Frame of Reference, Part 3 How to Take Care of Yourself In Your New Reality

Frame of Reference, Part 3 How to Take Care of Yourself In Your New Reality

Your frame of reference is the attitudes, beliefs and assumptions define how you view specific situations and, more generally, the world around you. Whether your divorce was finalized two days ago or two decades ago, you may still be holding on to your old frame of reference.

As a married man you probably thought of yourself primarily as a husband and father. Your career decisions were shaped by family obligations, your weekends were filled with children’s activities and friends you’d made as a couple. There was hardly anything in your life that was yours exclusively. So what happens when the marriage ends?

Shift Your Frame of Reference and Face Reality

For a lot of people, each day becomes about pretending that nothing has changed. Even if you acknowledge that things are different, it’s hard to accept them or move on because you view everything through a family man’s frame.

If you’ve moved out of your home and are sharing custody of the kids, you probably feel pretty terrible sometimes. You may consider your new place to be a lot less comfortable than the house you spent years living in and might be spending much of your time resenting your situation. When that happens, you can’t enjoy the little time you do have with the kids.

But it wasn’t always like this? There was a time, maybe before you got married, when you were happy with yourself and your life. Back then, you knew who you were; you knew what you liked; you knew what your goals were.

So you have this amazing new way of looking at your situation and you are feeling great because you’ve picked up some new hobbies and finally let yourself off the hook. Everything is perfect right? Maybe not.

Guess what? You can still have that.

Divorced Male is not your only descriptor. You can still have the happiness and self-confidence you had in your pre-divorce world. All you need to do is change your frame of reference.
Lucky for you, it’s pretty simple to do.

Third Time’s the Charm!

This is the third installment of a three article series. If you haven’t read the first two, I urge you to do that first. If you have, let’s get to the good stuff!

As you saw in the first article of this series, your reality has changed. There’s no two ways about it, your world is totally different now. That’s okay. Embrace it!

Because guess what? You’re different too. As you saw in the second article, there are a lot of things about you that are different. Some of them you may be happy about and some maybe less so but, again, that’s okay.

With a clear view of your new reality (the good and the bad parts) and a much better understanding of who you are as an unmarried man, you have already changed your frame of reference. And you didn’t even know you were doing it!
But why does it matter?

Why Do You Need This New Frame of Reference?

Divorce is frustrating, infuriating and just downright messed up sometimes. If everything you’re seeing and experiencing is through the lens of anger, frustration and nostalgia for what you used to have, nothing will ever be good enough again.

In order to move on to all the amazing potential your post-divorce life holds, let go of what came before it. It’s easier said than done, I know.

And, of course, you’ll never forget the memories of your married life and you may never stop loving your ex, but a new frame will help you create a new life.

If nothing else, a new frame, a new lens through which to view your future, will make you just a little bit happier each day.

What If You’re Alone?

Sometimes we think that the person who instigated the divorce will automatically be the first one to get over it. Not true.

Divorce often requires a kind of grieving process and not everybody gets through that phase at the same speed. So what happens if you’ve moved into your new frame but your ex hasn’t?

It’s tough.

It’s tricky to be supportive while still being clear that the divorce is final and the relationship is over. It’s even harder if your ex begins to get aggressive or resents the fact that you’ve moved on.

Logic very rarely plays a role in these situations so although your ex may have left you, that doesn’t mean s/he won’t react to you moving on and finding some form of happiness within your new frame of reference.

The only solution here is patience and generosity. If your ex flies off the handle when you get to grips with your new reality and the brand new you, just be patient and try to be kind.

It’s not easy, not at all, but it pays off in the long run. When you’re ready to start screaming just focus on the end game and flip the script – answer anger and aggression with a smile every time.

Include the Kids!

So you have this amazing new way of looking at your situation and you are feeling great because you’ve picked up some new hobbies and finally let yourself off the hook. Everything is perfect right? Maybe not.

Your kids may not be such huge fans of your new situation, especially if your ex is struggling to move on. When the children see you adapting to your new reality and making the best of your post-divorce life they may get pretty angry. They’re probably wondering why you couldn’t be that happy with your ex.

