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!
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