She’s gone move on – Dealing with your emotions in a divorce

10 March 2014

Sad man on a busDoes struggling with emotions make you less of a man?

I would argue that it makes you human. No matter how you look at it, divorce is an emotional journey and while it's nothing for us to be ashamed of or embarrassed about, men have a hard time navigating through it. 

Guys spend much of their time and energy thinking about what went wrong, how life sucks and what to tell their friends and family. They often blame their ex for the breakdown of the marriage, or at times blame themselves for what happened. Many emotional scars are inflicted along the journey and it can be mentally draining and exhausting for everyone. 

For some time, I struggled in dealing with my emotions. One day I felt great, the next I would lie in bed all day with no energy to do anything. At times I was happy, then the next hour I was on the brink of tears. As I explored ways to better deal with my emotions, I discovered following these four steps helped me tremendously.


Step One: Hit Pause

If you find yourself emotionally charged about something, hit your pause button and STOP. Stop what you're doing or what you're about to do. All too often, our thinking and our actions are influenced by our emotional state, such as negative self-talk, calling a lawyer to take some form of action, or hitting send on a nasty email or text to our ex. These pointless emotionally driven actions just end up creating more problems and eventually cause you to become stuck with moving on with your own life. Just stop and take time out for yourself.

Step Two: Don't Ignore! Explore your Emotions!

Now that you've hit pause, don't brush aside what you're feeling; explore it. Ignoring an emotion is like ignoring a cavity. It won't go away and over time it will become more painful. You just need to deal with it. Exploring an emotion allows you to peel back the layers and truly identify the underlying cause.

Here's a hard truth. When you find yourself getting emotional about your ex, it most likely has nothing to do with her. In fact, the reason you are emotional has everything to do with you and your thoughts. Let me give you an example. Joe was angry at his ex for dating another man while they sorted out their divorce. As we explored the reason behind his anger, Joe discovered that he was actually upset that he was not in a relationship while his ex was clearly moving on with her life. This anger, which had everything to do with Joe, manifested itself as him being angry with his ex.

I read a very powerful book by Byron Katie called 'Loving What Is' during my divorce. In her book, Katie gets you to explore four questions that allow you to see what is troubling you from an entirely different perspective. If you are struggling with exploring your emotions, I would highly recommend reading it.

Step Three: Boundaries with your Emotions

Establishing boundaries is all about breaking the emotional tie to your ex. By setting some solid ground rules around communication, kids, money, living arrangements etc., you will minimize your exposure to things that trigger your emotions. For example, if seeing your ex's Facebook page upsets you, un-friend or block her. If you get angry text messages from your ex, set expectations around methods for communication and limit them to key areas (kids, money, legal stuff etc.) where possible. If you keep bumping into your ex at the grocery store, agree to shop at different stores.

Be clear about your boundaries and follow through with them. If you have told your ex you are not going to respond to certain types of messages such as personal attacks, then don't!

Step Four: Clean up

We've all done it; sent a nasty text in the heat of anger or exploded at our ex during a phone call. Don't leave it be, take responsibility for being a jerk and clean it up. Apologize for your action, clean up the mess that you created, and consider adjusting or setting some new boundaries. If you still find yourself unable to take responsibility for what happened, consider this: isn't it funny how you are always there, always present, always around when things in life don't go according to plan? Maybe YOU have something to do with the problem too?

Man up and take responsibility for YOUR life and the results you're getting. When you start blaming others, you give up the power to change anything. When nothing changes, nothing changes. 

By following these four steps, you'll find that you'll be able to handle your emotions in a more positive and powerful way. The more you do this, the more natural it will become. You have a whole new life ahead of you and it should not be one that is designed or influenced by the pain of a broken marriage or the anger and resentment towards your ex.

In my next blog, I will discuss focus #3 - Building Your Support Group (the A' Team).