Fixing What Causes the Most Divorce Pain

I have a habit of jumping in and coming up with options to resolve problems. This habit really works well for me in my work. It allows me to see solutions others don’t necessarily see and to figure out how to quickly make the solution into a workable plan.

Like any habit, I take this one with me everywhere I go.

It came with me to the hardware store last week. I had my list with me and as I walked down the cleaning aisle I saw a grandma and her high-energy 4 year-old grandson. The little boy was BUSY as only little boys can be. He was trying to get into all kinds of things and coming up with fun uses for the fly swatter he found. It was obvious that Grandma was tired and just didn’t have the energy to keep up with her grandson while she was trying to get the things she needed. Well, my habit kicked in and I asked both of them if they saw Rain-X, the last item on my list, on the shelf. Grandma started looking. I wrote R A I N – X on a piece of paper and asked the little boy if he could find those letters for me. Luckily, after spending 5 minutes chatting over a shared task, we all left with smiles even if we didn’t find any Rain-X.

My habit also comes home with me and not always in the best way. Two weeks ago, I found my husband busy in the garage cleaning things up. Instead of telling him how great it was that he was tackling this project, I actually told him how he could do it better. Talk about a motivation killer! And, yes, after we finished our “discussion” during which I realized my error and apologized, I got to help with the garage.

Everyone has habits they bring everywhere with them. And it’s these very habits that can cause the greatest pain during divorce.

I often work with other take-charge people who experienced deep pain when their ex just won’t do what needs to be done for the divorce to be completed. These same people feel as if they’re betraying themselves when they wind up doing all of the work to move their divorce forward because they’re tired of waiting for their ex to take action.

I also work with people who have gotten into the habit of letting their ex do all of the finances or home repairs or child care. These individuals feel completely lost when all of a sudden they’re now responsible for making these things happen. They often feel abandoned by their ex not to mention feeling helpless and hopeless in the face of their new responsibilities.

It’s habits like these that make divorce recovery so incredibly painful. Not only is there intense grief about the death of the marriage along with the associated hopes and dreams, but there is also the realization that there are habits that challenge you to change.

Individuals who fully embrace the idea that their divorce is an opportunity for personal growth are the ones who will emerge from their divorce recovery happier and more confident than they were in their marriage. The ones who don’t use their divorce pain to fuel personal growth run the risk of being bitter and miserable for the rest of their lives.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

Which habit is your divorce challenging you to change right now? Some of the more common habits that divorce challenges people to change include being a perfectionist, consistently ignoring emotions and being overly logical, consistently ignoring logic and being overly emotional, not asking for help because everything is always OK, being over-responsible, being under-responsible, and being a people pleaser.

What one action can you take this week to start changing this habit in a powerful, positive way? Here are a couple of ideas to get your wheels turning.If you’re a perfectionist, you might want to try leaving something non-critical undone this week. If you consistently ignore your emotions, take stock once a day and ask which emotions you experienced that day. If you’re a people pleaser, try telling someone “No” this week.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly adviceAnd, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.

If you’re looking for more help recovering from your divorce, read more articles about Healing After Divorce.

Knowing Your Limits is Critical for Successful Divorce Recovery

Divorce recovery requires you to know your limits.

Know what behavior you will – and will not – accept.

Life changes a lot when you separate and divorce. Things that used to be a regular part of life just aren’t anymore. And when things change in unexpected ways, everyone can get scared, frustrated and angry.

When my clients and I begin our work together, they’re usually experiencing some combination of fear, frustration and anger. One of the first things we do is dive into what’s behind or at the root of these emotions. What we usually discover on our deep dive are limits or boundaries that have been disregarded in some way. The limits could be behaviors, expectations, thoughts, beliefs or even habits.

The identification of your personal limits is a critical part of restructuring your life during and after divorce. Some people are quite adept at identifying their limits – what they can and can’t do, what they think and why they think it, what they expect and why they expect it, and what their habits of thought, belief, response and action are. Others aren’t as aware of their limits. They aren’t quite sure of what their limits are or even if they want to know. These people tend to do and think what others tell them to. And then there are people everywhere in between these two extremes.

Regardless of your starting point, knowing and understanding your limits is critical for successful divorce recovery. Your limits can help you understand what’s truly important to you as you negotiate your settlement. Knowing your limits can help you take appropriate care of yourself. And knowing your limits will even allow you to ask for help and support when you need it.

It’s probably not a surprise to you, but your limits will be tested, pushed, prodded, and beat against before, during and after your divorce. Who’s doing all of this “exploring”? EVERYONE. Or at least it will probably feel that way. However, the chief explorers are usually your soon-to-be-ex, your kids and you. I’ll bet you already get how your soon-to-be-ex and kids figure in here, but did you expect to also be one of the chief explorers? The thing is that by virtue of going through the divorce process you’re asking yourself to completely redefine what your life is like. And anytime you change, you’re testing and exploring your limits.

All the testing, pushing, prodding and beating against limits was at minimum uncomfortable and at times excruciating for me as I went through my divorce recovery. However, the payoff was always worth it. I learned all kinds of things about my limits during my now successful divorce recovery. I learned that I was tired of putting up with the work schedule I had. I learned that I didn’t know how to date and then I learned how to. I learned that I didn’t know how to tell people “no” and mean it. I learned that despite how miserable I felt, that I was worth loving if only by me. Exploring, changing and affirming my limits helped me to be better able to communicate with myself and others.

I found that what didn’t kill me made me stronger – and happier. What made the whole experience easier for me was when I was able to let go of what I thought I knew for a certainty was true about me. I allowed myself to be flexible and to genuinely explore my limits with no judgment or expectation.

There’s going to be some struggle and then things will be better. Not exactly new information, right? Well, here’s the trick for making the experience easier on you: be flexible and loving while you’re exploring your limits so you can evaluate them by choice instead of by force.

By allowing yourself to be flexible as you explore your limits you’ll be much more able to understand and choose what to do with your limits and your life as you move toward your successful divorce recovery. Being flexible will also allow you to negotiate from a more confident spot because you’ll be able to more easily see the options available to you. Developing the ability to be flexible will help you now as you’re navigating your divorce and throughout your life – I know because it continues to work for me.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

Know your limits. As you’re proceeding through your separation and divorce process take note of your limits. You’ll probably become aware of them most easily when you’re experiencing a strong emotion.

Explore your limits. Once you’ve identified a limit, ask yourself questions like “How did I develop this limit?”, “What’s the benefit of this limit?”, and “What might adjusting this limit be like?” Take note of what you discover about yourself.

Adjust your limits. Exploring limits almost always gives you new ideas of how to be, act and think. Take advantage of your discoveries and adjust your limits in ways that make you feel wonderful!

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly adviceAnd, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.

If you’re looking for more help recovering from your divorce, read more articles in Healing After Divorce.