Signs Your Marriage is in Big Trouble

March 16, 2017

Through my divorce mediation practice, I have witnessed many things that signal big trouble or the end of a marriage, other than the typical affair. When you work with married couples every day, you see the same disturbed relationship and communication patterns over and over again. Marriages die on the vine as a result.

 

Here are some of the key signs of a marriage on its way out:

 

  • When you no longer truly care whether or not you’re making your spouse happy. When we get married, most of us find great joy in making our significant other happy. In fact, it’s generally one of our primary goals. When that desire is no longer there, most likely, neither is the love that brought you together.

 

  • Complete exhaustion dealing with your spouse when your relationships with other people seems so easy. Do you find that even the thought of having a conversation with your spouse is exhausting? Sure, you dealt with 15 issues at work today with no problem. But, the thought of discussing who will run to the grocery store with your spouse seems daunting.

 

  • Feeling anxiety or impending doom when you’re headed home from work to see your spouse. After a long, stressful day at work you just want to go home and seek reprieve. However, instead of looking forward to being comforted by your spouse’s embrace, the thought of that actually increases your anxiety and you dread dealing with them both physically and emotionally.

 

  • Dread going to social events with your spouse. Your close friend or relative is getting married and as much as you’re looking forward to the blessed event, you are dreading having to go and spend hours of time looking “happy” with your spouse. You’d rather go alone or stay home than put up a front.

 

  • Finding excuses to stay away from home when you know your spouse will be there. When you know your spouse is at home, you suddenly come up with numerous errands to run and things you need to do that are anywhere but….home.

 

  • Simple communication becomes nearly impossible. Communication is key in any relationship. Chances are you didn’t make it to the alter if you didn’t have some semblance of decent communication with your spouse. However, you are now at a point where the two of you can’t say “good morning” without getting into a fight. Maybe you are feeling stonewalled, shut down, and not given the opportunity to express your view. Maybe one of you is using angry words that instantly puts the other on the defense. There are innumerable communication pits people can fall into. But, if you find yourself in one and don’t do anything about it to get back on track, it can be the beginning of the end.

 

  • You come at issues from opposing sides instead of working as a team. Working as a team is essential in a marriage. That’s one of the main reasons to get married; to “do life” with a partner. At some point in the marriage, a couple may find themselves pitted against each other and coming at what were once mutual goals, from opposing sides. They may be viewing the other as a competitor instead of a partner.

 

  • Irretrievable resentment towards your spouse. Resentment is something that grows over time. It grows slowly, but once it’s established, it is very difficult to eradicate. It’s so important to communicate to your spouse things you are having an issue with before it gets to this point. Additionally, once negative, resentful things are said to your spouse, it is almost impossible for him or her to erase those hurtful things from their mind, causing even more resentment.

 

By Erin J. Koffman, Attorney & Virginia Supreme Court Certified Mediator

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Valentine’s Day Special: 6 Tips for Dating After Divorce

February 9, 2016

Valentines-Day-Hero-2-H

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, so I’ve prepared a post-divorce dating survival cheat sheet for you. Here are 6 tips to keep in mind while dipping your toe back in that pond.

