May 12th, 2022
Divorce can affect both mental and physical health because of emotions and feelings like stress, grief, anger, and blame. These feelings may be directed both outward to a spouse or inward to oneself. When these emotions overwhelm a person, the negative effects of divorce can become even worse. There is hope, though. Conflict is not inevitable, even if our laws set up an adversarial dynamic that can pit spouses against each other. Self-compassion and mindfulness allow you to maintain awareness of your feelings during a divorce, which can help you keep your process focused on finding an amicable resolution. Louise Livesay has spent years guiding people through divorces with compassion. She can help you learn to avoid blame, overcome anger, and find healthy, productive outcomes for yourself, your children, and others in your life.
What Is Self-Compassion?
The most important relationship you will ever have is with yourself. Friends may come and go, but you must live with yourself for your entire life. Just like how friendships often require effort to maintain, you must care for your relationship with yourself. Self-compassion is the process of nurturing that relationship. It has several important components:
We are often our own worst critics. While striving to improve can be a positive attribute, it becomes unhealthy when one is unwilling to accept any flaws or imperfections in oneself. Self-kindness means being understanding of yourself when you are going through something difficult. It means allowing yourself to feel any and all emotions in the moment, with the knowledge that those feelings do not define you. How you deal with those emotions is key.
Divorce often brings on feelings of guilt, shame, and blame. You might blame yourself for the end of your marriage. Self-kindness enables you to forgive yourself for whatever part you believe you had in the circumstances that led to your divorce. It can help you let go of negative feelings without diminishing them and allow you to learn from your experience.
In order to forgive yourself and move beyond negative feelings, you must be aware of those feelings and understand how they affect you. Self-awareness is about taking an honest, perhaps unflinching look at how you are feeling. It means checking in with yourself to see what you need in any given moment. Once you can name a negative feeling, you can begin to understand it and learn how to accept it without letting it control you.
Many people in our society learn to put their own needs second to the needs of others. Self-care is about finding the time to nurture yourself. It could be as simple as taking a moment to check in with yourself to soothe any negative feelings you are having. Doing this is not being selfish. To take care of the people around you who matter, you need to take care of yourself so you have energy to give.
What Is Mindfulness?
“Mindfulness” has become a buzzword in recent years, but it is an essential part of practicing self-compassion. No single definition exists, but most definitions include several parts:
- Awareness of your mind, i.e. your thoughts and emotions;
- Awareness of your body, i.e. the physical sensations you are feeling;
- Awareness of the environment surrounding you and how it is affecting you; and
- Acceptance of these feelings without judgment.
You might feel sad, and that feeling is making you tired. A mindful practice allows you to be aware of this without jumping to conclusions about whether you have any reason to feel sad or tired. You will be better able to put your feelings into perspective, which makes it less likely that they will become overwhelming.
Meditation is often part of mindfulness practices, but meditation is not essential. Practicing mindfulness can be as simple as allowing yourself to be present in the moment, aware of your feelings and surroundings. If you are new to mindfulness, this might not sound so simple. It gets easier over time, which is why it is called mindfulness practice.
How Can I Use These Practices in My Divorce?
Practicing self-compassion and mindfulness can help you care for yourself while you are preparing for or going through a divorce. By maintaining awareness of your feelings — both emotional and physical — and giving yourself the space to feel whatever emotions come to you, you can be more present and aware of the people in your life. Many of them are likely to be having difficulties of their own with your divorce, which means you can help and support one another. Mindfulness can remind you that you are not alone.
These practices can also help you contribute to finding an amicable resolution to your divorce. You can begin by thinking carefully about your goals in the divorce, the process you want to use, and who you choose to represent you. These choices can have a significant impact on how you emerge from the divorce. Picking professionals that support your vision and understand the impact of decisions on all members of the family is important.
Trust is one of the most precious commodities in a relationship. You need to preserve as much trust as possible during your divorce. You will still be in relationship with your soon-to-be former spouse if you have children, but in a different relationship so trust is still important. And trust is not an all or nothing thing. Compassion for yourself and your spouse helps you do that. You are both navigating a big change. You both have new learning curves, and each of you will make mistakes. Give each other 3 “pass cards” that you may use during your divorce when you want a do-over or need to recognize a mistake.
Family attorney Louise Livesay has represented families in the Twin Cities area in divorces and other family law disputes for more than twenty years. She has dedicated her practice to helping her clients resolve conflicts and transform their relationships through Minnesota’s family laws. If you have questions about collaborative law, divorce mediation, or another family law matter, please contact us today online or at (651) 964-3887.
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Tips for a Successful Divorce Mediation
Low Conflict Divorce Guidelines
How to Tell Your Kids About Divorce