When Melanie left this comment on the Drip Drip Drip posting about what she learned after her divorce, I knew I had to talk to her.
“I learned how to ask for help. I was loathe to ask for help, considered myself an independent sort of human being, and didn’t like the idea of inconveniencing anyone. But sometimes I didn’t have the strength needed. Other times I didn’t have the skills needed, nor the time or inclination to gain them. One can always hire someone, but there is something as empowering about learning how to ask for help as there is learning how to do it yourself. ”
Divorced some time ago and now happily remarried, Melanie couldn’t remember the specific event that was running through her mind as she wrote her comment but recalls she had an apartment, a job and a car. She said it was likely she needed some help with her car because she didn’t want to take it to the garage and certainly didn’t have the money to pay for that. She mentioned the problem to a couple of work buddies and they offered to take a look at it.
“It was shocking to me because I had a very hard time asking. I viewed myself as having escaped the marriage and it was important to me to be a pretty independent person.”
Asking for help is definitely a skill and like other skills if you don’t use it, you lose it. And, that push for self-sufficiency can get in the way. Melanie says she probably had to “gird her loins” to approach her work buddies. You might also feel there’s no one to approach. Spouses do become reliant on each other for help and when the marriage breaks up, that helper may not be available. Also, as marriages deteriorate we often become isolated from our friends and family.
“You just cocoon yourself as a sort of self-protective thing. You’re trying to make the marriage work but you’re also putting on a face for society because, what if it works? Many of us don’t want to be out there having trashed our marriage and aired our dirty laundry and certainly not with our family and friends.”
Melanie stresses the importance of reconnecting with family and friends and if you’ve neglected them in the past, “apologize profusely and don’t let that happen ever again.” She also cautions against adopting the “Pioneer of the West, I can do this on my own” spirit because human life is interaction. That interaction means taking a risk.
“When you take a risk to show an authentic part of yourself, which may include, I don’t know how to do this and I need help of someone, it’s enormously empowering. It’s enormously freeing and it’s a part of healing your own stuff. Most people want to help and that is a fact of life, whether you know them very well or not. And you don’t learn that people want to help until you take the risk to ask for help and then it just blossoms.”
Another reason we may be reluctant to ask for help is those nagging what ifs. What if they say no? What if they ask me to return the favor and it’s something I don’t want to do. Melanie basically says get over it. “If we make life that complex, nothing will get done that’s of any use.” She also has a great solution.
“The easy way around that is to spend years doing things for other people so that when you ask for help you’re not going to feel guilty about it.”
Was there something you asked for help with when you got divorced? Were you surprised by an unexpected offer of help?
Melanie Muhall is a writer, career coach and shaman. She describes herself as a midwife of the human spirit. I could have happily chatted with Melanie for hours – but that would have abused her gift of helping me! Visit her website Dragonheart to learn more about her work and if you’re looking to make a career change, her book might also be helpful.