After Divorce: The Rule of Three

The period after divorce is chaotic as demands fight for attention and everything seems to require a decision and an action. It’s overwhelming with its ability to impact every single facet of your life. And it’s confusing as you struggle to make the right decisions when your emotions are smothering your abilities to think rationally.

So here’s something simple. Straightforward. And yet still helpful.

I call it the rule of three.

Rule 1 – Find Something to Release

In the last few years of my first marriage, I made extra money tutoring. I spent up to 15 hours a week teaching math after my day job of teaching math. Accepting the jobs had become habit. And then the marriage ended suddenly and I had to cancel the tutoring jobs that I had while I worked to find my equilibrium.

In those weeks, I realized that tutoring was something that I no longer wanted to do. In addition to becoming a habit, it had become a burden. A drain on my energy and attitude. And so I let it go. And I immediately felt a little better.

Divorce is an opportunity to examine what is in your life and to discard that which no longer serves you. Find one thing that you’re doing out of habit, out of concern for how others see you or because you feel like you “should” do it. And then release it.

Rule 2 – Find Something to Reintroduce

My ex hated the smell of pancake syrup and bubble gum. And so out of respect for him, I eliminated these foods (okay, food-like compounds) from my diet.

After he left, I found that frozen waffles were one of the few foods that I could choke down. With plenty of syrup, of course. And I enthusiastically chewed the pinkest, fruitiest bubble gum within the confines of the car.

Identify something that you have let go of or allowed to slide from your life that you used to enjoy. What have you eliminated because of time, responsibilities or because of your ex? Find it and then reintroduce it.

Rule 3 – Find Something New to Try

I have always been a doer. I struggle with slowing down and simply being. A few months after my marriage ended, I decided to challenge the view I had of myself and I booked a three night meditation and yoga retreat. To add to the test, I left all of my books – my preferred method of escape – behind.

It was a difficult few days, but it was also a transformative and incredibly powerful experience. I met a fear head-on, shook its hand and discovered that it wasn’t so bad after all.

Reflect on those things that you have told yourself that you “can’t do” or “won’t do.” And then pick one and try it.

 

So that’s it, the rule of three –

One to free in order to create space,

One to bring back to help you reconnect to self

And one to investigate to teach you to be curious rather than afraid.

 

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What To Do When You’re “Over It” But It Isn’t Over

“Enough is enough!” my client exclaimed, her frustration and determination both succinctly contained in those words.

It’s a reaction I think we can all relate to. Sometimes life feels like we’re Indiana Jones trapped in that underground room with the walls relentlessly pressing in. At first, we’re responsive. Reactive. We press forward using our hope like a torch lighting the way.

But sometimes life keeps pushing back. And the situation, far from being temporary, begins to feel endless. Even hopeless.

We get tired. Disappointment and aggravation rise as spirits fall. Our mind and body screams for us to tap out, but life isn’t listening.

So what can we do when we’re “over it,” but’s not yet over?

Be Mindful of Your Mindset

When we focus on the end, we neglect to be in the present.

When we label something as “bad,” we have tendency to overlook the good. Whatever you nurture, grows.

When we assign happiness and success to external things, we neglect to make the internal changes needed to do better once the external circumstances change.

Take time to recognize, remember and be grateful for the beautiful moments this period has had to offer. And think about how you can cultivate those in the months or years to come.

Be present and mindful in these ongoing moments. Practice letting go of expectations and nurturing acceptance.

Refrain from assigning any magical powers to a new situation. If you want different, be different.

Don’t Be a Casualty of a Victim Mindset

When life has you between an elephant and asphalt, it’s easy to throw a pity party and engage in the “why me!” wails. A victimhood mindset is tantalizing. It offers excuses and a respite from responsibility. It often feels good and frequently comes with a generous helping of sympathy and pity.

Yet ultimately, the siren song of victimhood isn’t worth the tradeoff. You’re allowing yourself to be kept in a position of helplessness. Those drawn to you may have a need to be needed and so they have a motivation to keep you needy.  And you can become dependent upon the ministrations of others, forced to constantly up the victim’s cry to maintain support.

Appropriate Breaks

When we’re tired, everything feels overwhelming. Your situation may be ongoing, but that doesn’t mean that you have to allow it mental space 24 hours a day. Sometimes when we have this BIG thing in our lives, we feel like we have to honor it with our constant attentions.

