friends
Divorce 360, Family & Friends, Self-Care, Uncategorized
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Make New Friends, Keep Some Old

Many people fear that divorce will shatter their social circle. This is a realistic concern. Our marriages exist within a community, and divorce changes that. We foster connections as a couple, and some only work as part of this pair. Others may not know how to accommodate the new, single you into their couple-centric set.

Friends may worry that your divorce will rub off on them. Some researchers point to evidence of a divorce contagion, a way that divorce can spread through friendship groups. Friends in a shaky marriage don’t need a study to tell them that a new possibility has been introduced into your set. Someone who shuns you in a misguided effort to preserve her own marriage is making a statement about the vulnerability of her union, not your worth as a friend. Still, it’s painful when it happens.

In fact, we change friends in all major life transitions; divorce is no different. But it’s also a chance to improve our social circle. Sometimes, it brings old friends closer. Many people I’ve met said a fellow divorcee reached out to them in a new way, a tennis partner suddenly evolved into a confidant, a family member came forward with new warmth.

As rattling as it feels, a social shake-up also is a great opportunity to seek out people who better support your new life.

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Sergey Novikov/Shutterstock
Family & Friends, Parenting, Uncategorized
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Nurture Friendships to Help Kids Cope With Divorce

Welcome to my new blog feature, “Three (or Four) Questions With . . .

This week, we’re speaking with psychologist and mother of four Eileen Kennedy-Moore, co-author of The Unwritten Rules of Friendship, and author of What About Me? 12 Ways to Get Your Parents’ Attention Without Hitting Your Sister. She also blogs for PsychologyToday.com and teaches a video series for parents, produced by The Great Courses®, an organization offering some of the smartest at-home classes around. Kennedy-Moore’s course, “Raising Emotionally and Socially Healthy Kids” is currently available at thegreatcourses.com and on my resources page.

Wendy Paris: Why do parents need to think about their children’s friendships? How does divorce impact a kid’s social life?

Eileen Kennedy-Moore: It’s one of the things that can be disrupted by divorce, either because the parents move or because everyone is so busy and a little overwhelmed with all the changes. But those connections are very important. If you’re the parent who has to move, you want to do everything you can to help your children make friendships in your new community. If you’re the parent who is not moving, you want to do everything you can to help your children sustain and support their existing friendships.

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colored pencils
Divorce 360, Law & Money
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The D-I-Y Divorce

A sign in the window of a small storefront on Wilshire Boulevard caught my eye: “Divorce: $399.”  I’d seen these drop-in divorce shops in Manhattan, generally depressing hole-in-the-wall places, usually under scaffolding. But the Santa Monica office of The Document People was on a street lined with palm trees, across from a Whole Foods. How unsavory could it be?

The price certainly sounded fiscally healthy.

Inside the spare office, the atmosphere felt benignly impersonal. It smelled like take-out Chinese food the two employees were having for lunch. Michael Jackson’s “PYT” played on a boom box. It resembled an H&R Block. There was an H&R Block two doors down.

Can you really get divorced for under $400?  Yes, said Petra, a thirty-something paralegal and notary from Guatemala with a sweet, calm manner, short blond hair tucked behind her ears, and a green health shake sitting on her desk. Though since we have a child, we’d have to spend about $200 more. “More forms,” Petra explained. Plus we’d have to pay California’s filing fee.

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pumpkin carriage
Cognition, Divorce 360, Self-Care
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The Good Divorce Story

Most of us have a story in our heads about the ideal marriage—the fairy tale romance, the perfect wedding, The Ideal Husband, who may or may not resemble the powerful politician in the Oscar Wilde play of the same name. But the fairy tale divorce? We don’t have a backlog of cultural expectations that our own divorce is somehow failing to meet.

Which is great, because we can write our own divorce story now.

First, we may have to let go of an old, negative narrative, such as the notion that a blended family must include an “evil step-mother,” or the more recent myth that all happy families are alike, and they resemble each other by featuring two married adults—no exceptions permitted.

The woman I wrote about last week who couldn’t get past her anger clung to a false narrative—the idea that divorce necessarily devastates everyone involved. Her home had not actually been washed away by a tsunami. She had her work, her children. She organized regular social events for large groups, attended church weekly, had the funds for manicures and new shoes and the body-hugging purple dress she was wearing when we met. We were out at a good party on a Friday night in Los Angeles, the lights of downtown twinkling far below. Yet the story in her head had been abruptly interrupted by her husband’s defection. She’d been a character in The Perfect Marriage. The movie had stopped midway, and without a new plot line, it was as if her life were a roll of film spilling out all over the floor, chaotic, flapping, un-spooled.

So many people I’ve spoken to about divorce struggle almost as much from narrative disconnect, believe it or not, as from the logistical changes.  Their story about what should have happened plagues them almost as much as the facts themselves.

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sunflower
Cognition, Divorce 360
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Moving Past Anger in Divorce

Getting divorced is not a license to hate, nor a free pass to let loose your lowest impulses, or give in to your darkest, angriest or even most self-critical thoughts.

When I suggest this idea to people, most agree.  Sure, they were angry for a while. But now they view their divorce as a sad reality, and are turning their focus toward recreating a life they love, not stewing in anger at the wrongs of their once-spouse.

But not everyone. Some people are so steeped in anger that they do not want to let it go. Such was the case of the tall, striking woman I met at a party on Friday. “I just have a different idea of marriage,” she said. “It’s for life. It can be hard, but you still work at it. My parents have been married for 50 years. I just have a different idea of marriage than most.”

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