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Category: A. Foundation Articles

These are the primary articles that describe aspects of the Smooth Divorce Recovery Program.

Divorce Recovery & the 5 Steps to Your Next Long-Term, Committed Relationship: An Overview

This article answers the question, “Is there a roadmap that lays out the path to finding my next long-term, committed relationship?” Most survivors of divorce would like to find a new, committed relationship. This time around we hope it will be one that actually works and survives. Accepted wisdom tells us to just start dating and when we find Mr./Ms. Right, “you will know it.” So then we get remarried and live happily ever after. Right? Wouldn’t it be nice if it were all that simple! Spoiler alert! It ain’t.

 

Would you like to have solid answers to these questions when returning to the search for a new committed relationship:

  1. Does this person help me get over my last relationship that didn’t end well?
  2. Do I enjoy spending time with this person?
  3. Can this person provide me with what I require in a relationship? Is this person Mr./Ms. Right for me?
  4. Can this person and I make our relationship work?
  5. Do we as a couple help each other grow and develop (i.e., change) over time?

Sounds innocuous enough, right? Who wouldn’t want to know this about a new partner? Would you believe that violating the order in which you answer these questions can sabotage any hope of having a healthy, long-term relationship? Here’s why:

Sequence Matters! – The Five Foundation Relationships1    

For your next relationship to succeed in the long term, it must go through several separate, sequential, and identifiable relationships. Skipping any one can derail your future happiness, visit DivorceAnswers.com.

The five foundation relationships are: (1) Transition Relationship, (2) Recreational Relationship, (3) Pre-committed Relationship, (4) Committed Relationship, and (5) Marital Relationship. Skip or short-change one at your own peril.

Each of the five foundation relationships can be considered a separate relationship having a unique purpose and a specific underlying question that defines each stage, the answer to which will determine whether the relationship will move on the next stage of development or not. Done right, this is a marathon, not a sprint, and they must be done in sequence.

  1. The Transition Relationship: Have I Removed My Ex from My Mind?

The first of these foundation relationships is the Transition Relationship.

This is a relationship you enter into either before your committed relationship ends in divorce, or shortly thereafter, for the purpose of easing the process of getting uncoupled. Its goal is to facilitate the uncoupling from your previous partner and re-experience validation.

The focus is on you as an individual and the driving question motivating this relationship is: “Can he/she help me get over my ex?”

You feel validated and hopeful for the first time in a long time. However, the good feelings can lead to this very common trap: you get so excited by finding someone who can give you what your ex could not or would not, that you conclude, “At long last I have finally found my soul mate!” No you haven’t. Not yet. You have only realized you can be hopeful that life without your ex can be enjoyable.

Some folks may already be uncoupled without any emotional baggage attached to their ex. They can move directly to the Recreational phase. However, others will use a transitional relationship to ease the breakup.

  1. The Recreational Relationship: Does My Heart Soar When We’re Together?

The second foundation relationship we must master is the Recreational Relationship.

The purpose of the recreational relationship is to enjoy yourself and re-establish a sense of confidence and validation that are almost always lost in the divorce process. The goal is to have fun, feel good about yourself again, and re-establish your self-confidence in your social and dating skills.

The focus is on you as an individual and the driving question motivating this relationship is: “Do I enjoy myself when I am with him/her? Is he/she fun to be with?

The most common trap at this stage is you feel so good when you are with your partner that you commit the cardinal sin of believing what our culture tells us when it says, “Follow your heart. If it feels good, it must be true love!” No it isn’t. Not yet. It’s just hormones and chemistry. You have only met someone you enjoy spending time with.

As a result, you will find yourself thinking about the future with your new friend and even talking to your friend about your future together. Don’t. You will not know if the two of you are a good fit for several more months at the earliest.

During the recreational phase of relationship a good rule to follow is the 6-1/6-4 Rule. This means for the first 6 months restrict your plans, thinking, and conversation topics with your partner to events 1 week in the future or less. Then for the next 6 months restrict your plans, thinking, and conversation topics with your partner to events 4 weeks in the future or less.

That is, for the first 6 months, look no further into the future than next week. And for the next six months, look no further into the future than one month. You have plenty of time to get it right. Use it. Really get to know each other.

  1. The Pre-committed Relationship: My Head Must Be Heard, Too

The third foundation relationship we must master is the Pre-committed Relationship.

This one is the biggie simply because most people do not realize it exists or they think it violates the cultural dictum to “Follow your heart. You will just know if it is true love.”

In this relationship you undertake the serious intellectual work of determining if your basic requirements for a long-term relationship can be met. This stage of relationship is vitally important for long-term success and can last several months.

The purpose of the pre-committed relationship is to determine if someone is a “good fit.” This goes beyond is he/she fun to be with, and asks the crucial logical question, “Will a life with this person give me what I require in a long-term relationship?”

The focus is on you as an individual and the driving question motivating this relationship is: “Is this person Mr./Ms. Right for me? Is it possible to realize all my requirements in this relationship?”

Unless all your requirements can be met, your satisfaction with the relationship will be doomed.

  1. The Committed Relationship: Pulling Together, Can We Make It Work?

The fourth foundation relationship we must master is the Committed Relationship.

At this stage in your relationship both partners believe their basic requirements can be met. The purpose of this stage is to figure out how they can make the relationship work, despite the differences and conflicts that exist in all relationships.

This is the first time the couple, working together, is given responsibility in the developing the relationship. Up until now, the issue has been up to the individuals to do the work separate and apart from their partner

The focus is on you as a couple and the driving question motivating this relationship is: “How can we make this work?”

  1. The Marital Relationship: Can We Help Each Other Change and Develop?

The fifth and final foundation relationship we must master is the Marital Relationship.

Now that the relationship has matured to the point of making it public and formal, attention shifts to allowing and encouraging each partner to grow, develop, and change. People change, whether you expect them to or whether you want them to. To demand that your partner stay the same as when you met, is a guaranteed way to cause resentment, and a good bet that a broken relationship is in your future.

The purpose of this stage is to keep the relationship alive by encouraging growth and development.

The focus is on you as a couple and the driving question motivating this relationship is: “How can we help each other change and fulfill our dreams?”

So, What’s the Point?

