I’ve never felt so powerless.
I had no money because he had taken it all.
I had no voice because he left with a text and refused any contact.
I had no information because he had taken important files and changed account passwords.
I felt like he called all the shots and I was left with nothing but shrapnel through my heart.
At first, I felt helpless. A victim of his choices and his actions. Wounded and weak.
And then I got angry. Furious that he would and could make decisions without me that had such a devastating impact on my life. Fuming and ruminating.
And finally, I got busy. Learning and working to move beyond his behaviors. Motivated and determined.
It’s not easy to regain a sense of power and control over your own life when you have been the recipient of an unwanted (and perhaps tsunami) divorce.
Here are six encouraging ways that you can take back your life:
Part of what makes an unwanted divorce so scary and leads to a sense of helplessness is a lack of knowledge. When my ex left, I had no information about divorce laws in my state. I didn’t know anything about the legalities of debt and home ownership. I was ignorant about the resources available from the IRS for innocent spouses.
I knew nothing. And, as a result, I feared everything, often catastrophizing every situation.
So I read. I listened. I studied. And I learned.
And with each piece of knowledge, even those that were contrary to my desired answers, I felt just a little bit calmer. A little bit more in control.
Start researching. Learn everything you can. Let knowledge be your shield, your sword and your security blanket. We often avoid what we’re afraid of. But that only makes it worse. Face it and learn about it. Knowledge makes every obstacle a little less daunting.
With an unwanted divorce, you feel as though you’ve been kept in the dark. Which makes accumulating information a great source of power. The more you know, the more options you have.
It’s hard to let go of the life you thought you had. We all get stuck in a track of expectations. When my ex left, I was left stuttering over my future. I kept trying to see how things were going to work out and I kept hitting walls.
Until I realized that I needed to tear down those mental walls that were keeping me enclosed in the remains of the life I had. Instead of trying to stay within the constraints of my former life, I allowed myself to mentally fly beyond.
And I dreamed big. And wide. Some of those options were pretty inconceivable, but I didn’t censor them. I simply explored them in my mind and in my journal.
I composed if…thens… that addressed every possible move I could envision him making. Some were overzealous. Some were absurd. Some were even illegal.
But they all made me feel better.
You cannot control what happens to you, but you can always chose how to respond.
Explore your options. Don’t worry if they seem impossible. Right now, it’s only a mental exercise. Let your imagination carry yourself far beyond your walls.
When divorce happens to you, it’s easy to feel as though a huge roadblock has been plunked down in your life. Which means exploring side paths is a tremendous source of power. The more options you have, the more you can influence.
Create a List
It is easy to focus on the things you cannot control. I remember wishing that I could make him talk to me. Make him accept the help he so obviously needed. Make him admit responsibility and express remorse.
Of course, I could do none of those things.
But that didn’t mean that I was entirely helpless.
I could reach out to friends and family for help. I could find meaning and purpose through those relationships and others. I could start to date again and learn to trust again. I could reevaluate my priorities and restructure my life to fit my goals. I could find a way to transform the pain into a positive movement that could bring comfort to others.
Create a two-sided list. On one side, list all of the things you cannot control. Those are the things to work towards letting go. On the other side, list all of the things within your sphere of influence. No matter how small. Those are the things to focus on cultivating and nurturing.
With unwelcome divorce comes an overabundance of things you cannot control. Which means that enumerating that which you can influence is a great source of power. The more influence you have, the more freedom you gain.
An empty bank account is a great source of vulnerability and impotence. I’ve never felt so small as when I couldn’t even pay for lunch. Although I was fortunate enough to have my own source of income, it was greatly outweighed by the debts he saddled me with.
And that lack of financial freedom and flexibility was a huge source of fear and helplessness.
I vowed to take control of my own finances. Here are the steps I took. And with every dollar of debt paid down or with every penny put into savings, I gained just a little more control over my future.
An uninvited divorce often brings with it a financial crisis. Which means that every step you take towards financial independence brings with it a sense of power. The more freedom you gain, the less dependence you have.
Compose a Letter
The unfairness of it overwhelmed me. I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that he could cause so much harm and then slip out through the back door like a thief in the night. I had so much to say (okay, scream) to him and I had so much that I thought I needed to hear from him.
I thought my voice was stolen.
And although I couldn’t force him to listen or require him to speak the words I wanted, I could compose them myself. I know it seems a bit silly that writing unseen words can release some of the pain. But it can. I know it seems strange that writing the words that you want to hear can help you soften. But it can. Here are 6 letters to write after divorce.
It’s an empowering feeling not only taking back your voice, but using it to make yourself better. Don’t wait for somebody else to listen or to speak. You have the words you need to hear and you can express what you need to say.
The words you say to others have influence. The words you say to yourself have power.
With unwanted divorce, the discussion is often left unfinished. Which means that each word you express and release brings with it a sense of power. The less dependence you have, the more space you’ll find.
In the beginning, I embodied the pain. I couldn’t tell where the agony ended and where I began. I felt like I was at the mercy of my thoughts, triggers unmercifully bringing images and emotions that overwhelmed me on a daily basis.
I tried blocking them out, refusing them entrance. They laughed at my feeble mental barricades. I tried ignoring them, distracting myself through work and dating. They snuck in around the edges, overtaking me like a leak in a canoe.
And finally, I just noticed them. Accepted them. But refused to entertain them. A new meditation practice allowed me to find space between my pain and me. In time, the thoughts grew weaker and I grew stronger.
Find your own form of mediation, of mindfulness. Learn to be in the moment. To be free of judgement. To be aware of your emotions without the need to chase them down.
With divorce, the pain is often pervasive and overwhelming. Which means that as you learn to create space between you and your pain, you find a sense of mastery of your emotions. The more space you find, the more powerful you will be in your own life.