5 Steps to Heal from Divorce

If you find yourself in the traditional divorce situation against your will it’s extremely difficult.  If you find yourself in a traditional divorce situation voluntarily, because you are the one filing for divorce; you have a lot of input on how the divorce goes and you should be responsible with your role regardless of why you are filing for divorce.  There is no room for retaliation.  There is no room for backstabbing, set-ups, poor words or threats at this point.  All these divorce emotions paired with poor actions are ruining your chance for closure, emptying your bank account and indirectly hurting your loved ones.  There has been enough hurt up until this point to last two lifetimes.  Get off the treadmill, stop spending money and start healing from divorce by following these steps:

  1. Fire your attorney. If your divorce has lasted over 2 years, your attorney is running the meter and does not care about you or your family.
  2. Get your finances in order. Retail therapy is only exacerbating your stress and those consumption feelings are short lived, but the endless credit card debt lasts years and years.
  3. Be willing to compromise. Compromise in every place of your divorce; finances, assets, debts, custody arrangements, etc.  There is a best-case scenario and it does not involve you getting everything.  The best-case scenario is a fair agreement, so there is no bitterness.  The more you lack compromise the longer your divorce.  Do not have a “my way or the highway” attitude.
  4. Get therapy. If your spouse claims there are issues you are avoiding.  Guess what?  There are issues you are avoiding.  If you are still acting the same way you did when you first filed for divorce that’s a clear sign there are issues.  Those issues need to be processed and discussed in a safe environment.  Therapy is that safe place.  It’s good for you and if you have children they will benefit from it.
  5. Harness your words. Words bring life and they can bring death.  It is words that probably put the first arrows in your marriage in the first place.  To heal, you need to follow this communication rule “Say only what is absolutely necessary.”

There is no way you can start healing from your divorce if the above steps are ignored.  If you ignore the steps, you are choosing to prolong the pain.  That choice is a selfish one, because divorce impacts everyone in your immediate circle and beyond.  If you have children you are purposely harming them as well. Fire your attorney, get your finances in order, compromise, get therapy and harness your words.  It’s time to move on.  It’s time to take the high road.  It’s time to heal.

Family Law – The Desert for Raw Emotions

If you’re considering divorce, please reconsider. Make your spouse a priority, work on your marriage and above all avoid the Family Law desert, especially if there is no abuse in your marriage.

The best deterrent to ending your marriage is the Family Law system.  Family Law itself is the greatest punishment inflicted on married couples in their lifetime.  Of course, married couples don’t realize the doom that awaits until they decide to divorce.  The person looking for the divorce wants to immediately end whatever disruption that is in the marriage by severing the relationship with the other person; however, this feeling to separate to end the pain of the relationship does not justify the divorce, but demonstrates that person’s inability to cope, adapt, change and most of all forgive and bounce back.  In cases of abuse it is much different.  Often the one being abused doesn’t divorce, because they are controlled by their abuser or they think it is against their religion.  The brave punching bags (people that are at the mercy of their spouse’s fists or flying objects, verbally abusive words, psychological games and abuse, neglect or isolation or withholding stimulation such as conversation for extended periods of time), these people are extremely tough victims that have the courage to file for divorce.

Abusers rarely file for divorce because they like controlling their victims and divorcing defeats their sick passion for control or domination.  If they divorce there is no one left to control, belittle and put down to make themselves feel better (abusers have low self-esteem).   In some cases, the victim can convince their abuser to divorce them if their abuser is extremely concerned with public perception or the abuser is hiding something they do not want public.  The abuser will sometimes file to have perceived control over the outcome of divorce thus giving them the upper hand or saving their reputation.  Many states have adopted no-fault divorce to keep the situation surrounding the divorce quiet; however, if you’re married to an abuser they will be sure to use their abusing tactics whether or not the state is no-fault, so be forewarned, abuse does not go away in a divorce or during the separation process it just takes on a different form.  Liberal states do not care about abuse in a divorce case unless there are criminal cases attached and the abuser has a criminal record.

The Family Law system is incredibly broken.  Some states like Mississippi still do not have no-fault in their divorce proceedings; however, recently they passed a Domestic Abuse Reform bill according to The Clarion Ledger – Part of the USA Today Network.  However, even this amendment doesn’t account for numerous kinds of abuse that occur in families (neglect, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, etc.).  Additionally, what if there is ongoing abuse of the children within the relationship by one spouse?  In liberal states, the courts do not care unless it is so bad there is a criminal case and conviction.  Best interest of the child doctrine is only used loosely in liberal states and IS NOT LAWBecause best interest of the child is not law, judges are not required to follow it.  Absurd, right?  Child Protective Services or Child Welfare Services or all the other state variations that name the agency that steps in to supposedly prevent child abuse (every state and even county have a different child abuse prevention agency), will only get involved if the situation is bad enough to remove the children from both parents.  The general consensus is, “keep the children in the home, because the foster care system makes things even worse.”

