Making the decision to pursue a divorce can be challenging on so many levels including its effect on one’s most important asset—self-esteem. In I Want ME Back!, author John E. Long, Jr. offers a philosophical approach to divorcing with dignity and the significance of recovering self-worth during the divorce.
Long, who has served more than 5,000 divorcing clients during his fifty-one years of practice, discusses why self-esteem is the root of all marital dissatisfaction and divorce and why it’s imperative to recover self-worth and dignity. He also discusses divorce law and lawyers, how to know when it’s time to seek a divorce, physical divorce, emotional divorce, and the impact on children. Sharing real-life stories, this guide offers a roadmap for the journey through a divorce.
Part memoir, part how-to divorce, part self-help, and part autobiographical, I Want ME Back! presents the clinical and the humanistic tools to not only survive a divorce but regain self-esteem, restore dignity, and get the best net worth settlement.
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I Want Me Back!
There's Sunshine Ahead
By John E. Long Jr.
Balboa PressCopyright © 2017 John E. Long, Jr.
All rights reserved.
One of the most common statements I hear from clients is "I want me back." Isn't that what you really want back too?
It's hard to think that you have a shot at getting yourself back. You feel like such a failure. You've already lost many important things, including your self-respect, self-confidence, and security. You don't know what lies ahead for you – and it's terrifying. You might be facing the possibility of losing your house, your money, and even your dignity if the divorce gets nasty.
You feel like the least likely person on earth to make a comeback. You are the underdog. Welcome to the club.
When you are the underdog because of divorce and damaged self-esteem, you feel like no one champions you. You are undervalued, an unlikely victor. Underdogs don't win or lose because of how others perceive them, or value them. They win because their opinion of their ability to succeed comes from within. They refuse to give up on themselves.
At the beginning of the divorce process, you are already so low, so defeated. And the anxiety about who will get what in the settlement can be overwhelming. You don't want to "fail" in that respect either. But if you only adhere to the clinical approach of divorce, the nuts and bolts of property distribution, parenting plans, etc., and ignore the psychological issues of divorce, you will fail again.
The best movies have it all, tragedy and triumph, heartbreak and love. They all share the common elements of suffering and overcoming. When faced with dramatic obstacles and loss, the adversity thrusts the protagonist into what's known as the "character arc". The arc accelerates maturity and growth, but only when the choice to fight for victory is made. The best movie heroes and memorable characters aren't the ones who let the sword lie – but rather, in their weakest hour, bend down and grab hold, facing the unknown with courage and commitment. They fight for their redemption.
Please pick up the sword. In this book, I'm giving you the tools you need to overcome, the clinical tools and the humanistic tools. I'm handing you scripts, and feeding you the lines. Do you have the courage to follow?
And that's what lies beneath my cast of characters. I've always been the underdog. Granted, there were times when I've been the underdog that no one roots for. We're all underdogs if we want to be - or we hide at home with our head under the covers.CHAPTER 2
How do I Know My Marriage is Over?
Most people contemplating divorce look for assurance that their decision, whatever it may be, will bring them happiness and peace. This is why there are so many websites and books on this very topic. It's big business to give people what they want from a guide to help them make this significant decision. They are looking for a guide which makes them feel secure in the knowledge that it's "the secret" to deciding whether to divorce. After making this decision for myself twice, and after seeing thousands of clients struggle with it as well, I can tell you the one thing I know for sure – nothing worth having comes free, and the most important part of this decision-making process is putting in the work to find your answer.
People need a guide that makes them accountable and doesn't let them off the hook. The only way to find peace with your decision to divorce is by accepting personal responsibility for the decision. My guide to determining whether your marriage is over applies to everyone, no matter what condition your self-esteem is, or what kind of a spouse you have. This is because, if you've been in a marriage that has damaged your self-esteem, or you feel uncertain about how to reach the decision to stay or go, this section of the book is for you. Feeling uncertain is common, and I think it's a good thing. It means you're giving the decision to divorce the attention and consideration it deserves. It is not something that should be casually entered into. The decision is complex with endless consequences to consider.
Most significantly, divorce breaks up a family. Beyond that, there are many challenging psychological, emotional and financial repercussions resulting from divorce. If you honestly know there is no acceptable alternative to divorce, you will implicitly have peace in your heart. There will be no need to justify anything. Justification is like rationalization. People engage in rationalization to make excuses for their behavior, actions and decisions. If you truly cannot find one acceptable alternative to divorce that allows you to honor your dignity and integrity, and rebuild your self-esteem, there's no need for a single excuse. That is not an excuse. That is an eyes wide open, well-considered, pronouncement of what is and what is not acceptable in your life. It declares what you will and will not tolerate, excuse, or ignore in your life from now on. This is about your honor.
