Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Are You Ready To Let The Cat Out Of The Bag?

When your relationship falls apart, it is a very personal feeling of loss that only you can come to terms with in your own time.  If you are not ready to share the news, then don't unless of course, there are circumstances beyond your control that have accelerated the timeline for making your situation public.

If you have time on your side, slowly build up to the idea of telling a few trusted friends and/or family members.  The fact is you need their emotional support now more than ever, and keeping your grief to yourself is not helping anyone.  Your loved ones will want to be there for you-- the longer you hide your pain, the worse they will feel later on that they were not there for you during the worst of it all.

There is a lot you can do behind the scenes, very subtle things that most won't even notice.  For example, take down old sappy posts on Twitter and Facebook and delete those lovey dovey photos on Instagram or other social media.   Put away any of the daily reminders around the house of that person's existence.  Meanwhile, create your own space-- redecorate, even if just by making a few minor changes, and start a new routine that is all yours.  The point is to disengage from the past you had together, and to rebuild a life of your own.

The sooner you feel comfortable again in your own skin, the sooner you will be ready to start telling others what happened-- and when doing so avoid TMI!  Only share as much as you want, and only let people in on as much as is necessary.  You will be amazed at how understanding most people will be, and let yourself accept their kind gestures-- it is like a soothing balm for your soul, which will heal in time.

If you didn't do anything wrong, then you really have nothing to fear by letting the cat out of the bag. Once you do, you will feel like a huge weight has been lifted from you, and hopefully others a bit more detached from the situation will help you gain insight into what went wrong and show you all the reasons you are in a better place today.

I know it is easier said than done, but take deep breaths and be grateful each day for what you have.  You need to find peace, and in order to do so you must learn to let go of the resentments you're holding onto.  The point is to move forward, so stop looking in the rearview mirror and harboring unnecessary secrets that are burdening you.  There's no need to protect someone that isn't in your life anymore.

Let the truth set you free.  

Friday, July 22, 2016

Do You Need To Take A Break?

Listen to your gut-- if you feel like you need a break, don't try to convince yourself otherwise.  Your partner may try to stop you, but don't let him/her scare you into sticking it out.  What is wrong with taking a break?  Nothing.  Unless you or your significant other are afraid that absence will not make the heart grow fonder... which just confirms you need that break.

When two people are in a good place, everything is so easy.  You get along well, so you are able to relax and laugh while enjoying each other's company during a wide range of activities from the daily mundane chores to spectacular romantic dates that will remain memorable for the rest of your life.  You feel secure and grounded, making it effortless to either stay present or look ahead to make plans for the future.  Together, you can feel the warmth in the room that envelopes you like a soft, cuddly blanket that is oh so comforting.  As you experience all this, you know without a doubt that this is love.

But when you find yourself losing that loving feeling, and you are at odds with your significant other, the opposite becomes true-- everything seems off, and you can no longer relax.  You wonder if you've lost your sense of humor, and it's hard to enjoy activities together no matter how incredible the date was intended to be.  You feel lost and vulnerable, and instead of staying present you look nostalgically at the past and avoid thinking too far into the future in order to avoid having a panic attack.  You can cut the tension in the room with a knife when s/he is in the room with you, and instead of warmth, when you do make eye contact there is a cold feeling that runs down your spine and gives you chills.  This then provokes your natural desire to either fight or flee, and that's when you will find the idea of taking a break to be a good quick fix, because deep down inside you may still be wondering "is it you, or is it me?"  The answer is probably both.

If you feel like you need a break, do it-- even if it is just for a long weekend, or go away for a whole week and if money is tight stay with friends or relatives.  Then, just pay attention to how your body reacts.  Are you more relaxed?  Has your appetite come back?  Are you able to breathe?  Can you sleep easily?   Is your mind calmer?  Do you find yourself more alert and focused?  All of these are good signs that you are not in fact ill, but rather you just needed to escape an unhealthy situation.  Now what you do with that information is up to you, but I will say that returning to the ways things were won't be an option.  Once you have found some peace, you will crave it more and more so either you will find a way to ameliorate the situation with your partner, or you will have to find a way to extricate yourself from the relationship.

