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Category: 1. Stabilize the Present

These articles describe the various elements required to stabilize someone in divorce recovery.

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.

Divorce Recovery Mindset Choice No. 2: Divorce Recovery – A Problem to Solve or a Person to Punish?

By Jerald Young, Ph.D.

This article answers the question, “Why shouldn’t I exact revenge from my ex for all the pain inflicted on me in our divorce?” Divorce leaves us angry, sad, disappointed, ashamed, and full of justified anger and self-righteous resentment. Friends and relatives stoke the fires by reminding us all the ways we were mistreated. It sure feels good to imagine getting back at my ex.

(This is the 15th 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.)

 

You Hurt Me, So I’ll Hurt You Back.

We all get hurt during divorce. Therefore, it is quite normal for you to want to strike out in anger at your ex for all the pain you suffered. This can be done in a myriad of ways.

You can attack your ex verbally. You can tell your children how horrible your ex is. You can complain to your friends about what your ex did to you and how you were mistreated. You can dis-invite your ex from your kids’ birthdays and holiday celebrations. You can ignore or dismiss your ex when you meet in public. You can tell your friends what a despicable person your ex is dating. You can tell your friends the infidelities that your ex perpetrated. You can reveal the addictive behaviors your ex may have done, as well as other secrets. You can fail to forward your ex’s mail. You can neglect to tell your ex your child was injured in a car crash, leaving her partially impaired for over a year.

The options are limitless.

Pros and Cons of the Retaliation Mindset: I Want Revenge!

There are both reasons for and reasons against adopting a mindset of revenge.

The upside of revenge. It feels good to inflict pain on the person who caused you so much of it. You can reassure yourself you are in the right because your ex deserves it. Choosing to punish your ex provides a simple answer to the question of how you should react to your divorce. You do not have to be bothered by such pesky issues as what were your contributions to the death of your relationship. You get to ignore such difficult issues as how to prevent your next relationship from ending up in divorce court again. You do not have to take responsibility for the quality of your life going forward if your ex is the cause of your constant misery. But most of all, it just feels good!

The downside of revenge.  Being on the lookout for ways to inflict revenge on your ex causes you to live life through a negative filter. Over time, looking for ways to hurt another person is depressing and damaging to your self-concept and self-confidence. You forfeit the right to live a happy and optimistic life, being ever on the offensive and obsessed with maintaining a thick defensive skin. You run the risk of not having a healthy, positive intimate relationship since any long-term relationship partner would have to accept you as someone who values anger and retribution. This only attracts others who treat life with cynicism and negativity. This makes it exceedingly difficult to raise children who have a positive, optimistic view of life. It causes your children to resent you for how you treat their other parent.

In addition, if your ex has healed to the point that he or she doesn’t care about you and what you think, you have no power over your ex.  Then all your efforts to punish your ex are totally futile which will be extremely frustrating to you. You are tilting at windmills and everyone is observing how irrational and mean-spirited you are.

Pros and Cons of a Problem-Solving Mindset: I Want to Remove the Roadblocks to My Happiness!

Likewise, there are both reasons for and against taking a problem-solving approach for divorce recovery.

The downside of problem-solving. If you drop the option of punishing your ex, some past hurts will go unacknowledged and unpunished. Some friends might see you as weak and ineffectual for not attacking your ex for legitimate offenses. You will not have an opportunity to gloat over the pain you  administered to your ex. You won’t be able to entertain the fantasy that you are omnipotent. Your ego will not be stroked by exercising the power to inflict pain on another human being.

The upside of problem-solving. You get to focus on living in the present and looking to the future with hope and optimism. Your life energy is used to build and create, not tear down and destroy. Your children will appreciate your ability to overlook the obvious shortcomings of your ex and appreciate your strength in making life better for yourself and your children. Your friends will admire you for making the choice to live life from a positive point of view. You open the possibility of finding a healthy, long-term relationship with a good chance it will not fail.

So, What’s the Point?

