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Divorce thoughts brought to you by Mrs Jones.
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Don't worry dear daughter of mine, mum is alway here
No matter what happens in your life, you can deal with it but watching your son or daughter go through illness and surgery is something we would rather do without. A caring parent would of course wish to take the child's place, to feel the pain and worry about the prognosis.

My ex husband does not know about his children and the only contact of late has been his solicitor's letter threatening action if my daughter does not send some of her maintenance back.

Food for thought as she lies in her hospital bed after spinal surgery and checks to see if she can move her legs. Don't worry, beautiful child, mum is always here.

One good thing about divorce
You never have to see some of your ex's relatives ever again. You don't even have to consider them or think about them. Best of all, you can just ignore them.
Absolute bliss.

Step family problems
We have had quite a few step-families emailing the team and so I thought I would recommend a Relate book written by Suzie hayman, a well-known author about relationships in families.
Have a look at Relate Guide To Step Families: Living Successfully with Other People's Children (Relate Guides) [Paperback]

Me and Mrs Jones Me and Mrs Jones- (listen to this), we got a thing going on'
(By Gamble, Huff and Gilbert - a hit for Billy Paul in 1972.)
Sample or buy it it on Amazon from The best of Billy Paul

Mrs Jones thought for the weekend as she continues to enjoy her holiday in the sun: Don't let your focus be pulled towards the ugly
Love gives us hope; hope that life is good, that we are good, that the world is worth living in and fighting for. Love is how we get our number one human need met, our desire to connect and belong.

Look out for the gentle people in your life and your post separation stage will be easier. A sense of balance will return if you stay away from those who hurt and are filled with anger and rage; they are to be pitied. Just as I countless others found love again, you too will have your chance, just let this period of your life ebb and flow. It will pass and you will start to think about the future more than the present or the past.

Meanwhile some words to enjoy from Sophie Hannah reproduced by kind permission of Carcanet Press Ltd; I met her as a young poet at my children's school and her incredible talent has been recognised in many formats.

If People Disapprove of You

Click here to listen to Sophie Hannah on You Tube

Make being disapproved of your hobby.
Make being disapproved of your aim.
Devise new ways of scoring points
In the Being Disapproved of Game.

Let them disapprove of in their dozens.
Let them disapprove in their hordes.
You'll find that being disapproved of
Builds character, brings rewards.

Just like any form of striving.
Don't be arrogant; don't coast
On your high disapproval rating.
Try to be disapproved of most.

....

Savour the thrill of risk without
The fear of getting caught.
Whether they sulk or scream or pout,
Enjoy your new-found sport.

Meanwhile all those who disapprove
While you are having fun
Won't even know your game exists
So tell yourself you've won.

Sophie Hannah, from 'Leaving and Leaving You' (Carcanet, 1999) Reprinted by permission of Carcanet Press Ltd;

See Sophie's website

Mrs Jones has a new hobby
Get out there and do something different
I'm a great believer in evening classes and it's not too late to enrol somewhere. If you are feeling lonely or low in self-confidence or both, just get out there and spend a little on yourself.

Apart from learning something new whether it be IT, photography, dancing or a modern language for beginners (there's a huge list of courses across the country), it's just so good to meet new people and lock your troubles away.

The first class is difficult but everyone else is in the same boat, so just remember that. As someone who used to teach classes, I know that the majority of people attend for the social aspects a class offers and not just the study. New knowledge and skills are a bonus and who knows where they may lead and who knows who you will meet.

But promise me not to mention divorce. This should be a divorce free area. Your thoughts and paperwork are locked away. Get out there and relax. I'm on the receiving end this week; a nervous classmate learning something new and enjoying new poeple of all ages.

Editor's note: This reminds me of our Health section:

Find your spirit
Test drive your favourite car.
Take dancing lessons, something new, tango or salsa?
Go on a retreat to a sacred place or shrine. Visit somewhere that was special in your childhood or your favourite tranquil place.
Alter your diet, shop somewhere different, shop for each day.
Study something at night school, by correspondence or online. The choice is vast and for some ideas, check out our Moving on section.
Wear something different, experiment. New aftershave or perfume?
Do something scary - Do something you have always feared, surprise your kids; go down a giant water chute or ride on a big dipper. Have fun.
Buy some seeds and get out in the garden.
Paint a wall to transform a room. Have your favourite poster or photo framed.
Treat yourself regularly, small or large treats; candles, a massage or a new book.
Show your friends and family that you value them.
Clean out a drawer or a cupboard. The more that is thrown out, the less space you need, the more simple life becomes.
Learn from children
Children smile on average at least 400 times a day: adults 15.
Kids laugh about 150 times a day and adults only 6. Children play from 4 to 6 hours a day and adults 20 minutes. Shouldn't we learn from children?

Do what you have always done and you will get what you always get. Is this a time for change?
Will you be lonely over Christmas? Many people do not realise that one can be lonely in a marriage as well as being separated, divorced or bereaved. The loneliness within a marriage, or relationship, can be the hardest to endure, second only to indifference.

So, is this a time for change? Well, that depends on you. People do what works for them even if it involves a bit of loneliness. Many people are too scared to even contemplate change and will maintain the stautus quo whatever the consequences. We can all become trapped in our everyday jobs, living arrangements and family.

Here at Divorce Aid, we do not promote divorce as the only option. Perhaps it is time to devote some thought and effort to your relationship. You were loved once and perhaps that love is still there but not shown to you as it once was displayed for all to see? It is all too easy to think that love has gone away, closed its door on you and forgotten you.

But hang on in there. When you do not know for certain and furthermore when you do not show your own love in an open manner, then it is time for action.
What can you do to change things?
What is your fault in all this? No-one is totally blameless.
Can you plan to change your daily or weekend routine?
Is your partner too tired or stressed with the demands of work and/or family?
Can you take some pressure from your partner?
Do you need some help from him/her?

Divorce is usually a last resort; unhappiness is a time for reflection but not for hasty decisions. It is a time for talking and for planning ahead. Get out and meet others this weekend and try not to be on your own.

Is your head racing ahead of you, conjuring up problems and stresses which may never indeed happen?
Whatever causes you pain and suffering, spend a bit of time doing 'The Work'. We are always on the lookout for new resources here at Divorce Aid and would welcome any feedback on this free resource.

Has it helped you at all?
Have you read any of the books or attended a course or seminar?
We would really like to hear from you.

The Word, devised by Byron Katie, is a simple yet powerful process of inquiry that teaches you to identify and question the thoughts that cause all the suffering in the world. It’s a way to understand what’s hurting you, and to address the cause of your problems with clarity. It starts with filling in a form called 'judge your neighbour worksheet' and then 'ask the 4 questions.' Finally, 'find the turnarounds.

So find yourself some quiet time away from others, as there are videos to watch, and open your mind to reducing your worries and in divorce and separation, we need all the help we can get, especially when it is free.
See Help with divorce problems/The Work and don't forget to help us with some feedback.

Mrs Jones returns from holiday
Well, that's it; the holiday is over and the three of us are back home and trying to get back into a routine. Did we enjoy it? The teens adored it. It was fabulous for me too and it was only when I got to the resort that I realised how desperately I needed a break. It was very easy to relax despite some nasty problems lurking in the background on the personal front for my return. More about those later.

We all try to be superhuman, telling everyone that we are ok and coping well when all we really want to do is scream, 'Get me out of here.' The trick is never to get to this point and I vowed during the holiday that I would be a bit gentler on myself and include some chilling out time away from work and home.

Holidays are a time for recharging batteries and trying new things, catching up on reading and paying attention to the body's needs. They are also a time for reflection. I can't help thinking of past holidays as I retire alone to my hotel room at night after a good day with the kids. I suppose I shouldn't call them kids as they are quite grown-up teenagers.

There have been some romantic interludes during my solitary time since the marriage ended but nothing serious at all. I had my work cut out bringing up the children and coping with chronic ill-health a long way from old friends and family. Kissing Barefoot and being deliciously kissed by him on Primrose Hill on a dark autumnal night was quite enjoyable as he held me tight, smelling of fantastic musky aftershave telling me it would be all ok.

The three years of court appearances sapped nearly all the energy or spirit I had left. I have always felt as if I was struggling in those early years; struggling to remain strong, optimistic, trying to stay on my feet for at least a week at a time and the biggest struggle of all was paying the bills and renogiating the debts. Applying for benefits was a hard task as I was very proud and learning to accept cash gifts from friends with the grace with which they were given.

All this as hubby enjoyed his new executive life abroad, whilst telling the courts he was unemployed (he had resigned and gone abroad) and homeless, with his new partner or shall I say mistress? I don't think the term is used much today. I also struggled to persuade the children to see their father. But the hurt, the pain, the insecurity and the relentless court process, which also included all the children, had a dramatic and lasting effect on them. He would have to rebuild many bridges and to this day, he has not and as young adults, they have no desire to see him. You may put your own relationship first at the beginning of new love but do not forget your children as childhood is short and hurt can last a lifetime.

