I am very much looking forward to this movie. It looks amazing!
Many of the people I’ve worked with in the last 20 years are parents who experienced a traumatic family event. Now, their own children struggle with a similar situation. My goal is to help everyone get through it in the best way possible, which is not always easy, depending on the circumstances you find yourself in and the mindset of the people who are involved. Even some of the professionals have scars that they carry, scars that create their own toxic contributions to conflict or family drama. Still, no one should ever give up hope for a better family life.
I enjoy working with parents, regardless of what they have done in the past or how difficult their situations may appear on the surface. While many shy away from “high conflict” families, I tend to embrace them, especially when I can work one on one with them. Why? Why do I do it? It can certainly be painful and stressful. It is often hard to watch parents who are hurting their children. Many of them do not even realize their part in the struggle, but for those who take the little seed that I plant and let it grow, the results are amazing. For that reason, even if there might only be a handful in hundreds, I am compelled to continue working with parents. Once someone works through pain, trauma, abuse or anger and recognizes their own piece in the relationship puzzle, their eyes are opened. They cannot un-know what they know. They cannot undo the past, but they can create their future. It is a blessing to see and the effects are not just in them, but ripple to others, children, friends, neighbors, and the community. Parents willing to self reflect out of pain and into peace to be awesome role models for their children are the greatest parents I know and I admire them deeply!
Please go see the movie, “I Can Only Imagine”. I can already see the greatness within, even simply from getting a couple of minutes worth of a glimpse. Have a glimpse of faith and hope. I pray it plants a seed in you!
Life’s Doors Mediation offers services for individuals, couples and families. Many people are not aware that mediation works for all forms of conflict. You don’t have to be going through divorce to try mediation. I also offer marital mediation so that a couple can work on saving their marriage. Whether you try to piece a marriage back together, or work out a better co-parenting relationship after divorce, the benefits are far greater than what you will experience as a couple. If you have children, they will also benefit. They will learn that forgiveness can happen, and that all is not lost when someone makes a mistake. Extended family, neighbors, and coworkers also benefit when you learn peaceful ways to resolve conflict. Everyone can benefit from taking the time to resolve conflict, rather than avoid it. Avoiding conflict is nothing more than delaying resolution. Conflict will either stay the same or build up, over time. You can try to hide from it, but it has a sneaky way of creeping up on you when you least expect it and are the least equipped to deal with it.
If you are struggling in a relationship, consider scheduling an appointment for coaching, or mediation. While some relationships cannot and should not be mended, such as abusive, coercive or those involving substance dependency, many relationships can be repaired.
This article was originally posted on May 18, 2011. Due to its popularity, I thought I’d re-post it.
When hit with divorce some people decide that their life is over. They think that in order to be a good parent, they must make sacrifices. They decide that dating has to wait until the children are grown, or they decide that they must be alone FOREVER.
There are always those people who decide that “all men are scum!” or that “all women are man haters!” While it certainly feels that way as you try to heal the wounds of divorce, those statements are blatantly false. Just because one person hurt you, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a loving man or woman out there who has been hurt just as badly, and would love to find someone like you. Many people are looking for a decent, loving individual, with whom they can build a new life, but instead, they do not allow themselves to seek out a potential mate.
It is called fear, people. Fear holds them back from true happiness. Those who live in fear never get to live life to the fullest. They miss out on the joy life can bring. They miss out on sharing a life with someone wonderful.
We can take our past experiences and let them continue to hurt us, or we could chalk it up to experience and hop right back on that bicycle and try it again. What I think people find through dating, especially when they are a little older and have been through divorce, is that they matter, and that they are more beautiful and desirable than they think they are.
The period following divorce can be a chance to learn about yourself. It can be a time to figure out who you are and what your interests are. You can try people on for size and it will help you find the right one for you. Just because the last one turned out to be the wrong one, that is no reason to give up and hide under the covers. I truly believe that there is someone out there for everyone. Just make sure that you have examined your part in the failed relationship and that you are emotionally healthy and ready for a new relationship before you get deeply involved with a new mate. It will save many headaches later if you get your act together!
