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Navigating Relational Disaster

Marital and relational strife is everywhere. More and more adults seem simply unhappy and unfulfilled. What is even more frightening is how few people are equipped with the tools to navigate the landscape of relational ...

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Marital and relational strife is everywhere. More and more adults seem simply unhappy and unfulfilled. What is even more frightening is how few people are equipped with the tools to navigate the landscape of relational disaster.

Too often when partners in a relationship acknowledge that they are stuck, it is too late for reconciliation. One partner has already emotionally left the relationship and has no desire to reconcile and heal. He or she just wants to flee.

Others are ashamed of their relational strife and are unwilling to reach out for professional help. They were raised to believe that any need for assistance outside yourself is a sign of tremendous weakness.

Those who are open to counseling usually encounter one of two things: an excellent marriage and/or relationship counselor who helps them refocus and reclaim their marriage or a counselor who is too pricey or who makes them feel so uncomfortable that they are afraid to commit to the process.

Unfortunately, managed care does not help in this regard. Seeking a referral for counseling from your insurance company's list is oftentimes hit or miss. It would be helpful to have a community resource to guide people to appropriate professional mental health practitioners, identifying their specific areas of expertise, i.e. marriage counseling/relationship counseling.

Another helpful resource, if you are seeking an appropriate therapist, would be to tap your local House of Worship. Most Rabbis, Priests and Ministers are well versed on who is helpful as mental health counselors within your local community.

Professional mediation is a relatively new resource that couples can use around possible reconciliation and/or amicable separation and divorce.

When married people split, it is rarely a peaceful and amicable experience, especially if there are children involved. Oftentimes, intentionally and unintentionally, children from the relationship are put in the middle and are used as weapons to profoundly wound all involved.

Finances, visitation, custody and a laundry list of other things, make it very difficult for a husband and wife to leave their marriage peacefully.

The children that divorcing couples share are not divorcing their parents. Thus, they should not be treated like property in a settlement. They are your children and will be your children until you die. Therefore, their feelings and concerns need to be considered. As parents, we need to be super vigilant and not put them in the middle or use them against each other when divorcing.

Divorce and all that is associated with the process and procedures is a billion dollar business that rips people off big time. The process, which our system of justice supports, is reprehensible. The people stuck in this disgraceful mechanism are treated barbarically. It is never about what is fair, just and right, but rather always about money and power.

Too often couples are too intimidated to settle their differences outside of court. Many times, they are fed erroneous information about the presiding judge and the process. In all honesty, what does the average couple know about this process?

If things are settled outside of court, too often it is not equitable. It is determined by which spouse has the money to hire a more aggressive attorney. If you opt to go to court, finances determine how far you can go and what your ultimate outcome will be.

The whole system needs to be overhauled. It is such a waste of taxpayers' money. It is a misappropriation of the court's time and the legal system. Their time and effort could be better spent addressing the issues of abuse, violence, hate and injustice in our larger community.

Few people leave the divorce process with inner peace. More often than not, they leave the experience broken and bankrupt. Sometimes it takes years to financially recover from this inhumane process.

In addition to the system's overall abusive approach to divorce, the apparent arbitrary and inconsistent way custody and visitation is determined is destructive and harmful, not only to the parents but most importantly to the children involved.

Some judges and hearing officers are extraordinary. They are compassionate and respectful professionals. Unfortunately, they seem to be a minority. I will never understand why people in public service, who wield an awful lot of power, cannot treat all people with dignity and respect, even if the people in question don't act in a respectful and dignified manner.

So often, I hear people ask why today's generation is so loud, disrespectful and rude. I know why. Look around you. As adults, what kind of behavior do we model for the younger generation?

Countless people in public service and leadership positions curse, speak vulgarly and treat people rudely as a common course of interaction. Unfortunately, they are clergy, doctors, lawyers, law enforcement officials, judges, teachers, coaches, military leadership, politicians and so many others in positions of authority and power. A growing number of our children reflect in their behavior what they see in us!

A high school senior entered into an intensive outpatient drug treatment program two months before graduation. His life was out of control. During his senior year, he developed a serious coke addiction. He is from an affluent family on the South Shore. His parents split when he was fourteen. It was a vicious divorce. He and his four siblings were caught in the middle.

As part of his outpatient treatment, his parents were obligated to participate in a monthly family group. You could cut the tension between them with a knife. Every holiday, every birthday and every special occasion has to be split - meaning the kids celebrate Christmas on Christmas with their Dad and then with their Mom - the same with birthdays and all other holidays. TJ hated this approach. Since he was fourteen, he dreaded the holidays and special occasions, even his birthday.

When he graduated from high school in June, everyone was there, but his parents refused to sit with each other or even talk. Both parents wanted to give TJ a separate graduation party. He said vehemently, "absolutely not!"

A few days later, TJ called his parents and said he wanted one party with everyone present - that was the only gift he wanted from them. Neither parent could answer immediately. A few hours later, each parent agreed to come to a neighbor's backyard to celebrate with their son. Needless to say, he was a nervous wreck.

Everyone who was invited came to the party. For the first time in years, they were a family again. Believe it or not, both parents admitted they had a great time being together as one family.

TJ got up at the end of the party before anyone left and thanked his parents for giving him the greatest gift ever - and then he cried!