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Seminar focuses on how to make the best of difficult divorce situations

By LOGAN D. MABE

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 16, 2000


CARROLLWOOD -- Janet Gow doesn't believe that divorce has to be messy.

Ms. Gow, who has done personal development training for 20 years, now works to help women and men diminish the damage of the dissolution of marriage.

"I am not an advocate of divorce at all," Ms. Gow said. "But having been through it, and having seen people go through it with huge residual damage, I'd like to see people handle the process better and create a healthy life on the other side."

Ms. Gow, who recently moved to Carrollwood Village from San Diego with her three teenage sons, learned the lessons of divorce the hard way. Now, she puts on seminars to try to help others handle the psychological, social, financial and physical aspects of divorce.

Nobody enjoys a divorce, Ms. Gow concedes. But it can be an opportunity for personal growth, she said.

"You can either grow from it and have a healthy life, or be miserable for the rest of your life," she said.

Ms. Gow, who has a master's degree in education, hosts her "Marriage in Transition" seminars on Saturdays at the Travelodge Hotel on E Busch Boulevard. The eight-hour course costs $69 and covers what Ms. Gow calls the "seven strategies to help you survive divorce." Her next session is June 24.

"There's so much hurt and anger and depression and destruction in the process that's needless," Ms. Gow said. "But there are choices and constructive decisions open to people. And there is a way to make the whole thing better for everybody."

And that includes children, Ms. Gow said, calling them the real losers in the process.

"Divorce is devastating for people who don't have children, but when kids are in the mix, there are a whole array of other concerns that are vital," she said.

The seven strategies Ms. Gow teaches are:

Knowing yourself and your life mission. "Create intentions, declarations and goals that support that mission," she said. "Get clear about who you are and what your commitments are, so you can live according to your values."

Creating a support system, including God and spirituality, lawyers, therapists, neighbors, friends and networking groups. "Whatever your challenge of the moment, you're going to get there faster with support," she said.

Being accountable to, and for, yourself first. "This takes you out of being a victim," she said.

Recognizing and utilizing the dynamics of change. "What generally happens is when you make a substantial change in your life, resistance naturally turns up," she said. "If you recognize what occurs when changes are made and utilize those dynamics, it helps you take the necessary steps and overcome the resistance and any fear that shows up."

Learning and growing. "It's considering what do I need to learn to improve my life," she said.

Communicating and negotiating with strength and clarity. "What do I want, how do I speak it and how do I negotiate for it," she said. "Those are especially important in the most nitty gritty divorces."

Teaching your children and the other people you interact with that these strategies guide you, and then encouraging them to use the same strategies. "It's kind of about, how do I help my kids and other people who are directly affected by my decision?" Ms. Gow said.

When Ms. Gow went through her divorce, she said, much of the advice she got was "theoretical, not real world stuff I can use today. I want to be able to give people real world, today in their neighborhood, resources they can use. In divorce, you need real answers with real solutions right now."

Too often, she said, divorce causes people to make decisions based on runaway emotions, panic and fear.

"Not to minimize the emotional process, I want to get people very clear about who they are and what their mission in life is," Ms. Gow said. "Divorce is an opportunity to be tested on this question: Who are you and what do you stand for? What is your mission on this planet?"

For more information about the "Marriage in Transition" program, call (813) 908-5823.

-- Logan D. Mabe can be reached at 226-3464 or mabe@sptimes.com.

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