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Monday, November 21, 2016

Conscious Uncoupling vs. Everlasting Divorce: 3 Differences, 1 Huge Similarity

As I've researched the causes and effects of Everlasting Divorce, I came upon what seemed like the perfect de-coupling process: Conscious Uncoupling. Coined by Katherine Woodward Thomas, Conscious Uncoupling seems the antithesis of all we've learned about the messiness and sadness of divorce. Using CU, people can detach peacefully, mindfully, and with their respect for themselves and their ex-partner intact.

According to Thomas's article in Mind Body Green, "The goal of a conscious uncoupling is not necessarily the restoration of justice, the attainment of restitution, or the vindication of being right. The goal of a conscious uncoupling is simply to be free. And there is no more powerful action to turn a difficult situation in a harmonious direction than a generous gesture of authentic loving-kindness." 

I realized after reading this that breaking-up couples all really have one big thing in common -- they have made a decision to have a self-defined FREEDOM. Maybe it's freedom from an abusive situation, freedom from pre-defined roles, freedom from imbalance, freedom from financial co-ownership, or even a spiritual freedom.

Where some couples get stuck, though, is in the other three things Thomas mentions:
1) Restoration of justice
2) Attainment of restitution
3) Vindication of being right

That's where couples who are experiencing the Everlasting Divorce are different from those that can uncouple with more ease. 

High-conflict post-divorce couples have at least one person who wants justice, restitution, or vindication. At least one person feels wounded so deeply that, without those three things (sometimes just one, but mostly all three), they cannot move on.

Why would someone feel like that? It seems like it would be easier to just turn around and say, "Forget it". But, if you're someone whose life has been upended by your intimate partner having affairs, mismanaging money, blaming you, gaslighting you and friends, and/or interfering with your parenting relationship, you're probably really angry. Like, down to your soul angry. 

Turning the other cheek may feel like you're slapping your own face. Walking away may feel like you're leaving a whole bundle of your best integrity on your ex's front yard.

Like couples who decide to "consciously" uncouple, individuals in an Everlasting Divorce have choices. Those choices can include finding ways to hold onto hope for justice, restitution, and vindication. Those choices can also include investing in one's own self to find healing and an ability to reframe "dumping your integrity" into "creating new authenticity". 

If you have questions about where you are in the process of post-divorcing your ex, please feel free to call or email me. I can be reached at 612-888-2522 most weekdays and at 

Also, you can find out more information at

#divorce #uncoupling #vindication #therapy #narcissism #marriage #trauma #justice #jennifermcbridemcnamara #touchingtrees

Friday, November 18, 2016

My Ex Still Triggers Me!

Feeling emotionally triggered or anxious about interacting with your ex-partner is a sign that you may be in an Everlasting Divorce, or a relationship that continues to be stressful long after the break-up.

Margaret Paul wrote a great piece for Mind Body Green that points out a lot of the reasons you may get triggered (hint: most have to do with painful experiences in your life). In it, she notes that there are many common triggers for people. From her list, these five seem to resonate most with people who are experiencing post-divorce issues:

  • Someone rejecting you.
    • Divorce, by its nature, involves a rejection. If you're the one who wanted and initiated the divorce, you may have inadvertently triggered your partner to feel defensive because that deep-seated fear of rejection came true. If they initiated the divorce, the feeling of rejection you felt at the time can come roaring back when you least expect it.
  • Someone giving you a disapproving look.
    • Your ex knows exactly which shady eyes to throw at you to make you come unglued, right? How many times, post-divorce, have you felt your stress escalate because of a simple look?
  • Someone blaming or shaming you.
    • Depending on the reason for your break-up, you may feel some blame or shame and an ex can be good at pointing that out for you. However, even if they aren't pointing it out, you may think they are because of a nonverbal or verbal joust.
  • Someone being judgmental or critical of you.
    • It was hard enough to be criticized during the relationship. Feeling criticized after the relationship is over can be very triggering, especially if you don't have any way to "prove" your ex wrong.
  • Someone trying to control you.
    • When you have financial attachment to your ex-partner, it can feel like he or she is trying to control you through money. That can take the form of questioning your financial decisions, withholding money for non-negotiated expenses, or causing damage to your credit.
Understanding our emotional triggers can go a long way toward figuring out how to temper them and reduce their power in a post-divorce relationship.

For more information, please feel free to email me at or check out our TouchingTrees website. If you're in the greater Twin Cities area, I'm available to chat by phone or meet with you for a free consultation.

Excerpts taken from: 

What Are Emotional Triggers + Why You Need To Understand Them, Margaret Paul, 4/17/15, Mind Body Green

#jennifermcbridemcnamara #therapy #divorce #relationship #trauma #touchingtrees

Thursday, November 17, 2016

What is an Everlasting Divorce?

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of Minnesota Marriage and Family Therapists about the idea of an Everlasting Divorce, or a divorce that seems to go on long after the papers have been signed and lost in a drawer. A regular divorce is hard enough, we can all agree. But, an Everlasting Divorce takes the stress of divorce and amplifies it.

What are some signs of an Everlasting Divorce?

1) You still experience high anxiety when you have to interact with your ex.

2) You fall back into old patterns of behaving when you have contact with your ex. For instance, you start checking his or her Facebook page or drinking a little more than usual to calm your nerves.

3) You find yourself getting triggered by things that remind you of your ex, maybe a certain restaurant, a song, a favorite food, or seeing a relative or friend.

4) You've tried therapy and it hasn't gotten you to a place where you aren't still "stuck" in the post-divorce drama.

An Everlasting Divorce is one in which neither partner can effectively disengage, whether that's emotionally, physically, or financially. An Everlasting Divorce is the continued struggle for power that occurs after the status quo has been disrupted.

"I think I might be in an Everlasting Divorce. So what? Isn't that how it is for everyone?"

Actually, it may be like that for a lot of people, but it doesn't have to be the norm and it doesn't have to be an inevitability for YOU.

There are a wide range of effects of Everlasting Divorce that you probably would rather not have.

First, your physical self takes a hit. Elevated cortisol (stress hormone) levels can create changes to your brain structure over time, making it harder to sleep, concentrate, or remember.

Your emotional self is definitely affected. You may have difficulty trusting others, you may be sensitive to rejection. You may even have difficulty reconnecting with your own thoughts and emotions.

Financially, you could be at risk because stress may be interfering with your ability to function at work or because you're spending a lot of money on attorneys, mediators, self-help books, or therapies that aren't working for you. Like having a chronic illness, being in an Everlasting Divorce is a long, slow road to dissatisfaction and unhappiness.

A lot of different factors can influence whether a divorce will be Everlasting or not. Sometimes, one partner has traits of a personality disorder, such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder. Sometimes, there is a severe lack of empathy or a trauma that seems overwhelming. Sorting out the reasons for the Everlasting Divorce can be a good first step to overcoming it.

To find out if you might be in an Everlasting Divorce, please feel free to call my office at 612-888-2522 or email me at

#divorce #anxiety #power #finances #relationship #therapy #happiness #narcissism #borderline #trauma #jennifermcbridemcnamara #touchingtrees