Going through a divorce is tough on both parties. Here are 3 tips on how to handle divorce.
Courage is the ability to do something, even though it might appear frightening at first. Do you ever read biographies of amazing people and feel in awe of what they have done? Does that awe sometimes make you feel a little despondent because you don’t believe you could be so brave, or accomplish so much despite the obstacles? Do you ever feel your life would be better if you could just muster up a little more courage to pursue your dreams or exit a poor situation? Do you want to be Dorothy but feel like the Cowardly Lion?
If so, a little more insight into these human qualities may help you to access them. We all have courage inside of us. It is as human as the blood that courses through our veins. Courage is like an inner reservoir we can draw on when we need to, although many of us only discover our courage when we are in a tough situation or someone we love is in danger. Bravery, on the other hand is the action, behaviour or outcome of courage; it’s the active facing of our fears so we can step into the unknown, or even into the known!
If you lack courage, here are my thoughts as a virtual life coach and therapist on what you need to know.
Courage – It’s Not What You Think
Perhaps the biggest hurdle we have to navigate to access our courage is identifying that we’ve been hoodwinked by TV, film and the media. They make us believe that bravery and courage are only required for ‘big’ acts: climbing mountains or rescuing small children from burning buildings. The courage and bravery we see on TV, or hear about on the nightly news, often creates an impossibly high bar that we see as relevant to ‘other people’ living ‘other lives’.
The truth is courage is much less dramatic. Anything that makes you feel slightly scared – even if it’s getting a spider out the bathroom without just killing it – will require courage, especially if you hate spiders! Learning to ski in your forties because your kids enjoyed a school trip and want to go with you this time requires a little courage. Depending on your personality, you may need to call on some bravery to meet new people or attend an interview.
Embrace Your Fear
I was skiing recently in the Alps and was on a ski lift going up the mountain. Next to me was Frasier, who was six years old and part of a ski school. We were chatting and I said, “Frasier, if I get scared at the top of the hill what would your advice be to me?” He thought about it for a minute, then turned to me and said, “Always face your fear!” Frasier was only six, but that’s great advice.
We are creatures of habit and we generally don’t like change that much. Change, by definition, is moving from something that’s known to something that’s unknown. Most of us prefer the known because there are no surprises there; it’s our comfort zone. But there is also no growth in the comfort zone. If we are to harness the power of courage to face difficult situations and make constructive change, we need to be willing to move into the challenge zone.
You Need To Exit Your Comfort Zone
If you are constantly in your comfort zone, how fulfilled do you feel? Sure, it’s a nice safe (some would say boring) place, but are you really doing what you want to do and being who you want to be if you are permanently ‘stationed’ there? To move into the next zone, we need to access the courage to push out beyond our comfort zone and into the challenge zone. But that push doesn’t need to move us into the panic zone. If you are spending too much time in the panic zone, it means you aren’t in control of what you are doing. The panic zone is almost as immobilising as the comfort zone, only it’s fear not comfort that’s driving the bus!
The key with change is incremental ‘stretch change’ that pushes you past what’s comfortable and easy, but not into being overwhelmed, fearful and panicked. Bring yourself back into what you know and/or what you need to do to find your own inner resources to fuel and power yourself in the challenge zone. Embrace the challenge! The challenge zone is where we learn, grow and develop as human beings. It’s where we find the impossible possible, and surprise ourselves by the strength of our convictions and the courage we can muster to see them through.
Start with small things that push you out of your comfort zone for a few minutes. The more you embrace the challenge zone as a playground for your own development, the braver you will become, and the easier courage will be to muster when you need it.
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If you find you lack courage in certain situations, I hope the above advice has been helpful. Remember, if you would like any help or advice please get in touch. I offer virtual life coach sessions, and help my clients with a variety of issues. These sessions are available to international clients as well as those based in the UK.
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If you are on a guilt trip then you are most likely feeling remorseful because of something you did – or even forgot to do. Guilt trips can be minor or something that has festered away at us for years. Here’s the thing though, guilt isn’t a switch you can flick on or off. It’s a gradual process of accepting you’re not perfect – and that being imperfect is OK.
This week and next week, I’ll share some guidance on accepting that imperfection. But for now, here are my thoughts on how to get over your guilt trip.
Whatever you – or anyone – did or didn’t do, you must accept that human beings will always do the best they can with the resources they have at the time. So, before you go beating yourself up, acknowledge that you were probably trying to do the right thing – even if that effort didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to. Perhaps you just didn’t have the knowledge or skills or insights that would have allowed you to handle the situation more effectively.
