I regularly hear from clients, especially early in the divorce process, that they are overwhelmed.
Sometimes, they are shocked by their spouse asking for the divorce or sometimes they discover that their spouse has cheated on them, either with another person or in how they have managed the finances. Usually, the client who has decided to leave or has committed the wrong has had lots of time to work through the idea of leaving the relationship, but the one who is being left or just finding out about the wrong feels like they are in an emotional tsunami. It’s no wonder. Below is some information and suggestions that may help.
I have found that information is empowering for people going through marital conflict or a divorce.
Sometimes just knowing WHY you are feeling like you are, or the physiological and psychological reasons for it, can help you manage it better. Daniel Amen, M.D., is well-known for his presentations on brain health on PBS programs. While his information is available free to everyone on public television and reasonably priced in his books, he has been criticized by some for trying to sell brain spectrometry and other products that are very expensive. Nonetheless, some of his information is very helpful, I think. The blog recently posted on his website is called: Why Breaking Up is So Hard on Your Brain. This blog may be of particular interest to divorcing parties or people considering divorce. Below are some of the blog’s highlights and my personal perspective, as a family lawyer, on this information.
7 Brain Healthy Ways to Work Through Marital Conflict and Breakups
- TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR PART.
No breakup or divorce is completely one-sided. Be honest about how your behavior may be contributing to the disintegration of the relationship and learn from what went wrong. Taking responsibility for your part also prevents you from feeling like a powerless victim. It empowers you to take action and make changes in your own behavior that will benefit you—and your future relationships—in the future.
- SEEK COUNSELING BEFORE PARTING WAYS.
If you feel strongly that your relationship is worth saving, marital counseling can help you explore ways to find some common ground. A therapist can help you learn to communicate more effectively so you can navigate rough patches and emerge with a stronger bond. In some cases where there is no saving the relationship, therapy can provide you with tools that can help you cope better with a breakup.
- CONSIDER IF UNDERLYING BRAIN ISSUES MAY BE AT PLAY.
Brain imaging studies show that underlying brain dysfunction can ruin relationships. Impulsively saying hurtful things to a loved one, holding grudges, drowning in negativity that sucks the joy out of others, being constantly irritable, or flying off into a rage over small things—these are all signs of brain health issues. Brain SPECT imaging can help identify problems with brain function. Optimizing the brain can make marital therapy work faster.
- MAINTAIN BRAIN HEALTHY HABITS.
If you do end up splitting, you may be tempted to drown your sorrows with ice cream or alcohol, to stay up all night bingeing on Netflix, or to cocoon under the covers by yourself. Don’t! Your brain is already hurting from the loss, so it’s important to treat it gently during this time. Watch what you eat, exercise more not less, and spend time with people you like. One of the most important keys to recovering from a breakup is keeping a regular sleep schedule. If you’re having trouble sleeping, consider supplements that promote relaxation, such as melatonin, magnesium, GABA, vitamin B6, l-theanine, and 5-HTP. This will help you heal from the hurt faster.
- DO NOT IDEALIZE THE OTHER PERSON.
When you lose someone, there is a tendency to exclusively remember the wonderful things about them. Idealizing people impairs the grieving process and makes you hurt more. By focusing only on someone’s good qualities, the pain increases. Paying attention to their bad qualities causes the pain to decrease because we’re glad to be rid of them. Spend time writing out the bad times and your ex’s bad points.
- CRY, THEN HIDE THE PICTURES.
At the beginning of a breakup, take some time to allow yourself to feel the pain. Crying can be a wonderful release of the built-up tension in your limbic brain. But after a good cry, eliminate the constant triggers to your nervous system. Go through the house, your computer, and workplace and collect the pictures and gifts, then hide them somewhere. Resist the temptation to permanently delete photos from your phone because you never know what might happen in the future. If you get back together, you’ll feel terrible about having deleted them.
- BE TOUGH IN LOVE.
When you act weak, needy, or demanding during a breakup, you literally push the other person away. You are no longer attractive or appealing. You seem and act like a victim. Forget the notion that being happy is the “best revenge,” being happy and feeling good about yourself is the best for your well-being. And it will help you approach a new relationship with healthier self-esteem.
While there are many legal issues that must be dealt with in a divorce or other family law matter, dealing with the overwhelming physiological or psychological fallout from the conflict should be on your list of things to do along with seeking legal counsel.
In Part 2 of this series: Breaking Up is Hard To Do: Finding the Right Counselor, you will find that once you locate and establish a professional relationship with counselor who is a good fit for you, it will be much easier, more efficient, and less expensive to deal with the legal issues in your case.