Learning how to trust again takes effort, but the rewards for it include a happier life.
Divorce shatters many more relationships than just the one between spouses. Everyone expects that relationship to break because that’s what divorce is – the end of a marriage.
But there are other relationships that fail because of divorce. It’s common to also lose connections with in-laws, family, friends, children and most tragically yourself.
Each of these lost relationships leaves you questioning whether you really can trust again while at the same time knowing that you have to learn how to trust again if you’re ever going to make it through your divorce.
When you’re still dealing with grief over the end of your marriage it can seem impossible to even consider trusting again, but you can. It is totally possible for you to start building trust again despite all the betrayals you’ve suffered because of your divorce.
To begin, you need to examine what trust is. You must know what it is before you can learn how to trust again.
Trust is much more than a thought or a belief that you can count on someone (or something). This definition of trust implies that trust is simple that you’ve either got it or you don’t. Trust is much more complicated than that.
Trust is more about actions than thoughts or beliefs. It is built over time instead of automatically bestowed upon someone simply because of the position they hold or want to hold in your life.
So how do you learn to trust again? By paying attention to these 9 things in every relationship you have:
- Step out of victimhood. If you believe that things just keep happening to you and that you don’t have control over any of it, you’re living life as a victim. It’s incredibly painful to live like this. The fear of believing that everyone is out to get you is debilitating. But, once you step out of the idea that things are happening to you, you’ll be able to start exploring trust again.
- Eliminate negative thoughts about yourself. You’ve probably got a lot of negative, critical thoughts about yourself since your divorce journey began. (Then again, you might have had them prior to all of this too.)
Learning to quiet those voices and recognize them for what they are (a means of protection which has gone wild) is an incredibly powerful skill that will allow you to recognize more easily whether you can trust someone because you’ll be able to focus on and assess them.
- Recognize your strengths and successes. This boils down to knowing your worth. When you remember that you’re a valuable and wonderful person who others have the privilege of getting to know, you won’t be as tempted to put your trust in those who aren’t worthy of it.
- Become aware of what you’re thinking and feeling. Your thoughts and emotions can cloud your perceptions of what’s happening around you. They can trigger you to jump to conclusions without considering all the facts. Doing this erodes trust.
But if you can become aware of what you’re thinking and feeling before reacting to people and situations, you’ll be setting yourself up to see things for what they are. And being able to perceive things clearly will skyrocket your ability to place your trust well.
- Keep your word. This is about being trustworthy to yourself and others. When you are trustworthy, you encourage those around you to also be full of integrity and repel those who aren’t willing to interact with you in a trustworthy manner.
- Learn from mistakes. When you discover that you’ve made a mistake (like trusting your friends to stick by your side during your divorce), the surest way to build a sense of safety and trust is to learn from your mistakes.
- Practice patience, compassion and forgiveness. Once you’ve eliminated any tendencies you have toward a victim mentality, practicing patience, compassion and forgiveness can go a long way toward establishing trust in any relationship. Remember trust is built through actions and the more genuinely generous (read that as “not manipulative”) your actions are while still upholding your values, the easier it will be for you to see if the people you’re interacting with are capable of the same.
- Uphold your values. You know what’s important to you and you deserve to be around people who have very similar values. When you uphold your values in every relationship, you’ll quickly see if others have similar values or not.
- Rebuild your self-worth. When you think about it, you must think well of yourself before you can ever truly enter into a trusting relationship with anyone else.
Adhering to these 9 suggestions won’t guarantee that you’ll never have another relationship shatter or that you’ll never divorce again. But these suggestions are prerequisites for creating new trust-filled relationships (including repairing any existing relationships that your divorce has damaged).
Learning how to trust again takes time because trust is built and earned over time. But it’s worth learning to have faith in others again because trust allows deep connection and deep connection is one of our most basic human needs.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are looking for advice and support in healing after divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And if you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
Looking for more help getting over your divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Dealing With Grief.
Use these four steps to better manage the outbursts of your drama queen or king.
Remember when you first met your spouse? They seemed so alive and fearless about passionately expressing their emotions and opinions. They were the life of whatever gathering they were part of. And They seemed incredibly confident and sexy.
