The DIVORCE ADVICE I Wish I Would’ve Had…
The DIVORCE ADVICE I Wish I Would’ve Had…
No one gets married, hoping that someday they’ll be divorced… and I certainly never thought it would happen to me.
We all dream of “Happily ever after” on our wedding day… but for me, like many, divorce came anyways, and was the most brutal experience of my life.
People told me that divorce was like experiencing the death of a loved one. I wasn’t sure, I had never experienced a death of someone I loved hurting this bad.
But it IS a death. A death of the relationship with the love of your life and years of happy memories, a death of a future you had planned on and a death of all the dreams you were looking forward to of growing old, side by side and hand in hand with this person you had married… all gone.
The first month after it became clear we were heading towards a divorce, I lost 25 lbs because of the stress I was feeling. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t focus on work and for hours everyday my mind tried to process and find meaning for what was happening. And I ran and I ran, as if exercise could help me escape the pain.
I felt like I was curled up in an emotional fetal position, trying to absorb the shock, with my stomach twisted up in an unbearable knot realizing that the life I had known was about to end.
It triggered every fear inside of me. The fear of rejection, the fear of being alone, the fear of being separated from my kids, the fear of letting down my family, the fear of judgment from others and from God, the fear of not being good enough…
It was a dark period of my life, that I had no map to help me make it through. I had never been here before, and didn’t know what to do.
There’s a lot of “marriage advice” I had come across over the years, but there was no DIVORCE ADVICE to help me navigate these stormy waters.
So, looking back, this is what I would’ve told myself. This is THE DIVORCE ADVICE I wish I Would’ve Had…
(I recognize that every divorce situation is different. I don’t pretend to think there is a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to divorce, anymore than I think there is one for marriage. This is the advice, however, that I would’ve given myself…)
1) MAKE SURE YOU’VE DONE EVERYTHING IN YOUR POWER TO SAVE IT… or you’ll spend the rest of your life wondering if there is anything else you could’ve done. Do everything possible to save your marriage for 6 months before making the choice to move on. During those 6 months, work on yourself to be the best spouse you can be, express your love in meaningful ways, focus on the great things about them, find a great marriage coach or counselor that you can work with… Give 100% without expectation. Just like a plant that is dying, perhaps with enough water and care it can be revived. Don’t give up until it is really dead. I’ve seen so many marriages come back from the edge and turn into healthy thriving relationships. Try, one more time.
2) THE OLD RELATIONSHIP IS OVER, A NEW ONE BEGINS… sometimes, no matter how hard you try, the marriage still comes to an end, and it’s time to LET GO. The old relationship as husband and wife is dead. Focus on creating a NEW relationship as friends and co-parents. Your relationship isn’t ‘ending’- it’s just changing. Especially if you have kids, they will still be a big part of the rest of your life. People that have a peaceful end result, finally realize they have to do what they didn’t do in their marriage. Compromise, love, respect. Start investing in creating that new relationship to be as positive as possible.
3) IT’S OKAY TO CRY… Give yourself time to mourn, to hurt, to feel sorrow. It’s normal. It’s ok. You can’t skip the grieving process and bury it under a busy schedule and a false smile. You can’t heal what you refuse to feel. So give yourself a break, and know that it’s normal to hurt. It takes time. Lean into God. Just like the storm will pass giving way to the sunshine, in time, this darkness will fade giving space for a brighter day. Remember, this too shall pass.
4) TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOURSELF… Be extra kind to yourself. Do things that you love. Be diligent with your self-care everyday. Exercise, eat well and get plenty of rest. Play. Spoil yourself with a massage or go to a movie. Hang out with people that make you feel good. Read inspiring books. Spend lots of time in nature. Pursue what makes you happy. Taking care of yourself first is the best way you can take care of your kids. You can’t give from an empty cup, so fill yourself up.
5) FOCUS ON LOVE, not bitterness, or hate, no matter what your ex does…. Think of every thought, every word, and every action being like a seed that you plant for the future. If you want love and peace and harmony, be careful to only plant those seeds. It’s so easy for toxic thoughts and words to flood your mind when going through a divorce, push them out and replace them with positive. What you focus on will expand. Over and over again, return to LOVE, regardless of what your ex does or says.
6) DON’T GET SUCKED INTO THE BLAME GAME… You are going to want to point the finger and prove that it was the other persons “fault” you are getting divorced, but remember, there is no power in being a victim. Sure, they made a lot of mistakes, and so did you. Don’t try to justify yourself by blaming them. You cannot build yourself up by tearing them down. Don’t talk badly about them to others or try to enroll people onto “your side”. Choose to walk the high road, even if they don’t.
