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6 Tips for Dealing with Debt in a Divorce

It is not unusual for a couple to accumulate significant debts together that must be dealt with as part of their financial arrangements in a divorce or separation. There are, however, several things that you should be aware of before proceeding.

In particular, it is important to know that a divorce or separation agreement will not eliminate your obligation to repay a debt you signed for. In other words, you cannot transfer liability for your debts or joint debts to one spouse by virtue of a divorce agreement alone.

Having said that, one spouse is not automatically liable for the debts of the other. You can only be held responsible for repayment if you have signed, co-signed, or guaranteed a debt yourself.

The best approach is to pay off any debt before filing for divorce, but this is not always possible. You may instead find that you have to divide the debt, and monthly payments, as part of the separation process.

If you wish to ensure that your debts are handled properly as part of your divorce or separation, follow these tips.

1. Obtain a copy of both spouses’ credit reports at the beginning of the process to ensure that you have a complete picture of debts that are owed both individually and jointly. This will help eliminate surprises down the road.

2. Talk to your lender. Your financial institution must agree, in writing, to remove any party from the obligation to pay under any loan agreement. This includes any debts guaranteed as well as loans you have taken out jointly.

3. Better yet, transfer all debts into new accounts under the name of the individual who will become liable under the divorce or separation arrangement. This may require refinancing in the event of major debts like a home mortgage or car loan. Failing to cancel joint debts can impact your credit report negatively in the event that your ex-spouse continues to utilize the account or does not make agreed upon payments.

4. Cancel all joint and supplementary credit cards and open new ones individually to ensure neither spouse can continue to incur more debts or will become responsible for the spending of the other.

5. If you have used any form of online banking, change all access and authorization numbers. Remove accounts as necessary to ensure each spouse only has access to those accounts they are now responsible for. Cancel any joint pin numbers if applicable.

6. If one spouse chooses to file for bankruptcy in order to deal with marital and other debts, it is possible to file a joint-bankruptcy or joint consumer proposal even if you are divorced. In the event of significant joint debts, talk to a bankruptcy trustee about your options.

As a final note, check your credit report every few months after your divorce or separation to ensure that all debts have been transferred properly and that your records have been updated. It is important that you manage not only the debt itself, but monitor your own credit history as you will likely be applying for new debt, individually, in the future.

Ted Michalos is a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) and a Licensed Bankruptcy Trustee. As a co-founder & President of Hoyes, Michalos & Associates, he speaks regularly at local commerce and professional events about insolvency issues and has testified before the Canadian Senate on issues of bankruptcy legislation. His expertise focuses primarily on helping individuals solve their financial problems.

Social Media in Divorce

Many divorcing people are warned by lawyers not to post anything about their soon-to-be-ex on social media sites. You may have strict privacy settings, but not all of your friends do. This can hurt you in divorce proceedings when tactless statements about your spouse are on your friend’s social media sites. Even comments that you made in the pub may wind up as quotes on other people sites who have lax privacy settings.

Interviewers and bosses may be perusing Facebook and other sites. One woman made disparaging remarks about her boss and company that were repeated on her friend’s Facebook site. This woman had signed an agreement when hired, not to make public statements about her workplace or the personnel. She had strict privacy controls, however others did not, so these complaints circulated in the public domain. She was fired. In divorce, it could hurt you if the opposing lawyer finds out some unfavourable gossip with you as the source. It is critical to keep a job especially when money is tight post-divorce, so do not post anything that can be construed as negative. Have a talk with friends regarding what is allowed to be posted about you in general, on their sites. Some bosses and interviewers ask (demand) to be friended on new hire’s social media sites.

Before getting a divorce, delete any nude photos and erotic videos. Be vigilant and possibly hire a computer expert to make sure there are none lurking around including on phones.  The last thing that you want is for these to go viral at a later date, as has happened to some celebrities recently. This is not what you would want your children to view. Consider never letting any sexy pictures be taken of you in future relationships, so this is not a potential problem with a vindictive ex.

Some people have said that they only post on social media what they would want their mothers to read. They save the really juicy bits for gossip sessions with friends with an oath of privacy. My girlfriends and I still do the pinkie finger shake from grade school, when something absolutely cannot be repeated.

There have been court cases where social media remarks have been introduced as evidence. I know about this, because I passed around my husband’s profile from a dating site, stating he was single and without kids, during my divorce.

Do not check your ex’s sites, particularly if the painful divorce was not your choice. Seeing laughing photos with new dates is not therapeutic for moving on. It is also difficult if some of your family members are in your ex’s camp. Do you really want to read loving comments from them to your former spouse? If money is tight, do you want to know about his exotic trips? No. It is easier to heal from divorce when not seeking updates about your former spouse, but rather enlarging your own social network instead.

Wendi Schuller, uses her knowledge as a nurse, Neuro-Linguistic Programmer (NLP), and hypnotherapist, to author the book The Women’s Holistic Guide to Divorce that helps women regaining their strength of inner peace and wisdom. She can be reached by email wendischuller@hotmail.com

reached at (740) 919-1248 or through her website.

Wendi Schuller, uses her knowledge as a nurse, Neuro-Linguistic Programmer (NLP), and hypnotherapist, to author the book The Women’s Holistic Guide to Divorce that helps women regaining their strength of inner peace and wisdom. She can be reached by email.


