Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Divorce Recovery Time and Why You Can’t Cheat the Clock

Divorce is the second most stressful life event, preceded only by the death of a spouse or child. That’s according to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale anyway. It rates a score of 73. Whatever that means.

My guilty secret is that it didn’t seem all that bad. There was one occasion - just the one time in the year since it happened that I really missed the guy.
I was packing his stuff up, not long after he’d left, and I took a dry, clean shirt off the radiator. It was a kind of mock dress shirt, with frills down the front, punctuated with gaudy, crass red stitching.

I always hated that shirt.

Suddenly the emotion hit, leaving me breathless with the intensity of it. It lasted all of five seconds, and then I was fine, shaken more by the surprise of feeling that way, than the feeling itself.

Five seconds after seven years.

It felt like a fair trade off. “This must be how normal people feel,” I thought, having been earlier chastised for an apparent lack of emotion.

If they do feel that way, if that five seconds segues into the 18 months to five-year period that is meant to make up divorce recovery time, then it has certainly earned its place on the winners’ podium of horrors.

Recovery time seems to span a large, variable timeframe for different people, but for everyone, the timeframe is longer than they would want. When I started looking it up, in the early days, I was defiant.

“Five years. Five years? It’s been three weeks, and I feel fine. Better than fine, great in fact.”
In reality, it’s only now, a year later, that I can look back and realise that I didn’t feel all that good. It’s hard to pinpoint why I felt so bad, when ultimately, and even with the benefit of hindsight, the overriding feeling was one of relief.

It’s possibly a defence mechanism: knowing you’re going to feel that terrible for that long wouldn’t aid any kind of recovery process.

And what is recovery? It can’t be a return to previous form? That would be some kind of regression. You have to adapt to your circumstances, and that means change. Maybe that means becoming a happier person, more capable of dealing with problems, more able to navigate through the daily minefields with less anxiety. It certainly involves becoming more self-sufficient, even if the impression of having support and back up was nothing more than an illusion.

Getting to this point is not easy: while I seem to have had it easier than most, it was a tough year. But having ridden out the worst of it, I can conclude that all the worst stuff is necessary. As the chimes ushering the end of 2013 rang out, I felt as though they took the last vestiges of the pain with them. My magic timeframe was pretty much twelve months exactly.

This couldn’t have been predicted by any kind of chart, experts or other anecdotal evidence. 
The time it takes is the time it takes. Unfortunately it seems that time itself is a process that can’t be bypassed, despite how much dating, soul searching or yoga you do. You have to wait it out. Sucks, but that’s just the way it works.

The worst thing is the backsliding. It happens, and you just have to accept it. This is apparently one of the things that hits a lot of people the hardest: you’re chugging along doing fine, and then it kicks you in the guts, as visceral as it is emotional. It’s a cruel intrusion into your belief that you were doing well, and stirs up all kind of worries, one of the more potent ones being the fear of insanity. It’s generally not insanity: and K├╝bler-Ross will back me up on that.

These intrusions become less and less regular, until suddenly they never happen, apart from on a minor scale. You may see a particular brand of marmalade on a supermarket shelf that sets off a synapse deep inside your brain somewhere, and makes you realise that the memories you carry with you will always be there on some level, but confronting them is no longer significant.
When the day arrives that you are genuinely able to look at the good times as good, the bad times as bad, and attach no meaning, importance or emotion to them, that’s probably a good indication that you’re pretty much there.
When that day arrives, you will probably be happy about how it all went down.


Tuesday, 19 March 2019

The secret to an amicable divorce or separation

Divorce is never easy. But, as this article from SSB Law explains, if you can find a way to come to an amicable agreement with your partner, you can save yourself a lot of time, money, stress and heartache. You’ll also make it a lot less painful for your children.

Divorce and separation is likely to be one of the most stressful times of your life. When you separate from your partner lots of changes happen at once, and you’re faced with so many as-yet-unknown factors, such as what will happen with your finances? And where will your children live?

The key to a less stressful and more amicable divorce (which is easier on everyone, and much less expensive) is to approach it in the right way. Keeping the process non-confrontational is likely to lead to longer lasting solutions.

To help you and your partner reach a more amicable agreement, Family law solicitor Angela Lally shares her advice.

An amicable divorce is better for everyone

The more that you can agree on with your partner, the better. If an agreement is reached between you about how the finances will be divided and what arrangements will be put in place for your children, you’ll retain control over your own lives without having the decision made for you by a court.

