Moving house, losing a loved one, getting fired and getting divorced. These are the most stressful times in a person’s life. And other than the death of a loved one, divorce is by far the worst. It tears apart lives, damages relationships and affects everyone in the family. But as horrible as divorce is there are some things you can do to make the process a little bit healthier. In this post I am going to give you some tips on how to get divorced and how to reclaim your happiness after the event.
Just to be clear, this post will be broken in to two main sections:
- How to have a healthy divorce; and
- How to reclaim your happiness after the divorce.
Why is divorce so damn hard?
If you talk to someone who has been divorced they will tell you that it is the worst thing you can go through. It is especially hard if you do not want to get divorced and it is your partner that is initiating the process. But why does this hurt so much?
I believe that the reason divorce is so hard is because of habit. After many years of loving and caring about a person you finally have to say goodbye. And when you say goodbye to the person you also have to say goodbye to the little habits that every marriage has. A kiss on the cheek before work, a cuddle in the middle of the night, a glass of wine while watching TV before bed. There are hundreds of little things that the two of you do everyday that you are not going to do any more. And that is hard to accept.
Breaking these habits hurts so much because we are attached to them. We are attached to our way of life and we don’t like change. When it comes to our partner every single one of us has a lot of attachment.
But divorce is made harder by many things. If you have children then it is very hard. You don’t want the children to get hurt but at the same time you don’t want to lose custody of them. And divorce is made even harder if it is happening because your partner cheated. When this is the case it seems that the pervading emotion is anger, not sadness.
How to have a healthy divorce
So you have made the decision to try to have a healthier divorce. You have made the decision to try and make the process less stressful, less harmful and more productive. Good for you! Here are some tips that you can try to apply to have a healthier divorce.
1. Speak honestly
It is extremely important in a divorce to say what you feel. Speak the truth. Many people hold back their true feelings because they think there is some small chance that the marriage flame might rekindle and you will get back together and as such you don’t want to say anything confrontational. This attitude does not help anyone and often you will come out of the divorce worse off than your partner. Make sure you speak honestly about how you are feeling and about how you want the divorce to run. Only with honesty will the right outcome emerge.
2. Don’t be angry – be clear
If you are going through a messy divorce then chances are you are angry. You are angry that years of marriage and love has come to this and you want revenge. Fair enough. But you need to stop for a second and consider whether anger is really the best option. Will anger get you what you want? Or, will your anger just make your partner angry and create a situation ten times worse than it was before?
I think it is important to set anger aside during the divorce and just be clear. Be clear about your assets and your legal requirements. Be clear about what the kids need during the process. And be clear about what you need in the process. Anger will not make things any easier. If you need to be angry then save it for when the divorce is over and you start grieving. But during the divorce you need to be clear, not angry.
3. Get some good support
During this time you are going to need support. Don’t try to do it alone. You need to be able to open up to someone about what you are feeling. If you don’t have a close friend you can turn to then go and see a counselor at least once a week to get some advice.
The reason this is so important is because it allows you to get things off your chest that might otherwise manifest as anger and hatred and cause you to blow up in your partners face. And every time you do that to your partner they are going to do the same thing to you. Make sure you get some good divorce. And don’t seek support from your children. They already have enough going on.
4. Be an adult
When I watched my parents getting divorced I would often listen to my mom or my dad having a whinge about how hard done by they were and think to myself, “Are your serious? What are you like 12 years old? Grow up!”
It is important to behave like an adult when you are getting divorced. For some reason, when people get separated they retreat back into this childlike state of mind and really start interacting with their partner at the level of a 12 year old. They complain about everything and make arguments that have no basis in logic. They behave in a manner that is completely unfitting of an adult. And it makes matters worse. Make sure you behave like an adult when you get divorced. The situation is yours so take some ownership of it and be strong.
5. Make a plan
Divorce is stressful because it takes your ordinary life and throws it up in to the air. Part of the reason people are so angry is because they afraid about the future. They aren’t sure where they are going or what they are going to do. For this reason it is extremely important to have a plan.
