The truth is things will probably get worse before they get better. That’s how divorce goes.
Each week, I get emails from readers going through a divorce. As I read their words, I can feel their pain. Regardless of who initiates it, divorce is painful. If children are involved, it can be exponentially more painful.
Your mind and body are going through the withdrawal of the happy chemicals produced when you’re in love. While you’re fighting the urge to punch the wall, your mind is playing tricks on you, wanting those happy hormones to start production again!
You may feel like engaging in things like impromptu shopping trips, sexual promiscuity or binge eating and drinking. These are all false methods of producing those same hormones. You will pass through no less than nine stages of grieving your relationship.
You will experience shock that it’s over; denial that it’s over and you will become desperate to figure out why your marriage ended. You will engage in external and internal bargaining which is where you are either saying “I’ll do anything to get him back” or “If I had done X differently”.
You may suffer a relapse and sleep with him again. At some point, you’ll experience a phase of accepting it’s over but then, you might feel angry. Hope is another stage of the grieving process. Early on, you’re hoping things can work out. Later, you will hope you can survive without him.
While you’re muddling through this rollercoaster of emotions and fighting (or caving into) those urges, there are a few things I can share to help you through.
Take Solace In The Fact That Things Will Get Better
The truth is things will probably get worse before they get better. That’s how breakups go. You will have good days and bad days. You will plod through stages of grieving your relationship: shock, denial, desperately searching for answers, internal bargaining, external bargaining, acceptance, anger and hope, to name a few.
These stages are orchestrated by your mind which is still trying to ramp up happy hormone production. As you recognize and accept these stages, they become easier to get through and soon, you’re genuinely feeling better.
Soon, you will begin to see that the only way through is by letting go of the past and looking forward to the future. At that point, you can work on rebuilding your confidence and shoring up your self-esteem.
Talk To Your Kids About It
Children have a natural tendency to blame themselves when parents divorce. They feel they weren’t good enough or they could have done something differently so their parents would stay together.
Take time to talk to them about the divorce. This isn’t your chance to tell them daddy is a terrible guy, even if he is. Don’t ever engage in that conversation with your children. Instead, focus on making sure they know this isn’t their fault.
Let them know how their lives will be different. When will they get to see daddy? How much time will they spend with you and at his house?
Encourage your kids to ask questions. They have tons. Make sure to keep an open line of communication and let them know they can come to you with anything. Remember, they’re scared.
Understand How Your Mind Works
Your mind is an interesting element of your being. There are three main components, which work together like parts of a computer. The conscious mind, the part we’re all aware of, works like a keyboard. Its sole purpose is to input information.
The subconscious mind is sort of like the main storage of your computer. Your unconscious is like that part of the computer everyone thinks they erase but, invariably some hack gets in and finds files still being stored.
If you input things like injuries, memories or self-talk, it’s stored in the subconscious and ultimately, the unconscious mind.
Your subconscious and your conscious mind work together, day-to-day in a back-and-forth way. Inputs are entered and the appropriate output is retrieved from the subconscious.
Particularly prickly things are often stored deep in our unconscious as a protective measure. Recovering memories stored in your unconscious often takes psychological intervention or a trigger like a smell. Someone who was beaten with a leather strap will recall that memory if they smell leather.
When you continuously input “I’m so ugly” or “I am unworthy of a good man”, it’s stored in the subconscious. Now, you look in the mirror (input) and out comes “I’m so ugly” because that’s what you’ve stored.
In order to change the outputs that are triggered, you must alter the inputs. When you stand in front of a mirror, you need to say “I am beautiful.” When you’re looking at guys on a dating site or out with your friends, you need to say “I am worthy of a good man”.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and your stored negative thoughts didn’t get there in a day either. Reprogramming will take time and effort but you can do it. Begin by observing the negative inputs you use. Write them down and then, write their counterpart. “I’m so ugly” becomes “I am beautiful”.
It isn’t a matter of believing these thoughts right now, it’s about getting yourself to believe them by inputting them enough, just like you did the negatives, so that you do believe them soon.
Develop A Workout Plan! (And Stick To It!)
One of the best things you can do for yourself right now, today, is go move your body. It doesn’t matter whether you weigh 100 pounds or 400 pounds. Get up and move. You are experiencing a lot of stress and anxiety right now.
The number one best way to silence that anxiety and squelch that fight or flight chemical rush that comes with it is to exercise. When you exercise, your body produces endorphins, which shoot directly to those anxiety chemicals and neutralize them.
