I spoke to a new client today. She’s never spoken to a coach and hadn’t been to a therapist to help process and understand the feelings she’s been having since her divorce. She was pretty confused and scared; life still hadn’t settled down on a good path. I asked a few pointed questions: “had there been physical abuse? drug use? alcohol?” I always want to know what addictions might be present in breaking up a marriage – no one can ever come between a user and their vice. And, because kids need to be protected from a parent who uses, there’s usually a lot of extra stress for the parent who doesn’t use.
I remember those lonely, frightening days when I didn’t understand what divorce was (despite my numerous experiences, each one was unique). I like to joke with clients asking… “when you were walking down the aisle, did anyone take you to divorce school?” Didn’t think so. (And I’m not talking about a prenup!) So, how are you to understand what it’s all about and how you’re going to feel? When I asked her that question, the pause was palpable. Of course, no one had told her what divorce would be like! Just like no one can understand how divorce feels by watching a movie or reading a book either.
FYI: during a divorce, you’re going to feel like shit. It goes with the experience: shitty, sad, scared, lonely, horny, lost, confused… basically, all the base emotions. You’ve got to grieve!
Amidst all the grieving you’re going to get a lot of “proximity advice” from people who have no idea what it feels like to be you going through your divorce with your soon to be ex-partner! You’ll be told to form boundaries and to “get on the bench” (aka: not date). You’ll focus intensely on your children when you have them and screw like rabbits when you don’t. You’ll feel whipped about by your feelings and most of the time simply be overwhelmed and confused. (News flash: this goes for men and for women.)
Welcome to Divorce.
It’s not a cliché, easy experience even though so many people go through it. It’s not a one-off or something you can easily avoid processing with distractions like dating, having sex, drinking, volunteering or focusing intently on kids or on work. Divorce is our modern day rite of passage. It is a deeply personal period of growth, a recalibrating of how you see yourself in the world. A time of reflection, assessment, and loads of courage. If you don’t have any, you fake it. If you’ve never considered your life, you start. If you’ve never owned up to your stuff, you do. Otherwise, the pain and confusion, and anger last way too long.
Assessing your life goes with cataloging personal assets and figuring out your net worth. (It’s important to know where you are because you won’t stay there.) As you gain experience and perspective, keeping yourself balanced and as calm as possible, you’ll want to work out and to pray or meditate regularly. Your health will suffer if you don’t head to an MD or better yet, a more holistic healer. This is the time to give yourself attention, guidance, and lots of TLC to really grow.
I’m not saying that free advice with a Pastor, a coach, or a therapist won’t help. Any or all could help. But know this: you and your soul have done the best they could: your marriage is over, you live with your kids half the time, you’re less wealthy than you were, and it’s time to rework your future. In other words, if you do your work, you’ll be on to greater, deeper developments and a whole new experience. And most likely, you’re afraid of what you’re going to find out. Which is where creating courage (and a lot of faith) comes in. You need both to imagine being different.
Please trust you’re being led to a bigger life. Not something to fear (even though change is always fearful). A grander version of who you’ve known yourself to be. I do not know if a new lover is in your future or if you’ll be poor. I do know that you haven’t yet learned what and why your divorce occurred and what you need to learn about yourself, and what you’re doing here on this planet to grow. I do know that when a soul wants to grow (with or without being the one to initiate the breakdown in the marriage) a soul will push and push, and push until the person grows.
As you move forward, remember that no lover will absolve you from your personal work. No child or responsibility, no cigarette or drink. You are onto something new. I encourage you to seek wisdom and guidance, to ask for help the way you’ve started here. Know you are safe, that you are on the right path. You will find your way and you will figure out what’s in store for you for the remainder of your life!
Laura Bonarrigo understands divorce. For most of Laura’s life, divorce dictated who she was. Her first divorce occurred at the age of 7 – her parents’ – and she has spent most of her life thinking about or healing from the experience. She married young and divorced in her early twenties when most people are just beginning to think about marrying. Then two decades later, after 15 years of marriage to her second husband and the father of her children, the stakes were higher and the decision more difficult. Through a lot of soul searching she ultimately knew the best thing for her family was for this second marriage to dissolve. 3 divorces have forced Laura to learn the hard lessons of forgiveness, understanding & patience. See http://www.laurabonarrigo.com to learn more about and from Laura Bonarrigo.