Divorce. What an emotionally charged word.
For me, it conjures up images of conflict and a sense of forceful separation – probably because of all the stories I’ve heard over the years. In actuality, divorce doesn’t have to be any of those things. It is simply an ending. For many, however, it can be emotionally traumatic because of all of the judgments, unresolved attachments, and grief. When I see couples in my psychology practice, while there are always painful truths in breakups, I absolutely work with them to explore if a marriage is salvageable.
If it is, we all work like hell to save it. If it is not repairable, I find divorce to be an opportunity for healing. You see, divorce is an ending of a relationship that wasn’t working. It may even be the end of something toxic. Yet folks cannot move on to healing and health until the unworkable relationship is dissolved. Facing painful truths in breakups can help you get to good riddance.
I can see the bigger picture even when it is a tough pill to swallow for those involved. Why? Well, it is the emotional baggage we carry. In fact, the biggest barriers to seeing divorce as healing are emotional. Think of emotions like smog. It is hard to see clearly when you are in the smog. The air has to clear and often this means coming to terms with painful truths.
The first truth is that people have to face is what the relationship actually is (unhealthy and stifling) vs. what they wanted it to be (Nicholas Sparks’-type love story of the ages).
There is grief associated with the loss of what will never be in this relationship with this partner. The plans…. the dreams…. in their current form are gone.
At the same time, the only way to find the true happiness we seek is to move on past this one. It can be incredibly painful because it takes brutal honesty both about the relationship and perhaps oneself. What I mean by that is admitting that the relationship wasn’t what you told yourself and admitting your own part in the false fairytale.
To make all of this worse is our negative, judgmental self-talk. You know that voice in your head that is criticizing your every move? It’s your own, and it is an asshole. The situation is bad enough without the self-gaslighting and bullying. You can dispense with that any time you are ready. Pay attention to what you are thinking and talk or yell back. Enough!
The second truth is unresolved feelings are ugly – these are typically grief and anger (or even rage).
Unresolved feelings can present as headaches, stomachaches, fatigue. They may also show up in behaviors like lying, revenge-seeking, and sabotage. While there may be a brief moment of satisfaction associated with hurtful behaviors toward someone we are angry with, the long term effect is often feelings of emptiness or self-loathing. While we may have every right to be angry or deeply hurt, what I am saying is that channeling those emotions into negativity rarely results in anything good.
How does one go about resolving these understandable emotions? Honestly, it isn’t about rehashing them every day with anyone who is still listening. It isn’t through self-medication with alcohol, drugs, or food. Working through unresolved emotions sometimes calls for professional counseling. To access painful truths in breakups,I also love guided journaling. There are a lot of great books out there if you need help finding a place to start. Time helps, but time alone doesn’t necessarily provide the best healing. A wound may heal but, it may leave an ugly scar. I suggest taking an active approach so that you give yourself the best shot at true, restorative healing.
It can take a while to get to the place where you are able to see the situation for what it actually is – a chance to move on and find happiness apart. It is all about one step at a time and eventually you find yourself out of the smog and in the sunlight where things look vastly different.
At first blush, facing painful truths in breakups is not easy.
But with some small shifts in how you look at the unravelling of your relationship, it can get easier. The process I am outlining is all about mindset. Terrible things happen in the world, and it is easy to feel victimized because you can’t change those things. You can, however, change your response. By actively owning your response (or mindset), you move from feeling like a victim to feeling like a survivor. It takes a lot of hard work, and it’s kind of like physical exercise. You put in the time; you get the results.
If you are interested in knowing more, I provide in depth perspective on owning your mindset following a breakup with evidence-based techniques in my new book, Getting to Good Riddance: A No Bullsh*t Breakup Survival Guide. I use cognitive-behavioral and mindfulness strategies with positive psychology and salty language to power charge recovery and get folks to a place of healing and hope. I meet you where you are – whether it is in bed or powering forward with a step-by-step recovery guide.
Once you have gotten to a better place, you can begin to contemplate what red flags you missed and what inner gut feelings you silenced. In Getting to Good Riddance, I help readers use pain to self-reflect and plot a path forward with happiness and new beginnings.
There is no greater return on investment than self-care. You can be happy. You deserve to be happy. You will be happy. It all starts with letting go of what wasn’t working so you have room for what will work a whole lot better.
Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt, Ph.D., A.B.P.P. is a board certified health psychologist, executive coach and author of Move on Motherf*cker: Live, Laugh, and Let Sh*t Go and Getting to Good Riddance: A No Bullsh*t Breakup Survival Guide. Jodie believes in healing through laughter, intentionality, and a few choice words along the way.
Revolutionizing the conversation around Divorce, one internal narrative at a time.
DISCLAIMER: The commentary, advice, and opinions from Gabrielle Hartley are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice or mental health services. You should contact an attorney and/or mental health professional in your state to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.
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