Relative Evolutions - Evolve, Don't Dissolve
Apr 16, 2014 - divorce, family    No Comments

I’m Not Bitter. I’m on a Mission.

Last month, this happened…

“I don’t understand why people do it,” a man told me.  “I’ve been married for more than thirty years, and even during the worst of times I never considered divorce.”

“That’s great,” I congratulated him.

“We had some bad times,” he assured me.  “But I never wanted to live without her.”

“And that’s the difference,” I explained.  “There were times when I would rather have died than continue to live in my marriage.”

As his mind opened, his face changed from a countenance of confidence to one of humble sympathy.  If our conversation had been a competition, victory would have been mine.

Like the man in the story above, a lot of people misunderstand my mission.  They assume I’m out to sell the idea of divorce in order to destroy marriages.  They think I want to break up happy families.  They judge me as a bitter woman who no longer believes in love.  But they’re wrong.

My efforts are about creating opportunities for more effective relationships.  I want to help families evolve to a different way of life instead of dissolving under stress and chaos.  On the personal side, I continue to nurture feelings of love and gratitude for every romantic partnership that has enriched my life (and all of them have).

Why am I reiterating all of this?  Because I’m building up to the announcement of My Next Step… I’ve been following this Divorce Passion of mine for several years.  What started out as curiosity has become a personal mission to help people do divorce better.  I’ve read. I’ve written.  I’ve spoken.  I’ve coached.  And now I’m ready to descend further into the trenches.

Last fall I completed Basic Mediation Training.  I had to wake up before dawn and travel two hours to class, but I didn’t care.  I fell in love with the process and all that it represents (empowerment, honesty, respect, collaboration, creativity…).  In the months that followed, I lurked online and waited for information about my next stepping stone.  It appeared last month.  In a couple weeks, I will begin a program to learn the specifics of Divorce Mediation.

To say I’m excited is an understatement.  I feel positively ecstatic about empowering couples to maintain control as they untangle their lives.  In times of darkness and confusion, I will facilitate discussions which will shed light on common ground.  After years of exclaiming, “There’s a better way!” I will play an even more prominent role in that process.  For a divorce dork such as myself, it doesn’t get any better than that.

A new day

A new day

People grow.  Relationships change.  Families evolve.  These are simply facts of life.  When a couple has exhausted all options and concluded that divorce is the appropriate solution, they need resources to help them handle their process responsibly.  I look forward to being another one of those resources.

Mar 31, 2014 - divorce, marriage    4 Comments

What About “Unconscious Coupling?”

I have to say, I’m ecstatic about Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s “conscious uncoupling”.  While the public reactions are mixed, the general buzz is wonderful.  As a culture, we NEED to talk more about this stuff.  Let’s keep it rolling please.  Let’s bring divorce out of the shadows and continue to discuss and dissect it.  It is, after all, a fact of life for millions.

…But with all the existing coverage of the topic, I didn’t sit down today to write about conscious uncoupling (which is really just a fancy way of saying GOOD Divorce™).  Quite the opposite, in fact.  Since my first encounter with the word pairing, I’ve regarded it as a bit of a tongue twister which has put the phrase “unconscious coupling” in my head.

To quote Zig Ziglar, “Many people spend more time planning the wedding than the marriage.”  This is a symptom of “unconscious coupling,” and it’s a problem.  In my opinion, it’s a problem that strongly impacts the divorce rate.

I touched on this topic when I wrote about love lessons from yoga:

We find ourselves drawn to another and rush toward the object of our affections, fully opening our hearts and dancing wildly to the beat of a new emotion.  It’s easy to get caught up in the intensity as we flow together in thoughtless bliss.  We just want to be there.  We just want to do that.  All other aspects of life and self, be damned.

In other words, we pour ourselves into new relationships without complete awareness of the larger picture.  Blinded by love, we overeat, undersleep and neglect to fully consider the impact that our new partnership will have on other relationships and areas of our lives.

As time marches on, we regain consciousness.  It happens when we suffer consequences of our actions or inactions.  It happens when we become annoyed by our partner’s less-attractive habits.  It happens when we look to the future and envision a different path than what our partner would prefer.

