The First Step Domestic Violence Survivors Can Take to Learn to Love Themselves Again

Last week I described how many survivors of domestic violence and abuse get so caught up in beating themselves up that they can’t give themselves the care and compassion they need to heal.

In this post, I’ll explain how to take the first step towards fixing this problem, by building a compassionate image.

If you’ve been a violent relationship, you’ve been deprived of the things that we need the most from those we love, in order to feel psychologically sound and healthy.

Things like kindness, nurture, and a sense of physical and emotional safety.

This can make it hard to picture what a loving persona actually looks like.

We all know what words like kindness and love and compassion mean on an intellectual level – but when we’ve been hurt and betrayed, it’s hard to really feel them.

The purpose of the compassionate image exercise is to start to reconnect with these ideas on an emotional level by creating a fully-formed image of compassion. This gives us an internal reference point that we can keep coming back to.

As a starting point, your compassionate image needs to be built around four essential qualities: warmth, strength, wisdom and non-judgement. Beyond this, it is your own personal ideal and should reflect all the ways in which you want to be loved and cared for.

Find a quiet place where you can close your eyes and breathe deeply and focus without any distractions. Your mind might wander, and that’s ok – just try to guide it gently back to the image you’re creating. You want to feel as relaxed as possible, so don’t try to force anything!

Then, guide your image by asking yourself questions such as:

How would you want your ideal caring-compassionate image to look? Are they human, or is this represented by a particular animal? Or even something else entirely, like sunlight, or the sea? What colours do you associate with them? If they are human, are they male or female? Young or old? Would they look like you?

How would your ideal caring-compassionate image sound? What are their vocal qualities (if they have them)? How does this make you feel?

What other sensory qualities are attached to your ideal caring-compassionate image? Keep in mind the qualities of warmth, strength, wisdom and non-judgment here.

How would you like your ideal caring-compassionate image to relate to you? How would you relate to them?

Perhaps you connect through touch? Laughter? Vocal support? Or perhaps it’s simply an unspoken sense of security?

Try to keep in mind all the time that this image brings you complete compassion.

As you continue in your healing journey, this compassion image will be something you refer back to again and again. You can use it to remind yourself what warmth, strength and love truly look like for you – and can tap back into this ideal when you’re tempted to lash out at yourself and others, or when those around you treat you with less compassion than you need.

It gives you a benchmark for working out what kind of people you genuinely want to have in your life – and the kind of person that you want to be.

In my next post, I’ll explain how, armed with your compassionate image, you can start to use compassion to change the way your mind works, helping you to break out of self-destructive cycles and get on the right road to recovery.

Have you tried the compassionate image exercise? I’d love to hear about your experience – if you feel comfortable, please do let me know in the comments section below.

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Instant Gratification vs. a Long term Strategy… what’s best? PART I

Instant rewards and instant healing has a much nicer ring to it, then the words combined; LONG – TERM. However if waiting that particular extended time will further HELP in the long run it stirs the question if waiting is more worthwhile. But how do you determine what works best for you?

When associating this with Divorce, 99% of People want to get out of their pain as soon as they possibly can and get on with their life. They want any existing void or despair that has crept into their heart to be removed. But removing pain and despair is not connected to AVOIDING it. It is so important to guard yourself against hiding behind different issues, for example, your work, your children or other people’s problem’s as an excuse for not facing your own. This will result in not healing from your divorce. Diversion and keeping yourself busy with other things will not help you in any way it will only further multiply the time it will take to heal.

Deflecting never brings satisfaction. Your issues may have been avoided for a time but all the while they will bubble under the surface until eventually they boil over the top and burn more than it ever should have if you had first confronted the issues.

Therapy and traditional healing practices have based their disciplines on the premise that you need time to heal.

“Long term strategy” The concept of needing time to heal is consequently so ingrained in our society that challenging this notion is usually met with an extraordinary amount of resistance and in some cases even anger or dismissal. The thought of healing quickly feels fake, shallow or unbelievable and could be misconstrued as a trivialization of the healing process.

This is an understandable reaction, especially from people who have experienced such dramatic heartache and taken an extraordinary time to heal in those circumstances, but it raises my question or perhaps my opinion that it doesn’t NEED to take a LONG time to emotionally heal, not if the problem is faced correctly and strategically.  As I have said before I do not believe TIME HEALS ALL WOUNDS… Time simply passes by, it’s what we do with our lives while the time is passing that either helps us, heals us or locks us in our past.

What happens with a lot of people when they take time to heal is they become complacent, resigned and in reality… lazy. Over time the urgency to take action dissipates. And people can become desensitized to their situation and tend to “settle” for certain ways or habits, and tolerate more than they should or ever would have if they had first taken action pro actively.  Because if you live with something for so long, you can become “used to it” and no longer feel the urgency to take any action because you know you can withstand it as you’ve proved so far, so why change it now, why bother?

