Pesky Divorce Lies You Must Stop Telling Yourself

You are so much stronger than you think.

“I abdicated responsibility for myself.” That’s what I heard every time I looked in the mirror.

“I abdicated responsibility for myself.” I heard it again anytime I allowed myself even a brief break from being busy — way too busy.

“I abdicated responsibility for myself. I abdicated responsibility for myself. I abdicated responsibility for myself.” It was a horrible, accusing chant that never let up.

It was also true.

When I got divorced, I had to face a lot of things — a lot of things that didn’t make me feel so hot about myself. This one, giving up responsibility for myself, was one of the hardest because it was so embarrassing; because I was an incredibly responsible person when it came to everyone and everything else, and because I wasn’t exactly sure how to take responsibility for me.

Like most girls my age, I grew up with a set of confusing expectations. My mom stayed at home. Her daily focus was on raising the five of us kids and taking care of our home. My dad was the breadwinner and took care of the yard and cars. Yet my parents were well aware of the social changes going on in the 70s and encouraged me to get an education so I’d be able to take care of myself financially. The funny thing was that they still held onto the expectation that I would help take care of my siblings and help my mom when dad was out of town. Mom and Dad took very good care of me while I was growing up. But, when I look back, I realize I learned to “do it all” for everyone else. I didn’t really learn how to take care of me in any way — besides financially.

This dynamic played out in my first marriage with me being able to handle the finances, to get a great education and a great job when I graduated, to make sure my husband was happy, and … to completely ignore what I needed. Back then I decided it wasn’t a priority for me to take care of myself because I thought it was my husband’s job to do that. I thought he should just know what I needed in the way that I just knew what he needed.

This was a recipe for disaster. It seemed that the harder I worked at making sure my husband was taken care of, the worse I felt. I started having anxiety and panic attacks. At first, my husband was worried and would rush me to the ER to make sure things were OK, but over the years he got to the point where he was exhausted with my panic attacks and would ask if we really had to go to the hospital again. Realizing that I had abdicated responsibility for myself after my divorce was just the beginning of my journey of self-discovery — a journey that began with changing the beliefs that no longer worked for me.

One of the first beliefs I set about changing was “I am incapable of taking care of me. That’s someone else’s job.” I started tackling this one where I thought it would be easiest; something inside my comfort zone. I decided that I was capable of taking care of me financially. Although I had the knowledge and the skills to take care of my financial needs, I didn’t have the belief that I could do it “just” for me.

What finally helped me believe I could take care of myself financially was when I opened up to a friend who helped me look at my income and expenses. He helped me see that everything was OK: I could pay my bills and be responsible and take care of myself. I began to understand that I could depend on myself. Maybe, for now, only financially — but it was a start that I could build on.

The next belief I changed was “I need to be punished for getting divorced.” Besides living with the expectation that God would strike me dead if I did anything fun, this belief caused me to punish myself. I thought that the purpose of my life was to work hard and take care of everyone and everything I felt responsible for — again, except for me.

If I did things that got in the way of my “purpose”, then I needed to be punished. One of the things I did to punish myself was to avoid eating. Luckily, there was a wonderful couple, Bob and Gloria, who lived across the street from me. They were the same ages as my parents and from the same part of the country. They would have me over to eat dinner with them virtually every night and Gloria would always encourage me to eat by making things she knew I liked. Slowly, I began to realize that I was human and it was OK to take care of me. Eventually, my inner dialogue about needing to be punished disappeared.

Another belief I changed on my way to taking responsibility for me was that I should expect someone I was dating to take care of me, because I was taking care of them. This one was a little trickier for me to work with because it involved my relationships with others; it wasn’t just about me. I challenged this belief by listening to the stories of the men in my divorce recovery class, and by talking with my therapist about what a healthy relationship is. I challenged this belief by dating, having my heart broken and dating again. And I challenged this belief by reading a lot about self-care, which is how I first learned about life coaching!

There were many other beliefs I needed to adjust the incessant refrain of “I abdicated responsibility for myself” finally stopped. But the method I used to change these other beliefs was the same as I used for the changes I’ve already shared with you. I first became aware of the one belief that needed to shift. I allowed myself to trust that I knew what needed to change, and that I could trust others to respond when I asked for the help I knew I needed. That’s one of the most responsible things anyone can do.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

What are your current responsibilities? Many people have too many responsibilities that they somehow just wound up having. It’s almost like they’re responsibility magnets. Take some time and get really clear about what your current responsibilities are. 