Why did you have to leave them all to be this happy? Even if you’re not technically the one who left, they’ll probably choose to forget that detail.

The best thing you can do in this situation is explain to your minion army what you’ve been doing. You must be completely honest with your kids and explain that when you first split up everything was tainted by the sadness and anger around your marriage ending.

If your children are old enough, let them see your lists about what you lost and what you have now. They will probably appreciate these little insights into your life.

Most importantly, explain what you did to discover your new identity. Explain that you are always going to identify as their father but that now you’re taking on some new identities too. Let your children join you in discovering the new you and encourage them to try on a new post-divorce identity too. Hopefully not the surly teenager identity though!

Ditch Your Old Frame

Your frame of reference, your point of view, your outlook on life – whatever you call it – it’s critical to your mental and physical health.

As your doctor (and your mother) always tell you, you have to look after yourself. That’s true for anybody at any time but especially important for a man trying to navigate the murky waters of life after divorce.

Consider what Robert Anthony has to say on the subject: “Our consciousness, our ideas, our frame of reference and our belief system determine whether we go to the river of life with a teaspoon, a cup, a bucket or a barrel.”

The choice is yours: the teaspoon of frustration, resentment and anger, or the brand new barrel of positivity and experimentation?

What’s your current frame of reference? How did you begin to move forward after your divorce? Let us know if the comments!

Related Posts

  • 74
    A frame of reference includes the attitudes, beliefs and assumptions that define how we view a specific situation and/or the world around us. Has your world view been rocked by divorce? In this three-part series, we will look at how you can redefine your frame of reference and begin to…
  • 63
    In the first part of this series we looked at the beginning of Redefining Your Frame of Reference After Divorce: identify your new reality. Now that you’ve come terms with the situation, you’re ready to move on to the next step: getting to know your new identity. The Forgotten Man…
  • 40
    Thinking about starting over somewhere else? Take a look at eight good reasons you shouldn't move away from your kids. During a divorce, your kids are often the ones who are affected the most. You and your ex understand why your relationship had to come to an end, but your…
Why You Should Have a Take Your Kid to Work Day Even If You Hate Your Job!

Why You Should Have a Take Your Kid to Work Day Even If You Hate Your Job!

In most families, one or both parents work outside the home. The children have no clue how Mom or Dad spends the day, especially when it comes to Dad!  There are lots of reasons why bringing your son or daughter to work is a great idea. Instituting a take your kid to work day once in a while can be a fun, educational opportunity for your child that enhance your relationship.

It’s good for kids to see or know what their parents do in the time spent away from them, and it’s good for them to see us in different roles other than the “Mom” or “Dad” they’re used to seeing at home.

Time Away From Kids Adds Up

For any parent that works outside the home, a lot of time is spent away from the kids during the day. When I worked full-time, counting the commute and the nine hours on the job, I was away from my toddler for 10-11 hours each work day. That’s a lot of time. That’s a lot of guilt!

Statistically, more Dads than ever are interested in work-life balance according to Pew researchers. They want to spend more time with their children and find it difficult to take time away from work.

Taking Your Kid Is Worth The Effort

I recently saw something in my own life that really drove the point home on the importance of Dads spending time with their kids. In this instance, my husband invited our son to tag along with him on an informal project at work.

My husband runs a video production business on the side. He invited our eight-year-old son to accompany him on an informal video project for an outdoor shoot. It was a hot and muggy outdoor project. So not like our boys’ favorite air-conditioned spot on the couch playing video games!

Though he wasn’t sure if he wanted to go at first, it meant a lot for him to be asked to go along with his dad. He walked a little taller when they got back. He was Dad’s little “production assistant”, helping to carry light gear and seeing firsthand what his dad does for a living.

He did a good job, learned something new, and earned a small amount of money. Not to mention the bonus cheese snacks and sports drink! Most important was the difference in our son’s pride and behavior when he “went to work” with his dad, and got Dad’s approval for a job well done. Our son will always remember the night his father took the time to teach him how to do something in Dad’s world.

