Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Daily Journal on November 29, 2010- published Camaur's Article Child Custody: Avoiding Conflict During Holiday Season-Reprinted &/or posted with the permission of Daily Journal Corp.(2010)
stressful. Clients in the midst of litigation over child custody are
faced with the uncertainty and changes of divided holiday share
time. Parents, who intend to provide their children with a joyful
holiday, instead quickly succumb to the pressure and fall back into
the vicious cycle of adversarial patterns and escalated warfare.
If the custodial timeshare and the parents' expectations are not agreed upon well in
advance, the holidays will likely become a crisis for everyone, especially the children.
Family law practitioners need to advise the client as early as possible about different
holiday parenting plans and begin negotiating as early as Back-to-School night.
If the parents can begin to discuss, negotiate and (if need be) litigate the holiday
timeshare upon receipt of the school calendar, they will have a better chance of
working out these issues in a calm and civil manner. The early bird can avoid some
unwanted drama. When parents are trying to make flight arrangements, book hotels
and coordinate with family, the frustration of an uncertain holiday arrangement adds to
the panic. And, obviously, in this panic mode, the parties' patience and tolerance for
co-parenting becomes strained.
Further, it is no secret that our family law courts are overcrowded with limited
resources. Some litigants have faced numerous continuances before their matters are
heard. And, the litigants in child custody matters are required to attend mediation before
the hearing, except in very limited circumstances. Many family court services have
limited availability for mediation appointments. This is especially true as the holidays
approach. Therefore, if litigation of a child custody holiday issue is being sought, the
earlier you can file for the relief, the better.
Moreover, last minute hearings and requests for orders are usually discouraged by
the court without exigent circumstances. See California Family Code Section 3064
(making it mandatory for the court to deny such requests that do not meet the standard
for immediate harm or immediate risk of removal from the state).
So, without statutorily mandated exigent circumstances, a request to visit Aunt Suzy
in Atlanta would not qualify for ex parte relief for custody orders. While some attorneys
may threaten and even attempt to bring such actions on an ex parte basis, their chance
of success is not very high and could potentially expose their client to sanctions.
Instead, such requests should be planned well in advance and filed on a properly
noticed motion. However, in many cases, the holiday requests are contemplated too
late for a noticed motion. If you anticipate time is an issue, consider bringing a motion
to shorten time for the hearing on the requested relief as an alternative to ex parte
holiday timeshare request.
In cases where the last minute request has missed the litigation boat, here are some
tips for working out a parenting plan for the holidays:
Out of state travel requires a written agreement or court order: Upon the filing of a
paternity/child custody, divorce or legal separation action, there are automatic
restraining orders (ATROs) issued with the summons. One of the ATROs is that the
parties are not permitted to remove the minor children from the state of California
without a court order or written agreement with the other party. If your client's holiday
plans include travel outside of California, they must have a court order or written
agreement authorizing such travel. Advise your client of this right away (preferably in
writing). Travel in violation of this can be interpreted as kidnapping and warrant an
Identify which holidays are important to each side and preferred dates of travel:
The more specific you are with your client's priorities, the more efficient you can be
with an agreement. Attempting to negotiate winter break without information as to where
and when your client wants time with the children can be cumbersome. And, the other
side will lose patience if an agreed plan needs to be tweaked because you're not fully
informed about your client's desires and schedule. Specifically, know the dates and
times your client wants and what is negotiable. The more specific you are in the
agreement, the less chance that the parties' expectations will be misconstrued.
Holiday proposals should respect the other side's family and cultural traditions as
much as possible: During the last minute scramble for an agreement, your bargaining
power may be compromised. If you demonstrate to the other side that the agreement is
beneficial for them, you are more likely to obtain cooperation. If Christmas does not fall
on your client's regularly scheduled timeshare and the client desperately wants time on
Christmas, knowing the other party's family and cultural holiday traditions could make
the negotiation much smoother. A proposal that includes time for the other parent to
celebrate their own traditions with the children is more attractive. For example, some
families celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day is reserved for football. Some
prefer to attend midnight services. These little concessions, which recognize the other
parent's personal traditions, sometimes go a long way.
