Rekindle your relationship with yourself as you divorce

So, last week was Valentine’s Day. Mostly a hallmark festival these days. But if you’re getting divorced a valuable reminder to treat yourself with love and kindness. Which is what I explored on the blog. Not read it yet? You can do so here – it’s a hug in a blog post, so please do. But now it’s time to rekindle your relationship with yourself as you divorce.

Many women leave their marriages completely done in. It takes a huge amount of courage to leave, whatever your circumstances. And that comes after months or years of being in a marriage that drained rather than energised you. It can leave you feeling at rock bottom. And, often, in a place of self-criticism and guilt. So it’s hugely important to get used to spending time with yourself again, on your terms. 

This is even more important in these lockdown weeks, with so many of our friends and family out of reach. If you’re feeling exhausted: spinning from homeschooling to home working to divorce to checking in with parents… this one’s for you. 

You are not a machine

First up, if you are worn down, fed up and have simply had enough, know that I hear you. I am not here to say you must do better – to fix it and you’ll be smashing this thing called life. Life is hard at the moment. For everyone. Even harder with the emotional and practical burden of divorce.

So if you’re feeling sad, let yourself be sad. If you’re feeling crabby, let yourself be crabby. If you need a rest, for goodness sake, please rest! This is a time for gentleness and compassion – to ourselves first of all. 

I am here to invite you to prioritise yourself. And to give you some manageable ways to rekindle your relationship with yourself as you divorce. 

You are more than a series of roles

In times of crisis, we become what we do. And for many women, that’s looking after others. Taking care of our children. Ensuring our work colleagues have what they need. Checking in on your neighbour. Our sense of identity as well as our time can get clogged up by these pulls. And then there’s the emotional and practical labour of divorce. It can be all-consuming. 

But you are not simply caretaker, parent, teacher, manager, assistant, neighbour, divorcing woman. You are so much more than all of those roles. And to rekindle your relationship with yourself you need to get beyond the doing into being. Back into being with yourself.

Set your boundaries

So how do you go about reconnecting with yourself when the world demands so much of you? If you’re a regular to the blog you’ll have heard me talk about boundaries before. It’s so important to set boundaries in your divorce – and this is especially true if you’re divorcing someone with narcissistic traits. You can get started on boundary-setting with your soon-to-be-ex here. 

But what about the rest of your life? Where can you draw some lines? You may be used to propping up everyone else’s worlds. But you can’t do that forever, or you’ll collapse. You need to save some time and energy for yourself. 

Start off by doing a quick mental audit of your day. Who are you serving each hour of the day? I’ll bet there are very few times the only person you’re looking after is yourself. And during those rare times, your energy is going to be at rock bottom. Which is not the best place to start meeting your own needs. 

So who can you set a limit with, and when? Can you make a deal with your children that they can have an hour with the TV as long as they don’t fight and can leave you alone? Rather than call your elderly neighbour every day can you share the task with someone else? If your colleagues are dumping work on you can you negotiate deadlines or redistribution of projects? 

You are not Mrs Fixit

You do not need to be the person to solve everyone’s problems all the time. And this is good for other people to see. You don’t want your daughter to grow up to run herself into the ground looking after everyone else. Nor do you want your team at work to burn out with exhaustion. You don’t want your 33-year-old little sister thinking she has to keep pace with her ‘superwoman’ big sister. 

Show them it’s ok to take some time out and look after their own needs. Don’t just tell them. Show them by doing it yourself. 

Finally – you might need to set boundaries with yourself. I expect we’re all guilty of doomscrolling on social media. Or staying up too late because (ironically) we’re too mentally and physically exhausted to get to bed. If you know you are doing things that are draining you – stop. Notice what you are doing and choose differently. 

What do you need? 

When you Rekindle your relationship with yourself as you divorce, the first step is to recognise what you need. This can be a surprisingly hard question to answer when you’ve not asked it of yourself for a while. 

Try it now. Stop what you’re doing. Close your eyes. Take three, slow, deep, breaths. Then, say quietly to yourself: “What do I need?”

Make a mental note of your first thought. It might be something big – you might be reminding yourself you need help or you’ll collapse. It might be something tiny, like five minutes’ peace with a cup of tea and just yourself for company. But, quite often, your first thought will tell you something important.

Then make a list of your needs. Let your thoughts go all over with this.  Blurt it all out on the page. And then, for each need you identify, what can you do to bring you closer to meeting that need? Remember you won’t be able to fix everything all at once. Especially in these Covid times. 

But putting down a concrete action that will move you closer does two things. It makes taking the action easier – it becomes something tangible you can do. And it reminds your brain that you are a person with needs too. 

Create a new tiny habit for you

I want you to commit to doing something purely selfish for at least five minutes a day. Five minutes, that’s all. I’m not going to be prescriptive about what it is. You’ll know best what’s refuelling for you. It could be something like:

  • Going outside for a walk
  • Sitting with a coffee
  • Listening to a podcast
  • Doing a Youtube stretch or yoga session
  • Journalling in your notebook
  • Reading a book
  • Dancing to your favourite music
  • Cracking out the posh shower gel 

It could be something completely different. The important thing is the intention behind it. It’s not about killing time before bed, or mindlessly picking up your phone because you’ve got a spare minute. It’s about spending time with yourself, on yourself. With purpose. Every single day. 

Get the help you need as you divorce

Sometimes we need someone else to hold the space for us. To hold a mirror up so we can see ourselves more easily. I can be that person for you. With over five years’ experience as a divorce coach, I can support you with both the emotional and the legal decisions you need to make. Rekindle your relationship with yourself as you divorce.  And it all starts with tuning into you, your needs, your values and desires. We can do that together. 

Join The Absolute Academy to get access to weekly zooms with me, as well as a community of fabulous women who are journeying their divorces together. It’s a place to be yourself and find yourself again. And it’s a lot of fun. 

About Emma

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

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