While an amicable approach may not always be possible and certainly there can be a lot of anger and anxiety involved in separation, if you are able to identify the issues and work towards an amicable solution this is more likely to result in a less painful separation.

If you have children together, you’ll remain a part of each other’s lives going forwards (you may be separating from each other, you do not cease being parents and being involved in decisions regarding your children’s future) so the more you are able to get on and agree, the better.

If your children see that you are getting on, it will make the process easier for them to cope with and come to terms with too.

Get your emotions in check first

One of the first points to consider is the emotional aspect of the separation. This is not dealt with by the legal process, but if you can come to terms with your emotions, it will help you to deal with the other aspects of your separation, such as finances and children, more easily.
Without your emotions clouding the issues, you can make more practical and informed decisions.

It’s a good idea to get help from a counsellor early on. A professional who is experienced in dealing with relationship breakdowns will help to guide you in the right direction, before things become bitter.

The three parts of separation

The process of separation can be broken down into the following parts:

1) What are grounds for divorce?

If you decide that the marriage should be brought to an end, either you or your partner can issue a petition for divorce in the court.

It’s not possible to end your marriage simply by saying there are ‘irreconcilable differences’ – you need to prove that it has broken down irretrievably by relying on one of five grounds set out by the law. These are:

Unreasonable behaviour.
Two years’ separation with consent.
Five years’ separation.

So the only ‘no fault divorce’ is based on two years’ separation with consent, or five years’ separation.

You may feel that you cannot move on with your lives until you are divorced. Also, if you want to have a final financial agreement (or to ask the court to make a decision about finances) then there would have to be divorce proceedings underway.

If you have to rely on the ground of unreasonable behaviour, try and keep matters amicable by attempting to agree to the wording of the particulars of behaviour with your partner. The allegations could be kept as mild as possible.

2) How can you make it easier on your children?

Sit down and explain the situation to your children in language they can understand. Reassure them that you’ll continue to be their parents, and that they should not feel that they are in any way to blame for the separation.
Try to agree where your children will live, and how often they will see the other parent. 

Sometimes a shared care arrangement can be put in place.
The idea is to decide what works for you as parents, and what’s in your children’s best interests. No two families are the same so what works for one family may not work for you.

There are other factors such as work, child care and so on to factor in. The more you can agree on, the better. Also bear in mind that there needs to be flexibility. What works for your children when they are young may not work as they get older and as their commitments with school and friends changes.

If you agree the arrangements, there is nothing else you need to do – the court doesn’t need to approve them. You can record what you’ve agreed in a parenting plan which can help set out your expectations regarding the arrangements.

Advice from a relationship coach

Relationship coach Danielle Barbereau has the following advice to help minimise the impact of your divorce on your children:

Divorce is difficult for children. Do not use them as pawns or messengers. Never make them take sides, no matter how you feel about their father or mother. (This applies to children of all ages, including adult children.)

When children are young, they are likely to feel that the divorce is their fault. It is absolutely essential to reassure them that it is not the case and this comes before your own needs, at all times.

It’s okay to show sadness, but remember who is the adult and who is the child and behave accordingly. Not doing so does not attract any respect from anyone; neither will it solve anything, but it is sure to stress the child.

Even if teenagers look (and think they are) grown up, they are still children and you are responsible for their welfare, not the other way round. Always remember that children are the innocent party.

Keep the high ground, and make sure that you speak of your former partner with respect and facilitate access and contact (this does not apply if there has been domestic or sexual abuse, or if you have definite knowledge that your children are frightened of them).

Work on your self-esteem, learn to steady yourself when you feel upset (a relationship coach can help you through the worst).

Answer all your children’s questions according to their age.

And finally for you – retain a sense of gratitude and fun, don’t jump into another relationship and trust that the bad times will pass.

3) How should you separate your finances?

During your marriage you may have acquired assets such as a house, pension or savings. And when you separate, these assets are usually divided up.

The most stress-free way of dealing with matters is to agree between you who will have what. If you can’t then you may need someone to help you reach an agreement, such as a mediator or a specialist family solicitor.

There’s nothing set in stone stating who should have what, but generally speaking the longer the marriage, the more the law looks towards an equal division.

If you reach an agreement directly between yourselves or with the help of a mediator or solicitor, it’s a good idea to put the agreement in writing. This is called a Consent Order and once it has been approved by the court, there’s no going back on it (except in very rare circumstances). It finalises financial claims. Divorce itself does not end financial claims.

What if you can’t agree on a financial split?

If you are unable to agree, then you can ask a judge to decide. This is when it can become more costly. The judge will want to know what everything is worth (the value of the house, pension, business etc). Once all the figures are known, the judge will help you to negotiate a settlement.

