Life after divorce: 12 steps to happiness
Divorce is always accompanied by stress. It is not easy to cross out everything and start with a clean slate. The situation is especially complicated if the news of the separation was a complete surprise to a person. Psychologist Sofia Enikeeva tells how to survive this period and return to a happy life.
Observations of psychologists suggest that a painful divorce can cause psychological trauma. If it is not noticed in time and do not begin to take measures, then after some time it may grow into post-traumatic stress disorder. The person can have intrusive thoughts about the traumatic event, nightmares, anxiety and a violent display of emotions in response to the trigger, reminding about the breakup.
To avoid being in this state, it is important to assess the risks of its occurrence in a timely manner.
Risks and consequences of divorce
- The decision to break up was made by your partner, although you would like to continue the relationship. Moreover, the news about this decision was a surprise to you. Such a situation is a big blow to self-esteem.
- All of your life has been built around a relationship. You have no friends of your own, no apartment, no job, no interests. In this case, you have no one to lean on.
- It is not the first time a relationship ends with the departure of the partner. You begin to feel that there is something wrong with you, you are cursed, not made for family.
- You married very early, and the baton to make decisions and take care of you husband took almost from the hands of your mother. In this situation, you may begin to feel like a helpless child.
- You are separated, but have to spend a lot of time together (shared apartment, work, business). In this situation, you may not be able to separate from your partner and begin to heal from your grief first and then build a separate life.
In all of the above cases, you need to understand that you are at risk for psychological trauma and need support.
What is going on in your brain at this time?
The Chemistry of Emotion.
Our thoughts do not determine, but only explain the emotions caused by the hormonal cocktail.
Moods are shaped mainly by dopamine and serotonin. Moreover, we can say that every trait of our character is related to the hormones testosterone, dopamine/noradrenaline, estrogen and serotonin.
Serotonin is the joy hormone. If your serotonin levels are consistently high, you can be described as a calm, patient person with a long-established circle of friends. Strong and stable relationships and traditions are very important to you, you are a supporter of social norms. This means that your good mood system, built into the brain, is actively working in a stable and reliable family system with a single man for life. Accordingly, any loss of stability, destruction of relationships, breaking traditions hit first of all on the leading system of getting joy from life.
When there is nowhere to draw joy from, it becomes difficult to live. Heartache turns the world into a solid Malevich’s “Black Square”. Successes at work, achievements in fitness, an evening with friends, and even more so the beautiful weather outside ceases to be joyful.
Dopamine is the pleasure hormone. If you like novelty, you easily change hobbies, places of work, social circle, then you are rather “dopamine-intensive. It would seem that in this case, divorce should not affect you negatively. Indeed, you are easier to adapt to change. Unless you do not consider the separation a personal failure, which can not be explained and changed. If the situation turned out to be out of control, the dopamine goes down, and with it the desire to do something.
How to help yourself?
12 steps to a happy life
1. Accept the fact of the breakup
If you are told a firm “no”, and the more so that the former partner is another, you need to accept the fact that in this story you have reached the epilogue. This important step will help you reach the very bottom, from which you can push back. If you maintain the hope of continuation, you can not help yourself, because why do something if everything will soon be back on track, you just have to wait a little bit. Remember, this waiting can drag on for years.
2. Ground yourself
If you feel that the pain is unbearable and black thoughts are running in circles in your head, this exercise will help you shift your focus from your head to your body. Place both feet on the floor, feet pressed to the floor. Feel your feet, close your eyes, and imagine that you are a tree with its powerful root system growing into the ground. Stay in this state until you feel a sense of calm. Perhaps you will be able to concentrate on contemplating clouds, or a river will begin to gleam before your inner vision. Consider the details of this picture and learn to supplement it with some new details. Over time you will easily learn to calm yourself in any stressful situations by retreating to this safe place.
3. Reduce the pain.
Remember, the cardinal rule for dealing with mental pain is the same as it is for physical injuries. Diagnose the cause (in your case, we’re talking divorce), take a painkiller, and begin treatment. So, diagnosis. Go through the list of risks at the beginning. What is it that has traumatized you the most? That’s what we’re going to deal with.
The pain reliever at the beginning is the people who love you. Call friends and family, but only those who are willing to listen and support you. The key word is supportive. Do not talk to people who will aggravate your emotional state with phrases like: “And I told you, it’s your fault.
Remember, alcohol is not a resource. Moreover, temporary relief will lead you to a worsening of your condition the next day. The pain, anxiety, depression, and self-injury that you feel will intensify many times over in your hangover state.
4. Cry and grieve as much as you need to
Unwept and unexperienced grief turns us into knights in iron armor, effectively blocking all emotion. In this case, not only sadness, heartache, despair, but also joy, happiness, inspiration and the possibility of falling in love again in the future will be blocked.
