divorce healing | The Naked Divorce
How long to get over divorce - Adele Theron - NakedDivorce

How long does it take to get over your divorce?

Ever wondered just how long it’s going to take to heal from your divorce? I know I did when I was going through my divorce. 

I was also given this challenging and critical question live on-stage by my interviewer recently, and I wanted to share my answer here, and also go into a little more detail and a little more science than I was able to at this live event. So here goes…

First of all – I need to define what ‘Getting Over Divorce’ actually means?

Getting over divorce is like having an orgasm…

In this regard Getting Over Divorce is a bit like having an orgasm… It’s hard to define, but you know it when it happens!

My clients often describe this as feeling ‘themselves again’, ‘complete’, ‘in-control’, ‘the best version of themself’, ‘the real me’, ‘empty and free’.

There are many different expressions but there is also a similarity between them.

What I see is a real and healthy sensation of clarity and void of emotion which I shall call ‘space’ or ’emptiness’. A mental space that was previously full of sometimes rage, confusion, anger, loss, sadness and more has been vacated that provides the space for opportunity and hope.

They realise that the future IS back in their hands, that they ARE in control, and that EVERYTHING is possible, and achievable. It’s a very special moment.

3 friggin years! That’s not acceptable.

A lot has to happen to allow this kind of transformation to happen, and when it happens it is like a switch has been flicked. It is not a gradual and slow process. There is also 7 years of intensive work which goes into creating the environment for these kinds of breakthroughs and transformations. It’s no accident.

If I may return to the unlikely orgasm analogy, there may be some gradual build up before, but when the breakthrough happens it happens very powerfully and very profoundly. You will absolutely know when a breakthrough has hit you.

That said, this does not mean that you will never ever think about your ex-partner ever again. It does not necessarily mean that you think your ex-partner is your best friend BUT it does mean that you are past it. You have accepted that your divorce happened, and that it will always be a part of your history, but very critically it is NOT a part of your future.

Traditional Therapy

When I was going through my divorce I spoke to several traditional therapists. The three I spoke to all used a similar ‘calculation’ to give me an answer to this question – here’s their maths…

1 year of marriage = 6 months of therapy (min 1 session per week).

Additional connected trauma will extend the duration further.

So at 5 years of marriage, plus the additional trauma that I had as a child (I was born without fully developed hip sockets), and the infidelity (18 affairs), it would take at least 3 years of on-going therapy.

3 friggin years! That’s simply not acceptable. Given my background in corporate change management and my commitment to producing results quickly, this antiquated thinking just didn’t jel with me.

3 critical elements

I now know that there are three critical elements that dictate the duration of time it takes to heal from divorce. They are;

  1. How motivated you are to do the necessary work to transform
  2. How evolved emotionally and personally you are, this may include how exposed to personal development you have been in the past
  3. How intensive the coaching / therapy is

For the purposes of this article I will focus entirely on number three – intensity…

Another approach

Let’s take a different look at this same question using a different topic. Let’s look at fitness…

How long does it take to get ‘fit’? It’s hard to define, right? You could argue it takes years, or indeed a lifetime of regular work to get ‘fit’.

The work is in reality never ending.

This is the thinking of the traditional therapists. It’s ongoing, often a lifelong pursuit. There is no finish line, there is no agreed result, there is no end date. The work continues indefinitely – or until you run out of funds.

Now let’s ask a slightly different question – let’s ask how long does it train to run a marathon?

Because we have given the question more definition, we can better answer it. A few questions also may arise:

  1. Are their variables that effect your training?
  2. Does everyone improve their fitness at exactly same rate?
  3. Will they all achieve the same race time?
  4. Do they all start from the same position?

The answer to all these questions is of course No.

However, we can still say with some justification and a significant amount of proof that if one trains 2-3 times per week, one can get fit enough to complete a marathon with 6 months of training.

3 times the intensity can equal 5-10 times the results!

Aside from the initial fitness level the biggest influencing variable that defines how long it takes to achieve the result is one thing. “Intensity”


It stands to reason that the person that trains once per week will not advance at the same rate as someone that trains three times per week.

It is also worth noting that at just once per week the fitness levels progress at a very slow level indeed. I would argue that anyone only training once per week will never ever ever ever be fit enough to run a marathon. Think about that…

At three times per week, the fitness level does not increase at three times the rate – it increases exponentially. SO you might even progress at 5-10 times the rate.

So very realistically 3 times the intensity can easily equal 5-10 times the results.

The Science

Scientists tell us that most of the universe is filled with nothing.

Tom Stoppard explained the emptiness of atom like this, ‘if the nucleus is like the altar of St Paul’s Cathedral, an electron is like a moth in the cathedral’. Even in something as small as an atom, it is mostly full of nothing.

If all the ‘emptiness’ was removed, the entire human race could fit into a volume less than the size of three sugar cubes (ref: http://www.physics.org/featuredetail.asp?id=41). Isn’t that amazing??

So if we could remove all the emptiness out of a the transformational healing process is it not possible to condense that down from 3 years into just a few weeks? In a word Yes!

Heal in just 21 days

The Naked Divorce’s most popular course is completed in just 21 days. We achieve this because it’s intensive. Work and exercises are completed each and every day. It’s a demanding course, it takes energy, commitment, focus and support to complete it.

To be absolutely clear, I am NOT saying that we can achieve 3 years of therapy in just 21 days. What I am saying is – you achieve much greater, much bigger results, with much more mental fitness in 21 days than can ever be achieved by 3 years of non-intensive traditional therapy. We have many participants who were stuck in therapy for over 6 years who finally healed within the Naked Divorce.

The reason I created this programme is because no one has 6 years of life to spend it suffering. Time is the one commodity you can NEVER get back. So rather than wait for time to simply pass whilst assuming it will heal the wound – just get on with the process intensively and MOVE ON. There is life to be getting back to.