If both parties want the same day each year, alternate: In most cases, it is not
realistic that the parents will spend an important holiday together with the children. And,
if they both cherish the same day, clearly one person will feel like they have "lost" if they
cannot be with the kids. Instead, designate the day with one parent in even years and
the other parent in odd years. Likewise, for vacation designation, if there is a conflict in
choice dates, designate the preference in alternate years. While an off-year can be
difficult, it's more tolerable if the parties see the agreement as fair.
Include a travel itinerary and phone/Skype visitation: The agreement should contain
a provision that notifies the other parent of the itinerary of travel for the kids, the
address where the children will be staying and a telephone number to reach them. If
your client intends to bring a laptop or otherwise has computer access, offering Skype
or other video conference visits during the travel is an attractive carrot to encourage
the other parent that they will have contact with their children.
Propose methods of travel that is comfortable for the children: A proposal that is
uncomfortable or inconvenient for the children is likely to receive a negative reaction
from the other parent. Encourage your client to make a proposal for travel that
considers the child's comfort level. Advise the client to try to find direct flights to avoid
lengthy layovers and added hours to the trip. Also, recommend that the children will
travel with them personally or with a friend/family member that the other parent trusts.
Also, the added comfort of televisions during flight can help a parent feel comfortable
that the child will be relaxed and entertained on a long trip. The added expense for the
direct flight or the added amenity of comfort could save your client much more in
attorney fees and/or canceled travel arrangements later.
Prepare and research out of country travel: Last minute requests to travel out of the
country with the children are likely to be scrutinized. The client should research the
passport and visa requirements, required vaccines and security issues well before
negotiating this issue. Advise the client to contact the State Department, travel
agencies and research on the Internet for recommendations for travel to the proposed
country. If a child is prone to ear infections, seasickness or other travel medical
discomforts, be sure the client consults with the pediatrician prior to discussing the
issue with the other parent. Also, discuss with your client an alternate plan for travel
should there be a security alert and cancelled flights.
Most parents plan for warm holiday family time filled with happy memories. However, unprepared last minute attempts to arrange custodial timeshare can quickly turn holidays into explosive drama.
A family law practitioner who is prepared and willing to work out an agreement that
addresses the other parent's concerns is more likely to be successful in helping their
client enjoy a happy holiday season with his or her children. And, ultimately, such tactics
may even lead the parties on a new path to work together for the children in the New
Elisabeth Camaur is an attorney, mediator and certified family law specialist by the
State Bar Board of Legal Specialization with the firm of Camaur Crampton Family Law
in Irvine (www.CamaurCrampton.com).
Family Law: An Alternative to Litigation- Published in the LA & SF Daily Journal- Reprinted and/or posted with the permission of Daily Journal Corp. (2010).
With the CA budget crisis and the congested courts, litigants are increasingly frustrated with the judicial process. The Elkins Task Force has made some recommendations that the court system will be implementing in the future to make the system more user friendly. However, there is a growing demand for settlement options outside litigation. This article offers tips for counsel and litigants to resolve issues in their family law cases.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Clicking Their Way to Finding True Love
7 do’s and don’ts of online dating for single parents
With the hustle and bustle of working, raising kids and racing to extracurricular activities, making time for a social life can be challenging, especially for single parents whose personal time is a rare commodity—but they aren’t destined to a life of solitude. The desire to find balance and become well rounded drives the single parent to schedule “me time” into their hectic schedules. In order to streamline the art of finding companionship, many have found the efficient and discreet world of internet dating much more enticing than the singles bar or speed dating. Why leave the house and kids cruising for the chance meeting when a catalogue of potential dates can be found readily available at their fingertips for review at their convenience (usually about 20 minutes after the kids are safely tucked into bed.)
