Sunday, August 5, 2007

An Open Letter to My Son

Dear Little Man,

You know, there are times when I look at you and I know that when you get older you are going to ask me what happened with our family. Growing up, I was grateful that you were so well adjusted to our separation. You mother and I, regardless of our differences, always agreed that nothing good would come of putting you in the middle of our problems. I will always be grateful for that; even your school teachers said that your behavior in school seemed to get better once we separated and I moved out of the house.

So now that you've become a man, you've asked me several times what happened between us. Each time, I've told you I'll tell you when you're older. When you're old enough to drive; when you're old enough to drink. Well, I'm sorry; I still don't think the time is right for you to know the details. One of the things I have always done is honored your mother for you, just as she has done for me. Our problems remain our problems; and this is something that you will need to learn to accept over time. When we are peers and you have been married, had a child, created a career, and carved your place in life then we can talk about this. As corny as it sounds, you still have too much to learn and experience. It's simply not the right time, and I hope you can understand.

Now, with that in mind I want you to live and benefit from my mistakes. I want you to learn from them, and not have to relive them. You've told me about being in love, and how your relationships are getting more serious. I'm happy for you, and excited for the opportunities that are in front of you. A good relationship will enhance your life. It will give you insight into aspects of yourself that hide from the world, and empower you to achieve more. The flip side of that is that a bad relationship will limit you; it will whittle you down to a sliver of yourself. Given who you are, you will know when things are right and when you have a good thing going. Its hard, sometimes though, to understand when things are bad; when it is time to move on. Here is some advice on when / why to move on:

Remember that relationships don't define you. They don't determine who you are. They describe where we are in life, and demonstrate what we value. Its ok for this to change over time, and when it changes its ok to recognize, accept it, and move on. If you find that your relationships define you, then maybe you have forgotten who you are. Don't let that happen.

This is going to sound like a cliche, but sex is not love. Great sex should be celebrated, but it cannot be the basis for a relationship. If you have not experienced this yet, you will soon and will know exactly what I mean (this is one of those things that you will know when you know). Ride it out for however long you can, but be real about what you have. Remember: a kiss is not a contract.

If you find yourself "hoping" your relationship will change, leave. Hope on its own has never changed anything; it certainly cannot change people. If you think that "waiting" for someone to change or that they will "see the light" at some point is noble, think again. In relationships, chumps hope. Now, at some point in your life you may find someone that you feel is worth your "hope" because when things are good, they are better than anything you have lived through or experienced. As a father, I want you to know that this will be your cross to bear, and it will be your choice alone to value this person more than yourself.

Does she say she loves you, but act differently (like she resents you, for example)? What people say and what they do can sometimes be very different. If they are, look out. You want to be with someone that lives congruently; whose actions are aligned with their emotions, thoughts, and goals. If she loves you but likes to put you down, walk away. Does she need to be right or have the last word? Does she feel the need to elevate herself above you (for whatever reason)? Does she put you down when she feels bad? If so, she has contempt for you at some level. Walk away.

Its smart to walk away from a bad thing, and trust your instincts when they tell you something is bad for you. Your instincts are right more often than we give them credit for; respect and hone them. Walking away takes courage and conviction; it takes strength and will. Believe in yourself and trust your instincts.

Nothing is more important than loving, respecting, and nurturing yourself. If you don't love yourself, no one will love you back. If you do not respect yourself, people will not respect you. If you do not nurture yourself, you will not learn, grow, or evolve. I feel that these three things are keys to living; I didn't learn this until my 30's. Hopefully you have learned it already.

Kid, you have always been the greatest gift my life has experienced. I am honored to be your father, and hope your understand the things I am talking about in this letter. I will always be here for you.

With Love and Respect,


Evolution Example: Where Is Your Wedding Ring These Days?

To this day I think the proudest moment of my life was expressing my wedding vows. I remember the pride and power I felt; almost like a mountain. On that day, I knew my purpose, my reason for breathing, and had this cool confidence that grounded me. Everything seemed to move a bit slower; and while things around me were a little crazy, I never felt consumed or impacted by it. For me, saying my vows culminated the day and made the marriage real for me. Take the ceremony away, forget the reception, and erase the honeymoon. What made the event concretely real for me were the two minutes we used to exchange the vows we wrote for each other. In all my life, I do not think that I have said anything else with so much passion and honesty; and when we were done, it was my wedding ring that for years would server as a reminder of the person I was that day. Of the person I had pledged to be.

Well, my how things change over the years.

So I do not wear my wedding ring any more. To be honest, I do not even know where it is. I stopped wearing it minutes after I told my wife I wanted a divorce and sincerely meant it. Now, one thing about my wedding ring is that it honestly was among my most prized possessions. I took it off maybe five times in all of the years we were together. What it symbolized for me was tangible as well. The ring had an interesting design; there was an inner band to my wedding band that allowed me to "twirl" it with my thumb. I would do this when I was nervous, thinking hard, looking for inspiration, or grounding. When I spun the ring, I could faintly smell the perfume my wife wore on our wedding day (it was powdery, with a touch of flowers). The ring was not expensive, but it represented the resolve and commitment I had regarding out marriage. Thus, it was only fitting that I remove it when my marriage had finally failed.

Hindsight being what it is, I removed my ring originally out of anger and spite. I took it off, and left it on my entertainment center for days. I wanted my wife to see it; I wanted her to understand that I was at the end of our relationship; that she had made a mistake treating me the way that she did. I wanted her to feel hurt when she saw my ring on our shelf, and eventually in my sock drawer. When I moved all my things out of the house, I left my ring on the kitchen table. I refused to take it with me. I wanted her to see that I had abandoned it; that I had abandoned the idea of our marriage. I now realize how wrong and petty I was with that. Divorce is such an ugly, painful process. We end up hurting or trying to hurt each other because of the pain we feel and cause.

So if you are curious when it is appropriate to remove your wedding ring, remember that this decision should not be trite or trivial. The ring represents something you vowed to own, an ideal that you chose to live up to. Removing the ring is a broken promise. It is a resounding "no", and (chances are) something that will at least initially hurt your spouse. It is a rejection. But rather than look at this act as the end of your relationship, chose to view it as the continuation or evolution of your life. Removing your ring is the start of something new; the announcement that in the face of no evidence you are will to change your life. Be empowered by this experience, and do not look upon it with guilt. Think about the following:

  • Your wedding ring is not an obligation; it is a pledge or oath of commitment. If you feel that, for whatever reason, you cannot live up to the ideals that embody your ring and marriage, then remove it. Don't live a lie; it will hurt you more than you will understand in the moment.
  • If you no longer honor or respect your spouse, remove it. You cannot have a relationship without these emotions and values; pretending that you can only perpetuates the painful.
  • If you look at your ring resentfully, remove it. Remember that the ring can be a symbol. Remember that your ring represents your relationship and spouse. If you look at your ring and feel overwhelming resentment then consider taking it off.
  • If the negative aspects of your marriage have begun to define how you feel about yourself, remove it. Over time, we sometimes define ourselves not by who we are, but rather by the circumstances around us. We convince ourselves that we are good people when things go well, and bad people when they do not. This is not reality; its conformity.
For me, my ring originally represented the ideals behind which I chose to marry. It was an iconographic representation of how I wanted to measure my relationship. Over time, though, that ideal changed to one of commitment, then responsibility, then obligation, and eventually debt. In a marriage, you should not feel obligated to your spouse. In life, we have “get to” opportunities; things that we do not have to do, but rather choose to do. Marriage, in my view, is not a “have to”; it’s a “get to”. Obligations indicate a lack of choice; well, marriage is a choice; commitment is a choice. When marriage becomes a “have to” is a sign that problems exist.Now, in divorce, we experience a n array of negative emotions typically associated with loss; anger, frustration, resentment to name a few. When we feel these emotions, we tend to react. Do not let your wedding ring removal be a reaction to something your spouse has done. Let it be a decision or choice that you have made which defines the direction you have chosen in life. Removing your ring should not be the end of your marriage; it should represent the beginning of your new life.