Men, if your wife is deranged and you can see your children have been neglected; however, your wife has no criminal background you will not get sole custody of the children.  Women, if your husband is abusing you and the children and there is no criminal documentation of the incidents you will not get sole custody of the children.  Men and Women who have zero abuse in your relationship, please DO NOT go to court and claim there is abuse.  One of the main reasons men and women in abusive relationships are not protected by the system, because people are notorious for lying and duping the system to one-up their spouses.  DO NOT be these people, you are hurting others indirectly and you are hurting your children if you have children.  Divorce elicits a number of jungle emotions that are unhealthy for a family which is another reason why divorce should be your last resort if there’s no abuse.

If you’re considering divorce, please reconsider.  Make your spouse a priority, work on your marriage and above all avoid the Family Law desert, especially if there is no abuse in your marriage.  If you are in an abusive relationship, get out.  There are many resources online that can help you define whether you are in an abusive relationship; Family Services is one of many.  Some abuse can be mended with counseling; however, unless the abuser truly finds God or there’s an act of God that makes the abuser change, like they get struck by lightning or have a near death experience the likelihood of change on their own will either be a trap (manipulation) or behavior modification that will only last for a season.

5 Stages of Grief in Divorce – here’s the clincher, they’re still living

There is no way to grasp the concept of divorce until your entire person is submerged and it does in fact feel like DEATH within an emotional jungle; however, every hiccup in the process feels like they are continually dying.  This constant dying situation creates a sense of alternate reality.  There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for anyone involved which leads to difficulty moving from one stage of grief to another with bouts of despair in between (length of time in one stage varies by individual); and for others, there was so much turmoil in the relationship under one roof, the separation leads to immediate acceptance due to the stark contrast in daily living.  However, the acceptance people are not out of the woods; they end up experiencing every stage of the grief sequence as time goes on in a different order. Let’s jump in and talk about the 5 Stages of Grief from losing a loved one from divorce.

First Stage – Denial

It doesn’t seem real at first.  In some cases, it will never seem real; you feel like you are in a perpetual revolving door.  Some questions that you’ll ask yourself include: is this happening? Tomorrow I am going to wake up and things will be different, right?  He or she doesn’t really mean it.  How can this be happening to me?  It almost feels like an out of body experience or a bad dream.

 Second Stage – Anger

No matter what side you are on.  Whether you are filing for a divorce (petitioner) or responding to a divorce (respondent).  This is true for both sides.  Inside you feel like you are going to boil over or explode from the other person’s actions and words.  No matter what don’t be THAT person.  Take steps to prevent that from happening.  Find an outlet for your anger.  Sometimes it helps to scream at the top of your lungs when no one is around or put ten times the effort into your workout that day, when your lifting weights or when your jabbing and upper-cutting put all your energy into the action.  Anger stems from being out of control, could also originate from betrayal and/or the natural response to the instigating spouse.  The Family law system also triggers anger, because it is so incredibly broken and no one seems to care.

Third Stage – Depression

No one is immune to this stage.  There are so many reasons why this stage is unavoidable.  Your life as you know it gets turned upside down.  If you have children, they are extra irritable from the divorce and it is difficult to identify whether their behavior is from abuse or the instant transition which makes you even more depressed.  Your eyes glaze over.  You can’t sleep.  You sleep too much.  You can’t eat, because you have no appetite or you overeat to increase the feel-good hormones like serotonin. Your limbs at times feel like they each weigh a ton.  You don’t want to experience anything good, but instead want to wallow in your misery.  The sudden departure of your loved one leaves a void of presence, even if that presence was rarely good most of the time.  Holidays and birthdays are especially challenging at first, because your family and friends also must make the adjustment.  No one really wants to talk about the divorce, but it is looming in the background of everything you do which also contributes to the grey cloud that seems to hang over your head.

Fourth Stage – Bargaining

Someone in some relationships always wants the other one back (that’s not the case in my experience).  Spouses will make threats, they will beg, they will plead with you to change in the hope of getting back together.  I think of this stage as the optimist stage, because whoever goes through this stage wants things the way they used to be and will say or do anything to get the other spouse to comply or bend to accommodate their need to be together again.  They want to sacrifice something for the good of the relationship and are willing to put everything on the line at this point to make it happen.  If you’ve responded to a bargaining spouse, let me know what that is like in the comments.

Fifth Stage – Acceptance

You finally feel relief in this stage and a hint of sadness.  Some people may even feel a level of happiness and wholeness or resolve at this point.  You no longer feel like your spouse is controlling you and you are confident that you will no longer be manipulated by your spouse, because as time progressed you became stronger and resistant to their old ways.  At this stage, you come to terms with your divorce and know that the divorce happened for a reason.  You no longer want your spouse to be yours.  You no longer feel the need to continue arguments.  You no longer let your estranged spouse impact your state of mind.  At this point you are ready to begin life again, and holy cow, it feels amazing.

