THE 7 STAGES OF DIVORCE are: PANIC, DENIAL, AGONY, RAGE, EPIPHANY, NEGOTIATION and PEACE
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STAGE VII PEACE
The most shocking discovery many people make after the break-up of any relationship is that it had not been based on love; but on mutual fear. Sometimes they have confused love with parenting, sex, beauty or shopping. Coaching clients, I have observed that marriage without Unconditional Love is not fulfilling for either partner. There is only one reason we do not love one another unconditionally, not only our partners but our family, our friends and our children and even ourselves and that reason is fear. We feel frightened of rejection, of vulnerability, of intimacy, or even of the lack of intimacy until we do the work on ourselves to find PEACE. When we develop the skills to find PEACE in the face of any crisis, we also can use those internal skills to handle fear that is a normal part of divorce. This is absolutely crucial so that when you feel trapped in PANIC, DENIAL, AGONY or RAGE, you may turn it around into PEACE.
The lesson for each divorcing client is this statement from clinical psychologist from Studio City, CA, Frank Zizzo, Ph.D.'s explanation, 'Peace is not the absence of conflict. Pain is not an option- at least not for long. The process of living, connecting and disconnecting is painful. Suffering on the other hand involves a crisis of meaning. When things become meaningless, then the only option is suffering. When we have created meaning for ourselves, we can find peace.'
Ultimately, the goal of life is PEACE. Though you may not see that now, divorce may be the doorway to freedom and to PEACE for you. Some of you, like me, may have lost that which we called 'everything' during divorce. And we're still here, we're still alive. How is that possible if we have lost 'everything'? PEACE is the result of mental discipline; not mental acuity. What is the escape route to PEACE? How can you find it? PEACE lives in our thoughts. The Mission Statement of The Divorce Forum explains that 'The most important difference you can make in the world is the difference you can make in yourself. Peace isn't going to find us; we must find PEACE.'
THINKING IT THROUGH
As children, praying for certain attributes, a common desire is to possess a high IQ. Often we pray for this or thank God if we have been born with it. Though we may have received this gift of intelligence, how many of us understand that, 'knowledge is the booby prize'? If we wish to investigate the idea that happiness is a result of wealth, we need only to visit New York, Beverly Hills, London, Paris or Hong Kong. When you see the stress on the faces; the desperate attempt at joy, you will see the truth as I have. If we investigate the concept that happiness is a result of beauty, befriend some models and movie stars as I have done and listen to their conversations of their private hell; 'The beauty that I used to be'. If you wish to discover the misery of intelligence, any group of professors at any Ivy League college will reveal the truth. Haven't you had the thought, 'when I'm rich, then I'll be happy' or that when I'm anything that I am not now, I'll be happy? I was extremely fortunate; born both rich and surrounded by enough unhappy people and that awareness saved me a lifetime of struggle. I have been to The Academy Awards; I have been to the Paris couture collections, I have been and seen and 'done it all'; but PEACE eluded me until I refocused myself with PEACE as the only goal. If you're thinking that by becoming rich or beautiful or famous that you'll be happy let me recommend an alternative. If you seek happiness, then happiness will become your destiny. You will become as happy as your devotion to happiness allows. However, if you seek peace, your approach to peace will allow you to experience happiness as well as peace.
As you continue to move towards your goal of PEACE, the solution will unfold.
HAPPY = PEACE +
After I worked through all the emotions of my second divorce, after I could move easily between PANIC, AGONY and RAGE to PEACE, rich didn't matter, beautiful didn't matter and famous didn't matter; PEACE matters. Recently, I have been told, 'you seem happy; I want that.' The plus may be any unexpected event that brings you joy. Happy may be the realization that you no longer need that external event to feel peaceful. During my coaching sessions, I utilize the many techniques as the client investigates the thoughts that impede PEACE. Often, it is necessary to discuss the difference between a thought about a situation and the situation itself. If we can understand that it is our thought that creates pleasure or pain; the thought that causes stress and suffering, then we may begin to unravel our pain and inch towards PEACE. Are we intelligent without being stubborn so that you can see another way of thinking? If we discover a recurring thought and investigate it and find that it is untrue, then a thought such as 'I am worthless' may become 'I am worthwhile'. If we use The 4 Questions of Inquiry based on The Work of Byron Katie to investigate a story such as 'I am not loveable' we may see the truth and experience our soul, where love lives. Sometimes our choices make it impossible to retain PEACE; we can choose again tomorrow and with a different path, create a different life.
