10 Ways to Survive at Work When You’re Divorcing

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just push a pause button on life while we’re trying to get it together during divorce? Unfortunately, such a button has yet to be invented. And so we are stuck trying to keep up with our responsibilities at work while our emotions and personal lives are pulling us down.

And it’s not easy.

Here are 10 easy things you can do to help make it a little less tough that don’t require calling in sick for the next year:)

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On the Road: How to Manage Marriage When One of You Travels

If you had told me that I was going to marry another man who had to frequently travel for his work, I would have told you that you were crazy. Okay, so I probably would have been more tactful than that – a “No, I don’t think so” followed by the thought, They must have accidentally licked that poisonous toad because they’re obviously having hallucinations.

Because, after all, my ex used his many business trips as an opportunity to behave badly and then later on, he used the excuse of business trips to court his new wife. Ugh. Just ugh.

This time around, I thought, I want a man that stays where I can see him.

But that’s not what happened. I ended up falling for a man who is often out of sight during the week as he travels for business.

And with some intention and effort on both of our parts, it turns out to be just fine:)

Here are some of the things we discovered and implemented along the way to manage and nurture our marriage even while we are apart:

For the Traveler –

Maintain Routine

My husband is lucky with his current gig – he spends most of his away time in the same two cities, where he has “his” hotels, “his” restaurants and even a martial arts class that he teaches. The element of routine and known places and people helps to alleviate some of the stress and boredom that can so easily overtake life on the road.

Obviously, many people are required to travel to different cities every week (or even every day. shudders.). It is still possible to establish and follow some routines and find familiarity along the way. Design or find a structured workout program that can be followed in your hotel room. Or commit to a daily 5-mile run, regardless of your location. Find something portable or easily found in a variety of locations that you can use to fill your evenings with so that you are not always bored in a hotel room or drunk in a bar.

Find your balance between structured enough to stay focused and flexible enough to bend to the demands of your job and your location. Find the sweet spot between enough down time to relax and not so much that you become restless. A little planning can prevent a lot of problems.

Develop Healthy Road Habits

Even if you’ve traveled for work for years, it can still seem like an opportunity to “treat” yourself. Yet when these treats happen every week, they’re not treats, they’re habits. So make an effort to develop healthy ones.

I see it all the time – a promotion is followed by extra travel and is soon followed by extra pounds. The partner that used to want to be active and engaged in life is now overweight and sluggish. Food and drink are used as an escape on the road and the impact is then felt at home.

Lose the idea that travel is an anomaly for you. Let go of the idea that you need a treat or a distraction to get you through the trip. Instead, set and follow road habits that may even be a little more restrictive than the ones you follow at home. For example, my husband has a “salads only” policy for himself when he travels. Not only does it keep him trim, but it makes the steak once he’s home that much better.

Provide Supportive Verification

In our early days of dating, my now-husband forwarded an email from his boss that had his flight information on it. That email meant nothing to him. It meant everything to me. After a marriage with a husband hell-bent on deception, this innocently-sent message was verification of veracity.

If you’re the one on the road, be aware that your spouse (especially depending upon their background) may struggle with trust and insecurity. Don’t provide “proof” of every little thing (not only is this crazy-making and controlling if your partner expects this, it can also be interpreted at working to hide something), but also be mindful about occasionally providing proof that you are where you say you are and doing what you say you’re doing. A little goes a long way here to making the one left at home not feel like they’re left in the dark.

For the Homebody –

Stay Busy

Be careful not to put your life on hold until your spouse gets back. This is especially true when they’re gone over the weekend or over a holiday. Develop your own interests. Cultivate your own friends. Ensure that you’re not dependent upon your partner for all of your social contact.

If your partner’s travel is consistent, you can be consistent with your plans. If their schedule is more variable, you may find that you want to more adaptable to maximize time together.

Develop a Support System

I know I can get frustrated when the dog is being especially needy and everything in the house seems to need attention when my husband is out of town. And I can’t even imagine the toll with kids in the picture. It’s an unfortunate side effect of frequent travel that the one at home often feels like a single parent – even if it’s just of a human-sized pit bull:)

So take a suggestion from single parents and build your support system. Have go-to people for kid-watching, dog-pottying, house-fixing and anything else you may need. It will help alleviate guilt and pressure on your partner and frustration and overload on yours.

Be Sensitive

From the perspective of one who doesn’t travel, leaving town can seem to be exciting. Adventurous. Romantic even. Yet the reality of business travel is often the exact opposite – tedious, boring and isolating. Be sensitive to what conclusions you reach and how you respond. Remember – this isn’t a vacation, this is your partner making sacrifices for the benefit of both of you.

