When "life" happens, as in a major life event like marital problems, separation and divorce, we react.  The sentiment of "out with the old" can lead us in the wrong direction.  We may begin to move forward, but the past may still be top-of-mind.  It's time to change that.  

Divorce is a game with no winners

Like dodge ball, we do all types of strange moves to avoid the moving object from connecting.

Sometimes we can't see the ball until it's too late and we're suddenly cast out from the circle, onto the sidelines.  We stand feeling excluded for a while as so many friends and family keep playing, only to realize as time goes on, it's just a "failing marriage game" that none of us really want to play anyway.

We explore the depths of our loss while watching others get expelled from that same circle.  Despite having empathy for them, it doesn't make us feel any better.  Some of us even pick up the ball and throw it at those in the circle who seem to play the game so well.

At some point, we realize, it may be time to move on and find something better to do.  Life is short and the game is dumb.  Well, maybe that's a little simplistic and pessimistic. 

However, after a long game like that, it's best not to overthink it. It's just time to step away from the circle.  It's time to move forward.  The divorce is over.

What does it really mean to move forward?

Ironically, "moving forward" is actually part of the last stage of divorce.  While the divorce may end in one year, many of us barely make it through the beginning stages until well after our divorce is final.  We continue to fester over that old game as if it's going to help us in some way.

It won't.

Rarely following a marriage, turned bad, do we realize we're not ready to move on until we process our emotions and deal with our individual problems associated with the divorce.  

It doesn't necessarily mean we should find the bottom of the fault barrel that many of us jump into soon after we separate (which btw is in the same divorce amusement park as the dodge ball game). 

It's not really about fault, even when one spouse may be responsible for much of it.  It's about emotions, reactions, pain and coping strategies in order to start a new life without the past getting in the way.

A grow up plan for adults

At one point in our adult life, we realize we can only be responsible for our own behavior.  We can't take responsibility for the feelings, behavior or actions of others. 

We can't really make anyone change to accommodate our likes or dislikes, our beliefs or expectations.   Acceptance of others for who they are and what they believe, and need is important while in a relationship, but even more so while ending it.  Acceptance isn't easy, especially when you feel negatively about the person whose ideology is different than your own.

Worry less about them and work on yourself

What we can do is acknowledge, not dwell, on some things that we individually did wrong in our marriage that still affect our life.  This acknowledgement provides a clear representation of the parts of ourselves that could be improved in order to provide a happier and more successful life now and in our future. 

Dealing with these issues can breed success in future relationships, family life and personal satisfaction.  It can generate a positive influence in our career and finances.  Not only because it provides a new, optimistic outlook, but because such an outlook takes the place of all that negativity that prevents us from moving forward in our life.

How do we target the things that hold us back?

Before we can change anything about ourselves, we must first identify the problems that restrict us from living a successful, productive life.  These are the things that we'll cutout of our life or change.  They can be related to anything: actions, health, career, relationships, appearance, etc.

They are especially difficult to address in the midst of a breakup because the emotional stress and heartbreak interfere with our ability to recognize the problems we own.  Instead, we become so emotionally fragile that we blind ourselves with the wrongdoings of our former spouse in order to shelter ourselves from the uphill battle of self-criticism in order to improve.

This doesn't mean that our bad marriage or spouse's behavior has not been a primary source of our pain.  Our former spouse's actions may have been so painful or frustrating that they naturally took the majority of our attention away from the issues that prevent us from discovering what holds us back as individuals.

This is where any excuses need to be nullified for our own good.  We must work through the obstacle course of divorce problems in order to determine our individual barriers to success and happiness. 

Once we discover these issues about ourselves, we will focus less on the issues of our former marriage or spouse that no longer need to be solved.  The marriage is over, consequently, the problems associated with it are also over.  The only changes we can make are to ourselves, for ourselves and the people we love.  The only problems we can solve are the problems that actually prevent us from a successful, happy life.

How do we determine what issues need to be eradicated, solved or ignored?

