Divorce is a change that is often associated with great life disruption. Sometimes a divorce is mutual, but more often one person wants to leave. The one who wants to leave may be hurting and guilty while the one being left is getting deeply hurt. Marriage is a deep connection, equivalent to becoming part of a family, and that is very painful to break.
Here are some ideas for how to cope:
*Recognize self blame. A break-up is never just one person’s fault even though you may have contributed to the situation. If you realize that you are in the self-blame frame of mind, try to see the other side–what did you do that was positive and how you tried your best. Self soothing is a skill that is tremendously useful when you are hurting and/or feeling rejected.
*Learn how to cope with regrets. With hind-sight you may be able to see all sorts of turning points and ways you might have kept the relationship afloat. You may repeatedly in your mind what you did and how you wish you could go back and do it over. The point I am making is that you can learn from mistakes, but you cannot undo what has already occurred. Sometimes unpleasant decisions/behavior are lessons for the future. You can channel your regrets into finding ways to improve your own self esteem and your relationship skills.
*Find ways to deal with betrayal. If you have been cheated on or lied to, it is no small matter. This kind of betrayal can go down deep and can churn up feelings of betrayal from your past. It is very difficult to heal from betrayal but healing can happen. An important part is having outlets of support. Learn how to challenge your impulse to isolate as a self protection.
*Get help. If children are involved, getting help can be a essential. Learning what to say to your kids and how to say it is essential to their emotional well being and helps them adjust to the new family constellation. Learning how to put boundaries around the kids and conflicts with your partner is also extremely important. Having outside the home support to cope with your anger, resentment, frustration, and dissatisfaction (all normal under the circumstances) is a really good idea. You may be tested to your limits. Notice also if your anger is too big for the situation and you are expressing it inappropriately. It is really helpful to learn how to bring your best and most adult self forward in times of conflict and stress. You can also use as many ideas as are possible on how to take care of yourself during this time.
*Understand self care. You are more than likely extremely busy trying to figure out where you are going to live or how you are going to make a living. You may be incredibly worried about money in addition to feeling abandoned and alone. There’s a good chance you are dealing with lawyers or mediators. If you are leaving because it was your choice, you may want to, or already have, jumped into a new relationship. Self care is just what it sounds like. A simple thing but not very easy. What can you do to take care of yourself, eat healthy prepared meals, get enough sleep and rest, have time by yourself or with supportive friends or others such as a divorce support group? How do you give yourself the time to work through your emotions rather than acting in reaction to your emotions?
*Are you engaging in self-harming or self-punishing behaviors. These can include but are not limited to: more/heavy drinking, drugs, binge eating pr restricting food, avoiding sleep, immersion online in games or other internet activities, or pornography online, etc. Notice if others are worried about these behaviors. It is very easy to fall into self destructive behaviors when you are coping with a change or a loss. Divorce can be so stressful and it is very understandable that you could fall into some bad habits. Noticing is the first and truly important step to taking care of this behavior. Taking action to make a change in a positive direction comes next.
*Are you depressed? Grief is a normal reaction to loss. There is a line between grief and depression that is sometimes not easy to determine. It is impossible to know just how long it will take you to feel better. But, sad and low moods that don’t let up, social isolation, difficulty sleeping and eating, either too much or not enough, thoughts of not wanting to live, or a plan to take your life are important to pay attention to. In the case of suicide it is imperative that you get help right away. Signs and symptoms of depression are a message that it is time to seek medical or therapy consultation to discover how to recover.
This is an incomplete list, a beginning of ideas to help you in this difficult life situation. Please do contact me with any questions or comments and thanks for reading. If you are seeking in the office professional help, my office locations are San Francisco and Palo Alto, California.