How Do I Come to Terms with my Divorce?

By: David Lechnyr, LCSW

Divorce, or the loss of a relationship, is a very difficult time for all concerned.  It brings out many emotions, causes much confusion, and affects children, adults, parents, and the community.  Relationships are important to our lives and it is difficult for us to experience the loss of them.

As we experience the changes of divorce, it is important that we understand what has happened. Divorce happens for many reasons:

  • Because the relationship was not right from the beginning.
  • Because the other person refused to grow in the relationship, did not do their part, was more dependent on their spouse,  and not focused in developing personally or vocationally, etc..
  • Because it was a one sided relationship where one did all the work and growth and the other withdrew (a Co-Dependent relationship).
  • Because one member becomes too controlling.
  • Because one member was defensive, blaming, and condemning.
  • Because one member was not available emotionally.
  • Because one member was abusive, emotionally/verbally,/physically to the spouse or others.
  • Because one member was spoiled and wanted it their way.
  • Because the partners were immature and not ready for a relationship.
  • Because of affairs or other excessive, and addictive, behaviors.
  • Because both, or either one, would not work on the marriage.
  • Because of one’s own self-centered needs, lack of patience to work it out, and desire for a quick exit.
  • Because of Chemical Abuse issues that distorts the relationship.
  • For many other reasons.

What can be learned from Divorce

Fear is a key feature that causes problems in the world–we run from things we fear. Aloneness is another fear that pushes us into relationships too fast, or stops us from leaving bad relationships.  Don’t rush into another relationship right away. It is critical that one learn to experience the  full four seasons of the year separate from a relationship to grow, experience, know, and feel what it is like to start over again and find yourself.  Rushing this will cause problems for the new relationship and for you.  New relationships should not start until one year AFTER the final divorce decree–not before.  Second marriages fail more frequently than first ones because they are usually rushed into too soon because people are afraid of being alone and need a security blanket in order to make the transition out of fear.

Intimacy, or connecting to another human, is something we need yet we also fear it. Being alone is the most important thing that we can learn to do so we can connect to others from a place of love and not from a place of need.  To love we first need to learn to be alone with ourselves! Reaching Out to Others is hard to do because of shyness, fears, etc,  but it is a necessary quality of growing into a healthy human being. I Count is an important statement to make even if one is not in a relationship.

Learning to Live Day by Day is important.  We do not always have to have something happening.  We need to know how to get up, work, come home, have fun, relate to people–not focused on aloneness. Learn from Practice People how to relate to others.  Everyone you meet is a practice person.  Don’t date to marry.  Date and relate to practice and to get to know others–many others so you know what you want and feel comfortable with in life.  You can make choices later.

Anger and Being a Victim are normal for brief periods, but it is important to refocus yourself on how can I use this experience to grow.  Don’t get stuck in being upset, angry, and feeling sorry for yourself.  Let go of being angry, feeling sorry for yourself, and asking the stupid question of WHY!  This is just the way it is.  Accept it and focus on moving on with your life!  Otherwise, you will always be stuck, incompetent, and lost!

I can handle it should be your favorite phrase. Believe that no matter what happens you can handle it. Change is a Process that happens over time–Give it time.  Don’t panic or rush to solve it.  See it as a process.  There may be the excitement of a new relationship and the desire to have it cover the hurt of the lost relationship.  However, this covering will explode later.  We have to feel in order to heal, even though such feelings can be painful.

Remember, the children still need parents.  They need structure more at the point that things are falling apart.  They act out more to see if the parent can help provide the structure.  When in a crisis we tend to think of surviving and forget others.  Don’t do this to your kids—no matter where they are living. Children need both parents. Don’t play the kids by having them take sides, tell you things about your ex-mate, etc..  Respect the child’s need for needing to maintain the relationship with both parents. Don’t take your anger out on the children! We get upset that they are not behaving well and so over-react.  Everyone is in a crisis.  Slow down.  Be the adult.  Don’t blame or get mad at others.  Step back and think what needs to be done as the parent to help stabilize the situation for all concerned.

Most importantly, take care of yourself!  Keep up some structure, go to work, take care of business, shower, shave, get out of the house, and function.  If you stop doing things, do dumb things like taking drugs or alcohol, stop going into work, and give up then you will keep falling down further and further and no one can help you.  You have to help yourself!

The Emotions Of Divorce & Loss of the Relationship

The emotional resolution after a breakup requires years of challenging recovery work.The rift of divorce creates a psychological sense of dislocation for all parties–for spouses & children.

A marriage is an extremely emotionally close relationship that is part of one’s identity as a person.With a divorce, part of one’s identity is ripped away in an emotionally painful way.

All of this requires a process of grief and loss feelings that take time to work through over and over again. Negative, problem, reactions to the separation, such as jealousy, fights, or even suicide attempts, crimes, etc., represent attempts to alleviate this ripping dislocation of the self by remaining enmeshed, even in negative ways, emotionally with the other person. It is critical to examine one’s reactions in order to make positive and realistic adjustments at this difficult time.

Watch out for your needs pushing you to do dumb things.  When in a crisis we want quick solutions.  We look for quick comforts and get into bad relationships and situations just to feel better.  Don’t let this happen to you!  Slow down.  It is okay to feel scared, lonely and unsure for a while.  It will get better!

Avoid becoming a dependent, helpless person, who is not able to do anything without having to rely on other people to bail one out because one is so helpless or unable to do for themselves. Focus on doing one thing at a time; putting one foot in front of you at a time.  Don’t let the whole picture of what needs to be done overwhelm you.  Start with one thing, one area, one pile of stuff, at a time and do it! Remember, we only respect those people who take care of themselves and are responsible for themselves.  We avoid complaining, helpless ones, who feel sorry for themselves!