This is the third in a series of articles from Kathy about going solo after divorce. Click here to read her first and second articles or see the links at the end of this post.
We all need people. Even the most introvert amongst us, if we are honest, might agree. However, while we are genetically social animals, the connection thing doesn’t mean we always do the communication and commitment stuff that enables growth, love and wisdom to foster in our relationships with each other. Divorce can be a particularly difficult time for managing relationships and it’s not unrealistic to say that along the way, we can lose people from our wider circle as we separate and split from our husband, wife or partner.
Indeed it might be during our most needy times when we manage to tear down and destroy others, with our own life judgements and fears…subconsciously or otherwise. We can be quick to react but slow to correct. It is in us all to be cruel just as much as it is to be kind.
The healthiest relationships are those where kindness and generosity of spirit are to be found. Many other factors contribute towards a healthy relationship; however, these two bedrocks ensure mutual respect, trust and connection. Between two people and over time, both can build in strength and intensity, especially if sustained during adversity.
When you live alone, it is no different when it comes for the need to invest time, effort and awareness into our relationships with others. They are, of course, essential but perhaps more important from my solo perspective, is the relationship I have with myself.
As a people worker and watcher, I predominantly come from a humanistic perspective in my interactions with others. I have been privileged to witness and be alongside great personal change for individuals. However, without kindness, positive self-regard and confidence I have seen people stumble and fall.
Those who survive and thrive do so because of connection, communication and compromise. By being open to receive support and unconditional regard from others. By being the mirror to the change, they wish to see in themselves. However, getting through is tough. Neither is it without considerable effort, especially when there might be immense emotional rubble that needs time to rebuild, rebalance and reconnect.
Personal relationships following great change like a complicated divorce is not an easy thing to write about so this is a profoundly personal piece.
Learning and letting go of what no longer serves me well in life has been a critical theme over the last few years when it comes to relationships. Working through blame both inwardly and externally from others has required an enormous amount of reflection and acceptance of situations and a tremendous amount of personal energy.
I held onto things that no longer worked for me due to a sense of obligation or maybe, merely habit. I stayed a long time in this space and experienced a great sense of hopelessness and worthlessness, but for a long time, I did nothing to change it. To find yourself in such a space is not kind to anyone, and sometimes it can be very toxic.
Acknowledging and accepting some relationships have a limited shelf life is one thing, allowing them to stay or go is another. It’s not always easy. Sometimes perspective prevailed, however, often I had little energy to make a much needed change. Despite protests, I found most people preferred to keep me in a box with rigid boundaries of how I should be, behave and live for their own needs with minimal consideration for my growth.
Unfortunately, it was necessary to leave some people behind during my time of transformation. Especially if their perspective proved to be limiting in any way or if they made me feel over compromised. To put the blame on either side isn’t helpful. But what is helpful, is accepting making changes and leaving a long relationship is incredibly hard, despite the positivity which may eventually result. For me, letting go with as much kindness as is possible was the only way to move forward not just for myself but for the person and people involved in my divorce.
Drawing a line, stepping back and daring others to cross have been crucial. It has been tough though. Taking self-care and wellbeing to another level has required a rational, ‘clear out’ of toxicity towards cutting the chains. There needs to be personal space and boundaries within relationships around divorce, enabling you to hold yourself safely with the same positive regard you have for others when it comes to their life challenges and dramas.
Continuous giving of myself to those around me may have been perceived as selfless. But it was sometimes easily assumed and expected by others who were over-dependent on me, who claimed entitlement because of marriage, faith and family ties. Neglecting my own pressing needs to meet the needs of others proved neither to be a balanced or healthy way to pursue life.
It sometimes felt okay while in the moment. However, it soon started to bite as those moments slowly built up and began to overwhelm. Resentment, a massive factor in any relationship breakdown, crept insidiously into a space ripe for it to grow.
‘Letting go’ can be the most anxiety-ridden, scary and difficult space you may ever find yourself in. Letting go of what no longer served me well took me deep into a period of loss, where there was always a sense of grief, and the experience brought feelings of isolation and a loss of self.
Equally, moving forward, hoping for more positive energy and people to enter my life with new learning, had its own anxiety and concern despite it being an affirmative action. Just as it takes time and effort to leave a situation that no longer serves, it took tremendous energy to move on positively. For me, self-care had to be stepped up.
Alongside kindness to myself, there was a need to re-channel my compassion for others, to ensure my love languages were not extinguished by negative scenarios. I consider kindness a muscle. The more it’s used, the stronger it becomes.
However, when I let people go, I was accused of being unkind and undeserving of other people’s kindness. That’s always a tricky one to reconcile. Like all muscles, they can be overused as much as they can be underused. Finding balance was vital.
I don’t enjoy anger, conflict or aggression in any shape or form. But, I am not immune to it from myself or others. If provoked I can give out just like the next person. They destabilise everyone’s energy. However, even in the most challenging life storms and in the process of letting some relationships go, anger, conflict and aggression were often the precursors before intended peace and kindness could reveal.
Kindness in how we express our anger is a hard concept to get your head around. Research suggests ‘active’ kindness in how we respond overall to each other is a necessity. Just being happy with each other’s joy goes a long way. Thoughtful acts and deeds that cost little may be precious in time and energy, but they speak loudly and have a lasting impact.
Simple acts of self-care where I might share moments of seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling and smelling beautiful things not only feeds the soul, they feed others when they are shared. It’s all kindness. And connection. Respect and trust too. That’s where a healthy relationship is to be found in my life, with whoever is by my side.
Going Solo After Divorce: Part 1 Kathy’s Story
Going Solo After Divorce: Part 3 Managing Change
The Most Important Relationship Is The One You Have With Yourself
I read all three of your articles they have given a clearer vision of what I can accomplish
after 21 years I am going through a divorce, buying a home and I am scared.
Maybe being a guy I am not supposed to but I am, your articles where so good and helpful, I think I can do this but its not going to be easy I know.
I love this site very much.
Thanks Dennis Burnett