When 21 days it just too long

A year ago I launched the Naked Divorce Haven Retreat. A seven day version of Naked Divorce for our elite/ executive class participants who really don’t have the luxury of time to be suffering. Where, and yes you have guessed it, the course is even more intensive.

This is for the high achievers, for those that are very committed to their better future. We have a lot of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, country managers, business owners, judges, lawyers, doctors, etc. that join us on the Divorce Haven Retreat (I’ll reveal the most popular profession that attend a little later).

We achieve this by defining the space, the location and the environment better. All consultations are completed face-to-face, in-person, and in private. As a result the intensity is much higher.

The results are even more powerful, even more profound, and even more swift. For total disclosure I should point out that whilst the retreat is only 7 days, we do start build-up work prior to the retreat, and there is ongoing support afterwards included so it does take a little more than just 7 days to achieve the full result.

This reality of course is very confronting to traditional therapists. I’ll be open and tell you that many do not believe in this process. Not one of these doubters have actually done the course!

You also might like to know that the most popular career of all our customers are, did you guess?

Yes therapists, and physiologists. Now doesn’t that say a lot? We have had psychiatrists send their patients to us (with doctor’s notes), medical professionals who advise patients to do our programme and psychologists who do the programme quietly without ever saying anything about it.

Here are a few words from what they said about the course…

Testimonials from therapists and physiologists that have completed the Naked Divorce programme:

“Really, really cool experience. Utterly life-changing”
Cecile Fontan, Psychologist

“Naked Divorce was the answer to my prayers”
Elizabeth Q, Emotional Therapist

“You can’t go very far without dealing with your emotions rather than suppressing them”
Dr Sindiyo, Clinical Psychologist

“Incredible structure… I really did experience a complete state change by the end of the course”
Mandy, Life Coach and Financial Therapist

“I am simply blown away by the powerful transformation”
Stephanie Burton, Love Coach

“Incredible experience. I learnt more about relationships from Naked Divorce than in 22 years practicing as a psychologist”
Dr Ayse Sahin, Clinical Psychologist

“The more time you take to heal, the more self indulgent you get. Better to do something like Naked Divorce to focus on healing”
Dr Nea Clark, Clinical Psychologist London

So, the bottom line is if the award-winning Naked Divorce is their chosen programme for healing and they refuse to take the time to heal, why aren’t they telling you that healing faster is possible? Possibly because the average person going through divorce therapy spends USD 6,799 to heal from divorce…

Food for thought.

Get busy living and take positive pro-active action to get over your divorce.


With lots of love and lightness


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Sad depressed woman sitting outdoors

A Tale of Two Singletons: Part Two – Let Down Your Long Hair

This is the second part of a two-part series. To read the first part, click here.

The other eternally single friend

In my last post, I talked about one kind of eternally single friend that we all seem to have: the type who we know is awesome, isn’t shy about meeting people and always seems to have the next hot date lined up – but somehow, never ends up in a “proper” relationship.

In this second part, I want to talk about the “other” type of eternally single friend. The friend who is just as lovely and amazing, but never seems to meet anyone at all.

I know someone just like this. Let’s call her Jennifer.

Jennifer is a great friend and a great all-round catch. She’s clever, she’s fun, she’s cultured, she’s pretty. Professionally, she’s doing very well, with an interesting job in a highly competitive field. Despite a humble start in life, she’s carved out a great future and she has every reason to feel proud of herself. Prospective partners have every reason to be impressed.

So why is it that I can count on one hand the number of dates Jennifer has been on in the past three years?

Why is it that she hasn’t even had a whiff of a serious relationship since the last one ended years ago?

Negativity and disappointment

The thing with Jennifer is, we all know she’s awesome.

But does she believe she’s awesome? Does she hell.

Ask Jennifer what she’s up to and she will play it down. Play it down to the point that you’d think her career was about to go off a cliff, when in reality she’s doing better than just about anyone in our friendship group. In a field she’s always dreamed of working in and that’s she’s genuinely passionate about.

Five minutes into catch-up drinks with Jennifer and she will tell you how much weight she’s put on (she hasn’t). Or how bad her skin is at the moment (it’s not). Or how boring she’s been lately (her life is one big social whirlwind). How she’s doing so badly at whatever project she set herself, or how bleak things are looking, or how she’s worried about being irresponsible and overspending (again, she’s a deeply practical and organised person who gets more done than just about anyone I know).

Jennifer’s friends can obviously see past this. We sigh and roll our eyes and tell her to stop being ridiculous. But we still love her.

Because we know that Jennifer is what I like to call a Rapunzel.

She builds a huge tower of negativity around her to protect herself against disappointment.

We know that to get to the “real” Jennifer – the fun, brilliant, witty Jennifer – we have to do the emotional equivalent of getting her to let down her long hair, so that we can climb up.

Jennifer’s exes reflect this. They were all long-term friends before they were boyfriends. People who took the time to really get to know her. Who made that long, arduous climb, even when she made it tough for them.

But that’s not how most dating works.

When you meet someone new, or head out a first date, you don’t have the luxury of five years’ friendship behind you. This person has no idea what is on the other side of the wall. All they are seeing is the wall.

And why would you go to all that trouble when you have no idea if it’s worth what’s beyond?

Sure, if you’re a Rapunzel, you can blame your date. You can dismiss the opposite sex as shallow and not recognising your worth. For failing to get to know the “real you”. But why make it so hard for them to see the “real you” in the first place?

After all, would you go to all that trouble to win around a stranger who might turn out to be totally wrong for you anyway? Would you jump through all these hoops for someone you don’t even know yet?

Because the thing is, too, that all this negativity is kinda selfish.

