Thursday, January 30, 2014

There's No Need for Risky Business.

Are you a divorced parent over the age of 40 and dating?  Welcome to the party-- with the right attitude, you will have a blast because now (1) pressure is off to get married; (2) no need to have more kids; and (3) hopefully you are at a point in your career and with your finances, that you can enjoy a little bit more in life.  So here's the deal, don't play Russian Roulette out there and risk wrecking everything.

Thanks to modern medicine, there's a lot we can do to minimize our risks while still having fun.  Not only can guys now have a laproscopic vasectomy, but women can also have their tubes blocked in an out-patient procedure that takes less than 1 hour.  Many might have this covered through insurance, and if not, my understanding is that these options cost less than $3,000. Obviously you need to check with your own medical provider and insurance carrier for full details, but I see these sterilization options as a fantastic solution for both men and women out there dating, who don't want to destabilize some key parts of their lives.

The truth is that as much as I love kids, I am astounded by how much they cost to raise, with some studies suggesting the national average is over $100,000 in the first 16 years-- and I would easily double that figure for those in the DC Area.  This of course presumes you are not paying $25,000 or more for year for those private schools in town.  Seriously, just do the math and you'll soon see that really it takes a fortune to raise a child, and the financial picture is even grimmer if you are maintaining 2 separate homes and perhaps paying as much as 1/3 of your income in child support.

Birth control is not fool-proof, and accidents can happen, so why take any chances?  If you are over 40 and 100% sure that you want to close that baby factory, talk to your doctor-- and your friends.  An overwhelming number of people I know have been "fixed," and they will very openly and honestly tell you about the process, including the quick recovery time. 

As we start to talk to our own kids about safe sex, don't you think we should really practice what we preach???  I think we can all agree that preventing an unwanted pregnancy is far easier (and smarter) than dealing with the very difficult and controversial choice to terminate one.  No need to worry about a "Plan B" when you've got Plan A fully executed.

Just some food for thought based on my interview in December 2013 with the DC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.    (That, along with 50 other videos are all on my Youtube Channel: GenXSmartie.)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

5 Key Points to Consider in a Divorce

Divorce Corp. hits theaters this weekend, and according to how they depict the problem in the trailers and on CNN, it seems they are trying to blame the attorneys and suggest that the legal system is somehow being unjust. To set the record straight, putting all emotions aside for a moment, in the legal world there are really four key issues that need to be addressed in a divorce:

1. Custody- (1) What schedule will you follow for sharing the kids?  (2) How will you make major decisions about their welfare-- education, medical care, etc.?

2. Child Support- How will you both contribute towards the children's expenses?  Thankfully, there are guidelines that each state follows, and most are available online.  Generally, the formulas take into account (1) the income of each party; (2) the health insurance cost for the child; (3) work-related daycare/aftercare expenses; and  (4) the time-sharing arrangement.  This should be straight-forward, except when someone is self-employed or under-employed-- that is when things can get murky.

3. Alimony- If someone needs support, and the other has a demonstrated ability to pay, then there really are just 2 questions we need to answer: (1) what is the amount needed and (2) for how long?  Some states have guidelines that they use for alimony calculations, others may want to refer to the formula proposed by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (

4. Property Division- How are you going to split up the assets (and debt) accumulated during the marriage?

Of course, the more you want to fight about these issues, the more it's going to cost.  After you consult an attorney regarding your rights and obligations, you normally have 3 choices:  Mediation, Litigation or Collaboration.  In all three processes, the goal is the same-- to address the 4 main legal issues stated above and get you divorced.  The average length of time ranges from 6 months to 2 years, and if you do wind up with a trial here's a sobering fact: the national average is about $20,000 per side in legal fees. 

This brings me to Key Point #5: how are you going to pay for the divorce?  68% of American households lack a real emergency fund, and the average family is carrying about $15,000 of credit card debt, meanwhile the average household income in the DC Area is about $88,000.  Simple math shows you that there is no way the average divorce costs $50,000 as suggested by Dr. Drew on CNN-- now perhaps he means litigated divorces, and I would bet that average is driven way up by the cases we call "high conflict" like the one in Texas last year that cost $7.4 Million.

