One of the most common refrains I hear from people, even years after their divorce, is that they are not yet where they want to be. They offer up reasons – financial, emotional, situational – that they are unable to escape the rapacious quicksand of the past.
And yet when I dig deeper, I find that they are indeed doing many of the right things.
Just not necessarily in the right order.
Because when it comes to moving on after divorce (How Do You Know When You’ve Moved On After Divorce?), you have to learn to stand before you can attempt to run from your past and into your future.
It’s easy to try to skip steps and to believe you are ready to take on the world before it’s time. Goodness knows, I did plenty of that myself. We want so badly to be done with the healing already that we often try to rush things along.
And if you try to tackle a phase before you’re ready, you will be left feeling frustrated and hopeless and stuck.
Before you can say with certainty that you’ve moved on, you have to actively engage with building your new life. So much of releasing the hold that divorce, especially unwanted divorce, can have on you is found in securing a sense of purpose and control over your life. And you have to be an active participant in this process.
Before you can actively build your new life, you have to take responsibility for your well-being and release any residual victim mindset. This step perhaps takes the most amount of courage. You have to be willing to be vulnerable, to see yourself as you are and to fully shoulder the responsibility for your own choices and actions. There is a difference between what happened to you (which you cannot control) and your response (which you can).
Before you can take responsibility for your well-being, you have to process the marriage, its end and your actions and emotions. If we do not understand the past, we are doomed to repeat it. Life has a sneaky way of presenting us with lessons until we have fully learned them. It’s impossible to process fully while you’re in the midst of something. Now that you’ve gained some distance and perspective, you can begin to break it apart so that you can gain wisdom.
Before you process the past, you have to shift your focus from your history to your potential. If you spend too much energy focused on the past, you will become a prisoner of the past. You may not be ready to fully move forward, but now is the time to plant the seeds of hope and promise. These are dreams, inoculations from rumination and despair.
Before you can have hope for the future, you have to fall out of love with your former partner. For some, this is easy as the love has been dying for years. For others, especially those blindsided by a sudden divorce, this is a more difficult and deliberate process.
Before you can fall out of love, you have to attend to the practical day-to-day needs. You cannot tend to your emotional wounds until your physical needs have been addressed. This can be daunting, especially if you have been left with no apparent means of income or the burden of debt. Been there. It sucks.
And before you can attend to the practical, you have to accept that the marriage is over. This is where it begins. An acceptance that it’s over. Even if it’s not what you wanted.