Monday, May 7, 2007

Law of Evolution #3: Establish a Support System

Evolutionary Law #3: Establish a Support System. As I work to transform my life, I will ask my family and friends for their love, strength, and support. I will communicate the seriousness of this request and explain what specific acts of support I require.

Part of being responsible in life means that we must identify and meet important personal needs. As we travel through our divorce experience, everyone will agree that our needs change; in certain cases, rather drastically. Some people can handle these changes on their own. Some, however, cannot and require guidance or assistance. In either case, the earlier in a divorce that a support system of family, friends, and activities is established, the better the chances are that you can move on with your life.

When I first started meeting other people that were experiencing divorce, I would respond to their story the same way that people responded to mine. "How are you holding up?", "I'm so sorry", "It's a difficult process", "That's horrible", "Hang in there", "Be strong" were some of the things said. My comments would evoke sympathy and empathy, partly because that is what I wanted them to feel, but also partly because that is what I thought they wanted to hear as well. It's funny; when you tell someone that you're going through a divorce, what's the first thing they respond with? "I'm sorry", usually. This is typical of how divorce is viewed socially, and while the sympathy has its place, this can also perpetuate negative aspects of this experience. Empathy and sympathy can be, but are not always supportive and empowering Sometimes, we all need a kick in the pants. This led me to ask if I truly wanted to be supportive of someone getting divorced, what would that look like? If someone wanted empowering support to get through their divorce, what would they ask for?

Now, when I meet someone that is getting divorced the first question I ask them is "Do you have a support system?" This is usually met with an odd look, followed usually by "What do you mean?" Most men I speak to about this feel supported, but have a difficult time explaining how. Well, a support system is a network of friends, family, peers, and activities designed to help you transition your life from unhappily-married-husband to empowered-single-guy. The system should help keep you on the path of empowerment and responsibility. The initial experience of some men in divorce is often very reactive. Some men just "go with the flow", and try to live their lives while experiencing the interruptions that divorce brings. This adds to the angst, as the reactive nature of this interaction enhances the "loss of control" feelings that divorce drops on us.

To establish a support system, men must first understand what kind of support they require. This is the key aspect to this law. To ask the question "what type of support do I need", we must assess our current situation, and find out where our life will change the most as a result of the divorce decision. Ask yourself, for example, questions like these:
  • If you are moving out, do you need to find a new or temporary place to live?
  • What is your job situation? Can your work be flexible given your situation?
  • Do you have children? If you will be visiting them, do you need a place to spend time with them outside of their residence? Will you be taking primary custody of your children?
  • How are your finances organized? Do you have money for legal fees? Do you know what new expenses will be incurred as a result of the divorce? Can you afford it?
  • How large is your circle of friends? Do you have male and female friends that you can talk to, or spend time with? What friends do you trust?
  • Do you have an attorney? Do you have a therapist? Have you been to the doctor recently, or had a checkup in the last six months?
  • What are your plans for your marriage? Do you want to reconcile? Is your partner open to this? If so, do you have a counselor that you can both go to?
  • If you want to get divorced, do you have any plans for your new life? Are there any new goals you want to accomplish? If so, what are they; and what do you need to accomplish them?
It's important to think about and consider what you want and need before you ask friends and family for support. Think about your own experiences with people asking you for help. When someone is prepared, has a plan, and asks you for assistance, are you not you more inclined to help them? Well, this works the same way. Being prepared and asking for specific help shows that you are serious about moving on and changing your life. It speaks to the level of control that you are looking to exert. People find this empowering, and it is easier to enroll someone to help you from this standpoint compared to "Umm, my life is about to get real hard. Can you help me?" That being said, here are some things to consider when asking family and friends for help:
  • Before you ask, have a firm idea of what your family and friends can each best help you with and play to their strengths. This means, for example, do not ask your broke father for money. Do not ask your brother (whose wife just had a baby in a two bedroom apartment) if he has room to take you in. Do not ask your boss for more vacation/leave time if you have already taken your fill. My point here is that in each of these scenarios, failure was already pre-determined because the situations did not lend themselves to success or even negotiation. Your father cannot manufacture money he does not have. Your brother just had a baby; he does not need to take care of you as well. Your boss has already given you leave; asking for more may make you appear weak or selfish in his eyes (not a great perspective to be viewed at from your boss).
  • When you ask for something, be ok with a "no" before asking. Even though you are getting divorced, your problems do not outweigh the considerations of your friends and family. That being said, you may be rejected - especially from people you least expect. Before you ask for anything, be clear with yourself that your friends and family have the right to say "no", and that this does not reflect negatively on them. Do not pass judgment on them; just as you do not want to be judged for getting divorced. Remember that, regardless of what they say, these people have chosen to stand by you. Honor that.
  • Remember, people are watching how to react to your divorce; honor your commitments and responsibilities. To be honest, this is more common sense than anything else. If you borrow money, make sure you pay it back. If you move in with someone, be a good roommate. Don't be late for meetings or events, and always remember to say thank you and be gracious; even if you do not get what you want. Your family and friends are watching how you react to the new challenges in your life. They will talk about it, and work together to either build up or erode the support they have for you. Demonstrate to them that this experience has empowered you.
Support makes any stressful event or experience easier to deal with. With divorce, this is certainly true. To make this work for you, though, you must first really understand what support you need, and then examine who in your world can offer it. The more prepared you are up front with understanding the types of changes that will be expected in your life, the more likely you will come out of this experience intact, empowered, and ready to move on with your life. Lastly, remember that your friends and family are here to help you through this. Let them help in ways that make them comfortable, and show your gratitude. Please and thank you still count for a lot; do not forget that.

