Use these 3 steps to forgive yourself and set yourself free.
Yes, I struggle with being over-responsible, so I know what I’m talking about. (And, please, don’t judge me.) Over-responsibility is a trait most women are either trained into or gifted with at birth.
But it’s not found exclusively in women! Men are also over-responsible and come by it just as naturally as women do.
Us over-responsible folks experience the world a bit differently than others do. We know on every level of our being that we are
responsible for making things work out and take care of everyone else. If we don’t, we feel anything from discomfort to misery at shirking our perceived responsibilities.
It’s our overbearing sense of accountability that can hamper or even derail our divorce recovery. We habitually assign ourselves blame when things we’re involved in don’t work out or simply don’t go as planned. It’s the guilt from being at fault that keeps us from healing.
When your marriage ends in divorce it’s way too easy to blame yourself primarily (if not exclusively) for its demise. You spend hours thinking, “If only I had _______” where you fill-in-the-blank with impossibilities. Not things that are impossible to do, but things that are impossible to go back in time and do.
For us over-responsible types, it is difficult to let ourselves be less than perfect. (Oh, and by the way, a failed marriage is WAY less than perfect.)
Yet acceptance of your fallibility and imperfection is exactly what needs to happen to stop the merry-go-round of misery you’ve been riding and get over your divorce.
Bottom line: You must forgive yourself before you can get on with your divorce recovery.
Self-forgiveness isn’t a skill that comes especially easily when you’re used to holding yourself liable for just about everything. However, it’s a skill you must master.
If you’re ready to stop heaping blame and guilt on yourself, follow these 3 steps to forgive yourself and let your healing begin:
- Share the accountability. It takes two for a marriage to fail. You were always doing your best given your situation. (Yes, you were. You’re over-responsible so by definition you were doing your best.) However, doing your best does not mean that you’re omniscient or perfect. By continuing to blame yourself you’re being self-destructive.
- Choose to forgive yourself. Imagine what it would be like to stop the blaming. All it takes to stop is choosing to forgive yourself. Say the words out loud, “I forgive me.” Let them seep into your psyche. Continue saying them until you believe them just a teensy tiny bit.
- Record the shift you feel when you do forgive yourself. You’ll know you’ve forgiven yourself – even a tiny bit when you start to feel more peaceful. You’ll know you’ve completely forgiven yourself when you feel an intense sense of peace. Make note of how you feel so you’ll be able to remind yourself of the forgiveness you’ve experienced – just in case your blame habit wants to kick in again. The more often you remind yourself of how wonderful it feels, the more you’ll want to continue on the path of personal forgiveness.
Following this process once probably won’t magically gift you with self-forgiveness. You’ve been in the habit of taking all kinds of responsibility and blame that aren’t completely yours for a long time.
Don’t worry though because you can do these steps again and again. (I did.) Each time you go through the process, you’ll achieve a deeper level of self-forgiveness. Once you do forgive yourself, you’ll then be able to really achieve divorce recovery.
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 recovery. 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.
Make the story of your divorce recovery bittersweet and successful instead of just bitter.
Divorce is tough. The worst part of it is that there’s loss after loss after loss.
You’ve lost your marriage.
You’ve lost your dreams of “happily ever after.”
You’ve lost being married to one person for your entire life.
You’ve lost having your kids grow up in an intact family.
You’ve lost being able to see your kids growing up on a daily basis.
You’ve lost the conveniences that come with marriage – one home, shared responsibilities, shared parenting, etc.
These losses are only the tip of the iceberg of things you say goodbye to when your marriage ends. Divorce recovery is a tale of grief.
But the losses don’t tell the whole story. They just set the stage – a stage of destruction.
It’s the rest of the story that’s the most powerful, the most affirming and the most wonderful. The rest of the story is about creating and rising from the ashes. It’s a talk of you creating your life into something better than it was – a life you love even more. (Yes, it’s possible.)
The trouble is you’re probably not feeling all that heroic. And that’s completely understandable. The destruction and misery surrounding you aren’t exactly breeding grounds for motivation and energy.
Luckily, being (or becoming) heroic in the midst of divorce recovery doesn’t have to be difficult.
You can make things better and develop a sense of hope about your future. You can get over your divorce (a hero has to have a seemingly insurmountable task to overcome) if you simply start asking yourself four questions.
The first question is about who you were before you got married: What are some things you gave up for the sake of your marriage?