The harsh truth is most Americans are not going to be able to afford a litigated divorce-- but maybe that sobering reality is what leads most couples heading towards a divorce to work out an amicable agreement outside of court.  According to Dr. Emery's research over 2/3 of divorced couples are either amicable or can cooperatively co-parent.  (Dr. Emery is the head of UVA's Psychology Dept. and author of several books, including The Truth About Children and Divorce).  It is indeed my experience over the last 15 years that less than 20% of cases actually go to trial.

It is unfortunate that some have chosen to blame the divorce industry for making the court process so expensive, when in fact most of us in the industry have found that it is the clients driven by anger and revenge that drive up their own legal fees.

The sooner people accept that perhaps having their day in court is NOT the best end game, perhaps the sooner they can  begin to focus on addressing the 4 key legal issues in a reasonable manner, and this way put their legal matters to rest without committing financial suicide.

Watch Out for the Seven Deadly Sins

Some days, I feel more like a priest than a lawyer, as people step into my office and confess all their sins, or those committed by their partners.  Of course, unlike a priest, I cannot absolve them of all these acts, which have turned their home into a House of Horrors.  All I can do is help them plan an escape.

The tell-tales signs that it is time to go are always the same: (1) a loss of respect and (2) lack of trust.  Without these 2 pillars, love will come crashing down like a house of cards.  Interestingly enough, the actions that lead to the demise of a marriage are always the same, and can easily be summed up as the 7 Deadly Sins, which Pope Gregory the Great identified as follows:

1. Pride
2. Envy
3. Anger
4. Sloth
5. Greed
6. Gluttony
7. Lust

You don't have to be a Christian to appreciate how these sins (defined by the Pope as offenses against love) would poison any positive feelings you may have once felt towards another human being.  The Pope actually ranked them in terms of severity (with #1 being the worst), and the rank correlates with the degree of fixation an individual exhibits with him/herself and a corresponding decrease in concern for others. In today's vocabulary we would say the more narcissistic someone is, the less likely they will be to maintain a loving relationship, and that is in fact proving to be the case with the divorces I see every day. 

While I firmly believe that most people are not totally self-absorbed or corrupt, it does seem that as we climb up that socio-economic ladder and amass power, we face increasing temptations.  These days, it is very easy to become focused on your individual goals and lose sight of the world around you-- especially for those keen on joining the ranks of the top One Percent.   (For those interested in a glimpse of that world, and how it is no picnic, I highly recommend the documentary by J. Johnson "One Percent.")

Staying on top can become an obsession, and it is easy to see how the higher you climb, the greater the fear of falling.  Coping with stress is a skill that must be practiced daily, and unfortunately most go for the quick fix of numbing the pain with drugs and alcohol or other reckless acts.  They don't see this as a path to self-destruction.

Little did I know back in 1995 when I watched the movie "Seven" with Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow that I would be stuck dealing with these Seven Deadly Sins on a daily basis.  The fact is these 7 transgressions are not always so obvious or severe, and they can certainly vary widely in degrees.  But, overtime they create a perfect storm, and if you ignore the initial warning signs, that storm will destroy your love and tear down your home. 

Not a sermon, just a thought. :)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Talking to Kids About Drugs & Violence

In the last few weeks, there have been some interesting discussions in my home as a result of the news, thank you Justin Bieber & Co.  Here's a glimpse of our Q&A:

Q: Why do people do drugs?  Answer: To numb the pain.

Q: Why would a star feel pain?  Answer: There's immense pressure to stay on top.

Q: Why is there so much violence?  Answer: Because people are angry.

Q: Why are so many people angry? Answer: In my opinion, because of the increasingly outrageous disparity between the rich and poor.

Over the last 30 years, while we've undoubtedly seen the standard of living of the poor improve, the fact is the middle class is struggling to recover from all the hits we took in the Great Recession, meanwhile the rich have never had a more concentrated level of wealth like this since the Great Depression.  Seriously, according to a recent article in the Atlantic, the 85 wealthiest families have as much wealth as the poorest 3 Billion combined.  Hopefully, I am not the only one that wanted to throw up after reading that article.

