Are you a grateful divorce-er?
We are told by self help gurus that practising gratitude every day makes you a healthy happier person. This may be true, but during a divorce it is very difficult to feel grateful. You may feel your world has fallen apart, the universe is ending and life as you know it is about to cease.
Or you may be irritated, dispirited, annoyed, angry and generally cheesed off with the world.
All of these are understandable and totally justified emotions.
Now I am not going to say you should put aside all negative emotions, pretend you are Pollyana and have a fixed smile on your face the whole time. There is a place in divorce for anger, irritation etc. and sometimes the negative emotions can give you the power and energy you need to keep going; however staying in that negative emotion is harmful and here is why:
- Staying in a negative state ties up a huge amount of energy – whether it is the coiled spring energy of anger or the dull ache of despair you are focusing your body’s energy in one direction.
- While negative emotions can act as an impetus for change it is easy to get sucked into the negative state and not be able to claw your way out of it.
- These overpowering emotions stop you thinking strategically
So here is a way of turning the negative into a form of gratitude
- Feel the emotion and describe it to yourself – note the name of the emotion and notice where you feel it. Acknowledging it is the first step in controlling it.
- Ask what kind of energy this emotion is giving you – is it the energy of change? Is it the energy of determination? Is it the energy of resilience?
- See how you can use that energy in your daily life and divorce negotiations – Look around you and notice what is working. You are living. You are breathing. You have a roof over your head. However much or little you have at the moment this is the starting point for the rest of your life.
- With this new found energy decide what the next steps will be – the steps that will take you positively into the next stage of your divorce
With ongoing divorce coaching turning the negative into a positive can happen easily and on a regular basis, so you don’t need to get trapped in the negative emotions of divorce!
Finances. A word to strike terror into the heart, even when not divorcing!
Problems with finances in divorce can begin even before the divorce is finalised. Couples remain living together because one can’t afford to buy the other out. Separated, they live under the same roof causing difficulties and awkwardness over “passing the sugar”. Property prices are constantly rising and living together can be a practical solution. But it can muddy the waters, either allowing a friendship to remain (when you should be emotionally separating yourselves) or hostility to increase.
There can also be resentment over the split of the finances. When the woman earns nothing or less than the husband, he becomes resentful as he feels he has to give ‘his’ money to her. Meanwhile she feels vulnerable due to her lack of certainty over equal income rights – and even if she is entitled to the money she might not feel that he will hand it over. This dependence on maintenance for financial survival is scary.
Both parties may see themselves living under the railway arches at Waterloo Station, he because she has taken all his money, she because he has kept all his money, so when negotiating a financial settlement everyone gets defensive.
One tip here for negotiating is to remember the fear may be doing the talking.
If you can remember this, it makes it easier to get a clear picture of exactly what you should be negotiating about as you learn to manage your own fear and clarify the fears of your ex.
Unless you are a multi-millionaire you will find after divorce changes will need to be made. Few people have assets within a marriage to live exactly the same lifestyle post-divorce.
This means making real choices about:
- what matters to you,
- what is in line with your values and
- what is in line with your income
In this way you will be able to make choices that work for you.
Beware post-divorce of aiming to purchase things or live a certain lifestyle just because your ex has it and/or just because you want to show off to your ex. Or an alternative route sometimes taken is that you are trying to demonstrate how poor you are to make your ex feel ashamed! Another tip – you will feel poorer even if you aren’t, in dire financial straits simply because you are dealing with a loss of income and other losses such as status, companionship and changes in life expectations.
Don’t underestimate the effects of all these changes in contributing to your feelings of financial impoverishment.
It is clear that throughout the divorce process fear can be the driving motivation for negotiating a settlement. The more confident you are in your divorce strategy the less fear may guide you – so make sure when negotiating your finances that you have emotional and practical support systems in place for you throughout divorce.
I was walking with a divorced friend a few days ago and she was feeling really down. She said ‘We are trash, we are rubbish.’
Of course this isn’t true but it does reflect the feelings a lot of people at some point in the divorce process. You know that divorce can be the jumping off point to something better, that allows you to redesign your life and think about things in a new way. But even the most Positive Polly will be challenged by divorce.
It’s so easy, if you are having a down day, to tap into the negative feelings and really believe the self-talk that is so destructive.
