More about divorce…

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I had the pleasure of speaking to women contemplating or going through divorce this morning. Second Saturday is a workshop that provides financial, legal and emotional resources for women. The local Austin, Texas chapter was founded in 2006 by Melanie Johnson, one of the few certified divorce financial analysts in this area.

As I sat through the legal information that was presented before my talk, I felt my body tensing and my shoulders tighten. I remembered my own experience of divorce. Even though my divorce was relatively amicable, it was an emotionally disturbing time. It took me a good two years to find myself again and feel emotionally secure. I experienced a lot of emotional ups and down.

As I looked at the 7 or 8 women in the small room, I wondered what they were experiencing. A few took notes. A few looked worried. A couple dabbed their eyes with kleenex. I felt a great sense of compassion and companionship with these women, most of whom were just beginning the journey I feel has finally ended for me.

As we began to talk, I recognized their worry over the future; the thoughts like “I am not good enough,” “what should/could I have done differently?” During divorce there can seem to be endless questions over the unknown. And many women struggle with the desire to know the unknowable.

When it was my turn to talk, I encouraged the group to take care of themselves emotionally and physically, to surround themselves with positive and uplifting people, and to make friends with the concept of “not knowing.” I asked them to remember that hindsight is 20/20 and that we can’t know how some decisions will impact us in the future. I also told them that most folks who divorce eventually return to their previous levels of happiness, if not become happier than before.

I said that their children, whatever their ages, would be impacted by divorce, no question. Children may have a hard time accepting divorce, or they may wonder what took their fighting parents so long to finally split. Here is the advice I gave: Keeping an open channel of communication is important. Let them know you will always love them and always be their parent. Reinforce to them that the decision to divorce is about Mom and Dad, not about anything a child has or hasn’t done, said, or been. They may not understand, but they will be watching how their parents interact with each other; you, the divorcing parent, are modeling behvavior that they may unconsiously adopt themselves. For example, use of neutral or ugly words, consistency, moral high ground, and other behaviors you may or may not want your child to see or adopt.

Most importantly, I reminded them that they are responsible only for their own actions and words. (See my earlier post on this topic). No one elses. Not their ex-spouse, former in-laws, adult children, longtime friends who abandon the friendship. When I was divorcing, letting go of the need to control others’ behaviors kept me sane when they didn’t behave how I wanted them to.

Divorce is never easy, whether you have been married two years or 20. But divorce does not have to be devastating. As one woman in the workshop stated, it’s about the legacy you want to leave your children. What will yours be?

If you would like a compassionate and knowledgeable professional to walk with you through your divorce journey, write me an email or give me a call at 512-593-0583.
Peace, friends.

Independence Day 2015

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This morning at dawn, I stepped outside for a run. I heard the mourning dove cooing, felt the breeze across my skin, noticed the quiet stillness of my neighborhood. I thought, “It’s Independence Day! How fortunate I am to live in a peaceful country!” Many people around the world are fearful that a bomb will drop on their homes that day. Political upheaval destroys businesses and prevents people from providing from their families. And yes, there are children starving in India. Really.

As my hardworking heart pumped blood throughout my body and into my head, it occurred to me that not everyone in my own country feels peaceful, lives in a quiet neighborhood, or even has the luxury to notice birds and breezes. There are children starving in America, too. I felt uncomfortable to realize that my status as a white, heterosexual individual gives me certain comforts and rights not accessible to others of my fellow Americans. This makes me sad. And I don’t know how to handle this problem on my own. Recognizing that it is a problem is not enough.

I do know there is an ever increasing disparity among income in the United States. For practical information and numbers about this, see Nicholas Kristof’s piece in the New York Times. There are fewer and fewer jobs available to young men and women who, for whatever reason choose not to or cannot afford to go to college. Jobs that would allow them to marry, purchase a home and raise a family. Where is our middle class going?

I am not a political scientist. I am not well versed in political argument. I know what I feel and what I notice. And today, as much as I love my country, I notice that politicians polarize and preen. They criticize and grandstand, instead of really taking a hard look at the poor, hungry and downtrodden people in our own backyards. Isn’t that the message this country sent out so many years ago, when the Statue of Liberty was erected? Send us these people, and we will take care of them, provide them opportunity. What are we going to do about it now?

Sadness and despair are part of the ebb and flow of life. We greet it, we sit with the discomfort and usually, it recedes and normal life resumes. If you are having difficulty managing sadness and/or despair, give me a call. I can walk you gently through this difficult time. Melanie Somerville, LPC • 512-593-0583
Peace, friends.