  1. Pay attention to everything your date says.  Most dates will expose their “skeletons” by at least the third date.  If you’re falling for that new guy or gal, though, the tendency is to not hear what your date is telling you.  Don’t let this happen. If you spot a red flag – a very difficult personality, a messed-up family life, an inability to hold a job, or another scary situation, do not ignore!  Once, I went over to a date’s house (after we had a few dates and I felt safe) after dinner and noticed that he still had family pictures up in the common areas of his house.  Nice, right?  But, every image of his wife had black tape over her face!  Imagine his little kids having to look at that picture of Mommy with tape over her face every time they spent time at Daddy’s house.  It was creepy – and alarming.  Goodbye, masked man.
  2. Be yourself.  If you’re not being true to yourself, you’ll probably not be able to do a very job at “scrutinizing” your date, either.  It’s a lot of work to pretend to be someone you are not . . . even a little bit.  Your intuition will be sharpest when you are relaxed.
  3. Go with your gut.  If you think your date is jerk, or a narcissist, or a phony, or whatever else you might not like, you are probably right.  Don’t make excuses for your date’s behavior or tasteless conversational choices.  Move on. 
  4. Leave your rescuing persona at home.  If you are the type of super-empathetic person – perhaps a true caretaker by heart — who tends to rescue others in need, you do not want to date until you put your own boundaries firmly in place.  People who have been through a divorce need nurturance; not more trouble.  Know your boundaries and keep them firmly in place. 
  5. Be ready for rejection.  If you can’t deal with rejection – or even mild criticism — , stick with going out to dinner with trusted friends.  Dating takes thick skin . . . and it might take a good, long while after your divorce to have the emotional fortitude to deal with the rough-and-tumble of dating.
  6. Chemistry is Key.  Attraction is either there or not.  There was one sweet man I went to dinner with who was smart, open-minded, a good conversationalist and well-liked by friends and colleagues.  But, when it was time for a goodnight kiss, I struggled.  I actually felt grossed out!  Let’s be honest.  You can’t fake romantic attraction and, even if you tried to just to have the company of another, it would most surely end in disaster for one or both of you.  I moved on . . . and you should, too.

And don’t forget to have fun!

 

Posted by Robin Graine, JD, Virginia Supreme Court Certified Mediator

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.


Divorce Rates at Lowest Level; but So Are Marriages

December 8, 2015

Though it may seem that everyone you know is getting a divorce, the divorce rate has actually declined by 23% since 1970!scissors

This is according to a new report published by the National Center for Family and Marriage Research Family Profile (NCFMR), Divorce Rate in the U.S.: Geographic Variation, 2014 (FP-15-18), issued by Bowling Green State University in Ohio. After peaking in 1979 (22.8 divorces per 1,000 married women), the divorce rate declined until 2000 when it began to rise again. The divorce rate fluctuated between 2005 and 2010, but since 2010, it dropped steadily. In 2014, 17.6 women divorced per 1,000 married women – a 23% drop since 1970. (Data is based on statistics from 1970-2000, National Center for Health Statistics; 2008-2014, U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 1-yr est.) http://www.bgsu.edu/ncfmr/resources/data/family-profiles/eickmeyer-divorce-rate-us-geo-2014-fp-15-18.html

Married couples do not get along better than they used to . . . couples simply skip the marriage step and head right to parenthood.

If there is no marriage, of course, there does not need to be a divorce. When asked about the declining divorce rate, Wendy D. Manning, co-director of the NCFMR, clarified that “I think it is important to consider that the marriage rate is also declining so there are fewer men and women marrying.” https://www.bgsu.edu/ncfmr.html

However, just because a mom and dad do not get married, does not mean that they do not have a relationship, live together, parent together and, from the child’s perspective, enjoy a family life together just like their married counterparts.

“Living together” can have devastating financial consequences to families when mom and dad break up.

From my perspective as a family mediator, parental break-ups – without the “benefit” of divorce —  mean that the children born of those relationships will suffer through the same repercussions as do children whose divorcing parents were married – but without many of the financial protections that are built into the divorce process.  

Often times, parents have spent many years building a life together.  However, unless they are married, there will be very little financial protection for the economic life that they built as a couple.  If both parents are working and make a good living, this is not always the end of the world. But, in those cases where the mom or dad is a stay-at-home parent, such a break-up can be financially devastating to that parent and child.

What is stopping couples from getting married today?

From everything that I have seen over the 14 years that I have worked with countless families in my practice as a divorce mediator, divorce lawyer and family court hearing officer, unless both parties have at least a bachelor’s degree and some money in the bank—or at least access to money—couples are often choosing to not get married in the first place. The traditional “family order” is being reversed at an increasing rate: Kids are being born first; mom and dad may or may not decide to get married in the future; and mom and dad may or may not live together, without tying the knot.  This has become the norm.

