What Will Divorce Look Like After COVID-19?

As a person who divorced amicably, I can tell you the entire process was a struggle. My ex-husband and I agreed to all of our terms on our own, without the involvement of two different lawyers — we had one write up our custody agreement and how we’d split our assets. I realize that’s the best case scenario, and I feel lucky. 

I’ve heard from divorced friends who went through litigation for months (or longer), and it sounds like it was three times harder.

Throw a global pandemic into an already heart-wrenching situation and I can’t even begin to imagine the pain and suffering. I never thought I’d have to say this, but I feel lucky my marriage ended while we weren’t in the middle of a crisis.

Our battle with COVID-19 has literally changed every aspect of our lives: how we grocery shop, how we socialize, how we work, and how we sanitize. It will most definitely change the divorce process as well. 

 ABC News reports that family law attorneys predict an upswing in divorces caused by this pandemic, based on a recent surge of inquiries and an increase in electronic filings. Susan Myres, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, tells ABC, “We are fielding calls right now from people who are tired of being in the same house with each other.”

But those trapped in unharmonious home life may have to wait ever longer than usual. When jurisdictions do reopen, things will be delayed for some time. As Penelope Hefner, family law attorney and Principal of Sodoma Law Union, told Scary Mommy via email: “We normally tell people a divorce takes about 90 days to complete, but since divorces aren’t moving forward at this time, we can expect to see a much longer time frame, which could theoretically put us into 2021 by the time it is complete.”

A delay won’t be the only difference those seeking to part ways will have to face. There will be other snags we’ve never had to contend with.

Hefner explains that the party leaving the former joint residence may have issues with seeking new housing: “Landlords are hesitant to show properties and are worried about a tenant’s ability to pay, and lenders are going to tighten up criteria for mortgages.” It may not be as easy as it once was for one person to move out, so she advises that people may need to look at staying in the same home longer than they would have liked, or consider a “nesting” situation for custody purposes, at least temporarily.

For those who have kids, lawyers are seeing a lot of custody disagreements already. “We have some parents strictly following guidelines as to social distancing and sanitization. And then other parents who are quite comfortable operating as they did pre-COVID,” Hefner states. These disagreements are only going to escalate as society lifts restrictions, with parents arguing about when (and if) it’s safe to resume things like extracurricular activities and worship services.

The current and future job market will also affect those looking to split, explains Hefner. This may make it “difficult to set a long term amount of child and/or spousal support without knowing for sure what a person’s future income will be, or even if their recent employment or earnings will be what they once were.”

If your partner plans on seeking a divorce in the near future, Hefner suggests getting started now to avoid further tension. Mediation and arbitration can both be done virtually; these options not only provide quicker relief for parties, but help alleviate the backlog that’s to come.

She also advises preparing ahead of time by gathering documents and information that attorneys almost always ask for that may take a long time to obtain, such as bank, credit card, and investment statements, deeds, and titles.

A divorce is already a long and painful process for most, and going through it in the midst (and the aftermath) of a pandemic adds further complications. COVID-19 hasn’t left any aspects of our lives untouched, and for those seeking to make changes to their marital status, it’s just another unpleasant ripple effect to endure.

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I Was Headed For A Divorce Before Quarantine

My marriage had been sick and dying long before a pandemic arrived.

On Valentine’s Day 2020, my husband and I called it quits. He packed his bags and left. I’d poured myself a glass of wine and stared emotionless at his empty side of our clothes closet. I’d announced our separation to my parents and cried over my failed marriage. I’d hinted to our five children about a looming divorce by telling them, “Things are a hard for mom and dad right now so we are taking some time apart.” I’d told my therapist that I was planning on starting a new chapter in my life. I’d sat a hotel bar watching the news of a rapidly spreading virus overseas while holding the hands of a man with whom I was having an affair. By that time, I figured my marriage was fractured beyond repair. So, I sipped my Manhattan, planning for a life without my husband.

Then COVID-19 entered the U.S.

As a precaution, my husband and I agreed that he should come back home, with the prerequisite that he’d sleep in one of the unoccupied bedrooms in the basement. We set up invisible parameters, avoiding one another during daytime hours but gathering for brief family dinners to keep some sense of stability within the family. We sat at opposite sides of the dinner table and exchanged few words. We didn’t kiss each other goodnight but returned to our individual bedrooms, him in the basement and myself in the master bedroom. I bathed in my solitude, soaking up control of the TV remote and texting the new man in my life until late hours.

Social distancing became a regular habit between my husband and me long before any official orders had been put into place.

Then stay-at-home orders took effect. Jobs closed. Colleges shut down. Classrooms were emptied. Our adult and college-aged children trickled back home one at a time. To make room for everyone, I reluctantly gave up my personal space and agreed that my husband could share the bed with me. His clothes returned to their original place in our bedroom closet. The bedcovers blanketed the two of us at night. Except, we still managed to keep our distance, keeping a safe six feet apart in the comfort of our king-sized bed.

I laid awake late one night and stared at my husband’s back while he slept, trying to pinpoint when our relationship had taken a turn for the worse. Maybe it happened when I discovered I was pregnant only a few years after falling in love during our senior year of high school. Maybe it happened when we decided to place our child for adoption and I was left with a bucket of guilt and shame to deal with alone. Maybe our relationship fell apart when we started having one child after the next, and I threw all my energy into motherhood while he rapidly climbed the corporate ladder. Maybe it happened when we agreed to adopt our fourth child, and feelings of overwhelm took its toll. Or maybe our relationship cracked under the pressure of re-adopting our birth daughter when she turned eighteen because of a fractured relationship with her adoptive parents.

Regardless, stress replaced our affection for one another. The passion in our marriage had not only disappeared, it’d been stomped on, beaten and kicked to the curb. There was nothing left to give. I was spent. With my husband in my bed, clutching his pillow instead of me, I just felt alone.

