These tips for changing an unhappy marriage will help you begin changing yours.
To begin changing an unhappy marriage is to welcome an avalanche of feelings, questions, disappointments, even fears. The admission is like the last finger sliding from your death-grip on a steep cliff, with nothing below to catch you.
OK, so that’s a bit dramatic. But to the person finally mouthing the words, “I’m in an unhappy marriage,” that scenario may not be too far from the truth. After all, marriages don’t just rocket out of the “happiness atmosphere” and into the black hole of despair overnight. They inch their way along with a little neglect here, some acrimony there, a veneer of denial everywhere….
If you’ve reached the point where denial is no longer an option, you may wonder if changing an unhappy marriage is possible. And if you have come to this conclusion of unhappiness alone, you may feel you are the keeper of a deep, dark secret.
It’s unlikely that one spouse is miserable while the other is basking in bliss. But it’s not unrealistic to expect that the two come to their recognition of an unhappy marriage in different ways, at different times.
The things that accumulate to damage a marriage can be the very things that delay changing an unhappy marriage. Tension, miscommunication, betrayal, disappointment, exhaustion, illness, financial stress — it can all sink its teeth into what once seemed invincible.
Sadly, not dealing with issues as they arise — and not having healthy skills for how to deal with them — can slowly erode your marriage.
So where does that leave you once you have come clean and acknowledged that you are, in fact, in an unhappy marriage? What are your choices? And where do you even begin?
Let’s start on a hopeful note and finish on a positive one. Being in an unhappy marriage does not mean you have written the final chapter and are left only with “The End.” There are steps you can take toward your own happiness and the betterment of your marriage.
If your marriage is important to you — even if it isn’t fulfilling any of your original dreams — stay positive. Assuming you are not involved in an abusive marriage, your spouse is probably quietly lamenting the evaporation of happiness in your marriage, too.
The irony of that mutual loss is that there is a mutual space in which to work on your marriage.
Here are 7 tips for changing an unhappy marriage for the better.
- Figure out the cause of your unhappiness.
The fact that you are married and unhappy doesn’t automatically convict your marriage. Take the time to really evaluate the cause of your unhappiness.
Are there perhaps internal factors joining forces with external factors? Can you pinpoint a time of onset? What was going on at that time? What has happened since? What kinds of stressors have been in your life since that point? When were you happy? And what differences can you point to between that time and now?
Being specific is important not only for knowing how to solve a problem, but for communicating without globalizing or blaming. If your goal is to revitalize your marriage, knowing exactly what you are dealing with will be a veritable compass for mapping solutions.
- Stop causing further damage to your marriage.
Now. Just. Stop. Any behavior that contributes to an already large pool of negativity — just take your foot off the pedal and stop. Picking fights, emotional blackmail, sarcasm, blaming, victimizing, bad-mouthing — you can’t throw that train into reverse if you don’t stop it first.
This also means eliminating the urge to “act out” on your negative feelings, regardless of what your spouse does. You may want to save your marriage, but you first have to take responsibility for your role in it.
- Talk with your spouse about your feelings.
“But that’s the problem! We don’t talk! And s/he won’t talk about feelings!”
As you read through these helpful tips, you will likely run up against several that sound like a complete disavowing of your experience. How can you talk about feelings when communication is your problem?
It’s important to remember that you are the one reading this. You are the one who has decided that changing an unhappy marriage is a priority. It is therefore within your power to initiate that change.
You may come away feeling as though you have just poured your heart out to a brick wall. But you will have taken the first step. And by doing so, you will have given your spouse vital information that calls for his/her response in some form.
You can do only your part in the best way you can. And opening up the lines of vulnerable, honest conversation is essential.
Be careful not to blame, but to focus on your feelings. “I feel sad. I miss us. I’m afraid. I’m lonely. I feel angry when I am left doing all the housework alone. I feel unimportant. I feel unappreciated.” These are all ways of expressing unhappiness without assigning blame.
- Express your needs clearly — both of you.