Also be mindful of how you greet your partner when they return. Some people like a strong and fervent hello. Others need more time to decompress and readjust to life at home. Few prefer to walk into chaos and demands. I know that you’ve felt like you’ve had to do it all and you’re ready to have help again. Just let it slide for a few minutes to let the road warrior fully return home.

For Both –

Utilize Technology

FaceTime is the bomb-diggity for marriages on the road. It’s quick. It’s easy. And you can even use it to have your spouse check out that weird spot on your back. No matter your choice of connection software, use it. There is no excuse otherwise these days.

Flirt

It’s easy for any marriage to become focused on the day-to-day tasks that need to occur. And it’s even easier to slide into that bad habit when the element of touch is taken away. Remember that technology? Use it to flirt. Sext. Get jiggy with it. I don’t care if it feels awkward. It’s important.

Communicate Needs

There will be times that one partner needs more attention than usual. And the marriage should be a safe place to make that request and have it received kindly. And remember, your spouse cannot read your mind. Make sure to ask for what you need.

Celebrate the Good

A marriage on the road certainly has its unique struggles. And it also has its blessings. The relationship is kept fresher with more time and experiences apart. Both partners are forced to be independent and also have to learn to work together. Boredom is easier to keep at bay when the routine is expanded beyond town. And if nothing else, a kiss hello is always something to smile about:)

The Faux Commute

In the book I’m reading right now, the main character continues her weekday commute into London months after she was terminated from her job. Part of her motivation seemed to be habit and a lack of purpose and direction. But the main reason she continued the act is because she was too ashamed to tell her landlord/flatmate that she was no longer employed.

When I drove to work Friday morning, the book fresh on my mind, I peered at my fellow commuters, wondering if any of them were burning fuel and hours on a faux commute to a job that no longer existed. If any of them were keeping up the pretense while using up the savings. I pondered spouses back home, blindly secure in the belief that their partner was gainfully employed and unaware of the daily play-act.

It seems like something meant for fiction.

But it’s not.

My ex husband did it too.

He was too ashamed to concede that he could not find work. So he pretended that he could.
For years, he simulated a job. He invented clients and projects. He manufactured payments from lines of credit. I’m pretty sure he even falsified an award. Apparently, he was the best at his pretend job.

And he’s not the only one.

A friend’s first husband pretended to be enrolled in school full time while spending time in bars.

A coworker’s husband fabricated a start-up business while engaging in an affair.

And there’s a woman in my periphery who spent her time shopping while maintaining the facade of employment.

Here is a related piece I wrote for The Good Men Project that explores how this shame around employment can grow and spread through families.

But the problem isn’t just that the secret is kept from the partners.

Often the person can’t even admit it to themselves.

Continuing the faux commute and maintaining pretense even for themselves.

Now obviously most of us will never hold down a pretend job and engage in a daily trip of make-believe.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t engage in our own faux commutes.

That there aren’t truths we’d rather not face and so we keep us the pretense, even for ourselves.

That we don’t catch a ride going nowhere because we’re afraid to admit that it’s a dead-end run.

That we don’t pretend that something is still working for even when we no longer work for it.

So take an honest look at your life.

And make sure all of your commutes are authentic.

The book is called The Girl on the Train and it is a great thriller, especially for anyone who has experienced gaslighting.

5 Ways to Soothe Your Irritated Senses

It’s inevitable that we will become irritated at times with the people we spend the most time with. It happens in romantic relationships, within families and even at work (you should see the irritation that occurs in a classroom with kids that have been cooped up together for too long!). Close proximity over extended time leads to friction, and friction often leads to abrasion. Small tics and habits that once seemed innocuous wear thin on the temper’s hide over time, scratching away until an open sore is revealed.

It’s easy to snap as the offending stimulation continues, lashing out at the other as your patience wears away. It happens to all of us at times; we bite out tongues as long as we can until eventually, our tongues bite back, often escalating a one-sided irritation into an all-out confrontation.

But what if it was possible for you to sooth your own irritation before your temper flares? What if you could be conscious of and change your thoughts in such a way that the irritant no longer rubbed you raw? What if you could take charge of your responses and, in turn, avoid irritation and its escalations?

You can.

It starts with acceptance. See and acknowledge the entirety of the person that bothering you, their gifts and their burdens. And so often those are two sides of the same traits. For example, if you need something done by a deadline, I’m your woman. My sense of responsibility and propensity towards anxiety means that I’ll take care of it. But have me as a passenger in your car when we’re running late for some appointment? Yeah, those same traits are going to drive you crazy. And, as is so often the case with someone’s struggles, I know that it drives people crazy (it does for me too), but it’s not something I can completely hide either.