To my surprise, our marriage began to mend more subtlety than the drama that unfolded with a rising pandemic. As my husband was forced to work from home, I realized there was no where that I could escape, and no one that I could escape to. In the beginning, I missed the sound of my husband’s car keys jingling as he’d leave for work. I sighed with resignation as I made an effort to include him in my home life. When I made morning coffee, I reluctantly poured him a cup, too. When I went out for an afternoon jog, he joined me. When I made lunch, I offered him a bite to eat. When it was happy hour, we both reached for a bottle of wine and clinked our glasses. At night, we’d lay together in bed and binge-watch Breaking Bad. Slowly, I began to count on these small, but significant moments together.

Conservation opened. Our hands intertwined. The arguing subsided. Our friendship was renewed. And soon enough, my husband and I resembled a team. It felt like us against the rest of the world. Quarantine became our saving grace.

I don’t know if there’s a happy ending in store for the two of us. I can’t say if our marriage will survive indefinitely. All I know is that relationships can be mended in the wildest of times. Glimpses of hope can be found in the middle of terrible circumstances.

For now, a divorce lawyer hasn’t shown up on our front door step. And maybe, just maybe, they never will. Only time will tell.

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A Divorce Attorney Answers FAQ About Child Support In The Wake Of Massive Job Loss

Even if you heeded the warnings for the COVID-19 pandemic and felt prepared, most people still felt blind-sided by the swift after-effects that followed in the wake of shutdowns and stay-at-home orders across the country. Within days, many people were laid off, furloughed, or saw their income substantially cut. Many people worried about whether they would simply be able to be pay their rent. And for those paying or receiving child support, another question loomed. What happens next when the first of the month rolls around and a child support payment is due? Family law attorney Robin Lalley has some advice.

Communication Is Key

You’ve heard this before, but it bears repeating. When people withhold information, mistrust builds. From the perspective of the parent who is receiving child support, if the due date comes around and no payment is received, some may assume the other parent is taking advantage of a crisis.

For divorced, separated, or otherwise estranged parents, it is possible you aren’t privy to the other parent’s daily life. You may assume that the parent owing child support is already receiving unemployment or has funds saved up so that they can pay child support. You may assume they are still going to work. Instead of approaching the non-paying parent with patience and understanding, it can be easy to default to demanding payment in full immediately — or calling your attorney to talk about filing a motion for contempt (seeking the court to punish the other parent for violating a child support order).

If you are the parent who owes child support, starting a conversation about your current financial issues – even if this task seems daunting — is a better way to address the potential inability to pay child support rather than just not sending the payment and assuming the other parent will simply understand what is going on.  Having that conversation, as difficult as it may be, may save you both a headache in the long run.

Consider The Short-Term, But Plan For The Long-Term

Another part of the discussion that should be taking place is about what the long-term looks like. Has unemployment been filed? Was the loss of employment permanent or temporary? Are there other job options during the pandemic in that parent’s field of work, even something temporary to offset the loss of income?

If the job loss is temporary and there are assurances of being rehired, then it may be best for both sides to come up with a short-term plan. That may include temporary suspension of child support, reduction in the amount, or a plan to pay back the difference in what is paid and what is owed once things get back to normal. One common thread in a crisis is that a little creativity likely goes a long way. Think outside the box as to how both sides’ needs can be met without causing more stress in an already stressful situation. And, remember, child support is intended to be a benefit for your children.

But what happens if you can’t reach an agreement with the other parent and you find yourself unable to pay child support? If you have a court order, you will need to file a motion to modify your child support obligation. Many child support obligations are established through a court order, and you do not get to choose if and when you follow a court order. Failure to comply with court orders could subject you to contempt motions and possibly to the consequences of being found in contempt of the court’s order (which can be as serious as jail time).

Generally, a person who pays child support pursuant to a court order cannot just stop paying child support amount without essentially asking the court’s permission first. Filing a motion to modify may be critically important as we continue to cope with our new reality as the result of COVID-19. For many, unemployment and loss of income could continue for months to come, and if you fail to file a motion to modify child support, a large amount of child support arrears (past due child support) could build up quickly. In many states, the child support payments will continue to add up and still be owed until a person actively seeks to stop them by filing a motion with the court. If that is true where you live, then time is of the essence in getting that motion filed once your income is impacted.

It may feel like addressing child support or filing a motion to modify child support is going too far, especially if you are hopeful that your employment may start back soon. If that’s the circumstance, then maybe you can pull together the funds to catch up on your payments or meet your monthly obligation. Or, pay what you can. That may even be easier in some cases if dealing with the other parent often proves confrontational.

Keep in mind that COVID-19 is a new situation for our entire country. Some businesses may not bounce back as quickly as others, and many may choose to voluntarily stay closed due to public health concerns.  If you are not 100% confident that you will be re-employed soon, it is probably better to err on the side of caution and address the possibility you might not be able to pay child support long-term.

Document Everything

Regardless of whether you are receiving support or paying support, there are things you can do to protect yourself and prepare for any issues that may come up in the future. Memorializing any agreement is important, and under some circumstances, the agreement to temporarily modify child support may not be legally binding unless certain formalities are taken. Additionally, keeping records related to the child support matter is a wise way to be proactive.

For the parent receiving child support, document your efforts to gain information and work with the other parent regarding their support payments. For the parent who owes support and is facing a loss of income, keep track of your partial payments, applications for jobs, attempts to receive unemployment, and make your best efforts to keep the other parent informed in writing so those texts, emails, etc. can be used to show your good faith in resolving the issue.

Some of these things you can do on your own, such as communication and making efforts to work together and compromise. Some of these options require legal expertise and counsel. Whether you find yourself needing to take things to the next level by hiring an attorney to file a motion with the court or negotiate on your behalf, or if you are just doing the best you can on your own, take a step back to think about how the other parent is being affected and try to focus on the fact that we are all being impacted in some way during these extraordinary times.

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9 Ways My Ex And I Rock Co-Parenting

My ex and I have been co-parenting successfully for a long time now, and as the kids get older and more complicated issues arise, it seems our co-parenting relationship gets even stronger.

I was recently asked why I thought I’ve had success navigating the treacherous waters of parenting with an ex post-divorce. I wish I had a silver bullet to our success. It’s not been an easy road by any means, but even though we were flying blind, I think we’ve worked out most of the kinks.

I sat down with him to talk about our success and to see if we can figure out the steps we took (and are still taking) to rock co-parenting.