When this amazing person became interested in you, you were naturally and willingly drawn in to their exciting world.
But now, their exciting world is sucking you dry. You feel like you’re walking on eggshells because you’re afraid of triggering another episode. And you’re so drained of emotional energy that it’s hard to pursue the things that are important to you. You might even find yourself avoiding being anywhere near your high-strung spouse.
Making a marriage work takes a lot of effort on the part of both spouses. The trouble is that when you’re married to a drama queen (or king) it can seem like you’re the only adult since they’re so busy trying to grab all the attention by throwing temper tantrums and insisting that you take care of them regardless of what else is happening.
But it is possible to make your marriage work despite your spouse’s theatrical nature and without destroying yourself in the process.
You need to take four steps to manage your part in the drama and thereby allow/encourage/challenge your dramatic spouse to change their ways.
1. Recognize your drama queen’s (or king’s) tricks.
Here’s a list of some of the more common tactics they use:
- Worships you one minute and despises you the next based on overreactions to minor events.
- Makes over-the-top showings of vulnerability in response to minor events (e.g., crying hysterically or panic attacks).
- Avoids discussions in favor of a monologue during which they expect you to play your part (e.g., exclamations of surprise and asking “then what happened?”).
- Rarely remembers what’s going on with you.
- Dominates social gatherings with personal stories and/or demands.
- Overshares regularly.
- Betrays secrets.
- Makes threats, including self-harm and divorce.
- Takes everything personally because they’re hyper-sensitive, highly emotional and easily hurt.
- Misunderstands, jumps to conclusions and blows up, then demands an apology from you.
- Blames you instead of taking responsibility for their mistakes and NEVER forgets how you made that mistake.
- Believes that loud emotions show strength because calm people are wimps.
- Regularly tops good/bad fortune in your life with a story of their own.
All of these tactics are designed to accomplish one goal – to get you to acknowledge that they’re important. Drama queens and kings need validation and attention. And as their spouse, they see your primary purpose as taking care of this need for them. Unfortunately, over time they stop caring if the validation and attention you give them is positive or negative because either way you’re feeding their need.
2. Understand why they are so dramatic.
If you’re not of such an emotional bent, it’s hard to really get why anyone would act like this. And that’s because it’s out of your experience (and the fact that you’re not a trained therapist who knows what this stuff is).
According to Ophelia Austin-Small in her Scientific American article, there are several reasons why someone would behave as a drama queen or king:
- A personality disorder like borderline personality disorder (BPD) or histrionic personality disorder.
- Childhood trauma ranging from abuse to natural disasters.
- Childhood neglect – physical, emotional, intellectual
- Genetic predisposition
Regardless of the root cause of the overly dramatic behavior, the brain of a drama queen or king seems to be different in two distinct ways. Austin-Small reports that they seem “to have weaker circuitry for inhibiting inappropriate reactions to negative emotions, making it difficult for them to stop themselves from acting out.” She also reports that the area of the brain that processes feelings is hyperactive and could cause a drama queen and king to have more intense emotions.
Now that you understand what creates an overly dramatic person, it becomes obvious that one of the best resources they can have is a therapist. It’s true. You’re not their best resource. (Hopefully, you’re breathing a huge sigh of relief and feeling a bit less trapped.)
3. Get real about why you are drawn to the drama.
Yup, there’s something about your spouse’s behavior that fascinates you (or used to). Maybe it is how open they are with their emotions because you have a difficult time expressing yours. Maybe it’s the limelight they can draw to themselves because you’ve felt like a wallflower. Maybe it’s because you feel important since they need you so much.
By getting clear about your part in the situation, you’ll feel incredibly powerful because there’s something specific you can do to address your needs and start breaking the melodramatic cycle of your marriage.
4. Five tips for mitigating the outbursts.
- Recognize when your drama queen/king is getting dramatic (and when they’ve gone too far). When you spouse starts using hyperbole or starts making accusations or starts trying to steal the show, they’re getting dramatic. (You might want to check out Unstuck.com’s tip card for decoding a drama queen’s language.)
The trouble is that if they don’t get the attention they’re craving from you by these techniques, they’ll turn up the volume on their drama. And unfortunately, sometimes the drama crosses over into abuse.
