“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.”
As You Like It Act 2, scene 7, 139-143
Divorce is one of those times when we notice that people exit from our lives and the roles and responsibilities we shared with them no longer make sense. Many of these roles and responsibilities are ones we probably took for granted when these people were regularly in our lives. But now that they aren’t we just might find ourselves at a loss for how to get these unfilled roles filled.
Unlike a production of one of Shakespeare’s plays, we don’t usually have an understudy that will step up in if the person currently fulfilling a role suddenly isn’t there any more. This is where we need to roll up our sleeves and get to work on the functional divorce.
1. The first step is to identify which roles and responsibilities have been dropped.
To help you get started here are some roles and responsibilities people struggle with when they divorce. Well, they range widely – from the simple to the complex. Here is a partial list of what you might be struggling with:
-Chef/cook -Budgeter/Bill payer -Mom/Dad -Home maintainer -Lover/loved -Primary wage earner -Maid/butler -Laundry/Dry cleaning expert -Grocery Shopper -Investor
We struggle with roles and responsibilities when we get divorced because in a sense we’ve allowed ourselves and our spouses to become type-cast. We get used to how we’ve been living and how we’ve been living with our spouse. When we get separated/divorced, all the roles we’ve become so adept at are suddenly changed. We can feel overwhelmed about how much we’ve now got to do. We might feel a sense of freedom about how much less we have to do or we might have a sense of fear about how much less we have to do. Most likely, we feel a combination of it all.
2. The second step is to prioritize the order in which the unfilled roles need to be filled.
Not everything needs to be done at once. Which is the most critical role that needs to get covered? And after that is taken care of which is next most critical. Go through your entire list and prioritize each and every roll you’ve identified.
3. The third step is to develop your game plan for getting the most urgent roles filled.
Yes, you’ll probably have to work on multiple roles at once. I wish it was easier, but divorce is difficult at times. What I can tell you is that by taking a systematic approach to your functional divorce you will establish your new normal much more quickly. The benefit of that is a decrease in the stress and strain you (and your kids) are experiencing as a result of your divorce.
Taking a good look at the roles and responsibilities you had in your marriage and how they are changing as a result of your separation/divorce is critical to decreasing the stress and strain you experience. By having a good feel for how things are changing and what you can do to make it easier on yourself and your kids will go a long way toward getting you and your kids settled in your new roles. You can think of this experience as a script change and you are the chief writer who is determined to end the story happily.
You Functional Divorce Assignment:
Make your own list of roles and responsibilities that are impacted by your divorce. Use the list above to give you inspiration and come up with all the roles and responsibilities that you are now faced with covering.
Prioritize your list. Yes, there are a lot of things that in flux when you get divorced, but not all of them are top priority. Which are the most immediately important and which can wait for a bit.
Develop a game plan. How will you incorporate your new roles and responsibilities into your life? The important thing here is to make sure your game plan is realistic and achievable.
It’s OK to ask someone for help. Sometimes the parts you realize you now need to or want to play in your life are way different from anything you’ve ever done before. If that’s the case for you, I want to encourage you to ask for help. The right help at the right time can make all the difference in how quickly you can reach the happy ending to your divorce experience.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach. I help people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice.