Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dating After Divorce

I have been divorced for 3 months and wonder when it will be time for me to jump back into the dating scene. What do you think?

Good for you at thinking about this and asking this question out loud. Too many people believe that the best way to survive the breakup of a marriage is in the arms of another. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is very important to grieve the loss of the relationship and, even more importantly, the hopes and dreams for what could and might have been. It takes a lot of courage to grieve the losses because there is nothing about it that feels good and struggling through it as a single person can be very hard; however, the distraction of a new romance robs the opportunity for developing maturity, self-understanding and growth.

There does come a time when it is a good idea to think about venturing forth into places where you might meet another romantic partner .. “climbing back on the horse” as one might say.

Some of the signals that might indicate you are ready to begin dating will be clear and completed. Others will definitely be fluid, a work in progress. Here are some of our ideas of things to think, write and talk about.

What was my contribution to the end of the marriage/relationship? What have I learned about myself, in addition to a possible defective “picker”, that I know that I need to do differently? Figure out some of the answers to these questions as a beginning to success in your next relationship with the right person.

Am I able to go days without crying or being excessively angry at my former partner’s past behavior? Can I also experience him or her now and have normal but not excessive emotional reactions. Not only must you be able to heal from the past, you also must be able to find ways to be more detached and less emotionally accessible, with either positive or negative emotions, to your former spouse in order to finish the divorce process and be able to be a healthy partner in a new relationship.

Have I been able to get my finances and career in a healthy place or have a plan to do so and definitely taking steps in the right direction? It is never a good idea to begin a relationship from a place of “need” rather than strength. You want to be able to stand on your own two feet so that you can enter any relationship on solid footing.

For those with children: Can I find ways to date without disrupting their lives too much and am I able to be proactive enough to go slowly with any romance and not involve my children with my dates. Dating requires time and energy. Make sure that you have the resources and energy to devote time to your children while pursuing other relationships. Above all, do not introduce your children to your dates unless the relationship has developed into one that seems to have the potential to be significant and last for some time.

Have I developed a life of my own as a single person? Make sure that you can be comfortable on your own (even though you may wish that you had a partner). Other people cannot really make someone happy. Each person has to learn to do that for him or herself.

Have I done some thinking about what I want in a new partner? It is important to define what you are looking for so that you have some standards about those you want to spend time with and with whom you want to explore a relationship. Dating is not about finding someone who will pick you … but rather finding someone who fits your needs.

These are some of our ideas. What are your thoughts and experiences?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tip of the Week of September 29, 2008

What counts in making a happy marriage is not how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility.
Leo Tolstoy

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Supporting Your Relationship Through a Financial Setback

There are a lot of households stressed about money these days. This financial crisis has couples and families of all ages worried. Some fear paying bills, others worry about retirement as they see their savings dwindle. It is often hard to keep the stress and worry from affecting marriages. We often find it harder to be nicer to the ones we love. Here are some suggestions that we have for couples who want to strengthen their marriage, not let it deteriorate.

Acknowledge that this is a tough time. Do not deny the seriousness of the situation. Talk together about your worries, fears, anger and sadness. If sadness or depression hangs around a lot for one or both of you, consider professional help.

Remember that you are on the same team. Both of you have the same wish, to resolve the financial dilemma. Think of this as a puzzle to figure out together. Visualize each other as a team-mate not an opponent and talk with each other in ways that promote good feelings rather than accusations or mistrust.

Share the load. Do not try to solve the problem by yourself. Ask your spouse to handle the bills every other month or be in charge of making sure unwanted lights are put out, clip coupons, walk to the store, etc. Think together about how you can help each other as you look for ways to survive and maybe even thrive.

Plan regular “financial summits”. Plan to meet on a regular basis to talk about money, budgets and bills. Use actual facts and figures to plot your moves. Try to find a way to make them a little less stressful like pouring a cup of coffee and sitting on the back deck or going to McDonalds for ice cream and talking it over away from home. However you do it, though, make sure that you both do it and are open, honest and “scratching your heads” together over how to handle the money.

Set goals. A small percentage in savings? Stretching the paycheck to last throughout the pay period? Paying off one credit card? Monitor your progress on the goal and scratch them off when you have been successful.

