1. Divorce Recovery Program

Recovery from divorce is hard. The good news is YOU CAN DO IT. In fact, with some focused effort and a little help from your friends, you can recover from divorce faster than you ever thought possible.

When I first got divorced, I was at a loss for how to handle it. I thought no one else had felt the shock and shame I felt. Nor did I realize I possessed the necessary personal resources to get through the recovery process. I thought I had to make my “comeback” alone if I were to feel good about myself.

I knew I was afraid of venturing into an unknown future but I had no idea how to deal with it – especially the emotion-based reactions I was having. Nor did I realize the importance of dealing with all the hopes and dreams I had lost. In a nutshell, I was a basket case roaming free on an unsuspecting society.

Had I only known that what I was going through was similar to what millions of others had gone through – and the key to a successful recovery from divorce had certain steps and phases that had to be walked through.

The following seven tips highlight what I did not know then, and describe what needs to be done in order to thrive in sculpting your next chapter of “life after divorce.”

Tip #1: You’re not unusual – You are not alone

Statistically, there are a lot of us. 40% of first marriages and 60% of all remarriages eventually end in divorce. Emotionally, everyone is pretty much in the same boat. Ambivalence rules the day. Roller coasters are the preferred method of emotional transport. Realistically, anyone you know whose has gone through, or is going through a divorce, can identify with the reactions you are having. You are not alone.

Tip #2: You can make a successful recovery from divorce – because you have done it before

You say you haven’t been divorced before? Doesn’t matter. All transitions force us to go through the same process of change – whether it is losing a job, getting married, starting a family, death of a loved one. Whatever. What we’ve learned from these life experiences we can apply to making it through our current transition through divorce.

Tip #3: You already possess all the personal resources necessary to recover from divorce

Confidence, a sense of direction, and hope seem to be the first to go when trying to recover from a divorce. But, not to worry. You have the ability to deal with it. More specifically, we gain confidence from successfully navigating past major life transitions where we:

  • Find stability of direction from our unique set of personal principles,
  • Obtain courage to press on from our personal sources of hope, and
  • Obtain reassurance that we are on the right track through a sense of gratitude for the good present in the current situation.

Tip #4: You need to recruit at least one “change buddy” for social support and feedback

We need to find people (or at least one person) we can lean on for emotional support and count on for objective feedback while we make our recovery from divorce. These folks must have two important characteristics. They must have no personal agenda and they must be able to be honest with you. Only then can you count on their feedback as being objective.

Tip #5: You can and must dissolve the massive resistance to change that comes with divorce

Fear, loss, and uncertainty about what to do next sabotage our efforts to make a victorious recovery from divorce. However:

  • We can handle our fear of the unknown future if we have a plan,
  • We can let go of how things used to be — even the good stuff — when we realize there is even more good stuff in the next chapter of our life after divorce, and
  • We can resolve our rational reservations for making a recovery with old-fashioned problem solving.

Tip #6: You can and must use what you have learned from going through the divorce process to make your recovery successful

Only by using your experience to clarify your future requirements, needs, and wants for our life after divorce, can you capitalize on the great opportunity divorce offers. These learnings apply to your entire life including finances, health, relationships, and self expression.

Tip #7: You must lay the groundwork for the many changes that will occur in order to make a successful divorce recovery

Divorce brings change in our relationships, our health, our financial situation, and our opportunities for creativity and self expression. A successful divorce recovery demands that we attend to and plan for this wide range of changes in order to fully and joyously embrace the next chapter in our life after divorce.

Recovery from divorce requires us to confront the emotional reality of lost hopes and dashed dreams. We also have to confront our fears of an unknown future. When we are immersed in this emotional process, often we can’t see our options or understand the reality of the situation as clearly as when the pressure is off. We need someone whom we trust to help us handle this life transition effectively.

My Personal Experience
When I first got divorced, I thought I should be able to handle the recovery process by myself. To ask for help seemed an imposition and, quite frankly, embarrassing. However, I soon became aware that I was in over my head. Not knowing what to do, I reached out to a friend who was going through a relationship breakup himself. I asked him if he could be there if and when I needed him. He told me, “I will be there if I can.” I had chosen a change buddy who was only conditionally available. Intuitively I felt he could not be counted on. I sensed he was not an appropriate person to help me though the process. However, I did not have anyone else to turn to. Therefore, I “did it by myself.” Big mistake.