The waking process is uncomfortable and so, naturally, we attempt to keep the blinders on.  We do this with flowers and vacations and wedding planning.  We blame the discomfort on stress.  We sever ties with those we love when their dose of reality conflicts with our desire to dissolve in the flames of love (Did I just write that?).

I am guilty of all of the above.

Why do we do this?  Is it the fairy tales we were raised on?  Is it our biologically-programmed desire to maximize pleasure and minimize pain?  Is it because we have a natural tendency to think in terms of “if only…”?

Probably all of the above, of course.  And what do we do about it?  I’m not proposing we all harden our hearts and stop falling in love.  I suppose I’m merely suggesting that we surrender to the greater awareness when it begins to happen.  Face the problems and make the hard decisions early on, instead of hanging on.

A million-dollar ceremony, a lavish vacation and a baby won’t mend conflicting philosophies about religion, politics and childrearing.  Let’s harness our self-awareness and make more conscious decisions about the future of our romantic partnerships.  Let’s apply the brakes and inventory the landscape instead of rushing to the altar.

By remaining conscious in the earlier part of a relationship, we can make better decisions about marriage.

 

 

 

Mar 16, 2014 - divorce    No Comments

Sleeping With Spoons

One night last week, as I prepared to get in bed, I paused to notice the landscape atop my sheets.  My pillow was placed in the corner of the mattress, as I’ve been sleeping diagonally for the past couple weeks.  The inventory around the pillow was as follows:  the small blanket I’ve been sleeping with since infancy, my iPad®, a white cord, a pair of ear buds, two books, a few crumpled paper towels (I’d been nursing a cold and paper towels hold more snot than tissues) and a spoon.

I paused to consider the spread before throwing away the paper towels and taking the spoon to the sink.  The mess and the germs were uniquely my own.  The choice to remove the trash was all mine as well.  I was overcome with gratitude for the space and freedom in my life.  As is often the case, I took a moment to thank The Universe for my home, my lifestyle and the gigantic bed that I don’t have to share (at least, not on a prescribed basis).

I’ve often seen polls asking people to list The Best Thing About Living Alone.  I think the next time I see one of those, I’ll add “sleeping with spoons” to the list.  I think it should rank right up there with “leaving the bathroom door open” and “not sharing the remote.”

Feb 19, 2014 - divorce    No Comments

Guest Post: Take Control of Your Divorce and Mediate!

Today’s post comes from Joe Dillon, founder of Equitable Mediation Solutions.  I’m a big fan of the model that Joe’s company provides to their clients and I hope to see more of these healthy divorce options in the future.  Here’s Joe with some education about divorce mediation…

***

When I was a kid I didn’t very much like amusement parks. While the brightly colored lights and the spinning machines looked nice, the thought of being buckled into some ride that I had no control over was not appealing to me in the least.

I was quite content to sit there, eat my cotton candy and watch while my family and friends screamed their brains out on The Runaway Train or Lightning Loops. “Why would anyone want to subject themselves to such torture?” I’d wonder. “The lack of control? That’s no fun!”

It’s All About Choice

Flash forward a few decades later and while my disposition has lightened considerably, I think back to my amusement park days, given my adult profession of divorce mediator. If there’s one thing that makes people feel out of control more than a rollercoaster, it’s going through a divorce.

But like my 8-year old self who chose to eat cotton candy on the sidelines instead of getting flipped upside down on the Coaster of Doom, you too have a choice when it comes to getting a divorce. And that choice is to mediate. How is mediating different than hiring lawyers to fight it out you ask?

The Story of My Life (And Hopefully Not Yours)

Back when my parents got a divorce in 1983, the only choice you had was to hire a lawyer and go to court. There were no mediators back then and you certainly didn’t have a say in how the proceedings went. Instead you went to your lawyer’s office, wrote them a check for their retainer, told them your story and off to work they went.

When it was all said and done, my parents had spent the better part of three years litigating and spending every last cent they seemed to have on this divorce. And guess what? Neither of them was happy with the outcome since it seemed neither of them got they wanted.  The judge did most of the talking and deciding while my parents either just sat there quietly fuming or shouting at the judge.