'To stay with that shakiness-to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge-that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic-this is the spiritual path. Getting the knack of catching ourselves, of gently and compassionately catching ourselves, is the path of the warrior.' From When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron.
THE PATH TO PEACE
'The spiritual journey involves going beyond hope and fear, stepping into unknown territory, continually moving forward. 'Rather than indulge or reject our experience, we can somehow let the energy of the emotion, the quality of what we're feeling, pierce us to the heart' After a while, that's how we relate with hope and fear in our daily lives. Out of nowhere, we stop struggling and relax. We stop talking to ourselves and come back to the freshness of the present moment' from Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron.
Since my second divorce, I have relinquished a path that led to pain; to every Stage besides PEACE. Sometimes the challenge is in managing our minds, investigating our thoughts. Sometimes, after we have done that, we see that our circumstances may be altered to ease the path to PEACE.
USING THE WORK OF BYRON KATIE
I was coaching a client on the shift that had occurred in her relationship. The couple had agreed the day before to alter it from a loving relationship that includes the sexual component to a friendship that does not. She had been troubled that her sexual needs had not been met in the relationship. However, she was feeling very pleased that she felt none of the loss or abandonment that had been part of alterations in past relationships. As we investigated the process of her thinking, I pointed out that a few days earlier she had said, 'his self-medicating with chocolate really upsets me. When he eats chocolate he doesn't sleep well and he's thirty pounds overweight. It could be a deal-breaker'. As soon as she realized that she had chosen to alter the relationship, she knew the source of her PEACE. It is always our own thinking process that causes pain or brings PEACE.
That same day, another client was working through what he considered the breakdown in sexuality in his relationship. He said, 'I'm not able to have sex with my girlfriend. I'm not able to stay hard.' This thought caused him to suffer and caused his girlfriend to suffer, too. Here is the process of thought that we utilized, based on The Work of Byron Katie. It is essential to notice the mythology that we create for ourselves, a system of concepts that are interlocking and yet which have little or no basis in fact. When we begin to disassemble the story, we may have the opportunity to discover what is true and what is not. When we see the truth, we have the choice to accept it and leave it or the choice to accept it and take action to alter it. Until we see the truth, we lack all options.
Each thought that appears has the potential for bringing PANIC, DENIAL, AGONY, RAGE, EPIPHANY, NEGOTIATION or PEACE. Each of us has the choice of thoughts. During my own divorce, each time that papers arrived from my husband's attorney, I was triggered to fear. The following is the thought process that I used during my own 2nd divorce and the turn around that brought me peace.
14th story I said, 'My husband is dangerous'
Is it true, the thought, 'my husband is dangerous'?
What evidence do I have that my husband is dangerous?
He has threatened me; he has pointed a loaded shotgun at me.
How do I feel when I have the thought, my husband is dangerous?
How can you turn around the thought, my husband is dangerous to me?' One turn-around might be, 'My husband is not dangerous to me.' Another turn-around might be, 'My thinking that my husband is dangerous is dangerous to me.' Every time I have the thought, 'my husband is dangerous', I feel panicky, terrified, ill and I have had symptoms that look like a heart attack. Clearly this is dangerous to me. In fact, these thoughts may cause my death long before my husband does.
Who would I be without the thought, my husband is dangerous? Peaceful.
It is the thoughts we have that undermine PEACE. What thoughts may we have in divorce that will allow us to return to PEACE?
Ending a relationship is torturous for many of us; connections may be deep and to the heart, to the bone. There is no exception in a life of connection and disconnection and it always hurts. What is the thought that returns me to PEACE? PEACE has nothing to do with your being right and her being wrong. It has no relation to your being wrong. Even if you didn't know; you did the best you could. How do I know that about you? Because that's what you did; that's what we all did. We did our best. In 1977 I lied to my husband; in 1992 I didn't. I did the best I could each time. In 1984 my boyfriend made some unusual choices; it took me years to forgive, years to speak to him. Last year, he made some unusual choices; I've completely forgiven him and love him with all my heart. Now he's a dear friend; offering me loving support via telephone. Yet, that doesn't mean that I've returned to the relationship because it wasn't a peaceful relationship in the past and I have no evidence that it would be peaceful today.
