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.
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.