Watch your emotional state

When we meet or go out with someone new, we tend to be nervous. We want to be put at ease, to relax, to feel comfortable chatting and opening up.

But as emphatic animals, we quickly “catch” the emotional state of the person we’re with. So, when the other person does the opposite – when they project a mood that makes it feel inappropriate to be cheerful, happy and positive – it puts us on edge.

That’s not to say that you have to spend an entire relationship pretending to be happy. You don’t necessarily even have to spend an entire date pretending to be happy.

As you get deeper into conversation and start to trust one another, it might feel perfectly fine to start touching on subjects that are a bit darker, rawer, more serious. Vulnerability is a big part of intimacy, and as a relationship blossoms, you will inevitably reveal things to one another that frighten you, are painful to you, or that paint you in a less-than-confident light. Revealed at the right time, these things will bring you closer together.

.. But that’s very different from making this your opening gambit. Launching into a stream of
negativity in the first few minutes is exhausting, even alarming, for the other person. It makes it impossible to take any pleasure out of the situation. It will probably make them want to escape pretty sharpish.

And, worst of all, it makes you even more convinced that all this misery is justified, because It makes you even surer that you’re unlovable.

Pinpoint the problem

Excessive self-deprecation is largely about diminishing yourself before anyone has a chance to do it for you, so when someone seems to agree with your poor-self image, that only encourages you to keep jumping the gun.

And that makes you even more likely to keep building up your negativity wall.

But it’s the negativity wall that’s the problem – not you.

Take a recent date of Jennifer’s. She met up with a guy with similar interests. Who she’d been chatting to through a dating site for a while, and seemed really keen. He was witty and interesting and good-looking, and he clearly thought she was, too.

They met for a drink. The conversation was flowing and Jennifer thought it was going fine. She didn’t even realise how unrelentingly negative she was being until the guy looked at her in bewilderment and said “Jesus. Who hurt you?”

Needless to say, the relationship did not progress.

What should I do?

If you don’t stop yourself from building up your negativity tower, pretty sure you’ll find yourself stuck Inside. You won’t remember how to actually get out of it. You might forget that you’re even in it.

Like Jennifer, you’ll stop noticing that you’re being miserable about everything. You might have stopped noticing the effect this has on other people.

And then, from a relationship perspective, you’re really in trouble. So where do you start if you’re a Rapunzel? How do you learn to let down your long hair? The easiest way to begin is to stop making everything about YOU.

Be positive!

If your bad feelings are dominating the conversation, stop talking about yourself so much. Ask the other person lots of questions. Get them talking about what they’re excited about and interested in. Do your best to be excited about and interested in it, too. Bounce off their enthusiasm. Notice how it feels to be talking to someone who is passionate and positive about something. Notice how it puts you at ease.

And then, when the conversation comes back around to you, work on mirroring this mood. (As a side note – there’s loads of evidence that mirroring another person’s behaviour and body language actually builds rapport and helps people warm to you, too!).

Don’t fake passion for things you hate, but rather focus on the things you really like and why they make you tick, rather than ways in which they might be lacking. Allow yourself the pleasure of being upbeat as you talk about things that make you happy. Pay attention to how pushing yourself to focus on the positives actually changes the way you feel.

You don’t have to talk yourself up, but that doesn’t mean you have to put yourself down.

Plus, if you can’t refer to your achievements without feeling sick to your stomach (and if you’re British, you’re probably familiar with this phenomenon), talk about what you enjoy about your work instead. Talk about what you loved about that last book you read or that last film you saw. Talk about something really fascinating or exciting thing that you heard or read about today.

So Rapunzel, go ahead and let your hair down. You will enjoy yourself much, much more – and, of course, so will your date.



Know a Rapunzel who needs a dose of real talk? Send this blog post to them!

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A Tale of Two Singletons: Part One – You Don’t Know What’s Good for You

We all have that amazing friend who’s perpetually single, and we just can’t work out why. 

You know the type: she’s smart, brilliant, beautiful and tons of fun. She dips her toes in the dating pool – perhaps she’s even the type who always seems to have the next date lined up. And yet, nothing seems to stick.

This wouldn’t be a problem if this was 100% her choice and she was actually very happy with the situation. But the trouble is, you’re painfully aware that she would really like to be in a serious relationship. Worse, the longer this goes on, the more she worries that there’s something fundamentally wrong with her. Something lacking. Or unlovable.

Sound familiar?

Perhaps you have a best friend like this. Or a sister. Or perhaps that perennial singleton is you.

So why on earth is this happening?

What’s the great mystery? I’m going to get to that. But first, I’d like to tell you a story.

Anna is a very good friend of mine. On paper, she’s top girlfriend material: she’s gorgeous, she’s funny, she’s warm and generous, she has a degree from a top university and a fantastic job that she excels at and which pays her very well indeed.

Everyone loves spending time with Anna. Ask her what she’s up to next week and you’ll get a packed itinerary of post-work drinks, theatre and cinema trips, weekend minibreaks, and, of course, dates. Anna’s a Tinder fiend. And she has no shortage of admirers.

But here’s the thing: Anna hasn’t been in a serious relationship since university. And even then, it wasn’t a relationship that she, or anyone she knew, could really picture ending in forever-after. Despite everything she has to offer, despite all the attention she gets, despite the fact that I know for a fact she wants to do the whole marriage-and-kids thing in the foreseeable future, she never seems to meet anyone right for her.

… Or so she says.

Reconsider your values

Because here’s the other thing. I’ve been out with Anna when guys start hitting on her. I’ve watched her scroll through potential matches on dating apps and sites. And often, it’s like watching a car crash in slow motion.

The things that Anna truly values – the things that she’d logically need to look for to have the kind of relationship she wants – are precisely the things she’s most dismissive about when she comes across them in real life.