When I removed my ring, I was sad; but I knew it was right. When I look back on the experience and get through the anger I had, the hurt I felt, and the resentment that filled me, part of me immediately acknowledged that it was time. It was right. It was the first step in my evolution. Did I miss it? Yes, of course. Even today, I still find myself looking at my ring finger and seeing if there is a faint tan line / outline left (there isn't). But now, I recognize and understand that I missed the idea behind my relationship; not my spouse or the relationship we had. When I missed the ring, I missed the connected moments we had as equals and vulnerable, giving partners. Well, life moves on. You have to be willing to move with it, or it will leave you behind.

Monday, July 23, 2007

What Makes a Marriage Successful? Not Contempt.

I recently began reading Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. In the book, Malcolm discusses the different ways that our mind and subconscious process information to come to snap decisions that do not require huge investments of time to achieve. Under these circumstances, time is not a factor or bottleneck in achieving an accurate decision / result; if anything, it is a benefit. Examples of this include intuition, or "gut" feelings about something in the face of what appears to be little or no empirical evidence. The process by which this occurs is called "thin slicing", and in the book Malcolm shows an example of how thin slicing is used to analyze whether marriages will be successful. The relationship study, performed by Dr. John Gottman, demonstrated that contempt, above all other emotions of relationship behaviors, was the leading cause of failed relationships among study subjects. If Dr. Gottman witnessed signs of contempt by either or both partners, he considered this the single most important sign that the relationship was in trouble.

As I continue to experience my divorce, I reflect on what made my marriage successful at times and I come back to the same things over and over. No judgment; no contempt. Contempt breeds resentment, and misplaced contempt breeds guilt. Judgments are righteous, and when we judge we look to conform someone to our point of view. Instead of judging, learn forgiveness. Instead of contempt, practice acceptance. My point, here, is that you must learn to maintain yourselves as equals. Regardless of what trials you experience, what success you share, never allow yourselves to put one of you above the other.

If one partner is valued more than the other in the relationship, then these negative relationship-eroding emotions will surface. Learn to accept each other; and remember to express compassion to one another during difficult times. Remember that compassion is not pity; compassion is the act of relieving a person's suffering. Sometimes we suffer because of the people around us, or even bring it upon ourselves. Try to notice this; pick up on it; point it out. Suffering takes many forms, and to deal with this in an unselfish way we must expression compassion to our partners. One of the greatest things we can do in a relationship is accept our partners at their weakest, act compassionate when our partners choose to express their suffering through anger, and forgive when they make mistakes.

Understand that by this am I in no way saying that this is all you need to have a successful marriage. Other emotions and relationship responsibilities are necessary including trust, love, respect, and consideration to name a few. Hindsight being what it is, though, the role of contempt in failed relationships makes complete sense to me. When I look at the relationships in my life whether they be related to work, friends, or partners, the ones that failed did so because either I or the other person expressed contempt towards each other in some way. Contempt is a viscous way of expressing resignation to another person in that it can be hidden or justified rather easily. It is ego driven since when we choose to express it, we are in effect stating "You are not as important as I am." Well, it is tough to maintain a relationship towing that line, isn't it?

Note: This question was originally answered in Yahoo! Answers. You can view the original question and answers in the Marriage and Divorce community.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Check It Out: Yahoo! Answers (Marriage & Divorce)

Ok, so I'll admit it. I am a big fan of Yahoo Answers; specifically their Marriage & Divorce section. The questions are real, and the perspectives from men and women are raw, truthful, honest, and even funny. Like anything else, you should pick and choose what works for you, and not "trust everything you read."

Yahoo answers allows users to post questions in a semi-anonymous manner which can promote uninhibited contributions from the user base. Questions cover a broad range of subjects: anything from "what will save my marriage", to "is he cheating on me", to "what are the keys to a successful marriage or divorce". Answers follow the same trend; some are witty, some are brutally honest, and others can simply waste your time. In the midst of this communication, some questions and answers remind us that these people experience the same struggles we do. They are insecure about the same things, fear the same consequences, and hope for the same dreams and outcomes in their relationships.

So if you are looking to learn how to talk about your divorce or seek help but are unwilling or unable to speak with someone, visit Yahoo Answers. Read the questions, and check out the best answers. Be a consumer about the advice you pull (remember, not everything you'll read is going to be good), and look for value that is applicable to your situation. Post a question, and if you do not want to use your current Yahoo Id register and create a new one. Anonymity can be empowering, after all.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Law of Evolution #6: Find and Embrace Your Best Self

Evolutionary Law #6: Find and Embrace Your Best Self. I will collect, understand, and embrace the best qualities of myself with the understanding that at my best self, I maximize my power, presence, and effectiveness in the world.

So what is your best self? Does that mean being generous? Giving? Loving? Compassionate? Selfish? While each of these qualities may be noble, your best self involves all of them but is borne from none. To evolve, you need to nurture your ability to grow. And the best growth you will experience in life is borne from confidence. That’s right. Confidence. The confidence to not care; to believe in your passion; to recognize value and trust the instincts that measure it. To often, we think of our best selves in terms of things we do (ex. giving, generous, loving, selfless). Instead, we should think in terms of who we are; and we are at our best when we are confident.

Confidence can mean different things to people and can show itself in different ways and under different circumstances. A Navy Seal, for example, can be extremely confident about jumping out of an airplane with a parachute and pack. The same individual, though, may demonstrate a complete lack of confidence in a social situation. “I can jump out of an airplane, but can’t talk to a pretty girl without breaking out in a sweat.” It may sound funny, but it happens more than you think. Often, confidence is localized to what makes us comfortable: certain clothes, places, people, and surroundings. From that confidence, we demonstrate glimmers of our best self to the people around us. The key to embracing our best self is to understand how to leverage this at will, instead of having it predicated on our surroundings.

So how does one create this confidence, and how does that create an environment where we can nurture our best qualities? This can be done by understanding and practicing the following:
  • Subjugate your need for approval. Understand that nothing good in life will come from needing or wanting the approval of others. Approval always carries a negative costs, and ultimately limits what you can accomplish.

  • Control and manage your need for immediate gratification. Immediate gratification is a derailment mechanism that we use internally to seek comfort or short-term payoffs. Examples include putting off events, cheating on diets, smoking, etc. Immediate gratification is a metaphor for seeking approval from ourselves, and carries the same negative cost.

  • Be rigorous with your communication. Learn to ask for what you want, be clear with what you say so that others understand you, and make no assumptions of people. When in doubt, ask. When clarity is necessary, tell. And remember that communication is not just limited to what we say; it includes how we act and look.

  • Live congruently. Living congruently means ensuring that your actions are aligned with your goals. If you want to lose weight, for example, you should exercise and diet. If you are not, though, and still believe you want to lose weight you are not being congruent. Congruence is a powerful way to validate that our commitment and passion for a goal exists.
First and foremost, we must subjugate our need for approval. Nothing good in life will ever come from feeding approval (think back to your marriage; did anything good come from seeking the approval of your spouse?). To put it another way, feeding approval always has a negative cost associated to it. It may be hidden, buried, or even outweighed by the gains made, but it exists and takes physical, mental, and emotional toll on each of us. Approval as a basis for living is dangerous because it places the responsibility for defining ourselves and experience on outside forces. Instead of owning, for example, that we are good people we sometimes place the responsibility on someone to tell us that we are good people. In these circumstances, our perception and value is molded not by who we are, but by what others tell us they think we are. In other words, when we pursue approval we give our power away and limit our possibilities to what the "approver" believes or understands. Ridding yourself of the need for approval will open up new opportunities for you that did not exist before.

