For most of my career, I’ve helped women cope with the aftermath of divorce and my focus has primarily been helping these women rebuild their lives. Along the way, I’ve come across common mistakes women make during divorce. Truth be told, I’ve made many of these mistakes myself and learned from them. So in an effort to help women avoid regrets about their divorce, I’ve compiled a list of common mistakes women make with full awareness that it’s a work in progress.
Below are 5 Common Mistakes Women Make During Divorce:
1. Failing to get therapy right away for you or your children. A divorce is an incredibly stressful and painful progress and therapy can be essential to helping you cope. Your children may not believe in it or want to go but having therapeutic support will help them feel less alone and benefit all of you in the years to come.
2. Isolating yourself: It’s a challenge to find solace, comfort, and support from married friends and family who may be concerned about taking sides between you and your ex-spouse. Unfortunately, women often keep their problems to themselves during and after divorce. However, finding a sense of community can provide you with resources, information, and much-needed support.
3. Self-blame: Whether you filed for divorce or your partner initiated it, getting stuck in the blame game is self-defeating and can lead to emotional turmoil and staying trapped in the past. It can also lead to mistrust of self and others. Just because your marriage didn’t work out, that doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of a loving, healthy relationship in the future. Extending trust to others is crucial to your emotional health after divorce. Most of all, learn to trust your own instincts and take one step at a time.
4. Failing to consult a lawyer and/or divorce mediator: Often women feel overly self-reliant or may not want to ask for help to obtain the resources needed to hire professionals who can assist them through a divorce. But having reasonable expectations for what assets you will receive is essential to protecting yourself. According to Jason Levoy, attorney and divorce coach, “In other words, remember what a divorce really is … a business transaction. One marital household is being split into two separate ones. You both can’t have everything, so pick and choose wisely and have a reason to ask for something. Letting go of everything that doesn’t really matter will help you move on.”
5. Rushing into a romantic relationship too soon. Since women often define themselves through relationships, it can be painful to go it alone after divorce. You may wonder: Will I be alone forever? However, it’s key to have time for yourself to heal your wounds so that you don’t let your emotional baggage get in the way of making a loving commitment to a new partner.
It’s not uncommon for people who are divorced or breaking up with a significant other to find themselves attracted to the same or similar types of partners. But as you grow and learn about yourself, it’s important to look at the choices you make in romantic partners and to see what lessons can be learned from your experiences.
For instance, Carolyn, an attractive and intelligent single mom in her early 40’s, finds herself repeating negative patterns from her past. She tends to fall for men who are emotionally distant like her father who left when she was seven years old. Carolyn reflects: “I just keep wasting time with the same types of men, men who hurt me, who are unfaithful and leave me alone.” Her comments mirror the sentiments of many of my clients who just can’t seem to break away from the emotional attachment they feel to unavailable or inappropriate partners.
Do you worry that you will make the same mistakes over and over again? Moving out of denial and the influences of the past is a huge hurdle. But you have an opportunity to learn from your experience and build the kind of relationships that eluded you in the past. Focusing on the things that you can control and realizing that you can’t control your ex’s behavior can help you move forward.
Here are 5 Tips to Help You Overcome a Victim Mindset After Your Divorce:
1. Let go of feeling powerless and positive things will start to happen. When you see yourself as a victim, your actions will confirm a negative view of yourself. Instead, focus on the strengths that helped you cope so far in life. Don’t obsess about past choices in partners but learn from them.
2. Protect your assets by hiring a professional (lawyer and/or mediator) who can assist you in coming up with terms and an agreement with your ex-spouse that can guide you through difficult passages in the years to come.
3. Take it slow when dating. Make sure that you have common values with individuals who you date. If you marry someone with drastically different values, you will face complex issues that could put you more at risk for divorce. If you choose to have a rebound relationship, be sure to proceed with caution and make sure you’re on the same page. Don’t introduce new partners to your children until you’re fairly sure it’s more than a casual relationship.
4. Use positive intentions such as “I am capable of creating loving, trusting relationships.” Recognize the newness in each day and that you have the power to make positive things happen. Cultivate positive relationships, enjoy a hobby, and/or take up a new interest.
5. Write a new narrative or story for your life– one that includes taking your time picking partners who are trustworthy and willing to work on a committed relationship if that’s your desire.
There are many reasons why women make mistakes during and after a divorce but it really comes down to believing they’re not worthy of the best life has to offer. Many of my clients have told me that when they were married they put spouses and their children’s needs before their own and failed to speak up, even when they were treated badly. It makes sense that this pattern of self-feating behavior can stay with you during the divorce process and afterward.
According to author Kristy Campbell, “After a divorce, one common question always comes up: if I would have spoken up or expected more for myself during the marriage, I wonder if things would have turned out differently? While we can’t undo the past, one of the greatest lessons you can learn from a divorce is to speak up for yourself. In order to do this, you must believe that you deserve a loving partnership where both people are somewhat equal contributors to the relationship.”
With time and patience, you can begin to visualize the kind of life you need to thrive. You don’t have to let your past dictate the decisions you make today. Restoring your faith in love includes building relationships based on love, trust, and intimacy. Remember to be gentle with yourself and others on your journey.
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