How to Handle Post - Divorce Dating When "No" means "No."

Separation is a time to turn inward and to grow as you figure out how to balance dating, rejection and what you want. As awful as it may feel, this is the time to focus on the things that went wrong, to figure out your part in the process, to forgive and to have permission to change. Working this out, while also dating may feel odd. You may be worried, “What if they’re the only date I’ll ever get again?” 

On the flip side, there are the times you're very clear - when you’ve been listening to your heart and your mind and your gut and you know the person asking you out is totally wrong for you. If you haven’t been dating for a while, you may be wondering what to do when someone ignores the words you’re saying. Your life, especially after divorce, is for you to create with clear boundaries and intentions - everyone is allowed to be choosy and that means at times, even being rejected.

Rejection hurts. It taps into every past rejection whether from a lover, parent, friend or boss. It fuels that common feeling that “I’m not enough” and triggers us to react in our not Best Self-ways. But being rejected is also universal and definitely, part of why your relationship ended. To begin with - not being heard, not being seen, not being taken seriously are all forms of being personally rejected. 

To put this in perspective: several decades ago, when someone said, “I’m not interested” it was easier to deal with - not that the disappointment or the pain of the rejection was easier, but the inability to troll someone with technology was more difficult. Writing a snail mail letter took a relatively long time so the feelings were poured into poetry and song (or just dealing with them) instead of stalking someone online searching to see if they’re happy without you in their life. How many times have you stared at an X’s IG account hoping they could feel your pain? What about those favorite Facebook feeds?

As you know, the online world is a curated version of people’s lives, only showing those looking, a near perfect impression of reality. Social Media is seductive and addictive where everyday boredom is overcome with an easy click. Separating truth from fantasy especially during a break up is bad enough on its own; it’s exacerbated with today’s means of communication when we’re not hearing from the person we want. 

Are you ready to return to some semblance of listening to the word, “No” so that you can take back some self-respect and create some personal boundaries? 

It’s tough but true (and kind of feels like High School all over again!): just because you want to date someone doesn’t mean it’s meant to be. Likewise, just because they look happy with someone else, doesn’t mean their life is a movie star ending. Dating post-Divorce is still dating.

Isn’t it time to stop going down the internet rabbit hole? Isn't it time to stop making yourself miserable?

My clients struggle with rejection (NEWS FLASH: so do I!) from Tinder and all those Match type algorithms. Do you relate to getting a delightful dopamine hit when your profile lights up but feel dejected and lost when there’s no date on the horizon? I'm always curious, "When did we become so fragile and needy?" What makes us think that we’re ready to date a great person if we haven’t done our work, able to show up as a worthy partner? (NEWS FLASH: the person you want to date had better be great and you had better be great for them!) 

Part of the inner work is figuring out who you are today so you can wisely choose a new partner for tomorrow. So get in there and do it!

If you're uncomfortable rejecting someone else, try these as you get the hang of setting boundaries:

Online Dating Sites: "Thanks for reaching out. I'm pursuing other 'matches' for a bit and wish you good luck with yours!" (Then Mute, Block or Swipe)

On Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and IG: Mute, Block or Delete

For an Email or a Text:

Dear _______ ,

Thanks for reaching out. I'm sorry, but I'm not interested in your romantically and wish you well. (Sign your name because it's polite!)

If you’re the one being rejected, try these ideas:

Block them. Really and truly, use the technology to BLOCK or DELETE the person who doesn’t want to see you anymore. Simply protect yourself from yourself… tell yourself that "you will find a great partner" and stay off their feeds. Mute, Hide, Delete the connection. Step away from the emotional hit. Stop being a voyeur, a cling-on, and focus your attention on you so you can balance the hit of rejection with the joys of being accepted. 

As you experiment with flirting, dating, and relationships after separation go back to basic dating rules: know thyself, know you’re worthy of a great partner and become a great partner so you can attract and be with your future mate. If you’re still stuck and feeling whipped around emotionally, reach out. I’ll help you get tethered to your Best Self and out there dating again with confidence!

 

 

5 Crucial Truths to Know about Dating and Sex Post Divorce:

Dating after any separation, especially divorce, is filled with contradictions. On the one hand, sex is super fun and necessary especially if the relationship ended with a quiet and boring bedroom. However, all too often, there’s a lot of confusion around the need for intimacy, experiencing the fabulous hormones released during a quickie, true love or an easy way out.

There’s always a period of “having fun” in this phase of separation! Seriously, it’s the best part of stepping out and starting over. 

Rarely do those first romances last and usually, the new pain is much worse than the loss of the old partnership. 

Keeping these 5 - Crucial Truths in mind will make dating more fun and help salvage your self-esteem and self-confidence in the long run:

1) Trust your gut - I know, this concept is talked about in every self-help book available, and that’s because it’s also the number one thing we forget to do. After a horrible breakup, most of us crave companionship so badly, we’re able to ignore all the warning signs and succumb our pickers (NEWS FLASH: your picker is the combination of your heart, hormones, and head!) to a pity party - beer anyone? 

Remember Maya Angelou’s known for saying, “When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.” But what does that really mean? Those people who study us say, We’re the only species on earth who try to rationalize away our instincts!” I can’t tell you how often I hear, “S/He’s so nice, they have a weekend home, s/he is so hot, but…

So, if you feel it’s slimy, trust it is slimy even if you can’t specifically describe what you’re sensing. (NEWS FLASH: it actually doesn’t even matter - you don’t have to be right about what you're picking up, you just need to start listening to yourself again.) If you’ve gone through any sort of heartache, you’ve enough experience to understand a bad relationship. 

No one wants to latch onto another person who’s going to hurt them, but this is easily done at the beginning of dating after a divorce. 

2)   There’s no easy way out - I get that you want to keep the hottest girl or the wealthiest guy you meet. This DNA encoding is alive in well in our society. In fact, it’s so well known, it's allowed to be argued between attorneys regarding maintenance! I understand wanting a relationship or a perfect “10” but it’s usually desperation driven by fear dressed up as your new “soul mate”. 

Being frightened in divorce is normal - it’s also part of what you have to go through. 

Wanting to have sex, to date and to quickly get back into that familiar pattern of being in a relationship is also normal. However, there’s time for that to come - slow down. Be on the lookout for false friends. Really pay attention to your desire to believe the person who dangles money, prestige or a place to live no matter how overtly or indirectly. They’re taking away your power!

The frustration of another bad relationship will suck your energy and life force never mind years and peace of mind. 

Someone who respects you wants to get to know you… and vice versa… no strings attached. Don’t laugh… look for someone your mother wanted for you - who you can enjoy, play with, trust and like - not someone who can make back-stabbing promises. Haven’t you had enough of those?

3) Yep, you’re hearing it: take responsibility for everything - Isn’t it time? This goes along with having common sense about those you hang out with, what you’re doing and not doing, and how you earn a living. It means blood tests and condoms. It means showing up and being your word. It means allowing a little wiggle room for God. 

