For women who are divorcing in middle age, this blog regularly publishes relationship advice, including tips on starting to date again and navigating new relationships. The blog also offers personal stories and suggestions on starting over after a divorce.
My friend Bethany kept falling in lust with men at her office, which would’ve been fine except that she was in a seventeen-year marriage with two teenaged daughters. She was never physically unfaithful to her husband Doug, but the cost in integrity was devastating.
Finally the inevitable happened. She fell in love with one of her co-workers. Again, there was no physical infidelity, but hearts were involved. She decided she’d rather end her marriage than have an affair.
This is one of the things I love about Bethany, no equivocation, but in this instance I thought she was being rash. Couldn’t she tell Doug what was happening? That the survival of their marriage was at DefCon 5? I was shocked to discover she’d been honest with Doug and he’d remained passive.
When Bethany divorced Doug you’d have thought she was divorcing me. We’ve known each other since our Study of Women and Men In Society class in Bovard Auditorium at USC circa 1986 and bonded over our shared experience of being children of divorce. How could she consider leaving a marriage to, as she fully admitted, a funny, kind, committed man?
“What does that mean you and Doug don’t have sex? You mean, like, you have it once a month or so?”
“I mean, like, we haven’t had sex in two years.”
“Holy shit! I had no idea!”
“It’s not really something people advertise. And the last time we did it we had to get drunk and watch porn.”
“But why?” I asked, “Why don’t you have sex?”
“Because I’ve become his mother. We have an Oedipal relationship. Just minus the sex.”
Bethany explained that over the years she’d taken up more and more real estate in the marriage or Doug simply did less and less so she had to. She managed their family schedule, she had the bigger job, she planned all their vacations, she made all major decisions about their finances and their children.
“Is this because you’re controlling and bossy?” I asked. She is controlling and bossy and I can say that because so am I.
“Maybe,” she said. ”But, I don’t always want to be the boss, sometimes I really want him to take over.”
There certainly was one place where Doug was the boss and that was in the bedroom. He could control Bethany by withholding. My assessment, not hers.
When you’re a married person, other people’s divorces – from marriages that seemed solid and strong – can be threatening. If it happened to them it could happen to you. I have a propensity to be the boss in my home and Bethany’s story was a wake-up call that always getting my way in my marriage could end up being a pyrrhic victory. Fortunately, my husband Henry is willing to tell me when I need to “crawl out of his ass.”
Over time I came to understand that in divorcing Doug, Bethany did something incredibly brave. She took all the hits for breaking up her family, from her parents, her siblings, her children and her friends, myself included, in order to seek a fuller, more integrated life.
In the midst of the divorce, when Bethany had lost twenty pounds and couldn’t sleep and doubted herself, she clung to one simple truth, “I can’t live the rest of my life without passion.”
A passionless life. Not just sexless, but passionless. We all need to have a passion. Whether it’s passion for our partner or spouse, our work, our children, our hobbies. The lack of sex in Bethany’s marriage had eroded the passion of her spirit. She was living a rote, predictable, stagnant life.
It took time for me to see her situation objectively — divorce is always a personal trigger for me — and to realize I didn’t have the moral right to sentence her to a passionless life.
That was two years ago. I look at Bethany’s life today. It’s not perfect. The man she fell in love with is no longer in her life and she’s not in a hurry to meet someone new. She wants to better understand herself and not bring her daughters into a situation that won’t last. She and Doug are incredibly amiable and excellent parents to their now almost grown daughters.
Funnily enough, Bethany’s life is sexless again, but this time it’s by choice. Which leaves room for passion and possibility.
Great article in Psychology Today about second marriage. There are definitely some rules of the road that couples need to address before committing.
There are 5 Basic Conversations that are suggested.
“Talk first, marry second
When marrying, whether it is for the first or tenth time, it’s critical to get to know each other before committing. In some ways, it’s easier the second time around because you are more mature and, hopefully, you’ve learned from your mistakes…..
