It’s not uncommon to feel a variety of emotions as you go through your divorce. Days of excitement about this new chapter will unfold alongside days of fear, shame, worry and grief. Emotions that you didn’t expect will bubble up, ranging from nostalgia to uncertainty. The ups and downs are normal and healthy as you process this significant life change.
Clients at Center for Shared Insight in Denver Colorado who are contemplating or going through a divorce are often challenged to define their narrative as they experience these various feelings. In this post, we help you identify, clarify, and own your story as you go through the divorce process.
Own Your Feelings
Sometimes, having conflicting feelings about a divorce can be challenging to navigate. If you did not initiate the divorce, you may be feeling resentful and avoidant of the legal, financial and emotional steps that are unfolding, feeling a loss of control over the process. You may feel blindsided, abandoned, cheated and wronged, and want things to be right. It may be hard to look at your relationship more accurately for some time, seeing some of the ways it wasn’t working for you both. Or, you may feel convicted about your decision and ready to move on, but societal influences will likely make you question your decision to get a divorce and contemplate the ways being divorced will impact your future. External influences may also make you feel as if you failed, due to a more collective, societal narrative around divorce.
While you are processing a full spectrum of emotions, consider what feelings you can confidently own versus those that are learned or adapted because of the preconceived perception of divorce in the world. Be willing to name what you are truly experiencing and, just as importantly, what you are not, as your divorce unfolds.
Shift the Narrative
Once you can clearly state how you feel about your divorce, work to shift your narrative. For example, if it’s now clear to you that you don’t feel like you “failed in your marriage” what is the story that you are prepared to own? Perhaps it is that, oftentimes, it takes more courage to leave than to stay in a bad relationship. Or, it may be that you have a new set of values and perspective today that you didn’t have on the day you married your (soon to be) ex-spouse, and therefore this change is a step in the right direction.
Letting go of shame and blame as you own your narrative is important. If you need six months of weekly individual or group therapy to work through your divorce, own that with pride. If you need a month (or months) to talk it through with your friends while shedding nightly tears, admitting that “divorce is difficult”, that’s ok too. The process of healing and moving on can take many forms and look very different from person to person, so if you aren’t handling things like your friend or coworker did (better or worse), let that be okay too.
While we don’t want to minimize the real difficulties with the changes that divorce entails, reframing the narratives can help with adjusting to the changes. Instead of viewing co-parenting as a stressful experience for your child, it’s ok to try it and see opportunities for learning resiliency and for you to learn that you might be a better half-time parent than full-time one. While initially challenging, it’s possible your kids might even be happier having the full attention of each parent more regularly. Don’t accept the messages you may have heard your whole life about divorce and instead, be willing to experience it for yourself.
Overcome External Perspectives
Along with letting go of self-defeating stories during this time, you may have to fight the messages you are receiving from others as you work to own your story. You may hear things like “you are going to mess up your life or damage your relationship with your kids”. Don’t accept this messaging from your ex, your friends, or your family if they are not aligned with your personal beliefs and narrative about your divorce.
Lastly, if you are in a new, post-divorce relationship with a healthy individual, they will not make you feel bad about your divorce and they may even help you craft that narrative from a more objective perspective. If your new partner isn’t supporting you in that way, consider it a red flag and look closely at why they may be responding in that way.
At Center for Shared Insight, we help clients define a healthy narrative around their divorce and work with them to recognize that their process of accepting and working through their divorce is completely normal. While offering resources and strategies to help them work through the details of what they are experiencing, they can truly own their divorce story as one that is unique and empowering.