It is hard enough to go through divorce when it is what you chose, your necessary lesser evil, but it's even more difficult when the choice was made for you by your spouse. When you're still willing and ready to fight for your marriage, to work things out, to try harder. But your partner is not.
How on earth is it possible to walk down a path you haven't chosen for yourself? A path you feel you have been shoved to, a path you hate, but forced to stay on.
Here are five necessary steps you will have to take to travel this unwanted journey with dignity and grace.
1. Try your best to accept. As simple as it sounds, this one "little" attitude change has a tremendous effect on your whole future. After you've tried all you could to convince, beg, guilt, promise, change, there comes a point when you're left only with two choices. To either accept or grow bitter. There is really nothing in between. The energy you have been putting into fighting for your marriage will either turn into conscious efforts of acceptance of the facts of your life or not so conscious anger and bitterness towards your partner and life itself. It is the first fork in this path you have been forced down, and eventually you will have to walk down one of them. The emotional landscape surrounding the two will be dramatically different.
2. Don't stay the victim. Acceptance of your divorce doesn't mean accepting your victimhood. Yes, in the literal sense of the word, you are the victim of this divorce, because it wasn't your choice, it was forced on you. But that doesn't mean you have no choices at all. Just because you had no control over this event, it doesn't mean you have no control over your life and your future. It doesn't mean you have no power. It helps to clearly separate in your mind (or even on paper in two columns) what you are truly powerless about, like your spouse's decision to divorce, and what it is you have power over, like your own divorce process. Take control of the later and you will find yourself in a much more empowered part on your path that you could even imagine.
3. Allow yourself to grieve. Grieving is not victim mentality. It's not self pity either. Grief is a healthy, natural response to loss. The more your marriage meant to you the stronger and more painful your grief will be. Don't try to go around it, numb it, or rush trough it. Unexpressed and unprocessed grief will cause depression. Allow yourself to cry, sob, fall apart, be sad, be angry, feel whatever feelings might arise. There is no right way to to it, but you have to be sure you're doing it. Also there is no precise and predictable time frame around it. Grief is not just one part of your path you will leave behind quick. It will revisit you over and over for a while. Be patient. Eventually the pain will lessen and with time it will leave you for good.
4. Resist revenge. Anger is a stage of the grief process and it is perfectly normal to feel a lot of it after a significant loss. If you're a generally peaceful and calm individual it can be a frightening and guilt producing experience for you. Don't try to hush it away or deny it. It won't just go away on its own. Acknowledge it, connect with it, and give it a safe outlet, like talking to a trusted friend, writing it out, hitting a punching bag, or doing some extreme exercise class. The main point is, don't channel it toward revenge and let it determine your actions during your divorce process. Trying to destroy your ex is a sure way to damage yourself. Make choices and decisions that are in your best interest, but be careful they are not motivated by blind, angry revenge. Revenge is always a dark, detrimental, dead end off of your path.
5. Get support. The most important thing you can do for yourself is to get plenty of support. As much as humanly possible, from as many places as you can. In this case, there is no such thing as too much. Build a whole support system around you with loving friends, family, caring professionals, like a coach or therapist, and join a divorce or grief group at your local church or recovery community. Be sure you have safe places to land because you will fall a lot. Divorce, mostly if you haven't chosen it for yourself, is a very hard road to walk and you absolutely cannot walk it alone, no matter what kind of personality type you are. If you want to end up at more peaceful and sunny meadows you have to let others walk with you and help you through the dark and scary parts of your path.
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