Journey Beyond Divorce is a group of experts who support men and woman move beyond their divorce experiences. However, Karen McMahon stresses the importance of showing up ready to do the work, otherwise you repeat past mistakes.
- “Every upset is a set-up,” an opportunity for something else
- If you are not ready to do the work to move forward, you may get stuck in bad habits and bad relationships.
- “Progress, not perfection” is the core of their 12-step program.
OUR GUEST – KAREN MCMAHON, JOURNEY BEYOND DIVORCE
Welcome to another episode of the exEXPERTS DIVORCE etc… Podcast where we give you all kinds of information and tips on everything divorce. Why? We’ve lived it, so we get it! We’re Jessica and T.H.
T.H.: Welcome to today’s podcast. We are considering the male perspective on things when it comes to divorce. We have Karen McMahon here, relationship and divorce coach and the founder of Journey Beyond Divorce. I came across Karen through a few people but also found her while scouring the Internet for people who really are going out of their way to support others going through the journey of divorce in particular. Welcome to our podcast today.
Karen: Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here with you.
Jessica: So are we. We really want to get into the whole male perspective of everything. Go ahead, T.H..
T.H.: We at exEXPERTS want to reach everyone. We are here to support everyone, but we are still two women, and now we’re three women on this podcast. We want the men to know we’ve got your back too. I think it’s really important. We’ve heard from a lot of women in terms of the industry professionals, as well as real life experts like us.
We were hoping that you could shed some light on some myths and false assumptions [and truths] and truths about the guy’s side of the story. Not every guy and not every woman, these are in very general terms but just some things to think about.
Karen: We love working with men. I would say that our business is probably 70% female, 30% male. You have individuals, whether they’re male or female, who go through divorce and their bent is it’s his fault or her fault, they are the problem. As soon as I leave the problem, I’ll be okay.
The term I have for that is those are the people who rinse and repeat. What they do is they don’t do anything — they go through the same pain and struggle, but they don’t do the inner work because they don’t reflect on what they brought to the table and what their part of the difficulty was.
They usually leave, many remarry, and after the five to seven year honeymoon phase, they find themselves in this position where the same thing is happening. The question that they tend to ask is why is this happening to me again? But the truth is it is happening because you didn’t learn your lesson yet. I say all of that, because it doesn’t matter whether you’re a man or a woman. If you’re willing to say, this is heartbreaking, I never stood before whatever altar and wanted this to happen. What is my part in the dysfunction or the dissolution of my marriage? Both genders are equally capable of doing that, but not all people are ready to do that. What we love is that, because of our podcast and the other information we put out, if you’re not into doing your inner work, we’re not your team. Nobody’s going to reach out to us and go, “Oh my god, I didn’t know.” When men reach out to us, they’re the men who are struggling and who really want to figure this out and who want to better themselves through the pain of the process.
Jessica: For the purposes of men and women listening, because a lot of women even if they’re not going to recommend you to their soon-to-be-exes, we all have friends and know other people of both sexes.
Tell us a little bit about your services? What specifically do you do to help men and women to be able to do this inner work that you speak of?
Karen: Okay, so one of my favorite sayings is that every upset is a set up. Divorce is just such fertile ground for constant upsets. Most of us are raised thinking if we’re upset, if we’re triggered, it’s the other person’s fault, or the situation’s fault. What we do is we begin to shift people’s perspective from what’s happening outside of them, their acts or the circumstances, and how are you reacting. What are your triggers? What happens when you’re reactive? Are you aligned with the person you want to be? What are your values? How are your values lined up with how you’re going through this divorce? We have a couple of different things, and one is a 12 step program that really helps people notice are you responsive or reactive? Are you chaotic between your years of calm? Do you have a lot of limiting beliefs or interpretations that don’t serve you? Are you being present or are you fretting the past and worrying the future? So all of these things invite our clients into doing inner work and we do that within the context of your daily or weekly lives. You may be fighting over a custody battle and you’re freaked out and there’s all this conflict going on. Everyone’s kind of tossing emotional grenades across the bridge. We work with our clients, male or female to say, and I was just having this conversation this morning, if you approach it that way, what do you think’s going to happen? You’re going to get this.