You know that feeling. Some of us know it all too well during divorce and after divorce.
When one of your grown children, after spending the weekend with your ex, tells you about the “new friend” that is at your ex’s house.
Or when you hear about the trip your ex is taking to Europe while you’re struggling to make ends meet.
The Green Eyed Monster that consumes us, when what we should really be doing is focusing on our own divorce recovery.
You’re not alone when it comes to dealing with jealousy, especially after a divorce. And I have to share with you two very ugly truths about this emotion.
Jealousy is selfish.
Have you ever known someone in your life that was always “me me me” and never bothered to ask you about your day, or your hopes and dreams? Well, jealousy is like that person, because it’s a barrier that causes you to worry about something (your ex’s new life) that you have no control over.
And instead of focusing on yourself, jealously is there instead, being all, “Oh, look at their wonderful life! Oh, look at all the things they’re doing that are amazing!”
What benefit is it to you to be focusing your energy on what the other person is doing? What benefit is it to you to be thinking about how good your ex has it, when you feel like you were screwed over?
You already know the answer. Being jealous is of no benefit. So why is it still something that we can’t seem to shake while trying to move on from divorce?
The truth hurts and you’re about to learn why.
Jealousy is also lazy.
You know what’s easier than working on yourself?
Sitting there, stewing over about how much better your ex has it.
One of the many reasons that jealousy brings out the worst in us is because it diverts attention away from putting ourselves first. And instead of doing the hard work of focusing on how we can move on, jealousy leads us astray, by taking the easy road of being reactive about things beyond our control.
And while you’re worrying about that, you waste precious time that could be spend focusing on the most important thing—YOU.
It’s easier to say, “Oh, it should be ME taking that vacation instead of my ex” than to focus on your own finances and schedule, and plan a vacation that fits your lifestyle and budget.
It’s easier to say, “That jerk already has a new partner! It’s not fair!” than starting to take care of yourself, learning how to plan for your own future, and focusing on getting out of your rut and getting your life back on track.
See what I mean?
Jealousy is sapping you of your energy to move on. It’s a lot easier to remain bitter over something you can’t control than it is to be responsible for your own happiness and moving ahead under your terms.
But I’m jealous! So what am I supposed to do?!
I know, I know…you’re human and you may be hurting, especially if your marriage lasted decades. But there’s something you can do about it.
Exercise: Turn your jealousy into productivity.
The next time you’re feeling jealous about whatever your ex is doing, or anything going on in your life for that matter, do the following.
• Pinpoint exactly what is making you jealous. These are your jealousy triggers.
“I heard from my son that his father is going to Europe in the fall with his new girlfriend, and I’m here having trouble paying rent. What the hell?”
• Dig deeper. What is it exactly that you’re jealous of? List it, and be honest with yourself. Jealousy rarely has anything to do with the other person. It has everything to with what you’re doing and how you’re thinking about yourself. It is an emotion that has no power when you are being mindful and proactive with your own life.
“I am jealous because I am hurt. I feel hurt because we never did anything fun or adventurous or travel in our relationship and I feel left out. I am also jealous because I feel like financially, I cannot treat myself.
• Ask yourself what you can do instead. How can you divert that energy you are spending being jealous into something actionable for you?
“My feelings are hurt and maybe I can’t fix that pain myself. The next time I am triggered, perhaps I can reach out to friends or family for support, or instead direct that energy into doing an activity that I like to do. As far as finances go…sure, I can’t go anywhere exotic right now. But I can start looking at my finances and budget, and maybe start planning a getaway or a nice trip for myself that is within my budget.
How about you? Do you struggle with jealousy? And what actions can you take to overcome it?
Regardless of who filed, many women feel overwhelmed as they begin to gather financial statements and documents. The more they learn about their financial status, the more embarrassed and ashamed they feel. They may even feel defeated.
The first onset of emotions often stems from not being involved in the financial landscape during the marriage. I work with women to help them step-by-step through that process to ensure they move out of the feeling of embarrassment and shame and into a place of feeling empowered on their journey through divorce.
