1. Seven Articles on RESISTANCE TO CHANGE Introduce a Faster and More Effective Way to Recover from Divorce
Resistance to Change – A Revolutionary, NEW APPROACH to Divorce Recovery: Out with the Old, In with the New (and Better). This blog post answers the question, “Is there a new, and better, way to recover from divorce than the traditional way- that actually works ?”
Resistance to Change – Divorce Recovery and Unhappiness: What’s Preventing You from Enjoying Your New Life after Divorce? This blog post answers the question, “What is the key to achieving happiness in your life after divorce?”
Resistance to Change – Divorce Recovery and Disappointment: Why Don’t Support Groups, Therapy, or Time Work Very Well? This blog post answers the question: “Why don’t the common methods for helping people recover from a divorce (support groups, therapy, and passage of time) work very well?”
Resistance to Change – Divorce Recovery & Bad Decisions: Will the 4 Traps Set by Resistance to Change Ruin Your Future? This article answers the question: “What are the real-world consequences of failing to eliminate your post-divorce resistance to change?”
Resistance to Change – Divorce Recovery Failure: Are You Being Seduced by the Status Quo? This article answers the question, “What makes recovering from divorce so difficult?”
Resistance to Change – Divorce Recovery & Resistance to Change: How to Sabotage Your Divorce Recovery without Even Trying. This article answers the question, “How can your recovery from divorce be undermined by resistance to change?”
Resistance to Change – Divorce Recovery and the 3 Stages of Transition: The Key to Preventing More Trips to Divorce Court. This article answers the question, “What are the primary barriers to a successful recovery from divorce?”
2. Four PERSONAL RESOURCES That Provide the Inner Strength Needed to Recover from Divorce
Personal Resources – Personal Principles – How to Maintain Direction During the Chaos of Divorce Recovery. This blog post answers the question, “How can I stay focused on what is important for my divorce recovery in the midst of the chaos of exploding emotions?”
Personal Resources – 5 Sources of Hope – How to Find the Courage to Make a Smooth Divorce Recovery. This blog post answers the question, “Where do I find the courage to handle the uncertainty of making a recovery from divorce?”
Personal Resources – Blessings in Disguise – Find the Confidence for Making a Smooth Divorce Recovery. This blog post answers the question, “Where do I find the confidence needed to handle recovering from my divorce?”
Personal Resources – Social Support – Everyone Needs a Change Buddy in Their Recovery from Divorce. This blog post answers the question, “What do I do if I can’t make this recovery from divorce alone?”
3. Five Personal MINDSET Requirements for a Successful Recovery from Divorce
Mindset – Divorce Recovery “Mindset Choice” No. 1: What Do You Mean the “Hard Work is Just Beginning?” This article answers the question, “Now that the divorce is final, what’s so wrong about sitting back and taking it easy?”
Mindset – Divorce Recovery “Mindset Choice” No. 2: Divorce Recovery – A Problem to Solve or a Person to Punish? This article answers the question, “Why shouldn’t I exact revenge from my ex for all the pain inflicted on me in our divorce?”
Mindset – Divorce Recovery “Mindset Choice” No. 3: Would You Rather Be Right, or Would You Rather Be Happy? This article answers the question, “Are you willing to let being happy be enough?”
Mindset – Divorce Recovery Mindset: The Case of the Kidnapped Son This article answers the question, “What does making the choice between ‘being right’ and ‘being happy’ look like in real life?”
Mindset – Divorce Recovery Mindset Choice No. 4: Is Your Divorce A Past Life Event or a Current Way of Life? This article answers the question, “Do you see your divorce as an event that happened to you in your past? Or, have memories of your divorce finagled their way into becoming more of a subtle way of life for you?”
Mindset – Divorce Recovery Mindset Choice No. 5: Keep Your Eye on the Prize or Be Distracted by Emotions? This article answers the question, “Are you willing to stay focused on what it takes to make a successful recovery from divorce, or will you be sidetracked by tempting emotional excursions?”
4. Cultural Obstacles to a Successful Recovery from Divorce
Culture – Divorce Recovery and Cultural Obstacles: Debunking the Myth That Men Can’t Express Their Feelings. This article answers the question, “Is it true that men really cannot express their feelings?”
5. A Program for Divorce Recovery
The articles below explain and expand upon to the 3 Steps and 10 Modules in the figure above.
Overview of the Program:
Overview – Divorce Recovery Needs a Roadmap to Follow: Here It Is – 10 Steps to a Full Recovery from Divorce. This article answers the question, “Is there a roadmap to follow that will help me make a full and complete recovery from divorce without having to lug traumatic baggage around the rest of my life?”
Step 1: Stabilize Your Reactions to the Divorce
Module 1: Disentangle Yourself from Your Ex
Module 2: Acknowledge the Trauma Divorce Caused
Module 3: Accept Your Ambivalence about Your Divorce
Divorce Recovery and Ambivalence: Why Do I Have Second Thoughts When I’m Glad I Got Divorced? This article answers the question, “Did I make a mistake in getting divorced?”
Module 4: Clarify Your Goals for Divorce Recovery Success
Divorce Recovery Success: And How Your Post-Divorce Relationship with Your Ex Can Kill It. This article answers the question, “What should your goal be for your post-divorce relationship with your ex if you want to protect a successful recovery from your divorce?”
