Whatever you bring with you to your divorce will color your experience. Make sure you’re bringing what you want to have!
My husband and I are going through the process of selling our home and buying a new one. If you’ve ever gone through the sale and purchase of a home, you know how stressful this process can be.
We’d been talking about moving for a couple of years, but hadn’t done anything else about it because it was easier to just stay put and complain instead of being willing to do what we knew to be right for us and move.
Luckily, when we were making some minor remodels to our home, we mentioned to our contractor that we were thinking of moving. Well, this woman heard our deep desire for something different and challenged us to put up or shut up.
We rose to the challenge – mostly. We still had some bumps in the road to getting our house ready to put on the market and fully committing to the work necessary on our parts. But, we did get our work done.
And you know what happened? We had a full-price contract on our home within 48 hours of putting it on the market.
Now you might think that’s the end of the story, but it’s not. You see the fellow buying our house didn’t seem to be fully committed to the purchase. Throughout the 10-day option period, he did strange things including, but not limited to, putting an offer in on another house.
Well, all these strange things the buyer did finally got us when just hours before the end of his option period, this fellow asked to change the closing date into the next month. He wanted to change the date because he didn’t want to have to start paying his mortgage this month – at least that’s the story we told ourselves. We were furious! He had originally requested a closing date that was within 4 weeks of his offer and we jumped through hoops to find a new home that could also close very quickly. Of course our plans were contingent upon the sale of our home to him. It seemed like all of our dreams for a new home in the country were crashing down around us.
Jim, my husband, and I talked and yelled and made up more stories about this guy who supposedly wanted to buy our home and we made up stories about his realtor too. We were furious and miserable that someone else seemed to have complete control over whether or not our dreams came true. We were also feeding off of each other’s negative energy which escalated things even more.
Then a funny thing happened. In the midst of all this drama and misery, we both had a memory – a memory of what it was like to get divorced. We realized that what we were experiencing was almost identical to what we felt when we were going through the legal process of divorce.
Luckily, this is when my training kicked in. I realized three important things:
- I was too close to what was going on and making the worst of what was happening. I needed to step out of all of my emotions and look at the sale of the house as the business transaction it was.
- As an adult, no one has control over my life unless I give it to them. I could still choose what I want to be, to do, and to have in my life even if this first attempt at selling our home didn’t work out. I just needed to be willing to work for it and accept the consequences of my decisions.
- My perception of what was going on was creating my reality. As long as I believed the buyer and his realtor were jerking us around, I was being jerked around. As soon as
I changed my belief and the story I was telling myself, I could see that this buyer just might be afraid of the responsibilities of home ownership and I could more easily put my anger and frustration aside.
These three important things are exactly what I work with my clients on to help them identify what they’re bringing to their “divorce party” and then change their experience to one that feels better and more hopeful.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
If your divorce and the legal process have you tied up in knots, here are some ideas for loosening the knots.
Develop the skill of moving between your emotional self and your logical self. There is a time and place for experiencing the rollercoaster of emotions that typically accompany divorce. There’s also a time and place for putting them to the side so you can make the business decisions that need to be made during divorce.
Decide what you want to be true about your life one year from today. For most of us who go through divorce, the divorce can be all consuming. We can get in the habit of just doing the minimum to get by because of all the energy and effort involved in getting divorced. What we tend to forget is that our lives will go on. By developing a sense of hope or desire for something in the future, you’ll be able to get through what needs to happen with the divorce because you know things will be better.
Which of your beliefs are keeping you tied up in knots? The wonderful thing about beliefs are that they are all yours which means you have complete and total control of whether or not you keep them. If you have a belief or two that are contributing to your misery, you might want to consider what you life would be like if you changed or dropped them. If you recognize that your life would be better without these beliefs, you might have just discovered the oomph you need to change them.
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.
As I’ve mentioned before, I do a lot of reading and I’ll often be reading several books at the same time. I’ll pick up whichever one fits my mood when I have a few moments to read.
