Featured Articles For September, 2012
Opening the Lines of Communication
In order for any relationship to be successful, there must be consistent good communication. Although this is true for any relationship, it is most essential in marriage. In nearly every marriage which has begun to deteriorate, lack of communication is one of the main factors.
One of the best ways to resolve this problem is to go back to the very beginning-- your beginning! Was lack of communication a problem all along, or is it a something which started at some particular point in time?
For many couples, lack of communication was a problem since the onset of their relationship. If you and your spouse fall into this category, it is essential that you come to terms with this problem so that you can work on resolving it. Some people have had this lack of communication because they felt that “love would conquer all,” and therefore did not recognize the need to discuss important issues; others have begun a relationship and even entered into marriage feeling unable to voice their thoughts, feelings, preferences, beliefs, and merely gone along with their partners on everything.
For people in these categories, the time usually comes when they are no longer content to simply “go with the flow,” and find that major differences and disagreements occur when they attempt to assert themselves. They may find that their spouse wishes to remain in charge; or they may find that they and their spouse disagree on significant issues.
In either case, opening the lines of communication is the first, essential step in asserting oneself and in beginning to reach agreements. You will find that there will be a number of instances in which you and your spouse must “agree to disagree.”
For many other couples, however, communication was a present factor in the beginning, but somehow managed to deteriorate over time. Lack of time with each other due to family and work responsibilities often account for many of these instances. Sometimes, also, a person's priorities shift-- while the marital relationship was once a person's number-one focus, other factors in his or her life led the marriage to take second-place, somehow not seeming as important as it was at the beginning.
In these instances, reassessing priorities is the main key to reestablishing good communication. It is necessary to give your marriage the time and attention it needs and deserves-- and to give your spouse the time and attention which he or she needs and deserves.
There are other instances in which people simply lack good communication skills. If this appears to describe you or your spouse, take heart-- good communication skills can be learned. Even if you are nonassertive, or do not know how to communicate effectively, it is a skill which you can learn-- by practice and experience.
Whichever of these categories describes you and your spouse, recognizing the foundation of the problem is the first step in resolving it.
What is good communication? When you and your spouse can talk with each other about all important subjects and even subjects which have no serious implications at all; when you can freely share what you think, feel, believe, want, like and dislike; when you can state your stand on important issues and listen to your spouse's, with mutual respect even when there are matters of disagreement; you can have good, effective communication.
Good communication comes from practice, experience, respect and the time which you are willing to put into it!
The most child friendly model of parenting through divorce is the model most commonly known as co-parenting. In this model Mom and Dad continue to discuss issues as they relate to the child or children, interact routinely with regards to information specific to the kids, and often talk and/or phone each other with questions or concerns about the kids. While parents may not specifically spend time together with the kids, many co-parents attend birthday parties, school events and other special activities together to allow the child to feel very much a part of both parent's lives.
Many people feel that co-parenting is an unreasonable expectation for divorced parents, however research clearly indicates that this is the best possible model for your children, provided both parents can remain civil, respectful and child centered during discussions and interactions. Co-parenting is almost like operating a business with the other parent as a partner with the goal of raising the happiest, healthiest kids. Co-parenting does not mean that you have to have extended conversations about anything other than the kids’ health, happiness and general well being and development.
Co-parenting requires a lot of effort on both parent's part. Whatever caused the break up of the marriage has to be put aside or in the past, with all communication between the two parents now related to bringing up your children. Anger and frustration may occur, but effective co-parents use anger management and communication techniques to minimize or eliminate any anger towards each other in the presence of the children.
PARENTING ROLES VERSUS MARRIAGE ROLES
It is critical to separate the roles of an ex-husband and ex-wife from the roles as co-parents. Keep in mind that this is now a business relationship of raising your children in the most positive, calm and supportive environment possible for your kids. Whatever negative issues caused the divorce, they have to be put into the past and into perspective. The marriage roles as husband and wife are over and restructuring to be co-parents is going to take some adjustment. If you have a lot of negative thoughts and feelings towards the other parent, seek help and counseling for yourself. This will only help you be a better co-parent and help support your children through this restructuring process. Kids that see Mom and Dad being civil and respectful of each other will adjust to the divorce much more quickly than those that see ongoing hostility and anger.
