Once the papers are signed, sure, your divorce is "final". But there's a whole lot more healing that has to be done behind the scenes. We spoke with elationship experts Janna Becherer, Margaret Jacobson and Tracy Richards about what really helps you move on from a painful divorce. Are you on the right track?
According to Richards, one of the first steps to reconnecting with yourself is just remembering who that person is! "For those of us who have gone through the emotional upheaval of divorce, I'm sure we can all agree that one of the most empowering outcomes that can arise from it is our realization that we can, once again, reclaim who were were before we were married. Unfortunately, modern society has taught us that, in order to have a successful marriage, we must somehow merge our identities into one — but those who know what it's like to have lost one's self in a marriage understand, all too well, that this is not a sustainable dynamic. This is why, when I asked people to share the things that helped them get through their divorce, the overwhelming majority gave examples that had to do with reclaiming their identity, such as changing their name back, being able to return to activities they had given up or just simply knowing that the only person they had to worry about (and could count on) was their self."
Jacobson echoes this sentiment: "For those of us who have been through divorce, it can be depressing to look at the reality we created within the marriage both during divorce and after when we see it in its entirety. From the outside, everyone saw me as a very strong, confident and even inspirational woman, wife and mother; however what had transpired after 17 years of marriage and three children was the underdeveloped girl-woman wondering how she had become so guilt ridden, fearful and even ashamed. Like many who enter into marriage and give themselves to the relationship, I, too, as a young bride at age 23 lost my sense of self."
Richards continues: "In my personal journey of practicing self love after my divorce, it became evident that I had sacrificed certain aspects of myself in order to keep the relationship healthy and balanced. In my search to discover how that had happened, I came to realize that, as much as I wanted to blame it on some outside circumstance, the responsibility actually lay in my own disconnection from my authentic self. I had no idea who I was or what I needed before I entered into the relationship and was, therefore, flying blind. With this awareness, I made a commitment to really get to know myself. Part of really learning to love one's self is to embrace all aspects of our personality, warts and all."
Jacobson offers some advice for truly tapping into that deeper and more satisfying knowledge: "It's one thing to know that self-love is probably a good idea, and another to be convinced of it enough to actually establish behavior changes that override the old patterns of guilt, fear and shame." Sounds great, but how do you actually tap into that? "Just like your nervous system creates neural networks to keep your heart beating and your lungs breathing, it also creates networks for your emotional responses. You think one thing, you feel it and the feelings generate a cascade of neurological, biophysical, biochemical and energetic communication that creates a particular response within your body."
Becherer also suggests calling in someone who can truly help you, by "Hiring neutral professional help. You know how the most well-meaning friend has an opinion about what you should do? (Not to mention mom and dad)! A competent relationship or divorce therapist could be just the ticket. Two decades later, I still recall how my counselor Kathy steered me through the murky waters of my divorce. She hung in there for a year, letting me examine what went wrong and my part in that. Together we journeyed from my emotional mess to giddy possibility and finally to a graceful stability and peace. I believe with all my heart that she kept me from descending into a bitter 'ex-blamer'."
Peace and stability sound a lot better than bitterness, don't they? From Jacobson: "Feelings of self-love emanating from the heart are like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket of love, the way you would 'burrito wrap' a newborn. It is this soft warm lining that not only feels centered and comfortable, but truly safe and secure. When you can move from a place of emotional and mental safety, you have more of an opportunity for creating a blank slate for a new pattern of behavior; a fresh place to create your new life and increase your self-esteem." Keep reading...
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