And (Shock! Horror!) the traits that caused her the most pain in the men she’s dated before are precisely the things she finds most attractive.

Anna used to joke about this. She knew that the men she was attracted to were totally unsuitable. That they were arrogant. That they didn’t challenge her intellectually. That they exuded unreliability and would let her down.

So when she decided it was time to start looking for something more serious, she made a concerted effort to pick differently.

Identify root causes

She recognised that feckless party boys with minimal ambition are probably not a great prospect for the future. But instead of identifying the core personality traits that make these men so wrong for her, she superficially changed track. Now, for example, she’ll actively seek out someone with a decent job and academic record – who, on paper, looks like the polar opposite of her usual type.

It didn’t work.

Why? Because these men are not any different.

Inevitably, these guys are simply the same arrogant, insensitive personalities, transplanted into a more respectable context. They might have made it out of their parents’ basement, but they’re essentially showy, self-involved types with over-inflated egos – they just have a bit more cash in the bank.

And, of course, they treat her just the same. And these days, this scares her.

Because when Anna used to date guys she never expected to want to stay with forever, it was easier to shrug off the situation when things when wrong. Sure, she got hurt a few times, but deep down she was never really surprised.

But now that Anna is actively looking for something long-term, she’s horrified that this is still happening. She doesn’t know how to find someone who doesn’t behave like this.

Her responses to these traits have become so ingrained that she’s instinctively attracted to the kind of men who end up hurting her – even when she thinks she’s doing the opposite.

The attraction pyramid

What Anna needs to do now is stage an intervention with her own instincts.

Many of us assume that sexual attraction is some great mystery that you have no control over. You can’t help who you fall in love with, etc. etc. That’s just not true.

Researchers at Jaunty explain attraction as a pyramid, in which different elements are weighted differently. At the base you have health and status. The next layer is emotional. At the tip is logic.

Here’s how it works.

When you meet someone in person (or on Tinder), the first things you are aware of are the health and status factors. Health is everything from decent personal hygiene through to good skin or a buff body – the obvious things that we usually associate with whether we find someone hot or hot.

Status is far more complex and affected by personal and cultural values. There are external indicators, of course, like wealth, power, a great job, etc., but it also covers things like confidence, the ability to make others laugh or to command an audience, skill sets and belief systems.

And, of course, it relates to the context you’re in right now. That means that status-based attraction could include from fancying your super-smart university lecturer to being impressed by someone’s ability to fix a shelf, nail a pub quiz question or even competitively down a pint.

Both of these things are kind of frivolous or fickle. Someone who commands status in one context might easily pass under the radar in another. And obviously, someone who has a great body now might not look so hot in 15 years’ time. As indicators of a successful, long-term relationship, health and status are shaky at best. Yet research shows again and again that they are fundamental to attraction.

Emotional connection and logic

Okay, let’s move on to the next layer, emotional connection.

There are four types of emotional connection: feeling that you trust someone, having the emotional intelligence to put someone at ease and make them feel comfortable, recognising a person’s uniqueness and spark, and a sense of uncertainty or mystery that intrigues you about this person.

Finally, at the top of the pyramid, you have logic. It is there that most of the really important questions lie. Is this person really “right” for you? Do they have the personal traits you need to feel happy and supported? Are they nuts in ways that you can cope with?

Whatever flaws this person has now are highly unlikely to change. Is this something you can live with forever? Do you want the same things? Do you share or respect each others’ beliefs and values?

Reverse the search

This is all very interesting, you might be thinking, but how does it affect who we fall for?

Most of the time, when we meet someone in a social setting (or swipe right on a dating app), we allow ourselves to start at the base of the pyramid and work up.

If we’re attracted to someone based on health and status, we might start talking to them and search around for an emotional connection. If we have an emotional connection we go on a few dates to try and establish, logically, whether we have enough in common for this relationship to work. 

The trouble is, by the time you get to the logic stage, you’re already kind of invested in this person. You fancy them for the most flimsy reasons of all – health and status – and then you’re looking for ways to make the rest fall into place.

What you need to do is to flip this on its head. 

  1. Narrow your pool based on whether there is a logical basis for a relationship
  2. Find out if you have an emotional connection
  3. Then, when everything else seems to fall into place, decide whether or not you’re also attracted to this person on the more superficial grounds we usually begin with.

Okay, it’s not always the easiest task to figure out in a first conversation or limited dating profile whether someone is perfect for you. But if you’re looking out for the right signals, you can get a pretty good picture, pretty fast.

For example, do you have similar interests? Are your jobs or life goals compatible? Do you have a broadly similar outlook on life? Find ways to sound out some of the bigger questions faster and you’ll save yourself serious heartache later.

And more generally, is this person conscientious? Do they keep to the plans and obligations they make? Can they exercise self-control? Because if they don’t do these things, they will probably cheat on you, use you, or do things to hurt you, no matter how much they love you.

External status markers

Let’s jump back to Anna for a moment. Anna used to be attracted to men who were good-looking, super-confident, a bit wild and always the life and soul of the party. In other words, it was all about health and status.

When she decided to take her dating choices more seriously, she relied on external indicators like job titles, a university background, signs they were making money – things that sound like they belong at the top of the pyramid, but are actually just external status markers.

Retrain your instincts

We want to make sure we don’t repeat our mistakes, so we go for someone who superficially seems very different.

Last boyfriend was a bit of a waster who always needed to borrow money? This time I’m going out with a lawyer who can presumably afford to pay his way. Previous girlfriend an incredibly self-absorbed model? Next time I’ll pick someone less obviously glossy and presume that means they’re more down-to-earth.

What we’re doing here is using status markers as stand-ins for real issues.

You can’t just ask what job someone does and then try to figure out if this makes them more manipulative, more generous, more sensible, more whatever.

