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).
The most life sucking, debilitating, and destructive emotion we face in relation to divorce is shame. As Carl Jung said “Shame is a soul eating emotion”. When mixed in with all the other heavy feelings from divorce, it can do more damage than anything we experience from the outside, including the vicious blows and attacks of our ex. Shame hides underneath our more visible emotions, like anger and sadness, completely inconspicuous but driving our actions and sabotaging our decision making.
Learning to identify shame and properly deal with it is the most useful skill we need to learn if we want to make divorce decisions that will serve us well on the long run, and want to ensure a happier and healthier future for ourselves.
Divorce is one of the biggest loss we might experience in life. It is number two on the list of major life stressors after the death of a loved one. Since divorce is a loss with its own grief process, we need to go through all the stages of grief in order to fully process it and find healing.
The five stages of grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, but they do not necessary occur in this specific order. We can move back and forth between stages for a while, or wildly jump around them, or slowly crawl from one to another. They are just responses to our feelings and can last anywhere between days to months and can repeat multiple times. There are no right or wrong ways to grieve, the only important thing is that we keep moving through all of these stages, even if it feels like this is our tenth time around, and don’t get stuck in one for an unreasonably long time by falling into some of the common pitfalls of divorce.
The mention of forgiveness during or right after divorce can feel like cursing with anger. It can make our blood boil and our jaws tighten with fury when someone mentions it to us as the right and noble course of action. Just the thought of forgiving our ex for all the pain, atrocities, loss, betrayal, and hurt screams against our logical and justice thirsty minds. How could we after all he or she has done to us?
Is it really possible to come out of a hard and painful divorce and forgive the other person at the end? What about if it was all their doing, if the divorce was forced upon us against our choice? Or what if our own choice have unleashed the enmity of our ex to such extremes that we felt we experienced the wrath of a beast, rather than the person we though we knew?
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?
Anytime a relationship changes, its boundaries change. As one of our main relationships is coming to an end or at the very least, morphing into a much less significant one during divorce, it is important that we stay conscious about our own changing boundaries and aware of the ones our ex is putting up.
Boundaries are like fences around a physical property, securing the good inside and keeping the unwanted out. Defining clearly where our responsibilities end and someone else’s begin. Without clear boundaries life gets confusing. Without clear boundaries during divorce, divorce gets really confusing.
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