“Why can’t I just get over this guy?”

“I can’t stop obsessing about her with another person.”

“I can’t sleep, eat, or work – I just need to find an answer to why he cheated.”

Ending a relationship is hard enough. But it is even harder when the relationship is unfinished. This can occur for any number of reasons:

* Perhaps your love interest had to move out of state for a job.
* Maybe an affair or betrayal was discovered.
* You might have been on the receiving end of ghosting from a person who seemed so interested a mere weeks prior.
* A mid-life crisis could have even popped up – changing your partner to a completely different person.
* Or narcissism raised its’ ugly head and you find yourself being stonewalled (which by the way is a subtle form of abuse).

Believe it – there is scientific evidence for why we obsess over these vacant figures from our life.

When we first “fall in love” with a person – the wiring and chemicals in our brain actually start to change. There is probably an evolutionary reason for this. Because if we noticed flaws and differences in our love interests right from the start, we would be less likely to mate (which underneath it all, is our biological drive). As our brain is flooded with “feel-good” chemicals; we typically find ourselves thinking of our new significant other every chance we get. At the gym, work, meetings with our friends – we find our brain drawn to this person. This must be love right?

But true love often occurs much later in the relationship – when the chemicals simmer down a bit and we start to develop a love of companionship. This is when people make a conscious decision to work through seen differences and attempt to stabilize the relationship for the long haul. For years, scientists thought that when this shift occurred that the chemicals died away. But recent research (through MRIs) proves that in fact, the reward system of dopamine still lights up in this kind of partnership – maybe just a bit less intensely. And guess what? This is the exact same part of the brain where addiction resides. Think about an alcoholic where the initial pizzaz that drinking granted has worn off (maybe there were consequences to the drinking like hang-overs and legal issues) but the alcoholic keeps using. Our relationship brain chemistry is on the same neurological pathway.

So exactly like how an addict needs to “get dry” – a person out of a love relationship needs to detox. That means that triggers should be avoided. It is no wonder that more people are suffering from this obsessive post relationship sickness because the main contributor is social media. How do you get dry – when every moment of the day, you have the ability to cyber stalk your ex.? And as with most situations where we ‘mind read’ – we tend to assume the worst case scenario. He/She is in love with somebody better, look they are on vacation and having fun without me, etc. etc.

So, step one – just like you would not put an alcoholic in a bar – get off of their damn social media! It will not make you feel better to know what and/or whom your obsession is doing. It just makes it worse. Also, try to avoid any other triggers – like places that you ate, friends in common, etc. For your protection, you should have clear boundaries with any triggers for three months, at the minimum. At that time, you might be able to look at a trigger and not emotionally react with the same intensity. Your reward system will not be hijacked and you can calmly grieve without the obsession.

Second, remember the stages of grief. Also, remember that there is no prescribed time line for your experience of each of the stages.

Stage One: Denial
Stage Two: Anger
Stage Three: Bargaining (trying to make a sensible narrative of what happened/prescribe meaning)
Stage Four: Depression
Stage Five: Acceptance and Moving On

We tend to bounce around these stages and there is no set time for “good grieving”. People who find themselves obsessing though are often stuck in the bargaining stage. There is a drastic urge to make sense of the unfinished business. This can lead people to self-doubt, inappropriate behavior towards their ex., and even suicidal ideation because the pain is so real. It’s no wonder that people describe it as “getting kicked in the gut” or “I can’t breath.” This is also the stage where many have to grapple with regrets (Why did I not know that he was cheating?) and guilt. When I see my clients struggle with this, I have them implement some relaxation skills and develop a mantra such as
* It is what it is
* I can’t change the past
* I tried my best and that is good enough
* It is not my job to fix my ex.

Any thoughts that get you unstuck and help you move forward will work.

Finally, just like getting clean from any bad habit, you have to find a way to redirect your energy into more fruitful endeavors. Of course, self care . but what does that mean for you to have an impact? Is it running, getting together with positive-minded friends, reading a self help book, relaxing, taking a bath, petting your dog?
Whatever it is – do MORE of it.