Top 3 Reasons Couples Hold Off the Wedding Plans:

  1. Couples are waiting to have enough money in the bank to have their “dream ceremony.”
  2. Couples are waiting until at least one of them has his or her career on track.
  3. Couples have lived through their own parents’ awful divorce—and it scared them to death.

Are miserable married couples staying together in greater numbers than they used to?

Though the statistics are not completely clear, it seems that couples are trying harder to stay together.  In my mediation practice, the vast majority of clients have done of everything in their power to stay together before they make the decision to divorce.

Top 3 Reasons Couples Avoid Divorce:

  1. These days, many married people have already been through a divorce – their parents’ divorce. They do not want to repeat the pain.
  2. Married couples with children (as opposed to parents who are not married) tend have higher levels of education, higher incomes, are older when they have children, and might just be better prepared to weather the storms of marriage and kids.
  3. Divorce is very expensive.

It is not only expensive to get divorced, but it is incredibly costly to maintain two independent households on less money than the couple originally had when they were maintaining only one.   Most couples know this and, for the most part, would rather see their hard earned money and savings be used for their children and building a new life for themselves, rather than disappearing into the pockets of their divorce lawyers.

If divorce is impossible to avoid, settling with a mediator is a much less expensive and emotionally damaging experience than litigating with a divorce lawyer.  Mediation is also an excellent settlement choice for unmarried parents who are working on custody and child support issues.  

Posted by Robin Graine, JD, Virginia Supreme Court Certified Mediator

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.


The 3 A’s of Avoiding Divorce

August 18, 2015

As a certified divorce mediator and a former divorce attorney, I’ve worked with hundreds of couples over 13 years in family law who were filing for divorce. Here’s what I hear from clients — over and over again – as the key reasons for the break-up of their marriage. I call them the 3 A’s:

Lack of Affection. Though cliché, it’s true: When baby makes three, both parents are often consumed with showering their new baby with the most affection possible. As the child grows, couples forget to smooch their spouses, too.

Lack of Attention. Couples often feel ignored in their roles as spouses, parents and, often times, human beings! It’s no secret that jobs, child-rearing, in-laws, financial worries and responsibilities of running a home eat up your time and energy. If you want to save your marriage, though, start by giving your spouse the focus that or she deserves and needs.  Be intuitive, remember what your husband or wife needed back when you were dating, and try and give him or her that level of attention that you, too, need in order to feel secure in your relationship.

Lack of Appreciation. This is perhaps the biggest contributing factor in the divorcing clients that I work with — I hear it, in one form or another, from every set of mediation clients that I encounter. In many cases, women feel they do the lion’s share of the homemaking. When the kids were born, they changed around their priorities. The husbands, or so I hear, didn’t change their everyday lives quite as drastically as did the wives. The husbands, often times, feel that they are not appreciated for their financial contributions and the actual time that they do spend with the children. Each resents the other for longer hours put in at work and chores, and forgets to thank the other partner for keeping the family enterprise afloat. One thing that helps? Parents need to divide and conquer the mundane tasks of everyday life. If mom is best at details, let her do the details: whether it’s party-planning or setting up that 509 for Junior. But dad needs to do the other stuff, like preparing taxes or working with the kitchen contractor. The key is quite simple: Work hard at appreciating what the other is doing and know that 50/50 is not always a practical goal to attain depending on each others’ personalities and priorities.

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.


