Category: Tips for Clients

February 17, 2017

By Steve Litt, LCSW

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In announcing his upcoming divorce a great guy I know asked what’s it mean when she said “ I don’t want to be divorced from you. I want to be divorced to you”?

Designer Divorce.  Increasingly people are finding that divorce doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. It was so much easier when less people we doing it, say in the 1960’s. A divorce meant a lifelong estrangement. We weren’t going to talk, visit, go to the same places to eat, share family holidays and events. Nope, we were divorcing and that was the end of the relationship. Talk through the lawyers and just handle the money issues by mail or notes.

Some people are still using that older version of divorce. There are times when that is a great idea. Not talking can reduce the toxic level of conflict that led to a divorce. I worked with one divorced couple where he was willing to be cordial and claimed he was over it. She, however, just had a hard time being in the same room with a guy who beat her with a rifle butt before leaving. That one is very clear. The old way makes sense and the post-divorce situation may never get better. Trauma like that is hard to put aside.

Others have begun structuring their divorce the way they want it. It’s a kind of Designer Divorce. Some of these folks continue to date and be sexual, just not exclusively. They help each other move and call every day or so to check in. They show up at kids’ school conferences and events together. I have seen levels of cordiality and closeness in divorce people that would stun previous generations. My favorite is when they both remarry and everyone gets along well enough to work together to benefit the shared children. I once had a family session with two parents, two step-parents and one child. It went marvelously as the adults acted as one team.

So what does it mean to be divorced TO someone. I guess you get to decide. How about a  handy dandy checklist like the one I have put in this article. Look at it and let me know your thoughts or suggestions for making it better.

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Checklist to a Better Divorce

  1. Be polite and cordial, even if you don’t feel like it.
  2. Let the past go and focus on the future and the interests of the children
  3. Accept the new partners of your former spouse
  4. Never talk badly of your former spouse
  5. Always take the High Road
  6. Forgive and move forward
  7. Accept that divorce is 49% your fault
  8. Speak in kind tones avoiding derision and sarcasm
  9. Smile
  10. Remember: Your Children are Watching

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September 29, 2016

 

By Steve Litt LCSW

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Start softly and be gentle. Sounds good doesn’t it? Cue the Barry White music…on 3.

Just teasing. I am not talking about sex this time. Sorry.

This piece is about how to begin a conversation with someone you love when there is a complaint. First think about what you want to accomplish by bringing up this complaint. It should almost always be that you want something to change, but not at the expense of hurting your partner.

Starting softly sets the tone.

Try it the next time you have a complaint. A gentle beginning might sound like, “Hey, Babe, is this a good time to talk? If it is, I would love to have a few minutes with you to work on something.”

Follow that with, ” I was listening to the radio the other day and some financial guru was saying we all need to put more money in savings. I would like us to talk about that because I like the idea.” That’s so much better than, “You must think money grows on trees”, or, “The way you spend money, I will never be able to retire”, or, “You are just so irresponsible with money”, or some other poorly thought through rant.

Remember that the goal of bringing up a complaint is not to get your  feelings out or to punish your partner for their behavior.

No, the purpose of a complaint is to work together to reach an agreement and to change things. Change is the goal, not venting. By the way that “Venting ” thing is all wrong. We are not going to blow up if we don’t vent a little. The boiler metaphor doesn’t resemble the way our brains really work.

If we blow off steam (another 19th century metaphor) we are going to hurt someone and train ourselves to dump anger on others. It might feel better, but the damage it does isn’t worth it.

Let me be the first therapist to tell you that its OK to stuff anger. This idea of always getting your feelings out is a psychological myth. Treating people well and communicating in effective ways doesn’t have to be done in anger. There is no reason to blow up at people.

Start Softly And Be Gentle. Anger’s purpose is to inform us that something needs to be changed. Work on that change and channel the energy from the anger into something that is constructive, softer and gentler.

Replacing rage or sarcastic behavior with effective communication can become addictive and you may reach the point where acting angry seems so useless.

You can’t stop feelings, but you can be informed by them and then behave in effective ways. You get to choose your response.

Really!!