names have been omitted in this post
"What got you through your divorce?"
She asked me.
I looked at her and grimaced.
"God, my Mama, cream cheese danish,
country music and my friends."
Maybe some folks when asked that question would have said "Alcohol, kick-boxing or my Daddy's money." But no matter what the answer, no matter who or what got you through your divorce you know if you're blessed to have it in your rearview mirror that you're thankful to have miraculously made it to the other side. You know how long it takes to get a divorce finalized (way too long... expect in most cases a minimum of a year if you're lucky) and you know all the ways you must reassess, adapt and learn in the process of this major life change. Because when you go into it you have so many ill pre-conceieved notions of what it will or should be like... and so often those are incredibly wrong.
It's like going into anything. I may have thought riding the Conquistador at Six Flags Over Texas would be perfectly fine... until I exited it and my face turned green as beans and I was sick right there on the pavement. When you're not sure what to expect or you have pre-conceived notions as to what will happen or specifically what should happen you can end up feeling like you got blindsided. Those should's can cause you alot of grief during the divorce process on top of what you're already dealing with in regards to the person you're divorcing. The longer the divorce process drags on we lose time in our process of healing. Understandably it's so easy to get swept up in the lengthy and tiresome ongoing life event that is divorce that we may focus on things other than what would perhaps be in our better interests. This post will hopefully help in re-directing focus to the positive and help with the healing process.
We can stop and think back on the many experiences and memories we shared with our ex... and how they made us feel. When I was married my ex didn't want me tagging along on his work business trips even though I would have enjoyed going and voiced as much. After we divorced he made many remarks that I hadn't wanted to go with him. It's amazing how the truth is twisted by them. Or maybe your ex criticized how you did everything... maybe you were a target for them to attack whatever you did... from how you loaded the dishwasher, how you folded the laundry, how you dressed, how you parented. Yet you weren't allowed to say anything to them about anything or you were met with fits of rage or stonewalling. Perhaps it was chronically open season to berate you but you couldn't criticize them no matter how constructive, tactful or well-meaning. When someone's goal is to make you feel inadequate, stupid, inept, etc... you don't need that. We are called to be up-lifters not haters. Reflect on how their behavior made you feel... and realize that those feelings say alot about how they are, how they treat others and their character... but not you.
2. Go No Contact Or Minimal.
If you can go no contact you should as gaining that distance will help you begin healing faster. Focusing on your ex and/or abuser leads to riding a continual wave of negativity which does nothing but cause you more stress. Admittedly, when we go no contact it can be incredibly difficult as we are trying to disengage from someone we've intimately shared life with. The narc will likely push back and become furious at your attempts to ignore and remove yourself from the pig pen... pushing for more interaction. They will likely amp up the forms of punishment and chaos but hang in there... from personal experience I know it's hard but keep your strong stance and distance. It will eventually get better if you don't react. If you don't have children with a narc it's obvious with a lack of co-parenting needed that going no contact may be easier. But when it comes to co-parenting there is still the option of minimal contact. My ex and I have nearly zero contact and that's for the best. It's healthiest for me and enables me to be a better mom because then I'm not subjected to his abuse. We utilize Our Family Wizard for messaging and even that occurence is rare at this point in time. Ultimately you have to find what works best for you... I think the key to all of this to remember that we have CHOICES. It's when we feel a lack of choices that we begin to feel powerless and then despair follows. Remember that we have the power to choose how to interact, respond, etc... we have way more power than what we may give yourselves credit for and what we will or will not tolerate.
3. Therapy, please.
Therapy with a trusted therapist is incrediby helpful and reassuring. Find a therapist who is knowledgable about narcissisism and sees the value and importance of going no contact. Interview a few before choosing one. Finding someone who can testify in court if needed on your behalf might be helpful. Find someone who is a soft place for you to fall in all the crazy-making behaviors endured. The therapist I had during my divorce was truly a gift... it was through her I realized what I was dealing with; a narcissitic sociopath. Her understanding of the disorder and recognizing the signs by my detailed experiences relayed to her combined with her empathy helped tremendously and kickstarted my understanding of exactly who I was married to. My second therapist in the aftermath of my divorce being final was a good resource in emotionally guiding me through the continual court filings my ex orchestrated and being a sounding board regarding my children's emotional health. A therapist can also help us overcome our self-doubt that has been planted in us due to gas-lighting and help us find our solid footing again in the world... becoming more self assured and emotionally stronger.
4. Responsibility + Acceptance.
Once you accept that this was your life and what happened things will begin to shift and good things will take place. You have the power to re-write your story and how it will end. I chose someone who I see now was clearly not good for me. I married a man who I'd made the poor choice of having pre-martial sex with and getting pregnant. I then made the selfish choice to get an abortion combined with his urging to "get rid of the problem" and yet later married him. That was one of my biggest signs in hindsight. No man who truly loves you will condone you aborting a baby that is half yours and his. We can acknowledge the poor sinful choices we've made but that doesn't mean our life is now devoid of hope or meaning. You are loved, forgiven and beautifully strong. The world will continually try to pull you down with potshots and smug glances, maybe act like what you went through didn't happen or wasn't that bad or will tell you you're a victim and should milk it for everything you can. You can say no to all of these unhealthy mindsets and instead adopt healthy ones. Yes, you may have originally been a victim... I prefer to use the word target... but that doesn't mean you have to remain there. Some of us have been through truly horrific situations, for many people situations that they didn't ask for and were targets but we can all start fresh and make the rest of our life the best of our life.
5. Utilize Self Care.
No matter what I've been through a common theme of thought over the years has been: Some people have had it way worse so suck it up and keep going. And it's perfecty fine to give yourself a pep talk, to tell yourself to keep going. And yes, there are people who have had it worse. But the thing is... this is YOUR life. Stop the comparisons for a moment and acknowledge the difficulties and challenges you've personally been through. Then give yourself much needed love and care. During time with an abuser it's common to not indulge in self care which ends up being very detrimental to our health. Instead of doing things for ourselves we likely spent much of our time catering to the narcissist or sociopath in our lives. Now is your time to self indulge and splurge if possible. Take the time to do things that are comforting and caring to you.... whether it's pedicures, listening to music, journaling, enjoying tea and a good book or jogging with friends, etc... even indulging in hobbies that perhaps you weren't allowed to dabble in before; photography, dance, music, painting, etc... taking the time to care for yourself is much needed and will help your body relax after all the tension, stress and anxiety a narc releases into our life.
It's time to take a good look at our life and ask ourselves some vital questions. When it comes to divorce or really any major life change... the loss of a loved one, a milestone birthday or the beginning of a new year it's good to review our life, reassess and ask ourselves: Where have I been? Where am I now? Where am I going? Then make changes according to where you want to go in life. Do you want to go back to school? Start a business? What are your goals and aspirations? What is your passion? What are your talents and natural gifts? It really comes down to this one question: What kind of life do you want to live? Don't be afraid to try new things. I got into real estate a few years ago... I had always wanted to try it and looking back I'm glad I did. Yet I realized if I was going to put that much time and effort working (which is pretty much 24/7) on a career then I sure as heck wasn't going to hand over a large portion of the profits to a real estate company to pocket. That infuriated me. I could sell houses but if you lack passion then what good is it doing? So I left real estate. I then made futher adjustments and at the urging of a male friend began searching for where to launch a new website. Going back to school is wonderful but not for everyone. Delve into your passions and gifts. Then use them to make the world a better place. You have this one life and opportunity to live the life you want to live and make a difference. Seize it.