If you aren't guarding your honor, who is? Honestly being able to say that to yourself requires that you can't harbor any secret thoughts such as "well, maybe if I tried counseling ...", or "gee, if I tried to sit down and explain why I'm so unhappy, maybe."
No. If you have these secret whispers in your ear as you ask yourself this question, you will not find peace about your decision in the long run. The last thing you want is to look back and wonder if you made the right decision, particularly if you have children. You must exhaust all possible avenues of restoration, correction, forgiveness, therapy, communication, and love.
You know it's over when you can honestly say this sentence to yourself, and feel at peace after you say it:
"I cannot find one acceptable alternative to divorce which allows me to honor my dignity and integrity, and rebuild my self-esteem."
You, not Aunt Ethel, not your drinking buddy Marty, not your overbearing mother or your outspoken, loud-mouthed friends – you are the only one who can make the decision because you are truly the only one who can answer it based on ALL the evidence and ALL the circumstances.
Many people end their marriages in haste. They are so consumed by resentment and frustration, and their emotions dictate this life-altering decision. The best way to decide to divorce is to use all your resources, not just your emotions and heart, but also your head and your spirit. Often, people only rely on their emotions when contemplating divorce.
It's easy to say "well, we fell out of love", or "I just don't love her anymore". That is a preposterous reason to divorce. That's like saying "I married him because I liked him". There has to be more to it than that in order for the decision to work out successfully.
So, once you aren't relying strictly on your emotions, you have to look elsewhere for certainty and clues as to whether the marriage can be salvaged. It is a decision that should require sacrifices - you must do what you do not want to do in order to be certain there is nothing else to do besides divorcing. This means you have to look at your marriage and your life and evaluate what options exist for improvement. You must see how you yourself can make changes which will positively affect your marriage. This is not the time to blame your spouse or underestimate what he or she might be capable of in order to save the marriage.
What is an "acceptable alternative" to divorce? It depends, and the answer is different for every couple. But when you are steadfast in your commitment to having a marriage where your integrity, dignity and self-esteem can be honored, you're one step closer to recognizing the one acceptable alternative when you find it.
Let's face it, if you're far enough along on the contemplation of the divorce journey, you are secretly hoping that this script will lead you to the conclusion that divorce is the only option. You are the dumper. You are miserable and tired of being in a marriage where you feel undervalued, underappreciated and unloved. You might even think you don't like your spouse at all anymore, and wonder why you married in the first place. So you are ready for happiness and relief. You want that golden ticket to Happy Town.
You need to get real. Searching for one acceptable alternative is not going to be like a journey where you suddenly stumble upon a magic carpet that will solve all your problems. The word is "acceptable" not perfect or wonderful. This part is about paying your fare for the ticket to Happy Town.
Divorce is a radical and complete disunification of what was once completely united. It means to sever, dissociate, dissolve the matrimonial bonds, disconnect, detach, break apart. Divorcing someone disgorges the mutual responsibilities shared by each spouse. There are no unsaid expectations or obligations that entitle you to hold a grudge or build resentment about. It is "The End". Final. Fini. Over. You're on your own. Free.
But are you really ready to be on your own? Are you ready to be free?
People who tell you that when they first seriously entertained the idea of divorce, it sounded good, are lying. I don't care how bad their marriage is or what their circumstance. People don't like the idea of divorcing their spouse upon first consideration. It's a terrifying proposition, emotionally, financially, etc. Everybody considering divorce, the dumpers and the dumpees, all share the same fear and wonder – what will happen to me?
This is why divorce is so terrifying at first. At least when you're in a marriage, even a bad marriage, you feel more secure because there are "two of you against the world". You have a partner who will at least bear witness to your life, and purportedly look out for you and help you when you need help. But this safety goes away in divorce.
Many spouses, especially those with low self-esteem, feel they aren't ready to go out on their own. They don't trust their ability to survive outside of marriage.
When I was considering divorce from my first two wives, these thoughts ran through my mind, although I was mostly concerned about what would happen to my children. This is an even scarier proposition because it's bad enough to feel like you're ruining your own life, let alone the lives of your innocent children. So how does one overcome these fears and move into a space where divorce becomes an option despite the endless "what ifs"?
With so many people in miserable marriages these days, I'm not surprised when I hear a client tell me the divorce was a breeze compared to the marriage. When two people are already separated in heart or mind, much of the loss and grieving is over.
When faced with these unknown variables, it's difficult to get an accurate "preview" of "The Movie of Your Life" after the divorce. This is what makes choosing divorce so tough. Life is all about making choices and responding to the cards you're dealt. When you review "The Movie of Your Life", you see that many cards are not of our own choosing but we spend our life trying to respond properly and learn important lessons from the mistakes we make along the way. But, choosing to divorce is a card we draw ourselves. And it's a big card. How can we possibly select it when we aren't sure of the consequences, and blame for the selection lies solely with ourselves? At least if we don't choose the divorce card and stay in the marriage, we can control the outcome of our movie - there is security and comfort in sticking to the script and anticipating that the scenes of tomorrow will look about the same as those from yesterday and today.
