Your experience in separation and divorce is likely not like driving a car on a straight road. There are bumps and hurdles and some hairpin turns, likely. So, what makes us able to navigate the unanticipated turns gracefully enough to pull away when disaster may otherwise strike? That really depends on you.
Staying alert in divorce is surely important, but managing stress and allowing yourself time to decompress is, too. Many factors depend on the relationship and mindset you have with and about your STBX (soon-to-be ex). It may be possible to cooperate around issues involving money and kids, or just the opposite. Whatever the case, having a plan and a way to cope is essential.
You will not be able to successfully predict everything that will happen in your separation and divorce. You can predict how you will manage a response. Even when you find yourself initially surprised, alarmed, and even disappointed, it’s important to find a way to maintain balance and a calm facade for your kids and your STBX (even when your good friends may see another side of you). How can you do this? There are four steps to making this happen:
1. Take time to absorb the message
Do not immediately respond to any new or surprising information received immediately. It won’t likely be satisfying or helpful to the process.
2. Breathe and think about what the message really says
Is it just intended to provoke a response or is it potentially problematic for you or your kids? This is an important difference. If the former, don’t automatically send it to your lawyer. Talk to a good friend or, better yet, a divorce coach, who can help you begin to manage, in a very practical way, these messages. Figure out what’s behind the words and try to understand, from your STBX, their perspective. If they have fear or anger, it does not need to be yours.
3. Craft an informed and thoughtful response, if required
You often don’t need all the words you think you need to express what needs to be said. Give your coach a chance to help you here, too. Often in separation and divorce, less said is more for you — that is, your simple and neutral response is less likely to provoke an undesirable back and forth between you and your STBX. Isn’t that the best possible result?
4. Provide a reward for the difficult steps you take
Yes, it takes energy and lots of effort to be careful and thoughtful in all of your communications with an STBX. After each response, take a walk, talk to a friend, or have a piece of dark chocolate or glass of wine (one only, please, as alcohol issues in separation and divorce can blindside the best of us). The main thing is to find what you enjoy and do it! Try not to make the separation or divorce the only thing that defines you. Remember who you are outside of the relationship and take care to remember and participate in what you appreciate now.
With these four simple steps, you can begin to navigate surprising turns and ups and downs in separation and divorce. It’s still not easy, but it can be manageable, and better even if you do not allow yourself to engage in the unnecessary drama and hurtful communications. What, really, is the goal of the process, after all? You and your children want to move forward in order to meet the challenges of your next stage of life. Try these techniques, consider working with a divorce coach, and be prepared for your next hairpin turn in the process. Do not be surprised if you find yourself better prepared to meet the next challenge. You have the tools, so use them well.
For more information about how a divorce coach may help you make decisions about building resiliency in separation and divorce, contact Cherie Morris and Vicki Vollweiler.