If your divorce has lasted longer than a year, you will eventually stumble upon divorce agony. There are so many emotions that are wrapped up in divorce. I have described them as an emotional jungle and the 5 stages of grief, but once your divorce hits the long-term divorce mark such as over a year you will eventually reach divorce agony. When you have been in a period of prolonged pain that twists your insides into new shapes, this feeling is agony. The pain is intensified if the estranged spouse is an abuser (neglectful, emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, etc.).
Divorce agony is like a wild horse confined to a cage and looking out to see a beautiful green pasture beyond its reach; the longing to be free is a desire that goes unsatisfied. Confinement creates a sense of claustrophobia. Things are cramped. Space is closing in. Turning around and around, but there is nowhere to go, but to stand in the same place looking out from the same viewpoint. Sweet scents come in on the breeze which provide some minor relief; however, no real resolution to the situation. There are moments when freedom seems obtainable; maybe someone from the outside looking in gives a glimmer of hope, however the moments are short lived and quenched quickly with reality.
Divorce with children is that reality in a contested divorce. Divorce with children are those steel bars that do not seem to go away. Children themselves do not create the steel bars that pin in the wild horse that longs to be free, the courts do. The divorce industry calls these steel bars coparenting. These steel bars are the constant reminder of the divorce state of your life. The issues that caused the divorce in the first place are still active and relived through coparenting and regular interaction with the person that caged you in the first place which creates agony. Coparenting itself is not the problem; however, the system does not customize coparenting according to relationship challenges. Happy coparenting cannot and will not exist in a contested divorce, do not be fooled. Also, it is common for a divorce to morph from an amicable divorce to a contested divorce very quickly when emotions run hot, be very careful there is no way to predict the outcome or plan for this switch.
Everyone will respond to divorce agony in their own way. If you are susceptible to substance abuse, stay clear of any situation that will expose you or tempt you. Do not let divorce agony impact your relationship with your child or children. If you can afford counseling consider it and schedule it. If you cannot afford counseling find an outlet, so that you are not facing this dreadful emotion alone. By joining a divorce group, talking with friends, starting a new hobby, writing or journaling you can better cope with divorce agony and tame the wild horse.
Abuse is probably more accurately described as the human condition. Relationships and divorce act as catalysts that make the abuse remnants bubble to the surface. People that go through a divorce face the flawed human condition head on. These interactions are cyclical. Past child abuse in whatever the form impacts the developing brain and as adults without mindfulness spills over into all relationships especially those who are close to us. It’s imperative that we ALL rise above relationship abuse, divorce abuse and child abuse.
Rising above something that is difficult to identify personally or something that usually is an involuntary response to environmental stressors is almost impossible to do without help. The brain is one of the most complex organs in the human body and brain surgeons are still stumped by most of its functioning. Do not under estimate the power of awareness; the ability to redirect thought processes, and reprogramming learned (subconscious or conscious) behavior. Eventually everyone is affected by abuse indirectly or directly; know how to help someone when they need help and know how to help yourself. The first step in helping everyone with abuse is acknowledging there is a problem and having the willingness to work together to address the problem (if you are facing life threatening abuse call 911 immediately and extract yourself from the situation). Leave the blame game at the door, shed the negativity jacket and take off your angry shoes. Listen. Talk slowly. Allow others’ input without feeling their input is a put-down or a disrespectful interruption. Rising above is absolutely critical if you are a parent.
- Everyone needs to acknowledge there is a problem. Avoiding a problem makes the problem worse. Avoiding a problem seems easier on the surface; however realistically avoidance leads to more dysfunction – the relief you get by avoiding is a lie and only temporary. If avoidance is used as a solution, the problem will manifest itself in a multitude of ways down the road.
- Everyone needs to take RESPONSIBILITY. If you have not been abused directly, you will eventually come across and interact with someone who has been abused. If you have been abused directly you will have triggers that bring up past experiences that impact your present relationships. DO NOT LET YOUR PAST control your present (easier said than done). People that have not been abused directly have a responsibility to everyone in their lives to rise above and lead by example. It is your job to be COMPASSIONATE. It is your job to LISTEN. It is your job to CREATE A SAFE PLACE for interaction. People that have been abused, may not remember their past or why they feel the way they do in certain situations.
- Everyone needs to check their emotions. Everyone has moments of weakness. It is critical to stop the cycle of abuse by being present and recognize when these moments are unfolding.
- Are you unusually irritable?
- Are you experiencing level 10 anger?
- Are you abnormally tired?
- Do you have a short fuse?
- Do you flinch when certain things happen?
If you or someone articulates they are struggling in the above areas and you recognize it and/or hear them say it, STOP and LISTEN. Neutralize the situation by being calm and sympathetic. Reacting appropriately in these situations creates stronger relationships.
Practicing the 3 ways to rise above abuse in your personal life will break old patterns and restore equilibrium. If you are a parent have your children practice these as well, so they can react appropriately. In some cases, abuse may be extreme and these 3 ways to help will not be enough in your circumstances, do not pacify your situation or explain your situation away. Reach out for help from your local community. Do not isolate yourself from others. Do not only reach out to one person. One person will not have all the answers and it is good to have support in all areas of your life. End the crazy cycle of abuse, you will be a trailblazer in a world where everyone typically lives for themselves, rise above abuse in ALL relationships by acknowledging the problem, taking responsibility and checking your emotions.