Divorce Recovery Mindset Option No. 5: Keep Your Eyes on the Prize or Be Distracted by Emotions?
Exactly what It is the award?
The Divorce Transition Process generally goes through three distinct stages: (1) Divorcing, (2) Recovering from the divorce, and (3) Establishing a new life as a single person. Each stage has distinctly different goals, or “prizes.”
The objective of the Divorce Stage is to: Obtain DISENGAGED. The goal of the Divorce Recovery Stage is to: Dissolve ATTACHED FILES. The goal of Establishing a New Life is to: Build the NEW YOU.
This article focuses on the goal of Stage 2, Divorce Recovery: to dissolve all ATTACHMENTS to your ex and the life you shared.
What is an “attachment” and why is it a problem?
The death sentence for any successful recovery from divorce is to persistently hold on to your attachments to your ex and your past life together.
So what exactly is an “attachment”?
By attachment, I mean anything positive or negative. emotional reaction we connect with a person, object or event in our life. If we still have emotional reactions to our ex and the life we shared together in the past, we can’t fully participate in the present, much less plan for the future.
You cannot delete what happened in your past. However, you can and should dissolve the strong positive and negative emotional reactions to your memories of those events.
Attachments come in two types: tangible attachments and relationship-based attachments.
Tangible attachments .
All attachments, including tangible attachments, come with emotional connections to the past.
For example, a short list of typical tangible attachments that should be removed include legal documents and other legal entanglements, keepsakes, sentimental items, joint checking accounts, shared credit cards, photos, gifts, shared social media accounts and email, passwords, and common security codes, keys to your house or apartment, previous email documents, designation of beneficiaries in your will, and joint ownership of real estate, cars, and gym memberships.
The first step in dealing with many tangible attachments is to physically remove them.
Relationship-based attachments, both positive and negative, are especially difficult to dissolve because the strong emotions you associate with them are intensely personal. Also, your brain incorrectly interprets these emotions as evidence of a current, long-term relationship with each other.
After a divorce, persistent negative relationship-based attachments can be expressed through ongoing fights, seeking revenge, demanding that the ex apologize, expecting the ex to explain why he or she wanted to end the marriage, expecting the ex to be respectful and kind and admit that he or she “did you wrong”.
Positive relationship-based attachments also cause problems and can be expressed by wanting to “stay friends,” continue to chat on the phone or email, meet up for coffee, etc.
A client of mine wanted to maintain a friendship with his ex. He realized his mistake when, after a nice conversation starter at Starbucks, his ex started yelling at him for ruining her life. Post-divorce friendships are best avoided, at least until both parties are secure in their new life situations.
Strong positive and negative reactions mean that you are still in a relationship with your ex.
As long as memories of your ex trigger strong positive and/or negative reactions, you will remain locked in the past because your emotions do. feel like you are currently living like the past were actually the present.
The important thing to keep in mind is that having positive and negative feelings towards your memory of your ex implies that you are still in a relationship with him/her. That’s what people in long-term committed intimate relationships do. They love each other and have conflicts with each other.
However, after a divorce, the two partners are he is no longer in a relationship. So keep on behaving like they are still partners, or even close friends, it is extremely confusing. It not only inhibits her recovery but also lengthens the time required to “get over her divorce and move on.”
So you may ask yourself, “If I have to change my emotional reactions to my past memories with my ex, what do I change them to?”
Enter the Indifferent Relationship.
How “indifference” saves the day
After a divorce, the purpose of the divorce. Recovery is to change your relationship with your ex to one without emotional investment. This literally means that you are fully and completely emotionally indifferent to your ex and what he/she does, when he/she does, What he/she does, where he/she does, and with who he/she does.
For example, when you are walking down the street and a completely normal stranger walks your way minding his own business, do you feel overwhelmed with affection, anger, resentment, hope, disgust? Of course not. You don’t know him, you have no relationship with him, and you have no emotional attachment to him. You could care less about what he does, how he does it, when he does it, where he does it or who he does it with. He simply has no place in your life. He is for all intents and purposes a complete “lack of entity” to you. You can live your life as if this person doesn’t even exist. In other words, you are completely indifferent to this person and what he thinks, feels and does. This is the goal of how you should change your way of thinking towards your ex.
Fact of life: Your relationship with your ex is over. And when you allow yourself to become indifferent to your ex, you are free to move on to the next chapter of your life without the baggage of your marriage holding you back.
What if you have to interact?
Sometimes you have to interact with your ex, especially if you have children. It is extremely important to realize and accept that even though your ex looks like the same person you married, you are no longer a couple. You no longer have a personal or intimate relationship with him/her.
If you do have to interact, treat the relationship as a “management” or “business” relationship with no personal emotional connection involved. Your goal is to act as you would when interacting with a bank teller cashing a check or interacting with a customer service representative when returning a defective product at Best Buy. You are friendly, factual and complete your business. Then you go and go about your day.
So what is the point?
I know, this may sound extreme. You say, “I lived with this person for years, and now I’m supposed to believe he doesn’t exist?” No, that’s not what I’m saying. I agree, you lived with this person for years and have a shared history.
However, you are now making the transition from being paired with that person to starting a new chapter in your life without that person. To do that successfully, you need to cut your emotional bonds to your life with your ex that you had built during all those years. You stay with the memories. But you have to release the emotions those memories used to trigger.
The choice becomes: Will she give in to the emotions triggered by her memories to the detriment of a successful divorce recovery? Or will you keep your eye on the prize and allow the good and bad memories to fade into a feeling of indifference that will allow you to recover quickly and successfully from the divorce?
How are you supposed to do this?
Dissolving resistance to change is the key
Letting go of your emotional reactions to the life you lived with your ex and replacing them with a detached indifference represents a big change how you think about your ex and your life. Making this change will be met with significant resistance.
The key to a successful recovery is in dissolving that resistance. The result will be that the strong emotional reactions towards your ex are replaced by a new and deep sense of indifference. Only then will he truly free himself from the baggage of the past and be ready to forge his new future.