While the media tries to "search for answers," I think parents need to step up and help our kids face some harsh realities.  We have to accept that thanks to modern technology, in a post 9/11 world, our kids simply will not grow up as naively as we did.  Schools are no longer immune to danger, and without teaching our kids to discipline their emotions, tempers will continue to flair, precisely because the disparity of people's lifestyles has never been more apparent, and the extravagant decadence of the top 1% can be infuriating to those that feel disenfranchised and/or have lost hope in the American dream.  

I'm getting off my soapbox now, and leave you with this interview I did recently with a local mental health expert, Steven Stein, who shared some tips with parents about understanding a child's emotional thermometer, and how we can talk to kids about violence:


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Think Like a Man, But Act Like a Lady

Generally speaking, guys think women are super complicated and very emotional.  Generally speaking, I happen to agree with them, although there are always some exceptions.  So, every day I have to teach people to stop telling me about their feelings and stick to the facts.  It's not that I don't care about feelings, it's just that in the legal world we see that emotions cloud judgment, and we are bound to uphold an objective standard of fairness, not one person's opinion of what is right or wrong.

In litigation, which is a field dominated by men (or women who think like men), we care about evidence and facts.  If you are going to accuse someone of anything- what do you have to support your position?  In settlement talks, we focus on solving the present issue, not re-hashing the past.  In court, where it is a battle of wits, the winner is not the one who shouts the loudest, but rather the one who can articulate his/her points most eloquently.

Outside the courtroom, I've found the same principles apply-- if I present my case in a calm, logical manner, guys will listen.  With men, the delivery of your message matters A LOT
-If you make a request (not a demand) they will want to help because they enjoy being Mr. Fix It.
-If you seek their input (and don't try impose your opinion) they will share their thoughts on a variety of issues. 
-If you explain why you might be upset (instead of just acting out like a 3 year old) they will apologize and try to make things better.

Meanwhile, if you come across as some demanding nag, shrew or volatile bitch, it is game over.  They will just shut down, and although you may think you've won the battle, you don't see that you are losing the war because inside, they are retreating.  Your emotions are repelling them, and with each emotional outburst, you are pushing them farther and farther away.

I whole-heartedly admit that I'm siding with the guys here-- women (and some incredibly emotional men) need to discipline their emotions.  Try to picture yourself like Jackie O or Grace Kelly, and act accordingly, no matter how trying the situation may be.  Here is why: for those of us that are genetically pre-disposed to be hunters, we focus most of our attention on making sure there is food and shelter, and after that, we just want to have some fun.  It's not going to play well if you threaten or want to trap us, because we know we can fend for ourselves.  We don't need to be with anyone, instead we are with someone simply because we desire his/her company.  If something ceases to be fun, sooner or later we'll find it's time to move on.

So, ladies, if you want to keep your guy, you need to think more like one:
(1) Focus first on providing for yourself, and don't chase after a bone.  There are plenty of Richards out there. 
(2) Have fun, and don't ever mistake a boy-toy for anything more than what he is-- remember, you don't ever have to buy the pig for a little sausage. :)
(3) Discipline those emotions, and make women like Lady Di proud!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Stop the Madness- Learn to Disengage

A few years ago, I went to a wonderful seminar by Bill Eddy, who is the founder of the High Conflict Institute and author of many insightful books on how to deal with high conflict personalities (HCPs").

What I love most about my work as a divorce lawyer is watching someone transform into a butterfly as they find freedom and learn to fly on their own with their new wings.  Unfortunately, many will falter for a while because they are unable to disengage with their spouse, who may well be an HCP.  And so it is no secret that the worst part of my job is dealing with these HCPs, which are defined as people with (often undiagnosed) personality disorders that cannot simply be cured by popping some happy pills. 

Here are the 4 to watch out for, as I would describe them (remember I'm not a LCSW):

1. Narcissists- totally self absorbed, can't empathize at all with others;
2. Borderlines- severe attachment issues;
3. Anti-socials- truly can't distinguish between right and wrong; and
4. Histrionics-   addicted to drama.

Honestly, I knew nothing about HCPs when I graduated law school, and it wasn't until I started seeing some CRAZY behavior that I started researching more about psychology (which sadly is not a required course in law school.)  Turns out, according to an NIH study about 20% of our population consists of HCPs, and I would like to proffer that in the DC Area we seem to have a much more concentrated level of them!