Be clear about your needs — without blaming or demanding. Express the seriousness of the issues and the potential consequences if those needs aren’t met.
A word of caution: This is not a green light to march in with a list of “If you don’t…I will….” No one should feel threatened. Rather, you should both come away with a reality check on the importance of your relationship and the individuals who hold it together.
Changing an unhappy marriage is about both of you having your needs acknowledged, valued, and met as much as possible. It’s also about meeting the needs of the relationship itself.
“This is important to me because….I need to feel valued….I need to have some time for my hobbies….” You will set the tone for communication by how you express your needs…and then ask for your partner’s needs.
- Let go of the need to always be right.
Having to be right all the time turns your marriage into a war zone. Someone always has to win, which means someone also has to lose. And that means one spouse is “up” while the other is “down.” And before you know it, your marriage is a “vertical” power struggle instead of a “horizontal” powerhouse.
Issues like power and control-submission are at the heart of depression in relationships. No marriage can be healthy when one spouse is lording over the other.
- Be compassionate.
It can be so difficult to bite your tongue, let alone accept responsibility, when you’ve been stewing in anger and disappointment. But changing an unhappy marriage means stepping outside what has become your comfort zone. And that comfort zone may involve not being sensitive and compassionate toward the person you vowed to love and cherish.
Having compassion isn’t about capitulation. You are working to get your feelings out into the common ground of your marriage. And it has to be safe for both of you to do that.
Compassion says, “I am here to learn about you more deeply and lovingly than I ever have. I am here to grow. I am here to learn more about myself, even as I learn more about you. I love you, and I want to understand you, me and us better so that we can have a great marriage.”
- Get a pro involved.
Why not? What do you have to lose by asking someone who deals with struggling marriages every day to help guide you? Finding an expert to help you learn how to communicate with one another in an elevated, mature way can be a huge asset.
Assuming you are both committed to changing an unhappy marriage to a thriving marriage, the “education” will be available where you seek it.
If you are in an unhappy marriage, there is no need to throw up your hands or throw in the towel.
Relationships are organic — always changing, always presenting new opportunities for growth. That’s what makes them exciting…and the optimal place in which to struggle out of the cocoon that keeps you stuck.
Whether or not you are successful in changing an unhappy marriage for the better is ultimately up to you. You are the one acknowledging your awareness of an unhappy marriage. You are the one wondering what you can do.
No one can make a marriage work alone, of course. But you are the one poised to take the first step.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a life and divorce coach helping people just like you who are looking for advice and support about changing an unhappy marriage. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in working with me personally, you can book an introductory 30-minute private coaching session with me.
Looking for more ideas for what to do about your unhappy marriage? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Unhappy Marriage.
When co-parenting doesn’t work, you can still raise happy, healthy children post-divorce.
When a divorce involves children, the most important considerations necessarily revolve around them. When co-parenting doesn’t work as a custodial solution, the priority of the children must still be maintained.
Given that children need and deserve to have a relationship with both parents, it makes sense that co-parenting would be the ideal arrangement. In a healthy co-parenting arrangement, the children, not the parents, are the focus.
Co-parenting expects parents to essentially “be on their best behavior” and practice healthy co-parenting. They have to communicate regularly, agree on fundamental child-rearing strategies and rules, and put the needs of the kids above their own.
As idyllic an arrangement as that sounds — short of being happily married — it’s not always possible.
Some couples simply aren’t ready or able to rise above their lingering negative emotions like anger, resentment and jealousy. Sometimes parenting philosophies and behaviors are starkly different. (Perhaps those differences even played a role in the divorce.) And sometimes two people are just flat-out incapable of collaboration.
Research shows that it’s not divorce itself that causes lasting harm to children. It’s being an audience to their parents’ destructive fighting that harms them. And that’s true whether their parents are married or divorced.
The damage affects the emotional, physical and social dimensions of the kids’ lives. And it follows them into adulthood, often thwarting their ability to have healthy relationships of their own.
