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!

Divorce and Separation: How to Handle Criticism from Your Ex

Question:
“How do I handle my anxiety? My ex-husband says negative things to me constantly.”

Answer:
Thank you for a great question about how to learn to manage your emotional state so it doesn’t go completely topsy-turvy when your ex-spouse fires off a nasty comment or jibe. So many people can relate to this situation, and there are indeed some strategies that can help you to not spin out emotionally.

In divorce there are lots of strong emotions that run rampant, often for months on end. This makes it hard to keep your emotional balance. Ex-spouses seem particularly gifted at knowing how to push those hot buttons that can send you into fear, anxiety, anger or depression. But it’s important to realize that we may never be able to get them to stop pushing the button BUT we can learn how to unplug that button so it doesn’t take you out of your power. To do this properly requires far more than can be offered in this article, but here are some strategies to get you started.

First, realize that what your ex thinks of you is actually none of your business. As I explain in my award-winning Divorce Resource Kit, the degree to which you continue to allow your energy and time to be sucked into drama about why your ex said something derogatory is the degree to which you help contribute to your ongoing suffering. Recognize that your ex is upset and acting out in a particular way because of their emotional reality, but that is your ex’s responsibility to sort out. Your primary responsibility has to be to your own healing journey. Don’t let your ex’s emotional state become a distraction to your own healing.

Second, go beyond the content of the negativity and get curious about what the dynamic is underneath it that bothers you so. If you’re having a strong emotional reaction, there is some gold here to mine for you.

For example, perhaps your ex mouthing off about you makes you feel totally disrespected. But look at that button of “I feel disrespected” closely. Are there some ways you might be disrespecting yourself? If so, what steps could you take to better honor and respect yourself. Often when you dig more deeply into the issue you will find some area where you need to uplevel and support yourself. When you address that, you’ll invariably find that particular barb from your ex will have far less ability to upset you because you have started to defuse the button altogether.

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!