Monday, September 19, 2011

Give Up the Marriage Goal Post-Divorce

As Heidi Halvorson points out in her book, Succeed.How we can reach our goals, sometimes you have to give up a goal.  This is, of course, a central task in the post-divorce period.  Giving up the goal of happily ever after, of having a particular life with a particular person, of having holidays in a particular place with this constellation of family members, you have to give those goals up.

Borrowing from some of Halvorson’s ideas about how to think about goals we give up, and what we can do to ease the pain, these are some suggestions for use post-divorce.

Evaluate your effort and persistence.  Did you do everything you could?  Did you try to go the distance?  If you did your best, it’s time to let go and move on.

Let go of self-blame.  Success is determined largely by effort.  If you put in your all, the marriage didn’t fail because you’re not smart, attractive or clever enough.  Try to be honest about what went wrong, but let go of the gratuitous self-criticism and give yourself an “A” for effort.

You left for a reason.  People leave relationships because the cost of staying is too high.  If the relationship damaged your self-esteem (you were married to a narcissist), caused you to be on an emotional roller coaster (you were married to an addict) or required you to pay some other high price, it’s okay to say “enough.”

Substitute a new goal.  It’s not that finding a date or running a marathon (interesting comparison) will actually take the place of the person, hopes and dreams that are gone, but setting a new goal does a long way to helping us let go.    That’s why meeting someone new often eases the pain of a lost relationship.
It’s not just the person that’s gone, it’s the hopes and dreams.  Part of the work is letting all of that go.  There’s always a new goal on the horizon.

The way we were.  Barbra Streisand

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Feeling Happy Post-Divorce

When researchers study happiness and well-being, they find that having that daily warm, fuzzy, happy feeling is related to being loved, respected and feeling connected.  Of course, we all need food and shelter, the basics, but these things help us think that we’re okay on a day-to-day basis, they don’t necessarily help us feel happy.  You can see how this might be relevant post-divorce.  Right?
Love, respect and connection?  There’s a drastic decline in the connection department.  The one person we felt most connected to, or tried to feel most connected to, is gone.  At best, some of the respect and love we felt from that person, also gone.  At worst, all of the love and respect we felt from them, gone.  Often doubt creeps into other relationships.  Will this friend stand by me?  Is my co-worker questioning my worth now that I’m divorced? How are my kids’ friends’ parents reacting to this?  So the broader sense of feeling respected and connected to others may decline as well.  Your kids may be upset, so you you’re not feeling as much love there either.  Your parents may disapprove, leading again to feeling less loved.
It’s the extra oomph we get from our relationships, that ability to love and be loved, to be respected and have respect for others, and to feel connected to people, that really gives us the happy feeling.  You know what you have do to, right?  Improve those connections.
* Nurture current relationships – have lunch with someone
*Rekindle fading relationships – call an old friend
* Start new relationships – invite a co-worker to walk with you or go on a date
Even if the marriage isn’t forever, some relationships are, and good relationships matter.  Go for it!
Mood music:  UncleAlbert, Paul McCartney