“Can We Get Through This Without Hating Each Other?”
By Julienne B. Derichs LCPC
This is the second in a two part series on divorce.
Each person manages the challenges of life in their own time and unique way. There is a common thread when it comes to separation and divorce...that is to recognize that at some point you will blame your ex-spouse for the way you feel and the situation in which you find yourself. If you want to get through this time without hating each other focus on yourself (and your children) and work on taking responsibility for your own actions.
Over time, I have created this list of survival strategies for people who are experiencing divorce. If you or someone you love is in this situation read carefully and pass these ideas on.
For adults with children, adjusting to divorce involves three basic tasks.
1. Accepting the divorce.
2. Balancing the responsibility of being a single person and a parent.
3. Finding purpose for the present and future and letting go of the past.
Accepting the Divorce
- Go to counseling to talk about your feelings surrounding the separation and divorce. If possible, include you ex-spouse, you still have issues to work through.
- Take your time as you adjust to your changed life circumstances. Recognize that you are going through a major life transition that cannot be rushed.
- Slow down when you are feeling uncomfortable, and identify what you are feeling and what you can do to cope with these feelings.
- You will often feel frustrated. Avoid the temptation of acting for the sake of acting just because it gives you a temporary feeling of being in control.
- Create a ceremony to acknowledge your divorce.
- Get a journal and write, write and then write some more... A journal provides a place to gain perspective and to express anger, sadness, loneliness, and fear—all of those feelings you feel every day.
- Explore both the benefits and costs of your new life.
- Think about the future. In your journal, explore the question, “What is waiting to happen in my life now?”
- Remember to ask yourself, “What am I supposed to learn from this?”
- Protect yourself against the inevitable forgetfulness and absent-mindedness which many divorcing people report. Make a list of important account numbers, telephone numbers, and the like, and keep them in a safe place.
- Watch out for too many changes in your life as you recover from the divorce and the changes in your life circumstances. Change causes stress, and you have enough right now.
- Rent a sad movie and let yourself cry (when the kids aren’t around). Crying allows you to release the sadness that you are sure to feel.
Balancing the responsibility of being a parent and a single person.
- Continue to co-parent with you ex-spouse. Remember they will be the other parent of your children forever.
- Strengthen your support system. Set up childcare, work flextime, plan dinners with supportive family and friends to help you get through the changes involved in your divorce process.
- Let people help you. If it’s impossible to reciprocate, say so. People know that your life isn’t like it used to be. Don’t let your inability to reciprocate prevent you from accepting what people willingly offer.
- Let go of your need for perfection. You will not survive emotionally unless you lower your expectations.
- Focus on issues you have control over. If something is beyond your control, don’t waste your emotions on it.
- Keep good boundaries. Don’t talk about dating or new partners with your ex-spouse. There is a good chance that this will fuel anger and resentment.
Finding purpose for the present and future and letting go of the past.
- Work on letting go. Negative feelings or interactions are the fuel that keeps the relationship with your ex-spouse alive.
- Find someone who will listen to you. Sometimes you have to ask, for example, “I need a sounding board right now. Can I have 15 minutes of your time?”
- Get together with other single-parent families. Sharing times with people facing similar issues can make you feel healthy.
- Ask for help. Develop your ability to be flexible and find creative ways to solve problems.
- Learn to set priorities. Do the most important things first and if possible let the other things go.
- Do at least one fun thing for yourself every week.
- Remind yourself that recovering from divorce will take time. Your recovery will happen on its own schedule, and it will happen. You will get through this...your feelings will change.
- Learn to say “No”. You can’t say yes to every request, whether it is from your family members or people in the community who want your time and resources. If you give it all away, you will have nothing left for yourself.
Special Considerations for Families with Children
- Manage your own emotions so you will be able to help your child manage his or her struggle. Learn as much as you can about how children respond to divorce and life in a single-parent home.
- Avoid sending messages for your ex-spouse through your children. Call yourself or email.
- Make it okay for your children to talk to you about their feelings.
- Schedule weekly family meetings; include your ex-spouse if possible.
- Keep a family journal in which everyone can write down his or her thoughts and feelings.
- Just because your child appears to be handling his or her emotions well, don’t assume that he or she is okay. Some kids respond to divorce by becoming overly responsible or by closing down their emotions. They may need to hear, “Tell me how you’re feeling.”
- Keep appropriate boundaries.
- Keep children out of the middle of conflicts between you and you ex-spouse.
- Don’t give in to the temptation to let your child take care of you.
- Avoid undermining the authority of the other parent.
- Don’t make your children your confidante by discussing feelings and facts of the divorce. Find another adult to be your sounding board.
- Even though you may be unable to be present as much as in the past, your children still need adult supervision. Look for ways for other adults to look in on your kids when they are home alone, even when they are teenagers.
Managing the stress and change from separation or divorce is not easy. Keep in mind that it takes time. Take the time to acknowledge the steps you take to move ahead in reestablishing your life. The important thing is to be proactive and keep pushing forward. If your negative emotions begin to interfere with your daily life, it may be helpful to seek the support from a professional counselor.
Contact Julienne Derichs
Call 773-562-3074 or