For many people, the story of their divorce is a story of trauma and tragedy, often described as the worst thing that has ever happened in their lives. For those who wish to move on with their lives in a constructive way, it is often useful to rewrite and recast their divorce story.
In many instances, rewriting involves the retelling of a story in which a person may have found him or herself to be a victim, and reframing the story in a way that they can see themselves on their own journey of growth—a hero’s journey.
For example, a spouse who is in a relationship in which they are the recipient of verbal abuse may have lost perspective and have devastated self esteem. They may try and try to “hang in there” and to make it work…until the other person decides to end that relationship. Initially, the spouse who was “hanging in there” may feel completely devastated; that their efforts to keep a sinking ship afloat have failed; that they have been rejected.
In rewriting their story, however, that person may come to find out that it was in their best interest to be cut loose from a relationship that was unhappy—or unhealthy—even if that did not seem to be the case in the moment, as in this situation:
After a 35 year marriage, a husband made the decision unexpectedly to end the marriage and his wife was devastated. Despite feeling that there were many problems in the marriage and that she had never been particularly happy, she always had the notion that he would be around to take care of her, and they would be together until death.
For some time after the divorce, she struggled to get up in the morning and do simple tasks—until one day she realized that she just wanted to feel better. After about a year of therapy, she began to see the story of her divorce in a completely different way; that it in fact what her husband had done for her was a gift as he liberated her out of a marriage that had serious problems. She ended up happier and more engaged in her life than she had ever been before.
As the example above illustrates, women who have been in a relationship with an unequal balance of power can especially benefit from rewriting their divorce stories. Many people can benefit from rewriting their divorce story—it is a way to tap into growth and healing that is easily accessible to everyone.
Recently we ran a full day workshop to help women rewrite their divorce narratives. Many of the attendees were strangers to each other at the beginning of the day. They were in various stages of the divorce process. It was beautiful to watch how the group quickly became a safe space where the participants were able to open up and share their stories, their pain and their fears. Through a series of meditations and journaling exercises, we were able to lead them through a process of tapping into their pain and their strength and retelling their stories as heroes journeys. We ended with a simple writing practice that tapped into their experience of gratitude. The instructions were to:
- write three words describing how they felt at that moment;
- take three minutes to write down what they were grateful for in their lives
- again write three words to describe how they felt.
The profound differences in the first set of three words and the second set that followed the list of gratitudes, demonstrated how just three minutes of focusing on the things that you are grateful for can transform your mindset and shift your mood.
This is the essence of rewriting your divorce story, which is just one strategy employed by modern divorce professionals to make the process a more constructive and humane one. With the help of mediators and divorce coaches, more and more people have forged a way to recover from their divorces and find hope and optimism in rediscovering their authentic selves.
To learn more about rewriting your divorce story, contact us.
My Divorce Recovery
Lauren Behrman, Ph.D.
Jeffrey Zimmerman, Ph.D., ABPP