Starting Over Again
Part 45. Last in a Series of Articles on Adjusting to Divorce
By Harlan Jacobsen
This series will not get you from what is the most miserable time of your life to the best time of your life. Doing that is a "do it yourself" project. You can, however, do it yourself in a short time if you get on the freeway and do not get hung up in detours. This series has been a map to help you get on the freeway and give you tips on how to avoid detours.
You may be overwhelmed by your divorce and not coping because there is just too much to adjust to all at once.
We suggest you look at the coming apart and getting onto a new life like dropping a jigsaw puzzle and having to pick it up and put it back together. Initially, it looks like more than you can ever do. By just doing the obvious easy pieces first, it then becomes apparent where other easy pieces go and so on; every time you put something back together, something else falls into place. So just start putting your life back together and only start by putting back the easy pieces now.
Remember, if you have been saving all your life for a rainy day, well, this is your rainy day! Be extra good to yourself, because this will probably be the most stressful time of your life. Staying under stress for a long period ages you prematurely, takes years off your life expectancy and shuts down your immune system that normally wards off illness. Dr. Benson of Harvard says that your chances of becoming ill the year after your divorce are twelve times as great as normal. So take these steps:
First, learn how to overcome stress through meditation (T.M., for example), biofeedback, self-hypnosis, etc. (We have a self-hypnosis "Overcoming Divorce" cassette script) or other methods.
Second, treat yourself like you just came out of surgery. More rest, better food (no junk food), take extra stress tabs vitamins.
Third, spend some money on yourself (cheaper than the doctor!) and have some fun with a trip or things you always wanted to do. If you can find the money for the doctor bills, believe me, this is cheaper in the long run.
Your job, your children, your career planning and other commitments all need temporarily to take an absolute second place to your divorce recovery. Right now, recovering from your divorce is the most important thing in your life because your job, your children and perhaps your very life all depend on its success. Divorce Recovery is your first priority now.
No matter how much you needed to get out of your relationship, getting out is still painful. A drug addict or a boozer both know the drug is destroying their life, that the best thing in the world for them is to get off the drug or booze. Yet they find it almost impossible to do because they cannot stand the pain of quitting.
All relationships are addictive and no matter how much you knew the relationship was destroying you, ending the relationship will have a long, painful "withdrawal" period just as the drug addict. The drug addict says getting off the drug is like going through Hell. Getting off of a long term relationship is similar.
Pain is something you normally want to avoid at all costs. We are going to tell you, however, in your divorce case not to try to avoid it. Expect it, get into the pain of it and be really miserable and get it over with. Build up to the most miserable day of your life. Take the phone off the hook; donít answer the door. Dig out all of the old love letters, the wedding photos, everything that makes you want to cry. Spend one whole day on this uninterrupted. You will really get into the tears but before the day is over, you will be bored with the whole thing. You will be able to throw the kleenex away and get on with life.
Taking tranquilizers or booze does nothing to help you get on with life. It merely puts you on "hold" (in Miserable City) and postpones getting on with a new and better life. Drinking now does not drown your troubles, it irrigates them. You do not progress through the stages when on drugs or booze.
Whenever you canít do something you have always done, or are having to do something you have never done before (such as taking total responsibility for your own life for the first time), you will be under stress.
One of the ways most people recognize they are under stress is the little pain reading they get from their stomach. Some send down food and keep sending it down because it quiets the pangs in the stomach. Others stop eating regularly due to the pangs and lose weight. Watch what you do and deliberately counter it.
When we overload our big computer with too much "change" all at once, we usually react one of two ways. (Avoid any additional unnecessary change in your life right now)
We either 1: Withdrawóbecome inactive. Spend long hours hardly moving. Become depressed and say "take me out of the ballgame." If that was the way you responded, then take these steps:
1. Become deliberately physically active. Ride bicycle, take at least three mile walks or jog. Be consistent. Make it an every day ritual; this is important. Remember, you cannot be depressed if you use your long leg muscle extensively as above.
