Who coined the term ‘amicable divorce?’ This implies that a divorce can be about as friendly as a walk down the street where all your neighbors know your name. Please. No matter how the divorce comes to pass, the emotions that play into it, and how less than vicious it may be, a friendly divorce is really so incredibly rare that the term should be thrown out. Divorce signals the loss of something. Dreams, hopes, futures, could have beens, and wanted tos get lost any time a marriage ends. And there are emotional consequences to such things. Learning how to stay sane during a divorce means in part, looking at a divorce for exactly what it is.
There are numerous books and articles written on the subject. But the truth is, there is no right formula for experiencing a divorce. It just is one of those things that you have to feel your way through, hope and pray a lot, and experience as it happens. There is nothing that you can do that will allow you to predict your emotional ranges in advance and there is nothing written that will give you a step by step guide through your divorce. It’s happening to you. Thus, only you really know how you’re feeling and dealing.
Once you understand that your feelings are going to happen, you next step is to learn how to manage them. Divorce almost always inevitably causes a great deal of anger, even if that anger isn’t necessarily directed at the other person. Sometimes a person just gets so angry that it is happening and that they could not save their marriage that the anger feels like a heavy blanket over them through all aspects of life. Go to the batting cages, learn to beat a tennis racket against a pillow, tear up an old phone book in your rage, but let out the anger and let it be in the universe rather than circling your head like a shark. People going through a divorce often want to control their feelings because there is so much going on that they can’t control. But learning to release the feelings appropriately will make the blanket a little lighter, a little more manageable.
Human beings have a tremendous capacity for love. This means human beings also have a tremendous capacity for hate. And learning how to stay sane during a divorce is one of those times when your capacity for hate may scare the stuffing out of you. It sneaks up on you, eats at you, and has the potential to turn you into a rather unlikeable person, either for awhile or for the rest of your life. This hate that you may experience is often the result of feeling betrayed. In some cases, betrayal is obvious; you were cheated on, money was drained from an account; your children were lied to, and in other cases you may feel your feelings of betrayal are unfounded. People often feel betrayed in a divorce because the ‘promise’ of the future, no matter how it was broken, was something that we all need. Without a feeling of future safety we all feel a little lost. A divorce in itself can be a betrayal even when it is better to live apart than together. It can be hard to recognize these feelings as legitimate when there hasn’t been some heinous act of deception perpetrated by the spouse. But they are and they should be dealt with.
The loss of mutual friends can be one of the hardest aspects of a divorce. Not knowing where mutual friends stand during the initial stages can be maddening. If you have reasonably close friendships that you share, simply ask them where they stand. A friend may feel obligated to choose sides if a divorce is particularly bitter. They also may decline to impose their real feelings for months or even years after the divorce is final for fear of hurting someone or losing a valuable relationship in their own life. Not all your mutual friends will be honest. But some will. If you’re not asking them to choose a side, they will feel more inclined to be available to you, to listen to your long winded string of emotional rambling, and to offer both emotional and practical support.
When children are involved a divorce is inevitably more strained. The children become needier, angrier, and more disrespectful and mouthy. Some will randomly cry and even cause small hurts on their body to gain a parent’s distracted attention. If you’re trying to balance dealing with yourself and helping your children adjust, get in the habit of nurturing yourself once a week. Talk to a therapist, go to a spa, take long walks by yourself, indulge in good music and friends. These little things will help you deal more effectively with your feelings which in turn will help you deal more effectively with your children’s feelings.
There is no magical answer. How to stay sane during a divorce is not a ready made novel with perfectly cued excerpts. It is a learning experience, and it is an experience that will help you understand yourself better over time. It is scary, and it may feel right one minute and wrong the next. There are a lot of emotions to deal with, and that just down right stinks. But if you can start to look at things through a smaller window, and deal with smaller chunks of life at one time, you might not feel so run over. You don’t need to solve everything in one day, just the day’s events and the day’s feelings. As tome goes on, you will begin to develop a better perspective and deal with things in larger chunks. But for each day that passes, dealing with small incremental moments will provide you with more valuable relief and valuable insight to handle the larger, more crushing blows.