Obviously, you gave up being single, but what are some of the other things? To give you an idea of where to start, let me tell you a couple of the first things I gave up for the sake of my marriage. I stopped expressing myself with a colorful vocabulary because my ex didn’t approve of my use of the word “sh*t”. And I stopped going out dancing.
The second question is about curiosity: What are some experiences you’d like to have or things you’d like to try?
When you’re married, you tend to dampen your curiosity to include only those things that fit within your marriage rather than things that satisfy your need to explore and have new experiences. So throw off those restraints and allow yourself to rekindle your sense of adventure and wonder as you answer this question.
The third question is about life purpose: What are some dreams you moth-balled because of your marriage?
Maybe touring the world or becoming a physician were dreams you chose to put on the back burner because they didn’t fit in with the life you were living with your spouse. The good news is that you don’t have the same constraints anymore, so dust off those dreams and see which ones still inspire you.
The final question is about your future: Who do you want to be a year from now? 5 years from now?
Fuzzy answers are OK right now especially if your divorce is in progress or recent. But you need to come up with answers because that’s who you get to start growing into right now.
One of the answers I frequently hear when I ask this question is “I want to feel happy and not sad all the time.” If that’s your answer too, start being on the lookout for one thing every day that makes you happy or at least less sad. It could be the smile on your child’s face or the beautiful clouds in the sky. Whatever it is make note of it. The more often you do notice these things the more quickly you’ll be able to lift your veil of grief.
But just because you focus on answering these questions (again and again) to pull yourself through your divorce recovery, it doesn’t mean that you won’t still feel sad, lonely or grief-stricken. What it does mean is that things will start feeling a bit different, less overwhelming and all-consuming.
And the longer you continue moving forward toward what you want the greater your appreciation for what was and the fact that it’s ending is what’s contributing to you becoming who you are now and who you want to become. So really, the losses were just the setting and the beginning of the rest of your life story. The story where you’re the hero and you wind up happy and fulfilled again.
Don’t let the misery of divorce trap you. 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 interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
Waiting for someone to fix me didn’t work until I realized I was the someone I was waiting for.
I didn’t really start my divorce recovery until about a year after my divorce was final. It took that long before I stopped waiting for someone to show me the way.
I read lots of books, worked with a therapist (who thankfully was divorced and understood divorce recovery, joined a divorce support group, and talked with family and friends. Each of these helped, but I kept thinking that somehow one of these would fix me – that something or someone else could make me better.
But I was wrong – really wrong. All anything or anyone outside of me could provide were clues, hints, intimations – nothing so bold as “This is EXACTLY what you, Karen Finn, need to do to feel better, normal and happy again.”
The hard truth was that I had to do the thinking, the planning, the learning, the experimenting and the work. I had to feel the pain and go through it. I couldn’t heal by proxy.
It was all up to me because it was my life. No matter how much anyone loved and cared for me, they couldn’t fix my life for me. It was my job, my responsibility and my life purpose to make my life one that I enjoyed and cherished. My divorce forced me into this realization.
For my life to be worth living – really worth living and savoring every second of – I would have to make it that way. It wasn’t going to just happen.
I hesitantly decided I would have to step with both feet into my power if I was ever going to get over my divorce. After having not been my own advocate for the bulk of my life, I was scared and uncertain if I had any power at all to change things because they were just so bad.
I was a wiz at work, but not so much in my personal life. Looking back, I now understand the dichotomy.
At work, I was clear about what was expected of me at work and where I could go. I wasn’t so clear about what I wanted in my life. Sure, I’d created personal goals before, but they never seemed real. There wasn’t an external infrastructure already in place to make them real so they just never happened.
I came into my power slowly. I decided on small things about my life that I wanted to fix and then relied on experts to help guide me on how to get here as quickly as possible.
One of the first things I decided to fix was how I looked. I felt a bit unfashionable, but I wasn’t sure why and, although I was thin, I was flabby. So I hired an image consultant and a personal trainer.
Working with Trudy, my image consultant, opened my eyes to the fact that I’d become frumpy. Very few of my clothes fit me, my haircut wasn’t flattering, and I hadn’t updated my makeup since I was a teenager! I had really let myself go over the years. Working with Trudy was a lot of fun because I discovered I was beautiful (at least to me).
Working with Manning, my trainer, wasn’t quite as much fun. My workouts were hard, but the hardest part was when he confronted me about being anorexic and the work I did to breakthrough my habit of denying myself nutritious food to deal with my stress. Talk about getting real with myself, accepting responsibility and fixing a big problem! Although the work was hard, I can never thank Manning enough for telling me the truth about what it would take for me to achieve my goal of being physically fit.