We prioritize the kids’ emotional and mental health.

From the beginning, we knew that despite the failure of our marriage, we would do everything in our power to insure that the kids were as healthy emotionally as the situation could allow.

We constantly checked in with the kids, talked through their feelings and let them know they were loved every single day. We listened to their grievances and made adjustments accordingly. All of our own personal issues were set aside so that we could focus on them.

We support each other’s decisions.

This one is not always easy. Was I okay with my eight-year-old watching that PG-13 movie or standing that close to the edge of the hiking trail? Um…no. And I let him know that. But the key was to not let the kids know that I disagreed with any of his parenting decisions or allowances during their time with him.

Creating any doubt or insecurities about his parenting choices would have been a detriment to their well being and attitude while they are with him. They need to feel that they are in safe hands when they are not with me and there is zero point in involving them in any small disagreements we may have.

Their dad and I have evolved over the years and so has our co-parenting relationship. Now, if we are ever in doubt, we check in for approval from the other parent. Which leads me to the next point …

We ask each other’s opinions.

Ok, so not for everything. Who has the time for that? But we have built up enough trust as co-parents to really regard the other’s point-of-view on important rules or life decisions. Is 14 too young to attend a high school party? Should we consider out-of-state colleges for the oldest? We treat each other as sounding boards and here’s the key word…respect each other’s thoughts on parenting issues.

We don’t sweat the small stuff.

It’s tough to not have control over what your kids do, eat, drink, watch, read, etc., when they are not with you. Have you heard the term “part-time parent”? Yeah, it can kinda sucks sometimes. But let’s be real — going to bed an hour past their usual curfew isn’t going to wreck their lives. Having ice cream every night for a whole weekend won’t either.

We just don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. And P.S. — you know how not to feel like a “part time parent”? Have a great co-parenting relationship! I always feel engaged with the kids even when they’re not with me because of the communication I have with their Dad throughout the week.

We never put the kids in the middle.

We keep discourse between ourselves. Let me tell ya, putting the kids in the middle of disagreements will just breed resentment and anger in your kids. Just. Stop. Children of divorce love both of their parents. We never vent to the kids about something we are disappointed or upset with. We don’t play angry voicemails or show them texts. We have friends for that (and therapists). There’s also always pets. I’ve had many a vent session with Zollie. He’s the best listener. We try to remember, these are our issues, not the kids’.

We follow the same lifestyle rules.

I know this one is pretty tough for a lot of blended families. It’s common for the more insecure parent to over-indulge the child to gain favor. We just don’t play that game. We keep our rules relatively consistent so that the kids know that the same behaviors are expected at both homes. We discuss things like social media accounts, allowances, chores, after-school activities, etc.

It helps that we have pretty much always been on the same page about what we expect from the kids behavior-wise. When we started parenting in two different homes, it would have been easy to drift away from common goals. It’s one of the things that we’ve learned through the years — having the same rules and consequences in both homes strengthens our co-parenting.

We try hard not to push each other’s buttons.

Listen — if you were married for any amount of time, you certainly figured out how to push each other’s buttons. You know what will prickle the other’s mood or what will trigger a certain unpleasant reaction. First of all, you’re not married anymore, secondly — you’re an adult! Don’t do it. And if one of you is having a bad day and says something regrettable, don’t let that lead you into an argument.

If my ex is feeling especially grumpy, I just choose to ignore that snippy little comment and make an excuse to get off the phone. There is no point in overreacting. I can call him later when he (and I) have calmed down instead of getting sucked into drama because we’re having a bad day.

We are flexible with our time.

We’ve been so lucky to have never needed an official court order to tell us when to see our kids. I know that in most situations post-divorce it is absolutely needed/recommended. For us personally, the thought of involving a stranger (i.e., a judge) to dictate our time with the kids was so unimaginable that we just never even considered it.

Now, we remain flexible with our time with the kids. We do have set days when the kids are with each of us, but we frequently switch days, give the other extra time or adjust as needed. We involve the kids when possible so that they never feel shuffled from one house to the other. They are part of the decisions and have choices.

We get the kids excited about their time with the other parent.

I know it can be tempting to talk to the kids about all of the wonderful things they will do upon their return to your home. We have always practiced the opposite. When I learn about their weekend plans, I get them excited to leave as opposed to excited to return. “Wow — you guys are going to love learning to surf this weekend with Papa!” As opposed to — “I can’t wait for you to get back! We’ll be taking this amazing trip to xyz, having a party and poopin’ rainbows!”

We want the kids to truly live their best lives, to look forward to and enjoy their time with the other parent. We don’t want to compromise the already limited time they have with the other parent. We are secure enough in our relationships with the kids and within our own co-parenting relationship.

We’re not perfect. Sometimes we mess up. We don’t rock co-parenting all the time. We do though, always strive for consistency and teamwork. We compromise whenever we can and we continue to care about each other as the parents of our kids. I mean, we’re kinda stuck with each other, after all.

We’ll be needing to make parenting decisions for a whole lot longer, so we try to remember that focusing on positive communication and cooperation is key. As is remembering that we chose for them to be our children’s parent in the first place.

This post originally appeared on Lights, Camera, Family!

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7 Things I Discovered About Myself After I Got A Divorce 

My ex-husband and I agreed to divorce over three and a half years ago. Back then, I was in survival mode living minute to minute. I had no idea of the emotional hills I’d have to climb. As soon as thoughts about how much my life would change would creep in, I’d shut them all down. Then something would come up to make me face them.

Those experiences were (and still are) the catalyst of me getting to know me, in a way I never would have if I were still with my ex-husband. I now know things about myself I didn’t before, and they have all been gifts. 

1. I am capable of doing this on my own.

For a long time, the idea of being married and having a partner to share a home and raise children with was what I really wanted. But I also believed I needed another person’s help because I didn’t think I was strong enough to handle it on my own — not emotionally or financially. 

You know what? I totally am.

I’ve been tested, scared, and made lots of mistakes, but I keep going. The true meaning of doing something on your own doesn’t mean there aren’t speed bumps in your way that set you back. It means you handle the speed bumps and keep going.

