Be kind to yourself and engage in at least one small act of self-care every day. I find that many people sink into depression after a divorce. This is natural, as a great deal of painful grief can arise during and after a divorce. And, while it is important to acknowledge and process painful feelings such as hurt and anger, it is important to give yourself daily doses of self-care. This can come in the form of time that is set aside for a massage, a cup of tea, journaling, or a walk in the park.
As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce Or Breakup” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Carla Marie Manly, Clinical Psychologist and Relationship Expert. As a clinical psychologist, author, and advocate based in Sonoma County, California, Dr. Carla Marie Manly is passionate about helping others create the lives of their dreams. Dr. Manly believes there’s no topic too big or small to address head-on. From offering guidance for relationships, sexuality, communication issues, and work/life balance to providing tools for healing stress, anxiety, and depression, Dr. Manly offers insights on even the most challenging topics. Focusing on optimal wellness, she skillfully promotes mindfulness, stress reduction, fitness, and self-care. With a direct and honest approach — plus a dose of humor — Dr. Manly enjoys supporting others through the ever-evolving journey of life. In her new books, Joy from Fear and Aging Joyfully Dr. Manly takes the reader on a soulful adventure into self-awareness. Dr. Manly’s books provide gentle guidance for individuals and also for those who enjoy journeying into greater awareness and joy through women’s groups, men’s groups, and book clubs.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My career path has not been linear in any way. With vast experience in different fields — from being the lead in a real estate investment firm to working with families in need — I am now in the vocation that called me since childhood. As a clinical psychologist, author, and wellness advocate, I am deeply passionate about helping others find meaning and joy in their lives and relationships.
Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about “divorce”?
I do a great deal of work with individuals and couples who struggle with pre- and post-divorce issues. And, on a personal level, I had a difficult divorce over a decade ago; as a result, I wanted to help couples and individuals learn to approach — and heal from — divorce as positively as possible.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
One of the most interesting stories I have to share is my journey into being an author and speaker. I’ve found that my speaking engagements — especially the question and answer period at the end — have a flair of being group therapy sessions. By taking my knowledge into the world, it’s really lovely that I am now reaching more than one person (or one couple) at a time. What a story…and what a dream come true!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I often say that my greatest and funniest mistake was thinking that I had to be perfect and — as a psychologist — that I somehow had to be emotionless. Now I realize that this mistake was bigger than I knew at the time, because I was not being myself. No longer do I strive for perfection or an emotionless, clinical mask. I simply honor myself and my own inner, joyful poise.
If you had a close friend come to you for advice after a divorce, what are 5 things you would advise in order to survive and thrive after the divorce? Can you please give a story or example for each?
1. Be kind to yourself and engage in at least one small act of self-care every day. I find that many people sink into depression after a divorce. This is natural, as a great deal of painful grief can arise during and after a divorce. And, while it is important to acknowledge and process painful feelings such as hurt and anger, it is important to give yourself daily doses of self-care. This can come in the form of time that is set aside for a massage, a cup of tea, journaling, or a walk in the park.
2. Strive to be respectful and forgiving to yourself and your former partner. So many former partners get stuck in anger and resentment — whether at themselves or at their former mate. Although feelings of anger and resentment are natural, it’s important to process them and let go of the heavy energy. Otherwise, the anger and resentment become toxic to the self and, of course, the former partner. And, if old resentments and anger are not processed and released, they will be sure to affect any future romantic relationships.
3. Set clear boundaries with your former partner. Some former partners maintain contact and even a sense of friendship after the divorce. In cases such as this, it is important to have clear boundaries about what feels acceptable and healthy to both partners. Whereas one person may still want to have dinners together, send ongoing text messages, or engage in other such connective activity, the other person may feel that this is not healthy or appropriate. And, so, it is important for former partners to know, state, and respect boundaries that are healthy for both individuals.
