Wednesday, March 25, 2015

One Step At A Time

I attended a mediation training last week.  I was learning a new way of conducting mediations, or as a friend here in the Trenches so aptly put it, "a method to my madness."  During the course of the training, we did role plays.  When I did mine, I felt unsettled, like I didn't know what I was doing.  Everything felt foreign.  I couldn't find a rhythm.  It frustrated me, made my stomach do flip flops.  I got a headache.  This seems to happen every time I learn something new.  As I sat up unable to sleep that night, I reflected on the experience.  It reminded me of a running clinic I took a while back.  I was learning how to do Chi running.  Turns out that in the Chi running world, the only part of my running form that was correct was where my foot hit the ground.  My hips were stiff.  My arms moved in the wrong direction.  My posture was too upright.  The instructor had cures for all my ills and taught them to me.  I felt exactly the same way I did in the mediation training.  My running stance felt ruined.  I knew I would never run right again.  The next morning, I went out for a run.  I concentrated only on moving my arms right.  I did that for a week.  I got the movement down pat.  Then I started on the hips.  Another week went by.  It felt right, so I moved onto my posture.  Another week, and now everything worked well, and together.  Then, I started getting faster. Whew!  Right about when I got myself to this point in my review, I fell asleep, knowing that if I applied the same logic to my mediation training, everything would be all right.

When we work with clients here in the Trenches, we try to to teach them lots of new things.  One of the main things we do is teach them new ways of communicating with their spouse, which includes lots of components.  What mode of communication should they use?  Email, text, phone or in person?  Different situations call for different types of communication and clients have to learn when to use each.  When should they communicate?  What words should they use?  What information should the communication contain?  How long should the communication be?  What tone should they use?  How should they convey the tone?  Most of our clients have been communicating poorly and ineffectively with their spouse for a long time.  Heck, that's probably one of the reasons they're in our offices.  When we try to teach new methods of communication to our clients, they become overwhelmed.  They are sure we're wrong - about their ability to change the way they communicate, and about the difference such a change would make in their interaction with their spouse.  We tell them to be patient, that we will guide them as they work through all the steps.  We cheer them on when week by week, email by email, they try out what we teach them.  And they fail, sometimes on a grand scale and sometimes on a smaller one.  Until one day they don't.  They're successful.  It makes them think that maybe, just maybe, they can learn to manage their finances.  They really can co parent with their spouse.  They'll be able to make ends meet.  They'll find love and happiness again.  One piece falls into place, then another, and before you know it, their case is settled and they are able to go on with their new lives successfully and productively.  It just takes time, effort and patience to learn a new way of doing things.  Here in the Trenches.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Blue Skies and Clear Sailing

The nice thing about not training for a race is that when the weather is bad is that I don't have to go out and run anyway.  With the Disney Princess Half Marathon in the books, I had no requirement to go out an run while snow and ice covered the roads.  So, I didn't.  The first few days were wonderful.  I did my other exercises, and I stayed inside, nice and warm and dry.  The last few days have been rain.  Today, the sun was shining, the weather was almost 60 degrees, and the snow was largely gone.  I tied on my running shoes and went out for a run.  A quick four miles, and I was back home.   I had forgotten how much I love it.  It is supposed to be nice tomorrow too.....

I'm sure folks have noticed that I've been a bit lax about posting recently., at least I hope you've noticed.  It's not that I forgot about you or didn't want to write.  It is simply that life here in the Trenches is stressful.  We meet our clients when most are at their lowest ebb, emotionally.  We listen to their stories.  We're there when they call us in crisis.  We spend our days putting out the fires in their lives.  We steer them to their therapists, so they can begin to recover emotionally while we help them devise their future lives.  We teach them new ways to communicate with their spouse, new ways to solve problems.  Just when our clients start to recover, just when we begin to see the blooms of their new lives, our clients' time in the Trenches is over and they leave us.  It is how it should be.  It's just hard not to always see the bad and not the good.  When it gets to me, as it does for us all,  I exercise self care, and some of the things I don't have to do are parked on the side of the road for a while, for example, this blog.  So, don't worry if you don't see it every once in a while.  It means everything's OK; I'm just making sure I can keep on helping clients move on.  Here in the Trenches.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Getting Past "Groundhog Day"

As you all know, Daughter is a fabulous personal trainer, and she is my fabulous personal trainer.  I was complaining talking to Daughter a few weeks ago about the continued dimpled look of parts of my legs despite the muscles being tight and firm as a result of her excellent training.  After all. I was doing what she told me to do, so why was gravity seeming to win?  Daughter patiently explained to me that exercise wasn't enough: I had to make sure my diet was high in protein and lower in carbohydrates and fats.  "Poppycock," I said to her.  I eat a balanced diet with plenty of protein.  She challenged me to track my food intake on one of those new apps.  I did.  You know what I found - a diet high in carbohydrates and fats and low in protein.  I hate it when the child is right.  So, now I'm eating a different diet, and we'll keep track of the results.  Already, I feel less sluggish and more energetic.

If you've been reading this blog long enough, you know there's a lesson or two here that we can bring with us to the Trenches.  The overarching piece here is that we do not always perceive ourselves accurately.  I thought I was eating a balanced diet.  My clients think that their fault in the breakup of their marriage is so much less than their spouse's.  My repeat clients thought that their first divorce was simply a "one off," and that they chose better the next time.  My clients think the other spouse is the one being unreasonable.  Many think there is no possibility they and their spouse will ever be able to agree on anything.  Part of my job is like Daughter's.  I help my clients take a look at where they are and why from the perspective of someone else.  I help them look hard at their contributions to the marriage and its demise.  I work with them to recall times in which they and their spouse agreed on anything, as a building block to future agreements.  I invite them to work with a therapist to uncover why they chose the spouse they did, and what they can do to improve the odds of relationship success I the future.  I encourage them to take responsibility for their role in the marriage and its aftermath.  It's the only way their future lives will be the success they want, and the only possibility for complete healing.  Here in the Trenches.

Monday, March 2, 2015

10 Ways to Know If Collaborative Divorce is Right For You

1.       You can recall at least one time in which you and your spouse resolved a dispute by either compromise, negotiation or reference to a third party source.

2.       You are willing to reach a settlement that works for both you AND your spouse, and to attempt to see things through your spouse’s eyes.

3.       You both want to keep the information about your private life private.

4.       You both want to retain control over the outcome of your case, rather than leaving the decisions to a third party/judge.

5.       If you have children, you are both committed to keeping their needs first, even if you don’t agree what those needs are.

6.       You are willing to put in the time and effort to resolve your issues, with the help of your professional team; because collaborative divorce requires everyone to work hard.

7.       You are willing to learn a new way to communicate with your spouse.

8.       You are willing to provide all information necessary to reach a resolution acceptable for everyone.

9.       You want or need to manage the pace of the divorce process, to accommodate travel or work schedules, health issues and parenting limitations.

10.   You want a resolution that fits the needs of your family in particular as opposed to what works for the generic family contained in the law books, which may mean a more creative outcome than traditional negotiation or litigation can provide.