Yesterday one of my clients had some very exciting news. "Life is great!" He told me," I have wonderful relationships with my daughters because I get to spend enough time with them." I was absolutely thrilled to hear his words because when we first started working together, he was afraid he would lose his daughters in his divorce. He had taken a backseat in raising the girls and let his ex-wife be the hands-on parent while he spent most of his time working. He would have most certainly lost his children if he hadn't stepped up and broken his habit of being the passive parent.
I can relate because in my first marriage, I passively allowed my husband to financially support us while I was a student. Even after I graduated and landed a fabulous full-time job with equally fabulous wages and benefits, I still believed that he was providing for the family and that my paycheck didn't really matter all that much.
My habit of passivity blew up in my face when we divorced. Although I still had my fabulous job, paycheck and benefits, I also had the habit of believing that they didn't amount to much and that I wouldn't be able to survive financially on my own. I was terrified; I even got hives. I didn't know how I would be able to pay my bills and not wind up homeless. Luckily, when I confided my fears to a friend, he showed me my errors and I was able to let go of my intense fear and start taking an active role in my life.
The habit of passivity is common to almost every marriage. It's natural for there to be a division of labor, tasks and responsibilities between partners. The longer we're married, the easier it becomes to be passive about those things our partner takes care of. And our habit of passivity becomes more entrenched and more painful when we divorce. All of a sudden, we need to assume those labors, tasks and responsibilities we took for granted because our ex always dealt with them.Maybe you were passive in raising your kids, providing financially for your family, doing the housework, or even maintaining the cars. It's those things that you were passive about in your marriage that will harm you the most as you're going through your divorce.
However, it's by looking at these tasks and responsibilities as opportunities for personal growth that you'll stop the worst of your divorce pain, break your habit of passivity and become a successfully single person.
For instance, one woman I worked with had recently become a single mother after her divorce. During her marriage, she had always been passive in all things having to do with home maintenance. She complained about a leaky bathroom faucet for weeks because she didn't have the money to hire a plumber and her ex wouldn't come over to fix it. Finally, she decided enough was enough and she did some research, borrowed some tools and fixed the plumbing herself. Her squeal of excitement when she told me of her accomplishment went way beyond just stopping a leak. She realized that she was capable of so much more than she had originally thought.
Embracing the tasks and responsibilities as opportunities instead of hardships allowed her to grow beyond who she was in her marriage and become more confident than she ever thought possible. The same can happen for you; you just need to figure out what you're afraid of and then conquer your fear.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
Ask yourself these questions to break your habits of passivity.
- What is the most painful or frightening thing about being divorced? The answer to this question will tell you what you were passive about in your marriage.
- How can you get more information and support about overcoming this thing? Usually our fears and pain increase because we lack objective information and emotional support. We live in a world filled with easily accessible information. Both the knowledge and support you need are out there! You might access what you need by Googling, asking a friend and/or scheduling time to chat with an expert.
- Gather the information and get support. Fears and pain diminish when we can understand both intellectually and emotionally what our options are so we can choose which action to take next. Taking the time to gather the information and get the support you need will help you grow into your best self.
- Who knew divorce could help you become a better you? I sure didn't when I got divorced, but it happened for me. And I get to see it happen for others everyday, just like it will happen for you.
Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce coach and advisor helping people who are considering divorce make a smart decision about staying or leaving their marriage. You can join her anonymous newsletter group for free advice or email her at Karen@functionaldivorce.com for a free consultation. Don’t let the worry about divorce ruin your life, help is available as soon as you’re ready.