Love You And Your Divorce This Valentine’s Day
Valentines and getting divorced – not the most obvious pairing, right? Well, luckily it’s the 21st Century and it’s time for a refresh of what Valentine’s Day stands for. So in Love You And Your Divorce This Valentine’s Day we are looking at all the ways to bring love back into your life, starting with the most important person – yourself. It’s time to love you this V-day.
What’s Valentine’s Day got to do with divorce anyway?
I wanted to share some of the origins of this festival with you for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it just makes me giggle (and we all need a giggle at the moment). And secondly, it shows how old-fashioned the concept of Valentine’s Day is, and how it’s ripe for a reboot!
So, St Valentine’s Day came into being as the Christian church grew in power, in the 5th Century. Though it wasn’t seen as a romantic festival until around 900 years later. But here’s the bit that amuses and horrifies my 21st Century mind. Valentine’s Day came to replace a Roman festival called Lupercalia, which was held in the middle of February to celebrate the coming of spring. Nothing wrong with that. But, the way they did it? During that festival they held a lottery, pairing off men with women. And, unfortunately, women back then wouldn’t usually have had the freedom or financial means to be a Lady Who Leaves if that pairing wasn’t great.
So it strikes me, Valentine’s Day is a fantastic time to celebrate the strength and courage of women who are getting divorced. Women like you. These days we no longer have to put up with the results of a lottery. We get to choose who to marry, and if that doesn’t work out, we get to choose to leave too.
Tune into yourself
Whatever relationships we’re in with other people, the number one relationship we have to work on is with ourselves. Whether we’re single, dating, married, divorced, widowed… we’re always there.
I always tell clients who are considering divorce that ‘you take yourself with you’. So it’s really worth thinking about whether the problem is with your marriage, or whether it’s something else. Because if it’s something else, it will still be there once the marriage is over.
And often, however kind we are to other people, we do not show that kindness to ourselves. It’s really useful to check-in with how you speak to yourself every so often. Do an audit. It doesn’t even need to be for a whole day – often an hour or two is enough to get a sense of your own self-talk.
Chances are, the way you speak to yourself is not the way you would speak to your friend, or your children. Chances are, several times a day you’ll be telling yourself things like:
“I’m such an idiot”
“I messed that up”
“I haven’t got what it takes to do this”
…Or similar. You’ll know what words or phrases you use to attack yourself.
I’m not going to ask you to immediately do the opposite. If you’re so used to mentally beating yourself up, plastering on a smile and saying “Every day in every way I’m getting better and better” is going to feel too cheesy and artificial. (Though by all means try it if you feel like it – affirmations can work brilliantly if they’re the right ones for you!)
What I am going to ask you to do first of all is notice. When you start verbal bashing yourself notice it. And tell yourself “My mind is having the thought I’m useless.” Create that space between your thoughts and yourself. That’s the first step to seeing that you are not the useless person you’re telling yourself you are.
Love your strengths
This Valentine’s Day I want you to celebrate your strengths and achievements. I’m not talking about trophies, qualifications or accolades. I’m talking about how you live. What you bring to the world.
If you’re feeling brave enough, I’d love you to ask three trusted friends or family members to tell you three things they admire about you. If this feels cringey, blame me! Tell them Emma’s ordered you to! And really take note of what they tell you. Quite often criticism sticks to us like glue, whereas compliments ping off like Teflon (and the reverse is often true for narcissists). It’s not narcissistic to recognise what we’re good at, though. We want to get to an honest balance, where we can celebrate the unique, imperfect people we are. And we can’t always see it for ourselves without help.
Even if you don’t feel brave enough to ask others, take a moment to list your strengths out for yourself. What are the things you are most proud of in the past month? These can be tiny things. It might be that you’ve all survived homeschooling so far. There’s real strength right there in these testing times! It might be that you took time for yourself when you were feeling low. Or that you got some food in for a neighbour. Whatever it is, write everything down and recognise what you bring. Recognise you are worthy of your own love and respect.
Love your weaknesses
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “Well, I’ve failed at all of those things. I’m still here, my kids are still here, but they’ve barely done any school work, we’re shouting all the time and I’ve not helped anyone else.”
I can guarantee that some of you reading this will really struggle to see your strengths. And that’s ok. I promise you they are there. You are just having a really, really tough time at the moment. Getting divorced is the number 2 most stressful life experience anyway (after death of a spouse or child). Add lockdown into the mix and it’s a recipe for crisis point.
If you are feeling at rock bottom – as though you’ve got nothing to offer, and nothing worthy of love, I’d like you to try this. Be your own best friend. Imagine someone who you’ve grown up with all your life. Someone who’s gone through life’s highs and lows, making mistakes, having fun, growing and changing.
Picture everything that’s happened to them, in the past and now. Remember it’s not happening to you, it’s happening to them – this best friend character you’re creating. And right now they’re at rock bottom, not being the gentlest with their kids, not having capacity to do much other than stay alive.
What would you say to them? Would you say they’re worthless?
However weak or unhappy with yourself, or dysfunctional you are feeling at the moment, remember that you’re not going to feel like this forever. And you are still worthy of love. Now more than ever. So hold steady. What one, tiny kind thing can you do to show yourself some love today? If you were to buy yourself a small Valentine’s gift to show yourself some love, what would it be?
Get some support
Love You And Your Divorce This Valentine’s Day. Sometimes the most loving thing we can do for ourselves is ask for help. You could simply message friends and let them know you’re feeling low. Often that simple act of telling someone can make all the difference, without anything else needing to happen. Or you could ask for practical help – for someone to drop off some food containing a vegetable or two, maybe.
If there are areas of your divorce that are causing you stress, get professional help. Perhaps you need counselling, many therapists are offering remote services at the moment. If you can’t see the wood for the trees to move your divorce forward, I can help – with both the emotional and practical decisions.
The Absolute Academy is there for women who want to make smart choices about life and divorce. And they want a community of like-minded women around them as they do it. It’s a real community in there – we support each other through the highs and the lows. If you need people to show you some love because you’ve forgotten how to do it for yourself, that’s the place to be!
And with a monthly cost that’s roughly the same as many solicitors’ hourly rates, it’s a smart financial choice too. A place to save money and save your emotional health as you divorce. So if you want to make sure you love you and your divorce this Valentine’s Day, come and join us. The door’s always open.
Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is author of the Amazon best selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com