Sunday, May 15, 2011

Last Ditch Effort: Should You Try Marital Counseling?

What should you do if, after a discussion about divorce, your spouse requests that the two of you attend marriage counseling to try to save the marriage? Or, should you suggest that you and your spouse get counseling before taking the giant step of filing for divorce?

There's no universal answer, but I would generally lean toward trying the counseling. You would invest some time, money and emotional energy, but the reward could be much greater than the cost, if you are able to get your marriage back on track. Here are some possible benefits from both sides putting in the effort through counseling.

Advantages of Trying Counseling

You could improve your marital relationship and save the marriage. Counseling actually works sometimes when both parties make the commitment and follow through. It's not going to be easy, but there is a possibility of real improvement for each of you.

Even if your marriage isn't saved, there may be significant benefits from working with a counselor.
  • You and your spouse can learn some skills to help you better cope with a divorce. Your counselor can help both of you learn to listen and communicate better, manage stress and deal with difficult decisions that come up with a divorce. If you have children, you can work on learning co-parenting skills.
  • A counselor may be able to help each of you understand the need for divorce. There may be insurmountable differences in goals, values or the views of the respective roles of the parties. There could be issues relating to the extended family on either or both sides. There may be very different ideas about how to raise the kids. Some things can't be "fixed" and it can help to get that confirmed by an outsider.
  • Counseling may help synchronize the emotional states of both parties. It is quite common for one spouse to work through a lot of family issues internally without saying anything to his/her spouse, and then "suddenly" announce the need for divorce. People going through divorces usually go through a number of steps emotionally before they get to acceptance of the divorce. If only one party has been working through that journey, unbeknown to the other party, it can be really tough on the one surprised. Counseling can help the slower party understand what is happening and can help the faster party learn to slow down and give the spouse time to work through the emotions.
  • Sometimes you just need a referee to help you and your spouse have civilized, adult conversations. The counselor can help maintain order and make sure both of you are heard.
What should you do if you or your spouse wants marital counseling?

  • Make sure you get a qualified, experienced counselor. You can research on line and you should get referrals from a Family Law attorney or someone else you trust. You can change counselors if you don't like how the sessions are going, but don't use that as a weapon against your spouse.
  • Make sure you can afford the counseling. Find out what the cost is and check into whether the counseling can be covered by a health insurance policy. Only request counseling if you sincerely want it. Don't waste your money just going through the motions. Make sure your spouse is sincere about attending and following through with the counselor's suggestions.
  • Don't expect vindication. Neither you nor your spouse should go into counseling expecting vindication or a decision saying that you are completely right and your spouse is completely wrong. There is normally room for improvement on both sides.
Final Words

Remember: neither you nor a counselor can make your spouse change. Counseling can work, but don't assume that it will magically (or quickly) transform a difficult situation.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

New Skills for Finding a Job -- Using Social Media

If you are a Baby Boomer, 50 years old or more, and contemplating a divorce, you will have to make many changes in your life. Among the most important may be finding a job or career, if you will need or want to work. It is pretty common, for people going through a divorce later in life, to need to work to support themselves and their family. Many Baby Boomers have been staying at home and taking care of kids for years. Even if they worked when they were younger, their skills are rusty and their old jobs have been filled or abolished. In addition, the Boomers may have different interests now, or maybe they never liked their old jobs in the first place.

If you find yourself in this situation, there is some good news. There are many new opportunities for marketing yourself to potential employers. The Internet is the natural starting point. There are some fairly new approaches to finding a job and getting yourself known to companies and people who are hiring. Before jumping in, here are three important points to keep in mind.

Planning Ahead with Social Media

• Be careful. Make sure you think before you speak or write something. You will be judged by what you say and do on the Internet and by what your pictures show on the Internet. A lot of party pictures and stories may not convey the image you want. Watch spelling, grammar and word choice in anything written.
• Be targeted. Think about who you want to hire you and the best way to reach your potential employer. Use whatever tools you can find that will bring you into contact with acceptable employers. Don't just rely on general notices or comments. Research the industry and figure out what the leaders are involved in and then communicate there.
• Be creative. Think outside the box and find appropriate ways to distinguish yourself from the myriad of other candidates, but use good taste. Don’t just use the basic information everyone else will. Try to approach each potential employer uniquely and show that you have taken the time to research their business. Be memorable -- in a good way!

How Can You Use Social Media?

Make sure you research and determine what media your industry relates to and then watch it for a while before you jump in. Here are a few possibilities, but there are many more and there are new tools and sites created constantly, so keep looking around.

1. You Tube. You have to be very careful to be appropriate, but this can be a strong attention getter if it’s well done. You may need professional help in putting together some short videos, but you can really connect with well-done products.

2. LinkedIn. This won’t work for all jobs, but for professional careers and some others, this can be very effective. There is a huge number of people who are on LinkedIn and you can do research on a company and other employees (including interviewers, sometimes), so you can be prepared to apply. There are discussion groups for many different subjects on LinkedIn. If you can join in the discussions and contribute with give and take, you can make some connections who might help you get hired somewhere. It’s a good site where you can get to know others with similar career interests.

3. Listserves. There are tons of listserves for all kinds of interests. Search and you can probably find some you can join that relate to a particular type of job or even how to find a job. Over time, you can become friends and help each other out. You need to be able to contribute to the discussions. By being active, you will probably be able to get some useful information on a career as well as companies in your field.

4. Twitter. You can follow local people in whatever you are interested in. If you can contribute to discussions and add something interesting and useful, perhaps some links, you can develop relationships that could lead to work. You should carefully target your field and your geographic area. Don’t try to just get the highest number of followers by using some secret trick – it won’t work and it’s not worth anything to you anyway.

5. Facebook. This is mainly listed because so many people are on Facebook now. Plus, there are business or fan pages and you can look up businesses and learn about them through these pages. On the regular Facebook, you can make new connections and you can re-connect with old friends. If you take time to create and nurture relationships, job opportunities could be the result. But, you should be very careful what personal information you publish, what information you let others read and what pictures are shown. There are often very embarrassing disclosures on Facebook that just shouldn’t have been put there. Be careful and think before you post!

These are just five types of “social media”. They all take some time to produce results. You have to commit to them over time and it's really the relationships that you can create that will produce results. These can provide great opportunities for Baby Boomers and others to creatively search for employment, but don’t limit yourself to just these approaches. New tools and apps are coming out all the time, so keep looking and trying new methods. Good luck in the job search!