Divorce Recovery & the Post-Divorce Relationship with Your Ex: Why Can’t We Just Be Friends? This article answers the question, “Why is it so difficult to remain friends with your ex?”
Divorce Recovery Success: Think You’ve Recovered? Have You Met All the 8 Required Criteria? This article answers the question, “How will I know if I have fully recovered from my divorce?”
Step 2: Dissolve Reluctance to Accept Your New Life Situation
Module 5: Dissolve the Effects of Fear
Module 6: Dissolve the Effects of Loss
Don’t Grieve It If You Didn’t Lose It. This blog post answers the question, “Did I really lose everything I think I lost?”
Module 7: Bring the Relationship to Completion
Divorce Recovery and Forgiveness: Busting the Myth of the Traditional Understanding of Forgiveness. This article answers the question, “How can I forgive my ex after what I’ve been put through?”
Step 3: Prepare for Your Future
Module 8: Prepare for a Relationship
8-1. Three Articles on EARLY DATING and the TRANSITION RELATIONSHIP
Early Dating – Divorce Recovery and Early Dating: When Is It OK to Start Dating Again? This blog post answers the question,”When is it OK to start dating again?”
Early Dating – Divorce Recovery and Early Dating: Should I Start Dating Again? 8 Good Reasons and 8 Bad Reasons
Early Dating –TRANSITION Relationships: Could A Last-Minute Wedding Cancellation Be a Godsend? This blog post answers the question, “What is a Transition Relationship and how can it set the stage for making a smooth divorce recovery?” Motivating Question: “How can a transition relationship help me while I am in the midst of relationship hell?”
Early Dating – Early Dating & TRANSITION Relationships: Shift Happens. This blog post answers the question, “What is the biggest threat to the success of early dating?” Motivating Question: “Do I have confidence that my next long-term relationship will not fail?”
Early Dating – Early Dating, & TRANSITION Relationships: Isn’t This Another Name for an Affair? This blog post answers the question, “What good is a transition relationship if it is just another word for an ‘affair?'” Motivating Question: “Can a transition relationship give me the courage to end my marriage?”
8-2. Six Articles on the 5 STEPS TO A LONG-TERM, COMMITTED RELATIONSHIP
Build Relationship – Step 1 – The TRANSITION Relationship. This blog post answers the question, “What is the first step to take in finding my next long-term relationship after my divorce?” Motivating Question: “Can he/she help me release my attachments to my ex and my relationship with my ex?”
Build Relationship – Step 2 – The RECREATIONAL Relationship. This blog post answers the question, “If it feels so right, how on earth can it be wrong?” Motivating Question: “Do I enjoy myself when I am with him/her? Do we have ‘chemistry?”
Build Relationship – Step 3 – The PRE-COMMITTED Relationship. This blog post answers the question, “What is arguably more important than listening to your heart for determining the success of a long-term, committed relationship?” Motivating Question: “Will a life with this person give me what I require in a long-term relationship?”
Build Relationship – Divorce Recovery and Your Next Committed Relationship: What Do You Want? What Do You Require? This article answers the question, “How can I make my next long-term, committed relationship last and be successful?”
Build Relationship – Step 4 – The COMMITTED Relationship. This blog post answers the question, “Why is a committed relationship more complicated than it looks?” Motivating Question: “How can we as a couple make this work?”
Build Relationship – Step 5 – The MARITAL Relationship. This blog post answers the question, “Why do over 65% of re-marriages fail?” Motivating Question: “How can WE help each other fulfill our personal dreams?”
Module 9: Recalibrate Your Life: The New You
Module 10: Use the Past to Plan Your Future
By Jerald Young, Ph.D.
This article answers the question, “How will I know if I have fully recovered from my divorce?” I know. It sounds like a stupid question. Won’t I “just know?” However, it turns out that what most of us were told constituted a “successful recovery from divorce” was wrong. Not only wrong, but a major reason why second and third marriages have astonishingly high divorce rates of 66% and 75%, respectively. So, let’s start with the end in mind with the question: What will a “successful recovery from divorce” look like when you get there? At some point or another we all ask, “When can I be sure I have finally recovered from my divorce and can move on with my life unencumbered by debilitating baggage?”
The Traditional Measure of a Successful Divorce Recovery Is Wrong
Our culture defines the traditional measure of a successful recovery as: “You are recovered from divorce when you resume serious dating, find your next Mr. /Ms. Right, and enter into a committed relationship.”
Our friends and relatives probably urged us to start dating as soon as possible. “Get back out there and start dating to find your true Mr./Ms. Right.”
It is a very seductive criterion. If the trauma you suffered was caused by the failure of a committed relationship, wouldn’t it stand to reason that finding a new committed relationship is a signal that you have completed your recovery from divorce?
However, unlike what “conventional wisdom” tells us, a successful recovery from divorce does NOT mean finding the next Mr./Ms. Right!
Instead of helping us “get back up on the horse,” rushing to find the next Mr./Ms. Right causes us to “put the cart before the horse” with dire consequences. Finding your next life partner is what you do after you completely recover and have subsequently prepared for your next partner, if you so desire.
What Are the Consequences of Using the Traditional Measure of Recovery Success?