Another concept that mirrors approval is the need for immediate gratification. Immediate gratification scenarios occur when we want something right away without considering the consequences or cost. If we are on a diet, for example, and feel the need to break away from the diet for a moment by eating a Twinkie. In this scenario, our need to eat what clearly is not good for us outweighed our desire to respect the diet and, ultimately, follow through on our goal of losing weight. Immediate gratification is an inward form of seeking approval entrenched in physical response of feeling good. That is the payoff; that is why we indulge in this - because it feels good to have a Twinkie when we crave it or smoke a cigarette when we are stressed out. They payoffs, however, are short lived and their cost is ultimately more expensive than we realize. What happens with immediate gratification is that the long term cost is hidden from us because we only focus on the short-term cost and gain. For a smoker trying to quit, one cigarette here or there (as opposed to a pack a day) seems rational, even reasonable. The short term cost is low, and the payoff is high. The smoker, however, may never quit following this pattern of behavior. When feeling good at all costs is as or more important than our desired goals, then we are seeking approval from ourselves, almost asking "it's ok to not follow through on our goals, right? I can do that, right? It doesn't make me a bad person, does it?" Remember, nothing good ever comes out of seeking approval; especially when its faced inward.

One of the key acts that we can participate in to deal with immediate gratification is communicating rigorously. Just as we have a need to be rigorous with our communication externally (to the people around us), we have a responsibility to be rigorous with our internal communication (the conversations we have in our heads). To illustrate this, think about the smoker wanting to have just one cigarette, and caving into their need for immediate gratification:

You: "Man, I could really use a smoke right now."
Ego: "Well, you know, you said you were trying to quit."
You: "I know, but I'm just very stressed out. I just got off the phone with my wife, and she's completely pushing my buttons. I just don't understand why she needs to act that way."
Ego: "You know, it's only one cigarette. What can it hurt, right? I mean, you can always start quitting tomorrow."
You: "You're right. That's what I'll do."

Now something to point out here is that you control both sides of this conversation. Your "ego" does not have a mind or will of its own; instead it has your mind and will. Now, if your ego were to be rigorous with how it communicates, the conversation may have a different result:

You: "Man, I could really use a smoke right now."
Ego: "I want to remind you that you are trying to quit."
You: "I know, but I'm just very stressed out. I just got off the phone with my wife, and she's completely pushing my buttons. I just don't understand why she needs to act that way."
Ego: "You know, I complete understand how you feel. But you are trying to quit, and it is my responsibility to let you know that this will not lead to your quitting. You will keep smoking, and inherit the physical risks that smokers experience."
You: "Well, I really just want something to help me get past how I feel right now."

Ego: "I agree; try and find something to satisfy this need other than smoking. Chew gum. Listen to music for 3 minutes. Drink water. If you are going to do something, just make sure it is congruent with your goal of quitting smoking."
You: "You're right. I'll drink water. That's what I'll do."

In the above conversation, the ego was consistent and rigorous about maintaining clarity regarding the smoker's goals. Granted, this takes discipline to be effective. But communicating rigorously will help you accomplish your goals and maintain focus for those things that are truly important to you. It will also reinforce the importance of these goals on a moment-to-moment basis. Remember, it takes
21-30 days to form a new habit. If you can think like this for that amount of time, what else could you accomplish with your life?

Now, if we can be rigorous internally, we can do the same externally with the people around us. We can learn to truly ask for what we want of others, and tell others when they do not meet our expectations (without fear, judgment, or prejudice). Remember that rigorousness is best expressed as a commitment to one's goals, passion, and through a definition of one's self. This means that we not only get to be rigorous about what we say and how we say it, but we get to be rigorous about our physical appearance, standing, and place in the world. We get to question ourselves as to our goals regarding every aspect of our life, and then we get to follow through with them. This is an exciting way to live. When we do this, we have begun to establish congruence which in turn creates confidence. From this confidence, our true and best self is born.

Think to your past. Everyone has certain times in their life when almost magically, everything that needed to happen in order for you to achieve a goal happened. For that moment or series of moments, your focus, attention, and presence separated you from the people around you. You seemed almost better, committed, or more prepared than those around you. For some, it was almost as if everyone around you moved a tad bit slower. For others, when you spoke the people around you never questioned your word. In each of these moments, we surrendered our nature to our best selves by living congruently. In these moments, nothing mattered other than to accomplish our goals. We did not seek approval. Immediate gratification had no place in our life. So live congruently, and be rigorous with your communication. Set your goals and live up to them. Soon enough, you will find your best self. How will you know? You will be defining your reality, instead of having it defined for you.

Evolution Example: What I Learned the Past 30 Days

Well, I'm been away from the blog for a while (my last post was over a month ago). During this time, I found myself straying from my "Laws of Evolution". It was funny since I have invested quite a bit in researching and articulating these laws. I believe in them implicitly. They work, provided that you can maintain the discipline and commitment necessary to follow through on them.

And there, in a nutshell, was my problem the last month. Too little discipline. Not enough commitment. Too much immediate gratification. Too much reaction. Not enough planning. Too much "need" for approval. Not enough forgiveness. Too much judgment.

So a few days ago, I received a comment to Law #5: Be Impeccable With Your Appearance. In the comment, dreamer asked if I follow my own advice? Well, to be honest. Yes, I really do. But unfortunately, not always. The considerations of life inevitably have a way to interrupt what you want and sometimes when this happens, commitment and discipline is not enough. Sometimes, you have to stick your finger in the dam and wait. Other times, you choose to ignore what has worked for you. You get in ruts, so to speak; like the one I was in this past month.

I was recently served divorce papers from my wife (her attorney sent them to my attorney), and while I was relieved that we had reached another milestone, the act of reading the papers and seeing this brought up emotions in me that I had not felt in a while. Remorse. Regret. Anger. Resentment. Guilt. Each of these emotions added up to a healthy dose of self-pity that had me doubting myself, my worth, and power. This was evident to me more and more in my day-to-day activities as well. I stopped going to the gym regularly; my workouts were inconsistent. My motivation was waning towards work and personal events. I began to respect my diet less, and would not practice discipline when eating (I work to and believe in eating healthy). I would procrastinate; satisfying my need for immediate gratification first. I started smoking again (after not smoking since March / 2007).

Then, one day, a great thing happened. I woke up, and just felt tired of being sub-par. While I was in a rut, I was at least disciplined enough to recognize it for what it was: something I did have control over. I could change this; I just needed to maintain my discipline, focus, and commitment. Rather than beat myself up over this or judge myself harshly, I recognized this time in my life for what it was. A hiccup: nothing more, nothing less. There was nothing to feel guilty about; nothing to beat-myself-up over. We're fallible, after all; this cannot be ignored.

I've started working out regularly again. I'm prioritizing the things in my life. I'm back to blogging (which I love and missed), and I am working to eliminate the need for immediate gratification in my life. I've quit smoking yet again. Every day, I try and build a little more positive momentum and energy than I had the previous one. Does it work all the time? Of course not. But the more I practice it, the more it does work. The laws do have value. Like with anything, it just takes a few key things to make them pay off for you. So when you find yourself in a rut and cannot seem to over come it, remember:

  • Clearly define your expectations. Expectations count; they matter. When you live up to them you feel great; when you don't events can be perceived as a failure. If you want to change your life and break out of a rut, start by doing little things differently. Little things are much more manageable than large events, and the momentum you build with each individual success story will improve your confidence and ability to do more.

  • Plan out your accomplishments. Remember, measurement is empowering and is the best way to identify if you are doing what is important to you. That being said, plan out a list of daily / weekly accomplishments you would like to execute on, and track what gets done. You cannot complete what you do not know or plan.

  • Be congruent. Congruence means that your actions are aligned with your goals (ex. if you want to stop smoking, you'll stop buying cigarettes; if you want to lose weight, you'll eat better and exercise). Every day, you should check for congruence in your life. If you have it, then you are on your way to accomplishing your goals. If not, then you should reconsider their priority.

