4 tips for answering one of the most difficult questions you’ll ever ask.
If you’re wondering “Should I get a divorce?”, you’re in a tough spot. My guess is you didn’t just happen on this thought out of the blue either. There’s been a lot going on.
Maybe what’s been going on has been your spouse’s doing. They haven’t been communicating with you. They’ve been abusive. They’ve cheated. Or they’ve done something else.
Maybe what’s been going on has been your doing. You’ve stopped talking with your spouse about what’s important to you. You’ve given up. You’ve started self-medicating to deal with the pain you’re feeling. You’re having an affair. Or you’ve done something else.
Whatever has brought you to the point of asking yourself “Should I get a divorce?” you’re ready for things to change, but you’re not sure how to make things better or if “better” is even possible.
No doubt about it this is a really tough spot in which to find yourself. If you choose to stay in your marriage, what are the chances things will get better? And if you choose to divorce, how do you even begin to make that work and how will it impact the kids? This is one of those times when it would be really helpful to have a crystal ball to show you which path to take.
The question “Should I get a divorce?” is one that only you can answer, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck trying to answer it by guessing.
Here are 4 additional questions to help you get closer to answering your question about your marriage’s viability:
- Are you dealing with one of the 3 definite signs you should get a divorce: abuse, untreated addictions despite requests that the addict get treatment, setting an abysmal example of marriage for your children? If you are, then divorce is your best way forward.
- If you see your behavior as at least part of the reason you’re asking yourself if you should get a divorce, are you willing to change your behavior? If you are, then there’s definitely hope for your marriage.
- If you see your spouse’s behavior as at least part of the problem, are you willing to have a calm, respectful conversation with them about how their behavior is impacting you and your marriage? If you are, then filing for divorce isn’t the right way forward at this moment.
- Are you willing to do what it takes to know for certain if you can save you marriage? If you are, then it’s time to put questions of divorce behind you and focus your efforts on doing everything possible to make your marriage better until it either becomes better or it becomes obvious that it will never be better.
Only one of these 4 additional questions has the potential to give you an immediate definitive answer to the question “Should I get a divorce?”. The others postpone reaching an answer in favor of learning more about you and your spouse which you might view as a delay.
But the delay in reaching an answer about your marriage’s viability is critical to being able to make the best decision possible for yourself – and for your family.
So as uncomfortable as it is to contemplate the question “Should I get a divorce?” is, it’s only by examining what is possible by asking different questions that you’ll ever arrive at an answer that allows you to know you’ve made the best decision possible.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach. I help people just like you who are struggling with questions of whether they can save their marriage. You can join my anonymous 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 support and ideas for dealing with a difficult marriage? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Unhappy Marriage.
You don’t have to dread the holidays just because you’re dealing with divorce.
The first holidays after divorce are tough. This is the one time of year when family and spending time with family is emphasized. And this holiday season, instead of being able to celebrate the whole season with a spouse (and your kids), you’re stuck dealing with divorce and dreading the holidays.
Despite how dismal your divorce is making things seem, it is possible to find at least some glimpses of genuine joy this season.
Use these three tips for making it through the holidays while you’re dealing with divorce:
- Know that it’s OK for the holidays to be different. Different doesn’t mean bad or wrong or that your divorce has destroyed the holidays for your kids for the rest of their lives. Different just means not the same. And the wonderful thing about not being the same is that you can choose to make things even better than they were before.
- Focus on what’s good…or ignore what your ex is doing for the holidays. I know it’s tough not comparing how your ex is celebrating the holidays (especially if you have kids) to how you’re celebrating them, but all comparison buys you is misery. Yup, even if you believe your celebrations are superior. Focus instead on what’s good about what you’re doing – even if you have to dig deep to find the good.
- Avoid spending the holidays completely alone. I get it if you don’t feel very festive this year as you’re in the midst of dealing with divorce, but that doesn’t mean it’s in your best interest to isolate yourself. (We both know the dark places your mind wanders when you’ve got too much time to ruminate about things.) So, make it a point to socialize some and connect with people who are important to you. You’ll be amazed at how spending time with loved ones and/or people who are having fun helps make dealing with divorce over the holidays just a bit easier.