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline “Abuse is a repetitive pattern of behaviors to maintain power and control over an intimate partner. These are behaviors that physically harm, arouse fear, prevent a partner from doing what they wish or force them to behave in ways they do not want. Abuse includes the use of physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse and economic deprivation. Many of these different forms of abuse can be going on at any one time.”
If your spouse has crossed the line into abuse, you need to get help for your situation immediately. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a great place to start looking for help.
- Set boundaries. Your life doesn’t need to continually be hijacked by your spouse’s behavior and neediness. You can decide what you will and won’t tolerate.
For example, if your spouse demands your complete attention at the drop of a hat and regardless of what you are doing, you can lay out strict criteria for when you will address their concerns because they are not allowed to hijack your life.
- Stop rewarding their behavior. If you pay attention to them when they act out, they’re learning that they can get what they need by acting out and they’ll continue to do it.
So no matter what they pull – breaking things, insulting you, making threats, throwing a fit over something insignificant – remain calm. Don’t try to fix things for them. Don’t respond with insults, threats, or a fit of your own.
If they see they’ve gotten to you, they’ll know they can get your attention by continuing to behave in this way. And you sure don’t want that!
- Practice self-care. Living with a drama queen or king is exhausting. You’ve got to spend time taking care of you especially after one of their outbursts. Learn what things help you to get back to you and out of the negativity. You might try meditation or taking a walk or getting a massage.
- Distance yourself. Putting some distance between you and your spouse when they’re acting out is very important. Maybe by remembering what is at the root of their overly dramatic behavior you’ll be able to emotionally detach from an outburst. You might also remember why you are (or were) drawn to the drama in the first place and correct your contribution to the situation.
However, if you’ve tried everything and the situation isn’t improving, it might be time to consider leaving your marriage or even separating for a time.
Being married to a drama queen or king is challenging and exhausting because you’re afraid of triggering another outburst. There’s only so much you can do to change the situation.
But that’s the good news too, there are things you can do to change your experience. And that’s what counts – making your life with your spouse less painful and worrisome.
There is a bonus to all of your efforts though. By addressing what you can, you’re giving your melodramatic mate the opportunity to address their behavior too.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach. I help people just like you who are looking for advice and support as they decide if their marriage can be saved. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.
Looking for more marriage advice? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Unhappy Marriage.
Being happy again isn’t a time thing. It’s a you thing.
One of the most frequently asked questions about divorce recovery is “How long does it take to be happy again?” It’s asked not only as a reflection of what seems like interminable pain, but also because there is so much conflicting information out there about how long it takes! For example, back in 2010, the Daily Mail reported that it takes EXACTLY 17 months and 26 days to get over divorce. Others report that it takes 2 years and still others say that it will take 1 year for every 4 years of marriage.
And you know what? All of these numbers are horribly wrong – at least when it comes to you.
Why? Because no one else has gone through EXACTLY what you’ve gone and are going through and no one else has your EXACT personality.
Yup, your personality has a lot to do with how long it takes you to feel happy again post-divorce.
Are you someone who carries a lot of negative emotion? Do you dwell on unanswerable questions about the past: “What if…” or “If only…”? Are your fears controlling your life? Do you doubt that you’ll ever be happy again? Do you believe that you’re inadequate? Do you believe that the failure of your marriage means that you’re a failure?
If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions and if you maintain these beliefs and the personality that perpetuates these beliefs, it will take you longer than necessary to feel happy again. Not a very comforting thought, right?
As unsettling as it is, it’s also true. You see, you’ll never be able to move on with your life unless you start thinking and behaving differently. Remember what Einstein said, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
It’s a hard pill to swallow, but as long as you allow yourself to wallow in the misery of your divorce, you’ll NEVER feel happy again. And wallowing is exactly what you’re doing if you’re answering the questions above in the affirmative.
So what can you do to foster happiness after divorce? Well, the first thing is to decide to answer one of the questions you responded “yes” to with a “no” and do everything in your power to make that the truth.
For example, if you normally carry a lot of negative emotion and want to stop doing so, you could start noticing every time something negative comes out of your mouth and immediately change it to something positive.
