Last week, I came home from work, ready to tackle a mountain of projects, only to find that my internet was out. No connection, only one light feebly blinking on the modem. My Wi-Fi name still showed up as I desperately tried to connect, but nothing.
It was so frustrating. I had planned to take care of so many things, but just like that, the ability to control my projects and all the things I had wanted to accomplish, were thrown out the window. And short of being put on hold with customer service, and having to wait out the lack of internet for the next few days at home, I felt like there was nothing I could do to change the situation.
The more I thought about it, the more it sunk in—internet outages and other wrenches in our day are to be expected.
So, why was I really annoyed and angry?
It was because I had lost control of the situation.
This hiccup was bigger than just being without connectivity for a few days. It got me thinking about all the other things we worry about, and I wanted to dig deeper on why we get upset and angry and frustrated about things in our lives. And I think I have the answer:
We react emotionally when we lose control of the situations that we thought we had control over. This is why divorce and separation are such a nightmare—it is a prime example of the control we thought we had, proving to be an illusion.
Divorce and separation can feel like one never-ending day of having our internet connection shut down, while we wait for the technician to stop by, in their obnoxious four-hour waiting window. We feel frustrated and helpless, because there are million things we intended to do and take care of, and now we have to wait and rely on an outside force to restore our sense of order and comfort. Take that inconvenience of a lost internet connection, multiply it by 1000x, throw in heartbreak, panic, fear, and chaos, and it’s no wonder why, during divorce, we feel so helpless. Splitting from your spouse has a cruel way of reminding us that just when we thought we had control of our lives, we do not. And that is where the link of divorce drama and the loss of control collide.
On top of the anger/heartbreak/fear we experience, we also panic because we no longer control what we thought we controlled.
Of course, when we are married to someone and that relationship ends, we grieve the loss of that life we thought we had together. We may subconsciously mourn the comfort and security that life gave us, even if deep down we may not have been happy with it. The same goes for other losses—breaking up with (or getting dumped by) a boyfriend or girlfriend, losing our job, or facing similar upsets.
But scratch the surface of that heartbreak and panic and what we find is the core factor that we are desperate to regain: the control. Whether it’s the control of an identity, the control of being comfortable, having the control of knowing we’ll be waking up next to a body we were comfortable with, to habits that we knew, to a lifestyle to which we were accustomed, and to a future we had envisioned for ourselves, that we had assumed to be ours.
That is not to say that during our divorce, and during our separation, we are to sit by helpless as our world unravels in front of us. Oh, no. It is quite the opposite. Once we understand that we cannot control the tide, only then can we start to identify the things that we do have power over.
Once we recognize that our emotional upheaval rests on our perceived inability to do anything about the situation, only then we are able to take our control back. I want you to remember these two key factors as you continue on your divorce journey. They are important regardless of your stage: whether it be the move-out, the negotiating/arguing over assets, or even if the divorce has been finalized and you are moving on with your life.
- We must remember that although we no longer control this particular mess, we have the power to control how we react to it.
Let’s face it—if we had had the power to magically fix all the issues that led up to the split, or some clairvoyant ability to see the future and change it to our liking, chances are we would not be in the situation in the first place. But we are only human, and it is unfair to hold ourselves to such a standard. The past has passed, and the only thing we can control right now is how we react to the situation. If something adverse comes our way, nobody is forcing us to become angry. Nobody is forcing us to become stressed or panicked or sad. Nobody is forcing us to let a disagreement or harsh words exchanged between our divorcing spouse ruin the rest of our day.
It is our choice to take the high road if something makes us angry. It is our choice, no matter how difficult it may be, to approach this adverse situation with calm and rationality. It is our choice to acknowledge this trying time in our lives as what it is—a temporary bump in the road that we have the ability to navigate with grace so that we are able to move on with our lives. We can have the power to control our outlook and our own personal journey during the split, and who and what we want to be when the divorce roller coaster ride is over—nobody can take that away from us.
2. We must embrace the things we can control, and let go of the things we cannot.
Although the split can make us feel helpless, we forget all of the amazing things that we can actually control in our lives, and if we put the effort into those things, the calm will come. Divorce has a way of making us think we have control over nothing, which is not the case. We must focus on the almost infinite factors in our lives that we have the power to affect.
A great way to remind ourselves of this is to make a list—divide a piece of paper into two columns and label them “What I Can Control” and “What I Cannot Control.” Be thoughtful and honest during this meditation. You will find that the things we can control—such as finding resources to help us through this time, educating ourselves on the process, advocating for ourselves, and asking for guidance and help when we need it—will far outnumber the things that we cannot control.
The power we have–even when our hearts our broken and we are scared of the future—will provide us with a sense of calm and reassurance, that yes, we will get through this difficult time. Even if it’s just something small each day—reading an article or two, speaking with someone in our support network—small things like that—will build up over time, and lay the foundation that we can’t see for ourselves right now but exists—the strong and courageous person who is charge of their destiny, who refuses to let anything—not even this divorce—hold them back.
Incidentally, my internet connection ended up coming back on within two days—before the internet technician even showed up. And the world didn’t end. In fact, during those days I felt like I had more control of my life since I was able to write more without the internet’s distractions. It’s funny how things sometimes have a way of fixing themselves.