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April 15, 2013

Holding On To Calm In The Midst Of A Divorce

Image: Flickr/Mario Antonio  Pena Zapateria

Image: Flickr/Mario Antonio Pena Zapateria

Of all the subjects to write a blog post about, this one is probably my least favorite. I say least favorite because it is so stinking difficult to write about. What is it that I am referring to? Divorce. There, I said it. Divorce. One more time for good measure.
As one who loves and appreciates the bond of marriage and as a Marriage and Family Therapist/Coach, writing about such a subject requires me to enter into a realm that heightens my anxiety. That’s because it’s unfamiliar territory for me personally. Sure, I’ve had clients that have gotten divorced, and I’ve helped to coach them through it. I’ve even had close family members to engage in the legal process of marital termination, but I’ve never gone down the road myself and…I don’t plan on it.
Divorce is a reality for many. You likely already know the statistics. Nearly half of all marriages end in divorce, and nearly one million children are affected by it. I seek not to try and give you advice here in this post on “how not to get divorced” or “what to do when getting divorced,” rather, I seek to tackle another alarming statistic that harms both the divorcee and their children. The statistic is this: 1/3 of all divorced parents remain bitter and hostile toward each other several years after the divorce.
When tensions are at their highest and the emotional vitriol is spewing, how can one remain cool and calm? How can someone be ScreamFree through a divorce?
1) Above all Else, Be an Adult  
This will be one of the most challenging things you will have to do. Why? Because you are facing what is probably the most difficult time in your life.  Dealing with a divorce which could have been brought on by a myriad of reasons, some of which may have hurt and stung you to your core, is hard. It’s an adult issue that requires a mature approach. When it happens to come up or rears its ugly head in a relationship, our initial thought is usually to react or lash out in some way throughout the divorce process. Does this get you what you want most? Probably not. However, your intentional adult-like behavior can invite the same in your partner. Even if they don’t accept your invitation to adulthood, your integrity will thank you for it.
2) Ask the Difficult Questions
Asking yourself questions has a two-pronged benefit. First, they make you slow down; they create the opportunity for you to just pause, think and reflect. This is a tremendous benefit especially because we are often so prone to just react. Slowing down helps you to calm down.
The second benefit that can be derived from asking questions, especially the difficult ones, is that the answers you receive are from one of the two experts in this situation, you – with your spouse being the other. But remember, I said the questions could be difficult. When things are difficult, you may want to blow them off, but that response will not serve you. Walk toward those difficult questions, for there is powerful insight within them.
Ask questions like:
How did we get here?
Regardless of what happened, divorce is the reality for both of you.
What was my part in what brought us to this point? 
Many times, those who go through a divorce will feel inclined to only see the other person’s part in what went wrong. Even if the final straw was an act conducted by your partner, separate yourself from running toward the facts of what last happened to the process of what was happening all along. What was your part in it? Many family systems therapists have said that any pattern that persists in any relationship has two partners that are contributing to its existence.
How do I want to be through this new reality? 
If you are here, this is what divorce is – your new reality. Since that is the case, how do you want to be? Non reactive? Kind despite your pain? Loving regardless of your hurt? Attentive to your children? An example? Once you decide, actively focus your attention on getting there.
3) Build Your Support System
Anger, sadness, disappointment, feelings of failure and frustration, these are all emotions that are typically felt by those going through a divorce. You might experience any of these or a combination of all of those plus 100 more. Without a doubt, you are going to feel something. The question then becomes, “What are you feeling exactly?” Further, once that question is asked, you will need to identify what you are going to do with the feelings you are experiencing. How will you process all of those feelings?
My encouragement for you is to seek unbiased, therapeutic help. I am not discounting family and friends, but the truth is that we often we seek validation when we turn to those we love. They may feel obliged to give it to us because they love us. A therapist or coach can walk shoulder to shoulder with you to keep you focused on what you want most. They can keep those challenging questions before you to help you reconcile all of what took place within the walls of your marriage, as well as what the next steps need to be in order for you to truly move on.
None of this will be easy. If divorce is your reality then you have a difficult road ahead of you. This is something that you already know, but I believe the peace you seek is available once you learn to just stay calm.
Divorce can be a violent storm. Hold on. Calm can be yours.


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