Since the New Year you’ll have seen it in the shops. Red and silver hearts to replace the red and gold baubles. Valentine’s season starts early and hits hard. It hits especially hard if you’re in the middle of divorce. But this can be a powerful time to focus on the most important relationship of all: the one you have with yourself.
What’s your relationship with you like?
Most of us don’t pay attention to how we talk to ourselves, or treat ourselves. The world is full of #bekind messages, yet we forget to do this with ourselves. Does any of this sound familiar?
“I’m so stupid for letting him walk all over me for so long.”
“I have no energy to play with the kids, I’m a terrible parent.”
“I’m not strong enough for this.”
Most of my clients say these, or similar things about themselves – and not just in their head – they say them to me, and to the ladies in The Absolute Academy.
What would you say if you heard someone else saying this?
Probably things like:
“You’re not stupid, you just really wanted it to work.”
“You’re not a terrible parent, and an afternoon of TV is absolutely fine!”
“This is so hard, but you have people supporting you and you will get through it.”
Yet, so often, we take a much harsher line with ourselves.
Be honest. How do you treat yourself? Do you punish yourself for mistakes or missteps that you’d see as learning experiences in other people? If so, it’s time to stop.
Has your marriage damaged your self esteem?
You might think divorce is bad for your self esteem. But, think about it. It’s your unhealthy marriage that’s done the damage.
Whatever your marriage story, whether there was a slow erosion of respect, your soon-to-be-ex went behind your back, you were the one behaving badly, or whatever else was going on – it’s the marriage that soured your relationship with yourself.
The process of divorce, and your post-divorce life, is an opportunity to repair and restore.
And the first step is to realise there’s work to be done. To give yourself a break. Whatever’s gone before, this is a time to take the reins and reset. Yes, divorce is stressful. But it can also be an empowering, cathartic time, if you let it. A time to realise what you’re capable of. And a time to realise what you really need. Recognising both your needs and your capabilities are key ingredients to having a healthy relationship with yourself.
It’s especially hard in high conflict relationships
A relationship ending will always make us question ourselves. What we should have done differently, whether we should even have got into the relationship in the first place. But it’s especially destabilising when you’ve been in a high conflict situation.
There’s usually a pattern to high conflict relationships. Your high conflict partner starts out with love bombing – showering you with attention and compliments. And, over time, the poison creeps in. The blame. The gaslighting. The control. All of that can leave you spinning. Fogged with self-doubt about who you are, what you’re capable are and who you can trust.
You can get back to the confident, independent, happy person you once were. I promise. It will take some work though.
Strengthen your self-love
So what can you do to restore your damaged relationship with yourself? We’ve already begun to explore one aspect: your self-talk. It’s hard to make and break habits, especially so when it’s about what’s going on in our heads!
For now, all you need to do is notice. If you can observe yourself saying mean things to yourself, and say “Ah, I’m doing that thing again”, it opens up the possibility for more. It lets your brain now that you aren’t actually those things you told yourself. You can’t be – because you’re noticing yourself saying them! You’re more than all of it.
So start with noticing. And move on to considering what you’d say to a close friend, instead. Begin the process of becoming your own close friend.
It’s not just about self-talk though. It’s about where you put yourself in the pecking order of your life. How often do you do things for yourself? I know, I know. Life is busy. You have no time. Yet it is possible to carve out small moments to remind ourselves we’re worthy of care and attention.
Got five minutes? Read a book or magazine. Stand outside for some fresh air. Make a cup of tea. Text a friend.
Got twenty minutes? Take a walk. Journal. Research a class or hobby or holiday.
Got an evening? Try out that yoga or pottery class. Go to a gig. Join a book club.
Whatever it is, do something for you regularly.
Why’s this important now?
Divorce is a great opportunity to work on your relationship with yourself. But it’s also essential that you do. Why? Because if you get deep into the divorce process without a healthy amount of self respect and self care, you will trip up.
You’ll find yourself drawn back towards your soon-to-be-ex, wanting them to give you the love and security you lack. You’ll find yourself deferring to everyone else: their solicitor, your friends, your boss.
If ever there was a time to put yourself first, this is it. No-one else can help you feel less empty if you don’t do some of the work yourself. You will constantly need reassurance and praise from others if you don’t mend your self worth. A healthy relationship with yourself is essential for a healthy divorce.
Get clarity now
When we don’t respect or trust ourselves, we don’t invest in ourselves. One of the ways to turn that around is to take the leap, and invest! It’s a strong message to yourself that you are worth time, money and attention. And when you invest in a coach you’ll know that you’ll only get stronger, and clearer on the way forward as a result.
Do you have a thorny issue that you can’t get past in your divorce? Do you want help making a plan, or working through some psychological blocks? If so, my 1:1 coaching packages are just what you need.
To find out if they’re for you, just book in a call today.
Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is the 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. Emma is also the host of The Six Minute Divorce Podcast. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com