2. I have a lot of work to do in the relationship department.

All of my relationships with men have been pretty healthy. Not perfect, but nothing traumatic. I always thought it was because I was confident and had my emotional shit together. Now, I’m not sure if having your emotional shit together is even a thing. I have a lot of work to do when it comes to being in a relationship with someone.

I felt really strong when I wasn’t dating. Then when I meet someone, all my insecurities, anxiety, and self-sabotaging thoughts come out to play. 

I’ve realized that I tend to shut down when I’m upset or hurt, and I can do things to make my partner feel insignificant. I’m not the best communicator and can be selfish because I think about how I am being affected in situations without taking the time to look at their side. 

I can be very immature when it comes to love. For decades, I thought if my partner would just meet my needs, all would be well because I was stable, I was the voice of reason. Wrong. I’m learning to drop a lot of the expectations and realize I need to work on how I handle myself when I’m not okay, because it can make or break a relationship.

3. I am allowed to be more than “just” a mom.

I put so much of myself into being a mother, it was all I identified with. My ex-husband saw it way before I did and I ignored his concerns (see #2). It was damaging to say the least. My parents divorced, and I tried to make up for all I I’d lost when I had kids by investing in them so much, there wasn’t time for anything else. 

It wasn’t until I only saw them part-time that I realized I needed to build myself up more by doing other things. 

I am allowed to learn a new sport or hobby. I am allowed to be a sexual person. I am allowed to let loose a little bit with my friends. Being a mother isn’t a parallel universe, and I’m glad I stepped out of it because it’s been better for me and my children.

4. I put others’ needs before my own for too long.

It was as if I didn’t even know who I was or what I wanted in my life because it was taken off the table for so long. My ex-husband is not to blame for this; I am. I wanted to be married and have a family so badly. I stopped looking for other things in my life that made me evolve and grow. I thought being a mom was the end-all-be-all, and I wasn’t willing to budge on making anyone else uncomfortable to say what I needed or wanted. 

I shoved dreams of mine under the table and ignored myself for too long just to stay in the everyday demands of making my family happy. Then I couldn’t do it anymore. That’s when my life started. 

5. I need to have more compassion for others.

Before signing my divorce papers, people would vent about their lives or say they felt too overwhelmed to do this or that. I didn’t vocalize this much, but I sometimes wondered whether they were contributing to their own problems. 

Now I know when someone can’t fulfill an obligation, it may mean they can’t emotionally be there and they need to take care of themselves. They may have a zillion other things going on in their life they just don’t want to explain. Or they may be so overwhelmed by anxiety because of a shift in their life that the only way they know how to get through the day is to be still, and they don’t have to explain that to anyone.

6. Screwing up doesn’t mean I am a screw up.

I got really tired of saving face or acting like I was fine. It used to be, if I made a mistake, I would put myself through the ringer and obsess over it. If I felt I’d said or done something wrong, it would be stuck on my forehead for the rest of my life, and no one would forget it. 

This is the very thing that makes us human. People screwing up and making mistakes doesn’t mean they are a screw up. It means they tried something that didn’t work. It doesn’t mean their life is falling apart.

7. Just because I know how to do something, doesn’t mean I have to.

I’ve run myself ragged a time or two trying to do things I have the ability to do regardless of whether I have time to do them or not. I’ve baked cookies for a school event instead of buying them because I let my ego do the talking. I’ve looked up videos on YouTube on how to change a broken shower head instead of asking for help or hiring someone. 

Most of my life, I’ve felt that if I knew how to do something, or if I could figure it out for myself, then I had zero excuse not to just fucking do it. Then my moods would head south and I’d be so irritable the tiniest duty would send me into a tailspin, or I’d cancel something that would actually be just the thing I needed like a girls’ night or having the energy to stay up a little late and read.

When you are the solo parent, you learn pretty quickly that you are better off if you are able to say no or ask for help. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

Oftentimes, we have to go through something that sucks to get to know ourselves a little better. When my ex-husband moved out over three years ago, I thought I knew myself pretty well. After all, I was 41 and a mother to three. I felt I had enough life experience under my belt and could keep living my life the same way I had been.

I’m glad I decided to pay attention to what my emotions were trying to tell me every time something I was doing or thinking felt off. Because if I hadn’t closed that side of my brain down and continued to plow through like I wanted to, I wouldn’t have gotten to know myself the way I do now.  And I have to say, I like myself more than I ever have.

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The One Question That Healed My Heart After Divorce: ‘Did You Feel Loved By Me?’

I didn’t understand our divorce. Today, a year after my 17-year relationship ended, I sit daily with a multitude of unanswered questions. They stem from my insecurities. These questions can range from interrogating my every thought to tearing down my intuition, my heart, the way I love, who I am, and the basic underlying context to how I chose partners. Maybe I never knew him. Maybe he changed. I allot myself some grace. There isn’t enough sugar to coat the facts.

The one remaining fact I can’t change is my marriage died. A friendship ended. It died long before a divorce decree. It died an unnatural death with more tears and heartache than I had ever felt. It died with me never feeling good enough. Always striving to be loved. It died with loneliness and being ignored. It died with resentment, because I chased my dreams. Sometimes, death comes in forms of transitions and change. It comes when we outgrow people. Death comes with situational changes and the hurt, the loss, is still the same.

I have spent time with my reflections. Looking back, and reconciling the parts where I failed. I chase dreams to the bitter end. I work continuously, because hard work pays off. I dive into self-sufficiency and rely on nothing but the strength I’ve always known. Maybe it wasn’t a partnership, it became me always writing the next piece. Ignoring things which probably should have been a bigger priority. And we can question the support I received. I question this often. Do I carry immense blame? Absolutely.

There is gratitude in witnessing my faults. Accepting them for the places I fell short. Two people came together, and two people let a marriage fail. I don’t play the blame game beyond these points. It’s a game without end. It’s a game constantly resetting itself in the past. There is no place to heal in pointing fingers. Even when I know a few point back at me. Blame is centered only the ‘you,’ I am concerned with only the ‘me’ now. It is my sole responsible to heal myself, especially after burying my marriage. After death is mourning. Along with the mourning sits grief, anger, shock, disbelief, hurt, and finally acceptance.