When was the last time you raised the bar on your relationships? 

You now have an opportunity to find true partnership, an exciting career, and new adventures! You’re allowed to date and to be intimate in the middle of your fighting, in the middle of their messy situation if you want. These are your choices.

You make the rules starting with the decision that you’re worth it. 

(NEWS FLASH: this isn’t always easy to remember after a split up.) Shift into some personal growth work and figure out how to walk away from emotionally unavailable folks, lousy jobs, or unhealthy acquaintances that no longer fit your new life. Stepping out on your own requires this balance between taking responsibility and being open to what feels right.

4) Simultaneously, and again, paradoxically, be careful of attempted re-dos - If you’re in any sort of separation, clearing your energy before falling head first for the first person you meet is important. Breakups bring out the not such great parts of us: the needy, angry, horny teenage self that simply wants to be mean, competitive, seductive and feeling alive.

All of this is understandable! You get to step into the force of anger and self-righteousness to create what is fair whether in litigation or not; you get to move into that steamy, sexy part of yourself that makes the tough moments easier. The fact is sex will always be there as long as you’re healthy and fit. However,  

Anger and frustration, as a rule, feel justified, and falling in love and rolling around in bed with someone who in essence you just left, feels right.

Making love makes the pain of separation much easier to handle until the new love starts acting like the old one and your boundaries begin to get crossed again. Then it’s an awful, painful, debilitating, on - the - knees kind of moment when you realize you can’t continue being with this person anymore.

Chill out and ponder your actions. Start to enjoy being single for awhile before latching onto the first guy or gal you meet. You owe that to your heart and mind.

5) It's none of your business what they think of you - SERIOUSLY. So what if they’re younger, inappropriate, too old, another woman or man? So what if they try to make you feel guilty when you turn them down? So what if they keep circling back trying to get your attention unable to hear you’re not interested? 

It doesn’t matter what other people want for you, project upon you, promise you or call you. 

You’re the one who’s standing on your own again, figuring things out, making your way in the world. Find out what turns you on, lights you up brings you joy. The number one rule: stay away from users, addicts, manipulators and narcissists. You know who they are and what they’re capable of doing. 

So here you have it! The 5 - Crucial Truths my clients bring to me week after week. (And I’ve had to experience quite a bit myself!) What’s the big takeaway for you? Where are you missing the mark? These 5 - Crucial Truths will slow you down and give you the space to adjust to being single and if you wish, selecting a true partner. 

If you’re not able to trust your gut, listen to it and enjoy the experience of being with another like-minded human being, let me help you work out what’s keeping you on the bench. Contact me below and we can set up a chance to speak. I promise we’ll get you dating and out there again feeling confident and sure of who you are and what you’re looking for.  

5 Things to Know When Your Marriage is Over

What’s happening?” You went through the ceremony, said all those words, made promises and went on a honeymoon. Those were real events... physical, real experiences and you took to heart the vows coming out of your mouth. Years passed, there were the routines, children, friends. What you had was comfort, familiarity, love, sex, partnership. And then one day, it was over - you discovered the drugs, the girlfriends, his things packed, gone, the locks changed, she left with the kids. You begin what feels like the worst moments of your life...

It’s such a fragile, frightening place and I’ll admit, at first you’re simply spinning, tethered to immense fear and anxiety searching for answers to something you’ve no idea how to figure out. When you start to see the marriage you’ve been living (whether you simply can’t take it anymore or if you’re finding out what’s been going on) it feels nearly impossible to look at this time as something good. This is good old-fashioned, “I’m freaking out!" time

NEWS FLASH: you’re going to FREAK OUT for some time before you’re ready to see the big picture. 

So in this particular moment - the beginning of your rite of passage… 

1) You’ve been the fish in the fishbowl unaware of what your life really has been for a long time. Tolerance and your rose-colored glasses have kept you feeling it’s all you, and the role of being blamed, has you convinced that you’re responsible for the breakdown or the opposite, 100% the victim. What you don’t get is just how fragmented the agreement’s been for a really long time; how having a spouse in your bed, a mortgage, vacations or even family celebrations doesn’t equal partnership, fidelity or respect. This is when you begin to grasp the person who’s been your spouse and to take stock of your life. Balancing this new understanding while being more unstable than ever, and having compassion is difficult.

2) In the freak-out, it feels as if your reality, your marriage - the thing you believed in and did every day - never really existed. You feel like you’ve been living a fantasy in a house of cards. You feel duped, used, so unbelievably naive, foolish, stupid, angry, fed-up, frightened to your core. You grapple about looking for a reality check because you will go over and over and over the details of your marriage: every nuance, every conversation, every moment, every voice message, every email, every thing until you figure out the lies, catalogue the disrespect, the lack of love all in order to become steady on your feet. 

You’re searching for blame.

3) You won’t want to feel the hurt, the anger, loss, panic and the tears, but you will. You really can’t deal with being this wobbly and you’re not in any shape to face the future, never mind being positive and tethered to optimism or experiencing joy. Knowing this, you’re going to feel weak, unable to get out of bed in the morning or the opposite, determined to hold it together with a framework of work and family duties, or you’ll waffle between the two while throwing in a few dates, lots of sex and anything that helps to numb out. 

You are not alone.

4) Your armor will get thick. You stop trusting everyone - you’ll look around for spies, start using cash, worry that your email is being hacked, that there’s a PI behind you, that your friends are no longer your friends. You’ll assume every professional from an attorney to your doctor to your kids’ teachers knew something you didn’t. You’ll assume everyone is fabricating tales including me. This is the worst part of this part of separating: it’s a very lonely place because, in your pain and shame, you’re pulling in, hiding from others who you think are judging, judging, judging. 

Here too, you’re simply creating an answer, any answer, anything tangible in order to piece the future together.

ALL THAT'S GOING ON IS THAT YOUR MARRIAGE IS OVER.

5) Find safe ground, there’s nothing wrong with you. You may have work to do, even lots of work; you may have to parent, you may have to learn a few skills, change some habits, get some help but you… your passage for your lifetime is just beginning. In fear and resentment, this is incredibly hard to hear but try to believe... you’re definitely not the only one who’s life has been a mirage. 

That’s why I’m optimistic and bold and champion your courage. This is simply a period of time and you need it. 

Being despondent you’ll take the steps necessary to make the torment and the panic go away. In so doing, the aching goes away and you get to begin getting better and growing. So the heartache and dread and the awareness have to come first. It’s part of what’s going on. You have to see the truth. Figure out as much as you can about the stories you’ve been living, it gives you purpose to get out of bed in the morning. It also means using the fuel of anger and self-righteousness to propel you into accepting, changing, evolving into who you’re supposed to be.

 

Laura Bonarrigo

New York NY

laura@laurabonarrigo.com

Can you help me understand divorce?