I reflected on things for which I am truly grateful: time for spirituality, the time with my children, our laughter and relaxation together, our fun, seeing them grow into confident young adults despite their lone parent upbringing. I was sad that their father did not stay around to raise them and enjoy their childhood but we may not have turned out to be the same people if he had. They are very beautiful and caring young people. Although physically, they do of course have his genetic imprint, the rest is down to nurture and environment. We are a delightfully, happy and strong family unit. I also give thanks for my family and friends and am grateful that the children will be leaving the nest in the not too distant future.

There's a bit of trepidation when I think of an empty house but it will be a new and exciting phase in my life as there's no excitement without change. Although we all feel secure staying with what we know well, all change is good. I grasp life and all it has to offer and acknowledge that without risk, there is no gain.

'The spiritual journey is one of continually falling on your face, getting up, brushing yourself off, looking sheepishly at God, and taking another step.'
Aurobindo

So did you survive Easter?
Were you alone, with friends or family over the Easter break?
How did you survive?

If you were alone, was the solitude difficult or was it really ok? It's a great lesson to learn how to be alone without actually being lonely. That's why you meet very happy people who live alone. They know the secret and that's not really being alone too often or at least having a plan for solitude.

If you were lucky to be with friends, did you make them aware how much you appreciate their friendship during this difficult time? Perhaps they know already. I have just received a regular phone call from a very dear friend on her way to visit a very sick work colleague who is unable to move or even speak after a severe stroke. She is one of life's treasures and I have just told her so again. She was a constant support years ago during my own divorce, phoning several times a day as she lived very far from me. I thank her for her kindness and continued support.

I have just returned from a family weekend. It was so lovely to see everyone and to spend time together, laughing, cooking, eating and of course, drinking. A bit of time for church too. Divorce can bring about many arguments among families as its members try to readjust to the new situation. Like friendships at this time, families must be respected and thanked for their support.

Try to work at friendships and family relationships as you step outside your own immediate problems. Perhaps we ask too much of them? Perhaps we play the victim when we really should not.

Friends and family will want to see you looking good, being optimistic with a smile on your face, interested in their lives and problems. And above all, they will want to see you being realistic as you travel this emotional route. Being guided by a good family law solicitor should ease the decisions (see Directory) you will have to face. Emotions and stories should be left for family and friends. It is cheaper to leave the legal work to the solicitors.

'From quiet homes and first beginning, out to the undiscovered ends, there's nothing worth the ware of winning but laughter and the love of friends.' Belloc 1910

Happy Valentine's Day - think of a kiss
We wish you this whether you are alone or in a relationship.

Facing special times for the first time like Valentine's Day or an anniversary without your loved one can be very difficult and a diversion could help you. Invite a friend round for supper and a film. Perhaps a comedy? Do something that is positive or you may regret spending the evening on your own. If you are caring for children, maybe they would like to make their own Valentine cards with you?

I don't think the postman's bag will be overflowing with Valentines for me; for son and daughter perhaps. Maybe this year it will be worth buying your own flowers as a memento of past love and happier times. You were once loved, once called beloved and you can feel that again if you are open to love in the future. Look forward to it. According to Radio 1,about 30% of flowers are bought by women.

Dating requires you to be true to yourself. The truer you are, the better it works on every level. But dating is not to be recommended to everyone especially when you are just starting the divorce or separation process. If you are in the midst of trauma, then you probably will not be ready to meet the opposite sex again despite what friends may say. Be true to yourself and acknowledge that you are certainly not going to be at your best and may therefore attract someone looking for vulnerability.

You may not feel like dating this Valentine's Day. When you are ready to date again, you will know when the time is right. Dating can make you more confident, loving, joyous, and relaxed. It makes you more fun to be around and more appreciative of the people around you. Entering the dating scene again after a long absence can be a very daunting task but exciting too. Set your personal boundaries and keep to them. Be truthful about yourself and look to the future. No-one wants you to talk constantly about your ex. Prepare yourself well and think of some good points about yourself and future plans and hobbies.

Am I ready to date again?
Perhaps a good way to answer this frequently asked question is to examine the following quote by Oscar Wilde.
'To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.'
We wish you a Happy Valentine's Day.

Think of a kiss
You can give your heart an inspiring flutter with a single pleasant memory. Recall that delicious moment when you kissed someone - on an impulse - and suddenly realised that someone else loved you as much as you loved them. It's only a thought but it always weaves magic.
From The little book of hope by Paul Wilson

More info
You can read about dating again at Dating after divorce and the book 'Fearless Loving' should provide a good start. It is in our Books section together with Mars and Venus Single Again.

So Happy Valentine's Day however you spend your day.

One day at a time
I am just listening t two albums by Yusuf, the man formerly known as Cat Stevens; Roadsinger and Another cup.
'One day at time' is from the latter.

One day at a time
we can learn to leave our fears behind
One day at a time
we can stare our hopes in the eye
One day at a time
we can larn to live ~Yusuf, YA records.

Sometimes it is good to sit and listen, and, hopefully, float away.
A Salaam Aleikum: Peace to you

Life isn't fair, but it's still good
I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most-requested column I've ever written.

My odometer rolled over to 50 in August, so here is the column once more:

1.       Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

2.       When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3.       Life is too short to waste time hating anyone...

4.       Your job won't take care of you when you are sick.  Your friends and parents will.  Stay in touch.

5.       Pay off your credit cards every month.

6.       You don't have to win every argument.  Agree to disagree.

7.       Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone. ..

Written By Regina Brett, Cleveland, Ohio
Read the full text on her site at Regina Brett

Give yourself a break
When you are weathering the storm of divorce and separation, it is important to give yourself a little break. Money may be tight but the rewards of a couple of days away can be enormous, either with or without the children.

The burden of facing constant legal wrangles whilst dealing with day to day living may stress you out. Although you may not think of spending on yourself, some rest and recuperation may be worth it both in the short and long term. I have been there and it was only when I was dragged away by friends did I realise how low my batteries really were.

So give yourself a break. Be gentle on yourself as Divorce Aid says.

So, you made it into the New Year?
Of course you did but how are you? Did you just make it or did you leap into 2011 with a blind faith that things would be better this year?

But what have you done to make it all better?
Are you still playing the victim or actually believing that you are one? It works for a while but then you just have to dump this role and get on with things. Have you noticed less and less people contact you?

You may have become a divorce bore. Have a look in the mirror and check. If one looks back at you, get changed and smile. Change what you are planning this week.

How are you getting on with your solicitor? Are you waiting for the other shoe to drop or are you organised and business-like; proactive?

How are things with your children? Did you see them or even speak to them over the festive season? Did you at least write to them?

Did you allow your young children to be happy, to communicate with their other parent? Or are you still making things difficult for them?

Harsh words? Yes, but we all need a reality check, a gentle kick up the rear. If there are legal things on your mind, write them down, look them up and make an appointment with your solicitor but keep it brief.

Are you coping? If you need some help, look to trusted adults in your life, not your children. If you feel like a divorce bore, then book to see an accredited counsellor and get things off your chest in a comfortable and controlled manner.

If you have missed seeing your children, then take concrete steps to improve matters so that next Christmas is different. We all know how we can make amends , improve communication, improve co-parenting.

Are you lonely? Get out in the fresh air or join a club, an evening class. Got time on your hands? How about volunteering? Plan ahead.

If we all do the same things, then we can all expect the same things to happen. Try to get out of the rut. This period of stress and pain will end, indeed it will, but until then it is up to you and you alone to deal with it as best you can.

You may not have planned these major changes but you cannot turn the clock back. All change is good. Do the best you can and be the best person you can. After all, if you do your very best, then you can sleep well at night and tackle the next day. Be gentle on yourself but most of all, look outward and not inward.

Sunday, sweet Sunday. Are you feeling alone and worried?
Sundays can be the loneliest time of the week. I remember the longing for how things were, for the normal, the happy family times, the routine.

Are you alone, are the children with the other parent? Do you have too much time to reflect or perhaps you have all your legal papers going round your head?

Well, it's Sunday. Get out there and take a walk, do some exercise, stop worrying and use your time to feel better. Does the garage or kitchen need a tidy or is there a long-forgotten job you still need to do? Is there a phone call you should make - say hello to someone who has been supporting you and ask how he/she feels for a change?

It's a very special day for me today. The sun is shining and I have just waved goodbye to my son. He has now left home to start his new career and has some tough training to do over the coming year.
I'm afraid that he may face danger abroad but he will not be alone in this. I am a very proud mother.

I will not see his smiling face or hear his loud, happy voice for some months to come. But his smell will linger in his room for some time and I have messages on my voice mail. His hug will also be felt and remembered. He has built some things in the garden for me and tons of soil have been delivered. He knew that I would need to be kept busy so I shall go and make a start.

The sadness makes me remember the hard times we have endured as a family and also makes me think of you and how troubled you may be. Reach out and contact Divorce Aid. We know what you are going through and we are always here to help.

Are you all washed out?
Sometimes all the advice and well-meaning support is just not enough. Are you all washed out like a bundle of clothes that has been pummelled and mixed with the wrong colours just once too often? Well, have a rest and do nothing at all.