This kind of desensitized attitude is the danger in a long term strategy, it is not an accurate way in overcoming and dealing with that heartache you long to defeat.

However A long term strategy if correctly dealt with, does not need to be a negative thing. If you are making movement towards healing and dealing with your emotions but simply taking an extended time to do so, each to his own, and more power to you for knowing what works for you.

You just need to make sure that if you like taking your time to heal that it is not just an excuse for lingering in your self-pity. It is necessary to grieve and allow yourself to heal by all means! In fact it is vital that you do, but it is essential you ensure that it is just a selected time and not elongated, therefore distracting you from your need to move on.

Stay tuned for PART II…

Till next time!

Lots of hugs

War of the Roses

 

The War of the Roses was a civil war in England. Where the thirty years of warfare were even more destructive to England than the Hundred Years war had been in the previous century.

With the Petty disputes that occur between partners throughout a Divorce these days it seems necessary to title this article with such a name.

Research by Manchester law firm (Pannone) revealed to find that one in five divorces feature rows over similarly inexpensive possessions. When a couple divorce, there are bound to be complications or disagreements regarding the house and car, children, and so on, that is expected, but arguments over kitchen supplies and even food seems highly unnecessary and just plain ridiculous.

According to James Tozer (Mail Online) a client of a divorce lawyer asked for help to win custody of delicacies her ex-husband had taken from the kitchen of the marital home. A Particular Frying pan was a common bone of contention. There was even specific instruction by a client to her lawyer to write to her former spouse to return some smoked salmon and expensive mustard he had taken out of the freezer, The Lawyer explained that the legal fees in pursuing this would buy her a lot of smoked salmon, but she was adamant they pressed ahead anyway.

Reading this is just shocking to see what outrageous demands people make. If a small possession had a personal value to you there is understanding in that but in most of these cases it seems some couples fight simply for the sake of fighting, if in the process of Divorce you are unable to agree upon the division of small and personal assets, the court will then make the decision. An appointed person is called in to value the assets. The fee for hiring this person is usually quite substantial and in some cases is actually greater than the value of the items being valued.

So The War that goes on between a lot of couples these days stirs the question of where the argument stems from. Is it because of the desperate need for specific items? Where the amount spent on legal costs arguing about these items can be many times more than the value of the possession itself. Or is it rather to prove a point to their ex-spouses? Seems to me the only person who is going to win in this situation is the lawyer with a large amount of money…

Either which way, the movie, The War of the Roses really drives home what can happen when you focus on destroying another person in the quest to prove a point or be right. My tip for anyone going through this life change is decide from the outset WHO YOU WANT TO BE during the process and stick to that. Don’t get entangled in any sling matches or stoop to levels beneath you. Becoming THAT PERSON WHICH SEEKS REVENGE is something which you will forever regret… If you don’t believe me, check out the trailer for a little summary of the film…

Till next time!

Lots of hugs

The Ex-Factor – ex-etiquette, whether or not you have children!

Ex-Etiquette where there are no children involved

Divorce without children

If your divorce does not involve children from the marriage or the relationship, there is technically no reason to maintain contact with your ex. That’s the good and the bad news. The good news is that you won’t have to deal with your ex again. The bad news is that you have to acknowledge that it’s really over. Whether or not you remain friends with your ex is up to you. You don’t get extra points for an amicable relationship with your ex. The most important part of divorce is that it gives both parties an opportunity to move on with their new lives.

It’s easier to move on if you sever ties completely. Often an ex will maintain contact because they don’t want to move on.
Ending a relationship can be difficult, even when the relationship is painful. Some even prolong adversarial relations because it’s some form of contact.

Your ex may want to maintain in a friendly relationship. Sometimes this includes sex. Clearly they’re not moving on and there’s a possibility he can manipulate you into believing that there’s still ‘something there’ and a chance of getting back together.
Many people who try to stay friends after divorce are doing so in hopes of either rekindling the relationship or using the other person as a crutch until someone better comes along.

But what happens when it’s the other person who moves on first?

Being friends with your ex

Good for you if you can make the transition from ‘divorced’ to ‘friends’, especially if you have children and especially if you were married for a long time. But be sure that you’ve established your new, separate life before you make this transition. If you become best buddies too soon, your relationship with him could become a social crutch, or something you hide behind in place of creating a life for yourself.

The important point about being friends with your ex is that the relationship should evolve naturally. Don’t force it.

Also, it will not happen immediately – it cannot. You will need some time to ensure the relationship evolves into something clear where you can be friends.

In the beginning I recommend going cold turkey and not seeing your ex at all. Break all contact, delete him off Facebook and stop stalking him at the supermarket. Use the exercise on setting boundaries to set crucial boundaries with your ex.

When you have a new relationship you must honor your divorce. That means putting your new partner first. Any new relationship takes time to develop and you don’t want an ex hanging about in the wings to jeopardize things. You judge whether a natural friendship with your ex is healthy or not. If it interferes in your new life or your new relationship, end it.