Have a Virtual Take Your Kid to Work Day

Realistically, most Dads can’t take off, and can’t take their kid to work without advanced planning. Some workplaces won’t allow your kids in at all, for safety or security reasons. Time for some creativity!

If your company doesn’t participate in a Take Your Kid to Work Day program, you can get inventive with ways to include them in what you do while you’re on the job.

  • Take pictures or short videos yourself and show them to your kids as you narrate what is shown (while of course keeping company policy and safety in mind).
  • Take your kid along your commute route in the car, talking along the way about how you prepare for work each day. If you take a commuter train, that’s extra fun!
  • Do you usually stop for coffee or a breakfast sandwich on the way in? Your kid will love it!
  • Look for YouTube videos that show topics related to your work.
  • Show them the end result of what your company does. For example, if you build cars for a living, drive up to a car lot and explain what your role is in the making of the car.
  • Help your child cut pictures out of magazines and paste them to poster board, while talking about your job.

When you invite your kids into your world, they’ll invite you into theirs, with positive effects for all around. Even if it’s something they don’t quite grasp or fully understand, they’ll always remember the day Dad took the time to do some real-life teaching and involve them in seeing what takes up a big part of his day.

When You Hate Your Job

Even if you are in a job that isn’t your ideal at the moment, it’s a good teaching point to say “This is what I’m doing right now, and I’m working towards getting to do xyz.” There’s no better example to a child than watching their parent work towards a dream or a goal, and the steps you’re taking to get there.

It can even get them to think of the things they like to do and what kind of job might interest them when they grow up. That’s a great dialogue to start with them, even if they are really young or their interests involve something outside of what you do.

Talk about how proud you are that your kid goes to school every day, just like you go to work every day, even on days it isn’t much fun. Have a good conversation with them on what it means to be responsible and why we do the work that we do.

Dad As Teacher

Hands-on teaching seems to be falling by the wayside in today’s modern world, and it’s easy to take for granted that our kids just know how everything works. That may not be the case. It’s our job to show them. Having a take your kid to work day is showing by doing.

Whether you are working your dream job, or strictly for a paycheck, your income matters. Taking your kid to work with you is a great way to introduce the ideas of money management and budgeting.

Teach your kid the relationship between work and money. Explain what weekly wages are. Using coins or play money, give your child a “paycheck” and let him or her create a household budget.  Teaching that your paycheck provides food, shelter and other things for your family will help your child understand why you have to say “No” to some purchases.

Children are eager to learn from their larger-than-life Dads. By teaching through strong, real-life examples of the “real world”, they will gain life skills, practical knowledge and feel closer to you. You may also find that they are more appreciative of your time, and respectful of your hard work. And it’s never too early to teach work ethic!

All Dads Are Important

I had the good fortune of reading Phenomenal Dad recently. It opened my eyes to the importance of a child’s relationship with his or her father. The book offers advice for single Dads on how to stay close with their children through a divorce, but the advice in this book can benefit any parent.

It means a lot for kids to be included in what Dad’s passions are.  Work is often closely tied with Dad’s identity. Inviting your children into that world goes a long way toward making them feel loved and important to you. So, why not come up with a plan for taking your kid to work?

Ready for more helpful parenting tips? See what Brian Weiss has to say about Healthy Parenting With Your Ex.  Divorced parents will want to know all about drawing that line, explained by Amber Kelsey in Kids and Boundaries.

Being a Dad ain’t easy!  Tell us what you think about it in the comments below!

Related Posts

  • 69
    As a mother of seven, I've developed my own unique way of raising kids. It didn't come to me overnight, and I certainly didn't learn it from a guru or pick it up from a book. Sixteen years of raising babies, kissing boo-boos, and wiping booties taught me how to…
  • 58
    If you’re newly divorced, you know better than anyone how much life changes once the papers are signed. And those changes are magnified when children are involved. When there are two parents helping out with daily responsibilities, chores can be divided and conquered as a team. Now as a divorced…
  • 56
      I’ve been a parent for over half my life. That includes a ten-year marriage. I wasn’t yet divorced when the diagnosis came down. At the time, I was a med student focused on building a career and living out my surgical dreams as a physician. Taking care of my…
Redefining Your Frame of Reference After Divorce, Part 2 Who Are You Now?