Divorce leaves both sides traumatized and with plenty excuses to retaliate. How we choose to react to our divorce will determine the likelihood of living a happy, contented life after divorce. To see divorce and divorce recovery as permission to punish your ex has some short-term, ego-satisfying outcomes. To treat it as an opportunity to solve the problems that are preventing you from living a life after divorce of contentment and optimism provides you with a lifetime of positive satisfaction.

You are faced with the conflicting choices of acknowledging the long-term value of logical problem-solving versus succumbing to the short-term temptation to retaliate for all the pain you suffered.

My hope is that while you are pondering your choice, you will heed the wisdom of Confucius when he reminds us: “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”

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 and Social Support – Everyone Needs a Change Buddy in Their Recovery from Divorce

By Jerald Young, Ph.D.

This article answers the question, “What do I do if I can’t make this recovery from divorce alone?”

Who do you select to help you through the divorce recovery process? Find out why the typical first choices will not be helpful. Find out who can actually help walk you through your recovery.

Recovery from divorce requires us to confront the emotional reality of lost hopes and dashed dreams. We also have to confront our fears of an unknown future. When we are immersed in this emotional process, often we can’t see our options or understand the reality of the situation as clearly as when the pressure is off.  We need someone whom we trust to help us handle this life transition effectively.

The Value of a Good “Change Buddy”

When effective, this person can significantly reduce the pressures and stress of change facing us. They can help you sort out the reality of the situation from our perceptions that are notoriously “squirrelly” during this time in our life. This person can clarify the “right-headedness” of our decisions and “right-size” the effects of our emotional reactions. I call such a person a “change buddy.” However, not just anybody will do.

Two Necessary Qualifications for Your “Change Buddy”

Change Buddy’s should have two critical qualifications.

(1) First, they should have NO PERSONAL AGENDA. Their only concern is your happiness and success – regardless of what the ultimate form or final arrangement may be. In addition,

(2) they should be able to tell you the TRUTH, even when it is not what you want to hear. That means you have to trust this person enough to give them permission to be honest with you, without endangering your relationship and friendship.

Ironically, this usually rules out spouses, family members, and bosses. Those people almost always have a preferred solution they would like us to accept.

An Example of The Pitfalls of Choosing a Change Buddy

A young acquaintance of mine had been married for four years. She realized the marriage was not going to work. They had no children and she knew divorce was the right thing to do. She needed someone to assist her through her transition. She chose her mother. Bad choice.

Her mother, having been through the pain of two divorces, had her own personal agenda for her daughter, which was to “protect her daughter from that pain and financial loss at all costs.” She pressured her daughter non-stop to reconcile with her financially stable ex, even though that was the last thing her daughter needed or wanted. After a few heart-rending weeks, the daughter “fired” her mother from the change buddy role, recruited an old college friend, and made a very successful recovery from divorce.

Having someone we trust to have only our own happiness at heart will make things much easier and saner while we march down the path of our personal recovery from divorce.

 

Divorce Recovery and Blessings in Disguise – Find the Confidence for Making a Smooth Divorce Recovery

By Jerald Young, Ph.D.

This article answers the question, “Where do I find the confidence needed to handle recovering from my divorce?”

Are you concerned you may not be able to handle your divorce recovery successfully? Find out why that is nonsense. And uncover the treasure chest of confidence you may not even know you have that will help deliver a smooth recovery from divorce.

Divorce leaves everyone, at some point, awash in self doubt. We wonder, “How am I going to deal with this? Can I deal with this? Will I get through it without life-long scars? What gives me the confidence to believe I can really pull this off?”

“Been There, Done That” – The Key to Building Confidence for Handling Life Changes

“Been there, done that.” The message is, if I have done it before, certainly I can do it again. But what if I haven’t done it before? What if I am being asked to do something that is brand new, unique, foreign, strange, unwanted, even surreal? Such is the experience of divorce for many of us, as well as its sequel, recovery from divorce.

We never planned to get divorced. We never received training in school in how to recover from divorce. In fact, we often thought divorce was something that happened to “other people.” However, here we are, knee-deep in our stuff, trying to make a recovery from divorce, and wondering: “Can I really do this?”