The separation and divorce process is one of the most stressful things you may ever experience. If you are at the start of this journey, see today's article by our Divorce Social Worker

There's nothing you can do on the legal side if you are so exhausted and any decisions or actions on your part now may endanger the whole outcome.

'Underneath all decisions are associated feelings. Each issue brings a host of emotions, mostly dark and upsetting. The parties are dealing with the loss of the relationship, let alone the fantasy of how things should have been. There is worry as to the impact on the children, ongoing parent-child relationships, and economic hardship. Feelings may include anger, resentment, depression, fear and in some situations, even elation. Typically it is the feelings that drive decisions. Many people directly or indirectly seek retribution in how they settle the cascade of issues. People also may seek to make quick and rash decisions, serving to assuage their feelings and fears,' says Gary Direnfeld.

So, recharge your batteries, be gentle on yourself and realise that you are not super-human. There is time for making better decisions.
Seek out good advice when you are back on level ground and know that it will get better.

Do you love chocolate?
This has nothing to do with divorce, (unless a ground for divorce such as my wife spent hundreds of pounds a go on expensive chocolate and would not stop; neither would her weight gain), but may help. Sometimes, it is best just to think of other things and raise a smile. Divorce matters should be boxed up and only opened when required.

In this Observer article, chocolatier Paul A Young, rates the best chocolate bars. Go on, treat yourself.

So how are you?
There are so many of us struggling to
get our emotions on level ground. Everything is so personal and we may become blinkered to the pain and suffering of others. This will change as we grow stronger and happier as we take charge of our decisions and reactions to decisions taken without our consideration.

Are you heading for divorce? The cracks in your marriage could already be forming and you may be even cementing them.
There's a lot of media hype after the Christmas hols as businesses
publish yet another survey showing them to be ahead of the game and experts in all things. I know the team here at Divorce Aid hardly have time to sleep let alone count their enquiries or examine them. It is a very stressful time and you should remember this if you are contemplating divorce or separation. It may be best to stand back and examine what is going wrong.

I did, however, read some good stuff today on The Mail Online, Femail, an excellent repository of good info no matter which sex you are.

Kate Figes' new book about couples is available from 21 January (Amazon have it discounted). There are so many books, so many gurus and experts. It is refreshing to read one that does not seem to be representing any cause or faction and contains well-considered observations, research and down-to-earth comment.

She says,
... No wonder then that divorced or separated men and women are about 35 per cent more likely to consult their GP than married people... There appear to be three key stages in the life of a relationship when it is most prone to breakdown - at the very beginning, then when children are young, and finally in midlife.
Read more and there's another excerpt about what's really going on in Britain's bedrooms? at Femail /Divorce/Sex

Let them eat cake!
It must be a slow news day as 'divorce cakes' have made it to the pages of the Daily Mail as the latest trend from the USA and a 'must-do' to add to a pre Divorce Absolute list.

I, for one, am all for cakes and any excuse will do. But I actually went for the full-on divorce party but the champagne did blur my recollections somewhat and I'm not sure if there was a specific cake. I may have been a trend-setter as this was several years ago and putting on my work hat, here are some memories, tips and warnings if you are thinking about this.

I had been with my husband for 17 years and had 2 young children. His career meant that we moved around the country quite often and so my own career faltered as it involved a lot of time overseas as did his after we married

Although it is hard to believe now, we were very much in love and spoke to each other several times a day as well as writing many hundreds of love letters which are stored in the loft. I was as in love the day he left as when we fist met. Looking back, I can now see that he had changed during the last year of our marriage; hindsight gives 20/20 vision. When he suddenly left home without a forwarding address, we were all deeply shocked.

The phone was eerily silent except for friends and family who had first thought that I was playing a practical joke on them when told of hubby’s disappearance. One or two though knew differently as they had experience of divorce. Nothing surprised them.

It was around 18 months before I found out that he had set up home with his mistress. If only people could be more truthful. Divorce does not come from happiness but from unhappiness. Try to sort things out before running away and heading to court. The latter is never recommended in the great majority of cases and most people are decent when separating especially when there are children.

Was the divorce amicable? No, it certainly wasn’t! It went on for several years through the courts and cost me many thousands of pounds which could have been better spent on the children or the debts. I was accused of being an unfit mother, fraudster and adulteress . It was difficult to keep going financially, physically and emotionally as he tried to weaken me and the police became involved too.

We went from a high standard of living to claiming benefits when the maintenance payments stopped. I was even threatened with repossession due to missed mortgage payments. He had changed overnight from a loving husband to an egotistical, selfish, pompous and arrogant man; he even changed his voice to sound like a former boss we had shared. The years of court hearings took their toll on me and the children. No-one is completely innocent in divorce, except for the children, but I didn’t deserve this treatment. Speaking to men and women who have gone through this, his guilt could be an explanation.

The divorce party was not a glossy affair; I didn’t mention the aim of the party until everyone was assembled. It was an evening event with lots of lovely food, good wine and champagne. So everyone was dressed smartly and all my children were there as they were now teenagers. I gave a speech explaining why we were partying. I explained that everyone present had helped and supported us through the terrible years and that we as a family would not have been able to cope without this love and help. But now it was time to say thank you to everyone most sincerely and to celebrate the end of court. I said that I was lucky to have had a good and loving husband for so long and now it was time to start a new phase in my life full of opportunity. No more divorce talk or meetings with solicitors and barristers. No more late night calls to friends. There would be just looking forward to sharing good times and not so much looking back. The divorce, however, had strengthened my family and made us more resourceful, grateful and compassionate.

There weren’t many dry eyes in the house and I was glad to have marked this important time in my life. As with any party, there should be some careful planning. A divorce party is not for everyone as although the Decree Absolute may have come through, it comes as an anti-climax for many people especially when the divorce has been acrimonious and long. Even when you expect a friend to be ready to party, it is a very emotional time and can be very sad even for the person who decided on the divorce in the first place. Some grieving time may be better than an immediate party.

But it may be good to mark the event with a type of party when you feel up to it. It can be tastefully done as you would celebrate any other event. Giving a short introduction to the event when everyone is gathered round may be a good idea. You could say goodbye to the legal side of your divorce and look forward to moving on to new beginnings as a divorced person. Your friends may be happy to see you smiling again and feeling positive. You may not have achieved everything you wanted with the divorce settlement but there’s rarely anyone who does. It is a matter of compromise and moving forward.

The Divorce Aid team was once invited to a moving on party held by a leading law firm for its female divorce clients and friends. There was champagne and nibbles, stalls from a department store including make-up, lingerie, dating clubs, holidays, massage and talks to small groups on financial advice, dating again and life coaches. This was a very upbeat event which provided a warm and welcoming atmosphere, if not a divorce party atmosphere, as women spoke openly to each other. Lawyers should take note.

Divorce Aid would never advocate including young children in the party or seeking approval from them; this may be very damaging as you are saying farewell to their mother or father. Always put yourselves in their shoes. If you are feeling low, a party of this type may not be right for you and you may need some time to feel in the party spirit but you could mark the occasion in other ways such as buying yourself a special gift or planting something in your garden.

Some people may get on well with their ex and want to invite him or her but a divorce party may be best for just close friends and family and also exclude a new partner or you could party alone. Although marriage is on the decline, the end of a marriage is still regretful for many and deserves some respect. The effects of divorce can ripple though a family and beyond for many years to come.

As for the divorce cakes, it seems that men are not the ones to order them and still prefer to go down to the pub to drown their sorrows...

Loneliness
I have recently had cause to experience this once more but I wasn't on my own. Being lonely in the company of people is one of the worst types of loneliness and is often the cause of many separations when it is felt between a couple or just one of you. I have called it indifference and this is a very sad way to end a marriage or a partnership.

When indifference is present, isolation grows and feelings stagnate and eventually turn to ones of resentment and anger. Don't let your relationship end like this. Remember who you once were and how you both felt. Don't end on this note; read my thoughts about Message in a bottle below.

Loneliness is found in many areas of life but with a little effort and perseverance, this can be changed to feelings of belonging, nurture, gratefulness and love. Reach out to those around you and if you are alone this weekend, phone someone you love or just get out there in the fresh air. Try something new or visit somewhere you have never been before. It us up to you and we all have twenty-four hours a day. I wish you a peaceful weekend.

Message in a bottle
I watched a good, weepy film called 'Message in a bottle.' You may have seen it and, if not, you can guess the subject matter. A divorcee finds a message in a bottle which is written by a man to his lost love. It is moving, sincere and a love letter which many of us would be happy to receive and treasure. I did weep, a good sort of crying - the type which is sad and moving but not for oneself.

It made me remember all the love letters which I had managed to store away after my own divorce and I have been busy searching for them. I'm not too organised and filing is a bit of a pet hate of mine. Anyway, I found some of them and they had got mixed up with a box of court papers. Just one of the many boxes storing these precious gems - court papers, not love letters. Hubby was a passionate man and a lovely, frequent writer particularly when we were in different parts of the world with our jobs.

