We all need to heal from divorce. That applies just as much to the person who initiates the divorce as the person whose spouse makes the decision.
The healing process stirs up a lot of feelings and hurts from our childhood and family of origin, our societal and cultural norms and expectations and, of course from the marriage itself and previous committed relationships.
It’s no wonder many people avoid the work of healing! Yet, if you skip this your relationships with family members, with friends and with future intimate partners will be affected and not for the better!
So what does it take to heal from divorce? What’s involved? How long does it take? What can you expect?
Joining me for this Conversation About Divorce is transformational divorce coach and wellness strategist Dawn Burnett. Burnett is the author of Connect: How To Love And Accept Yourself After Divorce, available on Amazon. Listen in below or keep reading for a synopsis.
Everyone Needs To Heal From Divorce
The person you are now is a collection of experiences from your childhood, your early adulthood, your marriage and prior serious relationships. We carry that into the world and then we attract a reflection of that. The danger in not doing the work to heal from divorce is that you will continue to attract the same reflection and that can mean that the seeds for the end of the relationship are there from the beginning.
Burnett likes to ask clients to imagine they are traveling. She’s not a light traveler, She likes her comforts and loves to be self-sufficient. If she’s got it at home, she’s going to take it with her and not just buy it if she needs it when she gets wherever. But you have to be responsible for your luggage and it can’t exceed 50 pounds. You start out with a small carry on and before you know it, without dealing with things and making choices, you have to check it.
“The more we don’t deal with things, the more our trunks start to expand and the larger the size it becomes,” said Burnett, “We take that forth into relationship after relationship which is why you’ll hear of people sometimes getting divorced and remarried like for seven times. They just keep expanding the size of their trunk instead of dealing and healing.”
Understand Why You Married The Person You Did
Part of healing from the end of a marriage is accepting that the person you married came into your life for a reason. It was either something you needed from them or something they needed from you. When your relationship ends it’s because those needs no longer exist and haven’t been replaced by other needs. Do you know the reasons you got married?
For some of us, our expectations of marriage itself are unreasonable.
“We build up this story in our mind, especially as women,” said Burnett. “We have been taught as a little girl this dream playing with Barbies, how it is to be loved, the fairy tale wedding, the prince in shining armor. We fall in love with the story. Then suddenly when we say ‘I do’ and things start to shift and go wrong, that story is not really so.”
It’s confusing and we’re not equipped to handle it because we’ve never been given the tools. That’s where divorce recovery programs come in.
Don’t Rush Into Your Next Relationship
Some people recommend waiting a year before you start to date. Burnett sees it as an individual choice, everybody is different. Remember, healing is a journey not a destination.
That means go out and date while taking the time to be introspective, to reflect, to journal, to connect and to meditate.
“Find out what your dreams and aspirations are and make sure you’re not out there trying to fulfill your ego, which is an insatiable void,” said Burnett.
The more work you do on yourself, the better you’ll get at spotting red flags and dysfunction.
“Let’s take our time,” said Burnett. “Let’s take a deep breath. We always want to stay checked in and be dating from an observatory position. Non-judgmental, not trying to fulfill something. Just see what flows in and decide what we want to flow right back out.”
Single Is Not A Disease
Just as we are tricked into false expectations for marriage, our society also pressures us into coupledom. If you’re single too long, people start to wonder what’s wrong with you. There’s no need to buy into that.
“There is no greater, more beautiful gift in this world than to have love for yourself in a non-egotistical way,” said Burnett. “You cannot give away what you don’t first have for yourself.”
That doesn’t mean you isolate yourself. Just go out and date or socialize with friends, and have fun, be present and take your time.
Everyone’s Journey Is Different
Asking how long it’s going to take to heal is a good question but not one you’ll get a good answer to because everyone’s path is different, Burnett says you can use dating as a guide to how well you’re doing.
“If egotistical guys are showing up, if you see any form of abuse in them, if you see any form of cheating and lying, any of the things you don’t want to be a part of and you’re still attracting some of that, then that’s a good barometer of how I need to slow it back,” said Burnett.
When that happens it, take a break from dating and get reconnected to yourself.
“We want to enhance somebody else and they should be enhancing us,” said Burnett. “If they are taking away from all the work you’re doing on yourself, your dreams, your aspirations, then he’s not the one.”
Burnett has observed that men seem to jump into dating after divorce much sooner than women and often haven’t done the work to heal. Men seem to struggle with being alone. Not to stereotype, however women are often nurturers and by nature will do more self-care. It’s OK to put yourself first.
It’s also important not to compare yourself to anyone else. Your journey will be uniquely yours.
“There will be things that the universe will deliver to you as a challenge to see if you are ready to move on,” said Burnett. “If the same situation keeps appearing over and over, it’s simple. You haven’t passed the test yet.”
When Does Recovery Start?
Divorce recovery implies that the healing starts after divorce however both Burnett and I have seen, for the person who initiates the divorce, the journey starts long before. It even becomes an essential part to making the decision to end the marriage.
For the person whose spouse initiated the divorce, working to heal from divorce may have to wait until the logistics and practicalities of separating, and the legal process are complete. The reality is that most people don’t have the bandwidth to do all three at the same time.
Find A Community
Burnett’s book, Connect: How To Love And Accept Yourself After Divorce or other divorce recovery guides are great resources to get started but what really helps people is being in community with others.
Check places like Meetup.com or your faith community for local in-person groups. Otherwise go online. Burnett has a closed Facebook group, Thrive After Divorce and for ladies there is also Worthy Women & Divorce.
When looking for a group, Burnett advises avoiding groups where the tone is sharing in your pity and letting you stay in your victimhood. Rather look for cheerleaders who are going to nudge you and challenge you.
“Ultimately, no matter what book you read, no matter what psychiatrist you speak with, no matter what group you’re in, the healing starts and ends with you,” said Burnett. “It’s a head decision. It takes mindset, focus and dedication.”
My guest for this Conversation About Divorce was transformational divorce coach and wellness strategist Dawn Burnett. Burnett is the author of Connect: How To Love And Accept Yourself After Divorce, available on Amazon. Follow Burnett on Twitter as @anewdawnnatural.