What are your choices, then, when co-parenting doesn’t work and sole custody is out of the question? Is equal parenting still possible, but in a different way? And is it possible for your children to have an equal relationship with both parents without you and your ex having to interact?
When co-parenting doesn’t work because the risk of conflict is just too great, parenting has to be done without engaging. And, while that may not be the ideal parenting method, it is possible.
In parallel parenting, exes parent by disengaging. The goal is to reduce conflict and move forward with their lives while supporting their children’s right to relationships with both parents.
Children do better emotionally, psychologically, behaviorally and academically when they have positive bonds with both parents. When co-parenting doesn’t work because parents can’t communicate healthily, parallel parenting offers a way for kids to still have those essential bonds.
An often overlooked influence on the quality of parent-child attachments is the well-being of the parents. When a parent is threatened with the loss of his/her children, the risk of depression skyrockets for him/her. Finding a way to facilitate equal parenting benefits the well-being of both parents, which in turn benefits their relationships with their children.
Although parents in a parallel-parenting arrangement disengage from one another, they remain fully engaged with their children. They usually agree on major decisions regarding the upbringing of the children, but that’s it. They separately decide the day-to-day logistics, decisions and rules for the kids.
Because parallel parenting is predicated on disengagement, all communication between the parents is kept non-personal and business-like. All information shared is related to the kids, though the kids are never to be used as messengers.
In co-parenting, exes communicate openly and regularly — by phone, text, email and even face-to-face. In parallel parenting, the non-personal nature of the arrangement mandates a more contractual approach. Changes require a written agreement, and schedules are shared via a calendar or in writing.
The key to successful parallel parenting is letting go of trying to control the other parent.
That means not imposing your own expectations for rules and behaviors. If your ex allows playtime before homework, it’s essentially none of your business. You run your home your way, your ex runs his/her home his/her way.
The whole purpose of non-interference is fostering your children’s unrestricted ability to have a relationship with both parents. Even if you can’t prioritize your children by co-parenting, you can still prioritize them by not interfering when they are with your ex.
If you are more familiar with other custodial arrangements like co-parenting or primary guardianship, parallel parenting may sound cold. But remember that the motivation is to reduce stress, especially for the children. And equal-parenting arrangements lead to less stress and conflict than sole- or primary-custody arrangements.
This arrangement isn’t without its challenges, however. One of the downfalls is that frequent shifts between homes is tough on small kids. And older kids want more flexibility and independence, which can make a rigid, contractual arrangement difficult.
Logistically, a high degree of specificity is necessary in the initial plan. And the higher the conflict level between parents, the greater the need for structure and specificity.
A word of caution regarding parallel parenting when co-parenting doesn’t work: Couples exhibiting family violence are not good candidates for this arrangement. The very nature of this form of equal parenting makes it conducive to the secrecy and lack of personal accountability necessary for violence to occur.
The upside to parallel parenting is that, in time, two people formerly incapable of interacting may begin to restore trust. Assuming that both keep their end of the deal, there is hope that healing from the intense animosity and conflict can welcome in more collaborative parenting.
Until that time, however, parallel parenting facilitates co-parenting in high conflict situations. It allows children to feel a sense of security in an otherwise high-conflict family dynamic. That immunity to chronic, destructive fighting affords children of divorce better psychological adjustment going into adulthood.
Equal parenting reinforces the importance of both parents to the children’s lives. When co-parenting isn’t an option (at least in the present), parallel parenting can be a viable alternative that benefits both children and their parents.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I help people navigate parenting post-divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re ready to take the first step to working with me as your personal coach, you can schedule a private introductory session.
Looking for more information about dealing with parenting after divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Co-Parenting.
It won’t be easy, but you can get past this and create a better marriage together.
How do you get past this? Knowing how to get over an affair your husband had when you can’t even breathe — it feels impossible. How can you even want to stay with him? And how do you imagine life without him?
Affairs aren’t the exclusive scarlet letter of the immoral and heartless. They happen with and to all kinds of people…and to all kinds of marriages. They may be thoughtless, selfish and seemingly heartless in terms of damage done. But they are not necessarily the choice of those incapable of love and commitment.