Both of these experiences helped me realize I was making changes in my life that meant something to me. It didn’t matter if they meant anything to anyone else because it wasn’t my job to please them. It was my job to please me.
Not everything I tried worked the way I wanted it to. I definitely made some mistakes because I still trusted that others knew what was better for me.
When my best friend from junior high and high school suggested that moving might be a good idea, I listened closely to his opinion instead of asking myself if it was truly right for me. When Brad later invited me to live in his and his wife’s guest house until I figured out my own living arrangements in town I interpreted it as them coming to my rescue. Yup, I stepped right back into wanting someone outside of me to fix my life.
Long story short, I quickly learned self-reliance and self-determination were not skills I had mastered yet.
But every single one of the successes and mistakes was mine. They were part of my learning to live my life. And they are pieces of my life that have shaped me into the person I am today.
I used to wonder what my life would be like if I hadn’t gotten divorced. Would I have ever woken up to the fact that I’m the one in charge of me and creating my life as I want it? Maybe, but even if I had, I know it would have taken me a lot longer to get through. So, as painful and horrible as it was, I’m thankful for my divorce because it allowed me to start my ongoing discovery of me.
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 by scheduling a private consultation.
This article first appeared on Marriage.com.
The path to move on from divorce and divorce recovery isn’t straight and narrow.
(NOTE: This article is a classic and was written in 2015. As a result, the dates and years passed are not accurate today. Enjoy!)
I recently got a new computer. And if you’ve ever had to transfer files from one computer to another, you know that it can be kind of fun to take a peek at what has been hogging up space on your hard drive.
Well, on my expedition through all of my files, I found emails in my inbox that were more than ten years old! Some of these ancient notes even had details about the negotiations my ex and I went through to settle our divorce in 2002. Not really anything I need to have hanging around any more, right?
Believe it or not, I paused before hitting delete and trashing all of that ancient correspondence. I was flooded with a variety of thoughts and questions. “Those emails were part of my personal history,” I thought to myself. They were part of what defined me — back then. “Would I be throwing away a piece of myself if I deleted those emails? Would I be disrespectful of that old relationship?”
Yes, ten whole years after my divorce was complete, seeing those emails brought up some of the turmoil that I went through when I got divorced. It was fleeting, but it was absolutely there.
Does this sound familiar? Most people believe that that once the divorce decree is signed, that should be the end of it. Most people also think that once you’ve moved on, things will never pop up again to remind you of the huge transition that your divorce was in your life. That’d be nice, but the truth is that your divorce will always be a part of your personal history. Even after you finish the bulk of your transition from married to single, there will be events, people and things that remind you of both the unpleasant and pleasant parts of your divorce. It’s okay and it’s normal. As you get more and more involved in living your life for you, the impact your divorce has will diminish to barely a blip on your radar.
How do I know? Because more than ten years after my divorce was finalized, when I found those emails detailing the negotiations about our division of property, I paused. But I paused for only a moment before I hit delete and felt really good about my current life. And you know the best part? I wouldn’t be here today without having gone through what I went through back then.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
What are you holding on to that you might be ready to let go? Consider the things, thoughts, and ideas that you’re holding on to currently. The ones that bring you the most pain might just be the ones that you consider letting go of.
What might be the consequences of letting them go? Thinking about the repercussions of letting these things go, you’ll discover both positive and negative possibilities. Get them all out so you can really see what the cost of letting them go might be. Sometimes the consequences of letting them go are really wonderfully positive.
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 by scheduling a private consultation.
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.
If you’re looking for more help recovering from your divorce, read more articles in Healing After Divorce.
Life is crazy enough without having to deal with divorce recovery. Learn how to make it easier.
When I got divorced in 2002, I thought that after the decree was signed by the judge everything would be better. I’d somehow magically be over all of the pain, fear, anger and disorganization that seemed to have overtaken my life. But, as you’ve probably guessed, the divorce decree wasn’t quite the magic wand I was hoping for.
It took me more than a year to really get myself feeling good again. There were just so many changes in my life and I didn’t have a great way for absorbing all them, given the demands of a life I was already dealing with. I wound up procrastinating instead of doing things. My house was a wreck. I hardly had any food in the kitchen, but that didn’t matter because I didn’t eat much. My health was deteriorating. I was hardly sleeping. I think I was running on adrenaline, caffeine, sugar and not much else. Bottom line: I was exhausted and falling behind on everything.