Even when the court is involved, there is an emphasis on encouraging the couple to settle. Ultimately the judge can make a decision at a final hearing.

How to divide up your assets

So what things should you consider after you split up and are trying to divide assets? Start by making a list of what you’ve got, both jointly and in your sole names.

You should also take into account debt you have and decide whether this is ‘marital debt’ (debt you have accrued jointly during the marriage).

Try to agree on a value for the house and work out what is outstanding on the mortgage (if you’re unsure of value of your home, you could ask a local estate agent for an informal market appraisal).

Pensions are more complex. The value of the pension pot is the starting point but this does not always accurately reflect what the pension is worth, so often a pension expert is required to give an opinion as to how the pension should be shared and, if there are multiple pensions, what’s the best way of sharing them.

And finally, there is the issue of income. The person with main care of the children is entitled to child maintenance, but may also be entitled to spousal maintenance if there is a difference in your incomes.

Using mediation or collaborative law

If you’re struggling to agree then you can try mediation or the collaborative law process. This helps open up the channels of communication and facilitate an agreement. Court is the last resort and should only be used if you are unable to agree.

Family mediation is a process of resolving legal issues in a non-adversarial way. You negotiate your own settlement with the assistance of a mediator. This is based on the assumption that a decision to separate and/or divorce has already been made.

Don’t confuse mediation with counselling or marriage guidance. The aim is to help you reach an agreement in relation to issues arising out of the breakdown of the relationship.

Collaborative law allows you to meet together with your respective solicitors to discuss things reasonably and come to decisions together around the table.

Meetings usually take place at the solicitor’s office but with sufficient notice alternatives can be arranged – perhaps at a more neutral place. In this environment any issues can be discussed and hopefully resolved with future plans and division of assets being talked through in a calm and reasonable way.

When should you get legal advice?

It can be a good idea to get advice at an early stage to help clarify the issues and point you in the direction of a settlement.

If you’ve had legal advice from a family solicitors shortly after separation, you may feel more able to reach an informed decision about the arrangements for the children and the division of the matrimonial assets.


Monday, 18 March 2019

Finding Happiness After Divorce isn’t a Possibility, it’s a PROBABILITY

Ask any newly separated man or woman if he or she thinks finding happiness after divorce is possible, and the answer you get will involve a grim outlook.

“Who knows?” they will might say with their head down, their eyes possibly filling with tears. “I haven’t thought that far ahead. I’m just thinking about how to survive RIGHT NOW I hope so.”

I think finding happiness after divorce is not a possibility, but rather a PROBABILITY, and I can say that because of the dozens of divorced men and women I have seen go from sad, weary, scared, frustrated, furious and depressed to happy, self-confident, strong and madly in love! Seriously.

I want to give an example, which happens to be my inspiration for this blog post. About a year ago, a ran into a friend of mine at the gym, and she told me she and her husband of 10 years were separating. They have two young kids. From what she said, my impression was that it was her husband’s decision. She teared up, and I felt sick about it because I just love this girl. It actually inspired me to write the blog, “12 things I wish someone would have told me when I was getting divorced.”

So, time goes on, and I continue to see her at the gym, always sad, always looking weary and defeated. It was a look that would make me want to cry. Yet, she kept going to the gym. In other words, she kept living her life.

We would talk every now and again, and she would tell me the usual divorce nightmare stories: she was worried about finances, she was scared she was going to be alone forever, she was worried about how her kids were going to handle this, she knew her husband was dating other women and was happy, etc. etc.

A few months ago, I happened to run into her soon-to-be ex, and I said hello. The first words out of his mouth were, “Yeah, everything’s great! I’ve lost 22 pounds!” he said, patting with pride what he thought was his six-pack. “I feel great!” Never asked how I was, how my kids were, and never said anything like, “Divorce is hard, I hope my kids will be okay,” etc. etc.
So, a few days ago, I ran into my friend. I hadn’t seen her in awhile, and I noticed she looked absolutely beautiful. And THIN! I told her so, and she smiled. “Thank you so much,” she said humbly. “I’ve lost 18 pounds.”

I asked how things were and she told me her kids were doing well, and that she changed jobs and loved her new position.

I then said to her, “You met someone, didn’t you?”

She turned bright red and said, “Oh my God! Yes! I did!!”

She met a man on a dating website who has two children and they are very happy. She said she’s not sure what’s going to happen, but right now, she’s just enjoying feeling loved and happy.

