Updated: Aug 30, 2021
You know the benefits of collaboration, conflict management and co-parenting, but how do you get there when things between you and your soon-to-be-ex aren’t even civil? You may blame your spouse for what went wrong. You may be feeling vengeful and so angry you don’t know what to do. These feelings won’t help you get where you need to go. Where do you start? Well, you have to start with the one and only thing you can control…you. That’s right, I said it. Not your ex, not his attorney, not the divorce proceedings. You. What are you feeling? You may be feeling overwhelmed by the change in your life circumstances. You may be dealing with your own grief around the end of your marriage. It is not unusual to feel a loss of identity. You were once a spouse, part of a parenting unit, a nuclear family. Now all of that is changing. You may feel alone. The good news is that you aren’t alone. Almost 50% of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. That means that half of those who have been married have found themselves right where you are now. It may help you to know that all of those people have made it through the process, and so will you. The question is, how do you want to do that?
If you hold onto the feelings around your soon-to-be-ex and your divorce, you could be living with those emotions for years, even decades. I know people in my life who still harbor ill feelings toward their ex, their marriage and their divorce many years later. What does this do for you and your life moving forward? What does it do for your co-parenting relationship?
Your divorce process will go way more smoothly if you are able to work through your feelings around it. You will get so much more out of your life if you take a hard look at those tough emotions now and not down the road. Unresolved feelings can lead to some serious regrets, because if not dealt with, negative emotions manifest in negative behaviors.
Think about a time in your life when you were so angry you couldn’t see straight. Were you able to rationalize in that moment? Of course not. When our emotions are high, it is impossible to gain any clarity. In order to make important, life-changing decisions like those that will affect your divorce settlement, it is best if you have an awareness and ownership of your feelings. With a clear head, you can make the best decisions for you and your family.
So, where do you start? Gaining clarity around your thoughts and emotions isn’t easy when you are consumed by them. Friends and family might mean well but they are often ill-equipped to offer the kind of support you need. It helps to seek out a professional who specializes in individuals going through divorce. A Divorce Coach has expertise in helping people to navigate the emotional and logistical aspects of the divorce process. They can help you work through your feelings, organize and prepare you for the process ahead, help you assemble your team of professionals, and guide you in envisioning a new life for yourself. You can also get the help of a therapist for yourself, your family, and/or your children.
What are some of the feelings that you may be struggling with? Anger, sadness, shame and guilt are the most common culprits. These feelings can keep us stuck, unable to move forward.
Anger rears up frequently in the divorce process. In my opinion, anger is a gateway to deeper emotions. It is reactionary and often fleeting. It comes up to hide or mask other emotions, such as fear, shame and sadness. Anger is a signal to ourselves and others that there is pain underneath that requires tending to. Developing techniques to move through anger is important when attempting to communicate with a soon-to-be-ex. Nothing shuts down the lines of communication like a person who is incapable of dealing with their anger.
Sadness, or grief, is an integral part of divorce. Divorce is an ending, the death of a marriage. It is normal and healthy to grieve the loss. You may feel regret, loneliness, and longing. Sometimes your sadness may creep up on you when you are least expecting it. Be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself to feel your grief, give yourself permission to cry. Develop a practice of letting go of your sadness. It is ok to dwell in these feelings for a while, but it is also important to learn to release them.
The guilt and shame you may be experiencing can be overwhelming. If you were the one who initiated your divorce, you may be carrying guilt about hurting your spouse and children. You may judge yourself harshly for deciding to end your marriage. There may be guilt over behaviors that contributed to your divorce. You are not selfish. You are not a monster. You are a human being, and human beings try things out. Sometimes they make mistakes. That is ok. You didn’t do this alone. It takes two to make a marriage.
Marriage is a partnership. Like it or not, you had a part to play in your divorce. Your partner did too. No matter what your partner did to foster disconnection, there are always patterns of behaviors, thoughts, and feelings you can own that were detrimental to health of your marriage. It is important to take ownership of those patterns so that you can learn from them and they don’t come up again in future relationships. When we accept responsibility for what is ours, we can forgive our spouse and ourselves.
Why is forgiveness important? If we do not let go of the past, we cannot fully be in the present. If we aren’t in the present, we can miss out on the joy that life has to offer. Forgiveness is not forgetting. It is not even accepting your ex’s behavior as ok. It is simply processing your feelings around your marriage, then practicing letting those feelings go. Forgiving others liberates us to move forward without a negative attachment to our past.
Divorce is a life transition; it does not define you. What you do with the experience: the lessons you learn, the behavior and attitudes you take on, the mindset you adopt, is up to you. You may feel powerless right now, but you are not. You get to choose how you will decide to move forward.