Sunday, March 29, 2009

Stuck In The House With Ex-Spouse: Tools and Rules To Help You Survive

When divorce is on the horizon how can you co-exist in a house with your soon to be ex-spouse? Is it possible to live separate and apart under one roof without raising it? Once the marriage is declared "over" there may be a period of time that leaves the separated sharing space when they are low on relationship grace. While there are separating spouses  that decide to share the matrimonial  home for an agreed upon period of time, others find themselves in the same predicament for different reasons. Financial limitations, unresolved legal issues, power struggles and difficulty selling the home result in many former life-partners co-existing under one roof involuntarily.

In these particularly challenging economic times, with the matrimonial home often being the couple's largest asset, slow sales, soft markets and a lack of palatable alternatives  may result in "mom's room, dad's room" carrying on for longer than intended. Navigating your way around home base when you no longer want to see your Ex's face is not for the faint of heart. Allocating your time, your boundaries, and your feelings in a way that leaves your sanity in tact and keeps your children from falling through the cracks requires two committed people.

 If you find yourself dividing your heart along with your home, develop a plan to help you share in a way that is fair.  Be intentional, mindful and strategic and consider the following tools and rules to help you handle this overwhelming difficult time.

  1. Beware: LAND MINE AHEAD. Shake hands with reality and be realistic as to the challenges that lay in the fore. Living separate and apart under one roof can be unpredictable, arduous and volatile. Do not pass go without a plan.
  2. Build boundaries. Create separate space especially for the most intimate parts of your day: sleeping, private time in bathrooms and a safe place for your personal belongings that is accessible at all times. Designating and adhering to an agreed upon division of hours and space, taking turns, respecting privacy, and using self-restraint are necessary behaviors. A rule of thumb: Never walk into the other person's territory without express permission. When in doubt, find a new route.
  3. Play the part of Casper the friendly ghost. Develop a temporary schedule that clarifies specific days and times that each parent is in charge and the other is "off duty." The parent in charge is the "go to" parent and the other parent makes themselves scarce. This serves to minimize opportunities for conflict. Note, that this only works if the "off-duty parent" is invisible at best and outside the scope of parenting radar at worst. 
  4. Be your own domestic god/ess. Do your own laundry and prepare your own food. This will eliminate resentment. If your arrangement involves doing things for one and other discuss the details, create a written agreement and review it weekly or monthly to ensure that it is working for both parties. 
  5. Those that no longer sleep together should discuss whether they want to eat together. It may be time to create a new interim meal time tradition. 
  6. If you use it, loose it. Clean up after yourself and put your own things away. Leaving behind soiled dishes, a trail of laundry or garbage for your house mate to deal with is dirty play.
  7. Replace with grace. If you empty the fridge, the gas tank, the toothpaste tube, the kleenex box or anything else that was once there, replenish and restock before you need to talk. 
  8. Let patience and discretion be your guides. Wait to date. Do your best to hold of on a dating kick-off. It will save you from an unwanted fumble or scrimmage.
  9. If you begin to liaise, discuss the terms of this stage. Keep it separate and out of the house.
  10. Don't be an island. Bring in a captain to help you chart the waters, create rules and arrive at an agreement to live by. Meet with a coach or mediator to help you prepare with care.
Living separate and apart under one roof is like traveling to a foreign country. In fact, the language, customs and practices you are familiar with may even result in the opposite effect. In order to prepare for your journey, research the world you are traveling to. A streetwise traveler is informed, packs a map, takes a guide and always has telephone numbers and a "safety plan" in case of emergency. 

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Twitter Etiquitte: Ten Tips For The Elegant Twit

Do you get the jitters when you think about Twitter and does the thought of a tweet leave you shaking in your seat? If you are one of millions pondering the question, "What are you doing?" it may be time to consider how to be a winner when you use Twitter.

Micro-blogging via Twitter is taking the world by a storm. While 140 characters or less make up a tweet, our fast-paced world has discovered yet another way to share information quickly, concisely and with the click of a twit. Social networking, public relations, marketing or simply informing your followers about WHAT YOU ARE DOING is now faster and free. If you decide to indulge in Twitter consider the following recommendations to help you twit with your wit and not shoot from the hip.

