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How to Stay Friends With Your Ex After Divorce
I have a good friend of mine and it’s been a long time coming. My guest is Jennie Bellinger and she’s awesome. She is a dynamic sales coach and trainer. I know you’re wondering what this has to do with divorce, but I’m going to explain it to you. Direct sales representatives hire her to increase sales, grow their team with active and successful team members and to live the life they post about on Facebook. She started her professional career in direct sales in 2010 and steadily rose within her company to a position of leadership that was recognized internationally for team growth in sales. Jennie is a mother of two young ladies, co-parenting them with their wonderful father and soon-to-be her future wasband. How are you?
I’m good. Thank you. I love your little intro. You’re like, “I can’t believe how good this is.”
I’ve wanted you to come on for so long. We’ve been crazy and busy, both of us. I’m sorry that I’ve been delaying this, but you are awesome. I can’t wait for everyone to know what you do. Although you’re a direct sales coach and a trainer and people are probably like, “What are you doing here?” By the time we’re done with this, everyone’s going to understand. First of all, welcome. What are you doing?
I’m just keeping busy. I’m working my business, I’m being a mom, a girlfriend and a future ex-wife because we have wasband, but we don’t have a waswife.
I don’t think of one.
We’ve got to think of a good one. I co-parent with my future wasband and going through life.
That’s how we met. We started talking about co-parenting, how good we both do it and how we believe in co-parenting. It evolved into, “What do you do?” You were telling me that you are a business coach and I’m like, “I could probably use you one day.”
It’s not just business coaching because when I decided to go into the coaching field, I came from the world of direct sales and I had hired a business coach. In my last full year, I was truly in the business. What I found was that was also around the time when I was going through the beginnings of realizing that this marriage wasn’t going to work. I wasn’t sharing any of that with my coach because she was my business coach. I realized that that held me back in my business because I wasn’t sharing my entire life and we weren’t working on these different parts.
When I started researching how to get certified as a coach, I intentionally chose a coaching program that was a whole person program because people that were in direct sales don’t have a place to go to work. Their entire life bleeds together. Their business bleeds in with family, with friendships and their financial situation, all of it. It’s all an amalgamation of their life, so I can’t just coach on one thing. I went and got training in helping the whole person. That way, I can work with my clients and they can feel comfortable knowing that I’ve got a psychology background and I’m certified as a coach. I’ve got all of this background training that helps them not just with their business, but also with communication and their relationships. That’s my entire background and I felt that was important.
When I started getting my business head-on and decided to start doing what I’m doing, I had to hire a life coach and business coach, which I wish I would have known you then. I was paying them separately and they didn’t work together. I felt like it was disconnected. There was no connection there, so what you’re doing is awesome.
Thank you. I love that my clients seem to be jiving with it.
If you wanted to find someone, what do you call yours?
My business name is Level Up Coaching. I’m based out of the St. Louis area, but my certification came from a school called the Center for Coaching Certification. That’s what I wanted to get in. That’s where I ended up getting my certification because I wanted that whole-person focus. If somebody is wanting to work with someone like me, you can google me, Level Up Coaching, LLC and then you’ll see my picture on my website. You can’t miss me.
Let’s say that someone wants to start a new company, what do they use you for?
Usually, the people who are hiring me are people who are already in direct sales or have been in direct sales for generally a year or two. Some of my clients have been in for a lot longer and they have larger teams. They’re hiring me because they need help with number one, accountability. When you’re in business for and by yourself, you haven’t got a boss to give you deadlines or hold you to a deadline. That’s what a coach can do for you. I’m also helping them, especially those who are in leadership positions with leadership development. We’re going through and figuring out where are the areas in which they’re deficient in leadership and then working together to find programs, books, podcasts or whatever that they can listen to in helping build that area of leadership for them. I’m also working with them to train their teams. That way, we’re trying to get all of their people. When you’re in direct sales, you’re an independent business owner. You aren’t the boss when you’re in a leadership position and you can’t fire anybody. If they don’t do anything and they don’t get paid, but you can’t do anything about that.
What I do is when I work with these leaders, is I get in and train their teams, so we can all move forward. Number one, make sure we’re all on the same boat. Number two, start rowing in the same direction because if you have fifteen people on your team all rowing in fifteen different directions, the boat is going to go a whole lot of nowhere. If you’ve got fifteen people going, “We’re all going to row in this direction,” then everybody moves forward. No one gets left behind if you’ve got everyone working together. I don’t just work with my clients, but I also work with their teams, which is a marketing thing. That’s also great for me because then that introduces me to my next clients.
