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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The 4 Cs of Successfully Surviving Divorce

A short time ago I had coffee with Lisa Byrne CDFA, of Second Saturdays and Divorcing Divas. Lisa has dedicated her professional career to helping people, mostly women, land on their feet financially and emotionally after divorce.

 During our chat, Lisa shared with me that she believes that there are 3 Cs critical to a positive post-divorce situation: Control, Confidence, and Closure. After totally fan-girling her idea, I thought about how true those three Cs were in my own professional experiences with individuals and couples. The people who do the best after divorce are the ones who have (or gain) some control over their own lives, are able to develop confidence because of that control, and are then able to achieve a level of closure from the relationship.

Then I realized there was a fourth C -- one that Lisa and all therapists, financial analysts, mediators, and family law attorneys embody.

That C is Connection.

Over the next couple of months, I'm going to be exploring each of the four Cs: looking at what they mean, how they are impactful, how a lack of them can make post-divorce life really difficult, and how they can be encouraged in the lives of our friends, family, and clients.

I invite you to join me for those posts and make comments, either on the post, my Facebook, or my Twitter. If you or someone you know in the Twin Cities is having difficulty with any of the Cs, feel free to contact me at or at 612-888-2522.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Adventure Connection

This past weekend I had the opportunity to hang out with two smart, funny, engaging women for nine driving hours, five meals, three hours of full-on adventure, and (at least) two bags of salty snacks.

Our particular exploit included a fake run-for-the-Canadian-border (since we were a mere 45 minutes from the actual border and we had access to some empty woods) and a whole lot of documenting photos. We planned the whole adventure, from pre-trip photos setting up the story, to hand-printed signs on the only paper we had available to us (yellow-lined note paper), to post-escape pleas for bail money.

It was imagination and exhilaration...and created a one-moment-in-time connection for the three of us.

And, it all got me thinking about how many opportunities we have for adventure (not very many), but how rewarding the connection can be if we take a chance.

You may have recently received an invitation from a Facebook friend or an email mailing list to participate in something civic-minded. It might have been to support a cause that aligns with your values. It might have been to express your position on current events.

If you're like me, you've considered whether you should participate because...well, there will be strangers there. And you might wonder if your friends or family will think you're weird. And you don't know if you have time because there are so many other obligations.

I would encourage you, though, to stretch and challenge yourself to participate. Think of it as an adventure. (Never ridden public transportation? Never walked in the street when you're not supposed to? Never just gone to a museum or a restaurant to try something new?)

The connections we can make with others who are also out adventuring can be life-changing. The connections we make within ourselves can be invaluable. When's the last time you listened to that part of yourself that wants to just be silly? When's the last time you calmed your anxiety and took a plunge anyway?

You don't need to have a lot of free time to create an adventure. You just have to be willing to step outside your schedule and your roles. And make a run for it...

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Self-Help Book Club Suggestions!

Hi everyone --

I just posted a video inviting you to participate in a virtual self-help book club with me over the coming months. Here are links to the books I mentioned in the video:

  Conscious Uncoupling: Katherine Woodward Thomas

The Emotionally Abusive Relationship: Beverly Engel

Mom's House, Dad's House: Isolina Ricci, PhD.

The Divorce Remedy: Michele Weiner Davis

Transformational Divorce: Karen Kahn Wilson, Ed.D

The Long Way Home--The Powerful 4-Step Plan for Adult Children of Divorce: M. Gary Neuman

If any of these seem interesting to you, or you'd like to suggest a different one we can read together, feel free to email me at:

Or call  me at:

Or visit my website at:

Using Insurance for Couples Therapy? Here are 4 Considerations

In terms of mental health, the Affordable Care Act provided individuals one really important benefit: coverage. And not just coverage, but benefits that were on par with the benefits one could receive for medical health issues. In other words, the ACA finally allowed people with mental illness to a) get insurance (because they couldn't be denied for a pre-existing condition), b) pay reasonable charges for services, and c) not be charged more in premiums because of a mental health condition (see this page for more info).

 That was all excellent news for people who needed to seek therapy or medication to help with mental, behavioral, or mood disorders.

However, by equating mental health services with medical services, the system became a little sticky for couples. After all, how do you diagnose a couple who is having problems, say, communicating? 

There are four considerations a couple should take into account before they use their insurance for therapy.

1) One of you has to get diagnosed with something. That's the way insurance works. For a provider to get reimbursed by your insurance company, they have to "prove" that there's a need for their services. This is done by submitting a diagnosis to insurance. Currently, the medical codes that pertain to relationship work are not generally reimbursable. Hmmm. That means that one of you has to get diagnosed with a mental disorder in order for your provider to get paid.