What might it look like it if you simply decide to change the channel for a time? It probably won’t make this thing end any sooner, but it probably won’t make it any worse either. Be wary of falling into the trap of waiting to live, of waiting to happy, until it’s over.

This situation may be a big part of your life right now, but it’s not your whole life.

Unearth Your Agency

Part of your frustration comes from feeling like you have no control. And there probably is quite a bit going on that you cannot change.

But there are some things you can.

Become your own detective, approach with curiosity and be wary of accepting ideas too readily as facts. What aspects of your situation – or more likely, your response to the circumstances, can you control?

Uncover those areas where you have agency and take responsibility for altering those and navigating them towards the direction you’re going.

Mark the Incremental Improvements

If you ran a marathon and only noted the finish line, the race would feel endless and your progress would seem insignificant. If, however, you were aware of every passing mile marker, your headway towards the goal would be readily apparent.

Life is no different. Don’t simply wait for the current circumstances to be over, make an effort to notice the intermediate accomplishments and improvements, no matter how small. No celebration is too big.

 

 

Funnel Your Frustrations

Being “over it” is a compilation of exhaustion and frustration. Use the latter to fuel you out of the former. That anger has energy that can put to good use. Find somewhere to focus your attention and your efforts that is unrelated to your current situation.

Plant a garden. Restore your deck. Replace your brakes. Sign up for yoga teacher training. Start a book club. Initiate a neighborhood walking club. Train a puppy. Master coding. Or calculus. Or a new language.

The “what” matters little. It’s the effort and attention that will help to lift you from your annoyance and perception of being stuck.

One day, that thing that you’re wanting to end, will.

And in the meantime, get busy living.

 

 

 

The Power of “Me Too”

I recently responded to a woman over at Divorce Force. She has just discovered that for 30 of the 34 years she spent with her husband, he had another family. Her post is brief, the details sparse. But I’m confident that one of the many overwhelming emotions she is feeling right now is that of being alone in this experience.

I’m confident because I remember feeling the same. Convinced that there was nobody else who could possibly relate to the shock of sudden abandonment and the crazy making aspects of divorcing someone who made his own reality.

And then I found some message boards. A few articles. A book. And those words all whispered, “Me too.”

“My husband left me a note on the counter and I never heard from him again.”

“My wife simply didn’t come home from work. I found out later that she moved in with her boyfriend that same day.”

“My ex husband  fabricated all of the documents that were submitted to the courts. It’s all lies.”

“My ex wife falsely accused me of being abusive. Now the judge looks at me like I’m the bad one.”

As I read these entries, I felt sorry for those that had endured. And I also felt some relief. Some companionship. Some sense that I had found my tribe.

All because of the power of “me too.”

“Me too” doesn’t try to compete for the greatest pain trophy. It doesn’t try upstage the circumstances or tell a better story. It doesn’t engage in a game of tug of war, attempting to direct all of the energy to one side. “Me too” doesn’t claim to understand all of what another is feeling or to insinuate that the paths are the same.

What “me too” does is tell you that you’re alone in your experience. That others have been in a similar place and can empathize with how you are feeling. “Me too” provides hope as you learn that others who are doing okay now were once not okay. When you hear the words, “me too,” you know you have a compassionate and nonjudgemental ear where you can feel safe and understood.

If you’re feeling alone, seek your tribe and find peace among those who whisper, “me too.” And once you’ve been there and through the other side, be brave enough to remember your own struggles, share your own “me too” and then just be there and listen.

 

 

Guest Post: The Healing Gift of a Dog’s Love

by Meagan Hanley

Depression is a very real and debilitating illness. It can come and go, reappearing out of the blue, even when the sun is out and birds are chirping. The condition can be genetic, or situational, or both. For me, it was the culmination of too many stressors that came all at once knocking me off my feet. It was like I was fighting a tsunami mentally.

In 2015 my husband left me. One month later my epileptic dog, Buddy, passed away. I had to put him down at 3 AM by myself mid seizure because my emotionally incompetent husband said it was just ‘too hard to handle’. Around that same month, my alcoholic father relapsed and my mother announced her decision to undergo dangerous brain surgery for her advanced Parkinson’s disease. My husband and I sold our home and I had to find a rental. I left my job to start another that would allow me to afford the steep Boston rent as a newly single woman.

