Leave the fear and intimidation behind to focus on what’s most important.
I’ll call her Janet. She spent years of her life married to a man who used emotional abuse to control her. When she had her epiphany and filed for divorce, he threatened her and swore he would take everything that she cherished, including custody of her children. Even after getting a restraining order against him, she was being stalked and intimidated by his wide circle of friends. And she was forced to leave her church where the pastor regularly preached that a wife’s duty was always to support her husband without question. She had to move out of her house in the middle of the night. She was terrified every time she had to go to court. She was terrified that her ex would succeed in taking her children away. She was convinced that his power and influence and money would ensure it. She had no voice.
Janet is not alone. As a divorce coach, I hear many stories of women, and sometimes men, who are in controlling relationships. After years of emotional abuse, it’s difficult to see the intimidation, the manipulation. And the basis for this control is to keep you in doubt, insecurity and inadequacy. Your entire existence is focused on trying to make him happy or trying to avoid the next conflict – all of which you can never succeed at. And you lose yourself. You lose who you are, trying to be what you think you “should” be. You lose yourself in a constant focus on him. And this kind of hyper-vigilance is exhausting. And like Janet, you suddenly have an epiphany that your partner who was supposed to love and cherish you until death do us part has become a very real saboteur in your life.
Finding the courage to leave an emotionally abusive relationship is incredibly difficult. And finding yourself and your voice in this divorce process is crucial to getting what you want … and what you deserve. It can feel impossible … but it isn’t with the right help and perspective.
I started working with Janet in the middle of her divorce. Through coaching, she found herself again. She discovered parts of herself she thought were long gone. She found her strength, her wisdom and her voice. She gained clarity around what was most important to her and a vision of having everything she wanted. And she finally started to believe she could have it. And then she was thrown into an intense 4-day negotiation to settle her divorce. She used the tools and structures from coaching to focus on what she wanted. She refused to be intimidated. She walked out with everything she wanted, including custody of her children. You don’t have to do this alone. Get the right help so that you can learn to be you again. You don’t have to be a victim in life or in this process. It’s never too late to start putting yourself in a better position.
Focus on YOU
After years of focusing so intensely on your ex, it can be challenging to shift your focus back to you. You need to though so that you can live a fulfilling life. I’ve heard all the self-limiting beliefs and excuses. You resist focusing on yourself because it feels selfish or undeserved or scary. You’re afraid that if you look at yourself you won’t like what you see. You’re ashamed that you fall so far short of his expectations and you’re ashamed that you’ve compromised yourself so much. It’s a no-win catch-22 situation. But that is all in the past now and you are powerless to change it. What you can do is ditch the fear and excuses. Focus on what you love about yourself. Bring your strength and courage and wisdom into focus. Be your authentic self and create a vision of what you want in the future. If you don’t treat yourself with love and respect, why should anyone else? And if you don’t consider yourself important, who will in this divorce process? You need to know who you are and what you want, so you can ask for it in this divorce. You need to own who you are. You have all the resources you need inside yourself. You just need to find them again.
Do What You’ll Be Proud Of
What would it feel like if you only did what you’d be proud of later? It’s freedom — from compromise, shame and doubt. It’s relief – from having to maintain a façade all the time. It’s achievement – at finally being your authentic self. It’s confidence – that you’re doing the right thing. So, do what you‘ll be proud of – always. And apply this rule to every decision you make in this divorce process – and there will be a lot of them! Apply this rule so that you never have to regret anything you do or anything you decide. You’ll be honoring your authentic self and your values. And it will feel fantastic!
You can’t control you ex. And your ex can’t control you. Only you can control you. And it’s important to realize that his intimidation and manipulation can’t touch you if you are focused on living and acting from your values. You don’t need to spend any more time or energy focused on what he may or may not do. You need to focus on yourself so that you can be proud of who you are. Model that behavior for everyone around you, including your children, and they’ll be proud of you too. Now is the time to find your voice and use it to move forward with confidence.