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Co-parenting and Divorce Dos and Don’ts

Getting out of a toxic relationship is hard, but co-parenting with a toxic ex can draw the burden of emotional abuse on for indefinite periods of time. Courts expect everyone to get along, but trying to reach agreements or have existing agreements maintained is nearly impossible with a toxic ex who insists on using the situation to maintain a power edge over you.

We were at Disneyland with a group of other moms. It was supposed to be a day to relax and enjoy time with my son and our friends. Of course, a message came through from my attorney. After nearly two years, there were still accusations being thrown by my ex. So much for a day at the Happiest Place on Earth.

disneyland at night

Everything becomes a trigger when co-parenting with a toxic ex. My therapist had already explained to me the concept of crazy-making and much of what my ex did was just that. Even being on my own, I was still in a bad situation because my ex wasn’t interested in co-parenting, he was only interested in gaining an advantage where he could. He wanted things the way he wanted them when he wanted them.

That didn’t matter if it was a change in the schedule he wanted for the holidays, he’d simply say it was his holiday even when the court order clearly stated otherwise. Accusing me of being a negligent mother because my son wore a scarf knit by my grandmother around his neck, my ex claiming it was a choking hazard. 

Getting Through a Difficult Divorce

Getting divorced with a toxic ex starts with setting your real set of boundaries. This can be hard because you may be emotionally torn for a variety of reasons: a broken heart, wanting to protect your child, or wanting to believe they will agree when there are lawyers and judges involved. A difficult divorce is one that even the smallest of things can’t be agreed upon.

My son and I were finally in our new home, small but ours. My ex insisted on coming over to assess Matthew’s living arrangements. I shouldn’t have let him, but I felt I didn’t have anything to hide. On my list was a washer and dryer for the garage. My ex offered to get it for us. Three months later he demanded repayment for something he willingly gave me. There was no way to prove what he said.

Divorce can take a long time when conflicts exists and conflict will almost always exist with a toxic ex. Everything you say will be refuted, every accusation about you will be made, every opportunity to argue will be made. When you try to ignore the craziness, you’ll be accused of ignoring the situation. My divorce process was my life for two and a half years. I thought co-parenting would be easier once the case was settled and we were officially divorced.

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Setting a Custody Schedule

Getting a custody schedule in order as soon as possible will be the first thing you need to do to co-parent with a toxic ex. The advice given to me was that once the schedule is set, don’t ever ask for adjustments to it. That opens the door to the other party not needing to follow it. Keep in mind how important the custody schedule is to your child, too.

Even with a 50/50 split in time, my son hated the back and forth of the schedule: Mondays/Tuesdays with mom, Wednesdays/Thursdays with dad, and alternating weekends to create a 5-day custody window regularly. This type of back and forth is hard enough on a child; start changing them because you want to go out with the girls only adds stress to an already stressful situation. Don’t misunderstand me, wanting to be with adult friends is good and important. But do your best to make that on your off days.

He fought two and a half years for joint custody and won. The first phone call I got from him the day after our divorce was finalized was to take his custody weekend because he was busy. That was the start of hundreds of declined and missed custody days.

When you don’t alter from the schedule, at least on your end, you can always go back to the schedule as your point of power. If my ex wanted to switch days, I’d say no but that I was happy to take or son if he didn’t have the time to watch him. I’d always simply say, I preferred to stick to the schedule and our regular planned activities. It was true whether it was set playdates or sports, I didn’t want to lose time with things my son valued and his father wasn’t likely to take him to. 

Legal Custody and What That Means

Legal custody is the right to make decisions about how your kid will be raised. It gives a parent the right to choose things like schools, athletics, doctors and medical care, and can even define social activities or hobbies. It is possible to not have your child live in the house and still have legal custody – meaning your child can live with you full time but your ex may still have input and the rights to state how your child is raised.

My son was turning 16 with a car already waiting for him in the driveway. I hadn’t thought about the requirements before I tossed him the Hawaii driver’s education book. He was living with me 100% of the time yet we quickly realized that his dad would need to be there in person or get a liability waiver notarized because he still had 50% legal custody. The waiver never came and the car sits in the driveway waiting for its owner to become a licensed driver.

I can’t count the number of times that legal joint custody has created a problem in a choice I was making for my son, whether it was travel decisions or him getting his driver’s license. Co-parenting is a way to share the big decisions, but when you disagree it requires court action or simply no action as in the case of my son getting his driver’s license. It’s been a year and he’ll wait until he’s 18 to get his licenses despite being a responsible, A student.