My fingers wrote the question in a text to my ex. Then I erased it, and I sat the phone down. I thought what does it matter? What will the answer to the question change? I realized it changed everything. The answer mattered to me. The answer said everything about me as a lover, as a wife, and as a partner. I wrote the question again, and hit send this time.

“Did you feel loved by me?”

Six words. Six words determining if I failed or succeeded in keeping the vow I promised many years before we buried our future. An answer to these six words meant I had either kept my commitment or somewhere I had fallen short in what I promised to be. If the answer was “no,” then I should look inwardly. I should look at the way I showed my loved, at the expressions I used. I should, perhaps, adjust my affection and criticism. The answer to the question would express to me if needed to change the way I loved.

I know my answer to this question. I never felt loved. It always felt like a chase. Like a carrot on a string in front of my face. My legs kept running for years trying to get the carrot. They walked and walked, never even getting a satisfactory nibble. Obtaining love felt like a game. Like an end goal. Even though we had the family, the home, the marriage, and the friendship. We had all the things which outwardly gave the illusion of love. But within my inner self, it felt empty. Did I know before I walked down the aisle? Yes. I thought our love would eventually fall into place. I realize the absurdity in this now. In writing how I hoped his love would find me. Love is there, or it is not.

Still, I loved. And the answer popped up on my phone. The reply to the question I had asked. The answer to “Did you feel loved by me?” is and will always be for him a “yes.” I stared at the word. I processed what it meant. There are no winners in divorce, only losers. However, I finally gained some peace in the wreckage. A life boat where I can grab with assurance as I float  seeking my refuge in the uncertainty known as my new life. I found my answer.

Answers have reconciliations, and even the smallest word can give the right amount of closure needed. He’s never apologized for the end. For the really crappy, miserable days leading into dissolution. Yes, I have apologized. Owning my wrongs is my job. It is my accountability to recognize where I have failed. I should admit my failures. I should be sorry for them. I should acknowledge the hurt I caused and work solely on fixing myself for my future.

His answer showed me how only I have power over myself. It is not my responsibility to fix or be anything more than myself. I have absolutely no power in how others treat me, but my innate gifts come directly from me. I have power in myself and with my love. I am capable of giving and showing my love. This is what I promised to do from the beginning and I had achieved it. I loved another person with my whole heart. I loved them with the best my ability. I made them feel loved by me. When my love wasn’t enough, I walked away.

All the blame I had placed on my shoulders melted away in few weeks. I allowed myself to accept the answer. I allowed healing to come into my broken heart. I had done my best. Sometimes, in certain situations, your best will not be good enough. But you have to let yourself know how your best is good enough for you. There isn’t any power greater than the ones we have inside ourselves.

When I am sad… when I want to replay scenarios and heartaches, I look at a text. I know I did my best. I did all I could do. I shake off the internal negativity. And I ask myself, “Do you feel loved by you?” This is now the only answer which matters to me. If I can give my love to someone who I never felt loved by, then I can give the same love to myself.

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I Refuse To Use My Children As A Weapon To Hurt My Ex

There are times I want to yell at my ex-husband in front of my kids. Especially when he drops them off at my house and has a smug look on his face while he makes a comment that undercuts me, ever so slightly. 

He thinks he’s the only one who is aware of his limp-dicked passive-aggressiveness, but it’s something he’s done for a really long time. He always told me while we were married I read too deep into his words, then overreacted. 

While I disagree with him and think he knows exactly what he’s doing, I refuse to push back. I don’t want my children seeing their parents argue (we can do that in private), and I refuse to capture them in the middle of our differences.

My ex isn’t perfect, neither am I. We’ve decided the most important thing we can do, now that we aren’t a couple any longer, is to be happy parents for our children. That means not arguing about petty stuff in their presence. That also means not using them as a bargaining chip to hurt each other. 

That’s really damn hard to pull off all the time, and I have to admit, I have not always done a spotless job. Like when he decided to take off to Key West with the kids and his girlfriend and made all the arrangements without even asking me if it was okay. 

I sobbed after my son told me they’d booked an awesome hotel. “It’s going to be so fun!” he exclaimed, as I couldn’t hide the shock on my face. I demanded he tell me more because I had no idea this lavish vacation was even happening.

I marched up to my room with my phone, fuming with rage. I was so angry he had the nerve to book a trip and take my kids away for a week at the expense of me losing precious time with them.

He apologized and since then has consulted me with things like this, but in that moment, I couldn’t calm down. I screamed, “I’ll get them the entire following week then! I don’t care what your plans are!” Then I hung up the phone. 

I wasn’t proud of myself, and the relief I got from screaming at my ex quickly faded. My kids heard me and it tainted their trip. I could tell because they were constantly checking up on me, making sure I was okay. And it wasn’t their job to do so. Their job was to go away with their father who loves them very much and wanted to have this experience with them.

I felt it was my right to make things equal by not letting him see our kids the following week, but our kids were the ones who paid the price. I told myself, never again. I knew my anger was pushed off the cliff that day because it was just so typical of my ex-husband to undermine me and think he had the right to make all the decisions. I was mad I didn’t have the means to plan a trip to a warm spot with my kids. I needed him to know it wasn’t okay, and I wanted him to pay. 

The only way I knew how to do that was to use our children as a bargaining chip. And it was wrong.

It’s impossible to go through a break-up with the other parent to your children and not have a sour taste in your mouth. Even if you part as friends, you will still be tested. Your feelings will be stretched with each new situation: when they find a new partner; when they make a parenting decision you wouldn’t make; when they are acting out in front of your kids and you feel like your hands are tied; when they forget something really important. 

You will still hurt them and they will still hurt you. And it’s hard to have a healthy reaction to that hurt all the time.

Your kids know when you are using them as a weapon. They will feel it, they will remember it, and yes, they will blame you for it. If not now, later in life.

I refuse to have my kids remember their parents’ divorce as a constant go-around. I won’t let them have memories of being thrown in the middle and pulled in different directions. I never want them to feel like catalysts in a toxic mess they have no control over.

