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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?” 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.

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?” 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.

Divorce Recovery and Ambivalence: Why Do I Have Second Thoughts When I’m Glad I Got Divorced?

Jerald Young, Ph.D.

Do you sometimes wonder if getting divorced was the right thing to do? Do you ever wonder if you should have tried to “make it work” just one more time? Don’t worry, we all do. Discover why this happens, what it means, and how it impacts your efforts to make a recovery from divorce.

Recovery from divorce is bathed in ambivalence. We wish it weren’t so. We assume we will shed the past, much like a snake sheds its skin, and get on with our life after divorce without looking back. However, it just doesn’t work that way. A judge’s signature on a piece of paper does not make our hopes and dreams for what we wanted our marriage to be simply disappear in a sudden “poof” like blowing on a dandelion. Ambivalence is our hopes and dreams telling us that they still want to come true.

EVERYONE HAS UNEASY FEELINGS ABOUT AMBIVALENCE

We all experience ambivalence at one time or another. Sometimes we feel embarrassed or ashamed when we feel ambivalent. Often we are confused when positive thoughts about our marriage creep in even though we know it was in our own best interests to end it. This is normal. It is OK to feel this ambivalence. Everyone has it to one degree or another.

EVERYONE HAS RECONCILIATION FANTASIES

We experience ambivalence in our reconciliation fantasies. Even when we wanted the divorce and are looking forward to getting on with our life without our ex, we still have bouts of ambivalence. We hear the tape recorder in our head say such things as, “Did I do the right thing?” “What if we got back together, would things be different? Would they be better?” “Wouldn’t our kids be better off if we reconciled?”

EVERY MARRIAGE CREATES BOTH GOOD AND BAD MEMORIES

No marriage is 100% bad. No marriage is 100% good. There were good times and there were bad times. There were positive things that initially attracted you to each other. Even though there were the bad times that led to divorce, you also created some good memories. We like to remember the good times. It reassures us we made a good decision to marry in the first place. This is good. These good memories often surface as ambivalence.

EVERY HOPE AND DREAM LIVES ON IN THE PICTURE ALBUM IN OUR HEAD

The day you first felt that “special something” with your ex, you started a picture album in your head in which you began collecting pictures of your hopes and dreams for the relationship. Just because the marriage ended does not mean your hopes and dreams evaporated. They didn’t. They still live on in your head. They revisit you as ambivalence about getting divorced.

We tell ourselves, “I don’t want to lose my hopes and dreams! Maybe I should try to reconcile.” This is normal. This is painful. And here is the best part: This is unnecessary because you only lost a spouse. You did not lose your hopes and dreams. They did not go anywhere. You still have them. You can still work to realize them. This is a good thing. The only difference is the person with whom you assumed you would achieve them will not be there. If you choose, you can find someone else whom you love and who loves you to help make your hopes and dreams come true.

Such is the wonderful promise of a successful recovery from divorce.

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?”

Recovery from divorce requires us to make changes in our lives. Lots of changes. No big surprise here. For example, divorce almost always forces us to make changes in our relationships, our finances, our living arrangements, our health-related activities, our self-development, and our recreational and social activities.

The logical prescription to speed our transition from being unhappily married to happily unmarried is straightforward: make the necessary changes ASAP! No problem. Why, then, don’t we do it? Why are we universally reluctant to do the obvious and make the changes that would improve our life after divorce?

The answer? RESISTANCE TO CHANGE! Resistance to change is our reluctance to make a positive change because of personal reasons.

A Personal Example

What I did when my first marriage ended is an example of how resistance to change prevents us from making a swift and smooth recovery from divorce. After eight years of marriage, my wife and I agreed it was over. We had tried several things to save it – couples counseling, communication training weekends, couples retreats, individual therapy. These efforts only served to reinforce our belief that a divorce was the right thing to do. The harsh reality was the marriage was over.

Three Ways Resistance to Change Can Ruin Your Divorce Recovery

Three things prevented me from moving on and making my recovery from divorce. (1) FEAR – I was afraid of an unknown future. (2) LOSS – I did not want to lose my “perfect life fantasy” of being married “til death do us part” with a loving wife and living with two wonderful daughters. (3) SKILLS – I did not believe I had the ability to live successfully as a single man. These three things illustrate the three causes of resistance to change, which had me firmly in its grasp.

Cause #1 of Resistance to Change – Fear of an Unknown Future

I could not guarantee my future would be happy. I could not guarantee that I would meet someone new. My disaster fantasy was that I would never find true love again and would live alone and lonely the rest of my life. This fear paralyzed me and prevented me from moving into the next chapter of my life.