I suppose it's a measure of how I have moved on. I can read them and enjoy them for what they were and what they meant to us at the time. They were indeed declarations of ardent love and adoration. The court papers though are a more difficult task and can overwhelm me with feelings of desperate hurt, pain and betrayal. Back to the love letters. One reads,
'I am sitting up in bed here without you, longing for you. Photos of you are scattered over the bed so that I am covered and surrounded by your image, sweet wife of mine. I adore you and am nothing without you. Each hour apart is like a day and each day, a week. I hear your voice speaking to me wherever I am and smile. People ask if I am ok. I reply that I certainly am. Take care, my love and return home to me. I love you.'

These frequent missives and poems were interspersed with several phone calls a day. One of the last letters ends,
'I miss you very much. I love you and adore you. All my love.'
And then he was gone.

'Hello darkness, my old friend. I've come to talk with you again within the sound of silence. In restless dreams I walk alone..' Simon and Garfunkel, The sound of silence. Listen here
But I was loved once, called beloved. It was real and should not be forgotten. It is part of me and made me who I am today. (The divorce has also played a part in this too). And although he never really spoke to me again after seventeen years together, I shall hold on to the letters and the memories as a reminder of our past love. He has forgotten and moved on to someone new, told her that he had an unhappy marriage, that he was not understood but we both know the truth.

I eagerly look forward to the next phase of my life. I am open to love and trust in the future.

Learn from your children
I am sitting in my empty nest listening to a compilation CD made for my son by one of his friends, female probably. It's not just a good way to end the working day but a means of learning from my children and their friends. The tracks may not be always to my taste but some are excellent and I would never have heard them had it not been for a willingness to try and listen to something new, for example, Wombats: Moving to New York.

They have things in common: excitement, joy, loudness and speed, similar to my son's escapade in a Ferrari. Quite a mood lifter and I dance around the office to the beat before I go and put the kettle on and have a cup of tea.

I feel close to my children and their friends especially as they returned from uni for a visit last weekend. So from empty nest, I had a full and noisy home filled with laughter, the exuberance of youth, good food and wine.

Be close to your children. That doesn't mean stifle them or rule them but take an interest in all they do, well some of the things they do and learn from them. As we all worry about the financial crisis and its consequences, I am uplifted by thinking that the youth of today will face any ills and survive with my glass is half full philosophy and let's party attitude.

My daughter settled well into her new uni life and is loving every minute of it; the course, the lecturers, the sport, the socialising, her hall and above all, just like my son, she is loving her new friendships.

This divorce process can slow you down and make you fearful or worse, plain nasty. Reach out to your children and friends. Dance when you can. Try new things and be joyful. There is much real suffering in this world and it is true you may have more than your fair share but it is a temporary state and will end. Look forward to the future and do what you can so that you can end this process fairly and with dignity.

Take charge of yourself
Today's thought for the day by Rhonda Britten is,

'It isn't any one person's responsibility to make sure all your needs are taken care of. The only person in charge of that is you. Why would you trust others to think of you first when you can't even do that for yourself? I have learned you can trust others, yet it starts with trusting yourself.'

It's quite a blunt statement, isn't it? And it is worth reading it again and pausing to reflect.

When we blame others for our situation and look for sympathy instead of action, why should anyone trust us? We have to get up in the morning, face everything head on and then trust in ourselves. Enough of being the victim although it may have been appropriate for a while.

Trust yourself and then put your trust in others. All change is good according to our dear Barefoot Doctor. Look for the positive, look for change, new possibilities and new alliances. For when we shut down and cut ourselves off from new ventures and solutions, then happiness will surely not return.

Is there no end to this divorce process?
I understand that this is a frequent question on this site. You can't actually see the thousands of emails as the team don't really have the time to edit these and their responses so that they can be published and shared.

I too asked my solicitor when it would all end as I came to the end of the third year of court appearances and distressing letters from my husband's solicitor. He smiled and said he hoped it would be soon. After three years, I really needed to put this behind me and make concrete plans for the children's future.

Limbo is not a happy place to be. Family and friends also needed to see an end to this saga of bitterness and punishment. Maybe I would have felt better if I had done something wrong - had an affair, got into debt or stopped loving him.

There are some articles highlighted from the Homepage today:
Financial settlements explained
and
Tips on how to overcome obstacles and agree on a settlement
There's also one on learning to be alone How I wish these were available years ago when I would have relished reading these articles. I would expect that I would have felt less isolated.

But there's the legal divorce and the emotional divorce. Due to the extended time it took to achieve any kind of settlement, the emotional divorce took its toll as the uncertainty went on and on. Finally, it all came to an end and a sense of balance soon returned. It just had to. But all this revenge (revenge for what?) is so unnecessary and all the hurtful actions of course have consequences. The ones who hurt the most are the children.

So, if you are thinking of divorce, do research everything well and communicate with your spouse. Show some dignity and maintain some self-respect. I'm afraid I once knew a man for a little while (17 years) who lost these values his friends and family once admired.

Scroll down for more articles:

Are fathers being sidelined?
This is such a special day: Put your divorce problems away and rejoice with Barack Obama and millions of others

Do you have a 'man drawer?' asks Michael Mcintyre and Mrs Jones laughs out loud
Take charge of yourself
Making changes and creating new family rituals
Mrs Jones is celebrating today

Are you fearless?
A home full of friends and laughter

New Year resolutions
Christmas reflections from Mrs Jones

A news story to raise a smile
Goodbye, my dearest father
How could my father cause us such hardship and worry?

In-laws, out-laws and changing relationships after divorce
'Ain't it good to know you've got a friend?'
How could my father cause us such hardship and worry?
'Me and Mrs Jones, we got a thing going on'

Mrs Jones returns from holiday

An exhausted lone mum
Reasons to be cheerful
Betrayal - How could you do this to me?
Are you putting on a brave face?
So did you survive Easter?
Plan your worries for the Easter break
Blue skies today and beautiful thoughts
How many of us can maintain our dignity?
Freeze one moment in time
Shock
Change
After the initial shock, comes anger
Message in a bottle

Are fathers being sidelined?
BBC1's flagship moral and ethical live debate programme The Big Questions is looking for single mothers who feel strongly about this issue - whether you think that fathers are sidelining themselves..

Fathers often receive a bad press but the truth is that most fathers are responsible and seek to maintain their relationship with their children after divorce. We only hear bad press about a minority.

If you have read my articles below, you will know that I unfortunately experienced a father who put himself first on every level, so I am speaking generally through my professional work and also via the team's work here at Divorce Aid.

I am told that over the years, there are less and less enquiries from mothers complaining about fathers and from fathers wanting to assert 'their rights'. The general public is now more knowledgeable about divorce and family law than it was when Divorce Aid began back in 1999 and we all know that it is the rights of the child and not of the parents which is set in English law.

The more usual request on the site is for advice on how to maintain family relationships on divorce when there are children. After all, they come first, don't they? Enquirers are now asking about mediation and collaborative law, avoiding litigation, point scoring and retribution. They want to use the type of lawyers promoted here, those who look for dignity, agreement, compromise. That's not to say that some of our divorce lawyers don't have teeth when they are needed! Many have huge, sharp teeth for litigating against dead-beat dads and dead-beat mums for that matter too. I was lucky to have one of the best.

My children are now at university.
They have grown up fatherless. Sad but true.
Are they happy? Exceedingly so.
Are they damaged? I'm afraid so.
Any child who does not have the love and example set by a father must be a little damaged.
Are they morally strong and compassionate? Oh yes!

They call and say, I love you, mum. I love uni. Life is fabulous.
I have great friends. Their lives are full of love.

Love your children. Do not desert them. Do not sideline yourself or allow someone else to sideline you. A child is not just for Christmas and birthdays as some parents think. Be strong for your child for he who has the love of a child has everything.
My cup overflows.

This is such a special day: Put your divorce problems away and rejoice with Barack Obama and millions of others
Franklin D. Roosevelt's said during the Great Depression,
' The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.' Yesterday,
President Elect Barack Obama spent time with fellow volunteers, painting a shelter for homeless teenagers and visiting with wounded soldiers.
' It's good practice because I'm moving into a new house tomorrow. I may have to do a few touchups here and there,' Obama joked.

According to ABC News, he said,
'These young people have huge potential that right now is not being tapped. Don't underestimate the power of people who join together. ... they can accomplish amazing things.'

As Dr Martin Luther King had said in trying to increase the number of volunteers, Obama repeated his words,
'Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.' Finally Obama said,

'Tomorrow, we will come together as one people on the same mall where Dr. King's dream echoes still.'

I don't think there will me much room there as millions pour into Washington this afternoon but I for one will be enjoying the television spectacle, the celebration and the hope that a man with integrity, leadership and compassion brings to the world. Put your divorce troubles and fears to one side, and bring some joy into your day.
~ Mrs Jones 20 Janury 2009

Do you have a 'man drawer?' asks Michael McIntyre and Mrs Jones laughs out loud
The house was full of laughter last night as a herd of young men got together at the start of the uni holidays. (The atmosphere will be very different when the females arrive at the weekend). Boys together have fun. Although it's not so funny when you are woken up in the early hours by the constant flushing of the loos but at least I know that the night out went well and is still continuing. It will morph into the next afternoon until it is time to go out again.