NO MATTER WHAT – THIS TOO SHALL PASS. . . .

Have faith in the process of the healing and know that you will feel whole again.
(And please stop judging yourself for spending more time in a stage than your friends or family members think you should be).

When you are ready. . .

Cat

Pas De Deux

Every time, I started with a new psychotherapist; I would receive the same diagnosis. Codependent Personality Disorder. It is and always will be – my sickness. But as the years went by, I would sometimes wonder if it had just become my mental frame go-to. What if a therapist had labelled me with ‘Big Hearted Empath” or even “Super Supportive Lover” – might I have changed my behaviors and choices in my relationships quicker? Or would I still have carried
around the sense of shame that occasionally haunts me to this day. Is it possible that I would have started making wiser decisions in my relationships earlier?

In 1914, Freud introduced the concept of repetition compulsion. His theory stated that a person who has been traumatized will repeatedly put themselves into similar situations, in order to “master” the original trauma. I learned about this concept in my first psychology class in high school. In coaching, it is discussed that our relationships are mirrors holding up to us the work that we need to do on ourselves. These theories might easily define my consistently poor choices in relationships. If there were a list of adjectives to describe the men I have allowed into my life, it would include the following: creative, sensitive, moody, substance ab(user), abused, angry, powerless, needy or some combination thereof. I certainly did not consciously sign up for the Women Who Want to Fix Men Club. However, I found myself a consistent position there.

I had also located a very comfortable spot in the offices of many psychotherapists. Under the guise of my own psychoanalytic training and “transition issues”; I have spent a lifetime in psychotherapy trying to analyze this repetitive dance out of my life. Why did I consistently make poor choices in seeking a life partner? Perhaps it was due to my “sensitivity” that drove my parents crazy as I was growing up. Maybe my low self-esteem made me feel as though I had to provide a service to a man in order for him to invest in a lifetime with me – as if my presence, being and body were not enough. I wondered about my innate ability to detect anger, anxiety or depression in others and in turn, adjust my energy. If I were truly honest maybe I would have admitted that being the caregiver in a relationship allowed me the controlling position and control was actually what I was seeking. It’s probably a combination of any of the above. But clearly I was in training for it right from my first breaths of air. When the
child turns into an adult who is out on her own relying on these outdated schemas; it makes life very tricky.

Here is where coaching saved my life. Because you see, codependency is not just a cute little word that describes somebody who is hyper needy of their relationships. It is a real condition that can often lead to not only a lifetime of mental anguish, but also real physical illness. My Business Coach – yes, that’s right (no fancy pants psychoanalyst) CONFRONTED MY BEHAVIORS! He threw out words like SELF SABOTAGE, POOR CHOICES, MIND SET TRAPS AND LOVE MAPS.

It was exactly what I needed! To put me back in the drivers’ seat of my life. Therapy was allowing me to wallow in my victimhood but coaching pushed me forward in an effective way.

NOTHING. . and I mean NOTHING will erase my dysfunctional childhood, years of traumatic relationships and self doubt. The ONLY THING I got in my pocket now is remaining in control of my decisions and being wiser moving forward. Have I avoided all narcissists? NOPE. But I identify and evict them quicker – before the severe damage comes.

EVERDAY I have to remind myself to. .
– Live in my Integrity
– Value my self
– Behave in accordance with what I desire in my life
– Vulnerability shown selectively
– Single does not equal lonely
EVERY DAMN DAY!
xoxoxo

Cat

Ahh how divorce impacts friendships. . let me count the waves.

 

This issue is a common struggle for those adjusting to life post divorce. Suddenly, the friends whom you vented to about getting your child to eat vegetables is avoiding you like the Black Plague. The avoidance is painful but what is worse is that it is often expressed in covert ways. You were forgotten about for the holiday get-together and assumed to not want to come to the couples’ only events.

