Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cleaning up the mess!

When divorce occurs one person moves out of the family home and one usually remains behind, even if only until the property sales. For the person who remains behind then, there is often a great deal of “stuff” left from the marriage: a garage or attic full of boxes, old clothes and furniture stored away, memorabilia from possibly both your lives and pictures, often stuffed in boxes, if you were married before the digital age. This can feel really overwhelming, as just having to deal with it can bring back memories that you are working to forget. Yet cleaning out and throwing away can help you heal. So how do you take on this project? First and foremost, do not throw out things that belong to your ex that he or she has not had a chance to retrieve. Call or email and give an opportunity for him to come over and pick up his remaining items. Be fair and be kind, no matter the circumstances of your divorce. Then set out on a methodical, planned and plotted mission to clean up and clear out your space. Set aside a little time each week, even if only an hour here or there, and choose a spot to work on and get going. There are many books on the market that can give you tips on cleaning and organizing that you might find helpful. After my divorce, I moved twice before I finally realized I had to do some serious weeding of my stuff. Before my last move, I literally went through everything in my house and discarded, sold or gave away nearly all of my furniture, and unnecessary items. I cannot tell you how freeing it felt, what a burden was lifted from my shoulders, in not having to deal with so much “stuff” again! The move became a breeze and now I still find it much easier to discard or give away items that are unnecessary or to not buy them in the first place. Cleaning up your mess will make you feel better and help continue your choice of happiness! Spend some time walking through your home and noting the cluttered spaces, including closets, attics and garages. Write about how you want to tackle this project. Is there anyone who would help you? Do you need a blueprint to follow by purchasing a how to guide? Write out a plan for yourself and a date to begin. This will help make the project real and help get you started. If there is a move pending on the horizon, then set a deadline as well, giving yourself a goal to achieve. Trust me; you will not believe how much better you will feel once the excess is gone. Good luck!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Desperately Seeking Someone

Dating soon after divorce can be a great self esteem boost; however, you are vulnerable at this juncture and the importance in protecting your heart and using your head cannot be stressed enough. The attention someone new offers will be fun and give your spirits a lift. You will probably get that excited feeling in the pit of your stomach and a racing heart at this new love interest and that can feel good and be enticing. The important thing to understand at this point though is the need to take your time and not rush into anything serious right away. If you have been married for any number of years, you need time to discover who you are again; time to think about your needs and desires and time to discover what you want in a new partner. Taking time to assess what happened in the marriage you just left is important. Was your spouse abusive, critical, controlling, or unfaithful? What prompted you to choose this person? Or were one or other of you simply unhappy and so you left the marriage? Taking time to look back at your marriage and learn from your mistakes will help strengthen your chances of having a successful subsequent marriage or relationship. If there was any sort of abuse involved, you need to strongly consider why you chose this person. Do not allow yourself to be a victim. Take responsibility for having entered the first relationship and deciding why you did, so that you can avoid making a similar choice again. Let me strongly state, I am not saying abuse is okay or excusable, I am saying though, that you chose to marry a person who ended up abusing you, don’t let that happen again and you are the only one who can prevent this. Additionally, understanding that no one can make you happy is an important part of marriage. Taking time to learn how to be happy for yourself now, will make a second marriage more likely to be successful. Only you can make yourself happy. Having been married to a controlling person the first time, I knew I did not want to experience that again. When I had a date with a man who became possessive soon after and made a snide remark about my having been out with friends, I cannot tell you the joy I experienced in my heart when I was able to tell him firmly and with no regrets that I had been in a controlling and possessive relationship once and intended not to do it again. I said goodbye and that was that. I had learned, you cannot change someone’s behavior, you cannot make someone who is controlling or possessive give up those traits, you just have to know that you will not tolerate them and move on. The same with abuse, you must learn, what are the signs of an abusive person and then you must be alert to any sign of this in a new love interest. And for happiness, you must learn how to be happy in you! Dating can be great fun, but take your time. If the relationship becomes serious, give it a couple of years to meld. Anyone can be on their best behavior for a year, it is usually during the second year that if there is going to be personality conflicts that they will show up. Have fun, but use your head and keep your heart guarded until you have time to decide what you want for your future. Write in your journal what you hope to find in a new partner. Reflect on what happened in your first marriage and how you want to avoid this in the future and how you can accomplish that. Relationships are hard work, but gratifying when both people are working hard. Know what you want and what you expect before you enter in again.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Volunteer for Happiness