We do not have to be a slave to pressure from our culture. There is an alternative to “listen to your heart” as a way of selecting your next committed relationship.

Treating relationship development as a process that encompasses each of the five foundation relationships snatches the control over your relationship future away from some imaginary roulette wheel in the sky and places it firmly in your grasp.

Now you can create the union you have always wanted without having to resort to myth, mystery, and luck.

_____________

1 David Steele discusses recreational, pre-committed, committed, and marital relationships in his book: David Steele, Conscious Dating (Campbell, CA: RCN Press, 2008).

Divorce Recovery and Early Dating: Should I Start Dating Again? 8 Good Reasons and 8 Bad Reasons

Jerald Young, Ph.D.

This article answers the question, “Now that I am divorced, is it a good idea to start dating again?” Dating after divorce should be a time to enjoy becoming unfettered from the past and looking forward to the future. However, it is often hard to tell whether our dating is truly “unfettering” us or actually tightening the shackles to the past we hope to break.

After a relationship dies, the resulting trauma is huge. Now is the time to shed the burdensome attachments to the past and spread your wings.  Now is not the time to make any life altering decisions. Now is the time to get acquainted again with your playful, fun-loving side.

Dating can be one way to re-examine your zest for life. However, all dating is not equal. Some assist you in making your transition from being “coupled” to being “happy, single, and free.” Others inhibit it.

A helpful decision rule is: Are you celebrating your new-found freedom from the attachments of being coupled, OR are you feeding your attachments to the past?

Healthy Reasons for Early Dating: Dating to Enjoy Your Freedom from Attachments

Are you dating to revive your joy with life? You have been in a gloomy dark place for some time. Now is a good time to “turn over a new leaf” and remind yourself that life can be joyful.

Are you dating to reboot your interest in the future?  Much of your life recently entailed dwelling on the past. What your ex did to you, what your ex did not do for you. What you could have done differently. How you got screwed by the system, etc. Now is the time to shift your focus on the future and remind yourself your future can be great – if you allow it to be.

Are you dating to reestablish your belief in your attractiveness? Divorce is ugly. It involves rejection by both parties eventually. Our feelings of attractiveness and feeling wanted withers. Dating can return the feeling that others find you attractive.

Are you dating to experience validation? Validation is the most common casualty of divorce. We survive divorce wounded. Dating can start to return our sense of validation and confirmation.

Are you dating to have sex? Sometimes things are simple and straightforward. Sex with a new partner who wants to be with you can be a pleasant experience, regardless of whatever meaning you attribute to the act. Having sex for the fun of it is different from having sex as a precursor to a new committed relationship. Now is NOT the time to even be having fantasies about anything long term.

Are you dating to feel better? We leave a divorce feeling damaged. Dating someone new can help to reestablish your self-confidence and hope for the future – but only if done with shared transparency and full awareness of what a transition relationship is.

Are you dating to make the transition from being coupled to being uncoupled?  After a divorce you are faced with  huge transition from being coupled/married to being uncoupled/single. Success in this transition requires you to dissolve all attachments to your ex and the life you shared. While early dating will not, by itself, achieve this transition, dating to exercise your right to enjoy your new life of no attachments is certainly good and healthy. This is the intention and the role of a Transition Relationship.

Are you dating just because you now can? There is a sense of freedom now that you have no spouse to answer to.  Let the wind blow through your hair and enjoy the sensation just for the sake of enjoyment.

Self-Destructive Reasons for Early Dating: Dating to Feed Your Attachments to the Past

Other reasons to start dating will retard your recovery from divorce.

Are you dating to make your ex feel bad? Angry at your ex? Dating to show your ex you are “doing just fine” now that he/she is gone belies the fact that you still want to know that you are still important enough to your ex that he/she would notice what you are doing. In other words, you are only perpetuating the very attachments to your ex that you need to be dissolving.

Are you dating to feel less? Getting divorced hurts. People think that dating will end the feelings. It doesn’t. It only temporarily covers over the pain. But the pain is still there as long as you attach painful feelings to your memories of how life used to be.

Are you dating to forget? Forget it. You can’t forget it. Wishing you could change what happened yesterday won’t change what happened yesterday. But that’s OK. You can remember the past without being attached to it. Your past is there to teach you how to use your future. You can use your past by harvesting the wisdom it offers. Your job is to “reframe” the memories by replacing the negative feelings attached to them with either positive feelings or friendly indifference.

Are you dating to find your next marriage partner? Stop in your tracks! Way too soon for this. Your immediate job after getting divorced is to get fully unattached from all physical and emotional attachments to your ex and the life you shared. There will be plenty of time to begin the search for your next committed relationship. However, now is the time to make the transition from being coupled to being UNcoupled, including dissolving all the painful emotions you have attached to going through a divorce.

Are you dating to placate your friends and relatives?  They feel uncomfortable since they do not know what to say to someone who just got divorced. This is their problem, not yours. Ignore their advice.

Are you dating to remember? When you and your ex first met, chances are you enjoyed each other’s company. Dating to remember that it can be pleasant to spend time with another person is good. However, if you are trying to remember, or recreate, those early days with your ex, you are still attached to him/her when your current job is to dissolve those attachments.

Are you dating to satisfy your parents? Parents worry about their children. They do not want to see their children in pain. Parents want to fix things so their children will not suffer. Parents don’t know what to do to “fix” their child’s divorce. So they succumb to the cultural myth, “If only my child can find someone new, they will  be happy.” All this means is if you start dating, they will no longer feel incompetent in trying to fix your pain. Your job is to take care of you, not your parents. Politely ignore them.

Are you dating to compete with your ex or make your ex feel bad, then those motivations will come back to bite you. Remember, you are divorced. You no longer are in a relationship with your ex. Therefore, what your ex does or doesn’t do is no longer any of your business. None! This is a harmful path to take. Don’t go there.

So, What’s the Point?

Remember, your job is not to take care of your parents, relatives, or friends. Your job is to take care of yourself, and only yourself. If others shout “hooray!!” or if they “boo and hiss” with your dating choices, this also is none of your business.

It all boils down to why you want to start dating again.  If you want to start dating to make your friends or relatives feel better, you will be fooling yourself. It won’t make you feel any better.  Also, if you want to start dating again because you are still attached to some memories of you past life with your ex, good or bad, then you are perpetuating the pain of divorce and delaying your recovery.

