay in the present which is the best way to plan for the future.  They do not overemphasize the negative but pay attention to the positive.  In a non-judgmental manner, collaborative professionals help couples pay attention to what is essential to them. Each couple and family is unique.  Collaborative professionals celebrate that and the concept that when mindfulness prevails during divorce, all family members can grow and move past division and create addition in their lives.

Long Distance Parenting

 

Your marriage or partnership has ended and you or your partner/spouse has had to relocate. What to do?  The best you can.  There are a variety of ways to be connected when you can’t be with your children in person.  Be creative and keep the contact as predictable and frequent as possible.

  • Maintain a good co-parenting relationship to help ensure the availability of your children.
  • Get a good sense of their schedules and try to work with them.
  • Ask their other parent when the children are most likely to be responsive totelephone calls, facetime and email messages.
  • Arrange a visit or call to their teacher to learn your about children’s strengths andweaknesses as well as class trips and projects. You’ll feel more involved intheir lives and they’ll know you are really interested.
  • For younger children you can record stories, or conversation, on CD’s,to be replayed at their pleasure. Just remember to buy a CD player if they don’t have one.
  • Watch some of their videos or favorite TV so you can talk about them.
  • Keep them up to date on your side of the family if they are not available.
  • Establish, or continue, shared interests whether it’s sports, the arts, collections.
  • Walk down ‘memory lane’ about fun and memorable past times, even withsmall things.  They’ll know you remember and cherish those special moments.
  • Make a calendar, if they don’t have one, so they can anticipate when you will be together for a visit or a vacation.  Keep them involved and offer some choices when possible.

Don’t be afraid to be creative so you can be apart together.