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10 Things to Know Before You Decide to Divorce

10 Things to Know Before You Decide to Divorce

The decision to separate and divorce from your spouse can be one of the most stressful and pain-staking decisions you will ever make. Feelings of uncertainty, sorrow, grieving, denial, and guilt can paralyze you, and make you feel stuck. While there is no easy way to make this very difficult decision, preparing yourself for the emotions that lie ahead of you may help ease the burden when the time comes to have The Talk with your partner. Knowing what to expect when you and your spouse decide to end the marriage can also make this time a little less difficult.

1. Fear

You will be afraid to call it quits because you don’t know what lies ahead of you. You may be scared of the Unknown and because of this, you may tell yourself that you are comfortable even if you are miserable. You will will try to weigh the pros and cons of staying married, and tell yourself you can continue to endure your unhappy marriage. You will tell yourself lies and reason that you should stay together for the kids, for the finances, etc. But fact that you’re trying to bargain against your happiness indicates that something is wrong. You are bargaining because you are scared, but know that this is normal.

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2. Insanity

Know that when the decision is make to split, the roller coaster of emotions you will feel is unlike anything you have ever experienced. Grief, pain, relief, heartbreak, confusion, and the desperation of wanting to be loved can feel like waking up every morning and learning that you are the only survivor to a nuclear war. Do not hide these emotions, but accept them and deal with them in a healthy manner. And once you do, know that there is a weight that will slowly start to ease from your shoulders—the same weight that you denied all this time when you told yourself nothing was wrong.

3. Desperation

Even if your self-esteem was in the dumps from your martial troubles prior to the split, know that it will shatter once the separation occurs. You may find yourself wanting to be loved and validated, desperate for attention that your spouse no longer provided. You will think that nobody will ever love you or want you again, and you may be tempted to to date immediately and latch on to the first person who catches your eye. Resist this urge to attach yourself, even if you have not had that romantic touch or intimacy for a long time. Trying to fill that void with another relationship robs you of the chance to heal, and may set into motion a cycle of dependency for you, when what you need is to be strong and focus on loving yourself.

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4. Denial

You may tell yourself that you are find and holding up well, but do not mistake that complacency with merely bootleg up your emotions. You will need a support system: a therapist, a support group, good friends, the non-judgmental anonymity of online forums. Whatever combination of systems you choose should help you attain two objectives–creating a safe place for venting, while also helping you find constructive ways to cope with the divorce in a healthy manner. Do not convince yourself that you are better than that, stronger than that. You are human. Go talk to someone.

5. Overwhelm

You will feel like you are getting sprayed with an industrial fire-hose, especially at the beginning when you aren’t sure what you should be doing. The number of  “to-do’s” and “should-do’s” regarding emotions, finances, legal issues, custody, and other logistics will arrive with incredible urgency. Shifting prorates and conflicting advise may make you will feel paralyzed and overwhelmed.  Understand that splitting is a process and you don’t have to do everything at once. There will be things to take care of immediately (safety, shelter, income), things to address a little bit later (finding a good lawyer, mediator, and therapist) and there are things to address later on down the road (agreeing on a second separation plan, assuring you and your children are adjusting). You will need to remind yourself that divorce is like a marathon and it requires patience and persistence. Show compassion for yourself, even if things seem to take forever.

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6. Anger

Understand that you can only control your behavior, and not your spouse’s.  For serious offenses (threatening harm, screwing with your finance), you should absolutely take action. But there will also be annoyances that may not endanger you, but still make you mad. It may seem like your spouse is gong out of their way to make your life as miserable as they can, which could result in a long, drawn-out, expensive, soul-sucking divorce for you, if you let it.  And although you can’t control their behavior, you can control how you react to it. Taking the high road, although not instantly gratifying, may save you future stress and drama. This will be easier said than done.

7. Being Reactive

You will be tempted to make decisions driven by emotion, rather than logic. You will constantly forget that divorce, boiled down, is a business transaction–a splitting of assets and incomes. The logical part of you will understand this, but the part of you that is hurt may spend months fighting over things that have nothing to do with money at all.  During the legal process, you will be forced to choose your battles. Choose wisely. You will need to learn that nobody wins in divorce. Otherwise, you will find yourself robbed of years of your life fighting in court, having spent tens of thousands of dollars on legal fees that could have been put to better use in your post-divorce life, and so emotionally distraught that moving on will be extremely difficult.

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8. Discomfort

You will find yourself in new uncomfortable situations. There are too many to mention here. You may be re-entering the workforce. Your budget may be tight. Your children may have trouble adjusting and exhibit behavioral problems. You may find friends treating you differently, thinking for some reason your split means that their relationship is in jeopardy. Social situations where there are couples may make you feel lonely and miserable. Understand that you are not alone in all of these struggles and that there are infinite resources are out there to help you. Do not allow any of this discomfort to make you bitter.

9. Self-Pity

There will be dark times where you wallow in self-pity. You may cry and say to yourself, “my life was not supposed to be like this. I thought my marriage was perfect and we’d be together forever.” You maybe be ashamed and feel like a failure. Know that this is part of the grieving process, and understand that you must accept your circumstances have changed and adapt to them before you can learn how to heal and move on. You will learn that are not a prisoner to those circumstances, and you have the power to emerge a stronger person.

10. Empowerment, if you let it

You will learn that divorce gives you a choice.  You can choose to look at this split as a trauma from which you will never recover, and to be guided by anger and fear and and panic, or you can choose the path that takes more work–the path where you ask for assistance, get the support you need, educate yourself about every aspect of the divorce (and there are many), and understand that you will have the power to get through it all. No one can make that choice but you.

Featured photo credit: Riding the Train by Colin Logan via imcreator.com

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Martha Bodyfelt

Certified Divorce and Recovery Coach

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Step right up, don’t be shy!

Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

Culturally Conditioned

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

1. Broadens Your Network

After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

2. Improves Your Communication Skills

I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

3. Continually Learning

So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

4. Increases Self Confidence

Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

How to Talk to Strangers

Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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