Blessings in Disguise – The Source of Confidence for Making A Divorce Recovery

It turns out, “Been there, done that” is good news for anyone wanting to make a recovery from divorce. Even though we may not realize it, we have “been there, done that” – even if we’ve never been divorced before.

Our life experiences teach us how to make it through major change. Whether it is getting over our awkward first love affair in junior high school, making a comeback after getting downsized, changing careers, etc. – everyone has gone through unwanted change and eventually has come out the other side. Almost always we are able to acknowledge we learned something valuable about ourselves we would otherwise never known.

We call it a “Blessing in Disguise.” A “blessing in disguise” is a change we did not want to go through, but did anyway, after which we realized that we derived some good for going through the experience. Acknowledging blessings born by change gives us confidence to face other life changes, including recovery from divorce.

An Example of How Your Blessings in Disguise Can Help You Recover from Divorce

Sally’s life was turned upside down when her husband of 10 years filed for divorce. She felt adrift, powerless, and relatively hopeless. She was all but paralyzed in making her recovery from divorce. Then it was pointed out that she has made it through a setback in a successful career, a long-term recovery from a chemical dependency, and the death of a child. These difficult life experiences had given her the blessing of knowing she was very capable of successfully handling difficult, unwanted, major changes in her life. And, that dealing with her recovery from her divorce was not that much different from what she had already weathered. Within weeks her attitude shifted and she began to thrive in her new life after divorce.

 

 

Divorce Recovery & the 5 Sources of Hope – How to Find the Courage to Make a Smooth Divorce Recovery

By Jerald Young, Ph.D.

This article answers the question, “Where do I find the courage to handle the uncertainty of making a recovery from divorce?”

Uneasy about stepping into the unknown future that is the essence of divorce recovery? Inside you will discover where to find the courage to move forward in the face of the doubt and worry caused by going through recovery from divorce. If you are currently going through a divorce, then make sure you get the proper help from a legal separation lawyer.

Recovery from divorce requires us to make a “leap of faith” into an unknown future. Since we haven’t done it yet, we don’t really know for sure how it will turn out. Our personal source of hope gives us the courage to move forward in the face of the uncertainty.

But the hard question is, “Where can I go to find my personal source of hope?”

Hope Can Be Found Within Ourselves

A person’s “source of hope” might include an implicit trust in him or herself. People use their belief that they have the ability to handle anything that they may encounter to give them courage to face their recovery from divorce.

Hope Can Be Found in Others

Hope can also be found in a belief in the trustworthy, good intentions of their friends. They have experienced what they consider “trustworthy” treatment in the past, and subsequently trust others to protect them from harm and help them as they face the challenges of divorce recovery.

Hope Can Be Found in Our Philosophical Belief Systems

Still others’ seek their hope in more intellectual areas, like philosophy. We all have been exposed to explanations about what life is all about. Sometimes it seems to “fit with our experience” and therefore “makes sense” to us. We may not have called it “my philosophy of life,” but that’s what it is, nonetheless. Search that philosophy for its basis for hope, especially where it addresses the reasons for being optimistic about life. It will almost always hold out hope for making future transitions, including divorce recovery.

Hope Can Be Found in Our Religious Or Spiritual Beliefs

Some find hope in their spiritual beliefs. It may be in an organized religion. It may be a non-religious, spiritual belief in the existence of good in this world. A strong spiritual belief enables us to “act as if” good is there waiting for us in all unknown future situations.

Hope Can Be Found in Nature

Others find a basis for hope in the infinite complexity and beauty of nature. Some find it in the cosmos. Others find it in the microscope. Others find it in flowers, lakes, mountains, oceans. I had a client whose divorce recovery had been stuck for four years. Then she spent a week enjoying the woods of New Hampshire. When she returned the logjam that had been preventing her from moving on had broken up, and she was able to make a “miraculous” divorce recovery in the next four weeks.

Which Source to Use Does Matter

However, what it matters on is what makes sense to you personally! When faced with making our recovery from divorce, we must FIND our source of hope and USE it! There we will find the strength to know things will work out for the good. The result is courage to confront the demons that threaten our successful recovery from divorce

Divorce Recovery and Personal Principles – How to Maintain Direction During the Chaos of Divorce Recovery

By Jerald Young, Ph.D.