'A friend is someone who by what he thinks of you obliges you to become fully who you are.' Anonymous
When we love; we love forever. It is my commitment, my true nature, just as it may be yours. How, then, can you separate and follow different paths? Some of you believe that you may save yourselves by remaining separate; avoiding the deepest bonds or limiting your love. You may look at your marriages and see that they have ended despite your most despairing efforts. Or you have divorced, and now you long to stay hidden away from your human temptation to connect. If you have had more than one divorce; as I have you may wonder how successful has your healing been? Did I fully recover from my first divorce, 'The Allan Wrench'? Had I finished mourning; I definitely had not. Have you mourned all the loss in life? If you have not finished mourning the death of a parent, will you not bring that to bed with you; that fear of losing a loving connection? What will you do with thoughts of fear and loss? Have you have left behind the joy of childhood and submerged it in the pain of responsibility? Today is the day you stop running; again. There is nothing more for you than to stand fully in the pain, for as long as you may. You can reach for the phone and call in the love and laughter of friends and family as I have done. Later, run to the gym or move with the music of the endorphin rush. In a moment of PANIC or AGONY, you may reach for chocolate, as long as you return to the process that brings you to PEACE. Love is that which has no opposite; it does not appear if a few needs are met and some needs not met, it is not a matter for your 'accounting' department.
Twenty years ago I learned that 'what he calls love is not what I call love'. This has saved me time and again. These are magic words that I have uttered. If you feel now that there is one perfect love for you; does it matter what form the love will take? If he has married another, can you remain friends? This is for me, the only way to express real love. When you have moved through PANIC, AGONY and RAGE, what is there besides the love for your spouse, for your lover, for your friend, for yourself? Isn't it true that PEACE is the goal and that we must continue our inner work until we reach it. Mahatma Gandhi said that 'You must be the change you wish to see in the world.'
If you have ever been deeply in love and if that relationship has ended badly, as mine did, you will recognize The 7 Stages of Divorce: PANIC, DENIAL, AGONY, RAGE, EPIPHANY and NEGOTIATION. But the purpose of this book is to provide you with PEACE. Peace which is available to each of us, in the face of each challenge; each uncoupling and each divorce. Now that you have reached the seventh chapter; PEACE, you may be tempted to expect PEACE.
SECRET VII to divorce
Learn to Let Go
Dr. Frank Zizzo says, 'When we process through our emotions, a deep sense of purpose and meaning allows us to 'BE' When we love and are loved, that memory continues, almost like the ellipse of the universal equation; e=mc2. If you never understood Einstein; divorce may provide another opportunity because love is neither created nor destroyed. Each time someone attempts to rob you of your PEACE, you have a choice. Will you choose to allow it or will you recommit yourself to PEACE. Many people will try to steal your PEACE; the question is whether you will let them. It is easy to blame your spouse or your children for your pain; it is easy to say that if only they would leave you alone; you could feel good but that is not the Truth. You may think that if they were more attentive; more loving, then you would find PEACE. You may believe that it is everyone else's fault that the divorce is so challenging to you. Have you learned Self-empathy so that you can reground yourself, regroup and unhook yourself from the distractions of the divorce and from the outside world? When you go within, you may remember your true Self. Inside you there is no vengeance; no terror; no anguish, no PANIC, DENIAL, AGONY, RAGE, EPIPHANY, or even NEGOTIATION. Inside is only Love and PEACE. But you will have to find it for yourself.
Accept that you will move back and forth between the 7 STAGES OF DIVORCE until you have finished processing all your emotions. During each step in a divorce you will have a choice: drama or PEACE. The choice is yours alone.
There are two kinds of Forgiveness; the kind that is earned and the kind that is donated as charity. When we have learned to let go, we see the difference but we learn that forgiveness is for our own sake. What do you do when the love you feel for your spouse is no longer returned? How is it possible to handle the pain and loss and stay truly sane? Rev. Bernard Goodman says, 'Letting go is the first step to evolution.' A peaceful life and healing is your destination.