7) TAKE FULL ACCOUNTABILITY… When you are a “Conscious Creator” and take full accountability for your role in what is happening, then you will have the power to create something different in the future. Acknowledge your mistakes and ask, “What was my role in creating this? What could I have done different? What did I learn? What am I going to do different next time?” This is what will help you step fully into your power to create a better tomorrow.
8) YOU CAN’T GET A POSITIVE RESULT BY FOCUSING ON THE NEGATIVE… If you want to be happy, stop focusing your thoughts and energy on what makes you unhappy. If you want to have peace, stop churning your mind on all the things that stir up fear, anxiety and pain. If you wish to feel love, then stop feeding your mind with thoughts that drag you down to bitterness, resentment and hate. You don’t always have control over what happens, but you do have control over your thoughts. Focus on what’s right, rather than what’s wrong. Focus on what you WANT versus what you don’t want. What you focus on will expand.
9) ALWAYS TREAT THEM WITH KINDNESS AND RESPECT… They may say or do things to hurt you. This is common when people are hurting. Hurt people hurt people. But regardless of what they do, you don’t need react. You cannot hurt another person without hurting yourself. In some ways, you are giving yourself a fresh start in creating a NEW relationship, so consciously choose to do and say those things that build the type relationship you want.
10) NEVER TALK BAD ABOUT YOUR EX… EVER… especially in front of your kids. Your kids self-esteem is affected by their view of their parents. If you talk bad about your ex in front of them, they internalize it. Never use your kids as ways to punish or get what you want from your ex. Just like any relationship, if you want to have a positive relationship with your ex, you’re going to need to choose to see the best in them.
11) THE KIDS SHOULD ALWAYS COME FIRST… this is scary and painful for them, and it is totally unfair that they have to go through it, because they didn’t choose it. But if you handle it well, they’ll be ok. Never argue in front of them. They don’t need to know the reason you’re getting divorced, they just need to know that it’s not their fault and that you will still always be there for them. They just need to feel safe. They need to be reminded that even though you won’t still be married, they still have a mom and dad that love them and will be there for them. Don’t try to get your kids on “your side”, focus on being on their side.
12) WORK TOGETHER AS A TEAM… I know you’re probably not getting divorced because you work so lovingly and harmoniously together… but you’re going to need to find a way to find common ground, and figure out how to work together versus fight each other. There are going to be some areas where both of you are going to need to be flexible, where you have different ideas, and where you need to show each other respect. There will be times both of you will need to compromise to get what you want. When possible choose a mediator to help you work things out rather than an attorney. By nature mediators are for adults who want to work together, attorneys are people who have to fight against each other to get what they want. Rather than make it, ‘my side against your side’, find ways to be on the same side.
13) DON’T BE A DOORMAT… Be clear on your non-negotiables, and stand firm. You can be loving AND strong. Draw and enforce healthy boundaries if necessary to protect yourself from their attacks or negativity. Your partner will probably have very different ideas than you on what should happen. It’s likely, if they are wounded, they will do things to hurt you or make it hard. When dealing with finances, child-custody, legal rights, make sure you know what you can negotiate on, and what you can’t. Stand firm, especially when protecting the best interests of the kids.
14) DON’T BE AN ASSHOLE. Yup. I said it. Sounds obvious, but apparently it’s not… and I get it. There’s going to be a part of you that really wants the other person to suffer, and for it to be hard for them, and for them to regret that they lost such an amazing person like you. This is what our ego does to us. Be careful what you do and what words come out of your mouth… Once you say or do something you regret, you can’t take it back. If you want to have peace, you must be willing to lay down your swords. Treat the other person as you would want to be treated yourself. When in doubt, ask, “What would love do?”
15) ASK YOUR LIFELINES FOR HELP. When you have times that you feel completely overwhelmed, or depressed, or angry, or lost… remember, that just means that you are normal. Surround yourself with a support team. When things are tough, reach out to those family members or friends that can listen to you and talk you back from the edge of despair when you’re not sure how to move forward. Know that there are many that love you enough to be a safe place for you to fall, be willing to ask for the support you need. Hopefully you have the type of friends who are willing to listen to you have compassion, and tell you what you need to hear, and not just what you want to hear.