This article 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?”

Do you feel buffeted by forces you can’t control while trying to make your recovery from divorce? Inside discover how your personal principles provide a stable compass that keeps you on course despite the chaos and distractions that are associated with divorce recovery.

Divorce recovery often leaves us feeling lost, off-balance, disoriented, and vulnerable. Sometimes we feel as if we are careening off course and out of control. Our personal principles can give us confidence by reassuring us we are on course in our journey to a successful and satisfying life after divorce.

Divorce Recovery Is Like Driving Down the Interstate in a Fog

An image that made sense to me when I was neck-deep in the divorce recovery process was driving down the interstate in a dense fog. A very real question for me was, “How can I make sure I stay in the road and not drive into the ditch?” Fortunately, superhighways have a way of reminding us when we are straying off course – those rat-a-tat-tat bumps on the side of the road that warn us we are getting too close to the shoulder. Our personal principles perform the same function – warning us when we are veering off course.

An Example of How Your Personal Principles Can Help Your Recovery from Divorce

A client of mine was having trouble negotiating the choppy waters of life after divorce. Some of his issues were: “How should I deal with my ex?” “What do I do about dating?” “How should I manage the proceeds of the sale of my Soho loft?” These, and other related issues, were driving him crazy. He had trouble focusing on one without another wedging its way into his head. Metaphorically, he was trying to go forward in a fog. When asked what his primary personal principles were in dealing with this time in his life, he responded, “The welfare of my two children.” With that, the fog lifted. He realized that using his primary principle of “what’s best for my kids” as a compass gave him clarity for traveling the blurry road of divorce recovery.

The Promise – You Can Make a Successful Recovery from Divorce Because You Have Stability of Direction

The good news is, we all carry a compass we can use when lost and vulnerable. It will guide us through the maze of divorce recovery with a true feeling of stability and control. That compass is our set of personal principles. Our principles give us a way to determine if our decisions and actions are right or wrong for us in this specific divorce recovery situation. All we have to do is ask, “Is this consistent with or is it against my principles?” The answer will set you free to travel the murky waters of life after divorce.

Divorce Transition Needs a Trusted Partner for Social Support

Transition from divorce requires us to confront the emotional reality of lost hopes and dashed dreams. We also have to confront our fears of an unknown future. When we are immersed in this emotional process, often we can’t see our options or understand the reality of the situation as clearly as when the pressure is off. We need someone whom we trust to help us handle this life transition effectively.

My Personal Experience
When I first got divorced, I thought I should be able to handle the transition process by myself. To ask for help seemed an imposition and, quite frankly, embarrassing. However, I soon became aware that I was in over my head. Not knowing what to do, I reached out to a friend who was going through a relationship breakup himself. I asked him if he could be there if and when I needed him. He told me, “I will be there if I can.” I had chosen a change buddy who was only conditionally available. Intuitively I felt he could not be counted on. I sensed he was not an appropriate person to help me though the process. However, I did not have anyone else to turn to. Therefore, I “did it by myself.” Big mistake.

The Value of a Good Transition Partner
When effective, this person can significantly reduce the stress of change facing us. They can help us sort out the reality of the situation from our perceptions that are notoriously “squirrelly” during this time in our life. This person can clarify the “right-headedness” of our decisions and “right-size” the effects of our emotional reactions. I call such a person a “transition partner.”

However, not just anybody will do.

The Four Critical Qualifications Your Transition Partner Must Have:

(1) First, they should have NO PERSONAL AGENDA. Their only concern is your happiness and success – regardless of what the ultimate form or final arrangement may be.

(2) They should be able to tell you the TRUTH, even when it is not what you want to hear. That means you have to trust this person enough to give them permission to be honest with you, without endangering your relationship and friendship.

(3) They should have been DIVORCED before, preferably several years earlier. Only someone who has been through the process can fully understand what you are  dealing with.

