Divorce…..IT IS A TRANSITION PERIOD, which all of life kind of always is, regardless of divorce. This is because CHANGE, being the only constant, is always directly underfoot.
SHIFT from BEING STUCK to MOVING FORWARD In 5 Steps
IT IS A TRANSITION PERIOD, which all of life kind of always is, regardless of divorce. This is because CHANGE, being the only constant, is always directly underfoot.
THE SENSE OF the earth moving beneath our feet may never feel so speedy as it does for a person going through divorce.
AS WE FIND OURSELVES CONSUMED BY uncertainty, moving anywhere feels. dangerous. Staying right where we are with our feet firmly planted feels like the only option or, at the very least, the easier option. During the toughest of divorce times, one extra difficulty leaves us wondering if this slight burden just might be the proverbial straw to break our back.
We stay stuck at different times in our lives because it is, in some way, adaptive for us. It gives us the sense of obtaining something we long for yet, consciously, we may not know what. We each have reasons that cause us to choose not to move forward.
Milly was a divorce coaching client who came to see me when her husband told her he wanted a divorce, They had been in marriage counseling off and on over the last 5 years. Milly wanted nothing at all to do with divorce.
Milly had a full life, there was no time for divorce or even wondering whether they should. Milly was the mom of a teenage boy who was a sophomore in high school and a daughter in fourth grade. Her son was a member of an elite soccer team and the entire family believed he was destined to receive a scholarship from the University of North Carolina in 3 years. Milly glowed with pride whenever she shared that UNC was the best college soccer team in the United States.
Milly’s life, and the life of the entire family, revolved around soccer practices, matches, and tournaments. Milly never missed an event. She rarely missed even a practice.
Milly’s husband, Jake, who wanted to soon be an ex, was also always in attendance at the kids’ events. The parents of the other players were Milly’s friends, some of whom she really liked spending time with and some of whom she hung out with because they were the only people that Milly felt she had time to socialize with.
However, there was much more behind her commitment to attending all of her children's’ activities. Attending soccer matches was a family ritual and one of the only times she and Jake experienced laughter and joy. She always longed for the way they might sometimes feel like a team themselves during their best times cheering their kids on.
No matter the many changes Milly was experiencing and the zillion things she needed to give serious consideration to, Milly was determined to put everything regarding the divorce on an absolute hold. She continued attending all of the soccer team's practices and matches and continued traveling, together with their daughter in tow, to all of the tournaments. Milly spent her remaining hours driving her daughter to and from dance practices and shows. Jake was also there for all of the above soccer and dance events but when they traveled he stayed in a different hotel room from Milly. This left Milly feeling lonely. Even at the events themselves, the mood of the day would determine if they stood next to each other on the sidelines or in the audience.
The other parents questioned Milly about whether she was okay. To them, she had not seemed to be herself lately. Milly explained that she was just tired, very, very tired. When friends suggested to Milly that she sit out a tournament or two or a dance event, so that she could take some time to care for herself, Milly became adamant that she would not miss anything. Milly admitted that she had trouble sleeping and that life had recently been taking a toll on her health. Still, to her schedule, Milly remained true.
Jake reminded Milly that she and Jake needed to make decisions about their family home. It was a wonderful home and the walls, laden with photos of family life, held many special memories. Milly had even birthed her daughter at home with the help of a doula.
Jake was becoming increasingly restless and impatient. He wanted to move forward with the divorce and felt he had been waiting patiently for Milly to agree to begin investigating options for their soon to be dual home family. Whenever Jake mentioned the need for getting comps for the value of their home, Milly became very upset and stated that she wanted to keep the house for her and the children. Milly truly could not picture living anywhere else. Milly side stepped doing the groundwork to list the house and the search for housing options. Though Milly declared that she wanted to remain in their home and knew that if she were to do so she would need to refinance so that Jake had some money he could put down on his own place. Milly had no interest in going to the bank and determining whether she qualified for financing the mortgage on the home in her own name.
