Friday, October 28, 2016

5 Terrible Reasons To Get Engaged

With the holidays approaching, this is a very popular time of year for couples to get engaged while surrounded by family and friends-- but just make sure you are doing for the right reasons, and not because you have fallen in love with the idea of getting married.   Remember, the party only lasts a day, but the commitment is supposed to last a lifetime, in both good and bad times.  While none of us can predict with 100% accuracy if a marriage will go the full distance, here are some clear signs you are off to a really bad start:

1. If you think getting engaged will make things better.  Seriously?  The dating phase is normally the best part-- it is when people are actually on their best behavior and making an effort to please you.  If you are not on solid ground now, don't expect the ring to magically make things better.  No object will ever have that kind of power.

2.  If you think nothing better will come along.  Just because no one has come along and wowed you yet, doesn't mean you should settle now.  Don't fall victim to the sunken cost theory.  I know it can get tiring to keep playing the Dating Game, but then just take a break, regroup, and maybe find new ways to invest your time and energy.

3. If you just want to have a baby and the clock is ticking.  There are plenty of alternatives out there rather than just marrying someone to have a child.  If you want to bring up a child in a loving and intact family, then you need to be in a solid place long before you ever start trying to have a kid together.  Research shows that couples with newborns experience approximately a 60% reduction in satisfaction during that first year-- no surprise, when you are sleep deprived, your hormones are out of whack, and the demands of your time, money and energy have now quadrupled while leaving almost no time for the couple to just enjoy each other.

4. If you feel it is simply what is expected of you.  Who cares what others "expect" of you?  This is your life, and you are the only one that will be playing house with that other person every single day.  Those that truly love you will want you to be happy, which means doing what works for you.

5. If you think it makes economic sense to join forces.  The choice to marry should be one of your greatest acts of freewill, and not something you do out of economic necessity.  This is the 21st century after all, and there are many other ways you can save money or cut expenses that don't require you to take a stroll down the aisle and commit yourself to someone for the rest of your life.

If any of these 5 reasons resonate with you, I'm sure you have noticed other things going on-- like you cannot sleep or focus, you have less energy these days or perhaps your eating habits are off.  Is there an increased feeling of dread or imminent doom?  Our unsettled feelings have a funny way of manifesting themselves physically, whether we like it or not-- it is nature's way of not letting you ignore that something is not right.

In the end, only you can decide what is right for you-- but take your time and listen to your heart.  Is it jumping for joy or racing in a state of panic?  Hopefully it is the former, for fear should never be the reason to bind yourself to another-- fear is dark and cold, and it kills any possibility for love and hope to prosper.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Has Your Partner Checked Out?

There is probably nothing more painful in life than mourning the loss of a special relationship.  If at one point you thought you could share anything and everything with your partner, and that together you made a great team that shared the same level of commitment towards one another and vision for the future, it is a pretty shocking blow to later discover that this person actually hid a fair amount from you, was not quite so committed to working things out, and that actually as their plans for the future became clearer, they didn't include you at all.  Unfortunately, this devastating discovery is actually quite common, but the problem is those who feel most blind sided by this twist of fate failed to pay attention to the signs...

Most people's feelings don't change overnight, but rather they slowly start to keep things to themselves and ask for space.  They spend less and less time with you, as they work through their feelings of discontent.  While they are ill at ease, they have a tendency to get snarky and may snap at you for no reason.  Simply put, they are unhappy and most likely blame you for their misery.  And as this general malaise continues to grow, their behavior can become more desperate as their mind goes into flight or fight mode.  At this point, commitment definitely gets tossed out the window-- for they are only concerned with ensuring their own survival, not yours.

So let's talk about survival-- can you survive without your partner?  The answer to this should be yes. You need to be able to take care of yourself, in other words cover your own basic needs such as housing, food, medical care, transportation and any debt that is your responsibility.  It is critical that your survival is not dependent on your partner for this key reason: you should want to stay with your partner, but not need to.  The beauty of being in a healthy relationship is that the choice to stay is not one driven by need.

After someone has done a cost-benefit analysis and decided that they are better off leaving, there is NO POINT to try to convincing them otherwise.  Your pleas will only fall on deaf ears, and more importantly, you should not have to beg someone to stay.  If you see that they've checked out, you need to do the same.  Don't torture yourself thinking about the love story you had in the beginning or dreaming about what could have been, but rather let yourself see the bad in the end for what it really was: a clear sign that it was time to part ways.

If your partner has checked out, just say "sayonara."  Remember, the best revenge is moving forward with your dignity intact.  Your friends and family will most likely help you rebuild the rest.

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Do You Need To Change Your Deal?

Circumstances change, it's part of life-- especially when you have kids.  This is why we always tell separated parents to be flexible, because inevitably at some point prior to the child attaining the age of majority, there is a good chance something will need to be re-negotiated.  Here are the most common reasons parents need to request a change to their Parenting Plan or Custody Order:

1. Remarriage- there is at least a 60% chance that at least one parent will remarry after the divorce, and usually that involves a move and/or a desire to change the custody schedule.