I want them to have enriching experiences that will improve their quality of life. If that means a little less time with me, so be it. I want them to have a say in how they spend the holidays and their birthdays. I will no longer play tit-for-tat or anything in between.

Because if I do, if I let my ego and my hurt win and use my children as weapons to hurt my ex, the only damage it will do is to our relationship — which is the most precious thing in my life.

So as hard as it is, I’ll bite my tongue and take up issues with my ex in private. And most importantly, I will never use them to as a weapon to hurt him ever again. 

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My Ex-Husband Is Jealous Of My New Relationship — Even Though He Has A Partner

My ex-husband initiated our divorce. While we both knew we’d fallen out of love with each other, he was the one who got the ball rolling. He knew we weren’t happy and was strong enough to do something for us that I just couldn’t do.

I was holding on with both hands for our kids — the thought of not seeing them every day was too painful for me to make a move. But when he suggested we separate, I let go as if I’d been hanging on the monkey bars over a swamp of alligators who had just swam away.

The weekend he moved out, I sat across from him, a large pizza separating us. When our kids had gotten up to pick out a dessert, I told him to move on and start dating if he felt ready.

He was a wonderful father, but not a great husband. I knew what I wanted in a partner and he wasn’t it. I longed to have a man in my life who was faithful. I wanted someone who was proud of my career and the fact I could make a mean chocolate cake. I wanted to be seen and heard for my strengths and not dismissed. Giving him this go-ahead was a way to help me move on.

Our last few years together, it was apparent my ex didn’t even like me. I wanted more for myself and I wanted more for him. He is my children’s father and I wanted him to be happy because it would only add to their happiness.

He added a dating site to his phone that evening. In a few weeks, he had a girlfriend. Within a few months, he told me he was in love and wanted the kids to meet her.

While it was hard for me at time, I was supportive and encouraged his relationship. I never made it hard for him. Like I said, it was, in many ways, a ticket for me to do the same. Plus, she clearly loved my kids very much and I thought (and still think) she is caring and patient.

He and his girlfriend have been together for years. During the first few of those years, I dated here and there, but never anything serious — I wasn’t ready, and I’ve wanted to focus on my kids and career.

But that changed last year when I met the man I had been waiting for. After a few months of dating, I felt a change in my ex’s tone when we discussed our children. His curtness surprised me since he’d been encouraging me to invest in a new relationship. He’s always wanted to spend more time with the kids and take them on trips. While I never stood in the way of this, he knew it made me sad to be without them for extended periods of time. “You need to get out there and meet someone so you don’t struggle so much when they’re gone,” he’d say.

I wasn’t sad about being single; I just missed my kids. Plus, I was waiting for the right one.

When I found him, I didn’t go running to my ex to tell him I’d met the man I’d been waiting for. I did, however, give him the details he asked for, which wasn’t much. He met him and gave me the okay to introduce him to our children, something we had agreed to before separating.

He didn’t ask him any questions when they met, but mere minutes before he knew the kids were meeting him one Saturday evening, I got abrasive text messages from him: Who is this guy? Where does he live? Where does he work?

I answered his questions in a matter-of-fact-sort of way but was really irritated.

I’ve never told him that my new lover offered me a lot of things he didn’t. I certainly didn’t tell him about the mind-blowing sex or the fact he loved my fashion sense — something that always annoyed my ex. In fact, he once told me I stuck out like a sore thumb at a family gathering because I was over dressed. I’ve never gushed or tried to make my ex feel jealous.

But it’s as if he knows, and he’s pissed about it.

I told him he seems different around me. Where we used to be able to have friendly conversations about the kids, now he’s short with me. Where he used to be understanding, now he’s critical of my parenting decisions. He texts me unnecessarily when he knows I’m with my boyfriend.

Instead of handling certain situations when he’s with the kids like he used to, he acts as though he needs my input. Like the time I was away for a long weekend with my boyfriend and our youngest had a cold. He wasn’t sure if he should let him stay home from school and called me at 6:30 am instead of making the call himself.

Watching your partner move on is hard; I’ve been there. But I so badly want to scream at my ex-husband and remind him that he should put the energy into his relationship and not make the same mistakes he made with me. Because if he hadn’t made those mistakes, neither of us would be in this place. I won’t though. I’ve moved on, and I need to focus on my new life.

If he continues to put so much emphasis on my new relationship instead of his own, he may just find himself in the same situation yet again.

I’m not perfect, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my relationship with my kids’ father. I’m sure I will continue to do so.

But being too jealous or too concerned about what he’s doing with his life will not be one of them. And I can only hope that he will come to the same conclusion sooner than later because I’m freaking over his behavior, and whether he likes it or not, I’m going to be with this man regardless of what my ex thinks about it.

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My Ex And I Never Found The ‘Sweet Spot’ Of Divorce

I recently received a text from a college friend asking if I had seen the article posted on our mutual friends Facebook page. Apparently, our friends had gotten divorced, which was a shock in itself, but the article I was about to read would be the real showstopper. She said I had to go read the article called “The Sweet Spot of Divorce” that was written and published by the now ex-wife. It was a beautifully written article about how two loving people married for 20 years and worked hard on their marriage. But ultimately before things got too ugly or someone crossed the line, they stopped and decided if they divorced now, they could do it with kindness and grace, saving their family, even though they lost their marriage. They found the “sweet spot” of divorce.

As I read the article, the mixture of feelings I had ranged from sadness, admiration, anxiety to even jealousy. Yes, jealous of someone’s divorce! As I read it, I related to the raw emotion, I could have written much of the article myself. You see, at the same time they ended up on the therapy couch, my life was about to come crashing down. My marriage had been falling apart for years as well, but we missed the sweet spot by a mile. My husband at the time had already crossed over the line into something ugly — a heartbreaking affair.

I will never forget the day or the way I felt as he sat across from me telling me that he had been having an affair for months. It explained so much. I had been pushing us into counseling again, trying to find our way back with date nights, weekend getaways, gifts, and online exercises guiding us through healthy communications. Like the 20 other books I had read the last ten years didn’t have the right answers.  I wanted so bad in my heart to not lose the 18 years I spent with this man. I was terrified to live without him as our lives were intermingled with kids, family, friends, business and so much history. While we were both miserable in our marriage, I faulted in that I could not call the game, I could not get off the train, I could not bring myself to quit on our marriage and family. I worked so hard for so long to try to fix us and just kept failing.

