Letting Go of the Bands that Tie

Bathabile K. S. Mthombeni, J.D.

My wedding ring has been in the pocket of a handbag at the back of my closet since my divorce.  It seems to be an unremarkable gold band but, to me, it has Lord of the Rings written all over it.  After nearly three years I still have not decided what to do with it.  Initially I imagined standing at the top of a tall cliff that overlooked an ocean shrouded in early morning mist.  The wind would whip through my hair and the waves would crash below as I hurled the ring into the sea.  Then a friend mentioned the price of gold.

I knew I didn’t want to keep the ring but I was concerned about selling it: would the negativity attached to it transfer to the new buyer?  Would the money be tainted?  To many, the wedding band is a powerful symbol laden with great meaning and valued far beyond the price of purchase.  Relinquishing it is a significant step at the end of a very important relationship.  I was curious about how others approached this part of letting go.  Then I was introduced to Joshua Opperman and his sister Mara Opperman.

In 2007, then 35 year-old Joshua thought he’d found the one.  As many young men do, he took his life savings, purchased that precious and everlasting symbol of his undying devotion, a diamond engagement ring, and presented it to his intended.  Three months later she broke off their engagement.  The break-up was a blow but insult compounded misery when Josh tried to return the ring to the jeweler who sold it to him.  He was offered store credit.  The best offers at other locations were for 35% of the original purchase price.

Josh refused to take this laying down.  Undaunted, he did his research and found that industry mark-ups on jewelry are huge.  He also found that he was not alone in his predicament.

There were other options – Ebay for example.  But Josh had no luck selling the ring there. “People are very nervous about buying higher end items on Ebay,” he explained.  “They want to see things in person – and that can be impractical and very dangerous, especially when [the prospective buyer] lives in another state”.

Josh shared his dilemma with his sister, Mara Opperman, and together they developed an idea, a website where jilted lovers and divorcees could sell their jewels for better than what the stores offered and where buyers could be sure that they were getting what they paid for.  They called it “idonowidont.com”.

Here is how it works.  A prospective seller lists an item on the I Do Now I Don’t website.   An interested buyer agrees to purchase the item.  The seller sends the item to I Do Now I Don’t.  The item is inspected and appraised by I Do Now I Don’t’s independent expert gemologist Mark Yakubov, G.G., who determines whether the item is what the seller says it is and issues a certificate to that effect.  Meanwhile, the buyer sends the money to I Do Now I Don’t where it is held in escrow until the item has been certified.  After subtracting its fee, I Do Now I Don’t forwards the money to the seller and the item to the buyer.  The seller benefits buy receiving a sum that he or she feels is fair and the buyer benefits by knowing that he or she has not been cheated.

Anyone can sell on the site. Some sellers are not divorced or jilted but are upgrading their rings or, sadly, simply selling their jewelry to pay bills.  Josh reports that the most expensive ring to date sold for $75,000.00.  However, the average price is around $3000.00.

Sellers also post other items: wedding dresses, bracelets, watches.  Some sellers tell their stories.  One woman planned to get breast implants, another planned to purchase really expensive cowboy boots.  An otherwise unaffordable vacation is another recurring option as is the choice to donate the proceeds to charity.  For the seller the money can fund a catharsis.  “Letting go of the ring is a final step in letting go of the relationship,” Mara said.  But rather than dwelling on the soured relationship, Mara consistently emphasizes the positive: selling the ring also represents a new beginning.

This idea of a fresh start is important.  I asked Mara about whether sellers or buyers mentioned concerns about negativity being attached to jewelry sold because of a break-up or divorce.  She replied by pointing out that rings purchased in jewelry stores are most likely pre-owned. “The jeweler can pop the diamond out of the setting and re-sell it without the buyer’s knowledge”.  She also noted that people who buy the rings do so for optimistic reasons.

Josh Opperman got his new beginning.  He reports that he is now very happily married.

Check out their website:  www.idonowidont.com

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Copyright © 2011 Bathabile K. S. Mthombeni. All rights reserved.


Don’t Take a Cheap Breath…Take a DEEP Breath

REBECCA L SPATH, CSC, MBP, AHT, Transformational Life & Wellness Specialist, Breathwork Practitioner, Spirit-based Counselor, USANA Associate.

“Most people don’t breathe correctly and don’t know it.” (Dr. Mehmet Oz on Oprah)

This is unfortunately true. They attribute their lack of energy to overwork and lack of sleep, among other reasons. While this is true, the fact is that many of us don’t take full, deep breaths. We don’t breathe properly and don’t think about it because we breathe unconsciously, taking the power of our breath for granted. Breathing is the one physical, bodily function that we can actually control and change consciously.

