I get asked this all the time! I look at this as a rite of passage, and rites of passage require guidance and leaders. They need elders, more experienced individuals to explain what’s going on. So here’s a few thoughts from those ahead of me:
The legal steps are clear: filing a petition, temporary orders, serving the other person, awaiting response, negotiation, litigation and trial if necessary. In mediation, each party tries to frame their position and negotiate terms, then the settlement documents go to court for approval. Some states require co-parenting classes, sometimes there’s forensics, sometimes there’s domestic violence and family court. Each of these legal steps have their own timeline and rhythm.
On the emotional side things take a less linear route: I think true healing doesn’t begin until after that decree is signed. Then you have to factor in time married, habits formed, agreements tolerated, and practices you honed.
A good measure goes like this. Take the AA 12 steps that apply to you and your understanding of a universal spirit, the 7 stages of grief, the 4 steps to codependency recovery, the 5 phases of abandonment recovery and mush them altogether and that’s what you have to do to get through the entire process of divorce!
You need to decouple from the energy that attracted you to your ex in the first place, work through the grief towards acceptance, rebuild your self-esteem, your pocketbook, your boundaries, your ability to trust again, and your mojo. You need to accept your human foibles, emotional crutches, take responsibility for your part, forgive, let go of shame and develop faith, hope, and confidence. You need to educate others on how to treat you, become a leader for those stepping into the process, and help change how the world views this painful, deeply personal time. This doesn’t happen overnight!
You can continue living a great life while doing your work. You can fall in love, remarry, move, get a promotion, and make money. The most amazing thing about divorcing is you get to start over with only you deciding what kind of life you want to have. However, you must become conscious and self-aware. It’s a process that wakes you up. We take ourselves wherever we go.
This quest has no shortcuts.
The entire process (different for each person, non-linear with fits and starts) has to be done or you’ll end up stuck, deflated, broke, sick, and worn out with Post Traumatic Divorce Disorder.™ You can fall in love, move in with someone, get married and still have PTDD.™ You can make a lot of money, be in great health, have many gorgeous new partners, and still have PTDD.™ You can marry, start a new family and get divorced again, and still have PTDD.™
The process of divorce demands respect.
You can’t just wrap it up and pretend it never happened. You can’t replace one lover with another and expect to be healed. You can’t argue and fight for the rest of your future. Chances are you aren’t sick or incompetent; you’re just scared and hurt and angry wanting to forget about all of it. (News flash: this won’t work!) Find a thinking partner like a divorce coach. Find someone to hold you accountable so that your new love and new life don’t reek of work not done. Find someone to help you understand what’s going on.
On a certain level, you imploded your life so you could go through this awesome and life-changing rite of passage. I’m so excited for the person you’re going to become. It’s a wild ride, so hang on tight!
New York, NY