'Allow the present moment to be. This will give you a taste of the state of inner freedom from external conditions, the state of true inner peace. Accept - then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life.' from 'The Power of Now' by Eckhart Tolle
Letting go may be one path to PEACE. Once you have lost everything you are afraid to lose; then you may find PEACE. How do you respond when you see your ex, moving on and looking happy and peaceful in a new relationship? If you have been deeply in love, and if you are still in love with your ex, it is easy to feel very, very sorry for yourself and equally difficult to accept the new couple. You may wonder why your marriage was so painful; why did it not work, or wonder what you did wrong? You may assume that the new relationship contains all the qualities that yours lacked. Or you may believe that it is the new mate that is 'enough' or has 'enough' or does 'enough' and that you did not. And if you continue to search, you may even find evidence to believe that the new mate is the cause of your Exes happiness and PEACE. In addition, if you have children you will need to prepare yourself to see your Ex in the new relationship again and again. There will be school plays, there will be sports events, there will be so much in the natural course of raising a child that will shuffle and reshuffle you into one another's proximity. Your children will return after weekends with your Ex, bringing stories home, stories that may have been seeded in them to hurt you.
That is why you must look now for a new view of your marriage and your divorce. It is crucial for you to reframe it in a way that is both truthful and also healing for you and your children. You have the opportunity to create a new insight into your past and also to give birth to your own future. In The Power of Now Eckart Tolle wrote, 'As long as you make an identity for yourself out of pain, you cannot become free of it.' Sadly, it is more difficult for your children to heal unless you lead the way. You do the work for yourselves, on yourselves and also for them.
If you have loved deeply and have had great difficulty in letting go of the relationship, there is only one direction in which to move. You must move on; move forward; move into the light of freedom. When you believe that you deserve PEACE, that you are entitled to it; you will no longer settle for the Stages of PANIC, AGONY or RAGE. Then you will begin to notice and separate from your story. When you think of your spouse and feel pain, remember that you may be projecting an imaginary happiness onto your Ex which may not be authentic. Can you look into someone else's soul? In spite of appearances, your Ex may or may not be at PEACE in the new relationship. It was my experience after my second divorce to watch the unraveling of my Ex-husband's 'storybook romance'. My attorney had obtained a lifetime restraining order against him, so I do not mean that I have a ringside seat. However, every city can be a small town after divorce and you may find yourself receiving bulletins such as, 'Have you seen the weight he gained?'; 'They fight all the time'; 'Did you know that she drinks?'. Every thought, every dream, every imaginary scene of your spouse reinvents a painful fantasy. When I was married, people thought that we were happy. If my husband who was so miserable could appear happy with me, I could see that his new life could be an illusion and so I let go.
I often reflect upon a different relationship where there had been great love on my part and a very bad end. In his next relationship he was so much kinder, more loving and more solid. For a long time this contrast brought me AGONY. I suffered for years over my own imagined inadequacy and his imagined new-found PEACE. Both extremes were delusions. Now, I have reframed the past. Where did he learn to love his new love? He learned it from me. Just as you can bring more love into your life; not in the barter system but for the joy of expressing the love that you are. That is different from living in hope; living in a pine box. Are you carrying on an active relationship with a passive presence? Are you in love with the ghost of someone who has gone? Is the delusion that the two of you have a future a way of avoiding your life today? Is this small portion of a life all that you have and is it truly enough for you? Do you find yourself still being the very best spouse that you can, even after the divorce has ended the marriage? This is the split and this is what you will heal on the way to PEACE.
Each experience of love prepares us to be more loving. This is my contribution to each person I have loved and the gift they have made to me. What we learned from each other during the years we were together provided a training ground for new choices and new behaviors. Each time I behaved with dignity and could STAND IN MY PAIN, without expressing drama, I provided an example. Each time I unhooked myself from AGONY with humor and each day that I stepped respectfully beyond RAGE, I was the example. For every man and woman who has known violence and drama; pain and hurt, you can be the break-through to PEACE. In The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle wrote, 'You have two choices left: resistance or surrender. Bondage or inner freedom from external condition. Suffering or inner peace.'
