No two divorces are the same. The reason all the helpful suggestions you’ll receive from your therapist, attorney, family of origin, and friends work won’t work is simple: you are unique, your nuclear family is distinctive, and your life situation is novel.
So, the best way to decide what to do will be to follow the guidance of your own heart and mind.
Consider everything your advisors have to say as opinions, not facts; notions coming from their own experiences, not Queensbury rules on how to fight for your life.
So How Do You Cope?
Below, you’ll find a few psychological suggestions that may help with the discomfort, confusion, grief, anger, and frustration of a divorce.
1. No Shame, No Blame
Many divorces almost appear to follow a sitcom type of script: plenty of drama, blame, and shame. The plot is about avoiding falling into financial pitfalls by making it clear who is to blame. It’s also about feeling shame for not being able to resolve differences and stay together.
You don’t have to go there. It doesn’t have to be that way at all. Getting divorced may be the best thing to happen for you and your spouse. It frees you both up to live the life you would rather live.
For something new to be born, something old must die. You can’t build one paradigm on top of another. Instead, you must replace an old one with a new one. When two people outgrow each other, it’s not a failure, but the completion of a cycle. When this happens, it’s a time to start a new adventure.
2. Reduce Expectations
When we’re going through a difficult time, our expectations about how other people should emotionally support us is a little unrealistic.
Your family and friends may not react how you’d expect. They may say the wrong things, make themselves unavailable, or do things that frustrate you.
Essentially, two things are happening here:
First, you expect to receive more from people than they know how to give. For instance, you might expect more empathy from family members who has always been emotionally shut-down.
Second, they do not understand how to help you because the situation is new to them, too. For example, a friend might pummel you with unasked for tough-love advice when all you needed was someone to listen.
3. Pace Yourself
During the divorce proceedings, you may find everything speeding up.
You’ll suddenly find you have more to do than you have the time to do it. But the more you try to keep up with appointments, organize things, and renew old acquaintances, while still managing your work and your hectic life, the more scattered, exhausted, and ineffective you become. As the saw goes, “You can’t win for losing.”
Conversely, after the divorce, things may slow to a crawl until you feel your life has utterly lost its meaning.
When the dust has settled, when your life has normalized, you might find yourself bored to tears and afflicted with apathy. After the high-paced drama and the constant adrenaline rush of the earlier months, you feel as if you’re trapped in a slow-motion “Groundhog Day” movie. Everything is the same. Nothing changes.
When time speeds up to a frenetic pace or slows down to a chemical reaction, you will feel discombobulated. The only way to manage these two erratic phases of your life is to deliberately slow things down when they’re going too fast to reduce your stress and speed things up when they are going too slow to avoid existential angst.
What Should You Do?
Divorces are messy. There is no right way to handle them. While it’s fine to get advice from other people–you have to remember, you are the final authority. Lean on your values and your rational assessment to make it through.