Physical Custody and What that Means

Physical custody is simply where your child lives. You can have a co-parenting agreement where the child lives with one parent 100% and the other parent has 100% legal custody. While it is possible, the more likely scenario is shared custody of some sort. Physical custody does affect things like taxes. If you share 50% physical custody, make sure your court orders state who gets to claim the child on tax returns.

While my co-parenting agreement was originally 50% physical and legal custody, the orders stated that I could claim my child for taxes and thus get head of household rather than single. It helps save on taxes big time and not something you want to overlook.

“As your son gets older, he will dictate where he stays and for how long. Kids want to spend less time with their parents and more time with friends as they get older. Physical custody becomes less of an issue.”

That’s what my attorney told me as we discussed the outcome of the court case. At the time, my son was so young that the thought of the custody schedule one day not mattering was little solace to the fact that he wouldn’t be with me half of the time. Physical custody and custody schedules are one of the hardest parts of co-parenting. 

Co-parenting Dos and Don’ts

It may seem simple, follow what the court order says and you’ll be in good shape. However, as detailed as the court order is, there are so many dynamics to a parenting plan that it gets hard to keep emotions in check if you are still healing from the divorce. 

Co-parenting Dos

Here are some things to do when co-parenting to keep conflict down:

  1. Follow the court order as much as possible including pick up times and scheduled days.
  2. Give the other parent plenty of notice for doctors’ appointments, school meetings, or changes to the schedule.
  3. Keep all formal communication to email or a co-parenting communication app so you have a record of what was said and when.
  4. Be acutely aware of how your child is feeling irrespective of your own feelings.
  5. Learn to use a non-accusatory or inflammatory tone. Be concise in communication and stick to the facts of what needs to be communicated.
mom holding toddler daughter in field

Co-parenting Don’ts

Here are some things to avoid when co-parenting to keep conflict down: 

  1. Don’t forget your child’s best interest ALWAYS.
  2. Avoid being demanding or accusatory to your ex; if there is a real problem regarding your child’s health and welfare, call your attorney or get a mediator.
  3. Don’t assume you have any control over who your ex introduces to your child, disciplining them, when they let them go to bed, and what type of food they eat when not with you. Unless there is a dangerous or negligent situation, the courts don’t care if the eat McDonald’s every day when with your ex; they’re eating.
  4. Don’t assume physical custody is in any way related to child support; even deadbeat dads are given rights to see their kids.

Dealing with Co-parenting Conflicts

It doesn’t matter how clearly you define a parenting plan, when you have two parties who don’t agree on how to raise a child you will have conflicts. Some may be innocent disagreements simply because you have strong but differing opinions about simple things like bedtime or what movies your child is allowed to watch. Other conflicts could simply become a means of control for one party or the other.

At the end of the day, you need to communicate with your child that what the rules in your house are exactly that. You must be prepared for the “fun parent” to get kudos from the kids for lax rules, if any. Whatever you do, be present in your child’s life when they are with you and don’t let the conflicts seep into your time. That becomes toxic parenting and can damage your relationship with your child, the person you are fighting so hard for.

When you realize and accept that you can’t control the other party in co-parenting and accept that parallel parenting is your best option (parallel parenting means the rules at your house are yours and the rules at your ex’s are theirs) you will find freedom. It doesn’t mean there won’t be times of frustration but you will begin to live your best life and your child will like how that looks and feels.

Find a place you can vent your frustrations. The Single Mommy Tribe is a private Facebook Group where you can vent, cry, laugh, and everything in between. Feel free to find us and join a group of like-minded women.

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Finding Your Single Mom Tribe: The Right Support Group

Finding Your Single Mom Tribe: The Right Support Group

Cheers was the record-breaking sitcom of the 80s and early 90s because it touched on what every single person wants: a place to belong. Your tribe accepts you, all of you. The hysterical laughter, the urgent crises and the ugly cries are all greeted with hugs, wine and lasting conversation. When you find the right single mom tribe, you know you are home.

But, finding your tribe as a single mom can be difficult as old friends just don’t have the space for the single lady among their couples’ nights or may take sides in the divorce equation. Taking the time to find the right support group is a game changer for single moms trying to rebuild their lives.