 

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The Adventure of Divorce

Divorce is a new beginning that opens unexpected doors. Venturing into the unknown leads to exciting new adventures that were only in dreams while still married. The unknown can be perceived as scary or reframed as a new discovery. One’s outlook on life will determine if post-divorce is a tragedy or a time of renewal. If your perception of the world is that it is a negative place with untrustworthy people, then that is what you will experience. Change your outlook to a positive one, and kind people and worthwhile experiences will come into your sphere. How to do this? A life coach can give a reality check and a therapist more intensive treatment. Work on the baggage from divorce in order to be able to recognize and receive new opportunities coming your way.  Do not drag old problems along with you when meeting new people or getting a job. Fix them and start life with a clean slate.

A positive aspect of divorce is enlarging your social circle. Do the necessary housecleaning of getting rid of toxic or energy draining relationships. Sometimes the logistics of divorce will take care of this for you. Moving during divorce does the job of eliminating annoying neighbors. Look closely at friendships that no longer serve your best interests or are reciprocal in nature. Let divorce be your excuse that you are too busy and unavailable now to continue seeing them. Embark on the adventure of meeting like-minded folks who better reflect who you are currently.

During marriage, you may have been focused on your spouse’s wants and needs. Now you have the time to reach out to others and form new friendships or reconnect with the ones that you already have. It takes a lot of energy keeping up appearances in a bad marriage, so use this post-divorce time to join interesting groups and become involved with new people.

Go on a quest of uncovering your talents and hidden desires after divorce. My artistic friend has launched a line of cards post-divorce and feels more fulfilled. One woman who felt her creativity was stifled during an abusive marriage, is writing the second edition of her book. Going down the path of creativity is an adventure with exciting twists and turns. There are glimpses of what is lies ahead, however the final outcome is yet to be determined. Mine may be a move to a different country.

Have post-divorce adventures through travel. Get out of your comfort zone and discover the world. While having fun and learning about new cultures, one learns to rely on herself. Finding your way out of a labyrinth in Santorini, or miming in Italy that you want to buy a bottle of white sparkling wine promotes self-assurance. One comes to the realization that they are a strong person who can deal with many situations. I view life in general as an adventure, whether I am buying an item in a Turkish souk or in my local grocery store. Strangers can be a fascinating source of interesting conversations. There are companies that have trips for singles or find a group tour if unsure about visiting foreign countries on your own.

Post-divorce, some entrepreneurs have started their own businesses. Many claim it was a bumpy road at first, but are now enjoying this new enterprise. Take classes to develop your talents and interests into financially feasible ventures. One fellow went through a traumatic divorce and renewed his love of gardening afterwards. He is into cross-pollinating vegetables and flowers. Talking to a waiter and patrons at his local pub about this hobby, led to the owner asking to buy his heirloom produce.

Contemplate viewing the world as making new connections, and discovering opportunities. My 90 year old friend said that life is such an adventure, because he never knows what is just around the corner.

Wendi Schuller, uses her knowledge as a nurse, Neuro-Linguistic Programmer (NLP), and hypnotherapist, to author the book The Women’s Holistic Guide to Divorce that helps women regaining their strength of inner peace and wisdom. She can be reached by email. wendischuller@hotmail.com

Red Flags When Dating Again

One may have gotten through a traumatic divorce and is now on the path to recovery. Perhaps a stint in therapy gave insight on how to avoid repeating the same relationship patterns that contributed to the demise of the marriage. A charming suitor enters your life and is breaking through your barriers. How does one differentiate between someone who is potentially dangerous from a soul mate?

  • Trust your gut feeling. What is your initial reaction to this person? Are you comfortable or a tad uneasy? Your subconscious is screaming at you that something is not right, and a bit off. Things do not quite synchronize, actions vs explanations. It is easy to give someone the benefit of doubt a few times. When this becomes a pattern, then it is a red flag. Does he seem caring, yet you feel like pulling back, but are trying to analyze why? Listen to your body, are you tense, but not sure of the cause? When you have an unsettling feeling, then investigate the cause of it.
  • The new relationship moves too quickly and becomes intense. One may rationalize that it is love at first sight, but that is still not a reason to move from just meeting someone to becoming a tight couple.  We may have lost self-esteem in our marriage and here is a person who thinks we are absolutely wonderful. Some very charming individuals are cons who prey on vulnerable people. Whether they are conning elderly out of life-long savings, or on the verge of proposing, they are after something.  In retail, the saying, “If it seems too good to be true, then it is” also applies to dates. If someone seems too perfect and just what you need, take your time in getting to know that person. If it is love, they will not rush you into a situation that you are not ready to be in.
  • When one’s friends and family are asking if you have taken leave of your senses that is a major clue that something is not right with your new partner. Are you getting angry with the negative feedback from loved ones or really listening to unanimous lack of approval? Put your feelings and ego aside and determine just what their uneasiness is about regarding your new girlfriend.
  • How do you know this person is trustworthy? Ask to meet their friends. What is their family situation? Are they secretive or more like an open book?  If there are gaps in what they tell you about their personal history or family life that is a red flag. Some women have unwittingly dated men who had spent time in prison.  I started going out with a fellow who was so attentive, but did not want me to see his apartment or know much about his life when we were not together. I broke things off quickly, but found out later he was married and they were expecting a child. If you cannot seem to get a guy to open up, consider doing a little online checking or hiring a private detective. No that is not romantic, but it is better than having your heart broken or your money gone at a later date.
  • Do they blame others constantly for their life woes? Is it someone else’s fault that they do not keep a job or have money? Has he asked to borrow money and then has excuses why it is not paid back? Does she like to go shopping with you for her expensive baubles?
  • If someone is rude to wait staff or salesclerks, then that is not a nice person. Some people are social climbers or do not care about people who are not in the position to help them to succeed.
  • Listen to their jokes and stories.  One newly married woman was appalled at her husband’s “joke.” The punch line was a man was having sex with a beautiful woman, but it was against her will. The shocked wife said “that is rape.” The husband said no, it is just that the woman did not want it. The wife discovered that women were objects in her husband’s eyes, and that couple eventually got a divorce.

