We all have seen that some people manage to make it through even the most horrific of divorces with their hearts and smiles intact, whereas others seem permanently withered by their experience. We all want to be a member of the first group and yet we often find ourselves unwitting members of the second.
Why is it that some people flourish and others atrophy?
This is the advice that I wished I had received while I was still in the depths of my own divorce. I had plenty of people telling me what to do (and I followed the suggestions that fit for me), but nobody really clarified what those that thrive don’t do.
Divorce is often a long process. Apart from assembling the required documentation, writing checks to your attorney and making the requisite trips to IKEA (where you fight with college kids over the practical and value-minded inventory), you end up spending a lot of that time simply waiting.
Waiting for your divorce to be final.
Waiting for the legal approval to make changes to your name, your accounts and maybe your living situation.
Waiting for the uncertainty and the pain to end.
And maybe even waiting to live.
Let’s face it – waiting sucks. Feeling helpless sucks. Feeling insecure and lost as you tentatively start your new sucks.
And you know what can help all of that suck a little less?
Because sometimes the way to learn to do something better is to start with what we already know…
You know: Never go to the grocery store when hungry.
When you succumb to the grocery store on an empty stomach, you’re possessed by a powerful drive to grab anything in your sight. You have a tendency to zero in on high-calorie items, especially those stocked for maximum visual impact. Your reasoning and planning abilities are sluggish, which may lead to a full cart but an empty pantry as you later realize you forgot the staples.
In contrast, when you navigate the store on a full stomach, you find it easier to stick to your list of needed items and resist those temptations that look good only to leave you feeling bad.
Love lesson: Never date when starving for affection.
When you’re starving for attention and affection, you may enter the dating scene driven by that ravenous and undiscriminating hunger. You’re likely to grab anything that catches your eye with little thought to its long-term impact.
Instead, strive to fill the voids in your life with friends, family, hobbies, passions and purpose before you seek out romantic love. You will make better choices for the long term and be better able to stick to your list of “must haves.” And you’ll also find it easier to pass on those people that make you feel good in the moment only to cause regret in the morning.
You know: Your cart only has so much space.
A grocery cart has finite space and so decisions must be made about what will be chosen to occupy that real estate. Maybe you notice a sale on soda and you’re tempted to fill the basket until the cans pile over the brim. You may justify this decision, claiming that you’re taking advantage of a good deal and that you never know when such a sale may come around again.
But at what expense? Yes, you’ll have soda for months. But you can’t live on pop alone.
Love lesson: Sometimes you have to let go of what makes you feel good in the moment in order to make space for what fulfills you long term.
Once we have allowed someone space in our lives, we tend to justify their place there even when they may not have been the wisest choice. It can be easy to focus on the parts that fit while actively ignoring the reasons why it’s not a good idea.
You know: Junk food may be quick and easy, but it is detrimental to your health.
So called “food deserts” earned their moniker not from a lack of food, but from a lack of quality food. Processed foods are tempting because they require little investment of time or money. They promise sustenance and indeed provide some feeling of satiety. These “foods” have been carefully engineered to promote maximum consumption and to encourage dependency.
However, in the longer run, these foods can cause starvation even as they widen the waistline since key nutrients have been replaced with fillers and empty calories. Healthy foods take effort, intention and planning as you turn the raw ingredients into something that will both nurture and fortify you.
Love lesson: Healthier relationships take time and energy to prepare.
Quick fixes are tempting in love as well. Those relationships that ignite quickly and fill you with both a surge of temporary well-being and a driving need for more. They can become a drug, leading you to always search for that next spark of interest. Only to leave you empty and lonely once the initial attraction fades.
Healthier relationships are built from the ground up. There is effort. Intention. Sustained energy and shared responsibility. And the pride and ownership that comes from doing something yourself.