Mediation: The Smarter Way to Divorce

Thankfully, those days are long gone, and if you are a couple faced today with the difficult decision to divorce, you now have a choice.  And that choice is mediation.

Instead of two attorneys on opposite sides fighting for “their side,” there’s one neutral third-party mediator who doesn’t take sides and is interested in helping you both come to agreement.

Instead of paperwork flying back and forth, you, your spouse and your mediator will review everything together so there’s no confusion if something’s unclear or is missing.

Instead of arguing in public, we have conversations in private. Unlike using lawyers and going to court, mediation sessions are confidential. No one will know the terms of your divorce except the two of you and your mediator.

Instead of being told what to do by a lawyer or judge, you both get a say in what your agreement and future looks like. Neither spouse can force the other to agree to something they’re not comfortable with and an agreement is only finalized when you both say it is.

The Many Benefits of Mediation

It might seem unusual to refer to something related to divorce to be “better” for you. But as opposed to the alternative or working with attorneys, it certainly is. The benefits of mediation include:

  • A 98% success rate – Nearly all clients who begin mediation are able to come to an agreement they both find fair and equitable.
  • Significant cost savings – Couples who mediate save on average $25,000 as compared to a standard attorney driven divorce which averages $30,000. And if that standard divorce was not so standard and they wound up in court, those savings would increase to $200,000 as a litigated divorce will literally bankrupt you.
  • A more efficient process – Mediation can take as little as two to three months instead of two to three years like a litigated divorce.
  • Better adherence to terms – Couples who mediate are 70% more likely to adhere to any support orders agreed to in mediation as opposed to those forced upon them by a judge.

Divorce Is Difficult but It Doesn’t Have To Be a Disaster

Mediation is a more peaceful, efficient and less costly way to end a marriage that results in a more favorable settlement for all parties involved, especially your children.

So whether you’re the initiator of the divorce, or the individual on the receiving end of the decision, you have a choice in how you proceed. Don’t litigate and let your divorce become a disaster. Choose to take control of your divorce and mediate.

 

Equitable Mediation Services’ Founder & Managing Partner Joe Dillon oversees the firm’s practice areas of divorce mediation and divorce financial analysis and works personally with clients in Illinois, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  To learn more about Equitable Mediation and the services they offer please visit http://www.equitablemediation.com/ or call (877) 732 6682 today.

Jan 30, 2014 - divorce, media    No Comments

Book: The Two Roads to Divorce

2 roads

The Two Roads to Divorce was written by Lenard Marlow, who has assisted in the divorce process both as an attorney and a mediator.  Experience taught him much, and, being familiar with both roads to divorce, he has done an excellent job communicating his knowledge to the reader.

The book is written in the second-person narrative and reads almost like a series of short letters to a person embarking on the Journey of Divorce.  The relatively short chapters begin with a title and an appropriate quote.  Example:

CHAPTER 3

WHOSE FAULT IS IT?

Husbands and wives do not get divorced because they are good people or bad people.  They get divorced because they are different people. (I love this quote)

Throughout the book, Mr. Marlow guides the reader through the various facets of divorce and the choices people will have to make.  He discusses the experiences of husbands and wives throughout the marriage, differing realities and the stories we tell ourselves.  He addresses the well-meaning friends and family who are all-too-eager to offer advice.  He talks about the ways divorcing individuals might lose confidence in themselves and each other, and he illustrates what might happen when people opt for self-help and the “protection” of hired attorneys.

My favorite aspect of the book is how easy it is to identify with and absorb the information.  Mr. Marlow has a way of pointing out the obvious (which isn’t so obvious in the heat of the process):  “Lawyers do not know what is best for you.  Nor are they necessarily wise.  They are just people who went to law school.”  He exposes legal jargon and illustrates the flaws in an adversarial approach.  He asks important questions analogous to the traditional divorce process:  “Would you shop in a supermarket if you knew that upon adding up your purchases, the clerks at each of the checkout counters will give you a different answer (amount) as to what you owe?”

The Two Roads To Divorce is a good reference for individuals (especially both individuals in a couple) as they begin the process or if they feel overwhelmed by the road they chose.  It can also be a helpful resource for supportive friends and family members.  Check it out for yourself, or give it as a gift.

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