Divorce 360, Family & Friends, Parenting

The Successful Blended Family

Three (or Four) Questions for . . . Anne Brennan Malec

Okay, I am not anywhere near the stage of remarriage, let alone re-falling madly in love. Nor are most of us, at least in the immediate aftermath of divorce. But it hovers out there—the aspiration to connect with someone new, recommit, perhaps remarry. We’ve all heard the statistics; second and third marriages have higher rates of divorce than first ones. How can we be optimistic about our own romantic future?

Start by having realistic expectations, particularly if you have children, says Anne Brennan Malec, a Chicago-based clinical psychologist, step-mother of six, and author of Marriage in Modern Life: Why It Works, When It Works

 Wendy Paris: What should people expect when remarrying, with kids?

Anne Brennan Malec: The couple is in love and want to spend their lives together, and they can be under the false impression that their children will feel the same way. In reality, children are often confused and have contradictory emotions about the new family setup. Forming a blended family is a long-term process, and it is reasonable to expect some push back from children, who had no voice in your choice to marry. If you imagine that your children will find the transition to be more difficult than you will, you’re off to a good start.

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Dating After Divorce . . . Or Not

When you’re stuck in a lifeless marriage, dating can sound enticing, thrilling, like a rousing carousel of non-commitment. None of the old problems will exist in a new relationship, you think. All those interesting, attractive people who were single before you married are probably waiting around, eager to go out with the newly-single you—not to mention the eligible strangers online.

Some people love dating after divorce. It can be a great way to meet new people, learn about new places and see yourself positively in someone else’s eyes.

But many people can’t bear the thought of it. This doesn’t indicate a permanent, bad-marriage-induced lack of passion, but rather a natural and even healthy response. Some people want time to process their marriage, to figure out what just happened here. Others wanted to prove to themselves that they can make it on their own. Some parents I met said they were too focused on their children to make space for someone new right away.

For many of us, the issue is one of attachment. We’ve been dedicated to the wellbeing of this other person for years or even decades.  Attachment is an emotional and physical reality. It maps itself on the brain, and can take a while to lift.

Biological anthropologist and legendary love scholar Helen Fisher describes love not as a feeling, but rather as three basic brain systems that evolved to help us seek partners, narrow our focus to one, and stay together to raise babies.

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Communication, Divorce 360, Getting Along Better, Post-Divorce, Parenting, Uncategorized

Trouble Communicating? Consider Divorce Counseling

Many people seek help communicating with an ex. I’ve written here about how my own communication skills improved once we split. Distance definitely was an aid. But I also had some outside assistance.

About seven months after my husband and I separated, I needed help handling some of the changes in our lives. I didn’t want legal help, but emotional support, insight, and communication assistance. I suggested we go to a therapist, together; my ex agreed.

I found a therapist on Psychologytoday.com who agreed to meet with us for couples counseling. Or, former couples counseling. Or, divorce counseling, actually.

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Divorce 360, Law & Money, Parenting, Uncategorized

Can Technology Improve Divorce?

Writing Lockdown Post One

The first round of edits on my book are due back to the publisher July 15, and I am not done. So for the next three weeks, this blog is going to be brief. I want it to remain helpful, though, so this week I’m reposting a great piece about the online divorce service Wevorce that appeared on “Note to Self,” a tech-focused podcast on WNYC.org with host Manoush Zomorodi.

Technology has improved divorce in many ways. You can look up child- and spousal-support guidelines online, download forms, and learn about the law in your state without ever leaving your house. This ability to get informed up front, without immediately spending the time and money on a lawyer can appease fear and give you a sense of control—both of which can translate into a calmer, kinder parting.

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Divorce 360, Self-Care

Creating a Home, After Divorce

After my husband moved out, I didn’t want to stay in our four-bedroom townhouse in family-oriented Hoboken, New Jersey, but I couldn’t seem to move. I felt trapped, stuck in mud, unable to decide what neighborhood or apartment “fit” the newly single me.

This ambivalence and discomfort is pretty typical in divorce, whether you have to find a new place, or make your old home feel like yours, alone. Our marriages are based in our space.  Marriage shoots roots through the floors, wraps tendrils around pillars, proclaims itself on the doorposts and on the gates. We use the term “home” interchangeably with “marriage,” as in, “How are things at home?” Or, “All’s good on the home front.” Moving out, or even merely moving your ex’s items out, is a physical manifestation of the fact that you are moving on.

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