To Prenuptial or Not to Prenuptial

To prenup or not to prenup?  That is the question.  In the local coffee shop, I watch today as an older man discusses this topic with a group of friends.  His sober face suggests that this topic is one of emotional passion.  The man states that he would not sign a prenup and he “would rather have her take him for a ride.”  From what I gather, he believes that if you really love someone, you should not have to sign an agreement of how things will be divided up if you separate.  I have heard this reaction from many people; the prenuptial gives us a way out of the marriage.  Doors also give us a way out, but we don’t go building houses without them.

So is he right or wrong?  Now, I am not in the business of marriage legalities, in fact, as a professor of mine once put it, I am an MFT – Marriage Friendly Therapist.  I work together with couples to help them happily stay together.  However, that means a lot of surrendering to our faults and giving in to someone else’s needs, i.e. our partner.  Most of the time when couples are ready to divorce there has been years of unheard words, unmet expectations, and lack of overall happiness. (Check out this article: When Women Divorce Long Before The Divorce by Quentin Hafner.)

In my life I have had three different views on prenuptials:

The first (early 20’s): That if you truly love someone, you don’t need to sign an “out”contract.

The second (late 20’s): After getting out of a bad business deal with a co-owned restaurant; not having any concrete contracts signed, I felt that you always need a contract no matter what.  I got along with my business partner so I always thought a split would be amicable.  It is true that in the mist of a fight the claws come out.  Marriage is the contract and the prenup is there to protect that asset.

The last (early 30’s):  Premarital therapy.  By-yearly check-ups with the therapist.  I would sign a reverse prenuptial (see below).  In the long run I want a partner that is as happy and silly as I am; we will be adults when it comes to decisions, for better or worse.

Obviously, to make a prenup or not to make one, is up to the discretion of the couple.  Consider this when thinking about the issues:

1. There is a lot of legal advice on the internet about signing prenuptials.  What about other experts on relationships and how they discuss navigating this part of a marriage?

2. Discussion of a prenup needs to be gently entered into.  It needs to be a conversation of understanding and compassion.   Most prenuptials are entered into for protection of the property or assets that one comes into the marriage with.  If you are marrying someone who believes they are owed something you had prior to meeting them, I think a prenuptial is the last of your worries.

3.  If you are not willing to share certain things or benefits you accumulated while in the marriage, whatever that looks like,  you should not get married.  You are a selfish person. Truly selfish people will be unhappy in a marriage.  When you force a kid to share and he doesn’t want to, he will likely throw a tantrum after handing over the toy.  Marry the man or woman who finds joy in sharing with others.  It will make a world of difference in all aspects of the marriage.

4. Over the course of the years of marriage you both make equal sacrifices and you should decide what that is going to look like prior to getting married.  You may be the sole source of retirement and insurance, but your partner might bring in more money each year.  Or your partner might stay at home to with three kids until school age and take care of house work.  At the end of the day it isn’t all about money and assets.  We have to take into consideration the acts of service and the sacrifices.

5. If your prenup has to include things like the religion that your children will be raised, well then, stop right there.  You aren’t putting exacts in the prenup because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter anyways.  If your partner becomes Buddhist in ten years and wants to share some of that wisdom with the children, you don’t pull out the prenup and say – Right here, look this is what we agreed.   People change and you should marry someone who is open to change and that is willing to meet you where you are and go places you feel a need to explore.  You should marry someone who you have similar values with, but nothing in life guarantees that down that road that is going to look the same.

After Much Research on The Topic: Try These

The Reverse Prenuptial

Going back to the analogy of the door. It gives us a way out, but it also keeps us in.  It is a fire escape and a barrier to keep unwanted guests out.  It serves two purposes.  What if our prenuptials started doing the same?  Say that one partner comes into the marriage with a boat, the other does not.  The prenuptial reads that if divorced in the course of the first 15 years, the boat will be sold and the sale split.  However, after 15 years, the asset is given to the rightful owner in full.

Therapy

Yes, therapy.  You are going to be making an appointment with a lawyer to get out of the marriage.  The lawyer doesn’t have an understanding of what makes marriages and relationships work.  He has a law degree and an objective for divorce.  Seek a therapist out to discuss why you are thinking about divorce; gain help from someone who has experience in the area of relationships, not law.  Trust people who work within their scope.  Your lawyer has little interest in your overall well-being.

Overall the conversation of the prenuptial should be one of grace and compassion.  Be comfortable and open to the opinion of your partner.