2. Save up your morose-time for one little half hour at a specified time per day. The rest of the time, get active and postpone going over your divorce until the specified hour.
3. Deliberately force yourself to speed up everything you do at least 20%.
Or 2: Now if you are the other way and are too tense and hyper as a result of your divorce, then you need to learn the relaxation response. You are like someone ready to run...about to be attacked. Anxiety is part of it; what happens now? Learn T.M., use the self-hypnoses cassette script, biofeedback or other methods. (We recommend you buy a copy of a paperback called The Relaxation Response by Dr. Benson.
Some misconceptions you have that are causing you problems: Erroneous programming that gives you bad feelings when played against whatís happening.
Error 1: You should have been able to make it last...that somehow you failed.
Truth: the average marriage right now is seven years. Dr. Ferson of San Francisco says that making a relationship last after it has expired is "un-do-able." The so-called "experts" on staying together have a higher divorce rate than the general public. (Our case in point is Ann Landers.)
Error 2: The best part of your life is over.
Truth: Once you learn how to manage your own life just for you (for a change), you will be amazed how you thrive. Your statement soon will be "Should have gotten divorced years ago."
Error 3: There was only one "certain person" for me and I lost them.
Truth: There are probably hundreds or even thousands that would be far better partners for you. (Get your happiness sun shining; they will find you. See #4.)
Error 4: My romantic life is over. No one any good will ever want me now.
Truth: When you get your new self-sufficient independent life together, significant opposite sex others will flock to bask in your happiness sunshine.
Error 5: I cannot stand being alone. I do not like being by myself and Iíll never get used to it or like it.
Truth: See #4óWhen you get things together, you have more people in your life than you can keep up with. Once you get past the initial shock and "used to" being alone, after you develop numerous people in your life, your most cherished, looked forward to and valuable time will be being able to be alone. After all, you are "good stuff" and darn good company for yourself.
Error 6: My childrenís lives will be ruined by this divorce.
Truth: Dr. Fersonís studies show that children growing up in single parent homes are more self-sufficient and better able to cope and handle life situations after they grow up than children from traditional two parent homes.
Error 7: You canít count on friends; they desert you just when you need them most. I just lost all of my married friends.
Truth: To marrieds, becoming single is like going communist. They just canít relate to you anymore and they fear it may be catching.
Error 8: I can never be happy as a single person: I need to be married.
Truth: You are happy doing what you are good at. You may know how, and have had years of practice being married. You need now simply to learn how and to practice and to get comfortable at being a happy, single person. There is practically nothing you cannot have as a single that you would gain by being married. Itís a program quirk.....needing to be married to be happy.
One of the greatest disappointments of divorce is loss of friends who, unfortunately, were nearly all married. What you need to do now is develop a whole network of single friends.
Get out where single friends meet, join some groups, attend regularly...see and be seen. Give people the attention and recognition that they are starved for. Become a host or hostess-type who makes things happen instead of acting like a quest in the world. Collect friends instead of stamps or salt and pepper shakers, etc. Make it a hobby and get out and practice. You are a novice at developing single friends so gain skill by practicing regularly; get out among singles (start a divorce recovery group if you canít find one) at least twice a week.
Start dating, but absolutely no mate-hunting for the first six months to a year. Remember, if you are newly divorced, romantic, involved dating adds to your stress at this time rather than lessening it, whereas you think if you could just find someone new, you wouldnít have to go through withdrawal pain, simply switching over to another drug before you finished withdrawal symptoms from the other. You need to finish your goodbyes before you get involved with serious hellos.
Most people nowadays have moved away from their support system of relatives who always used to live nearby. In addition, when you get divorced, you lose your married friends. Your support system is now near zero.
You need to get out and to develop a whole network of single friends to replace the former married friends and a "single family" to replace now far away relatives. Go to social single events where you see and get together with this singles family regularly. Continue this contact even after you develop a big significant romantic relationship. Continue going to events where you continue to meet new people. You grow as a person only through interaction with other people. Growing is painful (remember being a teenager?). You will grow more as a person the year after your divorce than you did in your last ten years of marriage.