I hugged her and when I walked away, I felt like I could fly. Inspired beyond, but not surprised, as I see a story like my friend’s a lot.

But let me clarify, that it isn’t luck when it comes to finding happiness after divorce. The men and women I meet with a story like this are those who make good, selfless choices. Those who focus on their children, their career, and who do positive things to heal from their divorce. Instead of drinking, they workout, instead of playing the victim, they focus on fixing the problems they can control, and instead of wallowing in in sorrow and self-pity, they get off their butts and accept their new role. They get strong. They go out and make things happen to grab the life they want.

From all of those choices comes self-confidence, self-love and yes, eventually LOVE.
This girl reminds me of Cinderella, but the difference is, she was her own fairy Godmother. Happiness after divorce is PROBABLE for you, too!


Friday, 15 March 2019

How to co-parent after divorce

In Australia, around 21,000 divorces involving children occur annually. Separation and divorce can be an emotionally exhausting and difficult time, something which is recognised by the Family Court of Australia, which provides resources to assist people through the process.

Separation and divorce with children can be even more challenging, and many parents want to know the “right” way to parent now they’re no longer together.

A dominating narrative of children and divorce is around unfavourable outcomes of children whose parents have separated. But the assumption divorce is always bad for children is not correct.

Very little research has looked at “contented” separated parents’ experiences, so much of the negative outcomes for children are not based on positive post-separation parenting relationships.

Different possible arrangements

There are many ways separated parents arrange their living, and new terms are emerging to describe non-traditional arrangements. One such arrangement is “birdnesting” in which there’s a “family home” and a secondary home: the parents move between homes, with the children always remaining in the family home.

Birdnesting is dependent on financial resources though, and participants in our soon-to-be-published study into post-divorce relationships reported the choices about living arrangements were dependent on a range of factors such as work and educational requirements, and financial resources.

For most of the parents in our study, children split their time between two homes in a 50/50 arrangement across a fortnight. For some people, this meant “one week on, one week off” whereas other children moved from one parental home to the other mid-week.

Depending on the age and activities of the children, participants described being increasingly flexible in relation to the arrangement of care practices. As children age, their needs change. School holidays produce opportunities to be more flexible. New sporting or leisure activities out of school hours may require adjustments to existing arrangements to allow for travel.

For younger children, having their favourite toys with them in either parents’ homes was important so parents talked about always packing a bag with their favourite things to go across households.

What was evident in all of the positive care arrangements we examined, was that they didn’t stay static.

The degree to which parents in our study communicated with their ex partner varied: some described their ex partner as a “friend” or “family” and had a weekly social engagement with them. Others communicated via text or telephone. But all of the positive parenting arrangements described communication as important.

Advice for parents

Some of the first conversations separating parents have are around living arrangements and care practices. Who will take the child/ren to school? Who is responsible for transport? What happens on the child/ren’s birthday? These tangible questions are often useful to discuss at the first opportunity and provide a foundation upon which parents can negotiate when their child/ren’s needs change over time.

An optimal environment in which two people can parent is one where issues between them are set aside in order to see each other as allies in parenting. Given the lack of recognition positive post-separation parenting has in the research literature, we asked the participants in our study what was important for others to know.

While there were differences across the group in terms of specific parenting arrangements (around food, screen time, and so on) the parents had many messages in common:

  • be child-centred. See the world from your child’s perspective and be mindful of their needs. For example, if one parent begins a relationship with someone new, decide together how this will be introduced and the role the other parent has in navigating this
  • make decisions together. Decide together what practices and rules are important to keep consistent across households. Some decisions require a united front such as arrangements for birthdays, educational and other commitments as well as behavioural expectations
  • create the right atmosphere for your children through the way you talk about their other parent and the way you communicate with them. Children are good at picking up non-verbal cues and are aware of tension between parents. Think about what kind of household will allow your child/ren to thrive and feel emotionally supported
  • work at your relationship. Positive post-separation parenting relationships are not always evident in the beginning (after separation) but they can be something to work towards.
  • Things can change over time and although there may be an acrimonious separation, parents can and do change their interactions over time to create a positive parenting relationship
  • find what works for you. For some people being flexible and being friends works, whereas for others clear boundaries and expectations are important. Neither of these is the “right” way. Whatever works for you and your ex-partner is what’s important
  • go easy on yourself. It gets easier the more time passes from breaking up to re-establishing a relationship as co-parents. Go easy on yourself and keep the focus on being good parents.