Here are five ways to help rise above overwhelm, take action and reclaim your power.
Engage in the ongoing process of gathering information. If women experience roadblocks from their spouse during this process, there are two options. The first option is to hire an attorney that will activate the legal process to formally request information. The second option is to hire a financial private investigator who can be used in conjunction with or independent from an attorney.
Organize the information in a way that allows you to swiftly access the data to prevent confusion from setting in. Creating a system that works for you will help clear the fog and bring clarity and accuracy to the current picture. This will be helpful when meeting with the attorney, completing the financial disclosure documents, and even attending mediation.
Set boundaries around the day-to-day finances. This begins with identifying who will pay for what during the divorce process. A family law attorney can draft a document that sets the ground rules for financial conduct. However, it is up to you to help hold your soon-be-to ex accountable. Don’t rely solely on the court system to monitor this activity. Be sure to use your voice to speak up about financial behaviors that aren’t in alignment with the agreement.
Get clear on your values, desires and expectations. Take time to write down what is important to you. Create two columns: Non-Negotiable and Negotiable. Stick to those Non-Negotiable items and remember to let go of anything that shows up under the Negotiable column.
Stop apologizing for what you don’t know. Make sure your communication is in alignment with your list of negotiable and non-negotiable items. A great strategy is to use the assertive communication formula. It sets the stage for creating a win/win and an environment of respect. For example, I feel ________ when ______. This is great when communicating with your attorney, your team and your ex-spouse. This simple formula can be used to address challenging behavior as well as affirm positive behavior
As you move into divorce, your financial situation tends to move out of the fog and into clarity. Once you have clarity you can take empowered actions. I work with women who are facing divorce. My passion is to help them go from financial self-sabotage to financial self-confidence. It is important to take one step at a time. These five steps will help reduce overwhelm and empower you on your journey. If you need additional support about your financial picture, visit our Divorce Conversations podcast at https://www.womensfinancialwellnesscenter.com/podcast.
Hippie Love and Peace poster. Retro style typography, pretty girl in neon colors. Groovy vintage illustration.
As you recover from your divorce and move on, there is one all-too-common emotion that causes us way more headaches than you need.
Anger. Being ticked off. The persistent rage that will not leave you but could jeopardize your future relationships.
To start off with, there is something that you must remember.
Anger is a thief. Don’t let it rob you of your chance to move on.
You work hard to maintain the things you love. Think about. You probably keep your house or apartment nice and cozy, and you probably have homeowner’s insurance to protect it in case something happens to it. Your beloved heirlooms and the mementos you treasure are probably tucked away with the greatest of love and care.
You wouldn’t leave your door unlocked and invite a thief in to destroy those things in your home that you love, would you?
Heck no! Those things are yours. You worked your ass off to safeguard the things that give you joy and comfort.
So, why on earth are you leaving the door to your life and the door to your happiness, inviting Anger in on a daily basis? Just as a thief will break into your home, wreck it, and take away everything that is dear to you, so will Anger.
It’s time to lock the door and install one of those baller home security systems. It is time to protect one of the most precious things that anger will rob you of: your happiness and chance to heal.
Anger = your reaction to other people’s stupid stuff trying to control you. Why let it?
When you are ticked off at something, your body is all too happy to let us know it. Your blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate increase because your adrenal glands are being set into “fight or flight” mode.
This physiological reaction may have served cavemen and cavewomen when it was time to fight off whatever prehistoric beast threatened their survival, but the same anger that disrupts your calm. Why let it control you like that?
The fact that your ex didn’t treat you right, the fact that the marriage is ending or has ended, and the fact that the ex and their lawyers may still be doing stupid stuff is just that. They are only facts, but they are not indicators of how you are obligated to react because of them.
Do you remember the delightful “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies with Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow?
If you don’t, please stream them. NOW.
