Although the words muttered by Kevin Hart are almost always part of a punch line, his personal view on divorce is painfully realistic. He said these words to his ex-wife:
“Hey, I messed up. This had nothing to do with you. I didn’t understand what marriage was. I cheated. I was wrong. We couldn’t fix it; it got worse. I stepped away because I didn’t want it to get any worse. You’re the mother of my kids – I don’t want to hate you.”
No one is 100% certain that their marriage will not end in a divorce or a separation. Take note that divorce is still illegal in the Philippine law. Whether there is a legislation for this major life incident or not, it is seldom that one is prepared for the effects of the bitter ending. This is why most Psychology majors consider divorce or separation as a loss. When you lose someone, you go thru the stages of grief.
These stages were popularized by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ book entitled “On Death and Dying”. The Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief comprises of Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.
The first stage is when the individual develops a negative self-image that can be easily tainted and hurt by the comments posed by others. A time of disbelief follows wherein the individual denies the reality of the divorce or separation. The individual’s behavior may oppose what is happening right in front of his or her eyes. For instance, John agrees to have a double date with the neighbors without asking for his “soon to be” ex-wife’s opinion.
John, like any other individuals in the same situation, will soon realize that he has no control over the situation. The lack of control may escalate to the feelings of helplessness.
For most people, the lack of control consumes them in a way that it fuels anger inside. This boiling rage comes from the feelings of being forsaken and betrayed by the partner and life in general. In this second stage, anger becomes a dominant trait that it affects the individual’s interpersonal relationships.
The anger is directly aimed at the ex-spouse and may be aimed at all the “men or women” on the planet. The individual highly perceives that the partner is wrong and deserves to suffer. You read that right. This stage can get really dark that it has to be mediated right away.
Bargaining is not exclusive to the tiangge found in Divisoria! It can happen to people who are in the lowest points of their lives. I often see people with serious illnesses bargain for more time. Aside from begging the doctors for miracles, people can beg the “higher power” to reverse the loss.
Individuals usually ask for their partners back in exchange of positive behaviors (e.g., quitting smoking) or major life changes (e.g., getting a job). However, we all know that things are much more complicated than that.
Once the individual realizes that the prior two stages cannot undo the loss, they can drown into depression. It sinks in that the divorce or separation is inevitable. Change is coming. Perhaps, it already occurred.
The feelings of depression and grief can get too overwhelming that the person may lock himself or herself up in a room and cry for weeks. The future seems like a gloomy place when in this stage.
The final step is achieved after processing the feelings of ignorance, anger, and depression. The last stage is called acceptance. The individual begins to accept that the situation cannot be undone and there is nothing wrong with that. Life goes on! As one of my favorite songs from South Border goes: “there’s a rainbow always after the rain”.
While most people reach the finish line, some get stuck with the previous laps. They get too overwhelmed by the gravity of the transition.
Managing the situation and planning about the brighter future is certainly challenging but…it is POSSIBLE. To help you out, here are 5 positive ways to cope with the divorce or separation:
1. Embrace and accept the emotions.
It is perfectly fine to go thru a spectrum of emotions. It is normal to feel down, angry, tired, and conflicted. Let it all out! It is healthier that way as these reactions lessen gradually.
For men who perceive themselves as “macho” and constantly hide their feelings, all these seems like a chore. Remember that it does not make you less of a man if you break down. Resisting the pain will only prolong the process of healing. So, fight your emotions head on.
2. Take care of yourself physically and mentally.
Start by setting routines that include exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, and sleeping on time. Avoid spending money on self-destructive behaviors such as excessive drinking and substance abuse. Evidence of these behaviors will only strengthen the case of the other side. You do not want that!
To foster a healthier mentality, do not make rash decisions that are clouded by your overwhelming emotions. Take some time to calm down and to think about the situation objectively. Consider joining a support group as it can help you deal with your emotions in a positive manner.
3. Create a new budget.
Individuals who are recently divorced or separated usually dwell on the immediate expenses such as the lawyer’s fees and monthly child maintenance. But, these individuals forget that they are single again!
Not only do you have to think about your own fixed expenses but (in most cases) you also have to think about your family’s household expenses. This is why it is vital to create a new budget that incorporates these different expenses.
4. Share what you are going through.
Much like any critical life transitions, you shall seek support if you and your spouse parted ways. Share your feelings and worries to your trusted friends or family members. As previously mentioned, you can join a suitable support group too. These people can help you reason out through the situation and _ your needs (e.g., financially or emotionally).
5. Invest your energy on productive matters.
Invest your energy and emotions on productive and hopeful matters such as learning a new language or quitting the sedentary lifestyle. Explore your interests such as playing soccer or painting nature. Perhaps, some of your interests are hindered by your ex-spouse.
The road ahead seems dull at the moment. But, you thrive through this road by beaming a light thru your path. Continue to stay positive despite the “darkness”. Focus on the issues that matter and do your best at them.