Saturday, December 12, 2015

How Much Is Luck A Factor In Love?

A lot of people these days focus on how lucky you have to be to meet the right person, but really is that truly such an act of serendipity? Isn't the more remarkable feat the ability to preserve that love over decades?  Seriously, if you talk to couples that have been married for 20 years or more, and you ask them about their marriages, few if any focus on how they met their spouse and instead most of them will tell you about how lucky they were to have weathered life's storms together.  Maybe if we talked more openly about these "storms," we could better prepare couples for the road that lies ahead.  Here are 4 common challenges that can either make or break a relationship:

1. Family Deaths- Whether it is mourning the death of an unborn child, or a close relative that has been around for decades, people need to grieve each loss, and each person must go through the grief cycle at his/her own pace.  Feelings of loss are dealt with differently, but if you can find a way to stay connected during this difficult time, it will definitely deepen your bond.

2. Financial Loss- Whenever somebody suffers a job loss or major financial setback that risks the family's financial security or otherwise negatively impacts the family, it is going to take a toll on the couple.  Even though we all know there is no such thing as a risk-free investment or guaranteed paycheck, when these kinds of stressors present themselves, they really don't just test our character, but our relationships.

3. Health Issues-   If you marry someone healthy, and then later the person becomes ill either physically or mentally, it's impossible to predict how you will really handle the situation, and maybe it depends on the illness.  A lot may be sympathetic towards a physical illness, but not so much when their spouse develops an alcohol or drug addiction, or begins to exhibit classic behaviors attributed to untreated depression, anxiety, or a high conflict personality disorder.

4. Life Transitions- If you marry young, you run the risk of not only not knowing what your spouse will be when s/he grows up, but not knowing yet who you really are and the direction you want to take with your own ambitions.  If you marry later in life, you run the risk of being very set in your ways or being married to someone that is cemented in his/her way of doing things, which will make negotiations and/or the ability to compromise harder.  Either way, it will always remain unclear how you will respond to someone's decision to change their identity, career, home base, or lifestyle.  Anyone at any time can choose to change jobs, move to a new location, or revisit their priorities in life, and if you are fortunate, you and your spouse will be on the same page with these changes.

Regardless of your socio-economic status, none of us are immune to death, financial loss, health issues and life transitions. These are all inevitable challenges we face in life, and they will test our  best relationships.  Those that manage to work through these issues together, actually do grow closer, whereas those that choose to deal with tough times separately, create a divide that deepens over time until the chasm is simply too vast.

Needless to say, luck is a huge factor in partnering with the right person to support you through life's trials and tribulations.  But, since we cannot control luck perhaps we can focus more on the effort involved in keeping the love we find.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

7 Things To Consider Before Leaving Your Spouse

If you find yourself struggling to keep it together during the holidays, you should know that you are in really good company.  When you feel that you have nothing left to celebrate together, and you dread spending the holidays as a couple, that is a pretty clear indication that it is probably time to part ways.  But before you say adieu, here are 7 things to consider: 

1. Get legal advice.  Beyond asking a friend, who may play a lawyer on tv, you really should consult with an attorney to learn about your rights and obligations;

2. Prepare a budget.  You need to understand what it will cost you to be out on your own, so based on your income and/or available savings you can determine what you can afford in rent, etc.;

3. Explore Housing Options.  We all need someplace to crash at the end of the day, and do not feel humiliated if you have to move back in with your parents or use a sibling's basement for awhile.  Many of my clients have had to do this on a temporary basis, and I have found that they all benefited from the love and support of their relatives during a very trying time.  Having a great family network that can spare you from going bankrupt is nothing to be ashamed of, but rather should be viewed as an admirable quality.

4. Secure Your Mail.  To protect your credit and privacy, you want to make sure your mail is safe-- and I'm not just referring to snail mail, but email.  Change all your online passwords to email, FaceBook, etc. asap and notify the post office to get mail forwarded elsewhere, even if it is a PO Box.

5. Take an Inventory.  Go through your home and list all the things of value, maybe even take pictures.  Also try to get a snap shot of your family's finances, including all assets and outstanding liabilities.

6. Establish Separate Accounts.  Set up your own bank account and credit cards independent of your spouse.  Even if on a temporary basis, you continue to use joint accounts to pay joint bills, eventually you will need to do your banking separately.

7.  Disconnect on Social Media- There is no reason to remain friends with your estranged spouse on FB or to follow each other on Twitter.  Seriously, remove all opportunities to snoop on each other, and try to lay low with others on social media, at least until your case is over. 

If you are lucky, you will be among the 70% of couples that are able to divorce in a cooperative, if not amicable manner.  Nonetheless, I urge you to rely not just on family and friends, but to find a counselor for emotional support during this emotional process.  As you grieve the loss of your partner and the life you envisioned together, it is critical that you realize you are not alone and that once you get past this rough transition phase, things will get better over time.    Indeed, after about a year you should feel a thousand times better, looking ahead to a new year and a new you.  In the meantime, hang in there and just take things one day at a time.

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq. in Bethesda, MD
Focusing on Family Law for 17 years

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Are You Tired Of Bending Over Backwards?

All relationships require effort, but in healthy ones the give and take should feel about equal.  If you feel like you are putting in more of an effort than the other, or you don't feel satisfied with the return on your investment of time and/or money on someone, eventually you are bound to hit a wall.  This is normal, and when this happens, you will find yourself lacking the same motivation you once had to do or say nice things, plan anything fun, buy thoughtful gifts or even hug.  Then what do you do?

Hopefully, when you catch yourself losing enthusiasm in a relationship you once held dear, you can have an honest conversation with the other person to try and repair your bond.  Together,  if you are both committed to working things out, you should be able to come up with strategies to improve your relationship.  Unfortunately, however, some people are incapable of receiving critical feedback.  Truly, these people are not going to be able to hear you say that they did or said anything wrong.   So if you are dealing with one of these people, repair efforts may not be very fruitful, and sooner or later you will realize that instead of being able to connect more with this person, you need to switch gears and start building a wall.  Why a wall? Because you need to protect yourself from further injury by creating boundaries.

Boundaries are the limits we set for others not to punish them, but rather to prevent us from getting hurt.  So for example, if I feel like I am always the one making an effort to reach out, do nice things, etc. and I find myself constantly disappointed by the other person's lack of response, then I will stop going out of my way for this person not as punishment but rather to spare myself any further disappointment. Now is it possible, and in fact probable, that the other person will think I'm being mean?  Of course, but remember we each are entitled to have our own perception of reality.

How do you know when you need to set up boundaries?  Easy-- when you sense that what someone expects or asks of you is going to seriously hurt you or it goes completely against who you are, then you need to listen to how you feel-- pay attention to how your gut feels tight, and your breathing has probably stopped, and how your mind is desperately racing to find a way to escape.  All these are signs that you need to respectfully create a safe-place for yourself.

So, as the holidays approach and the pressure mounts to try and satisfy everyone, please stop and take a few deep breaths.  If you find that your are tired of bending over backwards for someone that does not appreciate your efforts, maybe the best holiday gift you can give yourself this season is a backbone made of steel-- and reinforced in concrete.  Seriously, stop trying to be such a people pleaser and instead take some of that caring tendency and apply it to yourself.  Establish boundaries that will work for you, knowing that those that deserve your love and efforts will always be there for you.