Milly had begun, recently, to get in touch with how often she felt uncomfortable living in the house with Jake, as she and Jake were sleeping in separate rooms and their situation was hard to explain to the children so they just ignored all of the questions. Still, Milly held out hope that things would change and felt that living in the way she currently was, though it felt uncomfortable and sometimes unreal, could not possibly be as uncomfortable or unreal as their family living in two separate homes.
Milly was stuck.
Being stuck served a purpose very dear to Milly’s heart.
Milly believed that she and Jake could work things out and at least stay together until the boys went off to college. Jake explained to Milly that he had been very unhappy for a long time and that he was certain he no longer wanted to remain in the marriage. Milly felt Jake was just being selfish and that he would snap out of believing in a better life after divorce once things settled down at his job.
For Milly, continuing to go, non-stop, to all of the soccer practices and games and dance events meant her life could continue as normal. Not looking into other homes to live in or into refinancing meant she and Jake would continue living together with the children in the same house.
Milly’s being stuck served her plans for how she wanted the future to unfold.
The thing was, Jake had wanted the divorce for over a year and was adamant that change needed to happen. He tried to explain to Milly that he believed she was unhappy in the current situation as well and that she was making herself sick with the stress of trying to change what he perceived as inevitable.
Milly tossed and turned at night wondering if she should give up hope or stand her ground, despite her exhaustion and stress and the heartache she experienced living with Jake and her dismay that they could not even sleep in the same bed.
The thing was, as hard as Milly tried, she could not muster within herself the willingness to move forward emotionally.
Milly and I worked together using the “From Stuck Into Forward Motion in 5 Steps” exercise. We set forth together that there was no judgment and that whatever Milly was to decide needed to be authentic and in line with her truth. In the exercise, Milly first rated just how stuck she felt. She found herself at 9 on a scale of 1 to 10. Next, we looked at the emotions she was experiencing that may have been contributing to her feeling stuck. Next the heart of the analysis. I asked Milly to look critically at her situation and to determine how being stuck actually served her and served her needs and emotions. We then countered those benefits by listing what Milly stood to gain in moving forward. Healing, self-love, and self-respect were high on her list.
We went through the self-analysis in the exercise and Milly came to see that she had been holding onto hope that her marriage to Jake would never end. At one point in her past holding on to the idea that Jake’s desire to divorce was a phase was, for Milly, adaptive.
The holding on gave Milly a much-needed feeling that she could control what would happen next. It worked well for her in terms of slowing down the pace with which she and Jake made significant changes. However, staying stuck became less adaptive, less helpful to her well-being, because she could not control Jake or his changed feelings regarding their marriage. It exhausted Milly to try and try to maintain so many of the activities they had undertaken together. Worrying about what family and friends would think exhausted Milly. The certainty of healing, self-respect, and self-love outweighed the fear and anxiety she anticipated she would feel in moving forward.
Of course, Milly would not give up attending the soccer matches, but, she thought, maybe instead of attending practices she could take some time for herself, time to think about what she really wanted.
A few weeks after the divorce coaching session during which Milly realized that she was stuck, Milly shared with me how, when she did finally take time for herself, she realized how little she really knew herself anymore. Milly gained the courage and took the time to imagine where she wanted to live with the children and what kind of home or condo she might like. As she spent afternoons walking through open houses, Milly considered whether returning to her work as a real estate agent might be a good thing for her.
A few weeks later Jake moved into an apartment with a short-term lease. Their ultimate decision to sell the house came a few months down the road.
Taking extra time to figure out the enormous issue of what would happen to their family home was okay. Milly was no longer stuck, she was moving incrementally forward, first emotionally and later physically.
I would love to share with you the “From Stuck Into Forward Motion in 5 Steps” that Milly and I used which left her with many insights and most importantly the will to move forward. I have seen the way the simple structure of the exercise has enabled countless others to shift from being stuck to moving forward.