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Divorce Survival Guide – Self Assessment

Submitted By Marty Heddon :

Knowing where you are in the stages of a break-up helps you determine what action you need to take.

The stages you go through don’t necessarily come in order, and you may slip back a stage when you thought you were over it. You’ll have similar emotions at the various stages whether you decided to end the relationship, or whether your partner left you.

Find out what stage you are at and what you can do.

‘My head’s like a tumble dryer’.
1. The stage of disorientation.

You’re shocked, you can’t cope, and you can’t believe what is happening to you. This usually passes quite quickly, though it can return during key moments: as a divorce progresses, or if you discover your partner is involved with someone else.

What you should do

1. This is the time for extreme self-care, when you must put your health first, rest, and take things slowly.
2. You need lots of support. Gather round your friends and family and also seek professional help.
3. Let people know why you’re not functioning as usual, particularly your employer.
4. Don’t make any decisions till you’re feeling clearer.

‘I feel so churned up’.
2. The stage of emotion.

You’ll dip in and out of this stage. Emotions change, as you go through the loss cycle. At times you’ll feel stressed, or you’ll experience depression, anger, guilt, or loneliness.

What you should do

1. Recognise this is normal even if it is painful.
2. Express how you’re feeling to a friend, counsellor, or doctor.
3. Continue to look after yourself. Eat well, even if you don’t feel like it.
4. Realise that feeling as you do is valid, but that acting on your feelings usually isn’t. You’ll regret any hasty actions.

‘What have we done?’
3. The stage of doubt.

If your partner left you, you might be trying anything to get him or her back. If you were the one who left, you might be having second thoughts.

What you should do

1. Recognise it’s a phase everyone goes through, even when a relationship was really bad and unhealthy.
2. Don’t get back together again without thinking it through – the problems that split you up will remain,
3. Use this time to go for counselling or mediation together to see whether you can make it work.
4. Don’t make concessions now to your partner out of guilt, or as a tactic to win him or her back. You’ll regret it.

‘I feel dead inside’
4. The stage of limbo.

This is another stage that comes and goes. Sometimes it is because you are in denial, or it could be a sign of depression. More healthily, it can herald the onset of acceptance – this is a vital milestone that comes before you are ready to rebuild your life.

What you should do

1. Trust that although things seem grim now, they will improve.
2. Don’t make any irrevocable decisions while you’re feeling that nothing matters.
3. Take even more care of yourself at this time. If you let your health go this stage will last longer.
4. Surround yourself with your most caring friends, and allow them to make a fuss of you.

‘I just want to put this behind me’.
5. The stage of action.

You feel ready to move on, and are willing to do what it takes. If it comes too early, however, it can be a sign of denial – that you believe that you can operate as normal, and are not yet experiencing the normal grieving emotions.

What you should do

1. Be sensible. Your impulse may be to make decisions and changes fast, but they must be thought through.
2. Listen to people who know you well. Are you really ready to move on, or in denial? If it’s less than six months, you’re unlikely to be ready.
3. Get objective, professional advice over any major issues.
4. Stagger big changes. Don’t make them all at once or you’ll find it too stressful.

‘When will I stop feeling so bad?’

This varies. You will have periods of suffering, followed by times of relief when things look rosier. The more support you have, both practically and in terms of people to talk to, the quicker you will be able to move on. Recognising that it is natural to feel unhappy, angry, despairing, or any of the other emotions rather than denying them, helps you to work through them and be happy again.

Am I ready for a new relationship?

Usually, a relationship started before you have got over your last one is not a good idea. For a while it may make you feel better and desired, but most of these transitional relationships end too. The question is: are you ready to cope with another relationship breakdown?

Will any good ever come of this?

If you are willing to learn the lessons from what went wrong in this relationship, you will be well-equipped to make a far more enduring and healthy relationship in the future. People who use the experience to develop themselves, and discover how to be content as a single person, find that opportunities for happiness open up for them, whether alone or with a new partner.

Next Steps

  • Build a support network: family, friends, counsellor, doctor, support groups, advice lines.
  • Know your financial position. If necessary, ask for help to work out where you stand.
  • Tell anyone who needs to know what you are going through – employer, children’s school.
  • Take legal advice before making important decisions.
  • When in doubt, do nothing until you have the appropriate information and advice.

Need to Knows

  • Make your health and well-being your number one priority. Looking after yourself makes you better able to cope.
  • Prune your commitments. Don’t try to carry on with everything as normal. When you’re emotional and dealing with change you have far less energy than usual.
  • Take time, and advice, when considering important decisions. Don’t act on impulse on anything to do with money, work, property, or access to children, when you are feeling emotional.
  • Don’t be too proud to accept all the help that is offered to you. You’ll be able to return the favour one day.
  • Plan treats. Make sure you have something to look forward to every week.

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