Choose the Road Less Traveled in Conflict

Are you stuck in a rut in your relationship with someone?

Do you find yourself having the same fight over and over again? Are you doing the same thing over and over, even though you know it doesn’t help you and doesn’t get you the love or the results that you need? Well, here’s your problem in a nutshell:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting different results. Narcotics Anonymous

You are on a habit loop, doing what you do because that is what you do.  You do it that way instinctively, without thinking.  Your brain goes there automatically, unconsciously.

If you want things to change, you have to wake up your brain.  You have to make it respond consciously, rather than unconsciously.  You have to train it to do something different.

You have to jump the track and take the road less traveled.

The road less traveled will be harder going in the beginning.  You won’t know exactly how to do it.  You won’t know whether it will work or not.  It may feel uncomfortable.  Actually, it is almost guaranteed to feel uncomfortable at different points or even, if you don’t like change, all the time at first until you get settled into a new habit loop. 

Along the way, you may think, “Oh, this isn’t working.  I want to go back to where it’s safe and secure.”  And you can do that.  That is always an option for you.

However, you may find that you like your new road. Your decision to change may bring you joy. It may spark others to join you.

In either instance, you will be choosing your actions consciously, acting proactively, rather than reacting. This will result in your being better able to make choices in your own best interest. In the end, that will help you to navigate conflict successfully.

Do you want some help figuring out how to change things up and handle conflict differently? Reach out to Karen at 207-632-1111 or Meredith at meredithmediates@aol.com to set up an appointment.

How to Break Free of An Addictive Relationship

Some people bring us a great deal of pain along with the joy, and yet we keep running after them anyway.

When people look at the relationship from the outside, they may not understand it.  “Why do you want to be with him?” they ask.  “He treats you badly,” or “He’s mean,” or “How could he do that to you?” or “You don’t deserve that.”

“Why do you want to be with her?” they ask.  “She doesn’t like your friends and won’t let you go out with them.”  “She is a b#@%%!” 

On the receiving end, you’re hearing what they’re saying, but thinking, “But you don’t understand.  You don’t see this person the way I do.  You don’t see the kinder, gentler side that the person only shows to me.”

And you may also be thinking, “And now I’m not going to talk to you about my love anymore.  You’re not a safe person to talk to.  You’re judging him and you’re judging me.”

On NPR, the singer Dessa was talking about her inspiration for heart-centered lyrics in her latest album, “Chime.”  One inspiration was a relationship she had which she described as breaking up from the beginning, but they kept at it for years.  “As soon as we started dating, we started breaking up,” she said.  After years of this, she still felt her heart explode with hope when she got a call from him. She ended up screaming at herself and her heart in her car in the rain.  Why did her heart keep leaping in hope for this man when she knew intellectually that the relationship was a bad one, forever doomed?  She went so far as to have a fMRI done, in which she was shown a picture of her former boyfriend, then a picture of a man who looked like him but wasn’t him, to find in her brain where the love was so that she could erase it.  Then, once they isolated the target area, she went to a specialist to stop reacting in that way to her former boyfriend.  She saw her behavior as the equivalent of a muscle cramp. She wanted a muscle that was strong and could flex without cramping.  Afterwards, she had another fMRI to see if she had successfully rid herself of romantic love for him.  The fMRI showed that she had been successful.

I think that with any form of addiction, it can be a lot easier to see it clearly from the outside looking in than it is to see it from the inside looking out.

In a “normal” relationship, there are highs and lows, but they aren’t anything like the spikes of an addictive relationship.  It’s like comparing hills to mountains and fjords.  The highs are higher and the lows are lower in an addictive relationship.

In an addictive relationship, when your partner is attentive and happy, the sun shines brighter.  While most people experience this when first in love, it usually fades over time.  It may not fade as much in an addictive relationship because you cannot count on your partner to be this way on a regular basis.  As a result, when it happens, it is a much bigger event than when you are dealing with a person who is generally happy or even keel.  You can take for granted that your partner will be there for you, will be the same person that s/he always is.