Your divorce is uniquely yours. It’s your rite of passage into a new future… 

If you’re going through a divorce, then you don’t know what a happy relationship really feels like and you’re probably, most definitely, scared out of your mind. So that’s where someone like me comes in… you need a mentor, guidance to help understand what it’s going to take to end what hasn’t been working and to create a new, happy life for yourself with everything that entails. Did I say everything?

The legal steps are fairly clear and have their own timeline and rhythm despite the anger or drama: filing a petition, temporary orders, serving the other person, awaiting a response, negotiation, litigation and trial if necessary. In mediation, each party tries to frame their position and negotiate equitable terms and the settlement documents go to court for approval. Some states require co-parenting classes, sometimes there is forensics, sometimes there are domestic violence issues and family court. Each of these legal steps has their trained professionals whose job it is to get you legally, ethically, safely separated.

On the emotional side, things take a less linear route and this is where getting a mentor is incredibly helpful. I believe healing doesn’t truly begin until after that decree is signed but wearing the stigma of divorce, like a Scarlet D on your tee shirt, also doesn’t have to color the rest of your life. You have to factor in time married, habits formed, agreements tolerated and practices you honed during the unhappy months or years you spent together and do your work to overcome the reasons why you attracted this very large life lesson into your life and avoid going through it over and over again. 

A good measure goes like this. Take the AA 12 steps that apply to you and your understanding of a universal spirit, the 7 stages of grief, the 4 steps to codependency recovery, the 5 phases of abandonment recovery and mush them all together and that’s what you have to do to get through the entire process of divorce! 

Let me make this as clear as possible: you are creating an entirely new life.

So, you decouple from the energy that attracted you to your X in the first place, work through the grief towards acceptance, rebuild your self-esteem, your pocketbook, your boundaries, your ability to trust again and your mojo. You learn to accept your human foibles, emotional crutches, take responsibility for your part, forgive, let go of shame and develop faith, hope, and confidence. You educate others on how to treat you, become a leader for those stepping into the process and help change how the world views this painful, deeply personal time. This doesn’t happen overnight!

You can continue living a great life while doing your work. You can fall in love, remarry, move, get a promotion and make money. The most amazing thing about divorcing is you get to start over with only you deciding the kind of life you want to have. However, you must become conscious and self-aware. It’s a process that wakes you up because we take ourselves wherever we go. And you have to give yourself the gift of guidance and time.

There are no shortcuts. 

The entire process (different for each person, non-linear with fits and starts) really does have to be done or you’ll end up mainly stuck, often deflated, broke, sick, or worn out with Post Traumatic Divorce Disorder.™ Unfortunately, you can fall in love, move in with someone (who's a lot like your X) marry and still have PTDD.™ You can make a lot of money, be in great health, have many gorgeous new partners and still have PTDD.™ You can start a new family and get divorced again - a sure sign of PTDD™ and statistically certain. For way too many, that Scarlet D doesn't come off easily.

The process of divorce demands respect. 

You can’t just wrap it up and pretend your divorce never happened. You can’t replace one lover with another and expect to be healed. You can’t argue and fight for the rest of your future. Chances are you aren’t sick or incompetent, you’re just scared and hurt and angry wanting to forget about all of it. (News flash: that won’t work... I tried.) Find a thinking partner like a Certified Divorce Coach. Find someone to hold you accountable so that your new love and your new life don’t reek of past work not done. Find someone to help you understand what’s going on.

On a certain level, you imploded your marriage so you could go through this awesome and life changing rite of passage. You want to find the happiness you crave and deserve! I’m so excited for the person you’re going to become and I believe in you.

If you live in the New York City metropolitan area, join me for FREE monthly Scarlet D Workshops. If you’re not close by and would like to connect via FREE monthly webinars, please reach out and let me know. 

 

Laura Bonarrigo

New York NY

laura@laurabonarrigo.com

Finding Grace under Pressure

Having been through heartache more than once, I really know how to behave badly around friends and former acquaintances especially when I was catching up with them during the holidays. I was brilliant at dumping my pain, frustration, and gossip onto others and as a result, I lost a lot of friends and colleagues. It’s easy now to admit I misbehaved: while I was going through my divorces, I was impossible to be around.

This was mostly because I simply didn’t know there was a way to have grace under pressure! Who knew the story I was living was impossible for those around me? I certainly didn’t and for those friends I hurt by dumping on, if you’re reading this, this holiday season, please accept my gift of apologies: I didn’t have the skills at safe lines of communication. I really didn’t know any better!

As a coach, I hear a different perspective - the friends who are judgmental, exhausted really from listening to the anger; the teachers who are fixated only on their students’ well-being not the parent’s; the attorneys and financial advisors who don’t really want to be therapists and aren’t licensed to be; the friends and family who don’t have a clue about how to help the person in their life going through a divorce. They too don’t know what to do when another is in pain and (News flash: this is a season of lots of difficult emotions for everyone).

Divorce is stressful. Period.

Going through one is demanding and even when we try to be our best selves, it’s incredibly difficult to leave the story of the divorce behind. It's actually nearly impossible. The problem is that without a structure or a process to help someone going through divorce stay stable (being their Best Selves, holding them accountable and helping them calm down - skills to be learned) then everyone has a tough time when one among them is separating. Working with a trained divorce coach is different than working with a therapist or unloading onto friends and family. Divorce coaches are taught how to keep their clients stable, giving them new skills, helping them to look towards the future and move forward in their lives. Clients create optimism and are held accountable taking actions, and goals are set and met around showing up positive and interested in others during the holiday season.

This is what I’ve learned… get help: you’re not alone, you’re not impossible... you're in pain and need new skills

I can spot a new divorcee a mile away: they’re talking nonstop about their life (because they can’t stop themselves) their listener is leaning back trying to escape the onslaught of words and energy; the friends are torn because they wish they could help but they’ve lost their fun-loving friend and don’t want to appear rude, and really want to be there, but not like this. Extended families are the worst because usually, they never liked the person we're leaving, so they heap more fuel onto the fire - especially around the punch bowl.

Do yourself and all your friends and colleagues a favor: Find a certified divorce coach you can work with this season and make the process less stressful for yourself. You can go through and heal from divorce with grace, a few new tools, and some skills. This is a gift you give yourself. Your friends, colleagues, and family will thank you, together you’ll have more fun and share joy, and as a result, you won’t lose them the way I did come the New Year.

 

Laura Bonarrigo

New York, NY

laura@laurabonarrigo.com

 

Dear Santa,

Please have my parents stop fighting. I'm really scared and the noise is too much. I pray for them to stop yelling and arguing. Last week I saw my dad hit my mom - she was crying and I didn’t know what to do. I’m really scared and I don’t like it.

Are you living in violence and trying to hide it from your kids? (News flash: your children know about it.) They’re watching, listening and feeling the tension. They see the slaps, hear the crying and are present to the anger. How can you rein it in over the holidays? Is it possible for you to avoid taking the bait, walk away from the fight, and commit to taking the high road? In the long run, this helps you… if you've been in a relationship fueled by anger, it also won't be easy but for you and your children, it’ll be worth it! Walk away from fighting this season.