“I’m so depressed” could become “I’m feeling depressed, but I know I feel better when I get moving so I’m going for a quick walk to brighten my mood.” And then take that quick walk.
Another way you can shift from a negative mindset is to be more kind and compassionate – to yourself. And as you become more kind and compassionate an amazing thing happens, you become grateful and from there it’s a VERY short distance to happiness.
(Most people assume that once they’re happy then they can be grateful, but they’re wrong. Being grateful actually creates happiness. And the shortest distance to gratitude is by being kind and compassionate.)
Being happy again after divorce isn’t a time-based thing.
Being happy again after divorce is a mindset and perception thing. And you’re the only one who has control over that. So instead of asking others and continuing to do research about how long it will take to be happy again, you need to get busy doing what it takes to be happy again.
It’s OK if you don’t know what to do to be happy again. If you did, you’d already be doing it.
Try using the questions above to guide you toward happiness. You can also check out this self-assessment. It will not only give you an idea of how much further you have to go before you are completely over your divorce, but it will also give you specific and personalized tasks to do to get there.
It may not seem like it now, but you truly do hold the key to being happy again. You just need to decide that you’re done with the pain and ready to stop being miserable, then do the work to find the happiness you desire.
Looking for more help with and information about moving on after divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Life After Divorce.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are struggling with how to find happiness again after divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re ready to take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
This article originally appeared at DivorceForce.
These eight tips are the perfect guides for healing after divorce.
Around the world, hundreds of thousands of people divorce each year. Some of these divorcees are able to heal and move forward with their lives. And some of these people become bitter and remain miserable for years and years if not the rest of their lives.
If you’re in the process of getting over your divorce, you’re probably wondering what’s the difference between these two groups of people because you want to do everything in your power to make sure you’re not part of the latter group.
The difference between these two groups comes down to whether or not they’re able to follow these 8 key pieces of advice for healing after divorce:
- Be Gentle With Yourself. Getting divorced is one of the most difficult experiences anyone can have. It’s exhausting emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. So resist the temptation to put too much pressure on yourself to get things done despite the seemingly never-ending list of things you’ve got to get done. The truth is that if you don’t have the energy or mental capacity to accomplish your tasks, you’ll only be making a bigger mess of things. So take the time you need to recharge and take care of you.
- Practice Shifting Your Focus To What’s Good. Sifting through the chaos of divorce is a less than pleasant experience. But that doesn’t mean that everything about your life is bad. By regularly focusing on what’s good and pulling yourself out of focusing on all the negative, you’ll find that you’ll have more energy to go back and deal with the chaos.
- Develop The Right “Healing After Divorce” Plan For You. What it takes for you to get through your divorce will differ from what it takes or took for anyone else. That’s because you’re unique and your marriage was unique. So spend some time figuring out what you need to do and what support you need right now to get through your grief and rebuild your life. Then go out and get the support you both need and deserve.
- Set Goals. As part of your “healing after divorce” plan, you started figuring out what you need to do. These are your goals so be specific about what you’re shooting for to at least begin creating the life you want and deserve.
- Set Aside Time Every Day To Work Your Plan. The funny thing about life is that it’s so easy to get caught up in reacting to whatever shows up. The problem with that is you’ll never move forward to create the life you want if you don’t dedicate time every day to work on and refine your plan.
- Work On Your Plan To Achieve Your Goals. This is probably pretty obvious, but now that you’ve got the time set aside, you need to use it for what you said you wanted to use it for.
- Keep A Journal. Keeping a journal while you’re healing after divorce and achieving your goals serves three purposes. First, it allows you to remember important information and each day’s events. Second, journaling is an amazing way to process emotions (a.k.a. make yourself feel better). And, finally, it is a great way to develop ideas and refine your plan.
- Reflect. The thing about healing after divorce is that it’s not a straight path. There will be twists and turns you can’t anticipate. So allow yourself time every day to think about what’s happening and what you’re doing. Use your insights to refine your plan and celebrate every single win (no matter how small) that you have along the way.
You might consider this advice high-level and in a lot of ways it is. But it’s also incredibly detailed in that it gives you the exact formula you need to follow to get over your divorce and get on with your life.
