Getting Through to Anybody: The Hurt of Divorce
Yes, There'a Life (and even Love) after Divorce -- 3 Tips Help You Make it Happen
By MARK GOULSTON
"Til death do you part." Didn't quite last that long, did it? Add to that the unrelenting incomprehension of how the person who made you feel the best about yourself and your life and now they've become the one who makes you feel the worst. It's no wonder that divorce causes such upheaval. From affairs to bankruptcy to abuse to irresponsibility to mid-life crises to drug or alcohol addiction -- isn't it mind-bogging how nearly everyone going through it feels so unprepared?
Maybe it's the shock of how adoration turned to repulsion, mutual respect to disdain and love to hate. It's difficult to accept that what you thought was the right thing to do, has turned out to be wrong.
Or perhaps the thought of how a divorce adversely affects young children can be an enormous source of worry, stress and guilt. The maternal bond is the strongest attachment there is and when you are a part of something that causes your children so much hurt, it can be of the most upsetting experiences in your life.
Finally, the effect of losing all of your passion for the person you once loved can make you feel inadequate. Nothing kills off passion as much as feeling hurt, scared, disappointed, angered, or betrayed -- all of which are not merely possible in a divorce, but are typical.
It is the combination of these factors that can have such a profound negative effect on your career, relationships, spirit and soul. You may think to yourself: "If I was wrong about my marriage, how many other things am I wrong about?" or "If I'm screwing up my children's life, what kind of mother am I?" Then as if all of this weren't enough, you start having sleep and concentration problems and become depressed and/or anxious. All told, it becomes extremely difficult to function on the job, in relationships, and to feel hope or optimism about your future.
Despite the nearly universal traumatic effects of divorce, some women do survive, move on, fall in love again, and live happily after. What distinguishes those who do well from those who don't? Those who have positive coping behaviors do better than those with negative ones. Those that "heal" end up better off than those that remain wounded. And those who move on rather than stay bitter, depressed and feeling like a victim have a much better chance for a satisfying life.
NEGATIVE AND POSITIVE COPING
Women who leave their marriage are more likely to have an easier time coping, healing and eventually moving on. As a woman who was divorced by her husband told me: "It's better to have loved and leave, than to have loved and be left."
Next to the sense of failure in a divorce the worst feeling is powerlessness. Women who leave feel as if they have more power than those who are left. This can even out, however, if the man who is left feels angry and becomes vindictive and makes the divorce as horrendous as possible. Alternatively, the man who does the leaving may feel some guilt and responsibility for taking care of his rejected wife to ensure that he ends up divorced and not a widower (if he thinks she might do something self-destructive).
Regardless of whether you left or were left, there are negative coping behaviors that you will want to avoid because they make matters worse. Negative coping behaviors include:
Pulling away from other people like a deer on the side of the road to lick your wounds. Isolating leaves you prey to your imagination. It makes it difficult to keep perspective.
Often accompanies isolating. The more you obsess the less you are able to function, care for your children, and the longer it will take for you to get through the divorce.
3. Compulsive activities:
Frustration, anger with no one to take it out on and fear often trigger increased eating, drinking and spending to try to relieve upset. However, what makes you feel better for the moment often causes you to lose self-respect and experience shame later on, two things you don't need to feel any more of.
4. Getting even:
You will be very tempted to get even with your ex and you'll find more than enough reasons to justify it. But when you focus on retaliating it makes the divorce more costly and more painful. The children are also hurt more by this reaction, as they feel thrust into the middle of this mess.
5. Wearing out your friends and family:
This is the opposite extreme from isolating. This is when you lean on and on top of your friends instead of leaning into them for support. Even good friends can become exhausted when you keep saying and doing the same things and "Yes, butting" all their suggestions. When you come off as too needy you will burn out people out and they'll start to avoid you.
6. Feeling sorry for yourself.
When you think of yourself as a victim and wait for the world to fix your problems and life, you're in for a very long wait.
Just as there are negative coping behaviors, there are positive coping behaviors that can actually help improve your situation. These include: Be around people. Pain is pain; suffering is being alone with pain. If you push yourself to be with people in your misery, suffering that you can't live with becomes pain that you can.
1. Do things that give you back some sense of power and control over your life.
These include keeping your divorce papers in order (with the originals in a safety deposit box and copies in a file at home), changing your assets that are listed in both you and your ex's names to yours, letting creditors know of your divorce and having them notify you as soon as your ex stops making payments to protect your credit rating, keeping good records of your ex's payments so you don't let it build up to a larger amount, keeping records of children's expenses, and sitting down with financial advisors to review your investments.
2. Try what your close friends suggest.
If you get to share your pain with your most caring friends, they get to have you try their helpful suggestions if you can't think of any alternative solutions.
3. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.
Have a realistic attitude and approach to your ex. Don't count on him to make it easy for you. If he does, considerate it gravy. A helpful tool to aid you in being realistic is called the Him/You Inventory.
For example with regard to children, you might write: I can rely on him to be caring when he's with the children; I can't rely on him to be on time and be consistent with his visitation; He can rely on me to be civil to him and not bad-mouth him to the kids; He can't rely on me to be friendly when he tries to joke his way out of being unpredictable about picking up and dropping off the kids. After you fill out the chart send it to your ex with a blank one. Tell him you'd like him (if he's willing) to make corrections on yours from his point of view and then to fill out the blank chart with regard to you. Then consider using this as vehicle to work toward having more constructive conversations with him (again if he's willing).