Make an appointment to see a lawyer, financial planner, priest or friend and spend a few hours coming up with a plan. Think about accommodation, dividing the assets, how much money you are going to need to relocate, etc. Try to cover all the issues and have a plan for the future. If you do this you will find you have a lot less fear and therefore a lot less anger. It will make the whole process a lot easier.
6. Keep the kids out of it
This is something I want to be very clear about. It relates to being an adult and claiming ownership of the divorce. Keep the kids out of it!
Many parents rely on their children when they are getting divorced. They talk to the kids about all the bad stuff that the other parent is doing and they give the children a lot of their baggage to carry around. You must realize that this is entirely inappropriate. At no time during the divorce should you share your problems with your kids. They are already struggling enough. They only thing you should tell your children is how much you love them. That is it.
7. Focus on the future
When you are getting divorced it is tempting to focus on the past. You look at all the good times that you shared and wondered where it went wrong. But if you want to have a healthy divorce it is important to focus on the future. Admit that this divorce is actually happening and try to create a harmonious and healthy situation for your future and the future of your children. If you focus on the past you will just get upset and angry and it will be difficult to proceed.
8. Make it as fast as possible
Divorce should be like a band-aid – ripped off quickly. Take a look at anyone in your life who has been through a divorce. The worst one’s are those that carry on for months and years with court cases, custody battles, bickering and fighting. You need to create a situation where the divorce can happen quickly and smoothly and with as little fuss as possible. The longer it takes the more chances there are for problems to arise.
How to reclaim your happiness after a divorce
So we have looked at how you can make the divorce process itself a bit healthier and now I want to talk about how your can get your life and your happiness back after the event. It is hard and can sometimes be quite a long process but these tips should help.
1. See your ex as little as possible
As hard as it might be it is important to cut ties with your ex. Of course, this is impossible if you have children and you need to take them to your ex’s house every few days. But other than that you should really try to minimize the amount you see that person.
The reason is simple. Every time you see your ex you get a flood of emotions. You might realize that you still love them or start thinking that you made a mistake. Or you might see how happy they are and feel angry and hurt inside. You don’t need all that at this time. You need to get over it and to get over it you need to have a clear head.
Many people try to be friends with their ex because they do not want to admit that it is over. Being friends is sort of a middle ground that allows you to let go, but not fully. And I am sorry to say that it is not really a healthy thing. It is hard to be friends when you are grieving over a marriage and even harder if one person still is in love. Try to really minimize the amount of contact you have with your ex for at least a year after the divorce. If you still want to be friends after you have recovered then do it then. But don’t do it while you are hurting.
2. Remind yourself constantly of the positives
When my girlfriend of six years broke up with me I was devastated. All I could think about was the bad stuff. I thought about how much I missed her, how amazing she was and how much I still loved her. I made myself really unhappy by thinking about all the bad things.
During this time a friend told me that I needed to start thinking about the positives. He was quite forceful with me and told me that I needed to snap out of it and start reclaiming my happiness. He was right. I needed to start thinking about the positives and stop dwelling on all the negatives. So I started reminding myself about how I was now free to do whatever I want – travel, meditate, explore, etc. And this helped a lot.
The main positive that you need to focus on is that something good ALWAYS comes after something bad. I am a much stronger man for having lost my girlfriend. I became more independent, more adventurous and much more in charge of my own life. The break up helped me to realize that my happiness depended on me, not someone else. Make sure you start thinking about the positives and stop dwelling in the dark side if you want to be happy.
3. Reconnect with your passions
Sometimes a marriage can be quite constraining. You settle down, have kids and over time you forget what you are really interested in. You don’t have the time or the energy to pursue your passions and so your forget about them.
If you want to reclaim your happiness after the divorce you need to reconnect with your passions. You need to rediscover what it was like to be “you” before the marriage/divorce. What made you tick? What made you smile? What challenged you?
If you can devote some time you reconnecting with your true self you will find that happiness comes quite easily. It teaches you that you are more than just a husband and a wife and helps you to break that self identity. Reconnect with your passions in life and remember your individuality.