In an addictive relationship, when your partner is sullen, withdrawn, angry, drunk again, neglectful, mean, cheating, threatening, etc., you may look to fix things so that your partner can be attentive and happy again.  You may rage against your partner.  You may cry.  Your lows are lower than they would be if you were not in an addictive relationship.  If you were not addicted to this person, then when she continuously acted this way, you would say, “Enough.”  You would not only say, “Enough,” you would act on it.  When you are addicted and chasing the high, you might say, “Enough,” but you don’t mean it.  Your partner returns to being attentive and happy, your heart blooms with hope and love, and you are still riding the rollercoaster of addiction.

Why do you do this to yourself?

1.       You may have an addictive personality.

Some of us have addictive personalities.  It is just who we are.  If we aren’t addicted to a person, we can be addicted to food, alcohol, drugs, shopping, sex, work, TV, our phones, video games, and more.

This person may feed your addictions.

2.       You may be repeating old patterns.

Some of us are recreating what we learned at an early age.

Some of us grew up with parents in addictive relationships.

Some of us lost a parent to addiction, whether because the addiction took over the parent’s life and left us with little time with the parent, or because the parent actually died from the addiction.

Some of us grew up without a parent.

Some of us grew up with parents who weren’t constant in their love for us or who showed us that love was conditional upon our meeting their needs and expectations.  We couldn’t rely on them.  We had to provide the love for them, as they couldn’t provide it for us.

Some of us were taught to put other people’s needs always before our own.  If we aren’t caretaking for others, we don’t know what to do with ourselves.

Some of us are afraid of getting close and so we do a lot to push people away, even if we really want to get close, or we think we do.

What would you like to do differently (if anything)?

If you suspect you are in an addictive relationship, take some time to answer the questions below.

1.       What do you see as signs that you are in an addictive relationship?

2.       If you could change your relationship in any fashion, what would you like to see happening instead?

3.       What are you willing to do to make your relationship better?

4.       What is the other person willing to do to make the relationship better? If you don’t know, that’s a conversation that you need to have, either on your own or with me, a mediator, counselor, or spiritual advisor, or another trusted, neutral professional.

5.       What will you do if the other person isn’t willing or able to do enough to meet your needs? (You can answer this question now or you may wait until after you have implemented the answers to steps 3 and 4.)

You can choose whether to continue with an addictive relationship.  You cannot choose whether or not the other person will relinquish their addictions or their addictive behavior for you.

Please let me know if I can help. You can reach out to me through this website or book time with me on fiverr.

How to Get Rid of 80% of Your Unhappiness in Relationships

APPLYING THE 80/20 RULE TO RELATIONSHIPS

Have you heard of the 80/20 Rule?  The theory is that 80% of consequences are a direct result of 20% of causes.

Have you ever applied it to your relationships?

When you think of your friends and family members, which 20% create 80% of your desired outcomes and happiness?

These are your peeps.  These are the people with whom you want to spend your time and, if it’s a healthy relationship, these are the people with whom you should spend your time. 

Take a moment after you’ve finished reading this and make time to get together with them.

Now, think of your friends and family members again.  Which 20% create 80% of your problems and unhappiness?

Here is the harder question.  Why are you sacrificing so much of your happiness to them?

Here are some of the answers I have heard:

“She’s my mother.”

“It’s not his fault.”

“I have nowhere else to go.”

“I’m married.  I made a commitment.”

“My (adult) son needs me.”

“I’m a rescuer at heart.”

“I’m Superman.”

“Who will take care of her if I don’t?”

“I’m too old to change now.”

“I couldn’t live with myself if I weren’t there for him.”

“He’s my brother.”

“I can’t afford to leave.”

Here are things that people often think but don’t say:

“I’m afraid no one else will love me.”

“I don’t think I deserve to be treated any better than this.”

“I’m so ashamed that it has gotten to this point.”

“I need to be needed.”

“I don’t know how to have a relationship where my needs are met, too.”

“I’m afraid of what will happen if I stick up for myself.”

“I’m afraid of change.”

Here is the part that can be too scary to even think:

“I don’t know how to put my needs first (in this instance or maybe in life).”

