Every one of us knows someone who has gone through a divorce. After all, nearly half of all first marriages end in divorce. And those rates increase dramatically for subsequent marriages, 67% of second marriages and 74% of third marriages end in divorce*. Unfortunately, when we watch others go through a divorce, most of what we see is heartache and turmoil. Their lives are chaos for at least 1-2 years, filled with emotion, bouncing between sadness, anger and fear.
But now it may be your time to be headed into a divorce and all of a sudden, it’s become very personal…and very scary.
Here’s how to do it differently than everyone else so that their painful experience is not your own:
Walk away in anger or love. If you’re walking away from a long-term marriage, you have a choice about how to do it. Most choose to leave in anger and blame—because it’s literally easier to take action when we’re angry. It’s why most marriages end as a result of a big argument. When we’re sad, it’s hard to put one foot in front of the other, but when we’re mad…we can walk out the door and slam it behind us. Most people don’t know any other way to do this.
There is an alternative, however. You can choose to walk away in love. You can acknowledge that yes, you’re hurting, but he’s also likely hurting in some way. You can realize that this won’t be an easy process for either of you and maybe some compassion for yourself and your spouse is warranted during this time. You can commit to showing up with both peaceful and healthy boundaries for yourself and honoring his.
Walking away in love is more difficult. It requires more emotional maturity. It requires more self-awareness. It requires you to make a commitment to do this as peacefully as possible—not just for his benefit or the benefit of your children, but for your own. But walking away in love is how you move through this difficult time with a little bit of ease and grace.
Manage Your Fear. Going through a divorce is one of the most stressful life experiences you can have, so your mind is going to be filled with fears about all the change and what could occur. You will have fears about money, about where you will live, about what life will look like when it’s all over. You will have fears about screwing up your kids and whether or not you’ll be alone forever. Get practiced at challenging those fears, asking yourself, “Is that really true?” Then remain as clear as possible about what is real and factual and when it is fear doing the talking. My best guess is that at least 85% of what you’re thinking when you’re feeling anxiety is your mind sending you fearful messages and not reality. And most people—who you’ve seen go through long and painful divorces—don’t know that most of the fearful thoughts they’re thinking aren’t actually true so they act out on that behavior.
Be Intentional About Who You Invite In. You will have people around you that love you and want to know how you’re doing. They may even want to protect you. They’ll definitely want to support you. That sounds great, until you realize that when you share the details of your divorce with those around you, you are essentially rolling-out the red carpet for them to have an opinion about your life and your marriage. And their opinion can only be their story: their perspective through their lens and life experience, filled with their fears. You have enough fears of your own during this time and truly don’t need to add in other people’s fears into the mix.
Your well-intentioned family and friends will want to talk about your divorce – all the gory details. Instead, I would suggest saying something akin to, Thank you so much for all the love and support you’re giving me during this time. I’m doing okay. Out of respect for my husband and our family, I’m choosing to keep these very personal matters private. I’m sure you understand.
If you need someone to talk to, hire a professional.
This is how you don’t compound your fears and keep the drama to a minimum.
Just because most other people you see going through a divorce suffer for months or even years doesn’t mean that has to be your experience. You now know some things they didn’t know when they went through their divorce. And in the words of the late Dr. Maya Angelou, Do the best you can until you know better. When you know better, do better.
By Sharon Pope
Sharon is a certified Master Life Coach and a Six-Time #1 International Best-Selling author, specializing in love and relationships. Click here to get the answers and soulful guidance that will lead you to clarity about your marriage and know if it can feel good once again.