Turning a Breakup Into a Positive Experience

If you are facing, or have just gone through a break-up, whether that be with your long-term partner or a spouse, it can be difficult to know how to keep moving forward.  Your day-to-day life can feel like a pile of pieces that do not fit together anymore and putting them back together can feel like a daunting, or even impossible task.  In this, our fifth of six articles about fulfillment we examine advice about how to work through a break-up.

Avoiding Empty Advice

After a break-up it can feel like there is advice coming from everyone you know.  Well-meaning friends will suggest a vacation or shopping or haircuts or a new “side-hustle” and it can all just feel like noise.  TV and movies have suggested sitting in a dark room binge-eating ice cream but you probably don’t actually need to be told that’s just going to make you feel much worse.  With the following 3 point plan (with a fourth point option) hopefully you will find your way out of the post-break-up blues and back on the road to fulfillment.

Intentional Grieving

We are conditioned to think that grieving is always a bad thing but it’s a very necessary piece of the process of getting through any type of loss in a healthy way.  The original article suggests that we “Consciously choose to remember why it hurts to no longer be in the relationship, and validate the suffering” she goes on to suggest that “it’s helpful to think of your former relationship as a part of what makes you who you are”.  So instead of scrolling through old photos (on your phone or in your own memory) and thinking of these experiences as things that have been taken away from you, see them as experiences that have shaped who you are now.  That meal was great, that laughter was genuine, that adventure was brave; those experiences that shaped you can still exist even without your partner.  The goal is to take an inventory of both what is lost, and what is not, which can be helpful when the voice in your head is telling you that you lost “everything”. 

Re-Focusing Negative Energy

It’s a bit cliché, but “hitting the gym” after a break-up doesn’t just allow you to flex that #PostBreakUpBod on Instagram.  A daily (or a few times a week, whatever works for you) exercise regimen can make you feel better about yourself and also has physiological benefits that can give you a boost.  You don’t have to join a club or start hanging out with Cross-Fit people to accomplish this.  Get yourself a decent pair of shoes and start walking two or three miles a day.  The more accessible your exercise outlet is, the more likely you are to stick with it and reap the benefits.

Devise a Plan, and Take Notes

Just in the same way that making a to-do list can help you keep track of what you need to do and what you have already done, taking notes on your emotions can help you track your progress.  It’s easy to think “I’m still a mess” after four weeks or months.  However, if you document your emotions through journaling you can look back and see what progress you’ve made, or set goals for the future. 

Trying Again

Ah, the bonus optional fourth step.  In the original article, this is a reference to getting back together with the same person.  They offer these three questions:

  • Are they open to making changes?
  • Are there things You can change?
  • Are they open to couples’ therapy?

But whether it’s “getting back together” or “getting back out there” in general, make sure that you’re ready and doing it for the right reasons. 

Break-Ups Aren’t Easy, and that’s OK

The reality is, a painless break-up is probably the conclusion to not a very worth-while relationship.  It’s OK to not feel bad, but working through the process in as healthy of a manner as possible can help you avoid falling into a lasting depression when the best thing for most people is to simply find a way to keep on moving forward.

Navigating the Financial Side of a Relationship

Discussing Money With Your Partner For a Healthier Future: 101

Fights over money are fairly common, especially as two people share more and more financial responsibility.  However, fights over money, or simply not seeing eye-to-eye over finances remain one of the leading causes of divorce.  Fights over money tend to get toxic pretty quickly; they are filled with blame and bringing up random pieces of the other person’s past.  They also tend to be overall fairly ineffective as people walk away with more resentment over money, which can lead to even more reckless spending.   

A Financial Conversation

The best way to eliminate fights about money is to work towards having regularly scheduled talks, or at least a solid mutual understanding, around finances.  This is not going to look the same for every couple.  Some couples do really well with a spreadsheet and a budget.  Other couples may set aside a certain amount of money every month to meet some financial goal.  There is not a right and wrong way to manage finances with another person, the key is to find what works for you and your partner.

Your Financial History

One of the things that lead to people having very different opinions and approaches to money management is our own financial history.  We all had moments growing up where we “learned the value of a dollar” whether that was our first job, first big purchase, first time we saved X-amount of dollars, etc.  This financial history, largely shaped by our parents, will very likely contribute to our current approach to money.  Talking through these things can help bring clarity to issues where you and your partner see things very differently.  Our approach to money management is driven by the experiences we’ve had with money, so talking through our own history can help create more mutual understanding in the larger conversation.

The Carrot and The Stick

One of the best developments a couple can work towards is seeing the positive results from responsible financial habits instead of the negative feelings that come with irresponsible spending.  A budget does not have to be a document that tells you what you are not allowed to spend money on, rather it should do the opposite.  A successful budget should have at least some portion of your money being dedicated to the things you want, the things you have prioritized.  Now, impulse purchases that are outside of the budget are not mistakes that need to be punished, they are decisions that are keeping you from getting what you want, what you have prioritized in your budget.  If that causes a conflict, either internally or with your partner, you may want to re-think what your budget is working towards or find a way to control / make more room for impulse purchases.