One leads into the other because they see how fabulous you are and then they want you, too.
That’s my goal.
I’ve heard a rumor around town that you’re also starting a podcast. Is this correct?
There’s also a method to your madness there, too, because this is what you do for a living. We’re talking about something cool that you wanted to share with us.
First of all, my podcast is based on the Facebook community that I started for direct salespeople who are hardcore about their business and want to whip it into shape. The community is called Badass Direct Sales Mastery and the podcast is going to be called Badass Direct Sales Mastery. I’ve already got nine episodes recorded. I’ve got a ton of episodes recorded and I just have to figure out how to get them uploaded and do all that fun stuff because I don’t know how to do any of that.
I know someone who can help you.
It’s not like I don’t know people, you’ve got to be in a position where you can pay them. When you know the best in the business and they know who they are because they’re going to listen to this one. You’ve got to be in a position where you can pay those people. Otherwise, I’m just going to have to YouTube it and learn how to do it.
We know the best and we have people.
My goal with that is to have my community share the podcast, which podcasts are free. It’s a way for them to get me in front of their people and say, “This is my coach.” If you’re in my community, you’re my client. It is my job to work with you.
When I first started podcasting, people in my age group didn’t realize that podcasts were free. Is that crazy? I had a lot of friends who were like, “How much is it? Where do I get the subscription? Where do I find it?” I was like, “Oh no.”
It’s totally free. It’s like a radio but you need to pick it.
Do you know that little purple if you have an iPhone? It’s a start app that comes with your phone. I’m making fun, but I didn’t realize that either until I went to the New Media Summit and they taught me that. I was like, “It’s on my phone.” It cracks me up how much I’ve learned and evolved in a year. It’s right there in front of you and podcasting is free, which is such a great way to spread the word and get the good stuff out there. That’s a great idea.
It lets people get to know who I am and how I work. Certainly, it gives me the opportunity to also help the people who I’m interviewing shine because the people that I’m interviewing for this are people who are being successful in the direct sales world. They are leaders or they are people who’ve been doing it for more than five years. The Federal Trade Commission statistic out there shows that 90% of people who start direct sales are out of it in five years or less. What I’m looking for when I interview people is they need to preferably be in business for at least three years because that’s another big cutoff point by the FTC in terms of how quickly people are in and out. I prefer to talk to people who’ve been in for 5, 10, 15 and 20 years. One of the people I interviewed, she has been in direct sales since before I was born. She worked for some of the direct sales companies on the corporate side, so she had a unique point of view. She was able to say, “When those of us in direct sales feel this way about our company, where are they coming from on your end? Now, you’ve seen both sides of the curtain.” She’s been the man behind the curtain.
Is this always what you did when you were married?
I coached when I was in direct sales, I just didn’t know that’s what I was doing. Does that make sense?
I was working with my team members in that way because of my college degree, I’ve got a Bachelor in Psychology with a Minor in Interpersonal Communications.
I went to Truman State University in the Northeast Missouri area. That’s my background, but then I also became a teacher, so I’ve got an education.
Did I know that about you?
Maybe not. It’s only 5 or 6 years of my life. With the psychology, communication and education portion, what I ended up doing with my team members, without knowing it, I was coaching them. I didn’t know that’s what I was doing. I got married right as I became a teacher. My first year teaching was my first year where I was Mrs. Bellinger. I did that for five years and I took a couple of years off. I went into my direct sales business for seven while I was married and a mom. I was working from home and also had my husband at the time. One of the things that I ended up finding was when I went through the coaching certification process was it unintentionally changed me. It fundamentally changed who I am, what my goals are and what I’m looking for out of life. Now, I had some specific goals for what I wanted out of life, not just for my business, but for my own personal. We weren’t on the same page anymore. It’s not that he didn’t grow, he just grew in a different direction as well.
Did you already have kids at this point?
Yes. We had two little girls, but when I had the conversation saying, “We need to redefine this relationship,” because that’s what it is. I said, “We haven’t been married for almost three years.” We’re good friends and we’re good co-parents, but we haven’t been married. We weren’t fighting. We were friends. I said, “I’m not saying that our relationship has to change at all. We’re just telling the state that we are, which is not married.” That’s all. I think that was hard for him.
I bet that was hard for him because he probably didn’t feel the same way you did, do you think?
No, I don’t think he did it and his side is not my story to tell whether or not he’d ever be willing to come on and tell it to people.
We could have both of you.
For me, it was saying, “Can we just call a spade a spade?” I don’t want the relationship to change.