Happiness during the dark days of divorce may seem out of your realm, but it doesn’t have to be. While you are caught up in the proceedings, whether you are divorcing with lawyers involved, or you and your ex are trying to hammer out an agreement yourselves , the roller coaster ride may seem more like a death spiral, but you can come up for air and find some happiness by taking yourself out of the ring for awhile. Take a weekend and volunteer for Habitat for Humanity or maybe a local homeless shelter. Giving your time to a worthy cause, and reminding yourself that there are others in the world with worse problems, can help you keep perspective and realize that life will go on and that you will be fine. Also, volunteering gives your mind another focus and takes you out of the constant banter in your head about the wrongs that your ex has inflicted on you or the anger you feel at him and the situation you now find yourself in. Happiness is work at this time in your life, but well worth the effort because what better way to have revenge than to walk away happy with confidence and purpose. Spend time writing about how you can help others and then how that makes you feel. The act of divorce can be so overwhelming and smothering that you must find ways to keep your head above water and to keep it all in perspective. Life is hard for the majority of the world and divorce is survivable. Volunteer.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Confronting ourselves

Letting go of the past can be difficult no matter how long you have been divorced, no matter how happy you are, no matter how full your life has become, no matter how well you think you have put it behind you. Sometimes the past rears up and the old feelings come trickling or even flooding back in, but what you do with those feelings is important. After a recent visit with my sons, one of them told me he thinks I still harbor resentment towards their father. I have spent some time thinking about what he said, and though I do not resent their father, when I return to the town where we had our life, where two of my sons still live, I realize that I feel some twinges of guilt that my children did not have a family that stayed intact, and that I have tended to rehash some of my marriage experiences with them. I also tend to offer unsolicited advice in hopes they never follow the path their parents wandered down. Here I am writing about getting on with life, choosing happiness, and my past still nips at my heels on occasion. I am very thankful that my son mentioned this to me, because what better way to learn about oneself than to be confronted and have to face my own shortcomings. So, even though I am happy beyond measure in my life now, I realize that grown children do not want to rehash the past any more than your children still in your care do, and that the past is just that, the past, and our children must live their own lives, make their own mistakes and most importantly, forge their own paths. A reminder to myself and to all of us, we can’t change our past, but we can let it go. We can believe in our present and look forward to our futures. And we can believe in our children and have hope for their futures! Choose happiness and leave the past behind. I find that when I have something that I need to confront, my best way to deal with the problem, the situation, whatever it may be, is to write about what is going on and what might be causing the attachment to the past. This allows me to work though my feelings and thoughts and to then put the situation to rest. Give this a try in your journal the next time you need to confront yourself.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Avoiding Victim Status

While it may be tempting to portray yourself to your friends as a victim of your ex, to tell your story and seek sympathy from others, placing yourself in victim status will not lead you to happiness. During the initial stages of divorce, naturally, you will want to share what happened with those closest in your life. When, however, you begin to tell anyone who will listen or continue to rehash the story over and over to others, you are headed toward permanent victim status. When you become a victim, you need never look at your own responsibility in the demise of your marriage and you become less likely to secure a better future for yourself, because even if you were abused physically or mentally in your marriage, understanding that you chose to marry this person and understanding why you made the choice will lead you to make a better choice in the future. Let me strongly emphasize that I am not saying abuse is your fault, nor is abuse ever excusable. I am saying that to avoid allowing someone else like this into your life you must not become a helpless victim, you must take responsibility for making the choice in the first place and work hard in understanding why you made that choice and deciding how to not do it again. When you turn yourself into a victim, you stay permanently attached to the relationship. Though no longer married, victims seem to find a way to stay attached to their ex through frequent communication with negative results or possible trumped up legal action to continue contact. A victim feeds on the continued contact to remain in victim status. Additionally, the victim may gain attention from others who are sympathetic, but at some point you will find these sympathetic friends disappearing as they want you to move on with your life. If your ex is the one who has become a victim, then cut off all contact. You do not have to respond to emails or phone calls, and if a response is necessary because you have children and some things must be discussed, then say nothing personal, do not respond to attacks, and whenever possible to avoid response, say by responding directly to the school or calling the doctor about the children yourself, you will maintain your own sanity and not feed into your ex’s need to be a victim. Avoid at all costs becoming a victim. Examine your own life and understand that there is nothing to be gained by being a victim, that by taking responsibility for your life and all that happens in your future, you will achieve happiness. Spend some time this week writing about yourself and deciding whether you have turned into a victim or whether your ex is exhibiting signs of being a victim. You can not control your ex, but you can control your responses to your ex and keep yourself from being a victim. Write how you are handling your situation and where your responsibility lies in the marriage and how you can avoid repeating the same mistake. And if you have taken on the roll of victim, write about how you intend to change this and move forward. You can choose happiness and leave the victim behind!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Letting go of hate and anger

