Recovery from divorce requires us to make changes in our lives. Lots of changes. No big surprise here. For example, divorce almost always forces us to make changes in our relationships, our finances, our living arrangements, our health-related activities, our self-development, and our recreational and social activities.
The logical prescription to speed our transition from being unhappily married to happily unmarried is straightforward: make the necessary changes ASAP! No problem. Why, then, don’t we do it? Why are we universally reluctant to do the obvious and make the changes that would improve our life after divorce?
The answer? RESISTANCE TO CHANGE! Resistance to change is our reluctance to make a positive change because of personal reasons.
1. A Personal Example
What I did when my first marriage ended is an example of how resistance to change prevents us from making a swift and smooth recovery from divorce. After eight years of marriage, my wife and I agreed it was over. We had tried several things to save it – couples counseling, communication training weekends, couples retreats, individual therapy. These efforts only served to reinforce our belief that a divorce was the right thing to do. Even though a judge had not signed any paper yet, the harsh reality was the marriage was over.
2. Three Ways Resistance to Change Can Ruin Your Divorce Recovery
Three things prevented me from moving on and making my recovery from divorce.
(1) FEAR – I was afraid of an unknown future.
(2) LOSS – I did not want to lose my “perfect life fantasy” of being married “til death do us part” with a loving wife and living with two wonderful daughters.
(3) SKILLS – I did not believe I had the ability to live successfully as a single man. These three things illustrate the three causes of resistance to change, which had me firmly in its grasp.
3. Cause #1 of Resistance to Change – Fear of an Unknown Future
I could not guarantee my future would be happy. I could not guarantee that I would meet someone new. My disaster fantasy was that I would never find true love again and would live alone and lonely the rest of my life. This fear paralyzed me and prevented me from moving into the next chapter of my life.
4. Cause #2 of Resistance to Change – Distress Over Loss
Moving on meant I would lose daily access to my two daughters. It also meant I would lose the stability of a daily living routine. But most importantly, it meant I would lose the hopes, dreams, and assumptions about our family I had been collecting ever since my wife and I met.
For example, I had hoped my family would last forever. I had assumed I would be involved daily in my daughters’ lives. I had dreamed of growing old with my wife. My parents were married 67 years, so why not me too? Taking the active steps to recover would force me to admit that these hopes, dreams, and assumptions were shattered. The loss seemed more than I could handle. Hence, I put off moving on and thereby delayed my recovery from divorce.
5. Cause #3 of Resistance to Change – Uncertainty over the Operational Aspects
Logic-based resistance to change reflects our reluctance to make a change because we do not understand or agree with the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and/or How of the change. My logic-based resistance was based partly in my uncertainty about some How’s and Who’s of dating.
I had not dated for over nine years. I was convinced I would not be able to date without thoroughly embarrassing myself. I was stuck on such issues as ‘ “How do you date?” “Who will I date?’ “Where will I find people to date?” As long as I pretended I did not have to take control of my divorce recovery, I did not have to confront my ineptitude with dating.
6. So How Can You Use This?
One fact exists, resistance to change happens to EVERYONE. It will happen to you. Be aware of its causes and be alert to your fears, your reactions to loss, and your confusion over the operational nuts and bolts of making a recovery. It’s all about taking the next step. Making the next change. You can be paralyzed by resistance to change as I was, or you can confront the resistance and dissolve it, thus enabling you to get on with the next chapter in your life.
Some questions to ask yourself that will help guide you on your recovery might include – What about the future do you fear today? What about “how things used to be” are hard for you to give up? Are you confident that you have the skills and knowledge to make your recovery?