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 his or her 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. 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. During a divorce, you're likely going to feel like sh*t. It goes with the experience: sad, scared, lonely, horny, lost, confused. Basically, all the emotions.
Amidst 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 intently on your children, if you have them. You'll feel whipped about by your feelings and, most of the time, be overwhelmed and confused.
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 avoid processing through indulging distractions like dating, sex, drinking, volunteering, or focusing intently on kids or 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 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, confusion, and anger last way too long.
Assessing your life includes 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, 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. But know this: you and your soul have done the best they could; your marriage is over, your time with your children may have been reduced, you're less wealthy than you were, and it's time to rework your future. In other words, if you put in the effort, it will lead to greater, deeper developments and a whole new experience. Trust that you're being led to a grander version of who you've known yourself to be.
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. Know that 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.
Written by Laura Bonarrigo
Laura Bonarrigo understands divorce. For most of Laura’s life, divorce dictated who she was. Her first divorce occurred at the age of seven—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. Three divorces have forced Laura to learn the hard lessons of forgiveness, understanding and patience. Visit www.LauraBonarrigo.com to learn more.