Over supper, conversation turned to Michael McIntyre, a great new stand-up comedian and they remarked how clean and imaginative his routines were. One young man could really imitate him and laughed as he did the routine about a 'man drawer'. I was pleased to be told that I did in fact have one; a drawer full of screws, dead batteries, unidentified objects and keys from previous homes, long-forgotten suitcases and clocks. Items which one day you believe someone will ask for. So, if you are a woman and have a man drawer, you must be doing something right as lone mums must be prepared for any eventuality, even someone needing a dead AAA battery.

Seriously though, you can take no harm by taking time to laugh and even better to do it in the company of friends. Leave your worries and legal problems behind in the holidays and listen to this brilliant comedian or anyone else who blows your hair back.
Llisten to some of his clips at Divorce Laughter (Beware the occasional bad language).

Most of all, learn to laugh at yourself. A sense of humour is so important in troubled times and as the young men emerge from their comatose state to declare that they do not have a hangover yet have trouble looking at their fried brunch, remember that there are homes you run to and those you run from. Keep an open heart during this festive season and let some laughter into your home. I wish you a peaceful Christmas.


Making changes and creating new family rituals

There's a saying that if you keep doing what you have always done, then you will get what you have always got.
It's rather blunt but if you stop and reflect during these troubled times, you may see some hope in these words.

Divorce and separation have many painful consequences but not all are negative. This crisis in your life can cause you to reflect and look back on your life. Were you really happy? What went wrong? How much are you to blame for this situation as no-one is really totally blameless.

Starting today with very small changes, put something back in your life that was missing. This could be taking up a new hobby or just walking in the neighbourhood each day. It is good to get out and try to clear your head; leave those legal papers locked up somewhere safe as you cannot be bound to them seven days a week.

If you have children, or even on your own or with a friend, create new family rituals. In this period of credit crunch, and particularly during divorce, have you thought of camping? If you have a tent, pitch it in your garden or go somewhere close for a trial run. Young children in particular will enjoy this.

Children smile on average at least 400 times a day: adults 15.
Kids laugh about 150 times a day and adults only 6. Children play from 4 to 6 hours a day and adults 20 minutes. Shouldn't we learn from children? Be gentle on yourself. It will get better.


Mrs Jones is celebrating today
Mrs Jones raises a glass to all of you who are still struggling.
The journey can be long and emotional but there is an end in sight and things do get better.
Look to your new future and new beginnings.

As you make further progress, you will focus more on the future than the past. The future may not be as you planned but little is guaranteed in this world. All change is good if we allow it to be.
There is abundance all around you and Mrs Jones is marking her gratitude today for the new and wonderful phase in her life and especially for the love of her children.
Look to your children and show them you love them.
Family is everything.
He who has the love of a child, has everything.


Are you fearless?
Most people are unaware of how fearless they truly are. Because of that, we walk around believing we aren't as wonderful as we are. We doubt our growth. We downplay our kindness. We forget the times we've forgiven, let go and loved. We don't remember who we are.

In a Fearless World, we remember. We know it takes courage each day to wake up and be true to our essential nature (especially during these troubled times). We do it anyway.

We dedicate ourselves to that practice and no longer look to others to define us but define ourselves in heart-felt conversations, boundary setting scenarios and in the present moment. We take the credo 'Live the Life your Soul Intended™' seriously.

We put our dreams, visions and intuition into action. Our words and actions match. We are proud to be a human being even if it looks a little messy, or we do.

No longer do we fear loss or shame or rejection. Other peoples opinions don't weigh us down or decide our fate. We are 'for' something, never 'against.' We understand the deeper meaning behind the words: to thine own self be true.

We have come to know that being who we are is truly a gift. And the only way we can share that gift is by honoring all of us. Not just some parts but all parts. We get it, finally, that being fearless means saying 'yes' to ourselves.

Who lives in a Fearless World? Me and you. Let's uncover it together. Read more from Rhonda Britten

A home full of friends and laughter
I haven't spent much time on my writing lately. My home has been full of friends and family, love and laughter. What else is there? This is all I can wish for and all I care about. Hugging, eating and drinking with loved ones. I have it all. There are homes you run to and those you run from. Make yours a caring and homely place for friends and family. When you open your heart and your home to others, only goodness enters. The gentle people are all around you if you look carefully.

But as you encounter these troubled times, it may of course be difficult to concentrate on the goodness in your life and the possibilities yet to be revealed. Trust in the future; things will get better and this is a transition time full of the unknown. Seek good legal representation and walk tall.

As our friend, the Barefoot Doctor, says in his latest article ,
'Don't let your focus be pulled towards the ugly;
It’s too easy to allow your focus to be pulled towards the ugly. Yet the soul naturally craves beauty, beauty in all possible forms of expression, whether in people, nature, things, or events...'


New Year resolutions
I was just reading Barefoot Doctor's 'Happy New Year Special: More joy, fulfilment, delight and abundance than you think possible.' He does make me stop in my tracks sometimes and today is one of them. He says,

'This is the time of leaving behind all the dead weight of the past, all the outworn modes of operating, all the used up beliefs, all the redundant self-limiting blocks to enjoying yourself and all attachment to any situation or reality-set that no longer serves to encourage your full flowering as an individual in terms of self-expression and sphere and scope of activity and influence: it’s time to leave it all behind. '

Leaving behind all the dead weight of the past - what a superb thought! We all carry this dead weight even though we may not choose to talk about it. we may pretend that it is not there but it truly is as everyone carries some. And as Barefoot says, the New Year is a perfect time for doing this.

I love this time of year, having enjoyed a family Christmas, and now looking forward to welcoming in the new. My first resolution will be to dump the dead weight and my second will be to try and improve my health. I shall even look forward to my divorce proceedings as my excellent lawyer moves things swiftly forward towards some type of settlement. The sooner the better as I have no time for the past and am keen to greet the new and move on.

I wish you all a Happy New Year and all you would wish or resolve for yourself and your loved ones.

Christmas reflections from Mrs Jones
Christmas is a time for reflection as well as worship. Although my original 'divorce' was several years ago, I can still remember the first Christmas as the children and I struggled to make sense of the circumstances forced upon us.

Luckily we were able to stay with relatives but the time leading up to Christmas itself was so hard. When you are down on your luck and struggling to pay basic bills, all the festive decorations and commercialism seem rather distant as if not for you. I recall going to a large shopping centre and for one moment I felt overwhelmed and belittled, as if I had nothing to give my children. I felt a total failure although I had done nothing wrong.

I was a useless mother who had brought suffering on my children, family and friends. Perhaps it would be best if I just gave up the struggle, let him walk all over us and evict us from our home as both he and the bailiffs wanted. Yes, we were unfortunate to have bailiffs hiding in the bushes that first Christmas due to mortgage arrears. Isn't it supposed to be a partridge in a pear tree?

Darling hubby turned up in the midst of this turmoil bearing presents. If only he had paid the mortgage! We would have appreciated a little kindness but we were surviving on basic benefits and fearful.

This year is yet another year when I have to be grateful for so many happy, wonderful events and people in my life. My cup overflows. Divorce is not the end of life, just the end of a phase of life and the start of new beginnings. If you have hope and faith that things will change for the better, then next year should be so much better for you.

My children are now 18 and over. I am a proud mother. Although they have been brought up without their father, they seem happy and upright young people with a great social circle. They thrive academically too. My health is complete rubbish but aside from this negative force in my life, all else is positive. My life is filled with simple abundance.

The last ever Christmas spent with hubby was not happy at all but his angry and nasty behaviour verging on the violent side, was put down to the threat of redundancy. Hindsight is always 20/20. He was not a happy man and showed his distaste for our family Christmas at every opportunity. If only he had said he had a mistress waiting up the A1 for him, all would have been explained. It would have hurt like hell but honesty is always best and we wouldn't have wasted 18 months worrying about him when he eventually 'ran away'. It would have been better to have known that he had moved in with his mistress, to have accommodated the fact and moved on.

So, please try to be honest and decent. I once knew a man who had these qualities which his friends and my family so admired. Don't go to court re children and finances unless you really have to. You don't have to become a strutting peacock and a self-righteous bully as my dearest did. There are other ways to come to agreement and all is discussed on this site. Actions have consequences; think carefully before you act, people's lives are in the balance and childhood is so short.

I wish you a Peaceful Christmas and Happiness to come in the New Year. You are not alone and it will get better.

A news story to raise a smile
This has actually nothing to do with divorce and I hope it raises a smile. See BBC News

Goodbye, my dearest father
I always enjoy reading the quotes on the homepage. Today's was a very well-known one from the Bible, Ecclesiastes, and it made me stop and reflect:

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven...a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance...

I am still mourning the death of my father. My sister and I were very fortunate to have had such a kind, loving and gentle one who was always supportive, always forgiving and most importantly, always there. He only cried in front of me on one occasion when he heard that my husband was not returning to his family. He had been the favourite 'son' of the family for seventeen years and my father's grief was immense as his silent tears actually made a small puddle on the wooden floor.

He died lying in our arms after a long illness, a CD of his male voice choir playing in the background. The nurses had opened a bottle of wine for us during our final vigil and laid him flat on his bed, a sure sign that death was imminent.

