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As my marriage slowly imploded, all I could think was my life was supposed to turn out completely different.  I began analyzing more than my relationship with my husband.  I began to evaluate my career, friends and future. 

Now that I'm single, I can see even more things that were formerly out of perspective while married.  I realize when happily married, I was blissfully ignorant to all that was wrong with my life.  

When life throws us lemons...

When things are generally well for us, the ole, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it", keeps us from overanalyzing our life's current direction. 

While that's not necessarily a bad thing, it does omit the opportunity to recognize a bigger picture often encompassing positive, personal change. 

When we experience certain events in our life that may be awful or difficult we are presented with an opportunity for self-improvement that may otherwise not be considered.  Once doing so, we may discover such an exploration rather helpful in finding a greater purpose and life fulfillment.  

How to know what needs fixing

Once a marriage ends, life can seem very broken.  Knowing where your life is out-of-whack can become very perplexing.  

First determine if there is even a need for individual change or just a need to prepare and adapt to your new single lifestyle.  Often, there may be both.

Divorce or Pandora's box?

I realized that in the wake of sadness, anticipation and fear I wanted to change many things about myself that weren't really beneficial to change. 

I was simply reacting to the inability to control and expedite a long, arduous process of moving forward with the rest of my life.  I found there were issues of my divorce that made things more confusing.

What are some common triggers during a marital rift or divorce that may cause unnecessary personal change?

This list may contain issues that can also be of your doing, but they are intended to represent a spouse's actions or behavior.

  • adultery
  • financial hardship 
  • unwillingness to negotiate
  • irrational behavior or demands
  • narcissism 
  • abuse
  • dishonesty
  • addiction
  • insufficient support or settlement
  • housing problems

You can only fix the problems you "own"

When you are simply on the receiving end of bad behavior you may be inclined to erroneously change something about yourself in an effort to control and extinguish the problem.   That's when problems become triggers that may lead you to change for the sake of taking action where personal change is not warranted. 

Not only does this burden you, but it's less likely to provide efficient solutions and a positive outcome. 

You're only responsible for your own behavior and actions and are not responsible to change others. Making changes as a response to someone else's bad behavior usually leaves you feeling less empowered.  Worse yet, initiating unnecessary self-change drains you of energy and optimism to improve the issues of your own making.

Taking action without self-improvement

Action to improve your life, secure your safety and support your family may not necessitate your own self-evaluation and improvement. While changes in your life may naturally improve your self-esteem, reduce stress and provide a better sense of self, self-criticism may only hinder your ability to call upon skills and attributes that will provide the foundation to your transition. 

Sometimes your change is needed

Many of the issues on the triggers list above naturally further a divide with your soon-to-be-ex. This may make the process more difficult and cause your emotional and financial recovery to take longer if you yourself have some control over them.

It's important to take ownership of these issues (problems that you have and/or actions you took that contributed to your divorce) in order to improve negotiations or relationship problems between your spouse, family or friends. 

Accepting reasonable blame or responsibility for the problems in your divorce and life can help you (and your spouse) process the varied Stages of Divorce as well as make significant improvements in your life and path to becoming single.

The goal is to identify and differentiate between the problems in your life resulting from the need for self-improvement (such as addiction, low motivation or bad habits) and those you do not have the power through self-change to solve.

A divorce settlement of emotional baggage

Speak with a counselor or therapist who can help you distinguish between your problems and the problems of others.   

What you want to hear

Speaking with friends and family may not be as helpful as speaking with a professional.  Knowing you are going through such an emotionally charged event, such as divorce, your loved ones may be inclined to tell you what you want to hear rather than what is therapeutically helpful. 

During times of exhaustion, stress and/or desperation, it may be difficult to differentiate helpful advice from advice given to make you feel better or worse. 

Undeserved blame

In some cases, it may actually hinder your divorce process and recovery.  Depending on who provides the advice, there may be considerable bias that causes him/her to place excessive blame on you for the behavior of someone else.  

Regardless if you seek professional guidance in this matter, it's very likely that you will still maintain a dialogue with others regarding your situation.  Always consider your source and don't allow others to wholly influence your decision-making.  

Making the right changes 

A major life correction is included FREE of charge in most divorces.  It's inevitable.  While some spouses live in "separate worlds" during the latter part of their marriage - changes in finances, housing, dating and outlook still force us to take a good long look down the road of possibilities. 

Most of us start a new journey with hopeful anticipation that we are on the way to personal happiness, freedom from marital woes.  We begin to imagine a better future.  Little do we know what is around the corner, waiting for us, waiting to strip us of our positive energy and renewed sense of improvements until we take the action's necessary to attain what we imagine is possible.

A divorce hazing

Before we can accept our new, better life, many of us experience personal unhappiness, dissatisfaction and that realization that things are going to get worse before they get better.   It may be a little different for some of us, a little more or less in any one category; but, generally we all suffer some sort of "divorce wake up call" that makes us question what the hell we were thinking when we did or decided on whatever it was that brought us to this point in our life.

To change or not to change...not always black and white

After about a year of being single, I discontinued the many personal changes made immediately following my separation and divorce.  I couldn't see they weren't specifically helpful until my life and self-esteem naturally improved as a result of less stress, fighting and worry endured when married and divorcing.

However, I still experienced a life transformation that had I not chosen to end a bad marriage and consequently make those unnecessary changes, I may have never begun.

Oddly, the need for life transforming improvements were not obvious or opportune until a few poor choices to change led me towards them.

So, while I restored original qualities and ambitions I thought to exclude in the year following my divorce, I found a great value in stepping away from the status quo, finding the courage to discover my full potential and making a few wrong turns.  These are what provided me the eventual path to more happiness and life satisfaction than I ever imagined.

While I don't advocate changing the wrong things about yourself just to satisfy a need for life improvement, I've learned  decisions made regarding how to improve your life and yourself are not always right or wrong. 

Your need for personal growth may not always be recognized until unavoidable changes as well as wrong ones facilitate an opportunity.  For me, those were my divorce and my knee jerk reaction to mistakenly initiate unnecessary personal changes. 

If I had one thing to say about how to know if you should "consider" changes and improvements is that you must stay motivated to get the most out of your life at all times and not worry much if you head down the wrong path once-in-awhile; it may be the only means to find the right one. 

In other words, maintain the courage and initiative to "do" rather than "consider".  People who do more also fail more but have the greatest potential for greatness.

Own it

Know what really holds you back from making your way through these hard times.  Get serious about making changes that need to be made that formerly you found excuses to avoid. 

You can't take responsibility for the behavior or choices of stupid people, unless you are the one who is being stupid.  And, let's face it, at the end of marriage and throughout divorce, we all have a little "stupid" flowing in our mind. 

So, accept it, change it and move on.  Don't get stuck acting like an idiot for the sake of not admitting you're wrong.  That's just closed minded.

Don't make opposing sides a definite enemy.  Just recognize that some people never change in a way you want and there isn't anything you can do about it.  Don't keep trying to make them see your side of things.  They won't.

Conversely, don't keep changing yourself to get on the same side of things either.  Some of us aren't the opposing type.  We want to agree and avoid confrontation.  But, the sad truth is that sometimes it's best to accept that regardless of former likeness, you now have opposing views that may not warrant hate for one another, but will never amount to agreement.

Move on

Enjoy making beneficial changes in your life and feel empowered by making necessary changes of yourself  These types of improvements open your mind, eyes and perspective that otherwise you would never have experienced. 

No, it won't all be good. You're going to make mistakes.  But, your courage to live your life to the fullest and strength to overcome failures and loss will provide a great enlightenment and opportunity for personal happiness and life satisfaction.


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