Cause #2 of Resistance to Change – Distress Over Loss

Moving on meant I would lose daily access to my two daughters. It also meant I would lose the stability of a daily living routine. But most importantly, it meant I would lose the hopes, dreams, and assumptions about our family I had been collecting ever since my wife and I met.

For example, I had hoped my family would last forever. I had assumed I would be involved daily in my daughters’ lives. I had dreamed of growing old with my wife. My parents were married 67 years, so why not me too? Taking the active steps to recover would force me to admit that these hopes, dreams, and assumptions were shattered. The loss seemed more than I could handle. Hence, I put off moving on and thereby delayed my recovery from divorce.

Cause #3 of Resistance to Change – Uncertainty over the Operational Aspects

Logic-based resistance to change reflects our reluctance to make a change because we do not understand or agree with the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and/or How of the change. My logic-based resistance was based partly in my uncertainty about some How’s and Who’s of dating.

I had not dated for over nine years. I was convinced I would not be able to date without thoroughly embarrassing myself. I was stuck on such issues as – “How do you date?” “Who will I date?’ “Where will I find people to date?” As long as I pretended I did not have to take control of my divorce recovery, I did not have to confront my ineptitude with dating.

So How Can You Use This?

One fact exists, resistance to change happens to EVERYONE. It will happen to you. Be aware of its causes and be alert to your fears, your reactions to loss, and your confusion over the operational nuts and bolts of making a recovery. It’s all about taking the next step. Making the next change. You can be paralyzed by resistance to change as I was, or you can confront the resistance and dissolve it, thus enabling you to get on with the next chapter in your life.

Some questions to ask yourself that will help guide you on your recovery might include – What about the future do you fear today? What about “how things used to be” are hard for y

Divorce Recovery Failure: Are You Being Seduced by the Status Quo?

By Jerald Young, Ph.D.

This article answers the question, “What makes recovering from divorce so difficult?” A higher percentage of second and third marriages end in divorce than first marriages. If we actually learn from our divorce experience, the percentage of second and third divorces should decrease, not increase.  If subsequent divorce rates are any indication, the track record of how well we recover from divorce is truly abysmal. Why is that?

(This is the 4th 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.)

A successful recovery from a divorce requires us to make the transition from being coupled with our spouse to being uncoupled and single again. Sounds straightforward. Dare I even say “easy?” Oh, were it only that simple!

How Desperately Will We Cling to the Status Quo?

A few months after my first divorce was final, my ex invited me to come visit our daughters for a week. I leapt at the offer. When I got there, my ex and I fell into the old, familiar daily routines we had lived for ten years, including rekindling intimacy as if we were still married.

In retrospect, I was still holding on to parts of “how life used to be,” the old status quo. This prevented me from taking advantage of all the good  my new life situation offered and kept me locked up in my fantasy of the past.

We Fight to Maintain the Status Quo

Having a successful recovery from divorce demands: “You have to let go of your attachments to how life used to be. You must give up your attachment to the old status quo. You have to change.” However, we almost always reply, “No way! Not even if it would be in my  best interests to do so. I am not going to do it!”

The status quo is the on-going, consistent existing state of affairs. In divorce terms, the status quo refers to the existing state of affairs before the divorce, that we had come to take for granted. The status quo promises predictability and reassures us of (the illusion of) control in our lives. It gives us a stable “foundation” for our life.  Who wouldn’t be attracted to that? Who wouldn’t want to embrace and hold it dear?

We will cling fiercely to the stability promised by the status quo, even in the most dire situations, in order to prevent, or at least delay, the terrifying changes a divorce brings.

Once again, resistance to change wins.

Resistance to Change – The Root of All Divorce Recovery Evil

The Achille’s heel of a successful divorce recovery and the guardian of the status quo is simple, garden-variety resistance to change. And, even though dissolving our resistance to change is the one thing that will set us free to enjoy our life after divorce, we almost always refuse to do it.

What is resistance to change? It is the very human, emotion-based reluctance to accept a change in our lives, even if the change is for our own good. Change means casting the status quo aside and we just do not want to do that.

The emotion-based reluctance to accept a change is driven by two primary emotions, fear and loss: (1) our fear of an unknown future, and (2) our distress over what we have lost from how our life used to be. These emotions, fear and loss, spawn a whole host of related emotions that overwhelm us and paralyze most efforts to release our attachments to the memories of the past, the old status quo.

Resistance to change is present in every major life transition, including divorce. Its elimination is necessary to move on and thrive in your new life after divorce.

So, What Can You Do?