I have another take on that whole “sacrificing for the children” belief. I think that when you swear off dating, you are robbing your children of a good example. Here’s why: Since you ended up divorced, that was probably not the best example of a healthy relationship. Did you fight? Was there chemical dependency involved? Was your ex physically and verbally abusive? Children learn by modeling. They observe the relationships they see and it leaves an impression on them. The kind of relationship they witness will be the relationship they seek out in their own lives and they will do so without even knowing they are doing it.
One day, they will choose a significant other and have a relationship just like their parents had. Why? Because this is what a relationship looks like to them. Do you want that? Would it be better to show your children how to date selectively and then hopefully find that special person with whom you can have a healthy, lasting relationship with? What a great model to give them, especially if all of the relationships around them haven’t always been the healthiest! Do this for you, but also for your children, and for that new person you have yet to meet, the one who is just as lonely as you are. You just might surprise yourself and find the right one. I know I have.
Keep in mind that there is another reason to open your heart and mind to love, and all of the possibilities in life. Your ex. While I would never recommend dating just to get back at your ex, I do think the best revenge on an ex is for them to see you blissfully happy and successful in life! Go ahead. Have the last laugh.
If I were to pass legislation to improve the Family Courts, I would not want to pass a joint custody assumption or a 50-50 shared parenting time assumption or anything of the sort. I’d put forth a “Make No Assumptions” Family Law bill. I would prefer that the courts not be involved in families at all. If you are the two parents whose relationship resulted in bringing a new life into this world, you already share a child. Why look to the court to give you something you already have? The only time a court should be concerned about the relationships in your family is if someone or something is denying with or interfering with your right to participate in that relationship. Other than that, it should be up to you to determine how parenting should be split, based on numerous different factors, and if you have to look to a court for a decision, they should have to look at those numerous different factors, too. A split down the middle might be the right way to go, but it might not be. We should also keep in mind that parenting is not just about time with the children. It is about much more. Raising a child is not an equal proposition. It’s not a perfect science, and it is definitely not fair. 50-50 is something we invented to seem fair, but is it fair? Is it fair to the child? What about the parent who works evenings, whose kids are in school all day? Should we still give evening time, to be fair, even though the parent cannot be there? If that parent has every weekend with the child, is that fair and equal to the parent who gets zero weekends? Kids do not always feel close to both parents equally, at all times. That is just the nature of life, love and the intricacies of a relationship, and it isn’t always fair. If parents come to court to settle parenting time disputes, shouldn’t the court have to look at all of the factors of the case and then decide what makes sense for that family over what is fair?
Let me explain why I believe that courts should not make assumptions about custody, or even parenting time.
In Minnesota, the courts use the Best Interests of the Children Standards when there is a Custody dispute. That standard is often applied in parenting time disputes as well. Many legal experts admit that these standards are out of date. Personally, I feel that the Best Interest standards are a myth, just like much of what Family Court tries to do to “Case Manage” families, is a myth. Families cannot and should not be case managed, and who is qualified to determine anyone’s best interest?
The interesting thing about the best Interest of the Child Standard is that the courts have gone to a shared parenting assumption throughout the nation. It may not be law in every state, but it is the line of thinking behind the scenes. Research shows that children do better in life when they have involvement and on-going contact with both of their parents, whether in the marital home, or after the marriage has ended. Shared parenting, one could say, is in the “Best Interests of the Child”. I am not arguing that fact. Whenever possible, both mom and dad should continue to be involved parents for their children. What I am going to argue here is whether or not the courts are actually concerning themselves with the best interest of the child, or more with the best interest of the parent. Is giving a parent 50% of a child’s time/life about the child, or about the parents perceived “right” of fairness?
There is research out there that shows children of married parents do better than children of unmarried parents. Should a court force a couple to stay married because of that research? How can you force a relationship between two people? Still, Family Courts do try to force their idea of shared parenting on families and it has been a disaster. They instill parental “rights”, and when parents fight over those shared rights, there is no one actually looking at the “rights” or needs of the child. The child becomes lost in the battle. The battles are almost always a dispute about what dad wants or what mom wants, and judges decide which parent “wins”. Children are an unseen entity that everyone loses sight of. They are usually not in the court and rarely given a voice. Of course age has to do with that somewhat, but even older children are excluded from the process.
