Divorce is never easy, and there are always setbacks when you’re going through the process of divorce. A setback is when you think things are going okay but then something happens and you’re back in an angry, scared or sad place. Your soon-to-be-ex (STBX) may send a mean text or your child says something hurtful. You thought you had agreed on something and your STBX takes it back. Setbacks can be incredibly frustrating, but most people experience setbacks during the divorce process. Here are four ways to tackle setbacks during divorce.
1. Ask Yourself What Can You Learn?
When you're thrown into a setback, for example your STBX sends a mean text, you can experience anger, frustration and sadness. Use that time to sit in your thoughts by journaling, talking through your feelings or drawing how you feel with art therapy. It can be very therapeutic to get those feelings out and figure out what’s behind them. Are you mourning the loss of your intact family? Are you blaming your STBX for all that happened in your marriage? If so, what can you take responsibility for? Ask yourself what can you learn from your marriage?
When you think about what you can learn from your marriage, don’t focus on blaming yourself or your STBX. We all make mistakes and part of your personal growth journey is to understand what mistakes you made and do things differently. A lot of my clients say that they learned that they can’t trust anyone. But when you think about this further, you realize that there are trustworthy people and it’s not that you can’t trust anyone. It’s that you need to be more aware of who to trust.
You may have allowed things to happen in your marriage that you shouldn’t have. You can do something about that - you can learn to set healthy boundaries. Maybe you realized that you weren’t as kind as you should have been at times. Taking responsibility for what you’ve done in your marriage will help you stop focusing on what’s out of your control (your STBX) and start focusing on what you can do differently in the future. You’ll stop feeling so much anger and you’ll start to process all of your feelings. By doing this, you will give yourself an amazing gift - the opportunity to heal.
2. A Setback Doesn’t Mean It Will Be This Way Forever
When you experience a setback, it doesn't mean you're back to square one. A setback is a temporary situation that will be resolved at some point. But when setbacks occur, It’s hard not to let yourself spiral and have negative thoughts:
“We’re never going to get through this divorce process!”
“She won’t ever be reasonable!”
“He always goes back on what he says!”
These negative thoughts can lead you to feel awful as you go through a setback. But take a few deep breaths and center yourself. Tell yourself, “This is a temporary setback and I will figure this out.” If you feel calm and centered, you can find a way to get through the setback. Remember, you've come through so much already, you can get through this too!
3. Be Extra Kind to Yourself During a Setback
When we are having a setback, we can become angry with ourselves - for getting married to this person in the first place, for making mistakes or for not getting out of the marriage sooner. We can get stuck in negative thought patterns that only make us feel worse. For example, you might tell yourself things like “I’m such a failure” or “I’ll never be able to find someone else.” These kinds of thoughts hold you back from moving on and rebuilding your life.
Whenever you catch yourself thinking something negative, stop and replace it with a positive thought. Instead of “I’m such a failure,” try saying, “I’m learning from this experience, and I’ll be stronger for it.” Or instead of “I’ll never find someone else,” tell yourself, “I have a lot to offer, and I will find someone who appreciates me.” It may take some practice, but changing your self-talk is an important way to be kind to yourself.
Keep in mind that you’re going to go through a roller coaster of emotions and that’s normal. You may not be able to function at your job like you normally do and that’s ok. Give yourself a break and be gentle to yourself instead of beating yourself up. Practice self-compassion. Give yourself time to get through this. You’re strong and you will overcome this setback!
4. Focus On The Present
Getting caught up in worry and stress about the past or the future is common during a setback. Will you be able to support yourself financially? Where will you live? How will your relationship with your children change? Worrying about these things will make you anxious and stressed. Dwelling on the past won't do you any good either.
One of the best things you can do for yourself during a setback is to make a list of things that make you happy. This can be anything from spending time with friends and family to taking a yoga class, developing a hobby or going for a walk in nature. Once you have your list, use it to form your weekly schedule and develop daily and weekly goals. This will help you stay in the present during any setback.
Setbacks can be tough but if you ask yourself what can you learn, if you know that they don’t last forever, if you’re kind to yourself and you focus on the present, you can tackle any setbacks that you may encounter during your divorce. Remember, if you feel you need additional support at any point, don’t hesitate to contact a divorce coach or counselor. They will be able to provide you with the guidance and resources you need to get through this challenging time.
Jill Barnett Kaufman is a Divorce Coach, Therapist, Parent Educator and Divorce Mediator. She is an experienced professional who helps clients discover new ways to resolve a variety of challenges when considering divorce, starting the process of divorce or are already divorced.