High-Conflict Custody with Ashley Machele

carolyn fox
Worthy Staff

By Worthy Staff | Oct 16th, 2018

A strong woman chooses compassion over revenge.

worthy podcast episode 22 quote

This is one of our favorite quotes, but it doesn’t even come close to emphasizing how hard it must have been for our amazing guest to make the choices you’re going to hear about in this episode. Ashley Machele is a Blended Family Consultant, Certified Life Coach, NASM Certified Personal Trainer and mother of three. She is remarried and produces “Our Splendid Life” a blog with videos, courses and so many great tools to help women like you thrive with blended families.

We also think she might be the world champion of compassion. We commend Ashley for some of the tough decisions she talks about in this episode, and we’re so grateful that she brought her honesty to our podcast. You always hear us talking about changing the conversation around divorce, and we couldn’t be more proud to be featuring a story unlike any we’ve heard before.

On this week’s episode:

Episode Transcription

Audrey: 00:00 Welcome to Divorce and Other Things You Can Handle. A branded podcast from Worthy. I’m Audrey, and I’m your host.
The strong woman chooses compassion over revenge. This is one of our favorite quotes but it doesn’t even come close to emphasizing how hard it must have been for our amazing guests to make the choices you’re going to hear about in this episode.
Ashley Machele is a blended family consultant, a certified life coach, a NASM certified personal trainer, and a mother of three. She’s remarried and produces Our Splendid Life, a blog with videos, courses, and so many great tools to help women like you thrive with blended families. We also think she might be the world champion of compassion. We commend Ashley for some of the tough decisions she talks about in this episode and we’re so grateful that she brought her honesty to our podcast. You always hear us talking about changing the conversation around divorce and fighting those stigmas, we couldn’t be more proud to be featuring a story unlike any we’ve heard before.
Divorce and Other Things You Can Handle is a weekly podcast so make sure you subscribe to keep up with new episodes we’re creating to help empower and uplift you as you embrace your fresh start. This podcast is for you, so join our Facebook group, Worthy Women & Divorce to let us know what you think and what you want to hear. You can also get more at worthy.com/podcast. We’re going to take a quick break and then we’ll be right back with Ashley.

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Audrey: 01:53 I’m so excited to be joined by Ashley Machele on the podcast. I have been a fan of hers, I found her on Instagram over a year ago. I think she is talking about blended families in a way that is so refreshing, and she makes it look glamorous even when you know it has to be difficult at moments. She always finds ways to bring positivity back into what she’s doing. I love seeing her inspire other people so I’m so excited to have her on to inspire all of you. Welcome, Ashley.

Ashley Machele: 02:25 Thank you so much. Thank you for having me. I’m really excited.

Audrey: 02:28 Good. That makes two of us. Maybe some of our listeners might not be familiar with you, why don’t you give us a little bit of an introduction into who you are.

Ashley Machele: 02:39 Sure. Okay, so, I’m Ashley and I’m remarried. I live in Idaho with my husband and I have a daughter from a previous marriage. Her name is Ellie, she’s almost 11. Then together with my new husband we have two children, Carter is seven, he’s a little boy, and then Claire is our little girl and she’s five. I’m actually from the south. I grew up in Mississippi and South Carolina. My husband is from Utah. Now we just live in Idaho together and we love it. We love to travel and as a family we’ve road tripped to 48 of the 50 states. It’s something of a hobby for us to go-

Audrey: 03:16 Which two do you have left?

Ashley Machele: 03:18 Alaska & Hawaii, that’s it, as a family.

Audrey: 03:19 That makes sense.

Ashley Machele: 03:20 Yeah.

Audrey: 03:21 It’s hard to road trip to those two.

Ashley Machele: 03:24 Road trips, yeah, exactly. It’s been a fun experience. We love showing our kids the world and just spending that time together as a family.

Audrey: 03:30 That’s beautiful. I love that.

Ashley Machele: 03:32 Thanks.

Audrey: 03:34 You have this amazing online community. You’ve got your social channels. You’ve got your blog. Now you’re doing YouTube videos and you’ve got seminars and stuff that you’re uploading and it’s amazing, amazing, amazing. All of this is happening with the title, Our Splendid Life. I know you talked a little bit about the breakdown of your family. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about what Our Splendid Life is and sort of how you got into sharing these things online.

Ashley Machele: 04:07 Yeah, absolutely. The concept for A Splendid Life actually happened when I was right in the middle of probably the darkest part of my custody battle, like when I would say was one of the biggest challenges for me. We had just moved. I had a new baby. I was dealing with all of these different emotions plus the part of my custody battle was transitioning at that point. There was a lot of things happening and I just was really feeling isolated and alone. I was just trying to find ways for myself to get out of this funk, this depression, this darkness that felt so consuming. Our Splendid Life just like came to me. It was kind of just meant to be. To me I felt like it represents changing the perception and going from like focusing on your trials and all of these bad things that are happening to you as a blended family, to consciously choosing a different perspective to focus on the good and turning it into the splendid life.