Looking for your single mom tribe? Consider these tips:

Deliberately Think About Who You Want and Need in Your Life

Think about the type of people you want in your life. Obviously, previous choices didn’t work out but don’t let emotional turmoil or confidence issues dictate the new people you bring into your life. This goes well beyond new love interests. For both your sake and your children’s, you must bring in people who lift you up, enhance your life and provide emotional support.

I can’t think of any other time in my life that felt as lonely as the first few years as a single mom. What made it so difficult is I felt that I should be stronger than succumbing to the problems associated with a man and my divorce. Isolation is an easy answer, but that really didn’t solve the problem. I needed people in my life and in my son’s life.

Find Like-Minded Moms That You Connect With

finding your single mom tribe

Seek out groups and people who share your core values. That doesn’t mean they need to think exactly like you on every subject; healthy disagreements are essential for growth. Look at the forest, not the trees when finding a tribe. You’ve already got enough on your plate. You don’t need to be banging your head against the wall with every conversation trying to explain yourself.

Crunchy moms might not do so well in a tribe of silky moms. The hiking tribe might be a bit different than the tennis club tribe. That isn’t to say you can’t be part of both or fit into very diverse categories, but don’t feel like you need to make yourself fit in.

I found my tribe when I became the PTA president of my son’s elementary school. The women I met inspired me. Some were single but most were happily married. We all had one thing in common: improving the lives of our kids. We volunteered together, had playdates together, had mom’s nights together. These women saved me in every way, many of which they will never know.

Desire to Be Challenged by Your Tribe to Grow

Moving on after divorce puts many challenges in front of us. It can seem odd to seek people who challenge you. Don’t overlook the value of a tribe that makes you think, forces you to consider and reconsider your actions. A great tribe does this in a way that makes you feel secure and loved the entire time.

It’s like challenging your children to step up and be better people. It comes from a place of love and is for the best. People who just “yes” you all the time aren’t really there to help you. You want friends and a tribe that calls you out for making bad decisions and tells you when you are wrong – especially when it comes to moving on.

I was lucky to find an online tribe of people overcoming divorce. It wasn’t strictly moms and had a very diverse age group. The wisdom of that group was seeded in the fact that some people were new on the path while others were farther down the road. Having a group that would listen when I needed to vent and then lovingly give me a reality check helped me take the next steps to healing and growth in your family life.

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Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Meeting new people is never easy. Having to meet people while going through a very emotionally tumultuous time only makes it harder. Remember, nothing ventured, nothing gained. You need to step out of your comfort zone to avoid falling into the isolation trap. Even if you find a single mom support group that meets your needs, it can be scary to share yourself.

Lissa Rankin, MD points out that her, “ego had created this separation story that distanced [her] from the very belonging [she] craved.” We all have a preconceived picture of ourselves in our heads. Divorce can shatter or skew that extensively. Until we take out ego out of the picture, we will continue to struggle to find our tribe.

Don’t Worry About Kids’ Ages in the Tribe

Kids are funny when it comes to kids that aren’t their age. As parents and single moms, we want a group of people that mirror us. That doesn’t happen and your kids will be fine without it. Older kids often love being a big brother to smaller ones while the littles love to try to keep up. This isn’t always the case but it is good for your children to interact with other kids that can relate to their own feelings of isolation.

Through the PTA, my son met kids from all grade levels and was forced to work with them as the moms were working on volunteer tasks and activities. There were times all the kids hated being at school on non-school days, but for the most part, friendships formed. My son started thinking about activities we did and asking to invite PTA kids to do things with us.

Join Non-Mom Activities

While it is great to find a tribe that fits your everyday mom-lifestyle perfectly, this might not be what happens. In fact, you might have people who totally fit your tribe-mojo in unusual places. If there is something you always wanted to try, go for it. Even without experience, go for it. A new hobby or sports activity can yield to great connections.

single mom gardening

You might join a gardening group, a book club or take a Salsa dance class. Mixing up your activities allows you to expand your support group as well. While I had my PTA moms as a core part of my tribe, I also spent time learning beadwork and jewelry making. It was a creative outlet that had nothing to do with being a mom or a single mom that made me feel like I was just another person in a class of women.

In-Person Versus Online Tribes

Many single moms find the greatest amount of support from people they may never meet in real life. The internet has opened up the world of interaction and helps more people find the right support. With that being said, don’t rely exclusively on online support groups. They are fantastic for finding your tribe who can collectively provide support, answers and advice. At the same time, making an online tribe your only tribe will lead to more isolation.

