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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Toxic People

In the divorce arena, I see and recognize many of these - and thought I would share.

8 Toxic personalities to avoid

by Brett Blumenthal - Sheer Balance, on Wed May 13, 2009 8:01am PDT
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Although we like to think that the people in our lives are well-adjusted, happy, healthy minded individuals, we sometimes realize that it just isn't so. Personally, I've had moments where I'll be skipping through my day, happy as can be, thinking life is grand and BAM, I'll be blindsided by someone who manages to knock the happy wind out of my sails. Sometimes it is easy to write it off and other times, not so much.

Maybe you are a positive person, but when you are around a certain individual, you feel negative. Or, maybe you have an idealistic view of the world and when you are with certain people, you are made to feel silly, unrealistic or delusional. Or, maybe you pride yourself in being completely independent and in control of your life, but when you are around a certain family member, you regress into a state of childhood.

Some of these situations, and yes, these people, can have a tremendously negative impact on our lives. And, although we are all human and have our 'issues,' some 'issues' are quite frankly, toxic. They are toxic to our happiness. They are toxic to our mental outlook. They are toxic to our self-esteem. And they are toxic to our lives. They can suck the life out of us and even shorten our lifespan.

Here are the worst of the toxic personalities out there and how to spot them:

1. Manipulative Mary: These individuals are experts at manipulation tactics. Is a matter of fact, you may not even realize you have been manipulated until it is too late. These individuals figure out what your 'buttons' are, and push them to get what they want.
Why they are toxic: These people have a way of eating away at your belief system and self-esteem. They find ways to make you do things that you don't necessarily want to do and before you know it, you lose your sense of identity, your personal priorities and your ability to see the reality of the situation. The world all of a sudden becomes centered around their needs and their priorities.

2. Narcissistic Nancy: These people have an extreme sense of self-importance and believe that the world revolves around them. They are often not as sly as the Manipulative Marys of the world, but instead, tend to be a bit overt about getting their needs met. You often want to say to them "It isn't always about you."
Why they are toxic: They are solely focused on their needs, leaving your needs in the dust. You are left disappointed and unfulfilled. Further, they zap your energy by getting you to focus so much on them, that you have nothing left for yourself.

3. Debbie Downers: These people can't appreciate the positive in life. If you tell them that it is a beautiful day, they will tell you about the impending dreary forecast. If you tell them you aced a mid-term, they'll tell you about how difficult the final is going to be.
Why they are toxic: They take the joy out of everything. Your rosy outlook on life continues to get squashed with negativity. Before you know it, their negativity consumes you and you start looking at things with gray colored glasses yourself.

4. Judgmental Jims: When you see things as cute and quirky, they see things as strange and unattractive. If you find people's unique perspectives refreshing, they find them 'wrong'. If you like someone's eclectic taste, they find it 'disturbing' or 'bad'.
Why they are toxic: Judgmental people are much like Debbie Downers. In a world where freedom rings, judgment is sooo over. If the world was a homogeneous place, life would be pretty boring. Spending a lot of time with these types can inadvertently convert you into a judgmental person as well.

5. Dream Killing Keiths: Every time you have an idea, these people tell you why you can't do it. As you achieve, they try to pull you down. As you dream, they are the first to tell you it is impossible.
Why they are toxic: These people are stuck in what is instead of what could be. Further, these individuals eat away at your self-esteem and your belief in yourself. Progress and change can only occur from doing new things and innovating, dreaming the impossible and reaching for the stars.

6. Insincere Illissas: You never quite feel that these people are being sincere. You tell a funny story, they give you a polite laugh. You feel depressed and sad and they give you a 'there, there' type response. You tell them you are excited about something and you get a very ho-hum response.
Why they are toxic: People who aren't sincere or genuine build relationships on superficial criteria. This breeds shallow, meaningless relationships. When you are really in need of a friend, they won't be there. When you really need constructive criticism, they would rather tell you that you are great the way you are. When you need support, they would rather see you fail or make a fool of yourself.

7. Disrespectful Dannys: These people will say or do things at the most inappropriate times and in the most inappropriate ways. In essence, they are more subtle, grown up bullies. Maybe this person is a friend who you confided in and uses your secret against you. Maybe it is a family member who puts their busy-body nose into your affairs when it is none of their business. Or maybe, it is a colleague who says demeaning things to you.
Why they are toxic: These people have no sense of boundaries and don't respect your feelings or, for that matter, your privacy. These people will cause you to feel frustrated and disrespected.
8. Never Enough Nellies: You can never give enough to these people to make them happy. They take you for granted and have unrealistic expectations of you. They find ways to continually fault you and never take responsibility for anything themselves.
Why they are toxic: You will spend so much time trying to please them, that you will end up losing yourself in the process. They will require all of your time and energy, leaving you worn out and your own needs sacrificed.

All of these personalities have several things in common. 1) the more these people get away with their behavior, the more they will continue. 2) Unfortunately, most of these people don't see that what they do is wrong and as a result, talking to them about it will fall on deaf ears, leaving you wondering if you are the crazy one. 3) Most of these people get worse with age, making their impact on you stronger with time.