4. If you feel stuck, depressed, or resentful, seek the support of a psychotherapist. Women are often more likely than men to seek psychotherapy during or after a divorce. Yet, I find that quality psychotherapy — even a few sessions — can work wonders in helping both men and women thrive during and after a divorce. Group therapy can also be extremely validating and supportive for those who are struggling with divorce issues. There is no shame in getting therapy and, in fact, I find it one of the most intelligent, courageous things a person can do.
5. Let yourself heal before rushing into dating. Many people want to rush into dating in order to dull the pain or loneliness that often arises post-divorce. This can create a great deal of harm given that the mind and body truly need a healing respite after a divorce. There is so much work to be done post-divorce such as processing all the occurred and creating healthy new ways of being. In addition, if a person doesn’t engage in self-work after a divorce, any negative traits that led to the divorce remain unresolved. As such, those same issues will be carried forward in any rebound dating. And, rebound dating can be quite unfair to any well-intentioned potential partner who is unlucky enough to be caught up in unfinished business.
What are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?
1. Getting stuck in guilt, anger, or regret. Many strong feelings arise during and after divorce. One of the most common is the sense of guilt that arises as a result of divorcing. This can be particularly true if both parties were not in accord on filing for divorce. If one person is ready for a divorce and the other is not, the person who moves forward often feels somewhat guilty or even ashamed. When this occurs, it can be especially easy to get stuck in feeling guilty for ending the marriage. As well, when one or both partners are not ready for the divorce, feelings of intense anger, resentment, or regret can take hold. If these feelings remain unprocessed, they can actually take control of the individual’s life. I’ve been consulted by women and men who found themselves still stuck in anger, resentment, and grief even 20 or 30 years after the marriage had ended. Time, in itself, does not heal wounds; conscious self-work does.
2. Rushing into new relationships or avoiding relationships altogether. I’ve seen many women and men rush into new relationships after a divorce. Others avoid relationships altogether as a way of self-protection. While I don’t judge either behavior, neither is truly healthy. And, as a clinical psychologist, I have seen many people harm themselves by rushing into self-soothing behaviors or completely walling off to love.
3. Forgetting the power of new beginnings. It’s natural to see a divorce as a tragic end to hopes and dreams, but there is also a powerful new beginning within every such ending. I work with clients to not only process the past, but to envision — and strive to embrace — the beautiful new beginnings that await.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?
My book, Joy from Fear: Create the Life of Your Dreams by Making Fear Your Friend, is one of my favorite self-work books. In fact, I created it to help those who are therapy avoidant or unable to access therapy. It’s such a rich book, and it helps the reader learn how to build self-awareness and self-appreciation. True healing and empower can come from diving into such books. Another favorite book is Susan Elliot’s Getting Back Out There; this book can be a terrific guide for those who are preparing to date again.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that helped you in this work? Can you share how that was relevant in your real life?
One of my favorite quotes is Audrey Hepburn’s, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself.” This quote reminds me daily that I always want to focus on being the very best “me” I can be. In the end, I believe that being one’s very best self — kind, compassionate, and filled with integrity — is what life is all about.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people? I
am thrilled to announce that I’ve just signed a contract for my third book with my amazing publisher. Serendipitously, this next book is focused on love and relationships. I’m so excited to help others learn to love themselves and others more fully. As well, I’m teaming up with my publisher (Familius) to begin a podcast series. We’ll be able to reach thousands of people with tremendously connective, uplifting information.
Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I could inspire one movement right now, it would be to work with our school system to help children understand mental health. Today’s children live in a highly chaotic world that is rife with anxiety and depression. From broken families to the negative effects of too much social media, our kids today are suffering. If every child from kindergarten through high school had a formal, ongoing course in mental health, our children and our world would eventually change for the better.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Oprah Winfrey — because she has the heart and power to manifest change. Ellen DeGeneres — because she is a caring soul who wants to help the world be a better place. Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education — because she is in a place of power that could create the programs that would rock our children’s world.