Audrey: 05:03 That is why I just love what you’re doing so much. I think a lot of people don’t see that there’s an opportunity to sort of look at it that way. I think by having a story that’s unfolding everyday, you know you’re writing another chapter in your story, there’s pain in it but there’s also so much beauty. I just love that you gave it this really uplifting and positive title. I think it gives other people courage to kind of see their situations in that same way. I think it’s just wonderful.

Ashley Machele: 05:33 Thank you. I love it.

Audrey: 05:33 Yeah. I know that you mentioned that there were really difficult moments in your custody battle and a lot of our listeners have been through custody battles themselves and know that it’s not necessarily splendid so, I’m hoping you can take us a little bit back in time and we’re going to talk about how you came to have this story to tell. Before we jump into that, I’m wondering if we can just go over a few terms that I think some of our listeners who might be in the very beginning stages of divorce may not be totally familiar with.

Ashley Machele: 06:12 Yeah, absolutely.

Audrey: 06:14 I want to know … We’ve got custodial parental alienation and abduction, primary placement, tell us a little bit about what some of these things are.

Ashley Machele: 06:26 Basically when we talk about a custodial parent versus a non-custodial parent that means that in the court system, one of the parents has custody of the child. Non-custodial would be the other parent who the child doesn’t live with full time. Primary placement is also another way of saying that. You can have joint custody, which means technically it’s 50/50 in the courts, but then primary placement is where the child lives the majority of the time. Then when we talk about the custodial parental alienation, that is when the other parent is trying to keep that child away from the custodial parent. Basically, talking bad about them, playing into that fun parent role, the Disneyland dad, I’m sure you’ve heard that.

Audrey: 07:11 Yeah.

Ashley Machele: 07:11 That’s the alienation part where you’re making one person the good guy and one person the bad guy. Then I also talk about the non-custodial parental abduction, that’s just a nice way of saying that my daughter was kidnapped essentially. When I went to pick her up she wasn’t there and I didn’t get to see her. I had to file a police report. Within the system though, it’s really hard because the police can’t do anything because it’s technically a matter to go through the family courts. You have to wait and have a trial and a hearing and it’s a different type of abduction because they don’t actually issue an Amber Alert and it’s not anything … It’s a totally different situation when there’s this custody battle involved as well. That’s what that means.

Audrey: 07:55 We’ll get a little bit more into sort of how all of that unfolded for you because I know it just must have been so incredibly difficult. I know it’s something a lot of our listeners can relate to and would certainly want to hear about.

Ashley Machele: 08:10 Right.

Audrey: 08:10 Before we dive in, let’s also talk about the difference between co-parenting and parallel parenting. I know this is something that you are great at talking about.

Ashley Machele: 08:21 I actually get asked this a lot. I talk about co-parenting and I have co-parenting courses and I really emphasize the fact that this is best for your children to get along and to co-parent together. That’s actually not what I do. In our relationship, we do parallel parenting. That means that I have a set of rules at my house and he has a set of rules at his house. In that parallel direction, we’re parenting but not together.

Audrey: 08:45 Right, okay. Let’s go ahead and talk a little bit about the story of your first marriage and how it ended and sort of what unfolded, we kind of got there already talking about the terrible things that you’ve been through with navigating this process. Let’s share a little bit of background with our listeners. Give them the fuller picture.

Ashley Machele: 09:10 Absolutely. Right, no, and I think that everyone has a really interesting story to tell. I think that everyone has a different perspective as well, like I always say this when I share my story because I truly believe that in a divorce there are three sides to every story. I think there’s my side of the story, and there’s his side of the story, and the truth is probably somewhere in between, you know.

Audrey: 09:30 We have a meme on Pinterest that says, “In a divorce there’s three sides to the story. There’s your side, my side, and my screenshots.”

Ashley Machele: 09:40 There you go. That’s exactly right. No, it’s so true. I like to say that this is my story and this is what happened from my point of view. I don’t ever want that to come across as one-sided. Anyway, so, I was really young when I got married. I actually found out that I was pregnant initially. This guy was someone that I did not plan on spending the rest of my life with, you know? Because I was really young and influenced by others opinions of me and what needed to happen and what I felt like the best decision would be for my daughter, I decided to get married. At the time, to me that meant sacrificing what I wanted and what I felt like my life would look like to give her a family. It didn’t matter to me that I didn’t love him. I didn’t really know the impact that that would have, I just felt like as long as I was doing what was best for her it would all work out. I kind of felt like I was sacrifice my happiness and what I wanted.