One of the qualities you really need to survive the process of divorce is resilience. And part of that resilience is getting through the down days and having a belief in yourself even when you don’t feel like it. This will help you get on and move forward so here are some pointers to help you:
- Acknowledge the fact that there are negative sides to divorce. There will be days when you feel rough and it is going to get better. But sometimes you will feel down and this is a normal part of dealing with what is a difficult phase of your life. It’s great to surround yourself with positive things and positive people as much as you can, but if you’re still feeling low this doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. Everyone who goes through difficult life events will have moments or days where they want to say ‘I feel like trash’. It’s unrealistic to expect yourself to be positive the whole time the matter how much support you are getting from others.
- Let go of the F word – that is failure! Don’t say the marriage failed or think of yourself as a failure. Borrow an idea from current business thinking. To quote Simon Stockley from Cambridge Judge Business School “…substitute ‘failure’ with ‘hypothesis testing’, it may seem a lot less threatening”.
- If you are feeling really rough just check-in to see what it is that is throwing you off balance. A difficult conversation with your ex, working out what to say to the children, adjusting your life and lifestyle to cope with changes – this and many other things can sap your energy. If you are physically tired or not eating very well that too will make you feel bad. Sometimes, rather than analysing what you feel or how you are thinking, the best response is to go to bed and get some rest. Everything tends to be a bit more manageable when you have had a good night’s sleep.
- Be kind to yourself. If a friend who was divorcing came to you feeling tired and overwhelmed what would you say to her? If she said all the negative things that you are thinking how would you answer her? My guess is you’d be kind and understanding. You wouldn’t judge her and you wouldn’t expect her to be perfect. You’d allow her to talk about her feelings and you would support her and let her know that she is safe, cared for and things will get better. This is the kind of message you need to give yourself.
- If your outlook has become very glum, you are withdrawing from the world and you feel that things will never get better and you have felt this way for some time it might be that you have depression and may need medical help. We all get an attack of the glums some time but these tend to be isolated moments and won’t last for weeks. So if you can see no way that you can be positive again do discuss this with a professional to see if you can get support.
- Look for acts of kindness. If you have friends offering to help, accept their help. Ask people to do practical things they are really good at. Look for specific actions that they can do to help you and tell them what these actions are – they are not mind readers! You might have a friend who can help you organise spreadsheets so that you can sort out your finances. Or someone might look after the children for a couple of hours so you can get some rest. You might need someone who will just listen without judging, expectation or giving advice so that you can let off steam or sort out your ideas when you need to.
- Take the long view – one day at a time How you feel now is not how you will feel for ever. Divorce is difficult but it is do-able. The emotions surrounding divorce might be horrible but you will get past them. While with your lawyer you will be planning for a longer term future, when you are processing the emotions just do one day at a time. Or tell yourself you’ll get through the next half day. Or the next half hour! But always, always have the long view that things will get better.
You may feel like trash for all sorts of reasons. But it is just a feeling, it’s not reality. At the moment your emotional brain may struggle to get hold of that fact. You think that how you feel now is how you will feel forever.
Your value, the essence of you that is who you really are, does not depend on what your ex thinks of you. The essence of you is perfect. At the moment that is hidden by all the thoughts and feelings that are swirling around and making you feel small. Time, love and care will change that.
So give yourself time, love yourself and cherish your innermost being.
Then the healing has started.
How to manage your energy in divorce
‘Energy?’, you ask, ‘In divorce? – But I don’t have any!’
Divorce is a life event that can sap your energy, leave you hanging on by your fingertips and crush your soul.
It doesn’t have to, but it can.
I generally try to keep my articles upbeat with a generous sprinkling of reality (relentlessly cheerful self-help articles put my pancreas on sugar overload). I definitely don’t want to do articles like misery memoirs!
But divorce is, it has to be said, gruelling. Let’s take a quick look at why, then I’ll give you some pointers for maintaining your energy, no matter what. (more…)
Changing Careers after Divorce
By Paula Gardner
Along with death and the empty nest, divorce is one of the big life moments that often instigates a change of career. However, it’s not the same story for every woman. For some it may be because there is a new financial reality and they have to up the ante to pay the bills. Others may decide that they want to spend more time with their children to help through this transition. And there are those that are using this time to review everything in their life, and realign their goal and actions with what really matters to them.
However, career change is often not a straight forward process. Here, I’ll share some of the “rules” of career change that I’ve found most helpful, particularly at this stage in life. (more…)