Divorce hurts. There is no way around experiencing pain during divorce. While there may not be a way to avoid pain, there are certainly ways to manage the feelings and issues that arise during the divorce process to reduce it. Unfortunately, many of us unknowingly add to emotional upsets by automatically repeating behaviors that create or encourage conflicts rather than resolve them.
There are four particularly unproductive behaviors that make matters more difficult during divorce: unforgiveness, resistance, being problem focused, and being reactive. Being able to shift from these four behaviors towards forgiveness, acceptance, a solution focus, and responsiveness is guaranteed to make your divorce journey easier, and you and your children healthier.
Unforgiveness is the first behavior to be aware of. Marriages fall apart for a multitude of reasons: fighting, a lack of sexual intimacy, boredom, damaged psyches, ongoing financial stressors, incompatibility, etc. Whatever the causes of a marriage failing, being able to let go of self and other recrimination lifts an immense burden off of your shoulders.
Forgiving yourself for not knowing what you didn’t and couldn’t know, for what you didn’t and couldn’t do, and not seeing what you couldn’t see makes sense. Holding it against yourself for being stuck keeps you stuck. Once you can begin to focus on what you now know, what you can now do, and what you can now see, you will feel a new sense of power. You can use this power to choose your way in the present, even with the fear and uncertainty of divorce.
You always have options, even if they all seem to stink. Choosing begins to open possibilities for improving your situation. Choosing to forgive yourself and begin considering what choices you can make to improve your situation is a great place to start.
Resistance is the second behavior to be aware of. Your situation is as it is. Resisting what is, after you’ve gotten your head around it, does not make it go away. It makes you impotent to manage your end of it effectively. As much as characteristics of your spouse can be frustrating, annoying, or even dangerous, this is who you married. This is who you tried to change and couldn’t. If you share children, this is who you will be co-parenting with.
What you resist persists
The antidote to resistance is acceptance. Acceptance is not allowing dangerous or violent behavior. It is accepting that your spouse will be engaging in it. Your job is to accept what’s real and design strategies to protect yourself and your children.
Shifting into acceptance of your situation, of who your spouse is whether you “approve” of him/her or not, allows you to manage how predictable undesirable behaviors impact your life. Acceptance allows you to be proactive. For example, if your spouse is late all the time, accept this pattern of his/her’s and put in place alternatives so you are no longer thrown off when he/she is late the next time. Accept what is and find new workarounds that improve your life.
A problem focus is the third behavior to move away from. Focus instead on solutions to situations that you have the power to impact. There is an adage in car racing, the race car will go where the driver’s eyes are looking.
“The driver who cannot tear his eyes away from the wall as he spins out of control will meet that wall; the driver who looks down the track as he feels his tires break free will regain control of his vehicle.” - Garth Stein, author
If you keep your focus on problems, that will be what you see and experience. You will keep hitting those walls of difficulty. You will exhaust yourself and erode whatever energy you have to get you through and beyond this divorce.
A solution focus is the opposite. If you ask yourself how you can best move from where you are to where you would like to be it demands your mind seek ways forward, solutions to the situation. Each solution you find buoys your energy, adds to your self confidence, and reinforces being solution focused.
Reactivity, being triggered to re-act to a familiar situation the same way each time that situation or a similar situation arises, is the fourth and last behavior to shift out of. A trigger is whatever situation brings forth that reactivity in you. There is no creativity, no freedom, no forethought when you are reactive. Reactivity re-creates similar pain and suffering for you and those around you every time you are triggered.
Responsiveness is the antidote to reactivity. Being responsive is becoming conscious of when you are triggered and pulling the break. It is STOPPING the moment you are aware you’ve been triggered. Use that SPACE to breathe, calm your nervous system, and remember what’s important to you in that moment. Being able to be intentional and strategic in your response gives you immense power to change the dynamic and steer the situation towards an outcome of your choosing.
It is necessary to shift these four behaviors if you are to divorce well and emerge stronger, clearer, and more effective at life than when you started. It is not easy yet it is possible. This is an area where individuals recognize they need support to shift their behaviors from those that hurt to those that help.
If you want to shed old counterproductive behaviors and be empowered to navigate your divorce intentionally with less pain, sign up for our Rapid Relief Call and power your ability to discover solutions to what seems like a perpetual precession of problems!