What have you given up to meet these responsibilities? For each of the responsibilities you’ve identified, ask yourself what if anything you’ve given up to meet the expectations of the responsibility. Some responsibilities have a high price — like the one I paid to make sure everyone around me was well cared for. Other responsibilities have little to no price. Then look at all you’ve given up to meet all of these responsibilities.

If you’re not satisfied with your responsibilities, how can you adjust them so you’re taking better care of you? The answer I hear most often when I ask this question of my clients is “I don’t know. Do you have any suggestions?” I love hearing this answer because it means the person is ready and willing to ask for help and support. That’s where I started off changing my beliefs and my life when I got divorced and I know it’s just the next positive step on this one person’s amazing life journey.

Do you need some suggestions for adjusting your responsibilities so you can take better care of you? You might want to start with asking a trusted friend, your parents or other family member, your clergy person, a therapist or life coach. You can even reach out to me and schedule a Complimentary Consultation.

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 originally appeared on YourTango.

The 4 Phases Of Divorce Recovery

Divorce is one of the most stressful life changes you can experience. When I went through my divorce, I felt as if I had been tied up, blindfolded and strapped into the front car of a run-away roller coaster. It was terrifying! What made it so bad was that I didn’t know what to expect next and I was always anticipating the worst.

What I’ve learned through my own divorce recovery and helping all my clients over the years is that when you have some knowledge about what to expect, things are less scary. This is like the idea of taking the blindfold off so although you might still feel like you’re tied up and on the roller-coaster ride at least you’ll be able to see what’s coming up next.

So let’s take that blindfold off you once and for all! There are four phases of divorce change that you’ll experience – just like there are four seasons:

  1. The End/Beginning – Winter
  2. The Chaotic Redefinition of Life – Spring
  3. The Settling In – Summer
  4. Moving On – Fall

The first phase, the end/beginning, is tough – just like winter is. This phase is a progression from the first thought of divorce, to the struggle to make the decision and then finally to making the decision. In this phase it’s common to feel frozen by fear and/or indecision. Once the decision is made, unless both spouses made the decision together, it’s common for the spouse not making the decision to feel frozen by denial and rejection.

In the spring-like phase of divorce, the chaotic redefinition of life, everything seems to change at once. Life can feel tumultuous and like there’s too much happening. It’s hard to keep your bearings and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by everything. This is just like spring when there is a tremendous flurry of activity with the plants emerging and coming back to life along with the scurrying of wildlife to build nests and welcome their young.

In the next phase of divorce, settling in, things slow down and pick up a new rhythm just like we all do in summer. You’ve learned what you needed to learn to get your life on the new track and you’re able to slow down the frenzy of activity of the last phase. There are still a few things that need your attention, but overall you’re feeling pretty good about your life.

The fall-like phase of divorce is when you’re able to move on with your life. You’ve completed all the transition and preparation and now you’re really living your life again. Just like fall was traditionally the time to relax and appreciate all of the hard work that went into the spring and summer.

And just like our weather, there are no firm and fast divisions of the four phases of divorce. There are freak storms in divorce recovery that can make spring and fall feel like winter, but that’s all they are, just storms that you can weather and move on from.

Now with this knowledge of the phases of divorce and how they echo the seasons of the year, I’m hopeful that you’ll feel like you’ve been able to remove the blindfold and know more of what to expect on your divorce roller-coaster ride.

Your Divorce Recovery Assignment:

Which phase of divorce are you in? By recognizing which of the phases of divorce you’re in, you can be better prepared to weather it and know what to expect next.

Feel like you’re in more than one phase? Don’t worry. It’s common to feel like you’re in a couple of phases at the same time. Just like the seasons don’t abruptly change, your divorce recovery won’t abruptly shift from one phase to another.

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.

If you’re looking for more divorce recovery help, read more articles in Dealing With Grief.

The Rust Of Life And Divorce

Last week, one of my dear friends sent me a message. He sends messages just about every day to his friends to inspire and comfort. Jon’s one of those guys with a really big heart who knows how to make sure his friends really feel how much he cares for them.

This one message he sent to me last week really got me to thinking. It read, “…doubt is the rust of life. Doubt holds you landlocked in paralysis unable to move either way. The time you spent doubting is the time you are not alive. So, rid yourself of the doubt, take that step one way or another, your heart knows what is best, but take it right now.”

