This article answers the question, “What are the primary barriers to a successful recovery from divorce?” Whether life after divorce is satisfying and rewarding or painful and debilitating depends on how you handle three major challenges to your making the transition from being married to being single again. Your success at eliminating these potential roadblocks requires you to dissolve your resistance to making the required changes that are imposed on your life by your divorce. What are these challenges and how do they threaten your recovery? How can meeting these challenges decrease the chances of another divorce?
Any successful program of divorce recovery must eliminate any resistance to change which threatens a successful transition from being married to being single.
The 3 Stages of Transition in the Divorce Recovery Process
Resistance to change, experienced as emotion-based pain, fear, and uncertainty, can be traced to one’s reluctance to: (1) accept divorce as a life-altering fact of life so that you can, (2) make the necessary adjustments and changes that will, (3) enable you to be happy and successful in the next chapter of your life.
The process for dissolving this natural, human resistance to embracing and thriving in your new life situation includes the following 3 stages:
(1) STABILIZE your emotional reactions to your ex and to getting divorced.
(2) RELEASE your fear of an unknown future and your distress over your losses; and
(3) PREPARE for the future, including your next committed relationship.
Stage 1 – Stabilize Your Reactions to the Divorce
This stage is more emotion-based than logic-based.
First, you must stabilize your present emotion-based reactions to your divorce, your ex, and to your life after divorce. It does not matter whether the divorce is in progress, recently concluded, or happened years ago.
This stage is necessary because your emotion-based reactions distort reality and make it almost impossible to solve the tangible problems you face in your daily life after divorce. In addition, your emotional reactions act like “super glue” holding you firmly attached to the life you used to lead in the past, but no longer have.
Stage 2 – Release Your Fear and Your Distress Over Loss
In this stage emotion and logic are equally important.
There were aspects of your past life that were enjoyable, especially in the beginning. No one, and I mean NO one, wants to give up good things in a relationship. We are all reluctant to fully accept our new life situation after our divorce because it also means giving up the good parts too.
However, the harsh reality is that your past life you shared with your ex no longer exists. It is no longer your current life.
In this stage you dissolve the attachments to the past you no longer need – while keeping those parts of the past that are still useful. You dissolve your resistance to change by confronting and “right sizing” your fears and grieving your losses, the real losses, not the perceived ones. With the completion of this stage, the debilitating effects of your emotion-based reactions are dissolved, allowing you to prepare for your future.
Stage 3 – Prepare for the Future Including Your Next Committed Relationship
This stage is more logic-based than emotion-based.
This is the most logical part of the transition process. In this stage you develop your plan for the future, including all four areas of your life: finances, health, love, and self-development/self-expression. Special attention is given to insuring your next committed relationship will escape the same fate as your last relationship.
It may sound counterintuitive to describe the process of finding your next committed relationship as “more logic-based than emotion-based.” In fact, our culture tells us just the opposite. That finding the “love of your life” is totally a function of your emotions. “Listen to your heart” we are told.
However, chemistry can exist between individuals who are perfect for a one-night stand, or even a six-month fling, but who are totally wrong for each other in a long-term relationship. In this stage we accept the necessity of chemistry. You must find someone you are attracted to. That is easy. Just listen to your body.
However, when looking for your next long-term “soul mate,” you need to use your head as well as your heart. Specifically, you must be clear on what your require, not just what you want, in a relationship and apply some cold, hard logical analysis to determine whether a relationship with a potential partner can deliver what you require in the long run.
The goal: Make your last divorce your last divorce.
The Consequences of Ignoring One or More of the Stages
Each of the three stages is critical to having a successful recovery from divorce. The exclusion of any stage will sabotage the entire effort to have a full and complete recovery.
Failure to stabilize your reactions to divorce results in remaining stuck in your pain. For example, folks who are still angry at their ex and the hell he or she put them through – even years after the divorce was final – have not yet fully stabilized their emotional reactions to the ending of the marriage.
My sister-in-law is an example. She held on to her anger at her ex for 25 years saying, “How could he have done that to me, the SOB?” She died young without ever experiencing another loving, committed relationship during the last two and a half decades of her life.
Needless to say, when you are focused on what someone did to you in the past, and who is no longer in your life, it makes it almost impossible to give the present the attention it deserves in order to make your life satisfying and rewarding.
Failure to release the past results in remaining stuck in fear and grief. People can get stuck in their inability to release their fear of an unknown future and/or their distress over what they feel they lost when their relationship ended – even though what they objectively lost is almost always much less than what they think they lost. We listen to them tell us how their life used to be good, but no longer can be because of all they lost in the divorce.
The thought that they should accept the reality that the relationship is over, and they should focus their energy on how to realize all the potential for good in their new, present life situation is frightening to them because “How do I know things won’t be even worse if I do?” They are paralyzed by fear and unable to take even a modest risk in order to reclaim the happiness they once enjoyed.
Failure to prepare for the future results in getting divorced again. This preparation involves treating mate selection as a conscious choice that requires that we logically ask ourselves, “What do I require in a partner and how does that differ from what I simply want in a partner?”
Our culture tells us we should “listen to our heart” because “love conquers all.” We are told that to look at a relationship as a logical problem to be solved insults the spiritual and magical nature of all until-death-do-us-part committed relationships. The most likely result? Another visit to divorce court.
While the divorce rate for first marriages is high enough at 42%, the divorce rate of 2nd and 3rd marriages are an astounding 66% and 75% respectively! The takeaway is simple: If we allow our head to have as much influence as our heart, the odds are good that our choice of a committed relationship will be satisfying in the long run, not just temporary eye candy that has no staying power.
Otherwise, we are more than likely to end up in divorce court again.
So, What’s the Point?
You must accept the necessity of having some work to do. But you can relax in the knowledge that you know what you need to do and why. While it may seem daunting at the beginning, know that if you follow this process you will be able to recover from your divorce up to 10 time faster than the normal divorce recovery process in widespread practice today – with the long-term prognosis of finding a new relationship that actually lasts very promising.