I'm not keen on New Year's Resolutions because they imply we are not good enough…
To move past those feelings of guilt and shame around divorce, I first had to get past the idea that my life was a failure that I’d brought on myself. There is a notion that a successful life is tied up with having a successful marriage or partnership and a traditional family life.
Yet I was facing the fact that my so-called successful marriage had just unexpectedly gone belly up. And I honestly felt it was all my fault.
This was partly because I knew there were times when I could have done better. In hindsight it was also because I didn’t really understand very much about relationships at all. Or even living! And it’s pointless feeling guilty for not knowing how to do better.
But that wasn’t my understanding at the time. I just felt guilty, ashamed and a failure.
What I hadn’t fully understood was the full implications that a relationship is an ongoing two-way process. Over time life throws problems and challenges that people handle differently. And not only do people change, what they want changes too.
It’s not your fault
It’s not your fault if your ex changed their mind and decided on something different. And it’s not your fault if you realised the person you were with wasn’t where you wanted to be anymore.
We’ve been sold a fairy tale, a movie magic idea that isn’t the truth. You don’t have to buy into that anymore or feel a failure for not making it to the ‘till death us do part’ bit. (And if we’re to be brutally honest here, not all the marriages that make it to that point are all that great either, but you’ve likely realised that anyway!)
It is easier said than done though, to leave that dream behind and forge a new path when that new path seems uncertain and scary. And it’s easy to blame yourself. I know what it’s like to feel you’ve made mistakes and I was sick to my stomach with it all. Even though I knew in my head it wasn’t all about me and my part, its hard to not feel bad and to feel guilty. However there is a way through.
Choosing your response will change feelings of guilt and shame around divorce
You can change how you feel, you can even train your emotions – not suppress them, train them! That includes feelings of guilt and shame around divorce, or any other negative feelings that might be hanging around. I didn’t know in the beginning that I could choose how I felt and therefore how I responded, and hence ease my own the pain and suffering. One way to begin to do this is to pause before reacting to a situation. This allows the possibility of a different response to the habitual, or conditioned one. You can also focus on a deep breath which will also help provide both a space and a pause to enable a different reaction to reveal itself.
The most important thing from now on is to make your life the best it can be. And if you take that approach you’ll be surprised how good it can be, and you’ll be able to look back and see that not only did guilt and shame not serve you, but that it’s dropping away.
Taking action to leave the past behind and move forward
Now obviously if there are things that need rectifying, then that needs to be done the best you can. And then you let it go. If there’s nothing to be done, then leave the past where it is. You have dreams to chase!
Guilt and shame get in the way of your dreams, they stop you living.
Make sure your dreams are now truly yours and not something to please another person be that a partner, a parent or some other significant figure in your life. Then you’ll be able to look back and see how far you’ve come and say, ‘well that was a low time, perhaps the lowest of my life, but I did it!’ And you can do it.
It’s not your fault that you probably weren’t shown how to make healthy choices for yourself, or understand how to live in a changing world, and not compromise your own best interests. It’s also likely you weren’t shown because those who you might expect to do that for you probably didn’t know themselves! But now you can break that pattern from feelings of guilt and shame around divorce and move forward from a solid foundation and understanding.
As always, cheering you on in your new life,
PS Here are some other ways I can help you in your divorce recovery:
Have you checked out my book ‘Rise Again After Divorce’ yet?
It’s available as an eBook, paperback and on audio and you can find it on Amazon here