New divorcees rarely ask, “What did I do wrong?” In fact, many of my clients tend to march into my office and deliver a long list of complaints about their soon-to-be ex before they’re ready to discuss anything else. As a divorce lawyer, I don’t have the time or bandwidth to take the reins and ask them what they did wrong in the relationship. Unfortunately, most of them don’t take a moment to ask themselves this question either.
I’ve heard judges in divorce cases sometimes say, “Mother Teresa doesn’t marry Attila the Hun.” In other words, a saint won’t marry a killer. In almost every divorce, both parties have contributed to the dysfunction. Your spouse may have had problems, but chances are, you’re not perfect either. Following that logic, if you want to move on after divorce, it’s imperative that you start with some self-reflection.
To move on after divorce, start with a self-assessment.
Ask yourself questions like:
- What did I do wrong?
- How did I add to this?
- How could I have helped fix it?
- What did I do to drive my ex crazy?
- What did I do that may have caused my ex to treat me poorly in return?
If you skip the self-assessment phase, you risk making the same mistakes based on the same bad behavior – and as a result, your next marriage will be far more likely to end in divorce, too. No one wants that. In this article, I’ll be discussing some of the ways you can recover emotionally and move on after your divorce.
To Move on After Divorce, Try Therapy
Therapy is the easiest and most efficient way to move on from your divorce, and I strongly recommend it to all my clients. It’s the perfect environment to dig in and begin the process of self-reflection. Think of it as a weekly chance to speak with someone who is completely neutral on the subject of your divorce; your therapist is there to listen to you and offer advice – nothing else.
When selecting a therapist, don’t worry about finding the most expensive or acclaimed person out there. Instead, look for someone you’d be comfortable meeting with once a week for the next few months, someone who can lead you through some uncomfortable conversations in a way that feels productive.
Once you’ve found a good fit, start with the basics and explain why you’re there: you were in a bad marriage. For the first two or three sessions, feel free to share all the things your partner has done to make the relationship untenable. Go ahead: get it all out. Then, switch the conversation to yourself. With the therapist’s aid, ask yourself, “What did I do or what did I draw out of this person, why did I do it, and how do I fix it?”
My first experience with therapy came when I was training to be a psychologist, though it was invaluable in the months after my own divorce as well. Decades ago as a psychology student, I was required to attend training counseling where, in addition to providing therapy to others, I would see a therapist myself every week. I found the sessions to be a tremendous opportunity to take a break from my life and talk about my practice, my personal life, or anything else I could think of. This was instrumental in helping me leave my personal life at the door whenever I entered sessions with my own clients. Further, I enjoyed the goal-oriented aspect of my sessions; learning to recognize what I wanted to work on and how to go about doing it was the most valuable therapy experience I’ve ever had.
To Move on After Divorce, Look at Your Actions from Your Ex-Spouse’s Point of View
Years later, after my divorce, I relished the opportunity to talk about issues related to my divorce. During those sessions, I forced myself to take my ex-wife’s perspective and consider my actions from her point of view. It wasn’t always easy, but by making the effort to balance three different perspectives – my ex-wife’s, my therapist’s, and my own – I gained a deeper understanding of my role in the marriage and what I could have done better.
This article has been edited and excerpted from Moving On: Redesigning Your Emotional, Financial and Social Life After Divorce (Lioncrest Publishing, 2019) by David J. Glass, a Certified Family Law Specialist who holds a Ph.D. in Psychology. The book is a clear and helpful tutorial on how divorcees can effectively cross the bridge from the newly-divorced status to the brand-new-life status. www.movingonbook.com,