Shift #4: Shift on Your Ex – Find Peace in Your Relationship
When it comes to divorce, our society often relishes tales of nastiness and pain. Gossip magazines feed off of the divorces of celebrity couples, honing on any sign of hostility or dysfunction between the former couple. When celebrity couples announce their intention to commit to a “conscious” or amicable divorce, they often get roundly mocked. It’s as if marital dissolution can only be ugly, and divorcing couples can only be enemies.
But you can choose the meaning of your divorce for yourself, no matter what society thinks. You can also choose the relationship you will have with your former spouse–including deciding that your ex will play a hugely positive role in your post-divorce life. Yes, even if your ex is toxic, they can still play a constructive role in your life!
This week, my guest, Deb Purdy, and I discuss how shifting your attitude toward your ex can help you find meaning in your divorce.
Deb is a transformational coach, speaker, workshop leader who successfully changed her painful divorce experience to a positive one by using several internal shifts that helped her change her attitude towards her divorce. Thanks to these shifts, she designed the post-divorce life she wanted and created a collaborative and friendly relationship with her ex-husband. She is the author of the book, Something Gained: 7 Shifts to Be Stronger, Smarter & Happier After Divorce.
Create a Vision
It isn’t unusual for divorcing couples to see their former spouse as a persecutor, enemy, or villain. Litigious divorce promotes this viewpoint, and people often cling to their perceived position as their ex’s victim.
But hanging on to a vision of yourself as a victim diminishes your power. If given a choice, would you really choose to remain someone’s victim for the rest of your life? Probably not!
Deb Purdy says that divorce is the perfect opportunity to shift the way you carry your ex inside yourself. Your former spouse will always be part of your biography and may very well remain a key part of your life, especially if you have children together. You need to think about what an ideal relationship with your ex-spouse would look like, and how that relationship could bring you inner peace.
In Something Gained, Deb lists three questions you should ask yourself as you envision this new post-divorce relationship, including:
• What kind of relationship would work best for your life?
• How do I want to feel inside myself when it comes to my Ex?
• What is at stake in this relationship?
At a point when Deb’s own divorce was at the height of ugliness, she decided to envision her ex and herself laughing together at their daughter’s graduation, proud of themselves for coming together to raise their children so well. She told her former spouse that she was “going to do everything in her power to bring that [vision] to fruition.” And she stuck to that goal.
It took a while, but eventually, they did develop a friendly personal relationship and a healthy co-parenting relationship. Deb notes that she has often seen that when one person shifts their attitude toward their ex, the ex-spouse usually responds positively–sooner or later.
View Your Ex as a Professor
It’s important to understand that you can shift your relationship with your former spouse and find peace even if you think your ex will never change their negative attitude or behavior. Deb recommends viewing your ex as a professor in “Life School” who is teaching you an important lesson about yourself and assisting with your personal growth.
In Something Gained, Deb refers to a client named Spencer, who, every time his ex-spouse upset or provoked him, told himself, “School is in session.” This phrase served as a reminder to look for the lesson instead of becoming angry and defensive. Eventually, Spencer learned to stop reacting to his ex’s attacks, grew more peaceful, and even began to feel compassion for his ex, who could not find the same level of peace.
What are you supposed to be learning from your ex-spouse? It could be anything from learning to stand up for yourself to improving your own temper. If you learn the lesson, not only are you likely to find inner peace, but your attitude toward your ex may naturally shift in a healthy way.
If you’re considering divorce but would like to try an approach that might mean a brighter future, call my team to schedule a confidential consultation.