What an incredible message! It was like Jon had looked right at me and told me exactly what I needed to hear and what I knew I needed to share with you.

Doubt is one of the major immobilizing emotions of divorce. Uncertainty comes in all kinds of different shapes and sizes during divorce. There’s doubt about whether or not the decision to divorce is the right one, there’s doubt about how to best help the kids understand the divorce, there’s doubt about what life will be like during and after the legal proceedings and fees along with all kinds of other self-doubts.

The doubts that come with divorce are usually an indication of fear and a need to reconcile your previous way of life or doing things with the way things are or even could be in the future. It’s normal to have doubts and fears when your life changes dramatically. However, they can also become debilitating and that’s definitely something to avoid.

Instead, doubts are best used as a way to become aware that there’s something deeper to be explored and brought out to the light. One of the quickest ways I know to allow yourself to bring that something deeper up to the surface is through a thoughtful relaxation exercise. I’ll share the exercise with you in Your Functional Divorce Assignment.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the ground. Take a deep breath in. As you exhale, start to imagine all the stress and strain from your body draining out. Draining from the top of your head, down through you neck, your torso, your legs and out through the bottom of your feet deep, deep into the ground.

Continue breathing deeply. Every time you exhale imagine more of the stress and strain in your body draining out through the bottoms of your feet deep, deep into the ground.

Enjoy the sensation of your body beginning to relax. Your neck and shoulders are loosening up. You’re sitting deeper into the chair and your entire body is relaxed as the stress and strain continue to drain out of your body.

When you’re feeling calm and relaxed, gently ask yourself about your doubt and what decision you need to make. As you remain relaxed, an answer to your question will emerge. It may or may not be the answer you were expecting, but you will have an answer that you can move forward with to dispel your doubt.

I know doing this technique on your own can be a bit challenging. So, if you’re serious about wanting to dispel your doubt and would like some help, let me know. You can reach me by email at karen@drkarenfinn.com and by phone at 817-993-0561.

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.

Stop Scaring Yourself!

books about dealing with divorce

Here’s how to stop letting your imagination make things seem so much worse than they really are.

Since it’s the season for scary stuff, I thought I’d tell you a couple of horror stories I told myself when I was getting divorced. The first story is the everyday story. The second is the special event story.

I’ll start with the everyday story. I started telling myself various versions of this story shortly after my ex-husband and I separated in March of 2002.

My fears were LARGE. They invaded almost every facet of my life. I was afraid of living alone. I was afraid of not being able to support myself. I was afraid that I’d get sick from eating food that had gone bad. I was afraid of getting fat. I was afraid of getting old. I was afraid of losing my job.

I’m guessing you get the picture. It’s what I used to do with each of these fears that made up the everyday story.

Here’s one version of the story. I’m afraid of losing my job. Then I’d tell myself that if I lost my job, then I wouldn’t be able to afford to pay my bills. If I wasn’t able to pay my bills, then I’d lose my house and have to live on the street. If I had to live on the street then I wouldn’t’ survive long and I’d die a horrible death.

Here’s another version of the story. I’m afraid of getting fat. If I get fat, then no one will ever want to date me. If no one ever wants to date me, then I’ll never get remarried. If I never get remarried, then I’m going to be alone for the rest of my life. If I’m alone for the rest of my life, I’ll be living alone forever (which amped up the scary factor). If I’m living alone forever, then what would happen if I lost my job? If I lost my job then I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills. If I can’t pay my bills, then I’ll lose my house and have to live on the street. If I had to live on the street then I wouldn’t survive long and I’d die a horrible death.

Are you getting the idea of my everyday story? I was convinced that if any one of my fears came true then I wouldn’t survive long and I was going to die a horrible death.

OK, now for the special event story.

Shortly before my divorce was finalized, some friends from graduate school invited me to join them in Spain. Although I was in desperate need of a vacation, it took some convincing before I finally agreed to join them in Spain for a week. Initially, I needed convincing because I was afraid of spending the money just in case I lost my job. (Yes, that does mean that I started telling myself the everyday story.)

As the day for departure approached, I was happily anticipating and dreading it at the same time. I started telling myself that I was a horrible person because I was getting divorced and that I deserved to die. The closer the day for departure loomed, the more convinced I was that I was probably going to die in a plane crash because I didn’t deserve to have fun. I made myself miserable and a nervous wreck. All of the fun I could have had anticipating the vacation I turned into torment and torture.

