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Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Rebuilding Checklist

Surviving a divorce is one thing; thriving after one is quite another!

We've all seen people who divorced ten or twenty yeas ago and still talk or act as if their life has been ruined by their former spouse, right? Well, when I meet or hear about someone like that I always wonder how different their lives could have been if they had gotten some help to go through the whole grief and recovery process years ago... to be able to rebuild their life successfully.

So, whether you are presently in the midst of a breakup of still dealing with the residual feelings from a relationship long gone, TODAY can be a major turning point in your life, healing, and rebuilding by taking the following quiz to see how well you're doing in your recovery and growth. 

Take a look at this 'rebuilding after a divorce' checklist:

1. On an average day I feel:
A. life is not worth living without my partner; I feel like such a failure.
B. an occasional feeling of concern for the future but mostly excited for what the future holds as I reach new goals.
C. like I'm bouncing around from doom and gloom to scared and anxious, and occasionally excited.
D. a bit sad about what could or should have been, but I've mostly accepted that we're getting divorced.

2. How much of the 'failed' relationship do you feel is/was your responsibility?
A. Since a relationship involves two people 50-50 equally, we are each equally accountable for the breakup.
B. Not a single thing. I did everything I could to get my partner to see that s/he needed professional help.
C. I probably did a few things I shouldn't have, but when you're with a partner like I had it's impossible not to.
D. I'm prepared to take 100% responsibility for the relationship ending, even though it was a 50-50 partnership, because I am accountable for 100% of my actions and reactions, so I must have added to the problems at times by either doing something damaging, or not doing something helpful.

3. Post-Divorce relations with my former partner would best be described as:
A. I try to keep an open mind to the fact that neither of us is perfect and we are both doing our best for our children.
B. We differ so much in our points of view and parenting styles that it's almost impossible to have a conversation.
C. Our relations are so difficult but very real - not like all the other liars who say that they forgive and get along with their former partners and treat each other like "friends".
D. In a word: "useless!" I hate my ex and always will. S/He ruined my life because of their lying/cheating/stealing/...

4. When I hear or read that "self-care" is important after a split, I immediately think:
A. I go out every Friday night and have a great time! I don't know how much more I can do when it comes to self-care.
B. Self-care? You've got to be kidding me! Get out of bed, dressing and eating is all I can do right now.
C. My friends have mentioned self-care and I'm looking into it. I'm learning what it means, how it can help me and what I need to do.
D. I'm not relying on anyone else to care for me. I'm caring for myself and taking responsibility for my own health and personal growth.

5. My children hear me saying something nice or positive about their other parent:
A. Never. There's nothing positive or nice to say.
B. They haven't yet, but I'm working on it. I know it's important to them.
C. At least once a week - usually before or after the exchange.
D. I do it all the time. After all, my former partner is their other parent.

6. Since the divorce, my feelings about love are best described as:
A. I consider this break-up to be a failure on my part. I truly doubt that I have the ability to ever have a lasting relationship.
B. I look forward to falling in love again. Only next time, it will be with someone I know better and we love each other the right way.
C. Like the book says, "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus." Obviously, men and women don't belong together.
D. I'm trying to learn my lessons from this divorce so that I'll be able to create a better relationship next time around.

7. In light of handling new routines, schedules and activities, how do new goals fit into your life now?
A. I think change happens in stages, so I've set new goals, made some accomplishments, and look forward to many more.
B. Everyone expects so much of me yet do nothing for me or I have to wait forever when I ask for something. I don't have the opportunity to set new goals.
C. I've started setting some goals but am still struggling to get the routine stuff under control. I'm sure I will soon, though.
D. I'm totally overwhelmed! New goals are not a priority and won't be for quite some time - if ever.

8. Right now, my view on support groups, coaching or participating in a relationship review is:
A. I would love to try something but I have no idea where to find these services or who to call.
B. Nothing is going to change the past, so why bother?
C. I don't think they're for me. A friend tried getting outside help and said it wasn't worth it.
D. I take advantage of every opportunity for personal growth. Learning my lessons, with outside help, really allows me to move forward.

