Divorce. The Great Divide. The non-delicate demolition. The emotionally eviscerating excavation of your white-picket-fence dreams. It’s a fault-cracking (and usually fault-finding) shake-up to anyone going through it. And yet, some people seem to recover more easily than others. What, if anything, does being a self-aware person have to do with how you rise from the ashes?
A lot, actually. And that’s what we’re going to explore here.
Sure, there are recognizable, even predictable similarities – grief, anger, disappointment, feelings of failure, and changes in lifestyle.
But every divorce, just like every marriage, is a melding (even in the throes of rending) of different personalities, histories, and experiences.
Men and women, for example, experience the short- and long-term effects of divorce differently. The effects of divorce on men are more transient, while the effects (especially financial) on women tend to be chronic.
Family histories can also have a profound effect on how individual spouses perceive, and therefore heal from, divorce.
Gender and family history, however, are factors outside your control. When something as monumental as divorce takes over your life, you need sources of empowerment and factors you can control.
And (yes, you probably saw this coming) the only person you can control…is yourself.
If you are ever going to access your superpowers within, you need to know the superhero staring back at you in the mirror.
And that starts with self-awareness – that Holy Grail of fearless self-knowledge, self-acceptance, self-accountability, and authentic progress.
But how does that apply to divorce and its aftermath?
If you are a self-aware person, here are 6 reasons that you will recover from divorce more easily than someone who isn’t:
You have an identity, a sense-of-self, that is not grounded in being a spouse.The magic of marriage lies, in part, in the merging of two independent lives into a new “entity” and life vision.
The risk of marriage lies in the same.
How easy it is to lose your sense-of-self to the enthusiasm for a life “as one.”
The danger, however, is that you forget who you are.
You also forget that the union to which you are committed can’t survive if you both collapse in on one another.
No one said this better than the poet Kahlil Gibran: “But let there be spaces in your togetherness / And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.”
A self-aware person would read this chapter on marriage and think, “Well, of course!”
The non-self-aware person would wonder how the marriage could survive.
Whether you come to your marriage with high self-awareness or have only recently embarked on it, you hold the key to healing from your divorce.
Your spouse fell in love with you – not a diluted, half-cloned version of himself or herself.
And, as you move forward to create a new life from the lessons of the old, reclaiming and reinventing you will be essential…and exciting!
You are more likely to reach out for help and support than someone who is not self-aware.If you were experiencing signs of a heart attack, how long would you wait before calling 911?
The self-aware person knows how to read the signs, whether they be physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, etc.
There is no heroism (and no reward) in “waiting it out” instead of seeking help.
You know divorce is going to be hard – on you, your ex, your kids, your families, your friends, your job.
Being proactive in seeking help makes you smart, not weak.
It takes you out of victimhood and shows you – and the world – that you have the business of life to get down to. And by golly, it’s gonna take a village to get it done!
Besides, when you open yourself to receiving, you complete the cycle of giving. Someday you may have what someone else needs to heal. And you will hope for their openness to receiving it.
You feel less threatened and insecure when transitioning from marriage to divorce because you know the qualities you can count on.Only a self-aware person can do a fearless self-assessment of both strengths and weaknesses.
I am incredibly resourceful, especially when the odds are against me. I know I’ll get through no matter what.
I’ve never been good with financial stuff. I guess I’m going to have to find some trustworthy people who are and seek their guidance.
I may never be able to make the money my ex does, but I am creative and open to ideas and possibilities.
Your self-assessment isn’t a list of pros and cons. It’s a “preparation list” that reminds you of all your inherent strengths.
And that includes the strength of character to know where you need to grow…and that you are up for the challenge.
You are less likely to have high attachment anxiety that would make you seek reattachment to an ex and/or unhealthy relationship.Attachment is simply the ability to make emotional bonds with other people. It develops during childhood between a child and primary caregiver and can affect every relationship in the child’s life, present, and future.
There are many reasons that attachment can have a negative influence on future relationships. Not meeting a child’s needs. Being inconsistent in parenting. Not having or teaching boundaries. Neglect. Abuse. Criticism.
The accrued “wrongs” of parenting can be the foundation for insecurities and lack of self-worth/self-esteem as a child matures and enters relationships.
Even if you had a dysfunctional childhood, your choice to develop self-awareness is your ticket to freedom from re-entering that negative cycle.
Does that mean you won’t ever long for your ex or marriage or wish you weren’t getting divorced? Of course not.
But it does mean that you can maintain healthy boundaries, look at your current circumstances with objectivity, and make wise choices to protect your future.
Your health benefits.If being in high-quality relationships is like a morning shot of wheatgrass to your health, then it stands to reason that relationship losses can have negative effects on health.
If you are a self-aware person, however, you will naturally keep yourself in check.
Yes, you may experience changes in your diet/sleep/exercise/stress/moods. But, compared to a non-self-aware person, you will recognize where you are making unhealthy choices that you can change.
Are you drinking more alcohol to numb the pain?
Self-awareness will tap you on the shoulder and make you look at where you are and where you could end up if you don’t change.
Have you stopped going to yoga classes because of exhaustion, lack of available time, and lost interest in being around people?
Self-awareness will remind you that you still have options to reaping the benefits of exercise: yoga videos, walking your dog, dancing with your kids.
Being a self-aware person keeps you in tune with your body and accountable for its well-being.
You have what it takes to find love again and to create a healthy, lasting relationship.As a self-aware person, you aren’t afraid to look at your own flaws and contributions to the loss of your marriage.
You also aren’t too proud to embark on the process of self-improvement. You know that your power to create or improve a relationship begins with you.
This is the same commitment to self-awareness that you should expect of any future partner…and will inevitably attract.