You have to delve a little deeper. You have to ask plenty of questions. You have to pay attention to how this person actually thinks and treats you (and other people) as a predictor of future behaviour.

In other words, you have to retrain your instincts to pick up on the things that can genuinely hurt you or make you happy. The things that will get you out of your rut and into a relationship you want.



This is the first in a two-part series on getting out of the singledom trap. Click here for Part 2!

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6 Reasons Doomed to Marry Wrong

Six Reasons You’re Doomed to Marry the Wrong Person

“If anyone can show just cause why this couple cannot lawfully be joined together in matrimony, let them speak now, or forever hold their peace.”

Ever heard that at a friend’s wedding and secretly listed all the reasons in your head why this union is so obviously a bad idea? When half of marriages end in divorce, it’s clear that an awful lot of us are messing up somewhere along the line.

Here are 6 of the biggest reasons why.

1) You Don’t Know Yourself Well Enough

Each of us is bonkers in our own unique way. You inevitably have habits and neuroses and personality traits that drive other people – even the people who love you most – round the bend. Perhaps there are things you’re deeply sensitive about, that make you fly off the handle irrationally. Ways of handling stress or challenges to your beliefs that don’t paint you in the best light.

The point is, like everyone else on the planet, you have ways of being difficult, or frustrating, or unreasonable, or annoying, or for want of a better word, a bit nuts. If you don’t know what they are, and you don’t consciously seek out someone who a) seems well equipped to handle your particular variety of quirks and flaws and b) who is nuts in ways that you can cope with, you’re in trouble.

2) You Invent Too Much of Your Partner

It takes a long, long time to work out how another person really thinks. In the early stages, that mystery is part of the thrill. All you have to go on is how that person looks and moves, their body language, their voice, and those scattered tidbits of their views and personality that they consciously curate, or accidentally let slip, when you’re together. Pushing someone – especially a man – too hard, too soon to open up is frowned upon or dismissed as needy or overbearing.

But what you don’t know, your imagination will invent, and if you find yourself walking up the aisle with someone whose beliefs, motivations, boundaries and internal life you’ve never really teased out, but have rather filled in from your own assumptions or romantic ideals, the reality of who they are may well prove to be a shock.

3) You Give Your Gut Feeling Too Much Credit

Sometimes it’s good to listen to your intuition. When you have a creeping feeling that someone is lying, for example. When you get the feeling they might hurt or endanger you. When something just doesn’t feel right. So much language between humans is unspoken, and these interactions are as meaningful as what we choose to put into words.

But our instincts aren’t sacred. They’re imperfect. They’re shaped by habit, by unconscious bias, by the false comfort of repeating behavioural patterns, even when this is bad for us. Instincts are, also, driven by things like lust and desire, or a craving for companionship, or learned behaviours from our parents and peers.

Your gut feeling tells you what feels most appealing right now, but it doesn’t tell you why. It doesn’t tell you whether this course of action is truly conductive to your emotional health, your security or your happiness in the long run.

4) You’re Petrified of Being Single

Loneliness is a terrible matchmaker. Fear of solitude nudges us towards all kinds of unfortunate decisions. It encourages us to mentally gloss over all the good reasons that someone isn’t right for us. It leads us into situations where we’re more miserable stuck with someone else than we would be if we’d just stayed on our own.

Plus, it puts unbearable pressure on the early stages of a potential relationship.

Rather than sounding out a friendship, rather than really listening to what that other person has to say, to learning how they think, and forming a healthy connection, you’re fretting over whether this will be the person who finally saves you from your shitty singledom. You’re making the situation all about you even as you lose touch with what you actually need.

It’s not a healthy place to be in at all. There isn’t an easy fix to this. It’s understandable to want a family, to want companionship, to want intimacy and sex. To want to grow old with someone.

But if you conflate your attraction to one person in particular with these needs as a whole – if you avoid asking whether the person you’re marrying is the right person to share these things with – it’s easy to see how you can end up making the wrong choice.

The important thing is to be honest with yourself about who you are, who your partner is, and how you fit together, rather than trying to shoehorn another person into your ready-made dream for the future.

5) You’re Not Sure How to be Happy

Here’s the great irony. So many of us expect to be blissfully happy in our marriage at all times, but we have no idea how that actually works. In fact, most of the time, we seek out relationships that mimic the type of bonds we experienced as children, because our minds equate familiarity with safety.

Rather than selecting potential spouses based on their potential to bring us genuine happiness, we find ourselves recreating relationships we recognise, even when these involve dynamics of control, humiliation, cruelty or emotional neglect that have made us miserable in the past.

After all, when in your life has a relationship (of any kind, with anyone), made you feel 100% happy – safe, secure, and content, with no fear, pain, frustration or resentment creeping in? If you’re answer is “never”, how will your brain recognise the signals it should follow to build a relationship like that?

It can’t do what it’s never been shown how to do before. You’re going to have to intervene, consciously stopping yourself from going down the same painful paths – choosing a partner wisely, even when your instincts protest.

6) No One Teaches Us This Stuff

Where did you get your relationship advice growing up? Unless, or even if, your parents were a perfect model of domestic diplomacy, no doubt you’ll have drawn your ideas from elsewhere. Maybe even from magazine advice columns? From novels, music or art? From (whisper it) Disney movies?

The thing is, these fantasy versions of idealised relationships were dreamed up by people who, in most cases, were no closer to figuring out the secrets to a happy marriage than you were, at 13, poring over their tropes about “finding the one” or “not settling for less than you deserve” or how “true love conquers all”.

There’s a reason fairy tales and romantic comedies end at the couple’s wedding: marriage isn’t the end of the story, a joyful vignette that’s perfectly preserved for the rest of your life. It’s the beginning of a long, hard slog of tough decisions, sacrifices, negotiations, disappointments, real and perceived betrayals.