9. After everything I've been through with this divorce, putting myself out there to date is:
A. A very scary idea. I don't know if my heart can handle another disappointment.
B. I certainly expect to fall madly in love one day. I have a list of the characteristics I'm looking for in a partner and look for "the one" everywhere I go.
C. I'm exciting about meeting new people now that I've reviewed my relationship history and I understand my needs and wants better.
D. I believe in love, but not looking for it. If it's meant to happen, love will find me.

10. Are you putting out positive energy to others around you?
A. I'm so glad I'm doing well enough to give to others by volunteering/acknowledging the success of others.
B. I've been trying to come out my shell and have been catching up with friends and family.
C. I'm focusing on myself right now so I can't really dedicate any time and energy on others.
D. I avoid people to the extent of isolating myself since I have nothing to give, so it's isn't a problem.

Here's the way to calculate your score:

1. A=0, B=3, C=1, D=2
2. A=2, B=0, C=1, D=3
3. A=3, B=2, C=1, D=0
4. A=1, B=0, C=2, D=3
5. A=0, B=1, C=2, D=3
6. A=1, B=3, C=0, D=2
7. A=3, B=1, C=2, D=0
8. A=2, B=0, C=1, D=3
9. A=0, B=2, C=3, D=1
10. A=3, B=2, C=1, D=0

Tally up your total and see how well you are doing. 

 Score : 1-9 is Stuck in splitsville
It sounds as though you haven't been able to deal with the sadness and anger that normally come with divorce recovery. It could that the split is fairly recent or it's just taking you time to work though the hurt. On the other hand, you may be stuck because you haven't accepted your own share of responsibility for the break-up of your marriage. Sure, you may feel that you have every right to blame your ex, but unless you start to take responsibility for your part of the relationship, and accept that it just did not work out for the two of you together, moving forward will be difficult - if not impossible. You might want to learn more about 'the emotional divorce' being a normal part of the process and consider having open, honest conversation with a coach or counselor. Remember, you can do it!

 Score :  10-20 is Heading out of town
As the saying goes, "You've come a long way, baby!" But, you're not quite where you want to be yet. Remember that there isn't a time limit on how long you should take to work your way through the emotions that normally come with divorce. Yet, if you're feeling that you have made some progress but can't seem to get where you want to be, you may need some help. Think about it as 'making the the rest of your life the best years of your life'. Do you want to start dating again some day, but feel a touch insecure or scared? Maybe you want to take some classes or change careers and would benefit from some guidance. Perhaps your goal is to accept your ex for who they are and start working together at being the best co-parents you can each be for the children? Whatever it is that you're working towards, know that you CAN do it! Continue to make time for yourself to learn more about the 'emotional divorce' and consider learning from others who have 'been there and done that.' You would be able to reach your goals much faster, and easier, if you reach out for some help from someone who works at helping others get through a divorce, and over the humps... to thrive. Keep going, you're almost there!

 Score :  21-30 is So over it!
Congratulations! It sounds like you've worked through your divorce, or have cleared major hurdles in splitsville. Sure, it may have been tough at times, but you've come out of it with your head held high and your confidence intact. If you have set goals for yourself, now is the time to fine-tune your plan for achieving them. Just remember that during the healing process you can still go through a setback now and then. Don't let it get you down, and do not take it as meaning you are a failure; it's just part of the process. To keep yourself working toward your new and rewarding life, don't feel as if you have to do it alone. For the finishing touches on your journey, you can hire a coach to help you out and to be sure that you do not repeat any of the negative patterns from this past relationship, or from your family of origin.

Keep your head high and reach for that thriving life!






Sharon Shenker, Founder of Divorce Support Plus
http://www.divorcesupportplus.ca
http://www.lovingtherightways.com

(The Rebuilding Checklist was originally created by Sharon Shenker for Quiz: Are You Stuck in Splitsville?)
If you prefer to fill out an interactive format, you can go to their site to find out if you're still stuck in break-up more or if you're on your way to a new life, with new challenges and rewards.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What if your relationship went sexless?

