Failing to acknowledge that grief is part of the divorce process. — Regardless of who initiated the divorce and why it was initiated, the divorce is the end or death of a marriage. When a person enters a marriage, they usually enter in with hopes and dreams and a divorce ends all of those. If one doesn’t properly process their grief, they may find themselves stuck in the vortex of anger and resentment, unable to move on in life.
As part of our series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce Or Breakup” I had the pleasure of interviewing Trish Guise, MBA.
Seeking freedom from the narcissistic abuse she was experiencing, Trish Guise decided to divorce her husband and that decision initiated a 12-year journey comprised of multiple court battles, false allegations, alienation from her children, constant panic attacks, a PTSD diagnosis, and near financial ruin. Trish recently founded her Divorce & Co-Parent Coaching practice to provide education, tools and support to others experiencing similar traumas while going through a divorce. Her trauma-informed practice is a culmination of her Master’s degree, experience as an Executive Coach and everything she learned during her 12-year high conflict divorce.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
I was born and raised in Calgary, Canada in a middle-class immigrant family. My father and his family immigrated from Italy and my mother’s side of the family immigrated from Poland. I come from a family of teachers: My Nonna was a teacher in Italy and both my parents were teachers. In fact, my Dad taught at my middle school and was my teacher for a few classes. I was an only child until I was 11 years old when my sister was born. I had an ideal childhood; I was involved in gymnastics, dance, softball, basketball, volleyball, track and field and skiing. There wasn’t a sport or activity I wasn’t involved in. I also did very well in school despite having ADHD, which I did not find out about until my thirties. I spent a great deal of time with both sets of grandparents and was blessed to be surrounded by a close-knit family full of unconditional love.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
As I was preparing for a court date to fight my ex-husband’s application to terminate my parenting time, I thought about how difficult this road has been despite the unwavering support from my current husband and the rest of my family. To prep for our case, we read hundreds of court cases like ours. It was horrifying to read the details of what the families had endured prior to court, then how poorly the judge handled the case and the aftermath of the poor legal ruling. All I could think of is how impossible it would be for parents without support to endure such trauma and still be the best parent they can be for their children. All my life I have had a soft spot for the ‘underdog’ or for those who can’t protect themselves. And something in me just said that I need to figure out a way to help those in situations like I was in but who didn’t have the support I did.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
Very shortly after opening my business I began to connect with a variety of people who were interested in doing business with me. It didn’t matter to them that I had been out of the workforce for so long nor did it matter that I had just started my business. I was asked to be an international ambassador for a new publication in the family law field, asked to collaborate in developing workshops for various groups in the family law arena, asked to join a counseling clinic as an associate because they saw the need for the clients to have access to divorce coaching, and nominated as one of Canada’s 100 Women of Inspiration for 2021. All of this occurred in the span of two months. As much as I believed I had a lot to offer, it surprised me that so many strangers saw that too at first glance.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I honestly can’t think of any funny mistakes but that doesn’t mean I haven’t made mistakes. Things have been moving so fast some minor instances don’t stay long enough in my short-term memory to get stored into my long term memory. Check back with me in a few weeks and I’m sure I will have a chapter full of funny mistakes for you.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
You can’t move mountains by whispering at them. — Pink
Throughout my difficult divorce I was routinely told to capitulate to my ex-husbands demands, not complain, not raise a fuss, not cause any more conflict because it would just make things worse for me and the children. My lawyer would often tell me that it will look better to the judge if I give in and don’t fight back on any demands, even if it was something I was entitled to.
It always felt wrong, but I listened to that advice for a while especially since I was paying 450 dollars/hour for it.
I noticed something interesting; the more I stayed quiet the more intense the abuse became and the more traumatized my children and I were. On top of that, none of my cooperation made a bit of difference in any judicial judgements. In fact, I was still blamed for causing some of my ex-husband’s abusive behavior even though I had done nothing but cooperate.
It became quite obvious that staying ‘small’ wasn’t protecting my children and I in any way, so I changed directions and went with my natural tendency, which is to fight for what is right. I figured if staying quiet resulted in the abuse getting worse, how much worse could it get if I actually spoke up. I was afraid that my silence was signaling condonement of the abusive behavior and that was not a message I wanted to give anyone, especially my children. I recognized that by staying silent I was giving myself the message that the abuse was my fault and that message needed to stop immediately.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am currently working to establish partnerships with a few law firms, mediators, retired judges, academic researchers, abuse victim advocates, and social workers to effect some substantive change in the Canadian family legal system at the grassroots level. Our Divorce Act was recently updated to acknowledge that coercive control is abuse and will influence judicial decisions regarding parenting time and other matters that are in the best interest of the children. As progressive as this change is, we need to recognize that law alone does not change behavior. We need to initiate that change before cases ever see the inside of a court room. I feel we can do this in a variety of ways.