How to Prevent New Year’s Resolution Relapse

We are nearly two weeks into the New Year.  We have been faithful to our New Year’s resolutions for less than 4 percent of the whole year.  How are you feeling about your resolution?  Are you hyped up about the recent change?  Or are you bummed out? I watch as dieters mope across the work hallways and hang their heads as they crash from lack of sugar and crave salty chips.  We torture ourselves with high end goals but have a low end understanding of what it takes to keep them.

You probably have great intentions when it comes to persevering through this first month.  The truth is only 8 percent of us keep our resolutions.  What can you do to be a part of the winning few? I am eager to help you understand how to stay on track.

Lose the Victim:  If you feel like a victim in the race to your resolution, failing is right around the corner.  By victim, I mean the ideas and judgment that you have given your resolution; if the goal is good but your reactions to it are negative, it will be hard to keep.  I’ve overheard people dieting this week say that they are upset, hangry, and unhappy.  The self-talk, emotional responses, or judgments that we give to our goals can be defeating or encouraging, whatever we allow them to be.  If we can interpret and evaluate the situation with positive regard, we make it better.  Our mindset about our goal is important. Instead of negative statements and defeated talk, try positive reflection about the goal.

Check in with Yourself:  Know what goals you can reach and be honest with yourself.  Ask yourself, “What do I need to achieve this goal?”  Set realistic goals and challenge yourself to keep those goals by “awarding” yourself something at the end of that goal (such as a massage or an overnight trip you’ve been putting off).  An example: You resolve to work out more this New Year.  Your goal is 20 workouts a month.  Each month you reach that goal you get a massage.  We go to work to get money.  Money is the “prize”.  Work is the “goal”.

Balance: Life is about balance.  Too much or too little of anything is bad.  Make sure your resolution is a balance of ways you want to better yourself this year.

Temptation: Most New Year’s resolutions include something that is going to link to temptation.  So you have a list of foods that you can eat on that diet, but what is your plan for when tempting treats make their way into the office?  If you resolve to save money, what is your plan to resist your favorite purchases or to not spend as much time at the restaurant you love?  You need to have a plan in place to resist the temptations that are going to come along with that goal.

Remember, an important part of improving any part of our lives is an understanding of ourselves.  Don’t be discouraged if your resolution isn’t working the way you planned, just reevaluate it.  We get stoked on the social stimulation of the New Year’s resolution, but we can make improvements on ourselves at any time in our lives.

The Third Wheel – Being Single In a Coupled World

Tonight is Friday.  I am single.  So I have so many options.  So many options.  What about setting up an online profile so these Friday’s don’t seem so lonely?  I could jet out to the local bars to harness whatever small amount of luck I have left in me?  I could swipe a tinder app, or upload a boyfriend?  As I sit in my living room Frosty the Snowman by Beegie Adair Trio plays in the background.  My roommate makes dinner for her date, herself, and myself.  The Christmas tree is lit in the corner aligned with presents.  My roommate loves Christmas.  I could take her evening happiness away by being a bitter single.  I could scoff at every couple that passes me and snuggles with hot chocolate and hand holding.  However, as I sit here, I have decided to do none of that.  I have a heart of compassion and understanding that has taken years to cultivate.  The expectation is to be bitter after the reason for my recent break-up, but I refuse.  I refuse to be angry.  I also refuse to seek out filling the void through another relationship.  I was offered for one of the couples this evening to bring me a date, and I kindly declined.  It was time to take a break from the dating world.  I look at it like switching up your routine at the gym so your results can be better.  This year launched a long line of failed dating attempts.  It was time to go back to the drawing board.  It was time to figure out what new self-discoveries could yield a more stable and loyal relationship.  Like I always say, the common denominator in our failed relationships is us.  Through weeks of sadness and honesty I have gotten to this point.  Here I am single, not about to mingle.  I am excited to head out tonight to see the beautiful Balboa Christmas Boat Parade with two couples this evening.  I am happy to be a fifth wheel.

Being single in a coupled world seems hard.  It’s really all what you make it.  When did it become so complicated that we had to seek out the next partner before spending some honest time with ourselves cultivating self-love?  We should wait until we have an understanding of why the last relationship didn’t work out.  Being the fifth wheel has it perks.  No worry about that awkward end of the night kiss.  No obligations to meet or expectations that could go unmet.  Spending  time with yourself harnessing a new passion for life and a better understanding of love.  Spending time with your friends and family.  It’s really all what you make it.

The Language of Hope

Originally posted on miss kjelstrom:

“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.”

