Four Tips to Ease the Transition Into a New Relationship While Staying in Your Parenting Marriage.

Men seem to be having a harder time than women dating while remaining in their parenting marriage. One example of this is a Colorado couple I worked with.

In 2015, Melissa* and Paul* decided to try a Parenting Marriage. Their relationship was over but they had a 7-year-old daughter and they got along well enough to continue living in the same house and co-parenting. They enjoyed their alt arrangement for over a year.

They liked the fact that they could lead separate lives, date others, yet provide support to each other in raising their daughter—both seeing her every day. It worked well. Until it didn’t.

Melissa was able to get into a new long-term relationship fairly quickly after they split but every time Paul would meet someone and tell her about their arrangement, the women would back away or break it off. The women didn’t believe that he was really not romantically involved with his wife. According to him, they thought he was “just another creep on the internet looking for a good time.”

Why would Melissa be able to find a new partner fairly easily but Paul could not get over this stumbling block?

The first answer is simple: Men lie. A lot. Especially when it comes to dating and having sex.

Obviously not every man lies. Paul was absolutely not lying. (In fact, Melissa wanted Paul to find a new partner.) Yet, no matter what he said or did, he couldn’t convince anyone that he was being honest. He decided he had to pull the plug on the legal status of his marriage in order to free himself up to go deeper with a new partner.

Another reason it might be easier for women to connect with a new partner while still living with an ex is that men can compartmentalize better than women.

Because women tend to see life through a relationship-oriented lens, women continue to see their ex as the father of their children or the person they were married to for 25 years. In a man’s mind, once the relationship is over, it is generally easier for him to stop seeing his ex in this connected kind of way.

It makes sense then, that a new male partner would be able to tolerate a woman living with her ex-husband more than a new female partner would be able to tolerate a man living with his ex-wife. Melissa’s new beau didn’t feel threatened by Paul because he could conceptualize the marriage being over and separate Melissa and Paul’s co-parenting relationship from his romantic relationship with Melissa.

I realize these are gross generalizations and some of you may have a completely different experience, yet this is consistent feedback I’ve received.

Here are some tips for everyone (but men in particular) hoping to date while remaining in a Parenting Marriage.

  1. Work on your own comfort level with having a Parenting Marriage. When you feel okay with it, you will be more matter of fact when you describe your new marriage agreement. Some people take on an apologetic tone or come from a place where they fear they are doing something wrong but if you know your arrangement is perfectly legit, that will come across. One way I’ve helped people conceptualize this is to ask them how the would feel if they knew half the couples on their block were doing a Parenting Marriage. Being a pathfinder takes courage but I can assure you that a Parenting Marriage is a viable alternative to staying in a bad marriage and divorce.
  1. Be honest and upfront about your living arrangement. If you hold off on talking about your living arrangement, have a bunch of great dates with this potential mate, and then break the news, that will raise her suspicion that you might be lying about other things as well.
  1. Be transparent. This means living with nothing to hide. Of course, there’s a difference between privacy and secrecy so you don’t have to share private matters (such as your bank account balance) with a new partner, but if you are willing to answer questions or introduce the new person to your spouse, for example, your new mate will likely feel more comfortable.
  1. Be patient. Remember that this is a new concept and, like all novel trends, it will take time to catch on. Given how much attention the Parenting Marriage concept has gotten to date, I know it is striking a nerve and I believe it will become a more mainstream option in the near future. Until then, if you are willing to forge ahead knowing that some people will not like or understand what you’re doing, and that you may even lose important relationships, you will do better.

Wishing you the best as you break new ground.

* Names changed for anonymity.

Tired of Not Knowing Whether to Stay or Go? Do Both!

At worst, indecision is a killer. At best, it’s exhausting.

Because getting a divorce would impact you—and those around you—for the rest of your days, it’s understandable that you’d want to think it through as much as possible. There’s also a lot to consider: how the kids will handle the breakup, how you and your spouse will do, who will live where, what finances will look like, what others will think, what the future will hold and so much more.

Although leaving any relationship can be challenging, for those couples with kids, the decision to stay or go often feels like a moral dilemma: stay and model a not-so-good or even bad relationship; leave and negatively impact the kids’ lives. For this reason, some people never move away from the “thinking about leaving” phase. In fact, I’ve seen people remain undecided for years. Even decades.

