Are you wrestling with your marriage, unsure whether it’s still working? You could even be beyond this stage, where you know it’s over but you can’t muster the energy or courage to do anything about it. If you have tried counselling or other interventions, and things are still not working, then divorce could be an option you are considering.
While divorce is never the ‘easy’ way out, it can, of course, be made more difficult by how you both act during this time. If children are involved, then it’s even more important to stay grounded and try to find a civil way through the situation. Here are my thoughts as a life coach and therapist on how to handle divorce.
My Experience Of Divorce
Having been through a divorce myself, I can honestly say it was the lowest point in my life. Emotionally, it took me to my darkest days. This took me by surprise because I’d already lost both of my parents and I genuinely felt that if I could survive the loss of my mum and dad I could survive anything. But my divorce was traumatic on a whole new level.
I’m not alone. Most people who have experienced divorce or even separation will admit it’s one of the most painful things they’ve been through. The truth is, even if we are the person doing the leaving, the pain isn’t lessened. There is always a period of emotional adjustment when a relationship ends or is nearing its end. Some lucky couples do separate amicably, but this type of cordiality is rare.
Address Your Emotions
The first step in handling a divorce is to address your emotions. There’s a heightened intensity of emotion during separation or relationship breakdown. For those leaving it can feel exhilarating and liberating one minute, and terrifying the next. Even if they are sure they are doing the right thing, most people don’t enjoy the distress their actions are going to cause the other person – especially when it’s someone they used to love, or perhaps even still love. This naturally can lead to feelings of guilt.
For those being left, it can feel devastating, as though the rug has been pulled out from under their lives. On both sides, there is also almost certainly anger, and it’s often that emotion that can prevent a cordial exit from a long-term relationship. For many people, the loss of control can be tough. You don’t have to be a control freak to experience this. Not having the ability to know what your ex is thinking, what they may have done without your knowledge, or is going to do next, is one of the hardest things about this process. Nothing can prepare you for it.
Remember Those Around You
Although there may be a ‘right way’ to end a relationship or a step-by-step guide to help you emerge from the legal process of divorce, it’s such a painfully personal experience I’m not sure there is a ‘right way’ blueprint to follow. Perhaps the best we can hope for is to make the journey as smooth, painless and quick as possible for everyone involved. Try to keep the bitterness, anger and acrimony down to a dull roar, and keep reminding yourself: It’s not just us, but our friends and family who also experience the break-up. Especially our children.
Whether we are the person leaving or the person being left, once loving and happy partners can easily turn into someone neither party recognises. Regardless of what side we are on, we can’t believe the ‘ex’ could be ‘like that’. Often we feel duped, as though we had been in a relationship with a stranger, and communication can be difficult or non-existent. We feel that the person we thought we knew didn’t even exist.
Watch Out For Misdirected Anger
Turning into someone we don’t recognise as hurt, betrayal, resentment or anger consumes us, invading our minds, bodies and souls. We turn into battle-ready fighters, constantly on high-alert for any signs of unfairness or antagonism. In addition, use these moments as fuel to feed our story of why we are right and they are wrong, and our old friend confirmation bias is constantly in play.
This narrative is common, especially when we’ve seen red warning flags along the way but have refused to acknowledge them, or worse, we’ve constantly ignored them. But often the anger we feel when a relationship breaks down is not simply anger towards our partner, it’s anger at ourselves. We know in our heart that we ignored those red flags, swept them under the carpet, ignored them or justified them, certain that they either didn’t matter or that we could fix them.
To Sum Up
Divorce is tough regardless of how long you were married for or what caused the breakup. You will experience a range of different emotions. For many, it can hit them hard. That being said, if you take the right approach and work to be as civil as possible, this can go a long way in remaining amicable. If children are involved, this couldn’t be more important.
In the next few blog posts, I’ll share ways to check your anger and move forward with the minimal amount of acrimony. Meanwhile, my latest book, Your Life Your Way, offers practical tips for moving past anger and sorrow and getting on with your life.
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