Every October, we find outdoor trees decorated with ghosts and lights, yards maxed out with goblins or Jack the Ripper dummies left for dead on front porches. Spooky sounds emit as trick-or-treaters traipse on Halloween night, and hopefully are just a little spooked by the trappings of this orange and black season. When you’re separated and facing an uncertain future, every day may seem a little or a lot like Halloween. Here are common divorce fears and possible remedies.
Separated and Scared Straight: Face Your Divorce Fears This Halloween
Fear of Being Alone
When the bottom falls out of any relationship, it only takes one to walk away and one to feel utterly left behind. If your separation was someone else’s idea, your misery may manifest in sleepless nights, uneaten meals, and hours left staring out the window wondering about what could have been and what the future will be.
No doubt, during these moments you picture yourself forever alone. Well, check out the evidence of that automatic thought for forever is a long time. Surround yourself with positive people. You need fewer voices that utter “you ought to…” or “you’re better off without…” and more who suggest getting out of your own four walls, taking a walk, enjoying a movie, or joining a book club. Pick a pleasant distraction to allay your fears of the future and words like “forever,” and provide you with companionship.
Fear of Being Destitute
Scare tactics and threats to financially ruin one another are sadly a part of high-conflict separations and divorces. This is one reason why lawyers negotiate and courts grant pendent lite, which is Latin for pending litigation. This means that the court can award temporary child support and alimony in some cases, until each party has had time to mediate, negotiate or work out their final proposals and settlements. In fact, you do not need an attorney to file for child support and sometimes for alimony, though there are advantages to having representation.
It does behoove anyone facing a sudden lifestyle shift to conserve cash, learn to live on a little less, and avail themselves of whatever help is available. Having trouble affording school lunches? You might qualify for reduced meals. Need a hand with lawn maintenance? The teenager down the street may be able to mow your lawn for a lot less than the service you’ve hired in the past, or you may find that the exercise of pushing the mower gives you needed physical activity to get your mind off of relationship hassles. Even the quick result of weekly task accomplishment might help you to feel a little more in control at a time when the world spins.
Do keep up efforts to maintain your job, and look to increase your skill sets for improved employment. Honestly, everyone should do this, but it often takes a crisis such as a marital separation to incite a person’s efforts in that direction.
Fear of Losing Your Children
In other blog posts, I’ve written about the common tendency of some to jump quickly into the dating world. Often these lost souls attempt to prove their youth, vitality, or attractiveness to their ex, the world at large, or even themselves. Don’t – yes, that’s right – do not start dating immediately.
Your children need two parents, and when there’s a separation, each veers into “crazy land” too easily. Spend time and extra attention assuring your children that you’re there for them. They have needs that sprout out of nowhere and may feel lost as you adjust to a post-relationship world with more to do and emotions as raw as a cold, sharp wind.
The fear of losing your children is a common divorce fear, but just remember that you won’t lose your children based upon sheer threats, providing you conduct yourself as a good parent. Lawyers get paid to send stupid letters, and dare I say, it’s the game that occurs. Stand strong but do watch your decisions and behavior. Avoid quick changes in lifestyle or habits that are unhealthy or have any potential to backfire. For instance, it is one thing to socialize, but another to find yourself drunk from too much drowning your sorrows.
Fear of Losing Face or Social Status
“Friendshifts”, as I call them, do occur. Often the friends you brought into the relationship remain yours, but sometimes, people choose sides based upon behavior they’ve seen or other factors. In a perfect world, you would not need to worry about this, but quite frankly, when friends or extended family witness your relationship fail, it exposes them to the very reality that their own union may be vulnerable.
Thus, people frequently don’t know what to say. How much you choose to share is your business and what you feel comfortable with. It’s never a good idea to bash the other side.
I’ve sadly learned of cases where an estranged spouse plants vicious gossip about the other, literally pulling people aside to share sordid, made-up tales. When this happens, people see the light as soon as it casts dark shadows. If you are the recipient of a vengeful spouse spreading such messages or flaunting new relationships in front of you, hold your head high and don’t give in. Go about your life and pay no mind to these divorce fears, and just know that over time, people will figure out the picture for themselves.
Nothing says you cannot maintain relationships with extended family; in fact, in the best of divorces, it’s wise to be cordial and polite. If there are children involved, you have a lifetime of special moments ahead. How you handle yourself now sets a precedent.
Just don’t interfere in events or familial relationships. Refrain from inserting yourself into pure family occasions, such as your ex’s family reunions or celebrations that do not involve you or that you know would frustrate your former spouse.
Loriann Oberlin, MS, LCPC is the author of Surviving Separation and Divorce, Overcoming Passive Aggression and novels under the pen name Lauren Monroe. Many of these help allay common fears about surviving the path of separation and divorce.