I want my friends to play with me. The kids act like I’m weird and everyone’s looking at me. Why can’t they just play? I used to be able to have so much fun and now I’m being dragged around to appointments and talking to grown-ups all the time. It’s not fun and it’s not fair.

Your children want time away from school deadlines and away from the pressures of your fighting or divorce. They also need adult help, maybe supervision, certainly time with someone other than you who has the patience to listen. What they don’t understand is the pace with which you’re barking at them and what they’re doing wrong to warrant your frustration. They want time to play with their friends and they don’t understand why you’re always rushing them from place to place, and why they can’t hang out and have fun. They miss their friends and they want their old routines.

You know everything’s up in the air. You know the old routines are gone. And I know, you don't mean to take out your frustration on them. What children of all ages need is the reassurance that you are safe and thus, they are safe. How can you slow down this winter? Where can you find pockets of time to have fun? To do new things, to rally yourself to enjoy being together? As you create new traditions, tell yourself that the divorce and the fighting can wait and go enjoy some fun. You and your children need a break.  

Please make my parents be parents - they want me to decide what to do, like all of a sudden I’m the grown up and they keep telling me things about each other and I don’t really care. Seriously. I have homework to do and friends to see, mom keeps asking me to do stupid chores around the house and I don’t want to be around her or see my dad in a new place or eat in restaurants with him and his new girlfriend.

Putting your children in the middle of decision making is really stressful for them. I know you don’t mean to and I get that it’s really hard not to, but there’s no win in asking them to decide who to be with, whom to see and what to do. This is your role. Your child can’t be physically pulled in half - imagine that the next time you ask them to decide. Instead, reach out to their other parent and make a pact to keep them out of the fight. In the long run, you will both have a relationship with your children but the parent who pulls them apart the most will ultimately lose. (News flash: today's kids are really smart - when I was a kid, when my parents divorced, we were the only family around - your kids know the game you're playing. They're on to you!)

My sister and I want to go have some fun and all I hear is ‘we can’t afford to.’ What happened? Does this mean I can’t do my team sports next summer? Are we poor? Where will we be living? Why is grandpa putting food in the refrigerator and mom is always working now? This doesn’t feel right. Do I have to go get a job?

Children know when economic changes happen in their home. All children see and feel the disparities between households and lifestyle. It is real to them and for those on the outside looking in, it’s not our place to pass judgment. This is important: whether a family is in the 1% or the 99%, children can see, feel and experience the stress of trying to make ends meet or keep up the lifestyle they once knew.

Putting the children first means providing for their lifestyle and making their other home as comfortable as possible… for them! When the fight extends to cutting the less monied spouse’s lifestyle just because it can be done, it's harming your children. (News flash: it’s also mean-spirited and controlling.) When a household can't maintain the lifestyle once had, it’s stressful for everyone. Your children feel it and know it. Reassure them you’ve got this, help them understand the new choices to be made and avoid playing dirty - your children are watching.

This Holiday season, I grant you Mr/Ms. Divorcee permission to find peace and comfort in traditions and new practices. You have time to be with your children and space to step away from the pressure spending time with neighbors and family. Each time you walk away from fighting, you get a much-needed break from the stress of separation. There's a new year up ahead, it's the right time to try on celebrating!

 

Laura Bonarrigo

New York, NY

laura@laurabonarrigo.com

You can’t fly when someone else is standing on your neck

It wasn’t blatant or obvious but over time I realized I simply couldn’t move forward and I knew something was holding me back. I felt like a large turkey being stepped on by Al’s boots down in the barn just before Thanksgiving… Al was our family’s farm hand, general contractor and all around family clown. He also killed the birds. When I realized I was feeling like a feathered friend, I began looking around for mud boots.

Inside I did what every self-aware, seemingly enlightened adult does these days and peered into my belly button: I answered a million and one personal growth questions, played the “self-doubt” “self-hatred” and then the “narcissistic, entitled” card (News flash: all to no avail). Outside, I went to hours of therapy. I put on good luck charms, visited psychics and healers, sat down to confession and peered over my shoulder for hexes and voodoo dolls thinking someone had it out for me. That muddy boot just wouldn’t go away.

What I eventually realized is that when we’re stuck, we look to blame others. But when it comes to relationships, being stuck, held back, stepped on, can truly be caused by those around us. 

I was being stopped. It felt like being stepped on. 

Everything I tried to do fell apart: like working creatively with others and then all of sudden, after mixing my personal and professional life, my relationships on the job fell apart and I had to leave. Or being asked to audition for a role and then introducing my family to the producer and losing the gig.

This happens all the time in marriages and it’s one of the major reasons I feel marriages break down. People change, we grow, our natural boredom with the status quo forces us to mix it up, try something new, take a class, find some inspiration. We were never made to stay the same for the next minute never mind the next decade or two or three.

In marriage, we choose to love for the long term or as I like to say, we choose to ever love.

Championing the growth of our spouses means we are secure enough in our own skin to enjoy the ride. As one of us grows and changes the other gets a piece of the spoils.  

If we’re caught up in control, envy, competition, outright jealousy or even simple, petty and mean-spirited behavior toward the one we say we love, it seeps into the energy field around us. We’re able to disrupt the growth of another. We’re able to step on their chances for a great life. In the meantime, we ruin our chances of having a safe, supportive and enjoyable relationship with the person we claim we ever love.

Instead of being the muddy boot, how about getting the hose? Where could you take a breath of fresh air? When was the last time you sat down with your spouse and championed their success? Celebrated their raise, traded off on evening classes or supported a new physical trainer? Turkeys are really stupid creatures, they follow the rest of the flock. They also have a really short lifespan unless they’re given a Presidential pardon at Thanksgiving. 

So I’m asking, how can you step out of your comfort zone and grant a pardon for the one you sleep with this holiday season? In so doing, your relationship can become stronger, more exciting, and your spouse’s opportunities could grant your marriage a chance to breathe.  

 

Laura Bonarrigo

New York, NY

laura@laurabonarrigo.com

Waiting for “I’m sorry.”

When we’re little we’re taught that saying, “I’m sorry” is suppose to fix every situation we get ourselves into. It’s that concept of ‘everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten philosophy’ which I personally love in its simplicity. In reality it can often work and opens up communication and community, even partnership. But in divorce, “I’m sorry’s” are usually hard to come by and we don’t like that.

Wanting to hear those words, expecting an apology or waiting for one, taps into our youngest selves: the child in us who wants their world order righted again, the spouse who wants their broken vows atoned for and the adult who is ashamed of what’s occurring in their lives. The problem is...

Waiting for the person who hurt you to apologize is a futile act, it simply sets us up for greater disappointment.

What is it that we really want? Is the apology designed (in our minds) to bring us back together, to feed our egos’ self-righteous anger or to make the pain go away as we continue down the path of discovery and separation?