  1. Follow the leader. Explore the world of Twitter and follow others who lead by example. To follow is to lead in the world of twittering. If you don't follow, you cannot lead. Moreover, find a Twitter mentor. You can watch from afar and observe the respectful, appropriate and mindful approach taken by other elegant twits. Pay attention to the purposeful and well-intentioned way they tweet. Follow-suit and you too will be followed by leaders.
  2. If Twitter is an opportunity to show 360 degrees of who you are, remember you may be better served by keeping some of who you are to yourself. Wherever you go, your tweets will follow. Make sure your tweets are worthy of travel.
  3. Twitter is a platform that can be accessed via of Firefox, Blackberry,, RSS, IPhone and other applications and devices. Remember that when you are alone with your phone, your Blackberry or your computer, the opportunity to send a spontaneous tweet can be compelling - especially in light of its simplicity. Once you push send your tweet will take on a life of its own. To save you from yourself, commit to saving before sending and review the proposed tweet in another venue/setting or at a different time of day, in a different frame of mind.
  4. Find a TWITITOR. Invite a friend, colleague or trusted confidante to review or edit your tweets if you are not sure if you should send.
  5. Be a good listener. Take the time to listen to the latest buzz on Twitter. You will enhance your Twitter wisdom, be a better communicator and ensure that your profile is one to be proud of.
  6. Begin with the end in mind. Clarify your Twitter objectives. Are you hoping to promote your business, increase your profile, make connections or stay in touch with friends and family? Define your Twitter vision to ensure that you use this latest technology in service of your goals.
  7. Beware of OCT (Obsessive Compulsive Twittering) . Twitter can be addictive. As a voyeur, participant or recipient of unlimited daily tweets, you may find yourself losing face time with the people around you. Utilize self-imposed limits, put it to sleep, remove the application from your cell phone or lose it completely, if you no longer meet, eat or sleep because you tweet.
  8. Twitter can be a workplace hazard. Lack of attention to one's work, impulsive information leaks and spontaneous streaming of uncensored information are consequences of careless twits. Be clear about the your ability to tweet while at work. Take note of your company's policy and remember that social networking technology is probably light years ahead of your Human Resource Manual. Be a "foward Twitter" and think ahead.
  9. Twitter can be like a "Girls Gone Wild" version of IM (Instant Messaging). Get real but don't get naked. It is not the venue to bare your soul, have a temper tantrum or tweet out of control.
  10. Show respect and RETWEET. Let others know you value their knowledge and information by sharing it with fellow Twitters as your retweet and spread the word. By redistributing great ideas you will further enhance your Twitter appeal.
If part of Twitter's charm is communicating with brevity in 140 characters or less, note that no number is too small to get into a cyber mess. So tweet with care and beware that every tweet lives in perpetuity. Remember "The Tweet Goes ON!"

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Post Divorce Dating (PDD): How To Help Your Kids Plight When Looking For Mr. or Ms. Right

Why is your child not jumping for joy when they see stars in your eyes instead of tears? After months or even years of stress, sadness and loneliness - how can your child not be thrilled to see you out on a Saturday night instead of home alone reading the latest self help book on surviving divorce? If your offspring is turned off by your dating you are not alone. Your post divorce social life is a challenge to be expected when your children are asked to smile, accept or applaud the arrival of a guest they did not invite into their lives.

Your child's aversion to your new diversion may be precipitated by the following issues:
  • It may be that your Post Divorce Dating (PDD) extinguishes the flame in your child's reunification fantasy - a hope and feeling many children describe as prevalent.
  • Perhaps your PDD leaves your children caught in a loyalty bind or triggers a wide range of confusing emotions they cannot handle.
  • From changes in your routine, to the time devoted to dating and its associated distractions, to simply feeling awkward at the thought of a parent as a sexual being - discomfort with parental courtship is common. 
  • Your children may feel like they are less important to you. Their role, status and special place in your life may feel threatened.
  • A new haircut or color, a fresh fragrance, a unfamiliar wardrobe, a clean shave, lost weight and a new-found mate can leave children wondering where the parent they once knew disappeared to. 

If PDD is part of your program consider the following beliefs and strategies to help you move forward without setting your children back:

  1. Remember, your desire to date is just that - YOUR desire. Your children did not sign up for the PDD Program.
  2. Your children are narcissistic and believe they are enough to meet all of your emotional needs (this is developmentally on task for children and teens).
  3. Your time-sharing plan was designed for you and your EX. It was not designed for you and your new partner and your EX. They crave time with you.
  4. When you decide to introduce the concept of PDD - be prepared for discomfort, resistance, anger, anxiety, sadness, curiosity, guilt, anger, ambivalence, confusion, excitement and the evolutionary cycle of the aforemetioned emotional spectrum.
  5. If you have more than one child, be prepared for different reactions from each child and do not expect their emotional responses to be in synch with one and other. Be sensitive to the slowest common denominator.  
  6. Be prepared for silence. If the child is not ready or closes the door to the conversation - be sensitive and follow the leader. In this case they lead. This does not mean that they have the right or power to close the door to PDD, but it is a signal to be sensitive to their involvement and integration.
  7. Be prepared for questions. Brainstorm possible questions in advance to ensure that your answers are honest but age appropriate.
  8. "Caveat Answeror" - BEWARE OF SHARING TOO MUCH INFORMATION (TMI). In particular, questions from teens and adult children are seductive. Remember that your child is not your confidante, therapist, friend or parent. Even your teen or adult child may not be prepared to handle many of the answers their questions provoke. Be careful and think before you respond. A rule of thumb is: don't share information about your relationship that you would not share with a 10 year old. That is probably all they can handle.
  9. Take it slow. If the relationship is long-term and healthy, over time, your children will develop trust, comfort, and will come to accept your new partner. If it is not a long-term relationship you will have spared them the potential loss, pain and readjustment.
  10. Once integrated, regardless as to the love connection between your children and your new partner, be sure to spend time on your own with your children, maintain traditions your kids love, don't take advantage of their generosity of spirit and desire to see you happy and check in with your children on a regular basis. 
PDD is often like serving vegetables to a young child. You believe it is good for them, but the unfamiliar taste may leave them  feeling uneasy and at times even queasy. A patient parent does not force feed, but rather, introduces the new experience slowly and respects the child's right to examine the new flavor, take small bites or try it again another time. Take wisdom and patience on your PDD ride, and you will find that in time your children will be firmly planted by your side.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Lighten Your Load: Strategies For Dealing With Freeloading Friends and Family

How do you deal with family and friends who cavort around with entitlement spoons dangling from their mouths? Do you struggle to set limits or say no to those who know not where "what is yours starts" and "what is theirs ends"? How can you protect yourself from the Shameless And Relentless Askers (herein referred to as SARAs) in your life? 

The requests for resources, goods, time and energy come by phone, email and in person. They often sound like this:

  • Can you score me some free tickets to the game, Bobby loves the Yankees and his birthday is coming up!
  • I heard you won't be at your condo, cottage or chalet over the holidays - we are dying for a week away. By the way, are the beds made and is there gas in the boat?
  • Cheryl just got her driver's license and since you are going away for the month, can she take your new SUV - she'd like to go north with her boyfriend.....Mike and I don't want to be without a car!
  • Your pool is perfect place for Melissa to run her swim school this summer. Maybe you can let her know the hours you won't be in your own backyard?
  • I would love to use your home for your nephew Trevor's birthday party  - which weekend would work? Is the fridge filled, or do I need to get drinks?
  • Your house is the perfect venue to host the family holiday, event or rite of passage?
  • Can you pick up, drive or deliver the children? 
  • It's my daughter Tiffany's 16th birthday next week - she would like a watch, cell phone or necklace. I know your daughter's birthday is coming up, but really - there is nothing she needs!
  • Will you take the kids next week? We need to get away.
  • Can you help Brian get a job, set up his business, finance his venture, advise him, do his resume, connect him and be the father figure he needs. 
When the pain begins to set in and you come to realize that the relationship is a one way street - you give and they take, it may be time to change your behavior for your own sake. From requests for your clothes to your money, from your professional services to your ear,  from the guest that regularly arrives empty handed to the house guest who forgets to leave - the freeloader habitually takes advantage of your generosity. When you inevitably hit your "giving wall", and realize that reciprocity is not a part of the relationship recipe with a SARA, the following strategies may save you from annihilation and depletion.

  1. Remember, SARA's  are impervious to etiquette or social decency and their behavior is marked by a bold lack of shame. How you factor into their request has not crossed their mind. Their blatant disregard for your feelings or rights says nothing about you. Their requests say everything about them. This is SARA School 101.
  2. Your job is to set desired limits and not to teach the SARA a lesson.
  3. When the desired response is NO - say NO. Do not go past GO.
  4. Saying NO requires NO explanation. You do not owe the SARA an excuse. 
  5. When the SARA gets nasty, goes underground or uses gorilla warfare like triangulation by engaging spouse, friend or parent or worst of all, their own children to get what they want - name the behavior and call the the SARA out on it. Don't let the SARA be the elephant in the room.
  6. Be elegant and try the following lines if NO doesn't work for you: "I/we would like time alone with our family; Your request doesn't work for me/us; My/our home/time/resources are otherwise committed.
  7. Don't be afraid to say YES if it works for you. While the fear of the slippery slope is scary, you are only a word away from NO.
  8. Be prepared to repeat yourself.
  9. Practice with a child. They too repeat themselves and don't give up easily. Note that this is developmentally healthy and on task for a child to be relentless. They provide the perfect boot camp for NO training.
  10. Be prepared to be unpopular. 
You can run but you cannot hide from a SARA so don't even try. Instead, create boundaries, use your words and be firm. Sara's come on strong and leave you spinning until you no longer remember who is right and who is wrong. If you are challenged by freeloaders, moochers, cadgers or habitual imposers, be steadfast and confident in your right to say NO to those looking to reap what they did not sow.