The changes you’ve already made and survived this year as you’re coming to grips with the end of your marriage have been tremendous. The holidays are just another one of the traditions you had as a family that needs adjustment. And as challenging as this change is, you can find your way through the season by using these three tips.
Will they work miracles and make this holiday season the best ever? I truly hope they do, but chances are that you’ll need to remind yourself of these tips repeatedly as you begin to create your new (or at least revised) holiday traditions.
Making it through your first holidays after divorce will require compassion – for yourself. Being kind to yourself is necessary for dealing with divorce, but over the holidays you need to extend even more gentleness to yourself. And the best thing is that taking care of you is the most wonderful gift you can give yourself this year.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and personal life coach helping people just like you who are struggling with divorce and want to move forward with their lives. You can join my anonymous 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 support and ideas for feeling better after your divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Healing After Divorce.
Learning how to trust someone after divorce is tough, but these 7 tips will make it easier for you.
One of the most frequent casualties of divorce is the ability to trust someone again in the same way you trusted your ex. It’s as if you’ve blocked off the most tender and precious part of yourself to avoid being hurt at that deep a level ever again. You want to make sure you never ever leave yourself open to a repeat of that much pain.
And yet learning how to trust someone again is at the core of being able to live a full life after divorce.
That’s because true connection is critical to a fully lived and vibrant life. I’m not talking about the surface kind of connection where you keep your truest thoughts and emotions and even ugly cries to yourself. I’m talking about the kind of connection where you can be 100% unapologetically you with someone and they can be that way with you too.
Learning how to trust someone again after suffering through divorce is challenging to say the least. But luckily some work that Brené Brown published in her book Daring Greatly provides a wonderful starting point for discussing and understanding what trust is between two people. She captures her seven points in the acronym BRAVING.
Boundaries – you and the other each have and respect boundaries
Reliability – you and the other both do what you say you will do when you say you will do it
Accountability – you each own your mistakes, apologize and make amends
Vault – neither of you share what’s not yours to share
Integrity – both of you choose to do what’s right based on your values instead of what is fun, fast or easy
Nonjudgment – both of you can express what’s important to you and ask for what you want without fear of judgment
Generosity – you’re both generous with interpreting the intentions, words and actions of the other
I’ll guess that when you read this list 1 or 2 (or even more) of the items made you cringe. They touched a nerve that still feels a bit raw from your divorce. But they also point you in the direction of where your challenges in trusting someone again are or will be, so you can begin addressing them.
Although everyone has challenges with trusting others in an intimate relationship post-divorce, one group of people who have a lot to overcome are those whose ex cheated on them.
The two most challenging points from Brené’s list for these people to address are integrity and generosity. Learning how to trust someone after being betrayed is fraught with fears of another betrayal. So, suspicion is the attitude most of these folks adopt when they enter a new relationship.
But if they’re courageous enough to understand what’s driving their suspicions and do the work they need to do to work through their challenges, they can build trust in and with a new partner.
Even if your ex didn’t betray you, creating trust within a new relationship post-divorce is a process. It’s not something that’s deep and abiding the moment you meet someone – no matter how much connection you may initially feel.
Taking the time to explore your concerns and fears in learning how to trust someone – someone new – will take work. But having someone in your life who holds a safe place for you to openly and freely share the most precious and tender part of you and for whom you do the same is one of the most wonderful gifts you can ever give and allow yourself to receive – no matter how difficult your divorce was and how scary it is to trust again.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are ready to learn how to trust someone again and put their divorce firmly behind them. 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 on from your divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Life After Divorce.
Despite everything that is happening, there are ways you can deal with your divorce better.
Divorce sucks. It’s one of the most horrible experiences you’ll ever go through. And instead of allowing you the time and space to deal with it all, life demands that you keep going and meet the obligations you had before your marriage ended AND deal with a whole lot of other crap just because it’s just part of divorce.
Somehow you’ve got to find a way to cope with the end of your marriage and still keep functioning on a daily basis. It’s not easy – especially when all you want to do is curl up in a ball, pull the covers over your head and cry.
But just because it’s not easy, that doesn’t mean that coping with divorce is impossible. You just need to make some adjustments to what you’re doing now.
Don’t let that word “adjustments” scare you. These aren’t super huge changes. They’re relatively simple things that you can do bit by bit to ease your way into dealing better with your divorce.