There will be dull moments. There will be miscommunications. There will be fights. Being happy together and staying in love takes concerted effort, empathy and patience on both sides.

If you’re unwilling to accept a relationship that needs work, that occasionally leaves you feeling let down or frustrated, or in which either of you lacks absolute, eternal, unwavering certainty in your love for one another, don’t get married: get a dog.



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Life’s Too Precious to Waste Wallowing in the Past

How many times this week have you mentally replayed a fight that you had with your ex?

I want you to answer honestly. Maybe not an actual fight – maybe you pictured what you would or should have said to them. Maybe you picture a confrontation you never had, or the killer blow you wish you’d delivered at the time.

Now how much of your life do you think you spend like this trawling through negative memories and reliving the things that make you feel angry and bitter? Dissecting, analysing, obsessing — does any of it make you feel happy or put you at peace? Of course not.

Resentment is destructive. Resentment is the thing that keeps us rooted in a broken, ugly past.

Start living today

Life is too short to start each day with the broken pieces of yesterday. Your breakup was miserable enough the first time, right? If you could somehow go back and spare yourself all of that pain, wouldn’t you? Then why do you inflict it on yourself time after time?

Why are you voluntarily repeating those experiences every day of your life? It doesn’t matter how many times you conduct that fight with the imagined version of your ex. The outcome will never be different.

It doesn’t matter how much time you devote to dwelling in the past, the present is still the present. And if you don’t stop wallowing and start living, you won’t just have lost out on yesterday – you’ll lose today, too.

Do you really want to give that to your ex? After all, as the saying goes, resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die. It’s time to stop drinking the poison. It’s time to stop letting resentment rule your life.

Time to let go

Easier said than done? Of course it is. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t practical things you can do. Here are 6 powerful steps to take today.

Declare an amnesty

Make the decision to stop waging a mental war with this person and with yourself. Recognise that enough is enough before you start to tackle your feelings.

Admit to yourself that you’re an addict

Resentment gives you a rush. That intoxicating sense of letting your rage run wild, if only in your head. The buzz of taking the moral high ground, feeling yourself wronged – and righteous. It’s chemical. It’s a hit. That’s why you keep coming back. And you need to stop before your addiction gets out of hand.

Accept that your resentment is futile

No matter what happens in the confines of your mind, it will not change the past. Neither will it influence other people, past or present. It can’t stop them rejecting you or force them to give you the things you crave. The only person it controls is you.

Get to the bottom of it

Time to get it all out. In one column, list all the reasons that you resent your ex. Every tiny thing they did, or that irritates you about them. Don’t censor yourself: it doesn’t matter how small or stupid or irrational, write it down.

In the next column, write down exactly why you resent this thing. How does it make you feel? Why does it upset you? Why does it make you feel threatened?

Is it possible you’re confusing the way this person makes you feel with how someone else made you feel in the past?

Finally, in the last column, be brutally honest. Did you tell them how this was affecting you? Did you stick up for yourself? Could you have managed the problem better? Is there any way in which you contributed to this problem? Were there ways in which you misread the slight or blew it out of proportion?

Forgive where you can

First, forgive yourselffor ways you may have let your past self down and ways in which you secretly believe you were weak. Next, forgive the object of your resentment for the things you can bear for things they might not really have done out of malice, or things they simply messed up on.

Forgive the things that upset you because they dragged up old feelings and insecurities, rather than because they were intrinsically cruel; forgive him or her for those things that, ultimately, no longer matter.

Make an action plan

Resentment doesn’t make you stronger, but decisiveness does. Plan what you are going to do to stop yourself from getting hurt like this again. How will you respond assertively to nip things in the bud? This is where you will really take control. It’s where you’ll really start healing.

Getting over resentment won’t happen overnight. It’s a process. But it’s a journey you need to begin, and soon, if you want to avoid your past swallowing up your future, too.



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You Are Not Your Emotions

People tend to define themselves (and others) by their emotions.

He’s an angry man. She’s such a happy child. She’s a jealous girlfriend. What a cry-baby. But your emotions aren’t your identity, or even your personality. They’re chemicals that our body releases in response to physical stimuli, thoughts and memories.

Knowing that emotions are chemicals doesn’t negate their potency. Chemicals can cause explosions; they have to be handled with care. Trouble is, people often don’t see their emotions as separate from themselves. Because of this, they give in and let them take over.

Once you let emotions tell you who you are, you trap yourself in a horrible, self-fulling cycle.

Feeling labeled?

Picture this. Alice finds her partner, Chris, distant and dismissive. He pursues his own path without seeming to care about how this affects her. She’s hurt and frustrated, and finds herself feeling tearful and angry. But every time she thinks about confronting him about his behaviour, she feels a wave of terror rise up.

Alice is ashamed of feeling so frightened. She’s ashamed of feeling hopeless and angry. She’s ashamed that she’s such a fearful, emotional person. She turns all her anger back on herself, telling herself she’s pathetic.

Because she now believes she’s pathetic, the sadness and anger she feels aren’t valid responses to selfish behaviour, but are an extension of her own flawed personality.

So Alice never confronts Chris. She wallows in her misery, resenting him for failing to change and hating herself for being pathetic and unlovable.

When the relationship breaks down, this reaffirms her view. She then carries that feeling right through to her next relationship, refusing to address problems as they arise because, she believes, it’s not in her nature.

Such is the power of letting our emotions tell us who we are.

As rational creatures, we do get to choose how we handle our emotions. We don’t have to be in their thrall.

Imagine that Alice had realised her emotions are chemical responses, not an expression of her personality.