Here’s the reality:

First, let’s talk about the extent of problems and unhappiness you suffer as a result of the person.  Not all unhappiness is equal. 

When you have contact with this person, how do you feel on a scale of 1 – 10, with 1 being minor irritation and 10 being high level anxiety or anger, often resulting in a need to medicate yourself with food, alcohol, cigarettes, or other substances? 

How often do you currently have contact with this person?  How often do you really need to have contact with this person?  Could you decrease your time with this person?

Is the person causing you unhappiness because the person is emotionally, physically, or sexually abusive to you?  Has anyone told you the person has been abusive toward you, even if you would not describe the person as abusive?

Can you take a step back from the person to better evaluate the relationship?  Often, we don’t even know the reactions our bodies are having until we step away from the relationship.

There is a difference between someone creating 80% of your unhappiness intentionally versus unintentionally.  There is also a difference between someone creating 80% of your problems on a temporary basis versus on a permanent basis.

For example, if a loved one has cancer, you are likely to feel a great deal of unhappiness as a result.  You may be worried, angry that this person is suffering, sad, anxious, and more.  If you are married and there are medical bills piling up as a result, you may also feel anxious, worried, distressed, angry, and more.  Still, it is perfectly healthy to be there for the person as much as possible, to love the person and to also feel great pain.  You may experience caregiver fatigue and look to find ways to support yourself emotionally as a result.  You may experience caregiver fatigue and decide that you cannot do anymore.

In the alternative, if you love someone who rejects you, puts you down, always has to ensure that his needs are met (and yours are not), then it could be time to take stock of the relationship.  You know that it is not working for you – that is why you have listed it in with the relationships causing 80% of your unhappiness.

Can the relationship be fixed? Is the person willing to work on the relationship to meet your needs, too?  Is the person willing and able to talk with you, to meet in counseling or mediation to discuss it and put together a plan to get things back on track?

If it can’t be fixed, and you still want to maintain the relationship, then can it be contained?  Can you limit the amount of time that you spend with the person, spend less hours together, have a buffer present, opt for telephone contact, email, text, or Facebook instead of in person contact?

If it can’t be fixed, you know it’s not healthy, and it’s causing you a great deal of distress, it’s time to really look at why you are investing so much of your time in this person.  We have a finite amount of time on this earth.  Think of what you could do with all of that time that you currently spend unhappy.  Why is it more important to be there for that person than to be there for yourself?

What Does the 2017 Tax Law Mean for Divorcing Couples?

I sat down with Jill Boynton of Cornerstone Financial Planning to find out.

Alimony

Currently, the person receiving alimony pays income tax on the alimony received.  The alimony payer is able to deduct alimony payments from his/her income, reducing the payer’s tax burden.

Jill indicated that beginning January 1, 2019, for any alimony orders issued from that date forward, the tax burden for alimony will no longer shift from the payer to the recipient.  Instead, it will remain with the payer, who is often in a higher tax bracket than the recipient.  The new law could mean that the payer can’t afford to pay as much alimony because there is no tax break, and the recipient will receive less alimony.

Say, for example, under the current law, a person making $100,000 per year agreed to pay $20,000 per year in alimony to another person.  The cost of alimony to the payer is $20,000 before tax dollars.  The payer will pay income tax on $80,000, not $100,000.  The payer will not be taxed on that $20,000 – it is as if the income were simply transferred from the payer to the payee.  In addition, the payment might drop the payer into a lower tax bracket, in this instance from 24% to 22%.  So the payer would pay $17,600 in income tax, rather than $24,000.

The person receiving the alimony under the current law will pay income tax on the $20,000 received (plus any other income that person may have).  Thus, the recipient is not receiving the full $20,000 – it is $20,000 minus the income tax the recipient must pay on it.  Depending on the recipient’s tax bracket, the recipient could be taxed on this at a rate of 12% or more costing the recipient $2,400 or more in taxes.