If you behaved badly, cut yourself some slack. Realise that although something didn’t work out well, you were probably doing the best you could at the time. Our life is full of paths to our destination, so it’s not surprising that we take the wrong one now and again. The key is to realise it’s the wrong path and to get back on the right one as soon as you can. Choose to let go of any guilt you feel because of your brief ‘detour’. After all, you can’t change the past but you can change what happens going forward.
Hindsight Is A Tool – Not A Weapon
When we are on our guilt trip we can easily replay the whole situation repeatedly in our heads, turning up the volume and emotion with each repeat. We cycle through the past and thus re-experience the shame and regret. If only we could go back, knowing what we know now, we would have done it differently, right?
Instead of using hindsight as a tool to further flagellate yourself, celebrate it. If you know you wouldn’t behave that way now, then you are clearly a different person than the one who behaved badly. Guilt is only possible if the experience you feel guilty about changed you. If it hadn’t, you wouldn’t be feeling the guilt. Perhaps you are older, a little wiser, have more knowledge or information than you did then, or you’ve mellowed a little, become more resilient or expanded your life experience.
Whatever the difference, you are different, so to continue punishing the new you for a mistake made by the old you doesn’t really seem fair, does it? Let it go.
Is Your Guilt False?
False guilt is guilt that doesn’t belong to you. I see this in my coaching work more than you might think. We know if guilt is ours, right? Not always. Often a person can assume someone else’s guilt and carry it as though it were their own.
For example, a parent can feel guilty when their child behaves badly–and this can still happen when your child is an adult because you’re the parent and feel responsible for them. By accepting guilt on their behalf, you are effectively shielding them from the consequences of their own behaviour. But no one grows up until they experience — and appreciate– the consequences of their actions.
It can also happen when the individual in question doesn’t take accountability for what they did, so someone else in their vicinity will carry that guilt on their behalf. If you recognise this, give the guilt back: It’s not yours to own. The other person needs to take responsibility, so they can move forward and continue to develop as an adult. But regardless of whether they do, the guilt is not yours. Return it to its rightful owner. Immediately!
Guilt Is Complex
Remember, guilt is usually about something you have done or said or something you should have done or said but didn’t. We can do and say things in the moment because of other stuff going on in our lives. For example, following a death, illness, stress or because of difficult relationships. This stuff can be the driver that moves us away from who we really are inside and transforms us into something or someone we don’t recognise. In other words, the way we behaved, even if it wasn’t great, doesn’t make us a horrible person. It just means we said something or did something that wasn’t so great at that time.
This isn’t about letting ourselves off the hook for bad behaviour, but it allows us to remember that “I am a good person but I did something stupid”, rather than “I did something stupid so I am a bad person”. This is a very important distinction because it allows us to isolate the incident, rather than allowing it to negatively impact our self-esteem and sense of self. Ask yourself, “If I had another chance, would I have handled things differently?” or “Would I handle it differently in the future?” If the answer is yes, then it shows the problem lies not with you as a person, it was your behaviour or action at the time that you regret.
To Sum Up
Guilt is an emotion, not a personality trait. It’s something we create but that doesn’t mean we can’t reflect on our actions and make peace going forward. Ultimately, beating yourself up about what you did or didn’t do won’t change anything about the situation. But, you can use this time of reflection to consider if you would have handled things in a better way and learn from it.
As a therapist and life coach, I help my clients with a variety of topics including personal development. If you are ruminating over past situations and feel unable to move on, then talking about it could be a useful outlet. I am currently running virtual life coach sessions available internationally, so get in touch if it’s something that would be of benefit to you.
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We make choices all the time, from whether we want tea or coffee, to what we will wear to work. Even what we’re having for dinner. Most of these are easy and quick. The choices can be obvious or not. Sometimes, we decide not to choose. We will simply stick our heads in the sand and resist making any choice at all. But I would argue this is, too, is a choice. This often comes down to a culmination of stress or an institutionalised situation where we’ve lived with something so long we’ve lost all hope of an alternative reality.
Ironically, it’s often when we need most new ideas and options that our creativity and ability to muster those options seem to desert us. That’s perfectly natural, but it’s also dangerous. Of course, when this happens it can be very easy to find other people who are more than willing to make the choice for you. In fact, you need to be vigilant, because other people may try to make your choices for you. This can happen even when you have a clear idea of what you want.
Here are my thoughts on the danger of giving up your choice.
Your Choice Is Yours Alone
“It takes courage to do what you want. Other people have a lot of plans for you. Nobody wants you to do what you want to do. They want you to go on their trip, but you can do what you want. I did. I went into the woods and read for five years.” – Joseph Campbell
If you don’t choose for yourself, someone else will choose for you. Beware of other people closing down your options or diminishing your possibilities before you have had time to fully explore them for yourself. Remember, other people’s advice is usually a reflection of what they would do (or not do) in the situation, often based on their past experience – not yours.