However, if you want to start dating to enjoy your new-found freedom from the attachments to your ex and the life you shared, (and your attorney tells you dating at this time will not hurt you legally), then dating is healthy. Enjoy!

Divorce Recovery and Ambivalence: Why Do I Have Second Thoughts When I’m Glad I Got Divorced?

Jerald Young, Ph.D.

Do you sometimes wonder if getting divorced was the right thing to do? Do you ever wonder if you should have tried to “make it work” just one more time? Don’t worry, we all do. Discover why this happens, what it means, and how it impacts your efforts to make a recovery from divorce.

Recovery from divorce is bathed in ambivalence. We wish it weren’t so. We assume we will shed the past, much like a snake sheds its skin, and get on with our life after divorce without looking back. However, it just doesn’t work that way. A judge’s signature on a piece of paper does not make our hopes and dreams for what we wanted our marriage to be simply disappear in a sudden “poof” like blowing on a dandelion. Ambivalence is our hopes and dreams telling us that they still want to come true.

EVERYONE HAS UNEASY FEELINGS ABOUT AMBIVALENCE

We all experience ambivalence at one time or another. Sometimes we feel embarrassed or ashamed when we feel ambivalent. Often we are confused when positive thoughts about our marriage creep in even though we know it was in our own best interests to end it. This is normal. It is OK to feel this ambivalence. Everyone has it to one degree or another.

EVERYONE HAS RECONCILIATION FANTASIES

We experience ambivalence in our reconciliation fantasies. Even when we wanted the divorce and are looking forward to getting on with our life without our ex, we still have bouts of ambivalence. We hear the tape recorder in our head say such things as, “Did I do the right thing?” “What if we got back together, would things be different? Would they be better?” “Wouldn’t our kids be better off if we reconciled?”

EVERY MARRIAGE CREATES BOTH GOOD AND BAD MEMORIES

No marriage is 100% bad. No marriage is 100% good. There were good times and there were bad times. There were positive things that initially attracted you to each other. Even though there were the bad times that led to divorce, you also created some good memories. We like to remember the good times. It reassures us we made a good decision to marry in the first place. This is good. These good memories often surface as ambivalence.

EVERY HOPE AND DREAM LIVES ON IN THE PICTURE ALBUM IN OUR HEAD

The day you first felt that “special something” with your ex, you started a picture album in your head in which you began collecting pictures of your hopes and dreams for the relationship. Just because the marriage ended does not mean your hopes and dreams evaporated. They didn’t. They still live on in your head. They revisit you as ambivalence about getting divorced.

We tell ourselves, “I don’t want to lose my hopes and dreams! Maybe I should try to reconcile.” This is normal. This is painful. And here is the best part: This is unnecessary because you only lost a spouse. You did not lose your hopes and dreams. They did not go anywhere. You still have them. You can still work to realize them. This is a good thing. The only difference is the person with whom you assumed you would achieve them will not be there. If you choose, you can find someone else whom you love and who loves you to help make your hopes and dreams come true.

Such is the wonderful promise of a successful recovery from divorce.

Divorce Recovery “Mindset Choice” No. 3: Would You Rather Be Right, or Would You Rather Be Happy?

By Jerald Young, Ph.D.

This article answers the question, “Are you willing to let being happy be enough?” Trick question? Not at all. To date, I have yet to meet one newly divorced person who didn’t say they wanted to be happy, but when faced with the painful memories of their divorce, acted as if being happy was the last thing they desired. Why is that? Let’s find out.

(This is the 16th article in a series of articles describing how contentment and satisfaction with life after divorce depends on being able to dissolve the very human resistance to the changes that divorce imposes on our lives.)

By definition, getting divorced means you got hurt. Your initial hopes and dreams for the relationship have been smashed to smithereens. Much of the pain of divorce seems unfair. You’re angry at the person who hurt you. You are angry at yourself for letting it happen to you. It seems only fair to let your ex-spouse know how poorly you were treated. It also seems fair that you let friends and relatives know how you are in the right and your spouse is in the wrong. Hence, it is extremely easy to become seduced into obsessing over your being right, and your spouse’s being wrong. Even to the point of giving up your own happiness in the process.

This raises the question, “What do you really want in your recovery from divorce?” Or, more pointedly, “If you had to choose between being right or being happy, what would you choose?”

Sounds Silly! Is This an Actual Choice People Make?

Who wouldn’t choose being happy? The real-life dilemma of having to make the “obvious” choice between being right or being happy was brought home to me by a change consulting client back in the early 1990’s. Until this incident, I did not even believe such a choice existed, because I believed anyone would choose being happy over anything else, including being right, regardless of the situation. How naive I was:

Janet’s story. Janet was a manager in a government organization. She was having trouble with her two highest-performing subordinate supervisors over some minor office issue. Her supervisors were close friends and they were turning in routine reports using a format that had too wide of a left margin on the form. Clearly, no big deal in the overall scheme of things. Janet told them multiple times to change the formatting, but they never did. Clearly, they were doing it to annoy Janet who was not widely liked.

Janet’s choice alternatives were either to make a formal issue of their “insubordination” and “write them up,” or to simply ignore it in order to maintain a calm working environment for the entire department, knowing it would go away if she no longer made such an issue of it. It was driving her crazy. She spent time trying to find a basis for firing them, knowing if she used as her reason “improper margins on reports,” she would be the one who would be in trouble. Not to mention she would lose her two best employees.

So, thinking I could force her to see the ridiculous nature of her upset, I asked her, “Janet, would you rather be right and make a big deal out of their minor insubordination? Or, would you rather be happy and overlook what is in the overall scheme of things no big deal?” Without hesitation she looked me straight in the eye and said “Jerald, I’d rather be right.”

The Pros and Cons of Being Right

We have been taught from an early age that to be “right” is a good thing. What kid doesn’t want to get the “right answer?” However, sometimes what we learn as children isn’t always as black and white as it may appear.

     The upside of being right. When you are right, you can gloat and tell your ex, “I told you so.” You can humiliate you ex by reminding him or her over and over “I was right and you were wrong.” You can enjoy feeling superior and self-righteous. You will feel competent, in control, and powerful.

