Thursday, January 07, 2016

Comparative Compromise, Coping with Change

Comparative Compromise, Coping with Change

This is the last article in a series of short posts about reflections on divorce. While I would not wish this on anyone for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the financial impact that such an event can have, I certainly feel excited to be working through this process and wanted to take just a few moments to share some of the insights that have really affected me.

One of the biggest skills that you need to cultivate as part of the divorce process is being comfortable with change an uncertainty. While this is a financial blog, there are several items that I found very helpful in this manner and these have had immense benefits for my entire life, not just my finances.

The Untethered Soul - By Michael Singer
Living Beautifully with Change and Uncertainty by Pema Chodron

Besides these books I also found three additional pieces of advice are extremely helpful:
1. Go easy on yourself. In a word: compassion. With all of the crazy that happens during the divorce it is very tempting to place blame and to also become a captive to these negative feelings. Feel your feelings and don't beat yourself up over how you feel. Feel them and express them appropriately.

2. Stick with your friends. Sometimes there can be an immense impact on your family during a divorce. It can be easy to continue to isolate. Resist this temptation. Work to reconnect and rekindle friendships. You will undoubtedly have days when you can really use friends around you. Avoid the temptation to spend all of your energy hunting for the next person and instead pour some of that energy into friendships which should stand the test of time. Friends will be less judgmental and often more accepting of the ups and downs of life than your family is.

3. Care for your health. While it is somewhat strange, it is important to note that your health is something that, like time, is precious and is difficult to salvage if it is wasted. So, if you have not handled your health previously, start now. Go to the gym. Go to the doctor. Start cooking and eating healthy food, in reasonable amounts! All of this will continue to improve your outlook and also your body so that you will be able to tackle all that the divorce process throws at you.

All of this is to say that you shouldn't give up on yourself! Find out ways to motivate yourself and then just move on and tackle those difficult challenges. All of this will be easier with your health in good shape, friends at your side, and a compassionate attitude. '

For me, in the rear view mirror, the divorce is just a detour in my life journey. And I wouldn't change my journey now for the world because I have learned so much about myself and how strong I truly am.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Dating with Data, Digging for Gold

Dating with Data, Digging for Gold

This article is part of a series on divorce which describes my experiences as part of going through a divorce. In short, I found that the dating world had changed somewhat by the time I returned to it as a result of my divorce. Now, the internet has changed dating, changed it even more than when I had originally met my spouse on America Online almost 20 years ago.

Now the internet bustles with all sorts of applications for smart phones related to dating. Many of them are related and part of larger conglomerates at this point. I wanted to take this post really to just give my own personal impressions of dating as a result of this experience. I personally used an app called OKCupid which I found to be very good and helpful.

Here are the things I liked:
1. It provided pictures and some opportunity to give a description.
2. It did not require for other people to know I was looking at their profile.
3. It allowed me to be able to answer questions about myself so that potential matches would know if we were similar enough.

Here are the things I disliked:
1. There was not much in the way of proofing/checking people.
2. It was difficult to be certain if people were being honest using that medium.
3. Many of the personality questions were similar/repeated.

Here are some tips if you want it to turn into a long-term relationship:
1. Tell the truth. If in doubt, just omit it; do not lie.
2. Don't use a ridiculous picture or one that is not within the past 24 months. If you don't have a good picture, get a friend to help you take one.
3. Spend some time talking to the person; see if you like them BEFORE you go an meet them.
4. Wait to have physical contact; go slow. Let the desire burn a little for you both. In this world of instant gratification, it is a good exercise to show some restraint.

These were things that worked for me. Online dating is fun and exciting; and there is a lot of opportunity to have either a long-term relationship OR a casual fling. Just make sure you know what you want and are honest with your dating partner about it and you'll have a great time.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Living Apart, Living Large

This is a post in a series on divorce. The list of divorce topics is here.  Understanding this process can be incredibly difficult, I felt compelle to share some of what I have gone through and learned personally. If you'd like to read the first post, click the link above.

