Today I spoke with a new client whose spouse served divorce papers without any warning. Just like that, in the middle of an average day, she found out she was the recipient of an unwanted divorce.
And, just like in the movies, a man came to the door, the door was answered, papers served and the door slammed shut. I didn’t think that happened in real life! I continue to be shocked by the stories of treachery and deceit that I hear related to divorce. It isn't enough that the life you expected to lead is no longer viable, now you have to deal with blow after blow from an angry, vengeful, mean spouse.
I can keep writing about the horrible stories of divorce but how would that serve you? And that’s the point. What I am even more amazed about, is how resilient people are in the face of such adversity. How they are able to shield their children from a lying, cheating spouse and encourage them to love and spend time with that very spouse just to protect their children. I’m in awe of the person who can suffer through a devastating divorce and a few years later, talk about it in the past, now a content, vibrant, thriving person.
Meeting those people who have bounced back gives me fuel to continue doing what I do. When I meet someone who is completely defeated and feels there is no future for them and they’re lost in regret, still in love with their soon-to-be ex-spouse, overwhelmed by the devastation that this path causes, I tell them, they will be better for it. that life will be more amazing than they ever imagined it could be, sometimes there’s a little glimmer in their eyes and I seize that!
That glimmer is the tiny bit of hope that the person that once was happy and excited to embark on a new life with their partner will find that feeling again with someone or something new. They will find a new strength they never knew they had and a life they never thought possible again. They will see all that they couldn’t have achieved in the life they were leading.
I know you’re thinking, that might be someone else’s story but "it’s certainly not mine." I beg to differ! You are that person who gets through this period of adversity and comes out even better.
How can you possibly do that?
Here are 5 ideas for bouncing back after an unwanted divorce:
1. Give yourself credit for every day that you get up and get out of bed. For every time you pretend to the kids that you’re happy, for every day that you play ‘poker face’ when your ex comes to pick up the kids. Pat yourself on the back and give yourself a reward for being resilient.
2. Remember a time when you overcame something you never thought you could. Maybe it was that date who stood you up or the job you didn’t get. Now you have to look for those moments because they are so far behind you, you can’t even remember them and, you survived them all.
3. Think of the opportunities you have now. Did you marry young and never really date? Now you can meet all sorts of new people (okay they’re not all George Clooney but at least you can try). Did you spend so much time trying to fix your marriage that you never had time to take care of yourself? Now you get free time when the kids are with your ex to do whatever you want with.
4. When the going gets tough-yup, the tough get going! Walk, run, jump, dance-whatever gets your energy up and you focused on the positive. Turn the music up and move!! Nothing like some positive energy to get rid of negative emotions.
5. Give yourself one small goal today that you think you can accomplish. Call a friend for a coffee, enroll in a class or go to a movie on your own. Do whatever challenges you. Don’t make it too big, just something that you’ll look back on in the future and say, "did I really do that?"
Don’t get me wrong, there is no such thing as a fairytale divorce.The path is typically long and fraught with pain and suffering. At the same time, with each horrible day that you get through, you can say to yourself- “Wow, I didn’t think I’d get through that but I did”. It’s the little bite size successes that keep you moving forward. My therapist has a great saying, “one snowflake at a time”. Give yourself credit for each snowflake and believe it or not, sooner or later it will be snowing all around you!