- In my practice I focus heavily on teaching my clients how to emotionally regulate themselves so they can respond and make decisions in a rational manner. This also will make them better parents. It is known that even in situations where one party is high conflict, if the other parent is emotionally regulated and uses effective communication strategies, de-escalation of conflict can occur.
- I am partnering with a few men’s organizations to offer support and education for men going through a divorce, men struggling with co-parenting and men displaying abusive behaviors towards their ex-spouse or their children. We can all agree that abuse should never be tolerated and that all measures should be taken to protect people from abuse. We are making headway in recognizing abuse and making some progress on protecting victims, but our efforts are sorely lacking in the area of trying to educate the abusers on changing their behaviors.
- I am working with various stakeholders in the family law system to establish better legal practices when dealing with coercive abuse within divorced families. Canadian lawyers nor judges are trained in screening for abuse nor are they trained on how to manage an abusive situation. Most lawyers prefer to steer clear of abusive situations and rather than fight for the victim’s protection, the standard pattern is to coerce the victim to capitulate to the abuser’s demands, just to ‘get it over with’ and ‘not add to the conflict’.
- I am also working on a long-range plan to establish workshops for school aged children about handling conflict, learning to emotionally regulate, communicating with difficult or high conflict people, and how to establish healthy, respectful relationships. All the Shakespeare, calculus, and biology in the world doesn’t do our children any good if they grow up without learning how to emotionally regulate and develop healthy, safe relationships.
Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell us a bit about your experience going through a divorce, or helping someone who was going through a divorce? What did you learn about yourself during and after the experience? Do you feel comfortable sharing a story?
My Divorce was a rude awakening into what people are capable of and how insidious coercive abuse can be. I was raised to be a strong, intelligent, independent woman who doesn’t allow anyone but herself to control her life and her decisions. What my divorce taught me is that even the most well-adjusted, intelligent, strong and independent person can become a victim of coercive abuse. I used to be one of those people who wondered why an abused woman didn’t leave a situation sooner or why she didn’t see the warning signs…that was until I was in the middle of my own abusive situation. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t see the warning signs, nobody did until after the fact. Everyone knew my ex-husband to be a mild-mannered, unassuming, laid back kind of guy…at least that’s what he wanted us all to believe. As a result, I have become much more aware of warning signs and not so quick to rationalize improper behavior. After experiencing firsthand the destruction and trauma that coercive abuse wields, I feel it is important to use a trauma-informed approach when supporting my clients.
In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?
Mistake #1: Involving children in the conflict between the parents.
Examples of how parents involve their children in the conflict:
- Ask the children to spy on the other parent.
- Tell the children their other parent is withholding money and that’s why the children can’t have nice things.
- Ask the children to choose where they want to live or if they even want to spend time with their other parent.
How to avoid Mistake #1:
In theory this mistake should be easy to avoid. Just DON’T DO this. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy for some. So here are some tips:
- Never use the children as messengers. Any issues you have with the other parent you must deal with yourself.
- Always encourage the children’s relationship with the other parent.
- Contact me to learn how to communicate with challenging and high conflict people using Bill Eddy’s techniques from the New Ways for Families®.
Mistake #2: Failing to acknowledge that grief is part of the divorce process.
Regardless of who initiated the divorce and why it was initiated, the divorce is the end or death of a marriage. When a person enters a marriage, they usually enter in with hopes and dreams and a divorce ends all of those. If one doesn’t properly process their grief, they may find themselves stuck in the vortex of anger and resentment, unable to move on in life.
How to avoid Mistake #2:
Working with a divorce coach, like myself, is one of the best mechanisms for learning how to process the grief in a divorce. Part of the process is educating my clients on the difference between primary and secondary emotions. The most common emotional response during a divorce is anger… the ex-spouse says or does something inappropriate and suddenly my client feels a strong reaction, and they usually label that emotion as anger. That is usually where they stop and get fixated. What I do is then move onto to discussing the secondary emotion behind that primary emotional reaction. This is usually sadness or fear. Once a client can acknowledge and process the fear and sadness it is much easier to process the grief.
Mistake #3: Failing to determine what your triggers are and consequently your emotional responses never change.