I’m still friends with many who were part of my original online tribe. This was before Facebook Groups become a thing and there were “forums” people went to. I’ve met some of the men and women from my old forum and still consider many friends and key influencers in my inner tribe.

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It’s one of the reasons I’ve created the Single Mommy Tribe. A private support group with resources, advice and experience of others. No mom should ever feel alone because the truth is, you aren’t alone. Even those who remarry and move past being a single mom still feel a connection to those who are and are welcomed into the group to help show the rest of us that life gets better when we work on ourselves to heal.

I hope you find a tribe in your social circles and I encourage you to join the Single Mommy Tribe. You’re welcome here.

Being a single mom does mean you are parenting solo, but it doesn’t mean you need to be alone. Join the Tribe for support, resources and fun.

Tax Tips Single Moms Should Know

Being Head of Household grants you greater exemptions than claiming Single status on your tax return. I wish I could say it was as much as filing Married Jointly but that is what is called “the price to pay for freedom.” Okay, maybe that isn’t exactly what that phrase is referring to, but it does fit.

Exemptions mean you get more credits against taxes paid which means you either get more money back or save what you would otherwise pay.

Couple things to keep in mind when selecting filing status. If you are still technically married, you cannot claim either. You must choose to file jointly or separately. Keep in mind that filing separately will kill many exemptions, deductions and thresholds on your tax return.

If you have a spouse that just up and left, you can file for an exception. Check with your local tax preparer to get the right forms in place to get the IRS benefits of Head of Household status.

Tax Tip #2: Child Support Vs Spousal Support

Don’t count what you don’t need to when it comes to money you get from your ex. The IRS is very clear on this matter. Child support is not counted as income and doesn’t need to be listed anywhere on your tax return. Spousal support you receive is counted as income for you and deducted as an expense for your ex.

Thus, spousal support could affect your tax rate, your ability to contribute to a Roth IRA or get certain credits.

Tax Tip #3: The Child Tax Credit

The Child Tax Credit was doubled with the passing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. This means you are eligible for up to $2,000 per qualifying dependent. It seems a bit complicated since there are income thresholds to maximize the credit and part of it, $500, is refundable while the other part is non-refundable.

Don’t get caught up in the minutia. Refundable simply means you can earn it as a refund where non-refundable can only take your tax liabilities to zero.

Here is what you need to know:

  • Child must be under age 17
  • Child must be yours by birth, stepchild or foster child
  • You provide more than half of his support for the past six months
  • Must be your dependent meaning lived with you for more than half of year
  • Child must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national or U.S. resident alien
  • Your Modified Adjusted Gross Income must be less than $75,000 to get full credit

If you are wondering about the support and dependents component, check with your court order or divorce decree. It usually stipulates what parent can claim the dependency for tax purposes if you split custody.

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Tax Tip #4: The Earned Income Credit

The Earned Income Credit is a refundable credit for low-income households. As a refundable credit, someone who wasn’t required to file or have paid any taxes can get this entire credit as a refund. For example, if you file your taxes and owe $500 but receive the full Earned Income Credit for $5,716 (a household of you and two children), you will receive a refund of $5,216 even though you never paid those taxes.

For Single and Head of Household Filers, the maximum income thresholds are $40,320, $45,802 and $49,194 for 1-3 children in the home respectively. Remember that while spousal support is counted as income it does not affect the wage limits of this credit.

Tax Tip #5: The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit

If you have a child or children under the age of 13, you may be eligible for The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. This credit will give you a percentage back of childcare costs paid up to $3,000 ($6,000 for two or more children). This is a non-refundable credit which means it can only reduce tax liabilities to zero.

To get The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit:

  • Children must be under age 13
  • Have valid childcare costs with valid tax identification numbers for care providers.

Tax Tip #6: Fund That IRA

Trust me, I know that money gets tight when you are a single mom. But if you can, fund that IRA. If you don’t have the money right now, check to see what contributing will save you and what your refund will be. The IRS actually allows tax filers to fund IRA accounts with their refund.

This means you can take the deduction, lower your tax liability, increase your refund and not have funded the IRA until the refund check hits the account. The IRS actually has a program where you can have your refund go directly to the IRA to make sure you don’t get tempted to take a few spas days instead.

It’s nice to know that the IRS is looking out for you, at least in that little way.

Final Thoughts on Tax Tips for Single Moms

Divorce is complicated. Single parenting is complicated. Taxes are complicated.