Separation does not have to negatively affect your children’s outcomes or well-being. If both parents are committed to putting their differences aside in order to be the best parents they can be, there’s no reason children of divorce can’t grow up happy, healthy and well-adjusted.


Thursday, 14 March 2019

Positive Outcomes of Divorce

When marriages are untenable and there is nowhere else to go, in order to save your emotional and sometimes physical life, as well as secure the mental health and wellbeing of your children, sometimes the only place to go is "out."

Imagine that you're preparing your husband's favorite meal. He walks through the door at dinnertime and you greet him. Suddenly, and without any provocation at all, his mood changes. It's as if a dark cloud has come over the room. Your mind starts racing back, you wonder what did you say, what did you do? This scenario plays out over and over again in some marriages and can diminish self-esteem, wear down emotional resource, and kill your soul.

Or maybe you've hit a wall in your marriage. You've been here several times before with your spouse, and you both feel at wits' end. When marriages are untenable and there is nowhere else to go, in order to save your emotional and sometimes physical life, as well as secure the mental health and wellbeing of your children, sometimes the only place to go is "out."

It is at this moment, when you decide to change your life, to advocate yourself and your children, that a visit to a counselor, psychiatrist or psychologist is warranted.

Positive Outcome of Divorce #1: Self-Reflection and Self-Healing

With professional guidance you can discover what affected your choice of a mate and assure yourself that you will never make that mistake again. This self-reflection and self-healing is one of the most positive outcomes of divorce. By doing inner work, you can recognize and acknowledge your own patterns that led you to a dysfunctional relationship in the first place. Then, if you can integrate back into your psyche those early patterns from your family of origin, you can redeem them and never have to repeat them again.

At this time of greatest trauma, your defenses are cracked open, and for the first time in a long time you are your natural self. This is the undefended healthy core of your existence, and it is from this place of your natural resource that you can heal, renew and experience rebirth. By experiencing your authentic self, you will automatically build your self-esteem, depression will lift, and you are able to move into a happier and healthier lifestyle.

When you first fall in love, you may project onto the beloved your ideal: the best of who you are, those rose-colored glasses of your imagination. This is what we call a projection. However, by suppressing who you really are -- by going along to get along -- you are using up vital energy just to hold down your feelings.

You will still be compelled to move towards those old patterns that worked for you within your original family. However, because you are now conscious and aware, you will see red flags everywhere, and you have the opportunity, therefore, to override those impulses that compel you to move towards the wrong relationship and as a result make room for the right one. In essence, you're changing a habit, and as you grow and break your old habits, you allow yourself the opportunity to experience a different relationship with a new spouse. It's important to remember that we are different with different people.

This is restoration, how you bring yourself back to your full potential -- the you that you were meant to be. A healthy partner is the one who carries the positive characteristics of our opposite sex parent, and that's when second marriages can become fulfilling and mutual. Even your physical health can be restored.

Positive Outcome #2: Better Health

Now we know that telomeres, the little rings around your chromosomes that fall off as you age, also fall off when you are stressed. Miraculously, they can be restored through healthy lifestyle changes. Therefore, by releasing yourself from an unhealthy partnership, you not only can become healthier mentally and physically, but also add years to your life through happiness.

Positive Outcome #3: Self-Confidence and Empowerment

The first feeling you experience at the onset of divorce can be fear of the unknown. However, by moving into your fullest capacity, the real you, as I describe above, this will automatically rebuild your self-esteem, your sense of self, your capacity for intimacy, your creative energy and allow you to take back the power you surrendered in a poor relationship. In my work as a researcher, educator and human behavior expert, I've witnessed that poor marriages are often based on possessiveness, lack of intimacy, need for space and distance and need for control.

Positive Outcome #4: Giving Your Children the Gift of Modeling Healthy Relationships

Finally, as difficult as the process of divorce can be on your children, it also allows them to watch you make human mistakes -- and then grow from them. As you do your inner work and regain your true self, your children are watching, and they can learn the importance of valuing yourself. They also have the opportunity to learn how to properly behave and react should they find themselves in a similar situation down the road. And finally in the future, you can model, for your children, a true and healthy marriage.

The best relationships come out of strength, not weakness. When you are whole and know yourself, you will meet someone with whom you can be mutual. This is a marriage born of strength, not of lack. Once the negative and critical patterns of poor partnerships are released, you can expand into the undefended you. By rediscovering yourself, that inner you that you were before marriage, following your own rhythm of sleeping, being, staying home and going out, you act on your own behalf and by so doing find your own authority is empowered. This returns a sense of control, allowing you to grieve the past and embrace the future.


Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Anger Management: Why Let Go of Anger Towards Your Ex

Nine times out of 10 my clients come to me because they are angry and hurt at their ex because they feel betrayed by him or because in their mind he has done something wrong.
Whatever the situation is, it’s really important to let go of the bitterness, as the only person it really hurts is you. Below is a list of reasons why it is indeed bad to be bitter and why it’s important to let go.

1) Stops you from loving you

When we feel that someone has betrayed us there is a belief that states that “I would never have done that” or “I am not like that.” In truth we are everything and your ex is just a mirror of you. What you judge in him will usually be an indication that you judge that very thing within yourself and believe you are not.

Being this way will only keep your love of yourself at arms length and will stop you from making peace with yourself. This of course will give him the power and destroy your confidence. Why would you want to do that to yourself?
Instead, when you go into the habit of blaming him - change the statements that start with ‘he is so’ or ‘you are’ to ‘we are’ and see if you can find at least five examples where you are that way and find the benefits for each one.

2) Will lead to a toxic body

Holding onto any negative emotions takes more energy than letting them go. People who hold onto anger will usually find that they have less energy than those who don’t because negative emotions tend to have a more dense frequency.
Imagine for a moment that each factor that is causing you the bitterness is a big rock. Do you think you might feel weighed down if you keep on piling on the rocks? Of course you will.

Carrying these emotions on an ongoing basis will weaken and build up toxins in your body as it releases adrenalin - which suppresses the immune system, impairs digestion, uses up vital vitamins and minerals, causes pain and stiffness, makes your body acidic which results in inflammation all of which will help towards keeping you feeling worse.

Instead, find a way to purge your emotions by hitting a pillow, going outside and screaming your lungs out.

3) Will prolong your suffering

If you are still living in the past and focusing on what your ex has done to you, you wont be living in the present, which will guarantee depression and sadness. Living in the present is where you will experience happiness, as it is here that the suffering stops.

Suffering is only caused by your mind attaching itself to the story that you have created for yourself. If you keep holding onto the bitterness, the story will ensue and so will your obsessing. An event is just an event until you give meaning and energy to it.

Instead, change your story and the meaning you have given to the event. Give it a positive meaning so that you can shorten your suffering.

4) Will be more difficult to attract a new relationship into your life

If you are still holding onto the bitterness of the past you will either carry this bitterness will make it more difficult to attract a new relationship because the bitterness and attachment to your ex tends to the block the energy of receiving someone new into your life.

Holding onto the past, is like buying new clothes and not being able to fit them in your closet because all your old clothes take up all the room. The only way of to fit the new clothes in the wardrobe is to clear out the old. The same is true for letting in a new relationship.
Instead let go and make way for the new.

5) Increase the chances of ruining the next relationship

Without healing the wounds or dealing with the anger of the past, you will be more likely to take the anger and bitterness into the next relationship, if you do manage to attract a new one to you.

Again, being present in the relationship you find yourself in, will be challenging as you will want to vent to your partner, and living like this can be very tiring for them. Speaking from experience, I believe that the stress of an ex who was still bitter towards his ex, was one of the major reasons why our relationship died.

It will also make it more challenging to receive the love from your new partner, because you are still protecting yourself from the past. This once again, can be very tiring not only for your new partner but also for you.

In short it’s important to let go of the bitterness if you wish to find peace instead.


Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Emotional Coping and Divorce

Divorce is generally a stressful and unsettling event. At minimum, a major relationship is ending, all sorts of routines are upset, and in the midst of the stress of transition there are legal hoops to jump through before things can be resolved. Add in the volatile emotions that are frequently associated with divorce and you have a difficult situation indeed. In this section, we will talk about practical ways that divorcing people can cope with and make the best of their stressful circumstances.

There are really two sides to the divorce process; the human emotional side and the formal legal side. Different coping strategies and skills are appropriate to address each of these aspects of divorce.

Emotional Coping

Divorce can trigger all sorts of unsettling, uncomfortable and frightening feelings, thoughts and emotions, including grief, loneliness, depression, despair, guilt, frustration, anxiety, anger, and devastation, to name a few. There is frequently sadness and grief at the thought of the end of a significant relationship. There can be fear at the prospect of being single again, possibly for a long time (or even forever), and with having to cope with changed financial, living and social circumstances. There can be anger at a partner's stubborn obstinacy and pettiness, abuse, or outright betrayal. There can be guilt over perceived failures to have made the relationship work. There can be overwhelming depression at the thought of the seeming impossibility of being able to cope with all the changes that are required. Any and all of these emotions are enough to make people miserable, and to find them wanting to cry at 3am.

