Divorce and Separation: How to Handle The Reactions of Family and Friends

Question:
“I’ve been separated for a few months now and am still feeling pretty shell-shocked. How do I handle my friends and family? Everyone is telling me what to do, how I should feel, asking all sorts of questions I don’t feel like answering. I feel like shutting down.

Answer:

The transition from going from married to separated can be pretty rocky. It sounds like your emotional stamina has been really tested, which is to be expected. Your family and friends and all of their advice and questions are well-intentioned, but it sounds like they aren’t really helping. So how do you ask for what you need?

Don’t be afraid to tell your supporters that you appreciate their help but right now the best way they could help you is simply to offer you love and to listen to you. Listening deeply to another without an agenda to “fix” them or solve their problem is such an important gift. Too often people listen more to what they want to say next, instead of ….

just listening and letting someone pour their heart out. Tell them the barrage of advice and “Here’s what I would do” are adding to your sense of overwhelm instead of helping you get your feet back on the ground.

Realize that your friends and family are likely going through their own emotional upset as well. People don’t get training manuals on divorce etiquette, so they are doing the best they can and may simply be feeling uncomfortable themselves. They may have strong feelings about your ex-partner, or are concerned about your well-being, or both. It could be bringing up their own feelings of insecurity or doubt about their own relationship. Regardless, it’s totally acceptable to let them know what you need. If the conversation starts to go down a road you don’t want to travel, simply tell them “You know, I’d rather not get into that right now. Let’s change the subject.” They will follow your cues.

It is important, however, that you do find some forum to express and explore your feelings. Divorce isn’t easy, but it’s an opportunity to discover new wisdom and strength within yourself, if you’re willing to look. So I wouldn’t recommend simply “shutting down” permanently. The risk there is that you could simply repeat past mistakes because the lessons that are in this separation for you haven’t been fully excavated and digested.

The Divorce Resource Kit offers many tools, such as the THRIVE Principles ™ and strategies to help you get your sense of center and confidence back. You may also want to work with a divorce coach or find a local support group where you can connect with others going through divorce. You don’t need to travel the divorce journey alone.

WANT TO ASK A QUESTION?
Ask your question, in confidence, by clicking here or you may email us at askthrive@thriveafterdivorce.com. We’ll answer your question in upcoming issues!

Can You Remain Friends with Your Ex After 25 Years?

Q: “This was to be our 25 year anniversary but we are getting a divorce instead. We had a great life and I do not hate him. I want to remain friends with him and his family. We were very close and did things together a lot. Would it be bad for me and my grief recovery to remain friends? Should I just let our teenage boys maintain that relationship? If so how do I get past the jealousy of him getting to “keep that part of our life”?”

A. I know this isn’t how you might have imagined celebrating 25 years of marriage, but I commend you for the relative amicability you have been able to achieve so far. With teenage children in the mix, it is important that you are able to preserve your ability to co-parent and communicate with one another. You raise some great issues and I will do my best to address them.

In terms of your grief recovery, you will discover the degree to which you are able to remain friends with your ex. There are certainly examples of divorced couples who have found a way to maintain, or perhaps more accurately re-invent, a relationship after divorce that goes beyond simply co-parenting. However it requires willingness on both sides to have that as a goal, and to develop the communication skills and personal mastery skills to do this. As you move through your separation process, I recommend you tap into the resources of the expertise you’ll find in the Divorce Resource Kit or from an experienced counselor.

In terms of your teenage boys and their relationship with their father, I would certainly encourage you to do what you can to support their continued relationship with their dad. They are old enough as well to express their preferences. You say that you feel jealous about your husband being able to “keep that part of our life,” but with all due respect that precious part of your life, ie your teenage boys, was only made possible with the participation of your husband. It is the ego that feels jealousy or wants to compare if you receive more or less love.

But your higher self already knows that there is no shortage of love. What I recommend to help you through those feelings is to keep your children’s best interest in mind and resist any temptation to put your children in the middle of their divorcing parents. Keep the long term perspective in mind. How do you want your children to feel at a future milestone like a college graduation or wedding if both mom and dad are present? Build and celebrate your relationship with your sons. Let your relationship with them be your primary focus.

 

WANT TO ASK A QUESTION?

Ask your question, in confidence, by clicking here or you may email us at askthrive@thriveafterdivorce.com.

Divorce and the Holiday Season

Q. “The holiday season is coming up and I’m recently separated. I have two school-age boys. My stomach feels like a knot thinking how different the holidays are going to be now for them. Is there some way to make it easier?”

