Tag Archive | Divorce

A Holistic Divorce

This past week I attended a two-day training on collaborative law that I would like to share because it is important to be informed of all your choices when considering a #divorce. Disclaimer – this is for #Ohio residents though there are about 18 states and about a dozen countries who practice collaborative law, so please check in your area to find out what applies to you.

If you are considering a divorce, there are four ways to go about this.

A. Collaborative Law

B. Litigation

C. Dissolution

D. Mediation

I’ll start with litigation which everyone knows about and this is your traditional way of going about getting a divorce. The judge may require mediation as a result of this and this is to try and cut down on court time.

Dissolution is where both parties agree on everything and they have an attorney write up their agreement and present to the court. A very inexpensive way to get a divorce however, as mentioned, both parties must agree. Usually this can happen when there are no children involved.

Mediation is where the couple hires a mediator to discuss what needs to happen and they present their agreement to their attorneys who files it in court. This can be done at the onset, you don’t have to wait for the judge to decide on this.

Then there is collaborative law which I call a #holistic divorce. This is where all parties (professionals and spouses) come to a table and discuss the business of getting a divorce. There is *no court involvement in Columbus, Ohio because the judge comes to the attorneys office to sign off on the divorce (*not the same with other major cities in Ohio, check with your state or country). If court involvement it would be once everything has been settled and then there is a filing of paperwork to approve the divorce.

Collaborative law includes two attorneys, a mental health coach or neutral (not in the capacity of a therapist, nor are they providing therapy but, the service is provided by a licensed therapist), a financial coach or neutral and in some cases other specialists are brought in, if need be, for consultation. All professionals meet with the spouse/spouses individually or as a couple upfront to explain the services and begin to assess the couple. Then all parties and professionals come to the table to begin a discussion of what is to take place. This can involve several sessions but there is no court involvement so the schedules are based on everyone at the table rather than dealing with court being in session. Therefore appointments can be more flexible.

What captivated me by this process is that a mental health coach is involved as well as a financial coach. This means two things. One, the mental health coach is there to help determine what is in the best interests of the children and the family. Someone who understands #psychology vs. a Guardian Ad Litem (aka GAL) who, most often, is not a therapist and does not understand mental health. The mental health coach is also doing an assessment to determine if the couple is going to be a good fit for the collaborative law process. In some instances, i.e., domestic violence, substance abuse and mental illness might not be a good fit for the collaborative law process. Two, the financial coach presents the facts of the figures. Then the parties say whose side of the page the items go on and talk about what they see. Eventually, how things will be divided up occurs with much discussion from the team.

In collaborative law, even the attorneys are in a relationship with one another that is not antagonistic as it would be in litigation. While they clearly will represent the spouse who has hired them, at the table they are not in a defensive position but in an empathic position for both parties. This means the spouse who hired them pays for them under the knowledge that their attorney will be listening and be prepared to be concerned for the opposite spouse as well. This is important because the process will not be about “winning” for their side but about the family gaining a supportive outcome.

The divorce process is an uncomfortable position for two people to be in. It is a major transition in someone’s life and how it is dealt with will determine the health and well-being of children involved (as well as the spouses) going forward. When the egos of two people can be mediated by a group of professionals who are helping them to see what is in the best interests of their family, it is more likely that a good outcome can be assured. This is not an inexpensive process yet compared to the time, energy and money that would be spent in litigation, it will most likely be less costly than litigation. The results will most assuredly be less costly on the emotional well-being of both parties and the children involved.

Please note this is NOT legal advice as I am not an attorney. This was presented merely for informational purposes. You should consult with your attorney to find out more information on these options. Also, please take a look at the links provided to gain more knowledge for  yourself. Thank you, Jeannine Vegh, M.A., I.M.F.T.

Advertisements

Why do Pre-Marital Counseling?

Watching this video is the most compelling reason for adding a psychotherapist to your wedding budget. Women are still being raised with their mothers speeding them down the aisle with visions of white dresses and doves flying through the air. We play with Barbies before we have hit puberty, already merging the dolls with Ken or GI Joe. We are focused on boys in high school, which often causes young girls (and boys) to do poorly in their subjects. Marriage is an investment not a fashion show and if you don’t want to be one of the 40-50% who goes through a divorce, then you need to treat this contract as an investment not a day to play Cinderella. The woman and man who plan consciously and patiently on the big day have better chances for success then the one’s who are only focused on looking good. Wouldn’t you rather be the couple who people gush over rather than taking bets to see how long you’ll last? Your family and friends will respect you more when they see the respect you have for each other. I highly recommend a psychotherapist trained in the Gottman method as they are teaching you communication skills and this includes how to argue without tearing each other apart.