Stop right now, stand in front of a mirror and take a full breath. What part of you moved and in what direction? Often, only the upper chest will move and will move in a vertical direction with shoulders rising in an almost constricted manner. When you take a breath, it should be through the nose and down into the base of your lungs. You’ll know you’re doing this correctly if you see your belly extend out, like you’re filling up a balloon. When you exhale, the belly will be pulled in, pushing out the breath. By breathing properly you activate a gas known as nitric oxide which acts as a neurotransmitter, oxygenating the blood and moving it up into the brain, creating energy, clarity and focus. For those that are chest breathers, this exchange doesn’t happen and you’ll find yourself tired, unfocused, foggy and frustrated. More coffee please! Nope, that’s not the answer.

So, now, knowing this information, stand in front of that mirror and take 5 full, deep breaths…inhaling through your nose, filling up the belly and then exhaling, this time through soft pursed lips (as if you were blowing out a candle), pulling your belly all the way to your spine. Exaggerated breaths like this help train the body to automatically breathe properly. So, I encourage you to add “Breath Breaks” to your day. Try by taking 5 deep breaths before and after you transition. For example, right before you leave the house to go to work, then, once you get to the office, then before a meeting, another 5 breaths after the meeting (or during, if it’s a stressful meeting). This is a wonderful thing to do before and after a conversation with someone that might be anxiety producing. It will help balance out your energy and your emotions. Breath Breaks take SECONDS to do this and you will find you have more focus and more energy. The more you breathe, the better you will feel. Oxygen is the only source of nourishment you cannot live without for more than a few minutes…and it is the most powerful tool you have to survive and thrive.

One way to remember to breathe is to place small “post-it” notes around you that say BREATHE. Put them on your cell phone/telephone/blackberry, appointment book, computer monitor, bathroom mirror, DVD player/cable box, refrigerator, back of your front door, on your clocks, on your closet door, your kitchen cupboards, on your wallet. Find places at work to place them. Use brightly colored post-its and after a week, change the color so you still see them – we get used to what’s in front of us and stop “seeing” things, so it’s important to move these breathe signs around and change what they look like so you still see them and respond.

Pay attention to your breathing for seven days, taking Breath Breaks, practicing taking proper breaths. See if you don’t notice a difference in your energy levels, your ability to focus, your level of clarity and any other benefits you notice.

Breath Works!  It’s an Inside Job TM

© 2007, 2010 Rebecca Spath, Breathing Room Therapies. All Rights Reserved.

Contact Rebecca: www.breathingroomtherapies.blogspot.com

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Relationship Mediation: Releasing the Bowtied Knot.

Bathabile K. S. Mthombeni, J.D.

Is relationship mediation only for married couples?  When a married couple decides to separate, a pre-choreographed dance of legal formalities begins.  The law dictates what a separation agreement must cover before a court will grant a divorce.  The basic issues include dividing the assets, spousal support, if any, and child support and plans for parenting when there are children.  This legal process is not available to people who are part of domestic partnerships (which deal mainly with rights to health insurance coverage and hospital visitation) and couples who are in what I call undocumented domestic relationships (otherwise known as “living together”). Understanding the divorce mediation process for married couples can help shed light on what non-married (or “bow-tied”) couples can do.

In its plainest sense, marriage is a contractual relationship.  The vows taken during civil and religious ceremonies are the basic promises that married couples make to each other.  Matrimonial law fills in the rest.  A divorce means that the couple dissolves one contract and negotiates a new one.  Matrimonial law dictates the minimum of what must be covered in the new contract.  However, to a large extent, the law does not dictate how the decisions must be made or what the results must be.  As John M. Haynes, author of The Fundamentals of Family Mediation, puts it, “[o]ne of the hallmarks of a free society is the right to enter into contract. . . . Spouses have the right to enter into a contract, even though the contract may not provide the same terms that a local judge would incorporate into his award”. (p93).  So, unless the agreement is unconscionable (meaning overwhelmingly unfair) or otherwise legally unenforceable, as long as the basic issues are addressed, divorcing couples are free to decide what the content of their agreement will be.

Bow-tied couples share many of the issues that married couples do.  They may have moved in together and both signed the lease.  They may share children in common or a pet who is like a child.  They may own property together or be in business together.  In other words, while they themselves are not legally bound, they might share legal obligations that bind them still.  Yet they do not have the protections of matrimonial law that, for example, allow a judge to order assets to be redistributed to achieve equity. Mediation is especially helpful to bow-tied couples.