Use natural mood elevation
One component of PEACE is biochemical. Mahatma Gandhi explained that
'Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.' Having compiled your lists of feelings and needs and having understood that you may meet most of your own needs for yourself, over time, are you experiencing more harmony than you have in the past? Once you have brought THE 7 STAGES OF DIVORCE into your life you may have uncovered your own freedom. You are now free to experience even the deepest depths of despair without believing that you will be trapped there forever. Also, you will have these STAGES for support as you handle every trauma that you or your family and friends will ever encounter. Whether I am lecturing on divorce, marriage, communication issues in business or families or when I lectured on the effect of terrorism after 9/11, the stages are the same. The 7 STAGES OF DIVORCE ARE THE 7 STAGES OF TRAUMA. They are also, THE 7 STAGES OF LIFE. With the rate of divorce at 70% by the year 2005, you may think of marriage as the revolving door. Now that you use the 7 STAGES OF DIVORCE, now that you can move with ease back and forth through all the emotions of PANIC, DENIAL, AGONY, RAGE, EPIPHANY, NEGOTIATION AND PEACE, 'the fear of the fear' as Dr. Zizzo describes it, disappears. That is often the first step to PEACE.
When we can offer each other empathy and offer ourselves self-empathy according to Nonviolent Communication by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg our lives become peaceful because we have ourselves discovered peace.
'When you are controlled by your need to be in control you will defeat yourself. In that defeat, you will confirm what you were taught in the first place and unless you have clear vision, you will begin the cycle again.' Frank Zizzo, Ph.D.
Since you will move between the 7 STAGES as you learn to process your thoughts and emotions, if you are experiencing a break-up or a divorce, there will be a finite timetable when the input is fresh. If you are moving through a financial, health or emotional crisis, the process may be viewed within the timeline of your life. The most important option is choosing not to shut down or to disconnect emotionally, even if you divorce. As you continue to move towards your goal of PEACE, the solution will unfold. If you learn this process now, you will never again become paralyzed or lost in PANIC, AGONY or RAGE, even during any trauma or illness. If you are considering a divorce or if you are in the middle of one, during each step in life you have a choice: drama or PEACE. The choice is yours alone. The ultimate goal of life is PEACE and divorce can be the doorway to freedom and to PEACE for you if you are willing to learn new skills NOW.
It is essential to notice the mythology that you have created for yourself, a system of concepts that are interlocking and yet which may have little or no basis in fact. When you practice disassembling each story, using The 4 Questions of Inquiry based on The Work of Byron Katie, you examine truth and fiction. When you see the truth, you may accept it and abandon your painful stories. Then, you may take action to alter your life. Until you see the truth, however, you lack all options. And it is important to realize that EVERY story has a turnaround that is more true and also creates more PEACE for you.
How did one client turn around, 'divorce will ruin me!'? How did another reframe, 'my husband is dangerous'? Her thoughts about her husband were more dangerous than her husband who yells but who has never been physically hurtful. When you realize that it is the thoughts you have that undermine PEACE, what thoughts will allow you to return to PEACE? Letting go is one pathway. Once you have lost everything you are afraid to lose; then you may find PEACE, but usually there are warning signs long before most melt-downs. Did you realize that your response to anger could create a loving reconciliation instead of a break-up? Do you understand the difference between ignoring a problem and resolving it with empathy?
Have you ever paid for love? Have you ever paid for peace? The #1 complaint of my clients during their first session is that they feel angry that they have made bad choices. As we begin to discuss their story, they often discover that they had not seen the options; and thus were left with no choice but 'Sophie's Choice'. The Divorce Forum Coaching Program offers a complete matrix of professional support adapted to your individual circumstances including referrals for mediation, legal advice, therapy etc, with a collaborative overview, the context for recreating families and lives. When you love your partner, love your children and love your home, how far will you stretch for peace? Is there evidence that agreeing to your partners' demands will produce a long, happy life together instead of 'manslaughter or womanslaughter'? Is there proof that gifts create peace? Or can you learn new ways to communicate that enhance PEACE for both partners? What will you decide when your heart is in conflict with your soul? Is it possible to create a strategy that works for both partners? In relationships where there is great fear, there is the need to create a belief that it is possible to be in control and no other option exists. And if you leave without acquiring more skills in thinking, listening, speaking and acting, how can you ensure that your needs will be met next time?