16) DON’T RUSH TO FILL THE HOLE IN YOUR HEART WITH SOMEONE ELSE… Give yourself time to grieve. Take time to learn to be ok being alone. Make sure your healing is complete before jumping into a serious relationship. If you jump into something just because you are afraid of being alone or because you feel empty inside, you will end up creating a co-dependent relationship and likely re-create all the same toxic patterns in the new relationship.
17) FALL IN LOVE WITH YOURSELF. Nurture yourself. Find those things that make you happy. Truth is, after divorce, it may be a while before you marry again. So it’s important you learn to enjoy your time alone. Your ability to have a healthy relationship with someone else in the future will stem from having a healthy relationship with yourself. Create a list of 20 things you love doing that would nurture your relationship with you!
18) FORGIVE. FORGIVE. FORGIVE. Forgive her and forgive yourself. Apologize for your mistakes, and ask for forgiveness, and forgive them whether they ask for it or not. In order to create a NEW future, you need to let the past go. Carrying guilt and shame is like choosing to carry a backpack that is filled with heavy rocks. Let it go. Let it go… (I know you started singing the song from Frozen when you read that, didn’t you? Oh yeah. I have 2 girls who insist on watching it every chance they have. But thank you for the good advice Queen Elsa. Now where were we?) Don’t let your history hold you hostage. You must let go of the past if you want to embrace a new future.
19) DO THE INNER WORK. LEARN THE LESSONS YOU NEED TO… If you don’t learn from the past, you are doomed to repeat it. Get clear on what patterns and fears inside of you, and work on healing those things. Your ability to be happy and to create the type of thriving relationships you want in the future requires you to do the deep personal work today. The pain caused by divorce can be a huge catalyst to be able to look at your mistakes and work on fixing them. Your mistakes of the past do not DEFINE you, they REFINE you.
20) THE FUTURE IS YOURS TO WRITE, CREATE SOMETHING AMAZING… I thought divorce was the end, but really it was just a new beginning. One of the most healing things for me was to take some time to write what I learned from the past and what I wanted my future to look like. I decided who I wanted to be, what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go, and what I wanted to create and have… and I realized, I have total power to make my life even more awesome than ever. I can travel, I can date, I can pursue my purpose, I can make every day matter… and I can still be a great dad. I love my life now even more than ever.
These are the keys to a CONSCIOUS DIVORCE, one that is most healthy for you and your kids. This is the path to healing and being able to create happiness and peace in the future.
In an ideal world this is how everyone would treat each other. I know that there are many people that have escaped toxic and abusive relationships who may not see any of this as possible. I know that some may have exes who are mean, controlling and hostile and who still act in unconscious ways. My advice is still the same for you. You must be the one to act in conscious ways regardless of whether they do or not.
I really, really loved being married. There are many things I miss about being married and, at times, it’s still hard to be alone. While there is a lot I would do different if I had the chance, the reality is, I don’t have any regrets for those 16 years we got to spend together. I look back and my heart is filled with gratitude. I have so much love and appreciation for my ex, for all that she taught me as we were partners in life, for all the memories we had together, for the children we brought into the world together, and for who she is as a mother. At first, I wanted her to hurt, to be sad that she lost me, but I want nothing but happiness for her now. I hope that I can be a contributor for her happiness by the way I show up. And yet I know that our journey together as a couple was over, and divorce was necessary for both of us. Our journey as co-parents however, continues, and I have a responsibility to my kids that I do everything I can to make that as positive as possible.
Even though it was painful, I can’t say that divorce was a “bad thing” for me. In some ways divorce provided me with this unusual gift to grow and become a better person, to connect with God in a deeper way than I ever knew how before, redefine my life and pursue my purpose more fully. Divorce brought new people and opportunities into my life each bringing gifts that I never would have experienced otherwise.
There will be sometime in the future that I find someone else that I get to spend the rest of my life with, and take everything I learned and have an EPIC MARRIAGE…
But that can wait. I’m in no rush. Cause right now, I am totally in love with my life as it is.
If you’re dealing with the pain of divorce now, my heart goes out to you. I hope these words somehow can give you strength, direction and hope for the road that lies ahead.
If you have either been divorced, or know someone who has, PLEASE SHARE THIS MESSAGE. You never know the ripple effect it may have. You never know who this will help in their journey.
It’s time that we start a REVOLUTION in the way that people treat each other through marriage and divorce. It’s time for a revolution of love.
your brother in light and love,
for more insights on love and life, visit www.geraldrogers.com