"There can be no rainbow without a cloud and a storm." John H. Vincent
Negative emotions in a marriage, such as anxiety or anger, help us mobilize resources for a challenge. They are your brain’s short-term alarm system, telling you to pay attention because there is a problem, or perhaps opportunity for growth. In order to become our best selves, we must listen to our negative emotions and make a change - whether that’s individual or couples therapy, separation or divorce.
Divorce is incredibly painful. It touches every aspect of life - your children, where you will live, your financial situation, how you engage with your social circle and extended family, and of course your emotional well-being.
How can you stay optimistic during a divorce with all this turmoil? Optimism is the belief that things will eventually get better, even if now is bleak. A divorce is your personal commitment to doing the hard, painful work right now to create a happier, more authentic life for yourself in the future. Whether or not you chose to initiate the divorce, you are moving forward, believing that it will get better.
As you go through such a painful and complicated transition, it may seem impossible to maintain optimism and have a healthy divorce. Here are five strategies to remember and put to use when you are feeling stuck or low.
1. Take stock
Look at what areas of your life are going well and where you feel capable. Many people think that they are a total failure because of their divorce. However, your marriage was only one area of your life. What else is working? Where else do you feel successful? By identifying areas of your life in which you have success and mastery, you remember that this one event does not define all of you.
2. Find a balanced viewpoint
Yes, some things may be more challenging in the short term. You may have to still interact or co-parent with your former spouse. You may feel extremely sad and lonely for a little while. However, like many other journeys in life, there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel. By letting the marriage go you allow yourself the chance for calm and contentment. Remember past examples of when you persevered through a difficult time and came out stronger.
To stay optimistic during divorce, try to see this difficult time as a personal commitment to building a better life. -Ruth Feinblum, Therapist, Philadelphia
3. Create a calmer perspective
Blaming yourself or former partner can leave you feeling bitter and angry. Many people that divorce think they failed at their marriage and that leads to feelings of shame. Others feel intense anger at the spouse that couldn’t be there for them. However, it helps to find a calmer thought. If you choose to think that your former spouse is not a bad person that meant to hurt you but that they don’t work well with you anymore. This type of thinking tends to calm you down and allows you and your former spouse to interact more peacefully in the future.
4. Allow yourself relief
The marriage wasn’t working. Without bitterness or contempt (both of which just harm you) what are you relieved about as the marriage ends? People leave when problems outweigh connection and when they don’t like who they are in the marriage. What are the problems, challenges and arguments that are you are released from once the marriage is done? How will letting go of this set of problems lead you to a more contented life?
5. Figure out if there's something to learn
With curiosity and compassion, ask yourself; what do you want to be different next time? Perhaps your partner had different views on fidelity, did not share your values, or had a different approach to careers. If you can figure out what would work better in the next relationship, then the divorce becomes a learning experience. Learning experiences are often challenging, but invaluable to your personal growth.