Redefining Your Frame of Reference After Divorce, Part 2 Who Are You Now?

In the first part of this series we looked at the beginning of Redefining Your Frame of Reference After Divorce: identify your new reality. Now that you’ve come terms with the situation, you’re ready to move on to the next step: getting to know your new identity.

The Forgotten Man

There is one player in divorce who is given tons of attention in popular culture: the divorced, middle-aged woman. You know the one, that woman in the movies who struggles to figure out who she is without her husband or without her kids. Inevitably, she “finds herself” and grows into the woman she always wanted to be. She is the heroine of standard chick-flick fare like Under the Tuscan Sun or Eat, Pray, Love.

But why do women get to have all the fun? Men don’t struggle any less with this issue.

Just because you haven’t changed your last name doesn’t mean that you aren’t trying to figure out who this new, divorced man is. You’ve spent years, maybe even decades, identifying as a husband and now you’re just supposed to drop that title? Who are you without it? Of course, you can still be a father, but will it be the same?

So how exactly do you do that?

Guess What? Your Old Identity Hasn’t Disappeared!

This probably seems ridiculous, since step one of redefining your frame of reference was to acknowledge that your old reality had changed and to embrace your new reality, but just stick with me!

Once Dad, Always Dad

If you have spent your married life as a husband and father you may be wondering what you’re supposed to be now. You may not be a husband anymore, but you are definitely still a father.

As you’ve figured out from identifying your new reality, the father role has changed pretty drastically, but it doesn’t mean you aren’t a dad anymore. Whether you see your kids every day, or you only see them a few weeks a year, fatherhood is still a huge part of who you are – it just looks different now.

When You’re Not a Dad

Okay, so it’s fine for the dads, because despite divorce, they still get to be themselves. What about the guys who were husbands, but not dads? Fear not my friends, you still get to hold on to that identity.

Your situation may not be as clear-cut as the dads out there, but there is no doubt that what made you a husband is still a huge part of who you are. The traits that made you a good husband haven’t just disappeared. You are still the same strong, funny, loving man you were the day you got married. Don’t let the bitterness and stress of divorce take that from you.

Redefining Yourself Without Traveling The World

Although traveling can be a blast, you don’t have to buy a house in Tuscany or check into an ashram in India to rediscover who you are.

At your core, you are still the same man you were when you got married. What changed? Maybe your marriage wasn’t the best relationship for you. Did you make sacrifices you regret? Did you adopt traits you wish you hadn’t?

The possibilities here are endless, but only you know what you wish you hadn’t given up, or what you wish you’d tried. Did you play a lot of golf when you were single, but had to give it up when you got married? Maybe you’ve always been interested in art, but never had the time to take it up? Or what about that guitar that’s been gathering dust in the back room for years?

Walk the Talk

Adults always tell teenagers to be adventurous and embrace new experiences. They always say, “This is the only time you’ll ever be able to do this. Take advantage now before you have commitments like family and work.”

The same is true for you right now. Yes, you still have a family and work, but you also have a lot of free time. You know those evenings when you sit on the couch wondering what your ex and the kids are doing? That’s free time.

Clarify Your Frame Of Reference

Before you jump into your next relationship, take some time to get to know yourself. Ask yourself about your hopes and dreams, your interests, your passions, your future. Trust me, you won’t regret it. In fact, I can almost guarantee you’ll find new friends with some of the same interests!

Don’t know where to start? There are countless websites where you can find folks who share your interests. Just to clarify, these aren’t dating websites! Gaming? Writing? Golfing? Cooking? Whatever your interests, these sites are designed to help you find some new friends and new hobbies.

So get off the couch already!

Stop Beating Yourself Up

Getting to know the new, post-divorce you is great, but you gotta believe in that man! There’s a good chance that whatever the cause of your divorce, you are carrying around some crappy feelings about it.