Dating online has boomed in the 21st Century. With the evolution of the internet, people work online, shop online, attend classes online—and singles are now seduced into the virtual reality of online dating. The diverse abundance of profiles entice today’s single parent to explore hundreds of potential matches in a search for a potential love interest. We have come a long way from relying on church socials or the town matchmaker, but is true love really just a click away? As the single parent embarks into the seemingly abundant playground of potential love interests, the available online profiles incite the imagination and create expectations. One starts to wonder: “Where have these great people been hiding?”
Computers help us approach dating with efficiency, allowing a larger quantity of potential matches to become available. Though, computer matches are not without fallbacks. In an arena where deceit is easy, how does one protect himself or herself from the fraudulent, or even dangerous, people who post profiles? Which users should have red flags next to their pictures?
When single parents post profiles and date online, they should remain cautious and alert to avoid potentially dangerous situations. Here are some tips to safely date online:
1) DO NOT PROVIDE INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR CHILDREN. Never post photos of your children on the dating web sites. Do not give your children’s names, dates of birth, schools or other potential identifying information. Child predators are everywhere. Enough said.
2) BE CAREFUL WHICH PHONE NUMBER YOU PROVIDE TO DATES. Do not provide a phone number that could be answered or viewed by your child. Clearly, your child does not need to answer a call from a new interest courting your affection and, certainly does not need to see unwanted naughty text photos that some online daters disseminate as part of their dating ritual.
3) DO NOT INTRODUCE YOUR CHILDREN TO DATES UNTIL YOUR RELATIONSHIP IS SOMEWHAT SERIOUS. Your children do not need to observe a revolving door of dates. Remember that you are a role model and how you conduct your dating life will set an example for your children and have ramifications on their self esteem. Your children need to feel like they are your top priority, not second fiddle to your social calendar. Dating is the process of getting to know potential life-long partners. As you get to know each other, you could decide that a particular relationship isn’t for you. Give yourself time to see if the relationship is going somewhere before introducing your children—They do not need to meet four different dates in a month.
4) SCHEDULE YOUR DATES FOR YOUR CUSTODIAL OFF-TIME. Explain the custody arrangement and your time limitations to your date. If your date requires time and attention that could affect your ability to give your children the priority they deserve, then evaluate whether that is a deal breaker. For example, if your date tries to pressure you to skip your child’s soccer game so you can spend time together, it is clear that your date feels that his or her time with you should be the priority. Remember that you only have one chance to raise your children and having them play second fiddle to your dating life will have an irreparable impact on their self esteem.
5) BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR ROLE AS A PARENT. If your date is not interested in a life that includes children, where could this possibly be going? Be realistic… and not so desperate that you are willing to lie or hide your true life. You want to be loved for who you are. Be open and honest. For example, if you are attracted to a man who puts in his profile that he doesn’t want children and you delay discussing your children, what will the ultimate consequences be? Are you really wasting time. Instead, it makes sense to discuss your children in the first conversation to find out if the relationship would have any potential.
6) AVOID DATES IN LOCATIONS WHERE YOU MIGHT RUN INTO PEOPLE WHO KNOW YOUR CHILD: It is always a good idea to meet in a public place for the first date for safety reasons. However, do not meet at a place where you are likely to run into your child’s teacher, dance teacher, friends or neighbors. Your child does not need to hear from others that they saw you on a date. Just think how embarrassed your child would be if the neighbor child teased him at school, “ooooh… I saw your mom on a date!”
7) DO NOT USE THE FAMILY COMPUTER FOR YOUR ONLINE DATING: Please remember that if your children are old enough to use a computer, then they are old enough to access your dating website, review your profile, read your emails and have unlimited access to your adult dating world. Always password protect your profile access. But, just remember that the cookies on your computer can easily direct your child to your last site viewed. How would your child feel if during the draft of their term paper, one of your online dates started IMing about the date the other night? Would they pretend to be you and carry on a conversation? Would they discuss it with you? Or, would they keep the information to themselves, but just looked at you in a different light. It’s your responsibility to keep your online dating private.