The most likely consequence of believing you have recovered as soon as you find your next committed partner is recreating your past relationship that ended in divorce. One of the values of divorce is to enable you to learn from your past relationships, and, using that knowledge, to choose differently the next time. To run out and seek a new committed relationship invites you to deny the enormity of the life transition divorce represents. As a result, you tend to shove the strong, divorce-related emotions beneath the surface and to avoid working through the very feelings that hold the key for making your next relationship successful.
What Is a True Measure of Your Recovery from Divorce?
If we use as the standard for a full and successful divorce recovery to be a satisfying, positive, and productive “life after divorce” that enables us to function well in all our relationships, then meeting the following eight criteria is necessary.
- Confident about the future.
Whether as an act of faith, or as a reasoned conclusion based on a lifetime of blessings in disguise, seeing the future as holding good things for you is essential for a full recovery.
- Content with present life as a single person.
You are OK as you are. You do not need to change your marital status to be OK. Success as a single person leads to success as a couple, if you so choose.
- Grateful for the past.
You are able to appreciate your past life experiences – all of them – including the marriage and divorce you are recovering from. You can learn from everything.
- No ill will toward ex.
Nothing locks us into a straitjacket of the past like continued anger towards your ex and how he/she “ruined your life.” Remember the saying: “Anger is defined as: Where I drink the poison and expect you to die.” (Anonymous)”
- Cooperative with ex for the sake of the kids.
Your kids’ development is a priority that transcends personal feelings about each other, or anyone or anything else. Being able to function effectively to manage the tasks of co-parenting is essential for a successful recovery.
- Prepared for a new relationship – NOT remarriage.
Getting remarried is not a sign that you have recovered from your divorce. You must learn from past relationships what you require versus what you want in future relationships. You must be able to distinguish between the contributions from your heart and the demands of your head when considering a new committed relationship.
- Confident about dating.
No one wants to get divorced again! Unfortunately, the statistics predict you will – unless you use a different process to choose your partner this time. Getting clear on how and why to do it differently is necessary for engendering confidence if and when you want to begin dating again.
- No personal attachments to ex.
Legal attachments cannot be removed, especially if you have kids. However, personal attachments can and should be dissolved in order to have a successful recovery from divorce. As long as we have tentacles reaching back to things in the past, it is impossible to take full advantage of what the present has to offer.
So, What’s the Point?
Actual recovery from divorce is more slippery than we might first think. It does not consist of the culturally promoted criteria of finding your next Mr./Ms. Right. Oh, were it only that simple!
Divorce recovery success actually is more complex than that and consists of meeting an interlocking collection of eight criteria that, taken together, reflect your readiness to move into the next chapter of your life, free from the baggage of the past and well-armed with a solid foundation of hope for the future.
By Jerald Young, Ph.D.
This article answers the question, “What should your goal be for your post-divorce relationship with your ex if you want to protect a successful recovery from your divorce?” Should your goal be to remain friends? Is it to get an apology or an explanation? Is it to make him/her sorry for how you were hurt? Is it to happily watch as your ex’s new life crashes and burns? Is it to never see or hear from the jerk ever again? Whatever your goal is, it will color your life after divorce. Some goals are healthy, others are ultimately harmful to you. The most helpful goal of all might be one you have never considered. Would you believe a bank teller might hold the key to your future contentment with your life after divorce?
Spoiler alert! If you want to have a healthy post-divorce relationship with your ex, let go of your emotional reactions toward your ex and replace them with the wisdom of a non-emotional alternative – the bank teller.
I know. Sounds stupid. Here’s why it could be the smartest thing you do in your recovey.
What Do You Want Your Relationship with Your Ex Look Like after You Are Divorced?
Are you still holding on to your relationship with your ex?
The marriage is over. The judge has signed the papers. You are no longer legally tied to each other. But are you still attached emotionally to your former spouse? If you are, you have some work to do. Simply stated, in order to thrive in the next chapter of your life you must dissolve your attachments to your past, especially to your ex.
I know. It sounds impossible to dissolve all personal attachments, harbor no ill will towards your ex, forget about your ex, and get on with your life. This is the person with whom you shared some of the most wonderful days of your life, and also who caused you some of the most miserable days of your life.
You say, “I can’t just turn on a switch and forget him/her and our past. Especially if I have to talk to, and often see, him/her every time our children visit their other parent?”
What Does “Being Attached” Mean?
If you want something from your ex or if your ex triggers emotion-based reactions in you, either positive or negative, you are still attached in some way to your ex.
Wanting something from your ex. Wanting something from your ex can include, for example, hoping your ex will: (1) apologize, or explain why he/she wanted out, or (2) want to remain friends with you, or (3) not get a new lover so soon, or (4) be jealous of your new boyfriend/girlfriend, or (5) regret leaving you, or (6) feel bad about how he or she treated you, etc. These are ways your ex still has something you want. By wanting your ex to do something for you, you are still giving your ex power over you. Therefore, you are still attached to your ex.
Having feelings toward your ex. If you dwell on good memories of your ex or if you dwell on bad memories of your ex, either way you have invited your ex into your head and into your life. And therefore, you are still attached. If the mention of your ex triggers positive feelings in you or if it triggers negative feelings in you, you are still attached.