Here are the 8 most important tips for coping with divorce:
- Start each day with a plan. Now a plan doesn’t mean that you have to account for every moment of your day. A plan simply means that you’ve got a reason to get up and moving every day. Knowing what you’re going to focus on when you get out of bed will give you a reason to get up instead of drowning in your grief.
- Be patient with yourself. As much as I wish I could provide you a guarantee of when you’ll stop hurting so much, I can’t. Getting through divorce is a process that you can’t go around or over or ignore. You must go through it. So being patient with yourself as you continue coping with divorce will enable you to get through the process as gracefully and easily as possible.
- Don’t get sucked into social media. At best, social media is a distraction. At worst, it’s a means of cyberstalking your ex which only results in you feeling more miserable because they have moved on with their life while you’re still feeling lost and alone.
- Focus on what you can control. The truth is the only person you have control over is you. With careful consideration, you can start to take back control of your thoughts, your reactions and your emotions. Coping with divorce isn’t about controlling everything about you, it’s about letting go of what you can’t control – your ex, the legal system, etc. – and learning to better manage what you can.
- Surround yourself with people who support you getting through your divorce. It’s funny how often people change once they find out you’re getting divorced. Some will start avoiding you and others will surprise you by stepping up and totally supporting you as you deal with every last piece of your divorce. These are the people you want to surround yourself with and forget the others.
- Find your own closure. Chances are that your ex will never give you a concrete reason why your marriage failed. And the longer you expect them to, the longer you’re prolonging your grief. Instead, create your own reason for the end of your marriage and make sure you’ve got some skin in the game for the ending to. If you do, you’ll find that you’ll feel empowered instead of victimized.
- Ignore your ex’s antics. You’re not married to them anymore so their behavior (outside of things that directly impact co-parenting) have nothing to do with you unless you pay attention to them. Successfully coping with divorce is about successfully changing the relationship you have with your ex (and with yourself).
- Take care of you. Going through divorce is emotionally draining and exhausting. You need to rebuild your strength so you can continue on and create a new life for yourself (and your children if you have them) that supports you in being happy again. So take the time to feed yourself well, take breaks to have fun, exercise, and get enough rest. The better you take care of yourself as you’re coping with divorce the more quickly you’ll be able to make it through your healing after divorce.
Each of these 8 tips will take some work for you to fully implement. But please don’t think that you have to master all of them before you’ll start feeling like you’re making progress coping with your divorce.
The truth is that as you start to work on each one of them you’ll begin feeling better. That’s because knowing that you have a way out of the soul-sucking grief will do wonders for you. You’ll have hope that the pain will end and that you just might find your way back to feeling happy again no matter what life expects of (or throws at) you.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are wondering how they’ll make it through their 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 coping with the end of your marriage? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Dealing With Grief.
These five ideas could give you the inspiration you need to save your marriage this holiday season.
Did you know that in most of the English-speaking countries that January is the most popular month to file for divorce? I see the January effect every year in my practice.
And when I ask my January and February clients why they (or their soon-to-be-ex) decided to file for divorce in January they usually say they wanted to give their family one last holiday season together.
On the one hand, this is a lovely gift for them to give their family. And on the other, I wonder if it’s possible to look at the holiday season as a time to ask “How can I use the holidays to save my marriage?”
The only way I can begin to answer this question here is to look at the top 5 reasons couples divorce and offer suggestions for how the holidays offer unique opportunities to begin addressing each of them.
How Can The Holidays Save My Marriage From …
- A Lack Of Commitment? Marriage takes work – a lot of work. (And so do the holidays.) But what if you sat your spouse down and explained that the only gift you wanted was for you both to get serious about working on your marriage. It would be a gift that pays incredible dividends because you’ll either be on the path to making your marriage work or you’ll learn beyond a shadow of a doubt that it never will.
- Too Much Arguing? Most couples can reign in the arguing over the holidays because there are so many events they’re attending with friends and family. They put on their public faces and no one is the wiser. You can use this holiday skill to your advantage by using those same techniques in private too. Just imagine how much easier it would be to save your marriage if you could have more peaceful discussions to solve your marital challenges!