2. Relocation- if a parent needs to leave the area, then the time-sharing arrangement with the child has to be modified to accommodate the new distance between the parents' two households.

3. Income- if one parent begins to earn significantly more, or there is a substantial decrease in income, including possibly a period of unemployment, then the parents may have to revisit the child support figures.

4. Expenses- if the expenses related to the child, including health care, education or after-care change then it may make sense to review the child support calculations.

5. Time-Sharing- if the agreed-to schedule isn't working out, then parents need to revise it in a way that promotes the child's best interest.

6. Decision Making- if the parents can't agree on major decisions, such as education or medical care, it may be necessary to review how they deal with an impasse.  This may include the use of mediation or a parent coordinator to avoid court, or one parent may want to ask for final tie-breaking authority.

With kids, separated parents need to be prepared to discuss changes as needed.  Parenting Plans, which are private agreements between the parents, and Custody Orders, which are approved by judges, are not written in stone.  Modifications are quite common in custody cases, especially in cases like the one involving Angelina and Brad Pitt's six children, which have a vast range in ages.  Can anyone honestly expect that whatever judicial decision or deal is struck this year will remain the same for the next decade?  Of course not, and the same holds true for all of us with minor children doing our best to co-parent with an ex.

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

What Are The Odds Of Finding A Soulmate?

Spoiler alert- I really don't like the term "soulmate," but not because I've given up on love or no longer believe in marriage.  It's just that there is a lot of danger with using this term,  because it has the great potential for either setting up unrealistic expectations or it can cause someone to stay in an unhealthy relationship, or feel hopeless and lost if their partner leaves or dies.

First, let's talk about unrealistic expectations.  We know that about 20% of the U.S. population will not marry, and that of the 80% that do about half will divorce.  Of the 40% that remain married, we all know that some are just plain miserable or complacent, so in reality maybe just half feel like they are with their "soulmate."  Essentially then, you have about a 20% chance of finding a great match for a life partner-- so what about the rest of us?  It seems to me that the numbers plainly indicate that  odds are more in your favor if you apply your energy and effort to developing a great network of friends than putting all your eggs in one basket.

Second, when you convince yourself that someone is your "soulmate" I fear that you run the risk of ignoring red flags.  You may make excuses for his/her bad behavior rather than try to address issues or see problems for what they really are, such as severe character flaws or true deal-breakers for you.  If you think the person is "the one" you may stay in an unhealthy relationship simply because you think it is your destiny, when in fact we create our own fate.

Finally, if things don't work out or your partner dies, you will be devastated if you are convinced there is no one else out there for you.  A much healthier outlook is to see relationships as serving a purpose during a certain point in time, but knowing that few actually last a lifetime.  Just as we continue to evolve, so do our needs and wants in our relationships, and as this happens sometimes we may find we no longer align with our partner.  But luckily the world is full of people with different ideas, values and interests, and part of what makes life so interesting is getting to share our experiences and learn from others.

So what if the odds are slim of finding a soulmate?  As long as you are connecting with others and having fun, I think you are doing just fine-- along with about 80% of us, which puts you in really good company, and there the odds are quite in your favor.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

7 Signs Your Spouse Isn't Happy

Thanksgiving is next month, and as the holidays approach, you may find your spouse is a bit off.  This is common, especially when someone is unhappy and therefore isn't feeling the holiday spirit.  Here are 7 common signs that you need to have a talk about what is going on with your partner:

1. Easily Irritated- someone who is unhappy is not at ease, and therefore becomes easily set off by the slightest of things.  If no matter what you do, that person is constantly set off by what you do, this is a clear sign that something is wrong.

2. Sleeps A Lot- depressed people have a tendency to sleep a lot, it is a way of shutting down and not dealing with the outside world.

3. Avoidance- if your partner keeps staying late at the office and tells you to do your own thing, that is a clear indication that s/he is pulling away from you, and perhaps others.  Unhappy people tend to disengage from others, or at least situations that they believe are causing them discomfort.

4. Lost Sense of Humor- if you feel like your spouse has lost his/her sense of humor, don't dismiss that feeling.  Pay close attention.  Is that person at least smiling on a regular basis, and is it genuine?  It is hard to fake being happy 24/7.

5. Lack of intimacy- there is no stronger way to connect with someone than by being intimate, so if your partner has lost interest in being together this is a clear sign that s/he is unhappy about something.

6. Lack of plans/gifts- It is hard to make plans for the future or buy gifts for others when you are upset about the current state of affairs.

7. Deterioration in Self Care- If someone has suddenly lost or gained a lot of weight (as in 12 lbs or more) this may be an indicator that the individual is not taking good care of him or herself.  People that are depressed also have a tendency to self-medicate, including an increase in drug or alcohol intake to numb the pain.

Ultimately, an unhappy partner may be unaware of his/her behaviors and lack enough insight to seek help or admit something is wrong.  They may deny that they are depressed, or become belligerent and shift the blame to the others.  Some become stuck in a negative loop, and what you need to focus on is how this is affecting you and/or your children.  You cannot keep walking on eggshells-- it simply isn't healthy for anyone.

