Divorce 360, Family & Friends, Traditions, Uncategorized

Celebrating the Holidays, While Divorced

“Holidays are notoriously tricky with blended families.”  This is my ex-husband speaking.  We’re standing in the shade of a massive Coral tree on a brilliant morning in Santa Monica, the late-fall sunlight dappling the sidewalk.

The holidays are tricky for all families. But in divorce, complicated logistics, hurt feelings, and even nostalgia for celebrations past can add to the typical stress.

In our case, “divvying up” the holidays has been pretty easy.  We don’t alternate whose side our son goes to every year.  I take my son to Texas for Thanksgiving and some Jewish holidays; Christmas he goes with his father to New York.  While interfaith couples statistically have more conflicts, dividing religious holidays after divorce isn’t one of them.  At least not for us.

Actually, I celebrate Christmas with my ex-husband’s family, too.  The year before we split, I’d cooked the entire dinner for 17 alongside his then-teenage niece.  This quickly became a new tradition, and we continued it even after my husband and I broke up in 2012.  She and I made the dinner the following year, and the one after that.  Last year, after my divorced little family had relocated to California, we all flew in together for Christmas, and I made the dinner again.

This year?  I wasn’t so sure I wanted to go.

Read More
Divorce 360, Getting Along Better, Post-Divorce, Resilience, Uncategorized

Prevent a Bad Divorce: Part II

Last week, I wrote about the benefits of making a personal commitment to treating your spouse well, even if your marriage ends.  Many of the people I’ve interviewed who have decent divorces described their spouses as friends first.  They entered the marriage with a genuine regard for the other, and this sense of fellowship made it easier for them to focus on creating better lives for both, unwed—rather than spinning out into anger and law suits.

For some, raising children is an intensely important shared interest that spurs cooperation, much like a pre-existing friendship.  Prioritizing their mutual interest in raising happy, healthy children helps many couples transition into a friendly co-parenting relationship.

Even working together can act as a form of “friendship.”  One woman in her 50s whose marriage ended after her husband cheated, said she was determined to keep their joint business going.  This goal forced her to speak more kindly toward him than she might otherwise have, and even to work harder on her own emotional recuperation.

For others, though, creating a cooperative, peaceful divorce is not an easy task.  Here are three steps to try, in divorce or even in marriage:

Decrease Negative Rumination

Neuroscientist Helen Fisher, author of The Anatomy of Love, and Albert Einstein College of Medicine neuroscientist Lucy Brown have shown that people in successful relationships can suspend negative judgment of the other person.  As with many actions that work in a good marriage, this mental effort can help create a good divorce.

Read More

Can You Prevent a Bad Divorce . . . While Married?

This question came up at a talk I was giving in Washington D.C.  A young man in the audience, due to wed in six weeks, wanted to know if there was anything he could do now to avoid a disastrous divorce, should the marriage end.

“Uh, don’t tell your fiancé you’re thinking about divorce?” I suggested.

But actually, of course he should discuss divorce with his soon-to-be wife.  A brief conversation about divorce can help set the intention to treat each other well, no matter what form the relationship takes.  A quick nod to the reality of divorce in modern life also can give more security in the marriage.  While we know that having a shared vision for marriage is an essential ingredient of creating a happy, successful one, a shared understanding of divorce matters, too.

Read More

For Happy Kids, Keep Your Divorce Out of Court

I just got off the phone with Melinda Taylor,  the former executive director of the Resource Center for Separating and Divorcing Families in Denver.  After overseeing the nation’s first one-stop divorce and separation shop, Taylor is now helping bring the idea—and the reality—of the out of court divorce to more cities across the nation. I’ve just joined the advisory committee to The Center for Out of Court Divorce, which I consider one of the MOST important innovations in divorce and positive co-parenting today.

What’s so bad about divorce court?

It may sound appealing, the notion that a judge, an official smart person, will decide who gets what, making your spouse pay, literally, for all the unhappiness she wrought. But for the vast majority of us, the court is the worst place to go to figure out a divorce or separation.

As Taylor notes, since the first family court was created in Ohio nearly 100 years ago, the adversarial system has proven a disaster for many families. Fighting in court over child support or visitation hurts children. The so called “final orders” handed down by a judge tend to not be so final; your kids’ wants and needs change over time, and a settlement hammered out in seething resentment can look downright crazy once the fog clears.

Read More
Family & Friends, Resilience, Self-Care, Uncategorized

Does Divorce=Failure? (Is Failure a Bad Thing?)

Three (or Four) Questions for Carlin Flora

I was giving a reading about the history of marriage and divorce at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire. My piece was about the critical social and economic role that marriage served historically, and how demographic shifts, real material advances and women’s rights have made it largely optional today, a choice, not a necessity. Meaning: as much as we love the idea of marriage, ending a bad one is a choice, too.

After the talk, a woman about my age approached, an artist, liberal minded. “I think you have to acknowledge that many people see divorce as a failure,” she said. “I do. I think it was the best choice in my situation, and for our child, but I still feel a sense of failure for not having been able to make my marriage work, or maybe for having married the wrong person.”

Failure. The other F-word. I was so wrapped up in the attempt to explain divorce in social science terms, I hadn’t give much thought to people’s sense of failure. I didn’t see divorce as failure. I grew up with it. Divorce seemed more a part of life than some aberration. But many people do feel divorce as a failure, as I’ve since learned.

Whatever you think about divorce, failure in general is so universal, you could write a book about it. Many books. Many people have. There’s a recent subset of books on failure promoting its economic upsides, including Fail Fast, Fail Often  and The Upside of Down.

Carlin Flora, author of Friendfluence: The Surprising Way Friends Make Us Who We Are, recently wrote a feature article for Psychology Today magazine about failure I caught up with her to get her take.

Wendy Paris: Why did you want to write about failure after writing a book about friendship?

Carlin Flora: “It seems like the message now is that failure will lead to success and you have to fail to succeed. But they’re talking about traditional views of success. ‘You have to have five failed companies before you have one successful one. You have to have 500 auditions before you get the lead role.’ I was interested in instances where failure does not lead to traditional success. A lot of people never have that success. Failure can still bring benefits, even if it doesn’t lead to clear success.

Read More
1 2 3 6