Divorce is more than a lifestyle change: it can rip through all we hold dear with the fury of an offshore hurricane. Divorce and hurricanes both begin with warmth — in our hearts, in the over 80-degree ocean temperature. As the intensity and heat rise, we bond – it’s also where waters warm enough to rise into the air can get caught in the winds of change. A pattern develops in relationships as the wind swirls around a center: a conflict, an unmet need, a demand on time, money, sex, or emotions, so many different things. Soon those clouds begin to circulate like water going down a drain – the way a hurricane looks from outer space.
There are signs before the storm of divorce invades our lives that we dread yet need to be prepared for.
Here are 11 Parallels between Divorce and Hurricanes
1. How divorce and hurricanes begin.
Conflict, deprivation, temptation, expectations, and a million other things can turn the balmy waters of a relationship into a boiling sea of emotions. As long as the topics and tropical waters heat up enough to rise, they create a feedback loop, causing stronger updrafts that fuel the fury.
2. It’s time to prepare for the worst – just in case.
Much as we would like to deny a storm is coming, we need to know when it’s time to take in the patio furniture and put up the hurricane shutters. Much as we’d like to deny that our relationship is entering dangerous waters, there comes a time when we need to check our resources and prepare for the worst. Yes, the storm may still turn another direction, leaving us relieved and grateful for our near-miss. But what if it doesn’t turn?
3. The worst of the divorce/hurricane hasn’t hit yet…
We’ve seen it coming for a while. Gaining momentum, but we’re rarely ready. Like gathering things to flee a wildly destructive storm, we’re finally packing up to leave or helping our spouse pack, and it needs to be more than a suitcase or a box of dishes. We have stuff to sort through. Hopefully, we’re not scrambling to find copies of our last five years’ worth of tax returns or finding the deed to our house, the titles to our vehicles and realizing our name’s not on them.
4. But we can see it in the distance.
Instead of watching the weather report over morning coffee, we’re browsing our credit report, hoping not to discover credit cards we didn’t know existed or balances way over budget or overdue, savings depleted, or accounts closed. To buy another house or rent an apartment, one or both of you will need to verify income, debts, and establish credit. There’s data required to assess spousal or child support, and the courts get testy if you “forget” to mention a source or income.
5. The air snaps and crackles with rage.
If you have children together, the winds of divorce can accelerate your hurricane from a moderate Category 2 to an extreme or catastrophic Category 4 or 5 while you try to get the door open or hold it for your ex to exit. We barter for our children – at the least, for time with them. Family traditions shatter and we need a crystal ball to believe we’ll create wonderful new family rituals to replace them. We want, or perhaps need, to take that job out of state, but how can we leave our kids behind?! Can we take them with us? Suddenly the fury of the storm can cause debris to tumble into the ocean of our life and trigger a tsunami.
6. Despite our knowledge and preparation, we’re still blindsided.
We’ve read about divorce, heard stories, figured we’d figure it out, but the visceral impact is felt, not just learned. By definition, visceral relates to deep inward gut feelings. The core chaos of the hurricane – our animal instincts charged by emotions that consume intellect. The drive to survive isn’t just about the stuff we salvage or let go, it triggers our visceral nervous system: the need for love, attachment, detachment, family, friends, pride, humiliation, the yoke of responsibility and/or guilt. Fear of the unknown challenges us to take a deep breath – get it past the knot in our chest.
7. We hunker down.
Night silence hangs over their empty pillow. The only echo is our heartbeat and it grips our chest as though debris hurled by the hurricane’s fury impaled us. And yup – that’s when we’ll try what we know.
8. We reason with the storm.
Divide a sheet of paper in half. List all the positive things about the relationship on one side. The negatives on the other. Using the right side for the wrongs can sometimes help. It’s a mind game at this point – except our primitive brain is working behind our back, sabotaging our best efforts. Eventually, we have to lean in and feel it. Let it rip. Accept our despair and rage. Move through the stages of grief. Stop checking the weather report because hurricanes shift directions without warning.
9. The storm’s reach is far and wide.
Whatever or whoever was at the root of the divorce, we realize we’re only a part of it, and this ratchets up the Storm Category a notch. We need to restructure our relationships with coupled friends who will want or not want to take sides, but not entirely succeed with either. They may fear the risk of turning our hurricane winds their way and sinking their own relationships. But they aren’t our first or last worry.
10. Sweeping up the debris and starting to rebuild.
We’ve splattered the holiday pie all over the floor and our families are trying not to step in it. They don’t know where or when to go for the next gathering. Instead of an in-law, we may become an outlaw. So… we need to get a trusty dust-pan and start separating the piles of our married lives as we sweep. The hurricane has blown itself out by this point and we have to start starting over somewhere. Just pick a spot and elbows out, get busy cleaning up.
11. Surviving and thriving through divorce and hurricanes.
Those same winds of change can clear the air. Eventually, we find a new pace and rhythm. Beginning again – just like rebuilding after a storm – can become the adventure of a lifetime. As our tears dry, we blink back at ourselves in the mirror and see a survivor. Smile back. Believe you matter and that you can begin again, whatever your age.