Falling In and Out of Love
Have you said, "Been there; done WITH that"? What stands between you and letting go of unrequited love? Whether you're holding onto your ex or the one you labeled 'N-ex-t', aren't you tired of suffering? Frank Zizzo, PhD, says, "Unrequited love has ancient roots in the personality. It is a child desperate, rejected, and afraid, who is willing to give over the entire self to the fiction of safety and inclusion. As an adult, this involves re-creating the rejection of the past in a present relationship and substituting pain for love."
Often, my first goal with new clients is to help clarify: divorce or reconciliation. If the divorce is final, the choice inspires a new form of infantile paralysis. How do you know when it's hopeless? How can you tell if reconciliation is possible? Are needs such as those for connection, appreciation, affection, integrity, respect, self-expression, spontaneity or peace met by your relationship? When your primary and secondary needs are met and others are not, you may experience a 'torn' feeling; not knowing whether to stay or go. When your partner has the same experience, this may be the fertile ground for divorce. However, my clients often discover new strategies so that they can first understand and then meet these needs in positive and helpful ways. While some long for "intoxicating romance" or "intoxicating passion", others find financial security or emotional safety crucial. For others, planning together and peace are the key aspects to a long-term relationship. What is most important to you and to your partner? You may agree with this line from Neil Simon's London Suite, 'I'm still in love with him; not in a practical sort of way but in a longing sort of way.' Love is not enough. Otherwise, you would always feel love and feel peaceful. But humans have a wide array of needs around love; including companionship, sex, all the 10 TYPES OF INTIMACY. When there is love, there is the temptation to ease out of your list of needs and priorities. When there is no love there is the temptation to create drama and boundaries. However; retain your Self. If you gave away your Self to the marriage, who will you be in your next relationship? Suffering is not the same as making reparations. If you have hurt your spouse, your own pain will not bring peace to someone else. If fantasies of your future bring you to your knees, give yourself Empathy and become peaceful. Every day you may write a new chapter to your story. If you have had similar experiences with different relationships or spouses, can you still blame them? Peace, the 7th Stage of Divorce, will be available whenever you let go of your old self and return to the Self.
15th Story: Forgiving my husband
As I completed writing this book, I dreamed that I was reviewing the first published copy of it and that my ex-husband was in the room with me. During the dream, I knew that this was occurring after the divorce; after all the years of working on myself. From this new perspective, I was able to imagine that I could see his feelings and unmet needs. In this dream as he looked at the book's cover; he may have felt worried and I imagined that his need for emotional safety was triggered by seeing my name on the cover, wondering what I had written about him. Dreaming, I gave him Empathy, thinking, that when he considered what I would say about him in the book he may have been feeling sad and having a need for respect or self-respect. I thought that when he considered the years of turmoil and arguments and of our Cold War, he may have felt sad because his need for peace was not met. In the dream I had a thought of giving him a compassionate kiss to meet his need for empathy and then I began to notice that I had not considered my own feelings and unmet needs. I noticed that I felt sad when I saw him because I remembered the years when I couldn't communicate my feelings and needs to him or even to myself. In that moment, I forgave both of us.
The average American marriage lasts only seven years. After a break-up, there may be emotional scars to heal before another relationship can thrive. When you commit yourself, basing your interactions on love instead of on fear may be difficult. In coaching clients, these new communication skills allow you to bring yourself back to PEACE, so that all your relationships improve. Then, the 'happily ever after' that you have dreamed about can begin with yourself and expand to your spouse. When we fulfill our partners' needs, life is wonderful. When we don't there may be pain. When we have mastered all 7 STAGES, we may feel PANIC without abandoning the relationship; we may feel AGONY without using guilt on one another; we may feel RAGE without resorting to betrayal. We will be willing to NEGOTIATE with each other and when we are at PEACE, we will enjoy it together. And PEACE is the 7th STAGE and the beginning of joy.
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