Experiencing divorce can be one of the most stressful times in the life of a person. It has been said that divorce can be worse than death and that is not without reason. It’s the death of a marriage relationship, of a shared vision of happiness and your identity tied to that vision. How does one survive divorce without losing their mind? Emotionally, there’s no escaping the ensuing stress, but there are ways to minimize the negative effects of the divorce process and stay focused on what matters most with a clear mind. Here are 10 ways to emotionally cope while going through a divorce.
1. Look to the future
Those experiencing something as emotionally intense and mentally draining as divorce often get caught up in instant gratification. They focus on pain, driving them to seek retribution through fighting little battles with each other in court that end up costing them time, money, and even their sanity. This shortsighted thinking leads them to focus all their energy on momentary gains instead of living for their own future. Remember that a part of the divorce is to regain your self-sustaining happiness.
Keeping a clear picture of what you want your life to be like when you’re alone is the best way to ensure that you will take action any chance you get to make that image your reality. You are creating a new vision of happiness, one that does not include your current spouse. If this is difficult for you, it is likely that you have not accepted the ending of your marriage. Seeking therapy would help bring you to accept your divorce and all the nuances that come along with it.
2. Stay in the present
Looking to the future doesn’t mean ignoring the now. Remaining mindful of yourself, day by day, will help keep stress low and your body more healthy. The future may contain your goals, but the present is when you work towards them. It stands to reason that you would want to be at your best mind, body, and spirit; functioning at your optimal level as there are important decisions needing your best judgments. This takes high level self-care and remaining present.
It is a fact that dwelling in your past will bring depression and thinking of the negative side of the future will cause anxiety. To stay clear of anxiety and depression, it is best to keep your thoughts on the present moment through relaxation. Some of the most effective relaxation techniques include deep breathing, yoga, cardio exercises, or simply taking walks on the beach, going to the spa, etc… For those needing more intense therapies, seeking a therapist for techniques like self-grounding, the 5-senses, guided imagery is recommended.
3. Take time for yourself
A big part of good self-care is taking time for yourself. If you’re like most people, the prospect of being alone again is unnerving. The loss of a companion can upend our routines, our desires, even our own definition of what it means to pass the time. The good news is there is no shortage of healthy hobbies to occupy our time. Joining or frequenting your gym of choice is ideal as they’re typically cost effective for what you can get out of a gym membership. You might surprise yourself with a skill you can find in a hobby like baking, woodwork, painting, or yoga. Take the time to discover an interest and nourish it until it becomes your passion. This will serve the purpose of finding yourself again independently of your marriage relationship.
4. Be with family and friends – building a support system
Taking time for yourself is important and needed, just as it’s crucial to have friends and family around for support. It is often quite difficult to reach out to family and friends through a divoce due to the fear of rejection and judgments. When a marriage is dissolved, it causes division in family and friends as opinions and feelings are heightened, and this makes it quite difficult to ask for support. The key to finding the support you need is staying humble and respectful. Being humble means not insisting you’re in the right and your spouse is in the wrong. There is no right or wrong in a decision to divorce. There’s only what is best in the situation, and what’s best can be a matter of opinion and quite often not agreed by both parties.
Remaining respectful involves making allowances for friends and family to form their own opinions and experience their own feelings about your divorce. In a difficult divorce, family and friends would be divided and make their stances with one side and against another. That is to be expected. Draw near to those in support of you and stay away from those who are not, having respect and understanding for their own experience. Isolation is never ideal when going through a divorce, so if you’re struggling in this area, a divorce therapist can really help provide the support you need through the process.
5. Take the high road
When face with two alternatives, choose the third option. I use this statement often in counseling married couples, but the same principle applies to a couple going through divorce. It’s just a bit harder to apply due to lack of motivation since the marriage is ending. What if I told you that your motivation is stronger now than ever before?
