Can anything positive really come from a divorce? If nothing else, a divorce presents to you an opportunity to learn, grow, and become a better person. Divorce, and your ex can teach you about who you are, what your needs are, and what kind of partners are best-suited for you. Here are eight potential lessons you can take from our ex:
1. Who have you become?
Think back to the time when you and your ex were dating and in love. What did you want out of life at that time? What were your priorities? What did you like to do? What were your relationship requirements?
Reflect on the time passed through your relationship until its conclusion and ask yourself, honestly, how similar are you to the previous version of yourself? Do you think your relationship broke apart, in part, to the two of you growing in different directions instead of together, or does it seem that one of you stayed the same while the other transformed?
It is important to recognize who you are as a person and what facts about yourself are consistent, as well as those that are possibly still evolving. Is your relationship status a product of you not having the opportunity to reach your earlier goals? Then again, were your goals and priorities realistic or did they change because you matured or discovered new priorities?
2. What do you need in a relationship?
Whatever put you on the road to divorce surely sprang from areas in your life where you felt unfulfilled or dissatisfied. Assuming that these areas of unhappiness were about your relationship, what was it you felt was missing in your relationship?
Do you require more personal space and time to yourself? Do you long for more attention and shared activities with a partner? Your ex may have become the personification of all that you don’t want in a relationship or partner, but what do you think caused that?
3. What kind of partner is best-suited to you?
Obviously, you have or are divorcing your ex, so you either were no longer compatible or something significant happened that destroyed the relationship. What qualities did you like about your former partner – maybe not at present, but at one time?
Think of the traits that attracted you to your ex and consider how many, even the ones that you liked, were actually good for you. For instance, if your ex was “good looking” is that enough? Try to be specific about personality traits, good or bad, and consider which have meaningful substance versus those that are superficial.
Looks will fade, but how well do you think a partner’s personality will stand your test of time? Why do you think you were drawn to your ex in the first place? Was there some substance to that relationship, or was it driven by other factors such as lust, loneliness, or not being in touch with what’s of core importance to you?
4. What are your hot button issues?
Your frustration has probably been pushed to the limit, so what really gets you going? Once you recognize what really gets under your skin, you can work on understanding why these pressure points upset you so that you can gain better control over them – especially since your ex probably also knows this about you and may try to use it to their advantage!
5. What do you need to work on about yourself?
Let’s be honest, none of us are perfect. I believe most divorces dissolve through the combined effort of both partners. True, one spouse may do more to destroy the relationship than the other; but, you are guilty of not being the greatest about something. Are you impatient, easily agitated, often late, sloppy, always need the last word or to get your way? This is a good time to pause and self-reflect on you personality flaws. Your ex probably pointed some of these things out to you or they most likely were cause for conflict. Think of this as a chance for an internal make-over to at least pledge to improve your bad habits.
Dealing with someone who pushes your limits and aggravates you forces you to use restraint. This skill will continue to be useful in co-parenting because you won’t always agree with your ex’s methods; but, you will be expected to give and take and put up with their involvement for the duration of your kid’s childhoods.
7. Conflict Management.
If any situation can result in hostility and conflict, it would be divorce! I will go out on a limb and speculate that you and your ex did not perfect conflict management as a married couple because you are now divorced; however, divorce and co-parenting will force you two to work through your issues for possibly many more years. Your remaining co-parenting years can either be a miserable non-stop brawl, or the two of you can figure out how to get along. This may not be a lesson you have learned yet, but you have a valuable opportunity to try!
Recognizing what your ex was good at or what special qualities they brought to your home is hard to do in the midst of a divorce; however, you have to admit that your ex was the go-to person in your home to take care of specific things. You may not realize how valuable your ex’s contributions are until you’re on your own wishing he was there to set up your computer or make her famous waffles. Rest assured, your ex is also probably lamenting all of the amazing things you added to the marriage and home.
It’s never too late to feel appreciation or even share it. Your revelations of what things about your ex you should be thankful for can provide you with a to-do list of some things you can try to learn or get better at. If you can learn to overcome your negativity toward your spouse enough to feel appreciation, you can surely be quicker to appreciate the good that others bring to your life!