Develop a security blanket friend (same sex or opposite), someone you can be real with, who accepts you no matter what. Someone you dump thoughts and feelings on and you know they will not club you with them later. Someone available to you whom you can call night or day and you do the same for them. Preferably, find someone a couple of chapters ahead of you in the divorce process. It is better this not be a dating relationship. Opposite sex platonic friends are great.
The financial hassle of divorce is a big part of the emotional turmoil. If you have been working together for years to build some type of standard of living and material wealth, it is painful to see it cut up. The cost of running two households is higher so almost always there is some lowering of your standard of living.
To make your finances work now, you need to:
1. Lower your standard of living (painful)
2. Up your income
Take immediate steps to do both as soon as possible. Getting your standard of living back up there and exceeding it all by yourself will give you greater satisfaction later.
You will be angry in the divorce process at your ex (and sometimes at yourself) for the following reasons:
1. Lowering your standard of living; losing what you worked hard for.
2. Not making it last like it was supposed to.
3. Denied the continuation of filling your sexual needs (especially when your ex is filling theirs nicely without you).
Anytime you have a traumatic experience (divorce is highly traumatic.), you need to be able to talk it out. Most listeners are uncomfortable hearing about your pain of divorce and derail you. Get in a divorce group or individual therapist who is trained in listening. What you do not talk out will pop out as some physical or emotional problem. You may need to talk about some traumatic things 50 to 100 times before it all makes sense, is processed and filed harmlessly away by your big computer.
To make your life work, you will need some new goals. Most people spend more time figuring out what they are going to do on a holiday weekend than they do figuring out what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Do not make the mistake of having "getting married again" as your goal now. You can certainly accomplish it, but that will not solve your problem. The new partner can still do it to you and the split will be far more traumatic than your last divorce.
When you learn to be happy and successful later on your own, then a relationship is the frosting on the cake. If they leave, they can take only the frosting this time.
One of your goals for the next six months should be to learn to and become a happy, successful single person. Implanting goals does not get rid of the butterflies in your stomach but it does get them to fly in formation. You make the rest of your life the best of your life. Figure out now what you look forward to and want to have happen in Act II. Remember, divorce is not the end of the play, only the end of Act I. During this intermission time, get your plot figured out for Act II to where you are the star. Remember, no more bit parts in someone elseís play.
You will tend to want to go back and repeat Act I with a different cast because you have experience and know how to do that. Move on to Act II.
DO NOT continue contact with the ex. Cut off all unnecessary contact.
DO NOT try to cover the pain of withdrawal symptoms with drugs or booze.
DO NOT stop eating regularly or do not overeat.
DO NOT make any promises if you start dating.
DO NOT waste or overload your big computer trying to figure out what went wrong.
DO NOT desperately try to hold onto your old married friends.
DO NOT be overly concerned about your children. They bounce. You are the one who goes "splat."
DO NOT use your children as pawns in hassles and maneuvers with your ex.
DO NOT refer to your former spouse as "my husband" or "my wife"; instead refer to them as "my ex." Important self-program changeóto let go.
DO NOT go out looking for Mr. or Ms. Right. Date but concentrate on developing a whole network of both sex single friends.
DO NOT expect one "super" friend to fill all your needs.
DO NOT go overboard on one-to-one dating until stress in your divorce is down.
DO NOT try to prove your "okayness" or desirability by trying to see how many people you can date.
DO NOT become a workaholic or try to be a "Super Mom" or "Disneyland Dad".
DO NOT let your health insurance or accident policy lapse, because your chances of coming down with an illness or having an accident are much greater than normal now.
DO NOT try to find or have one person as a friend to fill all your needs. You need dozens.
DO NOT feel you are going crazy because of the roller coaster of up and down feelings; it just comes with the territory.
DO NOT continue to rehash your divorce mentally. Stop wasting the emotionally draining energy.
Related Series: Adjusting To Single Life; Divorce, Tragedy or Opportunity, click here