Once the assets have been divided, it is then time to start living a separate life. For me this meant dealing with a series of issues around money, time, and space. This post talks a little bit about the money aspect of the separation/initial divorce period...this IS a finance-focused blog after all! In the next post, Reclaiming Life, Restarting Goals, I will discuss more about the other aspects, time and space, but for this post, I am focused solely on the money aspect and the impact that living separately has on someone in this situation.

Personally, I was fortunate while I divorced to have a good job and to be able to afford my own apartment and living expenses. While this may seem good at first, this inevitably had a reverse effect in my experience. I have long followed suze orman and I enjoyed sometimes how she told people that they were buying things they don't need to impress people they don't like etc. Well, I like myself and now that I was no longer in a relationship, I didn't have to check my purchases with anyone else. I could buy whatever pleased me whenever I wanted.

The next step was to move out and pick a place to live. I know of some people who end up purchasing expensive digs after the breakup because they want to show how much better their life is now. Personally, I didn't do that right away. I first started with a room in a shared apartment and became a roommate again. This was cheap but the apartment wasn't clean or as well kept as I would like. Separately, it was a problem for me to feel comfortable so I moved out.

My next diggs were better but definitely more expensive. In addition I had to purchase all of the items for the new place and get used to paying for all of that out of my own paycheck. Not cheap. That included the following:
1. Living Room furniture
2. Desk/Chair
3. Carpets/Lamps
4. Silverware/Dishes/Pots
5. All new food/linens/staples

Nearly everything that I had purchased over the next 6 months were things that I had already during my marriage and had to replace because I didn't take them. I left everything. While this is not horrible because I was able to get what I wanted, it was extremely expensive, costing about 6K before I was finished. While I needed these things, they were primarily to ensure that I didn't feel crummy while I was dating.
Looking back at this period in my life, I certainly understand why I did what I did. And I am sure it is a common reaction to the situation of divorce. The challenge I'd make to anyone going through this process though is to make a budget as follows:

1. Decide what items you need in the next 6 months and how much you expect to spend
2. Take that budget and cut it in half. Repeat this process until you've bought what you need. You will likely find you need far less than you thought.

As for me, I gave most of that stuff away less than a year later when I moved. Do you want to waste that much money?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Reclaiming Life, Restarting Goals

Reclaiming Life, Restarting Goals is the title I chose for this post, one in a series of posts about coping with the aspects of divorce. Originally I wanted to write these posts because this is mostly a blog about my finances but I also realize that largely this is a blog about life.

Reclaiming Life is something that is hard to imagine, but it is an absolutely necessary step if your divorce was tragic and had a profound impact on you. I'd imagine that this is true for most people, but it is worth noting that I am speaking only from my personal experience.

Reclaiming is from the verb to reclaim:
verb: reclaim; 3rd person present: reclaims; past tense: reclaimed; past participle: reclaimed; gerund or present participle: reclaiming
  1. 1.
    retrieve or recover (something previously lost, given, or paid); obtain the return of.

    "he returned three years later to reclaim his title as director of advertising"

    synonyms:get back, recoup, claim back, recover, regain, retrieve

    "traveling expenses can be reclaimed"
    • redeem (someone) from a state of vice; reform.

      "societies for reclaiming beggars and prostitutes"

      synonyms:save, rescue, redeem;

      "Henrietta had reclaimed him from a life of despair"
    • archaic
      tame or civilize (an animal or person).
  2. 2.
    bring (waste land or land formerly under water) under cultivation.

    "little money is available to reclaim and cultivate the desert"

And so, it is not just the first definition, but also the second definition that makes sense here. Life truly has to be recovered after divorce. Indeed I'd argue that without this step, you cannot proceed in any effective way, emotionally, spiritually, financially or physically. It is essential.

Recovering in this sense to me simply means that you are back to living. Living involves making choices, taking risks, having a good time, and being present in the current experiences and emotions of your existence. In short, being active rather than passive. Recovery in this sense isn't easy and there are a number of things available to you.
1. Friends, Family, existing support systems can help you recover your life. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have those things however, so for them, I'd focus on other options below.
2. Church/Synagogue/Temple etc where you can meet with fellow believers of your faith and perhaps deepen your connection with a higher power. For me, Church was where I feel I recovered the most. It slowed me down. It got me thinking about others besides myself which helped me really notice where I was. And most of all it gave me some structure and ability to get comfortable with who I am again.
3. Therapist and/or Support groups. These like anything can be complex and expensive or simple and cheap. Don't short change yourself on professional help, but at the same time be smart about your choices.