I found my way out of the mess divorce created in my life, but it wasn’t a simple task. I had to decide what was really important to me. I had to change the way I did things. And I had to change the way I thought about things.
It wasn’t until I found my way out of the mess that I was able to look back at where I’d been and realized that there’s a big piece of divorce that no one talks about. Real divorce recovery requires that you change how you live your life, that you examine your priorities, and that you do things you might never have done before or you become comfortable with letting some things go. This piece of divorce recovery that no one talks about is what I call The Functional Divorce because how you function and simply just are in the world changes when you get divorced.
One of the most important pieces of The Functional Divorce is developing a time management system that works for you. Yes, time management. When you’re going through divorce it’s so easy to lose track of time to the rollercoaster ride of unpredictable emotions — shock, denial, grief, anger, loneliness, etc. Heck, the emotional ride is exhausting, but in the midst of all of this turmoil there are certain things that must be done. You’ve got to continue working, caring for the kids, caring for the pets, caring for your aging parents, and caring for your home to name just a few. On top of all that you’ve got to deal with the legal process of divorce which is probably unfamiliar to you AND you’ve got to figure out how to do all of the things that your former spouse used to do. You might now need to deal with car repairs, keeping up with the kids’ schedules, making meals, finding a new place to live, selling your home, moving… Your life was full before the divorce and now you’ve got even more stuff heaped on your overflowing plate of responsibilities and which just adds to your overall sense of exhaustion.
By carefully managing your time, you’ll be able to more easily navigate all the tasks and emotions of divorce, and more quickly achieve real divorce recovery — which means you’ll be able to get on to living the best of your life sooner.
Yes, it’s simple to say that time management is one of the necessities of real divorce recovery. But adding one more task, to figure out time management, probably doesn’t seem to be exactly what you need right now. So, to help you develop your system, here are the top 5 time management tips for real divorce recovery that I used for myself, and that I teach my clients.
Time management tip #1: Make friends with your timer. One of the realities of divorce is the need to do things you don’t want to do, or even feel energetic enough to start. This is where using a timer is one of the best time management tips I can give you. Make an agreement with yourself that you can handle anything for just 15 minutes (or 10 or even 5 if that’s all you can handle). Set your timer and then laser focus on getting that one task done. The task can be anything: putting together information your attorney has asked for. It can be allowing yourself to cry. It can even be researching where to buy tires or putting together a grocery list. Giving yourself the gift of this time to focus on just one task at a time is one of the most effective ways to get through your functional divorce and experience real divorce recovery.
Besides getting things done, there are other benefits to using your timer. Setting a timer eliminates the need for you to watch the clock which will allow you to focus completely on your task. As soon as the timer rings, you can then choose to continue working on the task or stop and congratulate yourself for moving things forward. As you make better friends with your timer, an amazing thing starts to happen. You’ll start to feel a sense of accomplishment. When you feel better about what you’re getting done, you’ll actually start to feel better about yourself too! How’s that for a reason to make friends with your timer?
Time management tip #2: It’s oh-so-easy to spend time doing things that may not be the most important things to get done. So prioritizing what needs to be done is the second of my best time management tips. One of the ways I’ll often teach this tip is by asking people to think about each task on two different scales. The first scale is Urgent vs. Not Urgent. To determine the urgency of a task you can ask yourself questions like: What is the deadline for this task? Is life or limb at risk? The second scale is Important vs. Not Important. To determine the importance of a task you can ask yourself questions like: What impact will completing this task have 10 years from now? What impact will completing this task have 1 year from now? What impact will completing this task have 1 month from now? What impact will completing this task have 1 week from now? What impact will completing this task have one 1 day from now. What impact will completing this task have 1 hour from now?
The key to this method of prioritization is to focus on the tasks that rank highest on both the urgent and important scales first. Using this method for prioritizing all of your tasks might seem daunting at first, but it might also be a great thing to share with your new friend the timer!