3 comments:

canada said...

Hi Guy getting divorced,

It's the guy from canada again. Thought I'd check in and say that I'm still reading your blog - it's on my daily RSS Feed.

I hope things have been going well for you. For me, things seem to go well or a while. I got better and I start to move on; started to forget, and even sometimes start being happy again. Time really is a healer in this aspect.

But then like today, my ex comes to visit, and I feel like the rug is pulled out from under me. She's just doing it out of friendship. It just hurts like hell for me though, as I realise that I still love her, but the feelings are not mutual.

Sometimes I wonder if I am being weak / or a sucker for still wanting to see her, even though I should be accepting its over.


So it's funny with all these self-help books (I've read and reread Rebuilding by Bruce Fisher), and I get strength from it. But that strength seems so fragile and temporary when I see her again.

Wish life was easier.

Guy Getting Divorced said...

Canada,

You know, I can completely relate to how you feel; I've felt that way as well. I want you to recognize, however, that its ok to love her even if she does not reciprocate. What is not ok, however, is to torture yourself over this.

When you say "it hurts like hell", what exactly hurts? The fact that she does not love you, or is rejecting your love by not reciprocating it? I'm sure you've read this by now, but the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. Now, I don't think your insane, but I do question your actions here as they clearly do not serve you.

It's ok to love her, even if she does not reciprocate. Its not healthy for you, however, to base your identity or value of self-worth on whether or not she loves you. Her not loving you does not reflect poorly on you. If anything, its her choice. Let her own it; after all, you are clear about how you feel, right?

Good luck to you. I know how painful this can be at times. Stay grounded, and remember that acceptance is not tied to any feeling or motive. It is what it is. Accept your relationship with her as it exists today, and see where that takes you.

Michelle said...

A lot of adjustments are done for the newly divorced, since some responsibilities in the house and parenting are vacated (unless the spouse never did anything at all prior to the divorce), but in any case, it is essential to have some friends to support your new life. In my case, it wasn't such a problem and the help of the child support from my ex-husband, and it was all thanks to the divorce lawyers in Jacksonville, FL.