Avoid asking personal questions, questions about finances that don't apply to the children or about new relationships if this is a sensitive area. If you do need to discuss a potentially hot button topic, do it when the children are not present or absolutely will not be able to overhear the conversation. Remember, even telephone conversations can be harmful for kids to overhear if parents are upset or angry.
Life After Divorce
When you are deeply entrenched in the stress of divorce, it is often very difficult to see the light at the end of that long, dark tunnel. However, it is most important that you continue to focus on that light no matter how dim and remote it seems to be. It is your gateway to your future.
When the divorce is over and a new life begins, there are many joys and challenges that are encountered. It is a time when you can make giant leaps forward but you can also fall into the same traps that many newly single people encounter. Here are some of the major challenges that often arise:
New Romantic Relationships:
We all have seen examples of friends or family members who have “jumped from the frying pan into the fire” by getting involved too soon and too recklessly. While it is normal to crave positive attention and affection, it is always good to wait until you are truly comfortable with being alone before you begin a new relationship.
While 50% of first marriages end in divorce, the rate for second marriages is 60% and for third marriages 70%. The reasons for the higher divorce rates vary but generally people leap too quickly and find themselves buried in the difficult complexity of blended families and unresolved past relationship issues.
Generally, it is best to wait a year or two before getting into a serious relationship. If considering marriage, there is no substitute for attending intensive premarital counseling to identify and resolve the challenges that are likely to occur once the rose colored glasses come off.
Another important reason to refrain from jumping into a new relationship too soon is that children, family and friends need a reasonable time to adjust to the divorce before encountering a new relationship. They may intentionally or inadvertently make life more difficult for that new partner if they have not been given adequate time to adjust. Of course that only puts additional pressure on the new relationship
Letting Children be Children
When there is no longer another adult in the household, sometimes parents will discuss adult matters with their children. This places undue pressure on them and can rob them of their opportunity to grow up at a normal pace. Kids need their time to be kids and adults need to find other adults with whom to discuss their daily concerns, anxieties and fears.
Chores will increase for everyone when there are fewer people in the household to complete them. Children do need to step up their contributions to the household but should not be unreasonably overburdened.
Finally, never put your child in the middle of any dispute or private matter between you and your ex-spouse. This will only result in them feeling torn loyalties that significantly undermine their well-being. Even using them as messengers can cause them unnecessary stress.
Let Go of the Past:
There is no doubt that the years and months leading up to divorce brought plenty of pain and anxiety. It is critical to the quality of life after divorce that you put the past behind you. If you manage to forgive and forget the past, all of your energy can be fully devoted to appreciating the gifts of the present and building on the hopes of the future.
We all know someone who has done the opposite; dwelled on the past, held on to bitterness and continue to attack their ex-spouse at every opportunity. Take a close look at the diminished quality of their life and resolve not to waste your life on such negativity.
Be Good to Yourself
Treat yourself as though you just came through a difficult surgery or prolonged illness. Pay special attention to doing everything it takes to maximize your health and well-being. Make sure you eat a healthy diet and seek support and guidance if you are struggling with weight gain or loss. Find some form of exercise that you enjoy and stick with it as consistently as possible.
If you still find it difficult to recover from the past or to give yourself the kind of care and attention you deserve, reach out to a good therapist who can guide you in a more positive direction.
When a divorce dismantles a marriage, it is important to pick up the pieces and reconstruct your life with all the positive energy you can muster. Talk to other who have survived difficult divorces and gone on to thrive in their new lives in ways they never dreamed possible. After all, it is not just an ending; it is a new beginning.