It is not easy to talk to someone you love about their mental health, but either that person will hear what you have to say and will want to make a change, or they will deny that they have any issues, at which point you need to acknowledge that the person you once fell in love with is not the same and figure out a way to preserve your own sanity and happiness.

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What Happens In A Weekend Divorce Session?

Most people cannot easily take time off from work during the week, nor can they afford unlimited legal fees to get unhitched.  So what if these couples could at least agree to try a flat-fee weekend mediation session?  This is the question I want to answer, and there is only one way to find out. Starting next month, I am going to offer flat-fee weekend mediation sessions for couples seeking to reach an agreement on all issues arising from their marriage.

If we can agree to cooperate with the exchange of vital information, such as the current value of all marital assets, each person's income and monthly expenses, as well as the child-related costs that need to be addressed, then it is possible in a structured setting to (1) identify the major legal issues, (2) generate various options, and (3) work towards a global solution that everyone can live with.   Of course no one would be pressured to sign anything, and each party could go consult his/her own attorney afterwards to make sure the deal on the table is a fair one.

Over the past decade, I have seen an increasing number of clients choose mediation or ADR (alternate dispute resolution) over litigation.  It is not that people are necessarily less angry or scared about the divorce process, but rather that consumers have come to understand that time is money, and going to court is very expensive.  So, for those that are cost-conscious and are looking for a more efficient way to resolve their marital differences, a flat-fee weekend divorce session could be the perfect solution.

I am very excited to launch this new service, and if you know of anyone that might benefit from this option, please share!  It will be interesting to see how many will choose to try this weekend divorce, which is only for MD and DC clients committed to being productive and keeping things confidential.

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.    

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

3 Key Costs to Consider in a Divorce

They say freedom is priceless, and yet when you are contemplating a divorce, there are some pretty significant costs to consider before calling it quits, unless you are economically on par with couples like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.  Here are the top 3 expenses you must budget for when contemplating a separation:

1. Family Support- Whether you have to pay any alimony or child support is an important factor to consider when looking to establish a realistic budget in separate households.  These legal obligations can significantly impact your choice in housing, which is usually the biggest line item on a person's budget.

2. Housing- Are you on the mortgage or a joint lease with your spouse?  If so, can you continue to contribute towards that obligation while also paying rent for yourself somewhere else?  You cannot just assume that the other person will pay 100% of the mortgage or rent, and if that person chooses not to do so, you are not just putting your credit at risk, but also exposing yourself to litigation with a lender or landlord.

3. Attorney's Fees-  The national average is about $250/hour for a family law attorney, but those rates can drastically vary depending on the lawyer's level of experience and your geographic location.  There is also a wide range in court filing fees, and if you have to pursue a contested case you could be looking at a process that takes anywhere from 11-18 months with a price tag of about $20,000 per party based on national averages.

There are obviously other costs that have nothing to do with money that we all need to consider, including our health and well-being, as well as the safety of our children.  It is of no surprise to me that 6 out of the last 7 cases I took to trial recently were all about custody.  None of these parents believed they should stay together, and their arguments were not over money, but rather the disputes were centered on the time each should have with the children and how major decisions affecting the children should be made.

Hopefully, Brad and Angelina will work out their custody issues soon.  Here's what I would say to all divorcing parents, not just them:  When you do have kids together, try to focus on what is in their best interests.  Let your love for them guide you in finding some common ground.  If you can put your children's needs before your own, you should be able to work with the input of experienced professionals on a Parenting Plan that provides a consistent schedule and promotes a healthy relationship with each parent.  Remember, these little ones are your greatest legacy, and they deserve your best efforts to minimize the negative impacts of a divorce.

Once you have worked out a Custody Agreement, the rest should fall into place.  No one should have to stay in a toxic environment or a loveless marriage that is soul-crushing.  Like they say, where there is a will, there is a way.  You can always work with a financial planner to reduce expenses, find ways to increase your income, or temporarily tap into your savings or credit to balance a budget for two households.

Freedom does have a price, especially when you no longer wish to wait until death to part with your spouse.  The real question is what's it worth to you?   Only you can answer that.

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What Is Conscious Dating?

A mindful approach to dating is very different from the hook up culture model where as long as there is some chemistry in the beginning, you give the person a shot until it ceases to be fun, and then you simply move on to the next adventure.  Conscious dating involves the following steps:

1. A self exploration process- This is where you look at past patterns and identify those negative behaviors you want to break.  Kick those bad habits, including any false assumptions you have made about having a specific "type" that is limiting you from expanding your options.  Recognize your attachment style and think about the qualities you want to find in a potential partner.

2. Set clear goals and intentions- Do you want a casual relationship or are you seeking a committed relationship?  What shared interests are important to you?  What are your deal breakers?  Know that if you want something more meaningful, this is going to take time and patience.