Sex with your ex

Sometimes partners continue their sexual relationship after a break up. Sex relieves the loneliness and maintains ‘closeness’ with someone. Because you’re less familiar with each other after a break up, sex can feel more passionate. This is probably because it’s born of neediness and not love. Some couples will ‘use’ each other in this way while they’re breaking up. This prolongs the inevitable. I know of women who continue to sleep with their ex-partners long after they’ve remarried and had children. One such woman was Sue.

Sue continued to sleep with her ex-husband Ed on and off for 3 years even after Sue had remarried. It was very detrimental to both of them moving on or committing to their new relationships. When Sue’s new husband found out about her affair with her ex-husband, he ended their relationship immediately. Sue’s life became turmoil as she went through her second divorce within the space of a year.
This is not moving on. You need a clean break. You need closure. Don’t waste your life clinging to old relationships.

Women are often susceptible to sleeping with their ex during the Panic/negotiation phase of the naked divorce Grieving Cycle as a way of getting back together. For a woman, sex might mean all kinds of things and she’ll imbue it with all sorts of emotions. But it might not mean anything to the man.

  • Understand the phases you’ll go through after your divorce. Understand your hormones and those angst-ridden feelings and where they come from. The next time you feel compelled to contact your ex, ask yourself:
  • Do I miss being with him or do I simply miss being in a couple?
  • What if he says: “Let’s give it another go.” Will I be able to change what didn’t work the first time?
  • If you’re leaving the outcome of your relationship in his hands, ask yourself: What do I want? Is he the man I want to be with for the rest of my life, even if nothing changed?
  • How does being single make me feel?

If you are harboring resentment and anger towards your ex

Consider the impact of resentment and anger on your life. If you’re bitter and filled with resentment, remember that not forgiving someone is like taking the poison hoping your ex will die. You’re the one getting hurt by your bitterness. Your life is being ruined.
Complete the program, come to terms with your divorce, put it in the past and move on with your life as a different, more empowered woman.

If you simply can’t be friends

Be civil. When you bump into your ex, greet him, shake hands or hug him if you’re both comfortable with this, in same way you would greet a business associate.

If you’re paying child maintenance, alimony or spousal support, make sure you pay on time to eliminate any need for contact.

Ex-Etiquette where there are children involved

Don’t expose your children to marital conflict

When children are involved in divorce it’s very important for parents to behave civilly. I accept that this can be hard. It might always be hard. But there will be times you have to see your ex, perhaps when you communicate about the children’s health, school work and schedules, or during custody exchanges, or even sports, religious and academic events. In these cases, the rules are easy:

  • Be civil. Don’t speak badly of your ex in front of your children ever. Even though he’s your ex, he’s your child’s father and your child deserves to be able to love their dad without you poisoning the well. Whatever your relationship with your ex, always tell them their dad loves them. They need and deserve this.
  • Use tact. Don’t share details of your ex’s behavior with your children. Remember the oldest rule in the book: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
  • Be nice. Don’t argue with your spouse in front of your children or on the phone. Be polite in your interactions. This not only sets a good example for your kids but can also encourage your ex to be gracious in response.
  • Look on the bright side. Choose to focus on the strengths of all family members. Encourage children to do the same.
  • Work on it. Make it a priority to develop an amicable relationship with your ex as soon as possible. Watching you being civil and caring towards one another will reassure your children and teach them a great life skill, too.
  • Make sure your marital settlement agreement (also known as a custody order or divorce agreement) spells out all details. While this sounds harsh, it helps avoid misunderstandings in the future. Honor your financial obligations and custody agreement, but wherever possible, work things out directly with your ex. Be flexible when you can be, and if you can’t, stick to the schedule the court assigns. If you don’t like the schedule, change it through the court system as a last resort, and with your ex. Don’t involve the children if at all possible.
  • Don’t give your children false hopes of their parents reuniting. This may mean putting some distance between the 2 of you. It’s more important for the children to accept the reality of their new life no matter how painful it may be. This way they can move on. The divorce affects them, too. If your children believe there’s a chance you may get back together, they’ll also be fretting about another break up.

If you find you’re always locked in a battle with your ex over the details of parenting, try to step back and remember the bigger purpose. It’s in your children’s best interests to have a lasting, good relationship with both parents. Keep your long-term goals in mind – your children’s physical and mental health and your independence – and avoid disagreements about daily details.

If your ex does push your buttons, think ahead before you see him.

  • What are the triggers?
  • How will you keep the peace and stay calm?

Your happiness and the happiness of your children and, yes, even your ex, should be the broad brushstrokes in the big picture of your new lives after divorce.

Working amicably with your ex after a separation or divorce is sometimes a tall order, but you have the power and insight to put your own feelings aside and do what’s best for your kids. Learn how to make the process of co-parenting easier on everyone.

Though divorce with children can appear more complicated, divorces without children can be equally complicated. There is the possibility of never seeing the person you once shared love and a life with ever again.

Till next time!