As a divorce coach, one of the most common refrain I hear from clients deals with the ex. The thoughts, the memories, her current actions—dwelling on these things makes it very difficult to move on. And all these thoughts can creep up on you when you least expect it, especially when the split wasn’t exactly amicable, and when you’re still feeling hurt.
Although healing and moving on from the end of your marriage will not happen overnight, there are some systems you can start using to help you let go of those negative feelings.
So, the next time you start thinking about your ex—wondering why they changed, why they are acting so differently, how they could have moved on so quickly with someone else, how they can be so happy in spite of all of the bad stuff they did to you and all the hurt they have caused—I want you to remember the following.
Your emotional energy is finite. Don’t waste it dwelling on your ex.
One of the most common goals that men share with me is that they want to move on, be a good dad to their kids, and maybe one day, find another partner.
If you’re going through a divorce or recovering from one, you may be in the same boat. And accomplishing those things is a tall order. Think about it—you have a lot of work ahead of you. You are learning how to let things go. You are embracing what it means to be independent and on your own. You are discovering what it means to make decisions that are best for you. You are finding out what living life on your own terms means and how to put yourself first for a change.
That’s a pretty awesome to-do list because it focuses on your recovery and you taking your life back. So, where do the following thought patterns fit in with your recovery? You may have had similar thoughts here.
I get so angry thinking about how my ex screwed me over with savings and retirement. Is she trying to bankrupt me? Oh, and when she tries to say I’m not there for the kids? What a pile of crap.
I’ll admit it…I’m envious that my ex has a new man in her life. Damn, she moved on quickly! It makes me feel like crap.
Hmmmmm. I’m having a hard time figuring out where those thought patterns fit.
And do you know why it’s hard figuring out where they fit into your recovery?
Trick question! NONE OF THOSE THOUGHT PATTERNS FIT INTO YOUR RECOVERY BECAUSE WORRYING ABOUT YOUR EX DOESN’T.
Investing your energy worrying about what your ex is doing or harboring resentment of the crap they pulled on you means that you’re only hurting yourself. You’re only slowing down your own recovery. And you’re taking away the gift that this divorce has given you—the gift of a second chance.
You deserve better than that.
And I’m going to help you get there with the following awesome as hell exercise.
Exercise: Ex out, your awesomeness in.
The next time you catch yourself thinking about your ex, do this simple exercise. Or, you can even be proactive about it. Even you’re not thinking about your ex, this is still an amazing shift in your thinking that will help with your divorce recovery. To get you started, take a look at my examples below!
Step 1: Ask Yourself: How does this thought pattern help in my recovery?
This step is the first in decreasing the emotional energy you spend thinking about your ex. And the more mindful you become of asking yourself this question whenever thoughts of the ex start to drag you down, the more in-tuned you can become to letting that negativity go. So let’s take a practice run.
My son mentioned my ex’s “new friend” who was over at the house, and it really made me angry. Did she move on that fast?
My lawyer said their lawyer is disagreeing to the terms of the agreement. We’ve been working on this for months and now she wants to change things at the last minute? Why is she being so selfish and difficult?
Wait—how does feeling angry help ME?
Hmmmm. Thinking about the ex doesn’t help me. I am going to acknowledge that I heard the information but then just stop there and not spend my energy thinking about it.
Step 2: Write Down: What can I try instead?
When you become aware of the negative emotions when thinking about your ex, direct that emotion elsewhere—specifically to something positive and healing for you.
I recognize this anger I feel when hearing about my ex. Instead of letting that anger get to me, I am going to flip the switch and channel those emotions into something that serves me.
The next time I realize I’m thinking about my ex, I instead will look forward to all the great stuff going on in my life. I am going to look forward to hitting the gym this evening instead of thinking about my ex. I am going to spend the 15 minutes I’d spend stewing about my ex and spend that time planning what I’ll do with the kids this weekend.
See what I mean? There are literally dozens of other awesome things you can spend your emotional energy on that will help your healing, so rock the heck out of those.
Granted, switching this frame of mind may not happen overnight, and it certainly comes with practice. But the more mindful you are and the kindness you show to yourself in the form of channeling those bad feelings into something that’s actually good for you, the less stressed you will be.