3. Pay attention- When you are getting to know someone, really listen to what they are saying and see if their actions match their words.  Are you at ease with this person, or do somethings make you feel uneasy?  Don't ignore red flags or dismiss your concerns.  For example, if someone is spending money like it is going out of style, don't tell yourself, "no biggie, we can just keep our money separate."  When you are cohabitating or get married, your partners problems do become your problems.

4. Cut your losses- The sunken cost theory is a fallacy.  Don't think about how much time, money or energy you have spent on a relationship that is broken.  While you can never get back what you previously put in, you can put a stop to the hemorrhaging and move on.

Here is a tv interview on the subject with Dr. Shari Pfeffer Burns, who is based in CA.  I recently interviewed her for an upcoming article on Splitopia & will post that soon!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Are You Ready to Get Engaged?

Most couples get engaged between November and February each year, and then the wedding planning takes over for another 6-9 months until the big day.  During that time, a couple will formulate a guest list that will not only drive the choice of a venue, but also the costs of the caterer and floral arrangements.  Selecting the right entertainment and photographers to capture the special day are also important, as are coordinating the proper attire and transportation of all the key members of the wedding party.  Add on the costs of the invitations, rings, gratuities to all the service providers, and a honeymoon, and without much imagination it is easy to see why the average U.S. wedding costs at least $25,000.

Now, for a fraction of that cost, don't you think it is wise to invest in a prenuptial agreement in case you wind up in the 50% bracket that do not wait until death to part?  Even if you currently do not have anything, don't you expect to buy a house together and accumulate some savings?  What if you inherit money later on or develop intellectual property rights that might actually be worth something?  What is the downside to having a discussion about what you think should be marital versus what should be kept separate?  And do you really want to leave the possibility of alimony open-ended when you can easily minimize the risk of that by setting caps on the amount and duration if a complete waiver is not an option?

We all have to sign contracts every day with providers that lay out what happens in the event one party does not fulfill his/her end of the bargain or becomes dissatisfied.  Think about it-- your phone is under contract, your landlord or mortgage lender have made you sign an agreement, and if you have a car payment or own a credit card, then for sure those lenders also have agreements with you.  So, why should it be any different with your soon to be spouse?  I realize you are not in love with any of the others, but it precisely your spouse that has the greatest potential of hurting you-- not just emotionally but financially.

When you co-habitate, share bank accounts, and decide to marry someone, you take on legal obligations and responsibilities.   You need to plan for the worst, and then hope for the best as you walk down that aisle dreaming of your happily-ever-after.

Here's a link to a short podcast on cohabitation agreements and prenups/postnups:

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.

5 Key Issues in a Divorce

What most people going through a divorce dwell on is the why, or how did we get to this point?  Unfortunately, not everyone is capable of having a closure conversation, and many will be deprived of the apology they so long for, and perhaps rightly deserve.  Ultimately, it only takes one person to call it quits, and often one party feels a bit blind-sided.  The leaver undeniably has a clear head start on the process, no matter how quickly the other tries to catch up, which makes the whole experience feel a bit imbalanced and unjust.  But these are all emotional issues that actually play a very small role in the legal process.  

Here are the questions that a divorce court will focus on:
  1. Alimony- Does one party need support from the other?  Is the other able to help the economically dependent spouse, and if so in what amount and for what duration?
  2. Property Division- What did the parties accumulate during the marriage, and how can we divide the assets fairly?  Is anyone claiming premarital assets need to be traced out, or that inheritance or gifts from third parties were received during the marriage that need to be excluded from the marital pie?
  3. Legal Custody- Can the parents continue to make shared decisions on major issues such as education, medical care and religious upbringing?
  4. Time-Sharing Schedule- How will the parents share time with the children such that the kids can have regular contact with both parents, as is deemed in their best interest?
  5. Child Support- Based on the family's income and necessary child-related expenses, such as daycare/aftercare and health insurance, what does the state formula recommend as a basic monthly support for the children?

These legal questions need to be discussed with an experienced family law attorney, whose goal should be to streamline the legal process as much as possible.  A lot will of course depend on the other party and the attorney s/he retains.  For more information on this process, here is the link to a short podcast:

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Have You Dealt With Your Baggage?

Anyone over the age of 35 that has gone through a divorce has baggage-- even if there were no children that resulted from that marriage.  We all have poured time and energy into a relationship that failed, and when all your hopes and dreams for that marriage are shattered, it is normal (and healthy) to take some time to wonder: What went wrong?  What could have been handled differently? And most importantly, what did this experience teach me?

First, let's explore what might have gone wrong.  Did you argue about kids? Did you have conflicts over money?  Did someone do something to breech the trust or lose the respect you once had for each other?  Did you have issues with intimacy or communication?  Were you not on the same page about work-life balance, the division of labor, family or the future?  Were you unable to handle a crisis together?  Were expectations not met, or did someone drastically change?  Any one of these could cause a marriage to collapse instantly if not handled properly.