Both married and bow-tied couples can benefit from mediation.  The mediation process recognizes that the couple, not a judge, has the best information about what a good settlement is for them.  A mediator will guide the couple through a process of addressing each of the issues that exist.  These basically will be dividing property and caring for children if there are any.  For couples that have been together for many years, if one person has come to depend on the other financially, there is also room to discuss a plan for maintenance.  A maintenance plan can provide for the dependent partner to find ways to become independent.  This process allows couples to discuss and negotiate each detail themselves.

This process differs significantly from litigation.  For one, in mediation, disclosure happens simultaneously.  Rather than sending demands for information to each other through third parties who are in fight mode themselves, the couple will generally sit in the same room with a mediator who helps the couple to stay in negotiation mode.  This allows the couple time and space to think rationally and create the best deal possible.

Another difference is the potential for maximizing benefits.  When the partners are not in fight mode, their perspectives change from a winner-takes-all position to one of maximizing benefits.  Being the winner can be a tantalizing goal.  But the costs of waging a winner-takes-all war might so deplete the resources available that even the “winner” ends up with nothing.  Some sources estimate that the average contested divorce costs $40,000 – $180,000 in legal fees.  Mediation averages $4,000.00 to $6,000.00.  If a couple splits the bill, the whole process can be done for as little as $2000.00 per person.  Just think of what a couple can do with the $174,000.00 they have saved in mediation.  That is an excellent example of what maximizing benefits means.

A third difference is time.  A contested divorce may take two to six years (and more) to litigate.  A mediated divorce is generally finalized within three to six months. This can make a significant difference for everyone’s well-being.  If time is money, add that chunk of change to the cash savings.

Whether you are legally married, or part of a formalized or undocumented domestic partnership, mediation can help you to focus on negotiating an agreement that really works for you.

Copyright © 2011 Bathabile K. S. Mthombeni. All rights reserved.


Letting Go with Guidance

Gina R. Foster, MA, MFA, ABD

It’s January 7. You’re looking at your list of well-intentioned resolutions for 2011. How in the world did you think you were going to make these happen? Will power is one answer. Common sense another. Have you thought about a life coach?

Life coaches are here to help. Life coaches work with you to increase and develop the life skills you need to succeed in creating the life you want to have. If you want to start a long-term process of positive change, this may be one of the best choices you can make.

What is a life coach? A life coach is a professional guide, mentor, teacher, trainer, facilitator, and organizer who works one-on-one with clients who are ready to make major (and minor) life changes. Life coaches vary in specialties and qualifications—some may be social workers or therapists in their other professional lives, while others may be more business and organizationally connected. The key thing to know about a life coach is that he or she has training and experience relevant to the kinds of changes YOU want to make.

A great life coach will help you explore why you want to make changes as well as what changes you want to make and how to make them. Life coaches may assign homework and creative or organizational activities as part of helping you develop and improve the life skills you need to succeed in your new life. A great life coach will work with you to make plans for each step in your transition from the old to the new.

What should you look for in a life coach? Look for education or training and experience relevant to the changes you want to make. If you are changing jobs, a life coach who has worked with job searches and has a network to help you find more options is a good match. If you are reorganizing your life after building up cluttered schedules and closets, a life coach with professional organizing experience is right for you.

Here are some cautions: Life coaches are not mental health or medical professionals and should be ready to refer you to these professionals if you have health or emotional challenges. Life coaches are also not accountants or lawyers. Even though your life coach may be qualified in these areas, that is not the purpose of your relationship. Make sure your life coach can and will refer you to other experts when you both agree you need other resources.

Another caution is about expectations. When you work with a life coach, you are asking to be mentored and guided. You are honest about your needs to learn and to make changes. This can be a rocky process. Expect to do the homework, to negotiate about what does and doesn’t work for you, and above all, expect to be responsible to the commitments you are making to yourself. Your life coach will be there to remind you and support you in keeping your promises.

Fees vary from coach to coach. $50-$200 per hour is reasonable depending on the coach’s experience, services, and location. Be sure that you are clear about fees, late payments, and schedule changes in your first meeting, and discuss with your coach the number of meetings and months she/he estimates for your work together.

Life coaching can be an amazing partnership that moves you from feeling stuck and too small in your life to feeling energetic and bright. Take a look at your resolutions: are you ready to make them real?

Copyright © 2010 Gina R. Foster. All rights reserved.