Here is a simplified example of how the new law affects the payor: under the new law if a person making $100,000 per year agrees to pay $20,000 per year in alimony to another person, the cost of alimony to the payer will be $20,000 in after tax dollars.  This means that the payer will still pay income tax on $100,000.  The payer’s tax bracket will remain the same – 24%, rather than dropping to 22%.  The cost of alimony to the payer is thus significantly higher, both because alimony represents after tax dollars and because the payer remains in the same tax bracket.  The payer will pay around $4,800 more in income tax than if alimony could have been deducted.  In this scenario, the recipient will receive the full amount - $20,000 – and will not pay income tax on any of it.

In situations like this where a payer’s tax bracket is no longer reduced, as more money is going to the federal government for taxes, there is less available for the payer to give to the recipient.  This means that the recipient may receive less than the recipient would have received under the current law.

If you have a final alimony order currently in effect, Jill believes that the current law will continue to apply.  The new law will not have a retroactive effect.

However, if you have a temporary alimony order in effect, Jill recommends that you speak with your accountant and attorney before agreeing to have that temporary order become a permanent order. Things will get particularly tricky for those with temporary orders on alimony before January 1, 2019, and final orders on alimony after January 1, 2019.  

Jill also indicated that as of January 1, 2019, you can no longer deduct legal fees associated with negotiating and litigating alimony.

Personal Exemptions Are Gone

Jill indicated that this tax bill has done away with personal exemptions.  You can no longer claim $4,050 for yourself, your spouse, and any dependents you may have.  There will no longer be an issue as to claiming children as dependents, as children may no longer be claimed as dependents. 

The Child Tax Credit Has Doubled

The law has been that if you claimed a child as a dependent, you could claim the child tax credit for that child.  Now, you can no longer claim a child as a dependent, but you can claim a child tax credit.  Jill recommends that you talk to your accountant or attorney about how to handle the child tax credit in your divorce.

The Standard Deduction Has Nearly Doubled

Single filers will have a standard deduction of $12,000. Those filing as Head of Household will have a standard deduction of $18,000.

If You Itemize

There is a new cap on deductions for mortgage interest, sales tax, property tax and income tax paid. These deductions together are capped at $10,000.  Many homeowners in Maine and NH will be impacted by this cap. 

You can still deduct up to $2,500 per year in student loan interest.

Health Insurance Mandate Repealed

When people are married, they often have health insurance coverage together through one person’s employer.  When people divorce in Maine and NH, it is often impossible for a divorced spouse to continue to receive health insurance coverage through the other divorced spouse.  If a divorced spouse does not have a job which provided health insurance coverage, that person may turn to the Affordable Care Act for health insurance coverage.

Jill indicated that while a person may turn to the Affordable Care Act for health insurance coverage going forward, there is no longer a mandate in place.  There will be no fine to pay if a person chooses instead to go without health insurance coverage.

How Long Will These Changes Last?

A lot of the provisions expire in 8 years.  Jill recommends that you talk to your accountant and your attorney about the long-term effect of these changes.

About Jill Boynton

Jill Boynton is a Certified Financial Planner with Cornerstone Financial Planning.  She offers financial coaching services to divorcing couples and individuals.  She provides financial information, not legal advice or tax advice.  Cornerstone Financial Planning has offices in Newington, NH, and Portland, Maine.

Disclaimer

This article does not constitute legal advice or tax advice.  Please contact your attorney and/or accountant with specific questions about how the new tax law will affect you.

Are you trying to defy the laws of gravity in your conflict?

In their book, "Designing Your Life," authors Burnett and Evans talk about "gravity problems," things like gravity that you cannot change no matter how hard you try.  If you trip and fall, you fall down, not up.  That is just the way it is.  You can waste a lot of time and energy railing against gravity or you can simply accept it for what it is and figure out how to work within its parameters.

I often see people in conflict railing against what I would see as "gravity problems" in others.  They want the other person to change.  It may be in the other person's best interest to change.  However, the other person has no ability and/or no interest in changing.  That is a gravity problem, my friend.

When you see it as a gravity problem, then you can start to make better choices about how to deal with it. 

Sarah is always running late.  She has always run late.  She will always run late.  She pays lip service to wanting to be on time, usually under pressure from John who prides himself on being punctual. 

John grew up in a military family, where being 15 minutes early was on time and being on time was late.  Being late is horrible!  Sarah's tardiness drives John crazy.

