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How to Answer Annoying Questions About Divorce

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When news of your recent divorce hits the streets, people can get a tad bit nosy.  “What went wrong?  Who’s getting the kids?  Can I have the wedding present I gave you back?”  Retaining composure and diplomatically answering these questions can be a real challenge, if you don’t have the appropriate responses cocked and readied.  Read on to thoroughly equip yourself with seamless retorts that will keep the rabid Inquisitors (family, friends, intrusive grocery clerks and DMV workers) at bay, at least for a while.

“What happened?”

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When addressing this initial query, it’s best to keep it simple.  Providing the bare minimum, in terms of what transpired and why, is not just adequate, but will send the signal that this conversation is not going to turn into an episode of “Dr. Phil.”  Also, keep things in an affirmative light; let them know that you are not dwelling on the negative and that you are focused on shaping your future.

“I don’t think this is the right decision.  Why did you do this??”

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Explain that even if they completely disagree with what occurred and why, the best thing for them to do at this juncture is to give you their full support.  The aftermath of the divorce can be even harder to deal with than the event itself, and you truly can use all the positive reinforcement you can get.  Also, if kids are a part of the equation, explain that this can be a traumatic event for them especially.  Anyone involved, even minimally, in the lives of the children in question should be as supportive as humanly possible.

“You should try to get back together.”

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When this gratuitous “advice” is dumped on you, it’s best to clearly elucidate the fact that you recognize your ex-partner’s favorable attributes (you obviously loved them at one point), but now you need to transition out of marriage mode and progress forward with your life.  You’re not getting un-divorced any time soon, so let’s all look at what’s on the ever expansive horizon of life, not what’s fading into the sunset.

“Want to know what I think went wrong?”

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While your comrades, great aunts and assorted mechanics and baristas may all be brimming with theories as to what the real error in your compatibility was, graciously tell them that you appreciate their concern, but you really don’t want to drum all of that up right now.  Yes, there probably are myriad reasons why it didn’t work out in the end, but your goal now is to heal and move on.  Dredging up accusations of your ex’s potential extramarital affairs or secret hatred of your hat collection is not going to help you do that, so please keep your comments to yourself, Uncle Herbie, thank you.

“I’ve been divorced, too.  Here’s how you handle it…”

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Of course it can be nice to commiserate with people who have been in similarly trying situations, but take all such proffered wisdom with a grain of salt.  Let them know that every divorce is unique, like a lovely snowflake of separation, and what may have worked/failed for them may not apply to your uncoupling scenario at all.

At the end of the day, if and how you address questions related to your divorce is totally up to you.  You always have the option to tell people to “mind their beeswax,” and to give them ‘the hand.’ However, dealing with the residual effects of your divorce by confronting them head-on can lead to a quicker healing process.  When chatting with concerned parties, be nice, be polite, but ultimately, be true to yourself.

And yes, Aunt Trudy, you can have your ugly purple candy dish back.

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-Joe Leone

Ways to Heal After Divorce

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Healing from the pain of divorce can—and should—be a very selfish process. You are the only person who can heal your wounds, but figuring out how to do that can be a challenge.

Make Peace with Anger

In an article that calls the necessity of forgiving an ex a “Big Lie,” counselor and “forgiveness expert” Janis Abrahms Spring, Ph.D., says that it is important to recognize forgiveness is not always attainable, or sometimes even desirable. In the article, she describes her 2012 book about what it means to forgive, and the title itself presents an interesting concept: How Can I Forgive You? The Courage to Forgive, the Freedom Not To. She says that forgiveness must be earned, not given freely away, while also pointing out that sometimes the party who needs forgiveness is not willing to do their part. When that is the case, she says, the angry party has to be able to ask themselves what they can do to feel better, even if they never reach a point from which they can genuinely forgive the other party.

In other words, she’s trying to say it’s okay to be angry and not want to forgive your former spouse. This isn’t to say that forgiveness won’t come with time, but it is important to recognize that anger will be a dominant emotion.

There is no right way to grieve the loss of a relationship, Woman’s Divorce.com reminds readers, but it helpful to remember that it is grief and the process will be filled with sorrow. While embracing each stage as it comes, it is also important to keep your eye on the prize—healing and moving on—not on your anger.

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Be Kind to Yourself

A wellness coach and Huffington Post contributor compared her divorce to a tsunami, citing far-off tremors combined with willful ignorance as the cause of her husband’s sudden departure. One of the key parts of the aftermath she grapples with is the questions others ask her and the questions she asks herself. How did she not see it coming? How was it such a surprise? While these questions are painful, the writer does not claw for the answer. Instead, she is at peace with the idea that they are unanswerable and takes things as they come.

One way to be kind to yourself after a divorce is to do just that: take things as they come. HelpGuide.org advises new divorcees to actively remember that a happy future is the goal, which can be hard to do when engulfed in the emotions surrounding divorce. Included in this active remembrance is the acknowledgement that the experience was traumatic, which means allowing yourself to wallow in the pain if necessary, but it also means monitoring the way you feel and giving it the attention it’s due.

Be Kind to Your Self

No, that wasn’t a typo. It is another piece of sound advice from HelpGuide.org. This is such an important rule, it is worth repeating, and worth distinguishing between “yourself” and “your self.” In addition to letting your emotions do what they will, it is imperative that you take care of your body and mental acuity. Make time for calming activities, and don’t turn to alcohol and drugs to fix your problems. Actively pursue your personal interests and hobbies. Build a productive routine, and pay attention to what your heart tells you you need.

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Reach Out to Others

Nip that depression in the bud by reaching out to other people, a blogger at PBS counsels. This could mean showing up to a support group you find on craigslist, calling up a grief counselor, or even making an appointment with a psychotherapist. In addition, openly asking your friends and family for support and help can liberate you, while taking the weight off of their shoulders. Let yourself tell them you need them, and tell them how to help you, even if that means they just need to be around until you figure it all out.

It’s key to remind yourself that it’s a process to heal after divorce, and one that takes time. There is no set time frame that you need to adhere to; just listen to your instincts and take things one step at a time.  You will obviously always have memories from your past, but soon enough you’ll be ready for all that the future has to offer.

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