  • Reserve judgment. While it is important to measure your progress and be critical of it, do not make the mistake of blaming yourself or holding yourself in low esteem because of a lack of personal progress. Nothing good comes of this. Absolutely nothing. Instead of passing judgment on yourself, take a moment to learn from your life events and apply that knowledge to further yourself.
Now I know this is much easier to talk about than it is to practice every day. Sometimes, all we can do is react. It is important to recognize, however, that we do have choices. We all have options; and how we perform in life (both personally and professionally) is tied to directly to the choices we make. Our relationships, our careers, and our growth is tied to this. So, do not take this for granted. Remember: not doing anything is a choice, and one that rarely gets us what we want.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Law of Evolution #5: Be Impeccable With Your Appearance

Evolutionary Law #5: Be Impeccable with Your Appearance. I will master my appearance and groom/clothe with impeccable regularity as I understand that a neat, stylish appearance will have a positive impact on how I view myself and others view me.
So far, most of what I have written about deals primarily with abstract concepts that you can apply to your life. "Accepting Responsibility", "Measurement is Empowering", and "Stop Complaining" all contain instructions on things to do to change you life during your divorce, but focus more on inner changes rather than external ones. These types of changes can be challenging to perform on a daily basis. Well, here is a law that is fun to practice and should catapult you to achieve with the other Twenty-Five Laws of Evolution.

When we feel poorly about anything it usually first shows up in our appearance. Think about when we get sick, or look at how people dress at wakes and funerals or other mournful occasions. We care less about the details involved with your appearance as some sort of trade-off for feeling bad or depressed. It is a way for us to announce that something is wrong and to create space between us and the rest of the world as if to say "I choose to be alone right now". Before too long, our posture changes; we slump over and do not own our space. We choose not to make eye contact with people, partly out of how we feel as well as because we know our appearance is flawed. We choose to not project our voice, so as not to garner attention to ourselves. This behavior is completely natural, but if not monitored it can quickly spiral into the first stages of establishing a negative self-image.

As people, we never forget what it feels like to "feel and look good" just as we always remember how it is to "feel bad". Think through your history to moments where you looked your best. Sure, you looked in a mirror and got feedback from your family and friends that said you looked great. Intuitively, however, you knew it. We recognize it, because when this happens it causes a shift in ourselves that breathes confidence and conviction into our bodies and personalities. When we look good, we stand taller; straighter. We make eye contact with others. We are more vocal with our voices; they project more, and we own the space beneath our feet. Everyone has moments like this in their life; whether their appearance was a catalyst for everything in their body and personality coming together as their "best self."

During a divorce, we go through a grieving process to acknowledge the end of our relationship. Marriages and family relationships are living, breathing things. When one ends, it very much mirrors the death of something, and our body and personality react to it as such. Sure, we may be angry, sad, or bitter; there may be a whole slew of other emotions that we conflict ourselves with during this process. But we grieve since the divorce signifies the end of something that we once loved, lived and suffered through, or wish that we could change. The relationship has finally come to an end. The reasons really do not matter; what matters is the recognition that the grief is real, and that this can lead to neglecting our appearance and well being.

In order to break this cycle and continue evolving through your divorce, consider looking at this differently. Your divorce experience should be severed from physical appearance; there should be no connection between the two. Instead, your divorce should be viewed as an opportunity to leave your past behind you and re-invent and discover your "best self". That being said, be empowered by this and make time to establish your own personal sense of style. Now, by doing this I am not suggesting that you spend money on expensive clothes, cologne, or treatments. This is not about being concerned with how people perceive the value of your appearance. If you have money, the easy thing to do is spend it on expense clothes and accessories that people will be impressed with. Rather, this is about you demonstrating to yourself that you value your appearance and establish a sense of style and worth that permeates your being. This is something that money cannot buy. That being said, here are some things you can do to transform your appearance.
  1. First things first: Grooming is key; get haircuts regularly. Now, if you like shaggy, then be shaggy. Make sure that your haircut makes you feel good, and that people react to it the way you want. If you find yourself saying things like "I hate my hair", "I don't know what to do with it", "I should just cut it all off", or you wear hats frequently to hide your hair then find a stylist or salon and work with them to create your new look (you can find one on Google).

    On another note, if you are bald or balding do not hide it. Embrace it, and either ignore or deal with it by finding a look that makes you feel good. Hiding your balding reveals and insecurity that people around you will pick up on. Everyone loses hair, dude.

  2. Teeth and nails should always be clean. Whether you realize it or not, the entire world (and especially women) look at your teeth and nails and establish judgments about you based on how clean and well kept they appear to be. Do you bite your nails? Are your nails dirty? How about your teeth? Do you smoke? Are they yellow? Do your gums look healthy? Are your toe nails often confused with talons or claws? More often than not, every woman you meet asks herself these questions about you. Demonstrating that you take care of your nails and teeth shows that you are detail oriented. This will set you apart from other men.

    If you bite your nails, stop. There are a number of treatments that can be used to curb this habit (and coming from a habitual nail biter of 33 years, I can attest that they work). Try this: get a manicure and have your nails buffed. For me, getting a manicure and seeing how good my nails looked after was incentive enough to continue the practice. Yes, this may be a bit metro-sexual. How may compliments, though, have you received about your nails recently?

    On the topic of teeth, brush and floss regularly. There are a number of teeth-whitening kits you can buy that work reasonably well and are inexpensive to purchase and implement. Try one if you are unhappy with the color of your teeth. For me, I took a picture of my teeth every three days over three weeks and was able to notice a difference in their color. It takes time and patience, but it does work.

  3. Take pride in being clean. Too often, we rush through things. We take quick showers, forget to wash our hands, are sloppy eaters. Each of these things demonstrate that we take hygiene less seriously than the world around us. Instead of living thinking "I want to be clean enough for me", think "I want to be cleaner than the people around me". Use deodorant regularly, wash your hands often, and eat slowly. In the shower, take time to clean yourself thoroughly. How much? Take enough so that you can feel pride in your cleanliness. Face facts; we know when we are not clean and when we go out in public, those around us can feel it as well.

  4. Bad breath is worse than bad clothes and is rarely forgotten. Ever meet someone with bad breath? Now, think about the moment when you met this someone. Can you remember what they were wearing? Probably not. My point is that having bad breath will label you, and this label is difficult to shake (unless, of course, you can change your breath). You should regularly use a mouthwash, alternating between something that kills bacteria and freshens your breath. Listerine is a great bacteria killer, but can also cause gum recession if overused due to the amount of alcohol in it. Oral B is also good, and alcohol free to boot. Whatever you decide to do, remember this: people will always remember bad breath.

  5. Smell good; people (and especially women) will notice. Another metro-sexualish item to take on is finding a fragrance or cologne that you like the smell of, and wearing it every day. Now, you don't need to shower in it or spray it all over your body. Rather, be subtle with it. Spray some in your clean hands, and place the cologne on your neck, cheeks, and behind your ears (put it in places that when you get close to people's faces, they will smell it). A good cologne that you makes you feel good every day is better than an expensive piece of clothing you only wear once in a while. That being said, do not be afraid to spend a little money on a quality fragrance (fellas, Irish Spring doesn't count).

  6. "Good clothes" does not mean "Expensive clothes"; shop around and shop smart. I meet a lot of men that think that expensive clothes equate to style. I suppose to a certain degree it does, but then I ask them "how do these clothes make you feel?" Very often, the answers I get back are mixed. When I look for good clothes, I focus more on how I look and feel wearing the clothes. The clothes don't have to be expensive; if anything, I find myself moving away from expensive clothes because there are better values available. You just need to know where to look. Clothes should reflect an aspect of your personality that you consider a strength. Brand labels are great; especially at the right price (thank you eBay!). But don't get seduced into thinking that expensive clothes equal style. They don't; if anything, they can be a crutch.

