“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 and control 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