Flowing into Flowering
“Oh, that must be terrible!” is a typical reaction when I tell people I work with couples who are separating. Most people assume that it’s an ugly yell-fest between wounded warriors in the romantic battlefield. But I find my work as a family mediator to be full of beauty and hope. Divorce is like a small death, but with all death comes new beginnings, just as spring follows winter. Talking with a recently separated friend, I was struck by her exuberance with life. After tormenting herself for years, she finally left a marriage that crippled her emotionally. On a bright crisp morning on my deck, she excitedly told me about a vacation she was planning with her kids and her pleasure spending time alone in her home when they were with their father. She saw the smile rise in my face. “I know. You tried to tell me this for years. You told me it would be fine, even better than fine. I just didn’t believe you until I went through it myself.”
I remembered my own separation and how paralyzing it was to make a move. Certain that it would lead to disaster for my children, I held tightly to my marriage. In that place, you can only see the next step, the winter of despair and sadness, not the distant spring. Here are the five tricks I found that allowed me to flow into flowering:
1. Stop telling your story. We all take comfort in repeating the story of how we’ve been wronged. We return to it over and over like a lucky stone in our pocket. But each time we retell the story, in our own heads or out loud, we reaffirm our status as a victim of our circumstances and of another’s behavior. Stop telling the story so you can change it.
2. Decide what you want from this change. Instead of reacting to your circumstances, make a strategic move. You’ve probably been busy doing things that other people want you to do. Take this moment of crisis as an opportunity to stop and decide what you really want. What brings you relaxation, excitement, joy or rejuvenation? If you don’t immediately know, tackle this project like a job. Make lists of activities that interest you. Consult with others. Sample options. Note results. Repeat. Don’t give up and crash in front of your television; that’s certain to fail you.
3. Reconnect with the people you love. Spend time with people who feed your soul, not just occupy your time. The biggest fear when our relationship ends is loneliness. How will I make it on my own, financially and emotionally? Instead of running from this fear, take it head on by learning to take care of yourself and by deepening your healthy relationship. One word of warning: Don’t forget trick #1.
4. Reflect on how you can grow. “However disorienting, difficult, or humbling our mistakes might be, it is ultimately wrongness, not rightness, that can teach us who we are.” ~ Kathryn Schulz
About half of all marriages end in divorce. About 80% of second marriages fall to the same demise. If we continue going down the same road, we’ll continue getting the same results. Self-reflection isn’t always fun, but it can be transformational.
5. Give. Nothing in the world heals us as swiftly and thoroughly as altruism. Acting with compassion gets us out of our own small world and transports us to a higher place where our own pain is less acute. Replace your victim story with one of motivation and kindness.