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Your Divorce Story May Be Keeping You Stuck

You have a story about your marriage and how it ended. Our personal narratives about our hardships are important. They help us make sense of challenging life events. Difficulties arise not because you have a story, even a sad or painful one. Where you can get stuck is when you become attached to your stories and make them an essential part of your identity.

It pays to be honest with yourself about why you’re telling your divorce story and how invested you are in proving a point. If the moral of your tale is what jerk your Ex is, and you find yourself repeating it often to friends, family and whoever will listen, you may be in love with your story for all the wrong reasons.

At worst, your divorce story can keep you stuck, sometimes for years, in a toxic stew of negativity about a part of your life. At best, it can suck the joy out of your life and unconsciously influence you as you attempt to rebuild.

How do you know if your story is sabotaging you?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • During conversations with your friends and family, do you often find yourself bringing up how your divorce is impacting you or the latest antics of your Ex?
  • Are you talking about your divorce or your Ex to people you’ve just met or don’t know well?
  • Do you feel your divorce and, by extension, your Ex is to blame for your situation, feelings or challenges?
  • Are you more drawn to people who sympathize and/or agree with your position?
  • When someone asks you about your Ex, do you use it as an opportunity to get in a jab about him or her?
  • Is there clearly a “bad character” in your story and it’s not you?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, your story is holding you back. This is good to know. It’s an important step in shifting beyond a limited interpretation of past events that impedes your current progress.

By repeatedly telling the story of how you got, or continue to get, screwed by your Ex, you are firmly keeping yourself in the victim position. This is a completely powerless, frustrating and toxic place to be. And, it keeps you from moving on. But, “it’s what happened” you may say. And I say, it’s one way of looking at what happened—there are many truths unexamined that could propel you forward if you’re willing to look.

Breaking Free of Your Story

Breaking free requires the willingness to look at your own role in what went down and take responsibility for it. Maybe you didn’t actively do anything but you passively allowed things that weren’t OK with you.

While I was married, I allowed my then husband to take most of the money out of our house and savings and put it into a real estate deal. Although I was against doing the deal, I now see that I was in the grip of my long-standing pattern of giving in to keep the peace. The deal tanked and, shortly after, so did the marriage. For a while, I embraced being a victim. I simply wasn’t ready to own the fact that I was just as responsible for the loss as he was. But, I came to realize the truth. At any point, I could have stood up to him and simply said, “No.”

This was a very expensive lesson but a very important one. Although there were millions of small ways I was abandoning myself in my marriage by not being true to myself, it took this one breathtaking event to wake me up. Now that I understand how I participated in our relationship dynamic, I don’t have to repeat that pattern again with my next partner.

What can you learn about yourself by revisiting your divorce story?

Marriage and divorce are rich sources of information about yourself and your unconscious relationship patterns. By putting your focus on how you participated in the relationship, you can decide how well it worked for you. If it didn’t turn out as expected, you can work to consciously heal and release your old patterns to create something different and better for yourself as you move forward.

Try looking at the story of your marriage and divorce from the opposite point of view and see what insights you get? Or, forget sides and pretend you’re a social scientist studying the divorce for your research. From this neutral place, write about the “husband” and “wife” as subjects of your study. See if this helps you glean a deeper understanding of your role in the relationship dynamic. From that perspective, you can rewrite your story to focus on what you learned and the self-awareness you gained from your marriage and divorce. This transforms your story from a stagnant emotional roadblock to an empowering tale that supports your healing and growth.

If you’re having trouble gaining the altitude needed to view your story from a different point of view, consider working with a coach or therapist.

Deb Purdy, is a transformation coach, speaker, workshop leader and author of
Something Gained: 7 Shifts to Be Stronger, Smarter and Happier After Divorce.

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