And that can make your decision of whether and how to get over an affair your husband had and make your marriage work all the more difficult.
It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that, if your husband has an affair, he is choosing the “other woman” over you. It’s only natural to assume that he wants her more than he wants you. And therein lies the sting that causes your self-esteem, self-worth and dreams to implode.
People may think they know how they would act in response to learning of a spouse’s affair. But the truth is, every affair is as unique as the marriage it has quaked and all the individuals involved. Often there is a long history together. There may be young children. Your professional lives may be intertwined. And damn it, against every angry fiber in your being, you may still love him.
Interestingly, the person who has an affair often isn’t motivated by a desire for a relationship with someone different. If your husband has done the unconscionable, he may very well be saying that he really just wants his relationship with you to be different.
And that — despite the ugliness and irresponsibility of his irreversible choice — is a message of hope.
Learning how to get over an affair your husband had in order to make your marriage work is an enormous commitment.
And when he’s the one who broke what you thought was an ironclad commitment, you may feel some resentment about the workload. Anyone in your shoes would.
It’s important to understand that all affairs happen for a reason. Those reasons are in no way excuses, but they are valuable pieces of information. And when your life feels like Dorothy uprooted in a Kansas tornado and dumped into a war zone, information like that can help lead you home. It can at least give you perspective, however gut-punching, into the daily “micro-infidelities” and unmet needs that led your husband to stray.
You may also come to discover your own unmet needs and discontents. And that means the two of you have a lot that has gone unsaid. And a lot that needs to be communicated if you are going to figure out how to get over an affair your husband had.
Both you and your husband will have to commit to a long journey of hard work in order to heal. And you will each and both have high-level tasks to tend to on a consistent basis.
Your husband will have to cut off all contact with the other person immediately and commit to consistent, painstaking transparency on your behalf. He will have to be completely honest in answering your questions, and will have to take full responsibility for the choice he made.
That doesn’t mean that he has to take responsibility for everything that has ever gone wrong (or ever will) in your marriage. He does, however, have to take responsibility for how he chose to deal with his uncommunicated thoughts, feelings and needs. And he will have to be sympathetic, loving and patient while you inch your way back to trusting him.
Your high-level tasks fall under the umbrella of being willing to put in the effort and energy…without wielding the sword of victimhood.
You, too, will have to be transparent — but about your thoughts and feelings. No matter how badly the fire of hurt and anger burn within you, your goal cannot be blame and punishment. Seeking revenge in your words and actions will only keep you in a state of anger (and eventual guilt). Your focus must be on mutual problem-solving if you truly want to heal.
While you’re working toward reconciliation with your husband, it’s especially important that you take good care of yourself. Emotions like shock, anger, devastation and grief can create a whole complex of physical reactions. You may have problems sleeping, problems with eating and digestion, and problems concentrating. And at no other time will the nourishment of your self-esteem be more important.
Both of you will have to commit to keeping the kids out of this very adult matter. That can be a tough promise for you to make, especially when they are so perceptive and you are so wounded.
Putting your marriage back together after an affair your husband had is tough enough without trying to wing it on your own. Seeking the help of a marriage/couples counselor can be an enormous help. You will be exploring some very challenging questions with painful answers, and the objective guidance of a therapist can help you both stay contained and focused on the “we.”
Some of the questions you will need answers to in order to go forward might include:
- Is the affair over, or just “on hold”?
- Is he genuinely regretful and remorseful?
- Do you both genuinely want the relationship for compatible reasons?
- Do you both want one another?
And finally, you are going to have to mutually explore the deep, perhaps long-rooted reasons that the affair became possible in the first place. Your inclination may be to fall back into the victim role and blame everything on your husband. But this is one of the most important efforts you will make to get past the betrayal.
Identifying the intensity and duration of unmet needs — for both of you — is your window of opportunity for growth. If you shrink from facing these truths, you will forfeit the opportunity to have what it is you have always wanted but never got.