Over time, thanks to people like Bill Eddy, I learned to cope with the HCPS both in and out of court, not out of natural curiosity, but truly out of necessity.  Studies sadly prove that an overwhelming number of our "high conflict cases" involve these HCPs, which means you can't be a litigator and avoid these individuals.  At least once the trial is over, I can close the file and walk away from the whole mess, but for those with kids now getting divorced from an HCP, this will be a life-long battle to create boundaries and disengage.  Here are 10 key points I'd share with them:

1. Not every email/call/text requires a response.
2. You don't have to respond to every accusation or insult.
3. No is a sufficient answer.  You don't always have to explain yourself.
4. Take deep breaths, go for a walk and clear your mind before engaging.
5. Someone has to rank in your life to expect an instant response.
6. It is ok to block someone that is harassing you, or limit their communications.
7. Do not allow them to drive you crazy-- you alone are in control of your emotions.
8. Remind yourself that you are a good person, who is worthy of love.
9. Find hope through others that life is actually beautiful, despite dark moments; and
10. Believe in karma.

I cannot emphasize enough how key it is to preserve your inner peace, especially with HCPs.  Don't let them drag you down.  Don't let them destroy your spirit.  And above all, don't blame yourself for pairing up with such a jerk.  Most of us marry when we are so young-- and seriously how many of us study psychology or ask someone to undergo a psycho-analysis before walking down the aisle? 

If you find yourself currently in the position of unraveling your marriage with an HCP, truly you have my utmost condolences.  This is not going to be an easy process, which has a tendency to bring out the worst in these people.  But the sooner you learn to disengage, the better.  In the meantime, get some emotional support, read up on HCPs, and go build some new alliances both professionally and personally, to help you through this difficult journey.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Every Rose Does Have Its Thorn

No, I'm not a huge Poison fan, never was, but I do remember when the song "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" came out, and that line has always stuck with me because it is just so true.

Everyone to me is like a rose in the beginning-- especially on a first date, when we are all on our best behavior.  But here is what I always know-- sooner or later, no matter how beautiful that rose may be, you will hit a thorn.  The key to understanding why this happens is that we all have a vulnerable side, and usually it's when you hit that spot that you see someone become like a porcupine-- that prickliness is his/her protective mechanism. 

Now, I'm not suggesting you jump in the sack with every porcupine you encounter, but what I am proposing is cutting each other a little slack in the beginning.  If someone says or does something that makes you pause, try to either ask what that is about or file the incident away for review at a later date.  When you are dating, your mission is to gather information, and it's critical not to pass judgment too quickly until you have enough data.  Of course, this assumes you've found an intellectual connection and some chemistry, because if you don't have that it is just game over, no need to waste anyone's time (or money.)

Visuals often help, so in dating here is an easy one to remember: picture a child plucking at the petals of a rose, except rather than asking yourself whether that person loves you or loves you not, what you need to ask is whether you love them as you learn more about their inner being.  The fact is the real thorns are never easily visible, they are hidden deep inside and surface slowly.

The final point I want to make is that we all have past wounds, and some people will remain scarred by these injuries for life, while others will use the experiences to just grow stronger and take no prisoners going forward. With those that have been deeply wounded, they may simply no longer have the capacity to let anyone in.  This is not about you, it is about their own issues.

Life is all about choices, and we each get free will to define our own existence.  So, if someone has made the choice to allow their own spirit to break, it is NOT your job or duty to try and fix that.  If you keep running into thorns, and you feel like the person you once melted over has now become a thorn on your side, just remember that line-- every rose has its thorn.

If I had a thorn stuck to my side, there would be no hesitation in pulling it out.  The real question is what to do with the rose?  Only you can decide if that rose is worth keeping.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Let's Revisit the Marriage Contract...

If you look at the traditional marriage vows, here's what they say:

I take thee to be my wedded spouse, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.

So sweet and simple, right?  Well, except that the lawyer in me now wants to clarify a few points and maybe add some footnotes-- particularly around the part about sickness and the "till death do us part." Let me explain why...

As a matrimonial lawyer, I draft and negotiate contracts for people everyday-- sometimes for happy couples about to get married (that is about 25% of my practice), and the rest are for not so happy couples that need to separate and untangle their joint lives.  After 15 years of observing family dynamics and 8 years of research as to what can make or break a marriage, I firmly believe it is these vows themselves that doom a couple if even just one truly believes that a person is going to stay in the marriage no matter what.  Maybe so in ancient times, but NOT in the 21st century.