Whether a relationship begins with two people as high-school sweethearts, two adults who meet at work,  through mutual friends, family members or even at their church or synagogue, there is no guarantee that the glorious stage of infatuation and/or lust, will last.

A lot of couples would be thrilled if just the fun of regular dates, the desire to impress each other by attentively listening to all the stories and regular signs of appreciation or even mild interest were still around, but they are still having sexual relations. Do you think it's because they still love each other and the couples that no longer have sex, no longer love each other? I don't. I know for a fact that a lot of people who have no love, lust, or even like for their partner will still have sex with them and stay in the relationship.  And, a lot of couples who still love each other aren't having much sex, if any.

Quite often by the time a couple is together a few years, long enough for the infatuation stage to end, they are either living together, married and/or have a child... and, their sex life has fallen to the wayside due to work and family responsibilities, fatigue or brewing problems. 

It isn't uncommon for both members of a couple to lose interest in sex because there just isn't enough energy left by the end of the day. Routine sex, rather than passionate nights, make it less exciting and no big a deal to do without. Snoring has the couple sleeping in separate bedrooms. Different bed time schedules make it impossible, or kids falling asleep in mom and dad's bed result in pajamas and separate sides of the bed.

There are lots of reasons that a couple can describe their relationship as "sexless." And, I have witnessed a lot of times in couple's coaching that prove the term to be very subjective. By that I mean that it can be explained as, "we haven't had sex in over a year, actually maybe two years", or "s/he only agreed to sex once a month if I practically begged for it before I got fed up and began looking elsewhere."

It isn't just men or women as gender specific, but specific men and women who can very clearly have different needs. Sometimes a couple might be in turmoil because one partner expects to have relations every day, or a few times a day, and the other is pleased to only be intimate once a month. They might even have discovered this when they were dating, other times after the children came along, but they may love each other and decide to stay together and work it out.

What if your sex life was/is not satisfying and you are not sure why?

A lovely couple came to see me a few years back, with both of them upset about how their relationship was and neither of them understanding why. It turned out that the wife had been raped years before they even met, by a man who had approached her from behind. And, sure enough, her husband often showed his affection to her with a hug from behind while she was cooking, doing her hair, brushing her teeth, etc. Although she had never told him about the rape because she thought she was over it, his surprise shows of affection had brought back the memory, and the fear.Once they talked it over, and he agreed to speak up before grabbing, their intimacy and passion returned.


I once worked with a sexless couple that was not partaking because she had gained about fifty pounds and was no longer attractive to her man... so he went to peep shows and watched online porn when she was not aware. The solution was easy. He seriously joined her weight loss efforts by going with her for daily walks, taking up tennis together, no longer bringing junk food home for easy meals, (he learned how to cook!) and taking over with the kids so she had time to go to the gym. Last I heard they were trying, quite regularly, for another child.

Would you stay in a sexless relationship? If you did would you actually abstain?

An older female client told me about a younger married man who kept contacting her online, trying to get her to agree to meeting for some fun on the side since his relationship was so bad that they weren't having relations and he felt attracted to her from a picture he saw of her full figure. With a little self-esteem and personal growth work, she chose to keep her self-respect and turned him away... and she wondered if his wife knew what he was up to.

So, what if you discovered that your partner, whom you adored, was having relations while he was out of town for work? Infidelity can happen in any relationship, obviously. The couple that comes to mind, came to me because the wife had recently found out that her husband had a girlfriend where he worked most of the year, in China. As communication opened up, things only got worse, as she found out that the weekly massages he had been getting for years because he was 'stressed and missed being touched' actually included manual stimulation, or, a hand-job... and dancing later! Which was how he met his pregnant girlfriend. They got divorced after he refused to change his lifestyle.

What do you expect in your relationship, and what would you put up with?





Sharon Shenker
Founder, Divorce Support Plus
http://www.divorcesupportplus.ca
http://www.lovingtherightways.com
Phone: 514.804.3585

Monday, July 19, 2010

Stilettos and Cleavage or Natual Beauty, Which does Your Guy Prefer?

Over the years I have worked with so many couples that had trouble connecting... in the bedroom. They literally lost that loving feeling for each other and could not even imagine kissing or touching each other when they first came to see me. Imagine being in a relationship with such a disconnect!

There was one couple, she in her mid-thirties first marriage, him around fifty on his second marriage, that was in BIG trouble. He was so ready to walk out on her and she had no idea why. They married quickly because she had gotten pregnant within a few short months, even though he was considering ending their relationship. Ahh, what a warning sign! Well, back to this article...

This particular couple had not even found an attraction base for their marriage. They had a five year old daughter that was well taken care of, although each parent disagreed as to who the better parent was. They lived in a nice home according to him, not her. His family was normal and considerate of their space and hers was intrusive and controlling - according to him. And, so on, and so on.... but what really helped pull this couple together was rather cute. I found out that he daydreamed about her showing she cared enough about him by fixing herself up just once in a while. They had stopped having sex over a year ago and he could no longer imagine ever having 'those feelings' for her again.

He just did not feel turned on by her natural beauty. Her wavy hair was so wild she kept it short like a boy, according to him, and she never wore makeup because she thought her freckled face was still youthful and cute like when she was a kid. But, to him she did not look like a woman with sex appeal. He wanted a woman who worn stilettos and showed some cleavage.

So, soon after finding this out, I spoke with her in her next private session about putting some effort into spicing up her sex appeal for him, her husband, the only man she wanted to attract in that way. And, what success we had! A few days after my talk with her I received a phone call from him that I will never forget. He called to say, "I know it was you, and I can't thank you enough!" I played dumb, and said; "what are you talking about?'

He was at work and could hardly wait to get home because when his wife came down to leave for work she was wearing a beautiful low-cut top, a skirt that showed leg, and high heels. He couldn't believe his eyes, she even had makeup on and had done something with her hair that blew his mind. He was thrilled.

What he did not know was that she had her running shoes and both a pair of pants and t-shirt in her car for work... but she had finally done what her guy preferred and we had a base to work with. They continued working with me and dramatically changed and saved their marriage!

So... what does YOUR GUY prefer?  
http://webmd.com/sex-relationships/features/se-sexy
Does he know what you prefer?And, are you BOTH Loving Each Other The Right Way???
(Don't tell me you're too old because Sexy is Ageless!!!)


Talk to you again soon,

Sharon Shenker
Founder, Divorce Support Plus
http://www.divorcesupportplus.ca
http://www.lovingtherightways.com
Phone: 514.804.3585

Sexy is... Ageless

Jane and Arlene are outside their nursing home, having a drink and a smoke, when it starts to rain.

Jane pulls out a condom, cuts off the end, puts it over her cigarette, and continues smoking.

Arlene: What in the hell is that?

Jane: A condom. This way my cigarette doesn't get wet.

Arlene: Where did you get it?

Jane: You can get them at any pharmacy.

The next day, Arlene hobbles herself into the local pharmacy and announces to the pharmacist that she wants a box of condoms. The pharmacist, obviously embarrassed, looks at her kind of strangely (she is after all, over 80 years of age), but very delicately asks what brand of condom she prefers.

"Doesn't matter lovey, as long as it fits on a Camel !!"

The pharmacist fainted. !!

(Have a great day!)

Brought to you by:
Sharon Shenker Founder, Divorce Support Plus
http://www.divorcesupportplus.ca
http://www.lovingtherightways.com Phone:
514.804.3585

Friday, July 16, 2010

Expressing Love and Appreciation

Have you ever had a day where you suddenly felt like doing something special for someone in your life, to express your love and appreciation for them? I have lots of times in the past and again just the other night.

Imagine this: everyone is complaining about the heat wave with such high humidity that there have been warnings for people with asthma, which I do happen to have, but... I suddenly got this urge to cook up not only one but two of my daughter's favorite meals to surprise her.

