My clients are always being tripped up by their thoughts about their ex. Usually it is some version of believing that their ex should do better. See if any of these resonate:
- s/he should be paying at least some child support
- s/he shouldn’t let my teenage boy be out after dark on his bike
- s/he only seems interested in our youngest and now ignores the oldest
- s/he refuses to work and contribute to the kids expenses
- s/he just bought a BMW but won’t pay support
- s/he speaks negatively about me to the kids
- s/he refuses to shield our kids from the conflict
- my kids don’t deserve a parent like him/her
- my kids are suffering because of him/her
It is really easy for me to jump into the pool with you when you tell me about all of the ridiculous things that your ex is doing….and how it is negatively impacting your kids. But, then there would be two of us drowning. I am going to leave that job to your friends. They can validate your feelings of disgust, disdain, disappointment and dread.
How do those thoughts make you feel?
When you believe any of the sentences written above, you feel TERRIBLE. This is why your feelings about your ex actually do matter. Each sentence will bring a wave of fear, desperation and hopelessness. They may also induce feelings of anger and resentment. A whole mishmash of terrible that sits in your chest whenever you think about the situation with your ex. The polar opposite of empowerment.
How do you show up when you feel terrible?
Here is the problem with marinating in this pool of piss: you are unlikely to show up as the awesome parent that you want to be. You are just too busy worrying or fuming. You will try to micromanage and control your ex or your children from this state. You will dread dealing with your lawyer because it all makes you so hostile. You may acquiesce to your ex’s demands because you are intimidated or believe the fight is hopeless.
In other words, it is very unlikely to take amazing actions from not-so-amazing feelings. So, don’t be surprised if you are getting poor results. It is all stemming from your thoughts about your ex and the situation.This is a thought-feeling-action cycle that is not working for you.
Getting some leverage over these thoughts
All of these complaints about how your ex is not behaving the way a good parent ought to behave are pretty easy to justify. They seem like facts and not thoughts at all. But honestly, they are just thoughts (sentences) about the ex. These thoughts are so ingrained they have become beliefs, and they feel a lot like facts. The only way I can convince you that they are not facts is that not everyone on the planet would agree that they are true. Certainly your ex would not agree. That is why it is critical to separate the facts from your thoughts.
These thoughts are optional. I know…you believe them to be true. I am not asking you to give them up completely. Just please acknowledge that these sentences in your mind are just thoughts. Try to become aware of the the feelings-actions-results that ensue when you focus on them.
What else might you think?
Hang on to the old thoughts if you must, but start to give equal air time to other thoughts about your circumstance. What else might you be able to consider thinking? Here are some that I love:
- I don’t need to rely on anyone who is not reliable
- who better than me to rely on?
- my child can thrive with just one amazing parent
- my kids will figure out his/her shenanigans
- I will stay in my lane
- I don’t need to control his/her relationship with our child
- adversity creates resilience
- I am the barometer of my house and my children
- there is no one better on this planet to advocate for my child
- I will always act in my child’s best interests
- life is not supposed to be easy
- I got this
- I can do hard things
- this isn’t a problem (one of my FAVOURITES!)
To get the best possible results in your divorce battle, you need to become the boss of your brain. Truth bomb: Your ex is not going to change. Here is the good news: you can develop the brain mastery to identify the thoughts that trigger you, and to give equal airtime to thoughts that don’t make you feel terrible.