      The downside of being right. The rush of being right does not last. So what if you won a game from the past? What about now and the future? People who you forced into a corner by being right are less willing to cooperate with you in the future. They are less likely to be willing to adhere to the rules of the divorce, at least willingly. They may follow the letter of the law, but not the spirit, which dooms such things as asking your ex to switch the kids’ visitation schedule to accommodate a last-minute change in your work schedule. Imposing being right on your ex breeds resentment. It can easily make a difficult relationship practically impossible, especially if you are co-parenting children with your ex.

The Pros and Cons of Being Happy

People do not simply “flip a switch” and suddenly they are happy. After going through a divorce, there are two conditions that are necessary for you to feel happy with life after divorce: (1) the removal of all attachments, both positive and negative, tangible and emotional, to your ex, and (2) a sense of optimism about the future. You know you have erased all attachments to your ex when you cannot conjure up any currently existing positive feelings or any negative feelings about your ex or the past life the two of you shared. A sense of optimism comes from realizing the next chapter in your life will let you become the person “you want to be.”

     The upside of being happy. Well, not to belabor the obvious, being happy feels good. Isn’t happiness and contentment the goal of your life in the next chapter? You feel competent at handling the difficult divorce situation to your satisfaction. You feel powerful in knowing that you honored and played by your inner principles. You are proud that you had your head on straight and kept your eye on the prize without being distracted by ego or social pressure.

     The downside of being happy. Happiness comes with a price. You don’t get to feel all-powerful, in control, and intimidating. You will probably have to give up some things that rightly belong to you. You melt into the background rather than being upfront on the throne with the TV lights shining on you. You must be okay with the other person’s thinking they won. You may look “weak”” to family and friends.

So, What’s the Point?

It comes down to how you handle the internal conflict between your ego versus your humility. There is no “slam dunk winner” in any divorce. We all suffer pain and endure disappointment in a divorce. To be happy often means you have to swallow your pride in order to get what you want – an attachment-free, optimism-infused life after divorce. To be happy enables you to see clearly what you need to do to dissolve the sources of resistance to change that prevent you from enjoying your life after divorce.

In his song, The Gambler, Kenny Rodgers describes the key to being happy thusly: “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em. Know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run.”

Turns out, one of the most courageous acts a divorced person can make is to choose to “be happy.”

The way I would describe this choice is by asking the most important question any divorced person could be asked, “Are you willing to let being happy be enough?”

Divorce Recovery “Mindset Choice” No. 1: What Do You Mean the “Hard Work is Just Beginning?”

By Jerald Young, Ph.D.

This article answers the question, “Now that the divorce is final, what’s so wrong about sitting back and taking it easy?” If I want to enjoy my life after divorce, what should my mindset be for divorce recovery ? Getting divorced was pretty much about reacting to what the other side did. Recovering from divorce is more about taking action on the post-divorce issues and problems in order to create a successful life after divorce.

(This is the 14th article in a series of articles describing how contentment and satisfaction with life after divorce depends on being able to dissolve the very human resistance to the changes that divorce imposes on our lives.)

Active or Passive: What will You Choose?

After the divorce is final, you are at the proverbial “Y in the road.” Cheesy as that phrase might be, it is accurate in describing the basic mindset choice everyone who gets divorced must make: (1) Should I take a passive role in my recovery, roll with the punches, and let time heal the hurt? Or, (2) should I take an active role and work through all the roadblocks and issues that are preventing me from finding contentment in my life after divorce?

It is not easy to choose the healthy and happy path for your life after divorce. But the passive alternative, though easy to make, will bring you a lifetime of unmet expectations and regret. The choice is yours to make. What will it be?

Our Culture Tells You to Be Passive

The dictates of our culture are passed down to us primarily by our family, friends, loved ones, teachers, coaches, religious leaders, TV, and movies. The consistent message we get tells us to take the passive route since there is nothing you can do to heal the pain except let enough time pass.

My sister-in-law took the passive route. Several years before I me her, she got divorced. Her husband had had a very public affair with a friend of my sister-in-law. She was mortified. Every time her ex was mentioned in casual conversation, she always had something cynical or critical to say about him. She wouldn’t let it go. She never had another long-term, committed relationship. Twenty-five years later she died of cancer. If time were to heal her hurt, certainly 25 years should have been enough. It wasn’t.

The time-honored prescription of passively doing nothing and letting time heal the trauma doesn’t work. The trauma just settles deeper and deeper within us and then leaks out sideways when something happens that triggers the pain and fear from the past.

The Alternative Path: Be an Active Participant in Your Recovery

Thanksgiving dinner does not magically materialize on the dining table ready to be served. A lot of time and work go into the preparation of the traditional autumn feast.

Likewise, a successful divorce recovery requires time, work, and preparation in order to attack and dissolve your reluctance to let go of the pain of the divorce and the attachments to how life used to be.

This reluctance is mainly emotion-based resistance to change.

Emotion-based resistance can arise from several sources. For example, fear, loss, grief, anger, resentment, crashed self-confidence and esteem, shame, embarrassment, failure, dashed dreams, and vanished hope are but a few of the issues prohibiting you from having a satisfying life after divorce. These problems will not magically resolve and go away by themselves.

Therefore, you need a plan of attack designed to dissolve each source of resistance. What works with this type of resistance to change initially is empathy followed by a structured way to confront the fear of an unknown future, identify actual losses suffered, and then dissolve away the distress over what was actually lost. Depending upon time alone to achieve this is folly.

What “Active” Choices Do You Have?

Two common ways people take action to address these issues are divorce support groups and therapy. While both are better than the passive choice to let time heal everything, neither support groups nor therapy provide the targeted resistance-dissolving action needed.

A better active choice is to tailor your work to the specific “roadblocks” caused by divorce that you must deal with. This can be done by working with a divorce recovery coach.

So, What’s the Point?

Passive is easy. Active is hard.

However, if you want to recover from your divorce and the trauma it caused, you must take positive action to solve the specific problems caused by your divorce. These problems will not solve themselves. You must take control of your future by actively dealing with the current damage your divorce has caused.

The alternative? Run the risk of waiting 25 years for them to “fix themselves” and ending up wasting the rest of your life like my sister-in-law did.