Now, what could you have done differently?  Did you seek the advice of an individual therapist, couple's counselor or financial planner/CPA?  Did you read any books or talk to others with similar issues? Did you try to talk about your issues, and how did you bring up the subject?   Could you have been a bit too harsh or accusatory in your tone?  Did you come across as someone that was complaining or someone that was looking to solve a problem together?  Were you open to seeing the other person's point of view, or were you stuck on advocating your position/desired outcome?  Did you try to compromise and meet your partner half-way?

Hind-sight of course is 20/20.  In the heat of an argument, none of us are able to see things clearly and in fact it is scientifically proven that we only retain about 25% of the information presented to us when we are upset.  Only when you are calm, and feel secure, can you really look back at a situation and see things more clearly.   And although none of us want to dwell in the past and relive painful experiences, it is important to think about what you have learned from your prior relationships before moving on to the next.   No one wants to repeat the same mistake, nor do any of us want to burden a new partner with unresolved issues from our past.

We all have baggage, just make sure before you embark on your next journey you deal with your dirty laundry.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Are You A Woman On A Mission?

It is great to be goal-oriented, have a vision, and some sense of direction-- but when you are dating, you need to rein in these qualities just a tad so you don't overlook red flags or push past obstacles that maybe exist for a reason...

Fleshing out what you want and what you don't want in a partner are a great first step to dating with a more mindful approach versus just hooking up whenever there is chemistry and riding that out until it ceases to be fun.    But another key skill you need to develop is mapping, which is what you do when you play 20 questions to find out where a person has been, where are they now, and where are they going in life?

Avoid making assumptions in the dating world-- just because you are looking for a committed relationship does not mean everyone else wants the same, and what that means to one person may not hold true to another.  Not everyone wants to play house together, maybe some just want to focus on work during the week and do fun things on the weekends.  Also, a lot of us over age 37 no longer want to have more kids or merge bank accounts and other assets.  Very few, if any, still want or believe in a traditional marriage model where one person will stay home while the other bears 100% of the financial responsibility for the household.

Don't pass judgment simply because what you would like doesn't line up with another person's choices or their attachment style.   We all have different experiences that shape us, and there really is no right or wrong way to be.  Some people simply have a very detached attachment style, others are very clingy, and then there is a whole range in between those two extremes.  The key is just to find someone with an attachment style and life plan that aligns with yours.

Trying to convince someone to change for you and adopt your view on a good partnership is never going to work.  People only truly change when they want to modify something after realizing the error of their ways.  When you try to fit a square peg in a round hole, what you get is a lot of friction, and sadly hurt people hurt people.  Resentment and frustration quickly escalate into anger and hatred, or complete apathy.  This is the exact opposite of love.

I realize it is frustrating when you find a good candidate with potential, but somehow you guys are not quite on the same page.  You can try playing the waiting game and see if he'll turn it around, or you can walk away and move on to the next suitor.  The choice is entirely yours, but let's be clear that the sunken cost theory is ridiculous-- you cannot worry about how much time, money, or energy you have already invested into a relationship.  If it is not working, you need to learn to cut your losses and stop sinking more into a lost cause.

It takes a lot of patience to find someone that you can trust and respect, who shares in your dreams and aspirations, and has a demonstrated capacity to communicate well and listen with empathy.  Looking for a partner that we can not only connect with emotionally, physically and intellectually today, but also see ourselves age with throughout the course of a lifetime is like the quest to find a unicorn.  If you feel this way, at least know that you are far from alone-- this has been my reality for over a decade, and that of many others.

Are you a woman on a mission?  No need to apologize for that, just stay strong and learn to walk away with dignity and grace from relationships that are not right for you.  Don't waste your time trying to convince others in your value or vision, and instead simply live your life to the fullest while holding out for the love you deserve.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Is Your Family Ruining Your Marriage?

Sometimes, you know from the beginning that your in-laws are not part of your fan club.  But other times, it may not be so obvious that your in-laws present any danger to your relationship because rather than reject you, they actually embrace you and accept you with open arms, except you don't fully understand what that means until you're really part of the family....

Some families only talk once a week and give each other the Arizona Sunshine Report, which means everything is always sunny and pleasant.  (This is exactly what I was trained to do in boarding school-- we never told our parents about the sex, drugs, or other alarming events occurring at our high school.)  But throughout the years, I have met others that actually tell their parents everything, and much to my surprise I have even encountered grown men that talk to mommy every single day-- maybe not by phone, by even just by text or via Facebook.  Maybe if you have a similar pattern, then this would be okay for you, but for someone like me, who wants privacy and space, it's a bit much to stomach.

Holidays and vacations can be another hot button topic.  If you are used to planning romantic vacations with just the two of you, or if you envision a fun family vacation as being just your nuclear family, but meanwhile your spouse wants to include everyone on his/her side of the family, then Houston we have a problem....  and if your solution becomes some notion of divide and conquer, so that you go your separate ways and do your separate things, you really need to play that out over time and ask yourself: how long can we keep doing this, and is this really what we want to do?

When you share all your sorrows and joys with someone other than your spouse, you are emotionally cheating.  When you fail to connect with your own partner, and instead spend time bonding with others, you are emotionally withdrawing.  And when you make your own family a priority over your spouse, you are failing to commit to the one person your vowed to honor and cherish, for better or worse, in sickness and in health.