Challenge yourself to really dig into each of these 8 pieces of advice and you’ll discover just how powerful they are for helping you heal after divorce. And you’ll significantly increase the chances of you healing and moving forward instead of becoming bitter.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are looking for advice and support in healing after divorce. You can join my newsletter list. And, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.
Looking for more divorce advice? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Healing After Divorce.
Resolutions are definitely not just for the New Year.
Obviously, you’ve heard of New Year’s resolutions. They’re those little promises you make to yourself on January 1st each year that you rarely follow through on. You have great intentions, but they tend to evaporate toward the end of January or beginning of February when life goes back to “normal” again.
But that’s one of the really great things about divorce. Your life doesn’t go back to “normal.” In fact, it will NEVER be that “normal” you had while you were married ever again.
And that’s exactly why making post-divorce resolutions is so powerful. You already have to change how you live, so you might as well make your life after divorce as great as you can make it right?
What resolutions should you make?
Well there are the typical New Year’s resolutions:
- Lose weight – You’ve probably already lost enough weight because of the “divorce diet,” so this resolution won’t work.
- Stay fit and healthy – Staying fit and healthy is never a bad idea and might even be extra important if you lost too much weight on your “divorce diet.”
- Enjoy life to the fullest – Absolutely! This is one of the best resolutions you can make at New Year’s or post-divorce. But it’s problematic as a resolution because it doesn’t say how you’ll know you’re living life to the fullest.
- Spend less, save more – You’ve already had a crash course in this because of your divorce and learning to live on less than you were before.
- Spend more time with family and friends – Chances are you’ve already spent so much time with your friends and family getting through your divorce that this really isn’t much of an opportunity right now.
- Get organized – Either you’ve moved or your ex has moved out of the marital home. So you already had to get organized to make that happen.
- Don’t make any resolutions – Seriously? Resolutions are about making good, positive life changes and making a fabulous life for yourself post-divorce is an amazing reason to make resolutions.
- Learn something new/new hobby – This popular resolution is really inspiring to most people who are recently divorced. You might choose to go back to school or rediscover a hobby you had prior to marriage.
- Travel more – Travel doesn’t have to cost a lot. You could just do day trips on the weekends. If seeing and experiencing more of the world is exciting to you, then traveling more is a great post-divorce resolution.
- Read more – Reading is a great way to learn new things. And if you read fiction, at least every once in a while, there’s research to show that you could wind up happier, more creative and more well-rested! (Seriously, who wouldn’t want more of that in their life?)
Although most of these typical resolutions are great, they fit into a “normal” life.
When you’re creating a new life for yourself after divorce, you can more easily make and keep more expansive and profound resolutions than the typical ones.
So try one of these on for size:
- Become even more aware of who you are. THIS is an amazing resolution to make post-divorce because it means that you’re going to take responsibility for your part in your failed marriage and learn from it so you can guarantee yourself that you’re not going to wind up in another unhappy relationship (or at least not for long).
- Eliminate complaining. Once you realize you’re the only one who can change your life, you’ll realize that complaining won’t ever make anything better. Instead, talk about and process your emotions, come up with a plan for making things better, and get into action to create what you want in your life.
- Learn the difference between dating and being in a relationship. After being married, most of us forget what being single and dating is like. Dating disaster is a real threat if you don’t figure out the difference between being in a committed relationship and having fun meeting new people. Setting a post-divorce resolution to learn how to date again is a great way to learn a ton about yourself (and have a lot of fun too!).
Don’t worry if none of these resolutions feel quite right to you. That just means that you’ve got something else you’re needing to focus on to help you make sure your life after divorce is as fulfilling and happy as possible.
Whatever you choose for your post-divorce resolutions know that they will be much easier to keep than the typical New Year’s resolutions. That’s because divorce has thrown your life into chaos. It’s forced you to change your life in a lot of different ways.
Now that your divorce is over, you can choose to make resolutions for good, positive changes in your life. The excitement of having more control over your life will provide you the energy and belief you need to follow through on your decisions and create a wonderful post-divorce life for yourself.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are ready to move on with their life post-divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re ready to take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
Looking for more help moving forward post-divorce? Read more advice in Life After Divorce.