Time management tip #3: Just because a task has both a high urgency and is greatly important doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re the one who should be doing it. The third of my time management tips is Do, Delegate or Dump. If you’re the only person that can do the task, then you’re stuck with it. It’s time to roll up your sleeves, set your timer and get it done. Generally speaking, if the task is something that you can ask someone to do and have confidence that they’ll do it at least 80 percent as effectively as you can do it, or it’s something that you just don’t have the expertise for, then it’s a great candidate for delegating. Some of the tasks that make perfect sense to delegate are drafting your divorce decree, changing the tires on your car, making the kids’ beds, and cleaning the house. If the task is something that is lower priority and is both non-urgent and not very important, then it’s probably a task that can be dumped and not given another thought.
Time management tip #4: For the tasks that still need to be done either by you or someone else, it’s important to be clear about exactly what the task is and expectations. That’s why the fourth of my time management tips is to define the details.
Have you ever agreed to do something, completed it to the best of your ability and then been told you’ve done it all wrong? Or worse, you’ve counted on someone to do something for you and the result isn’t anything like what you expected? I’ve been in both of these situations more than once and neither one feels good. What I’ve learned is that the best way to prevent things like this from happening is to define the details of the task as completely as you can. This is true even for tasks that you assign to yourself because there’s a difference between obsessively perfect and perfect for this particular circumstance.
Time management tip #5: This tip could actually be the most important, but I’ve saved it for last because it often requires tips 1, 2 and 3 to do it well. The fifth of my time management tips is to schedule time every day to take care of you. Although it may not seem to be urgent at first, I assure you that taking care of you is both highly urgent and highly important. Divorce is stressful, demanding and exhausting for most people. In order to get through it and make sure you’re functioning at your best, you must take care of you.
Taking care of you doesn’t have to take a lot of time. It can be as little as five minutes (this is where tip #1 comes in handy) where you are just focused on nurturing you. You might take a walk, you might dance to your favorite song, or you just might lock yourself in the bathroom for 5 minutes of alone time. Whatever you choose to do, the goal is to take care of yourself so you feel energized enough to get back to the rest of your task list.
My top 5 time management tips for real divorce recovery are just the starting point. They’re tips you can test and adapt to work best for you because time management truly is one of the keys to successfully recover from your divorce and get on to living the best of your life.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
• Download a time app for your phone. Using a timer is one of the time management tips that I still use today. I find that it allows me to completely focus on one task without having a nagging fear that I might work on it too long. Or, for those tasks that I just don’t really want to do — like doing my bookkeeping — I know that there is a defined stopping point. I’ll bet you’ll like getting to know your timer too!
• Set your timer for 15 minutes and make a list of everything you need to get done along with any due dates. I think you just might be surprised at how much less overwhelmed you will feel once you get all of your tasks written down. The pressure of needing to remember everything is gone and we both know how difficult it can be to remember things when you’re already feeling overwhelmed by the divorce.
• Tomorrow, take your list back out, set your timer again for 15 minutes and prioritize your task list. I suggest waiting until tomorrow just in case you had to push really hard to complete the list in the first place. If creating your list wasn’t a HUGE task for you to get done, go ahead and prioritize your list now.
• When you’re ready, it’s time to determine which tasks to do, to delegate and to dump. Again, setting the timer can be extremely helpful in getting this division of the tasks done.
• For the highest priority to do and to delegate tasks, define the details. Doing this will help you figure out how much time to devote to each task and to get a realistic estimate to complete the tasks.
• Take a break and take care of you. I find that one of the best ways to celebrate completing any task is to celebrate. What better celebration than to celebrate you and nurture yourself for a little bit.
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. If you’re ready to take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
This article originally appeared on YourTango
Divorce is one of the most stressful life events you can go through. And one of the most common symptoms of being stressed out is an inability to sleep well. Yet, sleep is one of the best ways to minimize the effects of stress by allowing your body and mind to recover. It can seem like you’re in a catch 22. You’re stressed out because of all the changes resulting from your divorce and really wanting a good night’s sleep (or two!), but you’re so stressed out and your mind never slows down long enough to get the sleep you’re craving which makes you more stressed. ARGGH!
I want you to know there is hope for a good night’s sleep. These are my top 5 tips for getting the rest you need to help you more effectively and easily deal with the stress of your divorce.
- Make sure your room is a place where (theoretically) you can easily go to sleep. Is your room dark enough? If not, get yourself a sleep mask. Is the temperature of your room conducive to sleep? If not, add a fan or more blankets or put on a pair of socks. Is your room quiet enough or too quiet? If not buy some ear plugs or listen to some music or put the TV on a sleep timer.
