Divorce is a process that involves a lot of shedding -- and I'm not just talking about all those pounds that melt away thanks to the Divorce Diet. When you part ways with your spouse, you tend to unload all kinds of other things, too. You slip off that wedding band that's been a standard feature of your wardrobe for so long. You pack up any wedding pictures that are on display in your house. You may even jettison the last name you've been using ever since you got hitched.
But while you are taking a page from Eminem and cleaning out your closet, don't forget to toss out the collection of garbage mix tapes that might be playing in your head. When it comes to your ability to work through your divorce, these tapes can act like a computer virus, diminishing your speed and efficiency or causing you to crash all together.
Here are some common negative refrains to watch out:
You're a bitch. You know the tired old stereotype: If you're a woman getting a divorce, that means you are a total bitch who is out to rob your ex blind. Fear of being typecast like this can make divorcing women bend over backwards trying to be nice, and in the process they can end up allowing themselves to be robbed blind.
Remember, it's called community property for a reason. It belongs to both of you. Standing up for yourself and insisting upon (and even fighting for, if necessary) your fair share of the community property does not make you a money-grubbing bitch. It makes you a responsible adult who is doing what you can to protect your present and provide for your future. And if you have kids, you have even more of a duty to look out for yourself because how well you can take care of yourself directly impacts how well you can take care of them.
You're a failure. It's common for people who are getting a divorce to feel like they are failures. If you find that Debbie Downer soundtrack playing in your head, the following ditty should help erase it: Just as half of the babies born are girls and the other half are boys, about fifty percent of marriages in this country last until death, and the rest end in divorce. (And don't forget that out of those that last until death, a healthy percentage of those are anything but healthy.) Sometimes the most responsible and courageous decision you can make is to get a divorce. So, just because you aren't leaving your marriage toes-up doesn't mean you can't hold your head high.
And not only are you not a failure as a person, your marriage itself wasn't necessarily a failure, either. Marriages are as complex as they are unique. Sometimes there are a number of good years before things deteriorate. Only you can say whether your marriage was a mixed bag that included some pieces of heaven or one hundred percent pure hell.
You're damaged goods. In the wake of a divorce, some women ask themselves the question, "Who will ever want me now? I'm damaged goods." There are so many problems with this message, it's hard to know where to begin. For starters, the "Who will want me now?" question assumes that your worth is determined by what other people think of you. When you think like that, you give away big chunks of power over yourself to other people --power that is rightfully yours. Your opinion is really the only one that matters here. So, rather than worrying about what other people think, focus on being the kind of person you like and respect.
The question also reveals that you are already considering your next relationship when you still haven't finished extricating yourself from the current one. Slow down and take a few deep breaths. Focus on getting through your divorce. Take advantage of this opportunity to exercise some self-care. You'll have a much better chance at a quality relationship in the future if you are on solid emotional ground before you dive back into the dating pool.
The problem with the "I'm damaged goods" part of the message is that it's crippling. Your divorce will temporarily impair you, but it won't permanently disable you unless you let it. Think of it this way: A broken leg can disrupt your regular life and require a substantial amount of time, energy and effort to heal. But it doesn't mean you're going to need a wheel chair or crutches for the rest of your life, unless you blow off your doctor's advice and refuse to do what you need to do to get better.
Characterizing yourself as "damaged goods" is a prescription for converting your temporary troubles into a permanent disability. Don't sabotage your own recovery. Do the work required to rehabilitate yourself. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and you will find yourself walking tall again soon enough.
You're a "has-been." Divorce represents an ending to a story you thought would last the rest of your life. You had planned on a feature-length romantic dramedy with a "happily ever after" ending, but instead you ended up with a short film that was more tragedy than comedy. This not-so-pleasant surprise ending may cause you to feel like the best years of your life are over.
If this is how you feel, throw away your old script and start rehearsing this new one instead: Your divorce isn't the end of your story. It's just the end of one chapter -- and a not a very good one at that. Whether you are twenty-nine or ninety-nine, divorce gives you an opportunity to take stock and start fresh. Take a look at your life. Figure out what you like about it and build on that. You have blank pages and a pen, so what are you waiting for? Start writing your next chapter -- and make it a great one.
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