We all understand and accept that everyone has good and bad days, that sometimes we'll have good financial years and other times we'll have lean years, and of course everyone gets sick at some point, but the key question here is are you taking care of yourself?  Are you doing your very best to eat healthy, exercise, rest and stay well?  If an issue comes up, are you addressing it or are you slacking?  If demons from your past surface, are you making an effort to face them?

If you let yourself go, and you allow your anxiety or depression to take hold of you, you are not just ruining yourself-- you impact all those around you.  If you lack coping mechanisms for your stress, and you start becoming belligerent, or you start drinking excessively, these actions will cause a reaction from those you love.  For every action, there is a reaction.

While no one can force another to get help, we can all make the choice to walk away.  It's called self-preservation.  In over 75% of my cases, one partner is an alcoholic or drug addict, and the other person has finally gotten to the point where s/he cannot deal with this situation any longer.  To leave is not easy, but to stay would be suicide, and they are choosing to forgo the "til death do us part" provision.  Who can blame them? 

So, perhaps instead of saying this is a life-time contract, the vows should just say, "as long as you walk the line," which I'm borrowing from one of my all-time favorite movies "Walk the Line" about Johnnie Cash.  The reason I love this movie so much is that it shows a brilliant man with plenty of demons, and his wife makes it very clear that if she is going to stay with him, he needs to walk the line.  He got the message loud and clear: either shape up or ship out.

Now that my friends, is the reality of marriage in the 21st century.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Quickie Divorce? It is Possible.

In the Netherlands, they have the Divorce Hotel, and there is a couple in Chicago that is now promoting the Weekend Divorce.  Does this sound too good to be true?  Not to me actually-- lots of couples cannot take time off of work during the day, and at night we all want to go home and unwind and spend time with our families.  So, what if you could meet with a mediator on the weekend and hash out your legal issues?  I've been asked to do this many times, and it's actually a very efficient process.  Here is how it works:

Upfront, a couple will submit their joint request for a mediation.  They book a three hour block of time and pay upfront.  They bring with them all of their financial info, and meanwhile I bring snacks and a flip chart.

Part 1- We go over the basic rules of mediation, and an overview of the legal issues we must address.

Part 2- Each side gets an equal amount of time to express his/her goals and concerns re the divorce.

Part 3- We generate options (aka brainstorm solutions) on how to address the key points re (1) custody; (2) child support; (3) alimony and (4) property division.

Part 4- Evaluate and narrow the options for an amicable resolution.

Only lawyers can actually explain the law and draft a Separation Agreement that will be accepted by the court, therefore non-lawyers that act as mediators can only provide couples with a Memo of Understanding.  Parties must understand that the Memo is NOT something most courts will accept.

Once the parties have formalized their Agreement, the filing process in MD and DC is really not very complicated.  Now most large firms do not even want to bother with these quickie divorces, they prefer to focus on the big cases.  I actually prefer the smaller cases, and I firmly believe the clients that are committed to obtaining a quick and amicable settlement should be able to get just that, without incurring thousands of dollars in legal fees, which would be far better spent on their kids.

Reasonable lawyers with a reasonable approach to the divorce process are out there-- you just need to do your homework.

Quickie Divorce? Yes, it is possible.   

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places?

In the dating world, some people are simply out to have fun, and if that's the case, a lot of fun can be had with a ton of inappropriate characters out there.  I'm definitely not one to pass judgment-- believe me, I completely understand why you would date someone you have zero chance of falling in love with-- because it is safe.  For those who don't get this, let me try to explain-- after you have suffered a tremendous loss, the last thing on Earth you want is to open yourself up to further heartache.  When you feel this way, the logical conclusion you can reach is: what could be safer than being with someone you aren't really attached to?