It was all too much. The three long months after Buddy passed away and I was ‘dog-less’, were spent in a zombie like state. Forcing myself to be social, I would go out to dinner with friends, only to cry my eyes out in public. I needed something or someone to anchor me or I would soon unravel in a very dangerous way. My doctor put me on medicine. It didn’t work. Some days I didn’t get out of bed, or go to work; the lights stayed off. Only a few friends checked in on me. The ones who had their lives intact, with families, were just too busy.

That September, I attended an adoption event for Last Hope K9 rescue. I knew I needed to experience the unconditional love of a dog, once again. After all, it was my first dog, Buddy, who kept me alive through my divorce when I wanted to give up on life. I decided to go check out a black lab named Lucky, who I spotted on the website. As fate would have it, I arrived at the event early, and Lucky’s foster mom was running late. So, I sat down on the lawn next to a little beagle mix named Acer. He started licking my face, and actually hugged me, wrapping his paws around my shoulders. This little 20 lb fur ball, grasped on to me so tightly and wouldn’t let go. Not in an aggressive way, but a way that meant we should belong to each other. Lucky was not the one for me.

I eagerly signed the adoption papers for Acer, now known as ‘ACE’. I wanted to sign up for a lifetime worth of his little hugs, even if only in dog years. It is now 2 and a half years later, and a dog, has once again, shown me the incredible healing benefits to caring for an animal.

When I open my eyes each morning, I am greeted by a happy tail whipping back and forth and a sloppy kiss on my forehead. I feel as though I have a reason to wake up. If my eyes did not open, his tail may not wag. He may not be so happy, and that is reason enough for me to keep going. He forces me to get outside on the days where I feel sad or have flash backs of some events from my past. He doesn’t care that I have gained weight. He treats me like a celebrity. After a long day at work, he meets me at the door with excitement, with his little wiggle butt. When a not so nice guy dumped me via text, Ace made the best stand in New Year’s Eve date ever. I didn’t even have to do my makeup. So for the people who wonder why I am ‘so dog obsessed’, or to those who simply don’t understand why my dog will always come first, I will tell you that if you love me, you should love my dog, because, it is due to his love, that I am still breathing.

My first dog Buddy, put my heart back together when the love of my life broke it. And my second dog, Ace, well…he’s my partner on this new journey, and he lets me be myself each step of the way. Adopt a rescue dog, they may just save your life.

Dumping Dysfunction

Raise your hand if you’ve ever dated (or married) someone that now makes you shake your head in disbelief.

Don’t be shy. You’re not alone.

Now, take an honest look back at yourself in that relationship. Were you in a healthy place? In full working order?

Probably not.

When it comes to relationships, we tend to attract and be attracted to people that are operating at a similar level of awareness and functionality as we are.

Those who are overly nice and have difficulty maintaining boundaries find partners who are overly needy or demanding.

The one that seeks to control and fix finds the one who cannot manage alone.

Those that are fearful to fully engage in life meet up with others who are content to live at half speed.

People that struggle with addiction dovetail nicely with the ones who are happy to enable.

The one that feels unlovable will end up with the one that likes to abuse.

And individuals who are afraid of being alone will settle with those who don’t have the skills needed to sustain a relationship.

Like attracts like in the particular magnetism of relationships. Patterns of dysfunction fitting together just so in a way that can hide the maladaptive patterns of one by folding into the other.

And sometimes one person grows and in doing so, grows out of the person they were once fitted with. The relationship becoming a too-tight sweater that constricts instead of hugs. Without their corresponding pattern of dysfunction to hide beneath, the too-sharp edges of the slower growing partner begin to rub and your tolerance begins to wear thin.

Maybe they will be motivated by your growth, your changes prompting alterations in their own habits and patterns. Perhaps your shift is enough and you are able to learn a new way to operate that improves the overall dynamic.

Or possibly you’re in the difficult position of choosing between being limited and letting go.

Sometimes to move forward, you have to begin by dumping the dysfunction.

And then doing the work to become what you want to attract.

