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 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.
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?
We all heard that rebounds are bad for us. That we are not supposed to be in a brand new relationship right after another one just ended or ending. That it's not fair to the other person, or even to ourselves, it won't end well, and we should be smarter and more mature than even thinking about getting into one. We all know this in our heads. But when all we feel is the pain, anger, and fear of divorce, and all we hear is the voices that tell us that we are not good enough, and nobody will ever love us again, it is hard to resist the temptation of new love and excitement if it comes along, or even to seek it out for ourselves. The possibility of some good feelings and fun is just too much for our troubled souls to pass on.
How do we know if a rebound is really a rebound? Is there a specific time when it's not a rebound anymore? Does it feel different than other romantic relationships? Are there any circumstances when it can be beneficial for us?
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?
The start of the New Year does not feel like a new page or clean slate while going through divorce. The continuum of last year's heartache, struggles, fights, and pain into the New Year is a far cry from a cheerful and optimistic way to start brand new. We are carrying over everything we have been going through because the divorce is not over yet.
It can be daunting and depressing to start the New Year with all our divorce problems. It's easy to focus on all the decisions that will have to be made and all the loss and troubles we are facing. But it is still a New Year with all its new possibilities and promises, even if we are not at the best place to see or welcome them.
Facing our divorce reality as it is and NOT as we would like it to be is a crucial element in keeping our sanity and strength during divorce. The fear of uncertainty and change can be so overwhelming (even when not conscious) that it can easily keep us in delusion and denial about what really is going on.
There is a simple reason why we don't face something: It is painful. And there are not many things more painful in this life than divorce. Denial protects us from pain but it always comes with a heavy price tag if not dealt with: losing touch with our feelings, needs, and eventually ourselves. Prolonged denial of a situation will always lead to denial of certain aspects of who we are. Refusing to accept reality as it is will lead to losing who we are.
About the Blog
Nuggets of insights and bits of advice from a Divorce Coach
© 2020 DivorceCoachAustin