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It's A Trick Not A Treat

Posted: 10/28/11 08:45 PM ET

It's the week before Halloween and my office is abuzz with ghosts and goblins. Skeletons sleeping in closets have suddenly woken with fervor. My clients grant me prescient powers and command me to explain what they deem the inexplicable.

Melanie, newly separated, just returned from a business trip and she's rattled. "Please work your magic Rachel. It's happening again." I know what Melanie is referring to because we've had this conversation time and again. "Intellectually I understand that my marriage is over, but I thought about Kenny a lot while I was away. It's crazy, but I'm afraid I'm slipping back. I keep thinking about the good times and wondering if I made a mistake. Maybe he can still change?" Melanie is referring to her ex - a manipulative and adulterous man who has caused her ample grief. She worked hard in counseling to process her raw feelings and form significant realizations, which finally gave her the courage to exit the marriage. Yet on occasion her worries get hold of her and she imagines a different outcome should they reunite.

Bob's mind is also playing tricks on him following a string of bad dates. After an amicable divorce, that was initiated by him, he questions his choice after a dinner with his ex. "We had such a nice evening. We really connected and I even felt a slight attraction to her. I'm a mess today. Maybe I made a mistake and we should give it another shot?" I know Bob's wife, and she is wonderful woman. Yet they are ill suited and make much better friends than lovers.

The road towards ending a marriage and cutting emotional ties with your ex is a long and winding one. Saying goodbye to someone you once loved and imagined a future with is extraordinarily complicated and painful. I do believe that the majority of us take our vows seriously, and it's practically inconceivable to imagine on our wedding day that we may be one of those couples whose marriage end in divorce.

Couples and individuals regularly seek my guidance when their marriage is in jeopardy of terminating. And even as the unapparent develops into the inevitable, it is human nature to cling to what is perceived as "comfortable", even when it's not. This is the back and forth tango that most of us dance when faced with the prospect of divorce.

Fear causes our minds to play tricks on us

Whether you initiated your divorce, or if you were the one who was left, the prospect of ending a marriage and starting afresh is terrifying. My clients and friends regularly confess their "fear list" to me -- and it is lengthy. It includes fear of the unknown, fear of the divorce process, fear of living alone, fear of dating, fear of being single forever, fear of financially supporting oneself, and fear of damaging children. Fear also keeps many people stuck in loveless, "likeless," and abusive marriages for too long. Unfortunately, when we are leading with our fears, we temporarily stop thinking with our brains. This setup inevitable causes us to question our choices or fantasize about different outcomes.

Facing your Fears

Facing your fears is paramount to disconnecting from your ex, getting healthy and moving forward. The first step towards change is to identify when you are thinking frightening, negative or anxious thoughts. Once you learn how to do this, and you can, you can then begin to break the fear cycle. Try these useful tips: Train yourself to acknowledge scary thoughts, and then, release them. Talk back to them with a calm and optimistic internal voice. A great exercise that I suggest is to write down all of your fears and sort through each one with a level head. When you clear your "fear list" from your head and actually see it in front of you, it looks much less intimidating. Then you can physically see fact vs. fiction and begin creating strategies to conquer the valid ones.

Practice doing these exercises daily and you'll be surprised how your fears will be replaced with faith. Then I promise you there will be no ghosts at your door on Halloween or evermore.

*Please note that all names in this post have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.