When Sarah and John divorce, John wants to meet at a half-way point to exchange the children.  It should work beautifully, John thinks.  However, every time they meet, John is stuck waiting in the car for at least fifteen minutes for Sarah.  It is bad enough when he is stuck in the car by himself, but it is worse when he has two impatient children in the car with him. 

John wants Sarah to just be on time.

John has a gravity problem.  He can want Sarah to be on time all he wants, but that is not going to get Sarah to be on time.  Sarah is who she is.  If he couldn't get her to be timely when they were together, he certainly won't be able to get her to do it when they are apart.

If John doesn't like waiting for Sarah in the car, then he can ask to change the way that transportation is handled so that they each pick up the children from each other at the parent's home.  That way, the children are always waiting at a home, never in a car, for the other parent.

He can ask to change transportation so that they each drop off to each other.  That still might result in occasionally waiting in the car with the kids for Sarah to get home, like if she had plans right before.  However, most of the time, she will likely be home.

If John really does not want to stop meeting at a half-way point, he can intentionally arrive at the half-way point fifteen minutes later than the designated time.  That will make him more likely to arrive about the same time that Sarah does.

Look at a conflict that you have with someone.  Do you have a gravity problem?  Are you trying to defy the laws of gravity?  What is the best that you can do with the situation, recognizing that you do not have control over gravity?

Parenting Across the Miles

When people with young children divorce, they create a schedule of parenting time for each parent with the children.  They typically look at what their parenting schedule has looked like while the family was intact and what they want it to look like once they are living in two separate households.

In many instances, at the time of divorce, parents are committed to living in close proximity to each other, be it in the same town or in neighboring towns.  They want to remain involved in their children's lives and want their children's lives to be disrupted as little as possible.

Then, a parent meets a new significant other (S.O.) who lives farther away.  The parent is torn between the love for the new person and the love for the children.  Wanting to have it all, the parent looks to move to a point that is close enough in proximity to make the new S.O. happy, while also being not so far away as to make the children or the former spouse unhappy.

That is when the trouble begins.

The former spouse complains about the move and refuses to drive the children any further than before because "It was your choice to move."

The S.O. believes that the former spouse is completely unreasonable and unjustified in this position.

The former spouse doesn't like the S.O., thinks the S.O. is a bad influence, and doesn't want the S.O. spending so much time around the children.

The S.O. doesn't like the former spouse and thinks the former spouse is a bad influence on the children.

The parent who remains in the same location believes that all of the children's activities should center around that same location.

The parent who moved only realizes after the move how much commuting is involved in living half an hour or more away.

The parent who moved demands to exercise the exact same parenting time as before, even if it is causing a problem for the children, because the parent doesn't want to lose time.

In the alternative, the parent who moved unilaterally stops taking the children on certain days, leaving the other parent scrambling.

The focus is on the needs of the parents, and not on the needs of the children.  The focus must shift back to the needs of the children if you want to be successful with respect to co-parenting.

Success in co-parenting isn't measured by whether a child likes you best or whether you won the argument.  It's measured by the extent to which you support your children in being well-adjusted, emotionally and physically healthy individuals.

You may have thought that once the divorce was over, you were done with having to make big decisions (and have big arguments) with the other parent.  The truth is that while divorce provides an end date to your marriage, it does not provide an end date to your co-parenting.

The sad truth is that ten years after divorce, a study found that one-half of women and one-third of men were still intensely angry at their former spouses.  Even if you're not talking to the other parent, that parent is taking up a lot of space in your head, and none of it is good.

If a parent is moving, and you can't work out together what to do in terms of revising the parent-child contact schedule and transportation for contact, it's time to come back to mediation, where you can have a difficult conversation and be supported in the process.

In mediation, you can discuss what is the best contact schedule going forward.  You can also discuss how to handle transportation responsibilities.

The parent who stayed may be burdened with more transportation responsibilities, not only to exchange the children for parent-child contact, but also for extracurricular activities that the other parent used to handle. 

The parent who stayed may see child support reduced, as the other parent has increased transportation expenses associated with exercising parenting time with the children.

