About divorce – Part 1

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Divorce is about change. It’s about starting over. It’s about discovery, and hope and potential. And, divorce is about fears we have about this change. There may be worry over the future, anger at your soon-to-be ex-spouse, a sense of betrayal that you are even in this situation. And many, many more emotions. Even if you are the one initiating the divorce, and feel relieved and anxious to put your marriage behind you, emotions can still be conflicting, intense and overwhelming.

Where are our children in all of this emotional turmoil? When I divorced after 28 years of marriage, my children were legally adults. I wanted this divorce and I wanted out of my marriage. Now. I was so caught up in the whirlwind of my emotions, that I found it difficult to take my children’s perspective. They were grown, they understood these things, didn’t they?

I’m here to tell you that they didn’t understand. I’d breached their trust in the infallibility of their parent’s marriage. Of family life as they knew it. They were angry and hurt that their parents couldn’t keep it together. They showed me, through words, actions and silence, that divorce is like a stone thrown into a pond. The ripples emanate in all directions, changing, for a time, the serenity of the pond’s surface. And I was blind to these ripples.

I went to therapy. I read a lot about divorce. I spent time alone. I began to understand the effects of my decisions upon others. It was painful. And illuminating. The biggest lesson I learned was that divorce is not only about the two people divorcing. That seems so obvious now, but it was almost impossible to see at the time. The bitter pill of divorce is the self-absorption that unwittingly accompanies it.

As I came out of the fog, I began to mend fences with some of the people those ripples have touched. I am not finished yet. My daughters and I are close again. This is my greatest treasure in life. There is little to no friction between my ex- and I. For these I am thankful. The rest I am working on.

If you would like to talk about the swirl of emotions that goes hand in hand with divorce, or the effects of divorce on your children, write me an email, or give me a call. 512-59-0583.

Part 2 of this post will give readers divorcing with kids, some tools to safeguard their children’s emotional wellbeing as the family transitions through divorce.
Peace, friends.

Communicating with high conflict people

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Have you ever had to communicate with someone who wants to blame everyone else for their problems? This can be very challenging when someone cannot see their own role in the conflict that surrounds them. Although communicating with high conflict individuals occurs in business and in personal settings, I see it most often in divorcing couples, where there is anger, blaming and an unwillingness to accept the situation as it is.

Bill Eddy, the creator of The High Conflict Institute, has written a book, called BIFF: Quick responses to high conflict people, their personal attacks, hostile emails, and social media meltdowns (see it here on Amazon). BIFF is the acronym for how to respond appropriately to inflammatory, hostile communications from people at work or in your family. The idea is to defuse negativity by stating only necessary information in a respectful and determined manner.

Brief  –  Informative  –  Friendly  –  Firm

Brief: Stick to the facts. Don’t give any extra information to which the other party can use to inflict blame. The fewer words you use, the less the other person can be triggered to defensiveness.

Informative: Summarize your request or response to brief, fact centered words. Take all emotional response out. Do not include your feelings or what you think the other person should be doing/saying/etc. Do not react with blame directed toward the other person.

Friendly: A friendly tone disarms the other person, as they are not expecting this response to their hostility. You are conveying hope that the situation will be resolved. This can be the most difficult aspect of the BIFF. You do not have to be fake or pretend you care for the other person, you are simply being civil. A friendly tone can be as simple as closing your email with “best regards,” or “have a good weekend.”

Firm: Try to give choices instead of ultimatums. Be clear on your stance and provide factual consequences to choices. It is not helpful to tell the other person what they should be doing. This only raises defensiveness. Do not give unsolicited advice, or over-apologize.

Using the BIFF formula helps you detach from your own reactivity and an emotional response to the other person’s hostility. If the other person feels respected, he/she may be able to let go of some of their hostility and blame.

If you would like some guidance managing your responses to a high conflict individual, write me an email, or give me a call. 512-593-0583.

Peace, friends.

Falling asleep & 4 steps to sweet dreams

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Sometimes, not often, I have trouble falling asleep. For whatever reason, I am not turning off my brain, settling in, and drifting off to nod-land. Does this ever happen to you? Last night, I crawled into bed, pretty tired after a busy day of both physical and mental activity. I was ready to sleep. I can usually drop right off, but instead my brain went into overdrive. Funny how the little, niggling things at the corners of my mind during waking hours become BIG, HUGE PROBLEMS in the dark! And when I can do nothing about them. 

So. Here are the steps I take for those infrequent times I can’t fall asleep. Perhaps these suggestions will enhance your sleep routine and lead to sweet dreams.

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  1. Find your most comfortable position in bed. Do you sleep on your back, side, stomach? I sleep on my left side, in a semi-fetal position with my hands tucked up under my neck. Find the spot that feels right for your body. And it’s okay to change positions while you are going to sleep.
  2. Notice tension in your body. Where is it? Often, I realize I am still frowning and my forehead is very tight. So is my jaw. Find those areas that feel tense, or that you might be holding onto, and let go. Scan your entire body, tip to toe, for tension or tightness. Feel the sensation of your body sinking into the bed.
  3. Deep breathing. As you let go of tension, take three very deep breaths in, holding the breath at the top of the inhale for 1-2 seconds, and slowly exhale. This activity is a biological signal to your brain and your body that you wish to slow down. Your parasympathetic nervous system is engaged with deep breathing, and this sends calming neurochemicals through your bloodstream.
  4. Contemplation or prayer. I find that when I turn my attention away from my thoughts about my own big, huge problems, to thinking about others, I am able to relax and fall asleep. I do this in several ways, and you will find what works for you. 1) Send a blessing to all the people in my life, by invoking their name, silently. I have a lot of blessings, so sometimes I fall asleep before I finish. 2) Say a particular prayer, repeated slowly with intention. 3) Use techniques from my meditation practice to empty my mind of all thoughts. I do this by focusing on my in and out breath and an image I always call to mind. Also, I think of myself as a big, empty bowl. Nothing stays in it, only the breath flows over it.

I hope these steps will guide your sleep routine so that you will experience deep, restorative rest. What other techniques do you use to help you fall asleep? I’d love to hear from you with your ideas.

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If you are having chronic sleep problems due to the big, huge problems in your life, call me to see if we might explore these together. I offer a safe, non-judgmental, and compassionate space to facilitate the exploration of things that trouble you. Call me at 512-593-0583 for a free 20-minute phone consultation.


Sweet dreams, friends.