    When you're buying clothes, keep things simple. Buy pieces that go with the majority of things in your wardrobe. Stay away from expensive, "cool" pieces that you can't wear very often. Remember that expense does not necessarily mean quality, and that quality should be measured by more than the price tag. Quality now means fabric strength and color, frequency of use, flexibility (what can you wear this with), and the statement it makes on you; in addition to price. A shirt here. Jeans there. Pants. Jacket. Before long, your wardrobe will start coming together. As you add items, make sure to
    clean out your wardrobe and give to Goodwill or the Salvation Army clothing that you no longer wear but are in good quality (pay it forward).

  7. Learn and love to iron and do laundry. How often do you not wear something because its dirty, or has to go to the cleaners, or because its clean but wrinkled? You know, these are just not acceptable justifications for a lack of style today. It took me years, but I finally learned to do laundry and not shrink, dye, or destroy what I was washing. I also have ironed with starch for years (creases in shirts reflect on you the same way that manicured nails do). Not only will this save you money, but it will increase the flexibility and frequency of your wardrobe. Take pride in this, because as tiny of a detail it may seem it will make a difference for you.

  8. Shoes matter; get a nice pair and learn to polish. Have you ever seen someone dressed very well, but their shoes did not quite match their outfit, or the quality of their shoes seemed mismatched with everything else that was worn? Or how about this; someone walks in with a great look, but the first thing you noticed were his dirty shoes? Very simply, don't be that guy. Shoes matter for a lot, and frankly women look at shoes the same way they look at nails and teeth.

    Buy shoes that speak of quality but will also be easy to take care of. If you need to spend some money, go ahead but make sure that you can wear the shoes across your wardrobe (a cool pair of shoes that only goes with a special pair of pants and jacket will spend more time in your closet than on your feet). On that note, learn how to polish shoes using a brush, shoe polish, and a buff cloth. Again, people will notice; you just need to put in the effort.

  9. Honor your health: eat well and exercise. When you think about the things you can do to improve how you feel and look, eating healthy and exercising regularly count for more than anything else discussed here. I have dedicated one of the Twenty-Five Laws of Evolution to this topic because during my divorce, this single most important decision I made was to join a gym and eat better. This, for me, was the catalyst that began my own evolution. The simple fact is what we eat has a huge impact on how we feel and look. If you eat junk food, try to stop. If you drink soda all day, start trying to drink water. Cook food, instead of buying processed food and reheating it. As much as you can change your appearance, changing your diet and exercise habits will have a greater impact on how you feel than anything else you can do.

  10. Understand and practice that impeccable means always. Listen, you don't have to practice these things every day. If you do, however, you'll feel better about yourself. You'll take more pride in your appearance. People around you will notice more. Research has shown that it takes thirty days, roughly, to change a habit in people. If you are looking to change your image, be rigorous and disciplined about practicing these items every day. Groom well. Keep your nails. Brush your teeth. Manage your breath. Smell good. Dress well. Eat healthy. Exercise, if only to take a walk and show the world what its like to feel good. The more you do this, the more it will become part of your everyday routine. There is value in this. Think about it; don't you want your wife to see you feeling good about yourself?
Remember that a clean, healthy, well kept, and vibrant appearance will reap dividends internally, personally, professionally, and socially. Everyone, whether they say it or not, will notice. You will see it in how people look at you and carry themselves around you. Taking pride in your image will nurture your confidence and self-worth as well. Sometimes, in order to change, we need to change on the outside before we can change internally. Its certainly a cliche, but rings true at different moments in our life. Embrace this opportunity to change, and honor yourself by stating that your image matters. It may take time, but you will thank yourself for it.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Law of Evolution #4: Stop Complaining

Evolutionary Law #4: Stop Complaining. I will refrain from complaining about my situation or station in life, as I recognize that complaints do not empower me to be my "best self". I will not judge myself when I do complain, and will increase my self-awareness to recognize the behavior and pre-empt it.
Complaints can be so seductive; they are easy to make, people will always listen to them, and they can even feel good, right? Therapeutic. Validating. Sometimes, we get good advice on how to resolve complaint issues. Sometimes, all we want is sympathy, or empathy. Yes, complaints can create comfort, and they can almost be addicting when we experience major life trauma. The payoffs we get from complaints, however, are a ruse. Completely fake. Fool's gold. The equivalent of emotional cigarettes. They eat at our self-esteem without us even realizing this is occurring. They reduce our power, and perpetuate negative momentum in our lives. They invite you to subscribe to a vision that certain life events are bigger than you or out of your control. In the moment, complaints may create comfort or even seem appropriate. But this feeling is deceptively inaccurate. Complaints are like sugar; they may taste good in the moment, but they erode your self image without you noticing until its too late.

During a divorce, both partners often experience feelings of loss, unfairness, and victimization. Cheating. Lies and deception. Spousal manipulation. Differences of opinion. Loss of time with children. Each of these items seem complaint worthy. As people, after all, we want validation from the world and our peers that the circumstances in our life can be are unfair. Being lied to, after all, is unfair, right?. Not being able to spend time with your children is unfair, right? Being cheated on definitely has to be unfair, right? No one deserves these experiences; no one asks for them. After all, we do not do things to create these experiences in our life; do we? How could this be fair? So what do we do? We complain, because we want validation that these events are unfair and unjust. We want corroboration that we are not responsible for this outcome. We want certainty and empathy that this, quite simply, was not our fault.

Complaints, you see, are framed as acknowledgments that we do not want to take responsibility for our present reality. When we share them with others, they become questions where we, essentially, are asking people to agree with us that "it's not our fault". They become victimization referendums. For every complaint you make, the people around you hear "Am I a victim?" and when they respond affirmatively, they say "Yes you are." How can this be good for our self image? Think about it: what value could really come from us admitting to ourselves that our life events are larger than we can handle? That we are victims? Do you really want to be a "victim" in your divorce? This is why, in order to seek empowerment through divorce, complaints must be minimized, if not eliminated all together.

Now, this can be challenging, if not difficult. It is not, however, impossible. There are four keys to eliminating complaints and managing their frequency:
  • Recognize that complaints rob you of your power. Before you can make a choice to change this behavior, it is important to understand why complaints can be debilitating. Complaints do not empower; instead, they promote victimization and anti-responsibility and in doing so, remove you from the choice equation. If you are not responsible, after all, for a given outcome how can you prevent this from occurring in the future?
  • Increase your self-awareness to recognize your complaint triggers. Very often, certain feelings or scenarios trigger complaints. Maybe someone is often sympathetic towards you and this compels you to complain. Maybe you had a bad day, and someone asked you how your day went. Maybe an event reminded you of a painful experience (like divorce). Whatever they are, recognize these triggers and begin breaking the pattern or habit by choosing not to complain.
  • Confront complaints with responsibility. Learn how to rephrase complaints with the language of responsibility and ownership. Now this in and of itself can be challenging. Its a necessary part of personal evolution, however. As an example, if you are struggling with why your partner cheated on you, think about what your role in this was? Maybe you simply chose the wrong person to marry. Maybe, you both grew apart over time. For every scenario and situation, though, work to identify your role in the unfair outcome. We can learn from the things we chose to take responsibility for. We can only avoid, however, what victimizes us and hope it does not occur again.
  • Eliminate judgment, and recognize this is an ongoing process. Evolution rarely occurs in one quick, efficient, and painless step. Rather, it almost always occurs over time and with a cost. Eliminating the need to complain is very similar. A key to success with this task is to eliminate judgment from the process. When you find yourself complaining, simply recognize it and stop. Do not judge yourself, or beat yourself up. Do not feel guilty about complaining. Instead, recognize that your awareness is growing and that you no longer feel the need or respond positively to complaints. Acknowledge your evolution, and embrace it.
Now in the law definition, I mention the concept of your "best" self. This idea behind this is that we, as human beings, are at our best when we "give"; when we are selfless. Well, if giving helps perpetuate our "best" self, then complaining does just the opposite. One thing to recognize is that when you complain, you "take" from others; you are selfish. Sometimes you take sympathy, other times you take attention, energy, or even power. Have you ever been in a group where the energy is high, everyone is feeling great, and then someone starts complaining? What happens to the energy of the group? Typically, it wains until the complainer stops or leaves. Well, don't be that person any more. Stop taking. Stop complaining, and see what happens with you and the people around you.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Check It Out: Divorce and Evolution Yahoo! Group

I want to announce the creation of the "Divorce and Evolution Yahoo! Group" web site. I have added a link to the site to the "On the Web" sidebar (displayed to the right). You can also access the Yahoo! group at

My hope is that the group becomes a place where people going through the divorce (both men and women) can post their stories, share their pictures, ask questions, and support each other in a compassionate but honest way without fear of judgment. Check it out and subscribe to the group.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Check It Out: Fear Of Flying? Oh Hell No!