Looking back, I realized you can’t make it work alone. I see now that my husband had quite playing the game and got off that train years before. He was done trying. He had moved on to endurance sports, starting more businesses and doing anything he could to get away from our family. I spent the last five years of our marriage alone with my two daughters anyway, so why was it so hard to imagine life without him? He had been emotionally and mentally gone for a long time already.

I had a lot of time to think about how to respond to the affair because he left four days later for a two-week Hawaiian vacation. I know, don’t even get me started, who does that? I remember the desperate hope and wondering, maybe this affair will wake him up? Maybe he will realize what he is throwing away and change the way he treats us? Maybe we will be that couple where an affair saves their marriage?   I scoured the internet looking for answers, reading articles, obsessively writing journal entries and crying myself to sleep. Every. Single. Night.

At this same time my husband was in Hawaii pursuing his next affair partner.  So, I guess we all know the answer to those questions!

It has been an ugly few year since then. I have felt feelings I never knew existed. I shamefully walked into an ER thinking I was having a heart attack, in addition to having many other health issues related to stress. I navigated the uncomfortable parent conferences, sporting events, concerts and kid exchange moments. To others who have not walked in those shoes, you don’t understand the pain involved in seemingly simple moments when you must share them with someone who you can’t bear to even look at. There wasn’t a gymnasium big enough during some of those days.

About six months after our divorce was final, I  watched my ex-husband move the much younger girlfriend (which my kids had met twice) across the country and into his new, beautiful house where he has custody of my daughters every other week.  I had already left the home I raised my kids in to live in a more modest home. I navigated the terrifying ordeal of creating a resume, interviewing and finding a job; something I had not done in over twenty years. I spent the first year getting my foot in the door of a company making $14/hour, punching a clock for the first time in my life.

Every day on the way home, I passed my namesake business that we spent ten grueling, years building in our community together.  I lost the flexibility of being able to be at all my girls’ events or taking them on vacations because I started my job with no time off. I watched my ex-husband take my daughters on three ten-day cross country “extended trips.”  Sprinkled in between there were many other long getaways to places we used to go together, people we used to visit as a family, and of course there was the front row seats to the Taylor Swift concert.  He traveled with my kids to his family’s Thanksgiving, just inserting her in my place and everyone was okay with it?   I tried to “rise above” and be thankful my kids were getting these amazing life moments, but I would not be human if I did not admit I was devastated they were all without me.

I also watched him travel with his new girlfriend on so many “epic” vacations I lost count.  We ran our businesses together and in ten years were never able to get away as much as he had the first two years we were divorced. I didn’t know how he was doing it. I was told by him months after the divorce was final, I had to pay half of a $45,000 unheard of tax bill for our business since I was part owner that year.  I fought him in court the following year when his taxes then magically showed the income of substantially less and he wanted to lower child support. It was Ugly. There was not a sweet spot anywhere in sight!

I felt humiliated, exhausted, and devalued in a way I thought no one could ever make me feel, much less the person I trusted and promised my life to. I have never been a person to feel sorry for myself, but during this time I couldn’t imagine feeling any worse. I hadn’t been an overly insecure person before, but I fought dark thoughts off daily. I was afraid my kids would like his young, adventurous, girlfriend more than me. After all they were starting this new, exciting life moment and my ex-husband was a real pro at creating big, memorable experiences, especially when he was making first impressions. What if my girls want to be with them more than with me? I was fighting to get through each day, struggling with depression, while they were having wrestling matches in the living room and going on adventures. My head knew my girls were my girls and we had a connection and love that could never be replaced by anyone else, but my heart reminded me that at one time I thought that was true with my ex-husband too.  It was a dark place and I felt so alone.

After recently reading my friend’s article, I felt inspired to reach out to the 99 percent of us who missed the “sweet spot” of divorce. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy and so proud of them both for getting through one of the hardest challenges life can throw at you and coming out the other side being able to write an inspiring article like that. I am not surprised that if anyone could have done it, they did because I saw the perfect couple everyone else saw. Our friendship drifted apart over the years and I don’t know the details of their story and what occurred or didn’t occur to get them to the place they are. I don’t know what they considered the line their toes hit to stop them; we all have different tolerance levels. I do know that most divorces don’t end with two people in the same emotional spot willing or able to find the grace and forgiveness they did.  I felt a sadness for the rest of us who read that article and put another ten-pound weight into the baggage we already carry around.  Maybe it’s because within an hour of me reading the article, predictably, my ex-husband forwarded it to me — basically in my mind saying, “see- why could you not have that grace and forgiveness.  Why do you have to make this divorce so hard for us?   What is wrong with YOU?”

Looking back, I wish I could have accepted it all with more grace. I wish that I didn’t allow it to completely devastate me and I could have coped with the extreme feelings of betrayal and loss with more dignity and pride. I get angry at myself, wondering why and how I allowed someone to take complete control over my life and happiness to such an enormous extent.  At what point in life did I feel it was okay to completely lose myself in order to please someone else?  The thing is, it doesn’t just happen one day, it happens slowly over time, you get tired of fighting it and you began to do whatever you can to just keep the peace. One day you look around and wonder how the hell did I get here? Before this happened, I would have never fathomed divorce could have had the effect it has on me. I mean people have divorce parties; they are sad for a while but it’s not that big of a deal, right?  In this case it is true to say unless you go through it, you have NO idea how you will handle it, even if you think you do.

After reading the article, I judgmentally thought if you can write an article like that and be such great friends, what the hell is it you are missing that you can’t get over, fix or live with? Does our world have an expectation that is unrealistic? Do we think after 20 years of marriage, we should still feel like we did in the first years? Do we think that after kids, jobs, responsibilities of life we are not going to change? Or am I just someone who is too comfortable settling?  At what point do you call the game? Why was I willing to fight to stay in a miserable marriage with a selfish man, when they could gracefully bow out?   What makes people think that finding another person to partner with will make you so much happier? Won’t they have flaws as well? In my opinion, it all comes down to personal expectations and values — what expectation do you have for yourself, your spouse and your marriage?  Do you value commitment and loyalty more than say happiness and excitement?  There is not a right answer? We are all complex individuals with a mixture of different values and expectations — what works for some doesn’t work for others.