Of the many memorable quotes and tidbits of wisdom this swashbuckling pirate said, the one that stuck with me was the following:
“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.”
The things that anger you off are merely facts of things that are happening or have happened in your life. Think of them as “the problem” in the first sentence of the quotation.
“Your attitude about the problem” is your anger. The stupid stuff that you are reacting to doesn’t have to disrupt your peace of mind. How you choose to react to the problem—in this case how you choose to react to the facts (the events that are making you angry), is what makes the difference between navigating this process with less drama and stress for yourself, or letting all the madness drag you down and leave you exhausted.
You’re better than getting pissed off at something that you cannot control in the first place. It’s time to focus on the things you actually can control.
And the first step to leaving the anger behind you? It’s simple.
If it does not serve you, then let it go.
Some years ago, I was sweating my butt off in a hot yoga class, frustrated that I could not get into a back bend because my arthritis decided it didn’t want to play nice, my stomach churning because of the third argument I had had with my boss that week, and my heart sinking because a man who I had been seeing and who I really liked had called the night before to break up with me. I was a knot of rage that afternoon in the yoga class.
“If it does not serve you, then let it go.”
Although the yoga teacher probably meant it for the students to be kind and patient with themselves, reassuring them the back bend would happen when the body was ready for it, those words stuck. And I remember bursting into tears.
It wasn’t about being upset about not being flexible enough during that moment in time.
It was about not letting the fact we were inflexible cloud our ability to just be and move on.
It was about understanding that if a negative emotion was not going to improve our lives, then we needed to show it the door. There is no place for anger holding us hostage.
The next time you start to feel pissed off about the divorce drama, do the following.
1.When your pulse starts to quicken, take a step back.
2.Close your eyes and take 3 deep breaths.
3.Remember that whatever BS is coming your way does not have the power to piss you off.
4.Remember that if the anger is not contributing to your well-being, then breathe that negativity out.
5.Inhale in the fresh air and focus on the beautiful life and calm that will be your guide.
6.Carry on, because you have waaaaayy too many awesome things going on to waste your precious emotional energy on anything toxic.
What struggles do you experience when it comes to dealing with divorce anger? What steps have you taken to kick it to the curb? I love hearing from you, so write me and let me know!
Martha Bodyfelt is a divorce recovery coach whose website “Surviving Your Split” shows women over 50 how to get their confidence back and move on with their lives. . For your Free Divorce Goddess Survival Kit, stop by Surviving Your Split or drop Martha a line at email@example.com.
I had this job and career that made me comfortable and paid well. It was not necessarily a job that I loved, but it made me feel secure and gave me the validation that I thought I needed.
Until I was laid off.
I started to panic, because although I was not necessarily happy with it, it least it paid the bills and the thought of financially uncertainty terrified me.
But here’s where my own missteps came in: As I started to assemble a resume, apply for new jobs, desperately hoping I would find employment soon, a voice in the back of my head get chiming in.
I’ll feel so much better once I get that job interview!
I know everything will be okay once I get the job offer.
I will be happy again once I am in a new job.
Once I get that first paycheck, I know I’ll smile and feel better about everything.
Do you see the dangerous pattern going on here?
You’ve probably done something like this, too. And it can sabotage your ability to move on.
Relying on external factors to make you happy.
It’s easy, but not simple. We cannot depend on outside factors to shape our attitudes in life, whether’s it’s when we are in recovery from divorce, dealing with employment issues, or anything else.
Only we can do that and that’s why we are going to start this quest with developing self-awareness. Because the more in-tune we are with our own thoughts, our own sense of joy, and our own triggers, the easier it will be to practice that mindfulness we need to be kinder to ourselves, more confident in ourselves, and able to hold ourselves accountable to building on with the next chapter in our lives. So let’s get started.
“Once X happens, only then will I be or feel Y….”