So this, apparently, is how the "other side" copes with divorce. Doing some research yesterday, I ran into a blog titled "Fear of Flying? Oh Hell No!" In the words of the author:

Time for a BitchFest by Flying Solo
Why the fuck do some people think they need to feel sorry for me right now? I'm getting a divorce; it's not like anyone DIED! This is such a weird place I am in right now though. My friends are either hooked up in couples or are so far immersed into the single life that they aren't sure whether to start inviting me along or not and so I get shoved into the corner. I mean just because I am getting a divorce doesn't mean that I'm depressed or crazy or need to be left alone. I mean, this doesn't apply to all of my friends, but fuck, I feel like people just aren't understanding me right now. To some people, I mention the divorce and they clam up and don't want to talk about it (is she going to start crying, am I going to say something to offend - UM, NO!).

I'm still a fucking human being with needs, urges, moods (both happy and sad) and I just feel like so many people are afraid of me right now. I hate that life is so in limbo right now and that I don't have something stable to cling to. I just wish some people would realize that I'm still me - I'm just going through a shitty time and it would be nice to know that they are at least trying to understand me. I just want life to be normal again, but I know it won't be for a very long time to come.
And that, as they say is that. The blog documents Flying Solo's travels on the path of divorce where she writes about dating, men, sex, her relationship with her ex, life, and everything else that comes with it. Her posts are raw and passionate, and she is clearly about being empowered through this experience (which is hot). Men, check it out -- you may learn something about women that you do not know already.

Evolution Example: Plan A Divorce Party

Let me share with you a little bit about my divorce story.

Right before I moved out of my home and began our separation, I found out a number of disturbing things about my wife. I found out that she had tried to cheat on me at least once; that she had secretly been planning our divorce behind my back for months; and that she had hidden money from our joint savings account into her own personal account. On top of this, I found out that she had begun recording our conversations, and my interactions with my son (presumably, for the purpose of achieving leverage of some kind). I will be frank here; I was devastated. Depressed already by the fact that we were getting divorced, I felt betrayed and humiliated by what I was learning. She clearly did not respect me; if anything, she resented me as a husband. My contributions to our relationship were not appreciated or recognized. And at every turn, she began to paint herself the victim in this process - even though she had put events in motion months ago.

Here I was. Depressed. Angry. Upset. Empty. Drained. Devastated. Neglected. Loathing myself, and taking heaping mounds of self-pity on a daily basis to make things worse. Smoking one and a half packs of cigarettes a day. Crying for no reason. Sleeping barely. Hardly able to work and focus on anything more than "what did I do to deserve this and why is this happening to me I don't understand I must be worthless why do I still love her what is going to happen to me".

In speaking with my best friend, I had a moment of clarity and asked him for a favor.

"Dude, I need you to do something for me. I think this might help."
"Sure man, anything. You name it. Just name it. I hate seeing you like this." You could hear the anguish in his voice; he was sad to see me in so much pain, and clearly wanted to help.
"I want you to get our friends together and throw me a divorce party."
"A what?" He was puzzled, but curious in a "you've got to be kidding me" kind of way.
"Dude, just get our friends together at our favorite bar on Friday. Tell them it's a divorce party. The rest will take care of itself." I was very serious with these words, so he knew I was not joking. I wanted to see my friends, and have my friends see me as well.
"You got it. Hang in there, bud." His voice had changed at this point; he had a way to help that he understood. MBF and I had been through quite a bit at work, and I recognized that he decided to use his "let's get this done" voice.

The next week, MBF set up an eVite for my "Divorce Party". The day before the party, I went to Banana Republic and bought a new outfit. New boots, jeans, cool shirt, cologne, belt, socks. The works, basically. I wanted to look good, and take pride in my appearance (the last thing I wanted to do was show people how I had been feeling through my clothes). The whole experience of shopping for the outfit was interesting. I told the girls at the banana "Listen, I need an outfit. My friends are throwing a divorce party for me, and I want to look great." They chuckled, and were very helpful. Honestly, it was nice being open about this -- it was my first time discussing my divorce publicly outside of my circle of close friends and family.

The week leading up to the party, monitoring the guest list on eVite was like watching a stock climb; it was just one of the best things for me. Every day, a few more people we RSVP. Those that could make it were excited about it; those that could not always had encouraging words to share. First it was 5, then 10, then 15, 18, 24, 28. The day of the party, over 35 people showed up at our favorite bar. It made me cry, seeing how many people decided to come out and show their support. It also enlightened me, and showed me that divorce (like any other experience) can be empowering. This was not a "let's feel sorry for the divorced guy" party. Instead, it was a celebration of friendship, where my friends each took time to express their care and affection for me. They stood up for me; they told me that things would be ok; and offered their love, support, and guidance.

The party was perfect; exactly what I needed. I will never forget that evening, the people that came, and how happy everyone was to see each other. I hugged and kissed everyone goodbye, and said "thank you for coming." I think that was the first solid night of sleep I had in weeks.

So here is my advice to you. If you have not had one already, ask your friends to plan a divorce party for you. The divorce party is an opportunity to shed your negative feelings about the process, and embrace the positive aspects of your relationships with your friends. You can also be a little selfish, which is always a good thing during these times. Here are some things to remember:

  • Plan the party in advance so that you can pull together the largest group possible.
  • Use eVite or some other invitation site to manage RSVPs.
  • Ask your best friend or some friend that you trust to coordinate the party for you.
  • Buy a new outfit, get a haircut, and look your absolute best for the party.
  • Let people buy you drinks, but do not drink your sorrows away. If anything, drink to embrace your friendships and celebrate the time you are spending together.
At my party, I had three rules that I told everyone. These rules needed to be followed, and anyone that broke these rules had to drink a shot of Bacardi 151:
  • No feeling sorry for me. We are here to celebrate our relationships, not offer pity.
  • No calling my wife names or making fun of her. We are not here to berate her.
  • No talking about my relationship with my wife, the past, or what led up to the divorce. We are not here to dwell on the past, but rather celebrate the future.
Needless to say, I had a few 151's that night. After my second, however, it was enough of a deterrent to remember to follow these rules. All in all, the party was great - and it helped to get me back on track understanding what I needed to do to set my life straight. Try it; I hope it works for you.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Law of Evolution #3: Establish a Support System

Evolutionary Law #3: Establish a Support System. As I work to transform my life, I will ask my family and friends for their love, strength, and support. I will communicate the seriousness of this request and explain what specific acts of support I require.

Part of being responsible in life means that we must identify and meet important personal needs. As we travel through our divorce experience, everyone will agree that our needs change; in certain cases, rather drastically. Some people can handle these changes on their own. Some, however, cannot and require guidance or assistance. In either case, the earlier in a divorce that a support system of family, friends, and activities is established, the better the chances are that you can move on with your life.