He let out each breath and there was a silence until he managed to breathe in once more. Then there was nothing, just the noise of nurses in the corridor busying themselves, shedding a tear although they did not really know this gentle soul as Alzheimer's had robbed him of his personality, his memories, his handsome appearance, of everything. Goodbye dearest father, go in peace.

Grief and mourning are so important and your journey through them is different to everyone else's. Just like in divorce, there is shock, pain, anger, acceptance and grief. But unlike in death, not many of us are afforded the opportunity of a dignified farewell, a dignified ending. Although, with divorce, like death, there comes a time when the mourning has to cease, at least in public, and we have to pick ourselves up and get on with our lives. We are then able, with time, to reflect on our good memories with fondness.

Unfortunately, many people have to deal with the death of a relative during the divorce itself and my heart goes out to them as they strive to contend with so much. And then there are those who find themselves getting divorced as a result of a death of a loved one. There are many life crises, many consequences which must be endured.

Our marriages can not be forgotten, locked away or erased. They are part of who we are and part of our children. It may seem impossible to think of better times if you are starting your divorce or separation journey or just having a bad day, but believe me, it will end and good thoughts and expectations will awake you in the morning. You will have begun to heal and to look forward, to grow again and to anticipate happiness. To be loved again.

Once when I spoke to my husband some time later he said he had heard the news of my father's death. That was all. No mourning, no grief or gratitude for the years of support and love shown to him. In my eulogy to my father I said,
We knew he had nothing on his conscience, no dreams unfulfilled. He was a contented man full of gratitude for simple pleasures: his wife and family, garden, church and choir. A lifetime of abundance and thankfulness. As the poem says,

'And did you get what you wanted from this life even so?
I did.

And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth.'
You were, Dad; you certainly were.

I am so sorry that my children do not have the same relationship with their father. Let us try and put our children first and when it is our time to leave them, we may be called beloved with no recriminations borne down on us, nothing on our conscience. Childhood is so precious.

How could my father cause us such hardship and worry?
I have recently had cause to look back over my divorce case and summarise it. It makes very shocking reading for someone not connected to it. It is so sad that many of us do not feel stronger during this legal process as we usually have to pay financially for years to come for our failings.

My daughter has just asked why her father has caused us such financial hardship throughout her childhood. Why did we have to worry so much? Why did he do it? Didn't he love me?

Now that she is a young adult, it is very difficult to answer these questions honestly. I could lie as I did when the children were young. Perhaps now is the time for some frankness. I suppose there are different kinds of love. Some people find happiness with money and some have to manage without it but still are very happy indeed.

'Dearest husband' (technically still married after 24 years but divorcing now as I had an unusual Decree granted, for an unusual situation, which ended the obligation for me to live with him many years ago) just needs more of it for himself rather than for his children to have his kind of happiness!

I would not swap the happy years I have had with my children for his income but that's not to say that we would not have appreciated some extra assistance to get us through difficult times. His love for our children is totally distinct from mine.

I wonder what I should say and indeed what he would say if ever these young adults asked to meet him and questioned him. Sadly, they would not recognise him if they saw him in the street. What would he say? How would he account for his actions? I very much doubt he could placate them.

Food for thought this lovely Sunday as I looked down on a baby waiting to be baptised this morning in our local church. Do your best for your children as parents. Put them first and love them but remember childhood is short and man cannot live by bread alone.

'Me and Mrs Jones, we got a thing going on'
(By Gamble, Huff and Gilbert - a hit for Billy Paul in 1972. Listen here)
I'm afraid my poor health is getting the better of me although my spirit is strong and optimism is one of my best qualities. When I am very ill and feverish, I am reduced to taking very strong pain killers which make me very fuzzy-headed indeed. I suppose they are supposed to do this as they attempt to deaden the constant pain.

Sometimes I am able to sleep and occasionally like earlier this week, I had vivid dreams. Just like in the early days of the separation, I awake and automatically reach over to the other side of the bed to touch my beloved, to feel his warm, naked body next to me. Oh, there isn't a single inch of this body I do not adore. The sense of loss is all that remains as reality bites and I feel very foolish.
'Mrs Jones' is alone today.

It is impossible to blot out the past; the seventeen years of love-making we had together cannot easily be forgotten. The memories can be put to the back of your mind but they do rise to the surface when you least expect them. It does not mean that you would like to return to this time or indeed welcome your spouse back.

So, when this happens to you, remember that you were once loved, called beloved and adored. Enjoy the feelings for they were once real, passionate and true. And vow to find love again or at least be open to it if it unexpectedly finds you. I truly hope that you will be totally happy again.
Listen to one of Mr & Mrs Jones' favourite songs by Foreigner, Divorce Music

P. S. It unsettles me that he still has this tiny bit of influence over me, albeit when I am very ill. I have no respect or kind thoughts for this man I have managed to forgive, the 'man' who once held me up against a wall, threatened that he would come to me day or night, that no-one could stop him, that he would make me powerless. Fortunately, the police had other ideas and served him with a warning which was registered on the national police computer. They, after all, have heard this all before and they indeed have powers to stop me or anyone else becoming 'powerless'.
See Domestic violence article

In-laws, out-laws and changing relationships after divorce
An old friend of mine always referred to his parents in-law as the out-laws and it was only years after his divorce that he spoke dearly about them. I suspect that he only jokingly called them out-laws just as Les Dawson joked about his mother-in-law as his wife said that he was actually very fond of her.

Today I read a touching article in The Guardian, 'The horror of Hilda - My mother-in-law tried to take control of my house and my husband. After he and I separated she snubbed me for years. But as she became old and ill our relationship took a surprising turn ...'

As we grow older and often wiser after divorce, there is sometimes a chance to patch up relationships particularly with our ex relatives or 'out-laws'. When there are children, it is of course, best to try and maintain relationships with them and other relatives in your children's lives. Sadly, it is often impossible when the divorce process turns nasty but things can change after time and reflection. Always leave the door slightly ajar.

Unfortunately, I was told never to contact my in-laws again; this would after all be the third divorce for their offspring and they only had two sons! I did as I was told. But the Guardian article is a lovely and honest read and maybe you can pause for thought after reading it at Guardian/Divorce Aid.

'Ain't it good to know you've got a friend?'
Well what a lovely surprise during my lunch hour today. I had lost touch with an old friend from my youth and although I had written to his last known address, I did not receive any reply. It was very remiss of me not to have kept in touch and I felt really bad. He had moved location and although he had arranged for his mail to be forwarded, it had not caught up with him. Fortunately, a friend of a friend was working in the sorting office and had to deal with lost mail. Luckily, he recognised the name and asked my friend if it was his old address. What a stroke of luck.

Forgive me while I reach for my copy of Tapestry by Carole King, 'You've got a friend' (click on title to listen). When you are down and troubled and you need some loving care....

I would know his voice anywhere. What a lovely, kind and generous man who has been snapped up at last he happily tells me. All his news is good. I am so happy to hear this and think back to the teenage days (30 plus years ago) when we started to pal around in our small groups - chilling out now it may be called. We used to have such fun travelling around in all weathers and enjoying each other's company and laughter. I have one such photo on my desk now when we are all messing around on a frozen lake, no doubt having exited a local pub. Even when the group went off in separate directions, our friendship remained but sadly we lost touch after my 'divorce.'

Friendships are so very very important and I thank my lucky stars that this one is rekindled. I can see why Friends Reunited' is so popular; it is so easy to recall how you used to be and how you were seen by others. I think 'fun' is the key word here for me. Search out your fun friends and feel the laughter return. As the Mcann family struggles to live each day and the world remembers 9/11, divorce is such a serious time for everyone concerned but lock it away when you can and get on with the here and now - the present, the fun and the friends!

An exhausted lone mum
Lone mums, lone dads and any lone carers know only too well how easy it is to reach a point of total exhaustion. We know what we should do and hear about this advice from all quarters but when it comes down to it, we are not super human and our resources are not infinite.

But caring for children on your own is heavy task; young children bring with them their own physical demands and parents of teenagers face many emotional anxieties in good times and bad.
Parenting can be a difficult and very solitary experience without the other parent's input. I just looked in my Thesaurus for another word for parenting but none was given. I suppose it is quite a unique term.

This is not to say that parenting is not rewarding and joyful, which of course it truly is, but it is a constant struggle if we are truthful and sincere. I am now in my tenth year of solitary parenting save for the help of friends and other family. Yes, I've done a good job but like all other lone mums, I am very hard on myself, questioning my ability as both father and mother, good cop, bad cop. Have I done the right thing? How have the children turned out? What could I have done better? Are they damaged?

Of course they may be damaged in some way! Being reared without a father in their lives is not something we aim for or predict. We do the best we can with the situation life or more to the point, husband throws at us. And doing our best is all that we can do. At least there is some consolation in reducing the negativity in their lives and being the only decision-maker. Their morals are my morals and I am told that their characters reflect mine, especially my dry sense of humour. As teenagers, they will all have time to change and develop their personalities and own moral standards.