Audrey: 10:43 Right, that’s something that we’ve talked a lot about on this podcast about how I think women especially, we just, we feel like we can take on that sort of burden. We’re not entitled to the same happiness that the people who we’re trying to accommodate are.

Ashley Machele: 10:59 Or hang in there for the kids. It happens all the time, right.

Audrey: 11:00 Yeah, yeah.

Ashley Machele: 11:03 That’s kind of how my story began was that it just didn’t start in a good way I guess to begin with. It wasn’t sustainable just right from the beginning. What happened was, together we moved out of state. I was away from family, I didn’t have a very good support system. When he left-

Audrey: 11:20 It’s so hard.

Ashley Machele: 11:21 … I had a brand new baby. She was like two months old and I had no one there. I was sitting in an apartment by myself with no money, no car, nothing. I’m like, “What am I going to do now?” I decided to go to Utah, which is where I had a support system built. I had people who could watch my daughter so I could go to work. I had contacts and networking so that I could get a full time job. I started rebuilding my life at that point because I knew that I needed to be in a good place for my daughter. That’s when it shifted for me knowing that I needed to be better for myself in order to be the best mom for her.

Audrey: 12:00 Right.

Ashley Machele: 12:01 During that process I gained a lot of independence and I felt like I was in a really good place. I was finally in this place where I needed to be as a person and as a mom. I ended up filing for divorce because I gained residency. I was in Utah for a full year. I didn’t hear from her dad.

Audrey: 12:20 Oh, wow.

Ashley Machele: 12:21 I didn’t have any contact from him for a year, right. I sent him Christmas cards and birthday cards and I tried to call him to see if I could buy him a plane ticket to come see her. Nothing. I got nothing back from him. I thought, “Okay, he’s going to sign the divorce papers and we’re good. We’re just going to move on.” To my surprise, he had actually already filed for divorce in South Carolina, which is where he went when he left back to his family. The courts gave him full custody of my daughter without me knowing it. For that entire year, I basically was technically living with her and he had full custody the whole time. I had no idea. I wasn’t served papers.

Audrey: 12:21 Oh, my God.

Ashley Machele: 13:05 I had no knowledge that any of this was happening. What happened was when I filed, it triggered in the system saying that there had already been a motion put into place. This is what had to happen. Then the two states had to fight for jurisdiction and that’s when it became really messy.

Audrey: 13:20 What a nightmare.

Ashley Machele: 13:22 Right. I felt like, at the time I thought, “Okay, the courts are going to have my best interest in mind. They’re going to see that I have proof that he hasn’t been around. They’re going to see that I’ve been alone for a year. They’re going to see that I’ve established myself and I have a full time job.

Audrey: 13:36 He’s had custody for a year and where has he been?

Ashley Machele: 13:39 Exactly.

Audrey: 13:40 Oh, my God.

Ashley Machele: 13:41 I just had this faith that the court system would make the right decision. What actually ended up happening was South Carolina got jurisdiction of our case. The judge required that I quit my job, leave my apartment and move to South Carolina to live within 30 miles of my ex.

Audrey: 14:00 Oh, my god.

Ashley Machele: 14:00 Because he deserved to see his daughter. I was like, “Oh, my goodness.” I finally felt like I was in this really good place and so to back step that far where … Luckily my parents actually lived in South Carolina at the time so I moved in with my parents. I found a job as a waitress at night because I had no one to watch her during the day. I had all this independence taking away from me.

Audrey: 14:23 Not just that. Yes, it’s freedom and independence but we speak with so many women who come out of the experience of divorce or their husband leaving. It’s so hard to even get out of bed. Here you were truly thriving.

Ashley Machele: 14:41 Right.

Audrey: 14:41 I mean you weren’t just surviving, you had made a whole new identity for yourself. You were faced with a whole set of challenges and you overcame them. Then a giant wrench was thrown into the plans.

Ashley Machele: 14:55 Exactly.

Audrey: 14:55 I just can’t even imagine.

Ashley Machele: 14:57 It was really difficult. I think the hardest part for me at the time was my daughter was 18 months old. That is when that stranger danger starts to kick in with them.

Audrey: 15:05 Right.

Ashley Machele: 15:08 The very first time she saw her dad after that year, he got her overnight. The judge ordered that he could have her every other weekend. It was unsupervised. She’s basically, all her life knows one person, me and then it’s like she had to go to a stranger essentially.

Audrey: 15:28 Wow.

Ashley Machele: 15:29 She had no idea.

Audrey: 15:30 That must have been so hard for both of you.

Ashley Machele: 15:31 How do you explain that to an 18 month old?

