Divorce. It is considered second only to “death of spouse” on the stress scale. Most divorced clients tell me its worse. Because it’s ongoing. Because it was someone’s choice; maybe yours, maybe not.
The relationship between exes after divorce is one of those areas no one tells you how to navigate. In reality, there are different boundaries for different situations, and I ask many questions of my counseling clients. Was there abuse? Are you sharing custody of children? These and other issues determine what comes next.
Because I have taught Divorce Recovery classes for years, I have a specialized knowledge set in this area. I understand the boundaries that lead to a healthy recovery for you. I have encountered many, many situations in my classes, and because of this, you are not alone. You don’t have to navigate this by yourself.
There are two areas of danger; too hostile and too friendly. (Yes, you can be too friendly!) These areas, if unexamined, can cripple both spouses, and possibly their children, for years to come. Here are some tips for making it through. If I can be your “navigator” through counseling, either in my office in Rockwall, Texas, or by Skype, please call 214-410-0435.
1. Protect the children. Children have a deep psychological need to think well of BOTH parents. Avoid letting them hear you put down or say bad things about the other parent, regardless of how justified you feel in saying these things.
2. Depend on the experts. Well meaning friends and family will give you legal and psychological advice; that’s not a good source. Thank them for their concern and move on.
3. Avoid other drastic life changes. Make your life as stable as possible right now. Try to keep sleeping and eating on a schedule. See your doctor and/or counselor immediately if these are disrupted for more than a week or so-depression and anxiety may take hold if basic bodily needs are ignored.
4. Take a Divorce Parenting class as soon as possible. When I taught this class, the comment I heard most often was, “why didn’t someone tell me to take this sooner?” You will find help and support there. Ask your attorney for more information.
5. Maintain professionalism at work. It is natural for your focus to be disrupted, but strictly limit the amount of time you spend on email, text, or conversation about your divorce.
6. Lay it down sometimes. Take a break and play with your kids. Go see a funny movie. Let your mind rest. If the worries persist, promise yourself you will go back to worrying about the issues later that day, then return to the fun.
7. Limit contact with your ex-spouse. You are not obligated to endure any conversations that your attorney does not require of you. Make your contact brief and limited only to necessary details of custody issues.
8. Observe your breathing. Under stress, our breathing often becomes shallow. This makes our muscles tense up and puts the whole body on constant alert. Put a sticker or an object around your workplace and use it as a reminder to breathe deeply.
9. Stand up for yourself. It’s time to say “I need, I feel” or “no, I can’t do that.” Maybe this is new behavior for you. A counselor who has been specifically trained in divorce (not marital) counseling can teach you how to detach and communicate in a civil manner that protects the dignity and rights of both parties.
10. Finally, remember: this WILL pass. You are currently experiencing one of the hardest life experiences there is. Keep your focus firmly on the hope of a peaceful outcome and take care of yourself in the meantime.