You didn’t want it to end up fighting. I never wanted it to get to a place where we hated each other.
That’s exactly where I could see that going. I was getting frustrated because it’s not that we didn’t have multiple conversations about what we need from the marriage. We did over the course of that 2.5 to 3 years. We had conversations about, “Is this going where we wanted to? These are my needs and these are my wants.” What we ended up finding out was we had different needs and wants. We’re two different people.
Being a coach, do you think that you’ve got to dig deeper into your person, into who you were and he wasn’t doing that digging into his emotions? Do you think that it’s just someone that’s different?
That’s potentially part of it because in order to go through the certification process, we had to be coached on the same process. Even in that short time of coaching with the person that I coached with, I had some major realizations. I got certified in February of 2017. It was in January of 2018 where I had the conversation.
Not that it’s a sexist like men versus women, but a lot of us, females, we’re more open to therapy and we’re more emotional beings. I know that I’ve done a lot of self-work on myself even my divorce itself, that some men don’t ever want to go there. They don’t get there to that place.
For me, it was getting to know myself better. It was also the age that I was because when women get closer to a milestone age, which in 2017, I turned 40. As I was approaching 40, it was a milestone birthday, so I told my husband. Normally for my birthday, I will plan my own party. I don’t give a damn. I will invite all my friends, my family and I will have a party. That’s what I want. When I turned 30, I said, “It’s up to you to plan the party,” and he did. When it’s time for me to turn 40, I said, “I need you to plan my party again because it’s a milestone birthday,” and he didn’t do it.
Why do you think that was? Was he like, “Damn it. I’m not doing it?”
I don’t know. I can’t speak to why and I don’t think he knew how important it was to me, which is surprising because he knew how big 30 was for me. He knew that I wasn’t going into 40 freaking out. The older I get, the more comfortable I feel with myself.
Staying Friends After Divorce: If you are not yet in the position to pay people to do your podcast for you, have to YouTube it and learn how to do it.
I feel like 40 is a big deal because my 40th birthday was the last party my ex-husband threw for me. He threw this huge, crazy party for me and we were separated the next year.
My best friend is Virginia Muzquiz and you’ve got to meet her. Virginia calls him up and she says, “What’s the plan?” He’s like, “Plan for what?” This is three weeks before my work. He had done nothing, hadn’t picked a place, and hadn’t started inviting anybody. She ended up at the last minute, throwing my birthday party for me because she was like, “This is her birthday.” She knew how big of a deal it was for me.
He was saying something. That was definite.
He was and it was a subconscious thing for him. He realized that we weren’t where we were.
As a divorce coach, I’m saying he was making a statement.
He didn’t even know he was doing it. He was completely subconscious and he doesn’t have a malicious bone in his body.
That’s nice that you can say that though, isn’t it?
I do feel that you guys separated at a good point where you can’t say anything negative about him because you’re still friends. It’s good.
We both read the Conscious Uncoupling book. How are we going to do this in such a way? We had the conversation on January 2018 and we’re still living together. We created a space for him in the basement. He’s got his own mini apartment, but of course, we share the kitchen upstairs. He’s not much of a cook, so I do a lot of cooking, but I’ve also been teaching him.
This is why you’re here. It’s good for you.
That’s what I wanted to share. Many people, when I tell them that, they’re like, “You guys have been separated so where does he live?” I’m like, “In the basement.”
Is there no chance of you staying together?
Are you sure? I could give you my book and maybe you will.
Don’t read my book.
Jennifer, let me tell you the reason I know that that’s never going to happen, I have a new guy and not only that, he moved in.
Shut up your mouth. This is like the best podcast ever. Jennie, this is my favorite podcast of all time.
We are making it work.
I’m proud of you. How is this happening?
We’ve been dating for almost a year. We started seeing each other for a little while and then got serious last May. You knew about him last April when we went to New Media. We had started talking, but nothing had happened until May.
Someone sent you beautiful flowers.
He sent me flowers. That’s when I first was like, “Something is going on here.”
You just started talking and I think you were friends even.
I was like, “This might go somewhere.” For the last few months of last year, we were spending time together and he was spending multiple nights at my house. He was paying rent on an apartment that he was barely using. He was almost never there. We want to be together. We know that we’re serious enough at this point that we want to do this. I had a conversation with my almost wasband and I said, “Here’s the deal. This could make things better financially for us. I know it’s going to be a hard, weird and awkward situation, but in the end, this could be better for everybody. Are we willing to give it a shot?”
How are the kids?
