CALIFORNIA PSYCHOTHERAPEUTIC RESOURCES, INC.
PATRICIA MCTAGUE-LOFT, MS, LMFT, FAPA, SAP
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Posted on: December 31, 2017
Most divorcing people are forced to come to terms with a number of fears. What will people say?
Who can I trust to talk to? How can I handle my partner’s anger toward me? How do I deal with my own anger? Am I a complete failure? How can I be a single parent? Will I be able to keep my children? What about money? Can I do the banking and buy groceries and pay bills and fix the car? Can I handle my loneliness? Am I completely unlovable? Will I ever love anyone else again? Do I have the energy for this much change? When we hold on to our fears and refuse to do anything about them, we increase the likelihood that these will be the very areas where we experience trouble.
The loneliness one experiences at the time of divorce can feel immeasurable. The finality of the marriage, the uncertainty about the future, and the knowledge that your partner will no longer be there to comfort you or to spend time with you, can all contribute to an empty feeling that will not go away. The clue is to change loneliness to aloneness, to change the emptiness to a feeling of peace, contentment, and fulfillment. Looking into oneself and liking what one sees is a key to making the shift to aloneness. (Get into being alone. It is a precious but tenuous gift that can disappear far too quickly from one’s life.)
Divorce is a true test of just who your real friends are. It is important to draw on the emotional support of friends during a divorce. Unfortunately, many of your friends were those who knew you as a couple and they often must choose between you. Even those who try to stay neutral find it difficult. Many may feel that your divorce somehow threatens their own marriages and some friends may now find it difficult to relate to you as a single person. Not only that, but you may find it difficult to trust others during a divorce. Getting out, feeling free, and opening up to others becomes a major goal of a healthy divorce adjustment.
It is normal, and even necessary, to experience a period of grieving over the end of the relationship. You may feel depressed for some time and experience changes in your energy levels and sleeping and appetite patterns. As unpleasant as it may feel, comfort yourself with the knowledge that this is how you are saying goodbye so that you can move on to a healthier and happier future.
People in divorce usually say that they never knew they could have so much anger. The rage seems overwhelming at times. No… you are not going crazy! Think about it: you have just lost one of the most important things in your life and your partner is now in many ways your enemy. You have a lot to be angry about. Use this opportunity to explore your anger and to find out how it helps and hurts you. One divorce rule: don’t engage in any behaviors you will feel sorry about later on! Anger is helpful in the sense that it helps us end the loyalty and trust we used to feel for our partner, and this allows us to move on.
Think of divorce as a journey which you take one step at a time. And some of those steps are very hard to get through. Not only do we have to confront all of the stages listed above, but we must also deal with making the final break emotionally from our partner, understanding what really went wrong, learning to like ourselves again, seeing ourselves as single people, making new friends, forging new purposes and goals for our lives, and learning again about trust and love. As painful as this journey may seem at first, it can lead to a life which is better … much better.
Expect that it will take at least a year before things begin to feel at all normal again. For most of us, depending on the length and the nature of our previous relationship, it will take two or three years. This may seem like an eternity, but in reality this is a wonderful opportunity to find out who you are at this stage of your life as an unattached individual. A word of warning is in order: don’t expect to reinvolve yourself with someone else immediately! You are on the rebound. To attach yourself prematurely in a love relationship is unfair to you and to the other person. You are necessarily dealing with tremendously important personal issues when your previous love relationship comes to an end. Living through the transition and exploring these issues can be very painful, and falling in love again may seem like the perfect way to end the pain. But the other person in this case becomes a replacement, an object, and that is not what a healthy relationship is about. You will carry into this replacement relationship the same issues which helped to lead to the demise of your former relationship … and the same things may very well happen again. Your real goal is to discover who you are and to explore what happened. When you are at the point of being able to have a happy and fulfilled life as a single person, then you can choose when, or even if, you should reinvolve yourself again in another love relationship. When you know that you have that choice, you may be ready.
Divorce seems to be easiest for couples who decide mutually to end the relationship. In most cases, however, divorce involves a dumper, the party who takes the initiative to end the relationship, and a dumpee, the definition of which is quite clear. Sometimes, when one analyzes in depth the nature of the relationship (a not uncommon occurrence during a divorce!), it may be difficult to decide just who is the dumper and the dumpee. In general, however, the dumper is the one who says it is all over, and the dumpee is the one in shock who begs the other not to leave. Dumpees often say they were taken completely by surprise by the partner’s announcement.
The divorce experience is often very different for each of the two parties. The dumper usually began preparing for the divorce well before the final announcement, and the actual parting often comes as a relief for the dumper. The emotional pain over time during the course of the marriage itself usually lasts much longer for the dumper, although the upheaval at the time of the actual parting is usually not as great.
The primary emotion experienced by the dumper is guilt. The dumpee, on the other hand, is usually hit by surprise and with a great deal of pain. The turmoil of the divorce itself is usually much more intense for the dumpee, but it is this pain that can motivate more personal growth. The main task of the dumpee is to work through feelings of rejection. Both parties usually experience a great deal of pain in a divorce, although the pain of guilt is much different from the pain of rejection. For a healthy divorce adjustment it is important to recognize which role has been assumed, dumper or dumpee, and to work on the issues appropriate to that role.
Separation and divorce are incredibly difficult experiences for anyone. It often helps to have a trained professional to guide you through the process in an understanding and compassionate way. Please feel free to call for an appointment.
The newsletter from which this blog is drawn is intended to offer general information only and recognizes that individual issues may differ from these broad guidelines. Personal issues should be addressed within a therapeutic context with a professional familiar with the details of the problems. ©2017 Simmonds Publications: 5580 La Jolla Blvd., 306, La Jolla, CA 92037 Website: www.emotionalwellness.com
Posted in: Marriage Counseling
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