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Discussions about the Smooth Divorce Transition process

TABLE OF CONTENTS of BLOG

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 ?” Read More

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?” Read More

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?”  Read More

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?”   Read More

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?” Read More

Resistance to ChangeDivorce 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?”  Read More

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?”  Read More

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?” Read More

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?”  Read More

Personal Resources – Blessings in Disguise – Find the Confidence for Making a Smooth Divorce RecoveryThis blog post answers the question, “Where do I find the confidence needed to handle recovering from my divorce?”  Read More

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?”  Read More

3.  Five Personal MINDSET Requirements for a Successful Recovery from Divorce

MindsetDivorce 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?”  Read More

MindsetDivorce 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?”  Read More

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?”  Read More

MindsetDivorce 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?” Read More

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?”  Read More

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?” Read More

4. Cultural Obstacles to a Successful Recovery from Divorce

CultureDivorce 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?” Read More

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?” Read More

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?”  Read More

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?”  Read More

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?” Read More

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?”    Read More

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?”  Read More

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?”  Read More

Early Dating Divorce Recovery and Early Dating: Should I Start Dating Again? 8 Good Reasons and 8 Bad Reasons Read More

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?” Read More

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?”   Read More

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?” Read More

8-2.  Five 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?”  Read More

Build Relationship – Step 2The 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?”  Read More

Build Relationship – Step 3The  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?” Read More

Build Relationship – Step 4The  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?”Read More

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?” Read More

Module 9: Recalibrate Your Life: The New You

Module 10: Use the Past to Plan Your Future

 

Divorce Recovery Success: Think You’ve Recovered? Have You Met All the 8 Required Criteria?

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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)”

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Divorce Recovery Success: And How Your Post-Divorce Relationship with Your Ex Can Kill It

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.

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 Early Dating: Should I Start Dating Again? 8 Good Reasons and 8 Bad Reasons

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!

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 Mindset Choice No. 5: Keep Your Eye on the Prize or Be Distracted by Emotions?

By Jerald Young, Ph.D.
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?” Are you willing to keep your eye on the prize which is eliminating all attachments to your ex and your life together? Or will you choose to relive the emotions of the past and thereby bog down your recovery from divorce to a veritable crawl?

 

(This is the 19th 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.)

 

What Exactly Is the Prize?

The overall Divorce Transition Process goes through three distinct stages: (1) Getting divorced, (2) Recovering from the divorce, and (3) Establishing a new life as a single person. Each stage has distinctly different goals, or “prizes.”

The goal for the Divorce Stage is: Get UNCOUPLED. The goal for the Divorce Recovery Stage is: Dissolve ATTACHMENTS. The goal for Establishing a New Life is: Craft the NEW YOU.

This article focuses on the goal for Stage 2, Divorce Recovery: Dissolve All ATTACHMENTS to your ex and the life you shared.

What Is an “Attachment” and Why Is It a Problem?

The death knell for any successful recovery from divorce is persistently holding on to attachments to your ex and to your past life together.

So, what exactly is an “attachment?”

By attachment, I mean any positive or negative emotional reaction we connect to a person, object, or event in our life. If we still have emotional reactions to our ex and the life we shared together in the past, we cannot fully participate in the present, let alone plan for the future.

You can’t eliminate what occurred in your past. However, you can, and must, dissolve the strong positive and negative emotional reactions to your memories of those events.

Attachments come in two types: tangible attachments and relationship-based attachments.

Tangible Attachments .

All attachments, including tangible attachments, come with emotional connections to the past.

For example, a short list of typical tangible attachments that need to be eliminated include such things as legal documents and other legal entanglements, memorabilia, sentimental objects, joint checking accounts, shared credit cards, pictures, gifts, shared social media accounts and email, common passwords and security codes, keys to your house or apartment, past email documents, beneficiary designation in your will, and joint ownership of real estate, cars, and gym memberships.

The first step in handling many tangible attachments is to physically eliminate them.

Relationship-Based Attachments

Relationship-based attachments, both positive and negative, are especially difficult to dissolve because the strong emotions you associate with them are intensely personal. Plus, your brain incorrectly interprets these emotions as evidence of a current, ongoing long-term relationship with each other.

After a divorce, lingering negative relationship-based attachments can be expressed by continued fighting, seeking revenge, demanding that your ex apologize, expecting the ex to explain why he or she wanted out of the marriage, expecting the ex to be respectful and nice and admit that he or she “did you wrong.”