Those of us who have experienced this phenomena often go into MIND READING. This is when we assume that somebody is thinking negatively about us, even though we haven’t even checked it out with them. Mind reading often leads people to isolating and removing themselves from others. People might even take this one step further to assume that they are unlovable and therefore, not desired anymore in ANY social situations.

 

So before you transform from a social and lively adult into a quiet and monk-ified one; ask yourself these questions.

 

Were these GOOD relationships to begin with?

What might this person be projecting onto me with their cut off?

How can I speak to this person in an authentic way to open up the discussion?

Might this person feel torn between having to choose between the two of us?

Is this person judgmental in general?

 

Then, take action.

 

Divorce is a grueling transformation. But, it is also an opportunity to readjust your life to having only positive and life affirming human beings in it. For myself, I realized that some of my “friends” were only acquaintances out of social circle expectations but were never truly friends to begin with. Out with the old and in with the new! Now is the time to find like-minded individuals who level you up in life and support you in being the best possible version of you. Find your new tribe! For me, this was a group of other single mamas who were rocking life. I wanted to be like them!

 

Repeat this saying: The only form of rejection is self rejection. Nobody can MAKE you feel rejected if you are feeling confident. What you will find is that some of these friends might project onto you their version of adulthood and life, in general. You might know one who is unhappily married, or religious to the point where divorce is not an option, or feel that marriage should last until children go to college, or are angry still that their parents divorced, or feel jealousy that you have weekends free of child-care duty, etc. etc. Get my drift? People will project onto you their OWN issues. Some people even think of divorce as a contagious disease and I have heard husbands ask their wives to stop hanging out with their “divorced friend.” Again, it is their FEAR, ANGER and PROJECTIONS that you become the recipient of. If they are unaware of these things and act them out then move on. Do not take their freeze out personally and realize that they are people who are just not in touch with their feelings and beliefs.

 

There is strength in numbers! Though it’s not widely known – there are more of us divorced folks than married ones. The statistics show that over half of first marriages end in divorce and the rates go up for second and third marriages. Take power in that ! The only reason that this is not widely know is that our society does not celebrate divorce. We do not talk about it! So change the script – talk about it! Then talk about it more and more. And no I don’t mean, let me tell everybody how awful my ex. is story (everybody is heard that already and are probably sick of it by this point) I mean, the ‘LIFE IS GREAT AS A SINGLE PARENT’ stories! Share the positives with people. This might help them come around when they see that you are acing divorce. They might take their cues from you and when they see that you are happy – well then, they jump aboard!

 

Recommended To Do’s:

 

  1. Meetups – check out your local meetings and connect with others who have the same interests.
  2. Check out travel sites like www.singleparenttravel.net – book your next adventure!
  3. Start doing the activities that you have always wanted to do – BUT ALONE! You will not die – I promise! Want to check out a band, hike, start kayaking – JUST DO IT. Alone is MUCH better than with somebody you despise!
  4. Initiate get togethers. This year, nobody planned anything for my birthday. So I sent out invites to my friends. Otherwise, I would have sat home alone.
  5. Join Divorce Recovery Groups – whether through Facebook or in your community.
  6. Enroll in a Post Divorce Retreat.
  7. Smile and Say “hello” to the world – put our good heart energy and the world will answer! Don’t be shy!
  8. Think outside of the box. Do not limit yourself to friends only in your age bracket, parents etc.
  9. Volunteer your time!
  10. Use Dating Sites as a fun way to meet new friends vs. only seeking my soulmate. So much less pressure and more fun that way!

 

 

This question is posed often by my coaching clients who are worried about how the divorce will impact their children.

 

No matter what level of dysfunction  and/or bad behavior that existed prior to the divorce, both parents typically have the same exact fears for their children’s wellbeing. It is important for parents to remember this even in the midst of their feelings of rage and righteousness. Remember that your fellow parent is afraid too. And both of you might be wrestling with feelings of guilt and failure as you tackle this step together.

