Posts Tagged ‘divorce’

Lessons from High-Profile Celebrity Divorces

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

To read my English usage blogs, click here.

This may not sound like the title of one of my usual newsletters, so let me explain. First, an explanation for the gap between newsletters: I was on a roller coaster ride for a number of weeks, first with a surprise health issue that is now fortunately resolved and then with some 15-minutes-of-fame experiences.

After two minor surgeries (one surprise, one planned) I flew to Club Med Cancun to teach my Creating Your Abundance from the Inside Out Seminar. The participants—a mix of savvy business folks, marketing experts, health professionals, and professors—contributed so much to my already jam-packed workshop that I decided to compile all this wisdom into an e-book, aptly titled Creating Your Abundance from the Inside Out, which will be ready for ordering in September.

Club Med was followed by a “Cinderella at the Ball” experience in L.A., where I was escorted by my wonderful producer friends to meetings with TV executives for a possible reality show. From these gleaming high rises, I was taken to the Paramount Studios set of “Monk,” where I met Tony Shalhoub and reconnected with his co-star Jason Gray-Stanford (my buddy from the televised Grammar Bee that he hosted and I judged). When I flew home, I was still on Cloud 9 but grateful for my day-to-day life with my family.

Just as I was settling in, I was contacted by USA TODAY (They’d googled Relationship Expert and voila!) to offer some wisdom on how to have a “sane” breakup using celebrity divorces as backdrops. Below is the article as it appeared in USA TODAY online. An edited version appeared in print on July 11, 2008, in Section D, Life. If you’d like to see the original with all the celebrity photos, click here:

Staying Civil in Divorce Court is Hard to Do

Christie Brinkley and architect Peter Cook ended their brutal divorce trial Thursday with a settlement that gave the former model custody of their children, Jack, 13, and Sailor, 10, and all 18 of the couple’s Hamptons properties. Brinkley, 54, agreed to pay $2.1 million to Cook, 49, who was granted “parenting time.” The settlement, which followed allegations of affairs, expensive porn habits and bad parenting, was “a very bittersweet moment,” Brinkley said.
While the ugliness of the trial didn’t rise to the level of the divorces of Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards or Paul McCartney and Heather Mills, other celebrities have had more success in keeping their breakups civil. USA TODAY and relationship expert Jane Straus, author of Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life, look at the good and bad of celebrity divorces.

Ryan Phillippe, 33, and Reese Witherspoon, 32
Married: June 1999
Divorced: June 2008
Children: Ava, 8 and Deacon, 4
Issues: Irreconcilable differences
Back story: Witherspoon and Phillippe stayed amicable after their split, even after rumors surfaced that Phillippe was having an affair with his Stop-Loss co-star Abbie Cornish. Phillippe says that he and Witherspoon “have done a really good job at keeping things peaceable and completely focused on the children.” Witherspoon has opted to keep the details of their divorce private.

Straus says: If only more ex-couples could bite their tongues until time has had a chance to help them heal. Once nasty details have been publicly aired, it’s much harder to ask friends, family, or even the public to forgive and forget.

Hilary Swank, 34, and Chad Lowe, 40
Married: September 1997
Divorced: May 2006 (announced)
Children: None
Issue: The double Oscar-winning actress told Vanity Fair in 2006 that Lowe’s substance-abuse problem was at the heart of their split.
Back story: The two remain good friends, and Lowe publicly raves about the way Swank supported him throughout his path to sobriety. “In the end, it just didn’t work,” Swank told Vanity Fair. “But I would never look back on this relationship as failed. I look at it as 13½ years of success.”

Straus says: This attitude shows hard-won wisdom on both Hillary’s and Chad’s part. They’ve been through the agony of addiction and come through with grace as demonstrated by neither of them having to play “victim.”

