Divorce is even harder when it’s the last thing you want.
I wanted a divorce as much as I wanted the shingles. Or a nice juicy steak (as a vegetarian, not very much). Or to jump off a cliff on a bungee cord where I would free fall 100 feet and bounce back up.
In other words, I didn’t want a divorce.
It wasn’t something I welcomed or invited into my life.
True, I had regularly threatened divorce or suggested it as a solution to our marital problems, but I didn’t want it to happen. The threat of divorce or the idea of divorce felt a lot better than the reality of divorce. The actual process of getting a divorce was lousy and soul-crushing. (A side note here: Never threaten to end your relationship with divorce if you have no intention of getting one. You might get what you ask for.)
With divorce, our very personal struggles and unhealthy conflicts became public. I traded in a life I knew for something foreign. New living arrangements. New financial arrangements. Splitting our belongings. Filing legal paperwork. (I’d done it before for others, but seeing my own name there was an entirely different experience.) Splitting our friends.
Each step of the divorce was more painful than the last. Each step I took felt like walking across a piece of coal that became hotter the farther I progressed. Each and every step was slow, deliberate and more scarring than what had come before! Each step of the divorce process was an uphill mental, emotional and psychological roller-coaster. Even for me, who had practiced divorce law and had filed the paperwork for dozens of divorces in the past.
Your spouse may be telling you that he’s done with the relationship, that he’s ready for a divorce or that “he loves you but is no longer in love with you.” It really might have come out of left field for you. Blindsided by the news, you’ll feel like the air’s been knocked out of you. Especially when you thought your marriage was going along just fine.
If you don’t want a divorce but find yourself going through one, here are some ways to cope with the process.
I can’t promise that you can make your divorce disappear, but these coping steps will help you survive the process and come out of it a better and stronger person…and possibly save your marriage.
1) Take it one day at a time.
It’s shocking news that your spouse wants a divorce, especially the first time you hear it.
Most days you won’t even feel like getting out of bed. And you’ll hate even getting in bed because you’re left by yourself with your fears and loneliness.
Your whole life flashes through your mind.
Your future appears bleak and non-existent.
To survive this period, you’ve just got to take it one day at a time.
Focus on getting through just one day – today.
You can’t control tomorrow or predict your future.
Planning and seeing your future and your next steps can wait.
Survive the workday, eat, spend time with the kids, do some chores.
Keep it simple – one day at a time.
2) Be prepared for the heavy mental and emotional sabotage.
You’ll likely experience thoughts of anger, guilt and frustration. You’ll feel like taking your life, crawling into a hole and never coming out or disappearing into thin air.
Your mind will start getting sentimental, nostalgic, fearful and vengeful. You’ll go through a wide range of mental images – many of them negative. You’ll want to blame, hurt or harm your husband or wife!
If you can step away from these thoughts for a minute, you’ll be able to see that they stem from your fears. These thoughts are but a figment of your imagination – the worst possible fears about your future.
There’s no better time than right now to work on a mindfulness technique that helps you become more aware of your thoughts and emotions.
3) Who can you talk to?
When you’re going through something so shocking, you don’t want to burden anyone else with heavy emotional weight, but this is the one time in your life when you really need someone.
Your emotions and feelings will take a heavy toll on you if you don’t have a friend or counselor to speak to. Help someone help you process your feelings so that you don’t feel like doing anything harmful to yourself or someone else.
Talking to anyone – a friend, a counselor, a relative will help. If you’re not up for sharing your feelings with others, start by writing them down; you’ll feel better putting your words on paper.
4) Seek love and compassion.
Regardless of what happens, if you stay together or go through with a divorce, there’s a life waiting for you after this ordeal.
To help you overcome and move through this event in your life, start taking steps towards love and compassion for yourself.
You start loving yourself by being more gentle with your own thoughts and speaking more kindly to yourself. Also, treat yourself better.