Painful as they are, these sorts of emotions are generally natural grief-related reactions to a very difficult life-altering situation. Though there is no 'cure' for these feelings, there are some good and healthy ways to cope with them so as to suffer as little as possible, and to gain in wisdom, compassion and strength from having gone through the experience. The emotional coping process starts with allowing one's self the freedom to grieve and ends with moving on with one's life.

Allow grieving to occur. Grief is a natural human reaction to loss. Grief is not a simple emotion itself, but rather is an instinctual emotional process that can invoke all sorts of emotional reactions as it runs its course. The grief process tends to unfold in predictable patterns. Most commonly, people move back and forth between a shocked, numb state characterized by denial, depression, and/or minimization of the importance of the loss, and outraged anger, fear, and vulnerability. The dialog between numb and upset continues over time as the person emotionally digests the nature of the loss. Ultimately, enough time passes that the loss comes to be thought of as something that happened in the past, and that is not a part of day-to-day life. Grief doesn't so much go away as it becomes irrelevant after a while.

Fighting grief is often counterproductive. Most of the time it is best to allow yourself to grieve in the ways that come naturally to you, at least part of the time. Eventually life comes back to 'normal' and the intensity of loss retreats. Different people take different amounts of time to go through their grief process and express their grief with different intensities of emotion. The amount of time people spend grieving depends on their personalities, and on the nature of their losses. Someone whose marriage was betrayed might take a longer time to work out their grief and to do it in a more vocal way than someone who chose to leave a marriage of their own accord. Someone who found out suddenly about their spouse's affair might grieve differently than someone who has watched their marriage deteriorate for years.
It is not realistic that grief over a lost marriage should be worked out in a month or even several months. Most people will continue to deal with the emotional ramifications of loss for many months, sometimes even several years. Several years is a long time, however; really too long to spend exclusively grieving when life is so short. People who find that grief has not for the most part abated after 12 months have gone by are strongly urged to seek the assistance of a professional therapist.

Choosing to move forward. While grief can be immobilizing at first, after a while, most grieving people find that, little by little, they are ready to move on with their lives. For a time, they may find themselves moving on and grieving at the same time. Over time however, if everything goes well, the grieving process loses steam and more energy becomes available for moving on with life. Discussion of the moving forward process is handled in a later section of this document.

Methods for coping with emotion

As a practical matter, there are a number of things that people can do to help themselves cope while grieving the loss of a marriage.

Prioritize. Unfortunately, life doesn't stop just because one is hurting. Despite grief, there will be chores that need doing and bills that need paying. There may also be any number of extraordinary tasks that must be accomplished during the transition from married to single person (such as finding an apartment, turning on utilities, changing addresses, etc.) which add to the general stress. Creating a list of such necessary chores can help to reduce their stressful impact on one's life. All chores should be placed on the list in the order of their importance. Starting with the most essential, each chore is then worked through and crossed off the list as it is completed. The simple act of prioritizing and checking off list items helps make sure that all necessary chores get accomplished, and further helps to generate a feeling of control over what might otherwise be experienced as unmanageable demands.

Put things away. As soon as it is practical to do so, start living as a single person again. Put old photographs and mementos away where you don't have to look at them all the time. Start paying your own bills and handling those aspects of life that your ex-spouse used to do for you. Limit your contact with your ex-spouse. In general, do what you can to confidently look forward towards the future, rather than backwards at your divorce.

Talk about it. Many grieving people find that their suffering is somewhat lessened when they are able to share their hurt feelings with a sympathetic audience. For this reason, it is often helpful for grieving people to tell trusted family and friends that they are getting divorced, and to request assistance from these trusted people as they are able to offer it. Finding someone who can and will listen and allow one to vent their hurt emotions and fears and offer comforting advice often proves very helpful. Not everyone is a good listener, however, and those who are will have lives of their own and may get fatigued over time, especially if one's grief process is not brought under control. Some friendships might also prove too fragile to survive one's divorce and will be lost in spite of best efforts. It is best to use judgment when deciding with whom to share, how much to share, and how often to share so as not to overly fatigue one's supports.

If existing supports prove inadequate, other support opportunities can be created by attending support groups or by working with a professional therapist.

Support groups are self-help meetings attended by people going through the same sorts of circumstances. Generally sponsored by community centers and religious institutions, divorce support groups provide a face-to-face forum where people in different stages of adjustment to their divorce come together to educate and support one another.