When I first started meeting other people that were experiencing divorce, I would respond to their story the same way that people responded to mine. "How are you holding up?", "I'm so sorry", "It's a difficult process", "That's horrible", "Hang in there", "Be strong" were some of the things said. My comments would evoke sympathy and empathy, partly because that is what I wanted them to feel, but also partly because that is what I thought they wanted to hear as well. It's funny; when you tell someone that you're going through a divorce, what's the first thing they respond with? "I'm sorry", usually. This is typical of how divorce is viewed socially, and while the sympathy has its place, this can also perpetuate negative aspects of this experience. Empathy and sympathy can be, but are not always supportive and empowering Sometimes, we all need a kick in the pants. This led me to ask if I truly wanted to be supportive of someone getting divorced, what would that look like? If someone wanted empowering support to get through their divorce, what would they ask for?

Now, when I meet someone that is getting divorced the first question I ask them is "Do you have a support system?" This is usually met with an odd look, followed usually by "What do you mean?" Most men I speak to about this feel supported, but have a difficult time explaining how. Well, a support system is a network of friends, family, peers, and activities designed to help you transition your life from unhappily-married-husband to empowered-single-guy. The system should help keep you on the path of empowerment and responsibility. The initial experience of some men in divorce is often very reactive. Some men just "go with the flow", and try to live their lives while experiencing the interruptions that divorce brings. This adds to the angst, as the reactive nature of this interaction enhances the "loss of control" feelings that divorce drops on us.

To establish a support system, men must first understand what kind of support they require. This is the key aspect to this law. To ask the question "what type of support do I need", we must assess our current situation, and find out where our life will change the most as a result of the divorce decision. Ask yourself, for example, questions like these:
  • If you are moving out, do you need to find a new or temporary place to live?
  • What is your job situation? Can your work be flexible given your situation?
  • Do you have children? If you will be visiting them, do you need a place to spend time with them outside of their residence? Will you be taking primary custody of your children?
  • How are your finances organized? Do you have money for legal fees? Do you know what new expenses will be incurred as a result of the divorce? Can you afford it?
  • How large is your circle of friends? Do you have male and female friends that you can talk to, or spend time with? What friends do you trust?
  • Do you have an attorney? Do you have a therapist? Have you been to the doctor recently, or had a checkup in the last six months?
  • What are your plans for your marriage? Do you want to reconcile? Is your partner open to this? If so, do you have a counselor that you can both go to?
  • If you want to get divorced, do you have any plans for your new life? Are there any new goals you want to accomplish? If so, what are they; and what do you need to accomplish them?
It's important to think about and consider what you want and need before you ask friends and family for support. Think about your own experiences with people asking you for help. When someone is prepared, has a plan, and asks you for assistance, are you not you more inclined to help them? Well, this works the same way. Being prepared and asking for specific help shows that you are serious about moving on and changing your life. It speaks to the level of control that you are looking to exert. People find this empowering, and it is easier to enroll someone to help you from this standpoint compared to "Umm, my life is about to get real hard. Can you help me?" That being said, here are some things to consider when asking family and friends for help:
  • Before you ask, have a firm idea of what your family and friends can each best help you with and play to their strengths. This means, for example, do not ask your broke father for money. Do not ask your brother (whose wife just had a baby in a two bedroom apartment) if he has room to take you in. Do not ask your boss for more vacation/leave time if you have already taken your fill. My point here is that in each of these scenarios, failure was already pre-determined because the situations did not lend themselves to success or even negotiation. Your father cannot manufacture money he does not have. Your brother just had a baby; he does not need to take care of you as well. Your boss has already given you leave; asking for more may make you appear weak or selfish in his eyes (not a great perspective to be viewed at from your boss).
  • When you ask for something, be ok with a "no" before asking. Even though you are getting divorced, your problems do not outweigh the considerations of your friends and family. That being said, you may be rejected - especially from people you least expect. Before you ask for anything, be clear with yourself that your friends and family have the right to say "no", and that this does not reflect negatively on them. Do not pass judgment on them; just as you do not want to be judged for getting divorced. Remember that, regardless of what they say, these people have chosen to stand by you. Honor that.
  • Remember, people are watching how to react to your divorce; honor your commitments and responsibilities. To be honest, this is more common sense than anything else. If you borrow money, make sure you pay it back. If you move in with someone, be a good roommate. Don't be late for meetings or events, and always remember to say thank you and be gracious; even if you do not get what you want. Your family and friends are watching how you react to the new challenges in your life. They will talk about it, and work together to either build up or erode the support they have for you. Demonstrate to them that this experience has empowered you.
Support makes any stressful event or experience easier to deal with. With divorce, this is certainly true. To make this work for you, though, you must first really understand what support you need, and then examine who in your world can offer it. The more prepared you are up front with understanding the types of changes that will be expected in your life, the more likely you will come out of this experience intact, empowered, and ready to move on with your life. Lastly, remember that your friends and family are here to help you through this. Let them help in ways that make them comfortable, and show your gratitude. Please and thank you still count for a lot; do not forget that.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Check It Out: Darn Divorce

Slightly silly and occasionally cynical, Darn Divorce is one blogger's collection of news, stories, and opinions on "the dreaded D word".

The blog's commentary on divorce-related topics is relevant, interesting, and entertaining. I don't necessarily agree with everything on the blog, but I find most of the posts worth reading. The blog contains a number of interesting posts that relate to different aspects of divorce ranging from parenting, dealing with your ex, moving, splitting posessions, and of the like. Additionally, stories from the news that relate to divorce are detailed and comments on as well.

The blog helps provide insight into what the experience of divorce is for different people, and at different levels. If you want to learn more about the blog, feel free to visit their about page or check the out at

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Guy Getting Divorced's 25 Laws of Evolution

As part of my personal evolution from unhappily-married husband to empowered single-guy-to-be, I have found a number of themes or guiding principals that have helped me transform my life. During my journey through divorce, I have devoured as much knowledge as time would allow on subjects ranging from divorce and dating to sexuality and social dynamics to spirituality and emotional well being. While consuming this knowledge, I found a number of common traits, ideals, and themes describing approaches to and benefits derived from empowerment. It is through the consumption of these ideals that I have written the "25 Laws of Evolution" for men experiencing divorce.

These "laws" will be the subjects of future blog entries, and I will write about them in order. As I said in my introduction, I will work to write about two or three of these ideals per week. Building this list and working through it has taken me quite a while. Now that this iteration is complete, though, I am excited about continuing my journey through divorce and measuring what I can accomplish in my life by living through these ideals.