A wedding day is meant to be a beautiful time in your life. Not the day you rue in the years to come. It is not his fault nor is it her fault; when you are a couple, you both have a responsibility to your self, your marriage, your future children and to your family as a whole.

Before You Say I Do

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. Benjamin Franklin

Weddings cost an average of $26,720, according to costofawedding.com. The average cost of a divorce is $15,000-$30,000 according to a 2006 Forbes.com article. In my experience the latter figure will vary based on children, assets and EGO. The American Psychological Association reports that 40-50% of all marriages will end in divorce. Many couples wait until they are very married and very upset before they come into therapy. When there has been an affair, when there is about to be an affair, or when they are so over this person that it would take a fairy Godmother to make any difference in the relationship. With all this negativity why say I do in the first place?

On the heels of the Benjamin Franklin quote above, which I absolutely love because it sums up what I am about to say right here. Pre-Marital counseling is a must to add to that wedding budget as you will get a greater return on your investment. In fact, pre-marital counseling can be the most important money you will spend before you say I do.  Yes, it is possible that you will realize you made a mistake (but this is $15-$30,000 saved). It is also possible that you will save yourself a lot of heartache in the days after the “big day.” Here are some tips for making pre-marital counseling work.

  1. Schedule the onset of counseling at the same time you are sending your “Save the Date,” cards (six to eight months) prior to the big day. You need time to do the work and it may involve individual as well.
  2. Communicate with your therapist what your specific needs are. Even when the therapist has an agenda, make sure to let them know if they are missing something or a new issue has popped up (I always do a check-in before we begin the session). If you don’t tell the therapist, how are they supposed to know?
  3. Self-Awareness – Therapy doesn’t work if one person thinks it is the other persons fault. It takes two to tango and you have to be willing to be held accountable in counseling.
  4. Respect for the therapist and for yourself – paying for sessions on time, showing up on time, being committed to your partner and your future. Psychotherapy is a business first and a healing profession second. This is why you are coming: to get the advice, coaching, and support of a professional – not from a friend or family member.
  5. Homework is there for a reason.  To practice this new way of communicating. Don’t expect results if you are going home and behaving in the same manner.
  6. Be open to recommendations of the therapist – If there are addictions with one or both parties, couples counseling is not ready yet. If there is domestic violence a domestic violence agency should be consulted first for batterers work and counseling for the victim. If there is a history of abuse, there may be a need for individual work for that person before they are ready to begin couples. Your therapist will assess your situation and let you know what is necessary to begin.

Unmet needs from childhood are the majority of couple conflicts. Think about what you didn’t get from your parents growing up – love, nurturance, listening, guidance, a father/a mother, validation, whatever it was this is what you will look for in a partner. Unfortunately, since you aren’t really sure what this looks like, you often get exactly what you don’t want. This is because we are more comfortable with what we know and so this is what we attract. For example: someone to take care of (rather than being taking care of), or someone who just doesn’t give you the love you wish for and you are constantly struggling to attain this. Couples come in talking about small things but what is behind it is something so much larger. This has to do with expectations that have been mulling around in their head but no one has ever spoken of.

Effective communication is the key to a successful marriage. Each time I have attended one of those 50 years + type anniversary parties, they have all said the cliché phrase “communication,” when asked what made their marriage work. I have listened to couples tell me their grandparents or aunt/uncles have said the same. What this means is something that often takes people many years of mistakes to figure out. For older couples I can tell you it also means a lot of compromising along the way because they were married in a time when there was no acceptance of pre-marital counseling other than a few sessions with their spiritual leader.

When I work with couples, I am using the training I took at certified Gottman.com led seminars. These are the principles of Dr. John Gottman which are based on his years of research with couples. If you just “google search” his name you will find loads of articles, videos, interviews, photos and of course their website. His work was introduced to me long before I began my studies as a therapist and after becoming a therapist, his name came across my path once again and off I went to the advanced trainings.

In my personal background, I was 17 years old when I married and I was six months pregnant at the time. I was divorced a couple of years later because of abuse and addictions on their part. I later learned, while doing my thesis and again from Dr. John Gottman with his partner Dr. Neil Jacobson that I was in a marriage with a Pit Bull (When Men Batter Women: New Insights Into Ending Abusive Relationships, 1998). I have never remarried but I have been in several long-term relationships that did not last. It was a long time before it finally hit me in the head what I had been missing all along. Fortunately for you, who might be working with me, you won’t have to wait at all. The reason why I love doing work with couples is so that I may give them the advantages I never had. Experience, Education, Intuition, Insight, Holistic thought process and continuing education post-graduate school is what you will get when you come into my office.