Problems are not created equal.  Some issues that affect our life may be painful, but don't need active solutions in order to find true happiness.  Instead, these issues may require a reasonable amount of time to heal.  Expecting an answer for every problem will leave us feeling defeated and without a true, long-term solution.  

The place to start is with issues we can easily see are problematic.  Solving problems, we have the power to immediately address will allow our emotional health the opportunity to continue to improve.  The more we repair, the more our attention will be focused on positive improvement.  Adding accomplishments, positive activities and relationships into your life leaves little time to focus on the unchangeable issues.   As time passes, some of issues that formerly consumed you will slowly dissipate.  Some of the tougher issues for which you were unsure how to solve may seem easier to solve with more confidence and a clearer perspective. 

If not, it may be a clear indication counseling would be helpful, possibly necessary, to induce your recovery.  

Time heals all wounds...

Another reason for psychotherapy may be serious issues that have been repressed or are too painful to work out alone.  We must empower ourselves to know what issues can be solved immediately, by us and those that require the help of a professional. 

These may include emotional, sexual or physical abuse, trust issues, drug abuse, post-traumatic stress syndrome, anxiety and depression.   Some may require the help of a medical doctor.

Ignorance and time feed these issues...

The long list of problems that we may need to take immediate action to solve about ourselves may be: family problems, bad behavior, passive aggressive behavior, bad temper, bad habits, drinking, drugs, smoking, vaping, emotional instability, depression, anxiety, workaholic behavior, poor work ethic, financial problems, career problems, poor health, disorganization, poor eating habits, weight management problems, spending problems, problems accepting blame, legal problems, tax problems, credit problems, housing issues, hoarding, cheating, relationship issues, sedentary lifestyle. 

Can you see why personal challenges can interfere with our relationships and happiness?  There are so many ways to cause problems in a marriage and only a few ways to fix it, one being divorce.  The only problem is that divorce doesn't just fix the primary cause, our own individual problems, because most of us are so focused on what the other person did to cause our pain and divorce.  We seldom recognize our own responsibility.  This is normal, but not really helpful.

The longer we ignore these issues about ourselves, the more they intertwine in our life, damage us and our relationships. 

Many of us are quick to find fault in our former spouse because we technically do not need to take action to solve his/her problems.  We can just complain about them. 

Once we determine our own problems, we enable a call-to-action to solve them. If we recognize the problems and fail to do anything about them, we damage our self-esteem by recognizing the problem exists, but allowing it to remain in control. This means we need to effectively deal with our problems, sometimes with the help of a trained therapist or counselor.  

Don't be surprised if your problems are fairly obvious to others, but not so easy for you to recognize.  That's because some of us cloak our issues as self-preservation behavior.  In some ways, it's the vice or problem itself that has overtaken us, protecting itself through our denial.  

Some personal problems that seem like those that should be easily solved, but aren't, may be related to other issues like those mentioned above (i.e. abuse, stress, depression).  These serious issues require the help of a professional.  If you are unable to find a positive outcome in a reasonable amount of time taking action to solve your problems, a professional therapist or medical physician may be necessary.

It's not easy to realize our own vices

It's very difficult to regard our own problems without the help of others.

Think about some of the common issues that others have brought to your attention that you rejected or failed to correct.  Disregard things that were said that were meant to be hurtful or in a heated argument.  Instead focus on real criticism from a boss, parent, friend or former spouse. 

Genuine criticisms may be painful to address at first, but sometimes we need to accept such criticism to find our true self and potential.  What can you lose, but a few annoying traits, vices or problems that have taken over your true identity?  Now is the time to reclaim the real you!  

Remember, start with some easy problems first and set multi-stage goals for bigger problems.  This gives positive reinforcement that helps with solving more complicated problems as time goes on. 

Don't cut everything out of your life!   Once you divorce these problems, continue to make reasonable changes when problems occur that take you off course.  As always, keep adding good - positive activities, relationships and goals to fuel your quest for personal success and happiness!