Online dating can provide a wonderful method for single parents to meet a true partner and benefit the entire family. If you are open, honest, discreet and approach your online dating experience with the time and care of finding a true quality relationship, magic can happen.
The online experience allows the single parent to craft a profile ad which describes their attributes and the limitations in their life style. When you get a phone number at a chance meeting at the coffee shop, who knows what the date’s education is, whether he wants kids or has an allergy to seafood. But the online experience allows you to be upfront with ”deal breakers” and honestly portray the traits that are important to you. Will she go mountain biking with you? … Will she quash plans to see the Lakers game? And, many times, even if you don’t find love, the common profile interests can lead to meaningful friendships. The age of technology has catapulted single parents into a new dating ritual through the virtual world. If approached with these guidelines in mind, online dating can offer single parents the thrill of searching for new love and at the same time maintain your parental responsibility for safety and discretion. You never know; finding love may be only a click away!
Co-Parenting : The Chance To Focus On The Kids
Tools to Help Give Your Children The Parents They Deserve.
By Elisabeth Camaur, Attorney at Law, Certified Family Law Specialist By the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization
You could see it in her eyes: Jayden was afraid to speak in front of her parents. She looked around the room as if to say, “Get me out of here!” Bombs were ticking inside both parents… another battle in their war against each other could begin at any moment. Last week it became clear how explosive their arguments could be. These two would fight over the most mundane dribble to escalate their adversarial battle. And, they were both blinded as to the extreme pain and irreparable damage they were causing Jayden. Michael mentioned that Jayden should bring a sweater as they met for the custody exchange. Melodie obviously interpreted this as a dig and implication that she was a bad mother and would allow their daughter to catch a cold. She couldn’t resist the challenge. “It’s too warm for a sweater… she’ll just lose it.” Here we go with the tug of war. “I’m right … you’re wrong… I win … you lose…” Jayden seemed to be shrinking away with every round. “Let’s go now Jayden!” screamed a red-faced Michael as he tore the sweater off a hook on the wall. While watching this scenario take place, there is no question as to why these two had separated—but, it’s also clear that their bickering is causing Jayden unbearable pain and distress. They have to find a way to work together if they really wanted to give Jayden any chance to grow into an emotional healthy young girl.
Today’s families appear in many forms, and the “nuclear” family now has many definitions. With changing family structures come changing roles and relationships. “Parenting” can be performed by separated parents, by grandparents, siblings or other adults. Often parenting involves parents who don’t live under the same roof, and who don’t always agree on philosophies or details. For the sake of the children—and for everyone involved—agreements must be made to establish rights and responsibilities; and today more than ever, these are divided between adults in co-parenting arrangements. How can you live apart, and work together?
In spite of stress and anger that can linger between the parents after a break up, parents have a long haul and will remain linked as a two household family by their children. And, a united parenting team provides the children with security and stability. The children love both parents. When the two people they love the most—the two main authority figures in their lives—bicker and argue, life becomes very confusing and threatening. Can you imagine if the children’s teachers at school bickered with each other in front of the class? Most parents would be up in arms at such an environment for their child. Yet, these same parents have no qualms about this same environment at home.
Most parents going through a divorce agree that their children are the most important issue they face in the litigation, and all discussions should keep the child’s best interest in mind. Finding peaceful means of sharing parenting roles ensures that the children benefit in terms of self–esteem, achievement, and quality of life. Divorce occurs at alarming rates, and therefore parenting issues between parents no longer connected to each other must be addressed for thousands of families in every city. The best arrangement is always an agreed custody and parenting plan designed and implemented by the parents themselves. When parents are incapable of working out a parenting arrangement and work together, the parenting issues are thrust into the court for the person in the black robe to make the decisions for the parents. When each parent gets to see the child… whether their child gets braces… does the child go to private school?...or get to play soccer?