Kate Hudson, 29, and Chris Robinson, 41
Married: December 2000
Divorced: October 2007
Children: Ryder Russell, 4
Issues: Irreconcilable differences
Back story: Maintaining her friendship with Robinson was very important, Hudson told Harper’s Bazaar in September 2007. “For both Chris and me, our main focus is, and was, Ryder. And happy parents, happy baby. Therefore, I love Chris to pieces.” Hudson is so at ease with their split that she spent Father’s Day this year with Robinson, Ryder, her new love Lance Armstrong and Armstrong’s three children.

Straus says: Some couples come to realize that their purpose has been fulfilled once they have a baby. If they have no stake in feeling wronged, they can split amicably and focus on their children’s well-being. It helps if money isn’t an issue, of course.

Paul McCartney, 66, and Heather Mills, 40
Married: June 2002
Divorced: McCartney filed for divorce in July 2006
Children: Beatrice McCartney, 4
Issues: Without a prenuptial agreement, Mills sought a financial divorce settlement of $250 million.
Back story: Despite his wealth, McCartney lives on a modest property, according to court documents, and offered Mills $30 million. Mills wanted $6.5 million a year for herself and daughter, $25 million for a London home, $6 million for a New York City apartment and $1.5 million for an office in an English seaside town, according to People magazine. In addition, both McCartney and Mills have blamed the other for leaking details of their private affairs to the press.

Straus says: “Most of us believe we would feel satisfied — even thrilled — with Paul’s seemingly generous offer. But we all get used to a lifestyle and can then feel offended or even threatened when it is being taken away from us. Maybe the lesson here is that it is a slippery slope from privilege to entitlement.”

Alec Baldwin, 50, and Kim Basinger, 54
Married: August 1993
Divorced: November 2002
Children: Ireland Eliesse, 12
Issue: Custody battle
Back story: Basinger has charged that Baldwin is “emotionally and physically abusive,” and Baldwin has accused Basinger, 53, of having “a pathological need” to turn their daughter against him. In 2008, Basinger filed a motion to stop Baldwin from publishing A Promise to Ourselves: Fatherhood, Divorce, and Family Law, a book reportedly about their divorce, though Baldwin told the New York Daily News that he has not divulged private information about Basinger. The book will be released in September.

Straus says: “This ex-couple demonstrates a need on each of their parts to get the public to side with them. If they could agree to keep their communications private, they would be letting the public know that their daughter comes first. Wouldn’t that be the best PR of all?”

Charlie Sheen, 42, and Denise Richards, 37
Married: June 2002
Divorced: November 2006
Children: Samantha, 4, and Lola, 3
Issue: Custody battle
Back story: Richards described Sheen in court documents as abusive, negligent of their daughters and a patron of prostitutes. She also has asked the court to give her final decision power, despite their joint custody arrangement. In a May statement, Sheen said Richards continues to publicly discuss and harass both Sheen and his new wife, Brooke Mueller.

Straus says: “Like many newlyweds, Denise may have thought she could change Charlie’s notorious ways. At the time of their split, she may have felt disillusioned and hurt. Many parents find themselves fearful and confused about the data on vaccination risks, so this battle shows concern for their children. Let’s not judge them for this.”

USA TODAY also asked me to write an introduction with advice for a “successful” breakup. Due to space limitations, it didn’t get printed, but I thought it might be helpful for some of you.

“Successful” and “divorce” are not two words we usually put together in the same sentence. Is it even possible? Well, if some celebrity couples can manage it, even with the paparazzi on their heels 24/7, maybe we can too. But just as it takes two to make a successful marriage, it helps if both partners are mature enough to abide by some basic rules when they come to the painful decision that it’s time to split up.
Rule #1: Don’t tell your family about all the terrible things your partner did. What if you get back together? You will feel embarrassed that you’ve forgiven your partner and your family may find it hard to forgive him/her for hurting you.
Rule #2: If you need to talk, which you probably will, talk to a counselor/therapist. You deserve compassion, but a professional listener won’t support you in wallowing in self-pity any longer than necessary. A counselor’s job is to help you understand your relationship patterns so that you can break the unhealthy ones and move on.
Rule #3: Never fight in front of your children or share any gory details. Getting them to side with you is nothing short of cruel.
Rule #4: Don’t talk about money too soon. During a split, feelings tend to be volatile. Anger and revenge can morph into remorse in the blink of an eye. You will want to get stabilized emotionally before you divvy things up. Even if you agree on how assets will be split, have your own attorney look everything over. But make sure you hire a lawyer who is supportive of mediation so that you don’t lose everything in a potentially futile court battle.
Rule #5: Keep your new life private for a while. While it can be tempting to show off new eye candy on your arm, why risk turning still-smoldering embers into a wildfire?
Rule #6: Remember the loving feelings you had when you first got together. Why? Because simmering resentment doesn’t help you get over the relationship; grieving does. Grieving requires remembering the good and feeling your sadness and loss. You may feel uncomfortably vulnerable, but you will also heal that much more quickly.