Audrey: 15:33 Right.

Ashley Machele: 15:33 The hardest part for me was not only rebuilding, but knowing that she was going through those trials that I couldn’t do anything about.

Audrey: 15:33 Right. That’s so difficult.

Ashley Machele: 15:43 Right. He began to get visitation. It was every other weekend. It was just a standardized visitation through the court system and what I noticed was that he wasn’t the one picking her up. He wasn’t the one paying his child support. He wasn’t even there. It was his parents. He kind of was just in the background. He would show up at court when he needed to but-
Ashley Machele: 16:00 … background, and he would show up at court when he needed to, but it was always someone else who wanted her, and so that was even hard for me, too, was sharing her with someone who wasn’t genuine at the time, and I say at the time because he got remarried, and her stepmom is wonderful, and so I think that he has matured a lot through that process, and so I do think that now it’s a good thing for her, but back then, it was just this really difficult situation for us to go through.

Audrey: 16:31 Right.

Ashley Machele: 16:32 So then moving forward, we just fought. It was this terrible custody battle. We weren’t getting anywhere. We tried mediation. We had a trial date set, and basically, what happened was his parents really wanted this 30-mile radius to stay in place. They didn’t want me to be able to move continue my life anywhere else, and so when I had that conversation with him, it sounded to me like he just wanted to move forward, and he didn’t really care where I lived, and so we ended up putting into place an agreement outside of court between just the two of us, but I could move wherever I wanted, but then in the court system they would have the standardized visitation so that all appearances would be that this was the agreement. Right? Just to get it over with. I’m like, “Okay. We’ve gotta do something. I can’t keep living this temporary life.” I felt like I couldn’t move forward living in my parents’ house. Right?

Audrey: 16:32 Right.

Ashley Machele: 17:26 I needed to go and move on, and so we did. We put this into place. Everything was finalized in court, and everything was great. So, I ended up moving to Atlanta. I got remarried. My husband was in law school in Atlanta, and so our visitation was I had her for two weeks, he had her for one week, and we were constantly just meeting halfway, and it worked. It worked for us.

Audrey: 17:48 So, this was … You were able to meet, it was driving distance, and it was doable?

Ashley Machele: 17:52 Right.

Audrey: 17:52 Okay.

Ashley Machele: 17:52 Driving distance, everything worked out. We had a long-term plan in place that I felt was sustainable, and so I was starting to rebuild again, and I felt like I was in a good place. We got pregnant with our little boy. We really felt good about this situation. So, it totally shook me to the core when I showed up to pick her up from our meeting spot, and she wasn’t there.

Audrey: 18:15 Oh, my gosh.

Ashley Machele: 18:16 At first, I thought, “They’re just late.” I said, “They’re running late. I don’t know why I can’t get ahold of them. It’s okay. Maybe there’s traffic.” Of course, these thoughts in your mind, deep down I’m thinking something’s wrong. I know in my heart that something’s wrong, and I’m justifying it, and I’m thinking, “No, it’s okay. It’s okay. Give them the benefit of the doubt. It’s gonna be fine.” So, I finally just started to drive to their house, because I thought, “Okay. I’m just gonna go. I’m gonna go, and I’m gonna find her, and I’m gonna get her, and it’s gonna be fine,” and they were gone, and I finally got a call from his girlfriend at the time saying that they were keeping her, and they weren’t giving her back.
So, to say that that’s my worst nightmare, I can’t even describe to you … It was the scariest moment of my life, not knowing when I would see her, if I would ever see her again, and honestly, the next few days, few weeks, it’s all a blur. I don’t even remember. I know that I went to the police station. I know that I filed the police report. I know that I contacted my attorney. All of these things actually happened, but emotionally and mentally, I just couldn’t process what was happening. It was the scariest thing that I’ve ever been through. Luckily, we were able to schedule an emergency hearing, and I had enough documentation at that point to basically have leverage to say, “This is what we want,” and so we changed our visitation. We changed it in the court, and we were able to move forward after that. So, looking back, I feel like it was a good thing because it really did establish some guidelines for the rest of her life.

Audrey: 19:52 Mm-hmm (affirmative). How old was she when this all happened?

Ashley Machele: 19:55 So, she would have been three. She was little.

Audrey: 20:00 Does she remember it? I mean, did she feel like, “When am I seeing Mommy,” or …

Ashley Machele: 20:05 So, we honestly haven’t asked her about it. We’ve tried to put her in … She’s been in art therapy. She’s been in equine therapy, and so we’re tying to help her process those emotions and those things that happened, but he hasn’t signed off on actually being able to send her to a therapy session, so we’re trying to just be really careful because of our custody agreement, and because it is 50/50 joint custody, he has joint decision making power, and so I can’t do anything without his signature. So, it’s one of those subjects that we really can’t talk about, because I want to make sure that we do it the right way when it does happen.

