The hardest part of a divorce is often not the legal part; sometimes that’s just a drop in the bucket.
Getting emotionally divorced. That’s the actual kicker.
The emotions seem never-ending and come from all directions. Anger that can so easily turn into bitterness. Sadness from feelings of personal failure. Helplessness or guilt from watching your children trying to cope. Fear from new worries or financial concerns. Loneliness from the days you can’t distract yourself with the kids. Confusion as your friends and family try to be supportive but their lives go on as normal.
Perhaps you’re watching your partner make changes that you have been begging them to make for years. Maybe you’re trying to handle your partner beginning to date quickly while you’re still reeling from the separation. You might lose friends who “side” with one or the other, especially if the divorce is highly conflictual. Others try to stay friends with both of you, but there can be an awkwardness that didn’t exist before.
Working through all these feelings is complicated. It takes time. Lots of it.
Facebook and other social media only brings those complicated feelings to the surface, as you can’t get away from them. These techie tools we embrace to connect us with others can also keep us tethered to our exes, even when we want the opposite. Being aware of this can help you move through the process of getting emotionally divorced.
Three Ways Social Media Prolongs the Process
1) It’s too easy to become obsessed with your ex.
Knowing things about them through social media prolongs the process of letting go. Seeing mutual friends “liking” pictures of her with the man she had the affair with? That stings. Instagram photos of places he is going that you always dreamed of seeing? Stinks.
Or you could’ve been “blocked.” it probably means that your divorce is not amicable. You of course can get access anyway – through friends of friends. It can become an obsession — as if you’re a detective following leads about your ex’s life. Not good.
You no longer have to drive slowly past her house. You don’t have to have a friend calling a friend who’s his neighbor. All you have to do is switch on social media. And there they are, probably trying to make their own life look as normal and happy as possible.
It’s all too easy to keep looking at, or even seeking out, these things that cause you pain. It can be very addictive, And paralyzing. It’s much healthier to focus on your own healing, It’s going to be a rough enough ride without making it rougher.
2) It’s hard to contain your impulses and keep feelings to yourself.
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. So 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.
I can remember lots of times when I answered the phone, knowing it was my ex on the other line. Nobody else ever called me that late. One day my therapist asked me, “So why do you pick up the phone?” I heard some lame excuse or weird rationale come out. “Well, it could be about one of our friends being in trouble.” Or, “Maybe he’s going to allow my 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. And she would leave a message.
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. It was an impulse, a felt need. 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 I wanted to have that fight I knew we’d have – just one more time. 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 create those experiences within me. 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 makes it easier to continue with old bad communication habits.
It’s hard to be arguing with each other at 1:30 am via text, 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 just not helpful. You didn’t fix it then. You’re not going to fix it now, not until you both learn to communicate without a lot of emotion.
With time, you both may get some perspective and be able to engage differently., without animosity or defensiveness. Meanwhile, try to make some good decisions with your ex about the children. Sort of like they say in AA, “One decision (or day) at a time.”
To emotionally divorce takes time. I can’t stress that enough.
When it’s done, when you’re much more detached, it’s freeing. Sure, maybe a little sad at times.
But better than you were before.
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