- Make sure your bed is welcoming. Especially when you’re dealing with the stress of divorce, your bed can feel empty. While I don’t recommend finding someone to fill it until after you’ve finished the bulk of your healing, I do recommend cuddling with a pet or even getting a body pillow and tucking it tightly next to you.
- Get your body to relax by doing some exercise daily. The stress of divorce dumps all kinds of hormones into your blood stream. The purpose of these hormones is to give you energy. If you’re not using up that energy, you’re going to be stuck with the buzz at night when you’d rather be sleeping. A great exercise for dealing with the stress of divorce is to get outside in nature and go for a walk, a jog, a run, a bike ride or even go skiing. Being in nature and active releases a lot of stress and will allow you to relax and fall asleep at night.
- Keep a notepad and pen by your bed. The stress of divorce can also keep your mind running at a million miles an hour. You’ve got thoughts and worries about remembering to do things, about things you’ve already done and then there are all the thoughts about trying to understand why your ex, the person who promised to love you, is doing what they’re doing. Actually taking the time to write all those thoughts down will stop your worry about trying to remember all the things you want to do, will stop your worry about what you’ve already done and help put into perspective that your ex just isn’t the person you married any more.
- Develop a night time routine conducive to sleep. Divorce is disruptive to everything in your life including your nightly routines. Now’s the time to create a new nurturing routine that help you prepare for a restful and restorative night’s sleep. As inspiration for creating your routine, here’s mine. At about 9:00pm, I’ll get my exercise clothes laid out for the next morning, floss and brush my teeth, lay out my clothes for the next day, wash and moisturize my face, put a glass of water on my nightstand, crawl into bed, write in my gratitude journal, turn on my meditation recording, turn out the light, put on my eye mask and then drift off to sleep.
Following these tips helps most of my clients start to get more restful sleep at night. If after a couple of weeks you’re still not sleeping well, it’s time to visit your doctor and see what suggestions they have.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
Evaluate your bedroom. Make sure it’s a place you’re comfortable sleeping. If it isn’t, do what you need to do to make it that way.
Grab some extra pillows and put them where you can easily get them if you decide you need them during the night.
Schedule some daily exercise outdoors. I’ll bet you’ll be surprised at how big a difference this can make in helping you to relax.
Put a pen and notepad by your bed. If it’s already there and waiting for you, you won’t have to get out of bed in the middle of the night tonight and search for either one.
Develop your nighttime routine. A great starting point for your routine, after you’ve done the previous steps, is to decide on a consistent bed time. A consistent bed time works for kids and adults too with helping to prepare your body for sleep.
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.
If you’re looking for more help recovering from divorce, read more articles about Healing After Divorce.
Three things you need to do to successfully move on after divorce.
When I think about all the work I do as a divorce and personal life coach and how I help people navigate the chaos and confusion of divorce so they can get on to living the best of their lives, I realize that the bulk of my work really involves 3 tasks. I work with people who want to move on after their divorce people so they can:
- Take care of themselves
- Separate the present from the past and create their future
- Realize they’re not alone
These are three tasks everyone is required to complete to be able to successfully move on from divorce.
So many people who get divorced give up on themselves. I was one of them. I gave up on myself when I got divorced. I thought that since I’d failed at my most important relationship what’s the point? Why bother doing anything more than go through the motions of living? Yes, this was the voice of me experiencing melodrama and situational depression.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, my work as a divorce coach over the last few years has taught me that most people feel a version of this when they get divorced and that it’s not a place anyone should stay for long.
It’s vital that you take care of yourself when you get divorced. It’s the only way you’ll be able to move on and discover what’s possible for you. (You’ve also got to take care of yourself to take care of your kids too.) Taking care of yourself involves things like eating appropriately, getting enough sleep, finding employment if you don’t have it already and asking for help when you need it.
The next big piece of work everyone who’s ready to move on from their divorce needs to complete is separating the present from the past and taking the steps necessary to create the future they really want.
This recognition of the difference between the past, present and future is the focus of any type of coaching. Most coaches call it closing the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.
However, with divorce, things are a bit trickier because there’s usually such a strong pull back to the past and wanting to understand why the divorce is happening not to mention grieving the marriage and all that went with it.
Don’t worry if you feel like this is the hardest part of moving on from your divorce because this is the one task that most people have the most difficult time with. The key to completing this particular task quickly is to have appropriate support. You might look for the support you want and deserve from a family member, friend, clergy, therapist or divorce coach. Just make sure that the person or people you’re getting support from really know what it’s like to get through divorce and can help you move on from your divorce quickly and completely.
