Divorce has a unique ability to dredge up fears from underneath our metaphorical bed. Our ability to heal from divorce and reclaim ourselves depends partly on our work to move away from fear. Some talk about tackling or conquering the things that make us afraid. Men, in particular, are told from a young age that we are not allowed to be scared. It’s not masculine.
However, I believe that recognizing and accepting that we are afraid, and learning to understand how to address our fears, is what makes us human. Everyone has fears. Coming out healthy on the other side of divorce depends on our ability to not conquer or get rid of fear, but move away from it so that it does not paralyze us from living meaningful lives.
Take some time to figure out the what you are afraid of. Look at your list.
Are there fears on your list that you have no control over? If so, then slowly, over time, move towards letting those things go.
An example of this type of fear might be, “I am afraid of the criticisms my ex will throw at me when I request he/she follows through on a court order connected to the kids.” We do not have control over the behavior of others. Learn to ignore and not respond to the criticisms. Their out-of-proportion response is a behavior on which you have no influence.
Which fears do you have control over? Are they fears that you will be able to address on your own? If not, who or what do you need to help you?
Here are some of my fears post-divorce:
- Who am I if I am not married?
- Will the kids ever be happy again?
- Can I live without a partner for the first time in 20 years?
- Will anyone ever love me again? Am I still desirable?
Five years after separating from my ex-wife I still feel these fears, but at different frequencies and with different levels of severity. In the case of figuring out my identity, it is a continual work in progress. It is my mid-life crisis. But…having now lived on my own (with kids) for five years, my confidence has grown immeasurably. I have found love, and lost it, and found it again. I probably started dating too soon, but I moved away from that fear by starting small and pushing myself to not take it too seriously at first.
Five years out and probably my greatest fear right now is, “How do I meet my needs, a new partner’s needs, and the needs of my kids all at the same time?” Moving away from that fear is challenging me to learn better communication with everyone involved. Moving away from that fear is helping me grow weak interpersonal skills that may have, in some ways, been part of how my marriage broke down in the first place.
Be kind to yourself. Recovery takes time. Fear is normal. You have the power to move away from the fear that your divorce has called forth into your life.