(4) They should be AVAILABLE. That is, they should have sufficient time available to talk with you, or in the vernacular, “be there for you” when you need them.

The Counter-Intuitive Conclusion: Run Like Hell from Family Members
Ironically, the search for a helpful transition partner usually rules out ex-spouses, parents, other family members, and bosses. In addition to very good intentions, these people almost always have a preferred solution they would like you to accept, and as such are incapable of having 100% of the divorced person’s interests at heart.

Another Example of the Difficulty in Choosing a Transition Partner
A 30-something acquaintance of mine had been married for four years. She realized the marriage was not going to work. They had no children and she knew divorce was the right thing to do. She needed someone to assist her through her transition. She chose her mother.

Bad choice.

Her mother, having been through the pain of two divorces, had her own personal agenda for her daughter, which was to “protect her daughter from that pain and financial loss at all costs.” She pressured her daughter to reconcile with her financially stable ex, even though that was the last thing her daughter needed or wanted. After a few heart-rending weeks, the daughter “fired” her mother from the change buddy role, recruited an old college friend, and made a very successful transition from divorce.

Having someone we trust to have only our own happiness at heart will make things much easier and saner while we march down the path of our personal transition from divorce.

What’s the Point?
We all need someone to help us make a smooth transition from divorce. Picking the best person is requires some thought. Be sure that your change buddy has no personal agenda, can tell you the truth, and is available to help you through the crisis.

Divorce Recovery and Your Hidden Strengths: Part 1

Find your hidden strengths for divorce recovery.

If you’re divorced or going through a divorce, you may be wondering how you’ll ever survive:

“I never thought I’d have to do this. I’ve never been in this predicament before.”
“Everything is new and threatening. I feel lost and afraid that things will never get better.”

These reactions are normal. Recovery from divorce is difficult at best. After all, it’s not something you personally do every day and feel competent at. However, it’s important to realize that you already possess all the personal resources you need to successfully recover from divorce.

What are they? I’m talking about the confidence that you can do it, a sense of the right direction in the midst of emotional chaos, the courage to press on when things seem unclear or even hopeless, and reassurance that you’re on the right track during the process.

And yes, I’m saying that you already possess them. In this first of two posts, we’ll take a look at two of your hidden strengths — and I’ll show you exactly how to find them.

1. CONFIDENCE: finding it in past blessings in disguise.
When it comes to successfully surviving unwanted change, we’ve all “been there, done that”. Think about it: getting over that awkward first love affair in junior high school, making a comeback after getting fired, or dealing with the illness or death of a friend or loved one: everyone has gone through unwanted change at some point in life. Eventually, when we come out the other side, we can still look back and see some good that came from the experience. In other words, we see the “Blessing in Disguise.”

Acknowledging a blessing born by change gives us confidence to face future change, including recovery from divorce. You may have no experience with divorce, but all life changes follow the same transition process. Therefore, what we learn from previous change we apply to divorce recovery. Blessings in disguise are tangible proof that we can do it again — because we’ve done it before.

The key to finding your confidence is simply to identify your blessings in disguise. These blessings are tangible proof that you can survive change again… because you’ve been handling change successfully all your life.

2. DIRECTION: finding it from your set of personal principles.
Going through a major life change, like divorce recovery, is like driving down the interstate in a fog. We try our best to keep the car in the road. However, when we drift too far to the left or right, we hear and feel the thump, thump, thump of the shoulder telling us we’re drifting off course. Our personal principles are the washboards that give us the thump-thump-thump warning we need when we start to drift off our desired path through divorce recovery.

Some principles will be especially important to maintain, while some of those important principles will be threatened by the divorce recovery process. To successfully navigate your recovery, you need to identify your core personal principles so you can protect and use them when faced with tough decisions in the recovery process.

Next week: Courage and Reassurance. Yes, you already have these, too.

In the meantime… to get a sense of the stressful reactions you may be having right now and how you compare to others in the same situation, take the Divorce Recovery Stress Indicator. And don’t forget that you can call me at 917-865-2710 for a free consultation in your smooth divorce recovery.