At some point in our lives—we’ve all done this. And as we learn to heal and move the hell on from this divorce, we may still fall into what I call the X-Y Trap. We say to ourselves that it will take a certain external situation (what I call the X) in order for us to achieve an internal state (what I call the Y). While this occurs in everyday situations, the X-Y Trap loves to linger during the divorce process. Do any of these sound familiar?
“Once the papers are signed, then I will be happy.”
“I’ll be happy again when I find a new partner to be with. Somebody who will be so much better than my ex-spouse.”
“When I move out of this house with all its memories and ghosts, I’ll be happy.”
“As soon as I quit feeling so overwhelmed, then I can work on being happy.
They sure as hell sound familiar to me, because I know as I was learning to move on, I would fall into this trap as well.
So, how do we avoid falling into the X-Y Trap? And, if we are already ensnared, how can we get the hell out of it?
Only by changing what goes on internally can we start finding happiness.
It’s simple, but not easy.
We must start thinking in terms of looking inward and relying on ourselves to be happy. No amount of money or outside validation or relationship status will do it for us. It must come from inside. We must consciously choose to be grateful and choose happiness, even when we feel overwhelmed and feel like we are a complete mess. Even when we feel like we are alone or feel betrayed or feel bad or impatient or feel like we will never get through the divorce and emerge on the other side, stronger and more confident than from where we started. Those feeling all derive from outside influence that we choose to react towards in a way that does not help us.
Regardless of where we are in life, we must all consciously choose to be happy, to be grateful, and to find joy in the fact that we are here, we are alive, and we are being given a second chance in this life. We must choose internally to embrace the fact we are now becoming independent—not only financially and now having the ability to live on our terms—but now independent to rely on ourselves to be happy—something no outside forces should determine for us.
Exercise—Take charge of your own happiness.
It may have been years—if at all—that we have looked within ourselves to find a happiness that does not rely on external factors. It may seem overwhelming and impossible, especially when we are stressed-out and grieving. But it does not have to be. Take a look at the easy exercise below, with examples to get you started.
Step 1: Name the things you have relied on to be happy. Some of my own examples are below if you need to get started.
A certain number in my bank account will make me happy.
Being in a relationship with a man who treats me right will make me happy.
Step 2: Flip the script.
No relationship in the world is going to make me happy if I do not love myself and treat myself right. From now on, I am going to focus on myself and work on myself. I need to start putting myself first—speaking up for myself, taking better care of myself, and finding joy in being alone.
Step 3: Whenever you are triggered and thinking that you need something external to make you happy, do this exercise.
Do it often. And the more you practice finding internal happiness, the more your life becomes filled with gratitude, not needing to rely on some outside factor you cannot control to make you happy. You are strong enough to find that within yourself.
Martha Bodyfelt is a divorce coach whose website, “Surviving Your Split,” helps readers get through their separation and divorce with less stress and drama so that they can move on with their lives. Stop by http://survivingyoursplit.comand sign up for your free divorce survival kit or say hello at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Research shows it is the manner in which you leave your prior relationship that will set the scene for your future relationships. If you are going through a divorce or trying to survive a breakup, these lessons on leaving will help make your road to becoming single a bit less bumpy as you pave your way to a better-fitting future.
A breakup or a divorce can make you feel as if your entire world has come crashing down around you. When a relationship you believed in comes to an end, it can feel as though every conceivable emotion has taken over your being. Shock, anger, disbelief, denial, sadness, and pain often become your new best friends.
12 Lessons on Leaving
Do be civil. It can be tough to be pleasant when a relationship ends, but your breakup attitude will set the entire scene for your future.
Do take responsibility for any role you may have played in the breakup. Learn and grow from your missteps of love.
Do focus on the good that came out of the relationship.
Do accept the fact that something was broken in your relationship. Devoted couples do not break up. For a relationship to work, both parties must be equally committed and smitten with each other.
Do get excited about your future. Your future is now a blank white canvas, and you get to paint the picture.
Do not wallow in what “was.” What was in the past was apparently not working. Stay focused on what “is,” as in, “Your future is going to be amazing.”