                                            Mohandas K. Gandhi

Gandhi was a wise man.  This article will focus on the words portion of that quote. Using more hopeful language can help you become positive in many aspects of your life.  The power of language and the thoughts behind them influence our feelings and actions.  They are influenced through subconscious and conscious means.  Understanding why is much less important to me than showing you how new words can change those feelings and actions.

What if I…

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America is Lazy and Conscious Uncoupling is Bullshit

As a relationship blogger I’ve come to realize the masses of material around me. I sit in a coffee shop that I frequent to get a bite to eat before work and most of what I overhear from the wait staff has to do with relationships. One was a blossoming romance that included a child from a previous marriage, and yet another was about who would take the kids for the weekend. I had an unfortunate heavy heart that most of the chatter included breakdowns and break-ups. It included devastation and divorce.  I wondered how we could all get back to a place where relationships and partnerships provided us with the sense of support and strength they were meant for.  Where we grew together and genuinely appreciated one another, even if we get pissed off from time to time.

Not to offend, but it’s my personal opinion that no one is in the mood to work really hard for anything anymore. When I sit and read about dating and relationships it appears apparent why we have shifted into a culture of divorce rather than long unions. Article after article on what you are doing wrong with your new relationship and tips or “how-tos” on anything from keeping him guessing to 12 ways to have a happy marriage. But is it really that simple? And if it were that simple why are we in an epic fail?  We learn Why Men Love Bitches or how to Get Married This Year, 365 Days to I Do or  how to Get the Guy, but we forget that this mainstream culture of self-help and fast fixes just sheds light on the problem.  These are just outlines to a very long syllabus.  Relationships take work, dedication, and lots of commitment through the years.

I am not suggesting that every divorce should be stopped.  There are several reasons divorce takes place and the hurt and pain can not be overcome.  Sadness or unhappiness can sometimes be a reason to split.  However, all I am suggesting is that when you take the vow to commit to someone for the rest of your life, that you remember just how much work, patience, perseverance, work, humor, work, respect, and did I mention- work, that it is going to take.  Get angry with me, get really angry with me and explain yourself to death about why your divorce was reasonable.  Many times over I am going to disagree with you.  You get to choose who you marry.  That’s right, it’s a choice.  You get to choose who you will be able to run the business of marriage with for the rest of your life.

The percentage of divorce gets higher with the number of divorces you have. So you have a 40-50 percent chance of getting divorced the first time and a 70 percent chance of divorcing again. The common denominator of that statistic is you.

I first heard of conscious uncoupling when Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow announced their split, as I am sure, most of us did.  Thank goodness the Wall Street Journal took the time to write an article on what was meant by conscious uncoupling.  According to the article the term could, “be new language that could frame the end of a marriage or relationship in my positive light.”  I was happy to hear that definition because basically what we are saying is that we are going to put a pretty frame on a shitty picture.  Break-ups and divorces suck.  Make no mistake about it that they leave people jaded and discouraged.  Society has become a mecca of pretty frames on all sorts of false pictures (Facebook facades).  Now we sit in a society that is ready to approach the hurtful parts of life by being consciously fanciful and politically incorrect.  Distorting the truth doesn’t make it any easier.  Conscious uncoupling is a sham.

Isn’t dating suppose to be a way for us to test the efficacy of marriage?  But if we are a break-up culture, is the desired effect to separate or to sustain the marriage?  And we are a break up culture.  A culture that wants more, faster and easier.  What it took for our grandparents and parents to sustain a marriage, we are just not interested in putting in that kind of effort.  A recent article in Shape magazine discussed that treating your relationship like your job could have positive effects on the happiness and teamwork in your relationship.  The article simply suggests that if we put in as much effort for our relationships as we do in our jobs, we would be in a better position with a better attitude.  I mean when was the last time you neglected your job or just walked in late? You make an attentive effort to be on time, to dress accordingly, to follow the employee handbook.  Maybe you can establish a relationship handbook and overcome the complacency and inflexibility you seem to have in regards to your relationship.  Sorry Gwen, but remarking on your divorce as conscious uncoupling is bullshit.  Talk is cheap.  Cheesy wording is even cheaper.

What Do You Expect From Your Partner and How Can You Get It?

Let’s talk about relationship expectations.  The expectations you have of your partner may lead to disappointment and brokenness when it comes to your romantic relationships.  But don’t worry, I am not just going to sit here and tell you that your expectations are bullshit and that you are ridiculous for wanting your partner to call, to help with the dishes, or to split the bill.  I am going to assist you in understanding how to alleviate the communication barriers of expectations.  How are we ever going to find a resolution if we can not communicate effectively about the problem?