Positive relationship-based attachments also cause problems and can be expressed by wanting to “remain friends,” continuing to chat over the phone or email, meeting for coffee, etc.

A client of mine wanted to maintain a friendship with his ex. He realized his mistake when, after a pleasant beginning to a conversation at Starbucks, his ex started screaming at him for ruining her life. Post-divorce friendships are best avoided, at least until both parties are secure in their new life situations.

Strong Positive and Negative Reactions Mean You Are Still in Relationship with Your Ex

As long as your memories of your ex trigger strong positive and/or negative reactions, you will remain locked in the past because your emotions make it feel like you are currently living as if the past were actually the present.

The important thing to realize is that having positive and negative feelings toward your memory of your ex implies you are still in a relationship with him/her. That is what people in long-term, committed intimate relationships do. They love each other and they have conflicts with each together.

However, after a divorce, the two partners are no longer in a relationship. Hence, continuing to behave as if they are still partners, or even close friends, is extremely confusing. It not only inhibits your recovery but also lengthens the time required to “get over your divorce and move on.”

So, you may ask, “If I have to change my emotional reactions to my memories of the past with my ex, what do I change them to?”

Enter the Friendly Indifferent Relationship.

How “Friendly Indifference” Saves the Day

After a divorce, the goal of divorce recovery is to change your relationship with your ex to one with no emotional investment. This literally means you are totally and completely emotionally indifferent to your ex and what he/she does, when he/she does it, how he/she does it, where he/she does it, and with whom he/she does it.

For example, when you are walking down the street and a completely normal stranger walks your way minding his own business, are you overcome with affection, anger, resentment, hope, revulsion? Of course not. You do not know him, you have no relationship with him, and you have no emotional attachment to him. You could care less what he does, how he does it, when he does it, where he does it, or with whom he does it. He simply does not occupy any position in your life. He is for all intents and purposes, a complete “nonentity” to you. You can live your life as if this person does not even exist. In other words, you are completely indifferent to this person and what he thinks, feels, and does. This is the goal of how your thinking must change toward your ex.

Fact of life: Your relationship with you ex is over. And when you allow yourself to become friendly, but indifferent to your ex, then you are free to move into the next chapter of your life without the baggage of your marriage holding you back.

What If You Do Have to Interact?

Sometimes you do have to interact with your ex, especially if you have children. It is extremely important to realize and accept that, even though your ex looks like the same person you were married to, you are no longer a couple. You no longer have a personal or intimate relationship with him/her.

If you do have to interact, you treat the relationship as an “administrative” or “business” relationship with no personal emotional connection involved. You goal is to act much like you would when interacting with a bank teller when cashing a check or interacting with a customer service representative when returning a defective product at Best Buy. You are friendly, factual, and complete your business. Then you leave and go on about your day.

So, What’s the Point?

I know, this may sound extreme. You say, “I lived with this person for years, and now I am supposed to believe he/she doesn’t exist?” No, that is not what I am saying. I agree, you lived with this person for years and you have a shared history.

However, you are now making the transition from being coupled with that person to starting a new chapter in your life without that person in it. To do that successfully, you need to sever your emotional attachments to your life with your ex that you had built up over all those years. You get to keep the memories. But you must release the emotions those memories used to trigger.

The choice becomes: Will you indulge in the emotions triggered by your memories to the detriment of a successful recovery from divorce? Or, will you keep your eye on the prize and allow the good and the bad memories to morph into a feeling of friendly indifference that will enable you to recover rapidly and successfully from divorce?

How are you supposed to do this?

Dissolving Resistance to Change is the Key

Letting go of your emotional reactions to the life you lived with your ex and replacing them with a detached, but friendly,  indifference represents a huge change in how you think about your ex and your life. Making this change will be met by significant resistance.

The key to having a successful recovery is in dissolving that resistance. The result will be having formerly strong emotional reactions to your ex replaced by a new, profound sense of indifference. Only then will you be truly freed up from the baggage of the past and be ready to forge into your new future.

Divorce Recovery “Mindset Choice” No. 3: Would You Rather Be Right, or Would You Rather Be Happy?

By Jerald Young, Ph.D.

This article answers the question, “Are you willing to let being happy be enough?” Trick question? Not at all. To date, I have yet to meet one newly divorced person who didn’t say they wanted to be happy, but when faced with the painful memories of their divorce, acted as if being happy was the last thing they desired. Why is that? Let’s find out.