Do not obsess on the reasons for the breakup. Use the reasons as a spark for reflection and self-betterment.
Do be dignified. Be fair and reasonable in the division of any assets.
Do not wish him a lifetime of unhappiness. That serves no purpose other than to keep your life from moving forward in a positive and productive way.
Do resist the urge to talk negatively about him. You could end up getting back together, so there’s no need to publicize his faults.
Do wish him well and mean it. Not all relationships will last a lifetime. Use this newfound time in your life to rebirth yourself and emerge as a stronger and self-loving woman.
Do love your children more than you dislike their father. Parental alienation is real and causes permanent damage to children. Trust me, I know rising above someone else’s behavior is not always easy, but for the sake of your future and that of your children, make every effort to be the bigger person. Your attitude will determine your children’s altitude, as they soar to reach great heights throughout their life.
As difficult as it may be in the moment, following these twelve lessons as you depart a relationship will help set the stage for a new – and even better – one.
Michelle Afont has been a divorce attorney for over twenty years. In addition to her work in the legal field, she has also served as a life advisor, helping others to take the necessary steps to live their best lives. In addition to The Dang Factor, Afont is also the author of The Dude Factor and The Profile Factor, and is an available speaker.
In the months leading up to our wedding some 20 years ago, my husband and I had a series of meetings with the priest and the rabbi who were to preside jointly over our ceremony. These weren’t exactly pre-cana classes – more like a series of “getting-to-know” you sessions – but they were thought-provoking all the same.
We got a lot of good advice from our respective officiants. The Rabbi leaned in and told us that the secret to a good wedding wasn’t the food, but the music. He then proceeded to recommend a band from the South Side of Chicago called The Gentlemen of Leisure which he assured us would rock the house. The priest, for his part, counseled us that we should never go to bed angry.
Both kernels of wisdom turned out to be true. But something else the priest said has also stuck with me through the years: “In my opinion, it’s far too easy to get married in this country and far too difficult to get divorced.”
The idea never went anywhere, and as far as I can tell there were no other countries clamoring to get in the mix. But it’s certainly an idea worth taking on board, in Mexico and elsewhere.
I consider myself to be a happily married person. But I also know that I’m a minority. Many of my close friends and relatives have split from their partners, some bitterly so. And many of the couples I know who have stayed together clearly regret that decision. As Gina Frangello put it so eloquently in a recent piece for Full Grown People:”Promises made at the age of twenty-five can feel like words uttered by someone else entirely by the time we are forty-six.”
He may be out of the house and you may feel relief, but there’s that surprise feeling that greets you whenever you enter the empty house.
Ah, loneliness. It’s a horrible feeling to think you have nobody in the world to turn to as you are trying to make sense of your divorce and your new identity.
But like all of these emotions we are dealing with, there are mindful strategies that you can use to help you start feeling better, even when you think you cannot be consoled. Let’s take a look!
Being alone does not mean being lonely.
When we are by ourselves after divorce, we make a false correlation in our minds. We think that being alone is negative and bad for us. We can’t stand the silence, we feel weird sleeping in a bed alone, and we are uneasy saying “I” instead of “we.‘’
But why is being alone a bad thing?
Being by yourself means you can now breathe and look out for yourself for a change. You are now given the opportunity to heal and start over on your terms—things that would be impossible to do if you were still with someone who wasn’t giving you the love and respect you deserve.
And what we seem to forget is that even when we are with someone in an unhealthy relationship, we can still be lonely. Do you remember all the times when you felt the sadness and silence when you were living in the same house with someone who was no longer healthy for you?
As counter-intuitive as it sounds, being in a house with a partner in a marriage that is no longer healthy and still feeling alone is much more damaging than being by yourself in a house and having the space to heal on your own terms.
See the difference?
Loneliness is just independence and liberation waiting for a spark of hope.
Many of us tend to view loneliness and a solitary confinement that we can’t break free from. But I’m here to tell you that’s just wrong.
