Divorce is such a stressful time in our lives that we naturally reach out to loved ones for support. As soon as the option of divorce comes up between the couple, one or both reach for their phones and start debating the “what to do” aspect with friends. Everyone weighs in with their opinions and beliefs. Pros and cons are analyzed and spreadsheets are reviewed.
During the divorce proceedings, it is normal for friends and family to reach out and empathize with the stress of it. Calling to check up on the affected party is expected, and the loved ones carry out their roles diligently. As a support network expands to maybe coworkers and neighbors, the emotional drama of the divorce becomes a vortex that sucks everyone in. The supporting cast shares their history and happily retells stories they heard from others.
This question arises: Is it OK to rely on friends and family for emotional support post-divorce? If so, how and for how long? It is important to realize when your network has grown tired of this topic and is ready to move on. Maybe it is now your turn to become a supporter.
Divorce is contagious; you might even find that people are shunning you and are cutting short conversations as soon as they turn towards the topic of divorce. James Fowler of University of California, San Diego, Nicholas Christakis of Harvard University, and Rose McDermott of Brown University began studying divorce and social contagion. McDermott and her colleagues found that study participants were 75% more likely to become divorced if a friend is divorced and 33% more likely to end their marriage if a friend of a friend is divorced. So, if indeed divorce is infectious, should you actively choose to quarantine yourself to not spread the virus?
Let’s assume you will take the selfless route and keep all your emotions to yourself, how do you cope and heal all alone? The following tips are partially sourced from Mental Health America:
Recognize that it’s OK to have different feelings. It’s normal to feel sad, angry, exhausted, frustrated, and confused—and these feelings can be intense. You also may feel anxious about the future. Accept that reactions like these will lessen over time. Even if the marriage was unhealthy, venturing into the unknown is frightening.
Give yourself a break. Give yourself permission to feel and to function at a less than optimal level for a period of time. You may not be able to be quite as productive on the job or care for others in exactly the way you’re accustomed to for a little while. No one is superman or superwoman; take time to heal, regroup, and re-energize.
Don’t go through this alone. Isolating yourself can raise your stress levels, reduce your concentration, and get in the way of your work, relationships, and overall health. Consider joining a support group where you can talk to others in similar situations. Don’t be afraid to get outside help from trained professionals.
Create new routines. This is a great time to find a new hobby, join the gym you have been eyeing, and check out local meetup groups. Reconnecting with old friends or family is a great way to spend time.
Nurture yourself. Be mindful in self-care from grooming to self-talk. Be kind to yourself by taking time to eat better, meditate, and cook nutritious meals.
The takeaway from this article should be that you have options in dealing with divorce. Be mindful in how much you share and with whom. Also consider the option of protecting your loved ones from catching the divorce virus by reaching out for support outside your support network.