Read more: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/contemplating-divorce/201703/tired-not-knowing-whether-stay-or-go-why-not-do-both

The Most Divorces Happen On This Day…

Every family law attorney I know dreads going back to work in January, and all for the same reason: They get tons of calls from potential clients who survived the holidays and now want out of their marriage.

According to one attorney, there’s a 30 percent increase in the volume of calls in January compared to other times of the year. The first business day in January has actually been dubbed “Divorce Monday,” and January overall, “Divorce Month.”

You may have wanted out months ago but, as fall approached, decided you didn’t want to ruin the kids’ holidays, or have to share the news with your extended family during your trip back home to see them.

The holidays emphasize love and family. If that’s not what you experience in your home, staying in a loveless (and perhaps sexless) relationship becomes harder because the contrast is in your face.

With the turning of the calendar page, the first resolution for these folks is to move forward with filing—determined to make this the year to be true to themselves and take charge of living the life they want to lead.

With one finger perched on the button that will change the fate of their marriage (and their life), the last thing they want is for someone to come along and talk them out of it, or try to make them feel awful or ashamed about wanting to make a break.

It’s not my intention to make anyone feel bad or wrong. As I tell all my clients, I have no agenda as to whether they stay in or leave your relationship. I would not try to butt in to anyone’s life, were it not for a completely viable but little-known alternative to divorce.

It’s called a Parenting Marriage and more and more couples are turning to this option as a way to “stay for the kids” without staying stuck in a bad relationship. As spouses, you basically change your job description from lover, best friend, and co-parent to co-parent first and foremost, friends maybe, and lovers no longer.

During the past six years, I’ve helped dozens of couples across the U.S. transition from their traditional marriage to this non-traditional variation on the theme. Many find it surprisingly workable. Of course, it’s complicated and the need for having clear agreements in place is paramount, but it can be done if you both want the same things.

I know what you’re thinking: People already do this; it’s called an affair. I’m well aware that romantic affairs go on illicitly, but what I’m suggesting is that this can also happen in an above-board, respectful kind of way.

How about making a resolution of opening your mind to new ways of thinking about your marriage?

Regardless of the choice you make, take a few minutes to peruse my videos and articles on the topic. If you have specific questions about a Parenting Marriage, feel free to email them to me at info@changingmarriage.com. I’ll either respond to you directly or answer you via video on the Parenting Marriage Facebook page so be sure to give us a “Like.” And, Happy New Year!

CBC Radio Interview on ‘Parenting Marriage’

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I was so thrilled to participate in this interview with Piya Chattopadhyay for her CBC Radio Show, “Out in the Open.”  Click the link below to listen as I talk about how the Parenting Marriage came to be and how it can benefit a couple considering divorce.

Click Here for my Parenting Marriage interview on CBC Radio!

How Well-Meaning Parents Harm Their Kids By Staying in a Bad Marriage

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Divorce isn’t the worst thing that parents can do to kids. Fighting terribly and subjecting them to your vitriolic hatred toward each other is the worst. Staying married in such a state is actually worse for kids than if you actually got divorced.

I’ve seen many people divorce and, because they handled their emotions well, the children also did well.  On the contrary, I’ve also witnessed couples do significant damage to their kids by staying in an unhealthy relationship and trying to “make it work.”

But, because it is also true that a two-parent households typically have some significant advantages over separate, single-parent homes, it’s worth asking: What if you could stay for the kids and lead your own life—possibly even having outside romantic relationships?

I know what you’re thinking: People do this already; it’s called an affair. I’m well aware that romantic affairs go on illicitly, but what I’m suggesting is that this can also happen in an above-board, respectful kind of way.

It’s called a Parenting Marriage and more and more couples are turning to this option as a way to “stay for the kids” without staying stuck in a bad relationship. As spouses, you basically change your job description from lover, best friend, and co-parent to co-parent first and foremost, friends maybe, and lovers no longer.

During the past six years, I’ve helped dozens of couples across the U.S. transition from their traditional marriage to this non-traditional variation on the theme. Many find it surprisingly workable. Of course, it’s complicated and each couple must have clear agreements in place, but it can be done if you follow a few simple guidelines.

Want to know more?  Check out my 3-Part Series on How to Create Your Own Parenting Marriage or contact me directly .