 

There is something to the Biblical quote:

Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast,
It is not proud. It does not dishonor others,
It is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered,
It keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil
but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts,
always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.

 

Get to know a potential partner slowly over time. See how they act around others and if all are treated with respect and kindness, including animals. Meet their family and friends. Determine if there is a firm foundation to your relationship, with similar interests and ethics. Avoid these red flags and enjoy your friendship which is changing into love.

 Wendi Schuller, uses her knowledge as a nurse, Neuro-Linguistic Programmer (NLP), and hypnotherapist, to author the book The Women’s Holistic Guide to Divorce that helps women regaining their strength of inner peace and wisdom. She can be reached by email  wendischuller@hotmail.com   

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Ten Tips to Help You Get Through Divorce Court

If you are like most people, going to court makes you nervous. You don’t know what you are supposed to do, what you are supposed to wear, or even how you are supposed to act.  Watching Divorce Court or other TV shows isn’t much help either.  Real life is not at all like what you see on television.  While every court operates differently, there are some things that will be the same no matter which court you are going to.

If you have to go to court – with or without a lawyer – here are a few tips to keep in mind.

1. Find out what to expect before you go. Knowing how the court works and what is likely to happen when you are there will help you feel less like a train wreck once you are in the court room.  How do you know what to expect? If you have lawyer, ask him/her.  If you are going it alone, talk to others who have been to court before.  Or, if you can, try to go to court on a day when your case is NOT scheduled, just so you can watch and see how the court room works.

2. Be prepared.  Bring all of your paperwork with you.  If your lawyer told you to bring something to court, bring it.  If your lawyer or a judge told you to do something before you come to court, do it.

3. Dress appropriately.  Court rooms are formal places.  While few judges these days will kick you out if you are not dressed appropriately, judges are still human.  What you wear matters.  If you are not sure what to wear to court, check out: What to Wear and What NOT to Wear to Court.

4. Be in the right place at the right time. That means you need to get to the right court house, and the right court room at least 10 minutes BEFORE you are scheduled to be there.

5. Plan extra time to get through security.  Every court house these days has security.  Sometimes the lines to get through security are pretty long. (Think airport.)  Leave yourself time to get through the line and still get to your court room on time.

6. Leave your kids at home.  Divorce court is no place for children.  Period.  Besides, most judges will not allow children under the age of 18 in the court room.  So, unless your lawyer or the judge specifically asked you to bring your kids to court for some reason, don’t bring them to court with you.

7. Turn your cell phone off.  Nothing is as distracting (or annoying) to a judge who is in the middle of a hearing than a ringing cell phone!  There used to be a judge in Cook county who had a sign on her court room door that said: “Anything that beeps, buzzes or rings will be confiscated.”  That kind of says it all.

8. Don’t talk, eat, read, or text in court. A court room is kind of like a library, but with a sheriff to enforce the rules.  So, whatever you can’t do in a library, you can’t do in court. (You also usually can’t text in court either, even though that’s ok in a library.)

9. If you need moral support, bring a friend. Courts are public places. So, if you want to bring a friend, you can.  Just don’t bring your new “special friend” (a/k/a boyfriend/girlfriend/significant other) to divorce court.  That’s just asking for trouble.

10. Keep control over your emotions.  There is no quicker way to lose your argument or your case than to lose control over your emotions.  Yes, you will be dealing with issues that are very important and very personal to you.  But make up your mind BEFORE you walk into the court room that YOU, not your EMOTIONS, will be in charge.

Unless you are a lawyer, going to court is never going to be fun.  But, if you know what to expect, and you do what you need to do, in the way that you need to do it, you can get through the experience positively.

   Karen Covy is an experienced Chicago divorce attorney, mediator, educator, and collaborative lawyer.  She is the author of: When Happily Ever After Ends: How to Survive Your Divorce Emotionally, Financially, and Legally.  Karen can be reached at (312)236-1670 or karen@karencovy.com. You can view her website at www.karencovy.com.