Of course, there are the added health benefits of working out like becoming physically stronger, improving your heart health and a host of others but the biggest benefit to working out is one usually overlooked. It’s a stress-buster!
Once you work your plan today, get up and do it again tomorrow. I know you might be sore so do something else tomorrow. If you walked or ran today, lift some weights or do some tummy crunches. Just. Do. Something.
Begin The Healing Process
In order to begin to heal from the breakup, there are a few steps you need to take. I’ll try to keep them short since that whole conscious mind thing was so long!
A. Write Him A Letter
You need to write a letter to your ex. You will not be sending it. This letter is strictly to help you work through the healing process. It is not for him.
In order for this letter to promote healing, you need to include in this letter what you forgive your ex for.
Let’s take a quick detour into why you need to forgive him because I can hear you groaning and pushing back from here.
Everyone thinks that when you forgive someone, you are saying that what they did was okay. That isn’t what forgiveness is about. Forgiveness is not condoning what someone did or forgetting.
Forgiveness is about taking the negativity out of a situation. It’s for you. It sends a message to your mind that you are ready to move past this and begin healing. Most importantly, forgiveness is really you forgiving yourself.
When you forgive someone for hurting you, you are letting go of the anger you’re keeping. This jumpstarts your growth and progress. You also give yourself permission to stop living in the past and begin to live in the present. You also regain your power over the person you’ve held anger against. As long as you maintain anger, they’re living rent-free in your head.
You also release the negativity that was bogging you down, mentally and physically. Finally, forgiveness allows you to recall the positive traits of the other person and you can accept your ex for who he is.
Forgiving doesn’t mean you’re ready to launch into a new relationship. It’s just the first step in your healing.
Write your letter and include a statement which begins with, “I forgive…” This statement gives you permission to move forward. You don’t need to forgive him for everything but pick something you can let go of and start there.
Before you write the letter, make sure you’ve written and narrowed down your list of forgivable things to just the important items. Choose one or two you really feel strongly about and include them in your letter.
Your last line should be your line of forgiveness. Write this letter as if the other person is going to read it. Use full sentences. Don’t include bullet points or acronyms and shorthand.
Once the letter is written, set it aside for a few days.
Now that you’ve let the letter sit for a few days, you need to take a couple of final steps. First, read the letter, out loud. Read it slowly and listen to each word. Allow the feelings that come, don’t push them down.
After you have read the letter and collected yourself, it’s time to burn the letter – safely. As you burn it, say something like “Thank you [ ] for being a part of my life. I am letting you go with love.” I know it might sound hokey but this is for you, remember? This is part of your healing. It doesn’t matter if you don’t really want to thank him. This isn’t about him, it’s about you.
Once the letter is burned, your final step in letting go is to physically walk away. Dispose of the remains of the letter, safely, and walk away. This is symbolic of you walking away from your grief and pain.
How Do I Know When I’m Ready To Date Again?
This is a question I wish I got more often. Instead, many men and women launch into new relationships way too soon after a divorce or breakup.
The truth is that it’s good for you to remain single for a while. When you’re in a relationship, you change. Your values are different. You may do things your partner likes, even though you don’t really like those things. Your world is centered on being part of a pair.
Take advantage of this time and get to know yourself again. Work through those negative thoughts and get them turned around. Assess your financial situation and make any necessary course corrections. Begin to determine what your beliefs and values are, just you.
If you have children, it’s important to let them settle into a new routine before you introduce a new man. Let them get accustomed to the idea of mom and dad living apart first. Trust me, if Mr. Right is out there for you, he will still be waiting, and more receptive to you, if you take time now to recalibrate.
You will know you’re ready to date again when you have established boundaries, uncovered your beliefs and values and have completely moved past the urge to punch your ex in the throat. Even if he’s still being a jerk, if you’ve boosted your confidence and initiated positive self-talk, you’ll be able to write off his bad behavior and move on.
When you are ready to date again, go slowly. Don’t look at every first date as a step toward the altar. Just have fun with it. Don’t apply the pressure of “will he want to marry me?” Men date first for fun before they look at whether or not they want to settle down. You should do the same.
Date multiple men and date at least one type of guy you thought you’d never want to date. If you’re conservative, date the motorcycle dude. If you’re a wild and crazy type, date a lawyer or accountant. You might be surprised. Again, you’re not looking at him as your next husband. You’re exploring and having fun!
The great news is that, in the middle of having fun, you’ll find Mr. Right #2! A new and improved model over the first!