I wish I could end this saying that I have found the other side. I have not. It is going on three very long years since that day on the couch. I have made so much progress in many areas of life.  I took that entry level job, humbly worked my ass off in it for one year.  Then, I took a chance and interviewed within the company landing a new job that not only am I proud of and love, but am very successful at.  I did that at the same time I was purchasing a house, buying my first car and taking my own first solo vacation with my girls to the beaches of Florida.

But that sadness that looms over me, it is not gone. I get more breaks from it, and have had glimpses, days and maybe weeks that I think, “Hey — I am doing this.” I catch myself laughing and find where I can go almost a full day and not feel grief.  But I also still have many triggers that can take me back to the way I felt that day instantly.   I know that my marriage needed to end and should have ended much sooner for many reasons I have not even touched on.  But, to say that I was naive to the grief and pain that comes with ending a marriage is an understatement.

To my friend who wrote the Sweet Spot Article — I have so many special memories from when we were young and newly married. Who thought we would end up here 20 years later? I am so sad and have no doubt you both fought to the end for your marriage.  Thank you for sharing your vulnerability with the world. It pushed me forward and forced me to look inward. I am sure that your story will help many people evaluate how they cope with the fear and hurt of divorce.

To all those out there who missed that sweet spot, I am here to tell you, the feelings you’re having are normal. That it will get easier with time, and you will get through this, somehow. One. Day. At. A. Time.  Even though I am not there yet, I do realize now that I will get there someday, my way, in my time.  It may be at the pace of a snail, but I am moving forward and so will you.

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Why I Changed My Name After My Divorce

I was here to take back something I had given up ten years earlier. The decision was fast, but the process was slow. And it wasn’t over yet.

I pressed my name into a screen and out came a small slip of paper with a number. It was like being at the deli counter. Instead of sliced turkey, though, the workers were handing out new identities and Social Security benefits.

I should have had lunch.

Usually, waiting—for a light to change, a reply text, Christmas – is not my strength. But this time, I didn’t mind.

The ink was dry. The marriage was over. My married name felt uncomfortable now, but it never had never really fit. It was like wearing a sweater that was too tight, hoping that over time it would stretch into something more comfortable, familiar. Instead, all it did was itch.

Taking my husband’s last name was something I just always assumed I would do. Like so many other girls in class, I had matched my crush’s name with my own, scrawling “Mrs. Cutest-Boy-in-Fourth-Grade” in notebooks. My friends’ mothers had their husbands’ last names. When my mom and my grandparents caught up over Sunday coffee and gossiped, they would say things like, “You know her. She used to be a Kelly.”

But then she got married. And now she wasn’t anymore.

We planned our wedding at a time when “Future Mrs. Married Name” merchandise was a novelty and my sister bought a sweatshirt for me as an engagement gift. It was blue, with “Future Mrs. T” across the back. I tried it on, the sweatshirt and the name, and it was the first time taking a new name gave me pause. I finally felt what becoming someone else really meant.

Sara Kennedy had been with me at dance recitals and kindergarten plays; she had made her First Communion and Confirmation and gone to the prom. She had gone to college and then graduate school. She was a professor.

I put the sweatshirt on a closet shelf.

I wish I knew why I didn’t spend more time thinking about changing my name before I got married. It was 2007, not 1977. Gone were days when all the wives in our neighborhood stayed home, drinking Sanka and taking care of the house. A few of my friends had hyphenated their names or kept their last names when they got married. But taking my husband’s name was what I thought I wanted to do. Other than one half-hearted discussion with my then-boyfriend, now ex-husband, keeping my maiden name was not something I ever seriously considered. I wanted a traditional family name. Or so I thought.

It took me a month after our wedding to go to the Social Security Administration downtown to make the change. I hesitated when the woman behind the counter asked me to sign my new name.  Usually, my signature was an effortless task, but now I had to think about forming each letter.

I bet a lot of people feel this way. It’s the newness of it all. I just need to get used to it. 

By the time I walked out of the Federal Building, though, my doubts had taken a backseat. Driving home, my mind drifted to what this change would bring. I pictured kids and our house and our future.

But what it brought me was back to the same dingy Social Security office ten years later, clutching papers that gave me the legal right to turn back time, to take back the name that fit me better than any sweatshirt ever could.

As I began to talk to more people about my name change, it become clear that there was one question I was going to have to keep answering: “Don’t you want to have the same name as your kids?”

For me, not having the same last name as my children didn’t feel like a big deal. It had been when I first got married. Back then, I wanted a family name. But things had changed in my life; I had changed. And now, I knew that sharing a last name wasn’t what made my family a family, just like living in one house didn’t make us a family. I am always their mom and their dad is always their dad, married or not, living in one house or two. Plus, even in ten years, there’s been a shift in families we know. Now, my children have many friends whose parents who have different last names than they do, married or not. Families look different than they did on my 1980’s street. And our names reflect that.

The digital display on the Social Security Administration’s wall flickered. There it was. My number. The wait was finally over.

The woman behind the bulletproof glass asked me for my paperwork.

“Raise your right hand,” she said.

A few tears made their way down my cheeks, but I wasn’t sad.

I was becoming myself again. I looked different than I had at 29 and I had three more kids now, but my old name still fit. There was no hesitation as I signed my last name this time, even after ten years of signing another.

I’ve thought about what I would do if I got married again and one thing I have learned in the last few years is that I can’t predict the future. But I know I won’t change my name again. Will I care if someone addresses a Christmas card to “Mr. and Mrs. New Married Name?” No. Will I care if my children’s new friends sometimes call me “Mrs. New Married Name”? I won’t. Because in some ways, in some circumstances, that might feel right.

But Sara Kennedy is the name that feels right all of the time, regardless of circumstances or husbands. And no matter how much I change, it will change with me.

It feels good to be back.

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