Why Adult ADHD is Bad For Marriage (And What You Can Do About It)

March 3, 2015

Attention Deficit [Hyperactivity] Disorder—ADD and ADHD—is an issue that affects people of all ages, not just school-aged children. When it is undiagnosed in an adult, it can lead to relationship and marital strife. Often, an undiagnosed adult will seem flakey, unreliable, and forgetful, causing the non-ADHD partner to slowly build resentment toward the other, and become the “nagging” presence in a relationship.adult_compressed

“Chronic distraction is one of the hallmarks of ADHD, and it results in numerous behaviors that are just plain bad for your relationship: not paying attention to your partner; not focusing on chores long enough to get them done; not remembering things you committed to or that are important to the couple, and more. The result is that the ADHD partner who is not actively managing ADHD symptoms is an unreliable mate,”[1] Melissa Orlov writes in her blog series about adult ADHD for Psychology Today. Orlov is an expert in the field, having released two books on the subject: The ADHD Effect on Marriage” and “The Couple’s Guide to Thriving With ADHD.”

            Orlov explains why it can take so long for these issues to creep up in a relationship. In the beginning of a relationship, both partners are being bombarded internally by dopamine, which increases one’s ability to hyper-focus on the other person. Those dopamine levels are the source of the infatuation phase of a relationship. “But the raised levels of dopamine wear off,” she writes, “Often somewhere around 20-24 months into the relationship, leaving the ADHD partner with the lower-than-normal levels of dopamine and other neurotransmitters that typify ADHD.”

This sudden drop in dopamine can make the non-ADHD partner feel like the other person has changed into someone who is inattentive and uncaring. This can often spell disaster for the relationship.

“As long as the ADHD remains untreated or undertreated, these patterns can leave both partners unhappy, lonely, and feeling overwhelmed by their relationship,” Orlov writes. However, if a diagnosis is sought, both partners can better understand the cause of their relationship turmoil. The person with ADHD can manage it with medication and other coping mechanisms suggested by a doctor, and the non-ADHD partner can grow to understand that the behaviors they once saw as proof of indifference are actually symptoms of a manageable mental health issue.

Naturally, the mere diagnosis of ADHD will not cure a relationship of issues; it is not a magic fix. Depending on the state of the relationship, marriage counseling can be helpful in unpacking any problems that have built up. The non-ADHD partner may need help in letting go of resentments against the other. Orlov suggests moving forward after a diagnosis of ADHD using these steps:

  1. Diagnosis and treatment
  2. Accepting that ADHD has a huge impact in your relationship, and
  3. Learning (and implementing!) specific tactics that work for couples with ADHD[2]

Adult ADHD does not need to be a divorce sentence for a relationship. There are plenty of ways to cope and work with the other person, if both are willing to put in the time and effort. If any of this sounds just a bit too familiar, please take the time to get tested (or encourage your partner to be tested) for ADHD. It may not be your—or their—fault after all. Ignoring the issue, however, would be.

Posted by Jane Baber, Mediation Assistant

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.

[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/may-i-have-your-attention/201010/adhd-isn-t-just-kids-adults-feel-big-impact-in-marriage

[2] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/may-i-have-your-attention/201309/adhd-doesnt-cause-divorce-denial-does

 


The How-To’s of Online Dating for the Divorced and Middle-Aged Crowd

March 4, 2014

Online dating has almost been talked to death on the internet and the media, but that doesn’t mean everyone is doing it. When you’re divorced and middle-aged, it can seem a bit more harrowing than watching all those kids in their early 20s find a fun, flirty fling with ease online. Whether you’re looking to polish your dating skills after letting them rust in your marriage or seeking the person you’d like to spend your post-divorce life with, online dating may be the best place for you.

When people get back into the dating game, whether post-breakup or divorce, it’s common to ask your friends to set you up. But why ask someone else to do what you could do better yourself? When you date online, it’s easier to find a more lasting connection based on common interests and attraction. When a friend sets you up, they may just be thinking, “Aw, they’d look cute together,” but not about what you really need out of a partner.love-online-dating

So you’re convinced and want to move forward with online dating, but where to even begin? Here’s a short primer of some how-to’s of middle-age online dating.

1. Find the right service for you

            You’ve seen the ads online and on your computer for the big ones—Match, EHarmony, OkCupid, JDate—but there are dozens of dating sites online. How do you choose?

