Monday, June 7, 2010

Family Estrangement

As a family mediator the topic of family estrangement has been an area of special interest for me for many years. If you are facing a family estrangement here are the five things you should know:

1. When the estrangement is between a parent and an adult child, unless the child sees it otherwise, the parent must take responsibility and be willing to apologize for perceived or real hurts.

2. When a family member chooses estrangement they are giving a loud message that something is not right. This is their way of communicating that they feel dismissed, discounted, or disrespected. If you don't know why a family member has cut off contact it is likely related to something done or said which triggered a feeling of dismissed, discounted, or disrespected.

3. A cooling-off period is often critical before any dialogue can begin. Be patient, and keep the lines of communication open. Even if the person on the other side wont talk you can still keep the channels open by sending periodic messages of support. Keep the message simple - "I will always love you and I will be there whenever you are ready." Avoid reacting negatively if the person on the other side needs more time.

4. Apologies have magical and cleansing properties. Think the apology through before you start or you may end up in the wrong place.

5. Follow my 10-step plan for ending feuds and rebuilding connections.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Often - With Time - The Worst Thing Is Also The Best Thing

The worst thing about divorce is it forces us to look at ourselves and our lives.  The best thing about divorce is it forces us to look at ourselves and our lives.  Read what else I have to say at

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


This post is a work in progress. Stay tuned.

Affairs almost always serve a purpose. An affair can be a wake-up call, a death knell, a cry for help, a way-out, an affirmation, a pain-reliever, a temporary escape from reality, a plan for avoiding divorce, or a way to get one's needs met. (And, I mean emotional, not physical, needs - because affairs are not really about the sex.) Affairs do not happen in healthy marriages, they happen in sick marriages - especially when one or both partners do not want to face the sickness or the dysfunction of their marriage. (Facing the sickness involves both acknowledging it and working to heal it.)

Each affair is different. But, there are some patterns or themes common to most affairs. These similarities have enabled researchers to identify xx types of affairs, with different motivators.

"The Grass Is Greener" (also known as "The Facebook Affair"). This affair happens when someone in a lack luster marriage finds an old (or new) flame, gets excited, has illusions of a lost soul mate, and wants to try it out. The couple meets, has a magnificent weekend, complete with high excitement sex, and decides to take things to the next level. Eventually the high wears off and so a significant percentage of these affairs do not work out. Often the straying spouse comes back and asks for a re-do. A couple can then turn this affair around and work on their marriage; go back to the status quo, with increased trust issues; or walk away – sometimes the dumped spouse becomes the dumper who says "I wont take you back." This affair does give people the chance to see what their lives would look like without their marriage and helps them decide which way they want to go.

The Married Man. The married man affair is complex triangle that revolves around a married man who has done the "right" thing, put others first, and secretly feels that he has sacrificed his own happiness. So, he finds a single woman who thinks he is wonderful (frequently, she is a woman who has never been married) and together they engage in a serious, long-term, and passionate affair. The mistress learns the intimate details of his marriage and waits semi-patiently for her turn. But, typically, these men do not leave as leaving would not be "right" AND the affair gives the married man the best of both worlds. These affairs end when/if the mistress becomes resentful.