It was late one October evening and I was in my basement office. All my kids were sound asleep. Their mother was out — again. This had become part of a distinct pattern over the past year. Her late nights, unexplained absences, missing important school events, and a general detachment from family life, had become the norm. On this night I discovered why: she was having an affair.
Within weeks of my discovery, and subsequent confrontation, my former spouse gave up on our marriage and moved out. Divorce proceedings quickly followed. The affair, the moving out, and the divorce, were like a tidal wave cascading over me knocking me off my feet.
The next couple of months were a blur of emotions, mostly sadness and anger. My days and nights were consumed with trying to understand why my wife had done these things, and letting her know how angry and hurt I was. My focus was solely on her. I got lost in the shuffle.
That was a big mistake.
Focus on What You Can Control
One of the keys to recovering from a divorce is to focus on the things you can control. Easier said than done. Most of us, me included, are consumed with the hurt, injustice, and anger resulting from the situation. Naturally, our focus tends to be on the people, situations, and circumstances that led up to the divorce. These are all things we have no control over. This just adds to the frustration and amplifies the emotions we are feeling.
By focusing on what you can control—you, your thoughts, how you spend your time, and your behavior—you take command of your life. You are no longer at the whim of what someone else does, or doesn’t do. Until you can do that, expect your life to be out of control as you are whipsawed by someone else’s decisions and actions.
Four Things You Can Do to Regain Control
Let’s look at some things you can do to begin to shift the focus back to you and to regain control:
#1 You: You have just been hit by an emotional freight train. By focusing on yourself, you are being good to yourself, and responsible. You need to build up your emotional and physical strength for the very difficult road of divorce that lies ahead.
If you have children, you need to be emotionally available to them. This is just as difficult a time for them as it is for you. They need you now more than ever.
#2 Your thoughts: Napoleon Hill, a well-known motivational and self-help author from the 20th century said, “Thought precedes action.” He was so right. If you can control what you think about, you can guide the outcome of your life.
Instead of focusing on your former spouse, what they did, what they are doing, or what they didn’t do, focus on your thoughts. If you allow your mind to be consumed with angry thoughts, you are much more likely to act in anger. If you focus only on the injustice your former spouse has done to you, you are much more likely to seek revenge.
If you focus on filling your mind with thoughts of self-control, like controlling your anger, or controlling your behavior, you will be more successful in avoiding the situations that spur the negative emotions or reactions. It works. Try it.
#3 Your time: The goal of focusing on how you spend your time is to harness the energy that you typically would focus externally and focus it internally. Divorce is a chaotic time. Often you are pulled in many different directions by people and forces you don’t have control over.
Making a concerted effort to make sure you are consistently spending your time on taking care of yourself will pay huge dividends to you and your family. There are many helpful and productive ways to do this. We will elaborate more on these in future blog articles. Here is a list of the more common ways:
- Taking time to pray
- Getting enough sleep
- Eating right
- Staying away from drugs and alcohol
- Trying to relax through hobbies and enjoyable activities
#4 Your behavior: When you focus on yourself, your thoughts, and how you spend your time, it will naturally impact your behavior. If these efforts are positive and productive, your behavior will follow. This will manifest itself in better decision-making, lower stress, more productive interactions (especially with your former spouse), and a more positive and resilient emotional state.
Focus on What You Can Control to Recover More Quickly
You are going to become completely frazzled and overwhelmed by your divorce. This happens to everyone. The key is how quickly you can recover. And isn’t that the goal? Focusing on you, and what you can control, is the key.
Question: Is there anything you are doing, or have done, that has helped you focus on yourself, how you spend your time, or your behavior that has had a positive impact on your recovery from divorce? Share your answer below.