Relative Evolutions - Evolve, Don't Dissolve
Nov 17, 2014 - divorce, family    2 Comments

Divorce Corp Family Law Reform Conference

You might recall how excited I was back in January when the movie Divorce Corp came to a theater near me (I wrote about it here).  This past weekend I was even more delighted to attend the Divorce Corp Family Law Reform Conference in Alexandria, VA.

Divorce Corp ConferenceThe event was attended by a wide variety of people:  lawyers, therapists, coaches, consultants, moms, dads, friends…  each one with a personal story and a deep desire to see some serious changes in the family court system.  The speakers were passionate, knowledgeable professionals with captivating stories, facts and missions to share.  I laughed.  I cried.  I stood to applaud.

It was wonderful.  But… it also made me realize how much farther we have to go as a culture.  Because while “reform” is a great start, it isn’t enough.

The moment of clarity came Saturday afternoon as I was seated in a small room full of people examining the topic, “Litigation vs. Mediation.”  Personal introductions of participants caused me to shake my head in disbelief and breathe several sighs of sadness.  It was apparent, without question, that our current system of family court litigation is tragically broken and causing far more harm than good.  Everyone agreed  mediation is a helpful and hopeful alternative.  Yet, mediation has been around for decades, and it hasn’t caught on.  Why not?  What needs to be done?

We talked about the lack of public awareness about mediation.  We talked about the lack of standards and certification for mediators.  Lists were made to say we need:

Mediation Degree Programs
Mediation exposure at the elementary level
Mandatory mediation
Flat rates to avoid price gouging

The list went on.  The suggestions were good, really.  However, my mind started to drift as the words of a popular song by The Who came to mind…

“I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution, take a bow for the new revolution.  Smile and grin at the change all around…”  … “There’s nothing in the streets looks any different to me.  And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye.  And the parting on the left are now parting on the right…” … “Meet the new boss.  Same as the old boss.”

I felt sad, to say the least.  No doubt, a mandatory mediation process would be a monumental improvement over the current litigation structure.  But… that’s not the kind of Ideal Divorce Norm that I dream of.  In truth, I don’t think we need a system through which families transition.  What we need, I think, is pretty simple:  We need community.

When the word “divorce” can be spoken without shame, blame and fear, we’ll know that our communities have risen to the occasion.  When separating couples are supported by society at large, they’ll feel empowered to handle family changes as a devoted team.  There will be no need to fearfully place their fates in the hands of a bunch of “experts.”  (Seriously, who are the real experts when it comes to your family?  You!)

Of course, that kind of change doesn’t happen overnight.  Battleships don’t turn on a dime.  I realize progress should be slow and mindful.  As long as a system is being utilized, let’s at least make it a better one that doesn’t rape, rob, imprison and alienate.  We might have to try out and tear down several new models before we realize that our families are our own business.

In the meantime, I hope we can bring more awareness to the public.  People need to know about the human (non-litigious) resources which exist to educate and assist families as they move to a bi-nuclear model.  I long for the day when the phrase, “I’m getting divorced” is met with something other than a recommendation for legal representation.

Oct 2, 2014 - divorce    2 Comments

Shame and Blame and Fear (of Divorce)… Oh My!

A couple weeks ago, I wrote an article about the moments I knew my marriage was over.  It was originally published on DivorcedMoms.com and was later featured by The Huffington Post.  You can read it here.

The piece wasn’t the first of mine that’s been picked up by The Huffington Post, but  judging by the response, I think it was the most popular (and perhaps that’s why it was published on the German site as well).  Not only did I receive some ‘thank you’ emails from those who walked a similar path, the article garnered more than 200 comments.  Unlike the emails, the comments were rather vicious (if you didn’t click above, are you going to click now?).

I didn’t read them all, but I skimmed through enough to observe a level of animosity that might have been hurtful if not so ridiculous. I didn’t know any of the people on the thread, yet they claimed to know all about me and my relationship. They insisted I was selfish and I was only using my ex. They assumed my ex was a kind and sensitive man who suffered greatly for his efforts to make me happy. Racial and cultural accusations were made. Complete strangers were embarrassed and appalled by/for me. It seems my personal lack of maturity represents everything that’s wrong with the world. And (of course!) my marriage could have been successful if only I’d tried harder.

At first, I wondered if I should’ve told a more comprehensive story. Perhaps those hatemongers would’ve been more understanding if they knew about the In-The-Future discussions that took place before the engagement. Maybe they wouldn’t have assumed everything was my fault if they knew about my ex’s affair. If only I’d described…

But I stopped that line of thinking after I recognized it to be a natural desire to shift the blame that was thrust upon me. Vilifying my ex might make me appear more favorable to the judgmental readers, but what good would that do? After all, the comments weren’t really about me. The larger issue at play was the public’s attitudes about marriage and divorce.

It was obvious when I thought about it:  The stories they were telling themselves (and each other) about my character… the accusations about our dedication and preparation…the sympathy for our fictitious children who would have been devastated…  the compulsion to shame me for something I’m not at all ashamed of. Those people don’t hate me at all. Instead, they hate Divorce.  Their reactions to my story indicate their fear of such an atrocity.

(But, don’t they get it?)

The hate-filled comments represent the reason people choose to suffer in silence instead of walking away from abusive and otherwise unhealthy partnerships. This is why many grow up to repeat the same destructive relationships they witnessed as children. An “intact” marriage isn’t necessarily a productive one.

Furthermore, the hate-filled comments represent the reason a large number of individuals endure painful and contentious divorces. The shame/blame cycle is initially ignited by external onlookers.

Can’t we all just get along? Why do we feel personally threatened by the choices others make? Is Divorce really so scary?

I could probably write several hundred words about Buddhist philosophies relating to attachments, expectations and suffering.  In short:  to maximize happiness, we need to let go of expectations.  Attachments to the expectation (that marriage must last forever), fear (of divorce) and hatred (for those who walk a different path) only brings suffering.

It would be nice if fairy tales represented reality and couples could simply ride off into the sunset and spend Forever being happy together.  But that’s not reality.  Instead, people grow.  Goals shift.  Dreams change.  And shit happens.  We’re not cartoon characters; we’re human beings.  Each one of us is beautiful, unique and perfectly imperfectly designed to learn and grow appropriately on Life’s Journey.  And that’s wonderful!  Why is it so hard to accept?

Divorce alone is hard enough without the societal pressures that come with it.  I long for the day when our communities can embrace personal growth and the evolution of families for the highest good of all individuals (without personal judgments about the chosen course of action).

Just for fun… here are some appropriate lyrics for the topic:

Mad Skywriting, by Bonfire Madigan 

“I am changing my name,
I am burning my past
I am laying yesterday to rest at last
I am owning these actions
and setting them aflame
I am not sorry for who I am
or who you wanted me to be…”

Shake it Off, by Taylor Swift

“…And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off…”

 

Sep 19, 2014 - media    2 Comments

Book: The Chump Lady Survival Guide to Infidelity

When I first visited the Chump Lady web site, I assumed Tracy Schorn was just another scorned and forever-bitter man-hater. But then I started digging deeper into the site. In her digital library, I found much wit, wisdom and profanity. I nodded, laughed and cried. And I decided to buy her book.

The Chump Lady Survival Guide to Infidelity, How to Regain Your Sanity After You’ve Been Cheated On is a soft book. Literally. It’s not fuzzy, but the matte cover has a silky-smooth quality to it that I’ve yet to notice in other paperbacks. But I don’t think you should buy the book because you’re looking for a good feel. I think you should buy the book because it’s fantastic. That is, of course, if you have been the victim of infidelity.

I’ve always been a little kind and understanding about adultery (makes me an easy target). I subscribed to the notion that an affair is a symptom of a deeper problem in the relationship. I assumed cheaters were either emotionally starved by their spouses, or deeply confused. And on some level, I still believe that’s true. But the message that echoes through Tacy’s book, the message so many chumps need to hear is this:  Trust That They Suck.

That’s a hard thing for chumps to do, and Tracy gets it. As a former chump herself, she knows we’re are typically good-hearted, responsible individuals who are high on hopium, believing the cheater has the potential to be a better person. In the pages of her book, chumps can recognize themselves and their tendency to eat shit sandwiches, untangle the skein of fuckedupedness and dance to the tune of “pick me!”

The Chump Lady Survival Guide also shines a big bright spotlight on the cheater, dissecting dirty words and deeds and restoring dignity of chumps everywhere. Tracy explains the cheater’s need for ego kibbles, their incessant desire for “cake” and the tactics they use (blame shifting, gas lighting) to get what they want. She reminds the cheated over and over that cheaters have a choice, and they choose scandalous acts, secrets and lies.

Chumps are then guided toward the light, or, in this case, “meh.” The Survival Guide offers tips and tidbits of optimism laced with reality to propel the aggrieved toward Tuesday, when the pain will end. The final pages leave the reader feeling confident that 1. “I’m not crazy” 2. “Cheaters suck” and 3. “I can find a partner who better meets my needs”.

Cheating hurts. The Chump Lady Survival Guide to Infidelity helps.