Whether you want to reconcile with your ex or you want to kill your ex, it makes no difference. If the sight of your ex, or the mention of your ex’s name, or a private thought you might have of your ex conjures strong emotional reactions, good or bad, you are still attached and in a relationship with your ex that hasn’t ended yet.
So, What Is the Ideal Relationship You Should Have with Your Ex
The goal for a successful post-divorce relationship with an ex is one of “friendly indifference” that is devoid of any emotion, positive or negative.
You ex is past history. Your relationship with your ex ended with the judge’s signature, if not before. It no longer exists unless you hold on to it and embellish it in your head.
The ideal relationship with an ex is one in which there is absolutely no emotional reactions attached. Zero. Nada. You couldn’t care less if your ex is extremely happy, rich, loved and adored or if your ex is extremely unhappy, poor, hated and reviled. Moreover, other than some general sense of “goodwill to your fellow man,” you couldn’t care less if your ex is alive or dead. Either means nothing to you. Your ex is a perfect stranger with whom you have no demands or expectations. Your ex has become the total stranger you pass in the mall.
To hold on to the relationship prevents you from investing in new relationships. As long as you have one foot in the past, you cannot step into the future.
Hence, the ideal relationship with your ex is for it to be “a great big nothing.” You should be totally indifferent to your ex and have no emotional investment or reaction, either positive or negative.
Q: So if a successful recovery from divorce requires that I become emotionally unattached from my ex, just how exactly am I supposed to do that?
A: Go cash a check.
Bank Tellers as Models
A metaphor for a healthy relationship with your ex is the bank teller.
First off, we never see a bank teller unless we have some specific business to conduct like, for example, to cash a check. Otherwise, the bank teller occupies no part of our life.
When we do need to cash a check, we go up to a bank teller and are polite and friendly. We conduct our business, and when we have completed our business we politely say “goodbye” and leave. At no time do we feel strong positive or strong negative feelings for the teller. We wish neither good nor bad for the teller since we are not attached to the person. We don’t inquire about their personal life, nor do we criticize them or offer advice on how they could improve their life. We are only there to conduct the “business task” of cashing a check. That is, we treat the teller with “friendly indifference.”
The same as with your ex. You have no need to see or contact your ex, unless there exists some specific business to transact, like coordinating visitation schedules or meeting to exchange kids for parental visits. And when you do, you treat your ex with the same civility and friendly indifference as you gave to the bank teller. Nothing more, nothing less.
Like you did with the teller, your contact with your ex is friendly without being intimate, civil without being pompous, indifferent except for conducting the business at hand. Using the bank teller as a model is a great way to practice your new relationship with your ex, without confusing the old boundaries of intimacy and friendship with the new severely shrunken boundary of instrumental task problem solving.
You used to have full access to each other in which very few boundaries prohibited you from discussing any topic or engaging in personal or intimate behavior. Now you have extremely limited access with strict boundaries prohibiting most topics of discussion and personal or intimate behavior. The only exceptions are discussions about your children and their welfare.
If bank teller is difficult to identify with, returning a defective product to a customer service representative at Best Buy has the identical nature of “friendly indifference” while conducting well-defined business as the bank teller.
So, What’s the Point?
A successful recovery from divorce is delicate. It is especially vulnerable to how you manage your relationship with your ex. What worked during your marriage will not work now.
Other than handling issues around your children, you have little reason to make or maintain contact with your ex. So don’t do it unless it is absolutely necessary.
If you have children with your ex, you will have to have some contact. And when you do, the nature of your post-divorce relationship is vastly different from the relationship you had while married.
Treating the post-divorce relationship as a continuation of the relationship built up over many years of marriage seems like the normal thing to do. It also spells disaster to your recovery. You are no longer lovers and marriage partners. The rules are different, and the boundaries of acceptable behavior are severely limiting.
Therefore, a new relationship, completely devoid of any emotional reactions, will preserve the peace and enable you to manage the joint responsibilities you have with your spouse to solve the educational, health, and visitation issues with your children. It will also enable you to attend and enjoy school and athletic activities, birthdays, holidays, marriages, and other events in which you ex will be present.
Your world has changed. Your relationship with your ex has changed. All for the better. Do not louse it up by trying to keep the old relationship alive with your ex. It will backfire and severely threaten the contentment of your new life after divorce.
This article answers the question, “Is there a roadmap to follow that will help me make a full and complete recovery from divorce without having to lug traumatic baggage around the rest of my life?” Whether life after divorce is satisfying and rewarding or painful and debilitating depends on how effective your efforts are to recovery from divorce. The current outlook is not very rosy. What will it take to turn things around?
Poor Track Record for the Most Common Approaches to divorce Recovery
The three most common approaches to facilitate recovery from divorce are divorce support groups, individual psychotherapy, and the simple passage of time.
The success of these three approaches is abysmal. Sixty-six percent of 2nd marriages and 75% of 3rd marriages also ending in divorce. In addition, long-term distrust and animosity between ex-spouses is common which does not bode well for the hoped-for trauma-free effects of the divorce on their children.
Obviously, something is wrong with how divorce recovery is currently being practiced.
The Problem of Not Knowing What the Problem Is
The core issue originates from a hazy understanding of the problem divorced people face. Is it the mental problem of depression? Is it an emotional problem of being overwhelmed with a witch’s brew of feelings, including sadness, anger, disappointment, fear, grief, abandonment, resentment, bitterness, rejection, shame, humiliation, embarrassment, worry, etc.? Is it impatience with how long it takes to forget the painful event?