Controlling Your Divorce

Part of what makes divorce so difficult is that so much of what is happening around you – and to you – is completely out of your control. It’s scary. It’s crazy-making. It’s infuriating.

And it also doesn’t have to be so bad. Learn how you can control your divorce. 

 

 

The Side Effect of Divorce That Nobody Talks About (And What To Do About It)

When I was a kid, my mom used to joke that she wished she could bottle my energy up and sell it.

When I was getting divorced, I wished my mom had managed to bottle up some up that childhood energy. Not to sell, but to use myself as sort of a vitality self-transfusion.

Because, goodness knows, divorce is an energy vampire. Here’s what you need to know about how to recognize and handle the fatigue that accompanies divorce. And if you figure out how to bottle youthful energy, please let me know!

Let That Shit Go

When I walked into my yoga studio this past Monday evening, I saw a woman with the most amazing shirt. Under a simple image of a figure in a pose, were the words:

Let that shit go.

I laughed. I smiled. And I reflected back on my day, the first day back at school after spring break. A day filled with tired, yet nervous kids, as we all prepared for the upcoming standardized testing season.

I felt my shoulders kissing my ears as they still were still struggling to carry the load of the day. I recognized that my mind hadn’t left the school and was still busy tweaking the lesson for the following day. I sensed a current of anxiety coursing through my body, fearful that I would somehow mess up the testing in some critical and unforgivable way. I realized that I was already anticipating what I needed to accomplish after the yoga practice instead of making preparations for my yoga class.

And then I made a decision and with my next exhale, I followed the advice of her shirt and I let that shit go.

As we go through our days, we collect worries and troubles like a young child collects pebbles on a walk through the park. We stuff our pockets, line our shoes and fill our hands with as much as we can carry. We become overloaded, burdened, with the weight we carry. We curse it, we complain about it. Yet we rarely follow a form of the advice we would give to the child overloaded with collected treasures on a walk –

Let that shit go.

Mistakes

When I was in kindergarten, I got in trouble for talking in class. My consequence for the misdeed was a missed recess. The talking was a simple mistake, a lapse in judgment rather than a lapse in character, yet I internalized the mistake. Instead of merely sitting along the wall with the other kids who made a mistake that day, I had to be consoled by my teacher because I was so hard on myself.

Mistakes are inevitable. Mistakes are opportunities. Making a mistake doesn’t make you any less of a person.

Let that shit go.

A Bad Day

Have you ever noticed that once you label a day as “bad,” there seems to be no shortage of ever-compiling evidence to justify that moniker? Every slight, no matter how small, is a sign the world is against you. Every stressor becomes a mountain, every trigger detonates an explosion.

Days aren’t good or bad. They’re simply a measurement of time. And what happens in one fraction of a day doesn’t have to impact the remaining parts.

Let that shit go.

Expecting Things to Be Different

I receive questions and pleas for help on a daily basis where the writer inquires how to go about changing their spouse’s or ex’s behaviors. They enumerate the lies and the irresponsibility. They express their frustrations about the lack of accountability and the absence of emotional intelligence. Sometimes, they lament the circumstances rather than the person, begging for a way to alter their current reality.

But reality is as it is. There are circumstances we cannot change and people beyond our influence. To believe otherwise is maddening and self-limiting.

Let that shit go.

Childhood Wrongs

I once heard a psychologist say that our twenties are the time for facing and addressing any childhood traumas and points of contention. After that, it’s time to take responsibility for the direction of your life.

Some people have had horrible childhoods, filled with insults and assaults upon a vulnerable frame. Childhood ends and with it, the lack of choice and agency that comes from being young. At some point, your life becomes your responsibility.

Let that shit go.

Control

Getting pneumonia 6 weeks before my first – and only – marathon was the best thing that could have happened. Until that infection left me bedridden, I was carefully controlling every bite of food and every step run. The pneumonia was a reminder that I couldn’t control the outcome. (It turned out okay; I still “won” the marathon.)

You can control your responses. You have influence over the process. But the outcomes?

Let that shit go.

An Apology That Never Came

I spent years hoping for an apology from my ex husband. I believed I needed it so that I would know that he felt remorse and so that I could receive closure. It was a life on hold. A wish with no action. I put more faith in the apology than I did in my ability to move on.