For more information visit:

Friday, March 13, 2009

Is This A Conversation I Want To Have? Tools and Techniques To Help You Re-Route The Unwanted Conversation

If a conversation is a two way street, why do we often feel like we are being run off the road? From curious co-worker, to nosey neighbor, from fascinated friend to prying parent, from snooping superior to information seeking Ex - how do you steer the conversation to a parking lot when it is going down a path you do not want to take?

Here are just some of the questions that loved ones, cheerleaders, friends, bosses, parents in the play ground, associates at the water cooler and interested in-laws ask every day that leave the recipient looking for conversation cop. 

  • Are you engaged yet?
  • Did you get the job/promotion?
  • How much was your bonus? 
  • Are you pregnant yet?
  • Was Johnny accepted? 
  • Why was Susie sent home from camp?
  • I heard you separated......what happened?
  • I head your Ex is dating; had an affair; is gay; just had a baby; bought a new house; has a new young thing.....
  • I hear you are dating; having a rough time; struggling with the kids; in a miserable legal mess?
  • I heard you just bought a new house/you have to sell your house......
  • Are you dating again? 
  • What stage cancer is it? 
  • I hear you and Mary are no longer friends?
  • You lost the account/client/deal?
 The opportunity to encroach on personal boundaries is limitless when individuals are not clear about where they stop and someone else begins. Every day we are faced head on with personal boundary violators who drive the conversation over the yellow line. If a boundary is defined as that which fixes a limit or extent, a separating line, a border, a barrier or a dividing line then it is time we give ourselves permission to respect our own boundaries even when others don't.

What if you were suddenly able to steer an unwelcome question to a place where you were more comfortable? Imagine putting an end to inappropriate inquiries and unwanted exploration? Try using the tips, tools and techniques listed  below when you feel the conversation is not going in the direction you want to travel.
  1.  Remember, it is not your job or responsibility to take care of someone by participating in a conversation that leaves you feeling unsafe, awkward, invaded or uncomfortable.
  2. You are in charge of your Conversation Comfort Compass. Determine a base point. Check it regularly.
  3.  Remind yourself daily that it is healthy to set your conversational borders.
  4. When the person asking the question or driving the conversation holds either a real or perceived position of power (for example, boss, parent or intimidating person), remember - you are still entitled to set parameters.
  5. If you are not sure whether you want to respond, take a second, or two or three and say, "I need a moment to think about that" and then decide how you want to respond.  
  6. If you are still not sure if you want to have the conversation say, "I need to think about that, and I will get back to you." You may still choose to let the person know that you do not want to go down that road.
  7. Trust your instinct. If the territory proposed makes you feel uneasy, go with your gut.
  8. Use "I " statements when letting someone know you do not choose to talk about the suggested subject matter. This will be easier if you do not take the line of inquiry personally. 
  9. Review the proposed "lines" listed below, and practice, practice, practice.
  10. When asked a question you do not want to answer try the following lines:
  • It is a personal matter.
  • I prefer not to go there.
  • I am not going there.
  • When there is something to share, I will let you know.
  • I am uncomfortable having this conversation or discussing the issue.
  • This is not something I choose to talk about.
  • Thank you for your concern (this can be added to the end of the above-noted responses).
  • I appreciate your interest/concern (this can be added to the end of the above-noted responses).
  • If the conversation violator persists, simply repeat your response or choose another one and state or restate it calmly and respectfully.
To quote Mark Twain, "Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have a conversation." If the goal of a conversation is to exchange thoughts, ideas and opinions, all participants must feel like they are at the wheel of the dialogue and not in the back seat. So hang on to your boundaries for the ride, and remember it is your responsibility to respect yourself enough to say No to the conversation you don't want to have.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Duty to Declare: Divorcing Driver On The Road

  Should there be a "Duty to Declare Divorce" to the Department of Motor Vehicles? Are the newly separated a danger to themselves and others when driving under the influence of divorce and its associated trauma? No doubt the onset of divorce is often akin to flying head-on into a Mack Truck, but does that mean you need to actually drive into one?

