While I was in the midst of my own divorce, I was convinced that my soon-to-be ex husband was my biggest enemy.
I was wrong.
In fact, in many ways, I was my own worst enemy.
I allowed myself to become consumed with things that were outside of my control. I grew increasingly frustrated with the glacial pace of the court proceedings and allowed my ex’s lack of cooperation to spark my ire. I obsessed over his new relationship, convinced that the details were important. I fixated on my desire for him to face the repercussions for his (illegal) actions and allowed the shortcomings of the legal system to derail me.
And all of those things have a single commonality – they were outside of my locus of control.
Part of what makes divorce so scary and so painful is the enormity of the changes and the scarcity of control. To make the transition easier, learn to let go of the areas you cannot control and redirect your attention to the spheres where you have influence.
What You Can’t Control
Timing of Divorce
The family courts move at their own pace. And it’s often a glacial one. It’s very easy to get frustrated and caught up with the actions (or inactions) of the professionals involved. You can ensure that your bills are paid, your paperwork is prompt and your attorney is kept apprised. And that’s where your part ends. Let go of the need for the divorce to happen on your desired timeline.
Your Spouse’s Reactions
Maybe you’re like me and you are the recipient of an unwanted divorce. Or perhaps you are the one who initiated the split and your spouse is taking the news hard. Either way, you cannot control your partner’s reactions. You can ask for discussion if they are leaving and you can act with compassion if they are. Their response is not something you can influence.
I was completely hung up on the notion of “fairness” in my divorce. I felt like it was needed for me to move on. But fairness, as we think of it, is more at home in fiction than reality and I couldn’t write it into my own life. When you’re in the emotional storm of a divorce, little will feel fair. But it’s okay. You’re alive and you’re breathing. You can go on regardless.
Limitations of Law
If your spouse acted poorly, you may be looking to the courts to provide the consequences for their actions. But that isn’t what the law is designed to do. According to the courts, your marriage is a legal contract and nothing else. You will not find any emotional healing or salvation in their halls.
Every day I receive messages from people inquiring how they get their ex to tell the truth. Or to stop dating so soon. Or to step up and be present for the kids. The difficult truth is that you couldn’t control those things while you were married and you have even less influence now. It’s difficult to go from being in someone’s everyday life to being merely a bystander. Yet the sooner you can accept that role, the happier you’ll be.
Financial and Lifestyle Impact
It’s the rare person who doesn’t take a financial and/or lifestyle hit after divorce. It can be a frustrating setback, especially when it comes on the heels of years of hard work and sacrifice. While you have to make adjustments to allow for the change, try not to expend too much mental energy on the financial losses and instead focus on what you can do to rebuild.
What You Can Control
Divorce is often a time of unwanted change and loss. You may be feeling rejected and scared, unsure in your new life. Take this opportunity to create an environment in your home (wherever that may be for now) that feels supportive and welcoming. And why stop with your physical space? Extend this idea to your friends and family as well, surrounding yourself with people that make you feel good. The investment in your environment will pay dividends in the coming months.
You can’t control the courts and you don’t write the laws, but you can educate yourself about the process so that you are not subjects to whims of the attorneys (who may or may not have your best interests in mind). It’s difficult to focus on the practical while in the midst of the emotional storm yet it’s worth the effort.
You’ve accepted that you can’t control your ex, but that doesn’t mean you have to put up with anything they have to offer. You get to decide what you will tolerate and you can communicate those boundaries and reinforce the natural consequences. It’s amazing how empowering the act of creating space can be.
Staying Out of the Storm
Like many others, my divorce was drama-filled. At first, I allowed myself to get caught up in it, the daily ups and downs dictating my emotional state. It took some time, but eventually, through a combination of mindfulness and yoga, I learned that I could refuse to allow my emotions to get caught up in the storm. The nonsense still went on but it no longer had such an influence.
Attention and Energy
Divorce’s impact is huge. It’s natural for it to occupy a large portion of your attention and energy. Be careful how much you feed it because whatever you nurture, grows. Make an effort to find other, more positive areas to direct your attention. This is a great time to recommit to a hobby or dive headfirst into a new one.
If you can control this, you are powerful beyond measure.
Attitude changes the end of the world into a new beginning. Attitude is the difference between being a victim and stubbornly flourishing in spite of the circumstances. Attitude throws away the shame and replaces it with fierce determination. Attitude can say, “This is horrible,” or it can pronounce, “I will make it through!”
And attitude determines if you focus on those things you cannot control or if you direct your attention to what you can change.
Lisa Arends is a moved-forward, re-center, re-purpose divorcee working to inspire others to do so as well. She has written the “How-To-Thrive Guide.” You can learn more about “thriving” and get other inspirations at her blog, lessonsfromtheendofamarriage.com.