Do you really think hearing an “I’m sorry... I’ve had an affair, I want a different life, I realize I’m gay, I don’t love you anymore…” will make the process easier to go through and heal from? Or is it something we want our egos to hear? This is a real question ‘cuz it’s never gonna to happen. The pain won’t go away from hearing it from the person who’s hurt you.

The pain will only go away when you accept your responsibility and apologize to yourself.

This requires digging a little deeper and figuring out your part in the separation including your naiveté which isn’t a crime but still causes an enormous amount of pain. It means really looking at the person you once were: how you were making assumptions rather than making sure you understood the agreements you were living with and taking the time to keep them current; your sex life - did you care for your partner? Did you live in disagreements, worry and a pattern of belittling instead of support and being an advocate? Where were you the one breaking the agreements you both had, allowing the structure to become porous? Did you turn away from your intuitive self that sensed things were off, but you rationalized away those feelings because you had a little baby at home, or were afraid of facing what was really going on?

This part of discovery has nothing to do with the person who’s gone and everything to do with the person you’re becoming.

Saying, “I’m sorry” to ourselves is a big part of healing: recognizing the person you once were, accepting who you once were and what you did to yourself that helped set up the breakdown is a big, big piece of the healing process. It must be done. So start digging with someone who can help you process, find the forgiveness and start to move on.

If you’re sitting here today unable to forgive the person you once were, here's a hint: go to the place where you find solace (that’s usually your God or a deeply personal place) and find forgiveness for the person you once were and for the person you are today who’s still judging and resentful; on it, angry. Does this make sense? You have to go bigger (or deeper) to forgive all of you.

This is part of the experience of divorce - the deeply personal part that’ll help you move into the next phase of your life without trying to control and carry the kind of stuff that keeps you stuck in the past. No matter what our egos or child-like part of us wants, the only person we get to control and manage is us. We need to say, “I’m sorry” to who we once were and to who we are today. It’s the only thing we can control.

Sometimes we need help, and forgiveness isn’t easy: It’s not easy to come by and it’s definitely not easy to give to ourselves. But waiting for an apology from the partner who left won’t have any meaning until we apologize to ourselves.

 

Laura Bonarrigo

New York, NY

laura@laurabonarrigo.com

Halloween Costumes and Putting Your Kids First

Of course children have to come first: little ones need food, shelter, routines, friends, comfort and safety. They also need a really strong parent: one who has their own emotional well-being steady, calm, not “out to extract a pound of flesh,” or needing to use them against the X. Putting your children first means putting on that Halloween costume and taking them trick or treating, even when you’d rather hide at home with a glass of wine.

Don’t be afraid of the dark.

More often than not in “putting the children first” grieving and angry parents (the ones dealing with the loss of their marriage, emotional stability, financial well-being; the ones being dragged through a case or discovering their real-pretend marriage) forget that they are hurting too. They forget that their children will be in relationship with their X and love the other parent. Friends and family forget that the divorcing adult trick or treating at their front door is in incredible pain, spinning; struggling perhaps to get out of bed in the morning, stressed, frightened. It’s never just the children, and it’s never about the relationship of the children and the X.

It’s about getting help; it’s not selfish to find yourself support.

Without support, parents going through divorce tend to blame themselves or seek to blame the other parent, they lose perspective on what the future offers; they can’t sleep, have a hard time at work, become frightened of everyone and everything and start down the road of self-incriminations or anger - losing faith, hope and trust. Without support they use language like, “for the kids safety” or “I want to protect the kids” or “s/he’s blah, blah, blah” and they forget that the only person they get to protect or control is themselves. Without support, it becomes a constant struggle balancing reacting to information and being proactive with one’s life especially when anger is the predominant theme and they’re at the beginning of the process.

Boo!

Here’s the truth: unless a parent has physically or sexually abused a child and the courts know it and it can be proved, and even then, a child will always be in relationship with a parent who wants to see their kids.

I think that’s what the trick is about and why those in divorce need lots of treats.

“Putting the children first” looks like not using them as pawns or reasons to be petty and play small. It means accepting they are their own human beings with their own perceptions, feelings, desires and future. We all say we know that; you’re even thinking as you read this that I don’t know your particular circumstances (News flash: I do) and you wouldn’t scare your kids; you’re protecting them from... monsters and goblins and (fill in the blank). But I was once a kid in divorce…

Really protecting them means finding child therapists, attorneys who represent them in court and taking care of yourself instead of indulging the reactions you have in the moment. (This is similar to how you give out the candy on November 1st!) It means stepping into not bad mouthing your X around your kids; it means letting your children develop their own perceptions of their other parent and to figure out for themselves the kind of people they want to hang out with; it means protecting yourself from your own feelings of anger and revenge because no matter what, your children will have their own relationship with their other parent. It’s not your relationship and you can’t stop it even if your son or daughter never see them again.

We are connected to our parents and the memories of our parents for a lifetime.

So find some help. A place to put things into a big perspective. A place for you to have time and space away from the anger and worry. A place to imagine what becoming bigger might look like and trying it on for size the way you wear a Halloween costume to please your little one. A place where you can think and look at options. A place for you to accept your role as parent. These aren’t easy days and these concepts aren’t as easy to hold onto as one might wish. They take a while to become strong, they’re really difficult to keep, but I promise you can do it. You can “put your children first” by stepping into being selfish and getting yourself support and a new perspective of what this time in your life can become.

 

Laura Bonarrigo

New York, NY

laura@laurabonarrigo.com

Moving the Stuff and Setting Up a New Home

I love moving and decorating, painting, renovation and the smell of sawdust; the creative aspect of setting up a space, picking out fixtures and working with contractors and designers. If I had another life… I would be a contractor like my grandfather and brothers and I'd choose to build or redo buildings. That’s why redoing life is so exciting and fun for me!

Before you stop reading, let me try to ease your heart palpitations because I know I’m weird and most people get completely stressed out with moving, letting go of things, renovating, buying new furniture and everything that puzzle requires especially during divorce.

This is the fun part…

To me working the exterior is similar to imagining a new future… like those daydreams I talk about: 

Like September when school began and back to school shopping made me think I could be prom queen, like going to college and stepping into a new identity or falling in love or getting engaged. Those moments when the future appeared doable and I could become who I always wanted to be.

The same goes with leaving the stuff behind in divorce: the furniture you got from the in-laws, the clothing you wore because the X liked you in that outfit, the books, art work, antiques and dust collectors that you purchased on your honeymoon. All that stuff you had during that relationship carries energy, memories and lost dreams. Maybe it’s something you love, maybe it’s something you’re willing to fight over. (News flash: I’m not a big fan of that.) Maybe you think you can sell it for good money. Maybe. Maybe all of that.