Talk to your friends to see what sites they’ve had luck on. Do some internet research to see what each site is known for. (For example, OkCupid tends to skew younger in its demographic because it’s a free service.) Figure out how much you’re willing to pay to be on a site. Consider using niche dating sites (like VeggieDate, for vegetarians only, or ChristianMingle for Christians) depending on your tastes.

But most of all? Don’t feel like you have to limit yourself to just one. Whether you try them simultaneously, or one after the other, the key to internet dating is broadening the search rather than narrowing your options.

2. Get comfortable with dating again

            After a divorce or a bad breakup, it can be hard to just dive back into the dating pool. If you think you’re going to find your new soul mate on your first date back out, think again. You need time to readjust to the dance of courtship. If someone seems nice, pleasant, attractive, but doesn’t scream “TRUE LOVE MATERIAL,” don’t discount them—date them. First dates are supposed to be low-pressure; use that time to figure out who you are as a dater now. Trust me, it’s probably not going to be the same person as 20 years ago.

One thing to remember when online dating is that you’re all in the same boat. I’ve spoken to plenty of middle-aged people who are worried they’ll look silly by putting themselves out there again. One man I spoke to said his biggest fear was feeling awkward or having nothing to talk about. Another woman mentioned she was worried it was tantamount to marketing herself, and the idea of that felt wrong. The important thing to remember is that you’re not alone! Hell, sometimes it’s good to even speak to your date about these fears. I can guarantee you both have them, and at least it’ll be something to talk about if the silences get a bit too long.

Also, repeat to yourself: It’s just a date. These aren’t lifetime commitments or marriage proposals; it’s a coffee date, a movie, maybe dinner. At the most, it’s a few hours of your life. At the very least, you will come out of that date with some story to tell.

3. Lower your expectations

            No, it’s not as bad as it sounds. What I mean by that is when you’re scrolling through a list of potential dates, you start to feel entitled to being very picky. Ew, he’s a bit short. Oh no, she enjoys Nicholas Sparks novels. Here’s some advice: Get over it. One of the pitfalls of online dating is that we sit in judgment of someone we’ve never even met. Think back to your last long-term relationship. Weren’t there things you found out later that may have turned you off in the beginning? The difference was that you found out later. In online dating, particularly in the middle-aged bracket, people tend to put their cards on the table, figuring that the more honest they are about themselves, the more easily they’ll attract a likeminded partner.

Suspend your disbelief.  Give a person the benefit of the doubt. Try going out with a different personality type. No matter how it turns out, you’ll end up learning something about what you want and about yourself.

4. Take the pressure off

            It’s a huge step to start dating again, but sometimes it can be discouraging to go on a panoply of first dates, but never a second. Don’t be hard on yourself—this is how online dating works. It tends to be a numbers game. If you’re not out there trying, nothing will ever come of it.

People who are taking control of their life are attractive. By deciding to date again and by using online dating sites to help, you’ve grabbed your own destiny and have decided to steer. Other people around you will start to notice. You become more open to new people entering your life, so don’t be surprised if the person you end up with approaches you at a bar or a party. Dating online doesn’t always lead to a match, but it can boost your confidence to the point where someone in your life may see you in a different way. Online dating helps to take the pressure off and when you’re more relaxed and confident, people can tell. It’s a hell of an aphrodisiac!

5. Have fun!

            It’s not oral surgery. It’s not a funeral. It’s a date. All you need in order to have fun is a good, open attitude. Even if the other person is a drag, I promise there is some fun to be had—it’s just up to you to find it!

Written by Jane Baber, Mediation Assistant

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.


What Is Love?

February 4, 2014

Love is a very complex word.  It is used all the time – and is one of the most researched key words on the internet – but what does “love” actually mean, and why do we only have one word for so many different feelings?

