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7 Lessons I Have Learned from Divorced People

7 Lessons I Have Learned from Divorced People

Let me begin by stating that divorce is not a good thing! It is a traumatic experience for everyone involved; it tears families apart, adversely impacts the lives of children, harms people’s self-esteem, confidence and finances and satisfies no one but the divorce lawyers.

Every effort should always be made to try and save a marriage, and I also truly believe that all marriages – except those involving abuse and repeated infidelity – can be saved, should be saved and are capable of becoming marriages that fulfill each partners’ dreams and wishes. However, this requires the will of both parties and sometimes that will is missing. Which brings me to the 7 lessons I have learned through working with people to help them overcome the pain of their marriages ending. These are especially important lessons over the Holidays when many people often feel the impact of divorce the most.

1. No good marriage ends in divorce

The fact is that despite how much you may have wanted a perfect relationship and fairy tale marriage, it didn’t happen. There may be numerous unforeseen situations that caused the demise of your marriage: job loss, family illnesses or death, personal health issues or whatever, but the sad truth is the marriage just didn’t survive. That means that one, or both of you, were not sufficiently committed to making it work. If it was your ex-spouse who ended the marriage, then this means he or she was not right for you. As upsetting as it is, if you would have done more to make your marriage work but your ex-spouse did not, this means they weren’t right for you because their values did not match yours. One day you will meet someone whose values do

2. You lose yourself to find yourself

Divorce hurts. It hurts like a death. The mourning process can be long and no one should tell you how long you should mourn for. You completely lose yourself after your divorce. You lose your sense of knowing, your self-esteem, your sense of safety, you lose your confidence, maybe even your friends or your home. You totally lose yourself, but eventually you find yourself.

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Eventually, you realize you actually lost yourself in your marriage, not your divorce. You realize that in your marriage you lost who YOU were. You realize you lost your own identity. Divorce allows you to find You again, the individual you were before, and it is a wonderful feeling to be “you” again.

3. You have control over your time

Although initially the loneliness is isolating, eventually it becomes exhilarating. If you have children, maybe you now have every other week to yourself. Even if you have primary custody, you may still find you have the occasional weekend or Holiday to yourself that you have not had in years. You may rediscover the joy of sleeping until noon, or hobbies and pastimes you’d not been able to experience in awhile. You may even find new hobbies you never knew you would enjoy!

The world really now is your oyster, so why not take that salsa class you’d always wanted to, or the painting workshop, or take up rock climbing, or zip lining, or go on that vacation you always dreamed about, or jump out of a plane!  Whatever you want to do, you now have time to do it, so take advantage of this new found free time and enjoy yourself in a way you haven’t been able to in years!

4. Your appearance improves

Admit it, we all kind of fall asleep in marriage when it comes to our appearance.  We all get a little lazy, a little out of shape. Maybe we don’t look after ourselves quite like we did before we were married. During the marriage that felt like one of the plus points, but now that you are divorced there is every need to.

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How many people have you seen who within a year or so after their divorce looked better than they had in years! Now, I don’t say these things for superficial reasons. I am not saying that physical appearance and looking good are the most important things in the world, but what I am saying is that looking good makes you feel good. After divorce your appearance will improve, and you will feel better and more confident for it. People will begin noticing you again, you will begin noticing yourself again, and if you also begin eating better and exercising more, your health will improve also – which is a priceless gift!

5. Everything can be a lesson, even when pain is the teacher

As I wrote above, divorce hurts, but everything that happens to us in Life is a lesson, even when pain is the teacher. Maybe you were too trusting or too focused on your career. Maybe you neglected your own happiness for his or your children’s. Maybe you did nothing wrong at all and this unfortunately just happened.

Whatever the reasons for the divorce, there are still valuable life lessons to be learned. Yes, those lessons can be very painful, but it may just be the very lesson your soul needs. You also learn that just because it’s not the Life you planned, it doesn’t mean it is the wrong Life for you. It may not be what you wanted, but it’s what you have and that can be very liberating because you realize that life doesn’t always go the way you want it to and that’s OK. It’s OK if you don’t get the job you really wanted. Its OK if you don’t get the promotion you expected.That is just part of Life. You don’t always get what you want, but you still – always – have to try and make the most of it, and that can be very freeing and empowering to learn.

6. You value the Present

Divorce rips your world apart. It undermines your very being and robs you of a security that you hoped you would always have. But, of course, that security was an illusion. It never existed. You simply thought it did. Divorce teaches you to enjoy and value the present. When you are with your children, value that time. When you are not with your children, value that time too. When you are out with friends, value that time. When you are sat alone at home watching a TV show alone, value that time.

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Divorce teaches you that you can spend your entire time thinking about the past, and what could have been, or what you or he/she could have or should have done differently, but ultimately you realize that those thoughts are worthless.You realize that as much as you may wish to change the past, you can’t, and that all you have is the present. So begin to try and enjoy that present.

You also learn that anger towards your ex, doesn’t harm your ex, it only harms you. Like Ghandi said, ‘anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to become ill.” Anger only harms you, so eventually you must and will learn to manage your thoughts and live in the present in a way that you never did before the divorce.

7. You become stronger and it makes you who you are

I do not know where you are on your divorce journey. Maybe you are recently divorced; maybe you’re going through the process right now, maybe it was a year ago, or maybe ten years ago. But I do now that eventually you will get through it. Eventually the feeling of betrayal and disappointment will subside. One day you will no longer feel the anger or loss you felt. You may always question why and you may never truly forgive, but one day you will get through it and find Happiness again. It will happen and when it does, you will be stronger for it.

I believe that divorce is a ‘disrupter’ designed to make us question whether we are on the right path. Divorce is a very personal journey, a journey that can only be defined and understood by you. But it is a journey, and a journey that is hard. But it is does come with some expected benefits. Dare I even say Blessings. In life, it is always important to count your blessings and not your problems. Everything happens to us for a reason. Detach from it all and surrender to what is. Everything that happened is simply making room for a new and better experience to come into your Life. The “reason” may not become known for many weeks, months or even several years, but one day, it will all make sense and you may even be grateful that your divorce happened.

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Note: Divorce is a life changing and traumatic situation and one that should only be undertaken once ALL avenues to having a successful marriage have been fully exhausted. I believe all marriages, except those involving abuse or repeated infidelity, can be fixed and would encourage anyone thinking about divorce to reach out to a qualified professional to help save their marriage.

Featured photo credit: Woman alone on the bridge against cloudy sky via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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