Know what behavior you will - and will not - accept.
Life changes a lot when you separate and divorce. Things that used to be a regular part of life just aren’t anymore. And when things change in unexpected ways, everyone can get scared, frustrated and angry.
When my clients and I begin our work together, they’re usually experiencing some combination of fear, frustration and anger. One of the first things we do is dive into what’s behind or at the root of these emotions. What we usually discover on our deep dive are limits or boundaries that have been disregarded in some way. The limits could be behaviors, expectations, thoughts, beliefs or even habits.
The identification of your personal limits is a critical part of restructuring your life during and after divorce. Some people are quite adept at identifying their limits – what they can and can’t do, what they think and why they think it, what they expect and why they expect it, and what their habits of thought, belief, response and action are. Others aren’t as aware of their limits. They aren’t quite sure of what their limits are or even if they want to know. These people tend to do and think what others tell them to. And then there are people everywhere in between these two extremes.
Regardless of your starting point, knowing and understanding your limits is critical for successful divorce recovery. Your limits can help you understand what’s truly important to you as you negotiate your settlement. Knowing your limits can help you take appropriate care of yourself. And knowing your limits will even allow you to ask for help and support when you need it.
It’s probably not a surprise to you, but your limits will be tested, pushed, prodded, and beat against before, during and after your divorce. Who’s doing all of this “exploring”? EVERYONE. Or at least it will probably feel that way. However, the chief explorers are usually your soon-to-be-ex, your kids and you. I’ll bet you already get how your soon-to-be-ex and kids figure in here, but did you expect to also be one of the chief explorers? The thing is that by virtue of going through the divorce process you’re asking yourself to completely redefine what your life is like. And anytime you change, you’re testing and exploring your limits.
All the testing, pushing, prodding and beating against limits was at minimum uncomfortable and at times excruciating for me as I went through my divorce recovery. However, the payoff was always worth it. I learned all kinds of things about my limits during my now successful divorce recovery. I learned that I was tired of putting up with the work schedule I had. I learned that I didn’t know how to date and then I learned how to. I learned that I didn’t know how to tell people “no” and mean it. I learned that despite how miserable I felt, that I was worth loving if only by me. Exploring, changing and affirming my limits helped me to be better able to communicate with myself and others.
I found that what didn’t kill me made me stronger – and happier. What made the whole experience easier for me was when I was able to let go of what I thought I knew for a certainty was true about me. I allowed myself to be flexible and to genuinely explore my limits with no judgment or expectation.
There’s going to be some struggle and then things will be better. Not exactly new information, right? Well, here’s the trick for making the experience easier on you: be flexible and loving while you’re exploring your limits so you can evaluate them by choice instead of by force.
By allowing yourself to be flexible as you explore your limits you’ll be much more able to understand and choose what to do with your limits and your life as you move toward your successful divorce recovery. Being flexible will also allow you to negotiate from a more confident spot because you’ll be able to more easily see the options available to you. Developing the ability to be flexible will help you now as you’re navigating your divorce and throughout your life – I know because it continues to work for me.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
Know your limits. As you’re proceeding through your separation and divorce process take note of your limits. You’ll probably become aware of them most easily when you’re experiencing a strong emotion.
Explore your limits. Once you’ve identified a limit, ask yourself questions like “How did I develop this limit?”, “What’s the benefit of this limit?”, and “What might adjusting this limit be like?” Take note of what you discover about yourself.
Adjust your limits. Exploring limits almost always gives you new ideas of how to be, act and think. Take advantage of your discoveries and adjust your limits in ways that make you feel wonderful!
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of 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.