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The Gift of a “No Holds Barred” Apology

Saturday, January 5th, 2008

(Click here to read my English usage blogs.)

Recently, Ron Whitney, a life coach and lay counselor at his church, wrote to tell me that he had read my book, Enough Is Enough! He added, “I hope I am not being out of line, but as I read the chapter on forgiveness, I could not help but think that you might appreciate a letter I wrote to my ex-wife several years ago.”

Well, I thought so much of Ron’s letter that I asked his permission to reprint it for you. It is a wonderful example of (1) an unconditional apology (no ifs, ands, or buts), (2) self-forgiveness, and (3) nonattachment to outcome. (Ron asked for and expected nothing in response.)

Dear ____,

I have agonized over writing you for several years, trying to figure out how I would say what I want to say.

I want to tell you how deeply sorry I am that I offended you in numerous ways during our marriage. I am deeply sorry that I was not emotionally available to you. You were right in your frequent complaints that I “was always down the street and around the corner.” I am deeply sorry that I allowed my interests in Auburn football, softball, umpiring and church activities get in the way of our relationship. I am deeply sorry that I did not express my anger toward you when anger would have been an appropriate response. I recall on more than one occasion you asked me if I never got angry with you. My response was always, “I choose not to get angry.” I was so arrogant. I am deeply sorry that I did not confront you in a loving, compassionate way when I thought you were out of line. I am deeply sorry that I denied for almost all of our married life that I had a problem or that we had a problem.

I hope that you will forgive me for these ways I am aware that I offended you and caused you great pain. I also hope that you will forgive me for those offenses of which I am not aware.

Sincerely,
Ron

How many of us long for such a letter? How many of us would feel unconditionally loved by someone’s willingness to admit the wrongs they perpetrated against us?

I hope that Ron’s letter to his ex-wife serves as a reminder that you deserve such a letter, whether you ever receive one or not. And perhaps it’s time for you to write such a letter to someone who deserves the gift of your amends.

Jane Straus is a trusted life coach, dynamic keynote speaker, and the author of Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life. With humor and grace, Jane offers her clients and seminar participants insights and exercises to ensure that the next chapter of their lives is about thriving as the unique individuals they have always been and the extraordinary ones they are still becoming. She serves clients worldwide and invites you to visit her site, www.stopenduring.com. Here you will find excerpts from her book, more articles, TV and radio interviews, and clips from her presentations.

She is also the author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, www.grammarbook.com, an award-winning online resource and workbook with easy-to-understand rules, real-world examples, and fun quizzes. Contact Jane at Jane@JaneStraus.com.

Anger and Decision Making

Friday, October 26th, 2007
 
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Dear Jane,
I was numb in my marriage for over ten years before starting therapy. Now I recognize that I have been angry and resentful towards my wife and want a divorce. I was ready to tell her this the other night after dinner. But we were watching Dr. Phil and he told a woman who was in the same situation that she wasn’t ready for a divorce until she’d worked through all her anger and was clear headed. With a lot of conviction, he said that as long as she could get riled up at her husband’s behavior, she wasn’t ready to leave. Needless to say, that shut me up. Do you agree with Dr. Phil? Am I not ready yet? Do I have to wait until I’ve released all my anger? How will I know that I’m not just going numb again?

Dr. Phil’s advice is based on the premise that most of us don’t know how to work with our anger consciously enough to make good decisions while in the throes of it. However, as I write about in Enough Is Enough!, anger can give us important information if we learn how to listen to its meaning.

Anger is a secondary emotion. In other words, we may feel anger first, but underneath anger are resentment, hurt, fear, and/or sadness. If we want to make good decisions, we need to get beneath the anger to our more vulnerable feelings.

Hearing about your anger and prior numbness, I imagine that underneath it you feel resentment towards your wife. But underneath every resentment is a personal regret. What do you regret about your own behavior? Do you regret being numb for so long? Do you regret wasting precious years of your life without experiencing intimacy with a partner? Do you regret being too afraid to look at your marriage honestly before now?

Once you are honest with yourself about your regrets, the next step is to give yourself compassion and forgive yourself. Take whatever time you require to do this until you are no longer in self-blame. Then you will be clear enough to choose whether to stay or to go. Even though you may not be done with feeling all your anger, every time it emerges, you will know how to work with it to get to your deeper truth. As you become competent with your anger, it will no longer run you; it will serve to give you the valuable information you need to make self-loving decisions.

Announcements

Enough Is Enough! Seminar in New Orleans
I have been invited to New Orleans to give a workshop on November 18, 2007 for some folks whose lives were impacted by Katrina. During my stay, I will keep a video diary, which I will upload to my Web site, StopEnduring.com. If you live in New Orleans, you are invited to attend this free workshop. Contact me at Jane@janestraus.com.

Donation of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation to New Orleans Schools
I am donating 120 copies of the Eighth Edition of her bestselling reference guide and workbook, The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation. If you know of a school in the New Orleans area that could use the book, contact Jane at Jane@janestraus.com.

Jane on TV January 10, 2008
I will be interviewed on NBC 11’s The Bay Area Today on January 10. I will be talking about New Year’s resolutions. Expect a fresh take on the subject. More details to follow.

Jane Straus is a trusted life coach, dynamic keynote speaker, and the author of Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life. With humor and grace, Jane offers her clients and seminar participants insights and exercises to ensure that the next chapter of their lives is about thriving as the unique individuals they have always been and the extraordinary ones they are still becoming. She serves clients worldwide and invites you to visit her site, StopEnduring.com. Here you will find excerpts from her book, more articles, TV and radio interviews, and clips from her presentations.
She is also the author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, Grammarbook.com, an award-winning online resource and workbook with easy-to-understand rules, real-world examples, and fun quizzes.
Contact Jane at Jane@JaneStraus.com.

Being Blamed for a Divorce

Monday, October 22nd, 2007
 
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Dear Jane,
My ex-husband and I divorced after sixteen years of marriage. It wasn’t an awful marriage but I never really loved him. He knew this although we never really talked about it. When he started to drink a few years after our daughter was born, I really felt even more distant from him. We divorced six years ago without much discussion, like distant strangers.
Now I’ve met a wonderful man whom I love deeply. It seems that my ex suddenly can’t stand that I’m happy. (He heard about it from our daughter; I wouldn’t have rubbed his nose in it.) He started calling me telling me every few days, haranguing me that it’s my fault that he drank, that I ruined his self-esteem, and that he wasted the best years of his life on me. I want to know what I should feel guilty about. What should I apologize for?