Approach vs. Outcome

Hopefully, after a few open conversations you’ll work towards a few boundaries, rules or guidelines.  However, the best approach for how to achieve them may be different for you and your partner.  Some people love complex spreadsheets and spend-tracking apps, others find just carrying a fixed amount of cash is a better means to curb their spending.  They key is figuring out an approach that works for you as individuals that still meets your collective goals. 

How to Start – Agree on Something

Maybe it’s that one day you’d like to own a home, or a larger home, or go on a vacation, or go down to one job.  Whatever your financial end-game is, that’s where the conversation starts.  “You need to stop going to Starbucks” is a fight-starter; “We both want ____, now let’s talk about how we can get it” is a conversation-starter.  By starting with a common goal, and not an individual being blamed, the entire topic can become easier to approach and more likely to be resolved without the stress of another argument over money.

Reviving an Old Friendship

Regaining the Spark in Your Marriage

The next of six articles focused on fulfillment in life talks about reviving an old friendship. In this article, we’ll be examining how we can best regain the spark in our most important “old” friendship, the one with our spouse. Relationships go through cycles and changes and that is very normal; no one expects to stay in the “honeymoon phase” of a relationship forever, but what are spouses to do when a piece of their relationship has become like an old friendship and they feel out of touch.

Taking Inventory

The article starts by suggesting that you examine why you and the friend first fell out of touch; did one of you move? Your interests changed? It became more and more difficult to find the time? Unfortunately, when you feel distanced from your spouse it can be more difficult to put your finger on exactly what is different. Every relationship is unique, so figuring out the special things that make yours tick can be a challenge. Start with retracing your steps, what were the circumstances around the last time you remember really enjoying time with your spouse; was it planned or spontaneous? Something normal and “everyday” or was it a vacation or a special night out? Remembering what worked in the past can give you clues on how to move forward.

Manage Expectations

A sudden change in your approach to the relationship or your behavior can be off-putting, even alarming to your spouse. Communication and managing expectations are both critical. If your surprise date night happens the same day your spouse had a bad day at work and got stuck in traffic you may need to be flexible. Springing “I want to talk about our relationship” onto your spouse can make your spouse feel sensitive or defensive. Just understand that making changes and breaking habits, while rewarding, involves some level of risk as well.

Availability & Honesty

Whether you are trying to simply have better conversations or surprise your spouse with a second honeymoon, be open, honest and ready to work for what you want. Investing in your relationship with your spouse can feel difficult and even scary, but a commitment to constantly improving your relationship will pay off in the end.

Parties, Dates, And Why They Matter

The second piece in our six piece series on fulfillment is a guide to navigating a party or other social situation effectively.  The author of the original article lays out some nice tips about how to work your way through a party or gathering.  These are great tips for navigating a party as an individual, but there are also some parallels that are helpful for your most important social relationship, the one with your spouse.  We are going to take a high-level look at the tips the author offered and think about them in the context of a marriage.

Preparation and Purpose

Being prepared for a party includes thinking about your appearance, what to bring with you, and spending some time thinking about your expectations and what you are trying to accomplish.   If you are struggling to make meaningful time with your spouse, this same approach can work.  Make a plan so that you and your spouse have committed the time, and then go above and beyond by preparing for your time together.  Whether that means special attention to how you look or where you will go or even just what you’d like to talk about, showing that you invested time and effort to your time together will be meaningful to your spouse.

Mingling and Meeting New People

A portion of the article was dedicated to helping people get over the awkward humps one faces when you’ve just met.  However, uncomfortable silences and an inability to find common ground to discuss is something that spouses can also experience.  While there are more specific solutions when dealing with people you just met the fundamental idea of being pleasant and available certainly will certainly work with your spouse as well.  Ask about work, what’s going on with friends, personal or professional goals, etc..  Treat your spouse with the same care and concern that you would show when trying to make a good first impression. 

Breaking Phone Habits

It’s cliché and for good reason; we are all spending too much time looking at our phones.  In the original article, it talks about how looking at your phone makes you seem inaccessible and not open to meeting new people at a party.  The fallback of looking at a phone in moments of boredom or distraction can also send a message to your spouse.  Out to dinner?  Consciously commit to not looking at your phone unless it’s necessary.  It’s all too easy for spouses to fall into old habits that isolate you from one another.  Being present when spending time together is a lot easier if you’re not staring at a phone.

Don’t “Mail it In”

Your marriage isn’t a party, but a lot of the tips for preparing for a social gathering are also very helpful to keeping your marriage on track.  The common theme in a lot of the tips offered were grounded in the idea that effort and thoughtfulness go a long way.  In many struggling marriages spouses will look for miracle fixes or grandiose gestures when the real building block of any good relationship is consistently being available and showing that you care.  You wouldn’t try to impress people at a party by showing up late, not looking great and then being disengaged and staring at your phone, so show your spouse that same effort, whether that be on a special date night, or just spending a few minutes together in the midst of the chaos.

Patience, Relationships & Divorce

You’ve probably heard the phrase “Patience is a Virtue” most of your life. Patience is something that people generally seem to struggle with. We have all lost our patience in situations that have probably caused other people problems, just as we have ourselves have likely been the victims of other peoples’ impatience. Being more in touch with our own emotions and understanding what is causing a lack of patience can give us the tools to train ourselves to be more a more patient, and likely a more fulfilled, person as a result.

Types of Patience

The article refers to three types of patience; while you may see some overlap between the three in your own life and experience, identifying what type of patience is required is a good first step.

  1. Interpersonal Patience –
    People and relationships require patience. This may be the most apt type of patience when discussing divorce and relationships. It takes patience to change, and it takes patience to ask for other people to change as well. Patience is truly the currency of a strong and healthy relationship. If you find yourself losing your patience with a spouse or loved one, think of the times that they have had patience with you.
  2. Life Hardships –
    When faced with hardships in life, simply getting out of bed or getting through the day can seem like an insurmountable challenge. When we face difficulties, we need patience to remind ourselves that the strength to go on and work towards a better life comes one day at a time. A death in the family, a divorce, or any other major event requires both the patience to work and grow through the emotional challenges, but also being patience with this process, which can feel very slow.
  3. Daily Hassles –
    Tiny annoyances can feel enormous when we are under stress. From your phone not working to not being able to remember where your keys are to a phone call from your parents; the tiniest things seem to set us off on certain days. This can make it challenging to even identify when and how you need to focus on patience because it feels like “everything is driving me crazy”

Identify & Understand Triggers

When we “lose our patience” it’s usually our “Fight or Flight” response coming into play. The feeling is caused by the chemical in our brain that is the “fight” element of our “fight or flight” response. This chemical, or rather when it’s released is extremely simple and does not have the ability to distinguish between a minor annoyance and actual danger. That means the that becoming bothered by standing in line can release the chemical that would be triggered by realizing you are on a plane that’s about to crash or are about to be attacked by a bear. The key is identifying when you feel this way and identifying the situation that triggered the feeling.

Interrupt the Cycle – Evaluate the Risk

Once you have identified something that has caused you to lose your patience, think back to it when you are calm. Were you in any danger? If you were upset by waiting in a line, how much time did it really take from your day? Was the stress actually rooted in you not leaving the house as early as you should have? You were distressed – your brain was releasing a chemical indicating you were in danger – was there really any danger? Most of the time, there was not.

Train. Don’t “Try”

It’s easy to say that you’ll TRY to be more patient, but the article suggests that we need to make a conscious effort to train ourselves to be more patient. There is almost no situation where losing your patience is beneficial, and while you want to be assertive when you need to and hold others accountable, losing your patience is hardly ever the appropriate way to do so. Challenge yourself to be more patient, and when you are not, make note of it so that you can be more aware, and hopefully train your brain to be more patient in the future.

Patience in the Divorce Process

As a divorce lawyer, I talk to people about patience a lot. There are cases where a marriage can be saved, either through more patience with your spouse, or the collective patience of both spouses to work through counseling or therapy together. If you have decided that divorce is the best course of action, you will still need to be long on patience as the process can be long and challenging. Wherever you are in the process, I hope to be a guide and help you work towards the best possible outcome. Contact me for more information.

Say I Do… To Fulfillment

With the new year upon us and the Holidays all but a distant memory, the family law courts will be busy with new filings. People tend to not get divorced during the holiday season, and it picks up again in January. So it would make sense for our blog to focus on traditional topics like custody, asset division and the complexities of divorce. Instead, we are going to run a six part articles about saying “I Do….to Fulfillment”.

What is Fulfillment?

Living a life of fulfillment is something that we all strive to do, but often have trouble figuring out exactly how to achieve this complex goal. The term “Fulfillment” makes me think about the old adage that “money can not buy happiness”. More specifically, that a person’s “happiness” or ability to feel fulfilled isn’t tied to what we have or even what we’re doing, but to how we feel about it. Is it a “once in a lifetime trip?” or an “unbearable 6 hour plane ride”? Is it “The opportunity to start a great week” or “a terrible Monday morning”. Fulfillment seems like it may have more to do with our own perception, rather than what’s really going on around us.

What Does any of This Have to Do with Divorce?

The original article that was the inspiration for these posts lists six different tips to help have better relationships. We are going to break each one down into a short article and share some thoughts about how the concept ties in to family law. Hopefully it will help you gain some perspective on your own situation. Some people get divorced because of the promise of their second chance; others get divorced because they can’t continue with their current situation another day. Regardless of the reason for your divorce, we hope that these articles at least help you to ponder how the decision you make will relate to your long-term happiness and sense of fulfillment.

Long-Term Mental and Physical Health

There are six topics we’ll cover, all with the goal of obtaining a better perspective of our surroundings, what we’ve accomplished and who we are. If you’re interested in reading the full text of the original articles, click here. The six topics include (these will become links as the articles are published):

Beverly Hills Divorce & Family Law

If you have questions about your own family law situation, the experienced team at Maguire & Associates is ready to help. To take the first step, contact us today.