There is no single more powerful stumbling block to moving beyond our divorce into a new life than the inability to accept our new reality. Acceptance is the hardest part of the divorce-recovery process. Acceptance requires total honesty, courage, and the willingness to let go of the life that we had… a life that no longer exists. Without that acceptance, we cannot move forward and create a new life.
How does one learn acceptance? Although it takes time and a good deal of inner work, it can be done. Here is a step-by-step guide to move you towards acceptance:
It’s about you, not them.
One of the most powerful lessons in life is the knowledge that we have control over one person and one person only: ourselves. If you are looking outside of yourself to move forward, you won’t. We can’t change anyone but ourselves. We have power over no one except ourselves. It is when we turn inward and do the work on ourselves that we will be able to effect dramatic and positive changes in our lives.
Being a victim means giving away all control and power. If I blame someone else for my situation, then I am powerless to do anything about it as I have chosen to absolve myself of any responsibility.
We can create changes that will make our lives better, but not until we stop trying to change our ex or our current reality and realize that it’s about us, not them.
If you think you can do this all by yourself, you may be in for a big surprise. Research consistently shows that getting support in any challenging endeavor leads to more success. Whether you choose a divorce-support group, a therapist, a member of the clergy, or a Life Coach, just do it.
If you are one of those people who think that you have to handle life’s challenges on your own because somehow you equate support with weakness, get over it! Getting support is a sign of intelligence, as far as I’m concerned, as well as an indication that you really are serious about moving onward in life.
First, you must get through the initial stages of loss that include denial, grief, anger, depression, and whatever else you might be feeling early in the divorce process.
These emotions are all natural and necessary states that we need to experience. They are the norm versus the exception. Each one of these feelings needs to be embraced and experienced fully. There must be an ending before a new beginning.
There is a difference between fully experiencing an emotional stage and getting stuck in it. Beware excessive self-pity and real depression. Here is where support becomes important to your well-being and improvement.
Distinguish between facts and interpretations.
I cannot stress the importance of this step enough. People get stuck when they cannot face the facts and prefer to believe that their personal interpretations are reality.
You might be familiar with the exercise of the picture that has a hidden image within it. Ten people may come up with ten different interpretations of the picture. Some people will see the hidden image immediately, and others will never see it until it is pointed out to them. Either way, the hidden picture exists. It is a fact.
You may feel that you have been mentally abused and yet your partner may feel that you are the one that is abusive. He said, she said. Probably a counselor will see a totally different picture altogether. You know, there’s your side, his side, and then the truth.
Once you are truthful with yourself and can see the facts versus the drama or story of your divorce, you will be on your way to acceptance.
Be brutally honest and take responsibility for your marriage, divorce, and life.
Those of us who can be totally honest with ourselves will receive the gift of a deep awareness of who and what we are, along with the ability to accept our lives as they are, without looking to blame someone else. Being honest allows us to see things that hadn’t existed for us before. The truth will indeed set you free. By setting aside our egos, we can look at our life for what it actually is, versus a story about our divorce.
Once we have been honest and have embraced all the facts about our divorce, we are free to accept full responsibility for our lives. Responsibility is power and the freedom to choose what we want next in life. If we cannot take responsibility, we remain victims, and victims absolve themselves of both their responsibility and therefore the power to control their own lives.
Learn the difference between what is and what you think should be.
If we are living in a netherland of what we think should be, we are completely cut off from reality or “what is”. If you think that you should not have to be experiencing divorce, then you cannot accept what is… that you are indeed getting divorced. You live in a world of your own.
We all create a list of should-be’s that keep us stuck in the status quo: I should be happier, I should be getting more support, I shouldn’t have to work, and I should still be married. By concentrating on what we should be, we ignore what actually exists for us and remain stuck.
I think we should live in a world where peace is the predominant ethic, but we don’t live in that world. That’s a dream I have. By acknowledging the world as it truly exists, I can make choices as to how I will live my life and also how to address the problems that do exist.
Consider the emotional wounds that you brought to the marriage.
Your ex may complain that you were not a warm person. I doubt that it was your marriage that created a cold person, if indeed that is what you are. We bring ourselves into our marriages, and the parts of us that show up and create issues are the parts of us that we haven’t addressed yet. They are emotional wounds from somewhere in our past, and they have a tendency to pop-up in our close relationships or when we are faced with challenging times.
Now is your chance to address those wounds and heal them so that you do not repeat your so-called mistakes again. Use your divorce as a catalyst to go inside and heal yourself.
Release toxic emotions.
Get rid of the debilitating toxic emotions that you are carrying around. Picture them as heavy baggage that keeps you stuck in your misery and produces a broken back. Anger, bitterness, hatred, resentment, rage… these are all toxic emotions that will harm you far more than your ex. You are the one who pays the price. You need to work through them and then release them, because they will weigh you down for the rest of your life if you allow it.
Once you have done the work of truth versus interpretations, and what is versus what should be, you will find it much easier to give up your anger and resentment. They do not serve you, and you are learning to give away anything that does not serve you well.
Learn forgiveness for yourself and your mate.
You might not be able to practice forgiveness in the early stages of the journey to recovery, but if you go through these other steps, you will be able to forgive your ex, and more importantly, yourself. Forgiveness takes a big load off your shoulders. It releases energy that can be used for positive things.
Forgiveness does not necessarily mean you condone bad behavior, it simply means you forgive. If we separate the person from the behavior, it becomes easier to forgive. You know that just because you sometimes say mean things, it does not mean you are a bad person. Just a lapse in judgment. We are not necessarily our behavior. We know all the subconscious motivations that exist within every individual. If we look at the inner child within a person, forgiveness is a given.
Make conscious decisions; utilize free choice.
When you do the inner work of divorce recovery, you tend to attend to many things that have been unresolved for years. You become more conscious of your actions and your choices. You become aware of the subconscious and how it can run your life. When you learn to observe the constant mind chatter that goes on inside your head, you learn that the mind chatter is not us, it’s just chatter.
Making conscious decisions based in free choice means that we are not letting our mind chatter, our past, our emotional wounds, or our interpretations of reality run the show. We take control of our lives. Conscious living allows for incredible freedom and the ability to create extraordinary changes.
And your bonus tip:
Find the gifts of your divorce.
Everything that occurs in our lives and everything that we are (warts and all) has a hidden gift. If you speak to someone who has survived divorce and has gone on to create a and vibrant life based upon their own passions and values, they will certainly tell you that their divorce was the best thing that happened to them. That may not be true for you, but there is a gift waiting for you to find. My ex likes to say that he is responsible for my new career, and to a certain extent, he has played a part. Often it takes a good whack on the head to awaken us to life’s possibilities and our own happiness.
It’s the old adage: Every cloud has a silver lining. It is true. Search for the gifts of your divorce, and it becomes yet another step toward a successful recovery from the trauma of divorce.
Successful divorce recovery takes inner work. Much like a flower, the work that takes place under the ground, invisible to the human eye, is the crucial aspect. Without that subterranean work, there would be no flower. The reward of the flower depends on the inner work of the seed and the root system. It is the same with humans. Do the inner work, and you see the outer rewards.
Shelley Stile is a Divorce Recovery Life Coach who specializes in working with women looking to let go of the pain of their divorce and create new and vibrant lives. Shelley works with clients on the telephone, so you can be anywhere and get coaching. She also holds tele-seminars and publishes powerful e-books on life after divorce. She is a member of the International Coaches Federation, the governing body for Life Coaching. Shelley trained with the Coaches Training Institute and the Ford Institute for Integrative Coaching’s Spiritual Divorce Recovery.