As you already know, my horror story didn’t come true. I didn’t die in a horrible plane crash. I even managed to have some fun in Spain and on the way home I was too tired to worry about whether or not the plane crashed.

So what’s the point of me telling you my stories? Well, what I’ve found over the years is that many people dealing with divorce torture themselves with their own horror stories. I’ve heard horror stories about never being happy again. I’ve heard horror stories about never being financially well off again. I’ve heard horror stories about children never loving their parents again. I’ve even heard horror stories similar to my own.

In case you’re telling yourself horror stories, I want you to know two things. First, you’re not alone; many people tell themselves horror stories when they’re dealing with divorce. Second, it’s OK to tell someone who won’t judge you, about your stories and have them help you create a better story – a story that inspires you and makes you happy to be you.

Your Healing After Divorce Assignment:

Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Identify the horror stories you’re telling yourself. What are the stories you’re telling yourself about your future? Anything that doesn’t inspire happiness and positive anticipation of the future just might be a horror story.

Stop torturing yourself and reach out for help in rewriting your horror story. If you’re ready to change the story you’re telling yourself into one with a happy ending, schedule a Complimentary Consultation with me. We’ll discuss how coaching can help you more quickly and completely work through your divorce and rewrite your story. Simply contact me now either by email karen@drkarenfinn.com or by phone 817-993-0561 and I’ll be happy to schedule some time with you.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach. I help 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 looking for more help recovering from your divorce, read more articles about Healing After Divorce.

A Quick And Simple Way To Dump Divorce Depression

It’s rare that someone sees their divorce as a success. Most people see divorce as a failure – their personal failure. The very sad fact is that it’s not unusual for someone to interpret the failure of their marriage as their failure in life. This couldn’t be further from the truth!

As an individual, you deserve to be successful, to feel confident and be happy again. Although none of that will happen until you choose to believe that you deserve to be successful, confident and happy again.

One of the first things I explore with each and every one of my clients is their belief in themselves. Let me ask you the same question I ask them. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the most wonderful sense of self-confidence and 1 representing a level of self-confidence that’s on par with where earthworms live, what’s your level of self-confidence?

Most people going through divorce report numbers below 8, sometimes well below 8. If that’s the case for you, relax, you’re not alone.

Here’s the story of one of my former clients that I’ll bet you can relate to.

Anna (this isn’t her real name) has a great sense of adventure and is always ready to try new things. Her sense of adventure allows her to feel lots of excitement for almost any new project. Although something happened when she got divorced, instead of her usual optimism, she felt adrift and uncertain.

When we first started working together, she would enthusiastically start working on new goals and projects, but for some reason she just couldn’t keep her excitement up long enough to achieve any of them. Instead of feeling excited, she would start thinking about how hard the goal would be to achieve or that now really wasn’t the best time to start working on this particular project. Of course, then she would start to feel bad about herself. Her lack of self-confidence was causing her to get bogged down and not achieve her goals of creating a wonderful new life for herself after her divorce. She was sabotaging herself.

Our work together showed that the root cause was a lack of self-esteem and belief in her right to have a good life again, so I created a custom program for her designed to increase her confidence. She was diligent in working the program and boy did it pay off!

Even though she still has moments of doubt that creep up once in a while, she is now pursuing her dreams and enjoying her full life again. And when the occasional doubt creeps in, she simply reviews her program and gives her confidence a boost. This boost allows her to sustain her sense of adventure and excitement while she continues pursuing her goals.

Are you curious to know more about Anna’s program and if it would work for you?

Let me give you an exercise to start you on you way to a higher level of self-confidence.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

Start by making a list of 10 things you like about yourself. If you find it difficult to come up with 10 things, ask someone close to you to tell you somethings they like about you and put these things your list.

After you’ve got your 10 things, read your list out loud to yourself with positive emotion. Now, to get the best results, read your list out loud to yourself when you first get up in the morning and just before you go to sleep at night. When you read your list in the morning, you’re setting up how you want to feel about yourself for the entire day. When you read your list before going to sleep, you’re setting up your subconscious to focus on what’s wonderful about you.

The more consistently you do this, the better you’ll feel about yourself. And before you know it, your self-esteem will regularly be at an 8 or better.

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.

If you’re looking for more help on how to cope with divorce depression and grief, read more articles in Dealing With Grief.