Getting Through a Divorce: How to Keep Your Head Straight
Getting through a divorce will be one of the most difficult experiences of your life. And your difficulties will start at the very beginning.
If you were the one who decided that divorce was the best way to change the difficulties in your marriage, you know the agony you experienced in coming to your decision. You second-guessed yourself again and again, and throughout your struggle to reach a decision, you faced uncertainties and fears.
Yet, because of your uncertainties and fears, you gathered information, worked through some of your emotions, and maybe planned a bit to make your transition from married to singledom easier.
Easier, but not easy. Telling your spouse you’re finished is definitely not easy. And once he* knows, things will get more difficult because it isn’t just about you anymore — and what your thinking and feeling internally. Now you’re both dealing with the repercussions of your decision. But your partner, or soon-to-be Ex, will not be in sync with you. He’s going to need time to metabolize what all this means.
If your divorce has been forced upon you, then the beginning of your divorce journey was probably shocking. Maybe it was upsetting because you never thought your spouse would actually go through with it. Or maybe you never even saw it coming.
And because your divorce isn’t of your choosing, you’re stuck playing catch up. You must find some way to not only make sense of what’s happening but to begin taking the necessary legal steps to end your marriage.
You also need to accept that you’re not in sync with him. He has been preparing for divorce emotionally, practically, and maybe even legally before you even knew what was happening.
Whichever side of the divorce decision you were on, there are times when you’re probably thinking, “It’s not fair.” And you’d be right. It’s not, but fairness has nothing to do with the realities of getting through a divorce—only (hopefully) with the legal divorce process.
So, no matter how your divorce journey begins, getting through a divorce is not intuitive. It’s difficult emotionally and logistically.
Yet, there are concrete thoughts that you can hold onto that will help you as you continue on your divorce journey:
You’re getting divorced for a reason
It’s heartbreaking to think about ending your marriage when you consider the shared hopes and dreams you and your spouse had at the start. Yet there’s still an important reason your divorce is happening right now; your marriage is broken beyond repair. So, take a deep breath and remember you are here, going through a divorce. It’s in motion.
Seeking justice for your emotional pain will not serve you
No-fault divorce is a very good thing. It means that people can get divorced without having to prove that one or the other has done something so reprehensible that it requires the marriage to be dissolved.
What it also means is that the courts don’t care about your emotional pain. They know divorce hurts. They know that getting through a divorce is probably one of the most difficult things you’ve ever faced. But that doesn’t change the fact that there are no laws to help you extract justice for the hurt you’re feeling.
All that insisting the courts make your spouse pay in some way for the pain you’re feeling will get you is higher legal fees. It will never ever truly ease your hurt.
Create goals that you can stay focused on
In general, goals are like guideposts. They allow you to channel your energy and thoughts toward achieving them.
When you’re going through a divorce, good solid goals can be the touchstones that remind you to stay focused on the big picture.
For example, if you have children, you may want to make their safety, security, health, and happiness throughout and beyond your divorce a goal. To reach your goal, you’ll want to develop your list of nonnegotiables. You’ll also want to know where you can be softer in your negotiations.
Remember your children are watching and learning
As you’re getting through a divorce, you are modeling for your children how to deal with stress, disappointment, and monumental life changes. Would you want your children to behave and react as you are?
If you don’t have children, get clear on the image of you and who you want to be
At one extreme you could be the woman who is completely unclear about what she wants outside of wanting her soon-to-be Ex to suffer horribly not only through the divorce but for the rest of his life. You might be willing to do whatever you can to ensure his suffering.
At the other extreme, you could be the leader through this challenge. You could focus on what you want and go about making it happen.
Keeping these thoughts in mind will definitely help you get through your divorce.
Yet, it’s almost impossible to do on your own
The real key to getting through a divorce is having someone you can turn to for support, someone who is your partner in thinking through every step of your divorce. A thinking partner is someone who can help you not only make it through your divorce but put the plans in place so you can thrive after it, too. A thinking partner has perspective.
The mistake most people make is using their lawyer as their sounding board. There are a couple of real problems with doing so. First, a divorce lawyer is an expert in the law—not how to help you get through your divorce. Second, when you use your lawyer as your thinking partner for anything other than legal issues, you’re wasting your money and energy—both of which are precious.
Having a strategy for how to think is just part of what you need to keep your head straight as you’re getting through a divorce
You also need to know it’s not only OK but necessary to let go of a few things:
- Ancillary characters in your life and their less than helpful opinions. Save your energy, and do not overshare.
- Continuing to be a superstar at work and everywhere else throughout your divorce. You cannot do everything well right now. Pick and choose where you put your efforts.
- Being available to everyone for their needs. The simple truth is that you can’t be everything to everyone else right now. You’ve got to focus on you, so you come out strong in the end.
Without question, getting through a divorce is hard. However, you know now what’s important to keep straight in your head. And with this knowledge, you’ll be able to take the appropriate actions and make the appropriate decisions to get through your divorce, lessening the pain and diminishing your risk of regrets as much as possible.
”A successful divorce requires smart steps, taken one at a time.” – SAS for Women
* We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as a “he.”