How to Gain Strength and Courage During a Divorce

Confidence and courage are key

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Divorce means change—a huge change. And along with change comes fear that you won't be able to make it on your own. Fear your children will suffer negative effects from the divorce. That you won't be able to make it financially. Fear you will live the rest of your life as a single person and will fail in your next relationship.

Building a new life as a divorced person is a challenge, but fear is a warning system telling us to be careful, to pause before making a decision, and to be sure of what we are doing before we venture out into the unknown. We need to listen to, welcome, and face our fears. Feeling afraid in a new situation is normal. Whether or not we move on to a rewarding and fulfilling post-divorce life depends on how we deal with our fears.

Face Your Fear

All of us fear uncertainty... A big fear for many people contemplating divorce is not knowing what will happen afterward: where will I live, how will I pay the bills, and will I be alone for the rest of my life?" observes collaborative attorney Harry Munsinger. "No one knows what will happen in the future. To avoid being paralyzed by uncertainty, recognize that you can’t know what will happen next, whether you get a divorce or stay married. Learn to live with the uncertainty of life."

Don't try to think your way through any fear you are feeling. It doesn't work. Fear can't be intellectualized; it calls for action on your part. Once you take action, the fear will begin to dissipate.

Identify what it is you are afraid of and then take baby steps toward getting what you want. If you are unhappy in your marriage but the idea of divorce terrifies you, try a separation. But keep in mind that "being lonely is a fact of life—you can feel alone in a marriage as well as after a divorce," notes Munsinger. "The answer is to take responsibility for your own happiness and not remain dependent on others." Test the waters and face the fear of being alone or making it financially on your own. If you have made the right decision, the fear will dissipate, and your perception of what divorce will mean for you will change.

If you're divorcing and need to go back to work after many years out of the workforce, the thought can be intimidating. One way to alleviate fear is to see yourself through the eyes of those who love you. If you become overwhelmed with fear and doubt, ask people who know you well what strengths they believe you will bring to a new job. You'll gain a new perspective on yourself and your positive attributes. 

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Use Positive Self-Talk

When facing a change and the fear that comes with it, don't use phrases like, "I don't think I can do this" or "I'm afraid to do this." Those words do nothing but cause us to resist the change and worsen your fear. If it is something you want, the only way to get it is to take action and have confidence in yourself to succeed. When doubts enter your head, push them away with positive words such as, "I can do this" and "I want to do this."

When in doubt about your abilities, use positive affirmations, like "I love and accept myself unconditionally" or "I am free to make my own choices and decisions."

Give Yourself an Out

If you find yourself in a place of indecision or fear about what step to take next, strike a bargain with yourself. Plan an action but give yourself permission to step back if that action is too uncomfortable. If you don't like the results of the newest change, you can always go back and do things the way you were doing them before you took action. Instead of not moving forward because of the fear, move forward and if you don't like it, go back to the status quo with a new plan of action. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

Fears are to be embraced, not used as an excuse for not getting what you want out of life. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do."

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