4. Forget about getting back together
Many people get divorced with the vague idea that one day they might get back together when all the problems are sorted out and everything is going smoothly. Forget about it.
This kind of attitude is not very healthy because it is placing your hope and your happiness in somebody else. It is like holding your breath for a number of years and hoping that something good is going to happen. It is silly. You are divorced, you are on your own and you need to start behaving like that. Don’t hold on to some hope that you will get back together because that hope prevents you from finding your own individual happiness and moving on with your life.
5. Remember you are not the only one
When you get divorced it is easy to feel like you are the only one in the world who is going through something so bad. You feel like everyone else has it easy and that you are doing it tough. But, in reality, millions of people have been divorced and 99.99% of them have coped.
When you are feeling like your life is the worst life in the world you need to remind yourself that plenty of other men and women around the world have done this. In fact, with the current divorce rates being as high as they are there are literally thousands of other people going through what you are going through right now. Reminding yourself of this fact gives you some strength – if they can survive a divorce then so can I.
6. Reconnect with family and friends
When you are married your life becomes about your spouse and your children. Sure, you have the occasional dinner party or family barbecue but for the most part you are focused on the marriage. So when you get divorced you feel quite lonely because you are so used to having that person around. It is time to reconnect with family and friends.
One of the best things I did during my big break up was start going back to martial arts classes. It was during this time that I truly realized that I was not at all alone and that I had so many other people who loved and cared about me. My brother would come along with me and we spent the first few weeks training, eating, drinking and hanging out together. It was a real gift he gave me.
I strongly urge anyone going through a divorce to have as much contact with friends and family as possible. They are there for you. They will support you. And knowing that other people love you to bits is a really good thing to know.
7. Realize that you are allowed to be sad
You have just gone through what is known to be one of the four hardest things a human being can go through. You have gotten a divorce. I want you to understand that it is okay to be sad right now. It really is okay.
For some reason we always need to be happy. We need pleasant events all the time. We cannot deal with even a little bit of hardship. But what I want you to think about is this: it is okay to be depressed. It is okay to be sad. It is okay to feel like you do. Don’t feel like you have to be all better in a week. Or a month. You will feel shit for a while. And that is okay.
Now, I am not saying it is okay to wallow in that sadness forever. But I am saying that you are allowed to feel crap occasionally. Don’t punish yourself for having those emotions because that really isn’t going to help your situation.
8. Think about impermanence
Something that is really important to consider is impermanence. At the moment you are probably feeling like this depression is never going to go away. But it will. All thoughts are impermanent. None of them last. The next time you feel terrible and are trapped in a pit of uncontrollable sadness remember this: it won’t last long.
9. Tell Tom Cruise to get f#$ked!
We have all seen Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire utter the famous line “You COMPLETE me”. Wow! Powerful stuff. But, in my opinion, that one line in that one movie has done more to damage healthy relationships than just about anything else in modern times.
Let’s get this straight. You are not completed by your ex-husband or ex-wife. You are a whole person. You are an individual. The idea that someone else completes you is 100% steaming hot bullshit.
If you want to reclaim your happiness you really need to tell the Tom Cruise in your head to f#$k off. You don’t need phrases like “its the end of my life” and “he was my soul mate” and “she was my everything” holding you back. Because these phrases are lies. They aren’t true. No one is your one and only soul mate. No one completes you. Make sure you understand that your happiness depends on you and your relationship with yourself.
10. Don’t sit around and watch your life fly away
This is the last tip I am going to give and I think it is the most important. This human life is precious. You only have about 70 or 80 years on this planet. And then you are gone forever. Do you really have time to sit around worrying about you ex? Do you really have time to be depressed? Get out there and make the most of this opportunity called life.
Divorce is a tough time on everyone. But with the right help and the right attitude you can get through it in a healthy way. The tips I have written about here are just some starters for you to think about. But if you really want to do things properly I encourage you to go and seek advice from a professional. And remember – there is light at the end of the divorce tunnel.
If anyone else has some tips to share please leave a comment and let us know. It could really help someone who reads this post.