It's never easy to make the decision to divorce. Analyzing what it may mean for you and your children can cause mental paralysis and you can become stuck.
Making a change can be scary, especially if that change is divorce. But unless you’re in prison, you aren’t really stuck. You just can't make a decision…or can you?
When so much information is at our fingertips, we tend to research things to the nth degree. Analysis paralysis takes over. What if I leave him and it doesn't work out? What if I fail? What if it isn't the right choice? Am I doing the right thing?
Don't OverThink It:
Those questions can swirl around your head with the same effect of water swirling down a toilet. They have the potential to empty you, to drain you, to paralyze you with fear… in short, they are unproductive and add no benefit to your mental health and happiness.
It's one thing to look at and weigh all your options after within a reasonable timeframe. It's another thing if you let those choices bog you down. And it's quite another if you let someone else control you and your choices.
I listened when someone I loved told me I couldn't make it without him. He said I'd never be able to support myself, that no one would ever hire me because I'd been out of the workforce for too long. He told me I'd end up like his mother, dependent on others to help me out. He told me I was too old, too fat, too many kids and too ugly for anyone else to love me. He told me no one would ever love me like he did. (God, please I hope not. If so, I haven't done my due diligence.) He told me that when he was finished with me, I'd be homeless, penniless and I'd lose my children.
With encouragement like that, I was paralyzed with fear and indecision. Even though I knew in my head that those things he said about me were bogus, my heart sometimes would fall into despair and need a reminder that the lies were not real…and not me.
I’ve heard similar things from other women when trying to decide whether or not to divorce. I’m stuck, how can I support myself? Am I doing the right thing for my kids? Will they be mad at me? Will he turn them against me? Is this the best decision? What will people think if I stay? What will people think if I go?
Stop Being Paralyzed With Fear:
In The Power of Love, Sue Johnson lays out the physical effects of love. “Sociologists are also finding that our life partner is often our only reliable source of support and comfort. Love’s function is safety and survival.”
So what happens when that breaks down in a marriage and it’s hard to figure out what the best option is? “Emotional disconnection literally hurts. Brain scans show that rejection by someone we depend on is processed in the same part of our brain, and in the same way, as physical pain.”
Well, I finally stopped being paralyzed with fear. I decided that while I could not control the situation or even control him, I could control how I react to the situation and at least control myself. I got back in shape physically and lost 10 lbs. I landed a full-time job and more than doubled my income from my flexible part-time job. From that moment in time, I stopped letting fear get in the way of making decisions. Even if the decisions may not always be perfect, they were my decisions and it was empowering.
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back:
If I thought it was a nightmare being in my marriage, it was nothing compared to what would come after I began to separate myself from my ex and everything that came after our divorce. In almost every instance I felt like it was a dance: two steps forward and one step back. Each chapter brought its own challenges and times when I felt stuck, scared and unsure. Fight or flight mode kicks in and makes decision-making nearly impossible.
I've heard from others who feel stuck in unhappy marriages. I would never be so bold as to tell someone what decision they should make, but I will say that you shouldn’t be scared to make one. Life is now. Why stay stuck in an unhappy situation?
Some women were unhappy but decided to make their marriage work. Others decided it was better to leave. But the end result and the point is that they made a choice to make their situation better.
You Can't Please Everyone:
I’ve had a few friends who were afraid of what other people would think about their decision to divorce. People will judge. They will take the kernel of information they have and make a decision about your situation. But you can’t live your life trying to please everyone. Because of what I’ve been through, I’ve heard from countless people who are going through all kinds of issues. You never know what someone is going through. Even those who judge you harshly are most likely dealing with their own issues.
Some people will judge you for divorcing. Why didn’t you try harder? But no one else has to live your life. That’s your job. It’s your job to be the best you that you can be and to make yourself happy. You can’t spread joy if you don’t feel it yourself. What comes out of you is what is within you. So if you want to spread joy, you must have it to begin with.
I read somewhere that you should flip a coin because in that singular moment you’re waiting for it to land, you typically figure out what is in your heart. I also seek advice from friends whose judgment I trust. With all of this information at our fingertips, we often forget to trust in our instincts and listen to our hearts.
You have to trust that your decision making will lead to the best outcome, not necessarily the path itself. It is all within you if you choose to empower yourself.