- Selfishness And Lack Of Communication? Most people view the holidays as a time for gratitude, enjoying their family and celebration. It’s easy to appreciate others during this time of the year. By you and your spouse choosing to turn toward each other to explore how to communicate appreciation and care toward each other year-round instead of just at the holidays could be exactly the answer you’re looking for to salvage your union.
- Infidelity? This time of year is all about friends and families coming together to enjoy each other’s company by putting grievances aside and wishing each other well. Overcoming betrayal is a difficult path, but one that many couples successfully tread if they’re both willing to start by putting aside their grievances and honestly communicate about what went wrong so they can get to work fixing their marriage.
- Having Married Too Young? If this is your situation and you’ve grown apart over the years, the holidays are your chance to remember what things were. Sometimes your memories of the happier and more idealistic days are exactly the inspiration you both need to commit to doing whatever you can to save your marriage.
Granted, there’s no way you’ll ever look back at the holidays and say “They saved my marriage.”
But, the holidays are a time of hope. And if you can expand the hope you have for the season to hope for your marriage and really give it all you’ve got, you’ll be able to say with confidence, “I have given my all to save my marriage.” Then, no matter how things turn out, you’ll be able to look yourself (and your kids) in the eye and be at peace knowing you’ve done your best to salvage your marriage.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach. I help people just like you who are wondering, “Can I save my marriage?” 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 help with answering your question – Can I save my marriage? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Unhappy Marriage.
Negative thoughts are a normal part of divorce, but you don’t have to suffer with them indefinitely.
Even in the best of times we all have negative thoughts. But when you get divorced the negative thoughts take over. You become trapped in a world of fears. You’re constantly asking yourself, “What if this happens?” And, of course, this is something really, really bad.
The nightmare of negativity and pessimism is constant. You’re bombarded by terrifying thoughts whether you’re awake or asleep and dreaming (that is if you’re lucky enough to get some sleep).
What makes the pessimism so prevalent now when you’re trying to find the strength to heal and move on with your life?
The truth is that all of these negative thoughts are fueled by depression and anxiety. And it probably comes as no surprise to you that divorce triggers depression and anxiety for a lot of people.
The problem is that no matter how well you understand why your mind races after one bit of negativity and fear mongering after another, the simple understanding will never, ever make the thoughts stop. That’s because anxiety changes your brain. It impacts the way you think in such a way that the more you think negative thoughts, the more the anxiety keeps you focused on them. It’s a nasty cycle of fear and negativity.
Many people run to their doctors for a prescription to help them navigate the negativity. For some a prescription is all they need. But for others it isn’t. And then there are some (like me) who flat out refuse to take medication to help them through the persistent pessimism they’re experiencing post-divorce.
If you’re one of the people who need more than medication to mediate the tangled mess of myopic, pessimistic negative thoughts you’re struggling with, the following list for creating pockets of calm will be your lifesaver.
There are several things besides (or in addition to) taking a prescription that you can do to help break the vicious cycle of negative thoughts. Here are 10 of them:
- Write your negative notions down. Once you capture your thoughts on paper (yes, paper), your thoughts are safe. Your mind can relax because you’re not relying on it to remember these ideas any longer.
- Accept that you’re struggling and stop beating yourself up. When you start blaming and shaming yourself for what you’re thinking, you create more anxiety which creates more negative thoughts. So as soon as you accept that the negativity is just part of your healing after divorce, the less fuel you’ll be adding to the fire of fears you’re battling.
- Think about your unwanted thoughts as thoughts. Stop thinking about the meaning of your negative thoughts and instead think of them as simply thoughts. They’re like unwanted visitors or telemarketers that you ignore and get rid of as quickly as possible so you can get back to doing what you really want to be doing.
- Exercise. Instead of letting discouraging ruminations take all of your energy get your entire body moving. Exercise has the potential to not only change your focus, but also produce some feel-good neurochemicals like endorphins. (And isn’t figuring out how to feel good again why you’re reading this article?)
- Tap your toes. Alternately and rhythmically tapping the toes of your right foot and then your left provides alternating bilateral stimulation (ABS) which is amazingly soothing and relaxing physically, emotionally and mentally for most people. And if tapping isn’t your thing you can use sights and sounds for ABS too.
- Watch a funny show or listen to a funny podcast. Slipping into another world that’s safe and easy is a great way to shed your fears for a little while. (When I was going through my divorce in 2002, I would watch reruns of The Andy Griffith Show and Green Acres.)