Divorce Recovery Mindset Choice No. 2: Divorce Recovery – A Problem to Solve or a Person to Punish?

By Jerald Young, Ph.D.

This article answers the question, “Why shouldn’t I exact revenge from my ex for all the pain inflicted on me in our divorce?” Divorce leaves us angry, sad, disappointed, ashamed, and full of justified anger and self-righteous resentment. Friends and relatives stoke the fires by reminding us all the ways we were mistreated. It sure feels good to imagine getting back at my ex.

(This is the 15th article in a series of articles describing how contentment and satisfaction with life after divorce depends on being able to dissolve the very human resistance to the changes that divorce imposes on our lives.)

 

You Hurt Me, So I’ll Hurt You Back.

We all get hurt during divorce. Therefore, it is quite normal for you to want to strike out in anger at your ex for all the pain you suffered. This can be done in a myriad of ways.

You can attack your ex verbally. You can tell your children how horrible your ex is. You can complain to your friends about what your ex did to you and how you were mistreated. You can dis-invite your ex from your kids’ birthdays and holiday celebrations. You can ignore or dismiss your ex when you meet in public. You can tell your friends what a despicable person your ex is dating. You can tell your friends the infidelities that your ex perpetrated. You can reveal the addictive behaviors your ex may have done, as well as other secrets. You can fail to forward your ex’s mail. You can neglect to tell your ex your child was injured in a car crash, leaving her partially impaired for over a year.

The options are limitless.

Pros and Cons of the Retaliation Mindset: I Want Revenge!

There are both reasons for and reasons against adopting a mindset of revenge.

The upside of revenge. It feels good to inflict pain on the person who caused you so much of it. You can reassure yourself you are in the right because your ex deserves it. Choosing to punish your ex provides a simple answer to the question of how you should react to your divorce. You do not have to be bothered by such pesky issues as what were your contributions to the death of your relationship. You get to ignore such difficult issues as how to prevent your next relationship from ending up in divorce court again. You do not have to take responsibility for the quality of your life going forward if your ex is the cause of your constant misery. But most of all, it just feels good!

The downside of revenge.  Being on the lookout for ways to inflict revenge on your ex causes you to live life through a negative filter. Over time, looking for ways to hurt another person is depressing and damaging to your self-concept and self-confidence. You forfeit the right to live a happy and optimistic life, being ever on the offensive and obsessed with maintaining a thick defensive skin. You run the risk of not having a healthy, positive intimate relationship since any long-term relationship partner would have to accept you as someone who values anger and retribution. This only attracts others who treat life with cynicism and negativity. This makes it exceedingly difficult to raise children who have a positive, optimistic view of life. It causes your children to resent you for how you treat their other parent.

In addition, if your ex has healed to the point that he or she doesn’t care about you and what you think, you have no power over your ex.  Then all your efforts to punish your ex are totally futile which will be extremely frustrating to you. You are tilting at windmills and everyone is observing how irrational and mean-spirited you are.

Pros and Cons of a Problem-Solving Mindset: I Want to Remove the Roadblocks to My Happiness!

Likewise, there are both reasons for and against taking a problem-solving approach for divorce recovery.

The downside of problem-solving. If you drop the option of punishing your ex, some past hurts will go unacknowledged and unpunished. Some friends might see you as weak and ineffectual for not attacking your ex for legitimate offenses. You will not have an opportunity to gloat over the pain you  administered to your ex. You won’t be able to entertain the fantasy that you are omnipotent. Your ego will not be stroked by exercising the power to inflict pain on another human being.

The upside of problem-solving. You get to focus on living in the present and looking to the future with hope and optimism. Your life energy is used to build and create, not tear down and destroy. Your children will appreciate your ability to overlook the obvious shortcomings of your ex and appreciate your strength in making life better for yourself and your children. Your friends will admire you for making the choice to live life from a positive point of view. You open the possibility of finding a healthy, long-term relationship with a good chance it will not fail.

So, What’s the Point?

Divorce leaves both sides traumatized and with plenty excuses to retaliate. How we choose to react to our divorce will determine the likelihood of living a happy, contented life after divorce. To see divorce and divorce recovery as permission to punish your ex has some short-term, ego-satisfying outcomes. To treat it as an opportunity to solve the problems that are preventing you from living a life after divorce of contentment and optimism provides you with a lifetime of positive satisfaction.

You are faced with the conflicting choices of acknowledging the long-term value of logical problem-solving versus succumbing to the short-term temptation to retaliate for all the pain you suffered.

My hope is that while you are pondering your choice, you will heed the wisdom of Confucius when he reminds us: “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”

Divorce Recovery & the 5 Steps to Your Next Long-Term Relationship: Step 5 – The Marital Relationship

 

By Jerald Young, Ph.D.

This article answers the question, “Why do over 65% of re-marriages fail?”

Much of the hard work is done over the first 4 steps in building your next long-term relationship. You feel like you are crossing the finish line of a marathon when you get re-married. Guess what? You’re not. Your work has just begun. Will you be able to ferret out and destroy the biggest cause of marital failure? Is your new relationship doomed to fail again?

(This is the 13th article in a series of articles describing how contentment and satisfaction with life after divorce depends on being able to dissolve the very human resistance to the changes that divorce imposes on our lives.)

For a relationship to culminate in a successful long-term, committed union, a five-step relationship-building process must be acknowledged, understood, and completed.

The Five Required Steps to a Long-Term Relationship

The path to an ultimate, new long-term committed relationship traverses five separate steps in relationship building: (1) Step 1: The Transition Relationship, (2) Step 2: The Recreational Relationship, (3) Step 3: The Pre-Committed Relationship, (4) Step 4: The Committed Relationship, and (5) Step 5: The Marital Relationship. (For a discussion of recreational, pre-committed, and committed relationships, see David Steele, Conscious Dating, (Campbell, CA, RCN Press, 2008).

This article addresses the fifth and final step in the relationship-building process, Step 5: The Marital Relationship.

The Marital Relationship Is the Time for Change!

What?! Isn’t this the time when things settle down and you can finally relax and enjoy some stability?