I do agree that a child has 2 parents with equal rights, and those parents share the rights to that child. I really hesitated writing that last sentence because to say a child belongs to both parents, or anyone has the “rights” to each other seems highly adversarial and enslaving. It creates a misconception that a person could be the property of someone. We do not own our children. We have been blessed with being given a relationship with them and a responsibility to care for them. We have to recognize that both people are the parents of the child, and the child was born to those two individuals who produced the child. I do not want to use words that imply “ownership”. None of us have a “right” to another person. Maybe we need to call it “relationship with”, and rather than protecting “parental rights”, we should protect the “parental relationship”. When you think in terms of a relationship with someone, you can then realize that a relationship cannot be proclaimed. If you want to have a relationship with another human being, you have to cultivate and cherish that relationship. You have to honor and respect the other person if you want to keep them in relationship with you. This applies to a co-parent and it applies to your child. It applies to every person with whom you intend to have an ongoing relationship, and asking a court to proclaim it for you will never create the relationship you hope to have with your child, former spouse that you parent with, or anyone else.
If we want to look at best interest of a child, we need to look at best interest according to whom? I certainly would not want anyone deciding what was in my best interest because they would have to know my history and what things have happened in my life that forged the person I am today. They would have to know my heart, and what makes me tick. They would have to know what my passions are, what I am interested in and what I am not interested in. They would have to know what family means to me, because it means different things to different people. Some people could care less about blood relationships and more about caring relationships in their lives, than they care who shares DNA. They would have to know my life experience from birth, and there is just no way that they could. So who is the best authority on what is in anyone best interests? As you ponder that question, you can see, that is a tough one to answer.
Maybe it should be the best interest of the family. What do little Mary and Johnny need? What do mom and dad need? What does the family need to make this transition easier for all? What has happened in their past? What are their dreams for the future? Can a family find that kind of help in the legal system? No, they cannot. You can ask for court orders, but try to get enforcement when another individual is truly opposed to something. Asking for court orders also creates a bad pattern for your life because the only authority courts have over your family exists now, because of a minor child. If you have to force children to be in relationship with you, what happens when they turn 18? A parent had better hope to cultivate, honor and respect that relationship so that it still exists when a child becomes an adult. Court can only ever be a temporary fix. You will need to figure it out at some point, or you just might lose it all in the end.
The reason that no one should make assumptions about families is because families are complex. Is it fair when one parent wants the relationship with their children, but not the responsibility for them? Families are made up of individuals and relationships. They have different passions. They have different personalities. They have different schedules. There may be good reason why the parents do not interact. There may be good reasons why a parent should not have 50% of their children’s time. Parents have to look at time, not as a reflection of their value as a parent, but rather as the value of their child’s life and activities and interests. Life cannot be scheduled on weekends and mom’s time/dad’s time, and be fair to everyone. Life happens on its own schedule and in its own time frame. Events and milestones happen when they happen. Parents and children have different time frames of healing from trauma, and let me tell you that there are very few things in life as traumatic as divorce, especially divorce with children.
In a perfect world, we would stop talking in terms of “Parental Rights” and the “best interest of the children” and start honoring and respecting the family relationships and dynamics. These things cannot be legislated or court ordered. We can and do have laws to protect parental relationships so that parents are never denied time with their children, or restricted in building a relationship with their children. Denying and restricting time is something that not only warring parents try to do, but courts do as well, and there are laws that are supposed to prevent that, if only those would be enforced. Naysayers will always remind me about safety and abuse, but if the Family Court would get out of relationships, the criminal courts could and should deal with abuse and neglect issues where they exist.
Children are not property and society needs to stop treating them as such. We are destroying beautiful children as we carve up their lives into the ownership of percentages of time, and we are setting them up for failure. They are also being given a horrible example of how to build and cultivate healthy relationships and work through relationship conflict. We have to do better as a society with honoring and respecting each other as the beautiful, wondrous people that we are.
There is a huge problem today in how Family Court has decided that their role is to oversee families after divorce. Time and time again I remind court authorities that they cannot force co-parenting; it will either happen naturally, or it won’t. Time and time again I listen to court authorities continue to believe that it is their duty to determine how parents will parent their children after divorce, and to force these parents “get along” to make a better life for the children. Still, I persist in trying to stop court ordered co-parenting. Many people think that I am anti-co-parenting. I am not. I am just a realist, and a champion for peace in the home of parents and their children.
