There are so many decisions to make during divorce. The whole process can seem like decision after decision after decision with no end in sight. For those of us who are not expert and confident decision makers this can be scary and overwhelming. The fear of making the wrong decision can be debilitating to the point of feeling paralyzed and completely unable to move forward.
If we are willing, divorce will help us learn and practice solid and wise decision making. Decisions we can live with in the future. There are endless opportunities during the process and there is a great little tool we can use when faced with a choice. It's called The Cost-Benefit Coordinates.
Dating after divorce can be an amazing, adventurous, exciting time, full of possibilities, new hope, and fun, or it can be a horrible, anxiety producing nightmare, making us want to stay single for the rest of our lives. So many of us have so many different experiences, but what really determines which side of the spectrum we will fall in this post-divorce endeavor? How much is it up to us what happens when we venture out? Can we ensure a positive experience and outcome? The answers to these questions are: “Us”, “A lot”, and “Yes”. The single factor that determines what kind of experience we will have is ourselves, a lot of what happens is totally up to us, and yes, we can ensure a positive experience and outcome.
The most important factor of having a positive dating experience after divorce is being ready for it. Start dating or getting into new relationships without doing the necessary work on ourselves will always result in more pain, confusion, frustration, and disappointment. Sometimes it’s hard to determine when we are ready, but it can be pretty obvious when we are not. Here are five sure signs of NOT being ready to date yet.
According to court statistics more divorces are filed in January than any other month of the year. The reasons are probably manifold from wanting a new start in the new year, saving on taxes for the previous year, to not disturbing the children’s holiday season. In most cases the one who files has been preparing for it a long time mentally and emotionally while the other might feel completely shocked or ambushed by it. Either side we find ourselves at the beginning of the divorce, we all want to go into it as prepared as possible, otherwise we will be easily taken advantage of.
Lots of us enter the divorce process with extremely unrealistic expectations, mostly when it comes to our ex spouse. Naively believing he or she will not hurt us deliberately in the process. Realistically we need to prepare for the opposite. Most of the time whatever we think he or she would never do to hurt us is exactly what he or she does in the heat of the divorce. It is hard to imagine beforehand how vicious the divorce can become and how uncharacteristically our ex can behave. What is even harder to imagine how uncharacteristically we will behave and how little it will take to turn us into our worst self.
Divorce is one of the hardest and most painful life change we will ever experience. It can be so full of negativity, hurt, and hostility that finding anything positive in this agonizing, confusing mess can be super challenging or downright impossible. Entering the Thanksgiving season during or after divorce usually doesn’t help to put us into a grateful mindset. We might be alone the first time for the holidays, without our children, family, or friends, wondering how we will even survive this time of the year. Divorce depression always rises during the “happiest season”. It’s hard to find happiness in the midst of the pain, or anything to be thankful for when our life is falling apart.
I recently came upon a survey that asked divorced or divorcing people to name three things they are grateful for that happened specifically due to the end of the relationship, regardless of whether they made the decision to end it or their ex did. The answers blew my mind away. They were all amazing things. Life giving, growth producing, character refining, incredible blessings. Nobody seemed to have trouble coming up with three specific, separate things to be grateful for, and nobody said “not one” or “nothing” or even “I don’t have to spend the holidays with my in-laws” (which might be a totally legit thing to be grateful for).
Many of us hold onto this idea of once the papers are signed the divorce is over. It might be true in some rare cases, but most of the time it only signals the end of the legal issues. That alone can be a great relief for sure, but the judge’s signature has little effect on our emotional divorce. The end of that lays entirely in our own hands.
So how do we know when our divorce is truly over? How can we tell we are on the other side of it? Are there any indicators that show us we are healed and ready to move on?
There are individual differences of course, but if we can answer these six questions with an astounding yes or no (only one acceptable answer to each), we can be certain we are indeed on the other side of it.
Making a divorce decision is always life altering. It affects so many people. The closest they are to us, the deeper and heavier the impact is on them. It is an extremely hard decision when children are involved, and in many cases delayed because of that.
There is no rule or formula for it, everyone has to struggle through their own decision making process, and it can take years. When we can make the decision from true self-awareness and not from an emotionally charged or imbalanced place, that will be a decision we can trust and will be able to live with.
But how do we know we are at a place like that? When are we ready to make such decision?
Detachment from our ex is a long and often times bumpy process. It has more to do with our emotional and mental state than with time alone. Some people never fully detach from their ex even years or decades after the divorce. If we are still angry or overly sad about it, if we still blame him or her for ruining our lives, if we still wish it was different, then we are still very much attached to them, and have absolutely no chance for developing a new and satisfying life for ourselves.
Detachment can be a conscious and self-driven process so it is very much up to us to stay attached and let them affect our lives for much longer than necessary or intentionally detach from them layer by layer. The less attached we are to our ex the less power we give them over our feelings, thoughts, lives, and future, and the more in control we are going to have in these areas. If they are leaving our lives we need to be sure they are leaving our thoughts and feelings too. And the later two are absolutely under our own control.
As they say, the problem with pain is that it hurts. The even bigger problem with emotional pain is that we will do everything not to feel it. We try to get away from it, resist it at all cost, medicate it, anesthetize it. We stuff it, numb it, try to drink it away, shop it away, or binge-watch it away. As a result, we don’t heal or grow, and in the process of trying to run from it we sabotage our entire lives.
There are even more problems with divorce pain because of the added elements of anger, resentment, and fear. It is much easier to stay angry than to admit we are heartbroken and sad underneath. It is easier to worry ourselves to death about our future than to grieve our losses. We prefer pretty much anything, even other uncomfortable emotions before we choose to face our pain.
So much of our time during divorce is spent either worrying about the future or regretting the past that we forget to spend time in the space where we actually have some power: the present moment. And many times even when we are in the present, we create a "false moment" by escaping into survival mechanisms and we numb ourselves senseless.
We hear a lot these days about the importance of "staying in the moment" but as we all discovered it by now, it is much easier said than done. Especially if our current moment is something we just want to escape, no matter the price. So how can we convince ourselves to stay in it despite all the pain, sadness, and fear we are experiencing?
To withstand means to remain undamaged or unaffected by, to offer strong resistance to someone or something.
To remain undamaged or unaffected by the vicious attacks of our ex when he or she is attacking our character, our past actions, our ability to parent, and our right to have the finances and property we are entitled to. To offer strong resistance to him or her and not to bend over and just take whatever the overwhelming current is trying to make us swallow.
In other words how to stay not just strong but intact and stable under the tremendous pressure of these cruel blows, accusations, and threats? When the very intent of them is to brake us and make us weak and give up.
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Nuggets of insights and bits of advice from a Divorce Coach
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