Make a rule for yourself that you’re not allowed to be irritated if somebody does something or neglects to do something else if you haven’t asked first. It’s not fair to get upset because someone has yet to perfect the art of mind reading. Begin by assessing the reasonableness of your request. If my sneezing bothers you and you inform me that its like nails on a chalkboard whenever my sinuses blow, I’ll sympathize but there’s not much I can do. If, however, you hate it when I neglect to put the seat back after driving your car, please let me know and I’ll make sure I slide it back.

Muffle the irritations with gratitude and a smile. I find this to be so incredibly helpful with those minor household irritations. For example, if I have to start my Sunday cook-a-thon by clearing Brock’s clutter off the counter, I can feel those prickles of irritation starting to speak. As soon as I sense their presence, I respond by very actively and intentionally recalling recent good deeds and words he has bestowed upon me and our home. The mess pales in comparison to his selfless trek into the cold to make sure I had wood for a fire, his sweet note still resting by the coffee pot and the new retaining wall he organized and paid for that ensure that our driveway won’t wash away with the next deluge. I then clean up the clutter with a smile. The other benefit of this method is that it clues you in to issues that are more serious than minor irritations. The the gratitude doesn’t silence your ire, something needs to be addressed.

We don’t live in a vacuum. Consider the surroundings and the circumstances when you find yourself getting annoyed. If you’re sick, or stressed or overwhelmed, you are going to be more prone to irritation. That’s not the other person’s fault; don’t lay it at their feet. You are the responsible for managing your own stress levels and obligations. And if you’re sick, maybe staying in bed helps others as well as you:)

And if all else fails, take a break. It’s amazing how quickly an abrasion heals once the friction has stopped.

Dishonorable Mention

“What’s your biggest fear?” I asked my teenage boyfriend as we lay side by side on the top of a picnic table, looking up at the night sky ablaze with unmolested stars.

His body, once subtle and molded to mine, became firm, rigid even with anger and intent, as he replied,

“Turning into my father.”

His father was a man who was once successful but squandered it away. His father was a man feared by many but respected by few. His father was an alcoholic who courted drink at night rather than his wife. His father was a man who went from top billing in his career to collecting unemployment. His father was a man who was unreachable to his son, there but not there.

I looked over at my boyfriend, recalling his openness, his resolve, his capacity for intimacy and couldn’t imagine him turning into his father.They were polar opposites in my view and I assured him as such.

I should have listened.

Fast forward a few years and that boy became my husband. He worked hard and found success. He created a life he could be proud of, a life worlds apart from his father.

And then something happened.

I’ve had to make educated guesses about this part, since this is where the lies began. It may not be entirely accurate, but it certainly feels right.

His company closed. He lost his job. He couldn’t find another. This happened when those around him were finding success. He probably saw echoes of his father’s fall from grace when he plummeted from the tops of the working ranks.

He let his job tell him what he was worth. So when he had no job, he had no value.

He felt ashamed. And scared.

As before, he worked doggedly to carve out a path different than his father. Only this time he was desperate. Blinded by fear and shame.

And his desperation led him along a path parallel to that of his old man.

He lied about employment, using credit to create “income” where there was none.

And the shame grew.

He began to drink, turning to alcohol to try to hide from the truth.

And the shame grew.

He created an alternate persona and introduced him to people that didn’t know his past. That persona never faced failure. Never felt fear. Never experienced shame.

But the real man was buried deeper. Each action making it harder for him to ever come out of the hole in which he found himself.

Shame told him he was broken. Worthless. Unworthy as he truly was.

And he listened.

And his greatest fear came true.

Because he was too ashamed to look vulnerable.

Too ashamed to ask for help.

Too ashamed to face his choices.

He gave up the fight.

He gave up himself.

A dishonorable dischange from his own life.

When he left, some of that shame latched on to me. I felt a fool for being blind. I felt like I failed by not stopping the descent. I felt stupid for trusting.

These mantras wrapped through my mind like the stock updates in Times Square.

That was bad enough.

But it was private shame. Bearable.

But when I had to face others with financial reality of it all?

It still stops me in my tracks.

Every time I have to act on a bill from him or face the reality of my piss poor credit, I cower. I tremble. I feel sick, my insides churning.

I feel unworthy.

I feel dirty, broken.

I feel ashamed.

I allow the numbers on the accounts to dictate my value and I feel judged for their balances.

It should be improving. I have a house (even though it’s not in my name) and the debt from him that I’m still paying is down to an amount that feels doable. By 2015, I should be free.

It should be improving.

But it’s not.

I still let money, or the lack thereof, tell me what I’m worth.

I’m listening to shame.

And she lies.

She tells me to hide rather than face.

Conceal rather than reveal.

Which is precisely why I share.

Shame is like a vampire, exposure to the sun can weaken or even kill it.

I know her tricks. The fear she uses to try to bury her victims.

And I won’t be one of them.