As you navigate separation and divorce, you may find yourself awash in emotions you find unfamiliar and bewildering. If you have children, you may wonder how to care for them as you feel so emotionally adrift yourself. Although there is not one answer to what may work for you, it is important to remove as much pressure from yourself right now as possible. It’s likely easy to think many negative thoughts and to reinforce them when you communicate with others.
One simple tool can help. Every time you find yourself thinking critically, of yourself or your STBX (soon to be ex), try this simple tool: reframe your mindset. Here’s an example:
“He’s always late to pick up the kids!”
Instead think, “I wonder if there’s a better solution to STBX picking up the kids so they aren’t waiting for him.”
This simple transformation of the same idea allows you the ability to effect change. Certainly, you cannot control or change the behavior of your STBX but you can try to create a change that will allow you to know the kids are well cared for emotionally and you aren’t left frustrated by what you cannot change. You can make a note to add this to your discussion with your STBX–in person or by email–and not simply allow it to “blow up” in the moment.
Instead think, “I wonder why she always appears to be so irrational. Is there any way I contribute to that? How can I change the dynamic to better serve my needs and make sure our interactions are better?”
Sure, it’s a lot, in the moment, to try and pull back from anger and blame. But, if you allow yourself the gift of just that–an aha moment–to calm your reflexive response, you can see better possibilities for yourself which will help you in the future if you need to communicate with your STBX, and it’s likely you will need to do so, especially if you are co-parenting.
Let’s try one more:
“He never listens!”
How about: “He thinks differently than me. He may not hear what I am trying to communicate. Maybe I should try another approach. If that doesn’t work, I may need to accept that we will not agree on this issue.” Of course, it isn’t pleasant to know that you and your STBX may not be on the same page, whether it comes to your Divorce Agreement, or the best interests of your children, if you have them. But simply sitting in the anger and making negative judgments about the other certainly won’t help you emotionally or practically right now. Try to understand what you can do to better understand the STBX’s perspective. If it’s impossible, you may need to decide to accept that you cannot change it. This will, at least, allow you to move forward to negotiate from a position of understanding. And, you don’t get yourself “stuck” in a continuous cycle of disappointment and anger.
This exercise is one tool, among many, that may help you begin to move past the anger and frustration that is almost inevitably part of separation and divorce. It’s important because it helps you get “unstuck” in an area that often holds people hostage in this process. In the end, if you cannot begin to “reframe your negative thoughts” it hurts no one but you–and sometimes your children–if you do not manage to contain or re-direct the pain you feel.
Remember, this is a gradual process and not one that occurs without practice. Gradually, you will begin to see that you can move forward at this difficult time. The light at the end of the tunnel may be very dim right now indeed but, with time, and multiple strategies for reframing your mindset, you will see that you will likely be stronger than when you started.
Certified Divorce Coach, Lawyer, Yoga Teacher, Divorced Parent