Online divorce support groups are also available 24 hours a day on the Internet, offering a less personal, but more accessible support format. One caveat with regard to online support forums is that they can be plagued by 'trolls' - people who are there to insult and ridicule legitimate members. Keep your thickest skin and sense of humor handy when using online supports.

Psychotherapy and counseling can also be excellent options for obtaining divorce support. A qualified therapist is a trained and empathic listener with an expert understanding of how divorce affects and changes lives. He or she will be able to provide a safe place where the divorcing person can vent their emotions and talk about their fears, especially those feelings that are too private and intense to talk about elsewhere. He or she will also be able to provide expert guidance on managing stress, grief, and self-defeating thoughts, remaining an effective parent to your children, and rebuilding an effective life in the aftermath of divorce. The 'chemistry' between therapist and client is important. It is often a good idea to interview one or more therapists prior to committing to work with any particular one so as to find one who feels safe and best appears to offer appropriate guidance.

Support yourself. In addition to seeking support and guidance from others, there are also good ways you can help yourself to cope.

Maintaining (or starting) healthy routines is a primary means of self-support that frequently gets overlooked. Divorce is a stressful time of change, and many of the good habits one has formed to help maintain health can be lost in the shuffle. At a personal level, making time to exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and eat regular healthy meals can help to preserve health and reduce the effects of stress. Keeping select important pre-divorce family routines intact (such as eating together as a family, or attending religious services) is also advisable as this continuity can be a comfort to all.

Keeping a journal of your thoughts and feelings as you go through your adjustment to being divorced can provide many benefits. Most pressingly, journaling allows a further outlet for emotional upset. Describing pain and the difficult situations being coped with in writing helps one to gain a better grip and perspective on those emotions and situations, both in each immediate situation described (it feels good to purge pent up feelings), and also across time as growth and movement become apparent. Journaling is cheap, requiring only a notebook and a pen, and can be done at any time of day or night, making it an ideal self-help strategy.
Distraction. Sometimes it's not enough to write or talk about how one is feeling. In such situations, being ready and able to distract one's self can be helpful. Watching a television show or movie, reading a book, surfing the net, exercising, cleaning the house, organizing files, and other attention-demanding tasks and chores can get one's mind away from painful feelings that otherwise might drag out into depression. It is helpful to prepare in advance a list of what needs doing, and to get copies of compelling books and other media handy so that when distraction is needed, it will be easy to pick something healthy or worth doing with which to distract one's self. Although television is always available, it is not necessarily the healthiest or more edifying choice.

Self-soothing. Divorced people are often wounded people, and wounded people need to be gentle and compassionate with themselves while they heal. Treating yourself to a few comforting and healing experiences you might not otherwise allow yourself can be in order. Massage, relaxation routines, a long bath or hot shower, or a plate of one's favorite food can help produce relaxation, calmness and a sense of being cared for, all of which can be balm for a bruised soul. Religious, yoga and meditation retreats, vacations, and similar excursions can have a similar effect. So long as finances allow and healthy routines do not get bent too much, such comforts and small extravagances can help smooth the healing process.

Explore dormant interests. In divorce, one door slams shut, and people tend to spend a lot of time adjusting to that closure. What they come to see after a while, however, is that when one door closes, others open. Divorce is thus a beginning as well as an ending, and a perfect opportunity to explore new interests. Finding one or more causes, clubs, fields, hobbies or projects one is interested in (and wants to work in/on) is beneficial in a number of ways. New interests capture attention and bring it into the present, away from a focus on the past. In so doing, they help people to start thinking of themselves as explorers and decision-makers and not simply as victims of circumstances outside their control. Exploring interests can make you happy and also help you to make new friends.

Avoid dangerous and self-defeating coping behavior. Divorcing people are often wounded people, and wounded people sometimes hurt so much that it clouds their judgment. When one is hurting, one can be tempted to do most anything that promises to remove the pain. The problem is that some solutions for removing pain work well in the short term, but can be dangerous in the medium and long terms. Failure to use judgment in deciding how one will cope with emotional hurt can result in negative, sometimes severely negative, outcomes:

  • Avoid using drugs or alcohol or gambling or promiscuous sexuality as a means of coping with pain or loneliness
  • Avoid diving into a new intimate relationship just because you're lonely
  • Avoid acting on angry impulses you might have towards your ex-spouse
  • Avoid stalking your ex-spouse
  • Avoid cultivating revenge fantasies involving your ex-spouse. Your successful life post-divorce will be your best revenge
  • Avoid making large decisions for a while after your divorce (divorce arrangements notwithstanding).