Individual psychotherapy attempts to treat the nebulous problem of “depression.” divorce support groups attempt to treat the non-specific problem of “emotional upset.” And adherents to the passage-of-time approach treat the vague problem of “not enough time has passed yet” by prescribing “let more time pass.”
None of the three approaches specifies a clearly defined problem nor a clear plan of action to solve it.
What is needed is a clearly defined roadmap or plan that specifies the steps to take to solve the problems inherent in making a recovery from divorce.
A New Approach to the Problem
Recent work by this author has identified the core problem to be an almost universal tendency of divorced people to resist making the necessary changes to thrive in their new life situation imposed on them by their divorce. That is, the problem is resistance to change.
This is good news.
We know about resistance to change and there is a roadmap to follow to dissolve it. Plus, the process of dissolving resistance to change also addresses the emotion-based issues raised by two of the other approaches to divorce recovery.
Recovery from divorce unfolds in three stages:
(1) STABILIZE your emotional reactions to your divorce and to your ex;
(2) RELEASE your fear of an unknown future and your distress over your losses; and
(3) PREPARE for your next committed relationship so that you don’t get divorced again.
Within these stages are the 10 steps in a roadmap to recovery. Each step is designed to identify and address a core problem unique to the divorce transition process that threatens your recovery. Here is a short description of each of the 10 steps.
The First Stage: Stabilize Your Reactions to the Divorce
In this stage you begin to dissolve the emotion-based reactions you are having to the divorce, to your ex, and to your current life after divorce. You also begin to reduce your attachments to “how life used to be.” The steps of the first stage are:
Step 1: Disentangle Yourself from Your Ex. You are entering a new, exciting stage of your life. It is now time to take stock of your reactions to your current life after divorce and start separating your life as it used to be from the life it is now becoming.
Step 2: Acknowledge the Trauma That Was Caused. Divorce is a traumatic incident in your life. You must identify what was injured and treat it in order to prevent it from defining the rest of your life. Like Marcia Salmon notes, ” divorce is an incident, not a lifestyle.”
Step 3: Accept Your Ambivalence about. You did not get married to your ex because you hated him or her. There were good times. There were also the not-so-good times. Getting divorced causes ambivalence and second thoughts which need to be identified and dealt with.
Step 4: Clarify Your Goals for the Transition. In the vast majority of the cases, people choose goals for their divorce recovery that virtually guarantee failure. What you need are goals that will lead to a successful life after divorce.
The Second Stage: Dissolve Reluctance to Accept Your New Life Situation
In this stage you remove the barriers to a successful transition. One barrier lodged in the past is your reluctance to give up the good things you enjoyed from your past life with your ex. The other barrier, tied to the future, is the fear of the unknown, the fear of not knowing what the future will bring. Working in tandem, these two barriers create an extraordinarily strong resistance to change. In this stage you dissolve away this naturally occurring resistance and eliminate your reluctance to accept and embrace your new life situation. The steps of this stage are:
Step 5: Dissolve the Effects of Fear. Fear of an unknown future keeps us stuck in the past. You must reduce that fear in order to embrace your future with hope and happiness.
Step 6: Dissolve the Effects of Loss. All life transitions, wanted or unwanted, result in some loss. divorce is no different. However, almost all of us think we have lost more than we actually have. Don’t grieve it if you didn’t lose it.
Step 7: Bring the Relationship with Your Ex to Completion. All relationships end with important things left unexpressed. Figuring out what those things are and dealing with them free you up to move on without the baggage that divorce creates.
The Third Stage: Prepare for Your Future
In this stage you take what you’ve learned from the divorce process and envision a new life that is satisfying and rewarding. The steps of this stage are:
Step 8: Prepare for a Relationship. A successful relationship requires that you get what you need. You must engage your head in addition to your heart if you want your next committed relationship to succeed.
Step 9: Recalibrate Your Life and Create the New You. Divorce offers you an unprecedented opportunity to redefine who you are and how you want to live the next chapter in your life in the most personally meaningful way. Your challenge is to take advantage of this chance to start over with a clean slate.
Step 10: Use the Past to Plan Your Future. Now is the time to take what you have learned and lay out your map for a happy, productive life after divorce. Like Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
So, What’s the Point?
You have been given an unprecedented second chance at having a happy and fulfilling life. Statistics tell us that without a roadmap to guide you through your resistance to change, that opportunity is doomed to fail. However, if you follow the roadmap outlined in the 10 steps above, you have an excellent chance of turning what was the worst experience in your life into the best thing that could ever have happened to you.
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.
Jerald W. Young, Ph.D.
This article answers the question, “Is it true that men really cannot express their feelings?” The belief that men can’t express their feelings is a well-accepted part of our culture. This belief permeates efforts to help men recover from the emotionally shattering experience of divorce. If it is in fact true, the prognosis for a full and complete recovery from divorce by men is discouraging at best. If it turns out to be just an unsubstantiated myth, the prognosis for divorce recovery by men it extremely hopeful. The question becomes, is it actually true?
What It Sounds Like: “Good.” “Bad.” “I Don’t know.”
How often have you thought or heard someone say, “Men can’t express their feelings?”
