Saturday, April 28, 2012

Jumping Off the Cliff

What lead you to get married again? After being burned so badly by your previous divorce(s), why did you - many of us very quickly - run back into another marriage?

Most of you will answer that you fell in love and hoped this time would be different and better. That this adventure into matrimony would not only work, but repair the harm from the last one. But, how could you bring yourself to walk back over that cliff?

I know that in my own case, I didn't walk, I sprinted toward my second marriage. I remember thinking a good three months before our wedding was scheduled to take place, "Why should we wait? Why not just get married TODAY?! We're in love, we are ready to start over, let's go!" I was held back only by the plans that were in place and the deposits that had been paid for the scheduled date. I was so much in love, I couldn't wait to start being happily married. Again.

As some of you probably know from our working together, the first two years of my new marriage was less blissful than expected. In fact, it was horrible. We jumped into it far too quickly and far too soon after our previous divorces. In retrospect, we should have spent a good two years (bare minimum!) learning about each other and figuring out how to blend our lives together - especially regarding her teenaged daughter's impact on our marriage!

If I'd paid closer attention in my university classes on psychology, I'd have seen that others had already studied this phenomenon of blindly walking off cliff walls. Back in 1960, two researchers named Gibson and Walk constructed a table to test depth perception in animals and babies. The table, as illustrated below:


was made of clear plexiglass under which was one half a table surface, and one half a drop off to the floor. In the experiment, very young babies - first animal then human - were placed on the "safe" side and encouraged to cross the glass table to the "unsafe" side. Animals almost never crossed, and many babies would not cross. But some babies were so focused on their parent's facial expressions that they happily crawled all the way to her. They were more interested in Mom's or Dad's smiling, encouraging faces that communicated it was OK to cross the divide than what their eyes told them.

Now "the Visual Cliff", as this experiment has become known, has real application in helping us understand why so many people ... people who are generally pretty clear headed ... will stumble out of the smoking wreckage of a horrible divorce, right into another relationship as quickly as they can find one.

We, like those trusting babies on the glass table, are so focused on the smiling, happy, beguiling faces of our new love interests (or other body parts besides their faces!), that, although we can see the drop off, we don't heed our body's natural warning responses.

"Dude! Stop! Can't you see you're leading us off a huge cliff, just like what we just fell from a few months ago? STOP!" To which we reply dreamily, "I can't stop. Sorry. Her ("eyes") are just so big and pretty and she keeps smiling at me and making me feel all warm inside," or "Don't be silly, Self! Can't you see how strong he is and how much he loves me? I just know it will be safe" ... to blindly crawl out into blank space where common sense tells me I'll crash to the bloodied rocks below, just like last time!

And off to the races we go!

Relationships, then, are clearly more important to us than safety, sight, experience, or common sense. Statistics tell us that our hearts will lead us where our eyes should force us to not go. Second marriages experience two divorces out of every three attempts, while more than three out of four third marriages fail. Got that? Two out of every three second marriages end in divorce!

The cliff is real! But we just keep on crawling. Why?

Because we NEED love. We need to have someone we can share the joy of life, as well as the fears of facing the world alone. And we are happy to ignore our brains to listen to the hopes of our hearts.

The bad news is that the odds are against you if you're in a stepfamily.
The good news is there is hope.

Yes, we need love; we need a partner to walk beside us. And that love is possible. Your marriage doesn't have to turn into a warning sign to others. It is possible to turn back from what may be looking like a disaster in the making. You just need help.

In sixteen years of working with stepfamilies, we've had OVER 90 PERCENT success helping you guys beat the odds. I'm still amazed at that number. We're not magic. What I teach isn't some arcane secret. I just help couples see the land mines clearly, then understand the best ways through the toughest times.

"The heart wants what it wants," as Dickinson said. Almost 100 percent of people who divorce get married again. We love that cliff.

If you're over the cliff, fearing that you've made a big mistake, and especially if you have children involved - don't give up. Don't freeze up and just wait for the drop to another crash. Get help. From me, from someone else, within yourself, wherever, just don't give up. Especially if there are children involved. Don't drag them into that abyss again.

Hold on and get across this time.

STEPcoach Bob Collins


Monday, April 16, 2012

Mediation/Coaching Is...

Some of you still wonder how I can help your family, your marriage.

I've explained my program a few times before, but here is a little video excerpt from a movie that pretty much shows what I do for my couples. Whether you're in a painful relationship or muddling through the difficult mission of parenting together after a divorce, I help with that.

In this video, I am the coach, and the two young athletes can represent any couple I work with - married, divorced, or just trying to keep life together.

If you need help getting your relationship and family running smoothly ... or just running again, email me. I'll be happy to talk to you about your situation.

I am open for any and all questions after you watch this.


STEPcoach Bob Collins

Friday, April 6, 2012

Words That Damage

[NOTE: This is a short excerpt from my guidebook for divorced parents, "Guiding Your Children Through Divorce;" full information is HERE

[Page 20]
Expressing anger felt toward the other spouse,
that is, criticizing, cutting down, attacking, or disrespecting the children’s other parent, either directly to the children or where they can overhear you talking to someone else or to the other parent. Problems caused by one parent attacking the other parent can go deep; and usually leads to the following effects:

1) It Causes Confusion — This is harmful first because it confuses children about which parent to believe (“Daddy says Mom is a liar and mean, but when I’m with her she seems so sweet and kind, so who’s lying, Daddy or Mom?”). Once a child’s innate trust of a parent is gone, it is hard to rebuild.

2) It Causes Loyalty Conflicts — which parent to support. Children have a tendency to see things as black or white, good or bad, his side or her side. Due to this viewpoint, when a child sees his parents separating in a divorce, he immediately perceives a two-sided issue. Which means the child is either on Mom’s side or Dad’s side. 

This mentality can cause a excessive stress for a child who wants the love and approval of both his parents. All to often, these children begin to show signs of feeling pulled apart and torn between two “sides” in a conflict. The child feels they must choose between Mom or Dad, which leads to internal conflicts of being “against” the other parent.

3) It Causes Authority Damage — causes children to disrespect the attacker. As we’ve seen before, a child resents anyone who attacks her parent, even her other parent. Criticizing or badmouthing your ex damages your own standing in your children’s eyes, causing them to lose respect in your authority.

So, what's the solution: determine to never fight again in front of children — The obvious solution would be to never, ever be guilty of attacking your children’s other parent. Unfortunately, due to emotions and a lack of self-control, many divorced parents find they don’t have the will power to behave in an intelligent, mature manner toward the person their children loves. In some cases, these parents honestly try to control their words and behavior, but are simply too weak to do so.

In most cases, however, parents who belittle and criticize the people their children love are simply unconcerned for their children’s feelings. They plead they are “just too mad” at their child’s other parent to choose to control themselves. They act out their selfish needs to retaliate and ruin their relationships with their own children, and often damage their children in the process. Some feel that ignoring the needs of their children is child abuse. 

[NOTE: This discussion is continued in "Guiding Your Children Through Divorce;" full information is HERE]

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