Well, yes and no. True, you no longer must struggle with the uncertainty of finding a partner with whom you have chemistry and who also will meet your requirements. However, pick  your favorite bumper sticker: “Nothing stays the same.” “Change is the only constant.” “Men get married hoping their partner won’t change, but they do. Women get married hoping their partner will change, but they don’t.

However you cut it, getting married is not a promise of boring, monotonous predictability. Successful marriages not only endure, but invite and relish, change in each other.

A Marital relationship is one that has matured to the point of making it formal with public vows of commitment. Attention now shifts to both parties allowing and encouraging each other to grow, develop, and change in order to fulfill each person’s life vision and purpose.

Goal and the motivating question. The goal of a marital relationship is to keep the relationship alive by encouraging growth and development.  The driving question that motivates this relationship is: “How can WE help each other fulfill our personal dreams?”

The roles you and your partner play.  You are expected to be a husband/wife and a cheerleader for your partner’s efforts to “be all you can be.”

The nature of a committed relationship. A common misconception is getting married is like crossing the finish line in a marathon, requiring no further action. The “marathon” part is right, however, the “finish line” image couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, you are now standing at the starting line of a life-long “super marathon” and a whole new part of your thinking will be challenged.

The common belief is that when we get married, who we are at that moment in time is frozen, like a marble sculpture. We no longer can, or need to, change our shape, size, beliefs, dreams, or vision.  A more apt picture at the wedding ceremony is not of a marble statue, but of a sculpture made of Silly Putty. While we may look like a marble statue when we say, “I do,” our actual shape, size, beliefs, dreams, or vision can, and inevitably will, be molded and altered again and again to our personal specifications as our life progresses.

The Back Doors to a Marital Relationship

“Back Doors” are ways that allow one to “escape” from the relationship.

Commensurate with the increased commitment marriage brings, the difficulty in ending the relationship is also elevated. In a marriage not only is there an extraordinarily strong social/psychological contract involved, but also a legal contract is created as well. As you well know, not only is the financial cost of divorce significant, but also the emotional pain runs deep and wide. The effect is to force us to try everything we can to prevent a breakup and use divorce only as a last resort.

Potential Problems in a Marital Relationship

The marital relationship requires the two partners to help each other grow and develop. But what happens if they can’t, or won’t, do this? The relationship suffers and failure, read “divorce,” is possible.

Among the  most common ways we fail at the marital step are:

(1) Taking the relationship for granted and expecting the other partner to do all the work,

(2) Trying to do all the work yourself and excluding your partner,

(3) Treating a “want” as a “requirement,”

(4) Being unwilling to compromise,

(5) Refusing to learn and use the problem-solving, conflict management skills necessary for any committed relationship to work,

(6) Refusing to accept change in your spouse as not only acceptable, but desirable, as he/she pursues their life’s purpose,

(7) Believing the person you are when you get married is the “final product” needing no subsequent alterations or adjustments for the rest of your life, and

(8) Believing love means your partner must accept you forever, just as you were back when you got married, no matter what.

(9) Failure to complete the previous four steps in the relationship-building process, especially Step 3: The Pre-Committed Relationship.

So, What’s the Point?

Don’t be lulled into complacency by the apparent “finality” of “getting married.” Make no doubt, your work is not done.

You are not only are capable of change, but the very essence of a successful marriage demands that you should change. Your challenge is twofold: Can you make the changes you need to make in order to fulfill your life’s vision and purpose? And, can you support, even encourage, your partner to do the same?

What stands in your way? Lurking in the shadows is the ever-present Resistance to Change! So, your ultimate challenge is to slay that resistance so that your marriage has the sustenance needed to grow and flourish.

Divorce Recovery & the 5 Steps to Your Next Long-Term Relationship: Step 4–A Committed Relationship

By Jerald Young, Ph.D.

This article answers the question, “Why is a committed relationship more complicated than it looks?”

The “holy grail” for many divorced people is to find a new long-term, committed relationship. Among the losses suffered in a divorce are the familiarity and comfort of a partner in life.  Finding someone new to commit to a shared life together holds the promise of “paradise re-found.” The high divorce rates of subsequent marriages suggest all too often the reality is “paradise lost – again.” Why might that be the case?

 

(This is the 12th article in a series of articles describing how contentment and satisfaction with life after divorce depends on being able to dissolve the very human resistance to the changes that divorce imposes on our lives.)

 

For a relationship to culminate in a successful long-term, committed union, a five-step relationship-building process must be acknowledged, understood, and traversed.

The Five Required Steps to a Long-Term Relationship

The path from initial introduction to a long-term committed relationship goes through five separate stages of relationship: (1) Step 1: The Transition Relationship, (2) Step 2: The Recreational Relationship, (3) Step 3: The Pre-Committed Relationship, (4) Step 4: The Committed Relationship, and (5) Step 5: The Marital Relationship. (For a discussion of recreational, pre-committed, and committed relationships, see David Steele, Conscious Dating, (Campbell, CA, RCN Press, 2008).

This article addresses the fourth step in the relationship-building process, Step 4: The Committed Relationship.

The Committed Relationship Is the Time for Both Partners to Pull Together

The previously completed  recreational and pre-committed stages targeted the individual’s chemistry and logical analysis, respectively. The committed step changes the focus to the couple as a team itself in relationship with each other.  No longer is the focus on “I” and “Me.” Now the focus turns to “Us,” “Our,” and “We.”

A committed relationship is one in which both partners believe their personal individual requirements can be met in the relationship. Their attention now turns to the future, and specifically how they, as a couple working together, pledge to make the relationship between them work.

Goal and the motivating question. The goal of a committed relationship is to develop ways to constructively solve problems and manage differences that arise in any relationship. The driving question that motivates this relationship is: “How can we as a couple make this work?”

The roles you and your partner play. Typically, the partners in a couple refer to each other as “my  fiancé” and are very public about their relationship. Conversation focuses on making plans for their future together.

The nature of a committed relationship. The “feel” in the committed stage is one of  close-knit teamwork. A sense of “we are in this together” around shared values for how each person wants to spend the rest of their lives together.     This is the first time the couple, working together, is given responsibility in the developing the relationship. Up until now, the issue has been up to the individuals to do the work, separate and apart from their partner. Now the couple works together to figure out how WE can make this relationship work.