Imagine she’d been able to say: “I have these feelings of sadness and anger and they’re telling me that something is very wrong. I’m scared because I’m facing a potentially stressful and unpleasant encounter — and that’s normal and expected. But it shows that I need to do something about the problems that are sparking these emotions in the first place.”

Create a catalyst for change

Imagine if, instead of being overwhelmed by her feelings, Alice had used them as a catalyst for change. Owning your emotions and responding to them productively isn’t always easy, but it’s a skill you can learn.

Here are some steps you can take.

  • Start by reminding yourself that you have control. You are not the victim of your emotions. You can’t stop them from appearing, but you can decide how to react.
  • Don’t ignore the emotion. Notice it. Identify it. Tell yourself that it’s ok that you have it.
  • No matter how hard it is, commit to accepting the emotion, rather than denying its existence.
  • Imagine that the emotion is a person. Tell it that you see it and recognise it, but right now, you need to get on with your day.
  • Now that the emotion has been “contained”, carefully and deliberately take action – or just tackle your normal tasks – while it’s still there. Don’t let it take over, but don’t suppress it or wait for it to leave. You’re in charge of how this goes. Don’t let the emotion dictate or delay what you need to do.
  • When you’re finished your tasks for the day, sit down with that emotion and have a serious chat. Make some tea. Ask it why it’s here and what it wants to tell you. Make notes about what it actually wants you to do.
  • Sometimes, you’ll need to plan concrete, practical steps to address the problem that triggered the emotion. But often, once it’s been allowed to have its say, you’ll find it leaves of its own accord.


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Accept What You Can’t Change, Change What You Can’t Accept

How much time did you waste in your last relationship hoping your partner would change?

How much time did you waste complaining about the situation — but doing nothing about it? Perhaps you stayed with your ex for far longer than you should have done, just willing things to get better.

Perhaps you’re angry with yourself, now, for the lost years you spent waiting around for the situation to improve. Perhaps, deep down, you’re still waiting – and it’s stopping you from moving on.

Humans are irrational optimists. We tell ourselves all sorts of fairy tales about the future. We desperately want to believe that things will fix themselves.

Accept What You Can’t Change

We’re really, really bad at realising that the only person we can rely on to make our lives better is ourselves. And, ultimately, there are only two things we can do that can make a tough situation better.

We can learn to accept those things that we just can’t change – and stop trying to change them. Then we can change the things that are within our control.

Accepting what you can’t change doesn’t mean throwing in the towel and deciding that you’re doomed to a life of misery. It means being realistic about what you can live with, and what you can’t.

Take Jessica and Steve.

Jessica knows that Steve is the last person in the world to do something spontaneous. Left to his own devices, he’d happily while away every Sunday in the garden with a beer. Jessica can’t understand it – when she makes plans on their behalf, he might grumble a bit, but they always have a great time.

Yet despite her hints (and the fights), he never, ever, makes the effort to suggest something himself.

Frustrated and hurt, Jessica has decided to force him to change by not making plans and waiting around until he cracks and takes matters into his own hands. In the meantime, she bitterly complains to her friends, non-stop. All she wants him to do is to start taking the initiative. Why can’t he just try?

Steve is not going to change. He’s a passive guy. He probably won’t even notice what she’s doing and, if he does, he won’t respond in the way she hopes. It’s against his nature. She’ll wind up more and more bitter, and both of them will be miserable.

Change What You Can’t Accept

So what can Jessica do?

First, she has to admit to herself that Steve won’t change. She has to accept that this is who he is.

If she wants to spend her weekends doing fun things together, she’ll have to organise them. Or she can leave him to his own devices and spend her weekends with fun, spontaneous friends.

If she can live with that, great: if she’s genuinely willing to end her struggle against the situation and stop complaining about it, she can start to feel content with how things are. But what if this isn’t good enough for Jessica?

Unlike Steve’s personality, Jessica’s situation is within her control. She can end the relationship and try to find someone more spontaneous. She can end the relationship so she can be more spontaneous without a partner.

I know what you’re thinking: as if it were just that easy.

Of course it’s not easy. It’s the hardest thing in the world. That’s why we ignore the problem and cling to the hope that our partner will magically become the person we want them to be, even though they are the one factor that we absolutely can’t change.

A partner who loves routine will never become adventurous. A partner who is a risk-taker will never become cautious. A partner who is cruel will never be kind. And if we don’t come to terms with that, it haunts us even after we break up. It keeps us in the agonizing purgatory of wondering: what if?

It keeps us going back to people who are wrong for us.

It stops us moving on. It stops us healing. And it means that the next time we find ourselves in the same situation, we repeat our mistakes over and over again.

I can’t tell you whether you should accept a relationship with unchangeable flaws, or change a situation that’s become unacceptable to you. But I can tell you: for your own sake, you have to choose.



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How To Cope With Rejection Without Getting Crushed

It’s over

No matter how secure and confident you thought you were, hearing the person you love(d) say that they no longer want to be with you is a shattering experience. Even if you feel the same way, rejection is still hard to bear.

Another person has just told you that they’d prefer not to be with you. How can that not hurt?

Friends might tell you that you’re better off. They were never right for you. You’ll be happier. Perhaps all these things are true. But it doesn’t matter, does it? All you can think is: I wasn’t good enough.

Such is the power of rejection. In fact, whether you’re rejected by a partner, a prospective employer, or someone you reach out to in friendship, research suggests that the pain stings as sharply as a physical hurt. And the worst part is that you turn this pain back in on yourself.

Rejection becomes shame

Shame makes us behave in horrible ways. It can make us violent, vicious or self-destructive. Prison psychiatrist James Gilligan once said:

“I have yet to see a serious act of violence that was not provoked by the experience of feeling shamed and humiliated, disrespected and ridiculed… all violence is an attempt to replace shame with self-esteem.”

