“Happiness is not the absence of problems, it’s the ability to deal with them.”
– Steve Maraboli
We all know the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Usually it is said to us by a well meaning friend when we are at the end our rope and it is supposed to make us feel better.
Sometimes maybe it works and sometimes we may just want to roll our eyes and pull the covers back over our heads.
Well, I can tell you that one of the most trying times of my life was going through my divorce about eight years ago. There were tears, threats, the silent treatment, and a huge amount of stress and anxiety.
However, when I did finally come out the other side I realized that I was no longer the same person. I learned a lot about life and how to deal with it during that time.
These are some of the lessons I learned the hard way.
1. Walk Away From the Wall
I spent many, many years banging my head against a brick wall. Not literally of course, but you know that feeling when you have tried to make someone see your point of view over and over with no success?
I was exasperated. I was frustrated. I didn’t get how my ex could be so hard-headed. Why couldn’t he get it? Why couldn’t he handle things the “right” way?
Well, talk about being hard-headed. I was the one continuing to bang my head against that wall and I kept coming back for more. Talk about a headache.
One day I realized that he was never going to see it my way and the only thing that was happening by my trying to convince him was that I was making myself miserable.
Since coming to this realization, I bite my tongue when I feel unsolicited advice trying to make its way out. I no longer try to make him “see the light”. That is not my job, it never was.
2. Some Things Are Better Left Ignored
When my ex (or anybody) invites me to a fight, I no longer have to attend. Just because my buttons are being pushed and I can feel the anxiety rising in me, that doesn’t mean I have to do anything.
Now, I ask myself “How important is it?”. Will arguing the point really make a difference (see the brick wall referenced above)? Most likely the only difference will be that I will end up upset and our relationship will be strained.
So whenever my ex says something that triggers that fight response inside me, I picture the offending comment rolling off my back, like water off of a duck and I move the conversation to a different topic or end it all together (politely of course).
3. Mind My Own Business
Your house is your house and your ex’s house is his house. Like it or not, you don’t get a say about what happens over there.
If it is not something that you are willing to go to court over (such as violence, neglect, etc) than you need to let it go. Yes, your child may not go to bed at the time you would like. He may eat too much fast food. Let it go.
When I was still coming up against the brick wall on a regular basis, I was constantly “reminding” my ex that he needed to go through my son’s backpack to check for important papers, homework, etc. We had this argument for years. Did things ever change? No.
Now, I just make sure that I go through the backpack when he is at my house. Just like I make sure he goes to bed at a time that I think is appropriate and I try to feed him healthy food.
Concentrate on making your home the best environment for your children in your opinion and let your ex do the same.
Your ex may have different ideas than you but he still loves his children and is trying to provide the best home he can as he sees fit.
4. I Am Not the Judge and Jury
Most of us are quite judgmental, even if we try hard not to be. It is human nature. It makes us feel better about ourselves and our lives.
But in going through my divorce, I found myself doing things that I had judged others for doing.
This taught me that we really can’t know what someone is dealing with until we are in the same boat.
You may not understand an action that someone takes – you may feel it is something that you would never do. But the truth is, you cannot know for sure – so give them a break and realize that everyone is doing the best that they can with their circumstances.
5. What Others Think of Me is None of My Business
So that judgment thing we were just talking about, it works both ways. Yes, people are probably judging you too. They might even be talking about you behind your back.
But live your life as if you don’t care. This can be extremely hard. You might have to fake it for awhile until you get the hang of it.
The only opinion about you that matters is YOURS. Don’t second guess yourself, don’t hide, and don’t apologize for being you and living your life the way you need to.
As I was going through my divorce, I was so wrapped up in what others would think about me that I became vulnerable to, basically, blackmail. My ex would use this weakness to get whatever he wanted.
I can tell you right now, that will never happen again.
6. Find the Good
Everybody has some good qualities – even your ex.
It might take awhile for you to remember them, but they’re there.
Remember them. Praise them to your children. Let your children hear you talk positively about the other parent. Not only will it help them, but it will help you dull your anger a little.
My ex’s best quality? He will drop everything to help anybody do anything at any time. When I get mad about an aspect of his personality that I don’t like, I remember this. It helps to take the edge off.
Not only is patience a virtue, it can be a sanity saver.
The next time something upsets you try to put some space between the upsetting event and your reaction.
Whenever you feel the urge to give your ex (or anyone) a piece of your mind – don’t.
Wait 24 hours. If you are still upset and feel the need to react, then do so. Even if you do choose to say something, I am willing to bet that you will be calmer and the conversation will go better.
You can even try waiting longer. If an on-going situation is stressing you out, maybe give it a month or six to work itself out before you try to change it. Circle a date on your calendar or put a reminder on your phone and then let go of it.
When the date arrives for you to re-evaluate the situation, all of the “what ifs” that were stressing you will now either be “what is” or “what didn’t happens” and you can move on from there.
We all have problems. We all go through crap at sometime in our lives. But our ability to learn from the our problems and, yes, make ourselves stronger is what makes it all worth it.
