Divorce is traumatic. For the couple, the breakup of their marriage is a massive upheaval aggravated by severe stress, heartbreak and pain. Divorce is so cataclysmic that it has been compared to an earthquake or a volcano. Either way, it destroys your world, leaving you bewildered about the present and uncertain about the future.
There is hope though, if you are currently going through a divorce. You can limit its fallout and even benefit from your breakup by adopting and adhering to these basic guidelines. They'll at least help you to manage your divorce and to cope better with the upheaval.
1. Take one step at a time.
Coping with the chaos caused by the collapse of your marriage is an enormous task. You have your own mental and physical state to worry about, and your kids (if you have any) will require a lot of attention. There are umpteen practical things to attend to including finding a place to live for yourself; sorting out your finances and making care, visitation & custody arrangements for your kids. It all seems terribly daunting until you break down the task into smaller bits. Take one step at a time; go slowly. Deal first with the most pressing things like a place to live, and then gradually start dealing with the other matters. Eventually you will sort it all out.
2. Don't hold onto the past, learn from it.
Holding onto the past will hold you back and slow your recovery. Somehow you need to let go of the marriage/family/partner you had, no matter how important they were to you. You just have to mourn your loss and go through the pain. Forget the image you have of yourself as husband or wife, forget all the plans you made for family life, even your concept of family. Kick your old habits and routines and change your expectations about where you are heading. Material possessions may need to be sacrificed, too. However, it's not all loss. You can learn from what has happened in order to create the next phase of your life. You'll need to take an honest look at yourself and your role in the relationship. Ask yourself: What part did I play in the breakup and what can I learn from what has happened? This may require the help of a professional but it's worthwhile. Sometimes small changes can make a big difference in how you conduct your relationships.
3. View divorce as a process, with distinct stages.
Initially, you are bound to feel in a complete turmoil, thinking that the pain and anger will never go away, that you'll forever feel like a complete wreck and never get your life back into shape. That is not true. In practice, the grief you will experience is part of a process that will follow a reasonably predictable course. You will move from shock/denial to rage to anger to sorrow/depression to acceptance and finally to growth & emergence. It is never a smooth, easy path but rest assured that with time and some work on yourself and support from family and friends, you will go through the stages and hopefully emerge better for it.
4. Know what you want and make it clear.
In the great majority of cases, divorce is an adversarial situation. In order to minimize confusion, arguments and endless wrangling, you need to be sure in your own mind about what you want to achieve and you need to state it clearly, leaving no room for doubt. Don't second-guess what the other person may or may not want, might do, etc. It is you who needs to be heard. If, for instance, you want to remain in the family home as the main carer of the kids, say so. In meetings, formal and informal, state your case as best you can in a calm, civilized and reasonable manner, while leaving some room for compromise.
5. See the calamity as an opportunity.
Initially, divorce feels like a calamity with no redeeming features. Your life is in a shambles, you are hurting badly and your self-esteem is at an all-time low. The good news is that you can turn the calamity into an opportunity to change the way you see yourself and how you interact with other people. Simply by handling the crisis decently and gradually recovering from it, you will undergo a transformation in how you feel about yourself, your accomplishments and your capabilities. You'll be convinced your divorce was a welcome wakeup call once you begin to see that just as one chapter is ending a new one is beginning.
6. Build a new life.
The object of these guidelines is to help you to build a new life and to ensure that you do not use the old bricks again because they will only produce a similar structure. The building blocks of your new life are your talents, your involvement in your work, a healthy relationship with your kids, pursuing your interests and cultivating new friendships. On this foundation, you will appear as an attractive, authentic person, capable of intimacy and romance. But don't rush it. Your divorce has handed you the rare opportunity to start afresh.
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