Co-Parenting with a Difficult Ex-Spouse

Co-parenting is a challenge with a difficult ex from an acrimonious divorce, however there are ways to make this task easier. The main point is to fly under his/her radar. These people are looking for ammunition to get back at you for leaving, so do not give any opportunity for an attack. This includes not mentioning them or divorce details on social media. The less direct contact one has with this type of ex, makes co-parenting smoother.  

A way to make co-parenting with a high conflict individual easier is to make sure you are nurtured. Get a massage. Go out and vent to buddies. Join a support group who can give you understanding and strategies on getting through this ordeal. Do activities that bring you joy and may have been buried during marriage. Get yourself in the best place possible, mentally, physically, and spiritually to be able to deal calmly with a co-parent who does not want to cooperate.

Whatever you can do to empower yourself and become stronger – weakens the hold of these contentious co-parents. Take a class which could lead to a new career path. Do a charity bike ride in a far flung place. Trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro for a life changing experience, as one divorce pal did. These physical challenges have awakened a new sense of power and increased self-esteem in many people. Sometimes one’s self-esteem and self-worth took a battering in a toxic marriage and requires this boost.

Connect with others through volunteering. When you have other interests, a social network, and new areas of expertise – you are less able to be manipulated or controlled. Approach interactions with your ex, without emotion as if it were business ones. Redirect communication to stay focused, so the high conflict parent does not go off on tangents. The goal of co-parenting is well-adjusted children who feel safe with both parents. If the co-parenting experience is not going well then discuss this with your attorney. Perhaps meeting with a mediator or your child’s therapist (if there is one) may help everyone to be on the same page

In our Parenting Plan, the custody evaluator mandated that all of our communication go through a specific mediator. It was a relief never to talk to, or e-mail my ex-husband again. Some celebrity ex-couples have chosen this route too and have an intermediary handle their communication between each other. This can also be arranged after divorce, if things are not going well. My ex tried to block me from taking my sons out of the country, stating that he had not been notified of this trip. Our mediator resent the initial e-mail from six months prior – so having a third party in place was invaluable for situations like this one.

Limiting physical interactions increases success with co-parenting. There are calendars online that both parents access to check on the children’s schedules and to add events. Then Mom and Dad are both on the same page and cannot complain that they were not informed of something. Have a neutral drop off and pick up point, such as a school or day care center. When parents each have a car seat and some duplicate items, there is less stuff to go back and forth.  Arrange for separate Parent/Teacher conferences and have information/reports sent to each parent.

Be prepared for whatever your former spouse can do to undermine your parenting. In several cases, exes have contacted Child Protective Services (CPS) on trumped up charges, which still have to be investigated. One father called CPS to come right after his wife and sons returned from a trip. There were piles of laundry around and litter boxes that needed changing. Luckily, there was nutritious food in the pantry and freezer, although no fresh dairy or produce. CPS did not charge the mother with anything, but still required a follow up visit.  

Avoid potential problems as much as possible. Ask first when the other parent wants vacation time if your schedule is flexible, before planning yours. Try to avoid any battles. If you can give a little more on smaller issues, then that can pay off down the road when larger ones occur.  

 

Wendi Schuller, uses her knowledge as a nurse, Neuro-Linguistic Programmer (NLP), and hypnotherapist, to author the book The Women’s Holistic Guide to Divorce that helps women regaining their strength of inner peace and wisdom. She can be reached by email wendischuller@hotmail.com

Friendships Change After Divorce

Divorce clarifies who is friend and who is foe. Someone who stuck by you through thick and thin may not necessarily do so post-divorce. Other people may pleasantly surprise you. My husband had a friend who knew him from their teenage years and was in my women’s club. I am shocked how friendly she and her husband remain after our acrimonious divorce. I get hugs and they genuinely want to know how my sons and I are doing. I still do not reveal any very personal tidbits about our lives, but appreciate this unanticipated source of support. Right after my divorce was finalized, I ran into her with her daughter when buying myself spa products. They enthusiastically said I deserved to be pampered. How nice.

Friendships are give and take, so reassess if you seem to be always be on the giving end. If you have friends who suck the life out of you, then perhaps it is time to move on without these vampire energy drainers. Do you have a drama queen friend who flits from crisis to crisis? During one’s divorce – it is our turn to be on the receiving end of attention and concern, not doling it out to others. If this person refuses to listen to your woes, or be there for you, then consider pulling away. One way is to say, “I am dealing with my own situation right now and am no longer available.”

The tricky part is deciding how to end or wind down a friendship that is no longer working. When a friendship has become toxic, one way of dealing with this is to be direct, but polite. Consider saying something along this vein, “Our friendship seems to have run its course. Thanks for the good times and I wish you the best of luck in life.” Then do not answer any calls, texts or e-mails.

What if you have taken different paths and there is no animosity?  When you just do not have the time or energy to maintain this friendship, then cease contacting the friend. Let a few calls go unanswered before replying. Then say,” I am so overburdened right now, that I will get back to you later if my calendar ever lightens a bit.” A variation is “I am taking a break from some relationships right now, and cannot make plans in the near future.” You can wean your friend by planning a get together four months away.

Sometimes you may be the one who has changed or matured. Divorce is a catalyst for taking life’s responsibilities more seriously. In one case, a woman chose not to keep up her partying ways and numerous shopping expeditions post-divorce with a pal. It still hurt when her shallow friend dropped her for a more exciting new buddy. Intellectually this woman knew it was for the best, but it is no fun to be dumped by someone whom you thought was a friend.