Both you and your partner are expected to be team players who are willing and able to compromise for the sake of making the relationship work. Note that, at the committed relationship stage, all the individual requirements of both partners have been settled in the previous pre-committed stage. Hence, any compromising for the sake of the team is in the area of wants, not non-negotiable requirements.

The Backdoors to a Committed Relationship

“Backdoors” are ways that allow one to “escape” from the relationship.

The backdoor to a transition, recreational, or pre-committed relationship is relatively simple, even easy. They can be ended with some version of “This is not working out for me,” and then you take your leave à la the Paul Simons song, “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” I know this is oversimplifying a complex, highly emotional situation. Still, there is no legal contract to void and only a moderately strong social/psychological contract holding the couple together.

On the other hand, ending a committed relationship is more difficult. Still there are no legal contracts, but the social/psychological contract is extraordinarily strong. Time has been spent creating plans together for a future as a couple. Expectations run deep and wide. Often wedding plans are in process.

One client of mine ended a multi-year relationship two weeks before the wedding causing a rift in her family. Ten years later her siblings are still so angry and resentful that they refuse to have relationship with their sister who was only preventing a major mistake from being made by ending the relationship.

Potential Problems with a Committed Relationship

The Committed relationship requires the two partners to work together using their interpersonal skills to solve problems and manage conflict. Common potential sticky issues include where to live? Who works, doing what? When, if ever, to start a family? How many children? How and how much money to save? How much to involve in-laws in your life? The list goes on.

But what happens if they can’t, or won’t, find answers to questions like these? The relationship suffers and failure is possible.

Among the  most common ways we fail at the committed step are:

(1) Taking the relationship for granted and expecting the other partner to do all the work,

(2) Trying to do all the work yourself and excluding your partner,

(3) Treating a want as a requirement,

(4) Being unwilling to compromise,

(5) Refusing to learn and use the problem-solving, conflict management skills necessary for the committed relationship to work.

So, What’s the Point?

Making a commitment to another person to live life together as an intimate couple is a serious, life-altering decision. It involves more than chemistry and confidence that the requirements of both parties can be met. In the three previous relationship stages, the major part of the relationship development lies with each individual making calculations about “What’s in it for me?”

However, in the committed relationship stage the stakes are greatly increased. Now the issue becomes can the two people, working together, make the relationship successful and last over time? Equally important, do they have the will to put in the effort and learning that is required to make the relationship successful?

Making a commitment to another person to live life with each other requires courage, determination, and the humility to admit you don’t know all the answers and are willing to learn. Your life is changing. Will you have the courage to dissolve your resistance to the changes that a committed relationship brings and make yourself vulnerable to another person so that you can co-create the relationship of your dreams?

Divorce Recovery & the 5 Steps to Your Next Long-Term Relationship: Step 3–A Pre-Committed Relationship

Jerald Young, Ph.D.

This article answers the question, “What is arguably more important than listening to your heart for determining the success of a long-term, committed relationship?”

Our culture does not teach us the importance of understanding what we expect to receive from a long-term relationship. The pre-committed stage in relationship development is supposed to remedy that oversight. Unfortunately, the pre-committed relationship is the step that we screw up most often. Consequently, our choice of a partner for a long-term, committed relationship is left up to hormones and “what feels right.” No wonder the divorce rates are so high.

 

(This is the 11th article in a series of articles describing how contentment and satisfaction with life after divorce depends on being able to dissolve the very human resistance to the changes that divorce imposes on our lives.)

For a relationship to culminate in a successful long-term, committed union, a five-step relationship-building process must be acknowledged, understood, and traversed.

The Five Required Steps to a Long-Term Relationship

The path from initial introduction to a long-term committed relationship goes through five separate stages of relationship: (1) Step 1: The Transition Relationship, (2) Step 2: The Recreational Relationship, (3) Step 3: The Pre-Committed Relationship, (4) Step 4: The Committed Relationship, and (5) Step 5: The Marital Relationship. (For a discussion of recreational, pre-committed, and committed relationships, see David Steele, Conscious Dating, (Campbell, CA, RCN Press, 2008). For the classic description of a pre-committed relationship, see David Steele, Conscious Dating, (Campbell, CA, RCN Press, 2008, 301-319).

This article addresses the third step in the relationship-building process, Step 3: The Pre-Committed Relationship

The Pre-Committed Relationship Is the Time for Logical Analysis

While the recreational relationship spotlights the contribution of your heart and intuition, the pre-committed relationship highlights the role logic plays in building a relationship.

A pre-committed relationship focuses on systematically determining if your basic requirements for a long-term relationship will be met.

Goal and motivation. The goal of a pre-committed relationship is to decide if someone is a “good fit.” The source of motivation that drives a pre-committed relationship is the question, “Will a life with this person give me what I require in a long-term relationship?”

The roles you and your partner play. Both you and your partner are expected to be a girlfriend/boyfriend who is willing and able to talk openly about what you each need in a long-term relationship.

The nature of a pre-committed relationship. The “feel” in the pre-committed stage is one of focused thoughtfulness and logical analysis. You get crystal clear about what your non-negotiable requirements are for a long-term relationship and determine whether the relationship with your partner can meet all your requirements.

Requirements for a Relationship

The heart of the pre-committed step is knowing and communicating your requirements to your partner.

A requirement is something that must be provided by your partner if the relationship is to work. Steele uses the analogy for a requirement of air, water, and food as requirements for maintaining life in the human body. The absence of even one of the three would result in death. Likewise, the absence of even one thing you consider a requirement for a relationship will sooner or later kill the relationship. (David Steele, Conscious Dating, (Campbell, CA, RCN Press, 2008, p 90)).

Potential Problems with a Pre-Committed Relationship

The two most common ways we fail at the pre-committed step are (1) we either do not know what our requirements are or do not realize how important it is to respect their necessity, and (2) we simply skip this step altogether and go straight to the committed relationship step, as if we can intuit each other’s needs. We can’t.

Failure to identify and test out your non-negotiable requirements. After I got divorced the first time, a friend wanted to “fix me up.” She asked me what I wanted in a potential partner. I told her I needed (1) someone who had been divorced before – so she could empathize with what I had been through, and (2) someone who had kids – so she would not be threatened by my parental love. That list of two requirements turned out to be a good place to start, but it left off another 5 or 6 that I was unaware of at the time and which ultimately caused my second marriage to fail.