Obviously, these are just a few things to keep in mind when doing your 2018 taxes in 2019. Many tax software programs are inexpensive and will walk you through what you are allowed and not allowed to do.

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In fact, Credit Karma allows you to sign up and file your federal and state taxes for free. No catch! Don’t be afraid of the big old IRS dude.

Take the time to understand how your court orders read and what filing will benefit you the most. Maximize exemptions and credits so you pay as little in taxes as possible and ideally maximize your refund.

Being a single mom does mean you are parenting solo, but it doesn’t mean you need to be alone. Join the Tribe for support, resources and fun.

Getting Over Emotional Trauma: Abusive Relationships Take a Toll

The tolls of emotional trauma in an abusive relationship leave the abused feeling everything is their fault, they are crazy and wrong and even evil. Everyone reacts differently to emotional trauma depending on their life history and the extent the abuse. Getting over the scars of emotional trauma from one or more abusive relationships takes time and work. It isn’t easy, but there is hope.

It was a bad day. I sat in my therapist’s office, wanting to cry but the tears just wouldn’t stream. I wanted to talk, but I really felt what I had to say was dumb. My mind raced through the pages and pages he wrote in our divorce declarations accusing me of just about anything and everything you could. He’s a seasoned litigator; he understood how to present a case. None of it was true, yet it sounded like it was simple fact and I found myself wondering if it really was me.

“Narcissists are masters at making you feel nuts. It’s crazy making. They feed on it.” Those words woke me up.

I hadn’t ever defined my ex as a narcissist. Quite frankly, I had never thought about what a narcissist was or did. But what she said hit a nerve deep inside. We were months into what would be a two-year divorce for a marriage that barely hit the two-year mark. When I left, I couldn’t have even told you that my favorite color was purple.

I was a mess and it scared me because I had to pull things together to provide for my son, to protect him. But there was a ton of work I’d need to do in getting over the emotional trauma. Sadly, I wasn’t alone.getting over emotional trauma is difficult

What Is Emotional Trauma

Emotional trauma is defined as the result of experiencing extremely stressful events in which you have little, if any, control over. Those who experience emotional trauma may feel helpless having lost a sense of security in the normal day-to-day life experiences.

An abusive relationship, whether a domestic violence situation or long-drawn-out emotional abuse, shatter egos and create traumatized shells of the people we once were. Even removed from the situation, the emotional pain and scars linger through many aspects of life. The brain and body remember even when we aren’t thinking about it. Healing isn’t easily achieved.

Signs of Narcissistic Abuse and Emotional Trauma

After that day at my therapist’s office, I started to research more about the patterns of a narcissist. My story sounded so much like that of other women, afraid to leave, convinced they were worthless.

Signs of emotional abuse from a narcissist include:

  • Verbal abuse: This ranges from belittling, sarcastic remarks, undermining, threatening and ordering demands. While this is common in many relationships, it is significantly apparent in abusive relationships with narcissists.
  • Manipulation: This is covert aggression. It is disguised in the cloak of something nice to later alter it. It can also be “moving the goal posts” meaning you do one thing to get my affection and once it is accomplished, there is a list of others.
  • Gaslighting: This is extremely common in narcissistic relationships where you are meant to feel that your sense of reality isn’t correct and you are mentally incompetent.
  • Emotional blackmail: Many refer to this as the “fog” of shutting down after threats, warnings, intimidation and punishments for non-compliance.
  • Sabotage: Sabotage often happens with other relationships in your life or trying to build your career or other self-improvements.
  • Lying: Lying and thinking there is no consequence for it. Sometimes as blatant as changing answers within a few sentences.
  • Withholding: Keeping money, sex, affection, and other things from you to push you into more compliance.
  • Negative contrasting: Comparing you to others to put you down or comparing themselves against others to build themselves up.

