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.
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.