It’s always interesting to me that women who attend my divorce recovery retreats in Sedona or Montreal may have been left by their husbands anywhere from a few months to six or seven years ago or more. Those whose husbands left long ago always arrive appearing a little sheepish, like they feel they should not still be struggling with this. But the group always bonds and no matter how long ago the marriage ended, we’re all in the same boat rowing together. I’m proud of the women who come to grow and heal and it doesn’t matter how old they are, how long they were married or when the guy left. They’re making a move to get unstuck and that’s all that counts!
But what does cause some women to still be struggling many years later? Three factors influence how difficult the recovery process will be. The first is how well you cope with change. Some people love change, whether it's a new apartment, a new job or a new baby. Others really struggle coping with newness. If you’ve had a lot of change in your life and know that you’ll eventually get used to things, you’ll have an easier time adapting to the dramatic changes that divorce brings.
The second factor is your overall level of self-esteem. If you felt pretty good about yourself before your marriage ended, you have a better chance of making a more speedy recovery. Knowing that you can master new things, roll with the punches and rise to challenges, makes bouncing back a bit easier.
Third and most important factor is the support network that surrounds you. Isolated people really suffer. You need a network of friends and relatives who will listen to you, comfort you, help you strategize and bring you cakes and casseroles! It's also not unusual to need the help of a counselor to get you back on your feet.
Now what do you do if you always hated change, never felt that good about yourself and seem to be going it alone? Well, at least you know what you have to work on! Three quick tips to set you in the right direction:
1. If you hate change, flirt with purposefully pushing your comfort zone. Try something a little bit daring but safe - like cutting your hair differently or signing up for a cooking class.
2. If you are being held hostage by those negative messages coming from inside, it’s time to actively break those bonds! Read some books about building self esteem or maybe, start to work with a CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) therapist who can help you.
3. If you have become or always were a loner, you need to cultivate friendships. Think long and hard about who you know who can be a positive friend to you and kick yourself into action. Contact that person and get that going.
We all have to start from where we’re at and become fighters for our happiness. This whole recovery process is about boosting ourselves to become the person we wish to be, no matter what has happened in the past. The determination to make it through this and grow comes from within. I know you can do it!
I’m a psychotherapist, family therapist and the author of Runaway Husbands: The Abandoned Wife's Guide to Recovery and Renewal; The Divorce Talk: How to Tell the Kids – A Parent’s Guide to Breaking the News without Breaking Their Hearts; My Sister, My Self: The Surprising Ways that Being an Older, Middle, Younger or Twin Shaped Your Life and the editor of Planet Heartbreak: Abandoned Wives Tell Their Stories. I can be found online at www.vikkistark.com and do offer phone or Skype sessions. I can be reached at email@example.com.