Frankly, life is too short to spend your time dealing with toxicity. If you can, avoid spending mucho time with people who are indicative of these behaviors and you'll feel a lot happier. Have you encountered these personalities? What have you done? Any personalities you would add?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

California high court upholds gay marriage ban

By LISA LEFF, Associated Press Writer Lisa Leff, Associated Press Writer – 30 mins ago
SAN FRANCISCO – The California Supreme Court upheld a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage Tuesday, but it also decided that the estimated 18,000 gay couples who tied the knot before the law took effect will stay wed.
Demonstrators outside the court yelled "shame on you!" Gay rights activists immediately promised to resume their fight, saying they would go back to voters as early as next year in a bid to repeal the ban.
The 6-1 decision written by Chief Justice Ron George rejected an argument by gay rights activists that the ban revised the California Constitution's equal protection clause to such a dramatic degree that it first needed the Legislature's approval.
The court said the Californians have a right, through the ballot box, to change their constitution.
"In a sense, petitioners' and the attorney general's complaint is that it is just too easy to amend the California Constitution through the initiative process. But it is not a proper function of this court to curtail that process; we are constitutionally bound to uphold it," the ruling said.
The justices said the 136-page majority ruling does not speak to whether they agree with the voter-approved Proposition 8 or "believe it should be a part of the California Constitution."
They said they were "limited to interpreting and applying the principles and rules embodied in the California Constitution, setting aside our own personal beliefs and values."
The announcement of the decision set off an outcry among a sea of demonstrators who had gathered in front of the San Francisco courthouse awaiting the ruling. Holding signs and many waving rainbow flags, they yelled "shame on you." Many people also held hands in a chain around an intersection in an act of protest.
Same-sex marriage is legal in Iowa, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
The court said it is well-established legal principle that an amendment is not retroactive unless it is clear that the voters intended it to apply retroactively, and there was no such clear indication in Proposition 8.
That provided some relief for the 18,000 gay couples who married in the brief time same-sex marriage was legal last year but that wasn't enough to dull the anger over the ruling that banned gay marriage.
"It's not about whether we get to stay married. Our fight is far from over," said Jeannie Rizzo, 62, who was one of the lead plaintiffs along with her wife, Polly Cooper. "I have about 20 years left on this earth, and I'm going to continue to fight for equality every day."
Also in the crowd gathered at City Hall, near the courthouse, were Sharon Papo, 30, and Amber Weiss, 32, who were married on the first day gay marriage was legal last year, June 17.
"We're relieved our marriage was not invalidated, but this is a hollow victory because there are so many that are not allowed to marry those they love," Weiss said.
"I feel very uncomfortable being in a special class of citizens," Papo said.
A small group of Proposition 8 supporters also had gathered outside the court to hear the ruling.
"A lot of people just assume we're religious nuts. We're not. But we are Christians and we believe in the Bible," said George Popko, 22, a student at American River College in Sacramento, where the student government officially endorsed Proposition 8.
The state Supreme Court had ruled last May that it was unconstitutional to deny gay couples the right to wed. Many same-sex couples had rushed to get married before the November vote on Proposition 8, fearing it could be passed. When it was, gay rights activists went back to the court arguing that the ban was improperly put to voters and amounted to a revision — which required legislative approval — not an amendment.
That was the issue justices decided Tuesday.
"After comparing this initiative measure to the many other constitutional changes that have been reviewed and evaluated in numerous prior decisions of this court, we conclude Proposition 8 constitutes a constitutional amendment rather than a constitutional revision," the ruling said.
Justice Carlos Moreno wrote the dissenting opinion disagreeing that the proposition did not change the constitution's equal protection clause. He said the law denying same-sex couples the right to wed "strikes at the core of the promise of equality that underlies our California Constitution." He said it represents a "drastic and far-reaching change."
"Promising equal treatment to some is fundamentally different from promising equal treatment for all," said Moreno, who had been mentioned as a possible contender for the U.S. Supreme Court. "Promising treatment that is almost equal is fundamentally different from ensuring truly equal treatment."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Divorce and the Economy

Several people have asked me how the economy has affected my practice. Below is an article which quotes me.

Recession Forces Divorced Back to Court to Lower Alimony, Child Support
When John and his wife divorced, they agreed to sell their home. But every time they come close, his ex stalls “because she wants to buy it.” With the real estate market in a tailspin and the nation in a recession, “She feels prices will go down further,” which would enable her to buy it from him at a cheaper price. To complicate matters, John, not his real name, recently lost his job in the financial industry. With the house issue looming, he’s already asked the court in his state to award him attorney’s fees since his wife filed for divorce. In addition, he’s considering a change to his property settlement: he may return to court to ask his ex for alimony, something he never would have done before the layoff.

According to legal experts from around the country, John’s tale isn’t unusual. The recession that’s affected every other aspect of America is now affecting family court as well. Clients are returning to court as a way to deal with financial hardships that are affecting their property settlement agreements. “It's happening because retirement accounts have dwindled to nothing for some people and a decree that gives you half of what was a robust account now gives you half of not much,” said retired attorney Brette Sember, author of a number of how-to books, including “The Divorce Organizer.”
Los Angeles, Calif., family law attorney Kelly Chang Rickert said her clients want to modify their judgments because their financial circumstances have changed dramatically. “Due to the economy and loss of jobs, I am seeing a lot more modifications to child support – reductions for the payor if they’re laid off and an increase for the recipient if they’re laid off…” Another big recession issue: “Alimony needs to be increased for folks who have lost jobs,” Sember said. In some cases, according to Chang Rickert, she’s even seeing changes in child custody arrangements because “parents who have been laid off have more time to spend with children.” A new mom herself, Chang Rickert has noticed “nannies and housekeepers are getting laid off because parents who have no jobs have more time” to spend at home.
California family law attorney David Pisarra said he’s seen so many clients dealing with this issue that he’s rolled out a new payment program – charging only a flat fee – “to address this new need.” John’s not the only one in a quandary over the inability to sell his marital home. Many property settlements state that the divorcing couple will sell their home, but “Many people can't sell and need to know what to do if they can't,” she said.