Remember when I mentioned how mentally draining and emotional the process of divorce can be? Most of the stress perpetuated on both sides of a bitter divorce is avoidable if both parties chose to take the same route to its completion: the high road. People often lose sight of the true purpose of divorce, which is to ultimately be happy. These parties will engage each other in a knuckle bearing, drag-out divorce process trying to ensure that they end up happier than their soon-to-be ex. They make mountains out of molehills and eagerly declare their intent to die on said hills. Anyone honest with themselves will admit by the end of such a nasty process that they aren’t in fact “happier”.
Regardless of your feelings for each other by the point of divorce, it’s a process you must complete together. Make the last road you travel together the high road. If finding mutual ground is a shared goal between both of you through the divorce, seeking the help of a divorce therapist would be most helpful as they can facilitate effective communication and provide resources for an amicable divorce.
6. Do what’s best for you
Taking the high road through the divorce process is not something you necessarily need the other side’s company in. True, your taking the high road does benefit both sides, but it will be one in a long line of decisions to be made for your best interest. It is not easy to make the switch from considering your partner in every decision you make to making decisions solely based on what’s best for you, but such is the nature of divorce. Don’t let guilt or fear bog you down.
A divorce means taking back control of your own life. It doesn’t make you a bad person because you no longer cater to your spouse. You owe it to yourself to make the changes truly needed for your happiest life and if your ex-partner is reasonable, they would want the same for you. Quite often with a bit of give and take, you will find that choosing yourself does not leave the other at a cost. If you need help in the area of choosing yourself in divorce, reach out to a qualified divorce therapist for some personal empowerment work.
7. Love and marriage do not go together like a horse and carriage
You can love someone without being married to them just as you can be married to someone you don’t love. You don’t have to hate this person to divorce them either. Being able to make the distinction between love and marriage or hate and divorce would bring relief to a struggling mind and help you move towards acceptance. Understand that two seemingly opposing principles like love and divorce can co-exist.
The most honest of those divorced will say that what inspired the decision to separate was, in fact, love. Loving someone means a desire for their happiness. By the point of divorce, either one or both parties are faced with the fact that they can no longer make their partners as happy as they want. It’s only through pure love that someone can recognize for them or their partner to be as happy as possible again, they have to be willing to let them go.
8. Cultivate a future relationship
In general it’s always a good idea to cultivate a new relationship with your soon-to-be ex. If kids are involved, it’s a given that a co-parenting relationship is to be nurtured during and after the divorce. Keep in mind that just because your marriage ends, it doesn’t mean that you stop being good parents to your kids, or co-workers if you happen to work together, or even staying good friends for that matter. When children are involved, it is not just about the two of you, but the whole family unit is deeply affected and all its members are in turmoil. Parents who can keep it together through divorce co-parent better and thus raise better adjusted children. Therefore, it is even more crucial to do divorce right as parents and take every step necessary to ensure the well being of your children, however young or old.
9. Don’t bite more than you can chew
In many cases of divorce, being in pain, people rush into another relationship to fill the void. This, unfortunately, is not an effective way to emotionally cope with divorce, as it can bring added stress and confusion to the process. This is not a stable time for you. You have a lot on your plate already. It is not a time to start a new relationship. It’s always a good idea to have complete closure on your marriage before entering another romance. In fact, It is recommended that divorced individuals take at least a year after closure for self-care and healing. Going through a break-up recovery program is a good idea to clear out emotional baggage from the marriage.
10. Work with a divorce therapist
Last, but not least, find a therapist specializing in divorce counseling as they can provide resources including referrals to legal services, as well as walking you through the steps of the divorce process. Working with a divorce therapist can help you get through your divorce as quickly and as amicably as possible. This will ensure that the level of stress and anxiety that usually accompany divorce is reduced significantly so that you are clear-minded and focused to work on issues that matter most to you. In a good therapist, you can find support and guidance through, what can be, one the most emotionally draining experiences of your life. A divorce therapist can help you process your feelings and equip you with the skills you need to effectively cope with divorce. This way you can put it all behind you, easily heal, and get on with your life without residual effects.