Amanda moved after marriage and immediately met a kindred spirit. They were there for each other through infertility and their subsequent divorces. Amanda’s friend had cut off two of her long-term friends for what seemed to be frivolous reasons. One dated men too young and the other one did not divorce a nasty husband. When Amanda started getting the same treatment, she took a direct action. The friend had left packages in Amanda’s mailbox for two holidays. Amanda sent a note stating it was silly to leave packages or mail them when living in the same city. She told the friend that if they did not get together for a holiday that she would save the present until the next time that they saw each other (which had not been for months). The friend did not respond and Amanda never learned what her perceived infraction was. Being caught in someone’s games is not therapeutic. It takes two to dance, so do not participate in a dysfunctional one.

You will learn who really will be with you long-term and who wants your friendship for what you can do for them. Your exit plan will be different for each acquaintance whom you part ways with. Think about evasive, direct, or politely waving from afar. When one releases toxic people, that gives space for new wonderful folks to enter their life.  

 

Wendi Schuller, uses her knowledge as a nurse, Neuro-Linguistic Programmer (NLP), and hypnotherapist, to author the book The Women’s Holistic Guide to Divorce that helps women regaining their strength of inner peace and wisdom. She can be reached by email wendischuller@hotmail.com

 

 

The Impact of Relationship Apps on Family Dynamics

Marriage is a wonderful institution that affords couples significant psychological, emotional and financial benefits, in addition to being a commitment of their love to each other. Unfortunately, nothing worthwhile is easy, including marriages. If couples want their marriages to succeed, they must work at them. Furthermore, a marriage involves two people and both are responsible one way or another in its success or failure.

Recent research from Northwestern University provides in pertinent part as follows:

“Marriage in America has changed radically since the late 1700s. It is much less oriented toward helping spouses meet their physiological and safety needs and much more oriented toward helping them meet their esteem and self-actualization needs. Although the later set of needs requires a much deeper relational bond and a stronger psychological connection than the former set does, Americans appear to be spending less time cultivating these relational attributes than they did in previous eras. In conjunction, Americans’ increasing tendency to look to their marriage to facilitate the achievement of their high-level needs, along with their decreasing investment in the quality of their marriage, is linked to reductions in personal well-being and marital quality over time.

The good news, however, is that marriage has greater potential today than ever before, and marital quality is a stronger predictor of personal well-being than in the past. Meeting higher altitude needs is enormously gratifying, and doing so through one’s marriage can help people achieve exceptionally high levels of relationship well-being, happiness, and personal fulfillment.”

The research from Northwestern University argues that “the importance of relational processes like communication, responsiveness, and support have increased as the societal function of marriage has changed…. Just as the pursuit of higher needs frequently requires substantial insight into the self, looking to the marriage to help individuals fulfill their higher needs frequently requires that each spouse have substantial insight into the partner, and the development of such insight typically requires considerable communication and responsiveness over a sustained period…. [This] requires that they invest plenty of time and energy in facilitating the quality of their marital bond.”

At the same time, studies over the past 20 years have found that the amount of time fathers spend engaged in childrearing has more than doubled, while the amount of time spent by mothers has increased between 34 and 41 percent. In addition, each spouse spends approximately 30 more minutes a day involved in paid employment and it is unlikely that it occurs at precisely the same time as it does for their spouse. In other words, that is additional time that is not spent alone with their spouse. In any event, spousal time has decreased significantly over time. “Spouses without children at home experienced a 30% decline in weekday spousal time and a 17% decline in weekend spousal time. Spouses with children at home, whose spousal time tended to be quite limited in general, experienced a 40% decline in weekday spousal time,” but essentially no change in weekend spousal time.”

According to the most recently released “American Time Use Survey Study” by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employed adults living in households with no children under age 18 engaged in leisure activities for 4.7 hours per day, about an hour more than employed adults living with a child under age 6.” Such activities include, but are not limited to watching TV, socializing (such as visiting with friends, or attending or hosting social events), exercising, reading, playing games or using a computer for leisure. According to that Study, the majority of that time is spent watching TV. However, the average American spends 7.6 hours per month (15.2 minutes per day) on social networking sites.

Furthermore, the internet has brought with it increased opportunities for spousal infidelity. For years now, surveys have found Facebook responsible for anywhere from one-fifth to one-third of all divorces. “If you’re single, Facebook and other social networking sites can help you meet that special someone. However, for those in even the healthiest of marriages, improper use can quickly devolve into a marital disaster. A survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that ‘Facebook holds the distinction of being the unrivaled leader for online divorce evidence with 66% citing it as the primary source.’ Also, more than 80 percent of divorce lawyers reported they ‘have seen an increase in the number of cases using social networking evidence’ during the past few years.” In fact, studies have found that cybersex has been a major factor in separation or divorce.

I realize that we are also living in a time in which people would rather point fingers than accept responsibility for their actions, but sites and apps alone cannot be responsible for marital strife. Rather, the responsibility falls on the individuals using such sites and apps. After all, they will be so much happier if they find someone else, right? As they say, perception is reality. The “grass is always greener” until you get there. Otherwise, how do you explain the fact that the divorce rate in the United States increases from 50% for first marriages, to 67% for second marriages, and to 73% for third marriages?