Parting ways is never easy, but it can be done thoughtfully so as to minimize regrets.  Take your time to think things through-- especially the potential long term consequences of all your actions.  Acting out of emotion or impulse rarely works out well in these scenarios, which is why it is important to remove yourself from the situation to think things through with a clear head.  There is nothing wrong with a break, and nothing to fear except fear itself.

Friday, July 8, 2016

3 Key Indicators A Divorce Is Imminent

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

4 Major Pitfalls Stepfamilies Should Avoid

No one likes to makes mistakes, especially publicly.  This is why a divorce is such a humbling experience, and yet eventually with time most will come to accept that they made the best choice for a spouse at the time with the information available then.  Moving forward (since none of us can go back in time) all we can do is hope to be more cautious while remaining optimistic about the future.  And this is how over 60% of those individuals that divorce will eventually remarry, hoping to get it right the second time around.

Unfortunately, second marriages have a fail rate of 70% or more, and sadly not enough is done to really prepare these couples for the major challenges they will face early on, unlike first marriages.  Here are 4 major pitfalls I would encourage step-families to avoid:

1. Don't expect to act like an intact family.  You guys are not coming in with a clean slate- probably one or both of you will have a pre-existing obligation to a former spouse, such as child support or alimony, and there will be different custody schedules that have to be worked around for vacations and holidays with your new spouse.  Coordinating priorities about time and money is bound to be tough.

2. Don't think the kids will share in your joy.  While they may be happy to see their parents are content with their new found love, that doesn't mean they accept the situation or want to participate in the formation of a new family structure.  Indeed, according to "Stepmonster" by Dr. Wednesday Martin, only about 20% of adult children actually feel close to their stepmother.  People will tell you not to take it personally, and they will all feel sorry for the children, but that is of very little comfort to the partner that is being shunned or slighted on a regular basis-- especially when that child's parent fails to be supportive or understanding because s/he is too busy defending his/her offspring.

3. Don't blur the lines between marital and pre-marital assets.  Those assets that existed prior to the marriage are going to be treated differently, not just in divorce court but even in your marriage.  Most people will feel territorial about wealth accumulated prior to saying "I do," and they may set aside the  property and funds that are non-marital for purposes that you don't agree with, and you will have to learn to deal with your emotions and politely voice an objection when it really matters.

4.  Don't expect someone else will love your child like their own.  While this may happen over time, it's simply not possible to have this occur within a short timeframe-- especially the older and more resistant a child is to new members of the family.  It is simply human nature that we would do for our own children we would never do for anyone else, that is the beauty of a parent's unconditional love.

If you want to make sure that the odds are in your favor, then accept that blended families will require  an extraordinary amount of work, especially in terms of emotionally processing these 4 major pitfalls.  Navigating the complexities of a re-structured family is a complex process that will necessitate a lot of patience and compassion.  Rarely do families just "blend" despite the fact that we use that term quite often, and when things don't go smoothly fewer and fewer individuals seem to have the skill set required to sail the high seas, which is why the majority simply choose to abandon ship.

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

3 Great Lessons Divorce Teaches Us

Imagine that one day someone tells you that you have to find a new place to live relying on only half your household income, while at the same time your assets are reduced by 50%.  Be honest, no matter who you are that's going to hurt.  To make matters worse, in addition to the huge financial losses involved in a divorce, there are a multitude of feelings that a person must process at his/her own pace, including anger, shame, guilt, sorrow and fear.  Fear is by far the worse-- it's the fear of the unknown that often spirals out of control and wreaks havoc as your mind wanders and starts to ponder: will I ever recover from this setback?  will I be alone for the rest of my life?  will I be okay?

You need to mourn the end of one life before you can fully engage in another.  But as time goes on, you discover an inner strength and courage you probably never knew you had, and as friends and family shower you with kindness you realize that you are not alone in this world, and that pain and suffering is part of the human experience that connects us all to one another.

Having gone through my own divorce, as well as helping others with theirs on a professional level for over 17 years, here are 3 great life lessons most of us glean from the experience:

1. Learn to Live Alone- It is better to be alone than in poor company.  Enjoy time at home, by yourself.  If you find the silence unsettling, that means you have some work to do.  You need to appreciate the peace and quiet around you, and let the stillness calm you.  Once you find that inner peace, you will guard it at all cost, which means you won't allow anyone to come in and disrupt your equilibrium.  In other words, you develop the ability to establish great boundaries with others, and this is a key life skill.