The Value of a Good Transition Partner
When effective, this person can significantly reduce the stress of change facing us. They can help us sort out the reality of the situation from our perceptions that are notoriously “squirrelly” during this time in our life. This person can clarify the “right-headedness” of our decisions and “right-size” the effects of our emotional reactions. I call such a person a “transition partner.”

However, not just anybody will do.

The Four Critical Qualifications Your Transition Partner Must Have:

(1) First, they should have NO PERSONAL AGENDA. Their only concern is your happiness and success – regardless of what the ultimate form or final arrangement may be.

(2) They should be able to tell you the TRUTH, even when it is not what you want to hear. That means you have to trust this person enough to give them permission to be honest with you, without endangering your relationship and friendship.

(3) They should have been DIVORCED before, preferably several years earlier. Only someone who has been through the process can fully understand what you are  dealing with.

(4) They should be AVAILABLE. That is, they should have sufficient time available to talk with you, or in the vernacular, “be there for you” when you need them.

The Counter-Intuitive Conclusion: Run Like Hell from Family Members
Ironically, the search for a helpful transition partner usually rules out ex-spouses, parents, other family members, and bosses. These people almost always have a preferred solution they would like you to accept, and as such are incapable of having 100% of the divorced person’s interests at heart.

Another Example of the Difficulty in Choosing a Change Buddy
A 30-something acquaintance of mine had been married for four years. She realized the marriage was not going to work. They had no children and she knew divorce was the right thing to do. She needed someone to assist her through her transition. She chose her mother.

Bad choice.

Her mother, having been through the pain of two divorces, had her own personal agenda for her daughter, which was to “protect her daughter from that pain and financial loss at all costs.” She pressured her daughter to reconcile with her financially stable ex, even though that was the last thing her daughter needed or wanted. After a few heart-rending weeks, the daughter “fired” her mother from the change buddy role, recruited an old college friend, and made a very successful recovery from divorce.

Having someone we trust to have only our own happiness at heart will make things much easier and saner while we march down the path of our personal recovery from divorce.

What’s the Point?
We all need someone to help us make a smooth recovery from divorce. Picking the best person is requires some thought. Be sure that your change buddy has no personal agenda, can tell you the truth, and is available to help you through the crisis,

Divorce Recovery and Your Hidden Strengths: Part 1

November 11, 2010

If you’re divorced or going through a divorce, you may be wondering how you’ll ever survive: “I never thought I’d have to do this. I’ve never been in this predicament before.” “Everything is new and threatening. I feel lost and afraid that things will never get better.” These reactions are normal. Recovery from divorce is […]

Read the full article →

Divorce Recovery and Your Hidden Strengths: Part 2

November 7, 2010

Last week, we talked about Confidence and Direction: two of the four hidden strengths you already possess, and how they can help you navigate a successful divorce recovery. This week, we’ll look at the other two: 3. COURAGE: find it within your personal source of hope. It takes courage to go through divorce recovery, and […]

Read the full article →

Divorce Recovery and Loss: Don’t Grieve It If You Didn’t Lose It

October 20, 2010

When it comes to divorce, we endure significant losses… and yet all too often we continue to add imagined losses to the pile. The more we do this, the more we distort our vision of reality, making it virtually impossible to see and solve the divorce recovery challenges ahead of us. Let me offer some […]

Read the full article →

Journaling: its role in your divorce recovery.

September 24, 2010

Part of the Smooth Divorce Recovery process includes daily journaling with a book that I’ve specially-prepared to address a different divorce recovery issue each day. Why is this an integral part of our process? Here’s an explanation drawn from “The Benefits of Journaling for Stress Management,” by Elizabeth Scott, M.S.: Journaling allows people to clarify their […]

Read the full article →

The “reverse apology” letter

September 16, 2010

Here is a short (1:45) explanation of the “Reverse Apology Letter” that is a unique tool for letting go of those parts of the past we no longer need.

Read the full article →