The most difficult part of the 5 Stages of Grief (denial, anger, depression, bargaining & acceptance) is reaching continuous acceptance, because the other person is still alive and well.  If you’re able to move or minimize encounters, this helps; however, if you have children it is almost impossible.  If the person changes and becomes civil and respectful there’s lots of promise that acceptance will be maintained.  Sometimes you hear of stories where the parents have this jaw dropping co-parenting arrangement that they even take annual pictures together like the CBS News story or live together; these people aren’t human, do not believe the hype.  In fact, the alternate reality scenario is even more relevant in divorce situations where the parents somehow stay active in each other’s lives and can’t seem to move on with their life.  Don’t be that parent, you’re not helping the children, but giving them false hope.  The emotional jungle is intense as you keep reliving the 5 Stages of Grief; this is normal, keep working through it each day is a new day.

Divorce? BEWARE, it’s an emotional jungle.

Emotions in a divorce are far more intense than emotions during an unhappy marriage. If a person has a challenging time with their emotions (this can be described as: difficulty expressing emotions verbally or physically, avoids emotional encounters, has sudden outbursts, acts passive aggressively, etc.) they are going to have a rude awakening and a hefty attorney bill if they find themselves in the middle of a divorce. Here are some suggestions on how to navigate the emotional divorce jungle.

The emotions in divorce are intense; so much so, the people in the middle of divorce are not themselves.  The friends and family of people that are divorcing get pulled into the dissolution and even their emotions are affected.  Some friends divorce their friends for going through a divorce, others stop communication altogether and if the divorcing parties are lucky, there will be a handful of people in their lives that stick by them to listen; because they are loyal friends with emotional intelligence.  Emotions in a divorce are far more intense than emotions during an unhappy marriage.  If a person has a challenging time with their emotions (this can be described as: difficulty expressing emotions verbally or physically, avoids emotional encounters, has sudden outbursts, acts passive aggressively, etc.) they are going to have a rude awakening and a hefty attorney bill if they find themselves in the middle of a divorce.  Here are some suggestions on how to navigate the emotional divorce jungle.

Whatever you do, only communicate necessary information. Often, spouses and sneaky attorneys will use communication with the opposing party to manipulate them before a hearing date.  Manipulation before a hearing is multipurpose.  The attorney wants fodder, because this gives the attorney more hours to accumulate and the spouse willing to manipulate wants a leg up for control.  FYI, if one spouse antagonizes another, the court does not step in.  If one spouse manipulates the other spouse, the court does not step in.  If one spouse threatens the other spouse with conditions, if you don’t do this I won’t do that, the court does not step in.  If one spouse, harms the children according to the children, the court does not step in.  If one spouse displays, irregular forms of communication, constantly contradicts themselves and admits general guilt to something heinous, the court does not step in.  If one spouse violates a court order, amazingly the court only steps in on rare occasions even if you file a motion or ex parte.  These scenarios are all possible.  Are you scared yet?  How does this happen you ask?  It happens because no one is holding the system accountable. Only communicate necessary information, because anything more puts fuel on the fire and no one in the judicial system cares if you or your children have been injured unless a crime has been committed.

Whatever you do, turn your hot buttons off. Your spouse knows which buttons to push, when to push them, the frequency they need to be pushed and how hard they should be pushed.  Rewire your brain so those stimuli have zero impact on your response.  This is extremely difficult when divorce is new; because you are adjusting to new circumstances, but the sooner you shut the hot button circuit off the better off you’ll be.  This is especially important if you have children and you’re the custodial parent.  Divorce is the worst on children. Be sure you’re dialed in to your children’s emotions.  If you don’t turn your hot buttons off, your children will get the brunt of your emotional response that’s meant for your estranged spouse.  DO NOT let your estranged spouse have that much control!  Be in charge, 100% of the time for you and your children.  Setup boundaries in your new divorce relationship to protect your sanity, keep your emotional well-being in tact and to stay in the present.  Turning off your hot buttons is critical to minimizing collateral damage.

Whatever you do, complete as much paperwork as you can outside of court. Every hearing you have creates stress.  Every hearing costs money whether you have an attorney or not.  Every dollar that you or your spouse pays is a dollar less for the children if you have children and there is always a chance either spouse can request the court to order the other spouse pay while your case is open.  All promises that are not submitted to court and filed with the court are fly-by-night promises; so no matter what, make sure all signatures on a decision are filed with the court.  Time is valuable, court is as fun as the DMV, don’t waste those precious hours.  If you have an attorney, have them negotiate for you outside of court or try mediation for better cooperation and communication.  If your spouse is compliant and respectful, try negotiating with your spouse directly (with any outside party, there is a price-tag attached).  Most of all make it a priority to come to a decision, make concessions, make reasonable suggestions and get your division of assets wrapped up as soon as possible especially if you have children.  Don’t let the legal paperwork or family law forms be a burden, get it done outside of court.

Everyone needs to care about their neighbor’s, their friend’s, their family’s quality of life, any person can be touched by divorce directly or indirectly.  If you are considering divorce, going through a divorce or know someone who’s going through a divorce help them understand how to navigate the emotional jungle.  Divorce is one of the most difficult circumstances people deal with in life and people should not have to do it alone.  If you’re going through a divorce or know someone who is; keep these emotional strategies top of mind: communicate only necessary information, turn your hot buttons off and complete paperwork outside of court.  The emotional divorce jungle is filled with booby traps, predators and acts of God; be prepared and stay alert.