Do you feel like a failure because you couldn’t save your marriage? Are you angry at yourself for being unhappy or unfaithful? Are you angry that you didn’t see the signs your ex was unhappy or unfaithful? Do you keep telling yourself you’re failing as a father because you don’t see your kids every day? Do you feel like you’ve let every part of your life fall apart?

Stop! You haven’t. You are not responsible for every single thing that’s happening to you. Both you and your ex have to take some responsibility for the divorce, but that doesn’t mean you continue to beat yourself up about it.

Do Your Own Work

When we don’t like who we’ve become, it’s common to look to others for validation. We feel better in a relationship because someone else likes us, even if we don’t like ourselves.

There is nothing wrong with a rebound relationship, as long as you don’t fall into the trap of relying on others for your self-esteem. If you don’t believe in this new, interesting man then why would anybody else be interested in hanging out with him?

Figuring out your skills, goals, likes and dislikes is the best way to get to know yourself. If you like that person, perfect! If you don’t like that person, find out why and fix it.

A new world will open up to you when you begin to have a little faith in yourself. Above all, you must forgive yourself. Without forgiveness, you won’t get far in redefining your frame of reference.

Ready to Rumble?

So far you have identified your new reality and worked hard to discover your new, post-divorce identity.

Now, I want to set you a little challenge!

Since you have a better understanding of your new situation and your new identity, ask yourself, “What do I want most right now?”

I urge you to focus on something for yourself and not on a new partner. Not yet, at any rate. Focus on hobbies, dreams, new goals, etc.

Now the challenge – this week take at least one action to move you closer to your goal.

Next Time

In Part 3, you will get tips for the final stage of Redefining Your Frame of Reference After Divorce as we explore letting go of your old frame and building your new one!

Where are you in the process of  redefining yourself? Tell us what works for you in the comments below!

What? You missed Part 1 of this series? Head right over to Aileen O’Leary’s intro to Redefining Your Frame of Reference After Divorce. If you are a newly divorced dad, you won’t want to miss the Ultimate Guyvorce Guide to Understanding Visitation Rights for Fathers.

Related Posts

  • 66
    You are about to enter into an odd contract. Congratulations! Whether it'll be big or small, packed with guests or at City Hall, putting it all together took strategy, planning, and compromise. Despite all of the time and energy you spent getting down the aisle, the overall odds your first…
  • 65
    What to Know Before Your Second Marriage 3 Important Factors to Consider Ahead of the Big Day I'd wager every one of us walked out of our final divorce swearing off marriage. If the problems in the marriage weren't enough, the roller-coaster of divorce certainly kicked you in the butt.…
  • 63
    Your frame of reference is the attitudes, beliefs and assumptions define how you view specific situations and, more generally, the world around you. Whether your divorce was finalized two days ago or two decades ago, you may still be holding on to your old frame of reference. As a married…
Navigating Fatherhood in a Blended Family Her Kids, My Kids, & The Exes

Navigating Fatherhood in a Blended Family Her Kids, My Kids, & The Exes

My fiancé and I have four young children. She has a daughter and a son, and I have two sons. With our wedding date quickly approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to have a successful blended family.

Out of the Mouths of Babes

It’s 3:00 AM and I can’t sleep. I keep hearing the voices of our kids, over and over in my head.

“Mommy is going to be mad if we stay up late.”

“My dad lets me watch that show.”

“She’s not our sister!”

“I don’t want to come to the wedding.”

That last one stings.

We have four parents in this equation. All with different views on what’s best for our children. It can be stressful. It can be annoying. Ultimately our success is not judged by our personal comfort, but by the experience of our children. Here are some insights I have gained over the past few years:

  • Like it or not, your ex is still a part of your family.
  • Your kids will get jealous of her kids.
  • Your kids may have trouble warming up to your new partner.
  • Expect difficult conversations.


Like It Or Not, Your Ex Is Still Part of Your Blended Family

 When I first got divorced I had this idea that it was going to be just me and my boys. When they were with me, we would do things our own way. No mom to interfere. Man, was I wrong! Though she is not physically present in my home, her influence is always there.