(This is the 16th 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.)

By definition, getting divorced means you got hurt. Your initial hopes and dreams for the relationship have been smashed to smithereens. Much of the pain of divorce seems unfair. You’re angry at the person who hurt you. You are angry at yourself for letting it happen to you. It seems only fair to let your ex-spouse know how poorly you were treated. It also seems fair that you let friends and relatives know how you are in the right and your spouse is in the wrong. Hence, it is extremely easy to become seduced into obsessing over your being right, and your spouse’s being wrong. Even to the point of giving up your own happiness in the process.

This raises the question, “What do you really want in your recovery from divorce?” Or, more pointedly, “If you had to choose between being right or being happy, what would you choose?”

Sounds Silly! Is This an Actual Choice People Make?

Who wouldn’t choose being happy? The real-life dilemma of having to make the “obvious” choice between being right or being happy was brought home to me by a change consulting client back in the early 1990’s. Until this incident, I did not even believe such a choice existed, because I believed anyone would choose being happy over anything else, including being right, regardless of the situation. How naive I was:

Janet’s story. Janet was a manager in a government organization. She was having trouble with her two highest-performing subordinate supervisors over some minor office issue. Her supervisors were close friends and they were turning in routine reports using a format that had too wide of a left margin on the form. Clearly, no big deal in the overall scheme of things. Janet told them multiple times to change the formatting, but they never did. Clearly, they were doing it to annoy Janet who was not widely liked.

Janet’s choice alternatives were either to make a formal issue of their “insubordination” and “write them up,” or to simply ignore it in order to maintain a calm working environment for the entire department, knowing it would go away if she no longer made such an issue of it. It was driving her crazy. She spent time trying to find a basis for firing them, knowing if she used as her reason “improper margins on reports,” she would be the one who would be in trouble. Not to mention she would lose her two best employees.

So, thinking I could force her to see the ridiculous nature of her upset, I asked her, “Janet, would you rather be right and make a big deal out of their minor insubordination? Or, would you rather be happy and overlook what is in the overall scheme of things no big deal?” Without hesitation she looked me straight in the eye and said “Jerald, I’d rather be right.”

The Pros and Cons of Being Right

We have been taught from an early age that to be “right” is a good thing. What kid doesn’t want to get the “right answer?” However, sometimes what we learn as children isn’t always as black and white as it may appear.

     The upside of being right. When you are right, you can gloat and tell your ex, “I told you so.” You can humiliate you ex by reminding him or her over and over “I was right and you were wrong.” You can enjoy feeling superior and self-righteous. You will feel competent, in control, and powerful.

      The downside of being right. The rush of being right does not last. So what if you won a game from the past? What about now and the future? People who you forced into a corner by being right are less willing to cooperate with you in the future. They are less likely to be willing to adhere to the rules of the divorce, at least willingly. They may follow the letter of the law, but not the spirit, which dooms such things as asking your ex to switch the kids’ visitation schedule to accommodate a last-minute change in your work schedule. Imposing being right on your ex breeds resentment. It can easily make a difficult relationship practically impossible, especially if you are co-parenting children with your ex.

The Pros and Cons of Being Happy

People do not simply “flip a switch” and suddenly they are happy. After going through a divorce, there are two conditions that are necessary for you to feel happy with life after divorce: (1) the removal of all attachments, both positive and negative, tangible and emotional, to your ex, and (2) a sense of optimism about the future. You know you have erased all attachments to your ex when you cannot conjure up any currently existing positive feelings or any negative feelings about your ex or the past life the two of you shared. A sense of optimism comes from realizing the next chapter in your life will let you become the person “you want to be.”

     The upside of being happy. Well, not to belabor the obvious, being happy feels good. Isn’t happiness and contentment the goal of your life in the next chapter? You feel competent at handling the difficult divorce situation to your satisfaction. You feel powerful in knowing that you honored and played by your inner principles. You are proud that you had your head on straight and kept your eye on the prize without being distracted by ego or social pressure.

     The downside of being happy. Happiness comes with a price. You don’t get to feel all-powerful, in control, and intimidating. You will probably have to give up some things that rightly belong to you. You melt into the background rather than being upfront on the throne with the TV lights shining on you. You must be okay with the other person’s thinking they won. You may look “weak”” to family and friends.

So, What’s the Point?

