You might be surprised to know that I’m a huge Howard Stern fan. I have been for years. In the current issue of Rolling Stone, Howard talks extensively about how going to therapy has helped him in life. (You might have seen me share the article on my Facebook and Instagram pages.) I’ve always appreciated his openness about therapy, because it helps destigmatize it, especially for men.
Specifically, Howard’s always been candid about starting therapy after his marriage fell apart and how it helped him cope with his divorce and parenting his daughters. He’s incredibly honest about the pain and devastation of divorce and what it took for him to work on himself before he was ready for another relationship.
Recently I’ve encountered a number of people who are either newly separated or early in their divorce process. The statistics on divorce are pretty well-known: about 40–50% of marriages will fail. As a divorced person, I’m keenly aware that divorce truly is a process in many ways. Every time I talk to someone going through one, I’m reminded again of just how painful and raw this period can be. I’m also reminded that people have to go through this phase in their own way. Some keep themselves incredibly busy, and some prefer to be alone. Some people are able to process their emotions fairly quickly, and others need distance before they can even begin.
So if you’re going through this period (or if you know someone who is), I’d like to offer you 5 simple things to keep in mind.
- Watch the should’s. It’s so easy to start shoulding on yourself: I should have done this or I shouldn’t have done that. You know what they say … hindsight is 20/20. The problem with shoulds is that they imply there was some expectation you did or didn’t meet, and if you had only done this or done that, this wouldn’t have happened. It’s just not true.
- Practice self compassion. This may be a foreign concept, but it’s never too late to start building this muscle. Start by asking how you can look at the situation more compassionately? How can you treat yourself more compassionately?
- Allow yourself to feel a range of emotions at any given moment. The emotions may feel unpredictable in their intensity and frequency. The minute you think you’ve figured out the pattern, it may shift. I have three kids, and I remember thinking time moved soooo slooooowllllyyyyyy when my kids first went to their dad’s on Thursday night. I’d dread the sadness, loneliness, and quiet that night would bring. Once I got used to it, the feelings might surprise me and pop up on another night. I just couldn’t control them, and neither can you.
- Remember, “it won’t always feel like this” and “I’ll be ok.” Because it won’t, and you will. That being said, I remember hating when people would tell me “you’re ok.” I’d think “I know I’m going to be ok, but, right now, it sucks.” People mean well. Emotions are like storms. Some are intense, some are weaker. All pass.
- Find nonjudgmental support. Sometimes this means people outside your immediate circle, especially if you share those friends with your ex. Seek people who will listen rather than offer advice (unless you ask for it). Ideally these people remain objective. (By the way, you might be surprised who ends up being these oh-so-important people.)
Wherever you are in the divorce process, remember that it can’t be rushed. You’re grieving a loss — even if you wanted the divorce and are even thinking of dating again.
One last thought … for those of you healing from infidelity, there are special considerations
To circle back to Howard, obviously I, too, am a big proponent of therapy. If you’re interested, know that I’m here!