Your task is to make this exploration safe. In your mind, you may be getting answers to why your husband shattered your marriage and family. But if you enter the process with a genuine desire to know one another, you will, without realizing it, build authentic intimacy.
And through this hard-won intimacy, you just may come to know one another for the first time. And that will be the starting point for creating a wonderful new marriage.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. If you have questions about how to get over an affair your husband had, I can help. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
Looking for more information about the repercussions of cheating? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Surviving Infidelity.
Infidelity impacts you in profound ways regardless of which side of the betrayal you’re on.
Infidelity changes everything about a relationship. How could it not? But how infidelity changes you isn’t necessarily so sweeping and general, regardless of your role in the mess.
Dr. Jay Kent-Ferraro attempts to dispel the cliché myth that “once a cheater always a cheater.” Because of his experience — as a clinician and an unfaithful spouse — he makes the point that affairs are complex and always have a purpose to them.
By seeking to understand the reason and purpose behind an affair, both the betrayed and the betrayer can approach healing — and even redemption — with insight and wisdom.
And that’s true regardless of whether or not they stay together.
How infidelity changes you depends not only on who you and your spouse are heading into the affair, but who you are committed to becoming once the affair is exposed.
No matter what circumstances led to the affair, no one in its wake will be left unscathed. Yes, that goes for the cheater, too.
Again, there are always reasons — not excuses — and a purpose behind the unfaithful spouse’s choice to stray. But “once a cheater always a cheater” doesn’t have to be part of the aftermath.
If you have been betrayed by your spouse, you can probably imagine how infidelity changes you. You may already be living it.
If you are the betrayer, you may not have thought about the impact on your spouse and family. And you may not have even considered the lasting effects on your own life.
The effects of infidelity run the gamut from emotional to physical to neurological. The agony isn’t just in your head; it’s in your body.
Let’s first look at how infidelity changes you if you were betrayed.
- Your self-esteem and self-worth are shattered.
You wonder why you weren’t “good enough”…and why someone else was “better.” Because your self-esteem is destroyed, you start looking for ways that you caused your spouse to stray. Surely it must have been something you did (or didn’t do).
- You feel stupid…and wonder how you didn’t see the affair.
- Trust is never quite the same again.
The affair is always in the back of your mind. And even if you stay together, trust isn’t as unencumbered and naturally given as it once was.
- You’re afraid to love again.
The prospect of either falling in love again with someone else or staying with your spouse is frightening. You never want to give your power to someone again.
Because you become afraid to let your guard down, the world becomes a less happy and promising place in which to live. Holding onto the notion of love is a challenge because you now associate it with unbearable pain.
- Your brain takes a beating.
Neuroscience has shown that the rejection from infidelity has both short- and long-term consequences to brain chemistry. Because love is actually as addictive to the brain as cocaine, being cut off by the dagger of infidelity impacts the addictive neural pathways in similar ways.
- You physically hurt.
Referring to the same neuroscience, breakups and betrayals activate parts of the brain that respond to physical discomfort. The emotional experience becomes integrated into the physical experience, and you hurt…everywhere.
- You can’t stop obsessing.
Women are especially prone to rumination, constantly replaying all the possible causes, scenarios and consequences of the affair. They are also more inclined than men to feel somehow responsible for a spouse’s infidelity.
- Your eyes are opened.
Despite how infidelity changes you negatively, it also affords you clarity after the shock and anger are mitigated. You begin to see what you may have ignored, and learn how you make choices in mates. This allows you to make better choices if and when the time comes to trust again.
Now let’s look at effects of infidelity on the spouse who is the betrayer.
- Humiliation.At some point, most, if not all of the people in your life catch on to what is happening. You have failed to protect and defend the very values you swore to honor, and everyone knows. Even people who don’t know you seem to know. And God forbid the news hits social media.
- Your spouse has permanent ammunition against you.No matter your reasons for straying or your efforts toward penance, you will always be “the one who cheated.” Your spouse may use that sin as a dumping ground for everything involving blame, anger, judgment and abuse.