  On a daily basis, clients share stories of their most recent fender benders, collisions and sometimes major accidents - all noted as a direct consequence of overwhelming distraction and their distraught state. In particular, men and women report that in the early stages of separation they encounter an out of body experience and have little recollection of how they got through their day, managed their children or performed their job. 

They say that driving when fatigued is like driving while intoxicated. While it is difficult to attribute sleepiness to car accidents as there is no standardized test for fatigue like there is for intoxication, data shows that fatigue slows reaction time, decreases awareness and impairs judgement. The newly separated not only report inability to sleep and the ensuing fatigue but an overall feeling of emotional and physical exhaustion in the early stages of divorce or periods of extreme conflict.

So how do the newly separated get from point A to point B in their cars? Many have no idea. In fact, it is not uncommon for those in the throws of divorce to report locking keys in their car, driving in circles, passing their destination, forgetting where they are headed and getting lost on their way. Divorcing drivers have even commented that it was luck not presence of mind that allowed them to drive without incident.

If you or a loved one are driving under the influence of divorce consider the following strategies before getting behind the wheel:

  1. Call a friend and ask for a ride. Finally, a way for someone waiting in the wings to be helpful.
  2. Take a CAB, public transit or walk. Not only will you be safe, but you will have the opportunity to clear your head.
  3. If you are going to drive, put your cell phone in the back seat. Resist all temptation to call your lawyer while driving, vent to a friend while at light or call your EX and rage. Eliminate an additional distraction.
  4. Write down directions, get a map and put an extra set of car keys in your purse, pocket, office or other convenient location.
  5. When you park the car, write down on a piece of paper the exact location of where you parked. Take the paper with you and pay attention to where you put it. Leave a pack of POST IT notes in the car to make this easy.
  6.  Make sure you are well rested and take a coffee, tea or bottle of water along for the ride.
  7. Never drive yourself to court. You are sure to be stressed to max on your way there only to be trumped by how you may feel on your way home. Follow 1 or 2.
  8. The same can be said for driving to meetings with your lawyer. Follow 1 or 2.
  9. If you feel like you are driving recklessly and cannot resist, give your car keys to a friend.
  10. Slow down. Turn the music down. Turn the noise down. Turn the DVD player down and drive with extreme caution and care. Be aware of your distraction and focus.
If driving under the influence of divorce is on your radar, remember that it is not a chronic condition but rather a phase that can be navigated strategically and safely. At the very least, shake hands with your divorce distractions and your distress and drive with caution and care. 

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Ten Things No One Tells You About Divorce

Divorce knowledge is abundant. From books to articles from cocktail parties to locker rooms, from lawyers offices to the therapist's couch, there is no shortage of information, stories and advice available. Whether you are at the front end of divorce and looking for a guide, in the midst and searching for support, somewhere in between and worried about your children or on the precipice of a new life and need a map, divorce guidance is everywhere.

As a Divorce Coach, I cannot help but notice that there are elements endemic to the process of divorce that are prevalent and unexpected by those navigating their way. "Why didn't someone tell me", "this would be easier if I had known", and "how can I be prepared, if I don't know what to expect." I have taken those comments and I am sharing what I have found to be common themes that take people by surprise.

So hang on to your hat for the ride and take note of the following information you might not have come across:

  1. You only separate from the person you were married to. Be prepared for the same wine in a new bottle.
  2. The process moves as quickly as the slowest person and the least motivated. Be patient and prepare.
  3. Get sleep and eat. While you may have lost 100 to 200 pounds of a partner, you need fuel to function.
  4. You will receive lots of advice. Some of it is what you want to hear and not what you need to hear. Filter it. Then filter it again. 
  5. You must go through the process to get through it. There are no shortcuts and you cannot be catapulted to the end. There will be an end. 
  6. You cannot coach or educate your EX unless they sign up for your program. If they have not enrolled, give up.
  7. You cannot do your EX's therapy. It is not clinically possible. Give up on your theories and do your own work. Doing your own therapy is hard enough - but worth the effort.
  8. You will say, "I will never date again." You will if you want to.
  9. You will say, "I will never have sex or fall in love again." You will if you want to.
  10. You and only you are in charge of Chapter 2 (or 3 and so on). You get to decide if you are going to move forward. No one will do it for you and you will be allowed to sit in Chapter 1 forever. Do the work so you can move on.
The Divorce World is an alien planet. The regular rules of the road often, do not apply. If you find yourself lost in foreign territory, look for an anchor, take stock of what you do know and never forget there is always a way out. 

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