“It’s sad, something coming to an end. It cracks you open, in a way—cracks you open to feeling. When you try to avoid the pain, it creates greater pain.” – Jennifer Aniston
KEY POINTS: Reflecting on the lessons of a divorce can help turn emotions like anger and shame into a commitment to grow. People can begin by exploring their role in the dissolution of the marriage, cultivating resilience, and not jumping into a new relationship. Learning how to co-parent, manage finances, and keep the peace when possible are important as well.
I admit that I got curious when I heard that Gwyneth Paltrow recently said, “In a divorce, I’ve learned so much from something I wanted least in the world.” What did she learn? When she coined the term “conscious uncoupling,” many of my divorcing clients quoted her. But what does she mean by that? It got me thinking about what one can learn from divorce, and I came up with a long list. Here are just a few.
8 Lessons You Can Learn From Divorce
1. Take A Good Look At Yourself And Own Your Part In The Failure Of The Relationship.
- Breakups are never just about one of you. We all make mistakes, errors in judgment, hurtful actions. Intentional or not, these can erode or destroy a relationship.
- Be brave in learning about yourself, your history, what you want and need, and what you brought into that relationship. Invest in getting to know yourself, whether it is through reading, journaling, therapy, or self-reflection.
- When you examine your mistakes and learn from them, you are less likely to repeat them in your next relationship, and you may choose your next mate more wisely.
- Divorce statistics get much worse in second and third marriages because people tend to repeat the things that destroyed their previous relationship.
2. Build Your Resilience.
- This is about using skills to recover from the pain of the divorce. Learn healthy ways to cope with your anger, grief, pain, and fear.
- Think about what triggers you—we all have triggers, but there are ways to handle them. The best way is to talk with someone caring who will listen, and not inflame the situation. A supportive person knows how to listen without trying to “fix” the feelings.
- When you take control of managing your emotions you won’t need to broadcast them. You will begin to let go of grudges, forgive, and focus on the future. Turn to friends and family who help you stay healthy and feel loved.
- Focus on self-care and self-development. This is one way to build your resilience. Take the time to learn healthy ways to express your feelings and to have constructive conversations.
3. Learn To Calm Down Before Making Any Decisions In Your Divorce.
- During a divorce, the decisions you make have long-term consequences. You and your children (if you have them) will live with these decisions for years.
- Decisions are driven by emotions, and if you are flooded with feelings you won’t be able to make rational, well-considered decisions. You may regret them later.
- So, make your mantra: “No decisions in a crisis.”
4. Don’t Jump Into A New Relationship.
- You are probably raw from the breakup and not ready for a new relationship.
- You may feel beaten down, your ego is bruised, you want to feel attractive or loved, you are lonely or bored and seeking distraction, but you aren’t ready for a relationship yet.
- Dating is fine—it’s important not to isolate and it’s important to find companionship in doing things you enjoy. For the present, explore and have fun, but focus on the three steps above before entering a committed relationship.
- It is helpful to meet many new potential partners—this helps you learn about yourself, what you want in a relationship, and it helps you test out your new communication skills.
- On the other hand, it is important to learn to be ok with being alone. You can develop new interests, and you can take the time to focus on yourself through meditation, journaling, or self-reflection.