Are you going through a divorce?
Divorce leaves most people feeling LOST initially, and most feel that they have LOST MORE than their marriage, their partner, their love, their intimacy, their shared dreams and goals, as well their past and future shared challenges and triumphs (top of the list here are – obviously – the children and the parenting experiences).
Apart from these massive losses, divorce also often confronts people with the fact that they have LOST some part of themselves, a part that went missing in the relationship and they didn’t notice until they had to confront the future as an independent individual again.
Why is this?… Why is it that people struggle to see themselves clearly when they have taken that step toward final separation?
Let’s look at how divorce comes about.
At some stage in your marriage, you might have noticed the loss of energy, loss of commitment, or loss of love in the relationship. This could be the result of yours or your partner’s changing behaviour, changes in the way you communicate, escalating conflict between you, mounting irritation around trivial issues that didn’t bother you earlier, a decrease in positive affirmation of each other. Sometimes it is a specific thing, such as an affair or change/loss of employment that leads to decreased passion, attention and commitment to each other. You attempt to reconnect with your partner, try to address the issues, change things in such a way that you can once again
experience the relationship they way it was when things were good. Reconnecting and confronting usually dominates the relationship at this stage, which often means that you become so involved in resolving the issues that you stop spending energy on the constructive activities and interactions that used to keep you balanced and at ease.
Unfortunately, these efforts don’t always bring the relationship back on track, and you try harder still, investing even more time and energy. Confrontations become more frequent as you try to take control of the situation. At this stage of the development the energy drain, mounting anger and seething resentment takes charge of the entire relationship. Your thoughts increasingly revolve around how to solve the problem, and the implications if you can’t resolve it and thoughts about separation and divorce arise. Then your mind becomes occupied by the potential financial and logistical implications of separating, the potential impact on your children. This often snowballs to such an extent that you find yourself merely going through the motions of life, as all your energy is channelled into dealing with the fading relationship. Many escape into their work, or excessive use of alcohol, to get a break from these thoughts.
Many people stop trying to fix things at this point, and start the divorce proceedings. Most of the energy goes into finding the best possible practical, legal and financial solution, for themselves and the children.
When the divorce is finalised and things settle down, you finally have the space to reflect on your life and what you want. You might have been angry for a long time, or you might start to become angry now. Apart from the disappointment in your partner and the difficult legal process, you might also feel angry because you are becoming aware of having lost your sense of self, of who you are, of what defines you. The divorce has, in effect, thrown you into an identity crisis and you might feel that you have lost of control of your life. The general defense mechanism when experiencing a loss of control is anger, anger towards the ex-partner, anger towards life for leading you down this rocky road, and anger towards yourself for not knowing what you need to do to fix it.
Having spent a huge portion of your energy and time on saving the marriage, dealing with confrontations and disappointments, and later the divorce proceedings, for the past months or even years, chances are that you have neglected some very important aspects of your self. You were focusing all your energy on not losing the partnership, or not losing the children, not losing your lifestyle. You might have gone as far as changing yourself and doing things very differently in an attempt to save your dream, and now battle to recognise what you have become. The daily interactions and actions that nurtured and energised you have been left behind, no longer accessible. You have lost sight of what you want from your life, what keeps you passionate and energised, and the resources available for defining and meeting your expectations of life. You feel uprooted.
This is why the challenge in dealing with separation and divorce fundamentally requires a reconnection with who you are, a reconnection with that lost part of you that contains your passion and energy for life. The part that contains your dreams and expectations of a great life. You need to figure out who you are now, and who you want to be. When you manage that, you will feel a sense of being in control again. And when you feel that you are in control again, the anger and sadness will gradually fade.
When we see clients for post divorce / separation counselling, this is our primary focus. Yes, we can spend as much time as you need on what happened and why it happened, but the true healing will come when you acknowledge that your most important work in therapy lies in exploring who and what you want to be now. You need to spend time on developing a deeper understanding of yourself, discovering what you want as an independent individual, reconnecting with and updating your dreams, rediscovering what makes you feel energetic and alive.