One of the books I’ve got open these days is The Seven Wonders That Will Change Your Life by Glenn Beck and Keith Ablow, M.D. I found one particular passage interesting because it reminded me about perspective and how my life has changed since I got divorced. The passage is actually a quote from Robert Pirsig’s book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance which I read about a year after my divorce was final. Here’s the passage:
The trap consists of a hollowed-out coconut chained to a stake. The coconut has some rice inside which can be grabbed through a small hole. The hole is big enough so that the monkey’s hand can go in, but too small for his fist with rice in it to come out. The monkey reaches in and is suddenly trapped – by nothing more than his own value rigidity. He can’t revalue the rice. He cannot see that freedom without rice is more valuable than capture with it. The villagers are coming to get him and take him away. They’re coming closer…closer!…now!…
There is a fact this monkey should know: if he opens his hand he’s free. But how is he going to discover this fact? Be removing the value rigidity that rates rice above freedom. How is he going to do that? Well, he should somehow try to slow down deliberately and go over ground that he has been over before and see if things he thought were important really were important and, well, stop yanking and just stare at the coconut for a while. Before long he should get a nibble from a little fact wondering if he is interested in it. He should try to understand this fact not so much in terms of his big problem as for its own sake. That problem may not be as big as he thinks it is. That fact may not be as small as he thinks it is either.
When I got divorced, I felt like that trapped monkey – terrified and held captive by my fears about what I thought was important at the time. What I thought was important back then was that my life after divorce needed to work pretty much exactly the same as it had before my divorce – except that I now had an ex-husband. This was the fact whose nibbling I ignored. I ignored the reality that one person cannot be as productive as two people working together. I ignored that it would take me longer to do all of the household chores on my own instead of sharing them with someone else. I ignored the fact that caring for 3 attention-loving pets on my own would be more of a challenge than it was when I was married. I ignored these realities and expected that I could do it all with at least as high a quality as had been done pre-separation and divorce.
I kept ignoring all of these facts about my home life and kept expecting that I could and should do it all as had been done before. I also kept expecting the same high-level of performance from myself at work, at the gym and at play. I expected so much of myself that I virtually eliminated any time for myself – any down time to just relax. I had built a very elaborate trap for myself – one that kept me frazzled and eventually led to burnout.
Today, more than 10 years later, I’m amazed by what an elaborate trap I had created for myself.
The thing is, I’m not the only person who got divorced and created a trap. I regularly meet and work with divorced people who create their own elaborate captivities.
Back then, just like the people I meet and work with today, I simply wasn’t capable of identifying my captivity when I got divorced. I thought it was just how my life was and that somehow I was defective because I couldn’t keep up with everything I thought I had to keep up with. Today I know that wasn’t the case. Today, I know that back then I wanted my rice (all my expectations of myself) and didn’t realize I was selling my freedom to have it.
Like most people dealing with divorce, I’ll bet that you are holding yourself captive unnecessarily too. Check out Your Functional Divorce Assignment to help you identify and loosen the bonds of your trap.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
What trap are you in? There are all kinds of traps people create for themselves when they get divorced. Maybe your trap is similar to mine in that you expect your life to be pretty much the same. Maybe your trap is a belief that you’re too old to ever find another significant other. Maybe your trap is a belief that you have no employable skills and no way of getting any. Or maybe your trap is something else all together. It could be big or small, the size doesn’t matter. What does matter is identifying how you are feeling captive.
What are the reasons you believe your trap exists? Come up with every single reason your trap is real no matter how small or how big. You might want to write them down so you can get them out of your head and make sure you’ve got them all covered. Besides, having them all listed in one place will help you with the next step.
For each of the reasons, ask yourself “Is this reason 100% true?” and “What makes this reason true?” I wish I had known how to ask myself these questions when I was recovering from my divorce. What often happens when I compassionately ask my clients both questions is that they’ll start to get a nibble of a fact they had been ignoring. That nibble will often lead to a new idea or a new perspective that allows their trap to be loosened – at least a little bit – which will often entirely change their trap if not eliminate it completely.
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 private consultation with me.