Thursday, December 29, 2011

What Are Your Relationship Intentions for the New Year?

Most of us tend to think about things we want to change about ourselves in the New Year. The most common resolution is to lose weight. Stopping smoking, and getting more sleep or exercise, are also common goals.

But what are your intentions for your relationship? What do you personally want to commit to changing about yourself that will improve your relationship? What would the two of you like to work on as a couple?

Now is a great time to have a conversation about how to make things work better for the two of you, and get the year started off on a great footing. May you and yours have a most happy and healthy 2012!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Divorce and the Holidays

We have a guest post today from my good friend, and matrimonial attorney, Amy DeShong. Navigating the holidays when you're divorced can be especially difficult. Amy offers some good tips:

How to Survive the Holidays

If you are going through a divorce, the holiday season can be a special nightmare.

The expectations of your family of origin and/or those of your in-laws are added to the demands placed upon you by your spouse, your kids, and your work place. If you are not employed, you may feel inadequate and horrible because you cannot provide the kind of gifts for your family that you may have given in the past. False expressions of “good cheer” are everywhere. You may feel guilty if you are the one who wants the divorce and your spouse may be all too good at pushing those buttons.

Here are some tips for getting through it all:

1. Place yourself in your children’s shoes. Really. When you are tempted to argue with your spouse, respond to an attack launched by your spouse, or even launch one of your own, stop, breathe, and think. Where are your kids at that very moment?

Are they in the next room? Are they in the back seat? Are they upstairs in your house? If so, they are within earshot. They are probably even straining to listen. Don’t kid yourself.

You cannot control your spouse any more than you can control the north wind. You can control your response to your spouse’s behavior. End any chance of things escalating into an argument. Acknowledge whatever legitimate point is in your spouse’s message and do your best to respond only to that. If you are wrong, say so and apologize. Offer to think about what he or she is telling you and tell him or her that you will respond at a later date. If you can, paraphrase the content of your spouse’s message, so that he or she sees that you have indeed heard it.

Example 1: “Jen, I understand that you are mad because I got here 30 minutes late and that is making you late for your doctor’s appointment. I got stuck at the office and I am sorry. I will make sure it does not happen again. If something happens that I cannot control, I will call you right away.”

Example 2: “I understand that you are very angry with me, but I do not think we can have a good conversation about it right now. Let’s see when we can talk about (lateness, money, whatever the problem is) when we are alone and we are better able to do it without yelling at each other.”

Example 3: “I hear you. This is something that our attorneys will have to discuss and advise about because I do not know what the answer is. I will call mine first thing in the morning and ask for his/her guidance.”

Example 4: “I hear you and I want to understand why you are so upset. As long as you are screaming at me, however, I just can’t do that.”

If none of this is possible, leave the room. Leave the house if you have to. Drive away. Whatever it takes to break the circuit. Try to envision your spouse as a co-worker. You wouldn’t launch into an intensely personal argument in the work place, even if you were unfairly attacked, would you?

2. If you normally use alcohol to get you through difficult family events, do not do it this year. Remain focused and alert. You want to be in full control of your ears and your mouth so that you can respond appropriately to any provocations. After having a few beers or too many glasses of nice wine, you will find it harder to keep your mouth shut.

3. If your spouse backs out of or tries to change a holiday custody agreement, is late for a pick up or drop off, or holds your kids hostage for an hour or two, go back to Tip #1. Give way.

This is hard. It’s really hard. Be that parent who takes the high road. Your kids don’t care who “wins” – they just know that if mom and dad spend the next 15 minutes fighting over pick up, drop off, or who does the driving, they’ll be late for or even miss their holiday concert. Unless your spouse’s conduct threatens an overnight or the holiday itself, it is rarely in your economic best interests to get your attorney involved.

4. Remember that your new relationship takes a back seat to the (reasonable) needs of your kids. If your significant other starts placing demands on you that are out of the blue and feel unfair and unreasonable, he or she is probably feeling insecure about his or her place in your heart. The holidays heighten our sensitivities to that stuff. Stop, hug, and talk. Your significant other may be worried about his or her role in your life – give him or her permission to directly tell you about those feelings, rather than acting out, so that you may respond appropriately.

5. Do the same with your kids. If it feels like they are making crazy demands, being especially needy, or seeking to manipulate you, ask them about their feelings and try to do so directly. Are they feeling threatened by your girlfriend? Are they terrified that if they show any kindness toward her, their mom will punish them? Are they worried that they are losing you?