You must become hypervigilant and ruthlessly critical about your attachments to the status quo of your past. You should be willing to release your grip on the status quo and venture open-mindedly into the next chapter of your life, your future.  You need to be courageous enough to figure out what specifically it is about your new set of life circumstances you are having trouble accepting. That is, you should determine what parts of your past life with your ex you are trying to drag along into your present life. In other words, you must make the effort to dissolve your resistance to change!

The stakes are high. If you don’t successfully recover from your divorce, the odds are over 60% that you will end up back in divorce court. And, the single most important thing you can do to successfully recover from your divorce is to release your death grip on the status quo and dissolve your resistance to change. Only then will it be possible for you to access and enjoy all the good that your new life offers.

Divorce Recovery & Bad Decisions: Will the 4 Traps Set by Resistance to Change Ruin Your Future?

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 …
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Divorce Recovery and Disappointment: Why Don’t Support Groups, Therapy, or Time Work Very Well?

By Jerald W. Young, Ph.D.

This article 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?” The divorce rate for second marriages is higher than the divorce rate for first marriages. And the divorce rate for third marriages is even higher still. This defies common sense. If the traditional methods for facilitating a full recovery from divorce were effective, wouldn’t the subsequent divorce rates decrease, not increase? Here is why they don’t and what you can do about it.

(This is the 2nd 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.)

My first marriage lasted ten years. My second marriage ended in divorce also. During both marriage ceremonies I expected the marriage to last “until death do us part.” They didn’t. I was sad, disappointed, and confused. Safe to say, I didn’t learn much from my first divorce. More importantly, I didn’t realize that the kind of help I got to recover from my 1st  divorce set me up to forge headlong into my 2nd  divorce.

The Statistics Are Ugly

Turns out 42% to 50% of first marriages end in divorce. Around 66%  of second marriages and 75% of third marriages also end in divorce. And if that is not shocking enough, one estimate of divorce in fourth marriages is 93% within the first five years.

These rates paint a bleak picture for the likelihood that a marriage will last. This surprising pattern of numbers begs the question, “What the heck is going on?”

Logically, we would expect the divorce rates to decrease, not increase, across subsequent marriages since presumably we should learn from our experience and make our next marriage less likely, not more likely, to end in divorce.

The fact that the divorce rate increases with each subsequent marriage tells us something is drastically wrong with how we recover from divorce.

What could that be?

The Ruthless, Heavy-Handed Nature of Emotions

Strong negative emotions suck up all the air in the room. When relentless, painful emotions are present, you can’t make good decisions about your life after divorce.

Divorce is like the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park which spews boiling hot water regularly 24/7. Except, the divorce geyser spews strong negative emotions 24/7.  Like the geyser, the emotions of divorce come in waves. A client once described it as like having uncontrollable diarrhea. Just when you think you have your feelings under control, here comes the next  wave of misery.

We’ve all been there: sadness, anger, disappointment, resentment, guilt, hopelessness, helplessness, retribution, failure, embarrassment, shame, loss, fear, inadequacy, etc. The emotions are so strong, overwhelming, and intrusive in our everyday life, it is understandable that we would see our primary problem as, “how can I stop these horrible feelings from happening?”

The Traditional Approach: Divorce Causes Traumatic Feelings that Should be Fixed

The traditional approach to divorce recovery assumes that the feelings you are having are the primary problem. Changing how you feel from bad to happy is the goal. Three solutions designed to “fix” your sad and depressing feelings are: (1) join a support group , (2) undergo psychotherapy, and (3) let time heal the wounds.

          Divorce support groups. Divorce support groups let you vent your feelings to a sympathetic audience. You realize you’re not going crazy.  However, after your emotions stabilize, support groups are not set up to help with the on-going problem of putting your new life after divorce in order.  Being open-ended, support groups tempt members to continue rehashing their feelings week after week without helping them to move on. Using a baseball metaphor, support groups get you to first base, but do not bring you around to score.

          Psychotherapy. Like support groups, psychotherapy provides a way to express feelings and the time frame is also open-ended. In therapy you are asked to look to the past and ask the question, “Why am I having these particular reactions to my divorce?”  What to do about your reactions and your life going forward is normally not the primary focus, if it is addressed at all.

          Time heals everything. This method of recovering from divorce contends that bad emotions will wither away and die if given enough time. However, time by itself heals nothing. My sister-in-law went through a bitter divorce and waited for time to heal her anger at her ex. Twenty-five years later she died alone and lonely, still holding on to her resentment. Time did not heal her.

Only problem is, as the divorce statistics attest, these three traditional solutions do not work very well.

Question: Why Don’t These Solutions Work?

Answer: We are using them to solve the wrong problem!