We often feel that once the problem or stressor (ex-spouse) is removed that our stress level will diminish as will our emotional stress responses. The problem with that theory is two-fold: (1) after a prolonged period of heightened awareness, the mind and body adapt to stimuli and often overreact to even innocuous stimuli. This results in the body being in a constant state of heightened awareness. This does not go away once the stressors is removed. (2) This theory completely negates the effect a person’s emotionally dysregulated behavioral patterns contribute to the stressful events in their lives. If one fails to determine what triggers their emotional responses and address them, they will continue to behave in the same manner, react in the same way and make the same mistakes in future relationships. History is doomed to repeat itself. I believe this is one of the biggest reasons why 2nd marriages tend to fail.
How to avoid Mistake #3:
The best way to avoid this mistake is to determine your triggers, the reason for these triggers and ultimately how to handle them. This is often difficult to do alone and is best done with the help of a Divorce Coach or therapist. If talk therapy isn’t sufficient you may want to try EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), ART (Accelerated Resolution Therapy) and Body Psychotherapy have proven to be beneficial in this area.
People generally label “divorce” as being “negative”. And yes, while there are downsides, there can also be a lot of positive that comes out of it as well. What would you say that they are? Can you share an example or share a story?
One of the biggest benefits of divorce is the opportunity it provides for you to do a reset. A reset of your lifestyle, who you are, your priorities. You get a second chance to get it right. You’re older, you’re wiser, you know yourself better, your priorities are different, and you are just plain smarter than you were before you married. Divorce gives you the opportunity to craft a life with purpose and direction and be deliberate about how you spend your time and who you spend it with.
My divorce allowed me to see aspects of myself that were not serving me well. I decided to invest time in resetting those aspects in order to have them be more in align with what I wanted in life. I knew I wanted to share my life with someone again, but I also knew that if I didn’t change some things that I would be headed for divorce number two. Once I reset, I decided to try marriage for a second time and this time I got it right. The man I married is someone I grew up with and dated when we were teenagers. He also experienced his own nasty divorce and was severely alienated from his only child from the age of 7 until his son re-entered his life in his 20s. Having been through similar experiences bonded us in a way that we had not anticipated. Our relationship has renewed my faith in love, goodness and humanity.
Some people are scared to ‘get back out there’ and date again after being with their former spouse for many years and hearing dating horror stories. What would you say to motivate someone to get back out there and start a new beginning?
Get out there and explore what the world has to offer but do it in a way that you have never done before. How you used to do things will not necessarily work for you now. Be open to challenging yourself, your opinions, your responses, your priorities and your way of life. Enjoy the freedom of being in control of your life. Don’t be eager to find a new spouse right away, in fact don’t embark on dating with the intent of finding a spouse at all. You just gained freedom from commitment, now is the time for you to taste freedom of time, of choice or responsibility. Have fun. Be silly. Do things that make you smile. Spend time with people who make you laugh. Do things you normally wouldn’t do, date people you normally wouldn’t date and just live.
What is the one thing people going through a divorce should be open to changing?
Be open to changing your viewpoint on the concept of divorce. A divorce doesn’t mean your marriage was a mistake or that it failed. All that it means is that a decision you made many years ago no longer works for you. It is as simple as that. Reframing divorce in that way, allows us to be free of feelings of shame and guilt. Restructuring our lives due to a divorce is difficult enough without feeling like a failure or feeling shame and regret. You didn’t fail anyone. You lived, loved, lost, and now gained a new lease on life.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. If you had a close friend come to you for advice after a divorce, what are 5 things you would advise in order to survive and thrive after the divorce? Can you please give a story or example for each?
- Figure out what your triggers are, where they originate from and how to handle them. If you don’t do this, you will continue with your same behavioral patterns. You will continue to choose the same type of relationships, will react the same way and probably will end up alone again. I firmly believe why 2nd marriages don’t last is because people haven’t learned from the first.
- Learn to emotional regulate yourself. You need to adopt the concepts of benign interpretation and radical acceptance.
- Be clear about who you are not who you were or who you think you should be. Stop apologizing for who you are and stop being small. Do something that you have always wanted to do but didn’t think you could, were told you couldn’t do it or were told you shouldn’t do it. It is liberating…trust me. Take a sexy dance class, get your body painted, whatever it is that will make you feel alive.
- Stop taking responsibility for everyone else’s actions and problems. Stop fixing things for them, allow them to fix it themselves. Find your worth in some other activity.
- Stop lamenting the past. Live life moving forward with no regrets.