Here are 2 main reasons why that logic is faulty:

(1) When you have two people that are just out to have fun, then this is all fine & dandy.  The problem of course is that often one becomes attached, while the other does not.  Then essentially what you have is a dysfunctional see-saw, and it can become quite unstable fast.  Why?  Well, remember when we were kids at the playground?  In order for the see-saw to work, you both had to put effort into it and take turns.  When one person went too fast, it got scary.  If someone just got up and quit, the whole game ended.  And, if one person just left without warning, well the other would come crashing down and literally hit rock bottom.  Sadly, you sometimes have to hit rock bottom before you realize the dysfunctional see-saw you've been replicating over and over again in the dating game.

(2) Although some of you are consciously choosing to date just for fun (and that is your prerogative),  some of you may be subconsciously sabotaging any chance at finding a real long-term partner, and if you are in the latter category, it's paying attention to your past patterns that will be most helpful to you in getting to the root of this problem: and answering the key question:  Why are you dating down-- someone less attractive, less smart, less caring, or emotionally unavailable?  We've all done it, so don't give yourself too much grief, but at some point for your own sanity you may want to dig deep inside to find the answer-- I promise it is worth taking the time and doing some soul searching if you eventually want to break your pattern and find something longer lasting with a high caliber person.

Years ago, I blogged about "Why Smart Women Date Inappropriate Men," but this problem actually is not just a female issue.  I can't tell you how many men have shared their stories with me about all the gold-digging bimbos they come across, and I just start to laugh when I put the burden back on them and ask them: where are you fishing?  If you don't like the fish you are catching people-- go find a new pond! (If that sounds familiar, it is true that is the title of another past blog).

Honestly, as much as I prefer letting people find their aha moment, some of these issues that people keep asking me about make me want to bang my head against the wall because the answer is so obvious, at least from my perspective.  I get that after you lose someone either in death or a divorce, you may never want to open yourself up to that much pain ever again.  Unfortunately, it's taken me a long time to realize this, but you can't experience love without exposing yourself to tremendous risk of loss. It is all part of the package.

You need courage to truly love, and until you find that courage you will continue to look for love in all the wrong places.

Hopefully, together we can inspire each other to find that courage one day!

Monday, January 13, 2014

5 Benefits of Going Stag

Soon you'll be getting save the dates as the season for galas and weddings goes into full gear.  Some of you will dread sending in that rvsp because you have a hang-up about going to things stag.  Let me say right off the bat: get over it. 

Going stag can be a ton of fun!  Since I got divorced years ago, I've had to go to countless events on my own-- weddings, funerals, showers, anniversaries, even galas all without a date, and it has all worked out just fine.  Here is why:

1. No need to babysit- it's actually a drag when you have to babysit someone at a party.  It is so much easier to work a room by yourself.

2. Not playing arm-candy- when you are there without a date, you can talk (and leave with) whomever you want.

3. No limitations- if someone wants to set you up with a friend, and meanwhile someone else is asking you out for a date the following week, you can take advantage of all the options out there.

4. Come & go as you please- if you want to show up on time, it's all under your control, and if you want to leave early because you are tired or stay late because you are having a blast, no need to compromise with anyone else.

5. Zero external guilt- if you ate too much, drank too much, had a random hookup or need to nurse a bad hangover the next day, there's no one there the next day to give you any crap.

People will talk to you if you show up somewhere stag, and if they don't initiate, you can use the opportunity to become more outgoing and approach others.  Fact is if you are attractive and engaging, there will be plenty of options that will present themselves.  So get over whatever hang-up you have about going stag, and go have some fun, where the only limits are those you impose on yourself!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Thank You for Being an A-hole

In life, they say it's all about your attitude, and never is this more true than when you are recovering from a break-up.  Some people can walk around dejected for weeks, while others jump right back into dating in an attempt to skip the whole grieving process.  Neither extreme is a good idea, but I realize a lot also depends on how the relationship unraveled. 

If you saw the end coming for some time, and you've been grieving the loss in the weeks/months leading up to the final moment, then heck I totally get why you are ready to just get back out there, whereas if you didn't see it coming and you are in shock that the relationship ended abruptly, it's going to take a while longer for you to get out there because you are going to torture yourself for weeks trying to figure out what went wrong.  Just try not to over-analyze and wind up in "analysis paralysis."

