Despite stress, confusion and misery. There’s a gift in divorce if you look for it.
Have you heard the story of the frog in the pot? In case you haven’t, it goes something like this. Imagine you took one of your old pots down to your local pond on a frog hunt. Your goal is to capture a frog along with some of the pond in your pot and bring your prizes back home. After sloshing through the muck for a while, you hear a ribbit off to your right. You slog your way as quietly as you can toward the sound and there it is the source of the ribbit — a huge frog! You slowly sneak up on the warty warbling beast and capture him, his lily pad and a bunch of pond water in your old pot.
Covered with a bit of pond scum, you make your way back home with your prize. When you walk in your front door, you make your way to the kitchen where you put the pot containing the frog, lily pad and pond water on the stove and turn the burner on low. Almost immediately, the frog is contentedly ribbiting away. You head off to change your clothes and check your e-mail. After a while you notice that the frog has stopped its singing. You walk back to the kitchen and find frog soup boiling away on the stove. Why didn’t the frog jump out of the pot?! It turns out that the water temperature was changing so slowly that the frog didn’t notice that it was becoming soup.
The same thing happens to you and me when changes are small and gradual. We don’t notice that they’re happening. For many people in a relationship that ends in divorce, that’s exactly what happened to them. They started off their partnership with all kinds of joy and the hope of living happily ever after; but over time, things changed and not for the better. Usually these changes are made to keep the peace or for the kids or to keep from rocking the boat. But the truth is, when you make changes for these reasons, you’re really giving up a part of yourself. You’re giving up who you really are.
And this is what I want you to understand. I want you to recognize that along with all the stress, confusion and misery of divorce there just might be a gift for you. The gift is having the time and space to rediscover the bits and pieces of yourself that you gave up for the sake of the marriage. The bits and pieces may be big or they may be small, either way, they’re important.
For example, I know of a woman who gave up garlic for her partner who was allergic to it. Now giving up garlic might seem like a small thing, but this woman loves Italian food and for years she made Italian meals without garlic. When they split, one of the first things she was able to rediscover about herself was her absolute love of cooking and eating garlic-laden Italian food at home.
I gave up something bigger than garlic for the sake of my first marriage. I gave up on my need for a relationship with my husband. Over the years we stopped having meaningful conversations and doing things together. I tried to figure out ways to change things, but wasn’t successful. So I accepted it and pretended that being roommates who had a joint checking account and occasionally had sex was enough for me. After living like this for a few years I finally realized that it wasn’t enough and that I missed the part of me who enjoyed having a real relationship. That was when my ex-husband and I began talking about getting divorced. We divorced about a year later.
I don’t know what bits and pieces of yourself you gave up for the sake of your marriage, but I’m pretty sure you’ve given up something that you just might be happy to find again now after divorce. Unlike the frog that became soup, you can rediscover the bits and pieces of you—the real you—that you slowly changed and gave up for the marriage. Now, you get to be wholly, completely and wonderfully you again.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
What do you know you gave up for the sake of the marriage? What would you be glad to have back in your life again? What could you do today to start to get it back?
You might have given up something so long ago that you’ve forgotten what it was. No worries! Just take a few minutes and think about some of the things you enjoyed as a kid. Anything you’d like to try again now? Take another few minutes and think about the things you enjoyed doing before you got married. What would you like to try again now? How can you start to get more of these enjoyable things in your life?
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach 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.
This article originally appeared on YourTango.