Relative Evolutions - Evolve, Don't Dissolve
Sep 19, 2014 - media    No 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    2 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.

 

 

 

 

May 15, 2014 - divorce    No Comments

Divorce Mediation Training… Check!

mediatorI completed my Divorce Mediation Training last week.  I’m now qualified to empower couples toward productive conversation about the terms of their divorce.  Yay!

The experience was interesting.  It was quite unlike Basic Mediation Training, which left me feeling warm and fuzzy inside.  My Basic Mediation class was full of social workers, therapists and managers who were looking for  new ways to approach conflict.  In Family Mediation Training, I was the only participant who was not an attorney.  I started out feeling rather uncomfortable, to say the least.

On Day One, a woman asked our instructor, “What business does a person have practicing Family Mediation if they aren’t an attorney who specializes in family law?”

The answer was simple, “A mediator isn’t there to give legal advice.  A mediator’s purpose is to facilitate discussion.”

The answer was met with shaking heads.  The lawyers went on to express their confusion and disapproval…

“How can people agree to divide their assets without knowing their rights?”

“How can I help them if I can’t give them suggestions and advice?”

“I feel like these people should have to see an attorney first.”

Their mindsets were locked in Lawyer Mode and it was hard for them to embrace a concept that contradicted years of work and training.  I understood where they were coming from, yet on a very personal level I was offended by their attitudes and approach to the divorce process.

Part of me wanted to scream at them, “You don’t know everything!  I gave my ex a ton of what I was ‘entitled’ to, and I’ve never regretted it.  Not everyone has the resources to fight it out, and not everyone cares!”

Another part of me wanted to disappear.  I was a guppy in a shark tank.  What would happen when they found out I wasn’t one of Them?

I got through Day One without confessing my non-lawyer status.  I fit in well enough.  I’ve been to family court.  I could talk about the silly things exes fight about.  I knew that pet custody is an issue that’s making its way into many final agreements.

At one point, a man asked me if I worked in the area.  I politely told him, “No, I don’t,” and then quickly exited, stage right.  (Phew!  Dodged that bullet!)

Day Two was different.  For one thing, the lawyers were becoming slightly more comfortable with the concepts of mediation.  They relaxed, and therefore I relaxed.  During a two-person role play, my partner asked if I was an attorney.  I explained my “Divorce Encouragist” title to her and then went on to babble about my philosophies on shame/blame, societal pressures and the flawed mentality of so many who go through the process.  To my delight, she agreed.  ”People forget that they used to love each other,” she said.

And from there, the overall experience improved.  I ended up telling a lot of people what I do, and they responded with genuine interest.  I listened and laughed about the crazy conflicts their clients brought them.  I heard some of their personal divorce stories, as parents and as children.  I learned about their hobbies and aspirations beyond the courtroom.

Overall, we found common ground.  And that’s what mediation is all about.

Although it was uncomfortable at first, I’m glad I had the experience of spending time with so many attorneys.  After all, I used to want to be one.  My classmates helped me see, again, the difficult position divorcing couples put their lawyers in.  As a result, my sense of purpose was reinvigorated.  Legal professionals have their place in the process, but that process has room for me too.  And maybe I can make their jobs a little easier.

For The Children

“I’m really upset about it,” a woman told me after she learned that an acquaintance of hers was getting divorced.  “I mean, I hardly even know them.  But… they have children.  It just breaks my heart.”

I bit my tongue and looked away.

Now is not the time to get on your soap box, I reminded myself.  She’s entitled to her feelings.  Just let it go.

While I maintained an even facial expression, the woman’s words infuriated me.  She openly admitted that she didn’t know anything about the situation and yet she assumed the divorce was a tragedy simply because the couple had children.

I know divorce is a sad event.  I know the separation process is one filled with anxious uncertainty, and everyone needs support.  But I also know that divorce is often the last resort of a desperately unhappy couple.  And I know that, if handled responsibly, the transition can benefit a family.  As a result of my personal experience, I prefer to view divorce as a solution to a slew of family hardships.

In an article for DivorcedMoms.com, I wrote that Divorce is tough, but childhood is tougher.  We seem to forget that kids deal with a lot of hardships independent of their parents’ marital status.  To name a few:  bullying, illness/death in the family, violence in the home, adolescence and academic struggles.  Divorce, by nature, is neither the only nor the worst of a child’s troubles.

Question:  What’s worse than a child enduring the breakup of his/her parents?

My Answer:  A child living with role models who openly despise each other.

It’s dangerous to assume that an intact marriage is a happy one.  Under pressure to “stay together for the kids,” couples model unhealthy habits for their children.  Do we really want boys and girls to grow up thinking it’s normal to accept physical, verbal or psychological abuse from one’s partner?  Do we want them to deal with conflict via the Silent Treatment or temper tantrums?  No!

Divorce is an unfortunate reality, yet it also offers an opportunity for children to learn about life.  What positive lessons might come from such an experience?

  • There’s hope in bad situations.
  • This, too, shall pass.
  • Conflict means the beginning of an opportunity.
  • I don’t have to take it.
  • It’s OK to be “me.”
  • I’m worthy of love and respect.
  • The rules of respectful communication are…
  • There are many different kinds of families.
  • I’m in charge of my own happiness.
  • Sometimes people can love each other more effectively if they do so from a distance.

 

How about we stop judging and start trusting people who make the hard decision to divorce?  The process could be a lot nicer if our society wasn’t so heartbroken about matters they don’t fully understand.

What lessons did you learn from your divorced parents?  Or what do you hope your children will learn from your divorce?

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