Skip it altogether. During the recreational relationship everything feels right. It feels like you are in a committed relationship. It also feels like you are so in-tuned with each other that a discussion of your requirements is not needed and, in fact, raising the issue would be downright insulting to your partner. So you never even broach the topic. You just ride the euphoria telling yourself you have found the perfect partner, your soul mate, and skipping the pre-committed step poses no problem.

This is a dangerous roll of the dice. Occasionally it works out. Most of the time it doesn’t. To never discuss requirements or to jump from a recreational relationship straight to a committed relationship, seriously threatens the success of your relationship.

So, What’s the Point?

Make damned sure you make the time to identify your requirements – all of them. Then be doggedly insistent about both of you sharing them with each other.

Then, and this is the hard part, spend an extended period of time together (often 12 to 18 months) to make sure that you and your partner’s requirements can actually be met in a relationship with each other.

This is where most marriages that fail can trace the cause back to. Take the pre-committed step seriously. Your relationship future depends on it.

Divorce Recovery & the 5 Steps to Your Next Long-Term Relationship: Step 2–A Recreational Relationship

Jerald Young, Ph.D.

This article answers the question,  “If it feels so right, how on earth can it be wrong?”

Most survivors of divorce, somewhere around 90%, would like to find a new, committed relationship. This time around we hope it will be one that actually works and survives. Accepted wisdom tells us to just start dating, trust your feelings, and when you find Mr./Ms. Right, “you will know it.” So then you get remarried and live happily ever after. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were all that simple! Spoiler alert! It ain’t.

(This is the 10th article in a series of articles describing how contentment and satisfaction with life after divorce depends on being able to dissolve the very human resistance to the changes that divorce imposes on our lives.)

Five steps are required to build a long-term relationship. Each step in the process builds on the previous step. Done right, it is a marathon, not a sprint.

The Five Required Steps to a Long-Term Relationship

The relationship path from initial introduction to old married couple goes through five separate stages of relationship: (1) Step 1: The Transition Relationship, (2) Step 2: The Recreational Relationship, (3) Step 3:  The Pre-Committed Relationship, (4) Step 4: The Committed Relationship, and (5) Step 5: The Marital Relationship.  (For a discussion of recreational, pre-committed, and committed relationships, see David Steele Conscious Dating, (Campbell, CA, RCN Press, 2008). The discussion of the pre-committed relationship is particularly good.)

This article addresses the second step in the relationship-building process, Step 2: The Recreational Relationship.

The Recreational Relationship is a Time to Play

A recreational relationship is one you enter into for the sole purpose of  enjoying being single again. An added benefit is the re-establishing of confidence and validation that are almost always bruised in the divorce process.

Goal and motivation.  The goal of a recreational relationship is to have fun. The source of motivation that drives a recreational relationship is the question, “Do I enjoy myself when I am with him/her? Is he/she fun to be with?”

The roles you and your partner play. Your partner is expected to be a friend, buddy, pal, playmate  – whether it is sexual or not. Likewise, your role is to also be a friend, buddy, pal, playmate.

The nature of a recreational relationship. A recreational relationship is meant to be light, exciting, superficial, and fun. You go out and do things together. You simply enjoy spending time with each other. No-attachment sex can be a part of the fun if both of you agree.  Life is good. You enjoy being alive.

Hooked on Hormones

The recreational relationship is the time for hormones and hope to run rampant. Unfortunately,  our culture gives us well-intentioned, but poor advice about how to handle the euphoria.

But It Feels So “Right.” You’ve heard it a thousand times in a thousand ways. Your friends say it, your parents say it, the TV says it, music lyrics say it. It is everywhere. It is non-stop.  “Follow your heart,” “You will know when you’ve met Mr./Ms. Right by the way you feel.” “If loving you is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.”

What you are feeling is just chemistry doing what chemistry does. Dr. Helen Fisher, an anthropologist and relationship researcher, conducted a series of illuminating studies on the brain chemistry of love. Specifically, she found that the chemicals triggered during the initial phase of “falling in love” (that is, massive amounts of dopamine and norepinephrine )  are the same chemicals that make us feel euphoric when on a cocaine high. (Helen Fisher, “Lust, Attraction, Attachment: Biology and Evolution of the Three Primary Emotion Systems for Mating, Reproduction, and Parenting.” Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, 25,2000, 96-104).

Statistics Tell a Different Story. While, no one would advise anyone to make major life-altering decisions when high on cocaine, that is exactly what our culture (in the form of our friends, relatives, music, and TV) does when it tells us, “If it feels good, it must be love!” Of course, disaster ensues in the form of 42% of first marriages,  67% of second and 75% of third marriages failing.

This is not the fault of chemistry. In fact, physical attraction is one necessary requirements of a good relationship. And, during a recreational relationship we determine if chemistry exists between you and your partner. What is misleading is our culture’s obsession with dopamine-infused, romantic love as the only predictor of long-term relationship compatibility and happiness. It isn’t.

Three Rules for Handling the Intoxication of a Recreational Relationship

Your recreational relationship will feel like the real thing. So, why shouldn’t you go ahead and “lock in” the partner of your dreams before someone else does? Why? Because it’s a ticket back to divorce court.

The following three rules are designed to prevent you from acting impulsively, to “hit the brakes” as it were, even though you may think you do not need to.

My Hands Are Broken Rule. The My Hands Are Broken Rule says do not sign any legal documents with your partner for at least twelve months, and preferably eighteen months. Just don’t.

The 6/7 Rule. This rule says for the first 6 months, do not plan to do anything with your partner  over 7 days in advance. This rule also says, for the first 6 months, do not discuss any future you might have with your partner that exceeds 7 calendar days.

The 6/30 Rule. This rule says after the first six months of dating your partner, do not plan to do anything together more than 30 days in advance and do not talk about your life together that is more than 30 days in the future.

The joy of the recreational relationship lies in its focus on the present, not the future. For now, enjoy the freedom that comes with ending a problematic marriage and allow yourself to bask in the pleasures of the present as an uncoupled, single person. As your relationship progresses through the remaining three steps, you will have plenty of time and opportunity to decide if this relationship has a future.