But starting over looks like starting over with a clean slate: new furniture, new clothing, new dishes, silverware and glasses; artwork you love and items you admire. It means setting up a man cave the way you always wanted, throwing out the clothes that don’t fit, applying for that 0% credit card with your excellent credit report or shopping antique stores for things that make you feel like you. It means imagining a new future for yourself free from the energy of the past.

Starting with the exterior allows you

to work from the outside in.

Then it pushes you to work the inside out.

Leaving the stuff to avoid a fight means letting go of competition. Walking away from the drama of the past means putting up boundaries. Imagining a happy future for yourself looks like creating faith. Getting your money and finances in order so you can purchase what you want is being responsible. Making courage to shop declares you believe in you. Tapping into your creativity reminds you of who you really are, and setting up a warm and inviting space you get to call home welcomes a new future. Lastly, getting organized instead of being wrapped up in the fight so you can take on the details of a move, decorating and managing others looks like you no longer want to be who you’ve been in the past.

I’ve moved homes 17 times (not counting the summers my family went from Massachusetts to Maine when I was a kid, or going back and forth to college). I guess looking at it that way, I’ve been forced to find it fun. But each and every time was a chance to be different, to grow, to be happier than I was the day before even when things were great. Each opportunity came with its challenges and each required I change the exterior and the interior at the same time. I find it fun, an exercise in imagination and organization and a relief… the past is left physically in the past. I hope you’re more inspired to take it on now too.

 

 

Laura Bonarrigo

New York, NY

laura@laurabonarrigo.com

 

Dream Team

Remember when you were a kid and the world was laid out in front of you like a dreamy summer’s day? I recall spending hours on my family’s farm working in the garden or in the barn milking goats (yep, I can do that), daydreaming of singing on a Broadway stage and then conducting interviews about my amazing talents as an actor and singer and dancer. (News flash: just to set the record straightI can’t dance, and though I can carry a tune, in NYC among real singers, I would be considered an amateur!) So back to daydreaming and what those dreams have to do with divorce.

Everything...

Dreams have everything to do with divorce, from creating a dream team of advisors to taking the old dreams out of the closet, dusting them off and getting back to the life you dreamt of before that sneaky unhappiness crept in. They’re the things that get us to lose some lbs, start dating, pull out the resume, finally take that bucket list trip, and give us the courage to fall in love again.

Having a dream team of advisors makes the

process of separating so much easier!

Being gentle, loving and kind to yourself instead of wallowing in fear, shame and self-incriminations takes time, and having people around you to keep you going is enormously important.

A dream team

includes a top-notch attorney you can trust, a divorce coach to keep you moving towards your future, a CDFA and/or CPA to advise you on the $$s, a CFA to turn those $$s into a future where you can breathe; a hairdresser, trainer and nutritionist to get you looking your best and perhaps a matchmaker or dating coach to find Mr/s Right.

Ask yourself, “Would you start a business without a business plan, advisors and a business coach to keep you going in the right direction?” Most likely, you know the answer: “Not a chance!” So it goes with divorce… we were not meant to be alone (ever, but definitely not through this process) and your dreamy life is going to take some doing, especially if it’s not here quite yet.

Those dreams you still desire are totally worth having. Spend a little time getting to know them again. If you don’t remember your dreams or you’re afraid, create some new ones and daydream about where you want to go when the decree is signed.

Take this slowly.

Dreams are there to help make you smile. (Leaving my marriage, I embarked on singing lessons :). I hired a new CPA, a new CFA, needed coaches, mentors, training and an entirely new group of networking professionals. It isn’t always easy to take the steps into the life I want, so each step, each time I’m stuck, I find and continue to find the professionals to help me create what I want.

You’re so worth it, and your dreams for your life are yours; finding the right team will make the experience more fun as you make them a reality.

 

Laura Bonarrigo

New York, NY

laura@laurabonarrigo.com

Going Back to School in 3 Easy Steps

These are the days when we return to routines, rising early for the school bus, getting backpacks packed, making lunches and sending little ones off with their homework. There’s a comfort with this familiarity for those of us who grew up with some semblance of public or private education: friends, sports, school lunches, homework, crushes, activities, parental involvement; early to bed, early to rise. But for those of us experiencing loss—any loss, really, but in this case, loss of a marriage—going back to school can be really difficult.

Schools involve children, and when routines

change, it’s weird for everyone involved.

Let’s talk about this: custody arrangements have children moving from parent to parent, home to home these days. When I was growing up, for better or for worse, children primarily lived with their mothers. Clearly staying in one home and seeing a father on the weekend or one day a week isn’t suited for every family. And courts feel differently today. There are benefits for both the parent and the child with such an arrangement, and making it work for all can be made easier once you set your mind to it. 

Here are a few hints:

1. Make it less stressful by getting organized before school begins:

  • Write to teachers and ask for text books if and when possible for both homes, and get organized right from the start.
  • Get school supplies for both homes so your child always has what they need.
  • Purchase duplicate undergarments and pjs, toiletries and school uniforms so your child is prepared and doesn’t have extra stress in the morning, wondering where their things are (make sure there’s enough clothing in each home at all times).
  • Show them where they wait for a bus in each neighborhood.
  • Have a small bag packed at all times for the things the child takes back and forth. This helps them know where things belong.

2. Have a calendar:

  • Ourfamilywizard.com makes organizing easier and co-parenting less antagonistic when the calendar is set and communication is clear between school, parents, MDs and tutors.
  • Create a calendar for little ones so they know when they’ll be in their other parent’s home, and help them mark off the schedule—it gives them a sense of control.
  • Set up a time for children to call and say “good night” each evening, provided it’s good for the child.
  • Know that even though you may be uncomfortable with the routine, all kids—even little ones—learn the rhythm and get used to going from home to home.

3. Find a way to make your night(s) off fun:

  • You have a built-in babysitter, so take a night off!
  • Sleep in! Enjoy the late mornings in which you don’t have to pack sandwiches.
  • Go out—you deserve time to be with other adults and to experiment with dating and have fun.

I know those first few weeks (months?) were really hard for me when my kids went to their father’s home. Even now, I don’t always get to see them off on the first day of school, which is weird and awkward and reeks of disappointment, even though my children are in high school!

But I love my nights off! I’m so grateful for the mornings I get to sleep in and the nights I get to skip making dinner and go out with friends. I appreciate being with my own thoughts and watching TV late into the night if I wish. I’ve found knowing that they’re safe a relief, and knowing that they want to see their father and be with him makes it easier for me to accept being solo.

Our children will accept the routines; it’s what they learn and get to call normal and familiar. Let it be easy and make it so for yourself. It gives you time to be you again.

 

Laura Bonarrigo

New York, NY

laura@laurabonarrigo.com

You Can Do War, or You Can Do Peace, But You Can’t Do Both at the Same Time

You have to admire parents and couples who make it through a divorce without an enormous amount of animosity or financial ruin. I often wonder if they’re superhuman or something! They’re the ones who still have holidays together or cry when they sign their decrees. It’s heartwarming and makes me believe in hope and to have faith in relationships and mankind and all those higher values and aspirations.