 

I always encourage my clients to have a MUTUAL STORY. This means that both parents are using the exact same wording as they tell their children together about the impending divorce.  Each of you may still have very different perspectives about what happened but that is not something that is helpful for the children to hear.  For example, father might have had an affair after feeling his marriage has been loveless for years. The mother might feel that she has been doing all of the tasks for the children while the father works and has fun outside of the house. The children are 5 and 10 years old. How might you explain it to them?

 

In coaching, we might create a MUTUAL STORY like this:

 

“Your father and I have realized that we were not working well as a team.  We have been having a hard time problem solving together and we even feel like we want different things out of life. We have thought long and hard about how to make the situation the best for everybody involved.  We are both always going to be your parents and this is not due to anything that you have done. We both love you and will still be with you – but we will be doing this at separate houses. If you guys have any questions at ANYTIME please let us know. You might experience ALL kinds of feelings as we get through this change and we are here to listen to them. We might not have magic solutions but we all are always ready to talk about it”

 

I greatly encourage my clients to deliver this message in a family meeting that is non-emotional in tone. If the children experience their parents breaking down; they can in turn, become very afraid. Your children will take their cues from you. If you are delivering and handling the news well – so will they! If beforehand, you are worried about emotions leaking over- practice your story first. Do it in the bathroom mirror and on your way to work until you feel that you can say the words without falling apart.

 

Notice that I DID NOT say – Mom and Dad fell out of love with each other. Please do not say this! Children are very black and white thinkers. When they hear those words; they often interpret it to mean that their parents could potentially also fall out of love with them. They are not able to grasp the complexity of that one, so I encourage my clients to stay away from the word “LOVE” in their story. NOTICE I also said – This is NOT your fault. Children are very narcissistic in understanding the world. It is age appropriate for them to feel that whatever events happen around them is a direct result of themselves. Children often need to be reminded that they are not the source of the marriage break-up for many years to come.

 

In my years of doing this work, I have heard from many angered parents that they are going to tell their children that it was the other spouse who broke up the marriage. This is where I work at managing emotions. When a party tells their offspring anything of this sort, it creates great turmoil; no matter what the childrens’  age is. Kids might feel angered and in turn, alienate from the blamed parent. This is one form of Divorce Poisoning. I have witnessed these children become full of rage when they hit adulthood and realize that they were manipulated to hate the other parent.

 

Timing is also something to consider. If your child is one who ruminates or experiences anxiety; it is often not beneficial for there to be a large time period between the announcement and the move out. At the same time, there does need to be time for the children to adjust to the idea before it happens so that it is not a sudden shock to their day-to-day life. During that time, be aware of your children’s behaviors. Do they suddenly regress? Not sleeping alone anymore? Calling our your name repeatedly? Acting out? Know that these are often symptoms of the change and should settle down. But if they continue for months then please consider some family or child counseling.

 

Parents are often shocked during the time period after the announcement. They will tell me that the children seem fine. I then educate my clients on the fact that grief in childhood looks very different than grief in adulthood. Children often grieve in bits and spurts. They are busy growing-up and engaging with friends and schooling so they usually do not slow down enough to pay attention to sadness for extended periods of time. You might see a “flare” or have a “challenging day” when visitation starts, a holiday comes around or a family ritual is changed. That is when the finality of the divorce will become more of a reality for them. So do not be surprised if your children do not grieve on the same timeline as yourself.

 

Research proves that children are actually functioning better a year post divorce than they were before the split up. This is assuming that the parents are not using the children as messengers, a new set of rituals have been established, visitation is occurring consistently and the parents are co-parenting well. It is not the divorce that causes trauma to the children – it is how the parents behave post divorce. So think about how you would like your children to recall the divorce transition? Did they lose their mother or did she become more emotionally available to them? Did their father begin introducing the kids to a string of girlfriends or did he role-model a healthy family in his next relationship? Did either fall into Depression? Financial Strain? Continued Rage? or Powerlessness? Or did both parents demonstrate resiliency and empowerment?