We talk about acknowledging and validating the other person, not agreeing with them, but ways that you can bring the tension down where you can be responsive, where you can begin to notice, wow, I lost my voice. I’m really afraid. That’s part of my part in the marriage. Or boundary, what’s a boundary? I didn’t grow up with boundaries. I don’t know boundaries. I’ve been plowing other people’s boundaries down for a while. Our clients, one of the most exciting thing is men and women, they actually get to know themselves, sometimes for the first time. They get to decide, and this is what we invite them into, what do you notice that you would like to leave behind? It’s actually not even your belief, it’s your parents belief, or something like that.
T.H.: Or you inherited.
Karen: Yeah. What do you want to hold on to that’s so valuable and has served you? What’s missing that together we can find and add to your repertoire?
T.H.: I think it’s really important for people to look through that 12 step program, and just let it sit. You’re not going to have those answers right away. For me personally, I’m 13 years out since my separation, and it really has taken almost every minute of those 13 years to first of all — it’s humbling to acknowledge your weaknesses, which makes you strong. For every negative, I’ve learned there’s a positive. So yes, in my mind, those were weaknesses because I enabled a relationship that was not healthy for me. But now I’m stronger because I see them, and I’m less likely to let it repeat again. I have let it repeat, but then I — it’s not like a one time fix it, thanks Karen. We’re good here. I’m ready for the world. It is not. You’re going to stumble. It takes time. You’ve got to give yourself time and forgiveness to grow and understand. I grew up in a very loving childhood, but there are certainly many things that I didn’t want to carry forward. But what about all the other stuff, all the ancillary stuff that stems from that? All I’m saying to everybody today is that we picked Karen today because of the way that she speaks. She puts everything in simple terms that you can actually start to consume. But consume it slowly, and don’t pressure yourself to consume things that you’re not ready to consume either. I think that’s something else we should really talk about, the timing of all of this, because when you’re going through a divorce, your head’s going to explode, and now I’ve got to work on myself? Like really? How do I how do I manage all that?
Karen: Yeah, I think that’s a great point. The 12 step Al-Anon (AA) program has a saying, “progress, not perfection”. The truth is we’re all going to do our best and when you’re in the thick of divorce, your best isn’t that great, but it’s still your best at that point. I think that one of the kinds of rules, so we don’t have a lot of rules, one of the rules with our clients is work on replacing self criticism with self compassion, because to your point, you’re going through the most devastating transition. In many states it’s a marathon of many, many months, if not many, many years. You’re being triggered a lot and there is a lot of moving shifting pieces, so you do your best, and you love yourself through it.
Jessica: I want to know when it comes to dealing with all of that, and taking in the advice and the knowledge and information that you’re offering to your clients,
what do you see as the biggest differences in terms of the male perspective? How are they taking it? What are the questions that they’re asking? I know we can’t generalize. I understand everybody’s different but —
Karen: Well, I think that I’m going to answer that in two different ways. One is, what is it, men are from Mars, and women are from Venus? One of the reasons men tell us that they enjoy coaching so much is therapy is very sitting around talking about feelings, whereas coaching is an action plan. During every single session, throughout the session, we’re talking about a topic and then it’s like we stop, and it’s like okay, so I have a podcast for you, or you feel really uncomfortable about that, what’s a baby step you can take in that direction? When the coaching session is over, you have three to ten action steps to work on between. Men really liked that.
The other thing is our paradigm goes this way. A lot of people want to change their feelings. You can’t start at the feeling, you start at the thought.
Your thoughts are hardwired into your feelings. Your feelings are hardwired into your actions, and I’ll give you a very quick example. Driving down the road, beautiful, sunny day, you just had a lovely time with the children. You’ve got an half hour and all of a sudden you start thinking about the fight you’ve had with your soon-to-be-ex. Your hands are clenching the steering wheel, your jaw is clenching. Nothing’s changed, except for your thoughts. Now this beautiful sunny day is gone, and you’re in this reactive mode. Men that we work with have found it much more comfortable to talk about their thoughts. We get to their feelings. We’re always like that trip from your head to your heart is sometimes the longest distance. It’s going to serve you really well. But because of the way coaching comes at it, I have gotten feedback that they’re like, this is great. This works. I’m a fix it guy. You’re giving me an action plan. We’re talking about my thoughts. I’m good. I would say that that’s some of the feedback we’ve gotten from people, from men especially, some women too absolutely, but men who were like, “I don’t really want to go talk to a therapist. I’m not feeling like that’s the fit for me.” The other thing I do want to say is there’s, and I do a lot with high conflict divorce, I’m not talking about that, I’m talking about standard garden variety divorce. You enter into a relationship, and you have an agreement, and many times mom, no matter what her degree is, at some point she starts having babies and stays home, or takes a lesser job than she could because she’s taking care of the kids and dad’s out working. Then all of a sudden, it comes time for the divorce, and men tend to get a lot of you’ve never been there, you don’t know how to do this. It’s not fair, because the paradigm was that that wasn’t their job at the time.