Guy walks into a bar. Bartender says, “Hey, I heard you got divorced. How are you feeling?”
Guy says, “Great!” or “I’m pissed off!” or “I don’t know.”
Guy’s parents call and say, “How are you feeling now that you divorced?”
Guy says, “Great!” or “I’m pissed off!” or “I don’t know.”
Guy is on a date and his date asks, “How are you feeling now that your divorced?”
Guy says, “Great!” or “I’m pissed off!” or “I don’t know.”
Conclusion: Guys can’t express their feelings.
In fact, it is treated as a “given” in our culture.
Why Is the Myth Important?
If it is true that guys can’t express their feelings, divorced men are truly screwed and are doomed to repeated visits to divorce court.
The divorce recovery process requires divorced people, men and women, to acknowledge the trauma by fully discussing their emotional reactions to their divorce and their ex. If they can’t do this, their hopes of having a full and complete recovery from divorce are severely hampered.
So, yes, this myth that “men cannot express their feelings” is a big deal if it turns out to be no myth at all, but the truth.
Where did the myth come from?
For decades boys and men have been told to “stifle your feelings.”
Starting early in life, father figures, coaches, male teachers, even peers, provide a model of stoicism for boys to strive. They are told to “suck it up,” “don’t complain,” or “don’t be a whiner or a sissy” when wanting to express their feelings. The one exception is the expression of anger. It is OK to register the fact that something made you mad.
But pity the poor man who says he feels sad, lonely, hurt, and rejected or announcing he feels ashamed, humiliated, guilt-ridden, and embarrassed. Let alone should he tell folks he feels joyful, peaceful, content, and giddy with excitement. Men just do not do that.
So men are left with answering the question, “How do you feel?” with the tried and true alternatives: “good,” or “bad,” or “angry,” or “OK,” or the old faithful choice, “I don’t know.”
How does the myth get perpetuated?
Our culture perpetuates it.
People observe men “hem and haw” when asked how they feel, and people simply assume it must be true that “men cannot express their feelings.” Girlfriends and spouses observe their male partner’s refusal to express their feelings as “that’s just how men are” and let it drop.
Also, in a funny way, believing “men can’t express their feelings” actually “solves” some communication problems for men. It prevents men from feeling pressure to disclose their feelings. If people don’t believe men can, they don’t ask them to express their feelings.
But is it really true that men can’t express their feelings or is there a more useful and truthful explanation of their ineptness in trying to do so?
What Is Really Going On Here?
OK, so “Good,” “Bad,” and “I don’t know” are common responses to the question, “How do you feel?” The question is “Why?”
The most common explanation is it is in their DNA. By virtue of being a male, they can’t do it.
But there are other possible explanations including:
(1) Is it their desire to avoid embarrassment?
(2) Is it their desire not to appear incompetent?
(3) Is it something else?
The embarrassment explanation. Perhaps men balk at expressing their feelings for fear it will result in a raw, gut-wrenching, uncontrolled discharge of emotions, the display of which is incompatible with the behavior of a well-respected, literate, socially appropriate man.
Or perhaps men balk at the possibility others might think he is being “effeminate,” whatever that might mean to him.
The incompetence explanation. Who wants to be thought of as being stupid? How dumb are you if your vocabulary is so limited that you cannot give a coherent, thoughtful response to such a simple question as, “How do you feel?” Well, that is exactly what men have been trained to be unable to do! Having only an elementary school level grasp of the vocabulary of feelings words in an adult world is humiliating. No one, male or female, wants that to be seen as being that incompetent..
The “something else” explanation. What I strongly suspect is going on is a combination of the two. Expressing your feelings means exposing your vulnerability to embarrassment and exposing your verbal incompetence at only having a child-like “feelings vocabulary.” No wonder men do not answer when asked, “How do you feel?”
How do we know it is not true?
I have witnessed men express their feelings without hesitation and in-depth for the last 25 years.
Using a tool I initially developed to help folks dissolve resistance to change, I have observed men identify their feelings, disclose what they are feeling, and then discuss at length and in-depth why they are having the emotional reactions they are having.
The first divorced man who used this tool identified 86 specific feelings about his life after divorce and his ex. Most were negative, some were positive. Then we spent the next four hours working through each of the 86 words, exploring just why each particular emotion got triggered by that particular situation. This response is typical. Over 90% of men and women who use this tool identify and discuss on average from 45 to 100 feeling words.
The men I have observed ranged from 22 to 76 years old, from CEO’s to janitors, from actors to lawyers. They demonstrated to me that men not only can, but want to, express their feelings as long as the circumstances were right.
So, What’s the Point?
It is only a myth that men can’t express their feelings.
Men can and will talk about their feelings. However, they require a safe, private place to do it. Plus they need a non-threatening way to help them identify the names of the feelings they are experiencing.
The problem men face is not “I can’t express my feelings.” The problem is “Don’t make me embarrass myself and don’t make me appear INCOMPETENT!”
Remove their fear of embarrassment and vocabulary incompetence and men will express their feelings willingly
Jerald Young, Ph.D.
This article answers the question, “When is it OK to start dating again?” Is the real question, “When is it OK to start dating again?” Or is it, “When can I start looking for my next long-term, committed relationship?” Beware! The second question often is disguised as the first one. Hint: Are you wanting to start dating to enjoy your freedom from the attachments of marriage or are you adding to your attachments to the past?