A. Family holidays are supposed to be relaxing and stress-free, but often they aren’t. Planning family holidays is a particular challenge for the millions of divorced families out there. In fact, one out of three Americans is part of a blended family (and I suspect the statistics are similar for Canadians).

Divorced families face an even bigger challenge with holiday planning with children shuttling back and forth between mom’s house and dad’s house. There are all those logistical questions. Whose turn is it to have the children for Christmas morning? What if both parents are having a turkey dinner on the same day? How do you handle summer break? What do you do if you end up solo on a major family celebration day?

The key for separated families, like yours, is to doing some advance planning and preparation. Without that, holidays can end up being a time for stress and re-opening of old wounds instead of a time to relax and unwind, both for divorced parents and their children. There are some tips I can offer to make it a bit easier. First of all, instead of planning your holidays one at a time, … Continue reading

Divorce and Separation: Stopping the Negative Mental Loops

Question:

How can you stop the negative loops recalling what went wrong (and what was so right)? How do you stop trying to ‘fix’ it in your own mind?”

Answer:

Divorce, heartache, grief and rebuilding your life – it’s all part of the healing journey everyone must travel when your relationship ends. The mind is a beautiful problem-solving tool. But when it comes to matters of the heart and relationship, our brain is often not well-equipped to help us heal.

Having those cyclical thoughts and questions of “What if….?” or questioning what might have turned out differently if you’d made different choices in the past is quite natural. It is simply the brain sifting, sorting and trying to find patterns and solutions from past experiences it has stored to find a way out of the situation you find yourself in. Sometimes you know your relationship is on the rocks, and sometimes you don’t. So our powerful brain is literally scanning its memory banks to find pieces of data that might help you to create a solution and get to the other side of your heartache.

But your power and choices lie in each present moment. The problem with unchecked cyclical thoughts is that they keep you replaying the past or projecting yourself into a fantasy future that is sheer speculation. The key to making empowering choices for yourself and navigating through your divorce is when you stay present, moment-to-moment.

If you find yourself caught in a mental spin cycle, a great way to break out of it is to write it all down. Use a journal to capture your thoughts and questions. This will assure your brain you’re doing something productive with all of its gyrations and help loosen the grip of these negative loops on your mind.

You can also set some boundaries around this kind of thinking. Give yourself a time limit of some kind to fully review the good, bad and ugly about your situation and how you got there and then once your timer goes off, stop. Break your physical and mental state by putting on some great tunes and dancing, or do some jumping jacks, and then undertake another kind of activity.

It’s also important to ask great questions. Setting your brain to the task of “How could I “fix” things?” assumes that something is broken that you are responsible for fixing. Redirect your powerful mind to answering the question “If this experience is part of my soul curriculum, what are the gifts in it for me and my personal evolution?” or “What can I learn from this that will serve me in all future relationships?”

Have a question about divorce you’d like to see answered? Submit yours to Thrive after Divorce by sending an email to askthrive@ThriveAfterDivorce.com.

 

Divorce in a Small Town

Question:

“I live in a small community. My biggest challenge is I am always seeing my ex and the woman he had an affair with and married on a weekly basis because of the children’s activities. I feel like I can’t “get over” my divorce because I am kept inflamed constantly in the present.”

Answer:

Living in a small community where “everybody knows your name” can pose an additional challenge to those trying to rebuild their life after divorce, particularly when your ex and his partner seem to be omnipresent. Nonetheless, the basic principles of thriving after divorce … Continue reading

Divorce Relief: What to Do When You Can’t Stop Thinking About Your Ex

Q. “I am challenged by wondering all the time about what my soon-to- be ex-spouse is thinking or doing, and most agonizingly sad, who is is with?

A. Separation and divorce is a bumpy road and it takes some time, dedicated effort and great tools to help get through to the other side. You are not alone is having part of your mind get on a frustrating hamster wheel of wondering about your ex. Our brain can get like a dog on a bone, chewing endlessly (often in the middle of the night) with a litany of questions like:

Is he as sad as I’m feeling?

Is he regretting his choices?

Is he healing faster than I am and what is wrong with me that I still feel grief?

Has he moved on in love, and who is he with? What is she like? How do I compare to her?

Divorce, even if you’re the one who initiated, is still a shock to your emotional system. The brain wants to make sense of it all, so it starts to seek and scan for answers. Our egos want to compare and judge – who is “winning the race” for getting through the pain and over the divorce first. It’s simply a natural way our sense of self-identity gets constructed.

It is important to realize excessive speculating and wondering is actually a distraction from your own healing journey. Here are some ways you can break the pattern and stop fixating on your ex….