Yes, you may feel like there is nobody to call or to be intimate with. And as we try to heal, you may sometimes feel self-conscious reaching out to friends and family members because you don’t want to appear like a burden. Feeling like you can’t reach out although you feel awful only doubles that awful feeling.
But, what if, instead, you turned that sense of being by yourself into something new?
Sure, you do not have people around you, but doesn’t that give you the opportunity to start doing things that you never though you could do before? Instead of staying at home, you now have an opportunity to channel that energy into attending that sculpture class, joining that book club, planning that trip in the mountains. There is now nobody to stop you or judge you, and you are now given the opportunity to do the things you’ve wanted to for the longest time. Take advantage of it!
Exercise: Kicking Loneliness to the Curb and Embracing the Love Mindset
The next time that wave of loneliness hits you, instead of bracing for that inevitable despair that you do not think you can bounce back from, think instead that you have the opportunity to employ the following get-better strategies. If you are unsure where to start, I have included some of my own examples that I used to help keep the Loneliness Monster at bay. You will see that whenever we show ourselves kindness and be proactive about taking back our lives, we are embracing the Love Mindset.
Ask yourself: When do I feel lonely? Are there certain events that trigger this emotion for me?
Do not spend too much time on this part of the exercise, however. The point is to merely acknowledge your triggers so then you can move on to the Love Mindset.
I feel lonely whenever I see a little old couple holding hands walking in the park. I feel like that won’t be me.
Now comes the fun part…
Ask yourself: Who am I when I am the most happy? When am I at my best?
The Love Mindset: I feel really happy when I am around my dogs. There is a soft spot in my heart for rescue dogs and I have always wanted to volunteer there.
The Love Mindset: All my worries seem to disappear when I am working hard in yoga class. I love how it makes me feel and how it forces me to focus on breathing and listening to my body. At the end of the class, I always feel relieved and ready to take on the world.
Discovering what brings out the best in you and what makes you happy doesn’t have to cost money. It does, however, mean that you will have to be introspective and honest with yourself. It can be hard to dig deep, but I promise you that it is worth it because you feeling better and being happy is worth it.
Okay, so now that you know what triggers your loneliness, and also what makes you feel happy and the best version of yourself, we need to bridge that gap with the final step.
Ask Yourself: What can I do right now to summon that amazing part of me? That part that will help me through those periods of loneliness?
The Love Mindset: The next time I am triggered seeing pictures of other couples, I am going to look up volunteering opportunities at the local animal shelter instead. My time and energy are better served helping those in need, and who on earth can feel lonely while they are taking care of pups and kitties who need a good home?
The Love Mindset: The house feels so empty and I am starting to feel alone. But I remember there’s that new museum exhibit I’ve been wanting to see. Why don’t I check the hours and go tomorrow?
See how that exercise works?
Recognize that you deserve to be happy and understand that spending quality time by yourself and in a life that is rich with ideas and hobbies and things that excite and inspire you—and have absolutely nothing to do with having a partner—can heal you. Being open to all the wonderful things this word can offer—and fully acknowledging that you are in this world to explore them—is the antidote to loneliness. When you begin the love story with yourself, you always have someone at your side.
One of the many things we struggle with as we learn to recover from a divorce is learning how to rebuild our self-esteem.
It’s easy to understand why this is such an issue. When your marriage ends, you may feel rejected. You may feel unworthy. You sit crying on your coach, a pint of Ben & Jerry’s at hand, wondering why your partner does not love you anymore. You may think, as you’re stumbling through the list of to-do’s and stress of everything else going on in your life, that nobody will ever find you attractive and worthy of love.
But I am here to tell you to knock it off, because it’s simply not true.
Never forget for a second that you are strong and beautiful.
So, today, as we get a quick lesson on rebuilding our self-esteem, you need to embrace the following self-esteem revelation.
What happened to you does not define you.