5. Deal with your hormones.
Find a source to maintain serotonin and dopamine levels. Sports, sunshine, and proper nutrition are the best helpers.
Antidepressants are the most effective way to boost serotonin, but only if you’re already depressed and a doctor has prescribed them. If, like me, you’re a supporter of natural methods, then consult a nutritionist. He will recommend an appropriate diet that helps in the delivery of the amino acid tryptophan, which is responsible for the synthesis of serotonin.
As for the benefits of the sun, enough sun reduces the production of melatonin, the serotonin antagonist. Lower melatonin means higher serotonin.
Dopamine rises when you set goals and achieve them, so don’t give up on your creative, work, or athletic ambitions. On the contrary, set yourself small goals each day, then increasingly difficult but achievable ones. In a situation of struggle for joy, you don’t need to wait for motivation – you won’t wait for it. The dopamine reward system works in such a way that joy will catch up with you after you’ve accomplished your goals, and with it comes the motivation to accomplish the new plan. The main thing is to keep moving.
6. Limit any contact with your ex.
Get an apartment, share the business, go away more often to friends, if right now you still have a common job or apartment.
Do not monitor the social networks (better to unsubscribe from your ex-spouse), do not ask his friends about him, do not look for reasons to meet. Do not give him no secret (as you think) signals about yourself. Do not post photos, statuses, quotes like “I’m hard to find and easy to lose. Understand, the more time and energy you spend on an ended relationship, the longer you get stuck in it. There is a beautiful parable on this subject.
“An old man revealed a life truth to his grandson:
– There is a struggle in man that is like the struggle of two wolves, a black wolf and a white wolf. The black wolf represents evil: envy, jealousy, regret, selfishness, ambition, lying. The white wolf represents good: peace, love, hope, truth, kindness, and faithfulness.
The grandson wondered and asked:
– Which wolf wins at the end?
– The wolf that you feed always wins.”
7. the energy of people
Get yourself out to trade shows, fitness, the pool, walks. The very fact that you got out of bed without an emergency is already a small victory. Forcing yourself to get dressed and put on makeup is another victory. Now for the big secret. When you are among people (even strangers and silently), the feeling of loneliness goes away. Moreover, thanks to mirror neurons, you absorb the state of others. In the gym, theater and exhibitions are usually a lot of people with an active attitude, who work on their body and spirit. Let yourself be infected by their attitude.
8. Stop beating yourself up.
Searching for causes and errors in the initial stage is unconstructive, and more often than not, it turns into self-defeating. Keep track of the moments when you begin to mentally torment yourself. How do you distinguish constructive analysis from unfair criticism? If you’ve been asking the same question for days on end, “How could I be so wrong, so stupid,” and come to a state of pain and despair, that’s it – auto-aggression and gridlock. Once you realize that you are engaging in self-injury, go back to the first steps on our list.
9. Give up plans for revenge
Sometimes the only source of joy is dreams of getting your revenge. The fantasies may be different or the same, but in different decorations. The problem is that at some point these illusions become a source of getting dopamine and, consequently, joy. Dopamine receptors make no distinction between actually achieving an outcome and achieving it in vivid fantasies, and the difference is very simple. Instead of doing little things in real life (sports, walks, creativity) you start living in fantasies. What’s more, as a result, your ex-partner and thoughts of him become a source of reward. While he is living a real life with another woman, you lose the chance to meet a new real man.
10. Separate the boundaries.
Start little by little to form your own, separate world from your partner. One in which you have your own meanings, interests, friends and plans. You will find it easier to accept your partner’s separateness and to get over a grudge against him or her. Of course, work with boundaries – it is a long psychotherapeutic process. Reciting a Gestalt prayer will help you to tune into it:
“I’m doing my thing and you’re doing your thing.
I don’t live in this world to meet your expectations, and you don’t live in this world to meet mine.
If we happen to meet each other, that’s fine.
And if we don’t, so be it.”
11 Open your heart even though it hurts
Take advantage of the handicap principle. Amoz Zahavi, the author of the principle, believed that information about the quality of the genome is carried by traits that make life difficult. For example, large tail size, too bright plumage, loud cries, excessively large horns, are all measures of genome quality. With them it is harder to hide and flee from predators, only a highly adapted individual with such excessive adornments will be able to survive to the point of breeding.
Let your experience of living a divorce be a handicap principle. After all, to open your heart and continue to believe in love after experiencing the pain of betrayal, the collapse of illusions and plans, the fall of self-esteem, depression, and fear is pure insanity.
As absurdly bold as an overly large and bright peacock’s tail. But after all, only such insane daredevils win truly worthwhile prizes! Any man understands that if you are so fearless and strong, then you will not fall into hysterics from every trouble, but on the contrary – can be a reliable support if necessary.