Jessica: For men?
Karen: For men. It wasn’t the job for the men to [take care of the kids] be at home doing all of that. And yet, the men that we work with deeply want to figure it out.
One of the struggles they face between the other attorney and the soon-to-be-ex and perhaps society and a little bit, is yeah, you can’t. When I first got divorced, my ex didn’t do any of that. I was like, you can’t. You’ve never gotten up with these kids in like X number of years. Well, he did. He did. Now he didn’t do it the way I would have liked him to do it, but that’s not the point. The point is, if you have a soon-to-be-ex who wants to be a present dad, spend less time criticizing and more time encouraging. It’s going to be best for you and your co-parenting relationship, and it’s absolutely going to be best for the kids.
Jessica: How would you describe your average male client? Because I think that for women, when we think about men going through divorce, I mean, first of all, guys are always tough guys, whatever. They don’t necessarily want to talk about their feelings, as you said. They aren’t necessarily going through the details with their friends. They don’t as a stereotypical point generally create the same sense of community that women. T.H. and I, yes we went through our divorces at the same time, but we were getting into every single nitty gritty detail together. By the way, we do that with every aspect of our lives, so it’s not even just the divorce. It’s like then we started dating again, and then the sex again, and like literally everything all down to the details. Then it’s like we know men who they’d be more inclined to ask a female friend a question about something versus going to their guy friends for stuff. How do you feel they’re kind of coming — I understand why men might like divorce coaching in lieu of therapy, but how are they finding you? What are the kinds of conversations? Are they feeling bitter towards the women? What can we, as women, gain from your knowledge of men going through divorce?
Karen: I think to your point, us women, we talk to our girlfriends and we say a lot of words. There’s some count out there that men say 1000 words a day, and we say like 10,000 words a day or something like that.
The disadvantage for men, and I can’t tell you how many of my male clients say this, it’s like they don’t know where to find community, because their guy friends talk about the football game. It’s really, as women, I feel we have an advantage because our culture is to share, to be vulnerable, to find out people who really support us. I’ve literally had men say, “Do you have any other guys you’re coaching that might be willing to connect?”
Jessica: They want to find a friend!
Karen: Because as we know, just because somebody loves you, and they’re your friend, doesn’t mean they have any idea what you’re going through or have gone through. I would say that one of the things, and we’re actually working on creating a special men’s group, and then people are like why not a special women’s group? Because women group really well together easily, whereas if I have a group, and I do right now going, I’ve one guy and nine women.
So yes to your point, helping them build community, and sometimes it’s as simple as, “Well, have you spoken to Jimmy about what’s going on?” It’s like, “No, we don’t talk about that.” Well, what’s beneath that and why not? What might happen if you do? How would it feel for you to have someone that you could go to? As coaches we don’t tell, we ask. We’re in the business of asking. When we ask the right questions, and begin to peel the onion back, that’s where our clients really find out where their limiting beliefs are. Why am I so good in one position, like at work, and then not nearly as stellar in the private or my personal life? All of those things are things that we look at. Did that answer? I feel like I may have meandered there, but I meant to answer it.
Jessica: We all meander. It’s good. No, we got it.
T.H.: As Jessica and I are building exEXPERTS, we’ve asked a lot of men who have been through divorce, what do you do? Would you come to this website? And they’re like, “Nah. Women like to just go on and on and on and air their dirty laundry. And I’m not interested in airing my dirty laundry.” I said, “Well, for exEXPERTS, you can come. You don’t have to say anything. You can just find information on your own, but what’s wrong with sharing?” Why is the stereotype that guys — let me backtrack just a little bit. The other thought was related, that women need community. Some guys think women have to run around in groups and chit chat and like I said, spill your laundry, and that’s looked at as a weakness. In my mind, we know how to mobilize and get support that we need. That’s a strength in my mind. Then if you look at the guys who are saying, “Yeah, we’re watching football, we’re playing cards. We’re not rehashing our divorce stories.”
Karen: They’re not your guys.
T.H.: Why not?