Why do time, support groups and therapy all fail? They all assume the primary problem is how you feel. And, traditional approaches will make you feel better.

However, they will not enable you to recover fully from divorce. Everyone who gets divorced “wants to feel better.” However, the critical issue is the life transition triggered by divorce, not the actual feelings caused by divorce.  That is, the primary problem is how to navigate the post-divorce life transition, not simply how to “defang,” or render harmless, the feelings that are attached to that transition.

So, What’s a Person to Do?

The secret of a successful divorce recovery is to effectively navigate your transition to life after divorce. Instead of focusing on the feelings you are experiencing, shift your focus to the transition process you are navigating. Specifically, focus on how you can reduce your resistance to accepting the changes in your life your divorce has caused. Only then can you see the positive potential in your future and learn from the past so that your next relationship has a better chance of lasting.

Divorce Recovery & Bad Decisions: Will the 4 Traps Set by Resistance to Change Ruin Your Future?

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.

Divorce Recovery Failure: Are You Being Seduced by the Status Quo?

By Jerald Young, Ph.D.

This article answers the question, “What makes recovering from divorce so difficult?” A higher percentage of second and third marriages end in divorce than first marriages. If we actually learned from our divorce experience, the percentage of second and third divorces should decrease, not increase. Hence, if subsequent divorce rates are any indication, the track record of how well we recover from divorce is truly abysmal. Why is that?

(This is the 4th 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.)

A successful recovery from divorce requires us to make the transition from being coupled with our spouse to being uncoupled and single again. Sounds straightforward. Dare I even say “easy?” Oh, were it only that simple!

How Desperately Will We Cling to the Status Quo?

A few months after my first divorce was final, my ex invited me to come visit our daughters for a week. I leapt at the offer. When I got there, my ex and I fell into the old, familiar daily routines we had lived for ten years, including rekindling intimacy as if we were still married.

In retrospect, I was still holding on to parts of “how life used to be,” the old status quo. This prevented me from taking advantage of all the good my new life situation offered and kept me locked up in my fantasy of the past.

We Fight to Maintain the Status Quo

Having a successful recovery from divorce demands: “You have to let go of your attachments to how life used to be. You must give up your attachment to the old status quo. You have to change.” However, we almost always reply, “No way! Not even if it would be in my best interests to do so. I am not going to do it!”

The status quo is the on-going, consistent existing state of affairs. In divorce terms, the status quo refers to the existing state of affairs before the divorce, that we had come to take for granted. The status quo promises predictability and reassures us of (the illusion of) control in our lives. It gives us a stable “foundation” for our life. Who wouldn’t be attracted to that? Who wouldn’t want to embrace and hold it dear?

And in fact, we cling fiercely to the stability promised by the status quo, even in the most dire situations, in order to prevent, or at least delay, the terrifying changes a divorce brings.

Once again, resistance to change wins.

Resistance to Change – The Root of All Divorce Recovery Evil

The Achille’s heel of a successful divorce recovery and the guardian of the status quo is simple, garden-variety resistance to change. And, even though dissolving our resistance to change is the one thing that will set us free to enjoy our life after divorce, we almost always refuse to do it.

What is resistance to change? It is the very human, emotion-based reluctance to accept a change in our lives, even if the change is for our own good. Change means casting the status quo aside and we just do not want to do that.

This emotion-based reluctance to accept a change is driven by two primary emotions, fear and loss: (1) our fear of an unknown future, and (2) our distress over what we have lost from how our life used to be. These emotions, fear and loss, spawn a whole host of related emotions that overwhelm us and paralyze most efforts to release our attachments to the memories of the past, the old status quo.

Resistance to change is present in every major life transition, including divorce. Its elimination is necessary to move on and thrive in your new life after divorce.

So, What Can You Do?

You must:

  • Become hyper-vigilant and ruthlessly critical about your attachments to the status quo of your past.
  • Be willing to release your grip on the status quo and venture open mindedly into the next chapter of your life, your future.
  • Be courageous enough to figure out what specifically it is about your new set of life circumstances you are having trouble accepting.
  • Determine what parts of your past life with your ex you are trying to drag along into your present life.

In other words, you must make the effort to dissolve your resistance to change!

The stakes are high. If you don’t successfully recover from your divorce, the odds are over 60% that you will end up back in divorce court. And, the single most important thing you can do to successfully recover from your divorce is to release your death grip on the status quo and dissolve your resistance to change. Only then will it be possible for you to access and enjoy all the good that your new life offers.

 

(Originally published on EzineArticles.com at http://EzineArticles.com/10260827)

Divorce Recovery – A Revolutionary, New Approach: Out with the Old, In with the New (and Better)

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.