- Your children may blame you.
Children will not know how to properly process their fears and sense of loss without professional help, especially if they know something damning about one or both parents. Even as adults, they may reach back and blame you for their own choices or unfulfilled lives.
- You can’t trust others to be loyal to you.
As you try to balance your ability to cheat on your spouse against what you know to be a personal core of goodness, you have to face the irony. If you are capable of doing something so unthinkable, what’s to keep someone else from doing the same to you?
- Everything you do is questioned.
You know you can’t blame your spouse for not trusting you, but you also can’t live forever under a microscope. Short of having a spouse-appointed chaperone, you will always have the company of “who, what, where, when and why.”
If you and your spouse decide to work on your marriage, you will have to be painfully, humbly transparent while your spouse inches toward a new kind of trust. And that means answering a lot of questions.
- You lose credibility.
You may do a lot of soul-searching to answer for your infidelity and take responsibility for it; but there will always be those who resort to the “once a cheater always a cheater” conclusion.
- Your confidence may get a boost.
During the affair, that is. After all, neuroscience reminds us that people who are addicted are seeking a dopamine rush. And settling into a long marriage isn’t known for those feel-good jolts.
An affair, on the other hand, can reawaken the confidence that comes from a dopamine rush. As with an addiction, however, that confidence can easily come crashing down in a pile of guilt. And that guilt can play a huge role in your attitudes and behaviors going forward.
The ultimate decision about how infidelity changes you is, of course, up to you. There are plenty of individuals and marriages that heal to be stronger and more vital than they were before an infidelity.
That’s not to say, obviously, that infidelity is a viable consideration for marital improvement and personal growth. But recognizing the many ways that infidelity can change you can help both spouses in the painful aftermath of an affair.
And, hopefully, having the awareness up front will take the consideration of infidelity off the table altogether.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I can help you understand more about how infidelity changes you so you can move forward with your life. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
Looking for more information about the repercussions of cheating? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Surviving Infidelity.
By keeping these truths about healing after a divorce or breakup in mind, you can heal more quickly.
It may sound trite to say that “no two relationships are alike,” but it’s true. And in the context of healing after a divorce or breakup, the maxim is just as germane.
Give a canvas, paints and brushes to all the students in an art class and tell them to render the same model. Even with the same instruction, the visual interpretations will be as unique as the artists themselves.
And so it is with giving relationship advice. The “experts” can give insight, objective observations, suggestions — even relevant scientific data. But how you absorb and apply the counsel will be as unique as you are – especially if you’re struggling with feeling unlovable, lost and discouraged.
When healing after a divorce or breakup, it’s important to remember the unique, non-duplicatable nature of yourself and the relationship you’ve just left.
What may work seamlessly for helping one person heal may create a tangled mess for another. And one person may have a remarkable ability to move on and into a new relationship while another may embark on an unforeseen journey as a happy single.
One piece of sound advice is not to allow yourself to get swept up into myths and formulas about healing after a divorce or breakup. Rocket science couldn’t possibly control for all the variables that influence a human life, let alone a relationship. And it certainly couldn’t create a fail-proof formula for healing in its aftermath. Neither can the “experts.”
So give yourself a break, and know that the information provided here is intended to inspire your healing process as much as guide it. Only you can decide how much you reflect upon it, return to it and implement it.
Your relationship, in both its positive and negative qualities, existed to teach you and your partner essential lessons for your lives on earth.
It was the forum for wrestling with unresolved issues and restless demons, while pioneering a future as a blended endeavor.
Your break-up and healing exist to teach you essential lessons, as well. And those lessons will continue to help you pioneer a life as unique as you.
At any and every point in your healing process, you have the choice to search for and hopefully find peace and growth within your loss. These tips can help you do that.
Below are 7 important things to know about healing after a divorce or breakup:
- Healing takes time and patience.
Take the formulas for how long it takes to heal from a divorce or breakup with a grain of salt. At best, consider them with relativity.