Couples should discuss the expectation that they have.  They need to be able to communicate this early on in the relationship. Some expectations are derived from each individual.  They may have come from pressures our parents put on us or from past dating experiences.  However, some expectations are created within the relationship.  When a couple first gets together they are excited to be sharing in one another.  They might talk on the phone every day and this expectation is one that is created by the couple in the process of engaging in the relationship.  If this stops suddenly, there may be some discrepancies in how both parties feel about it.  It is important to know and understand which expectations were mutually created and which are individually brought into the relationship. This way you can get a better idea of how to properly handle each expectation.

I will utilize an example so we can process the helpful responses we will discuss later.  Sally wants Harry to text her on Tuesday because he is out of town for work.  Harry called her when he arrived to his hotel on Monday night; they chatted, said goodnight, and went to bed.  On Tuesday, Harry got busy with work and had dinner with colleagues, so he called Sally late in the evening around ten p.m.  Harry did not text or call during the day.  Now they are on the phone and at this point Sally is already irritated because she was hoping to hear from him during the day since he is away on a business trip.  Harry is unable to understand why if he spoke with Sally on Monday night and again tonight why it is such a big deal?  So Sally goes on about how Harry doesn’t care and Harry tries to explain that he does.  He gets defensive and she came into the conversation angry.  Inside he feels like he failed and inside she feels like she isn’t cared about.

It becomes a dance that we see all too often; and honestly, it is normal in the context of a relationship.  Especially in the beginning when we are learning about one another’s needs.  If this type of behavior continues as the length of the relationship progresses and the parties are unable to communicate about it, we have to ask ourselves, why?  We have to consciously make the decision to do something about it and not just blow off the other person.

Not to make it a battle of the sexes, but woman often verbalize and hold onto their expectations more.  Men are like, Meh.  They can passively get through the small expectations.  The woman handles it with anger or sadness which makes the man feel like he let her down.  There is nothing worse for a man than the feeling of failure or disappointment.  It is ingrained in the man to be able to care for the needs of others in specific ways.  If he feels like he failed, withdrawing is often the easiest response to an angry woman.  The easiest response for the woman is anger when hurt is what she really feels.

In the story of Sally and Harry here are some helpful examples of alternative responses:

1. Sally could have sent a text to Harry and said “Hey sweetie, How is your day going?”  If we have an expectation for someone else to do something, the easiest solution is to do it ourselves.  (Starting with a pet name always creates positive energy.)

2. Sally could call and leave a message or verbalize to Harry that it was her fault that she is upset since she had the expectation for him to call.  But maybe in the future he can make sure to have some form of contact during the day when away? (This is formed as a question because it is important that our partner have a say in the resolution and that we are not just demanding something.)  Sally is openly communicating a need and placing the burden on herself rather than her partner.  This can help the partner to feel empathetic rather than defensive.

3. Sally can self-reflect.  Understanding why we need a certain behavior out of our partner is important. Sally may have had a negative past dating experience with a previous partner while away on a trip.  It is important to discuss this with our partner, but also to take additional time to ourselves to reflect on how we might be able to change this expectation since it was not created in the current relationship.

If these don’t work because there is still defensiveness and anger even when just trying to communicate a problem, it might be time to look into couple’s therapy and have a third-party reflect with you on some good solutions and tools.  We get our cars serviced.  Relationships are no different.  If you want it to “run well” you have to take care of it.

When is an expectation reasonable or unreasonable?  How is this even decided?  This type of reflection and answer is a process.  I believe that I personally didn’t understand the expectations that I had for partners until I had personal therapy combined with experiences in dating.  There has to be some self-reflection and self-awareness that takes place if we are going to change patterns that sabotage our relationships.  Expectations can disrupt a relationship if not handled correctly.

If you are the type of person that doesn’t take constructive criticism well, you might find it difficult to self-reflect.  You will be more defensive at the thought of changing something about yourself instead of being humbled by the opportunity.  I urge you to do the same type of reflection and allow yourself to let that self-critic go.  It is beneficial to be able to change difficult or unwelcoming patterns so you can have successful romantic relationships.  Ultimately in successful relationships, partners need to be able to meet one another’s needs or expectations to a reasonable level.  The environment of the relationship should feel like teamwork.  When it doesn’t feel like teamwork bitterness and frustration come in.  It is only fair that we partner for the long-haul with someone who is similar in nature.  Specifically when this nature has to do with work-ethic which directly correlates with some expectations.  I have yet to see anyone do a relationship perfectly, so we are all in this together.  Relationships are hard work, but they yield the most rewarding happiness.