Don’t think that young children are the only ones at risk; children of all ages are thrust into the uncertainty and heartache of divorce. And, in fact, adolescents and teenagers can be very dramatically affected by the fighting. Disputes can arise regarding visitation, support and almost anything. And, while living in separate households can actually be more beneficial to children than remaining in a house of constant turmoil and hostility, parents can irreparably harm their children by involving them in the disagreements that arise during the divorce proceedings and beyond. In order to prevent damage to their children, parents must make good choices about how to dissolve their marriage and to move forward. They can either:
1. Accept that the marriage is over and attempt to co-parent the children, or
2. Maintain an adversary relationship with the other parent that spills over into parenting.
Parenting involves true focus on the child and remembering to “take the high road” when it comes to bickering. During a divorce, a parent should forego his or her anger, for the sake of children involved. Getting in that last insult accomplishes nothing, and hurts the children who witness the act. Children deserve the love, affection and respect of both parents, and when households are breaking up, a civilized and united parenting relationship is the best gift one can give to their children.
The divorce is not the end of interaction between parents. After all, the parents will participate in a life-long relationship while attending extracurricular activities, graduations, children’s weddings and sharing grandchildren. Clearly, life would be happier if these events didn’t have the stress of the divorce hostility looming over them. When the children are the true priority, parents put their own anger aside and work with the other parent to raise their children.
Unfortunately, a lot of divorced parents believe that the other parent is completely unreasonable, and they are unable to work with them (hence the divorce). How do divorced parents co-parent in these situations? Learn these rules, carry a copy with you, and read them every day. Someday your child will thank you.
1. Approach discussions with the other parent objectively, and stay on subject. Never imply “I am right…you are wrong.” Keep respectful and open-minded in your discussions. This will help to keep lines of communication open.
2. Do not make negative comments about the other parent to children; no matter how outrageous the other parent may act. (Note: If you truly believe there is abuse or neglect by the other parent, consult immediately with a therapist and an attorney. And, if there is an emergency situation, the local child protective services and law enforcement agencies should be contacted immediately.)
3. Never discuss the litigation with the children or allow them to review court documents. These are adult issues. You should approach the child custody issues as an opportunity to try to reach an agreement with the other parent. All attempts should be made to be a “united parenting force” for your children, if appropriate under the circumstances.
4. Do not use children as your pawns in your game. Never discuss child support with the children, and do not involve the children in passing messages to the other parent.
5. Do not undermine the other parent’s authority. If the other parent imposes discipline (such as grounding or a time out), support the decision. If you have questions or concerns about the discipline, discuss this respectfully outside the ear shot of the child. Of course, this does not mean to support child abuse. But, assuming we have a non-abusive method of discipline, consult with the other parent before questioning the decision in the presence of the children.
These rules are simple, but occasionally, ex-couples need help in learning to live by them. Consider help for learning to work together. Resources for developing co-parenting skills exist in special classes and in private therapy to help parents. These resources could be recommended by your attorney/s, therapists, medical professionals, your child’s school, or the court; so if you feel a need, take the initiative and ask for a referral. The time you invest now learning to co-parent can help everyone move forward to discover new paths in life.
After the divorce is final, the parents have the opportunity to focus on the parenting without the problems of the marriage. Clearly, the children should benefit. Children develop and grow very quickly, don’t fill their growing years with memories of battles and confusion. You only have one opportunity to raise them—don’t waste it because you are angry over the divorce.
Follow the example of Jon and Karrie, a married couple raising her children. Dave, who is Karrie’s ex, lives a few blocks away, and their co-parenting skills are so great that they have all become friends. The three adults sat together at Dave and Karrie’s son’s soccer banquet. All three showed pride in the role they play in raising this child. When Jon and Karrie went away last weekend, Dave happily watched the kids—and he even took care of his ex-wife’s dog!