Love can be beautiful.  It can warm your heart and make life worth living.  Loving without reciprocation can also be that catalyst that sends you spiraling into gloom and misery.  Love can be thrown to the wind, hoping it lands somewhere great.  Or, it can be kept close to your heart and only let out to peek at the open sky every now and again. We all share and receive love in our own unique way.

There are many types of love: Parents’ love for their children; the love of a father for the mother of his children; the love of a child for his or her parents; grandparent love; lusty, sexy love; the love of a man and woman who are celebrating a half-century of marital union; and, love for many of our pets, neighbors, friends and co-workers.love

How is it that, in the English language, there is only one word used to describe this wide panoply of feelings?  Is it the relative sameness of the physiology of love (i.e. the totality of the chemicals, electrical impulses, and other physical effects brought about by love (or is it vice versa ?)) that strands us with only one word for so many different modes of the feeling ‘love”? It seems absurd and probably could use a redo.

It has not always been this way.  Way back in the days of the ancients (mostly ancient Greece), all the various emotions that our culture now labels as “love” were not categorized under a one-word umbrella.  Instead, they had several variations on this theme, including:

  • Philia a deep, but usually non-sexual intimacy between close friends and family members, or as a deep bond forged by soldiers as they fought alongside each other in battle.
  • Ludusa playful affection found in fooling around or flirting.
  • Pragmathe mature love that develops over a long period of time between long-term couples and involves actively practicing goodwill, commitment, compromise and understanding.
  • Agape – a more generalized love, which is not about exclusivity, but about love for all of humanity. Agape was used for the love in a “spiritual” sense.  This love is selfless; it gives and expects nothing in return.  (Agape was used by early Christians to express the unconditional love of God.)
  • Philautia – self-love, which isn’t as selfish as it sounds. As Aristotle discovered, and as any psychotherapist will tell you, in order to care for others you need to be able to care about yourself.
  • Storge – which means “affection” in ancient and modern Greek. It is natural affection, like that felt by parents for offspring.
  • Eros – used for sexual passion and desire. Eros does not appreciate the balance of logic and is found everywhere there is a claim of “love at first sight”.  Unless eros morphs into another brand of love, eros will burn itself out.  In other words, eros is a love for a short-term only.

We all have the basic human need to experience love in its myriad forms as both the giver and the receiver.  What so many people seem to miss, however, is that experiencing the various forms of love is best accomplished by having loving relationships (not necessarily love of the romantic brand!) outside of your spouse and children (if you have any).

I have seen over the years that this “putting all your love in one basket” approach can be devastating when your spouse disappoints you with his or her lack of love-skills. This is why friends, extended family and community are so important.  External relationships (to be distinguished from tawdry affairs!), which are built on the types of love that are not necessarily strong within the marriage due to personalities, emotional limitations, and even time constraints, help to balance the marital relationship by taking the pressure off the spouses to be their partner’s “everything”.

As the famous psychologist Erich Fromm wrote in his classic book, The Art of Loving (1956):

“. . . love is not merely a feeling but is also actions, and that in fact, the “feeling” of love is superficial in comparison to one’s commitment to love via a series of loving actions over time.” 

Fromm also described love as a conscious choice that, in its early stages, might originate as an involuntary feeling, but which then later no longer depends on those feelings, but rather depends only on conscious commitment.  This is the transference of “eros” to some of the other forms of love that were so artfully referred to by our predecessors as unique and often independent forms of love.

Love is something that you cannot have too much of – especially considering the wide variety of loving feelings that we are able to experience as human beings. Also, there are different times in our lives when different types of love will be dominant, while others recede (often temporarily) into the background. There are shifts, too, in our capacity, willingness and desire to love and be loved as we have children, get older, find ourselves going through divorce, form new relationships, rekindle old relationships, change our outlook, engage in therapy, and make determinations to forge new, loving relationships when there may have been a previous void.

“Love,” said Erich Fromm, “is the only satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.”   Go for it.

And now, a musical interlude:

Posted by Robin Graine, JD, Virginia Supreme Court Certified Mediator

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.


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