Audrey: 20:42 Right. I mean, I just can’t even imagine what that experience must have been like for you, and we’ll definitely make sure that we link to all of your social channels, and I saw on … I think it was on your Facebook and your YouTube, you have the sweetest little video with her from a few weeks ago, and so while this is just such a tragic story, we know it’s going someplace splendid-

Ashley Machele: 21:06 Exactly.

Audrey: 21:07 … and she just seems so happy. You just see the relationship that the two of you have, and she just seems like-

Ashley Machele: 21:13 Thank you.

Audrey: 21:13 … such a good, sweet girl, and she feels so safe, and she was talking about having two different homes and everything, so I know there’s a lot more to this story, but I think we’re gonna take a quick break, and when we come back we will talk sort of about where you are now, and then we can talk about different ways that you can help other people who are dealing with similar issues and co-parenting and parallel parenting, and so we’re gonna take a quick break, and we’ll be right back with Ashley.
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We are back with Ashley, and Ashley, you were just telling us about this emergency hearing, and what ended up happening from there?

Ashley Machele: 22:31 So, basically, the emergency hearing established guidelines that I could move wherever I wanted to, and that opened up the freedom for me to really move on, and so my husband graduated from law school, and we moved to Utah, and her visitation changed so that my daughter would be flying back to see her dad one weekend a month, and they would be able to choose that weekend, and it was something that we thought would be really sustainable, so she could still see him, but we would be able to live and move on with our life where we wanted to live, and so the problem is with most paperwork, it’s pretty ambiguous.
It can be interpreted a lot of different ways, and so I felt like our paperwork would allow her to fly by herself, and her dad interpreted it as she couldn’t do that, even though through the airlines and everything it would be fine, he felt like he had decision making power enough to say that that couldn’t happen, and so I was living in Utah. I just had another baby, so Carter and Claire were both really little, and one weekend a month I was traveling back to South Carolina to give my daughter to her dad. So, I was gone for Thanksgiving. I was gone for Easter. I was gone for part of Christmas.

Audrey: 23:49 Wow.

Ashley Machele: 23:49 I was toting around an infant every month, every single month. She was missing a ton of school because his visitation technically started on Friday at 6:00 p.m., but her dad didn’t want her miss any school, and so I’m like, “Well, that’s physically impossible for me to fly her across the country and have her not miss any school.” Right? It was one of those things that … It was a really challenging situation to find balance, constantly trying to travel with her, and it just wasn’t good, and so we really prepared to go back to court. I just said, “This is unsustainable. I can’t do it anymore. I can’t leave my family and always be gone and have her missing school,” and it was so hard. So, I felt like we were gonna go back to court. I called my attorney, and I was ready to fight again, and anyone who’s going through this court process knows how big of a decision that is because you never know what the outcome’s going to be. You know what you’re putting a ton of time, effort, money, emotions into this.

Audrey: 24:52 And trust. I mean, looking at your story, you had been the sole parent in your daughter’s life for the first year-and-a-half that she was around, and the court still … He got jurisdiction and things went from there, so-

Ashley Machele: 25:10 You just never know.

Audrey: 25:11 Right.

Ashley Machele: 25:11 Exactly, and so I hung up the phone with my attorney, and I felt like that option and taking that risk was better than what we were doing at the time, and so what’s interesting is right after that, I just had this really strong feeling that she needed to go and live with her dad, and I was like, “Absolutely not. That is what I’ve been fighting for.” She was eight years old, so for eight years I’d been fighting for this. It was the one thing that I said I would never do, and I just had this feeling that this is what needed to happen.
So, I had to trust and have faith and know that what I was feeling would be the best decision for my daughter, and so I called her stepmom, and I just said, “Look. I think that she needs to live with you right now. Let’s try it out, and here’s what needs to happen in order for that to be put into place.” So, she was able to fly by herself, and that kind of opened up the opportunity to change some of those things that we were going to go back to court for, and I still feel like it was the right decision for her because I know that she’s exactly where she needs to be, but there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss her-

Audrey: 25:11 Of course.

