How do you get over a bad divorce or break-up?
People tell you to “move on” but its not so easy. You need to heal; but how?
Loss hurts. Even a divorce without kids is often devastating. This is why I wrote two books on the subject, The Intelligent Divorce: Taking Care of Your Children (2011) and The Intelligent Divorce: Taking Care ofYourself (2012).
Moving On: The key to moving on is the work of taking control back and owning your life – and believe it or not, there’s a psychological technology for this. It’s called Radical Acceptance. As long as you live in regret, anger, anxiety and fear, there is no going forward. This is not to say that you don’t have to protect yourself, and sometimes, your children. Every case is different, and it is critical that you protect your rights and safety. But, moving on amounts to accepting and embracing the present, the future and not the pains of the past.
Six Healing Steps:
1. Mourn – You sacrificed a lot for your marriage (or relationship) and it didn’t work out, and feeling hurt, anger, remorse, guilt, or shame is normal. Your will have to go through all the steps of grief. Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression and Acceptance will all course through you like tsunamis trying to take over. Get a good therapist and grieve properly. You may still be angry with your narcissistic ex or your adulterous husband or boyfriend, and that is a part of the healing process. If, however, you get stuck in one of the phases of grief, like anger or depression, make sure that you’re in good hands.
2. Admit – Admit that you cannot control everything. The universe dealt you a hand, and focusing on how you could have played it better in the past or what may have happened with a different set of cards is rarely productive. Admit that breaking up cost you something – be it emotionally, financially, or both. Bad things do happen to good people. If you become stuck in a sense of injustice, you will miss much of what life has to offer and the world will miss what you have to offer in return. Some people form entire identities around a sense of being wronged, and many of them will go on to hurt others in the way you were hurt. It is enough to be victimized; don’t let the victim role victimize you as well.
3. Trust – That things will get better, and you won’t feel this way forever. Healing is something your body wants. It’s something your children want. When you physically injure yourself, your body naturally reacts and begins to repair. Your soul is striving for equilibrium as well. Trust that you are prepared for the future and help yourself move on. Perhaps, this is a moment to become spiritual. Many people feel soothed by a sense of being held by a God who cares. And, if you are not inclined towards religion, spirituality can also put you in touch with the grandness of this world; you can see your story as part of a more complete whole. Breathe deep and look around you. It can be liberating.
4. Forgive – Forgive yourself, forgive the universe, and if possible — forgive your ex. Understand that everyone carries their own injuries, and that your ex is fighting his or her own demons.
5. Make Centered Decisions – To forgive is not to forget. You are to become more aware in order to move forward with your life. If this means self protection, then self protect. If this means, allowing the kids to see an ex that you hate, but who, nevertheless, has decent parenting skills – let it happen. The burdens of the past only prevent you from making the soundest decisions. And, taking care of business properly feels good.
6. Accept – You are now in a place where you can understand what happened to you more clearly. Maybe your narcissistic husband or boyfriend did not truly love you. Acceptance is necessary, and at some point you need not fight the past. This does not mean that you shouldn’t learn from your mistakes — to accept means to see things clearly. We don’t need to go through life feeling like victims in order to protect ourselves.
Summary: In the aftermath a painful break-up, your emotions may seem too much, but I urge you to experience them all, from the outrage to the hurt, to the self doubt and the fear of what’s coming next. Grief work is required; it helps the healing.
Grieving is the spiritual equivalent to the body slowly healing a bad wound. Grief brings you through pain to disbelief, to anger, to “only ifs,” to profound sadness, to loss — and then to acceptance. It gets triggered again and again, taking you over when you least expect it. But, grief does get worked through. The wound heals. We are left with acceptance and — I would like to argue — Radical Acceptance.
If you are in the midst of a divorce, you gave up so much to make a marriage work. It didn’t. If he left you, then you are holding a bag of resentment and hurt. If you left him, you’ve been grieving the loss of your marriage for some time. We all want to rage at the world, or crawl into a depressed spot when we feel the injustice and randomness of our pain.
Radical Acceptance is a gift – for you and for everyone else in the world. If you try and shortcut your healing, you will not get there. Losing a relationship is a loss, and grieving is required just like it is when we lose a parent or a loved one. Just know that there’s hope; a brighter tomorrow – and that Radical Acceptance can help you get there.
Radical Acceptance is an evolutionary good — because, you see, acceptance doesn’t mean passivity. It means freedom.
You can hear Dr. Banschick on The Intelligent Divorce radio show as well.