Guy Getting Divorced's 25 Laws to Empowerment

  1. Accept Responsibility. I will accept responsibility for my life and station, as everything in my life is caused by my interactions with the world and the people in it. I will not seek to blame people or external circumstances for my life and the events in it. Instead, I will be empowered by the responsibility I am willing to shoulder.
  2. Measurement is Empowering. In order to evolve constructively, I must remember where I started, acknowledge the roads taken, and consistently measure my progress. Intelligent evolution cannot occur without consistent and accurate personal measurement.
  3. Establish a Support System. As I work to transform my life, I will ask my family and friends for their love, strength, and support. I will communicate the seriousness of this request and explain what specific acts of support I require.
  4. Stop Complaining. I will refrain from complaining about my situation or station in life, as I recognize that complaints do not empower me to be my "best self". I will not judge myself when I do complain, and will increase my self-awareness to recognize the behavior and pre-empt it.
  5. Be Impeccable with Your Appearance. I will master my appearance and groom/clothe with impeccable regularity as I understand that a neat, stylish appearance will have a positive impact on how I view myself and others view me.
  6. Find and Embrace Your Best Self. I will collect, understand, and embrace the best qualities of myself with the understanding that at my best self, I maximize my power, presence, and effectiveness in the world.
  7. Document and Visualize Your Goals. I will take time to document my goals and on a daily basis visualize what my life would be like with these goals realized. I will work to establish these goals by asking myself if my actions are congruent with my desired end results.
  8. Be Present and Accountable. I will focus on my immediate universe, be present and involved in the experiences around me, and accountable to my behavior and actions. I will view accountability as a form of empowerment.
  9. Redefine Failure. I will redefine failure as an opportunity to learn from my experiences, and remove any judgement, guilt, or resentment from these opportunities. In my life, failure is an opportunity to measure progress and measurement provides opportunities to learn.
  10. Honor Your Physical Health. I will honor my physical health with the realization that my physical health must super cede my mental and spiritual health. I will exercise, improve my diet, and remove any health-related "bad habits" that may exist in my life.
  11. Identify and Eliminate Blocking Beliefs. I will document and rid myself of the beliefs I currently perpetuate that fly in direct conflict with my goals, aspirations, and empowering self-image. I will question these beliefs, express in a positive, grounded way why these beliefs no longer apply in my life, and expunge them from my personality.
  12. Abandon Approval. I will stop using approval to achieve status with others, and stop seeking approval from others as a way to validate my self worth. I will abandon approval as a tool for creating and sustaining relationships, and become self-aware of when my behavior is approval seeking. I will recognize that approval perpetuates victimization.
  13. Discover Your Purpose. I will discover my purpose in life and examine how I can incorporate this purpose in all important aspects of my interactions with the people around me. Knowing and living up to my purpose will keep me grounded, focused, and centered to accomplish the goals in my life.
  14. Learn to be Selfish. I will learn to value myself over others in a way that honors my purpose and empowers those around me to appreciate my value. I will work to improve, nurture, and impact myself in positive ways every day understanding that if my needs are not met, I cannot be effective in my life on a consistent basis.
  15. Respect Your Time. I will learn to value my time over the time of others, and structure my life so that I have time to address personal needs, wants, and desires. I will make time educate myself, honor my health, and nurture my needs before tending to the needs of others.
  16. Reinvent Rejection. I will abandon the idea that rejection has the ability to define me, and confront any fears of rejection with intent, passion, and purpose. I will reinvent rejection as an opportunity to risk for reward, instead of risk for failure.
  17. Value the Learning Cycle. I will focus on the learning and the journey associated with acquiring new skill and experience, instead of placing value on the end result of this journey.
  18. Contribute Compassion. I will learn to express compassion to those people around me, and recognize that compassion is the foundation for confidence.
  19. Embrace Sexuality. I will embrace my sexuality, and look to establish and improve my sexual awareness and confidence. I will clearly define my sexual needs, and pursue relationships where those needs are met in a connected, empowering way for myself and my partner.
  20. Radiate Value. I will radiate my value to the people around me beginning with my posture, continuing with my appearance, and ending with my verbal and non-verbal communication. The value and confidence I posses will be clearly communicated, easy to infer, and resonate with others.
  21. Accomplish Forgiveness. I will learn to forgive myself and others, recognizing that the emotions associated with anger, resentment, stubbornness, and pride cause more harm to my well being than good. Being "right" about an injury or grievance clouds my self-image and worth and impedes my ability to empower. I can choose to forgive, but still remember without inflicting myself harm.
  22. Set and Enforce Boundaries. I will establish clear boundaries for myself and others to respect. These boundaries will create a private, safe, and personal space where I can express myself without fear, tentativeness, or remorse. I will enforce these boundaries when they are tested because I recognize the value they provide.
  23. Invest in Relationship Values. I will dedicate part of my time to finding, consuming, and assimilating "relationship values" with the idea that in order to sustain any type of relationship, my values must be congruent with my needs, goals, and partners. As my needs change, I will need to update and adjust both my values and how they are practiced.
  24. Establish and Calibrate Congruence. I will learn to be self aware, and work to maintain a congruent internal and external image. As my external image deviates from my internal set of beliefs, I will calibrate my image to ensure that I am congruent with my beliefs, goals, and value.
  25. Practice Empowerment Daily. I will set aside time on a daily basis to consistently practice personal empowerment, recognizing that anything of value in life requires passion, commitment, and intent to be attained. As I value myself over all others, I will invest in myself be practicing empowerment on a daily basis.

Maybe laws is too strong a word. It is my experience, though, that each of these principals can help ground you as you work through major changes in your life. Divorce for men is so often characterized as a debilitating, devastating process and experience filled with loss, betrayal, and anger. Well, it is these things; and worse sometimes. As men, however, we do not need to let these negative, deconstructive emotions define how we view ourselves or interact with the world. We are, quite simply, better than that. That being said, it is my hope that these laws can help other men break this reactive cycle, and look to better themselves through this experience. As the saying goes, "what does not break me makes me stronger."

Monday, April 23, 2007

So Your Marriage Has Turned To....

If you are current going or have been through a divorce, then this clip should make you laugh. It's a segment of the Gary Shandling Show in which Hank, Gary's sidekick, hits "rock bottom" from his divorce. He's self destructive, self-pitying, self-absorbed, and self-loathing to the point where he says "he wants to end this!" Artie, the show's producer, responds by giving Hank some tough love to help bring him back from the brink and to his senses.

At one point or another, some of us have been here (ok, well, not quite here but in a position where we felt the bottom of our life with the balls of our feet). Everything's impossible. Nothing is clear. Focus is a memory, and "self-pity on the rocks" is the only drink in the 'fridge.

In these moments, it is the love, support, and encouragement of the people around of that help break the self-defeating cycles we trap ourselves in. Something to remember is that "encouragement", though, can wear many faces. In this case, it's a 9mm Beretta (watch the clip).

So if you find yourself feeling like this, talk about it. With everyone. Your lawyer. Your accountant. Your family and friends. Random people. Literally, everyone. Be passionate and emotional when you tell your story. Tell them how "sorry" you are, how "bad" you feel, and how "tough" life is right now for you. Eventually, one of two things are going to happen:
  1. You will get tired of feeling like this. At some point, you will realize that the pity monster carries a heavy price tag. The reality is that depression carries a significant cost health wise (have you ever been depressed and felt good or energetic?). This point of recognition is different for everyone, and hopefully you hit it sooner than later. You should, though, hit it.
  2. Your audience will get tired of hearing your story, and seeing you feel like this. It is a critical mass, of sorts. Your friends and family will, at some point, question or challenge you to get your life back on track and to end your depressing, self-defeating behavior. Now, remember this when they do: they have probably let you wallow for months in your "reality of pity and self-doubt". Don't fight it; don't reject it. Embrace it with a "thank you."

Everyone is different, but if you have gone through a divorce or are currently experiencing one then these feelings should be familiar to you. Hopefully you have enough support around you to work through this with friends. It takes courage to try and change your life, because with that there is an acknowledgement that you can fail. Fear of failure can be paralyzing. Remember, though -- you are not alone, tomorrow is another day, and your experiences do not define you.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Check It Out: Divorced Dads Matter

If you are a father working through a divorce, one of the sites that I recommend you visit is The site, in the author's own words, was:

"..started by a typical father who was, and is still, constantly amazed at the prevailing social view of father’s as secondary parents and the court systems approval of this attitude. Divorced Dads Matter seeks to offer support, information, and a voice for good fathers that simply want to love and be a meaningful part of their children’s lives. This is not an organization. This is not a legal service. This is just one person’s attempt to shed light on the injustice that father’s often face during divorce and custody rights litigation and post-divorce issues faced by single fathers and fathers in new relationships. All reasonable perspectives are welcome regardless of age, race, sexual identity, creed, or religion. Fatherhood is fatherhood, and all tolerant fathers opinions, needs, and voices are welcome here."
A complete description of what is about can be found on their about page. If you want to learn more, please visit it and read in the author's own words why the site was started, and what was his motivation. If you are a father struggling with fatherhood and divorce or looking to create a tighter bond with your son, then there is something creative, empowering, and informative here for you.