12. search for meaning
Now, having passed all the previous steps, you are ready to have a constructive dialogue with yourself. Remember I wrote that in the initial stages it is not necessary to endlessly remember the past and look for mistakes in it? When you’ve come to your senses, shared boundaries, found hobbies, learned to ground yourself, then you can begin to analyze past experiences without self-blame.
Psychologist Viktor Frankl wrote about the need for an existential turn: you need to stop asking yourself “why am I doing this?” and start asking “what can I get out of it?” If you do this, you may find that you have become closer to your family and friends, found new interests, acquired a dream figure, and become a completely different person in general because of what happened. You may already know at least one answer to the question, “Why did this happen to me?”
Onward to a new life
I believe, and the experience of my clients confirms my belief, that divorce is exactly the crisis that turns us on our heads. Many people’s lives before divorce were determined by their partner’s needs. There was somehow no time for themselves. When life confronted divorce, a huge hole was formed in my heart. At first I just wanted to lie down and die. Then I had to push myself forward through the despair and pain, further and further toward new meanings. When your legs failed, friends came to the rescue, and you learned to lean on them first, and then slowly on yourself.
A woman who has learned to rely on herself is no longer afraid to turn to the mirror, look yourself in the eye, wink and go out. She is ready to make plans, dreams, flirt with attractive men, get married and just enjoy life.
How to get over a breakup: 5 tips
The end of a relationship always causes unpleasant feelings.
Disappointment, guilt, loneliness, fear of repeating the same scenario with a new person – you can’t avoid these feelings. But it is possible to reduce their intensity, to make the breakup less painful and, perhaps, a little faster to come to terms with it. We tell you how to do it.
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What a breakup leads to
Couples break up quite often. For 924,000 marriages in 2021, there were 644,000 divorces in Russia. There are no statistics on the breakup of unregistered romantic relationships, but American researchers have tried to calculate how often unmarried adults break up. They found that 36.5 percent of participants in the 18- to 35-year-old group had experienced one or more breakups within 20 months.
Typically, the breakup of a romantic relationship is extremely emotional. Some researchers even compare it to grieving over the death of a loved one, and losing someone who was an important part of your life. Even if the relationship was not unclouded, we may still feel guilt toward our partner and anxiety about our future without him or her.
“The Breakup of a Romantic Relationship, Heartbreak and Bereavement,” PsychologyPDF Magazine, 122 KB
The stress of a breakup, in turn, often leads to health problems. It is not uncommon for recently broken up people to experience sleep problems, emotional instability, temporary eating disorders, headaches, and gastrointestinal problems. In some cases, breakups can lead to depression.
Against the background of severe stress can also cause a fairly rare disease “broken heart syndrome,” which accounts for about 2% of hospitalizations with heart attacks. The main signs are the same as in a heart attack: severe chest pain, rapid heartbeat, and difficulty breathing. The only difference is that in a heart attack, the blood flow is blocked by a clot, but in broken heart syndrome, the heart muscle itself stops contracting normally. A person in such a condition definitely needs medical attention. If it is given in time, the patient’s condition usually improves within a few days. It is very rare for broken heart syndrome to end in death.
It takes an average of three months to recover emotionally and physically after a romantic breakup. This is the period established in 2007, scientists from the American University of Monmauf, interviewing 166 students who have experienced at least one breakup in the last six months. Getting over a divorce, according to another study, can take about a year and a half. Here are some tips to help you get over it faster.
Constant thoughts of a crumbling relationship don’t help you get over a breakup. In one experiment, researchers asked people going through a breakup to think about their former partner negatively, lovingly or distractedly about something else. Negative thoughts reduced the degree of falling in love, but also made the participants feel worse. Romantic thoughts had no effect on the degree of falling in love and similarly worsened mood. At the same time, shifting attention to another object, unrelated to the relationship, improved the emotional state without changing the relationship to the former partner.
Among the things that can help distract you are reading, playing sports, watching your favorite movie or TV series, and cooking a delicious meal. It is good to sign up for a massage, buy something new, according to Kim Mertz, a psychologist from the University of Alberta. And also communicate with friends and participate in different activities, go to workshops, go camping, try new things. Immersion in social activities improves quality of life and emotional well-being: According to studies, people who rarely meet with friends are more likely to be dissatisfied with life.
In this case, it is not necessary to make the trips to bars or immerse yourself in affairs. It’s better to give yourself a little break from work or school.
Psychologist Ashera Deroza advises to stop relations with ex-partner at least for a while after the breakup and spend some time apart from each other: “Trying to become friends right away can be painful – friendship between former partners is possible, but only after both survive the breakup and ready to move on. Build this friendship should be exclusively on the principles of equality, and it is worth agreeing to it only if there is no doubt that your psychological state of such a friendship is not hurt.