If your family ties are creating issues in your marriage, you need to find a way to address this problem fast.  You cannot divorce your family, nor should you try to.  But remember, your family will always be your family, however, your spouse can choose to change his/her marital status at any time if you don't create sufficient boundaries with others to protect the love you have.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Why Flexible Thinking is Key to Problem-Solving

Flexible thinkers have a demonstrated ability to see problems from various points of view, and they don't see conflict as a failure, but rather a challenge that requires some creativity in order to find a solution.  If you are a flexible thinker, you don't see things as black or white.  It's not your way or the highway.  You are open to possibilities.  You listen with genuine interest.  You collaborate well with others and enjoy brainstorming.  You share ideas readily, and appreciate feedback.  You draw others into your world with diverse backgrounds and expertise.  And as you pull all of these things together, you see magic happen.  Truly, if you have experienced this you know what I mean.

In mediation, one neutral professional meets with both parties to guide them through the process of identifying the issues that need to be addressed and analyzing various options for an amicable resolution.  This only works well if both parties are comfortable advocating for themselves, there is no history of domestic violence and there are not any major power imbalances.

Within the Collaborative Divorce process, each party has his/her own attorney that will guide the  4-way meetings, where the attorneys work together as a team while assisting their clients to articulate their goals and concerns, discuss the issues that need to be addressed, and develop options for a global solution that promote the best interest of the entire family.  If the parties agree to involve additional professionals, such as a divorce coach, child specialist or financial neutral, they will jointly select experts trained in this process.    

When couples opt for mediation or a Collaborative Divorce, the driving factor may not actually be a desire to avoid litigation in order to preserve goodwill.  Often times, these couples are still stinging from the raw feelings of immense failure and defeat, but they are not so blinded by their emotions that they fail to recognize the great benefits of 1) spending less in legal fees and/or 2) avoiding the disclosure of embarrassing details in an open courtroom.  Ultimately, the reasons a couple may choose an Alternate Dispute Resolution process can vary greatly, but as long as everyone is committed to cooperating with the exchange of relevant information to address the important legal issues and openly discussing options for reaching an agreement outside of court, the main challenge will be for the professionals assisting them to help them get past their positions and teach them to articulate their needs, wants and concerns in an honest and respectful manner as everyone brainstorms various options (without passing judgment) until they reach a final solution that works for everyone.

Here are some basic ground rules in any ADR process:
1. Take turns speaking-- listen with empathy and express yourself respectfully;
2. Stick to "I" statements, don't speak for the other person;
3. Don't pass judgment or try to place blame;
4. Try not to guess someone's motive, instead just ask "why?
5. Focus on the problems at hand,  and not the past.

The beauty of mediation and/or the Collaborative Process is that the parties set the pace for the meetings, and trained professionals are constantly checking in with everyone to see if everyone is calm or if someone is upset and needs to take a break.  The professionals use techniques to ensure no one is overwhelmed by the emotions, which can seriously hinder meaningful discussions to address the legal issues. 

It is ironic that many of the techniques applied in ADR are also used by marriage counselors in couples counseling.  Just imagine if more people would actually avail themselves of these services when things first become difficult instead of waiting until it is too late?  Unfortunately, many wait years to seek help, by which point too much damage has been done to the marriage.  But it is never too late to learn to apply flexible thinking in order to be respectful and solution-focused, especially for couples that will need to co-parent their children long after their divorce is finalized.

Regina A. DeMeo, Esq. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Do You Think Nothing Ventured Means Nothing Lost?

There are some people that are so afraid of getting hurt that they will not put themselves out there.  They don't believe that relationships ever last and therefore remain very guarded.  Some might even refer to them as "prickly" like a porcupine.  Of course, we all know that those porcupine needles are a defensive mechanism, and what is really going on is that deep down inside there is a very vulnerable child with unhealed wounds.

Despite what some might think, those of us willing to expose our vulnerable sides are not stupid, naive or overly optimistic.  It is not that we have never been hurt, or that we always see the glass as half full while others see it as half empty.  As one of my closest friends aptly pointed out the other day, "the whole point is that the glass is refillable."

The difference between those that close themselves off and those that remain open to letting others in is that those in the latter category have managed to process their loss.  What you need to remember is the following: 

1. You need to grieve the disappointment of a relationship that you thought had potential

2. It is not about fault.  Rather it's important to recognize that each person has a different capacity to love, often with varying expectations of what they want in life and a partner; and

3. Don’t feel stupid because things didn’t work out.  Instead be proud that you were willing to put yourself out there and give it a shot. 

Those that think nothing ventured means nothing lost have completely missed the mark.  There are so many wonderful experiences that they will miss out on, but their myopic view will never let them appreciate this fact, or they might resign themselves to believing that they are not worthy of being loved.  But we are all worthy of love, and as long as we realize that nothing ventured means nothing gained we will continue to find the necessary courage to experience life to its fullest.

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.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Did Your Partner Sell You a Bill of Goods?