In addition to these concerns, loneliness and financial insecurity are the main worries of lone mothers. In a recent social policy report, Frank Field wants to engineer that we lone mums 're partner' in order to be more financially stable. I may be exhausted and not in the 'rich list' but I am not yet that desperate that I need to 're partner' unless, of course, Field is referring to a having a dance. I'm all in favour of dancing if you could just massage my feet, Frank, pass me a G + T and arrange a holiday for these teenagers, I'm all yours! What's that you say? No thanks? OK, I'm off with my brood and will let you know how we fare on our hols. I'm actually delighted to be with them once more as I know they will be going their own way soon. I love our time together and will treasure it when they move on.

Reasons to be cheerful
My last article was a bit on the heavy side and so I thought I would share a lovely day with you. Yesterday my mother finally sold her house and can now move nearer to family after her bereavement. What a relief but we of course await exchange of contracts. A close family friend has also sold his home and eagerly awaits the birth of his first child. We exchange busy texts across the thousands of miles. How we miss him.

A best friend since early childhood catches up with family news and makes me laugh as always despite her very poor health and my little sis celebrates a birthday tomorrow (many years behind me) as she prepares a new life for her sons at a new school far away from home. One child is recovering from a bout of ill health and another one has great news from school. I book a last minute discounted holiday for me and the big kids and I feel fine. I also speak to two other close friends. 'I get along with a little help from my friends.'

Then I went to see a newborn baby with glowing Mum and Dad. What a deliciously happy couple. Oh the memories of my own children as babies - delightful in every single detail.

But as I sat and congratulated the couple, I did feel a bit solitary, not having hubby there to reminisce with me then or afterwards. So many precious moments, so many years brushed away by him and forgotten, never to be shared again as a family. Divorce can be so destructive and unnecessary; it is not just the present and future it alters so definitely but also the treasured past.

On telling hubby that we had to get to the hospital, he proceeded to run a bath and jumped in himself. He had just got an Alpha Romeo for a test drive and commented on its performance as we made our way through the city streets. I just laughed as I wasn't really in a position to appreciate it. Our first child's birth was long and complicated with many staff coming and going, many wires and gadgets attached to me. Hubby had brought his briefcase with him to the maternity room. Suddenly an alarm went off and staff rushed around looking for the problem but eventually they found an alarm clock in his briefcase. What a relief. Our healthy son was born to everyone's delight after four years of marriage. Happy days.

Then I went to visit friends who were in great spirits after a close relative had survived major surgery and had been given a good prognosis. The happiness was palpable, just like in the other neighbours' home. My cup overflows.

We have to search out happiness when we are troubled or just saddened or lonely. Seek out the gentle people and count your reasons to be cheerful.

Betrayal - How could you do this to me?
It took some time to find out the real reason for the end of my marriage. It had all been blamed on me of course and this is a common occurrence I am told by the team here. The last year together, actually our seventeenth, was not our happiest. Hubby was one again facing redundancy from a senior post as his new company was being taken over.

Naturally he was very down, tired and irritable. I tried to comfort him and remain upbeat. We had recently moved area together with our two young children and my health problems were worsening. He didn't really show an interest in making new friends and getting to know the children's school and activities. If only we were closer to family and good friends!

Hindsight is so easy. He was spending more and more time away from us, saying that he had a lot of work commitments even over long weekends. He became expert at picking fights, constantly finding fault with me. His mobile and briefcase remained securely locked in his car boot and when he was away, his mobile was usually switched off. *Was I stupid or just a loving wife doing the best she could?

Even when he was home, he used to go to bed early and leave before I or the children awoke. That's not to say there was no love-making, just rather less than normal. We had had an expensive foreign holiday but his behaviour was not normal. I put that down to work problems. How wrong was I!

Before decisions were made about his firm, he left us and didn't even leave a forwarding address. The shock was immense for me, the children, family and friends as I have written below in previous articles. I had just been in hospital and major surgery became an option. Due to his abnormal behaviour and work stresses, we all thought that he was having a mental breakdown. For ease, he let us all believe it.

After a few weeks, I tried calling him early one morning at his office. One of the factory workers took the call as I was too early for the switchboard. He kindly asked how I was and actually dropped the phone when I told him what had happened. It was as if no-one in his world knew he had left.

Soon I was to receive the start of his solicitor's unrelenting and threatening letters and it was in the second year I consulted a private investigator to ask for help. He took the case and I vividly remember him telling me the name of my husband's mistress and the details showing that they had been having the affair for a number of years. Oh, the betrayal, the shock and the realisation neither he nor I was going mad. He was JUST having an affair...

I remember phoning him at his office again, telling him I knew everything and how tired he must have been, driving up and down the length of the A1 at every available opportunity to meet his new mistress. The poor thing.

If only he had had the guts to tell me before we had moved here, away from family & friends and the hospital support. But I suppose his reasons were purely financial as the new company took care of our relocation and his future plans did not include me or the children. His previous employer had actually heard about the mistress and had made his displeasure known. No wonder hubby's previous job was in the balance and relations between the family firm and him were at an all-time low.

And now his new job here hung in the balance. I think I was the only one not to know why we had moved here. It was like switching on a light; I wasn't the unfit mother and adulterous wife as he had claimed and everything fell into place... and I was soon to learn a hard lesson; it is not the divorce which harms children. The simple fact is that it is the way it is done. Actions have consequences and selfishness can only harm the children.

Are you putting on a brave face?
Today's quote on the Homepage by Amy Tan made me think back to how I felt shortly after the separation. She says,
'I did not lose myself at all. I rubbed out my face over the years washing away my pain, the same way carvings on stone are worn down by water.'

Life can punch us in the belly whether we are rich or poor and whether we are a private or a public person. No matter how deep the wound is, we can feel it as an open cut or as a slow and silent haemorrhage of the soul. Are you putting on a brave face on the outside? Are you really feeling battered, worn, fragile and vulnerable, afraid of facing the world today in case you just crumple up? I recall such days. The simple question 'How are you?' could make me burst into floods of tears. I too had convinced myself that I was indeed ok.

Over time, I learnt that I had to accept these bad days and not blame myself. Instead of fighting them, I would put aside the day whenever possible, to be kind and gentle to myself. Small pleasures can restore your faith in yourself and I would usually start by drawing a luxurious bath and get out my best towels and candles. If that didn't work, I would get out some old black and white videos and sob whenever possible. Crying is good and can bring relief. I would then go shopping for other small treats; flowers and a bit of chocolate always seemed to help.

The day would be just for me. This of course sounds rather indulgent and self-centred but when you are going through a painful journey, you sometimes have to accept that you are not as strong and invincible as you may have thought or wished.

Recovery comes one step at a time and is not instant. Well-meaning friends telling you to pull yourself together and to move on can be unhelpful. We all go at our own pace and the longer the marriage, the longer the recovery may prove to be. But always put aside a little time to pamper yourself each day. You may be short of cash but little indulgences can be cheap. Always be positive and love yourself. Be gentle.

Plan your worries for the Easter break
I have just been watching the French world train record; not my usual habit. During the divorce process, it can be difficult to think of anything other than personal problems. The outside world can become an alien place. It is normal to fall into a negative pattern of behaviour and it is good to step back and examine this.

While in the early stages of the divorce process, it is easy to fear absolutely everything: a knock at the door, a phone call and worst of all, the postman's visit - dreading that the post may contain: bills, court or solicitor papers.

It is difficult to focus on anything else and a downward spiral can begin particularly if prone to depression. So with the Easter holiday almost upon us, it could be best to plan your worries and set aside some time for them each day. Just a few minutes will do and writing them down with a suggested plan of action is usually helpful.

But when Friday comes, put your worries on hold. Legal firms are closed until Tuesday anyway. And plan something for the weekend holiday. If you are short of cash, just getting out in the fresh air or meeting up with friends is really worthwhile. Although you may have got used to staying indoors where you feel safe, you have to get out there.

Friendships can be a casualty of divorce. Take time to reaffirm your friendships and say thanks to those friends who may have taken the trouble to check up on you and encourage you. If you have children, try to plan an outing or two. Gingerbread has gatherings for lone parents and children; take a look at their website for local groups, discounts on days out and holidays for members. Gingerbread

Do something different. Take an interest in what your friends are doing. If there's always something you wanted to do but have never tried, maybe now is the time. It's always very relaxing to do some gardening work or painting. You could invite a friend (or involve the children) and provide some food and wine, even a take-away. Have a break. Be gentle on yourself.

And if the worries are still there, make an appointment with yourself for a date and time after Easter when you can can give them your full attention. And if there are legal or financial letters which have been left unanswered, tackle them now and get them in the post. Then back to thoughts of the long weekend. The forecast is very good indeed. Get out there and breathe deeply as the Barefoot Doc tells us.

Editor's note: Please see further info articles in our Health section

Blue skies today and beautiful thoughts
It is several years since my marriage broke up. If you have read any of the articles below, you will know that the early stages were quite traumatic. I actually forget to mention one of the shocking affidavits. Yes, people do forget but this one has become a bit of a family joke which is mentioned during family get togethers. The affidavit called on the judge to order the sale of the family home in order for my husband to purchase a larger one for entertaining his business guests. It made no mention where the children and myself would live. So, at holiday times, when room is scarce in our home (yes, the judge did not agree with him), someone always says that we need a larger home for our business guests. Humour is the best medicine.

