This series has been focused on helping you come through your divorce in two positive ways:
1) Not only surviving your divorce, but thriving because of it, and;
2) Giving you tools to do the meaningful work necessary to avoid taking your problems from your first marriage into future relationships.
I see moving through the end of a relationship, or getting through a relationship crisis, in three parts 1) Surviving the immediate crisis; 2) Making meaning of what’s happened, 3) Visioning something better from it. My first two divorce blog posts focused on helping you through parts 1) surviving, and 2) finding meaning. Today’s blog post helps you envision what could be for your future, so that you can shed the baggage of your past and grow into the fulfilled, positive, and productive person you want to be with the life you deserve.
Ask yourself the following crucial questions to begin visioning a better version of your future:
- What parts of myself did I suppress, give up, or compromise in my marriage? Examine what roles you took on, and how that might have impacted yourself and your partnership. Your divorce is your opportunity to get solid about your own identity and who you want to be in the world. Have you been someone you’ve thought you SHOULD be? Have you lost parts of yourself as you’ve prioritized the needs of others?
Ask yourself what parts of yourself you’d like to maintain more strongly and remain more stable in as you consider forming a new relationship in the future.
- What is it that I really want? I often walk my clients what’s called “The Perfect Day” exercise. Envision your perfect day. Where are you waking up? What time is it? Who are you with? Who else is in the house? What do you do next, and how are you interacting with others, your world, and yourself as you move through the day? What work are you doing? Walk yourself through your perfect day, the sights, the sounds, the feelings, the places, the people, until its time to close your eyes at night. By doing this visioning exercise, you’ll know when you’re on the right track because you’ll already be clear about what a great life looks like to you.
Now, ask yourself, what is one thing I can do starting today, to get myself closer to my perfect day?
- What is possible for my life now that wasn’t perhaps possible before? In the immediate hurt of divorce or relationship crisis, the feelings of rejection and loss can be so overwhelming it’s easy to forget that there may have been many aspects to the marriage that weren’t working so well for you either. What were those?
One of my clients, who we’ll call T, felt so betrayed and rejected by the end of her marriage that she found herself drowning in a subconscious bitterness that was seeping into other areas of her life. When we slowed down enough to look at the flip side of her rejection (her husband filed for the divorce and took up quickly with another woman) she realized that truthfully she’d been unhappy for years. She’d had affairs to supplement the tenderness and physical touch she lacked with her husband. She’d felt captive to her husband’s excessive drinking and worried endlessly about the effects it was having on their children. She’d rarely even ever felt she could talk to her husband about ANYTHING. Was that a good marriage for YOU? I gently challenged her. As she came to fully recognize her own discontent, she moved from the role of victim in her divorce to feeling a grateful sense of release from a marriage that hadn’t been serving her for some time.
What would you like to see and experience differently FOR YOURSELF now, that you perhaps at times found yourself wanting in the past?
- How do I want to communicate and relate in my next relationship? As I move forward in all my relationships in life? Again, when we feel hurt, wronged, or confused, we tend to take a defensive stance. We project to the world, “you can’t hurt me, I’ll hide or hurt you first.” I want you stepping in to the world with a new confidence and clarity after your divorce that allows you to establish BETTER patterns in the future than the reactive ones you may have clung to in the past.
For example, one of my past clients looked back on her nine-year marriage to the man she believed was the love of her life. She was devastated it had ended, and for seemingly no good reason she could understand. As she worked to pick up her own pieces, we began to talk about how she used to communicate in her marriage when she felt hurt or unloved.
She said, “well that’s easy, I get silent and icy. I wanted him to pursue me about what was wrong and then help me feel better.”
“And did he?” I asked her.
“Oh, yes, he’d follow me and ask what was the matter…. And I’d say, a bit passive aggressively “nothing, nothing, forget about it…. And after a few of these back and forths, he’d give up and walk away… and I’d feel even more unloved, and we’d never talk about the thing that was bothering me.”
I pointed out, “So he DID ask you, but for some reason his asking wasn’t enough for you, was it? And ultimately, you never allowed yourself to get the reassurance you actually wanted from the encounter, right?”
My client realized that her spouse actually HAD been reaching out to her, but the dance she was stuck in of being hurt, retreating, then shutting him out, had prevented any productive communication that would have actually helped them lean on each other during those moments. If my client and I hadn’t honestly and fully examined this type of behavior, and began in therapy to explore other more effective ways of responding in those moments, she would have continued this hurt dance in all relationships she gets into in the future, thereby risking repeating the patterns that helped contribute to the disconnect that led to the end of her marriage.
Identify 2-3 behavior patterns you recognize in the way you communicate or relating to others that you’d like to work on changing as you work to a better future. (Bonus: If you're a mom, these are the qualities that you'll be emulating for your children. What a great opportunity to become an example of strong, clear, and loving communication behaviors for your children.)
I hope this divorce series has been helpful to you! My goal is to help women transform their life’s greatest challenges into opportunity for meaning, personal growth, and a better life that may never otherwise had been possible. Divorce can be one of life’s greatest challenges. But I truly believe that there can be great things learned and gained from enduring and coming through this immensely stressful event. Call me today at (860) 339-6515 for your free initial consultation. Together, we'll gently challenge the auto-pilot you may have been on in the past, to create the best possible version of yourself as you step into your new future.
Lauren L. Drago, MSEd, LMHC, LPC is a women's therapist and counselor, providing individual counseling in Old Saybrook, CT and online in greater CT, NY & PA. She specializes in working with smart, insightful and capable women to overcome stress, anxiety, loss of identity, self-limiting beliefs, perfectionism, marriage strain, and the pressure of "trying to do it all." Lauren has a passion for helping others to achieve the happy, fulfilling, productive, and meaningful life they deserve. She believes that every woman can and should live out her personal definition of her own best life. Call (860) 339-6515 to schedule your free initial consultation.