This fact used to annoy me. It still does sometimes. Like when my oldest son expresses an opinion on politics which clearly came straight from his mother’s mouth. It would be easy for me to snap, or fire off a sarcastic remark. But, looking at the bigger picture I have to choose my words carefully. I ask questions instead of focusing on how I may disagree.

The reality is, the boys still love their mom. They value her opinion. I divorced her, but they didn’t. Virginia Gilbert clearly articulates this point in this Huffington Post article You May Be Divorced, But You’re Still a Family.

My boys have started asking me questions about how their mom and I met. Initially, this made me uncomfortable. I don’t really want to talk about the good old times anymore. It feels like another lifetime. Here’s the thing though – my history with their mother is a part of their history. They deserve to hear the stories.

The bottom line is, when it comes to the mother of your children, don’t be a jerk. Kids are smart. They pick up on those subtle verbal jabs. Put yourself in their position, and accept the fact that she is still a part of your new, blended family. The roles have changed, but the fact remains.

Your Kids Will Be Jealous of Her Kids

I found this out the hard way. Our kids have always gotten along pretty well. Of course there have been little spats here and there, but that’s just normal kid stuff.

One day I had the three oldest kids (my boys and her daughter) at the park. They all had their bikes, and my fiancé’s daughter wanted to learn to ride without training wheels. We had attempted it before, when the boys weren’t around, and it was disastrous. She was too scared.

Seeing my oldest son zipping around the park gave her the determination she needed. After about 30 minutes of me pushing her and encouraging her, she finally got it! I called to the boys to come check her out. I expected them to cheer her on and be excited. What I got was half-hearted applause and reluctant praise.

Later, when we all went home, I took my nine-year-old aside and asked him why he wasn’t happy for her. His face twisted and he wouldn’t talk. I kept pleading with him to talk to me. He kept refusing. Finally, he caved. With tears welling up in his eyes, he told me that he was upset because I was happier about her learning to ride her bike than I was when he did.

Now, with tears welling up in my eyes, I reminded him that I wasn’t there when he learned how to ride. He had learned while out of state visiting his grandparents. I reassured him that I was so proud of him that day. I told him how sad I was that I couldn’t be there. I told him I was sorry that I made him feel that way.

If you’re in a blended family, you have probably run into this. Remember to validate your kid’s feelings. Sometimes, being heard is enough to break through their emotional wall. Let them express their anger (respectfully, of course).

Don’t be defensive. If your goal is to protect them and guide them through the adjustments of your new blended family, you have to let go of your right to justify your actions. Listen to them and hear the real issues behind what they say. Set aside one-on-one time with your kids. Also, when appropriate, an apology goes a long way.

Your Kids May Not Accept Your New Partner

My ex does not like my fiancé. She doesn’t know her, but she doesn’t like her, or the idea of me getting remarried. She has not hidden this fact from my boys. So, it is no surprise that they have been distant towards my wife-to-be. They like her. She’s very good to them. But, in the four years we’ve been together, the relationship between her and the boys has barely progressed.

I believe they are afraid of liking her too much. As if, somehow, liking her would betray their mother.

I believe they are afraid of liking her too much. As if somehow liking her would betray their mother. It creates a tone of awkwardness in our house at times. To her credit, my fiancé has never pushed herself on them. I have told them they will never have to call her mom or anything like that. I have explained that she makes daddy happy, but still they have a wall up.

If you’re dealing with a similar challenge, I suggest you talk to your ex about it, if you can. Try to keep the conversation about what’s best for the kids and away from the two of you. You both want what is best for your kids. Understanding that common ground is key to creating peace and reducing inner conflict for your kids.

Expect Difficult Conversations

I have had many difficult conversations with all four kids over the years. The most difficult of these surrounds the subject of my upcoming wedding. My fiancé’s daughter is thrilled. My sons are not. They bristle when their soon to be stepsister calls them her brothers. The have both told me they don’t want to be in the wedding. I understand where they are coming from, but it still hurts.

How do I balance my desire to share this moment with them and their rejection and discomfort with the idea? I have tried to discuss it with them. I’ve tried talking to their mom about it. They just don’t want to come. So, I will not force it on them.