The stress of a divorce can take a toll on both one’s mental and emotional health. In your opinion or experience, what are a few things people going through a divorce can do to alleviate this pain and anguish?
- Surround yourself with people who validate you, but also help you mobilize to self care. Self care includes validating your feelings and experiences instead of dismissing them. Great attention needs to be given to your own mental health before you can attend to your children’s needs.
- Stop beating yourself about failing your marriage, failing your family, failing your kids.
- Stop living in the past and stop catastrophizing.
- Therapy: EMDR, ART, Body Psychotherapy
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?
Talks about the effect of trauma on the body and mind. Offers techniques and tools to aid recovery.
An important book for anyone divorcing a challenging, high conflict individual.
This book challenges the stereotype that children are destroyed by divorce by listening to the stories of adults who experienced divorce as children. The interviews reveal that most children can and do adapt, and that many even thrive in the face of family change.
A guide for navigating a relationship with a difficult ex-spouse while trying to maintain a healthy environment for the children.
Intended to help women recognize when they are being controlled or devalued.
A guide for those divorcing someone who runs their own business. Focus is on how to protect yourself and your assets during a divorce. Topics include:
- What is hidden income?
- How to find hidden income.
How to determine fair settlement & division of assets.
Slam the Gavel — host: MaryAnn Petri (I am a recurring guest)
another scheduled the week of May 1, 2021
Women of Inspiration Podcast — host: Monica Kretschmer
Fascinating Women — host: Mark Laurie
Scheduled for May 2021
Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I am eager to start an Emotional Regulation movement. We have become a very reactionary society and tend to ignore the effect our reactions have on others. That coupled with lack of accountability is the root of so much conflict in our world. Learning to emotionally regulate should be just as important as learning to read and write but most of us don’t learn to emotionally regulate until adulthood, if at all. In fact, I feel it is irresponsible to send our children out into the world without the knowledge and tools required to emotionally regulate and de-escalate conflict. Recently I saw an incredible video of a 5-year-old boy who noticed his brother having a temper tantrum and calmed his brother by walking him through some deep breathing. This young man recognized his brother’s emotional struggle and quickly de-escalated the situation using validation and a simple breathing technique.
The way many adults react to difficult situations is not that much different than a toddler’s temper tantrums. Emotional dysregulation causes the same undesirable results, regardless of how young or old a person is. Much of the strife in today’s world is caused by highly charged reactions that are devoid of logic and reason. It is nearly impossible to engage the logic centers of our brains when our emotions have high jacked our decision-making ability.
What the world needs is ‘wise mind’ thinking, a blend of the emotional and rational. Wise mind thinking encompasses concepts such as benign interpretation and radical acceptance. It’s common for us to think the worst in a situation where there are many unknowns. This creates hypersensitivity, emotionally charged responses, judgment and overreactions.\When one engages in benign interpretation one just accepts the situation for what it is now and does not start interpreting what it means, what is going to happen in the future or how this is going to spell disaster.
Radical acceptance works well in situations where we have very little control and when outcome isn’t to our liking. Dreams are dashed, what we envisioned for our lives and relationships is no longer an option and we end up torturing ourselves by wondering what we could have done differently. Sometimes it’s best to radically accept the situation for what it is and come to terms with it. I strongly believe that if more of us adopted these methods there would be less conflict in our relationships.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Pink is whom I would choose but instead of breakfast or lunch I would rather go dirt biking with her. Spending time with Pink doing something she loves doing would make it easier for us to develop a rapport and be real with each other. It goes without saying that Pink’s talent for producing chart topping music and stunning performances is astounding but it is her dedication to ensuring girls and women learn to love themselves, not apologize for who they are and stand tall in their convictions that I admire most. Her penchant for pushing limits, breaking down boundaries and using her celebrity platform to spread messages of acceptance of ourselves and of others and positivity (generally and body positivity) is what makes her legendary.
Pink is a big proponent of loving yourself just the way you are. She refuses to let anyone define her and is proud of who she is. Despite being told she is “too rough” “too boyish” “too loud”, she never apologizes for who she is and she proudly stands tall.
Pink is real, genuine and authentic. She isn’t afraid to show the raw moments of parenthood, balancing a career and family, and being judged for not conforming. She doesn’t back down from what is important to her and she doesn’t apologize for who she is and what she believes in. She doesn’t give the time of day to shame and judgment. She is all about empowerment, acceptance and believing in yourself. What is not to love about this woman!
Thank you for these great insights and for the time you spent with this interview. We wish you only continued success!