I remember feeling absolutely horrible during the beginning of my divorce. Guilt, stress, and sadness would grip me to the point that it was impossible to function.
I would feel like a zombie, going through the motions, trying to occupy myself with work and lawyers and logistics, thinking I was going insane.
Friends and family tried to tell me to hold my head up high, and to be like Teflon. While I am sure they meant well, it was not until I started to dig deep—brutally-honest deep—that I realized the daily drama I was feeling was actually an illusion of my own making.
Sure, when we’re fighting back tears, hiding the wedding pictures, or catching ourselves staring and the naked tan line where the ring used to be, it can feel all too real, but the fact is we get stuck in the drama mud because we have never been been taught how to break ourselves away from it.
In my own experience, I found that the reason there is so much drama throughout the divorce process is because our frame of mind is ruled by reactive emotions, rather than by the logic the process we deserve.
Why do we get caught up in the drama?
None of us can help it. During divorce, it’s like an atomic bomb went off and we are in survival mode, doing whatever we can to make it from one day to the next. It’s no wonder we wake up every morning exhausted, having to prepare for the next argument, the next threat, the next pounding stress headache.
This mindset is certainly why I got stuck. I was reduced to thinking of things as just living from one day to the next, because my emotions and survival mode have made me think that there is no other way. This is why I get angry when I hear my ex-to-be has started to date someone new, or why I become upset or start to panic, doubting my ability to do this alone and getting through it without going insane.
Those are reactions to the end of the marriage, and those reactive feelings mold my decisions going forward. Simply put, that’s why everything I was trying to navigate—the legal stuff, the financial, the logistics, the emotions—no matter what I did or how hard I tried, felt like a mess.
But I learned it could be different. It was up to me to change those reactions.
How I learned to change my divorce mindset.
When divorce was making me feel awful, I learned that the quickest reaction to those hard feelings was an emotional reaction. And when I reacted emotionally, there was no time to step back, take a deep breath, and figure out the more logical and calm solution that I deserved.
Learning how to shift this mindset to react logically is a lifeline journey. But, starting with something simple was better than nothing. To begin with, I asked myself the following questions:
What is making me feel like crap today?
What has made me feel like crap in the past week?
What has made me feel like crap in the past month?
What has made me feel awful since the split started?
Then, I answered those questions with complete honesty. It wouldn’t work if I wasn’t true to myself:
“I’m feeling bad today because my there is just too much to do”
“This past week, I found out my ex-to-be is dating again”
“This month I visited with a lawyer and found out her retainer fee. I’m freaking out because I don’t know how I’ll afford it”
“I’m just so confused and angry and heart-broken. I feel like I’m to blame for the divorce”
How I learned to counter my toxic divorce emotions.
After listing why I felt bad, I decided to counter those feelings with something within my control. And to hold myself accountable, I have myself a timeframe to accomplish it. Take a look at the examples for divorce inspiration!
“There is a lot to do, but I haven’t bothered to write a list. What I am going to do is write a to-do list of the things I really need to do today. It’s not everything. Then tomorrow, I am going to do the same. And then I am going to look at a month-long calendar and prioritize what really needs to be done. And I will ask for help and reach out for advice within the next week. I don’t have to feel overwhelmed because I don’t have to go through this alone.”
“I’m sad that my ex is dating again, but I need to remember that I deserve to be with someone who treats me right and doesn’t make me feel bad, which they did. I instead will direct that sadness into energy for myself—in the next two days, I am going to find a Meet-up group I really like and I am going to one of their events by next week. This weekend, I am going to treat myself to a movie that I want to see—something my ex-to-be would never have gone to but I can go enjoy it by myself. ”
“Although I am freaked out by the lawyer’s fee, I have options. If she’s a good lawyer and I trust her, I will research what options I have to come up with the money. If it’s still out of the ballpark, I will research legal clinics and pro-bono places this weekend and see what other reasonably-priced legal representation is there.”
“I feel horrible about the divorce and I need someone to talk to. Tomorrow I am going to search for a therapist and I will make an appointment next week. Tonight after dinner, I am going to see what healing and books are available to buy that can make me feel better. Next week, I will find an online support group where I can share my story in a non-judgmental platform. ”
What I learned from changing my divorce drama mindset.
This process definitely took time, but the longer I worked on it and the longer I was honest with myself and mindful of what I was feeling, the easier the exercise became. We can really surprise ourselves with the amount of creativity and knowledge we already have to start making ourselves feel better.
So much of the drama we experience daily is a result of how we react outside influences. These reactions were certainly the case for me. We alone have the power to choose how we react to it. And when we make those smart choices of reacting with kindness and logic, the easier it will be to glide from day-to-day and not be held prisoner with drama that we think is out of our control.
Author: Martha Bodyfelt
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Matt Freedman/Flickr