Consider for a moment if you will, any feelings of anger or hatred you may have towards your ex. While you may feel justified in your feelings, anger and hatred can and will destroy your life and will greatly effect all with whom you interact. Both of these emotions infect your brain much like a virus, causing you to loose your judgment, to overreact to any situation and to transfer those feelings to others around you. You cannot hate someone and still have a love for others as love and hate cannot coexist under any circumstances. Throughout time all great spiritual leaders and philosophers have warned us of the negative effects of hatred. Hate overpowers your ability to make rational decisions, and to see the difference between right and wrong. When you feel hate bubbling up in your mind, it is important not to let that emotion run rampant in your brain. If possible remove yourself from your immediate surroundings, and take a moment to engage in either meditation, prayer, or just some deep breathing to help release the hate from your mind. Then turn your attention to something that brings you pleasure and concentrate on that image. The next time this occurs, you will become more adept at fighting off the feeling. Don’t let hate define your life. Life is too precious, too short, to let yourself be controlled and destroyed by hate. Take time this week to write in your journal how you will continue to rid your mind of feelings of anger and hate. Also, if you keep having a recurring hateful thought write about it and decide does this make me feel better? Does this thought help me to move forward? Does this thought make me dwell on a past I cannot change or a person I cannot control? You can only control your thoughts, your actions, your life. Live your life free of hate. Choose happiness!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Allow your children to love you both

In an ideal divorce situation, both parents would deserve and have equal custody along with decision making capabilities regarding their children. They would treat each other fairly and with respect for their own chosen parenting style. Unfortunately this is too often not the case and at least one parent if not both set out to defame the other parent in their children’s eyes. Turning your children against the other parent will create a life long psychological difficulty for them and gain you nothing. A friend of mine shared with me the anger she still feels at times towards her mother for turning her against her father while she was a child. When she was old enough to begin questioning all she had been told, she discovered that her mother had lied to her and greatly exaggerated her father's failings. She has now forged a relationship with her father and become closer to him than to her mother, and feels cheated of the years she lost to her mother's bitterness. Saying derogatory things about the other parent, withholding money, being disrespectful toward the other parent in front of your children only hurt your children and your long term relationship with them. Your anger at your ex can destroy you all when you choose to involve your children in exacting revenge on your ex. Allow your children to love both of you. Allow them to love the step parents that may be part of their lives. Love is infinite and will only result in more love for you, not less. When you act out of love, by being kind towards others, including your ex, and teach your children to always act out of love, the happiness in your lives will be multiplied over and over again. Hate and anger destroys lives. Don’t let it destroy your children. Spend some time this week writing about your children and whether or not you are being fair to their other parent. Are you acting out of love and kindness? Are you acting in the best interest of your children and not yourself. If not, decide to do so and write about how you can accomplish this. Have a great week.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Happiness is not a cover up

Choosing to be happy does not mean that you won't feel anger, bitterness, sadness or despair at times and certainly, putting on a fake front and ignoring your feelings will not make them go away. However, what will carry you through when you have those feelings is how you deal with them. Acting on your anger may feel good for the moment, but generally results in pain to others or to yourself. Instead, when you feel angry, try and get to the source of the anger. Fear can often be the source of many of the feelings you experience as a result of divorce. Naming those fears and conquering those fears in a concrete manner, will help alieviate the resulting feelings. Happiness relies on your ability to not allow anger, etc. to power your life. Choosing happiness means acting out of love and not fear. Spend some time this week exploring your fears. Write about your fears and think of constructive means to alleviate them from your mind. Have a great week!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Writing your way to happiness

One of the fundamental elements of working your way to choosing happiness, is to write about your experience. Research shows that when you write about traumatic incidents that occur in your life, you will find a greater sense of healing and understanding by working through the process in this way. In Choosing Happiness after Divorce: A woman's 52 week guide to living a positive life, I emphasize the importance of journal writing. Journaling provides you with an escape valve to release emotion, to establish goals for yourself, to think through problems that arise and to contemplate all you have to feel grateful for in your life. I encourage you this week to go out and purchase a journal and begin to utilize the benefits of putting pen to paper. I know... you hated writing in school, why would you want to do it now? Because at this point in your life, writing is about you and your life, not an assignment that might feel like a punishment. When you begin, you may find difficulty in writing more than a sentence or two if you have never written in a journal before, but taking this time to write about all you are feeling and experiencing will help you in the end. I suggest that you write a little each day, though certainly, any amount is helpful. Whether you write for great lengths or in short bursts, take the time. Feel like writing a mean spirited email to that ex? Instead, write it in your journal and be done with the impulse. I am going to encourage you each week to avoid anger and meaness towards your ex. These only stall your healing and add nothing to your choice to be happy. So take out that pen and paper and get started. An idea for you to begin with this week: write a list of as many things as you can think of that bring you pleasure. Have a great week!

Thursday, January 31, 2008


Happiness is a choice and though one that may seem difficult after a divorce, the choice is yours to make. Join me each week with ideas and encouragement for living a happy life! Decide to take the most difficult situation you have ever faced and turn it into a positive. Whether you chose divorce or divorce was chosen for you, creating a new life is the only choice you have now. Make that life fantastic!