Their insight may not be what’s best for you. Of course, it’s always wise to seek advice and gather more information. As I mentioned in the previous post, it took a friend’s insight to help me make some important shifts in my own perspective.
That’s very different, however, from letting other people make your choices for you. Take what advice makes sense to you and gives you fresh ideas and leave the rest. Don’t tie any emotion or judgement to those opinions.
Above all, don’t get railroaded. Set your boundaries. We’ve discussed this before, but it bears repeating. Remember, this is your life. It’s up to you to set your own boundaries so others can’t manipulate you.
Hard choices are often so because we have to communicate those choices to those we care about, who may or may not understand the reasons. If you can help them understand, do so, but all that matters is that you understand your reasons. Your reasons are good enough.
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Are you ready to make your own choices? Need help setting boundaries? My latest book, Your Life Your Way, offers insights, tips and tactics that give you the tools you need to live your life, your way.
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Divorce and kids is always a tricky combination. Although I understand the notion of staying together for the sake of the children, the truth is, it’s not the divorce that screws up the children. It’s the way parents go about their divorce that does it. I have seen children scarred by divorce and I have seen children relieved by it. The divorce isn’t the problem; the hostility and fighting cause the damage. It’s dragging children onto the battlefield that makes them face issues that are intolerable.
When partners aren’t authentic with themselves or with each other, people pick up on that, especially children. They may be younger and not able to articulate what isn’t right, but they will know instinctively that something doesn’t feel right.
The stress of not being yourself or having to put on a brave face for the sake of the children can be exhausting, especially if you do it for years. Children are not stupid. They are also incredibly resilient. I honestly believe the vast majority of children would rather their parents were divorced and happy than married and miserable. So, if this sounds familiar to you right now, here’s how to handle divorce when kids are involved.
Stop Beating Yourself Up
As parents, we always want to do the best by our children, and divorce is not an easy thing to manage – but your children are going to blame you for stuff whether you stayed married or not. That’s what they do! Whether you worked outside the home or you didn’t. Whether you lived in a big house or didn’t. As long as you keep the lines of communication open, remain as honest as possible and encourage your children to stay connected to both parents, you will come out the other side, together.
Aim for a civil relationship with your former partner to make family logistics and planning work smoothly, so the transition is as easy as possible for your children. Remember, they are the most important people in the divorce process, so stay mindful of what your reactions and comments are doing to them.
Don’t Treat Your Kids As Weapons
We’ve all heard about – or even known – parents who used their children as weapons against their partner. Don’t do it! It doesn’t matter how awful you think your ex is, or how justified you think you are based on his or her behaviour, the people you hurt most with this behaviour are your children.
When it comes to divorce when kids are involved – remember, your children will not be children forever. They will find out the truth eventually, and they will resent you for it. Plus, it’s just not fair to them. Whether you like it or not, your children will still love both their mum or dad, regardless of what they have done to each other (within reason, of course). Children are very forgiving.
Denying your children access to their other parent is cruel, selfish and unnecessary unless there is a very good safety reason for it. I know you might be angry, resentful and in constant pain because of the divorce and whatever caused it. But don’t take it out on your children by putting them in the middle and making them choose. They don’t care who did what, they just want to be loved and to feel secure. So, whatever you have to do in order to get that done, do it.
Expect Change In Other Relationships
A separation or divorce doesn’t affect only you, your partner and your children. Other relationships will change too. Your social circle may suddenly get smaller. If someone was your friend before the relationship, they are likely to remain your friend after it. But, if someone was your ex’s friend before the relationship, they are likely to stay your ex’s friend after the break-up.
Those friends you made as a couple are usually the tricky ones. Get ready for friends to decide whose side they are on. Some may decide not to take sides; others may never speak to you again. Don’t take this personally. Stick close to your enduring friendships and weather the storm.
To Sum Up
I hope you’ve found my above tips on how to handle divorce when kids are involved useful. Divorce is a complex topic at the best of times, let alone when you had children in the marriage too. As a therapist and life coach I also want to remind you of the importance of talking things through, not just with your ex-partner, but those who can help too. Sometimes, gaining perspective can really help wounds to heal and give you the coping mechanisms you need to move forward.
My work often involves encouraging people to think differently about whatever situation they find themselves in, to create a different narrative and a way of thinking which will drive a different outcome. We are not our thoughts we are whatever reality we make for ourselves.