We are all on our best behavior when we first meet someone-- not that we are acting but rather we all seek to present our best self.  It's also easy to get along when you are just having fun, and you don't have to confront major challenges.  But like the saying goes, all good things come to an end, and sooner or later all couples have to have it out as issues will arise either about different goals, priorities, finances, or commitment.  

As we hash out our differences, we each have to deal with the disappointment that stems from what we expected would be the case versus what in reality our partners are capable of, and if you find that the disappointment has mounted to the level of fury then either your expectations were completely unrealistic or your partner has ceased to be the person you originally fell in love with.  If it is the former, this at least you can work on, but if it is the latter, there isn't much you can do about that.

It is infuriating when someone changes from being a sweet, loving, easy-going person to a mean, spiteful and argumentative individual.  Essentially, it's as if they lied to you about who they really are, and it really doesn't matter whether it was intentional or not.  What does matter is whether they recognize that they are behaving in an inappropriate way, and if they are willing to make an effort to change.  But more often that not, people will blame those around them rather than see any fault in themselves.  It takes a lot of maturity, insight and self confidence to admit that you have some work to do on yourself.

When someone changes on you, it's easy to feel stupid.  You start to ask yourself whether there were red flags that you ignored.  Maybe you did, maybe you didn't-- either way, the important question is what do you do now with the information that you have?  Can you live with the person you have before you and move forward, or do you need to move on on your own? 

I am all for trying to work things out, but if you are simply miserable together, there comes a point where you have to be able to cut your losses.  If you no longer believe your partner is really sorry for the things s/he says or does and the words "I love you" have lost all meaning between you, it's time to recognize that what you once had is now gone.  

All good love stories have an amazing beginning and a complicated middle, and in the end if your partner is no longer the person s/he once was, then it is highly unlikely that the relationship will last.  You just need to be true to yourself to figure out what is best for you.  And remember, it's not your fault if you were sold a bill of goods.  

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Can You Escape The Quicksand?

In a healthy relationship, when conflict arises and you have a quarrel, you learn a bit more about each other, including your partner's fears, concerns, goals and desires, and with this greater understanding of one another you grow closer and deepen your bond.

By contrast, when you are in an unhealthy relationship, with each and every argument you lose more and more respect, the trust deteriorates, and instead of growing closer you grow farther apart with each seemingly minor spat.

Then there is the quicksand scenario, where at the time you call a truce to some battle you think you have made some progress only to find out a day or so later that your partner has reneged on your deal and instead of taking one step forward, you have actually taken two steps backwards.

If you feel like you are stuck in quicksand, the most likely reason is that you are dealing with someone that is passive-aggressive.  These people exhibit their hostility by being stubborn, sullen, and they deliberately procrastinate and fail to complete tasks that they are responsible for-- and when you call them out on this behavior they become increasingly hostile and angry.

As the cycle of outbursts, followed by remorse and sullenness, then a slight period of calm before the next explosive episode happens more and more frequently, you will find yourself sinking deeper and deeper into that quicksand, until one day you   finally admit to yourself that things will never get better, in fact they will only get worse if you stay.  Once you can say this out loud to yourself, and hopefully to a few trusted others,  this is when your escape becomes possible and the end of the madness draws near.

Survivors don't just escape, they flourish once they are out of a toxic situation.  The reason for this is actually quite simple-- as captured in this quote attributed to Plato: People are like dirt. They can either nourish you and help you grow as a person or they can stunt your growth and make you wilt and die.

We all deserve peace and tranquility at home, which is meant to be a safe haven.  Don't stick around those that create a quicksand environment-- learn to cut your losses as quickly as possible, and move on to greener pastures full of beauty and serenity.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Do You Have Irreconcilable Differences?

What are irreconcilable differences? Well, in court we simply understand that you are no longer willing to remain married, and instead you prefer to live your lives separately-- and we don't care why.  This is the beauty of no-fault divorce, which has become quite popular over the last 25 years, and as a divorce lawyer I appreciate not having to air everyone's dirty laundry or assassinate someone's character in order to allow families to move on with as much dignity and grace as possible.

But outside of court, most of us do care about the why-- and we struggle to understand what problems are so insurmountable that a family would choose to part ways rather than work together to find solutions or a compromise.  From what I've seen during the last 17 years dealing with divorces, here are the most common irreconcilable differences:

1. Money-When someone feels that the other person is jeopardizing the family's financial security, or the life-style preferences that impact spending vs. savings are so vast that a compromise cannot be reached, this often becomes a deal-breaker for couples.

2. Division of Labor- When one person feels like s/he is doing the lion's share of the work for the family, there is a sense of unfairness that needs to be addressed right away, otherwise with each passing day tension will rise while trust and respect for the other erodes to the point that the fundamental bond of friendship becomes non-existent.

3. Work-Life Balance- This is a common struggle individuals face, and it most definitely bleeds into every relationship we have-- because there is only so much time and energy we have in a day, and nobody likes to feel likes they are not a priority, especially in their partner's life.