The parent who stayed may also end up with more time with the children, which can be both a blessing and a curse.

In the alternative, all of this might be reversed.  It could be that the children have a stronger bond with the moving parent and would prefer to move with that parent.  Then, it could be that the moving parent got more time with the children, got more transportation responsibilities, and also got child support for the first time.

In mediation, you can explore how best to support your children's connections in each community.  Children need to be able to have access to friends and supports in each community.  A parent who lives in a community where the children have no connections is being set up for failure. 

If you are the parent who stayed, you may be OK with the moving parent being set up for failure.  After all, that person moved.

Are you OK with your children being set up for failure?  Children of divorce typically rely more on their friends for emotional support than they do on their parents.  They need access to friends and supports in each community.  Also, they want the love and support of both of their parents, whatever their parents' imperfections might be.

If you have the children going to school in one community, consider having the children go to summer camp or other recreational activities in the other community.  Find a way for the children to have friends in both communities. 

The parent who moves will have to work harder to help the children make inroads into the new community.  You can't just count on your children to make friends on their own at school if they aren't going to school in your area.  You have to look for opportunities that will allow your children to make connections.

At the same time, the parent who moves will have to work harder to stay connected with the children's school and extracurricular activities and friends in the first community if the children are still going to school there.

Co-parenting across the miles is difficult work.  Mediation can help to get you on the right track again.

 

9 tips for divorcing mindfully

Divorce is never painless, but there are ways to make it less painful.

1.  Do not demonize the other person.

Demonizing the other person is a short-term gain with long-term consequences. 

You loved your spouse at one point.  You loved your spouse so much that you got dressed up and said to a room full of people that you wanted to be with this person for the rest of your life.

I understand that you no longer want to be with your spouse.  You can make that decision without making your spouse the devil incarnate (unless your spouse really is the devil incarnate).

In the short-term, you may feel better believing your spouse did everything wrong and you were the innocent victim who did everything right.  You may want to be compensated for the suffering you have endured just in being married to that person. 

Most people in Maine and NH are not compensated for the suffering they have endured being married to another person.  Moreover, unless there are piles of money and assets involved, you could spend a lot more money in attorneys' fees attacking the other person than you would actually receive if the Court actually decided to compensate you for your suffering.

Litigation is painful.  Yes, you get to tell the Court how awful the other person is.  However, the other person also gets to tell the Court how awful you are.  No one looks good on cross-examination.  Every petty, rotten thing you have done or the other person thinks you have done may come up in cross-examination.  You can have a divorce that goes on for over a year if you choose to demonize the other person and fight it all out in Court. 

2.  Do not put the other person on a pedestal.

You may not want the divorce.  You may not have known it was coming.  You may be willing to do anything (well, almost anything) to keep the other person, to win the other person back, or to prevent the other person from leaving.

In the short-term, if there is a way to save your marriage that is ethical and respectful, then, please, see if the other person will give it one more try.

If, however, the marriage is ending, the other person has moved on, then it is time for you to move on as well.  Putting the other person on a pedestal interferes with your ability to find love again.  It keeps you in that painful position of adoring someone who does not love you.  You deserve better than that.

3.  Do not involve the children in your warfare.

People will say to me, "The children have a right to know why we broke up."  Not in most instances, they don't.

You want to tell the children so that they can see that you were right and your spouse was wrong, that it is not your fault that you are getting divorced.  It may not be your fault, but it is certainly not your chldren's fault.

The children love both of you.  If they are biologically yours, they have received 50% of their DNA from you and 50% from the other parent.  Even if your child looks just like you or acts just like you, there is still another half of that child that is genetically just like the other parent.  When you teach your child to reject the other parent, you teach your child to reject 50% of him/herself, whatever parts remind your child of the other parent.

If the children are not biologically yours, if you adopted them, then they have already experienced the loss of one set of parents, even if they were too young to remember it verbally.  Losing a parent is traumatic.  

The children need to know that you both love them and will both be there for them to the best of your abilities.

4. Protect your children from abuse.

Protecting the children from abuse is not the same as involving them in your warfare.  If your children have been abused by your spouse, notify the appropriate authorities.  You will need to look at what safeguards should be in place to protect the children.  Seek out as much information and support as possible.

