Divorce is a legal, emotional, psychological, physical, financial and a spiritual journey.
It impacts you at all levels. It’s hard core reality without any sugar coating.
Despite the fact that millennials wait longer to marry after completing an education and launching careers compared to past generations, divorce is still hitting at about 40% of first-time marriages. Regardless of your age, gender or what sociological factors drove to stand at the altar, (parental expectations, religion, financial security, children, or societal pressures), it remains a huge life altering transition that impacts all aspects of your life.
No one plans on divorcing when they first marry. Some might say: “It just happened!”
They kind of refer to it as if the marriage propelled itself automatically without any input from either them or their partner.
That only works if you’re in denial and you’ve decided not to own your part of it.
Perhaps this is the time to hit the pause button and take a look back and see how you got to this space and place in time. Did you see it running towards you? Or, did it sneak up on you when you least expected?
Either way, you never thought this would be your life!
You’ve heard the horror stories, you’ve got friends, relatives and TV Celebrities to tell you all about it. You’re in shock, you’re confused and you can’t stop crying!
Going to work seems impossible, because you can’t focus. At night when you’re alone, or when you’re in the shower, you find yourself trembling with fear. Life feels like it’s one big cookie crumble.
Most certainly, you’re hurt but you’re not the only one, especially if there are kids involved!
There’s nothing worse when he moves out in silence and you’re sitting there wondering: What the heck just happened? When did it even start? Was I even awake when it happened?
How you handle this situation will dictate your life for many years and beyond that too. You decide! Whichever direction you move towards, remember you are touching the lives of many others not just your own!
WHAT TO DO AND HOW TO COPE WHEN YOU TALK TO YOUR SPOUSE ABOUT THE DIVORCE.
- ACKNOWLEDGE THAT IT’S HAPPENING, ACCEPT IT
As angry and hurt as you might feel, you don’t have to act out your feelings in a negative way. Rather than battling in and out of court for years, accept it and then you can move on.
- OWN YOUR PART IN IT
As soon as you own your role in this situation, you’ll de-escalate any fireworks that might erupt! If you had to do it over, what would you do differently? When you communicate to your partner, that you own the choices you made at that time while acknowledging the consequences to your actions today, then he might join in and do the same!
- TELL HIM YOU’RE LISTENING
Now is the time to tell your partner, that he’s got your attention and you want to hear what he’s got to say.
- NO BLAME
Start a dialogue without judgement, finger pointing, yelling, name calling or projection. Maybe it would help for each of you to make some notes before the conversation, so that you can both keep the conversation on topic.
- FOCUS ON THE NOW
Avoid speaking in the past tense or referring to a past event in reference to time.
Example of what not to:
“Eight months ago when you did…”
Or, “I’ve told you this a thousand times!”
Keep your word choices current and in the moment. Speak as to how you are experiencing this conversation in the moment.
Example of what you might say:
“Right now, I feel nervous because I don’t want to fight with you anymore. I’m sorry it’s come to this, and I understand your reasons. My hope is that we can treat each other kindly as we move forward in figuring out the kids, the house, the money and all that.” “What are your thoughts?”
- BE NEUTRAL AROUND YOUR KIDS
Just because you’re experiencing this painful divorce from your spouse, doesn’t mean you get to disparage your husband or partner to the kids. Let them grow up to make their own choices! Besides, you’re going to be co-parents for a lifetime, so start learning how to make the best of it now.
- BREAK THE NEGATIVE PATTERNS NOW
The main goal is to not repeat the negative patterns in this marriage in your next relationship or marriage! Going to a psychologist, or licensed marriage counselor can help you and your spouse examine what the breakdown was in this marriage. The goal is not to repeat this cycle of pain and blame in your next marriage or drag your kids into the drama!
SIX QUICK STEPS ON WHAT TO DO AND HOW TO COPE DAY TO DAY.
- SELF CARE TIPS: Sleeping is very important (sleep deprivation mimics depression). Nutrition and exercise is equally key in helping you to sleep and focus and continue with the daily stressors of this divorce and life in general. Do something fun for yourself whatever brings you pleasure or entertainment.
- MEDICAL HEALTH TIPS: If you haven’t had a complete physical exam recently, perhaps it’s time to get a checkup with your primary care physician. This is very important for you emotionally too.
- WORK LIFE BALANCE: Now more than ever, if you’re a single parent, or single breadwinner for the first time find a balance between your time and everyone else. Work life, family life, and private time for yourself are all a priority! Find a hobby, or take a workshop, do something for yourself!
- MEDITATION: Yoga, Mindfulness are very helpful and are proven to be healthy habits to foster.
- SUPPORT YOUR KIDS : Help them make the adjustments they need by getting them into counseling, or exposing them to educational information that will normalize their emotional and behavioral reactions to the divorce.
NOTE: If they seem fine now, it’s still important to address, because their behaviors may emerge later, especially if they keep everything inside and don’t talk about the divorce to anyone.
- YOU’RE NOT GOING CRAZY: Everything you’re experiencing is a natural reaction to the stress that’s hitting you full force. Understandably, your bandwidth for worry and stress just expanded. Change is everywhere: Your identity, your income, your friends, your family, your neighborhood… everything familiar to you is different now.
What have you learned about yourself and how you cope with stress? This is your chance to make this a healthy divorce which means you take care of yourself in the process. It also means you have compassion for yourself, for your ex-spouse and for your children or family members.
If you find yourself stuck in a mindset or stuck in a negative feeling such as: anger, anxiety or depression, then go seek professional help. Speak to a counselor to help you get through the rough spots. If you keep struggling emotionally and you think things will change, they probably won’t and you’ll wind up having more stressors to add to your existing stressors.
In summary, this article addresses coping tips for those who are not experiencing the extremes. If your marriage has been violent and volatile, then take immediate steps to safety. If your spouse or you are demonstrating signs of addiction to alcohol or substances, then get professional help now!
If you recognize many of the behaviors indicated in this article as familiar to yourself or your partner, then initiate professional counseling to stop the pattern and to start embracing more positive life coping skills and strategies. You can do this! Decide to take the first step now.
Margot Brown has helped couples and individuals create happier lives for over 20 years. She’s the author of “Kickstart Your Relationship Now! Move On or Move Out.” You can find it on Amazon and in local bookstores near you.