Knowing these 3 phases of divorce recovery will help you understand exactly how long it will take.
The pain and confusion of divorce is so intense that at times you wonder if you’ve lost your mind. At other times, you worry that this agony is just how life will be from now on.
In less tortured moments, you know you’re still sane and that life will get better. But then you wonder when because you aren’t sure how much more of the misery you can take.
A quick Google will show you there are plenty of people who will willingly tell you exactly how long it will take you to get over your divorce. What you need to know is that they’re ALL WRONG.
These authorities are all wrong because they base their guidance on averages, observation, personal experience and personal bias. There’s no way any of that will be able to predict exactly how long it will take YOU to get over your divorce.
Divorce recovery is a process. You’ll get through it on a timeline that’s unique to you – not according to someone else’s.
So instead of looking for an exact time when you’ll be over your divorce, it makes more sense to look at other indications that you’re over your divorce.
One of the best ways to gauge how far you’ve come and how much more you have to do is to look at your primary motivation for how you’re living your life.
There are three different phases of motivation that people go through as they heal from their divorce.
1.Make the pain stop.
This the is the most difficult part of divorce recovery. Living in pain and confusion is the only constant amidst the chaos of your divorce.
You struggle to figure out a way to stop hurting so much as you go through all the phases of grief. You are greatly tempted to medicate the pain away in this phase. You might ask your doctor for a prescription or you might self-medicate with food, alcohol, other mood-altering substances, and/or sex.
The biggest challenge here is to not over medicate yourself so you avoid feeling what you need to experience to actually heal so you can move on to the next phase as you fight to move on with your life after divorce.
You’ll also look for guidance form just about anyone for ideas to make the pain stop. The challenge is that not everyone you’ll be tempted to ask for help will be able to really help you. They’ll each have their own reasons for offering help which may or may not have your best interests as reason #1.
2.Focus on others.
As the pain starts to subside, you’ll feel numb compared to the tumultuous emotions that were besieging you in the previous phase. You’ll look outside of yourself to keep moving on.
You might start to real focus on your kids or work or your pets or even your friends. This external focus allows you to re-establish and redefine the relationships and your responsibilities that suffered the most as you were dealing with your pain.
Looking at life through this lens of connection and contribution can be extremely motivating. The challenge is that it can also lead to burnout because you’re not necessarily taking care of yourself.
3.Creating the life you want.
Eventually, you’ll get your relationships and responsibilities stabilized. You may not have everything exactly the way want it, but you’ll accept the way things are with the important people and activities in your life.
This is when you start becoming motivated by what you want in your life. You’ll find it easy to take the steps necessary to make your life great.
This shift in focus doesn’t mean that you start ignoring what you’ve built up in the last phase, but that now you are motivated on making your life really work for you. The goal now is to feel fulfilled and happy.
And when you reach this phase you’re over the bulk of your divorce recovery work. You may still have a few triggers that hurl you back to the first phase of pain and confusion (like when you find out your ex is in a serious relationship, or when your anniversary rolls around), but you won’t stay there for long.
You know that what lies ahead of you is so much more motivating and appealing than what happened in the past.
As much as knowing these phases will help you get a feel for how much longer you’ll be dealing with getting over your divorce, they can also make it more challenging if you’re one of those people who like to push to accomplish things.
Super-achievers will be tempted to start focusing on what they want to create in their life NOW instead of allowing themselves to thoroughly work through each of the phases.
If this is you, remember that completely recovering from divorce is a process. You can certainly accelerate the process by focusing on the best ways to get through each phase, but not by short-circuiting or skipping any portion of one.
So allow yourself to progress through each of them with intention. As you do, you’ll find that you’ll have dealt with the pain, confusion and outward focus to the point that you’re able to truly create an amazing life for yourself post-divorce.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are struggling with divorce and don’t know how to stop the pain so they can move forward with their lives. 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 feeling better after your divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Healing After Divorce.
This article originally appeared on The Good Men Project.