Showing gratitude, after all, doesn't have to be the result of something big that the recipient did for us. It can simply be for something small or even just a sudden surge of love we feel for them, out of nowhere special or specific.

Perhaps you also suddenly felt like cooking someone's favorite meal, or maybe you chose to take them out to eat, or purchased something at a store that you knew they would really appreciate as soon as you saw it. Giving without wishing for anything in return, no ulterior motive, simply a sincere gift from the heart.

Giving from our heart, without expecting to receive anything in return, an unconditional gift, without even secretly wishing for praise for our deed is a way of expressing our love and appreciation from within. And when we do that sincerely, our loved ones will usually understand the true depths of our love and adoration - with no sense of obligation to reward us with a gift of their own in return. But if you're as lucky as I was, you might also discover a little treat left for you as a surprise the next day.

How sweet it is to express and receive signs of love and appreciation!
Give it a try. You don't even need to be married or in a long-term relationship because you can do this with any loved one - a child, sibling, parent, or friend. And, who knows, it just might become a habit for you and yours.
Happy loving...

Sharon Shenker Founder, Divorce Support Plus
http://www.divorcesupportplus.ca
http://www.lovingtherightways.com
Phone: 514.804.3585

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

CoParenting For Your Children's Sake

While divorce or separation means the end of a relationship for two adults, quite often they are parents, and I don't think any parent should think that no longer being with their once upon a time lover is valid reason for a departure from shared, joint or cooperative parenting.

An article on Pfizer's new More Than Medication site, Co-parenting: for your children's sake, that I helped write says:

“If parents are divorced or separated, then their children will only do as well in adapting to a new lifestyle as their parents are,” says Sharon Shenker, therapeutic Family and Relationship Coach. “Having a co-parenting plan in place helps these children feel more secure, self-assured and self-confident.”

One of the biggest problems I have with court judgments and their supposed parenting or co-parenting plans is that they can be too brief and very, very often overestimate the capacity of both parents to actually cooperate with each other.

So many of these legally drafted plans do not even anticipate or put in anything that accounts for the challenges of everyday life, like who picks up or drops off Little Joey Jr. from baseball practices(?), who sits and watches his practices or games(?), are both Mom and Dad expected to attend these events alone, etc., etc. What about Joey Jr's changing needs as he grows?

In the article I was further quoted as saying:

“A co-parenting plan is basically a blueprint outlining the details of how you’re going to be establishing and sustaining your two-parent relationship while living in two different houses,” says Sharon. “Since not living in the same house usually means not communicating every day to decide who is doing what at the moment, this pre-planning is essential for success.”

Here are Sharon Shenker's top tips for developing a plan that works:

1. Determine your list of things to discuss. Each parent should draw up a list of discussion items. This list could include anything from dropping off and picking up from school to doctor’s appointments and special events. And both parents should understand and be familiar with their children's everyday needs in case the other has to step in.
2. Agree on emergency contact info. Agree on who gets contacted and who is the secondary contact should the first parent not be available. You may also have the option to have both parents contacted at the same time. If that’s the case, take it. While that may sound basic, outdated emergency contact info after a divorce or separation is quite common and, obviously, can lead to big concerns for children in need of their parents.
3. Set a schedule for daily things. Depending on custody agreements, it’s likely that only one parent handles the routine school pick-up and drop-offs. However, parents shouldn’t ignore out-of-the-ordinary occurrences; for example, weekend sports practice and games, special clubs and birthday parties with friends.
4. Plan for holidays. Decide in advance which parent gets the children for the holidays — including summer and March break. Also plan for out-of-town trips for special occasions or if the children will spend time alone with grandparents who live in a different city. Having all of this set out makes it easier when the time actually comes. Holiday details should be in writing in a calendar format and parents should also include time for their children to relax so that they’re not constantly carted around from one place to another.
5. Don’t forget about discipline. It’s common for newly divorced or separated couples to continue or start fighting about different parenting styles — and that includes discipline. But it’s important for both parents to be consistent. Agree on how to discipline your children and how that discipline will be maintained when children stay with their other parent. Sharon recommends parents compile a “Rule Book” that outlines agreed punishments and rewards and have a copy in each household to ensure consistency.
6. Work with a mediator — particularly if your separation isn’t an amicable one. By working with a mediator or divorce coach, you’ll be better able to come up with a comprehensive plan that suits your family’s needs. Just be sure to work at coming together in a non-threatening and non-judgmental way and keep the focus on what your children need.