I’d read the list over and over. Incident after incident fit.abuse and getting over emotional trauma

  • Verbal abuse: One of the most notorious was saying “I looked like I was one step above Goodwill and one step below the maid” in referring to me wearing sweats after giving birth to our son.
  • Manipulation: So many examples. Telling me we had to get rid of one my dogs because we couldn’t have four and mine was a problem only to later find out that one of his was his ex-wife’s who still had the right to claim him at any time.
  • Gaslighting: Did I say I didn’t know my favorite color?
  • Emotional blackmail: During our honeymoon period when we were supposed to be happy with a new baby, he would say he was going to retire and “he didn’t know what I was going to do cause I needed to earn my keep.”
  • Sabotage: We opened a business for film production on our (his) ranch. When I marketed it and got the first client, suddenly they were not allowed to film where they had contracted to film, making me look like an idiot and killing the deal. (Of course, I was the reason the business failed.)
  • Lying: We were broke despite the Bel Air home, a weekend ranch, his 4 cars, horses, fine art and a thousand other playthings. No, we couldn’t afford $100 for me to get my hair done.
  • Withholding: He canceled the one credit card he gave me because I bought a pair of pants. My mom had to send money for me to buy formula for our son.
  • Negative contrasting: Didn’t matter if he knew the person or not, the perception of success was what mattered. Like when we were driving in traffic and the Range Rover mom with a child in the back had to be balancing a $500,000 career, making dinner, taking care of the kid and having tons of energy for sex too. Maybe we should have stopped to ask her what her life was really like.

How did I get there?

Even understanding all the signs that lead to emotional trauma, I found little solace. My head still spun with every decision I made, wondering if I was a good person, smart, capable. Most of all, I questioned whether or not I was a good mother, the one thing most important to me. My son was everything I was fighting for.

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The Effects of Emotional Abuse

The effects of emotional trauma resulting from an abusive relationship with a narcissist are widespread. Survivors tend to shut down and don’t have the ability to cope with conflict. It takes healing time to trust in relationships again and pull out from being withdrawn. Depression is common with behaviors triggered easily by similar events or conversations.

For a survivor co-parenting, the road will be long and difficult. Every interaction, text and email is an opportunity for conflict. For the narcissist, this is what they thrive on. For the survivor, this sets off traumatic memories and a visceral reaction. That reaction goes right back to the crazy making. Forcing yourself to stop interacting and reacting to the situation is hard, but the only path to sanity.

Years later when our son refused to go to his father’s anymore, we entered into group family therapy. This was the last place I wanted to be on a Thursday evening. But for the sake of my son, I did. I will say that no matter how far removed I am from my ex and how much stronger I have gotten in my healing, it doesn’t take much to be in a room and get triggered from something.

It never occurred to me that post-traumatic stress disorder was something that could happen to people not involved in a physically traumatic event like an accident or incident. My troubles couldn’t possibly compare to the experiences of a soldier coming back from Iraq. They have a right to claim post-traumatic stress disorder.

Over the years, I have realized that each of us has a path and our perceptions are based on our own realities. I’ve seen more and more women (and men) talk about the negative emotions, flashbacks and emotional pain – all of which meet the description of post-traumatic stress disorder. Sure, that is my Bachelors of Psychology, Google degree speaking. I’m not a professional. But it seems to fit for many.woman showing signs of emotional trauma

Symptoms of Emotional Trauma Survivors

Emotional trauma leaves both mental and physical scars. The symptoms are sometimes hard to recognize. Plus someone may have had physical trauma or experienced domestic violence on top of it that can increase symptoms and reactions. Left untreated, symptoms remain for the course of your life. Survivors can live without healing or can choose to rebuild their egos, self-worth and overall happiness.

Physical Symptoms

Physical symptoms of emotional trauma include low energy and chronic fatigue. Survivors experience insomnia, nightmares and even night terrors. A physical response to trauma is being on edge and easily startles. They hold a ton of tension in their muscles, always waiting to react. Survivors also experience a racing heartbeat, aches and pains and difficulty concentrating.

Mental / Emotional Symptoms

The mental and emotional symptoms of surviving an emotionally abusive relationship include depression, mood swings and anxiety. Often survivors state they feel helpless and worthless. They are easily confused and don’t trust others or themselves. Often, they are riddled with guilt and shame, feeling like they should have known better. Many become disconnected with the world around them, withdrawing from normal social and emotional interactions.

I could certainly relate to many of the symptoms. It was inconceivable to friends and family that I ever became involved with the man. Many confiding in me years later that they didn’t like him but didn’t want to ruin my happiness. Truth was, I was never happy with him. But once I was sucked in, I really never knew how to get out.

Reaching out for help was even more difficult. How could I? I was a strong, successful woman who screwed everything up with one relationship. My choices led to years of misery.

The thing is you can own your choices and even your mistakes and not be 100% responsible for the end result. Forgiving yourself can be the most difficult thing, but necessary. It’s the only way to find happiness again – that is the only way to beat the narcissist.