Some of my clients (and friends) tend to dwell on bad break-ups, and here's my thought on that: DO NOT allow someone to make you a victim.  You need to see yourself as a survivor, and if that person was cruel-- that is his/her issue, not yours.  There are some real FUBARs out there.  Chalk it all up to a life lesson, but don't let them continue to torment you after it is all over.  Put it behind you and think to yourself, "thank you for being an a-hole."  The reason I say that is because when someone is a true jerk, you know that you will never ever want to go back, and you will never regret that it ended.  You will never leave that door open-- you will have no issue putting that final nail in their coffin and burying it 6 feet under.

At the end of the day, when you are done grieving your break up, I want you to get back out there with your head held high.  When you go into the dating scene again, you need to be able to negotiate your terms from a position of strength, never from a position of weakness.  You don't want to be easy pickings, and you should never come across as desperate.  Go in strong, and you'll be just fine.

If you find yourself lacking in self-confidence, then ask yourself these questions: 1) Am I just as pretty, smart and kind as when I first met this other person? 2) Do my friends think I have an issue that needs to be addressed? If so, am I addressing it?  3) Do I want to have fun, and maybe someday find a life partner?  All you can do is present your best self, and remember no one is perfect.  At least now if you run into another idiot with the same qualities as the last a-hole, you should not fall into that same trap-- as the saying goes: fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.

They say that to figure out what you want, sometimes it is easier to start by figuring out what you don't want.  Well, I've got my list of don't wants pretty clear--  and that is actually the real reason I say to a very select few from my past: thank you so much for being a real a-hole.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

How Can We Prevent Teen Pregnancy? Honest Discussions.

Last month, I had the honor of interviewing Brenda Miller, who founded the DC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.  This organization cut the pregnancy rate in DC by over 50% since it first started, and their new goal is to do the same again.  How do they do this?  By actually encouraging parents to have honest discussions with their kids.

When I grew up, in my house we did NOT talk about sex.  Everything I learned about this taboo subject was either in school in health class aka "sex ed" or through friends.  Now as a parent, I can tell you there is no way I want my child to think he can't talk about this subject with me, and I'm not stupid enough to say "just say no" until you are married-- seriously I only know one person that did that, and that was before the explosion of the information age, where anyone one of us can get sex in a nano second. 

It's more than just a one-time talk about the birds & the bees.  It's about opening up the lines of communication so you can have on-going discussions about the importance of having a life plan-- goals for education, a family, and a career.  Also, we have to talk to kids about healthy relationships-- there are A LOT of sickos out there, and our kids need to know what is unacceptable behavior. 

Through honest discussions- that is how we will not only prevent teen pregnancy, but make sure that our children know what a loving relationship should look like, and what it doesn't look like.  If you love your child, don't ignore having "the talk."

To learn more about DC Campaign check out:
Here is the link to our interview:

Friday, January 10, 2014

Are You Trying to Figure Out Why Someone is Unavailable?

 Stop torturing yourself-- who knows why someone is not emotionally available?  It's not your problem to fix.  Natalie Lue, who is the author of "Mr. Unavailable & the Fallback Girl" sums it all up so perfectly in this video.  Gosh, I wish I'd seen this video 8 years ago!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Washingtonian Honors Top DC Lawyers

So honored to attend tonight's Washingtonian reception for the top DC lawyers of 2013!  Less than 1,000 of the 80,000 attorneys in our area made the list.  Thanks so much to all those that helped make this happen.  For those that want the link to last month's article, here it is:

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Becoming the Booty Call

Have you gone out with someone and then tried to remain friends?  When doing so, have you found yourself blurring the lines?  Ah yes, you are not alone.  It's great if you can remain friends after a break-up, but many cannot, and you just have to do what's right for you.  The real question you have to answer is this: how can you move on if you stay stuck in limbo with this person who is essentially acting as a place-holder?

Natalie Lue, who is the author of Mr. Unavailable & the Fallback Girl is hilarious, and in addition to her informative blog about dating & relationships, she has a couple of great videos on her website:

Here she does a great job in this short video of explaining why you should not let your exs put you on the list for a booty call:

Monday, January 6, 2014

Don't Skimp on Your Honeymoon- It Is What You Will Remember!

June weddings will be here before you know it, and soon thereafter couples will be off on their dream honeymoons.  Sadly, lots of people have this little problem known as having champagne taste on a beer budget.  So before you blow your whole budget on the wedding, which is after all just a one-day event, ask yourself this question: what will you remember???

