Relationships & Divorce
5 Tips for Dealing with Divorce Anxiety
It's not what happened to you, it's how you think about what happened
Your thoughts, not your circumstances, determine if you thrive after divorce. You could end up with the house, your preferred custody plan, the china and the crystal, and still blame your ex for messing up your formerly picture-perfect existence.
Or, you could trade the house for an apartment, less custody time than you’d hoped, mismatched IKEA flatware, and recognize your divorce as an opportunity to create an authentic, meaningful life.
So what makes the person who got what they wanted (or thought they wanted) bitter, while the downwardly mobile one grows empowered?
The presence, or absence, of shame.
People who feel shame blame themselves or others for their choices and their situations. After a while, the negative stories they tell themselves become a life narrative that’s hard to shake. Negative thoughts lead to poor choices which create more shame, and the cycle repeats itself.
Those who believe that, despite some bad choices, they’re still good people, tend to manifest positive change. They recognize their errors, make amends where they can, and move on to the only thing they can control: the choices they make now.
And those choices are fueled by thoughts.
If you feel neck-deep in divorce shame — and shame often comes disguised as anger, sadness, and fear — notice your thoughts. Are they mostly of the gloom-and-doom variety? Do they resemble any of the following?
I’ve failed because I don’t have the good divorce my friends, divorce books, and Gwyneth Paltrow tell me I should have.
I’ve failed because I can’t figure out how to co-parent with my angry/crazy/incompetent ex.
If I can just figure out how to control my angry/crazy/incompetent ex, my life would be so much better.
I’ve failed because my kids won’t have the Norman Rockwell childhood I planned for them.
My ex is ruining my reputation by bad mouthing me.
What Happens When Negative Thoughts Bounce Around in Your Head Unsupervised
Shame festers. You’re chronically depressed. Angry. Resentful. You react to your ex in ways that invite more drama and conflict: knee-jerk replies to emails and texts, fighting battles that aren’t worth fighting, trying to control what goes on in his or her house. The chaos begins to shape your worldview. You stop trusting people. You see trouble where there isn’t any. You expect the worst.
You don’t have to live this way.
Personal empowerment begins with accepting things you can’t control and choosing how you respond — not just to events, but also to your own thoughts. If you tell yourself your ex ruined your future, as well as your children’s, how do you think you’re going to act? Since your current way of thinking isn’t helping you turn your life around, why not replace your bad thoughts with good ones?
5 Positive Thoughts To Help You Thrive After Divorce
1. I’m making the best out of a bad situation.
2. I choose not to engage in a co-parenting paradigm that doesn’t work for me. I choose to practice healthy detachment with parallel parenting.
3. I accept the things I can’t control and focus on the things I can.
4. I choose to model resilience and empowerment for my children.
5. What other people think of me is none of my business; what I think of myself is.
Changing the way you think takes discipline — and time. Your brain is used to following the well-worn tracks of negativity, so have patience with yourself. When you catch yourself ruminating on the same bad story, watch those destructive thoughts float by, without judgment. Set your intention to swap out your bad thoughts for good ones. Make this a daily, even hourly, practice, and one day you’ll realize that you haven’t just survived divorce.
(This post originally appeared on VirginiaGilbertMFT.com)
Of Writing, Divorce, and A Dream (TheCovey, March 2018 issue)
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