While we bring all our hopes and dreams into marriage, we also bring all our limiting beliefs, self-judgments, and fears, most of which surface only after the routine of daily life sets in. When your ex-husband agreed to marry you knowing you didn’t really love him, he unconsciously used you to reinforce a prior belief that he wasn’t lovable. (Perhaps you had the same unconscious limiting belief or why would you have chosen him?) This baggage of feeling unworthy of love is what drove him to drink, not you. All you provided was a mirror of a belief he already held. That’s what people do: they mirror back what we already believe about ourselves.
Now, once again, he’s using your current happiness to mirror his belief that he’s unworthy. It’s not your intention to hurt him. He’s hurting himself and he’s the only one who can stop hurting himself by healing his thoughts about his worthiness instead of wasting any more time resenting you. The most harmful thing you could do is to reinforce his unworthiness belief by taking on inappropriate guilt. If you say, “You’re right to resent me. It’s all my fault that you’re miserable and alcoholic,” you are encouraging him to stay blind to what your relationship mirrored within him. If you don’t want to reinforce the belief that he is a “broken cookie” who is unlovable and unworthy, don’t apologize for his unconscious beliefs. Clearly, that won’t help him.
As I write about in Enough Is Enough!, underneath every resentment we hold is an underlying personal regret. Deep down, doesn’t your ex probably really regret not loving himself enough to have created a loving relationship with a partner or even with himself?
So what can you do? Tell him that you hope that he heals the thought that he’s unworthy so that he can have the love he deserves. Tell him that you hope he gets underneath his resentment to his real regret: that he let himself waste time feeling unloved and drowning his feelings in alcohol. Tell him that you are willing to forgive yourself for wasting time similarly.
What you can apologize for is participating in reinforcing his limiting beliefs in any way that you did while you were married. If you were unloving in word or deed, if you ignored him, if you were less than compassionate, apologize for all of that now. Forgive yourself for what your part was given whatever baggage you brought to the relationship. Then encourage him to forgive himself. After that, see him as a whole, deserving, empowered, and healed being. This is the most loving and compassionate thing you can do for both of you.

Announcements

Recovery from the Inside Out

Jane has been invited to New Orleans to give a workshop on November 18, 2007 for folks whose lives have been forever changed by Katrina. During my stay, I will keep a video diary, which I will upload to my Web site, StopEnduring.com. If you live in New Orleans, you are invited to attend this free workshop. My gratitude to my dear friend, Patte McDowell, for donating her air miles.
Also, I will be donating 120 copies of my book, The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, Eighth Edition, to New Orleans schools. If you know of a school needing these invaluable books, contact me at Jane@janestraus.com.

Jane on TV January 10, 2008
Jane will be interviewed on NBC 11’s The Bay Area Today on January 10. She will be talking about New Year’s resolutions. Expect a fresh take on the subject. More details to follow.

NEW! Dear Jane Podcasts
Listen to and download Dear Jane Podcasts. Also available for free downloading from iTunes.

Jane Straus is a trusted life coach, dynamic keynote speaker, and the author of Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life. With humor and grace, Jane offers her clients and seminar participants insights and exercises to ensure that the next chapter of their lives is about thriving as the unique individuals they have always been and the extraordinary ones they are still becoming. She serves clients worldwide and invites you to visit her site, StopEnduring.com. Here you will find excerpts from her book, more articles, TV and radio interviews, and clips from her presentations.
She is also the author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, Grammarbook.com, an award-winning online resource and workbook with easy-to-understand rules, real-world examples, and fun quizzes.
Contact Jane at Jane@JaneStraus.com.

Telling the Truth About an Affair

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007
 
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Years ago, I had an affair with my friend’s husband. The sexual relationship was short-lived because we both felt terrible. He’s remained faithful to her since and she and I are still close. You seem to recommend telling the truth no matter what. But wouldn’t confessing to her just be hurtful in this case? When should a secret stay a secret? I wrestle with this every day.

If you’re wrestling with this, it’s probably because you feel “two-faced” and have been unable to find relief. There’s good reason that secrets gnaw on people of conscience. It’s because lying “for someone else’s sake” is suspect. It’s more likely that you and her husband made a pact of secrecy out of your own fears and wants, not from caring for her well being. If you had really been considering her, you wouldn’t have acted on your attraction to begin with, right?

The question is: Do you have the right to decide what’s good for another person when you’ve betrayed them? Defining “good” is tricky because you and her husband are attached to what “good” looks like, which is how it affects you and her husband. “Good” to you means maintaining the status quo. If you told, you would decide that it was a “good” decision only if she were understanding, forgiving, or at least willing to continue both her marriage and her friendship with you. You see, the lens through which you judge whether the truth is “good” to tell is going to have filters on it that bias you.