Keep a journal and write out all the questions you have running around in your head. Like taking the lid off a boiling pot of water releases the pressure, journaling your worry thoughts will help them to dissipate more quickly. You get to see your questions from a more objective perspective.

Sometimes we let our attention wander and get ourselves stuck in the past is because we don’t have a clear vision for our future after divorce. Do some work to help create your road map through your divorce. The award-winning Divorce Resource Kit to has questions, exercises and guided meditations that can help you chart your course for your future.

It’s also important to keep your focus on what you actually have control and influence over, such as your own thoughts, words and actions. Diverting your energy to anyone else instead of your own process of understanding the deeper spiritual lessons that are available through your divorce is a distraction. Take responsibility for what you can change and learn, and let the rest go.

© 2012 Carolyn B. Ellis

 

Finding Your Balance After Divorce

Q. “My question is really an intricate combination of how to keep myself in balance and go forward instead of wallowing in rumination about being unemployed, parenting three kids (9, 11, & 16) and navigating the mediation process all at the same time! My house is a disorganized mess, my finances are slim and uncertain, and the kids are struggling with self-image, anger and silence. It’s hard to even get up in the morning, especially those days I’m alone.”

A. You are certainly in the thick of the upheaval that separation and divorce can create. I remember those days well and it can be a very bumpy road. Divorce is like having a tornado touch down and hit your life. Every major part of your life – your children, finances, friends, emotional state – feel like they have been strewn about. The stress from all of this is enormous, so I really honor you for asking this question and reaching out for support. While I can’t answer everything you’ve asked here, let me at least identify a key priority area for you and recommend some useful resources to get you started.

There are so many moving parts here, it can feel overwhelming to even know how to begin. The first piece of the divorce puzzle that I recommend you attend to is yourself. Your self-care practices are critical. You can get stretched very thin as you cope with lawyers, finances, children and your own feelings about your separation. The unfortunate thing about divorce is that you’re asked to make such important choices at a time when your emotions are running high. And when emotions run high, the ability to make considered and savvy decisions tends to run low. By ensuring you do whatever you can to recharge your batteries, it will help to stabilize you and support you in dealing with all the other important relationships and issues you are currently facing.

What does that look like if you were to uplevel your self care? Start writing down your thoughts and feelings in a journal instead of bottling them up. Simple and inexpensive things like taking a walk in nature or getting yourself flowers can help. Ask for help from family and friends in specific ways. For example, having a clutter busting party at your home might help you get an important “win” in short order. You may want to reach out to trusted friends or a divorce coach for support.

In my award-winning Divorce Resource Kit, I address this subject specifically and there’s even a checklist with 52 easy, inexpensive self-care strategies in it. There are also many tips and principles there to help you create your own road map through divorce, and to help you set your priorities. I would also recommend “The 7 Pitfalls of Single Parenting: What To Avoid to Help Your Children Thrive after Divorce.” This award-winning book addresses many of the issues you are facing with your children, and will help you to cut your learning curve of being a divorced parent considerably.

The bottom line here? Take it one step, and one day at a time. Be gentle and caring with yourself. Don’t try to take on everything at the same time. And above all, don’t reinvent the wheel on how to cope with all the issues divorce is raising for you. There are so many great resources available to help you.

WANT TO ASK A QUESTION?

Ask your question, in confidence, by clicking here or you may email us. We’ll answer your question in upcoming issues!

3 Tips to Getting Over Yourself and Into Action

(If you prefer to listen to the audio version of this week’s article instead, just click “Listen Now” below!)

“Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.” ~Benjamin Franklin

A big challenge brilliant entrepreneurs face is we get tripped up getting in our own way. So with the deepest love and respect, I suggest we all get over ourselves! What do we need to get over? Just a few wee things that stop us from getting into some serious action – things like our perfectionism, our doubts, our
“reasons” why we can’t have what we want.

Have you ever had a great idea blossom in your heart, only to find yourself losing steam and courage? The perfectionism kicks in as you wonder whether the idea will be “good enough” for your clients. Or perhaps you delay product launches because you want to keep tweaking the copy, the packaging and the marketing because your doubt that people want what you have has been taking you down a side road. Maybe you decide you need just one more seminar in something and THEN you’ll be ready to take action. Does any of this sound familiar to you?

If it does, you are not alone

Tip 1. Take Imperfect Action

On the one hand, a desire to offer excellence in service is a beautiful thing. But when getting your products and services out there gets side-lined with a need to have everything be “perfect” that is a problem. Creativity is an energy that needs to stay in circulation. When you stop taking action because you’re tinkering with small details, that creativity and inspiration turns quickly into a form of emotional and spiritual constipation.

