The end of a marriage is like the end of one stage of life, and the start of another. Michael Lawson once said, “Although a contract or covenant is involved, marriage is a state of being, not just of belonging. That thought is contained in the word ‘wedding’ which refers to this biblical idea of being indissolubly ‘wedded’ to each other.Marriage is intended as a bond for life, and Jesus’ appeal to (the original creation of marriage) provides us with a high view of marriage.”
And so, while there may be just grounds for a divorce, the end of any marriage is lamentable because it is the end of a state of being and a particular sort of belonging.
The end of a marriage doesn’t imply the end of your life though. There is life beyond divorce, and being intentional about living that life well is important. Whether you are going through a divorce, or you’ve gone through it and are coping with divorce, it’s good to get back to basics to cope with this new normal that’s emerging in your life.
You may be feeling disoriented, hurt, isolated, or maybe even liberated. Wherever you find yourself, below are a few words of encouragement and pointers for coping with divorce.
1. Don’t neglect self-care
When we are coping with divorce, one of the first things to go out the window is those things that take effort without having an immediate benefit. It’s also possible to descend into unhealthy habits to alleviate feelings of pain or anger. a few areas of self-care that you should keep a close eye on include:
Exercise. Your body needs to keep working well, and you also need to alleviate the stress you’re most likely experiencing at this time. Not all divorces are stressful, but even in the absence of stress, maintaining your physical health is important. Not only does exercise (whatever form that takes for you) help you to remain physically healthy, but it can reduce stress and elevate your mood.
Exercise flushes out cortisol from your system, and it allows for mood-elevating neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline to be released into your system. In other words, you feel less stressed and in a generally better mood when you get a bit of exercise in. don’t skimp on exercise if you’re tempted to.It may seem like such a small thing in a wash of other more pressing issues, but you won’t regret it. For some people, keeping up their exercise helps them maintain a routine at a time when things are in upheaval, and it will help them maintain a healthy self-image when coping with divorce.
Good nutrition. Certain foods are more appealing to us when we’re feeling stressed or out of sorts. Both men and women can turn to food for comfort. Eating your feelings isn’t limited to one gender. Foods that are high in fat and processed sugars tend to be easy go-to foods at these times.
As good as these foods may taste, increased sugar intake, for example, may lead to higher blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease, and these are all linked to an increased risk for heart attack and stroke. In other words, it may feel good right now, but it’ll harm you down the line.
Instead, eating something like a Mediterranean diet that restricts processed foods, added sugar, and refined grains while encouraging fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and heart-healthy fats will help you stay healthy and protect against chronic disease. Many studies have shown that such a diet can promote weight loss and help prevent heart attacks, strokes, Type 2 diabetes, and premature death – all things to avoid at any time of life.
Good personal hygiene. It’s common for a person coping with divorce to neglect their appearance and basic hygiene. Depressive symptoms such as impaired cognitive function and feeling lethargic can make a self-care regimen more difficult to maintain.
Showering, grooming, washing your hands, keeping your nails clean, and other habits of hygiene will help you avoid getting sick with things like colds and flu, and not practicing it well can even have a negative impact at your workplace. If you find that you’re caring less about your appearance and personal hygiene, consider the possibility that you may be suffering from depression, and see a mental health professional.
Spiritual input. An important part of self-care is making sure that continue to get input in your spiritual life. Keep going to church or your life group or spend time with a friend who can read scripture with you and pray. Don’t allow distance to develop between you and the Lord.
2. Keep squares out of your circle
Going through a divorce can be an emotionally vulnerable time, and perhaps one of the more unhelpful things to have around you are people that are more interested in tearing down than building up. Have graceful truthtellers in your circle, not sycophants or people that are simply interested in the “juicy details” or for you to “spill the tea.”
As with any other time in your life, you need people who will be honest, loving, and that will keep you accountable when you’re tempted to slander your ex, or you think of an unhelpful scheme to make yourself feel better. Your circle can also help you stay on the path of behaviors that will promote your health.
3. Don’t get mired in drama
If you have kids in the picture, especially, one thing that will help you reduce stress is to avoid drama with the other parent. Divorce is stressful for the adults in the situation, and it can be more so for the children. It may have come as a surprise to them, and they’re still processing it all.
You should try to be present for them, to collaborate with your ex to make the transition into a two-household family as smooth as possible. The last thing you need is to get involved in drama – fighting with your ex where you can help it, asking your kids to be your messengers or “spies” when the last thing they should be is smack in the middle of whatever is happening with you and your ex.
Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” always applies, but they may be even more appropriate at this point. Avoid drama wherever you can.
4. Do some soul work
Getting divorced may be the nadir of your entire adult life, and that takes a toll on a person. You shouldn’t minimize the impact that something as traumatic as divorce can have. Your marriage may have been a good one, or it may have been a bad one.It may have had its moments in the sun, and seasons of deep darkness and despair. The story of a marriage is a complicated one, and divorce is one more chapter in that book. Just as the marriage takes two to tango, a divorce is a complex situation that involves and implicates both parties, though to differing degrees.
Whether you initiated the divorce or were surprised by it, whether the divorce was largely on you or not, it’s important to do some soul work. That necessary work may be so that you figure out your part in the breakdown of the marriage, or it can be to work through your emotions generated by the divorce itself.
For your own sake, and for the sake of any future relationships you conduct, you need to work through your divorce and come to terms with it. That soul work will allow you to move on equipped with self-understanding. Such soul work can be done by yourself or with the help of a trusted friend.
It can also be conducted in therapy, so if you’ve already been doing therapy, keep making use of the wisdom of the person trained to understand the complex dynamics of relationships. Your therapist can provide you with a safe space to process your emotions, work through questions, develop tools for coping with your divorce, and help you gain perspective on what these changes mean for your life.
5. Watch your finances
One of the changes that come with divorce is that the financial situation shifts. It’s quite likely that resources will be limited, and you don’t want to wind up in financial straits. Retail therapy is thus an unhelpful recourse at this stage.
You may have to tighten your belt a little, because not only does getting divorced have financial costs involved, but there will in all probability be more costs to cover between two households, or perhaps even moving costs to another city or state. If you didn’t have a job before, you may need to find ways to increase your income, and this can be stressful, but it’s also an opportunity to explore and use your gifts.
“Clouds”, Courtesy of Dan Aragon, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Touching Still Water”, courtesy of AZ, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Feeling Down”, Courtesy of Molnar Balint, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Through Trackless Wastes”, Courtesy of Andrew DesLauriers, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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