2. Manage Your Own Finances- If you can't rely on anyone else, you are forced to solve your own problems, including managing your own budget.   If you have champagne taste on a beer budget, this may hurt a little at first, but learning to maximize your income, minimize your expenses, and control your own money is essential to survival and feeling secure.

3. Find Your Own Fun- You need to be able to entertain yourself-- and I don't just mean by binge watching Netflix at home.  Get out to a concert, go to the theater, visit a museum, join a gym, take a class, borrow a book from the library, write in a journal, check out new restaurants, travel, and try some new activities.  Engage in life!

There is no sugar-coating the fact that divorce sucks.  But this humbling experience does teach you to be a better person, no doubt about it.  Truly, that which doesn't kill you does make you stronger. So go be strong, and live life to its fullest.

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Has Your Love Become Toxic?

There is a reason people say there is a thin line between love and hate.   Believe it or not, the opposite of love in not hate, but rather apathy.

Only someone you really love is capable of truly hurting you because they are the ones we trust the most, and we expect so much from them, including that they will love us back, be kind and caring, keep our secrets and never ever betray us.  We can all agree that these are high expectations that we don't impose on many, and when these expectations aren't meant, the disappointment is quite profound.

Suffering repeated disappointment in a relationship is like experiencing death by a thousand paper cuts.  If you have experienced this, you know exactly what I am describing is a prolonged and painful death where with each day and passing week you slowly see the trust and respect you once felt for the other person diminish to a point of no return.

Some people become sad when faced with disappointment, others become angry.  These are just different ways of expressing the same underlying sentiment.  Some will withdraw, others will act out- neither way is healthy or productive.  Sometimes, it is the things we don't do that hurt more than the things we do-- like failing to recognize a special event or make an effort at little acts of kindness, no longer greeting someone with a smile, kind words or a kiss, ceasing to be intimate or even just check-in because instead that person is really checking out.

Your partner should know your love language, and make an effort to speak it on a regular basis.  You would not have fallen in love with that person if s/he did not know how to make you feel loved, so you have every right to feel betrayed when the one you loved has changed his/her pattern of behavior.  And if despite your request to address any concerns, the patterns of behavior don't improve, it is normal for frustration and resentment to simply worsen over time, making the situation toxic and intolerable.

When your love story has become a nightmare and the person you once loved has turned into someone f-d up beyond all recognition (aka a "FUBAR") you have to learn to cut your losses. Do not try to apply the sunken cost mentality-- it doesn't matter how much time or money you put into the relationship before, if it is now broken and cannot be fixed, you have to accept that it is time to walk away.

Love is not meant to hurt.  It is something beautiful and sweet.  Hold out for that, and leave all the negativity behind.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Are You Looking For Unconditional Love?

Unconditional love is a gift bestowed upon most of us at birth, by family.  Truly, it is a gift we do not appreciate until we are older, as we come to realize that all other relationships in life are premised on conditions of one sort or another.

Unfortunately, after marriage vows are exchanged, I think many people fall back into this false belief that their partners have now agreed to provide unconditional love.  In reality, however, nothing could be further from the truth because for most of us, marriage is conditioned on many things, including the need to communicate and be on the same page about your current responsibilities and future goals while remaining not just respectful and faithful, but caring and kind.

Unlike blood relatives, who will remain family whether you like each other or not, your life partner is entirely a connection of choice.  And with free will, comes the right to make a different choice if the relationship ceases to be nurturing and fulfilling.

Marriage in the 21st century unlike those of previous generations is based mostly on desire, not necessity.  No one I know actually believes in the clause "til death do you part."  In fact, most would agree that if someone continues to show bad judgment and risks the safety or financial security of the family's overall well-being, these are valid grounds to opt out-- even without any physical abuse or adultery at play.

The more people come to understand that the marriage contract, like all other contracts in life, are conditioned on maintaining a quid-pro-quo situation, the greater the chances those entering marriage will have more realistic expectations of their partners.

Reality is that unconditional love is predominantly a gift passed down by your bloodline.  In no way, however, does this diminish the conditional love extended to you by your partner because freely choosing to remain committed to one another to preserve the pact between you is an incredible gift too, just not one to ever take for granted.

If what you seek is unconditional love, then you really aren't ready for marriage, and maybe you should consider moving back home to live with your mom.