One Woman’s Reaction After Trying a Parenting Marriage

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Earlier this year, a woman contacted Susan and laid out the facts:

My husband cheated on me. We have kids together. I don’t know what to do. I hate his guts right now but I need his help in running the household.  What do I do?

The knee-jerk reaction when someone cheats on you is to want to kick the “no-good so and so” out.  But that’s not always practical or feasible.

Letting him or her stay may feel like you’re letting them get away with something. You feel they should be punished and should have consequences. Yet your world is upside down and your emotions will take you on the ride of your life. This is definitely not the time to make any major decisions (and you may want to avoid even the smaller decisions until you feel better and more calm). 

This woman saw an article Susan had written about Parenting Marriages and she decided to put the concept to the test and it was the perfect emergency solution for her. Here’s what she said about it:

“[Shifting] to a parenting marriage allow[ed] time for introspection…I don’t know, maybe it’s not healthy, but I haven’t felt this good since it happened. It removed the shame and the fear of a possible divorce when I’m not even sure that’s what I want. Really, it’s strange, by putting a label on it from romantic marriage to parenting marriage, it removed the pressure I was feeling to just ‘get over it’ and allows me the time I need to heal from this.”

A Parenting Marriage arrangement doesn’t change the fact that your marriage is in limbo, it gives you a sense of structure when all you feel around you is chaos; it gives you a sense of control when everything feels out of your control; it is grounding.

An Affair Doesn’t Have to Ruin Your Marriage

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Melissa*, the mother of 6 kids under 15 years old, was devastated when she learned that her husband, Jon*, had had a tryst.

Of course, it didn’t help that he’d messed around with her brother’s wife (her sister-in-law and best friend).

This single act was like an Atomic bomb going off in the middle of the entire family. Nothing would ever be the same. Nothing.

Although Jon was remorseful, Melissa felt like she couldn’t let him off the hook that easily.   She was angry, hurt, sad and scared.  She kicked Jon out for a day but quickly realized that it would be impossible to run the household and get all the kids taken care of without him.

Although Melissa let Jon back home, she made it clear that she was probably going to ask for a divorce. The mere thought of this sent her into a tailspin of deep depression. There were no good choices. She was facing having to choose between a rock and a hard place.

That is, until she found out about the Parenting Marriage concept.

Suddenly, there was another option on the table. Rather than having to choose solely between staying (being angry and untrusting, or trying desperately to put it all behind her quickly—which she knew she couldn’t), or leaving (which would create a whole new set of challenges), there was another viable alternative.  Melissa described this new concept like a “pause” button.  And, she said, it gave her room to breathe and a renewed sense of dignity. She added that, for the first time since her world exploded, she felt like she was on an upward trajectory and she felt better right away.

Can Removing the Romance Be the Key To Making Your Marriage Last?

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Spouses in our culture are expected to be best friends, lovers, co-parents, financial partners and social companions.

Regardless of the details, much of the hurt and pain couples experience is a result of feeling disappointed, rejected, isolated and unloved by their mate. When the feelings of disappointment or rejection go on long enough, the love and intimate connection dies off. Without intervention, it eventually gets to the point where the damage can’t be repaired.

This is often when couples divorce and families are divided into two households.

Rather than split up, however, what would happen if couples removed the romantic aspect of the relationship and focused exclusively on raising the kids together? It’s called a Parenting Marriage and you’d be surprised to know how many couples are actually practicing this.

By simply being co-parents and financial partners together, many couples find it easier to agree and get along.

Does a Parenting Marriage sound interesting? Or, are you practicing a Parenting Marriage by default and want to know how to design better agreements?

It’s OK to Stay for the Kids

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If you are one of the many thousands who are unhappily married and you really don’t want to get divorced because you have children, here’s something you should know: There’s another option worth looking into and this one may be one that can help you stay “for the kids,” but have a separate life too. It’s called a Parenting Marriage and it’s all about staying married to raise kids together.

Terminating the family unit when the love is gone can be likened to selling your house after an earthquake puts a crack in the foundation. You can do away with the problem and start over in a different place, or you can reconstruct.

A ParentingMarriage takes away the parts of the relationship that no longer work (most often this is the sexual aspect, but it could be social and financial aspects as well), and keeps the parts that are working and builds on those.

Want to know more? Check out my 3-Part Series on How to Create Your Own Parenting Marriage or contact me directly .