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Using the Power of Positive Thinking During Your Divorce: Good Relationships and Warning Sign Alerts

Posted By Judy Williams || 20-Feb-2014

Power of Positive Thinking in DivorceThis, the third in our series of six articles, is my analysis of how most couples allow marital bliss to go adrift to the point where they believe divorce is the only option. We define what makes a good relationship and how it can change over time in ways so subtle that couples miss the warnings, until the “Danger Ahead: Road Ends” sign appears. We will discuss our take on good relationships, and discuss a set of warning signs and guidelines to best avoid a major emotional and financial train wreck.

The amazing thing is that marriage begins with a wonderful wave of emotion and anticipation of a lifelong adventure together. We agree to love and cherish through sickness and health, in wealth or poverty, through trials and tribulation until death. We believe what we say and we trust our partner. We make a promise and a covenant to keep our promise. We are good to each other as we continue to learn more about each other’s strengths and weaknesses and how to work together as a couple. We listen, defer to our partner and support each other. And life is GOOD! And it can stay good as long as we continue to grow together, talk things out daily and keep up the mutual support and love.

But life is a journey, with peaks and valleys, joy and adventure, and sometimes challenges and disappointments. Think of the most perfect couple you have ever known. If you asked them for their secret of success, you’d probably find their experiences to be similar to most couples. But how do they get through life with such love and mutual caring and support? If you asked, they would probably give their partner most of the credit. Their partner is their best friend and confidant, the person who cares most about their happiness, health and welfare. “They complete me,” or “I can always count on her/him,” are common feedback from happy couples. They manage to get through even the most difficult times together and still find time for each other as a priority. Each year seems to get better from their perspective. They tend to be positive with each other and about the future.

Many couples move on to what I refer to as a Give-and-Take mode of living at some point in their relationship. Out of necessity a couple or family tends to divide roles. It begins with simple tasks like, “I’ll do the dishwasher if you’ll clean off the table.” It makes sense to divide the daily work of keeping a household, raising a family, paying the bills and planning for the future. Particularly when there are children, the family needs household rules for managing the safety and behavioral needs of growing children. And, as the family grows, the Give-and-Takes demand more time and take on roles of their own. Some days there is just not enough time! We get so busy being Mom or Bread Winner or Student or Coach or any of the other roles we take on, and time passes…without giving enough time to each other. Often parents focus more on the children and neglect their own relationship. As personal lives get less daily attention couples tend to unknowingly drift apart.

This is where the first danger signs begin to appear. The obvious danger sign is called “Keeping Score”. For couples in the Give-and-Take mode of living, keeping score in the game of life has winners and losers. One parent can feel like he/she is doing most of the work, or being taken advantage of, or not really appreciated. Feelings can be hurt and disagreements go unresolved. When this becomes the norm, the usual response is to retaliate in subtle or even overt ways. By this time, both know each other’s weaknesses, and how to say and do things that hurt. If there are children, the behaviors trickle down. Children learn and build similar communication and behavior habits, from mom and dad, or they take on lasting feelings that somehow they were the cause of their parents’ unhappiness. These are typical outcomes of a relationship that is on the rocks, or is at least heading in that direction.

The game of baseball has been called America’s pastime for over a hundred years, and probably everyone has played it at some time. It also has rules and roles. Without them the game would be chaotic. But baseball is not about the rules; the fun of baseball is in playing the game. Games should be fun! In any relationship there will always be some rules, but winning in life is getting to the end together while making each other better persons, enjoying the exciting and tender moments and enduring the tough ones that always come, just like you did in the blissful first days after your marriage.

Some of the warning signs I observe regularly at Center for Mediated Divorce are the following:

  • “Listening “is a thing of the past. The parties either talk over each other or spend time planning their response while the other is speaking.
  • One party has all of the financial knowledge and control and uses that knowledge to the detriment of the other.
  • One party dominates the other and says hurtful things.
  • There is a disconnected feeling—drifting apart.
  • Neither person says complimentary things about the other. Negativity or silence is the norm.
  • Parenting is no longer shared; one parent does most of the parenting.
  • Trust is sadly lacking or is non-existent.

If you feel some of these danger signs are creeping into your relationship, we will discuss how to repair and rebuild the relationship to help you through the divorce process and to deal with post-divorce relationship issues, especially where children are involved.

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