The third task is the one that really helps people make quantum leaps toward their desired futures post-divorce. Getting involved in a divorce support group or workshop that focuses on both commiserating AND accountability is the quickest way for you to realize that you’re not all alone when you’re going through divorce.
Unfortunately, not all divorce recovery groups are created equal, so you’ll want to do a bit of research to find the one that will work best for you. You’ll want to ask anyone you know who’s taken a divorce workshop if their workshop provided both an opportunity to share what they were going through AND accountability for moving forward between classes/sessions. You can also ask your attorney for a recommendation of a good class in the area. Here are three websites for organizations that offer divorce recovery workshops that you can check out: Divorce Care, Rebuilding Workshops, and When Your Relationship Ends Workshops.
If you’re ready to successfully move on from your divorce, realize that there are only 3 things you need to do:
- Take care of yourself
- Separate the present from the past and create your future
- Join a community so you recognize that you’re not alone in getting through your divorce
Once you start your work on completing these tasks you’ll develop the focus and determination to not only move on from your divorce, but to get on to making the rest of your life the best of your life.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
Which of the three tasks to moving on from divorce do you need to pay the most attention to right now? Most of us like to think that we need to multi-task to get things done – including healing from divorce, but that’s just not true. All that anyone can truly focus on at any instant is one thing, so start at the top of the list and see, if you need to take care of yourself, if you need to separate now from the past and design your future, or if you need to search for and join a divorce support group.
What help do you need to accomplish this one task? When you’re going through divorce, just about everything becomes a bit more difficult to do because of the huge changes divorce brings with it. It’s 100% OK to ask for some help. So go ahead and ask for the help you need. You’re worth it!
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 or take the first step to work with me as your personal coach.
© 2013 Karen Finn. All rights reserved under all copyright conventions.
The ability to compromise is one of the requirements for a successful long-term relationship. Although when the relationship ends, it’s pretty common to realize that what you were calling compromise really wasn’t. You discover you were giving in or giving up for the sake of keeping the peace or being a wonderful partner. In essence, you lost and your partner won.
If someone wins and someone loses, it’s not compromise. It’s a contest and there’s a score.
Although we’re taught to be good sports when we’re kids – you know be a gracious winner and a good sport about losing – I don’t know anyone who likes to lose again and again and again. That’s because continually losing in a contest can lead us to think that we’re less than our opponent. When our opponent is our partner, it’s a recipe for disaster. They start to also believe that we’re less than they are and treat us that way. Then, we start resenting them and lose a little piece of ourselves every time we stuff our thoughts and feelings for the sake of “compromise”.
Compromise isn’t about always doing what someone else expects or wants. Compromise in a relationship is about two people who respect each other being able to freely talk about what their different thoughts and ideas are to arrive at a mutual decision which will allow them to move forward in some way.
Now, you and I both know that this isn’t how most of the real world of relationships works. This “freely talk” stuff is often accompanied by raised voices and maybe a slammed door or two. BUT the key is that both people are able to be heard when they speak about what’s important to them. Granted it can be hard to be heard when two people are yelling at each other so compromise usually works best before the issue reaches a fevered pitch.
When I first got married I thought that compromise just meant that things were able to move forward in some way – not that my feelings and thoughts were valuable and needed to be part of the equation. I believed that so long as my husband was happy that I should be happy by default. If he wanted to do something, then I should be OK with it no matter what I really thought. I convinced myself that we were great at compromising. What I was great at was giving in and giving up so we wouldn’t argue. And every time I did that, I thought less of myself. I lived like that for 18 years. That’s a long time to continually chip away at your self-esteem and identity.
When we divorced, part of me felt free. I wouldn’t need to worry about pleasing him anymore. Another part of me was scared because I realized that meant I could focus on pleasing myself, but I wasn’t really sure what I liked or wanted. It had been so long since I had allowed myself to know me – the real me.
Fast-forward to today and I’ve been remarried for 4 years. I know who I am and what makes me happy. One of the things my new husband and I continue to work on is the art of compromise. I’ll be honest when we first got together we had more contests than compromise. There were plenty of raised voices and doors slamming, but today we’re much better at compromise. Compromise for us requires looking at the bigger picture instead of only what’s going on in the instant. We look at what our overall goals are for ourselves, each other and our relationship. Once we do that, it’s so much easier to compromise instead of battle.