Sep 12, 2014 - divorce, family    6 Comments

Would You Take Your Ex to the Hospital?

This week, a friend of mine took her ex-husband to the hospital. It was a move which, I thought, demonstrated a kind heart and mature relationship. Of course, not everyone thinks like me.

A little background:  Penny’s ex called her one evening and asked if she could pick up their children because he was too sick to drive them to her house. She obliged, and the next day she checked in to see how he was doing. Unfortunately his condition was such that he needed immediate medical attention.  Penny drove him to the hospital, assisted him in the ER and later drove him home.  Her fiancé was neither angry nor threatened by the situation.  In fact, he offered to help if necessary.

The scenario sparked quite a debate between our friends.  Among the comments:

“I would’ve done it.”

“It’s disrespectful to your current partner to help your ex like that.”

“I would’ve let my ex die.”

“He’s still a person. We’re not talking about the Axis of Evil.”

“He wouldn’t have done that for her. She’s letting him take advantage.”

“I guess it’s OK since they have kids.”

Naturally, I was in the “I would’ve done the same thing” camp.  Here’s why…

It’s a matter of co-parenting.  Doing the best for the children means supporting the wellbeing of their other parent.

The end of the marriage isn’t the end of the relationship.  These days, Penny and her ex aren’t exactly friends, but they remain friendly.  This incident serves as evidence as to the evolution, not dissolution, of their family.

Familiarity in a scary situation.  Exes have been through a lot together, quite possibly including previous hospital visits.  A little reminiscing can ease the anxiety.

The right woman for the job.  At a time when her ex had difficulty speaking, Penny was able to communicate much of his family and medical history to the ER staff.

Reality check.  Sometimes we humans have a tendency to romanticize the past.  Maintaining a certain level of contact helps to remind exes why they’re better off apart.

In the years that Penny and I have been friends, I’ve heard a fair share of complaints about her ex-husband.  Yet, she stepped up to support him when he needed it, and I’m sure he would do the same for her.  Even though they’re exes, they’re still human beings.  I’m proud to have such a caring and open-minded friend.

What would you have done in that situation?

Aug 22, 2014 - divorce    No Comments

Telling Stories

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I know it’s been a while. I’ve had a busy and productive summer, but that’s not the reason I haven’t published anything new. At least, that’s not the only reason. And not only have I not written anything, I also removed some of my previous posts. I’d like to thank those of you who shared, supported and encouraged those posts, as well as the process behind them.  Unfortunately my words proved too painful for some, and I thought it best to eliminate the trigger.

As a result, I’ve wrestled with the quote in the image above. It’s an empowering conglomeration of verbiage, isn’t it? It’s empowering… until you think about it too much. Then it just becomes confusing.

Each of us has our own story, and we write that story ourselves. We determine the genre, rating and roles of the characters. In truth, we create our own reality. Most of the time we socialize with others who agree with our story and thus live in a similar reality. And, in that case, all is well.

Problems arise when one tells a story which clashes with the reality of another. Sometimes the issue is ignored and other times sparks fly. Why? Because each of us has a deep emotional attachment to our own tale, and anything that conflicts with our personal truth has the power to shake our reality. An uncertain reality can lead to fear and fear often leads to anger and anger can produce a multitude of outcomes.

Such a thing frequently happens in cases of divorce and separation. Reality is shaken when one partner is asked for a divorce or discovers and affair, addiction, secret life, etc. When a partnership ends, the story takes a turn. I believe it can be a positive and productive turn for all involved, but such an accomplishment requires mindfulness from both sides. Each has to be willing to consider an alternate perspective and conduct him/herself with respect and compassion.

When the world is spinning, it’s natural to hold on to something… people in conflict hold on to their stories. They surround themselves with people who validate those stories and then they further dig their heels in. Meanwhile, the other side will often do the same. The result is a cold battle of tricks, fists, voices, words or even silence. No mindfulness. No communication. No common ground. No resolution. No peace.

In that case, should we stop writing our stories? No, I’m pretty sure that’s impossible unless you’re a Buddhist Monk. We all need some kind of structure in order to function in our world.

Should we stop telling our stories? No, because stories are how we get to know each other.

Should we stop advertising our stories? Perhaps it depends on the strategy behind the advertisement.

How do we find peace? I think peace lies in the acceptance of others’ stories, because we don’t all live in the same reality. If we’re willing to step outside ourselves, consider an alternate perspective and communicate, we can often find a new level of understanding. Once understanding is obtained, we can make informed decisions about whether we want to build bridges or walls.  Or, maybe fences.

 

 

 

 

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