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What a mighty task Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner have chosen. They announced in June that they were
divorcing and have stated that they plan to go forward in love and
friendship as they co-parent their children, despite rumors of Affleck dating the nanny.
divorced woman, I know firsthand how painful a split can be, especially when
another woman plays a role in the breakup. I also know how difficult it was at
first to love my kids more than I hated my ex.
Ben and Jen have recently been spotted coming out of
counseling in Los Angeles and have opted to remain united for the
privacy and well-being of their children. What they are doing is commendable in
many ways and it means making very difficult choices, which have proven
impossible for many couples.
What must be done to have a peaceful divorce that
doesn't destroy the esteem of the children and maintains the connection between
One of the biggest mistakes I see angry divorcing couples do
is go to Facebook and Twitter in an attempt to publicly shame the other parent
for perceived wrongs. It's like having a schoolyard battle in which every
student is asked to pick sides and stand behind the "good" parent. It's
important to find a means or outlet to express one's emotions about betrayal
that doesn't include social media. It's also valuable to know that social media
travels far, wide, high and deep. These are spaces we often share with our
children, meaning our angry social media rants might be seen by our children
and their friends and communities.
2. Focus on healing
In the moments when you can get
clear of the anger, betrayal and hurt, start asking yourself what you'd like
to see happen in the next six months. How would you like to feel and what
would you like to be doing? How would you like your children to feel and what
would you have them doing? Healing will likely be a very slow and gradual
process, as undoing a long-term relationship is no small task. You might
consider counseling like Jennifer and Ben. If your ex is not willing or ready
to participate with you, you can go it alone for a while. Getting through the
phase of anger and hurt is very challenging, and getting assistance is a great
way to set yourself up for success.
3. Create a new life
Divorce means that you have a whole new life ahead of you.
There are undoubtedly things you would like to do but didn't because your
spouse wasn't interested or thought they were too costly or otherwise
unsuitable. Whatever desires you've
tucked away behind your marriage are all up for grabs now. Learn to surf.
Attend a tantra workshop. Take cooking classes. Focus all that extra energy you
have gained now that you are single into creating the life you'd love as a
4. Resist the call to victimhood
The intention in taking responsibility is to empower yourself.
Yes, it can be hard to start over, especially when you
haven't consciously planned on doing so. It's easy to make your ex a really bad
guy who is the cause of all the negative things that are happening. But blaming
is a surefire way to get stuck in a downward spiral of victim poison. In
marriage, we create the experiences that hurt us and make us happy together.
Let go of the idea that someone did something "to you" and ask yourself, "how
did I contribute to the current experience I'm having?" I'm not suggesting that
you blame yourself rather than blame your ex. The intention in taking responsibility
is to empower yourself—being honest about the role you've played can help you
correct your course and create desirable results. Also, if you consider your ex
a villain and yourself a victim, your children will unfailingly pick up on that
Clearly Jen and Ben are very committed to their
children and themselves. They have chosen to take what could have been an ugly,
volatile public situation and manage it nonreactively. This demands a good deal
of control, and while we have no idea what is going on behind closed doors, it
seems they have hired someone to guide them along. Being trained and successful
actors not only works on the set, it also helps when the world is watching and
waiting for your frailties to be exposed. Thus far, their performance has been
stellar and serves as a model for all parents undergoing the trial of