It's been 15 years since I went to Hawaii on my honeymoon, and it remains one of the best vacations I ever took.  I still hope to go back one of these days- this time to show my son some of those amazing sights, like when we took a helicopter tour over an active volcano or walked along the black sand beach created with the lava.

This world is full of beautiful places, and there are many great experts that can help you figure out the perfect destination for you to spend your honeymoon.  Honeymoon Islands, which is based in Virginia, has specialized in this for over 25 years.  Here's the segment we did with them on planning a honeymoon:

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Tis the Season to Plan a Wedding!

In the wedding industry, it is well known that over a third of all engagements occur over the holidays, so now is the time when people really start to focus on making their plans for the big day.  Here are the major points that need to be addressed right away:

1. Number of Guests
2. Venue
3. Caterer
4. Entertainment
5. Photographer/Videographer

These vendors book up fast, so that is why you need to take care of these items right away.  For some, all these decisions can be rather daunting, and if you find yourself feeling this way-- don't despair.  There are plenty of wonderful experts out there that love to assist couples with the planning process. 

Have fun with it all, and if you need a little more for inspiration, here's an episode we did on MMCTV with a wedding planner from Evoke:

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Starting Over? You are Not Alone.

Starting over after a long-term, committed relationship comes to an end is never easy.  The sooner you can work through that anger and/or sorrow, however, the sooner you can move to a better place emotionally, where you start to see the new opportunities that lie before you.  In that vein, it is key that you make some newly single friends fast-- not because misery loves company, but so you have  people in your life that feel your pain yet they won't let you wallow in self pity.  Together, you can find ways to laugh about some of the ridiculous things you may have said or done as your relationship unraveled, and they can help you find the humor in some of the absurd things the other person may have said or done in an attempt to get one final dig in before things ended.  Why is this so critical?  Because laughter is the best medicine to heal a broken heart. 

Creating a new social network, finding friends to share the holidays with you, learning to date after being out of the game for ages-- it can all be done.  Plenty of us have had to do this, and together we can make this process a lot less daunting for others. The past 8 years, I haven't just talked the talk, I've had to walk the walk, and sadly it is only by walking a mile in my clients' shoes that I've come to fully comprehend the full impact of a divorce, as well as the challenges of starting over.   Luckily, with the help of many, I not only found the silver lining on some stupid cloud hanging over my head-- in fact what I discovered was more like a beautiful rainbow after surviving a monsoon that almost killed me.  Alone, I would have died.

New Beginnings is a wonderful local organization that helps recently separated/divorced individuals create a network and find useful resources.  I recently featured this non-profit on MMCTV, and here is the link to that segment:

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

After the holidays, lots of people ask themselves this question: should I stay or should I go?  Honestly, if you are asking this question don't you think that is a huge red flag?  Now I know that we all have different tolerance levels and definitions for what is unacceptable, but I am a big fan of going with your gut and sticking to the rule of 3 strikes, you're out.  Here are my top 3 indicators someone is striking out:

1. If you have to convince yourself that someone is "right" for you, that is not a good sign.  Honestly, there are better things to analyze than a pros vs. cons list of why you should stick it out with someone.

2. If you have to make excuses for why this person may not be the best at showing his/her affection, that is just crap.

3. If you constantly have to decipher the message someone is trying to convey, clearly you are not communicating easily or well.

When you find yourself getting upset on a repeated basis, and then you have to calm yourself down because the other person doesn't even know what is the right thing to say or do, it is time to go.
It's not that one person is necessarily a douche bag, or the other one is a nut job, it's just that those two are a bad match.  No point in psycho-analyzing this situation to death, it's actually quite simple: this is just not working out.

We all have baggage, and no one should have to make any apologies for the way s/he is wired or what s/he expects in a relationship.  Either someone can step up, or they can step aside.   No hard feelings-- because more than likely someone better will come along.

Final piece of advice-- no need to give a detailed explanation.  Your "constructive criticism" is simply going to fall on deaf ears, so just spare your breath.  The final goal is just to exit gracefully with your dignity intact.

Hope this helps those of you pondering whether you should stay or go.  And if you do decide to go, just one  more thing-- don't look back.  Move on to the next chapter in your life, and leave the past behind you!