Never put the responsibility for your well-being in the hands of the one who hurt you.

Let that shit go.

Fixing Everything

Not everything is a problem. Not everything has a solution. Sometimes things are broken beyond repair and sometimes what we see as flawed, someone else views as perfect. And other times, the fixing may need to be done, but it is not our job to do it.

When we act as “fixer,” we are taking on too much and often hurting others in the process.

Let that shit go.

Perfection

I remember erasing my drawings in art class to the point where I rubbed holes through the paper. In an attempt to make them perfect, I inevitably ruined them.

Life is about being present, not perfect.

Let that shit go.

What Ifs

It’s an easy mental game to play – what would have happened if I chose a different path? It can be entertaining and educational, playing around with the options and outcomes.

Yet what ifs can also be a trap, a way of spending time in manipulated past and an imagined future instead of being where you are.

Let that shit go.

The Need to Be Right

When we listen to respond rather than understand, we’re allowing our need to be right to dominate our interactions. When we lead with the ego, we shortchange others their right to be understood and we limit our own ability to grow.

It’s funny. The more we need to right, the more rarely we are.

Let that shit go.

Outrage

I heard an interesting podcast the other day that had an expert in social media discuss how the big players – Google, Facebook and Instagram – manipulate us into spending time on site and interacting with the content. The types of posts that receive the most investment of time and energy are not the feel-good ones, not the informational ones, but the ones that cause a feeling of outrage.

It’s not just the social media big boys that bully us with outrage. Think of others who provoke you, push your buttons and get under your skin. What’s your typical response? We are all prone to reactions. Outrage short circuits our rational minds and prompts irrational responses even while it serves as fuel for the ones prompting it.

Let that shit go.

Occasional Hurt Feelings

Sometimes I wish I had a bad memory, that painful things that had been said to me would blur over time and fade into the backdrop. But that’s not the case. I have to be very deliberate about releasing the hurt that has come from words spoken without thought or said when emotionally flooded.

We all unintentionally hurt others sometimes. We say the wrong thing. Forget an important milestone. Neglect to respond in the right way. And feelings get bruised. And bruises heal.

Let that shit go.

Self-Flagellation

Guilt serves a purpose. Much like the inflatable gutter guards in children’s bowling, it helps to guide us along our intended path. Yet guilt has a propensity for growing outside its allotted space, suffocating us in the process.

When you mess up, own it and then either change it or apologize. And once you learn from it, the guilt and self-punishment serve no further purpose.

Let that shit go.

Excessive Judgment

Some behaviors deserve judgment. Intentionally harm a child or an animal and I’m going to judge you all the way to prison. Yet most behaviors require less judgment and more curiosity.

It’s easy to think that your way is the right way and that when you don’t understand somebody’s beliefs and decisions, it means they’re wrong. Yet different isn’t necessarily wrong, it’s just different. Judgment won’t change their mind, but it will keep you from expanding yours.

Let that shit go.

Comparisons

Have you every felt good about an accomplishment only to feel incompetent and jealous when you measured them against another person’s.

Comparisons are empty. You’re holding your inner life up against somebody else’s outer one. You’re allowing somebody else’s achievements to have an influence on your own. What somebody else has earned has no bearing on what you have attained. Let them be and you do you.

Let that shit go.

Busyness

I struggle with feeling guilty and lazy when I take some for myself. I find it all-too easy to identify with my accomplishments and view my worth through my deeds.

You are not defined by the number of events on your calendar and the number of items crossed off your to-do list. It’s okay to step away from doing and allow yourself to simply be.

Let that shit go.

Because I never proofread my posts, I am sure that there are typos here. But I’m okay with that. Because I learned a long time ago to

let that shit go.

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How to Remove the Emotion When Dealing With a Difficult Ex

Some people end up friends with their exes.

Some people are able to successfully navigate their way into a companionate coparenting or business relationship with their spouse.

And others have an ex from you-know-where that continues to cause pain and wreak havoc long after the divorce.

Sometimes you can go no-contact and excise the malignancy.

But what can you do if you can’t remove your ex from your life but you still want to remove the emotions from the interactions? You may be stuck with them, but you don’t have to be stuck with how they make you feel.  Here are 11 ways that you can find emotional distance from a difficult ex.