 

Imagine your child in therapy in twenty years. How would you like them to share THEIR story?  Think about what you would like them to say and MAKE IT HAPPEN!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We all do it. We tell ourselves a narrative. It’s how we make meaning of what is going on around us. Our stories shape and define us in a way that we can share our internal landscapes with others and hopefully find meaning, understanding and the basic human need for connection.

Sometimes when I ask a client to share his or her story – I encounter clouded over eyes and shock. That is because many remain in action and do not even tune in enough to know what their stories are. Their internal landscape then becomes rigid and not open for examination and exploration. Deep emotions and fears are acted out without any insight into the how or why.

This is why I greatly encourage my clients to journal. It is an incredibly powerful way to engage in self care. You are listening to YOU!

 

In divorce people often tell themselves horrible and insulting stories.

  • I am unloveable
  • My husband did not value me and I still need validation from him.
  • I am naive and did not even know the affair was happening. I can never trust again.
  • Men are (fill in the blank). Women are  (fill in the blank).
  • I failed at marriage
  • I should have left (months/years) ago.
  • My poor children have to deal with divorce.
  • People are retched.
  • Love is for others but not me.
  • If I was thinner, richer, etc. – my partner would have stayed
  • I am an awful person for leaving

I could go on and on. . . .

 

Unfortunately these stories become more and more negative as life goes on and one experiences more traumas, losses and life lessons post divorce.

What do you tell yourself?

What is your narrative?

Is it helping or hurting your healing process?

Does it enliven you or suck the energy out of you?

Would others believe your words? Or would they challenge it?

What is your concrete evidence to support your beliefs?

Are you engaging in All-or-Nothing thinking? Personalization? Catastrophic thinking? or Mind Reading?

Are these stories from you or from your parents? Friends? Society?

 

Let’s turn the page and create a new way! It is simple; but not easy.

If you would like to know more about how to challenge your self stories – let’s chat.

Let’s find a way to change your story to one of empowerment, love, abundance, and joy.

You are amazing!

And you deserve that!!!

Cat

xoxoxo

 

 

 

John Gottman, the world renowned researcher of marriage often uses this term, “Bids for Attention”. They are the moments when you reach to your partner and express a need. Maybe it’s a simple need for eye contact or a hug or an ear to listen – but we all do this. Even when we are not consciously aware that we have needs; our behavior might prove otherwise.

 

According to Gottman, in the beginning of a relationship, couples are doing this (hopefully) with high frequency. They are thinking of their new love interest while they are at work, playing golf, hanging with their buddies. . . If chemistry is right – they are almost obsessed with their partner. If all goes as scheduled, our bids are answered. For many of us (particularly those from any background of abuse or neglect) this is a healing process.

 

However, over time more and more bids often go unanswered. People get busy with work, weeding, taking out the recycling, parenting, helping their aging parents, etc. and suddenly it can feel like your bids are met by crickets. Some might even start wondering if they are putting too many bids in? Eventually trust and respect erode.

 

And if there is not the beginning bank of answered bids to draw from – than the relationship crashes and burns. Each partner grows more distant with contempt and searches for bid attempts outside of the marriage.

 

This is a typical development in a long-term relationship with a simple, but not easy way to fix and heal the relationship. Oftentimes, it takes sharing of vulnerabilities, identifying all of the emotions behind the expressed anger/contempt and a fruitful effort to change that feedback loop for the better. It does take effort.

 

However, now, according to Gottman, with the ever increasing stress of the world around us and also our social media obsession;  couples are not even hearing nor answering bids, right from the get-go. People are seen as more and more dispensable. And vulnerability, truth and needs are suppressed because it leaves people feeling too exposed when there is no prior history of bid meeting from their partner. Thoughts might swirl – ‘She expressed needs? That is unacceptable’. or ‘How dare he complain about his job when mine is so much harder?’

In turn, true relationships are never even formed.

Ghosting and Curbing gain in popularity as people are deemed more and more to be temporary objects vs. human beings with hearts.