It comes down to how you handle the internal conflict between your ego versus your humility. There is no “slam dunk winner” in any divorce. We all suffer pain and endure disappointment in a divorce. To be happy often means you have to swallow your pride in order to get what you want – an attachment-free, optimism-infused life after divorce. To be happy enables you to see clearly what you need to do to dissolve the sources of resistance to change that prevent you from enjoying your life after divorce.

In his song, The Gambler, Kenny Rodgers describes the key to being happy thusly: “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em. Know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run.”

Turns out, one of the most courageous acts a divorced person can make is to choose to “be happy.”

The way I would describe this choice is by asking the most important question any divorced person could be asked, “Are you willing to let being happy be enough?”

Divorce Recovery “Mindset Choice” No. 1: What Do You Mean the “Hard Work is Just Beginning?”

By Jerald Young, Ph.D.

This article answers the question, “Now that the divorce is final, what’s so wrong about sitting back and taking it easy?” If I want to enjoy my life after divorce, what should my mindset be for divorce recovery ? Getting divorced was pretty much about reacting to what the other side did. Recovering from divorce is more about taking action on the post-divorce issues and problems in order to create a successful life after divorce.

(This is the 14th 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.)

Active or Passive: What will You Choose?

After the divorce is final, you are at the proverbial “Y in the road.” Cheesy as that phrase might be, it is accurate in describing the basic mindset choice everyone who gets divorced must make: (1) Should I take a passive role in my recovery, roll with the punches, and let time heal the hurt? Or, (2) should I take an active role and work through all the roadblocks and issues that are preventing me from finding contentment in my life after divorce?

It is not easy to choose the healthy and happy path for your life after divorce. But the passive alternative, though easy to make, will bring you a lifetime of unmet expectations and regret. The choice is yours to make. What will it be?

Our Culture Tells You to Be Passive

The dictates of our culture are passed down to us primarily by our family, friends, loved ones, teachers, coaches, religious leaders, TV, and movies. The consistent message we get tells us to take the passive route since there is nothing you can do to heal the pain except let enough time pass.

My sister-in-law took the passive route. Several years before I me her, she got divorced. Her husband had had a very public affair with a friend of my sister-in-law. She was mortified. Every time her ex was mentioned in casual conversation, she always had something cynical or critical to say about him. She wouldn’t let it go. She never had another long-term, committed relationship. Twenty-five years later she died of cancer. If time were to heal her hurt, certainly 25 years should have been enough. It wasn’t.

The time-honored prescription of passively doing nothing and letting time heal the trauma doesn’t work. The trauma just settles deeper and deeper within us and then leaks out sideways when something happens that triggers the pain and fear from the past.

The Alternative Path: Be an Active Participant in Your Recovery

Thanksgiving dinner does not magically materialize on the dining table ready to be served. A lot of time and work go into the preparation of the traditional autumn feast.

Likewise, a successful divorce recovery requires time, work, and preparation in order to attack and dissolve your reluctance to let go of the pain of the divorce and the attachments to how life used to be.

This reluctance is mainly emotion-based resistance to change.

Emotion-based resistance can arise from several sources. For example, fear, loss, grief, anger, resentment, crashed self-confidence and esteem, shame, embarrassment, failure, dashed dreams, and vanished hope are but a few of the issues prohibiting you from having a satisfying life after divorce. These problems will not magically resolve and go away by themselves.

Therefore, you need a plan of attack designed to dissolve each source of resistance. What works with this type of resistance to change initially is empathy followed by a structured way to confront the fear of an unknown future, identify actual losses suffered, and then dissolve away the distress over what was actually lost. Depending upon time alone to achieve this is folly.

What “Active” Choices Do You Have?

Two common ways people take action to address these issues are divorce support groups and therapy. While both are better than the passive choice to let time heal everything, neither support groups nor therapy provide the targeted resistance-dissolving action needed.

A better active choice is to tailor your work to the specific “roadblocks” caused by divorce that you must deal with. This can be done by working with a divorce recovery coach.

So, What’s the Point?

Passive is easy. Active is hard.

However, if you want to recover from your divorce and the trauma it caused, you must take positive action to solve the specific problems caused by your divorce. These problems will not solve themselves. You must take control of your future by actively dealing with the current damage your divorce has caused.

The alternative? Run the risk of waiting 25 years for them to “fix themselves” and ending up wasting the rest of your life like my sister-in-law did.