Co-parenting is the best way to move past divorce. It is the best way for parents, and the best way for children. It is the best way to create a healthy, functional family. I do not dispute that, and I would not interfere with families who choose to do that for their family. I am a supporter of co-parenting where it can and does work. On this, I do not disagree with court authorities about co-parenting. Where I disagree with the court authorities is when they put parents and their children through hell to try to get them there. My belief is that if parents are going to co-parent, they will do so without being forced by a court. It comes naturally to those families, after they have been allowed to heal the hurts that created the divorce. When it doesn’t come naturally, it is my belief that the harm caused by the court authorities who “case manage” the family for years and years, is more harmful than if those families are allowed to choose a different way to parent after divorce. It prolongs the pain and anguish for each member of the family, and it actually interferes with the healing process of each member of the family. Forced co-parenting creates high levels of distrust, which generates much higher levels of hostility, and leads more families into the category of high conflict, as those parents feel pressured and depleted, emotionally and financially. The parents feel imprisoned and no longer feel that they control their own destiny. This affects the whole family, including extended family members.
A recent op-ed in the New York Times speaks to how divorced parents lost their rights. Courts do not take the same control of married families, as they should not, but they seem to feel obligated to do so when people with children terminate a marriage. I do not think they have the right to do this in any family. There are many ways to parent after divorce. Families can co-parent, parallel parent, and alternate parenting. Who said that the courts should get to dictate which method you choose? When did it become illegal to parallel or alternate parenting?
When I was married, my husband and I never referred to our parenting style as co-parenting. We never heard the term “co-parenting” until after we divorced and we experienced a conflict. The word was in our divorce decree, but we never really paid much attention to it until court authorities started chastising us for not “co-parenting”. Had we not had a post decree conflict that took us back to court, we would have gone happily on our way, having very little to do with each other, parenting separately, and both parents and children, would have never been the wiser. We would have never called that wrong for our family, and we would never have considered it to be illegal. Do you know why? Because it is not illegal for us to live our lives as we see fit, and to parent our children, as we see fit, even when doing so deviates from the group think of Family Court authorities. I’m not sure what one might have called the way my ex husband and I were parenting, in between the decree and the conflict that lead to the shackles of the Family Court takeover, but it was natural for us and informative. We did not need to discuss the children much and each had our own way of parenting the children, based on the fact that we hadn’t spent much time doing anything together. My husband had not been very interested in doing things as a family, including the years that we were married, so it was natural for us to do our own things with the children. Even though we kept things separate, we knew enough to tell the other when there was an important school and medical matter that arose. No one had to tell us to act, we just knew to tell the other because we did know right from wrong, as it went along with our morals, values and beliefs. The relationship wasn’t perfect, not much is perfect in a life, but it was manageable and peaceful. Once family court authorities told us how wrong it was and took our family captive, we no longer knew wrong from right. The reason we could never know wrong from right is because those court authorities wanted us to live under their morals, values and beliefs. They were strangers. How can we know what is right and wrong in their eyes, especially where parenting is concerned? There is no manual on how to parent, and no one ever gave us a manual to explain the court way of parenting. Another problem was that the court way of co-parenting changed with each individual court authority who came along. Just when you thought you had figured it out, someone new came along with their morals, values and beliefs, and we had to try to conform again. It was a never-ending process of trying to follow rules in a game where the rules kept changing and the goal posts kept getting moved.
A friend and I were discussing co-parenting and the courts the other day. We were trying to figure out why court authorities ever came to the belief that they needed to involve themselves in relationships. Why would anyone think it was a good idea? Our discussion went to how the court should be able to terminate a marriage, and to ensure that both parents are able to establish a continuing relationship with the children, but we drew the line at allowing the court to determine the relationship between the parents. To us, you cannot court order relationships. Period. Think about the two of us as friends. We are very close friends and have been friends for a number of years. We have had our disputes over the years, and even did end our friendship for a couple of months at one time. This “breakup” was created when we were having a profound difference in a situation which showed the difference in our values and beliefs, and neither wanted to bend our values and beliefs to cater to the other. Luckily, we were able to come together and resolve those differences, and our friendship is stronger than ever. We have figured out, all on our own, how to maintain our friendship, but still allow each other to have our different beliefs. Had one of us decided that the friendship was not worth working things out, the friendship would have ended. Neither of us would have been able to force the other back in, and no court would have cared how we moved forward after the split.