There is a lot of heat, but very little light generated by asking when we should resume dating. Some say wait a year. Some say asap in order to get over the divorce. Some say don’t date if the divorce is not final. Some say go for it if the marriage is over, regardless of whether the judge has signed the papers. Many religions say do not date until after the divorce is final. Everybody has an opinion. No one has a one-size-fits-all answer.
Early Dating – What Is It and Is It a Good Thing?
Early dating can be a very powerful part of your recovery from divorce.
Early dating occurs when you start dating again either before the divorce is legally final or soon thereafter. Early dating is marked by huge amounts of “baggage” and attachments to your ex and the life you shared that have not been dissolved or eliminated yet.
Whether it is a “good” thing or a “bad” thing depends on what you want dating to achieve for you. Broadly speaking, if you are wanting to date to enjoy your new-found freedom from being attached to your ex, it can be most enjoyable. If on the other hand, you want to start dating to trigger a response from your ex or to placate your friends and relatives, it will end badly.
Some say you should wait until your marriage is over. Sounds good, but what does it actually mean for a marriage “to be over?”
When Exactly Is a Marriage Over?
Any marriage that is over is actually over long before it’s formally over.
A marriage is over the very instant one of the marriage partners looks in the mirror feeling calm, sober, well-rested, and introspective and declares privately to himself or herself, “I can’t do this anymore. I must get out.” This happens long before any judge declares a marriage officially over by signing the divorce papers.
It also sets the clock ticking for one’s making the decision to begin dating again. In the back of everyone’s mind is the question, “How can I be sure this is a good idea right now?”
One Says “Date” Another Says “Don’t Date” – Will They Please Make Up Their Damned Mind?
Don’t count on your friends and relatives to be much help.
When seeking advice, you should talk with people you can trust. The obvious choices are your friends and family. You assume they will have your best interests at heart. But do they? Can they? Probably not.
Friends and relatives are only human. Of necessity they filter their advice through their own experience, hopes, fears, and belief systems. The result? A jumbled mess of contradictory advice that reflects their fears and fantasies they would have if they were in your situation. In a word, it’s useless.
Bottom line: don’t pay much attention to what other people advise you to do. Their advice, well-intentioned as it is, is a statement of their agenda for you. Invariably, their agenda is different from your agenda.
Your job is to get clear on what your agenda and expectations are and to not sabotage them by trying to move the relationship development process along too fast.
Three Early Dating Rules to Live By
Early dating doesn’t exist without some potential problems, especially impatience.
The 12 to 18 months before and after the divorce is final are sacred! Treat them as a gift from the relationship gods. The goal of this transition time is to reestablish balance, personal power, perspective, self-love, and stability back into your life.
What is important is not what you do, but what you don’t do. Three “rules” will help you make your early dating experience a success.
Rule #1: Slow Things Waaaaaay Down: For the first 6 months of dating, restrict what you plan and talk about with your partner to no more than 7 days into the future. For the next 6 months, restrict what you plan and talk about with your partner to no more than 30 days into the future.
Now is not the time to envision living “happily ever after” with anyone. It is the time to get reacquainted with yourself and to enjoy your new freedom.
Rule #2: Do NOT Sign Anything for 12 to 18 Months: Do not sign any legal or financial documents with your partner for at least 18 months. No marriage licenses, no car titles, no loan applications, no house mortgages, no joint checking accounts, NO ANYTHING! You will have the rest of your life to that after the shock and readjustments to your life after divorce have worn off . Just do not do it in the first 18 months after your divorce is final.
Rule #3: Don’t Get Pregnant Yet: Do not get pregnant or get your partner pregnant. Just don’t do it. Now is not the time to start a new family. Having a child will not miraculously give your life meaning after divorce. It will seriously destroy your efforts to reestablish balance, personal power, perspective, self-love, and stability back into your life.
So, What’s the Point?
There is never a good time to start dating for bad reasons.
Asking “When should I start dating again?” is the wrong question. The more helpful question is, “Why do I want to start dating again?”
Are you dating to enjoy your new-found freedom from the attachments of being coupled, OR are you feeding and strengthening your attachments to the past?
Early dating enables you to begin the transition from being coupled and married to being uncoupled and single, NOT recoupled and married. Early dating is not a vehicle for finding your next committed relationship.
(Now a word from your attorney: The last question to ask before beginning to date again is whether your attorney thinks dating at this time will compromise your divorce case. Obviously, if it will then honor your attorney’s advice and hold off until it is safe to do so.)
This is the time in your life to enjoy having “slipped the surly bonds of an unhappy marriage.” Use it to enjoy your first step into your life after divorce.
Jerald Young, Ph.D.
This article answers the question, “Now that I am divorced, is it a good idea to start dating again?” Dating after divorce should be a time to enjoy becoming unfettered from the past and looking forward to the future. However, it is often hard to tell whether our dating is truly “unfettering” us or actually tightening the shackles to the past we hope to break.
After a relationship dies, the resulting trauma is huge. Now is the time to shed the burdensome attachments to the past and spread your wings. Now is not the time to make any life altering decisions. Now is the time to get acquainted again with your playful, fun-loving side.