Coping with Emotional Trauma from Abusive Relationshipscoping mechanisms

People’s response to trauma is different. We all have our own ways to cope and deal with anxiety and stress.

Here are three negative ways survivors seems to cope:

  • Withdrawal from People
  • Substance Abuse
  • Sexual Promiscuity

As for me, withdrawing from others was the easiest. The stories being told about me to our common relationships made were enraging and embarrassing. My sense of shame and guilt within my own circles made me want to hide under the covers.

The only thing that brought me out was my son. He needed a social life and that was my entrance back into society. From MOMS Club to PTA and playdates, the friends I made saved my life. They’ll never know how deeply their kindness over the years to me and my son have impacted my life. Accepting me as a hot mess, hugging me and reassuring me that I wasn’t nuts.

It’s the little things in life that mean a lot – like the simple phrase, “I want to see you happy,” can mean so much.

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Getting Over Emotional Trauma

Recovering from trauma takes time. I’ve thought a lot about why women (and men) remain in abusive relationships. The only conclusion I have is that the unknown is scarier than the known. Part of it is the buy-in to what the abuser is saying. Part of it is the shame of feeling like you failed yourself and your child.

To get over emotional trauma and escape the patterns of an abusive relationship, you have to step outside your comfort zone.

Here are some tips for recovering from emotional trauma:

  1. Find your tribe. We have a great safe space in our group, Single Mommy Tribe.
  2. Force yourself to be with people. Join a club, volunteer or just call old friends.
  3. Learn to exercise in a way that helps you focus on your body and control anxiety like yoga, weight training or rock climbing.
  4. Limit drinking. It’s a temporary solution that leads to other problems.
  5. Eat well and fuel your body with food that strengthens you to fight fatigue.
  6. Find someone you can talk to and relate to or go into therapy to work through things with a professional.

Getting over emotional trauma is important in finding fulfilling relationships and being the best parent you possibly can be. Remember that you might always get triggered if you are co-parenting. Set boundaries, use tools like email and co-parenting apps to limit contact.

Becoming emotionally healthy makes you a better parent. Your kids are worth it and so are you!

Being a single mom does mean you are parenting solo, but it doesn’t mean you need to be alone. Join the Tribe for support, resources and fun.

Selling House in Divorce: Divorce Court Considerations

Emotions can be high in a divorce. Chances are that someone at some time wants to throw the kitchen sink at the other. The reality is, eventually emotions subside and we all become adults once again.

When it comes to divorce proceedings, the courts usually guide us to being adults faster than we are ready. Keep that kitchen sink intact because if you have to sell, you want top dollar. Plus, you don’t want you ex spouse to claim you damaged the property and have your portion garnished for the momentarily emotionally gratifying deed.

So, who gets the house in a divorce?

Sometimes it isn’t feasible for anyone to get the house in the divorce. Other times one spouse will buy another out based on agreement or court order. We’ve even heard of a few instances where the child gets the house and the parents go back and forth depending on their custody schedule.

Often the house will get sold per divorce court settlements and the proceeds split per the final divorce judgment.

Selecting the Realtor in the Divorce Sale

Choose a realtor that is prepared to handle a divorce sale. Don’t choose a friend because they will hold some level of bias. You need a real estate agent who understands divorce court, how proceedings and asset division work.

According to Grace Neiman of Keller Williams, “Ask your divorce attorney for a realtor who specializes in divorce. It’s a sensitive subject and you need someone who understands this is more than just selling a home. It’s releasing a lifetime together: memories, hopes and dreams. But it’s more than that. It’s a division of assets through a lot of emotions. It’s hard.”

Agreeing to Sell and Split Proceeds in Divorce

One of the common ways to split assets in a divorce, especially a house, is to put it on the market, sell it and split any equity equally among the two of you. This is common especially if there aren’t children involved. It simplifies things by eliminating a pending mortgage and if you can sell quickly, expedites the process. That being said, if the housing market is slow, this could drag things on longer than desired.

Talk to a realtor. Get an honest assessment for the home before you do anything. Find out what the current market is like and get estimated projections. Think about the return on investment for any upgrades or potential work.

Negotiate the realtor fees if possible to keep net profits as high as possible. Perform a comprehensive market analysis so you have reasonable expectations of the process and the sale. If you’re looking to move quickly but the market is slow, you might need to price the home accordingly.

Some common questions to consider when selling the house in divorce and splitting the proceeds:

Does the house need work before it is ready to sell?

