Written by Gabrielle Hartley, Esq.
When a couple decides to divorce, sometimes they come to that decision together and it is a calm and relatively seamless parting. Sometimes, however, the decision to leave is sparked by an event. A betrayal. A realization. A revelation. Whether you've chosen to opt for a do it yourself divorce, or you're hiring an Attorney or Coach, moving beyond divorce is a process. We all know this. Theoretically, someone leaves a marriage because that person is looking to make his or her life better. If you are the one who was dumped, you know in your mind that you will be better off without a partner who doesn’t love you. Want you. Appreciate you. And, if it was your choice to leave-- while the proximate cause may differ, ultimately, you depart because you want to feel happier or more fulfilled in some way. We all deserve to be happy and to feel radiantly calm. But when we are actually dealing with the process and the aftermath of divorce, particularly if you share children with your former spouse, happiness of any kind may feel elusive.
So, how can you start to feel better when everything involving your family seems to be falling apart? By changing the story, that’s how. We all get stuck in our version of how things unfolded. And, in some cases, our versions serve us to move forward, but often, our thinking interferes with our ability to heal. If you take a look at what I call the Five Essential Elements of getting through your divorce, you can begin to shift your internal narrative in a positive way. These five elements are: Patience, Respect, Clarity, Peace and Forgiveness. By focusing on just one of these five elements each and every day, you will become better equipped to move forward in a healthy way. The Five Essential Elements allow you to press re-start from wherever you are so that you may truly become better, apart.
Patience through and beyond your divorce process is the key to your future. It opens the path to true respect, and it gives you the strength to live in the present moment with mindful awareness. When you are feeling impatient, try to find the time and place to be in your own physical space. Having your own space can be an amazing palliative. If you cannot physically separate from the triggering person or circumstance, intentional breathing can give you a quick reprieve from the situation. Allow yourself to take three slow breaths in through your nose, and out through pursed lips. If you can, close your eyes. When you practice patience, you’re training your mind to transform what could be a catastrophe into an intentional and constructive future for your family and for you.
Respect is a practice. Respect for yourself, your humanity, your pain, and the whole process you are going through will help you begin to find respect for everyone involved. When you notice you are feeling bad about yourself or your situation, consider whether you are exposing yourself to people or circumstances that are feeding the negative loop. Create stronger boundaries. For the moment, shelve the relationships that are not serving you. Write yourself a letter naming all the people and experiences that lift you up. Commit to spending more energy engaging in what allows you to best accentuate the positive.
Clarity is your capacity to receive and respond with lucidity, taking nothing personally. There is no question that it is difficult NOT to take things personally when you are going through a divorce. However, on the journey from a dramatic reaction to healthy responsiveness, clarity rules. Getting clear on priorities is vital in order to negotiate best outcomes for all aspects of your divorce from parenting plans to property division. Clarity activates your ability to make smooth, easy decisions. Part of being clear in your decisions depends on how much you can let go of blame and allow yourself to make, acceptance and compassion more accessible. Clarity is what fuels your future. Visualize and internalize specific goals. Keep your focus on positive, forward movement and interactions in order to dispel negativity and keep it out of your orbit.
Of course, we all want inner peace. Practicing peace presents an enriching alternative to emotions like fear, revenge and aggression. One way to move toward practicing peace is to strive for neutrality, which keeps you free of tension in your mind, heart and body. This freedom allows you to sustain your resources and keep yourself feeling nourished by your own attitudes and choices. Practicing peace helps you reconstruct your divorce or separation as a sanctuary of new possibilities. A simple reminder for all seeking peace is to choose your battles. Sometimes, walking away is the only path for peace. Recognize that peace is a choice and takes effort. Consciously remove yourself from a pointless argument cycle as you begin to welcome a pathway to peace.
Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. It’s a moment of letting go of what might have been and realizing that everything is just as it must be. Forgiveness allows us to release grudges and to feel truly free from the inside out. Remember, holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Recognize that your present circumstances are not an indication of your future. Whether you feel wronged or have wronged another, forgiveness begins when you have compassion for yourself. Forgive yourself first, for what you think you may have done or for what you think you may have failed to do. Compassion is what will ultimately bring you to your most elegant, radiant calm.
If you engage in the daily practice of focusing on one of each of these five essential elements, over time you can truly press re-set. This habitual mindfulness of your circumstance and relationship through the lens of Patience, Respect, Clarity, Peace and Forgiveness will no doubt make your road toward separation a smoother ride. As the negative loop dissipates, you will begin to clear the path for possibility. With a respectful, patient, peaceful, clear, forgiving mind your separation or divorce can actually be an opportunity. You have the ability to design your own elegant, satisfying story moving forward. You can begin to truly feel and become Better Apart. Like Dorothy in her ruby slippers, you’ve had the power all along.
Gabrielle Hartley’s is an attorney, coach, mediator, consultant, speaker and the co-author of Better Apart; The Radically Positive Way to Separate (Harper Wave). She is known for a unique, non-toxic approach to divorce that she developed over two decades in practice. Gabrielle keeps 99% of her cases out of the courtroom and at the negotiating table as she effectively supports her clients to create a healthy, uplifted post-divorce life for them. Gabrielle served as court attorney for Judge Jeffrey Sunshine in NYC Matrimonial Court and is a member of the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation. She currently resides in Northampton, MA with her husband and three sons. Visit Gabrielle at gabriellehartley.com
About Better Apart; The Radically Positive Way to Separate (Harper Wave): This is the first book to apply the life changing healing wisdom of meditation and yoga, combined with practical advice to help anyone going through the painful and seemingly intractable realities of divorce. Using powerful, mind-body exercises and legal insight Better Apart shows you how to meaningfully shift your mindset and move forward through any-or all parts of this emotionally fraught process.
“Potent and accessible tools for your family and your future”. Gwyneth Paltrow
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