One of my mentors says, “Imperfect progress is better than perfect inaction.” Waiting until all your ducks are in a row before you green light a new idea is a way to stifle your brilliance. Your market and the rest of the world are moving and you may be missing out on some valuable opportunities as you tinker to get everything “just right.”

Tip 2. Keep Your Eyes on the Horizon

Remember there is a whole big world out there full of people who need to be touched in some way by the gifts and services you offer. So keep your eyes on the horizon so you can get the bigger picture.

Getting in your own way means you’ve just narrowed your perspective to only see your own issues and obstacles. And that ultimately robs those people who have problems you can help solve get the relief and solution they are looking for. Plus, it robs you of the ability to be compensated for your gifts and grow your business and influence even further.

Tip 3. Eat the Elephant One Bite at a Time

Feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to start is another way to get tripped up. To get into powerful action, remember to break things down into manageable chunks. As the story goes, the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

Keep asking yourself what is the next actionable step you can take, and then take it. That way you won’t let the scale of a project give you an excuse to sit on the sidelines while you figure it all out.

STEP INTO YOUR BRILLIANCE
Scan your project lists – both business and personal. See if there’s an area that is calling out for you to “get over yourself.” Identify one bite-sized piece of imperfect action you can take. Take action on it within the next 7 days.

© 2011 Carolyn B. Ellis All Rights Reserved

Divorce and Separation: Letting Go of Your Past Married Life

Q. “How I let go my life for the past 23 years?”

A. Finding the energy and will to move forward into uncharted territories after divorce can be a really tough challenge. It’s uncomfortable standing at that turning point of ending a relationship and facing an unknown future.

But staying stuck in a place of looking back at the past with regret, sadness and longing is problematic because you do need to step into a life after divorce. Imagine trying to drive a car, but you’re only ever looking in the rearview mirror. It’s tricky to get to where you want to go unless you shift your gaze to your life ahead.

Here are just a few tips to help you get the courage to move ahead. First, harvest the wisdom that you’ve gained in those 23 years. How have you grown? What strength and insight do you have now that you didn’t before? Our partners are often our greatest teachers, so even though the relationship is ending there are gifts you’ve received from your union. This simple exercise will help you realize that amidst the pain and sadness, there are absolute life jewels you’ve received from this process.

Second, use what didn’t work in your relationship to get clear on what you DO want to have in your life going ahead. In divorce most of us have a laundry list of all the things that we didn’t like about our ex-partner. So why not use that to your advantage to get clear on what your values and priorities for future relationships are? For example, if your husband didn’t share some important interests in you, or was dishonest, now you know that finding a partner who shares your passions and values honesty as much as you do is important for you to have.

If you’d like more strategies to help map your life after divorce, I’d recommend you check out my award-winning Divorce Resource Kit. It will guide you in simple yet powerful ways to getting your emotional feet back on the ground, and how to find the courage and energy to step boldly into your new life.

Divorce and Separation: When Your Friends Divorce You Too

Unfortunately, divorce often leaves a big wake of broken relationships in its path. There are ripple effects that spread out far beyond the initial “Ground Zero” of your relationship ending. It can be very painful, and hopefully you can take some small comfort in knowing you are not alone in feeling the sting of either betrayal or friends retreating from you.

So why does this happen and what can you do about it?

Divorce isn’t easy for anyone, and friends and family members will often take their cue from you. If your separation is dramatic and contentious, chances are higher that those around you will feel a greater need to “vote with their feet” in terms of picking sides. I believe it’s important not to force people to choose sides in order to prove their love and support of you. You can address this by letting those around you know that you know it’s not easy to see two people they care about get divorced, but that your relationship with them is important and you’d like to find a way for that to continue on post-divorce.

It’s important to realize that inevitably people’s relationships will change after divorce. This is especially true of how you relate with family members of your ex. In some ways, the relationships that do fall away easily were likely not strong sources of support for you in any case. View it as an opportunity to find out who you can truly count on, through even the tough times, rather than feeling a false sense of security by having a large stable of fair-weather friends.

Remember that you are responsible for your own thoughts, words and actions. Work through feelings of betrayal or anger with the help of your journal, a coach and aim to be able to let it go. We can’t control the actions of other people. Be willing to speak your truth. Realize that everyone is doing the best they can with the tools they have. Ultimately, what you need to do about it is to focus on your journey and your healing.