If you notice that a former partner begins to manipulate you, constantly asks you to do something for him or help with something, while not paying attention to your needs and interests – as soon as possible stop the relationship with him. The fact is that often ex-partners offer to remain friends for selfish reasons. So Professor of Psychology at the University of Kansas, Rebecca Griffith, with the help of a survey found that most often friendship with exes people tend to maintain for the following reasons:
- For the sake of feeling safe. An example of an internal argument: “I don’t want to lose your support.”
- Out of politeness. “I want to make amends.”
- For practical reasons. “We work together, we’ll do without the drama.”
- Because of unfulfilled sexual desires. “I want to date others, but keep you around just in case.”
Griffith believes that the least damage to the partner to whom she is forced leads to friendship for safety. And the most unpleasant is friendship for the sake of unfulfilled desires. It negatively affects the emotional state. Often does not allow both partners to build a full relationship with the other.
A special case is couples with children who have decided to separate. They may need to maintain a good relationship with each other at least to reduce the stress of the children. But it is not necessary to remain friends in this case, according to psychologists. It is enough if both partners will be respectful and friendly to communicate with each other, to refrain from mutual accusations, not to arrange scandals in front of children, to solve problems occurring in the process of education constructively. If there are difficulties with this, it makes sense to consult a family psychologist for consultation.
Before you start a new stage of life, it is useful to analyze and process the past experience. You can think about how recently ended the romantic relationship affected you, how they began and how they ended, what they suited you, and what in the future you would not want to return. This way you can better understand yourself, understand how you would like to interact with your next romantic partner, and what you expect from him or her.
Renew Breakup Bootcamp founder Amy Chan, to help clients through a breakup, asks them to write the breakup story as they would tell it to a friend. Then they evaluate the story together and highlight cognitive distortions. For example, black-and-white thinking–the tendency to view everything that happens in life in an extremely negative or extremely positive light, without distinguishing between halftones. Or overgeneralization-the habit of drawing global conclusions from isolated, random facts.
You can search for cognitive distortions on your own:
To do so, take a piece of paper and describe your relationship in as much detail as possible, with all its ups and downs. Take your time and move at a pace that is comfortable for you: it’s okay if this work takes you a few days or weeks.
When you’re ready, reread what you’ve written, dwelling on difficult moments and conflict situations. Try to find reasons for your behavior in them, asking yourself questions: Why did I act this way or that way? What made me think so and why I am sure I am right. And then analyze whether it was possible to act differently and what it took.
An important rule: in the process, try to remain objective and not to fall into self-deprecation. You can admit that in the relationship you were trying to control the other or because of your own internal problems misunderstood him. But do not just call yourself a loser, a monster or incapable of fixing an egoist.
After that, try to rewrite the history of the relationship anew, taking into account what you have understood in the process of analyzing your behavior. Amy Chan believes this will help you figure out what went wrong and how it can be avoided in the future.
“Like a beautiful funeral that can quench sorrow, a carefully considered goodbye to your partner helps you get through the breakup more easily and move on,” writes psychotherapist Ilse Sand in her book “Missing You,” which focuses on breakups.
Sande advises to say goodbye and forgive like this:
- Find a reason to be grateful and say “thank you” to your partner. He, too, can thank you in return for something good.
- When there is no energy to meet, you can write a goodbye letter or come up with your own ritual that will allow you to draw a line under the relationship.
- Try to forgive your partner even if you still feel anger. “Without forgiveness, memories of your partner can make you feel uncomfortable, even if you don’t see each other at all,” writes Sand.
- Don’t try to squeeze out an apology if the person isn’t ready to give it to you. Some people don’t know how to admit guilt and ask for forgiveness – it’s worth accepting this fact.
- If you yourself are asking for forgiveness, find out if there is anything you can do to make it up to them, and if you can help your partner remember something good from your relationship.
- To find the strength to forgive, you can also present your partner as a child and show sympathy for him or her. But Sande warns that this method is only appropriate in a relatively normal relationship. If the partner has been abusive and behaved inadequately, it is important to protect yourself and stop all communication.
New relationships created only in order to forget the old ones, psychologists call a rebound relationship – a restorative relationship. They often do not last too long and serve only as a way to avoid unpleasant experiences.
According to American psychologists, such relationships are often entered by men and people who have experienced infidelity, regardless of gender: with the help of new romantic partners they are trying to improve their self-esteem. This usually leads to nothing good, and, as a rule, restorative relationships quickly end.
The best tactic would be to have a “date night with yourself” from time to time: spend an evening in a beautiful place, go to a concert, cook a delicious dinner. This will bring the ground beneath your feet and make you feel that a romantic relationship is not necessary for happiness. “The paradox of being single and independent, independent living is that you start to meet people who are just as self-sufficient. You get more resources, you get to meet people, go somewhere, and have a lot of fun,” writes psychologist Susan Elliott in her book The Breakup. Only once you have established a relationship with yourself, you can move on to dating new people.