Elisabeth Camaur is an attorney and Certified Family Law Specialist by the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization with the firm of Camaur Crampton Family Law in Irvine, California. Camaur has been providing family law services to clients in California since 1993. In 1994, she also became licensed in Virginia and has practiced family law in the Washington, DC area. Camaur is well known for her courtroom litigation presence, her ability to litigate and settle hostile child custody cases, her experience in Interstate/International child custody jurisdictional issues, her management and resolution of complex financial issues in family law cases and her skills as a mediator.
Divorce Survival Kit
By Elisabeth Camaur, California Family Attorney & Mediator
Getting married is fairly simple… but, a divorce (especially in California) can be extremely complicated and costly. Yet, the majority of marriages now appear to be heading or ending in divorce. Over the years, it has become crystal clear that most litigation is fueled by fear. Fear of your spouse’s motives… fear of the financial consequences… fear of allowing the other parent to control certain aspects of the children’s lives. The fear becomes exaggerated and the litigation compounds when the parties emotionally react to each other. A divorce attorney who truly acts in their client’s interests will attempt to subdue the emotions, not ignite… and will attempt to work towards finding opportunities for their client’s while calming the chaos of an ending marriage. But, typically, a divorce attorney will focus on the documents to gather, the records to keep, the experts to hire.
But to truly survive in the human sense, the divorcing litigant needs some pro-active planning, preparation and strategy. When followed, I have seen these tips not only help a divorcee survive, but help them flourish:
Make a List of Some of Your Life Long Dreams: At a time when your life seems to be falling apart, focusing on goals and dreams can help bring the passion of life back. Actually, sit down and write out your dreams and goals. Take each dream and goal and write down the steps you will need to take to reach that goal. Seriously try this, you may actually find yourself excited and giddy about life again!
Do Not Emotionally React to Your Spouse: When faced with a divorce, you may be in a situation when you know your buttons are being pushed. Instead of reacting with your emotions, be proactive. Think about those goals and where you want to be in life. Instead of reacting, take steps that further these goals. What happens to you has very little to do with the outcome…. Most of the outcome is based on how you react. Be proactive and focused on where you want your life to go and drive it there.
Do Not Try To Be “Right” Or “Win”: The marriage probably ended because of the adversarial relationship between you and your spouse… “I’m right and you are wrong”… “I win and you lose.” No matter how many hearings you “win” during litigation, the only winner will be the lawyers. Family law is not about winning. The win/lose mentality also only fuels the fear factor that fuels the litigation. And, pretty soon, the spouses are spending tens of thousands of dollars just to “win.” Think about the consequences of each legal strategy move before you start litigating. What do you want to accomplish? What is the best way to obtain that result? Focus on the results you want in your life and strategize your divorce to help you reach those goals.
Listen to Your Spouse Before You Attempt to Argue: Really try to focus on their true concerns so you can evaluate their priorities. Once you hear what your spouse says, you can respond in a way that is much more likely to be tailored to obtain the result you want. You may very well be able to tailor a resolution that can address their top concerns. But, unless your spouse feels that he/she is heard and understood, they will most likely just keep arguing their same points and will not be open to other options . Also, you need to listen to be able to anticipate arguments and strategies.
Do Not Allow Fear to Block Important Information You Need: Many times people in pain put their head in the sand and ignore information that they feel may escalate their pain. But, information is power. If your spouse controlled the finances, then you are going to have to learn about it now and start educating yourself. Moreover, this information may very well help you find the opportunity for your life after divorce. Do not let fear stifle you. If you have information that is damaging, at least you can begin actions for damage control if you know the facts. But, you cannot grow and flourish in the dark.