It’s uncomfortable to see my step daughter’s excitement contrasted with their avoidance. We are a family, so we take it head on. I don’t hide my excitement. I will respect their emotions, but I will not hide my happiness. In time they will see that it’s ok.

Difficult conversations will be a part of your blended family. Don’t delay having those talks. Prepare yourself by reading something like this: How to Have Difficult Conversations with Family. Embrace the opportunities as a chance to teach your kids how to resolve conflict, and show love, even when you disagree.

Blended families can be messy. Real life is almost nothing like The Brady Bunch. But, if you practice open communication, you may find that you’ve created children who are better prepared for the real world.

Want more tips on managing a blended family? Read Peter Bowd’s frustrating experience with Being A Stepdad Post-Divorce. And don’t miss Seven Tips for Consistent Co-Parenting after Divorce by the intrepid Aileen O’Leary.

Tell us your step-family challenges in the comments below!


Related Posts

  • 64
    This year, instead of buying tons of presents, give your kids experiences this Christmas. The kids will have a blast, and you’ll be able to maximize your visitation time. It’s so tempting to go for the big, expensive gifts. You don’t see your kids often, so you want to spoil…
  • 63
    During a divorce, everybody thinks they can tell you what you should do. Your friends and family will all have contradictory opinions and won’t hold back. So who do you listen to? How do you navigate the mess of parenting during divorce? Every family is different and, to some degree,…
  • 62
    Most guys aren’t thinking about co-parenting success in the heat of divorce. Anger, resentment, guilt, self-righteousness, and self-pity tend to take over, whether you want them to or not. You’ve been screwed over mentally and financially, and your anger is justified. As a dad, you have more tough choices to…
Redefining Your Frame of Reference After Divorce, Part 1 Figuring Out Your New Reality

Redefining Your Frame of Reference After Divorce, Part 1 Figuring Out Your New Reality

A frame of reference includes the attitudes, beliefs and assumptions that define how we view a specific situation and/or the world around us. Has your world view been rocked by divorce?

In this three-part series, we will look at how you can redefine your frame of reference and begin to establish yourself in a new, post-divorce world.

There is no doubt that divorce is a hugely disruptive, life-changing event. Even the most amicable divorce leads to serious upheaval.

So if we know all this, why do we continue to pretend that everything is okay, that nothing has really changed?

Often when we experience big life changes we struggle to adapt because we’re holding on to our old way of looking at things, a perspective that no longer fits. Divorce is no exception.

Ready to get started?

The first step to redefining your frame of reference after divorce is to identify your new reality. And the first step to identifying your new reality? Acknowledge that your former life has been irrevocably changed.

This may be harder for some people than for others. If you were happily married until suddenly, one day you weren’t, coming to terms with the changes in your life can be very difficult. If, on the other hand, you were fantasizing about breaking free and living alone, your new reality might be easier to understand. Regardless of which camp you’re in, it’s worth taking some time to get to grips with your new reality.

There are many ways in which your life will change following divorce. Let’s look at just a few, to give you an idea of what it means to identify your new reality.

Where You Hang Your Hat

This is probably the most obvious way in which your new reality differs from your old one. Have you moved out of your family home? Have you had to downsize from a house to an apartment? Do you miss the creature comforts from home; that couch that you spent years breaking in, or your huge, comfy bed?

Moving house can be disruptive enough on a good day, never mind everything else you’ve got going on with your divorce.

Fitting Kids Into The Picture

Common wisdom is that divorce is hardest on the kids. I’m not so sure. Kids will absolutely struggle with their new transition but they are resilient and highly skilled at adapting to new situations. The person who is really going to struggle with this new reality is you. If your primary identity is Dad, who are you when the kids aren’t there? Do you only get to be yourself three days a week or on alternate weekends?

It’s bad enough being without your children but how do they treat you when you see them? Are the kids blaming you for the divorce? Are you less patient with them because of the anger and frustration in other areas of your life?

There is no quick fix for any aspect of divorce, especially not for adapting to your new reality with your kids.

