By Jerald Young, Ph.D.
This article answers the question: “Is there a new way to recover from divorce that actually works better than the traditional way?”
A revolutionary, new approach presents a brand-new take on how to recover from divorce. It addresses the shortcomings of the traditional methods and offers a foundation for hope that your “life after divorce” can be satisfying and fulfilling.
(This is the 3rd article in a series of articles describing how contentment and satisfaction with life after divorce depends on being able to dissolve the very human resistance to the changes that divorce imposes on our lives.)
When I got divorced, I was basket case. My emotions were out of control. I would become super emotional at the drop of a hat. I dreaded going to work for fear that I would break down and embarrass myself in front of my co-workers. Morbid flashbacks to how life used to be were frequent.
My Personal Experience with Using the Traditional Approach to Divorce Recovery
To “get over” my divorce, I did what friends and family suggested. I joined a divorce support group and started going to therapy. I dated furiously. And I held out hope that, if all else failed, the passage of time would make the pain go away.
After a few months it seemed to have worked. I was no longer ruled by arbitrary, out-of-control emotions. I no longer dreaded going to work every day, even though my performance still lagged behind my previous levels.
However, much to my dismay, I realized that something was wrong. I still did not feel right. I felt like I was missing some important pieces of a 1000-piece puzzle.
Then it started to dawn on me why I was feeling uncomfortable. The future was frightening to contemplate. And, I could not get the memories from the past to go away.
The future terrified me. I was afraid I would never find true love again. I was afraid if I ever got remarried, it would end in divorce, too. I was afraid I was destined to die lonely and alone. I was afraid I couldn’t survive financially. I was afraid I would be shunned by my old friends. I was afraid my ex would turn my daughters against me.
Not only was the fear of the future making me miserable, but also memories of things from the past that I had lost intruded into my daily life.
Memories haunted me. Memories of my past life would zap me like a random electrical shock reminding we of what I had lost. I’d lost my dream of living “till death do us part” with my spouse (now ex-spouse). I’d lost the wonderful routine of playing with my daughters when I came home from work every day. I’d lost my past standard of living. I’d lost the stability of companionship with my partner. I’d lost my plan to build the house of our dreams. I’d lost all hope that my life would ever be happy again. I’d lost the security and comfort of having a partner to go through life with.
The Problem Starts to Dawn on Me
Several years (and a second divorce) later, I started to put it all together: After the divorce, I had been successful in dealing with the current issue at the time which was how to quiet my feelings that had completely disrupted my daily life.
However, I had ignored the issues of the past and how memories of my past life with my ex intruded on my daily life. In addition, I had ignored my fear of the future, and especially how to make sure I never ended up in divorce court again.
I had turned to the Traditional Approach to divorce recovery for help – and found it incomplete.
The Traditional Approach to Divorce Recovery is Incomplete and Doesn’t Work Very Well
The traditional approach to divorce recovery treats divorce as the cause of emotional trauma that must be cured.
It focuses only on neutralizing the current feelings caused by divorce. Its sole goal is to have no emotional flashbacks or meltdowns. The traditional approach takes a very long time, typically measured in years, and has divorce rates of second and third marriages of over 60%.
The Traditional Approach told me that divorce recovery is only about bringing an end to disruptive feelings. Turns out, there is more to it than that.
The New Approach Shifts How We Think about Divorce Recovery
The New Approach to divorce recovery treats divorce as the cause of a traumatic life transition that must be navigated and managed.
It considers the neutralization of the distressing feelings as only the first step in a multi-step process. The goal of the new approach is to move you into your life after divorce, not only unburdened by the feelings caused by divorce, but also having the confidence that a new relationship will not end in divorce court again.
What Are the Steps in the New Approach?
The Traditional Approach ignores the effects that the past and the future has on recovery from divorce. In contrast, the New Approach incorporates the past and the future and makes the past-present-future nature of the transition central to divorce recovery. The New Approach consists of three steps:
Step 1: Stabilize and neutralize your current reactions to your divorce.
Step 2: Dissolve your reluctance to release the past and accept your new life situation by dissolving resistance to change.
Step 3: Prepare for your future.
Divorce recovery, I finally realized, is the psychological transition in which we adjust to the fact that we are no longer coupled with our ex but are now single again. And, dissolving resistance to change is the critical key for making that transition successful.