The important thing to remember is that grief work is not It simply isn’t. While there are several identifiable stages of grief, they are rarely if ever navigated in order, in isolation, or in a fixed amount of time.
Be kind to yourself, and be as patient with the questions and misgivings that come up during your healing journey as you are with the moments of clarity.
- Relationships have a profound impact on your self-concept.
By the time you enter a relationship, you already have a lifetime of relationships that have shaped your thoughts, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. When you enter into a committed love relationship, you essentially carry all those relationships to the altar with you, as does your partner with his/her relationships.
Think about all the influences on who you are! And now you are committing all of that to one lifetime relationship that will not only shape who you are, but influence the direction of your life.
So it makes sense that as you heal from your divorce or breakup that you may feel like you’re losing a part of yourself. Yet working through this loss is actually how you’ll be able to find yourself again.
- Breakups involve unraveling.
Because you committed yourselves to a unified life, you were naturally “woven together” in your marriage or committed relationship. A breakup, therefore, involves an unraveling of your lives so that you can go forward independently.
Cognitively that makes sense. But emotionally it can be devastating and fraught with confusion and disorientation. You’ll probably ask yourself questions like:
Who am I without her/him?
Who was I before?
Who would I be today if I hadn’t met my ex?
How do I define myself?
How much of my ex’s influence on my life should I hold onto?
- Relationships don’t fully end; they just change.
Your ex may be physically out of your life — perhaps partially, perhaps totally — but you will never be the same ‘you’ had s/he not been in your life. You will be forever impacted by your relationship — just as you are by your family of origin — because you lived
However, you have the power to write your future from the lessons and wisdom gained during your time together.
- Reflection and talking can strengthen your recovery.
Self-concept reorganization is the process of rebuilding and strengthening the sense of self, independent of a relationship. Research into this healing process has shown that those who reflect more on the relationship and its breakup (9 weeks in the study) have a stronger recovery than those who take a more cursory, non-reflective approach.
The benefits of talking about the relationship and breakup, even repetitively, include gaining different perspectives and insight with distance. Talking will also help you to construct a story of the relationship that will give meaning to the experience through all its stages. It’s like talking into your own truth.
No, it’s not about blaming. It’s about reframing. And by sharing the talking process with a caring friend or family member, therapist or coach you are more likely to understand your story from a position of empowerment instead of weakness.
- Understanding your relationship fears can help you heal.
Most relationship issues have some kind of fear buried in them. What comes across as being unreasonable, paranoid, aloof, etc. may really be rooted in fears of abandonment and/or rejection.
You may not be able to discern those possibilities for your ex, but you certainly can — and should — for yourself. By courageously looking at your own behaviors and reflecting upon their emotional triggers, you can take steps toward allaying those demons before they do more damage in your life.
- Forgiveness is huge.
The practice of forgiveness is ongoing. It’s not an over-and-out mic drop that erases the past in a dramatic moment of reconciliation. It’s a method of meeting its antagonist in the moment and saying, “You no longer have power over me. I am releasing you so that I can move forward in my life.”
Yes, you can speak it to a person who has hurt you. But more often than not, when you’re healing after a divorce or breakup, forgiveness will be practiced within your heart. And it’s as important that you extend it to yourself as toward your ex.
You are the only one who directly knows if and when you choose to forgive. But consider the way energy shifts within a person who has made that choice. There’s a greater ease and peace that occur.
And the wonderful thing is that the shift is felt, even unconsciously, by everyone in that person’s life.
Going through a divorce or breakup can feel like a completely loveless time. You lose the love for/from/with your partner, you don’t feel much love for yourself, and you wonder if you will ever be loved again. You may not even want to be around people because you feel so lost, discouraged, and devoid of anything to offer.
By acknowledging the uniqueness of yourself and your relationship, and by not being sworn to any “absolutes” for healing, you can turn this loveless, painful time into intentional growth and eventual peace.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. If you would like additional help healing after a divorce or breakup, I can help. 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.