It might be hard for both parties to agree what work needs to be done. One party might not want to invest any more money into the house, fearful that it will eat into the payout proceeds. Decisions need to be made, ideally in writing and implemented.

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Will one spouse continue to live in the home?

If one spouse remains in the home during divorce pending the sale will that one person being responsible for all upkeep and mortgage payments? Put everything in writing and even talk to your attorney about it before agreeing to anything.

Who is responsible for open house and sale preparations?

Real estate agents are not responsible for open houses. This means someone has to go to the house, clean it and get it ready for presentation. If one spouse is still living there, this is usually his or her responsibility. But if neither are still in the home, it might be easier to hire a cleaning crew to prepare the home for open houses and viewings.

The bottom line is you don’t want to ruin your chances of getting the most out of the home sale in divorce by not getting the property prepared. Money buys more than pride. Put your differences aside and get the house ready for sale.

House Buyout at Divorce: One Spouse Keeps the Pad

This option is more common when children are involved to keep a stable environment and consistency. It is a viable option in any divorce if parties agree. In a house buyout, you decide to buy the house from your ex-husband. He will agree to quit his interest in the property by completing a quitclaim deed. For his part, you agree to assume the mortgage and buy him out of his equity; he holds a divorce lien until paid off.

To buy him out of the mortgage, you need to contact the lender and explain the divorce scenario and request an assumption of the loan. Lenders will more than likely underwrite you as an individual to make sure you can afford the house on your own. Make sure you document all income you have, including spousal support.

If the lender won’t let you assume the loan, you need to apply for a refinance. If interest rates are lower, this might not be a bad scenario anyway. Again, this is a loan application. Meet all income and debt obligations to qualify.

Can I Pay My Spouse Off Over Time After the Divorce?

A house buyout at divorce is possible to do self-financing between your spouse and yourself. This usually requires a good relationship between the two parties. For your part, it’s co-owning the house with your spouse per completion of a purchase agreement.

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Are There Risks to a House Buyout During Divorce?

Risks to a house buyout in divorce usually have to do with appreciate and depreciation values. If the one spouse is buying the property from the other spouse, there may be the spouse getting the bad end of the deal may feel slighted. It can also be a financial burden for the spouse financing the property since it will affect the ability to obtain a mortgage for another home.

Can I Be Forced to Sell My House in A Divorce?

In divorce proceedings, if you and your ex cannot otherwise split all assets to account for the value and equity of the home, the court can order you to sell. The proceeds are then divided or debts are paid off per the court order in the divorce settlement agreement. The forcing of the sale in divorce can still potentially happen even if one spouse isn’t on the mortgage.

Prepare When Selling House in Divorce

Someone needs to prepare the home for sale. If there is a lot of tension in the divorce, this might not be something to agree to do together. But do your best as a couple to clean up the house and make it presentable for sale. If your best is agreeing that one person is responsible or that both will chip in to hire a cleaning crew, then so be it.

Remember you both have a stake in the successful sale. De-clutter and make it look like a happy family lives there. Continue to mow the grass and weed the flowerbed. If you’re doing it together don’t be surprised if he tackles that honey-do-list he just hasn’t had the time for. Consider it bonus antagonism in your divorce settlement.

You’ll scratch your head wondering why he was incapable of doing it before and he’ll know you just increased your sale value. Funny how you can win that way sometimes.

The Next House After Divorce Court

If you are selling the marital house and want to buy a new house, make sure to coordinate things with your realtor to ensure you time the purchase properly. Divorces get hung up in court and house sales get hung up for a million reasons. You don’t want to be tied into a new home mortgage when other components fall apart.

Being stuck with two mortgages or a home that didn’t sell for as much as you hoped along with legal fees is not a fresh start. Double check everything with realtors and divorce attorneys to ensure you have everything properly mapped out.

Be honest with lenders and start the process early. While you need to be prepared, don’t lock any rates in before you are really ready to pull the trigger. Constantly running credit for new approvals can hurt credit scores.

Final Thoughts About Who Gets the House in Divorce

Who gets the house in divorce is based on property division laws, how well you and your spouse can agree to terms and what the market will warrant if you sell. Remember that you are taking the first step to a fresh start with the rest of your life. Even if you have to sell the house against your wishes, you can use the proceeds to settle into a whole new you.

Being a single mom does mean you are parenting solo, but it doesn’t mean you need to be alone. Join the Tribe for support, resources and fun.