And Then There’s The Family – Both Sides

Although we often think of divorce as being between a couple and their children, it’s actually anything but that. Maybe your parents are devastated about the divorce or thrilled because they can finally admit they never liked your ex? Or your ex’s siblings have it in for you because they think it’s all your fault? Maybe you loved your ex’s family and now you miss them?

Regardless of the specifics of your situation, it’s important to acknowledge that family has a huge impact on your divorce. Whether they are being supportive or driving you crazy with their negativity, your families are having a huge effect on you and your ex.

Redefining Your Social Frame of Reference

As a couple you probably spent a lot of time socializing with other couples. Sure, you might have had the occasional boys outing or weekly poker night but weekends were most likely spent with other couples or other families. Maybe a large chunk of your social life revolved around the kids? The school fair, the birthday parties, the ballet recitals, what are you supposed to do without them?

Your new social life will probably be a huge challenge. You might still have those poker nights but will you be invited to the annual 4th of July BBQ or will your ex go with the kids? There is no question that your new social life is going to be very different and will likely include some new people.

Figuring Out Who Your Friends Are

Has your group of friends changed? Of course, you’ll always have the guys you knew before you got married but what about all those friends you made as a couple? Have they “taken sides” and left you feeling abandoned? This article in Psychology Today sums makes the observation “there is no joint custody of friends after divorce”.

Are your old friends too busy with their own families to support you? Maybe your ex was your best friend? In times of crisis we often turn to our friends for some consolation and advice. But what happens if you turn around and they’re gone?

Living To Work or Working To Live?

When you had a family to go home to, you probably used to leave work on time and spend weekends relaxing at home. During a divorce, a lot of people begin to hide behind their work. Are you one of them? Are you working longer hours since the split to avoid going home? Are you using work to hide from the loneliness that has crept into your life?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with working hard and committing to your goals but just be careful. Throwing yourself into work and avoiding everything else that’s going on in your life will make it worse for you when you finally resurface.

The Financial Impact  

Money is another draining aspect of divorce. Whether you are paying alimony and child support or not, there are always so many legal bills, right? You may also be buying two of everything for the kids, and of course, there’s your housing to consider. Maybe you used to be able to take two vacations every year and now you can’t even afford one?

Money can be the source of incredible stress, anxiety and frustration for anybody but if you’re experiencing upheaval in all other areas of your life as well, financial worries can become overwhelming.

How Has Your Reality Changed?

In order to identify your new reality you need to do some work, it won’t just happen!

Take out a piece of paper and write down all of the things you used to have, but lost during the divorce. Use the categories above as a guide, but don’t stop there. If you really loved your TV or your old couch, and lost them in the split, go ahead and include those on the list!

Now that you know what you’ve lost, write down all the new things that you have. Even if you hate your new apartment with the lumpy mattress, add those to the list. In order to identify and accept your new reality, you need to see it clearly – warts and all.

Are you struggling at all? Invisibilia has some great examples of people who have examined their frames of reference and should give you a little inspiration to get you started.

It may be painful and seem pointless to go through this whole process, but it will help. In the next chapter of Redefining Your Frame of Reference we will look at your new, post-divorce identity as an unmarried man.

Want more ideas on building your new life? Dwight Spencer tells 3 Ways to Conquer Single Dad Chaos.  Get pro tips from CPA Janet Berry-Johnson with How to Begin Recovering Financially After a Divorce.  Have ideas to share? Let us know in the comment section below!

Related Posts

  • 78
    There’s no shortage of advice on how to recover from life after divorce. Even with all the information available, the experts often overlook one crucial thing—divorce offers positive opportunities and aspects. As with anything, you have to take the bad with the good, but make no mistake, there is plenty…
  • 74
    Your frame of reference is the attitudes, beliefs and assumptions define how you view specific situations and, more generally, the world around you. Whether your divorce was finalized two days ago or two decades ago, you may still be holding on to your old frame of reference. As a married…
  • 60
    In the first part of this series we looked at the beginning of Redefining Your Frame of Reference After Divorce: identify your new reality. Now that you’ve come terms with the situation, you’re ready to move on to the next step: getting to know your new identity. The Forgotten Man…

Pin It on Pinterest