A therapist cannot promise you miracles because it is up to you two and what you are willing to commit to working on. When my coupleS work as hard in session as they do out of session – on practicing these principles I am teaching them, I do see success. My belief is that a couple should not be married without some form of pre-marital counseling (see paragraph one).

 

Children’s Mental Health As Important as Physical Health

 

This is a very powerful message about mental health and children. While we are not in the UK, we have many places locally that serve young children and adolescents. The best place to look for someone in your area is to go on PsychologyToday.com At the top of the page click on Find A Therapist, then put in your zip code and then you narrow down your selection by clicking on the different variables provided. (Note: Psychologytoday is a nationwide website).

Being Single is not a Disease

Many women and sometimes even men, fret over not being in a relationship. More often than not, it is women who are in their 20’s and 30’s and are worried about time clocks and societies view of them. Women have always been scorned if they were not married. At one point 30 was the sell-by-date.

Yet marriages continue to be forced, coerced, expected, demanded and fantasized about. None of these are reasons to get married. All of them are the very reasons couples end up unhappy and in counseling and/or divorce court. There is nothing wrong with being single. In this modern time period women can have whatever they want. We can get a degree and have a career. We can open a business and make money.  Women can buy the nice cars, live in beautiful homes, and some even have babies on their own (though I don’t recommend the latter).

Katherine Hepburn once remarked (in an interview I saw) that she believed a woman Katherine Hepburnshould be there for her husband 100% and this meant having to give up their career. She did not want to do this which is why she remained single (though she did have one divorce early on). She had one of the most memorable love affairs ever and it is safe to safe she was a very happy woman.

Women sell themselves short when they go after a man. I’ve known intelligent women who go out with men that are intellectually inferior just for the sake of not being alone. What do you talk about after sex? What do you share in common? I’ve known beautiful women who could have any man they wanted but because they have no confidence in themselves, stay with a man who takes advantage of them.

On the flip side, men do the same. Living in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara I saw the trophy wives. Women who married for money but were dumber than a doorbell. What kind of men are willing to marry women who are unintelligent, just because they could be a model? Men who are shallow and don’t mind taking the risk that one day their wife will be collecting an alimony payment that will force him to have to live a different life than he is accustomed to. Their wife will show up on one of these ridiculous reality shows and tell the world about their sex life and any other dirt they want to drudge up to make this famous man look like an idiot.

It’s okay to be single. It’s okay to be married, if you are in it for love and have taken the time to really get to  know the person. It’s okay to live your life as you wish as long as you really are happy and are conscious about your choices. Love, by the way, doesn’t mean “I love him but I really need to see him change.” It doesn’t mean “I love him because he is really trying.” Love is unconditional and love is love for who he/she is, not what we want them to be. It is a hard thing to have unconditional love. Very few people do.

It is not hard to be single, it is hard to allow yourself the choice to be single. Being single is not a disease. Sometimes it is what you choose to do because you don’t wish to compromise and end up in a horrible relationship. It is a choice you sometimes have to choose in order to get to know yourself and determine whether or not you are making wise decisions about partners. It is a choice you have to make if you get a rejection until you realize it was a blessing in disguise. It is a choice you have to make during holidays, nights when you are feeling rather erotic and would rather just go to a bar and pick up the nearest handsome guy available and when you are feeling sad and alone.

Being single doesn’t mean it will be forever. Being married doesn’t mean it will be forever. Nothing is forever because you just don’t know what will come your way and change the path you are on. What is forever is you and how you look at yourself when you look in the mirror. You owe it to yourself to take care of yourself. My favorite quote about individualism is from the Torah and it says “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” When I studied world religions I found this to be the most fascinating line to contemplate about self.

Work hard on finding happiness within. This does not mean you have to leave a partner and go out in the woods to find yourself. It might mean you have to leave a partner, if they want you to stay the way your are – unhappy and unsatisfied. It does mean that you might need to stay single a little while longer until you are able to make good choices and set boundaries that work for the partnership (both people agree on). It means that if the partner you are with (or hoping to attract) is sending all the wrong messages, you have to let it go and realize that yes, you are still single. It is okay to be alone.

Here is some food for thought from a study that has been quoted for quite some time. Women who are unmarried live longer than women who are married. Men who are unmarried live shorter lives than men who are married. Of course death should not be your reason for staying single, or getting married but contemplation should be.