Should a court have told us that one of us had to cater to the other? Do you think we’d be friends now if one of us had to give up our core values for the other? How often would we have needed to return to court to ensure that we stayed in the relationship? That’s what we are doing by having Family Courts “manage” post decree conflicts. Why don’t courts interfere in all relationships? When someone wants to end a relationship, shouldn’t they be allowed to do so without judgement? Should the next step in Family Court be to have a friend take the other friend to court to make one stay in the relationship? It sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it? But that is what we are doing with forced co-parenting. Since the courts force co-parenting on this ridiculous argument that it is “in the best interests of the children”, maybe the courts should not allow divorce for couples with children. Research also shows that children whose parents stay married do better overall so why is it not considered the best interest of the children to force the parents to stay married? Because it is ridiculous to court order relationships! That’s why!
We need to get away from this notion that any court or law can force a relationship to continue. They can’t. Family Court should continue to free people from of a marital relationship they no longer want, but they need to stop there. They need to get out of relationship matters, stop with co-parenting orders and stop with post decree conflict resolution. Couples are made up of 2 individuals, each of whom has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in these United States of America. Most people will negotiate a way to continue on as parents in a way most beneficial to their children. For those who won’t, there are probably equal numbers of married parents who are not parenting as Family Court would like them to either. The difference is that Family court doesn’t have the authority to dictate how married people parent anymore than they do with divorced parents. It is a myth to think they can, and the reason why some families get embroiled in high conflict situations that devastate their children for years.
Co-parenting is not only a style of parenting after divorce, it is also a relationship between two people, much like a marriage is. If one doesn’t want to do it, nothing in the world will make them. The reason why courts stay out of most relationships is because it is not violating a law to choose not to be in a relationship, and there are too many variables in the relationship for a court to even try to dictate what to do. Still, the Family Court uses “co-parenting” as a way to keep families in perpetual legal proceedings for years. The time has come for this to stop.
I do believe Family Court authorities can and should present information to divorcing parents about why co-parenting is best and explain what co-parenting means, but I do not believe that co-parenting has any place in the law, or in a court order. Families should follow the natural way of parenting that worked for them during the marriage based on their own morals, values and beliefs, either shared, or not shared, and with that, figure out the best way they can go forward after the marriage ends. If left to their own devices, I believe most people will enter a natural way of parenting after divorce that will be more peaceful than any court coerced relationship would be.
This song was written by Dolly Parton as she was experiencing the loss of a significant relationship. This really captures that spirit when you have grieved the loss of something and are transitioning into the positive experience that loss ultimately brings. Beautiful.
I’m not a country music fan, but will post Dolly Parton’s version also, just in case you are.
How important is sex? Sex should not be the entire basis of a relationship, but it is important for the survival of a relationship. A healthy sex life helps couples feel connected.
Not only is sex a key ingredient to a lasting relationship, according to this article from Web MD, there are many health benefits from a healthy sex life, also.
Web MD lists among the health benefits: stress relief, an immunity boost, burning off calories, improved heart health, greater self-esteem, increased intimacy, less pain, reduced risk of prostate cancer, stronger pelvic floor muscles, and better sleep. Read the article for more details, but you cannot argue with those great benefits to your health.
Why is sex important for men? Men need a physical release, especially when they are feeling stressed. Sex is a wonderful physical activity that they can share with their partner. Men can participate in sports or other physical activity, but sex is a lot more fun. They don’t often get to share those other activities with their partner so sex is a way for men to spend time with the women they love. Men use sex to show the woman in their life that they love them. Sometimes men cannot communicate feelings with words. Since being close physically is one of the ways men signal to a woman they love her, they can feel rejected if their partner loses interest in sex. Ladies, if you have lost interest in sex, talk to your man about why. He needs to know if you are not having your needs met or if there is another reason that sex no longer interests you. If you tell a man what he can do to make sex enjoyable for you, he will want to do it. Men want to know what makes you feel good. They don’t always know what that is. Never criticize, but tell them honestly what drives you wild. You’ll be surprised at how great sex can be when a man no longer has to guess.