Ashley Machele: 26:25 … and that I don’t feel like I’m missing out on something, and I’m not helping her with her homework, and I’m not giving her a kiss goodnight every night, and it’s so heartbreaking to sacrifice that as a mother, but seeing her thrive and knowing that she’s not missing school because I’m in control of her visitation now, and she’s living somewhere that they love her, and we love her, too, and so we’re changing that dialogue for her, and it has nothing to do with who she lives with.
We just talk about who she spends the school year with, and who she spends the summer with, and so turning it into what I have control over and what can I do to make this the best situation for our family, and being empowered in that, and not just feel like I’m being taken advantage of or feel like the courts are against me, and all these bad things happen, and I think that’s really typical in a custody situation or a divorce, is to focus on all these bad things, all these circumstances that are happening to us, and becoming empowered about that and just saying that I can control myself and my decisions, and I’m gonna do what I feel like is best for our family, so …

Audrey: 27:30 I mean, I hear your story, and I think about what it must have been like for you to make that decision. I’m so blown away. I think a lot of the time, as a parent, you have to do things that you didn’t know that you were capable of, and beyond that, you were co-parenting with somebody who was not really willing to accommodate your schedule or your needs. She had to fly with you, and she couldn’t miss school, and so it’s not like you had a great partner in compromise, and still you were able to find the strength to make this decision, and it’s turned out to be a good one, and we’ll talk … Obviously, it’s not all perfect all the time, I’m sure. Even kids who live with their mom every day, it’s not perfect all the time, but I like to think of women as just stronger than we can comprehend, but where did you find this strength to make this decision?

Ashley Machele: 28:34 I had to just think about my daughter, and I had to think about what was best for her, and I also had to shift my mindset from being all controlling of the situation. I think as a mom, we want what’s best for our kids, but sometimes we imprint our own values and what we think is best onto our children rather than taking a step back and actually thinking from an unbiased stance what actually is good for them, and so honestly, if you think about it, your kids are prepared for whatever challenges they’re going to face, and I honestly think that they are given those struggles and challenges in their lives for a reason as well, and so to think of her as a separate person who is going through this challenge in her own way and knowing that this is her story, and I am part of her story, that I can’t control what that looks like for her.
So, the fact that she has another family who loves her and adores her and wants what’s best for her … She has so many people that support her on her journey, and looking at it from that perspective, I think that’s where I gain my strength, is just feeling like having the confidence that she is strong enough to handle this in her own way, and this going to shape her as a person, and she needs to go through this just as much as … This is part of her story that she’s going to tell, and that’s going to define her as a person.

Audrey: 30:04 That’s right. So, one of the things that we talk a lot about on our podcast is stigma and judgment, and all of the different ways women are made to feel bad about divorce, about being a single mom, about remarrying too soon or being single too long, the way that they parent. It just seems like whatever women are doing, they’re being judged and told that they’re doing it wrong, and the way that you guys have decided to parent and the decision that you made, we were just talking about how it was such a hard decision, and I’m sure that people make you feel bad about this decision.

Ashley Machele: 30:43 Oh, absolutely. All the time, and it’s actually probably the people closest to me who judge me the most, which is-

Audrey: 30:48 Really?

Ashley Machele: 30:49 … really hard. Yeah, because I think they think that they know what’s best for me and my daughter, and so I totally understand where they’re coming from, but what I love about it and what I think is so important about this community and being open and genuine and transparent with our story is that the response that I’ve gotten from complete strangers over social media is so overwhelming with love and support.

Audrey: 31:14 That’s so good to hear.

Ashley Machele: 31:16 Yes, it really is. So, I think that that very first post, way back when I was terrified, my hands were shaking, and I thought, “I don’t want to do it.” You feel like you’re gonna throw up when you start to tell even just the littlest, tiniest part of … Obviously, I’ve opened up since then, but the very first time, I was so terrified of that judgment and the stigma, and all of the reactions that I was going to get, and I was just completely amazed by the outpouring of love and support that I received, and so I think that anyone who is brave enough to share their story will be surprised at the response, and I think that it’s really overwhelming to have that community.

Audrey: 31:58 That’s so good to hear. I’ve told you about our Facebook group, Worthy Women In Divorce, and-
Audrey: 32:00 I’ve told you about our Facebook group, Worthy Women & Divorce and it’s so amazing to see all of these women sharing their stories and the way that people … I always see people writing things like, “That’s my story. Exactly.” Or just giving each other support and relating to one another and I think you’re right that it’s almost like it has more power when it’s inside of you and when you let it out and you get that kind of positive response back from people, it’s such an amazing feeling. So if you’re listening and you’re not in our Facebook group yet, it’s Worthy Women & divorce and you can find it on Worthy.com/podcast too. But in those moments when you are made to feel judged and maybe we have somebody listening who is dealing with that in their own life. What kind of advice do you have for someone who is made to feel bad about decisions that they’ve made that are really nobody else’s business?

