The break down of a family is hard enough when we agree to a divorce, but coping with a divorce you never wanted is particularly difficult.
It’s really difficult to grasp, to catalog the details so as to know how it’s happened, why it’s happened; what happened; even when we know the details Heartache and pain have few boundaries – no matter what, going from being married to being single again is not easy even if you’re the one who wanted the separation to begin with.
Even when you know it’s time to end something that hasn’t been working for a while.
It seems trite to say that “life isn’t fair” – that simply doesn’t cover the expanse of loss people experience. We know that life isn’t fair, we also know that the pain of divorce is harder to cope with than platitudes. Here are 3 tips to help you cope with a divorce you don’t want in a way that puts it all into perspective.
The bad news is, you don’t get to escape the feelings. I know you’d like to. I know you want to sit in a bar, start smoking again, chase women. I know you’d rather stay home on the couch and watch the Hallmark channel. I, for one, have done my own version of chasing a feeling to avoid the deep pain and loss. It’s never easy to deal with being smacked with emotions when you’re already down!
The good news is, you’ll get through it. No matter how painful things are now, as long as you’re surrounded by support, there is a way out and there is a future you can create. You must keep this in mind!
Tip #1: No matter how painful today feels, tomorrow can be better when you surround yourself with support.
Throughout the process, you’ll be surrounded by people who mean well but who won’t be able to grasp the depth of your pain or offer ways to cope with the divorce you didn’t want.
Oftentimes, these well-meaning friends or colleagues will encourage you to do things you know deep down aren’t the best options for you to do.
They may be super fun at the moment and totally distract you from the things you’d rather forget (ie: gathering your financial documents for your attorney). But in the long-run, unless your life is running at peak performance, most of us can’t escape the pain and pressure of separating for too long.
In all honesty, I love South Beach – I have fond memories of playing in Miami during my separation. I can honestly tell you those were some of the best days I ever experienced – a complete distraction from the pain and loss. They also totally destroyed me when those fun days ended and I had to get back to the reality of recreating my life.
No one knows what you’re personally up against when you’re separating. Remembering that you, and you alone, are responsible for your decisions goes a really long way toward helping you cope with the experience, no matter how painful it may be.
Tip #2: You can’t chase a feeling forever!
Stay away from those who put up with being angry, hurt, depressed, and on it after their divorces. (News flash: they’re in a lot of pain.) Surround yourself with those who are moving on in a positive direction. It pains me to see people stuck in Post-Traumatic Divorce Disorder™. My heart breaks for people unable to make courage, to get up and out of their own way. I get it. I know it’s difficult but, you can move in the right direction and heal from your divorce, even if you didn’t want it to begin with.
Tip #3: Surround yourself with positive and uplifting people even when you’re not as happy about life as they are.
We all need a dose of sunshine on a daily basis. Sometimes we think we can handle being blue. The problem is that during a divorce, there’s a lot of blue feelings… you’ll want to pace yourself: have some time during the day or during a week to process the feelings, then you’ve got to turn around and get moving.
Many times people freeze instead of moving forward because they’re afraid of making another mistake. One mistake that’ll cost you is avoiding dealing with your divorce. Including processing the feelings.
The worst mistake of all, not healing enough to see that you’re looking for familiar comfort meaning, you pick a lover who’s exactly like the person you just left.
When you first separate, you’ll most likely gravitate towards those who feel familiar. Over time, you’ll most likely realize these new people are exactly like those you just left. (Which is why the divorce rate goes up not down, for those who’ve been married in the past.)
I hate that statistic (but it’s true). I hate that I went through 2 divorces as an adult. I can get down on myself about not understanding what it took to heal from my separation and heartache. But knowing what I now know, to cope with a divorce you don’t want, we all have to do things differently.
Surround yourself with people who’ve been divorced in the past but who are now engaged in deliberately understanding the experience. No one leaves a marriage, chooses a new mate and deliberately tries to hurt themselves or their families again, but because we don’t go to divorce school, it happens all too often.
Tip #4: You’ve got to understand this modern-day rite of passage.
There’s no escaping the lesson. We like to think we’ve got it – we want to blame the breakdown on the partner who wanted out. So, moving forward, we imagine picking someone who has the same values as we do. Someone who takes care of themselves, who won’t nitpick, who’ll accept all of the things we do. Which means we’ve got this all figured out. Because in reality, the healing isn’t about the new partner… healing is an inside job.
That partner has nothing to do with how you’re coping with your divorce or with the rest of your life.
I meet a lot of divorced people. Some are happy with their lives, some are even happily married. Many are not. Many cringe when I ask about new relationships. They’re embarrassed. They admit to being lonely and unsure of what the future brings.
There are those who have moved on only to find themselves still stuck in reliving the past. And there are those who unknowingly pretend their divorce didn’t affect them.
How you handle stress and change will be a big indicator of how you’ll manage the onslaught of changes divorce brings with it. But I have yet to meet anyone who’s been married and divorced, even divorced and married again who doesn’t have a few scars unable to heal.
Tip #5: We’re not immune to the pain of separation and heartache.
Going through your separation, you may struggle to find a way to punish your ex. After all, they’re the ones who wanted out! But unfortunately, trying to enact judgment (bad-mouthing the other parent to your kids, gossiping, whining, carrying-on at parent-teacher meetings, demanding huge amounts of money) doesn’t help anyone. Especially you.
One of the most difficult lessons to grasp is that you don’t get to punish someone who wants to leave you. No matter why or for what reason.
Tip #6: You don’t get to play God.
It took a few false steps forward for A… to grasp that she wasn’t allowed to always be punishing and demanding. Every step forward, she was hit with another, tough blow. First from the attorney, then the courts, then the parenting coordinator. Each step forward was an attempt to punish her ex for leaving her and their kids. However, after many months of heartache, she began to release her grip on trying to keep things the way they once were.
It’s not easy to let go and learn to accept a separation and divorce when you didn’t want it. No one likes change and this rite of passage is filled with changes you have to learn to cope with.
The best way to manage the seemingly never-ending roller coaster of emotions is to learn how to respect them. To know when you’ve experienced enough indulging and when it’s time to move on with your day. To know that at any moment, you may be upset, the next you may not be.
There is no straight-line through this. More like twists and turns, backward and forwards, ups and downs. Having a support structure is key. Understanding how to cope with the loss paramount.
At a certain point, you’ll be ready to move on and begin to imagine having a new love. It may not feel easier, but when you learn how to cope with a divorce you don’t want, many things in life begin to fall into place. Your resilience becomes stronger, your faith in others, your trust in yourself. At a certain point, you get to look in the mirror and declare to no one in particular (other than yourself…)
Tip #7: You’ve got this!
Laura Bonarrigo is a Certified Life Coach and a Certified Divorce Coach at laurabonarrigo.com. Laura’s a writer, public speaker and the founder of doingDivorce™ School an online coaching program for those ready to shed the pain of divorce. For empowering and practical ways to cope the loss of your marriage, visit www.doingDivorceSchool.com. Enrollment is limited.