Many people claim it takes years to get over a divorce. It doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to hit rock bottom before you start to recover. If you let yourself (and your spouse) off the hook by letting go of the blame, shame, and other unproductive emotions, you can make your divorce work. You can experience your grief and healing as part of your divorce itself and begin your new life right now.
The current divorce legal system encourages bad behavior, cost you money, and wreak emotional havoc on your family. The court system wasn’t set up to do that, but that’s been the unintended outcome. During a divorce it is important to conserve your financial and emotional resources and acknowledge that an all-out divorce war could leave you too broken and financially devastated to move on. But you can move on from this marriage, learn from your mistakes, and serve as a role model for your children, your friends, and your community.
Whatever it was that made your marriage unsustainable doesn’t have to predict whether and how you settle your divorce issues and successfully redefine your relationship with your former spouse. You can use the 8 keys to resolving family conflict and your favorite of the 8 peace practices to unilaterally change the way you and your spouse interact as you work through your divorce.
When you get caught up in the blame, shame, and shoulda-woulda-coulda, you miss opportunities to create forward-thinking solutions. Drama and havoc wreaking aren’t necessary components of uncoupling. They’re typical components of a divorce, but they aren’t necessary.
In spite of any anger, fear, grief, and guilt you may feel around your divorce, you want to do the right thing by everyone concerned. Hold on to that thought throughout this process. Your behavior during your divorce won’t always be perfect, but if you keep trying, you’ll find your way.
Let the painful experiences in your life show you what you don’t want. As long as you learn something from your marriage and divorce, neither was a mistake. You can’t change the past, but you do have some control over the outcome. However, the most important thing right now is that you stop the hurting. You and your spouse don’t have to vilify each other to justify your divorce. You can use your divorce to end your pain, not cause more.
Setting Your Emotional GPS
When you set your car’s GPS for an address, that is where your path will take you. The same is true of your own emotional GPS. When you program your destination for goodness, that’s where you’ll end up.
There will be obstacles in your path, to be sure. And at times you may need double back and start over. But when you use your good intentions and good faith efforts as your beacon, you will finish your divorce as you intended—happy, healthy, and whole.
The magic lies in your intention to have a peaceful divorce. You don’t have to be a saint or a mystic to find peace. All you really have to do is decide to put an end to the conflict in your life and then keep moving in that direction. We call this setting your emotional GPS to goodness, embarking on a journey with peace as your destination. This chapter will show you how to do that.
To set your emotional GPS to goodness you will:
Forget perfect. Making your divorce work isn’t about being perfect. It’s about participating fully in the process and not letting little mistakes you make along the way derail you. So you lost your temper and yelled at your spouse. Don’t get discouraged; just try harder next time to keep your anger in check.
Forgive shortcomings. You will learn more about this in chapter 9, “Forgiveness and Acceptance.” Remember you’re not expecting either of you to be perfect. Just to do your best every day knowing that your best will be different depending on your mood, stress level, and many other factors.
Be nice. Choose now to cause less pain in your life and in your spouse’s life. We all behave badly from time to time and have been mean and vindictive on purpose. It’s natural sometimes to want make someone who’s hurt you feel your pain. Resist that urge. It will do nothing to help make your divorce work.
Love the sinner but hate the sin. Separate your bad behavior from who you are as a person. Don’t obscure the way to peace by confusing a few low moments when you behaved badly with who you and your spouse really are.
Take responsibility. Know the difference between what you can change and what you can’t. When it comes to people, you can only change yourself. You are only in charge of your own emotional GPS and your own direction, so don’t expect to dictate to your spouse which path to take.
Take the high road. In each step of your divorce, ask yourself, “What action can I take that will least likely end in regret?” and “If I do or say this, how will it help me with my goal of a peaceful divorce?”
Get better through practice. Be determined to come out of your marriage better than you were going in.
Remember your real goal in life is to love, be loved, and have a good life. At the end of the day, this is all most of us really want.