Divorce is hard, especially with kids involved. And no matter how mutual and even non-adversarial the divorce may have been, it still leaves emotional scars that are often carried forward into new relationships. But you can become baggage free after divorce, if you are willing to do the work.
Specifically, the work of becoming baggage free involves taking a hard, long look back at your marriage and then taking the lessons learned forward into your new life.
I am going to show you how you can leave the baggage behind, but take wisdom forward in 5 steps.
Step 1: Uncover what happened in your marriage or who did what?
Can you nail what actually happen to your marriage in a way that feels deeply authentic to you? Can you put responsibility where it is due? Oh, I know, most experts will tell you all relationships are 50/50 and it’s hard to tell who did what. But the reality is, if you don’t know what you did to contribute to the breakup of your marriage, or what your partner did, how will you prevent it from happening again?
For example, one client I worked with had to work hard on figuring out what happened to his marriage until he recognized that at a very stressful period in the marriage he refused to meet his wife’s needs. She turned into a witch as a result and this dynamic unraveled their marriage.
Perhaps your story is different, but what ever your story maybe, you need to get to the bottom of it to be free of it. So go ahead and write down what happened to your marriage, and what you and your spouse contributed to the breakdown.
Step 2: Make amends where needed
Given your assessment of what happened in your marriage, whom do you need to say you are sorry to and about what? If it’s feasible an apology should be made in person. A heart-felt apology can go a long way to healing the strain with your ex.
On the other hand, if the apology would make things more strained, write a letter of apology and keep it in your private documents. Perhaps one day there will be a time to deliver it, or perhaps not, but you will have released some of the guilt over your actions and that goes a long way to dropping your baggage.
Dig deep when it comes to apology. The more you own your part, the better you will feel.
Step 3: What do you need?
What would your ex have to say to you in order for you to have peace about the relationship with him or her? What words of apology or forgiveness would you need to hear?
How about writing yourself a letter from your ex saying those things? It’s not exactly the same as your ex doing it for you, but you will be surprised how healing this can be.
Our brains can often be fooled into thinking and acting as if they are experiencing something real, even when it’s simulated. Write the letter form your ex to you and as you read it, imagine that he or she sent it to you. Your brain might think that is actually what’s going on. Take in the apology and allow some heart healing. This will give you less baggage to take forward.
Step 4: Lessons learned
What did you learn about yourself and relationships from your divorce? Here are some questions to answer, best done in writing, to extract lessons learned:
• What did you see but ignore about your marriage or even your pre-marital relationship with your ex at the very beginning?
• What did you learn about men/women and what they need in a relationship?
• What did you learn about yourself and what you need in a relationship?
• What would you have done differently if you could go back?
• What other questions can you ask yourself to extract lessons learned? Do it!
Step 5: Who do you need
Everyone is not compatible with everyone else. Liking someone’s look or body does not always signal compatibility. Both people being single parents or similar lifestyles does not necessarily means there’s compatibility in a way that matters long term.
Do you know who you need to be in a relationship with? The “need” I am talking about are relationship-specific needs such as communication style – do you talk things through or do you hold them in, or the need for closeness – wanting to be close all the time vs wanting lots of space and some closeness. Great relationships that work easily with the least amount of stress often happen between people who match each other on relationship-specific needs.
So do you know what you need in a relationship when it comes to intimacy, communication, team work, space, closeness? If not, it’s time to find out. Yes, you guessed it, more writing. Make a written list of what you need in a relationship. If you are not sure what traits are important or what traits fall into the relationship-specific category, you can get my ebook called Who Do You Need to help you flesh that information out.
Once you figure out who you need to be in a relationship with, go back and rate your ex partner to see where the incompatibilities between the two of you were. Chuck that up to lessons learned and learn from it. Incompatibility in relationship styles means the difference between happily ever after and divorce.
And now, if you did the steps I outlined above, you are pretty much baggage free. This means you can take your list of whom you need to be in a relationship with, go out and find that wonderful man or woman, when you are ready, and live your version of relationship bliss.
And if you need help working through these steps effectively – most people do – I will be glad to hold your hand and lead the way as your relationship coach. Drop me a line and let’s talk about how I can help you.