In reality though, I know very few of these couples. Most people I come across going through divorce are in the middle of an emotional war zone. They’ve lost all semblance of rationality, are constantly being triggered and have a very difficult time staying tethered to showing up as their best selves. The toll this kind of divorce takes on a family is enormous. It can encompass years, cost thousands and thousands of dollars, and like most wars, it doesn’t end the way anyone wants.

You can do war, or you can do peace, but

you can’t do both at the same time.

The best news is, it’s your decision.

So let’s say that you want to have a peaceful, harmonious ending to your marriage, and your ex does not or cannot play on that level with you. Let’s say you’ve tried to remain calm and rational, but you’re being dragged into a war zone. What do you do?

You get help.

You research personality disorders with a therapist so you can understand what you’re potentially working with (and may learn a thing or two about the breakdown of your marriage in the meantime). You get a divorce coach to help you feel safe being tethered to doing the right thing—literally holding you accountable to being the best version of yourself no matter what. You hire an attorney who’ll listen to your point of view and negotiate. You come to peace with understanding that you may not get what you deserve, but fighting for it will cost too much and won’t be worth it in the end. You know getting out and setting up boundaries are the only options.

If you’re in a war zone and want out,

remember this:

There are no peace talks in the midst of war.

Your divorce is a reflection of who you were in the past and what you were married to. Life isn’t always fair, and going to court is no carnival. This is the person who shared your bed; they may be the parent of your children. Going through divorce hell-bent on destroying another human being won’t serve you in the end; trying to enact revenge and harboring anger and animosity sucks the life out of you and will permeate every other relationship you have going forward; playing the victim card is remaining small. It’s not a reality TV show! You’re not being filmed, and honestly, your friends and family are tired of the drama. Stop abusing everyone you meet. Stop abusing yourself.

As you live into your future ask, “Who do I want to be now?”

These choices set up the foundation of your future self, so think about this carefully. How you do your divorce is a reflection of your personal values. If fighting is your only emotional tone, find a divorce coach and give yourself permission to shift. Divorce can become all consuming if we let it, but being angry, resentful and frightened or hurt doesn't have to be the only feelings. Put your attention on being part of the changing paradigm around divorce—this is your rite of passage to becoming who you’re supposed to be. This is the beginning of a new life. This is you stepping into the greatest version of yourself. This is forcing you to become who you were supposed to be all along.

Get through your anger and heal—choose to heal—letting go of the resentments, punishing, frustration, hurt, pain and feeling victimized. Take back control over yourself and your emotions so that you can have a great future. Everyone around you will be grateful (News flash: including your ex). Over time, trust that you’ll be grateful for taking the high road as well.

Do peace.

Do war, and get to peace,

but know that you cannot do both at the

same time.

 

Laura Bonarrigo

New York, NY

laura@laurabonarrigo.com

What Am I Teaching My Children by Getting a Divorce?

You’re teaching them about

integrity, honor, respect, self-confidence

and that we all have the right to a great life. You’re teaching them that abuse will not be tolerated, that agreements are kept, that the truth always comes out and that lying is something we all do but look down upon and definitely don’t need to accept. You’re teaching them how to stand on their own two feet; how to speak up and be seen; how to recreate a life. You’re teaching them

resilience, compassion, boundaries, and self-worth.

You are teaching them that it’s never too soon to show up and to grow up.

Even very young children know what’s happening.

They may not be able to articulate what they’re witnessing (thank goodness for our brilliant child therapists), but they know intuitively that something in their home is off. They sense that ‘uncle so-and-so’ shouldn’t be with mommy after school, they know when dad takes too long with the babysitter, they know that dinner is supposed to be with both parents and that mommy and daddy sleep in the same bed when there’s been a history of doing so. They notice and pick up on the vibe, the arguments, disappointment, drinking, use of drugs and abuse. With divorce, we owe our children some semblance of truth catered to the age and developmental stage they’re in.  

They may be old souls and be able to commiserate and provide comfort but then they’re forced into the role of parent (News flash: this is where a divorce coach can be hugely helpful. Your child needs you to be their parent, and you may need support.) And children definitely, 100% need help in healing and dealing with their first (or second, or third) divorce. Children are not ever too young to experience divorce. It colors their lives, their relationships with future lovers, their interpretation of monogamy and commitment and the institution of marriage, even their own self-esteem.

Divorce is a generational disease and our children need professional help, support groups, counseling,

and lots and lots of love.

What they don’t need is to be alienated from one of their parents unless there’s a history of physical or emotional abuse, and even then, children can have guardians present when visiting. Courts do not want to become involved with needy and angry parents using children as a bargaining chip, weapon or pawn. The bullying parent or attorney doing so desperately needs help themselves. When a parent uses a child, the child knows it, feels it and will side with the most sane parent… parental alienation (pitting a child against the other parent or in-laws) never works.

Let them be with the other parent, experience the financial disparities, the level of emotionality and the physical differences in lifestyle, attitude, the things they do, the people they spend their time with. Trust that kids will use each parent for the things the parent is manipulating them with. So, if mom has more money and is willing to buy them, then kids will use mom for the things they want. If dad takes great vacations, then kids will ask for vacations with dad. When mom is belittling and mean, they won’t want to see her. If dad has a weird girlfriend… surprise! The kids don’t want to visit.

Kids are not stupid…

 they manipulate their married parents, why not their divorced ones?

When parental alienation occurs, it may seem like the other side is winning; you may have years of painful silence and want to correct your child’s seeming ignorance but over time, trust that the truth will come out. It may take decades (remember when you learned who your parents really were… that was about 35 - 45 years old right?). Develop trust in your kids, trust in the truth.

Trust in yourself to hold the high ground

NO MATTER WHAT.

Over time children grow into their futures the same way divorcing forces you to grow into yours... totally separate from your ex, with your own boundaries and rules. Be the parent who parents, and your kids will feel safe, loved and respected. Be the parent doing their own work and healing and growing and your kids will witness you and (over time) learn to respect you, articulate what they knew all along and come around to seeing the truth. There are three sides to every story, and your child’s experience of divorce is valid, real and critically important.

Laura Bonarrigo

New York, NY

laura@laurabonarrigo.com

What Your Client Needs to Know: 4 Ways to Get Your Life Back

1. They need to believe in you.

It really doesn’t matter if you’re the most competent attorney or CDFA or mediator around. When your client pays you a ton of money and they’re sitting in your office, they’re filled with a myriad of feelings, stress hormones coursing through them and lots of narcissism, self-doubt, and doubt about you and your ability to fight for them. Confidence in the very people they’re hiring is rare, especially when the process takes a long time, the language is archaic, and they’ve never been in an adversarial position before. You, as their advocate, are up against a lot of prejudgment, bias, and fear.