2) The partner who is most distressed is more likely to get diagnosed. It may be that you're losing your marbles because you just found out your partner has been cheating on you. It could be that you're angry beyond belief that you your partner has drained your bank account to fund a friend's business. In many couples who seek therapy, one partner is considerably more distressed than the other, thereby looking more disordered. Despite the fact that one partner is reacting to the conflict created by the other partner, the reactor is usually going to get the diagnosis.

3) If you break up, the diagnosis doesn't go away. Although mental illness diagnoses can be temporary, they often aren't treated that way. So, if you're upset and anxious because of your relationship AND get diagnosed with depression or anxiety, that diagnosis is in your medical history forever. Of course, so are the two UTIs and spells of bronchitis you had in the last five years, but there's an understanding that those were cured. "Curing" a mental illness is not as measurable as checking a urine sample or reporting that your cough has gone away, so its presence isn't discounted as easily.

4) A diagnosis can be used against you, intentionally or not. There are a few ways this can happen. a) In the most horrible, worst-case scenario, your and your partner break up and your partner wants...custody, the house, your IRA, etc. and uses your diagnosis of depression or anxiety (or whatever else) to pressure you or the courts to grant them something. 

b) In a lesser worst-case scenario, your diagnosis can limit your ability to get life insurance at a later date. True story: a woman I know had to pay extra in life insurance premiums because she was diagnosed with depression while going through her divorce. In order to petition to have her rates lowered, she had to not mention any sort of emotional distress to her doctor for at least a year.

c) In just a who-woulda-thunk scenario, you and your partner stay together after therapy (which is great!), but there is a shift in the power differential between you because one of you has been labeled less fit to handle the stress of conflict in the relationship.

Many couples who seek therapy just want good help--at a good price--as soon as possible. Usually "at a good price" seems, on the surface, like the same thing as "using insurance", but it may not be. If you or someone you know is thinking about seeking therapy for a relationship issue, you might want to think about the non-monetary costs of incurring a diagnosis.

Things to ask a therapist about insurance:

1) How will you determine who gets diagnosed?
2) Will you take a cash payment (or even a discounted cash payment) instead of submitting to my insurance?
3) In your experience, does my insurance company manage treatment in terms of number of sessions, type of therapy, etc?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

What is Closure...Really?

A quick look-up of the word "closure" as it relates to psychology shows that closure is when you take something that is ambiguous or not-understood and find a resolution to it. In that sense, closure can be minimized as a simple question  ---->  answer process.

Relationship closure is a whole different beast, though. Ambiguity in a relationship, particularly one that's in crisis, can last for years and have many different layers. There are questions about the other, such as:

** Why is he/she acting like that?
** Is there someone else?
** Is my partner cheating/mentally ill/physically ill/stressed out?

And there are ambiguous questions about ourselves, such as:

** What did I do to cause this?
** Is it my fault?
** Could I have been better/sexier/funnier/richer/more attractive?
** What could I have done to make this relationship work?

The interplay of all of those unknowns can make it really challenging to find "closure" in any real sense of the word. How can you achieve closure when you're not sure if maybe you could have done something to prevent your relationship from falling apart?

In my work with pre-divorce/divorcing/and post-divorce individuals and couples, there is a palpable belief that closure can happen and it can happen in such a way as to make people feel better. As an optimist, I do believe closure can occur and it can be a relief. I also think of that type of closure as an "ideal" closure.

As a realist, I think we need to explore that a more "baseline" closure may happen instead and that baseline closure may have to suffice for awhile.

Recently, I was asked what word I would use that means the same thing as closure. I couldn't think of just one. Instead, I thought that closure (particularly baseline closure) is a mixture of 1) acceptance of the things that happened, 2) hope for the future, and 3) forward motion toward change.

Accepting what's happened isn't necessarily finding answers, but it's the acknowledgement that answers may not be found. In couples where one partner wants to know "WHY?" and the other partner still has ambiguity about that very same thing, answers won't be forthcoming. So, accepting that something happened and can't be changed is really that first step toward closure.

Secondly, developing or rekindling hope for the future is key to finding closure. If you can't envision a future for yourself that holds something positive, you won't move past needing to understand the "why" of your situation. You'll be constantly trying to find "the answer" because it feels like the answer has to come before the hope.

Finally, forward motion is the process of acting on your hope. Forward motion means making one change, or a whole bunch of changes, that propel you toward your positive vision of what the future will look like.

If you're in the process of trying to find closure, which stage best describes where you are right now? If you've achieved closure, how did you do it? What were the pivotal moments that told you that you'd gotten to where you needed to be?

Please feel free to email your responses or post them on this blog. You can reach me at You can also check out my website at for more information about achieving closure within relationships.