What if she’s angry and hurt? What if she wants nothing more to do with you? What if she files for divorce? Because you and her husband are attached to maintaining everything as is, if these were the outcomes, you would probably judge telling her as a big mistake.

Yet, who are we to know what truths someone needs to find out or how they should deal with them? Maybe the truth about your affair would validate a nagging sense of betrayal she has already felt. Maybe she would be happier “moving on.” Maybe this information would allow her to explore and heal other wounds around betrayal and secrets. Maybe she has secrets of her own that she has been afraid to tell and this would help release her from her prison of fear.

So should you tell? My answer is that I don’t think you have the right to withhold the truth. Your secrecy is further betrayal and it is based on your wants and fears, not on her needs. You are covering up one deceit with another and attaching lofty principles to convince yourself that your continued deceit is noble and that you and her husband are the only ones carrying the burden of the secret.

But our secrets don’t just run and ruin us; they run and ruin others’ lives as well as I discuss in my book, Enough is Enough!. In over 25 years of private practice as a life coach, I’ve never heard one client who’s heard the truth about a partner’s affair say that they wish that they hadn’t been told. Everyone’s spirit suffers from secrets and betrayal because guilt creates separation. In perhaps dozens of ways, her husband has not been able to share himself with her since having an affair with you. And how has it impacted your friendship? How have you pulled away or hidden from her because of your guilt? How have you been emotionally unavailable to her?

The truth requires courage. When you tell her the truth, you need to find the courage to let go of trying to control her reactions or the outcome. You need to find the courage to grieve the potential loss of this friendship as well as the loss of your friendship with her husband. You need to have great courage to allow for what she needs rather than for your need to preserve her image of you.

The next part of your healing journey will then be about feeling the deep remorse that underlies your guilt and forgiving yourself for causing this kind of suffering to your own and someone else’s spirit. As you forgive yourself, make a commitment to your own spirit to always choose truth over fear.

Visit StopEnduring.com to read articles and excerpts from Jane Straus’s popular book, Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life; watch Jane on TV; listen to her radio interviews; and share your most personal secrets anonymously.

Healing Your Grief

Monday, December 25th, 2006
 
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Dear Jane,
Why do I feel so bogged down and sooo wrapped up with myself that it has become a physical thing? I feel like I have “cancer of the heart.” When will this sad, unrelenting “Why me? It’s not fair. I don’t deserve a divorce” mindset ever go away?

First of all, you are asking yourself the wrong questions, questions that set you up for staying in a rut because they are so self-judging.

Although I don’t know how long you have been feeling this unrelenting sadness, it is important to respect your grief. When you lose a relationship, whether it is to divorce or death, you have a right to grieve. Unpopular as grieving is, it is necessary to experience for as long as it’s there. The more you beat yourself up about grieving, the slower the healing process. Practice more compassion for yourself. You have lost something. You feel rejected. These feelings are hard enough without your shaming yourself for them.

Perhaps this divorce is also bringing up past loss or rejection. Or you may be experiencing clinical depression or Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in addition to your grief. I encourage you to talk to a life coach or therapist to help assess your unique situation. You shouldn’t have to bear the burden of your pain alone.

Read Chapter 6 of Enough Is Enough!, “Unchain Your Heart: Free Your Feelings” and also Chapter 7, “Take Off Your Armor: Heal Your Anger and Resentment.” Underneath your self-pity may be anger and resentment that need to see the light of day in order for you to get free. Please keep me posted.

About Jane
Jane Straus is a trusted life coach, dynamic keynote speaker, and the author of Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life. With humor and grace, Jane offers her clients and seminar participants insights and exercises to ensure that the next chapter of their lives is about thriving as the unique individuals they have always been and the extraordinary ones they are still becoming. She serves clients worldwide and invites you to visit her site, StopEnduring.com. Here you will find excerpts from her book, more articles, TV and radio interviews, and clips from her presentations.
She is also the author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, Grammarbook.com, an award-winning online resource and workbook with easy-to-understand rules, real-world examples, and fun quizzes.
Contact Jane at Jane@JaneStraus.com.