You are not alone. No matter where you are on your personal journey through separation and divorce the challenges and emotional highs and lows take their toll. Everyone faces bad reactions. Let’s run through the main reasons.
After reading this article review the green text. Write down the key things that resonate for you and apply to your personal situation.
Expectations about what getting into a relationship or married was all about. Maybe you never shared those with your partner. Many times people don’t because “everyone knows this is how it is“. But “everyone” may only be your family through your unspoken understandings or your closest friends who have discussed this over and over. It never included your now soon-to-be ex-partner/ex-spouse.
You also have expectations based on what you witnessed growing up. Maybe it was relationships last forever. Maybe it was relationships never last.
EXPECTATIONS are PRE-MEDITATED RESENTMENTS.
Questions to ask yourself:
- What are your expectations about relationships?
- Has the other person agreed to live according to these expectations? How do you know they agreed to that?
- Do they have unreasonable expectations of you? Have you agreed to adhere to those expectations? What are your expectations about separation/divorce?
Are these 100% true – i.e. that this is what will happen in separation/divorce?
2. Threat to Well-Being
Your whole sense of stability and well-being feels threatened, especially if you are not the person who initiated the divorce, and they go into survival mode. This means they are ready at a moment’s notice to fight or retreat – thanks to that reptilian brain we all inherited from our ancient ancestors. And when this happens, the problem-solving part of your brain just sits there waiting for the reptile to go away so that it can get back to work. So even if you wanted to make a good decision, you have temporarily lost some of your tools for doing that!
- Breathe, move, allow 20 minutes for the reaction to subside and the chemicals to lessen. It could take hours to fully recover. If stress has been constantly present, it will take a lot longer than a few hours. The brain assumes that high levels of stress over a period of time is a signal that this is the “New Normal”.
- Develop a mantra which can be called upon whenever it becomes clear that the reptilian brain has taken over. A mantra promotes focus and repetition which create and reinforce neuron patterns.
- Postpone decisions because the rational problem-solving part of the brain has been disconnected from the reptilian brain and a person’s cognitive skills are greatly reduced. Not a good time for important decisions. And it takes time, sleep, hydration for the brain to recover.
3. The Impact on Children
If there are children, parents may have an overwhelming sense of guilt that they may be doing damage to them and don’t know how to help them through all of this. The children may even think it is their fault that mummy and daddy are splitting up!
- Identify the routines which worked with your child(ren). As much as possible, maintain the same routines and do not give up time with the child(ren) in favour of new concerns.
- Work on defining who you are at your best as a parent.
4. The Impact of Stress
The stress of uncertainty and fear about how things will turn out takes a toll on each person mentally and physically. Stress can short-circuit your patience, your willingness to listen, and your ability to communicate. And health can take a dive as well, making you prone to sleep deprivation and low stamina at a time when you are taking on the mountainous paperwork and details involved in separation or divorce.
We have some external resources which you may find useful. Visit these websites and decide if they are relevant to your unique situation.
Coping Skills For Kids Designed for children and teens and contains good information, clearly presented and ways to play with emotional upsets and stress.
The Body Soul Connection Contains excellent information to understand the stress and the brain and strategies for managing stress.
5. The Unfamiliarity of the Legal System
Dealing with the separation/divorce process and the legal system is a whole new experience. Anyone experiencing divorce and having to work with the legal and court systems are unfamiliar with how to get things done in divorce; most assume you have to hire a high-priced expert to get it done for them. With no idea about how to assess that choice or how to get educated quickly about the dynamics of legal proceedings and courtrooms, you suddenly feel very incompetent where you are used to feeling very capable and in control.
6. The Adversarial Perception of Hiring a Lawyer
Hiring a lawyer kicks off what could be seen by your ex as an attack which has to be responded to by an equal or greater attack. Communication and collaboration is out the window. But in fact everyone needs legal advice to sign off on their settlement. Lawyers can also act collaboratively which may be the right style for your separation.
7. Emotional Decision Making
Splitting apart all of the property that two partners have invested their sweat equity and hard earned money in is a big business decision. And each of you has a sense of ownership and ‘it wouldn’t have happened without my efforts” position. And your decisions right now are dominated by your emotions and not your logical problem-solving self.
The Court will never administer emotional justice. People have to take responsibility for defining what is important to them and working together to determine how best to do this in the best interests of the family (nuclear, extended, community).
Think about the things in your life that are causing you ‘stress’ (stress is a code word for threat) or ‘concern’ (another code word) or ‘frustration’ (yet another!).
Identify the threats to you and discover what is needed by you to feel safe and not threatened.