Imagine yourself as a magnet walking through your life. Everything that is authentic to you…everything that reverberates with who you are, what you feel/need/desire and has to give…comes out of hiding and connects to you.
It defines you, informs you, protects you, and heals you.
It is you. Unashamed. Unafraid.
Suddenly you are collected, “whole.” “All-one.” Standing in your own truth…
…and standing up for your own truth.
Self-awareness did that.
You did that.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation if you’d like support in becoming a more self-aware person so you can more easily navigate your life post-divorce.
You can learn more about becoming and benefitting from being a self-aware person in How To Be More Self-Aware.
Getting divorced is a decidedly unhappy turn of events for most of us. Our dreams of happily ever after are gone and we aren’t sure what to replace them with or if it’s even possible to replace them. And forget about being happy… what does that even mean?
Well, as bleak as things may appear to be right now, I know it’s possible to be happy again post-divorce. I learned how to do it myself when I got divorced in 2002 and I’ve helped hundreds of people find happiness again too.
Before diving into what to do to increase your happiness post-divorce, let’s look at some science-based facts about happiness that will prove you can be happy again.
First, there is stuff that’s not in your control when it comes to happiness.
In a study of 1300 twins, the Minnesota Center for Twin & Family Research found that happiness is 50% genetic. There’s absolutely nothing that you can do about your genetics when it comes to being happy – at least not yet.
Other researchers published findings that 10% of happiness is based on environmental factors. These are things that we have no control over, like the weather, where we were born, who our parents are, the economic situation we were born into, etc. However, as we mature, we can begin to shift some of the environmental factors like our economic situation to better support our happiness.
And when you add the numbers up, they say that we can control at least 40% of our happiness. But when you’re struggling with divorce feeling in control of anything often doesn’t seem possible.
So let me share with you 5 things you can begin doing today to start you along the path to being happy again.
Get your basic needs met.There’s a big difference between needs and wants. For many, this can be hard to distinguish when going through a divorce.
Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a great way to understand what basic needs are and which you may need to make sure you’re meeting.
From the most basic, the needs Maslow identified are
a.Physical (air, water, food, shelter, sleep, clothing, reproduction),
b.Safety (personal security, employment/resources, health, property),
c.Love & Belonging (friendship, intimacy, family, sense of connection),
d.Esteem (respect, self-esteem, status, recognition, strength, freedom),
e.and Self-actualization (desire to become the most that one can be).
For many who are struggling with divorce, most if not all of these needs are not being met. If that’s the case for you, start with the first of the needs above that isn’t being met and work on getting those met first.
For example, let’s imagine that as a result of your divorce, you no longer have a place to live and you need to find a job. Your first need to meet is Physical and finding shelter. Once you have a place to live, then you can focus on meeting your Safety need and finding employment.
It’s important to start at the beginning of the list to meet your needs. Doing so will help you to feel more relaxed and able to focus on the next needs on the list. In other words, you’ll be able to begin being happy as you feel more and more secure that your basic needs are met.
Get comfortable with not being in control.Post-divorce life can be quite different from married life. While you were married, you probably had more control over the time you spent with your children and how and when you spent money. Divorce changes all of that. All of a sudden these parts of your life are dictated (at least in part) by the laws where you live.
Now you have to worry about when it’s your scheduled time to be with your children.
Now you have to deal with the division of assets and debts accrued during the marriage in addition to spousal and/or child support.
But there are also other things you may not have control of when you divorce. For example, divorce severs more relationships than just your marriage and you’ll likely lose some friends too.
In other words, divorce fundamentally changes your life. And many of these changes are simply not in your control. And rather than rail against them, the best you can do when it comes to fostering your happiness is to learn to let go and accept what you can’t control.
Be present.Learning to be present can be a struggle for anyone. However, when you’re dealing with divorce it’s especially challenging because you’re grieving the end of your marriage (the past) and the hopes and dreams you had for the future as a spouse.
And when you’re trying to make sense of the past and the future, it’s really hard to be present.
However, there’s a simple question you can ask to help you become more present. That question is “What is right now?” Since this question is about the present, thinking about it and answering it will pull your attention to the present.
Be grateful.One of the secrets that all happy people know about being genuinely happy is that gratitude changes everything. And, yes, it is possible to be grateful post-divorce. The trick is to begin being grateful for the “small” things.
Some small things you might choose to be grateful for include: waking up this morning, having indoor plumbing, having running water, the sun rising, the sun setting, and seeing your child’s smile.
When you allow yourself to see there is still good in the world despite your divorce, it becomes easier to be grateful. And being grateful has a sneaky and even magical way of transforming into being happy because you’re focusing on what’s good instead of what’s wrong.
Set and pursue goals that align with your values and interests.When most people hear the word “goal” in this context, they think they’re being asked to set BIG goals. Setting big goals isn’t necessary when you’re working on being happy post-divorce. The point is to set any goal that will help you to feel more alive and vital during the process of achieving it.
When you purposefully do things that are in alignment with who you are and that you enjoy, chances are good you’ll begin experiencing happiness.
It doesn’t matter the order you try these suggestions for being happy post-divorce. The important thing is that you try one. Look at it as an experiment. Do you notice yourself feeling even a smidge happier when you try it? If so, that’s great!
And if you don’t, there are still 4 other suggestions for you to try out. When you’re ready, come back to this list to try another tip and see how it works for you. The goal here is to find as many as possible that work for you so you can experience being happy more often.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. You can select a helpful report and join my newsletter list for weekly support in moving on from your divorce. Additionally, you can schedule a 30-minute private consultation to talk with me about how to live a happy life post-divorce.