Thoughtfully considering divorce requires you to imagine what "The Movie of Your Life" would look like in either scenario, divorce or no divorce. The best way to do this is to evaluate the variables, the known and unknown, and consider how you'd fare based on the resources you either have right now, or can acquire with time. For instance, money issues are a major concern for most divorcing couples and divorce typically causes each spouse to lose one of two things – substantial portions of net worth, or access to a spouse's income or other assets. But until the final decree, the financial settlement is an unknown variable (unless you have a valid pre or post-nuptial agreement).
So when you look ahead at your movie, should you remain married, the money variable is much more predictable than if you were to divorce. But by looking at the laws of your State to get a general idea of what each spouse is financially entitled to, and calculating your total assets and liabilities, and considering what resources you have to secure income independently after a divorce, you can better anticipate how that divorce movie will look. This is what I mean by using the resources you do have to predict the variables. Do you have any skills or training to secure a job and gain income post-divorce? What can you do now to prepare for that option? Do you need to go back to school or take a few computer classes to brush up on office technology?
A lot of people who think about the cost of returning to work or consider the financial loss associated with most divorces, get turned off and resign themselves to staying in the marriage. They literally "count the cost" of divorce and conclude divorce is too expensive. Obviously, this happens frequently when considering the impact of divorce on children, social lives, physical changes, etc. The "Divorce Movie" simply looks too hard and too expensive. But that's actually a positive thing. It means they've at least considered what the movie would be, and can thoughtfully decide to stay in the marriage. That's the result of proactive, thorough and diligent divorce contemplation. By working through my guide you will arrive at a conclusion with your eyes wide open and the process will dignify your decision.
While everyone who first considers divorce faces the big fear of "what will happen to me?", those with the lowest self-esteem are often unable to look through the long-term lens, or when they do, miss the hopefulness of that lens. If the turbulence and challenge of the short-term view is frightening, it's usually because the ability to cope with the challenges tips the scale in favor of clinging to the spouse and scuttling the idea of divorce.
Or things might not look scary through the short-term lens, but a look at the movie through the long-term lens is devoid of hope or happiness. It's hard to imagine the long-term positive repercussions of divorce, if you don't believe you deserve better than what you currently endure in the marriage.
Spouses with such damaged self-esteem believe leaving the marriage might jeopardize their survival, and even if they have every possible resource to compensate for the unknown variables, they are all worthless because they aren't mentally or emotionally strong enough to apply those resources successfully or effectively. When I see clients like this, it is painful to see how their self-imposed handicap truly paralyzes them.
My theory is that most marriages fall apart because of the damaged self-esteem of one or both spouses, but since my clients have proven that divorcing spouses are unaware of the self-esteem disease, something else must be driving couples to stay together, even as they slowly sacrifice pieces of who they are for their spouse and the marriage.
At the root of this realization is the unavoidable, harsh fact that there's no such thing as a spouse who doesn't disappoint. How frequently or how deep the disappointment depends on each spouse, and is different in every marriage, but I've seen thousands of clients who all treat the hurt of disappointment the same. They use money. Eleanor was a brave client who was very receptive to my self-esteem message, and as she progressed through the divorce, her personal transformation was astonishing.
"My husband cheated throughout our entire marriage, and I happily lived in denial. It was so much easier not to face it. I focused on raising our children, and when they all went off to college, I was alone in our enormous home for the first time."
"Even when he was home, we could go for hours without speaking or seeing each other - he lived in his study, and I was always upstairs in my dressing room. I knew he was cheating, but I wasn't ready to face it and confront him because divorce was too scary. The risk of losing my home, my lavish shopping sprees, my fancy cars, and my fantastic vacations with girlfriends was too much to bear."
"But when the market collapsed and our business failed, the money I used to soothe myself and compensate for the agony of his infidelity evaporated. Losing the money freed me from the self-imposed prison, and I finally saw what he'd seen all along that as long as his money flowed in, it was a tool to keep me controlled, quiet about the infidelity, maintaining his image of the perfect wife with the perfect house. I am so grateful that your self-esteem message empowered me to see the truth. I'm so much better now. I know that money can't control me anymore. He can no longer put a price on me and use money to absolve guilt."
Excerpted from I Want Me Back! by John E. Long Jr.. Copyright © 2017 John E. Long, Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
How do I Know My Marriage is Over?, 3,
Before Telling Your Spouse You Want a Divorce, 19,
Divorce Law and Lawyers, 39,
Bad Behavior and the Indignity of Abuse, 45,
Physical Divorce, 58,
Emotional Divorce, 74,
Why I Can't Help Every Client, 124,