But today the skies are a kind of Mediterranean blue and the sunshine is uplifting. My children are home for the holidays and all is well. I am truly grateful for how things have turned out and life is very good indeed. The many years of conflict through the courts and the resulting lack of trust and fear certainly had a negative effect on all family members. We all bear the scars but many people say that we are a strong and happy family unit.

Easter is a time for reflection and renewal and is very special to me. I was an Easter bride. I can remember the snow on the fells and the amazing blue sky. Don't throw away your wedding album; there'll be a day when you will enjoy looking through it again as I do now. Believe me. Unfortunately, Easter was also the time when hubby packed up and disappeared around the time of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland. But I love Easter, the hope and fresh start it brings and I am pleased to just hear today that the political parties in N Ireland have agreed to share power once more. There's hope for us all and he who has hope has everything. Trust in the future and hope for the very best.


The Divorce Aid Glossary defines Affidavit as:
A formal statement, sworn on oath to be true by the person making it. (These can often cause trouble as facts can sometimes get distorted or exaggerated. Solicitors and judges have probably read similar statements before. Try not to get too angry if you are on the receiving end and be guided by your solicitor.) If only I had had that advice before receiving mine although a friend had rung me to say she had received one and it was numbered Number 1! So, there were more to come...

There were several in my case and they were savage in the extreme and prolonged. Everything about me was attacked and ferociously so. Talk about kicking someone when down. I was an unfit mother, a fraudster, had no reputation left in business and the most wounding of all was the affidavit stating that I had committed adultery and had readily admitted to it. The pitiful thing was that I was still very much in love with my husband of so many years and everyone knew it. All family and friends could do was to put his undignified behaviour down to a breakdown. I had never even looked at another man. But the claim was so hurtful and wounding which of course it, with all the other statements,was meant to be. At least it wasn't in the press.

With hindsight, everything is of course clear. It was like a lamb being led to the slaughter until my legal team took charge and I thank them sincerely. Now I know that this type of behaviour is so very common. As if judges and solicitors had never heard it all before. The allegations don't really matter. An affidavit serves to confirm that the marriage has irretrievably broken down but hey, don't go overboard. If you use a family law solicitor, the type this site endorses, then you can draw up a statement so that some dignity remains. And with children to consider as well as yourself, respect and dignity are vital, as perhaps the McCartneys know too well.

Freeze one moment in time
Today's quote on the Homepage reads,
Children smile on average at least 400 times a day: adults 15.
Kids laugh about 150 times a day and adults only 6.
Children play from 4 to 6 hours a day and adults 20 minutes. Shouldn't we learn from children?

There's a lot we can learn from our children even in these difficult times. They adapt and they continue the best they can as they know no other way. They have no other options. We should not only observe them but engage in their play, in their smiles and in their fun. Although we adults may be hurting and looking inwards, we must focus on our children.

Today I received some treatment from an Olympic physiotherapist although I shall only be a spectator for the 2012 Olympics but how exciting for the youth of today. My health is is not too good but how lovely to meet and spend an hour with one of the 'gentle people' as summed up below.

Gentleness is everywhere in your daily life: a sign that faith rules through ordinary things: a smile, a nod, a hello, take care or how are you? Gentleness is found in music, raising your children, your daily work and thoughts. Even in this time of crisis, you don't have to look far to see the campfires of gentle people. In this stressful episode of your life, it may of course be very difficult to think of gentle things and you can read about this in Emotions but look around you and seek out the gentle people.
From G. Keillor

I mentioned my son who is away at University. How I miss this smiling young man but I have done my job; he has fled my apron strings and passionately discovers the world around him and often relates events to me. I feel very privileged. The physio said that if he could freeze one moment in time since the birth of his baby son, then he would be a happy man. And if I could relive my children's childhood, despite the horrible divorce, then I would be a very happy woman. Gratitude is very important in our lives. I give thanks for my children. Love your children and demonstrate this love in whatever circumstances you find yourselves.

Shock
Looking back, I can painfully remember the absolute shock, the numbness and the despair. It's not a pleasant memory and those of us who are able truthfully to recall the early stages of the divorce process, realise that there was probably an element of being out of control. When the life you have planned, lived and loved suddenly disintegrates before your very eyes, it is so very easy to let go the reins and give up.

Each minute is like an hour and each day stretches into a week. The nights are the worst, feeling so alone in the marital bed, cold and spacious. It's as if dawn will never arrive as you watch the clock and shake it to see if it has stopped. And finally you rise to face another day of pain, weariness, confusion, sadness, loneliness and bewilderment. Who am I? I look into the mirror and a pained much older reflection stares back with a grey pallor and tiny, swollen eyes. What happened to me?

Shock is such a strong emotion. It disfigures and destabilises. It made me inert, invisible and incapable of lucid thoughts. Anyone reading this not having experienced the trauma of divorce could think that there is some exaggeration here. But I am quite sincere in what I write and hope that some of you will feel that you are not alone in your thoughts.

Editor's note: Please see our Emotions section for help and support.

Change
Thinking about separating or divorce? If you are like me, I was terrified of change. Being in a normal and, I thought, happy pattern of life felt safe and secure. I was still totally in love with my husband even though it was seventeen years since we met. If one member of a partnership is unhappy, it won't give you an adrenaline rush unless you work on it - 'it' being the relationship, the partnership, the marriage - the family.

If the decision to part has been thrust upon you or indeed if you are the decision-maker (oh, it takes two to marry and one to divorce), then you may have feelings like apprehension, concern, curiosity, worry, excitement, hope and yet more hope.....you can see where I am going. We hope that things will get better. This time things will work out. We hope we know what we are getting ourselves into and that life gets better if we make the change. We hope that we are doing the right thing. Are we?

Change brings up a lot of feelings for all of us and the strongest emotion can be fear. But maybe we just don't understand the process of change and what it takes to change. We may be feeling out of control whether we instigated this process or not.

Change doesn't have to be something that scares the living daylights out of you. Whether you are the petitioner or the respondent or just thinking about separating, change doesn't mean that you have to throw the life, spouse or job you have away to get the life you want. It does mean that you must understand your relationship to change. Then work on it.

Change is inevitable. No-one has taught us how to change but we should realise that change is a process. Just think about one small change at a time and perhaps the marriage could be saved. With each small change, there can be great benefits. If the marriage cannot be saved, then you can still change and change is positive. If you were unhappy, look for small changes to alter this. I am not saying that the divorce process is easy but always look to the future and be positive. Decide on one small thing that you will change today and do it.

When change is forced upon us, we can use it as a positive tool to reassess our lives and consider the changes we want to make. After the initial shock, I felt it was quite liberating. I could do and say things and no-one would raise an eyebrow- 'poor thing. She's having an awful time.' I could get away with a lot. I started quite simply by tackling a small fear and I went down one of those huge water slides. I know it wasn't such a big thing but the scream I let out said it all.

When you are suddenly single, you can start again. After you have pulled yourself together (it took me a long time and each of us is different), grasp new opportunities, seek a bit of excitement. Place a value on your needs and go for it. Change can make us excited and exciting. Change makes us set new goals and challenges. We come out of the comfort zone. We might as well embrace change if it is forced upon us and jump in with both feet. 'Feel the fear and do it anyway!'
And that is what I did.

Editor's note: See our recommended book in our Books section, Feel the Fear and do it anyway by Susan Jeffers

This gives plenty of advice on how to overcome fear and heal the pain caused by the end of a relationship, being alone, intimacy,decision-making and more. Over 2 million copies have been sold and so there must be some good advice here for everyone.

After the initial shock, comes anger
Anger can be the next emotion on the emotional rollercoaster following the initial shock. You could experience a confusing swing of emotions including anger in any order or repeatedly. These will gradually decrease. Anger is important. Let it erupt but do not allow yourself to feel out of control. Your feelings towards your partner could be so intense that you concoct several revenge strategies, perhaps even culminating in physical harm. This type of behaviour will not help anyone. There are famous cases of revenge but all these had repercussions which of course made life very difficult.

Do not get out of control
Try to voice your feelings with a close friend but do not do anything that you will later regret. Confide in a trusted friend or relative. Phoning your spouse's employer or putting friends on the spot will only embarrass you in the long run. Remember, particularly with children, that you will have to communicate together in a civilised manner in order to reach agreement on various issues. You will have to form a new partnership in order to parent if you have children.

Anger is vital
You are recognising that it is over and you are slowly starting to let go of the old order of your life as you knew it. This could be a time to reflect on the past. There are usually problems on both sides and it could be beneficial to recognise this. Be honest with yourself. Try not to see yourself as a victim and try to keep the children uninvolved at this stage. Although you should learn about your legal position, this is probably not the time to send out costly and emotional letters from solicitors.

Feel your anger
Use it constructively. It is a powerful resource but do not use it with negative emotion. Take responsibility for yourself. To remain angry could lead to bitterness and loneliness. You must move on. Anger will always return but don't be tempted to remain with it long-term.
Read more in Emotions


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