Karen: But they’re not your guys.
T.H.: No, why is it looked at that way? And why are guys afraid to do that? I don’t know the answer for everyone, but —
Karen: The way I approach this is there’s an ass for every seat is a statement out there. What you do is going to attract the people who deeply want what you offer. There are plenty of men who will want. I think that to what I said earlier, that the culture, it’s a different culture. They’re raised different, they’re socialized different. Then they’re the ones who are like, this is what I need, this is what I want, and they go after it. We, I would say both men and women, 90% of the people who work with us or who become members of our online programs, come through our podcast, and so I think information is power. When I run my podcast, I want it to be so chock full every single episode that when someone walks away, they feel like I could have done five hours of research or I could have listened to Karen’s episode for an hour. The men who we get, but also the women, they’re looking for that.
What’s interesting is some are just looking for the practical. In fact, I would say perhaps more often, our male clients start out just looking for the practical, but they’re open minded enough to work on the emotional, and so we offer both. We feel like they criss-cross each other constantly. It’s virtually impossible to go through a divorce, the practicalities of divorce, without emotion unless you’re like dead. It all comes to the surface when it’s supposed to.
T.H.: People search out low hanging fruit anyway, because it’s easier. You feel accomplished, and you feel like you’re being productive. Then you can start to get to the harder stuff, but the low hanging fruit’s always easier.
Karen: But what you guys are doing, I mean, for you to be bringing all of these people like myself, experts who live and breathe this day in and day out. I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t do it because of their own story and who doesn’t do it because it’s their passion and their purpose. There are just not nearly enough of us out there. But for you to do that, I just really want to say kudos to you, because that’s such a beautiful way to invite your audience into a lot of voices, a lot of perspectives. Someone might listen to me and go, “Yeah, not so much.” But they’re going to listen to the next person and be like, “Oh my god, that’s right.”
T.H.: Resonate with different people.
Jessica: That’s what we’re hoping to accomplish. I’m still curious to know in general, do you feel like based on your expertise that women have a harder time dealing with and navigating divorces? This has nothing to do with exEXPERTS. Just in general, do you feel like women are more emotional, that women are have a have a tougher time with it, and men don’t have as hard of a time dealing with it because they’re more pragmatic or more practical or anything? Or is that just the impression that we have as women, and men actually are finding it just as hard as we are?
Karen: I think that there are many men who find it just as hard and many women who operate on a less conscious level. Society has a perspective of men not being conscious and plugged into their feelings. I would say some people have not yet woken up, and they’re unconscious.
Blame and accusation, we know this, there are plenty of platforms that are all about ex bashing. There’s a place for those people. Then there’s a place for the people who are like, “You know what? I know I’m not perfect. I don’t even know what my part was, but I know I had a part and I want to find it out.” Those are the people who — I try to veer as far away from the male/female thing as possible. On the other hand, I was working, so for me, I knew financially I would be okay. I think that when you’re dealing with the stay at home parent, which still in today’s society is more often the mom, that there are additional fears. There’s additional overwhelm that I went, I got a degree, and then I raise my family. It’s been 20 years, and I’m not up to speed on the technology. My confidence in being a professional is not there. I think that there’s a tremendous amount of truth in the fact that women have different challenges than men. I think men, especially those who want to be very child centered, have challenges that women don’t have in coming up to speed and learning how to be there and connect with their teenage daughters for instance. It’s like I want it. I want it.
T.H.: Would go up to you.
Karen: Yeah, which is a whole other conversation that we could get into.
T.H.: Oh my god.
Jessica: Well, listen. We have to wrap this up, but there’s so much more conversation to be had. Honestly, I have so many more questions about the structure of how you work and all of the people that have benefited from that. For people who want to reach out to you directly, what are the best ways for them to find you?
Karen: The company name is Journey Beyond Divorce. It’s me and four other divorce coaches. We keep it really simple. We offer a free rapid relief call, a full one hour session for anybody who’s struggling and wants to see whether or not the coaching we do is a good fit for them.
T.H.: I love that.
Jessica: Yeah that’s awesome. We’re going to have all of the contact information and links on our site as well. For anyone who’s listening who wants to know more about the kind of stuff that Karen does or is interested in more of the male perspective versus female perspective, please email us firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know, so that the next time we have Karen back, we can have her answer your specific questions as well. Thank you so much for your time Karen. It was really great. I really appreciate it.
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