4. Definition of a Family- Not all married couples want children, and if they do have children in common, there is the issue of how many can they both manage.  There are also different expectations when it comes to how to spend vacations and holidays, and who should be included.  Do you just want to be a party of two?  That only works when you are both on the same page about that, but let's face it how realistic is that idea?

5. Lack of Consideration- When someone turns away from their spouse by either finding comfort in the arms of another or becoming addicted to alcohol, drugs, porn, gambling, and they continually dismiss their partner's cry to seek help. Or, simply by having arguments increase in intensity and frequency, regardless of whether there are any physical altercations, to the point that someone no longer feels safe in his/her own home.

These are all stressful topics to discuss, and not everyone can communicate effectively and calmly under stress-- especially if they feel what is at stake is having to compromise on a core-value.  The more emotional each person becomes while trying to address one of these hot-topics, the greater the chance for saying or doing things that can be permanently detrimental to the relationship.

When you can no longer speak-- because there really is no more room for compromise or hope in understanding each other any better, that's when you know your differences are irreconcilable.  And when you reach this conclusion, just remember this- no one else needs to know the why.  The why is information that should only be revealed on a need-to-know basis.  Everyone else just needs to accept two words: irreconcilable differences.

Obviously we all wish that those in a committed relationship could work out their differences, but at least 45% of married couples will not.  At least when that happens, the option of a no-fault divorce is now pretty wide spread and accepted.  There is a reason for that-- hopefully, you can both appreciate the wisdom in that and embrace it, and in doing so at least you can find one last place where there can still be a meeting of the minds.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Is Your Financial House In Order?

It's almost tax day-- a happy day for those getting a refund, and an irksome day for those that owe more than they had anticipated.  The good news for all of us at least is that it should all be over by next week, and then we can take a moment to plan ahead for the upcoming year.

Gathering all your financial data is usually the most painful process, but now that you have the data from 2015, take a good look and see how much did your household earn? How much went to taxes? From your net, how much was spent on housing and medical costs?  How much did you manage to save into your 401(k) or other retirement funds? How much were you able to put aside for a rainy day fund or the kids' college funds? If you did not save as much as you would have liked, now is the time to figure out where you can reduce expenses and set a realistic goal for saving more in 2016.

Managing money is not easy-- because it's not just about the numbers, it's about the underlying emotions.  For all of us, money is a means to an end-- whether that end is just being able to meet your basic needs or to fulfill your wildest dreams.  And a lack of money, is for most of us a source of great anxiety and stress precisely because it means we are at risk of not meeting our desired end.

Money is not something dirty-- it's neither the root of all evil, nor is it the answer to all our problems.     It is simply a tool we need to learn to master in order to not just survive, but thrive in life.  So, if your financial house is not in order, don't ignore this issue.  Tackle the emotions first-- what would financial security mean to you?  What does that look like?  Then, figure out how can you get there.  And if you need help, ask for it.  There is no shame in that.

Is your financial house in order?  It's okay if it's not, as long as you don't ignore the problem and instead learn to deal with it.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Are You Conflicted About Leaving?

Sometimes, we may not know exactly what we want, but we often know exactly what we don't want.  That in itself is a good thing-- at least it helps us eliminate that which we do not desire in our lives.  This is especially true, when it comes to love.

When we are dating, we all have some checklist of the characteristics we are looking for in a partner.  Typically, these include traits like good looks, intelligence, a good sense of humor.  Most of us seek someone who is kind and enjoys our company.   And at first glance, it would appear there are a lot of people out there that can fit that bill-- especially in the beginning, when we are all on our best behavior, presenting our best-selves.

Real moral dilemmas do not arise until the honeymoon phase is over.  Once the lust-phase is over, and you are under one roof confronting real life problems that have to be addressed as a couple, this is when you really start to see a person's true character.  How we manage money, divide household chores, maintain work-life balance, and define family, are all difficult areas to address when you are not on the same page.

As tension builds, you can see that we all cope with conflict differently-- some are complete conflict avoiders, while others beautifully rise to the challenge of finding solutions, and then there's everything in between.  Unfortunately, communication problems often exacerbate clashing styles for resolving conflict.  And with each and every argument, if you don't find yourself understanding each other better, that means the opposite is occurring-- you are growing farther and farther apart, while also losing trust and respect with each and every seemingly minor spat, until the chasm between you has grown so vast that when you face the other person, it feels like you are staring at a stranger, or worse your mortal enemy.

If you find yourself lying in bed with someone that feels like your adversary, it's inevitable that a new sort of checklist will start to formulate in your head-- you start to weigh the pros and cons of staying vs. leaving.  Only you can decide whether it is worth trying to save your relationship, and I imagine a lot depends on whether you still believe you can win back the friendship and love you once had.

My final key point to those that are conflicted is this: you may not know what you want, but at least be clear on what you don't want.  Love is not cold, harsh, mean, judgmental or unforgiving.  Indeed it is the opposite of all those things.  Love is warm, gentle, kind, sweet, understanding and patient.  Love is the one thing we all seek, and that which we all deserve from those closest to us.  Don't accept anything less.