“I never thought I would be here, I mean whoever thinks something like this would happen? They were my everything.”
Ben was in my office, talking about the ending of his marriage. He had “done it right” picked a partner that he felt matched his qualities, had all the conversations you are “suppose” to have before getting married, tried his best to manage conflict and it all came crashing down the day he found out that not only was his partner cheating, but he had gotten an STI from them sleeping around.
Divorce is never an easy option, I only know one couple that felt like it improved their relationship and they were able to remain friends afterwards. More often than not divorce for most people is very similar to trauma. Their whole world has been turned upside down, they now deeply doubt themselves and feel completely lost in what to do.
There is no one path of coming back from divorce, of rebuilding life after a blow like that, but there are traits that can be helpful.
1 Find Support: This needs to be first and foremost because without support the other items on this list can be even more challenging. Even if that support is just one other human being, a coworker or friend, maybe even a pet- but find someone that you can lean on a bit.
Things are going to come up, you may be surprised about what does come up, and you are going to need emotional backup at times. For some couples the legal case drags out, or they change their mind about terms, and you need someone who will be in your corner, listening to you, so that you don’t just take the stress out on your ex-partner.
2. Set Boundaries: For some clients I work with, they tell their ex-partner to only contact them through a lawyer. For others, with less complex cases or with less means, they set personal rules for themselves. For example: Not responding to your ex’s text when you are angry, some clients literally need to set a timer on their phone with this. You aren’t going to say something that isn't going to help the situation, and most likely will hurt you more, and while the anger may feel good in the moment, you will regret it later.
3. Own Your Shit: This is a more tricky thing, because a lot of times clients will go too far and end up accepting far too much responsibility for the events that are unfolding. However the thing that I see far more often is clients seeking to take no responsibility for where their relationship with their ex is. It is often all that person’s fault and if “they would just understand…” then the situation would be smoother.
Sadly you can’t control that other person, their reactions, or their impressions of you, you can only control you. Seeking to do anything else is just going to make you more anxious and more worried and more stressed- and you don’t need any more of those things right now.
4. Build a Self-Care Kit: Whatever this can look like for you, do it. For some clients it’s a literal kit, for others it’s a metaphor into having practices that they will do on a monthly, weekly and daily level that keep them grounded. From meditation to kick boxing there is no “one-size-fits-all” concept. But consider free-writing for ten minutes about things you might enjoy, and then go from there.
5. Have Compassion: Mostly for yourself. You may move slower. You may not get as much done, you may snap at a coworker. And it’s easy to justify or feel guilty about these actions, which doesn’t help you. The truth is that divorce is one of the most stressful things you can go through in life, and being able to own that and slow down within it will serve not just you well, but others in your immediate life.