Not surprisingly, one of three general options available to couples for improving their marriages is “increasing their investment of time and psychological resources in their marriage.” Spouses typically have the ability to dedicate the time and effort required to maintain a healthy marriage, but they instead choose to allocate their resources elsewhere. People regularly use lack of time as an excuse for pretty much anything and everything. The fact of the matter is that it is more an issue of priorities than lack of time. If both spouses consider their marriage a top priority, they will always have the time to invest in it. “Even if spouses are able to invest additional resources, many marriages will continue to exhibit an imbalance in which the amount of high-altitude need fulfillment spouses are asking of the marriage exceeds the level of investment they have made. Spouses can ask less of the marriage in one or both of two ways. … [First], they can pursue strategies designed to optimize their resource use, thereby bolstering the extent to which they can achieve high-altitude need fulfillment without a major infusion of additional time or psychological resources. [Second], they can require less oxygen by asking their spouse to shoulder less responsibility for helping them fulfill their higher altitude needs, thereby bringing the demands on the marriage into closer alignment with the available resources.” Obviously, these last two options are available to those couples in which one or both spouses are unable or unwilling to invest additional time in their marriage for whatever reason.

Prior to evaluating options and investing time and resources into their marriage, couples might want to reality check their expectations. According to Terri Orbuch, Ph.D, psychologist and author of “5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great,” conflict is actually frustration. Specifically, frustration forms when a partner’s expectations go unmet, she says. Happy couples have realistic expectations, both about relationships in general and about their relationship in particular.” Quentin Hafner, LMFT refers to unreasonable expectations as the “My Spouse is My ‘Everything’ Model of Marriage.” According to Mr. Hafner, “Being a spousal partner in an American marriage is a really tall order. Not just a tall order, but sometimes an impossible one. We see it on TV, and in the movies; it’s the glamorization of our spouse needing to be our ‘Everything’. There seems to be an implicit message that is pervasive in our American culture that says our spouse must be our ‘Everything’, and I see this idealism causing a lot of problems for people. Having our spouse be our ‘Everything’ sounds romantic, dreamy and idealistic – I know. But the hidden expectations that many spouses carry for their partner to be their ‘Everything’ isn’t helping people have thriving relationships.” The following are some of the comments that Mr. Hafner received from his article:

Great perspective Quentin, though I must say that MY spouse is ALL of the 20 ‘unachievable’ roles for ME, but I agree, a spouse is not and shouldn’t be EVERYTHING (or more accurately, the ‘only’ thing in our lives).” – David Steele, Relationship Coaching Institute

NO WAY can a spouse fill all those roles and no WONDER so many couples get divorced based on the expectations that their spouse SHOULD be all those things and if you’re not fulfilling them, then you’re out…NEXT I’ll find someone who will. Unfortunately they keep searching and searching only to continually be disappointed. I learned a long time ago the best possible scenario in a relationship is to have a council a group of people that each person fulfills one or many of those roles and I can leave the most important one’s for my partner….friend, lover, supporter etc. If more couples would realize this they would be able to give their partner a break from having to live up to such a high demand for spousal support and fight a losing battle. How many times have you heard it said, “I did everything I could and she/he they still weren’t happy.” Of course not, because they couldn’t do it all.” – Dale Genetti, Certified Strategic Intervention Relationship/Marriage Life Coach.

This article is spot on. The most common cause of the couples’ divorces that come through my office is the unrealistic and unhealthy expectation that our spouse is responsible for our happiness. This misplaced burden keeps people from looking within, strengthening the other relationships in their life and developing themselves into the full person they are meant to be.” – Selina Shultz, Principal at The Alternative Group and Coral Bridge Partners, LLC

However, as Dr. Orbuch says, “If your partner isn’t aware of your expectations, how can they meet them? … Most couples will say that they communicate. But this communication is commonly what Orbuch calls ‘maintaining the household,’ which includes talks about paying the bills, buying groceries, helping the kids with homework or calling the in-laws. Instead, meaningful communication means ‘getting to know your partner’s inner world,’ Orbuch says. ‘When you’re really happy, you know what makes your partner tick and really understand them.’”

I recently read an article titled “5 tips to creating a successful marriage.” I shared the article along with the following comment: “Isn’t it interesting that in divorce mediation, we are teaching people tools that could have prevented the divorce, had the couple sought them out earlier and for a different purpose?” Let me share with you some of the responses I received:

I have often thought that everything I have learned since my divorce would have greatly increased the chance that my marriage may have survived and even it didn’t, that it would have greatly improved the divorce experience. You are so right!” – Laura Weisbart Campbell, Love Intentionalist, Divorce Strategist, and Founder of The D Spot, LLC.