After recovery, you can begin the second aspect which is to bring your life to cultivation which is what the idea of goals really means. What do you want to accomplish with your life. I find that these are difficult in a way that I wouldn't have expected. It can be so consuming and difficult to recover from a trauma, that you forget to make plans for the future.

My advice about this second aspect of cultivation of goals, restating goals is:
  1. Start with restating them and writing it down.
  2. Do not worry about when/how these will get met or if at all. Just practice writing and having goals.
  3. Don't wait too long to start.
  4. Once you are comfortable with the idea of having goals, get serious and pick one or two small goals to set and work toward. This is a great way to start this habit.
In the end, the best way to restart your life is to have something to live for and to live towards. If you can manage it, start small with your goals and then build them up until they are bigger and take time and real, concrete steps to complete. Accomplishing a mix of small and larger goals is a great way to feel good about yourself and get some distance from the pain of divorce.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Making the Decision and Having the talk

When it comes to making the decision to divorce, unless there is some overarching circumstance, I view it as a mistake to do it rashly. In order to make the decision, dealing with the feelings and emotions involved first made the most sense. Often when things get changed in our lives it is because we have become fed up with the current state in some way or shape. In this case, there is a feeling that the time for Divorce has come.

Deal with your Feelings and Emotions first, noticing that there may be some distinction here. For me my emotions are concrete: Happy, Sad, Complacent, and perhaps fearful. Feelings are a bit more nebulous. I might feel trapped. I might feel subservient. I might feel powerful. None of these are truly emotions, but they are intangible, and somewhat subjective. For me, once I felt unhappy in the situation, I tried on various occasions to deal with why I had these unhappy feelings.

The feelings, more than the emotions were the primary driver of the change. More than anything, you should try to be clear about the feelings you have that are a direct result of something being wrong in the marriage. Use your gut to help you figure out if those feelings are temporary or if they are lasting. Then write it down and wait for some period of time before acting further.

Once you have your feelings in place, you can try to understand what the cause is. Perhaps you feel less important because your spouse is spending more time/energy on something else. Perhaps you feel less loved because of how you are treated/talked to. Perhaps you feel less connected since you don't spend so much time together raising the kids. Whatever the feelings are, they have reasons. Figure them out and write them down. It is good for you to have it be concrete. This will aid you when you have the talk.

Writing down reasons you want to get divorced makes the process real. Don't leave that lying around, but make sure to carry it and review it. Perhaps a day, perhaps a week. Take some time and sit with the idea that you might not be with this person anymore. Do not act rashly, but then reach out to one or two trusted friends and discuss how you've felt over lunch or over coffee. Nothing heavy. You do not want to over burden your friends so they don't feel blindsided. Some friends will feel dual loyalty. You should consider that early on.

After discussing with your friends, discuss with your family. Undoubtedly, they will be impacted by the process and if you've gone far enough that you are still certain, it is time to get them in the loop. Some people would caution against this, but for me, I think it is essential. You will need these family members to help you when you are dealing with your emotions and pain.

Once all of this is done, you are ready to have the talk. If you expect it to be particularly emotional, I recommend engaging a spiritual mentor (a priest or a rabbi if you are religious or perhaps a social worker or therapist). If you feel confident you can proceed alone, consider aspects of your safety and then ensure you have an immediate exit plan should things get ugly. Write down all of the details of the conversation once it is complete as this may be important.

Finally, consider the tenor of the conversation so far in the marriage and consider whether you want to proceed with getting a lawyer or a mediator before the conversation. None of what I describe here is legal advice, but only advice I can give based on my own personal experience.

Evening out the inequalities, Separating the assets
Moving out One Year Later
Living Apart, Living Large
Reclaiming Life, Restarting Goals
Dating with Data, Digging for Gold
Comparative Compromise, Coping with Change