The kids are totally fine. They see all three of us getting along. We all have dinners together. On the weekends, we have breakfast together.
This is rare, Jennie. People look at me and my ex-husband and they can’t believe how well we get along. My kids say to me, “Mom, you guys are divorced. Stop being friends. It’s annoying already.” My friends are like, “How are you guys best friends?” My boyfriend is friends with Mark and we’re all friends. It’s rare that people have this. This is amazing.
I realized how rare and unusual this is, but it’s also a situation where it works for us, so I’m okay with it. We’ve had a couple of instances of people being judgy about it and judgy is not fun.
I’m going to put that as your tagline for my thing.
If that’s how they choose to live their life, that’s how they choose to live their life.
You can’t get away from judgy people. Everyone has it.
I limit my time around them.
You’ve got those people to the curb. If anyone gets judged, “You’re talking to a girl get judged and that’s my life.”
I realized that the way I live my life, I’ve never based on how I live my life off of what other people think.
You have to be authentic to yourself, real and you have to own what you are.
I’m the one who has to live it. Anybody who’s judging about it, I approach the judginess by saying, “You’re welcome to your opinion, but I don’t want to hear it.” I’m nice about it. At first, if they continued to try and push their judgy on me, then I have to have the conversation.
They’re not your people. They might be having their own thing going on, too, but if I’ve learned the hard way through these divorces that my friends who are my friends are still my friends for a reason and the ones who aren’t are just not my people.
Trust me when I tell you I know who my tribe is and as I was getting ready to go through this, I put together a goddess council, a term I stole from Virginia. She meant it as a group of women who surround you and I said, “No, I have too many men in my life who are supportive of me. The goddess council means that I’m the goddess and you all counseled me.” That was my support system by going through all of that.
It’s hard and I feel like sometimes, married people don’t get it. Everyone needs to lighten up a little bit and take it easy on us because it’s hard. It is difficult.
Luckily, the few people who’ve been judgy aren’t people who are major components in my life. One of my parents is less supportive of the situation than the other, but that’s because his experience has been different. He doesn’t understand what we’re doing. My dad has his image in his head of how divorce is. I’m like, “That’s true for other people,” but you have to remember who’s involved. Do I ever do anything conventional?
Everything is individually based. I’m judged all the time because I’m not blending families. You haven’t read my book yet but in my book Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda., I talk about how Jim, my boyfriend and I, we’ve been dating for a couple of years. We’re just not blending our families and people are like, “What do you mean you’re not blending your families? How can you not blend them?” I’m like, “It’s what we’re doing. We’re choosing not to blend our families.” You have to own the space you’re living in and be okay with that.
We are perfectly happy with how things work at the moment. That doesn’t mean that it’s the best possible situation. Of course, not, but in the end, we are making it work. We have a crap ton of communication and respectful communication.
If it has to change, you will change. If down the road it’s not working and you need to readjust, then you will.
The ultimate goal is to get to the point where we’re living in separate situations. We don’t all want to be living together. I’m lucky that my boyfriend is understanding of the fact that I’m living with my wasband. At some point, my wasband is going to want a date. It’s not for him right now, but at some point, he’s going to want to and I find it hard that there’s going to be another woman out there who’s going to be okay with him living with me.
That was my problem, too. My ex-husband, it’s hard for him to find a woman who can put up with me. They’ll google me and they’re like, “No, I’m not going to have that. That’s enough right there.”
Luckily, most people love me. That’s not necessarily the case yet with my boyfriend and his ex because she’s not loving me. That’s okay because she doesn’t know me yet. I can’t imagine that she’s quite where she wants to like me yet. He is where she is and that’s okay. He’s got kids and I’ve got kids. Our goal is to get to the point where we’re all playing nicely in the sandbox where we might all be together.
I wish you the best. You didn’t tell me about all this good stuff for my podcast.
I tried and I wanted to. I said I want to share my story. Honestly, up until not long ago, it wasn’t this “juicy.”
Can you tell everybody where to find you?
The easiest way is to find me on Facebook, I’m Jennie Bellinger. For any of your readers who happen to be in direct sales, if they’ve read some things in the podcast where they go, “This is the coach I want to work with to help me grow my business.” They can check me out. Go to Facebook.com and look for Badass Direct Sales Mastery. BDSM is the easiest. I’m the direct sales DOM. I help them with their business into shape. If that sounds like somebody that they would like to work with, they can come check me out at Badass Direct Sales Mastery and your readers are going to get to join for $1.
You get to join the Badass Direct Sales Mastery for $1.
It doesn’t even count as money if you’re doing it through PayPal.