Try to keep things as normal as possible. Have date nights and family nights even if you have to be very frugal. Make sure to have fun with each other and promote laughter and play. The more you can generate positive times and put deposits in the emotional bank account, the easier it will be to get through the tough times and difficult decisions.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tip of the Week of September 22, 2008

Forgiveness often helps the one who forgives more than the one who is forgiven. Furthermore, there are times when it might be best for you, not to tell someone that you have forgiven them, just forgive in your heart.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tip of the Week of September 15, 2008

Learn something new about your partner. What does he remember about grade school? What is the silliest thing that she carries in her purse? What did the children do in his neighborhood on summer nights? Which movies stars did she most admire as a teen? What was his first volunteer project? How did her parents show love?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Seven Special Date Ideas

Couples must continue dating throughout marriage. It is important for connection, nurturing and romance. It reminds people not to take each other for granted. Dates lead to many deposits of love and good will in the emotional bank account so that when normal problems arise, it is easier to work through them. Most couples can figure out regular dates like dinner and a movie. Here are some suggestions that we have for putting a little more verve and interest in a marriage. We welcome ideas from you as well.

1. Re-create your first date. Try to remember what you were wearing and look for something similar to wear (unless you have been successful at keeping your youthful figure). Go to the same places, put on a cd with music of that era, see if you can remember your conversations from earlier dating days.

2. Renew your wedding vows. Visit the location where you were first married, alone or invite others. Sit in the back of the church, on a blanket near the chapel, somewhere close by. Share your vows with each other and then have a celebratory meal, maybe go dancing, and reminisce about that day.

3. Too expensive and complicated to get a sitter? You can still have special dates. Make a combined effort to get the children in their rooms and settled for the evening, pop some popcorn and put in a movie from your past. Talk about the what was happening in your relationship when you first saw that movie. Think about ways that you can bring some of those same things back into your relationship now.

4. Plan to go somewhere and do something different that neither of you have ever done before. Go a little outside of your comfort zone. Eat new foods, try a different activity, listen to music that is unusual for the two of you. Dress up or dress down. Be completely different and adventurous. Break the old routine and see what new information this reveals about your spouse.

5. Do something for others. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, take food to shut-ins, volunteer to repair homes with a community agency, work on a project in your neighborhood. Notice the positive feelings that you have about yourselves and each other as you help others.

6. Plan a sensual (not sexual) evening. Light candles, wear perfume or cologne. Plan a massage that is only for relaxation and becoming reacquainted with each other’s bodies. Commit to having no more than a sensual experience. Take the pressure off for a sexual encounter, instead use it to become more connected in a pleasure-giving way.

7. Pretend that you are just meeting for a first date. Make every effort to look really nice. Be charming in a way that you would with a new acquaintance. Ask lots of questions about each other, likes, dislikes, dreams, fears. Make every effort to be curious and inquisitive as you would with anyone that you would like to impress.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Developing a Positive Sentiment in the Marriage

How do you know when a troubled marriage really is going to be okay? What are signs that things are back on track?

One of the ways that we can tell when a couple is back on track is when they talk about each other and their relationship with a positive tone, softening problems or their partner’s mistakes with understanding and talk of “when we get through this …”

Jim and Joan struggled with many problems in their marriage including Joan’s affair 3 years ago. Jim was recently telling about a fight that they had and remarked that, in the past, he might have thought about this as a good reason to think about divorce; however, now he just thought about it as miscommunication and differences and something that they would have to figure out together.

Emily was relating a story about Tim’s forgetting yet one more of her birthdays. In the past, she would have been extremely mad, hurt and disappointed. She would have seen it as a sign that he no longer loved her and was very selfish. Now she is able to tease him a little, let it go and then let him know what she was buying her for a present and where he was taking her for a celebratory meal.

This “attitude of forgiveness and acceptance” allows couples to place a positive sentiment on what might have been seen as negative and hurtful behavior, lightening the feelings in the marriage and enhancing a “we-ness” and commitment to work through “normal” differences and challenges. This occurs when there are a lot of positives in the marriage and couples have an abundance of love, good will and positive feelings toward each other and their relationship. (John Gottman’s researched formula is 5 positives for every 1 negative.)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Tip of the Week of September 1, 2008

Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring and integrity, they think of you.
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.