Your role—know your stuff. Have patience. Answer questions and be self-assured. The decision-making is up to the client (sorry, no you don’t get to live their lives when they walk out your door) however, your role is to be the authority on the law, finances, and budgets or the person that controls the antagonism during mediation. You are in charge; clients are paying you to show up and be the expert.

If you have a client calling and texting and emailing several times after a meeting, sorry, you’re not doing your job.

2. They need to get that you’re not their therapist.

This drives me nuts: attorneys who bill for empathy. Sure you get it, you got into this job to help people, to make moms’ lives easier or to prevent kids from being stuck in the middle. I hear this all the time. However your role is to represent and advocate for your client within the boundaries of the law, not to be a therapist. It’s really not fair for your clients to be paying you more than they’re paying their actual therapists for advice you’re not licensed to give.

The problem is that clients don’t know this and you do. It’s appropriate to explain your role to your clients—to strongly suggest they get a divorce coach and a therapist; to put boundaries in place so you have your own personal life and to keep to your side of the desk remaining in the position and doing the job you’ve been hired to do.

When you don’t, when you can’t pick up the phone or when a client can’t pay back their retainer and bill, ask yourself, ‘How many hours did I overextend myself?’ Your client, once accustomed to the empathetic courtship and nonstop speaking, will begin to encroach upon your weekends, your evenings, and your time with your own family, jeopardizing the one place you may have hope in a happy union. Resentments on both sides build up making your legal representation more difficult and the reputation of matrimonial attorneys, in general, awful.

3. They need to feel that you believe in them.

Clients who leave your office complaining they’re not being heard and understood hate their divorce and the time they spend with you. Way too often you take on a client you don’t believe in, and that doubt seeps into the relationship. The worst person in the world knows who they are. Your role is to work within the law and not pass judgment. They also need clarity: the law is in place for everyone, and manipulating the narcissist's position just because you can, doesn’t help them, their children, or your own place in the world.

When you go against your own moral compass, chances are, you’ll eventually get pretty sick, not only from the stress you’ve put on yourself on a daily basis, but also because of going against what you know to be right. If you don’t believe the person sitting across from you, don’t represent them. Interviews are for you to decide if you’re willing to spend your precious energy representing someone who goes against your integrity. In the short run, you might need to do your own filing; in the long run, you’ll get a great reputation and be known for what you do well.

4. They need to know they’ll be okay.

You could have the wealthiest person in town as a client, you could be with a non-working mom, either way when it comes to their future, everyone’s afraid on a certain level. We don’t marry imagining divorce. We’re also wired for intimacy and to connect. Your client’s swagger may exude confidence and a joie-de-vivre that rivals the most successful rock star. You may be amazed at their resilience, but let me tell you, it’s all a front. Inside, in the quiet moments of their life, they’re looking at their reflection and sucking it up. Everyone doubts that image.

Your role is to assure them. Let them know you’ve got their back. Suggest to all of your clients—get comfortable doing this—to go to therapy and/or to get a divorce coach. Tell them this is the rite of passage they’ve been needing and wanting. Put the process into perspective for them and do so with the wisdom you’ve gained from watching your clients go through it. Divorce stinks. Period. It doesn’t matter how much wealth, how handsome, how prosperous or young. Your role is to guide and lead your clients to the other professionals they need and assure them they’ll be okay if they take the steps the process requires of them.

Laura Bonarrigo

New York, NY

laura@laurabonarrigo.com

Ending Ceremonies: 5 MORE Things That Must End Before a New Beginning

6. Permeable boundaries. Are you unable to stop others from treating you poorly? If you’ve suffered from permeable boundaries or are unable to take responsibility for yourself, then your divorce is going to be a huge growth spurt. This is when you get to try on a new you and go for speaking up, go for saying “no” and creating some integrity. It won’t be easy, and your ex might not like it. But this is the one time when you’re the decision maker, and being involved and forthright with the decisions needing to be made will make you stronger and more in control.  

7. Equally, having your own way. If you’re conditioned to getting your own way, it’s going to be a rude awakening experiencing courts, or judges, or an attorney, and the law, who simply don’t see things the way you do and don’t really care about you getting your way. It’s tough to be told “no” and to have to follow rules for your own life, your children, your income, and your future because you’re getting divorced. It’s really tough. But you’ll survive, and better yet, instead of sticking to the idea that it’s “my way or the highway,” try growing out of your comfort zone and begin negotiating. Stand in the other person’s shoes, your kids’ shoes, and imagine what’s best for the family’s future.

8. Lifestyle. I think this is the most difficult thing to let go of as you stumble into divorce and out the other end. Divorce causes everyone to lose wealth and money. It especially affects women. But in truth, men who go through divorce also suffer a shift in the quality of their lives. This is admittedly stereotypical, but women who haven’t worked have to go back to work (or risk marrying another man just like their ex). Men will have two households to maintain plus may want money to woo a woman. I am being stereotypical, but the gist is… lifestyles change. It’s often difficult to pay thousands of dollars to an attorney AND go on that vacation.

9. Playing the guessing game. Chances are that during your marriage, you played what I call the guessing game where your beliefs and assumptions found their way into your marriage bed without serious consideration, conversation or comparing beliefs, romantic ideas, and visions of marriage. Chances are that during your divorce you found out that your ex didn’t share those same beliefs or perhaps assumed something different. When these moments occur, you may feel like, “WTF, who was I married to?” But, in actuality, you’ve been married to that spouse the entire time. As you move forward with your life, guessing games have to go the way of your high school prom dress and can’t be allowed into your future. As the legality of divorcing unfolds, decisions about the practicalities of life begin to come to the forefront of your mind. Use them as opportunities to learn how to ask difficult questions, insist on clarity, and make sure you understand every statement, what any expectations are, what the agreement says, and in the future, who that new person is sitting across from you on a date before you sign anything!  

10. Gossiping. All of it—from your ex, to your girlfriends, to their husbands, to your divorce. The problem with gossiping is that it keeps you distracted from the things that matter and keeps you caught up in the story of your past. It also gets others all upset and makes you, going through an already difficult time, suspicious and permanently on edge. I always say, divorce isn’t contagious, but become single and then find out how many of your married friends invite you to dinner! When gossiping gets added into the picture, friendships go away. It causes false conclusions and suspect motives. Once gossiping (retelling your divorce story or catching your friends and family up on the progress or lack of progress with your separation) becomes the norm, you remain brittle, emotional, and difficult to be around. Your friends, if you want them in your future, deserve a chance to help you be you. Let them bring you back to your fun side.

I say all this for one reason and one reason alone: We’re all rooted in this imaginary fairy-tale when it comes to our futures. We have to be in order to leave an unhappy marriage! But in order to have what we want in the future, we need to let go of beliefs, thoughts, behaviors, and ideas that no longer serve who we want to become. We divorce to create a more balanced and easier, even happier life, and the moment separation begins is the moment to start letting go of the person and life you had and begin changing.

Laura Bonarrigo

New York, NY

laura@laurabonarrigo.com