There’s no need for anger or self-sabotage or guilt. You don’t “deserve” divorce and are not being “punished.”
You didn’t do anything wrong and aren’t solely responsible for your marriage falling apart.
The way to win your future and win your life is to continue showing compassion and love for yourself.
Slow things down in your life. Start saying “no” to what no longer serves you. Start saying “yes” to your body, mind and soul.
Take actions that help you feel good about yourself – positive affirmations, positive visualizations, supportive friends, relaxation and sleep can help you survive the divorce process and become a strong person for life.
Your level of self-care and the extent to which you repair your self-esteem might also help save your marriage or give you a better perspective about yourself to make wiser decisions.
5) Don’t worsen the situation.
With divorce swirling in your life, you might want to do a lot of things to “save” your marriage. In a period of desperation, you’ll think the answer is more counseling, more communication or even begging your husband to hold on to the marriage.
Try not to take drastic actions or push your spouse away from you as you go through this period of your life.
If there’s any hope of saving the marriage, you must step back, let go for a bit and focus on your own internal, emotional state.
Boosting your confidence and practicing self-love will by far improve the situation more than anything you do to “save” the marriage.
6) Practice introspection.
There are many things you’d like to do to change the situation, but all those things may be out of your control.
What’s in your control are self-understanding and insights about yourself, which are always available to you.
You’ve typically looked outward at your husband, at the finances, at your future, at your relationship.
When you have no time to focus on what’s within you, you become preoccupied by everything you see in front of you.
Take steps to slow down your life and go within. Find the time and energy to focus on yourself and even your essence, your soul.
It’s time to connect with your true self and be open to everything you’re learning about yourself.
There are two options when dealing with the possibility of a divorce – resistance and denial, or acceptance and surrender.
You can fight and do everything in your power to stop a divorce, or you can find ways to come to terms with what’s happening in your life.
Allowing things to happen, practicing acceptance and surrendering to life will give you more peace of mind.
You don’t have to struggle so much mentally and emotionally if you’re willing to let go a bit.
Practice surrendering by learning to accept what’s happening, not pushing it away, resisting it or trying to stop it.
Let the situation sit with you for a bit. Imagine what it would be like if you could accept what’s happening to you and be okay with it.
8) Live in the moment.
Instead of running away to a safe and happy time in the past, keep bringing yourself to this moment.
You might feel like you couldn’t possibly live in the moment in front of you because it is so painful. You feel like life is yanking your heart out of you.
Yet here’s the thing – in this very moment, in this second, everything is fine. Anxiety, worry and fear fill your life only when you fast forward or rewind.
In this very second, nothing’s wrong. If you are completely present and aware of this moment, you’re not going to be fighting and struggling.
Breathe into this moment. Breathe out in this moment.
If you can’t be in this place throughout the day, spend a few minutes of in-moment living.
9. Practice optimism.
I don’t know if you believe the Secret or any of those “law of attraction” materials, but here’s what I do know from personal experience.
Your external world tends to follow your internal world. How you feel and see the world from the inside is how you see the world unfolding around you.
Staying positive and optimistic can only help the situation, today and in the future.
Practice looking for the bright side of things even if there doesn’t seem to be a single bright side.
Try gratitude on a daily basis.
Try small acts of forgiveness toward the people who hurt you and cause you pain. Even your spouse.
The more you’re able to view your situation positively, the more likely the situation will unfold positively.
Look at the situation and see how it’s here to serve you and deliver the greatest good to you. Seek the lessons that this experience provides. Ask how you’re going to grow from this time of your life.
You may not be able to intervene or stop your divorce from happening. A lot of this circumstance is out of your control. If you can learn to step away from the circumstances and make some changes within, you’ll be better prepared to deal with the next chapter of your life. You can work on compassion, care and love for yourself. This experience can make you a stronger and better person.
Becoming more grounded and positive can help save your marriage. It will also help change your life.
This article was originally published on Vishnu’s Virtues.