Divorce can hit you like a hurricane you never knew was coming.
The storm around you is fear, doubt, confusion, anger, rejection and sadness. Maybe you initiated the separation or maybe your ex did. Regardless, divorce feels like a drastic last step off a cliff into the unknown. And the scariest question of all is: What’s Next? The idea of an unscripted future brings out your worst fears. With all these negative emotions, it is difficult to envision what a new life will look like. And the steps to get there just don’t exist yet. Without even realizing it, you’ve let your fear and anger distract you from your path forward and keep you stuck in all the negative emotions you are trying to avoid. The door to your marriage has closed, so why are you still looking at it? And how can you open a new door?
Distraction #1: Was It Me?
I see so many people stuck in the “Was It Me?” syndrome. And I have an easy answer for that: yes, it was you … and it was also your ex. Two people create a relationship and each contribute to that dynamic in their own way. I’m sure there were faults and missteps, as much as there was love, from each of you. There often isn’t one particular reason why it all went wrong. It just did. And yet, you are often fixated on finding that one logical thing that would have changed it all. The past is gone. And your version of the past is just a story. How is it serving you to analyze that story again and again now? It doesn’t. It is actually keeping you from moving forward. Let it go.
Distraction #2: He Cheated on Me!
The sting of betrayal cuts deep. The person you loved and trusted the most broke your vows. There is rage and hurt here, and unfortunately, self-doubt. Know that your ex made a conscious decision to cheat. Know that there was nothing you were BEING or DOING that made that decision for him. It is a sign that something is deeply wrong in the relationship. And as we discussed in Distraction #1, it takes two people to make (and break) a relationship. Your anger is justified, but your self-doubt is not. Don’t internalize his issues or let your anger distract you from what is most important: YOU. Let it go or you will be sacrificing precious time and energy on a no-win situation.
Distraction #3: My Ex’s Life Is Better Than Mine.
Again and again, I hear about the ex and what is happening in HIS life. Outside of your co-parenting plan, why is his life relevant to you at all anymore? Divorce is not a competition. There are no winners here. And the idea that the grass is greener on your ex’s lawn is just that – an idea in your head. And spending all of this time and energy obsessing about what your ex is doing or thinking is really a form of flattery. Do you really want to give him that kind of time and energy? Remember, stalkers are just fans gone bad … and while you were your ex’s biggest fan in the past, you don’t need to be his stalker now. It’s a sign that you haven’t let go yet. I suspect that putting the spotlight on your ex keeps it off of you … and all of the responsibilities and decisions that are now yours alone. Accept that you are up to the task and let it go.
Make Happiness Your Goal
It’s easy to get stuck in these distractions when you don’t have anything motivating you to move forward. So, I suggest making happiness your goal. You need to have a goal right now to avoid useless distractions. You need a positive goal you can move towards with hope. You will make better decisions for yourself and shape a better, more fulfilling life. And you will receive a better return on your investment of time and energy. Sounds simple and yet, oh so difficult, right? With small steps, it doesn’t have to be. Follow these steps and you will eventually realize that you ARE happy.
Accept Where You Are, But Know It Is Temporary
You need to feel everything you feel. No distractions. Experience the hurt and sadness without trying to numb your emotions. These feelings are real and need to be acknowledged. As Kathleen Casey said, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” Know that you will never feel these exact combination of feelings again. They are unique to this time and place. They will go away. Trust that you have a life filled with joy waiting for you right around the corner.
Identify and Appreciate Everything That Makes You Happy
Try to find something that makes you happy during this dark time. It could be small, like a sunrise, a unique interest or your child’s laughter. Hang onto it. Notice what else is there. Find those little treasures and store them up. Appreciate those small moments. Find larger ones. The more you notice, acknowledge and appreciate what makes you happy, the happier you will become.
Create a Happy Vision of Yourself in the Future
Once you have a sense of the things that bring you joy, paint a mental picture of yourself being happy all the time. What are you doing? What’s around you? What are you like in this new life? You can also reinforce this mental picture by creating a mood board, or a collage of images, that represent joy for you. Look at how you have created a better life for yourself. Look at what a great role model you are for your children. Being happy is a mind-set – one we have to choose for ourselves. It takes practice, but it is well worth it.
Happiness is the only thing that will make YOU the real winner in this divorce. I know I said earlier that there were no winners in divorce, but happiness is the one exception to the rule. And happiness IS the best revenge when you are focusing on yourself and not your ex. Who knows? He’s probably still stuck in his own distractions. No worries, your grass is definitely greener than his now.