Lots of us are spending far more time at home…and this may mean more time on social media. If you’re also dealing with a recent breakup or divorce, you could be dealing with a particularly challenging time. This post is for you.

The hardest part of a divorce is often not the legal part. Even given tedious interrogatories or hard-to-reach attorneys, all that that may seem like a drop in a bucket when you’re trying to trudge through anger, grief, loneliness, feelings of failure – as well as trying to help your kids deal with their own reactions.

Getting emotionally divorced can be the actual kicker..

What’s so hard? Watching your ex make changes that you’d been begging them to make for years, or they’re already introducing someone else to your kids. Maybe they’re upset that you’ve moved on, or actually they’re threatening you in some way. Maybe alimony checks are being “forgotten” or you’ve lost friends who sided with your ex. Maybe you’ve had to move, or your kids tell you that your ex constantly berates you or puts them in the middle.

It can be very hard. And for a long time. .

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat – even now TikTok  – may likely fuel those complicated feelings.. These techie tools we embrace to connect us with others can also keep us tethered to our exes, even when we want the opposite.

Three Ways Social Media Prolongs the Process…

1) It makes it too easy to become obsessed with your ex.

The process of letting go can be prolonged because you know things through social media that prior to twenty years or so ago would have been impossible. Gone are the days when you can move on with a measure of secrecy and have a fresh start…or be happily ignorant of your once-spouse’s new life.

Years ago, if you had a moment of weakness and wanted to spy on your ex, you’d have to go out of your way to drive slowly past their house, or awkwardly ask a friend for information, or- worse- quiz your children. All you have to do is open an app and there they are right in front of you, probably trying to make their new life look as normal and happy as possible (as people do on social media).

Mutual friends “liking” pictures of your ex on vacation with the person had the affair with? That stings. Instagram photos of destinations that you always dreamed of visiting? Stinks. And if you’re blocked or unfriended, then you can become obsessed with finding out details and beating them at their own game.

It’s much healthier to focus on your own healing, as you’ve got a rough enough ride without making it rougher.

2) It’s too difficult to contain your desire to either win the fight or get emotional closure. 

Remember all the emotions mentioned above?  Any one of those is tough to work through. Whether through texting, private messaging or more public Facebook posts, it’s difficult to not use any and all forms of communication to make your point. Just one more time.

And it’s so easy and convenient to have a reaction to something. A quick text. Then boom. Got your feelings out. But you also may have created a little more chaos that will once again have to be cleaned up.

But also so many yearn for an emotional closure that may never happen.

I’m guilty as charged of this. Way before texting, my ex would always call very late at night.  One day my therapist asked me, “So why do you pick up the phone?” I heard some lame excuse come out of my mouth. “Well, it could be about one of our friends being in trouble.” Or, “Maybe he’s going to allow me to see his kids after all.” Or the extra lame, “Maybe it’s my Mom.” My mother went to bed at 9:00 and didn’t wake until dawn’s light.

I was embarrassed by my answers.

He’d look at me, and quietly ask one more time, “So… why do you pick up the phone?”

There were so many real reasons. I desperately wanted closure. I was lonely. I didn’t want him to hate me. I still wondered if I’d done the right thing. Maybe he’d understand my side. Maybe I’d understand his. Or maybe it would serve as a reminder of how hurtful the relationship had been.

Finally I realized I had to get closure by myself. I had to reach out and connect with others. I had to detach from whatever his feelings or opinions were — I had no control over that. And I had to give myself time to develop a new normal, one where I’d trust myself again.

3) It impedes the chance of establishing new, healthier communication habits. 

It’s hard to be angrily texting at 1:30 am, then see each other at a parent/teacher conference and try to be cordial. Continuing the same fighting that was occurring during the marriage is simply not helpful. You didn’t fix it then. You’re not going to fix it now – at least not any time soon. You both need to learn how to communicate on a different level, one without a lot of emotion and baggage.

With time, you both may get some perspective and be able to engage differently without the animosity and defensiveness that once characterized your conversations. Meanwhile, try to make some good decisions with your ex about the children. Do your work on disengaging from your own personal agenda – and do what you can as co-parents.

You can hear more about mental health and many other topics by listening to my podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. Subscribe to my website and receive one weekly newsletter including my weekly blog post and podcast! If you’d like to join my FaceBook closed group, then click here and answer the membership questions! Welcome!

My new book entitled Perfectly Hidden Depression has arrived and you can order here! Its message is specifically for those with a struggle with strong perfectionism which acts to mask underlying emotional pain. But the many self-help techniques described can be used by everyone who chooses to begin to address emotions long hidden away that are clouding and sabotaging your current life.

And there’s a new way to send me a message! You can record by clicking below and ask your question or make a comment. You’ll have 90 seconds to do so and that time goes quickly. By recording, you’re giving SelfWork (and me) permission to use your voice on the podcast. I’ll look forward to hearing from you!

Originally published on March 31, 2018; updated and republished on October 25, 2020.


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