- Spend time outside experiencing nature. According to Mental Floss, “spending time in the great outdoors has been scientifically proven to reduce stress levels, help you find clarity, and rejuvenate your mind and body.”
- Tell someone about your negative thoughts and strategize together to debunk your fears. Two heads are definitely better than one when it comes to facing fears and neutralizing negativity. When you try to do it all on your own, you often wind up in a tangled web of terror that prevents you from making any kind of decisions for making your life better.
- Think about something that requires deep concentration. Deep concentration doesn’t mean that you need to think about something difficult. It just means that your attention is absorbed in something. Examples of ways you might focus your thoughts are meditation, counting backwards from 100 by sixes, and using breathing exercises.
- Tell yourself a different story. Some people can shift their negative thoughts simply by changing the story they tell themselves about their situation. Instead of ruminating on the fear of being alone for the rest of your life, you could change the end of your story and start thinking about how you might find the ideal person for you to spend the rest of your life with.
When I went through my divorce, I used all of these strategies. Not all at the same time, but selectively depending on what was going on.
Did I know them all before I got divorce? Absolutely not. I stumbled on each of them and I discovered that some would work one time and not at all another.
But you’re in a better position than I was. You know all 10 of these strategies and don’t have to flail around in the darkness of despair. You now have a starting point for injecting a little calm into your life by quieting your negative thoughts.
Maybe all 10 of these strategies will work for you, maybe not. Maybe one will work better for you today and not at all tomorrow. That’s OK. The important thing is that you try them again and again until you find what works for you when you need it the most.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and personal life coach helping people just like you who want support as they heal from their divorce. 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 advice about getting through your divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Healing After Divorce.
Use these 5 signs to confidently know if you’re ready to start dating again.
How will I know when I’m ready to start dating after divorce? This question is one nearly everyone who divorces eventually asks.
And coming up with an answer to it is complicated by the fact that this question (hopefully) brings up other questions. Is there a difference between dating and a hook up? Where can I find someone to date? What is dating like today? How will my dating impact my kids? And on and on.
Divorce is tumultuous and frightening so it’s normal to have a bunch of questions as you start moving on with your life by deciding if you’re ready to start going out again after divorce.
As confusing and complicated as it is when you first start contemplating whether you’re ready to begin dating after divorce, there are 5 signs you’re ready to get back out there.
- You love yourself. Divorce takes a huge toll on your self-esteem. You start to question whether you’re lovable not only by others, but by yourself too. By being able to truly love and care for yourself before you start dating after divorce, you’ll know you’re ready to get back out there because you’re not looking for someone else to make you feel whole again.
- You understand your role in the end of your marriage. This is important of two reasons. When you’re clear about how you contributed to the end of your marriage, you’re able to carry on conversations about more than the end of your marriage. It also means that you’re less likely to repeat the behavior which will save you a bunch of heartache.
- You know why you want to start dating. When you’ve got clarity about why you’re choosing to get back out there, you’re able to make smart decisions about who you go out with. If you’re not clear about it, you’re setting yourself up to be blown about by the whims of others which just adds more chaos to the mix as you’re getting your life back on track.
- You know the difference between dating and being in a relationship. It’s extremely difficult to avoid falling into a new relationship when you start dating after the end of your marriage. (Although that doesn’t mean it’s always a bad thing.) An idea to consider is dating 3 people at a time so you don’t fall into another relationship before you’re ready.
- You are ready to have fun. Dating after divorce is awkward. So, approach it from the standpoint of having fun and learning more about you and what you do and don’t like about being around all kinds of different people.
This list of 5 signs might seem daunting to you. If it does, you’ve got a little more healing to do before you’re ready to get back out there. And that’s OK. Be patient with yourself as you continue getting over your divorce and be willing to ask for support to help you finish your healing.
Maybe you’re good with a couple of the items, but there are a couple of them where you’re just not quite there yet. The thing to remember is that you’ve already made some great progress in creating a great life for yourself and that you’ve got just a little more progress to make.
But if you read through the list and know that you meet each of the criteria, then you’re ready to start exploring a new and exciting phase of your life!
Looking for more advice 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 looking for advice in moving on 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.