By Jerald Young, Ph.D.
This article answers the question: “What are the real-world consequences of failing to eliminate your post-divorce resistance to change?” The term “resistance to change” sounds like an airy-fairy theory that has no use the common-sense based real world. This is not true. This article shows how a failure to dissolve divorce-created resistance to change will kill any hope of having a full, happy, and contented life after divorce.
(This is the 5th 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.)
At the heart of resistance to change are two powerful reactions: loss and fear. Distress over the losses caused by divorce and fear of an uncertain future. These emotion-based reactions to divorce can sabotage our problem-solving ability by setting four different, but related traps:
Trap #1. Concealing the issues that are not immediately obvious
In this trap your emotions cover up some real underlying issue related to your divorce. This makes it impossible to solve the real problem. For example, it is all too easy to see my ex as the problem, rather than realizing the real issue was my reluctance to let go of my attachments to “how life used to be” with my ex in it. That made it very difficult to get on with the next chapter in my life.
Trap #2. Exaggerating the importance of minor issues
In this trap your emotions blow the importance of a minor issue related to your divorce completely out of proportion. You turn a mole hill into a mountain, as the saying goes. For example, our pain and fear can escalate the minor problem of our ex being ten minutes late to pick up the kids for a weekend visit into a full-blown tirade about the ex’s lack of respect for me and how he or she “uses our kids as a weapon against me!” It’s just 10 minutes for goodness sakes!
Trap #3. Distorting our perceptions of the major issues
In this trap your emotions distort the reality of some big issue related to your divorce into either ignoring it or treating it as minor. For example, in our obsession with our anger and resentment over having lost our hopes and dreams for the life we have envisioned, we often fail to appreciate what the upside of divorce offers us. We can lose sight of the fact that we now can reinvent ourselves using all the wisdom gained over the years of our marriage plus the invaluable gifts of insight and self-knowledge our divorce has “forced upon us.” Divorce can be one of the biggest opportunities you will ever experience – if you allow it to be.
Trap #4. Preventing closure with a never-ending stream of “new” problems
In this trap your emotions create a never-ending stream of issues related to your divorce. The bundle of pain and fear seems to act like a very powerful “What if?” magnet which prevents us from accepting and dealing with simply “What is.” As one problem gets solved, we tell ourselves, such things as “OK, even though my ex did not like the outcome, the issue of child support is resolved. But what if he doesn’t pay it on time? What if he simply refuses to pay it? What if he loses his job and can’t pay it at all? WHAT WILL I DO THEN?” Like ducks in an arcade shooting gallery, when one target is hit, another one pops up to take its place thanks to that bundle of pain and fear that is part and parcel of getting divorced. Where there is festering pain and fear, the supply of disaster fantasies is infinite.
The Consequences Are Monumental
Making a recovery from divorce forces you to make an untold number of decisions, some small others so major that they will affect the rest of your life. You need to be able to be aware of the issues that matter, tell the major ones from the minor, have a clear-headed understanding of the issues that really count, and make sure the decisions you do make do not come back at you in an unending cycle of incompleteness.
If you dissolve your resistance to the changes that accompany divorce, you will be successful in making the best decisions for yourself. If you do not dissolve your resistance to change, you will be doomed to a future of failure.