Surviving Divorce -- and Making Your Life Better Than Ever

Step 2:Acceptance: Facing Your Fear

If you are going through a divorce right now, creating a new and joyful life may sound impossible. I know, because I too went through the same painful experience. But when I started using my divorce to learn more about myself -- my fears, my pain and my heart -- my life began to change in ways I'd only dreamed of. Whether you believe it or not, you too can make your divorce a positive experience in your life. Acceptance is the first step.

Getting Past the Drama
Acceptance comes when we step out of denial and judgment and are willing to see the present exactly as it exists in this moment. This means being able to see the story of your divorce for what it is, without any drama or story line. Our drama serves as a defense mechanism designed to protect us from the pain of our past. But living in the story of our divorce and the drama of our circumstances comes with a huge emotional price. It costs us peace of mind and prevents us from living in the present.

Learning to Separate Fact from Fiction
An important aspect of our healing is learning how to separate the facts from the story. Fact is an unbiased observation of the events of our lives. Fiction is the story we create out of our unresolved emotions from the past. It is rarely based on the facts. Here are some examples that can help you to differentiate between fact and fiction:

  • "My husband left me" (fact) versus "my husband left because I am unworthy of love" (fiction)
  • "My husband emptied out our checking account" (fact) versus "my husband has deceived me and ruined my life forever" (fiction)
  • "My child had an emotional episode at school" (fact) versus "my child has been damaged for life by my separation" (fiction)

Distinguishing the facts of our lives from the fiction lays the foundation for acceptance.

A List of Truths: The List that Could Change Your Life

When my husband Dan and I separated, I was filled with fear and became overly dramatic. I was sure that my life was over and that my son would suffer from the same emotional problems I had experienced as a child of divorced parents. After weeks of torturing myself, I decided to write down exactly what was going on in my life without all the dramatic side effects. My list looked like this:

  1. I don't have any money of my own to put away.
  2. My husband doesn't want to continue going to therapy.
  3. He doesn't see any reason to get a divorce, even though we aren't living together.
  4. I will have to live inside his budget until I find a job.
  5. I will have to get a job.
  6. Dan will take my son for 16 hours a week.
  7. We will sell our house.
  8. I will rent a home for my son and myself.
  9. I will no longer cook dinner every night for Dan.
  10. We will no longer be a couple.
  11. I will have to pay my own bills.

After looking at the list, all of the internal noise that amounted to a lot of drama about Dan not loving me, or how I failed at yet another relationship, disappeared. In light of the facts of the situation, my exaggerated fear that I'd be living on the street seemed silly. Every upsetting thought I had about Dan taking my son away from me vanished. Inside my mind I had been having hundreds of crazy thoughts that contributed to a belief that my life was ending. Distinguishing between fact and fiction became liberating. The facts demonstrated that my marriage was ending, not my life. And the facts showed that I was going to have to make some changes. Even though I didn't welcome these changes initially, by writing them down I realized I could handle them all.

Healing Action Steps:
Ready to take the first step toward recreating your life -- and making it better than ever?

  1. Create a quiet environment free from distractions. Take out a pen and a pad of paper, and begin writing your divorce story, complete with all the drama and emotion you feel about the events that transpired. Use language that expresses your deepest, darkest feelings. This is not a time to censor yourself, to be kind or to take responsibility for your actions. Give yourself permission to bring forth whatever needs to be said concerning yourself, your partner and your divorce.
  2. Make a list of the facts about your divorce, without any story, drama or judgment.
  3. Go back and read your list. As you revisit each detail, ask yourself, "Is this fact or fiction?"

If you'd like to share your story or get advice from other women who are going through a similar experience, visit the Surviving Divorce message board.

Next: Welcoming Change

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