If you have been abused by your spouse, please note that people who abuse their spouses are much more likely to abuse their children than those who do not abuse their spouses.  Even if your spouse has never hit your child, your child has likely been exposed to the trauma of watching you be abused by your spouse.  Your child also may have experienced emotional abuse and/or the power and control games used by an abuser.  If you are not there, your spouse may choose to hit your child.  In the future, when your spouse is in a new relationship, your spouse may abuse that new partner in front of your children.

Do what you can to protect your children from being abused.

5.  Own your part in the divorce.

We all play some part in a relationship beginning and ending.  What was your part?

For example:  "It's not my fault that we broke up.  She was the one that was cheating."  Sometimes people have affairs because they are unhappy in a relationship.  Sometimes people cheat because they like to cheat.  Sometimes someone has an affair but wants to stay in the relationship.  Some people consider cheating a "fireable" offense, while others are willing to work through the issue.  What choices have you made and are you making?

For example:  "He's always drunk.  I can't take it."  Maybe he was "always drunk" before the two of you even married but you thought that you could change him.  Maybe you got sober and he didn't.  Maybe he was injured and now lives with chronic pain and this is how he medicates that pain.  Maybe it's your job to nag and it's his job to drink in your relationship.  What choices have you made and are you making?

You can only learn from your part in it if you know what it was.

6.  Divorce impacts cognitive functioning in the short-term. Give yourself time to process things.

Recognize that divorce can impact your cognitive functioning. 

It is not just the conflict and the stress associated with it.  You are grieving and that takes its toll on you as well.

Moreover, you are learning new things, a lot of new things, all at once.  Your brain is used to functioning on auto-pilot for large portions of the day.  Now, it is being asked to figure out how to live separately from someone you once loved.  You have parenting schedules with your children that you never had before.  

If you need more coffee to get through the day, that's OK.  If you need to take a mental health day from time to time, that's OK, too.  You will bounce back, but you have to give it time.

7.  Allow yourself (and your children) time and space to heal. Be gentle with yourself.

The grieving process takes time.  When someone died, people used to engage in ritual mourning practices for a year.

Give yourself a full year to grieve.  After all, you are grieving the loss of not just your spouse, but also some pretty significant hopes and dreams.  Allow yourself to experience the full range of emotions that come with grief.

You may find the first holidays after separation particularly triggering.  Maybe you loved your in-laws and are having your first Christmas without them. 

Then, the first heavy snow falls in January and you realize that you have to shovel the walk and snow-blow the driveway and clear off the car, when your spouse used to take care of this for you.

In February, you want to be able to take the kids to Florida on vacation as you used to do, but you really don't even have enough money for a staycation. 

You see a movie about a couple in love in April and it reminds you of you and your former spouse, back when things were good.

Your former spouse and her new boyfriend come to pick up the kids in June.  You didn't even realize she was dating, let alone that she had someone who was serious enough to come with her to pick up the kids.

Your anniversary was in September.

You have the kids for Thanksgiving, but you will be alone for Christmas, as your former spouse has the kids and your parents live far away.

Once you've been through a full year, you will have a better idea of how to live with the changes that divorce brings.  You will have strategized how best to celebrate holidays when your former spouse has the kids.  You will have a year's worth of experience living singly under your belt.  You will have new memories and new patterns.

8. Budget, budget, budget.

Your financial situation often worsens and sometimes precariously so in the months after you file for divorce.  You are now supporting two households on the same income you once used to support one.  Your standard of living is likely to temporarily decrease. 

Now is not the time to buy or lease a new vehicle.  If you do so, you may not be able to buy the condo or house you were just looking at, as you just killed your income to debt ratio.

9.  Mediate if possible.

Mediation is a win-win-win.

It is a win financially, as it typically costs (much) less than litigation. 

It is a win emotionally, as you are able to move through the conflict, as opposed to being stuck in the adversarial process and posture in the court system.

It is a win in terms of personal power, as it allows you to have much more control over the outcome than when you put the case before a judge to decide.