Nothing is miserable unless you think it is so - Boethius. What's the most important quality we can possess, without which we wouldn't be able to move on successfully through separation and divorce?
Okay, we need lots of qualities to get through and you may answer:
Having the ability to compromise over expectations in the split (hard as it is!)
Being (very) patient with the drawn out legal process;
Having the ability to draw a line under relationships with our (ex) partners.
Top of my list is being able to accept ourselves and love ourselves. It sounds simple but the degree to which we value and appreciate ourselves tends to get eroded by the sheer magnitude of all the other emotions and effort which are called upon to see light at the end of the tunnel of divorce.
As we go through it we have a running battle with ourselves about how we came to be in this mess. Whilst our focus should ideally be directed on how to get out of the mess, not how we got there in the first place, it is important to understand what 'went wrong' so that we don't repeat the same 'mistakes' in our next relationship.
Consider this – how much do we expect our needs to be met by our partner when we first commit to each other (which could be on getting engaged or married?) Were those needs fully met in the marriage?
Our beliefs are connected to our values and are very personal. What beliefs and values do you hold? When you married you probably had strong values around commitment, companionship and intimacy and looked to your partner to provide these.
Your values are supported by a number of beliefs e.g. a belief that you and your partner could achieve a happy life together, a life you dreamt and planned together. The nature of beliefs is that we will seek evidence to prove our beliefs are correct and ignore evidence that our beliefs are clearly wrong. However, when the marriage breaks down, at some point we'll need to confront the evidence that states the belief is clearly wrong: that the dream, the belief, that we can be happy forever with this person is shot away.
Beliefs - The Importance of Keeping Them Positive
When marriages break down, we lose on many counts, not least of which is having a fundamental belief destroyed - that we can be happy with our spouse. If we already have limiting beliefs from childhood which reinforce the message that we make mistakes easily (or whatever our limiting belief is) then we may be fuelling our thoughts with more self-limiting beliefs.
Does this sound familiar?
'I should have left him/her years ago but..'
'That's my third marriage which has gone wrong..'
'I'll never get married again.'
Our positive and negative beliefs are shaped in childhood - yes that means they are affected by our conditioning. And also that we are likely to pass them to our children too. Beliefs create who we are and if a belief holds us back e.g. limits us, we won't go beyond our comfort zone. And this is precisely why divorce is so difficult to get through - we want to keep inside the comfort zone, within the sphere of what is nice and comfortable - but we may be being propelled outside it fast. No wonder we're scared. And being scared will impinge on how we think, which will determine the action we will take - for good or bad.
So it makes sense to keep our beliefs positive:
to widen our comfort zone so that we experience new things, to gain in experience and knowledge so that we alter our beliefs as to what we can and can't do - create new beliefs around how capable we are.
We are immensely capable but we often forget it in times of crisis. So, what can we say instead about our divorce, which will empower us?
'I chose to stay in the marriage but now I'm out I shall do x, y and z'
'The next time I get married I'll have learnt from my 'mistakes''
'I intend to enjoy being myself, by myself for the first time in 20 years..'
If we can raise your awareness of our beliefs we can also check they are in our best interests. Often, all it takes is a degree of self-awareness to understand exactly what impact that belief is having on our behaviour.
Here's a simple exercise which, if repeated regularly, has the effect of building positive self thoughts and feelings and will help them to change negative beliefs to positive beliefs.
Exercise: Positive Acknowledgements and Reflections (initially takes 10 mins)
Ask yourself the following and write the answers down:
All the good things about yourself - include good experiences;
What good things have others said about you?
What skills do you have?
What good feelings have you had?
What have you done that is really positive?
Keep the exercise to hand and look at it for a few moments each day, especially if you have had a bad day. Add to the list as you move on, confirming all the positive events and feelings you have.
By recognising our self-limiting beliefs and knowing it is in our power to change them will help us to better accept and love ourselves and move forwards.