Most people in a divorce feel they have been wronged. But the role of a victim will not help you… it will stifle you. You married this person and put yourself into that situation. It is extremely unlikely you were forced to marry your spouse at gun point. So, look forward, learn from your choice and grow. If you spend your divorce focusing on the regret and blame, you will not see your opportunities. This does not mean that the divorce or abuse is your fault… it means use this pain to grow. If you insist on over analyzing the way your spouse victimized you or spend your time arguing why you are entitled, you are reacting. Yes, there are responsibilities and duties in family law. But rather than spend your time focused on the past, you can create your survival and opportunity by planning your dreams. And, from the pain and chaos of the broken marriage you can emerge a stronger and better person who is heading towards making dreams come true.
The Successful Independent Woman: Why Can’t She Find a Great Guy?
Everyone has an attractive, single friend that seems to have it all going on: health, career, great hobbies, sense of humor, intelligence…yet she can’t seem to stay in a relationship long enough to introduce him to her dog. Good sense tells us that this “diamond” of a individual deserves to find the perfect match. Why doesn’t she connect with any of the many suitors that line up at her doorstep? Perhaps you are this individual who looks in the mirror and wonders why your mother is still hounding you about when….
Although many people thrive as singles; others long for the company and support that comes from a life-long relationship. Today’s women juggle challenging careers, social obligations, commitments to keep healthy with exhausting exercise regimes, and the need to keep current with continuing education efforts. With schedules over-booked, friends and family often take a back seat to conferences and personal trainers. How then can today’s “superwomen” nurture relationships with potential life partners? If you are still waiting for Prince Charming ask yourself if you are ready to enter into a relationship that demands attention and emotional maturity.
Steven Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, recognizes three levels of emotional maturity: dependence, independence and interdependence. Such a statement sends the modern woman into a tail spin, because the Feminist Movement has taught us to have it all… be all… the independent woman. And, after all of our efforts to achieve and grow as independent women, now we are mediocre on the emotional maturity scale?
We seem wiser and better prepared for everything we do, yet, divorce is on the rise… resentment and dissatisfaction with relationships are on the rise. And, if we stop for a second during our busy lives, when the chaos and hubbub settle, we may sadly notice a lack of emotional intimacy in our relationships. This becomes obvious when married couples who have outlasted the seven year itch tell you “marriage is a lot of work…” What?! Marriage is a lot of work… but, if you work really, really hard, you can tolerate it ?! Yikes! Talk about happily ever after!
Most of my contemporaries are professional women, highly educated—and single or unhappily married. Why aren’t these wonderful, successful women finding happiness in their relationships ? Unfortunately, modern western culture brings up little girls on fairy tales… the stories of the damsel in distress being rescued by a handsome hero and living happily ever after. Those stories illustrate how once the princess gets married, she will be happy because the prince will make her happy. This fairy tale expectation sets up women for dissatisfaction and unrealistic expectations for our poor princes.
We all know that happiness comes from the inside-from our own goals and dreams. And, if you search for happiness from the outside (whether it be a great pair of shoes, ice cream, a race car, or other people) you will be disappointed. That doesn’t mean that we cannot find it through our children or our spouses, but they are not responsible for our happiness nor do they create it. We define our own happiness; it is not something automatically implanted in our lives with the wedding band.
So, are women set up to be disappointed in relationships with false expectations? Are men set up to disappoint? Most of us don’t even know what makes us happy. This problem is exemplified when someone asks the question “where would you like to go to dinner?” Most successful women will respond “It doesn’t matter, dear. Where would you like to go?” Ok, now how is the Prince supposed to make you happy by picking the right restaurant? This leaves him frustrated. He is helpless and emasculated in his failure to please. But this scenario can easily be transformed into a positive experience: if you respond to his questions with, “I’d love jumbo shrimp,” then the prince will be thrilled to find the best shrimp restaurant in the land. Instead of brewing frustration he’ll be proud of himself when the best jumbo shrimp in town are appreciatively devoured. He made you happy. You told him what you wanted, and he found it. When men feel that they cannot make a woman happy, they become frustrated and they often lose interest. Yes, they will even lose interest in that fantastic, successful independent woman!