Look back on your own life. What problems were really blessings in disguise?
Photo by Liam S. Photography
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17 thoughts on “7 Life Lessons I Learned From Going Through a Tough Divorce”
Great post! Especially I like number 5, we really shouldn’t care what others think of us. But if we do, we won’t live for ourselves but for them. This is like some kind of slavery already.
Yes, it is so hard to remember to live without getting wrapped up in others’ opinions of us.
It is something I have to constantly remind myself of over and over.
Bravo Nicole! You took right decision on right time. One has to take the life decisions cleverly. I know a lady in my acquaintance who wants to get rid of the partner (because of his wrong deeds and attitude) but always hesitates for the sake of kids as she believes that they need both the parents. I believe that it all needs courage to take such step.
All points are sooo true!
I am glad that you are able to look at the things the way you do now :)
Thank you Ani,
My goal is that by sharing what I have learned, someone who is the midst of stressful situation will be able to take hold of something that makes sense to them and be able to start to see a way out.
Good points. I’ve been through a divorce in order to keep my infant daughter safe. What I don’t like is how divorcees are often stigmatized, especially by the religious. A friend of mine, Joe Pote, wrote a book called: “So you’re a believer… who has been through divorce.” He’s helping to dispel Biblical myths about divorce. He posted a short version of his story on my blog yesterday and it’s featured all weekend. It’s a good post @ http://www.danerickson.net
Nicole, what a really solid post, full of strong strategies. When we have a significant life experience we can either resist it and stumble our way through it in the hope of the best outcome as possible or we can walk into the fiery furnace. Gold is place in a fire for refining and as it is placed in the fire the impurities and the dross rise to the top and are discarded off.
This is exactly how I see refining moments in life, tackle them head on and become a better you at the end of them. Your tips will certainly enable that process. Thank you.
Thank you for your kind words.
Yes, every tough experience is full of life lessons. Sometimes it is hard to see them when you are in the middle of it, but you have to have faith that they are there and will make you a better person in the end.
Excellent thoughts with some great points – particularly liked the fifth one about what others think of your stand and so is the ‘wait’ approach to control your sudden burst of emotions.
Yes, I love the ‘wait’ approach and I use it all the time. Sometimes it is for 24 hours, sometimes 6 months. It really takes the edge off of the obsession and worry.
Thank you so much for this honest, brave article.
Last year, I came very close to a divorce. The process of self-growth that I went through is very similar to what you described. “What doesn’t kill you makes you strong.” I couldn’t agree more.
Through all this pain and suffering, I learned so much. A lot of it is very much in line with what you were talking about.There is a concept in psychology called “differentiation,” which is about separating yourself from others, particularly emotionally. It involves “self-validation,” assuring yourself of the validity of your beliefs and opinions regardless of what anyone else says or does.
I also really like your comment about not judging others. Going through a divorce, or coming close to one, shows us that nobody is immune to the hardships of life. In fact, virtually all relationships come to the brink of divorce between the first 3 to 7 years.
Thanks again for the wonderful piece!
I’ts good to see that you learned so many valuable lessons from your divorce. I’m sure there was (and is) a lot to reflect on, but by focusing on what you’ve learned you can grow to be much stronger and wiser than when you started out.
I really like number 5. “What Others Think of Me is None of My Business” and I try to follow that whenever I am faced with a situation where someones beliefs conflicts mine and they want to argue about it or when someone doesn’t like me or accept me as I am.
It’s none of my business and i’d rather focus on what makes me happy and brings me a sense of fulfillment.
Yes, #5 is a hard one to truly accept, but when you do it is so liberating!
I am in the beginning of what will be a difficult divorce and your advice is really helpful. I have given up trying to change my soon-to-be-ex-spouse. All I can do is control my feelings and responses. It ain’t easy, but I’ll get it done. Thank you for giving me some signposts to help along this journey.
I am truly honored that you found the article helpful. Divorce can be a very difficult journey but it can be one of the most insightful ones of your life.
Keep focused on what you can control and continue to reach out for help and understanding.
You are a lifesaver…. Thank you for every word….
Thank you for this simple eloquent article! I found it very helpful. I know staying positive is extremely important, but can be one of the hardest parts while you are experiencing so much pain and heartache inside and dealing with carrying on with your life. I appreciate your comment about not worrying what others think. Most of my friends and close relatives are very supportive including those of my ex. But there are those Monday morning quarterbacks who like to tell you, you “must” do this and you “need” to do that. As if you haven’t already thought about this “helpful” advice yourself 100 times. If you want to be there for someone, don’t question or prod them, just say, I am here if you need anything. Would you like to go out for a walk sometime, or a coffee or glass of wine (or whine :) Lend an ear but refrain from unsolicited advice. You have to go through this process at your own pace and in the way that you can cope with the results. NO one else is living your life and knows what it feels like to be in your shoes. Yes, stay positive. If you focus on the positive you will have positive results, if you focus on the negative you will have negative results. Inner strength is key. Become bullet proof from the unwitting blows from well-meaning and not so well-meaning people.