Wouldn’t it be great if this type of relationship building and problem solving skills set were taught in programs at the High School level? Exposing teenagers early would be a gift that would last a lifetime. Cultivating better communication skills would be an opportunity to enhance their relationships on all levels for their entire lifetime.” – Marcia Engel, Founder and Director of Single Concept- Premier Matchmaking Service and Dating Coach

“I SO agree! I wish I’d learned these skills in high school!” – Glori Zeltzer, MFT, Couple and Relationship Psychotherapist

As you can see, communication issues and unmet expectations are two of the most common causes of divorce. People’s expectations for themselves, their spouse and their marriage change over time. Those with the most successful marriages share these expectations with each other. These issues overlap when a person expects their spouse to read their mind because they were not properly communicating with them. That having been said, there are apps designed to address such things and actually improve relationships.

Moreover, couples are increasingly using apps for such purposes. In fact, according to the Pew Research Internet Project, “[t]he internet, cell phones, and social media have become key actors in the life of many American couples— the 66% of adults who are married or in committed relationships. Couples use technology in the little and large moments. They negotiate over when to use it and when to abstain. A portion of them quarrel over its use and have had hurtful experiences caused by tech use. At the same time, some couples find that digital tools facilitate communication and support.”

One such app that everyone should be aware of is text messaging, which allows you to communicate almost instantaneously, even if you are unable to make or receive a phone call. Other apps enable spouses to share and update grocery lists, track personal finances and create budgets, improve communication, understand and learn more about their spouse, and even explore their sexuality with their spouse. Imagine how many arguments could be avoided by making it more difficult, if not impossible, to forget things by utilizing synchronized lists, calendaring apps, and the like. By synchronizing their financial information, spouses can keep track of their combined income and expenses, avoid bouncing checks from joint accounts, and hopefully eliminate those financial “surprises” that are known to create marital conflict. In addition, technology can be used to help spouses develop a “deeper relational bond and a stronger psychological connection” by helping them gain much needed insight into their spouse.

Interestingly enough, several relationship apps have been included both on lists of apps for married couples and in post-divorce situations. Text messenging is one such app because it is frequently used to by divorced or separated parents to communicate with each other regarding their minor children. Grocery list apps such as “Grocery Smart” and “Out of Milk” are also included on both lists. After all, it is not always the other person who forgets to pick up certain items while shopping. Mint is one of the most popular apps for tracking finances, which is obviously useful to anybody and everybody, regardless of relationship status.

As far as scheduling and communication apps are concerned, OurFamilyWizard® has been in existence for almost 15 years to help reduce divorce conflict between co-parents. It provides a “shared co-parenting tool for scheduling parenting time calendars and visitation schedules, sharing information and managing expenses like un-reimbursed medical bills.” I find it rather ironic that such useful relationship apps were created for post-divorced co-parenting situations long before apps designed to improve marriages were brought to market.

In any event, one such app that has been receiving excellent reviews is Couple Counseling & Chatting, which was created by Marigrace Randazzo-Ratliff, MSW, CSW. According to its description, the application provides useful relationship and communication tips, helps facilitate communication, and even “allows you to speak with a real life therapist for relationship help and couples therapy.” Another such app titled “Gottman Love Maps” was created by The Gottman Institute. Dr. John Gottman is a world-renowned relationship expert and frequently quoted and/or referred to by many of his colleagues. As they say in the description of that app, “An important factor in relationship success is ‘Knowing’ about your partner’s world. This fun set of questions helps partners to know each other better.”

There is a great deal of debate as to the benefits of relationship apps. Regardless, people should consider their limitations, as expressed in the descriptions themselves. For example, included in the description of the Couple Counseling & Chatting app is the following: “Couples Counseling should be used for information and entertainment purposes only. Couple Counseling makes no warrant in express or implied about the success of your relationship. This application is meant to help facilitate and help relationships based upon therapeutic practices and relationship information. In a serious situational you should seek the help of a local professional.” That being said, if The Gottman Institute has concluded that such apps can improve relationships, I would have to agree.

Group Dating is a New Trend Post-Divorce

After a hiatus of a few decades – it is challenging to jump back into the dating scene post-divorce. Dating expectations have changed and our svelte figures have morphed into middle-aged bodies.  There are a plethora of options in meeting potential mates which can be a bit overwhelming. What is a simple way to dip your toe into the dating pool without totally plunging in? Group Dating.

Group dating is a recent global trend that makes it less daunting to meet new people. Conversing in a group setting takes the pressure off feeling being judged. Remember the laughs back in high school and college when you went out in a mixed group? It was enjoyable whether or not you ended up with someone. Group dating is the grown-up equivalent of this activity.

In London and spreading elsewhere, there is “Six Dinners Later.” After getting on the site’s guest list, a profile is uploaded. This is a fun one which includes favorite dishes and who would be an ideal dinner companion. Then one waits until invited to a dinner party by another member at his or her house for a potluck. There are three members of each gender at these gatherings. The next step is that one gives a dinner party at their place and includes the former host.  You would pick four others from the site to be a part of this gathering. After one attends these “six dinners” they will have met 25 people. This gives the chance to meet new pals as well as potential dates.  

In the US a variation on this theme of group dating is “Grouper.” One does a short profile on this dating site and Grouper also checks Facebook to ensure compatible matches for get-togethers. Two people are matched up and they each bring two single friends along with them. This is a little different from “Six Dinners Later” where you totally do not know anyone. The six people are contacted with a date, place and time. A fee is collected that covers the first round of drinks. Sometimes the whole bar will be reserved for “Grouper” members and the host will bring people to the correct tables.  Having two buddies with you makes for a fun night whether there are fireworks or not.