Now, what compounds the problem is that successful women can easily confuse “dependence” with “interdependence.” The Feminist movement took us from dependence to independence. But, interdependence is a partnership and an ability to work together. Independent women are uncomfortable in situations where they admit to vulnerability and allow their Prince to take over. Instead, successful women focus on protecting their independence and avoiding any possible appearance of a need that they cannot handle themselves. Successful women view vulnerability as a weakness… and most will deny any such thoughts. But, then, if there is no vulnerability… no unfulfilled need, where does their man fit in? And, soon he becomes frustrated and emasculated as his value and ability to contribute erodes.
Now let’s go back to this fairy tale. The independent success woman has been raised on these fairy tales. So, she thirsts for the promised happiness after her BIG DAY, yet, she is less willing to allow assistance and partnership with anyone. She hides her needs and wants from others who offer help, and she locks them in her tower These are intolerable weaknesses., and, her husband sits outside the dungeon with little or nothing to do, whileher resentment builds with the broken promises of happily ever after.
Now what is truly stopping the successful woman from interdependence? Is it the fear of becoming their mothers? Is it the fear of losing independence or not meeting the expectations that come with success? Or maybe it’s the fear of true emotional intimacy? Maybe she fears the loss of control and the potential to be let down? What ever the reason, she sits protected on her island with a concrete wall that protects her from the potential of these vulnerabilities. And, the Prince sits frustrated and worn out at the shores of the moat, unable to contribute to her happiness despite his efforts.
So how then does the successful woman reach the higher level of emotional maturity-Interdependence? She should take specific steps toward inner growth, and if you are searching for the secret for developing lasting relationships, consider the following:
1. Define what you want to get out of a relationship. Women usually state what they will contribute. Instead, do soul searching for your own emotional and physical needs. Yes, we all have needs. Women need to begin to admit they have needs and define them.
2. Identify the qualities in a Prince that are required to meet those needs. This is not income or physical attributes. These are qualities in a partner that you need in order to help you be a better person. What are the qualities in a man that will inspire and motivate you?
3. Discuss the short term and long term goals for your life with your Prince. Identify how each of you will contribute to reaching those goals. And, have this discussion often.
4. Be proactive, not reactive. As Charles R. Swindoll said “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” When you emotionally react, you respond with blame, anger, hysterics, and resentment. Instead, be proactive. Put the focus on what you want to achieve and the consequences you want to occur. And, act according to that plan. If you stay calm and in control focused on your goals, you are less likely to have unintended consequences. For example, if your Prince is upset and terminates a conversation, do not repeatedly call him. This will deter him from wanting to speak with you and possibly lead to a restraining order. Instead, take time off, occupy your time with a distraction (like an outing with friends) and allow time to pass for things to cool off and for him to miss you.
5. Tell your Prince how he can make you happy. When he asks where you want to go for dinner, TELL HIM… don’t pass. Tell him your favorite perfume… your favorite flower… your favorite chocolate. And, allow him to do things for you. When he brings you your favorite flower, let him know you appreciate it. Do not undervalue it with “you shouldn’t have…” or “we can’t afford this…” Don’t undervalue yourself. You work hard and deserve it, OF COURSE he should!!! And, he did!!! So, tell him how wonderful he is and how much you appreciate him. Men want to do things to contribute to our happiness. Encourage him.
The Feminist Movement brought women from dependant to independent. Now it’s time that women move ahead to the higher level of maturity… Interdependence. Sure, we can do it all… we can be completely self sufficient… but, we have sacrificed true emotional intimacy with our Princes. We have lost the ability to identify our own happiness and the Princes are left with no role in our lives. Being Interdependent does not mean that we will turn back the Feminist Movement and end up in the roles of our mothers. It means that we are open to a connection and partnership where we admit we have needs and allow our Princes to meet our needs. Once we allow ourselves to define our needs for happiness and allow others to help meet those needs, we might just start down the path to creating our own happiness…. Together.
© 2010 Elisabeth Camaur