While it’s easy to sometimes blurt out things in anger or frustration, Sharon suggests that you first ask yourself, “Is what I’m about to say or do going to benefit or hurt my children?”


Useful link -

The following article on the More Than Medication site has a quiz I created that is helpful in seeing how well you are doing with regards to your 'emotional divorce.' It is called : Quiz: Are you stuck in Splitsville?












Sharon Shenker Founder, Divorce Support Plus http://www.divorcesupportplus.ca http://www.lovingtherightways.com Phone: 514.804.3585

Can Relationship Coaching Help You and Your Partner?

If you and your long-term partner are having relationship problems (not including physical abuse) don't wait until it's too late!

Carefully look over the following list that research states as proven symptoms of relationship deterioration that are associated with an increased probability of a breakup or divorce down the road, or at least an unhappy relationship:

1. Feeling Distant from each other
2. An Increase in Arguing or Negativity
3. A Lack of Affection (from smiles to sex)
4. Increased Anger, Hostility, or Sarcasm
5. Avoidance of Each Other on a regular basis
6. Trust Issues

If you're already experiencing one or more of the signs listed above, be sure to take action soon to improve your situation... instead of losing the relationship.

I'm a firm believer that most couples don’t actually need psychotherapy, and that the majority of divorces did not actually have to take place if the couple had sought help soon enough. The main problem is usually simply a lack of skills in the areas of communication, assertive communication, expression of anger, commitment, conflict resolution skills, connection and/or intimacy and affection skills, to say the least.

It may seem obvious when you read this, but so many couples make the mistake of doing nothing until their own or their partner's unhappiness has become extreme. Here are the two most common situations:

1.) A couple comes in for a session, not sure whether they are separating or willing to try to put effort into saving the relationship by changing it, when one of them already does not believe there is much hope. They may have even been expressing their unhappiness or anger for a long time, but the other partner didn't believe the relationship would really come to an and... and basically ignored all the warning signs, hints and threats, until now.
2.) A couple comes in for a session, not sure whether or not they can fix their relationship because one partner has announced that they want a separation or divorce. The other is usually in shock, unaware that their relationship had become so bad that their partner would want to end it - even though there were many warning signs (if they had been watching and listening). As we talk it is revealed that the one who wants out has been telling the other for months or years, possibly beginning with demands or requests for changes in the relationship, but nothing was done.

How can it be that so many couples have been having such a tough time that statistical rates are so high for separations and divorces? Quite simply, there were no courses in school on relationship skills when the parents of today are divorcing. Whether within the family-of-origin, a friend's parents, or from watching television (yikes!) we only learned what we know by watching our role models. With that in mind, consider that not just your partner, but you also, may not know how to successfully resolve ongoing hurts/resentments, betrayals of trust, verbal abuse, and/or distance/lack of closeness in your relationship because you were never shown how. Think about it: If you were not receiving the love and attention you want/need do you know how to change that situation?

The good news is that these skills can all be taught. Even if only one partner is motivated and the other is simply willing to give it a try, coaching can make a big difference! How does relationship coaching help?

Imagine a basic problem of not feeling cared for.
Here's a homework assignment that the couple might be given:

Sitting face to face and holding hands or just having your knees touch, take turns sharing something that you appreciate about each other. Do three rounds, once a day. It can be something basic like, "I appreciate how well you take care of the kids" to "I really liked the effort you put into my last birthday present." If anything like that is still too difficult, it can even be, "Thanks for supper."

Give it a try and let me know how it went for you and your partner.