 

Ask yourself these questions:

How do you meet your partner’s needs?

Do you even know what they are?

How does your partner express his or her needs?

How do you express yours?

Grade the bids for attention in your relationship? Are they met half? All of the time?

 

We are in a crisis of vulnerability people. In order to ace this; you first have to accept that you do in fact have needs. Then, express them. Finally, pay attention to whether your partner is building a bank from the get-go or constantly withdrawing. . . .

 

Cat

xooxoxoxo

 

 

In the past week, I have had two clients look at me and say. . .

“But you couldn’t possibly know how hard this is. You seem to have it all together.”

Let me TELL YOU that the reason that I might HAVE IT ALL TOGETHER (Do any of us really?) is because I did A LOT OF WORK!

– Therapy
– Coaching
– Positive Affirmations
– Self care
– Changed the people I associated with
– Processed my rage and grief. . .

BUT PRIOR TO THAT? . . .

I WAS a CO-DEPENDENT through and through. I married a man that I knew would NEVER LEAVE ME as long as I kept DOING ALL OF THE WORK! We were never truly ever married.

I MISTAKENLY had kept trying to help my husband become the BEST PERSON HE COULD BE and not until I had my daughter did I realize that the only person that needed to LEVEL UP was me! I was the only one who could change. So I left my marriage with tons of GUILT.

My divorce? HIGH CONFLICT over ZERO ASSETS!
I put my legal fees on credit cards to the tune of 20k plus.

My ex. hired a shark attorney and I had the following lobbed my way:

* WORKAHOLIC
* SELFISH
* FINANCIALLY IRRESPONSIBLE
* POISONING OUR DAUGHTER AGAINST HER DAD

AND I STUPIDLY responded to every single charge thrown my way. I did not know any better!

Well, my ex. remarried and things settled down. I thought we had a decent and flexible co-parenting relationship with lots of BUMPS AND BRUISES ALONG THE WAY.

I published a book – CAVORTING WITH IMBALANCE – a memoir of getting off of my co-dependency addiction.

All info disguised.

MY ex got wind of said book and sued me for defamation of character AND FULL CUSTODY!

And what went through me that day when I found those papers taped to my door?

(BTW this is why I greatly encourage my clients to PLAN on how to serve their STBX’s – because that surprise is traumatic and can set the stage for the rest of the divorce process!)

* ANGER
* RAGE
* SHOCK
* HURT

AND AGAIN. . . the “Fight or Flight mode” took over me.
I ALLOWED it to.

MY MINDSET CONSISTED OF THE FOLLOWING:

* He does he not understand how hard I work to provide for our daughter!

* This is unfair – why won’t somebody see that and stop the whole legal battle?

* He is destroying me financially so I won’t be able to take care our child!

* I will never get out of court, legal battles, money issues, etc.

* I even began to now internalize all of those charges once again being thrown my way!

The HYPERVIGILANCE and ANXIETY that I carried around with me resulted in A MAJOR CANCER SCARE REQUIRING SURGERY AND MONTHS OF RECOVERY.

I came out of that incredibly painful journey with one mission in mind. . .

CHANGE THE FACE OF DIVORCE!!!

IT BECAME MY MISSION THAT I HAVE FOLLOWED WITH A PASSION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

THAT IS WHY I AM HERE FOR YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I want to . . .

Ease the Pain of your divorce

Help you make financially sound decisions

Teach you how to navigate the legal process

Coach you to be able to still co-parent with your high conflict ex

Allow you to be emotionally available to your children

Help you maintain your health, sanity, self-esteem and integrity

Educate you so that you do not make the same mistakes I did

Challenge any mindsets that are hindering your progress

SO YES INDEED I ‘GET IT!!!’

I am NOW saving you the time, work and financial investments that I have had to make to find my place of PEACE AND RECOVERY!!!

If you have any questions about Divorce Coaching please send me a PM.

I AM HERE FOR YOU!

Cat
XOXOXO

Remember that YOU are not YOUR divorce! You are so much more than that!!!