Ending a marriage, or any relationship for that matter, is not fun. It causes us to question who we are, what we thought our life was, and where we are in this universe. We tend to define ourselves solely within the terms of being a partner and we become dependent on that position as a mean to validate ourselves. We start to place our entire value on being a spouse, rather than putting that focus on something healthy—the independent, kind person that you are.
So it’s no surprise that our self-esteem shatters when the one pillar we have used to define ourselves goes away. We make this false connection that end of a relationship = bad unworthy person. It’s no wonder why you’re feeling like crap.
But think about this for a second. When you stumbled and sprained your ankle that one time, the way you defined yourself didn’t go negative just because your ankle hurt. And if you were ever in a car accident, or if you have ever been hospitalized, you didn’t tie your identity and your self-worth into that one event happening in your life. Hell no. You knew that it was an inconvenience, but you were soon back to life.
So, why don’t you treat your divorce the same way? Sure, this is a hiccup in your life. But that doesn’t mean that you are any less of a person, or somehow not worthy or self-respect and love because you’re going through this situation. It’s quite the opposite. The fact that you have the grace to navigate through this stressful time, and the strength to carry on and taking care of everything else you have going on speaks volumes of your character, of your intellect, and your all-around awesomeness. You should applaud yourself for the amazing job you’re doing and give yourself credit.
But if you’re still struggling with rebuilding your self-esteem, I understand. And because it can be difficult to change your mindset, I have a few exercises for you!
Reclaiming your Self- Esteem Exercise: Embracing the fact that you’re amazing.
Step 1: List all the things that you’re good at.
Don’t be shy with this one! Every day, you no doubt accomplish things that would cause others to whimper—things that you most likely don’t give yourself credit for. But it’s time to change that. What are things that you know you rock at? This has nothing to do with bragging or being immodest. Acknowledging your awesome skills is an important step to nurture yourself.
If you need some inspiration, take a look at my examples below.
My friends say I’m a good listener.
I’m a go-getter and know how to take initiative.
I’m good at plan things and getting stuff done.
Now it’s your turn! And if you can’t think of many things all at once, come back to this exercise to continue listing all of the amazing stuff you’re good at.
Step 2: List all the things that you love about yourself.
Many times, we struggle with celebrating the great stuff about ourselves. Many of us were taught to be modest, and that it was wrong and extravagant to “toot our own horn.” But that misguided thinking meant that many of us weren’t taught how to be self-confidence and to hold ourselves in the high regard that we should. But it’s not too late to kick that negative thinking aside and start acknowledging how beautiful and amazing we really are. So, here are some examples to inspire you!
I love my long hair.
I love to read.
I love to explore new things.
I love that I am a good cook and know how to entertain.
See how easy it is? How about you? What do you love about yourself? Some things may come to you later, so it’s okay to come back to this list as often as you need to!
Step 3: The next time your self-esteem bothers you, how will you incorporate Step 1 and 2 to neutralize the Self Esteem Monster?
The next time my self-esteem starts playing tricks on me, I will consciously stop myself and remind myself of two things that I am good at, and two things that I love about myself, turning this negativity into kindness. As an example…
Now that my relationship is over, who in the hell would ever want me?
STOP. I am kind. I am a good friend. And I’m damn good at my profession.
I feel so stupid—this break-up is all my fault.
STOP. I did my best. I have a good heart. I have much to contribute to this world. This a break-up does not define me.
Okay, now it’s your turn! Are there self-esteem issues that you deal with when it comes to recovering from your relationship? What types of thought do you have when you are not feeling confident?
And, more importantly, what kind, loving messages will you start to tell yourself as you begin to repair your self-esteem?
Remember that no matter what anybody has told you in life, you are enough. You are worthy of respect and love. And you are stronger and smarter than you can imagine.
Martha Bodyfelt is a CDC Certified Divorce Coach® whose website “Surviving Your Split” helps readers navigate their divorce with less stress and drama, so they can move on with their lives. For your Free Divorce Goddess Recovery Kit, stop by http://survivingyoursplit.com/ or drop Martha a line at email@example.com.