Ashley Machele: 32:53 Right. So, and this is one of those things that I even, I try to teach my kids because the world right now is so judgmental and I think that everyone is very insecure in their own hearts and in their own feelings that they project that onto others. And so anytime I have that negative reaction from anyone, I just know that they must be dealing with something that is coming through onto me and that it really has nothing to do with me and it has nothing to do with what I’m saying, but just remembering that they must be fighting with something that I have no idea about because projecting that on to someone else has nothing to do with me and it’s really just about them. And so just changing that your mindset on instead of feeling judgment, just feel that empathy toward them.

Audrey: 33:37 Right. Just sort of like not letting it seep into you.

Ashley Machele: 33:41 Exactly.

Audrey: 33:41 Deciding whether or not it gets to be a part of your experience and it just doesn’t. That’s their experience and it’s their problem. I think that’s really good advice.

Ashley Machele: 33:50 Yeah.

Audrey: 33:51 So one of the things that you’ve recently written about is that like Ellie is living in Florida now, right?

Ashley Machele: 34:00 Right.

Audrey: 34:00 So you see her a lot and it’s wonderful. But when she’s in Florida at her school year home, is that the?

Ashley Machele: 34:10 Yeah.

Audrey: 34:12 Every once in a while it happens that you can’t get a hold of her or you can’t get ahold of her step mom and that kind of fear starts to creep back in. And I think people in all different kinds of situations can relate to that feeling of this is your child who you love more than you could possibly express and you’re in this moment where you can’t reach them and you can’t be there for them. And how do you get through those moments?

Ashley Machele: 34:38 So I just like to remember that I’m only in control of one person and that’s myself and I know that my reaction and my response is more important than, than anything else. And showing her, my daughter by example, how I want her to live her life. And so I know that I really have a hard time when I can’t get ahold of her because all I want is to be involved and I just want to be there for her and I want to be as much a part of her life as I can. And so I think honestly it just comes back down to having the faith and knowing that she is in the right place. She’s living her life the way that needs to happen just for her. And so that has helped me a lot.

Audrey: 35:21 That is helpful. How do you talk to your kids about this arrangement? We’re talking about Ellie who’s she’s the one who’s back and forth and then you’ve got these two little ones that are with you all the time.

Ashley Machele: 35:33 Yeah, well honestly they don’t know any different. This has always kind of been our situation for them and so they absolutely love it when she comes. And whenever we FaceTime her, whenever she gets on the phone with us, they just light up and they love it. But it’s funny because now that they’re getting a little bit older, they’re asking and they’re like, “Oh, so you were married to someone else, who is my Stepdad? Who’s my step mum?” And so we’ve always kept this open dialogue with our kids. It’s never been a conversation where we felt like we needed to sit down and talk to them. It’s just natural. And as it progresses we just talk about it as they ask the questions.

Audrey: 36:11 Yeah, we had Nicole Qualin who’s a collaborative divorce attorney in North Carolina on. And the thing that I loved the most that she said to us was that normalizing divorce doesn’t make it like contagious or more common. And I think that’s sort of like the approach-

Ashley Machele: 36:29 I love that.

Audrey: 36:29 … That you’re taking with your kids. It’s like, you know what, this is normal and it gives them the space to feel comfortable and happy. And the truth is there is no reason for them to feel shame about it or to think this is different than what other people are going through. And I think we talked a lot about stigma before and I think sometimes we might feel like we need to come up with excuses for things like that. And I think that’s a really, that’s a great service you’re giving to your kids to give them, “No, this is how it is. Then it’s fine.” It’s not like let’s sit down and have a family discussion. This is just, this is how it is. So what tips do you have for listeners who haven’t gotten to the splendid part of their story quite yet and they’re dealing with a high conflict ex? We hear a lot of stories about high conflict ex in our Facebook groups.

Ashley Machele: 37:26 Yeah, it’s so common. So the very first thing that I would say is to treat it like a business relationship. As soon as you take the emotion out of it and you realize that you’re communicating with someone for a purpose, that really helps a lot because you look at it from a different angle and you think about how you would be speaking to someone in a professional way. And even though they might be badgering, you or saying that things or trying to trigger you, you have control over your response and so to just shut it down and say, look, you’re not going to get that back from me because when you fight back, that’s giving them what they want and that’s feeling their fires. So to just be able to shut that down and say, “Look, I’d love to discuss this issue with you, the specific issue with you. What is your schedule like? When can we talk?”
I have questions already lined up and what you’re going to speak on, and all those topics so that you can stay on track when you’re having that dialogue. A lot of that eliminates the emotional response that a high conflict ex is looking for.

Audrey: 38:31 It simmers the heat down.

Ashley Machele: 38:34 Right. And even though internally you might be wanting to respond and another good thing, another good tip that I always say is you can type that text out. Just don’t send it. It’s not going to feel good to hit send in the long run, it’s not making any progress. It’s not doing anything good for you. It’s fine to feel that, but witness it and move forward and just say, look, I realized that I’m angry. Why am I feeling angry and get that emotion out. You can move through that emotion without acting on it.