I’m not saying that feeling shamed by your rejection is going to turn you into a criminal, but it can certainly make you volatile and prone to lash out. And by moving the battleground inside yourself, shame makes it impossible to heal.

So how do you stop this happening? First, take a good, hard look at what rejection really is.

It’s not always about you

Jia Jiang, who literally wrote the book on how to handle rejection, spent years researching the subject firsthand. He learned that rejection is only partly about you.

It’s mostly about the other person: their headspace, their circumstances and, often, their hang-ups. They’re not an authority on your value as a partner or human being. They’ve made a decision based on their situation, what they feel they need – and whether they believe you’ll offer that.

They could well be wrong. And even if they’re right, if what you offer isn’t what they’re after, that doesn’t mean it’s bad – it means you’re offering it to the wrong person.

Of course, that’s not to say your actions aren’t a factor; things you’ve done may have spurred on your breakup.

The important thing is recognising the gap between what you do and who you are; the gap between guilt and shame.

Guilt is feeling that you shouldn’t have done something. You shouldn’t have lost your temper. You shouldn’t have lied. You shouldn’t have cheated. We can cope with guilt because it’s attached to quantifiable things: we can choose not to do them again, meaning we can cut them off from ourselves.

Shame is different. Shame is not a horror of what you did, it’s a horror of who you are. You didn’t just raise your voice; you’re hysterical. You didn’t just tell a lie, you’re a liar. You didn’t just cheat, you’re a cheater.

Once you’ve decided that you’re the type of person who does these things, it’s very, very hard to stop doing them. You might loathe yourself, but you can’t help it, you think. It’s who you are.

If you let rejection shame you, you risk doing one of two things: You risk lashing out in anger to claw back your self-esteem, or believing that you deserve shame.

Neither of these will help you handle and heal from your trauma. Neither will help you repeating they cycle again when a new relationship comes around.


  1. Take a good, hard look at the reasons for your breakup, distinguishing between the things you both did and the ways your personalities, attitudes or beliefs grated.
  2. Be gentle but honest with yourself about the things you did that might have been damaging. Forgive yourself for these missteps while recognising that they were the result of choice, not fate, and resolving to learn from your mistakes.
  3. Don’t shut yourself off: all you’re doing is rejecting yourself before anyone else has a chance. Remind yourself what is great about who you are and what you offer as a person – as well as what you really value and desire in a partner. When you’re ready, be willing to take the risk.


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Are You Using Your Kids As an (Emotional) Human Shield?

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that trash-talking the “other” parent is hurtful to your kids. I don’t have to tell you that fighting and hurling insults at each in front of them will cause them distress.

I probably don’t even have to tell you that kids naturally blame themselves when their parents break up; that they will look to their own mistakes or shortcomings for clues to the tension, or that they’ll worry that the loss of love between their parents means that their parents no longer love them.

But what you may not realise is that by obsessing over your kids during your divorce, even with the intention of showing them how much they are loved, you can do them – and yourself – just as much damage.

overbearing-parent-300x200I saw this problem rear its head just recently with one of my clients. This client (let’s call her Julie) was racked with guilt over the breakup of her family, but adamant that her personal trauma wouldn’t eclipse her relationship with her children.

Even though she was exhausted and needed time to process her feelings, she packed the days with activities to do with her children. She took tons of photos and flooded her Facebook feed with all the fun they were having together.

A picture-perfect, Instagram-tinted broadcast of what a great mother she was and how well they were all coping for the benefit of worried family and friends. And how did her kids respond? Were they thrilled to have their mother’s boundless attention all of a sudden? Were they grinning happily into the camera, relieved to see how “fine” their mum was despite the divorce?

It had just the opposite effect.

They could feel that mum was being needy. They didn’t want to be rushed around and harassed all day long. They didn’t want their mum to live her life vicariously through them.

They felt awkward, suffocated and unable to live their own lives.

They were worried about their mother, but didn’t feel they could express their concerns. Worse, the more time, energy and money Julie sacrificed, the more unappreciative of her efforts they became, making her feel sulky, rejected and alienated from her kids – exactly the opposite of what she was trying to achieve.

She recognised in her session last week that she was using her children to fill a hole within her – to make herself feel loved. This shocked her to her core and she has chosen to take a step back.

Children aren’t stupid.

  1. They perceive a lot more than their parents ever realise.
  2. Being on the receiving end of over-intense emotions or behaviour sets off alarm bells no matter how old you are – you sense that the other person is unbalanced, or emotionally volatile. It puts you on edge.
  3. You might think that you’re being selfless by making your kids the centre of your universe in the aftermath of your divorce, but you’re actually stressing them out.
  4. You come across as weak and needy, putting huge amounts of emotional pressure on them to perform in the way you want them to.
  5. Instead, this is the time to model independence. It’s the moment to make your kids proud of you for your strength, not your martyrdom.suffocating-300x232

You need to get a life so that your kids can live theirs.

  • Be there for your children – and avoid dragging them in to your battles – but don’t obsess over them.
  • Trash-talking about the other parent will backfire, they will end up hating you for doing that.
  • Give them space. Don’t hang around them 24/7. Demonstrate that you can cope with and without them. That they can run off and be kids without worrying about you the whole time.
  • Make plans that don’t involve them. Encourage them to do their own stuff, without you, too.
  • And when you are with them, be with them. Enjoy the quality time you’re spending together. Don’t photograph every moment of your day, or keep up a running commentary online. Don’t chase the attention of social media “friends” when you could be nurturing the real relationships in front of your face. Kids can see right through this stuff and they’ll resent you for it.
  • And lastly, you don’t need to spend a ton of money or obsess over doing bigger, better activities all the time. After all, kids crave continuity, love and security over constant variation. Don’t stress yourself out trying to win Best Parent of the Year. Who are you trying to impress?


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