6. Be patient with yourself. You are not perfect. Perfect people are very dull. All that stuff that always drives you nuts during the holidays is still out there, in addition to your divorce. If you continue to circle back to Tip #1, you will find yourself starting the New Year without regrets.

And I just told you not to drink!

Submitted by

Amy P. De Shong, Esquire
Fellow, American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
Wisler Pearlstine, LLP
460 Norristown Road, Suite 110
Blue Bell, PA 19422-2326
Phone: (610) 825-8400
Fax: (610) 828-4887
(Copyright 12/21/11)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

How Do You Juggle Family Time Over the Holidays?

If you are like most families, there are more people to visit over the holidays, than there are days to do it! His family. Her family. Extended families. And of course, if you're already a blended family with step-children, things get even more complicated!

The holidays are stressful to begin with. We tend to eat too much, spend to much, sleep too little, and so forth. Add all of the family obligations into the mix and it's enough to make you want to hibernate until Ground Hog's Day!

How do YOU juggle all the family obligations and maintain some sense of sanity? I'd love to hear your ideas.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Stress and the Holidays

Do you find that during this time of year, you and your spouse or significant other are especially testy? Maybe it's the kids wanting everything they see on TV, or whatever they think their friends are getting. Maybe you've already blown the budget. Maybe decorating and shopping and holiday parties have you sleep deprived and cranky. Maybe you're expecting visits from inlaws, or traveling during this busy period. No doubt about it, from Thanksgiving until the New Year is the most hectic, stressful time for most of us.

So how should you handle it? First of all, remember, "under stress, we regress." So do your spouse and kids. Cut them some slack. And for yourself - remember that it's not about perfection. The holidays will be lovely, even if there isn't as big a budget as you would like, and even if you gain a pound or two. Relax. Make it a point to get the sleep you need and also exercise - even if it means saying "no" to baking a couple more batches of cookies or to one more shopping trip.

Take five minutes once or twice a day to just do some deep breathing and center yourself. Relax by soaking in a hot tub. When you are rested and relaxed, you will accomplish more in less time - so you're really not losing any time. And encourage your family members to do the same. If the holidays are making them manic, remind them to stop, take a deep breath, relax.

Most of all - maintain perspective. It's not so much about gifts and decorations and food. It's about enjoying reaching out to family and friends we often don't see throughout the year. It's about peace, joy, love, hope for a bright and healthy new year. Remembering what's most important will help you manage the holiday chaos.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Another Great Amazon Review!

Many thanks to Grady for this review:

5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible Information from a Relationship Expert, December 7, 2011
By Grady Harp (Los Angeles, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER) (VINE VOICE) (REAL NAME) This review is from: Divorce-Proof Your Marriage Before You Say "I Do" (Paperback)
Dr. Lee A. Bowers is a psychologist in Pennsylvania who must have one of the most devoted clientele ever! In this brief but very well turned book she presents seven conversations essential to assure that coupling in a relationship will be successful before marriage. She presents this material in a manner that is warmly supportive and is obviously intended for uses by same sex couples as well as heterosexual couples, as much for people who simply want a solid non-married relationship as well as for those who are considering marriage, and for those in relationships who need to refresh their minds and lives and support systems to continue the march toward a solid togetherness.

Dr. Bowers sets her book into chapters, each chapter devoted to the seven essential conversations of the title: Idiosyncrasies, Money, Children and Pets, Core Values, Friends and Family, Sex and Gender Roles, and Communication. In each of these chapters she explains (or re-explains in a fresh way!) the importance of coming to agreement on the potential bumps in the road that a committed relationship can encounter. The seven conversations seem obvious at first, but read the manner in which the good doctor explains the approaches to both sides of a potential problem and the reader will find a wealth of homespun information that is wise and full of rich guidance. Little things, such as a man's proclivity to hag the television for sports programs and keep the controls in his hand; how money is perceived - as an equal earner versus a wage earner and homemaker; uncovering how each partner feels about not only children but also pets!; setting aside time for meaningful communication, etc etc.

Yes, much of what Dr. Bowers writes has been said before, but the way she makes her points is by giving examples of couples with whom she has dealt on every point she makes - a technique that makes the importance of the 'conversation' shine more brightly and certainly more clearly. For couples and for those thinking of coupling, this is a very fine book. Grady Harp, December 11

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Recent Interview

Hi Everyone!

I was recently interviewed for "The Lit Chick Show." Thought you might like to watch!