Why do women lose interest in sex? Women need to have their emotional needs met in order to feel good about having sex. If a woman doesn’t feel respected, she will lose desire. If she is really stressed out or just plain too tired from chasing kids around all day, she won’t have the energy. Women sometimes feel self-conscious about sex. As their bodies change from pregnancy and childbirth to menopause, they may feel unattractive. Men, you can help by reassuring her that you love her body. Tell her she is sexy and the only woman you want to be with. Also, if you have young children and she feels run ragged, try to plan a day off for her. Allow her time to work out, get a massage, or have a night out with friends. If you can take care of the kids, by all means, do that. If that is not the best option, get a babysitter. Schedule certain days whenever possible that are Mom’s days off. Even if it can only be once a month, it helps.
Ladies, you don’t have to be a size 6 to be desirable. Great sex is about confidence. If you love your body, so will your man! Relax and enjoy the physical time together. Immerse yourself completely into the moment. Try not to think about the kids or work or anything else. A woman who is distracted will not get the most pleasure out of sex that she could.
If you have become stuck in a rut and sex has become non-existent, you can change that. Ask your partner if they are willing to talk about it. Tell them that you would like to rekindle your sex life. If it’s been a while since you’ve shared that physical closeness, spend some time reconnecting as a couple. Spend time together relaxing and having fun. Touch each other, not just as foreplay. Touch each other throughout the day. A simple kiss or hug, maybe just lightly touching a shoulder or back can restart that physical connection needed to bring back desire. If necessary, see a therapist or a physician. There could be a medical reason why desire has been lost. You can always see a relationship coach, too. If your partner wants to talk about your sex life, take it to heart. If sex is important to your partner, they are not going to wait around forever. Don’t help them decide to look for someone else, help them love and desire you.
Relationship problems suck. They really do. When you are married, relationship problems suck even more. When you have children, the stakes are extremely high.
As a coach, I talk to people who are looking for help. They may want to try communication coaching. Sometimes, one or both partners have anger issues, and they might want to look into Anger Management. They may even be contemplating divorce.
Divorce will scare the crap out of you. Sometimes, it is sprung on you. Your spouse has determined, without talking to you about it, that they want a divorce. They have thought it over for a long time, and come to the decision. You can’t change their mind. It is done.
Other times, you talk together about how the relationship is not working. This is a great time to act. Even if you think this is not a great time because you are on the brink of divorce, it really is an opportunity. There is something positive in the fact that you have been able to talk about this together. That shows promise!
For parents of small children, you really need to see the opportunity in this situation. While some couples will choose to divorce, others may find that they don’t have to. If no one has come to the divorce decision yet, there is still time, and there is certainly a lot of wisdom in waiting to make that decision while you spend time working on your issues.
Relationship problems are a two-way street. It is rarely about the actions of just one person in a couple. The relationship didn’t start out sour. If it had, why would you have gotten married? Why would you have had a child together? There was potential there and most likely still is.
The question you have to ask yourself is this: If I need to make some changes to improve my relationship, should I do it now, in an effort to save my marriage, or should I do it later, to work on the co-parenting relationship? If you and your spouse have a child together, you are going to have to continue to build that relationship, aren’t you? If you have trust or anger issues in your marriage, won’t you still have them in the co-parenting relationship, too?
When a relationship has problems, most people seem to know where their own personal weakness lies. They often know, or are willing to learn about their faults. If the two people are willing to make changes to improve their lives, it would be better to do it now, before more damage is done, than to have to do it later. Just something to consider.
Divorce was a good thing for me. I am not sure my children would agree that it was a good thing for them. Divorce might be a good thing for you but it might be worth really making sure that you cannot salvage that relationship, especially if you have children who end up being part of that relationship forever, no matter what it becomes.
I love this! Very well written and spoken. We are losing our way and it shows every day, in all the world. We spend more time with machines than with those we love. I am guilty of it, too. This is a beautiful reminder of the life we lose when we stop living it because we are so busy documenting it all, not knowing if anyone will really see it, or see us.