Audrey: 39:07 One of the things that I always write this in our Instagram captions that if you are angry, I’m 100% sure that you have every right to be angry. So it’s not just like notice the anger, but give it its honor. Girl, you can be angry, but then take a breath and realize that that anger is not going to serve you or your child and type it out and delete it.

Ashley Machele: 39:32 Exactly. Yeah.

Audrey: 39:34 I think that’s really helpful advice. So now I guess this is taking a step towards the splendid part of things. How do you recommend people introduce their kids or their ex to new step parents and siblings and all of the blended bliss that comes with the fresh start?

Ashley Machele: 39:56 I think it totally depends on your situation, how old your kids are. How long have you been divorced, how long have you been separated? Everyone’s story is so different and that’s why I love doing one on one calls with my clients because I get to know them and their unique situation before giving advice that I would say honestly do what feels natural and good for you. Keep your family’s best interest in mind and always err on the side of caution. If you don’t feel like this is something that’s long term or if there’s anything that you’re hesitating about, I would say take a step back and decide what’s going to be best for your family in the long-term and just do what feels best for you.

Audrey: 40:38 And you mentioned that you are working with clients and I just think it’s such an incredible thing that you’re able to help women who are going through what you’ve been through. So what does that mean to you?

Ashley Machele: 40:51 To me it means connecting on a deeper level. I really feel like when you have that common ground, it’s so much easier to open up and share and talk to someone who’s been there and it’s just this genuine conversation that happens and it’s discussion and it’s talking about what you need in that situation at that moment. Because I’ve been there. I mean it’s been 10 years, this long process that I’ve gone through and I felt like everyone has this part of their journey that defines them and these challenges that are life changing. And I don’t think that you should go through that alone. And it’s not something that you can talk to anyone about. Even your close family members, if they haven’t been through it, they don’t understand.

Audrey: 41:40 That’s something we see people writing in our Facebook group too, like my family and my friends have been great. They’re doing everything they can, but there’s just some things that they just don’t get.

Ashley Machele: 41:50 Exactly. Right. And so that just common connection that we have is so empowering to just be able to spit and have a conversation with someone who knows what you’re going through, it’s amazing.

Audrey: 42:01 Well, I have to say, I’ve been a fan of yours for a while and I think what you’re doing is incredible. But after this conversation-

Ashley Machele: 42:01 Thank you.

Audrey: 42:09 … I’m just head over heels in love with you Ashley.

Ashley Machele: 42:11 Oh, thank you.

Audrey: 42:12 I’m just so in awe of your strength and you know before I was talking about how I’m sure that if you’re angry, I’m sure that you have every right to be angry, but for you really do. I mean you really, really were dealt a raw hand and you have overcome so much and you’re setting such an amazing example for your kids and being able to build bridges and what really must have seemed like an impossible situation is really I think heroic and I’m so glad that I get to share your story with our Worthy Women and we would love to have you back on whenever you would like.

Ashley Machele: 42:52 Thank you so much.

Audrey: 42:53 Yeah. So why don’t you tell our listeners where they can find you and how they can work with you.

Ashley Machele: 42:57 Yeah, absolutely. So my website is www. oursplendidlife.com and I have resources and support on there as well as my blog. So I share more of my story on there and on Instagram, my Instagram name, you can type in, our splendid life. It will pull up, but the handle is actually Ashley Michelle and I just share my story in there, but I also offer one on one coaching calls. I have a course coming up, that I’ll be launching really soon. It’s going to be amazing and I’m really excited for other resources that we’re generating.

Audrey: 43:28 Yeah, well, we are so excited to watch your business grow and thrive-

Ashley Machele: 43:28 Thank you.

Audrey: 43:32 … And we’re so excited to bring your story to our listeners and we look forward to having you back.

Ashley Machele: 43:39 Thanks so much.

Audrey: 43:42 Thanks again to Ashley for joining us and to all of you for listening. Next week, one of your favorites will be back. Aaron Levine of Hello Divorce will be joining us to talk about keeping your divorce on track when it feels like you’re stuck in the middle. We hear from so many of you in our Facebook group about how hard this process can be and we know how much you love Aaron, so we’re really hoping this episode is going to be as helpful to you as the first time she was on a few months ago. Make sure you subscribe so you can catch every new episode of divorce and other things you can handle in your feed weekly. If you like what you hear, rate and review us to help other women like you find us.
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Worthy Staff

The Worthy Blog is a place for inspiration, insight, and advice for all things surrounding life's greatest transitions - divorce, losing a loved one, retirement, and so much more. You can find us on our blog, Instagram, and Facebook.


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