Ignighter is a group dating site that originated in New York City. The three founders set it up so that group dates could happen in Central Park or other NYC venues. The reaction to this site was tepid and did not really catch on – except in Asia, particularly India. Co-owner Adam Sachs stated “Here we are, a few Jewish guys sitting in Union Square, and we have accidently revolutionized the dating scene in India.” Ignighter moved its operations to India since 7000 people a day are signing up for this dating service. This is more like getting together for socializing than strictly a matrimonial site.

In the Atlanta area, Singles for Service is a free dating site that combines community service projects with dating. This gives people a way to see other’s more authentic selves when they are helping others. It also serves to enable singles to meet other singles with a similar area of interest. Singles for Service claims to bring “quality singles together.”

MeetUp.com is an international organization with various groups, including singles’ ones. Other groups are according to special interests, such as hiking. Even if not in a specific single’s group, one can meet many fascinating people in the other ones. The MeetUp.com group I am in, gets together for coffees, lectures and so many other activities.

Churches and synagogues often have a single’s group, although may have a wider age span. My divorced friend is quite active in her church’s single group. Cities sometimes have activities and festivals particularly geared to singles and not families. Mine had “Rally in the Alley” which took place in a long alley between sky scrapers. There were live bands and beer on Friday afternoons during the summers.

These examples give you a place to start to see if there are any group dating sites in your community. I worked in a large hospital and we posted where we were going after work so that others could join us. It really is easier to ease into the dating scene from the security of a group.

 reached at (740) 919-1248 or through her website.

Wendi Schuller, uses her knowledge as a nurse, Neuro-Linguistic Programmer (NLP), and hypnotherapist, to author the book The Women’s Holistic Guide to Divorce that helps women regaining their strength of inner peace and wisdom. She can be reached by email wendischuller@hotmail.com

 

Emotional Aspects of De-Cluttering During Divorce

When one is faced with major life decisions and transitions – having to determine what to keep is one more burden. Separate your emotions from the practicality of de-cluttering during divorce. Do not get rid of objects when in anger. My enraged spouse left behind the gifts that I had given him when he moved out of our marital home. I was overjoyed when they later sold on E-Bay. This is a project for a clear head. Reacting in haste can cause regrets down the road when you wished that you would have kept your cherished childhood toy.
One woman got rid of her household goods after her husband departed during their divorce. She was fuming and claimed that she did not want the “junk” from her marriage. When she went to refurnish her house, she got a big surprise. Prices had gone up on these items and she struggled to replace them on her meager post-divorce budget. Her friends had not heard of the new trend, “Divorce Shower” so this woman was out of luck. Getting rid of some things to start anew makes sense, starting out from scratch when flat broke does not. However, several people I know mainly left with clothes and personal items and never looked back. See what works best for your situation.
Be cognizant of items that have particularly painful memories and possibly eliminate these first. What to do about your wedding gown? If a daughter or niece does not want it, consider donating it to charity. When I tried to sell mine online, they were only going for a pittance. Last Halloween, there were several wedding gowns as costumes and that is one creative solution. These “Gruesome Brides” had fake blood dripping down their gowns and were having a great time at the party.
Meditate, listen to relaxation CDs, or get to a place internally where you are calm, before tackling emotionally charged items. De-cluttering in a panic can backfire. Have a “Sell”, “Trash”, “Donate” and “I’ll think about it for a few days” bins. Knowing that you do not have to make snap judgments regarding your possessions takes some of the pressure off you. I had a huge yard sale the week before I moved out of the marital house. After I got settled in my new, smaller home, I had another one a few months later.
I already had a paid trip that was scheduled before my divorce commenced. Since it looked like I would be losing some nice decorations midway through the divorce, I used this opportunity to purchase a few new items. I really enjoy looking at the hand painted tiles and pottery from that vacation that was during the worst part of my collaborative proceedings.
The hardest part is the initial step. Once you get going, you build momentum. Look through your possessions and see what brings you joy as my grandparents’ china does for me. Other things that bring sadness or regret can be let go. If you can look at the cat statue from Italy and appreciate it for itself, then great. If it reminds you of exploring Sorrento on your honeymoon, then Goodwill would be a better spot for it. Enlisting a neutral third party can help you be less emotional and more realistic with paring down possessions.
Be careful of well-meaning family members unloading their clutter on to you. Your parents may try to give you some of their household goods or mementos. Just say something like this “I really appreciate you wanting me to have these treasures, but I am downsizing and am not the right home for these. Thanks for thinking of me.” You are required to make choices, but do not let guilt be one of them.
Getting rid of unwanted and unnecessary goods is mentally freeing also. Too much clutter is a mental distraction and can be an energy drainer. The trick is to have some open spaces, whether in your closet or your schedule, so new treasure and adventures can come your way.

reached at (740) 919-1248 or through her website.

Wendi Schuller, uses her knowledge as a nurse, Neuro-Linguistic Programmer (NLP), and hypnotherapist, to author the book The Women’s Holistic Guide to Divorce that helps women regaining their strength of inner peace and wisdom. She can be reached by email  wendischuller@hotmail.com