How to Get Off of the Emotional Merry-Go-Round of Divorce

By Jody Sargent, LCSW

The opposite of love is not hate – it is indifference. Couples experiencing a divorce often get stuck in a revolving door of hurting their partner to “get even” sometimes long after the divorce is finalized. If you find yourself in this exhausting situation, it can be consuming. You may try to disengage, but can’t seem to find a way to let go of some of the experiences and trauma caused by someone who hurt you emotionally and/or physically. In turn, our desire for revenge or “getting even” keeps us stuck on the merry-go-round of a dysfunctional and painful relationship.

Let it Go

You’re right, it isn’t fair. The divorce, the settlement, or the amount of allotted parent time. Letting go does not mean you are now playing the victim. It does mean you are choosing to act, rather than react – which is a powerful approach to moving past a dysfunctional relationship. Rather than getting triggered, how about just letting it go, creating a safe space or place without emotional reaction? Letting go requires repeated efforts and consciousness of the need to control, influence and change someone else’s poor behaviors, but puts you in the driver’s seat.

Choose a Different Way to Respond

Interacting with your divorced partner is sometimes unavoidable, especially if you have mutual children or other entangled interests. You may not be able to choose some of those entanglements at this point, but you can choose how you respond to those interactions. You can choose to

  • Breathe. Before responding to an interaction with your ex-partner, take take a deep breath. Mindful breathing helps to calm our hearts and minds, allowing the ventral vagal flow – where we can make non-emotional efforts to make a concerted effort to respond in a different way, changing the dysfunctional communication flow.
  • Identify positive changes from divorce. It is easy to see the negative and hurtful effects of divorce. But, what are the positive outcomes of your divorce? How is your life better? Not walking on eggshells? Finding new independence and self-worth? If even thinking about your divorce sparks negative emotions and you are having a hard time being positive try to ground yourself, attach to yourself – feel your heart. You can also connect by feeling the back of your neck, where the brain and heart connect.
  • Embrace your new life. You deserve to be happy. It may take a little effort, but you can find that happiness and embrace a new life outside of the pain of your divorce. Find a new hobby, make a new friend, try yoga or an art class. Get reacquainted with yourself again. What do you enjoy? Dancing? Gardening? Hiking? What evokes positive emotional and physical changes that can promote a shift in your autonomic nervous system relief?

Resist the Urge to Control Anyone But Yourself

You cannot change your ex-partner. There is a reason the relationship did not work out. Grief and disappointment are common emotions when experiencing a failed relationship. Divorce stipulations, mediation, child-exchanges, and lack of control over events can evoke and trigger an emotional response. You can choose to act differently and do something different while maintaining healthy boundaries. You do hold the power to change your reaction to someone else’s poor behavior. You can calm your mind and your body. Choosing a different way to respond to the emotional prodding of an ex-partner will take practice and mindfulness but you can do it.

Get Resources and Support

You are not alone. There is help for you. Create a team, get resources and learn how to navigate so you can start living a healthier, happier life. I work with people who are experiencing life transitions such as divorce, loss, trauma and more in Draper and Park City area (to learn more about Jody Sargent LCSW click here). Call to make an appointment with me, or another member of our team, at Unified Family Therapy 801-277-6851 and we can talk about how to get off of the emotional Merry-go-round and start taking control of your life

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