3 Empowering Choices Couples Transitioning During Divorce MUST Make

3 Empowering Choices Couples Transitioning During Divorce MUST Make

We don't have to rally against the changes divorce brings. We can find the good in it.

When I first saw the article “On the viral rise of divorce selfies (and the death of traditional marriage)” in the Washington Post I was appalled. Oddly smiling selfie faces outside the courthouse after a divorce. These are people who are celebrating, in a fashion, because they have committed to positive co-parenting. Sometimes I see things like that and the buried traditionalist instantly reacts and screams “what’s happening to our world!!!” Then I calm down, read the article and realize change is not so scary (sometimes).
This kind of change is especially one to embrace. It is the kind of change akin to marriage equality and legalized marijuana. These things are happening around us: people are divorcing as much as they’re not, homosexuals are staying in long term, monogamous relationships and millions of us are getting high. So when we stop fighting against the change we accept what is and there is always freedom in that choice.
Like any other transition in our lives there is a smart way to move through it, following a natural progression of stages much like Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief. Or there is the other way. That way looks more like a massacre or a poorly adjusted kindergartner on their first day of school. Why do we do that to ourselves?
Here are some suggestions for easing the pain of divorce:
1.Accept what is happening. When we think about a life altering event such as divorce, most people want to run for the hills. Lots of people that find themselves in unhappy marriages bury themselves in drink or work or affairs because they are chronic avoiders. And let’s face it, if there’s something to begin avoiding over, this would be up there with a visit to the dentist.
Avoiding has never solved any problems. Problems just grow in that space until they have no place left to go and they explode all over our partner. Acceptance means saying to ourselves “I made this partner choice when I was 20 years old and still had a developing brain. It is quite possible I might need to rethink my choice.” Acceptance does not mean giving up and I think many people are confused about that. It means being brutally honest with yourself and your partner for the good of your family.
There is a Buddhist teaching that states that pain is inevitable, but that suffering is a choice. Clearly we will be pained by divorce. Our children, family and probably our friends will experience pain as a result of our choice. However out of our control this situation may seem to us, we can find our power within it if we shift our perspective.
2.Do Some Work. We walk through a crisis such as divorce and lots of times we don’t stop and notice how we are changing and what effect this may be having on the person we’ve always considered ourselves to be. Divorce or any other major transition in our life requires that we stop and take a look at what’s happening. Brene Brown in her new book “Rising Strong” discusses using writing as a tool to integrate our experiences and stories. Starting with our thoughts and feelings and body sensations, let the writing be a catalyst for connecting to our pain and working through it.
Hire a therapist. If I get strep throat, I don’t wait to see just how close to death I can come before I take antibiotics. Therapists are gifted guides and facilitators and the non-judgmental experience they are ethically bound to give you may be what helps you see yourself. Don’t wait until after the divorce to pick up the pieces, go see a therapist during.
Get spiritual. Church may be difficult, because our institution of marriage is currently tied most often to the church. But spirituality can come from a walk outside or quiet moment when we watch the sun set and tune in to our emotions.
Read a book. There are endless transitional tales, sometimes about divorce and sometimes not, that can give insight and a sense of belonging. Two of my favorite transitional memoirs are “Wild” and “Eat, Pray, Love.”
3.Look for and learn the lesson. What I see now when I look at the divorce selfies, after I took a breath and used the logic center of my brain, are people who are evolving. We are all growing, some of us make the choice to evolve, and some of us don’t. The positive thing about events such as divorce is that we will never be the same after them. I think of life altering events as the notches on the door we use to mark the growth of our children. We can’t see these notches in the way we do those, but if we’re paying attention the ripples of those notches will be visible in our relationships and in generations forward.

Lydia Kickliter, LMHC is a therapist specializing in helping women through transition. You can find her at Therapy for Showing Up.com.