Dating can be one way to re-examine your zest for life. However, all dating is not equal. Some assist you in making your transition from being “coupled” to being “happy, single, and free.” Others inhibit it.
A helpful decision rule is: Are you celebrating your new-found freedom from the attachments of being coupled, OR are you feeding your attachments to the past?
Healthy Reasons for Early Dating: Dating to Enjoy Your Freedom from Attachments
Are you dating to revive your joy with life? You have been in a gloomy dark place for some time. Now is a good time to “turn over a new leaf” and remind yourself that life can be joyful.
Are you dating to reboot your interest in the future? Much of your life recently entailed dwelling on the past. What your ex did to you, what your ex did not do for you. What you could have done differently. How you got screwed by the system, etc. Now is the time to shift your focus on the future and remind yourself your future can be great – if you allow it to be.
Are you dating to reestablish your belief in your attractiveness? Divorce is ugly. It involves rejection by both parties eventually. Our feelings of attractiveness and feeling wanted withers. Dating can return the feeling that others find you attractive.
Are you dating to experience validation? Validation is the most common casualty of divorce. We survive divorce wounded. Dating can start to return our sense of validation and confirmation.
Are you dating to have sex? Sometimes things are simple and straightforward. Sex with a new partner who wants to be with you can be a pleasant experience, regardless of whatever meaning you attribute to the act. Having sex for the fun of it is different from having sex as a precursor to a new committed relationship. Now is NOT the time to even be having fantasies about anything long term.
Are you dating to feel better? We leave a divorce feeling damaged. Dating someone new can help to reestablish your self-confidence and hope for the future – but only if done with shared transparency and full awareness of what a transition relationship is.
Are you dating to make the transition from being coupled to being uncoupled? After a divorce you are faced with huge transition from being coupled/married to being uncoupled/single. Success in this transition requires you to dissolve all attachments to your ex and the life you shared. While early dating will not, by itself, achieve this transition, dating to exercise your right to enjoy your new life of no attachments is certainly good and healthy. This is the intention and the role of a Transition Relationship.
Are you dating just because you now can? There is a sense of freedom now that you have no spouse to answer to. Let the wind blow through your hair and enjoy the sensation just for the sake of enjoyment.
Self-Destructive Reasons for Early Dating: Dating to Feed Your Attachments to the Past
Other reasons to start dating will retard your recovery from divorce.
Are you dating to make your ex feel bad? Angry at your ex? Dating to show your ex you are “doing just fine” now that he/she is gone belies the fact that you still want to know that you are still important enough to your ex that he/she would notice what you are doing. In other words, you are only perpetuating the very attachments to your ex that you need to be dissolving.
Are you dating to feel less? Getting divorced hurts. People think that dating will end the feelings. It doesn’t. It only temporarily covers over the pain. But the pain is still there as long as you attach painful feelings to your memories of how life used to be.
Are you dating to forget? Forget it. You can’t forget it. Wishing you could change what happened yesterday won’t change what happened yesterday. But that’s OK. You can remember the past without being attached to it. Your past is there to teach you how to use your future. You can use your past by harvesting the wisdom it offers. Your job is to “reframe” the memories by replacing the negative feelings attached to them with either positive feelings or friendly indifference.
Are you dating to find your next marriage partner? Stop in your tracks! Way too soon for this. Your immediate job after getting divorced is to get fully unattached from all physical and emotional attachments to your ex and the life you shared. There will be plenty of time to begin the search for your next committed relationship. However, now is the time to make the transition from being coupled to being UNcoupled, including dissolving all the painful emotions you have attached to going through a divorce.
Are you dating to placate your friends and relatives? They feel uncomfortable since they do not know what to say to someone who just got divorced. This is their problem, not yours. Ignore their advice.
Are you dating to remember? When you and your ex first met, chances are you enjoyed each other’s company. Dating to remember that it can be pleasant to spend time with another person is good. However, if you are trying to remember, or recreate, those early days with your ex, you are still attached to him/her when your current job is to dissolve those attachments.
Are you dating to satisfy your parents? Parents worry about their children. They do not want to see their children in pain. Parents want to fix things so their children will not suffer. Parents don’t know what to do to “fix” their child’s divorce. So they succumb to the cultural myth, “If only my child can find someone new, they will be happy.” All this means is if you start dating, they will no longer feel incompetent in trying to fix your pain. Your job is to take care of you, not your parents. Politely ignore them.
Are you dating to compete with your ex or make your ex feel bad, then those motivations will come back to bite you. Remember, you are divorced. You no longer are in a relationship with your ex. Therefore, what your ex does or doesn’t do is no longer any of your business. None! This is a harmful path to take. Don’t go there.
So, What’s the Point?
Remember, your job is not to take care of your parents, relatives, or friends. Your job is to take care of yourself, and only yourself. If others shout “hooray!!” or if they “boo and hiss” with your dating choices, this also is none of your business.
It all boils down to why you want to start dating again. If you want to start dating to make your friends or relatives feel better, you will be fooling yourself. It won’t make you feel any better. Also, if you want to start dating again because you are still attached to some memories of you past life with your ex, good or bad, then you are perpetuating the pain of divorce and delaying your recovery.
However, if you want to start dating to enjoy your new-found freedom from the attachments to your ex and the life you shared, (and your attorney tells you dating at this time will not hurt you legally), then dating is healthy. Enjoy!