And this experience is why I believe that the ability to compromise, really compromise, is a key part of being in a successful long-term relationship.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
How well did/do you and your ex compromise? Be extremely honest with yourself. Were you always getting your way? Were you always giving in?
How would you like compromise to be different in a new relationship? Most people see the value in compromise instead of conflict or even always getting their way. What’s your opinion?
How will you increase the likelihood of you having the ability to compromise in a new relationship? What do you need to look for in the personality of your new partner to know that you’ll be able to compromise in a way that will nurture the relationship? What do you need to change about the way you communicate to allow compromise the way you envision it to be a part of your new relationship?
Feeling like you would appreciate some outside support with this whole idea? You might want to contact a therapist or a divorce coach to get a different perspective and some tools for how to make your next relationship great.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are contemplating divorce. Should you stay, or should you go is a powerful question and I’m here to help you make a smart decision that will lead to your greatest happiness… whether you stay OR go. 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.
If you’re looking for more help answering the question “Should I stay or should I go?”, read more in Unhappy Marriage?
Divorce is devastating. In the beginning, it can leave you feeling lost, alone, confused, depressed and even unlovable. Then, you start to feel angry and vengeful on top of feeling lost, alone, confused, depressed and unlovable. After a while you just don’t know which horrible emotion you’re going to experience next. It can be kind of like being blindfolded, tied up and stuck on a run-away rollercoaster of misery. All you want is to just feel “normal” again.
Unfortunately, for most people, finding their way back to “normal” isn’t obvious or easy after divorce. Because of this the divorce rollercoaster ride can seem never ending.
But, there is a way to short-circuit this horrific ride of negative emotions. It requires you to know 10 specific things about yourself.
By knowing just these 10 things about yourself, you can start to feel more like you because you’ll be directly disproving one of the most horrible negative thoughts anyone can have – believing that you are unlovable.
Knowing that you are lovable is one of the most critical beliefs for living a happy life. It’s part of our wiring as humans. We need to have a sense of belonging and love to thrive.
But that’s exactly what divorce strips away from us – our sense of belonging and love. That’s why it’s vital that you develop a new sense of belonging and love independent of your ex ASAP.
You can create your new sense of belonging and love by knowing 10 things about yourself. The 10 things you need to know are 10 reasons why you like yourself. These 10 reasons can be anything, anything at all.
When I was going through my divorce and was first introduced to this idea, I had a really difficult time coming up with my list of 10 reasons I liked myself. I mean REALLY difficult. I remember 2 of the items on my first list with a sense of pity and compassion that I had such a poor sense of who I was. One of those items was “I like that I know how to drive because it means that I don’t have to rely on anyone else to take me where I want to go when I want to go there.” The second one was “I like that I can bake good cookies.” I saw so little to love in me that I had to resort to appreciating things that I could do instead of who I was. BUT the really great thing about this was that I was willing to do the exercise and truly think about things I liked about me.
And, believe it or not, this list of 10 things I liked about myself was the beginning of me starting to feel better about being me. It allowed me to start slowing down my rollercoaster of misery. It was also the beginning of me being able to start seeing me as lovable again because I was willing to start loving myself for just being me.
That’s exactly what I want for you. I want you to be able to short-circuit your rollercoaster ride of negative emotions by knowing just 10 things about yourself – 10 things you like about you. Knowing this can be exactly what you need to start to feel more like you again, to move on from your divorce more quickly and on to living the BEST of your life.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
Create a list of at least 10 things you like about you. Taking the time to do this is so important to you getting over your divorce quickly. However, for many people making the list is kinda tough. If you find that you’re having difficulty coming up with 10 things, go ahead and ask a friend or family member to tell you one or two things they appreciate about you. It will probably be just the thing to help you get going to discovering 10 things you like about yourself.
Just making the list isn’t enough. You need to read it out loud to yourself with positive emotion in the morning when you first get up and at night before you go to bed. Reminding yourself of what’s great about you at least twice a day every day will start to shift those negative thoughts to more positive ones and allow you to short-circuit the negative-emotion rollercoaster ride we all go on with divorce.
At some point, you’re going to want to change your list. You may want to add to it, or you might want to just replace one of the items with something else. Go ahead! Make your list of reasons why you like yourself a “living document”. Update your list as frequently as you’d like. Before too long, you’ll discover that the things you like about yourself will shift to being even more positive. When that happens, you’ll also notice that you’ll be feeling better overall and well on your way to feeling “normal” again.
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 or schedule a confidential consultation with me.