Sally, a successful young business woman, was in therapy for four months and making lots of progress. Her divorce had started out as a shock and not her choice, but psychotherapy had helped her to see how many irresolvable issues had come between her and Lennie. Donna, Lennie's new seductive secretary was certainly the most clearly unresolvable factor.
Once Sally found out about Donna, there was nothing to hold on to. Steve had broken her trust and of course their marriage vows. But still, the divorce was painful at best. Suddenly, living alone and no longer functioning as a couple and fighting over who got the dog were just a few of the adjustments that Sally had to make. (Thankfully they worked out an arrangement around Trixie, the dog. Sally got the dog most of the time, but Lennie could take Trixie for the weekend with notice).
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Now, a small but serious situation was on the horizon for Sally. "Can you believe that Valentine's Day is two weeks away?" she asked. "I am miserable just thinking about the holiday. Last year we were a couple. Lennie had just hired Donna, but nothing was going on yet. We had a fabulous meal at Ricardo's Italian Restaurant and then came home and made love. That was after the perfume and the Giradelli chocolates were opened. Not only do I have these memories to cry over, but the whole world seems to be getting ready to celebrate Valentine's Day! I don't know what to do!"
As a psychologist, I had lots of suggestions to give Sally and so many other women who have divorced or separated from a significant other. Here are some suggestions for facing Valentine's Day:
- First of all it is important to realize that even though no one has died, if this is the first or even second year away from your hubby or significant other, you are probably experiencing to some extent, a grief reaction. Your whole way of life from your daily schedule to being part of a couple, to perhaps where you are living has shifted. Don't underestimate the grief process. It takes a long time to let go of a way of life that included a significant other, even if in the long run you decide that person was no good for you. Give yourself a break and understand that recovering from loss and change takes time. We can't fool Mother Nature!
- With the above said, there is however, some great things you can do for yourself, so that Valentine's Day and every day can go more smoothly and with less pain as you move forward into your new life. For example, you can now come home to yourself. When we are part of a couple, we merge ourselves on many levels. For many women that means giving into what our man likes to do and what his needs are. Fine, within reason in a great relationship, but this tendency to "take me, I'm yours" can often lead to a woman not fully developing herself.
Now you have an opportunity to put yourself first. You have the time to really get to know yourself. What do you like to do? What do you not want to do ever again? What gives you pleasure? What annoys you? What interests do you have or want to develop? What were your passions and interests before you were married or in what seemed to be a permanent relationship? Can you take any of them back? When are you happiest?
The above questions may not be so easy to answer, but as you get going with them you will see something wonderful happening. You will see yourself returning in full bloom. You, the girl, the young woman that you were, will be able to continue to develop and utilize your special talents and potential.
- Here is your Valentine's Day assignment: I want you to do three things for yourself on Valentine's Day. Not what your ex would have picked. I want you to decide what is right for you. You may want to get together with some girlfriends and eat chocolates as you watch some Sex and the City Reruns. You may want to treat yourself to a massage, or a facial. Maybe you want to sit on your bed and read a new romance novel. Whatever you choose, make sure it is your choice as you come home to yourself!
Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein, Positive Psychologist and Happiness Coach
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