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How long to get over divorce - Adele Theron - NakedDivorce

How long does it take to get over your divorce?

Ever wondered just how long it’s going to take to heal from your divorce? I know I did when I was going through my divorce. 

I was also given this challenging and critical question live on-stage by my interviewer recently, and I wanted to share my answer here, and also go into a little more detail and a little more science than I was able to at this live event. So here goes…

First of all – I need to define what ‘Getting Over Divorce’ actually means?

Getting over divorce is like having an orgasm…

In this regard Getting Over Divorce is a bit like having an orgasm… It’s hard to define, but you know it when it happens!

My clients often describe this as feeling ‘themselves again’, ‘complete’, ‘in-control’, ‘the best version of themself’, ‘the real me’, ‘empty and free’.

There are many different expressions but there is also a similarity between them.

What I see is a real and healthy sensation of clarity and void of emotion which I shall call ‘space’ or ’emptiness’. A mental space that was previously full of sometimes rage, confusion, anger, loss, sadness and more has been vacated that provides the space for opportunity and hope.

They realise that the future IS back in their hands, that they ARE in control, and that EVERYTHING is possible, and achievable. It’s a very special moment.

3 friggin years! That’s not acceptable.

A lot has to happen to allow this kind of transformation to happen, and when it happens it is like a switch has been flicked. It is not a gradual and slow process. There is also 7 years of intensive work which goes into creating the environment for these kinds of breakthroughs and transformations. It’s no accident.

If I may return to the unlikely orgasm analogy, there may be some gradual build up before, but when the breakthrough happens it happens very powerfully and very profoundly. You will absolutely know when a breakthrough has hit you.

That said, this does not mean that you will never ever think about your ex-partner ever again. It does not necessarily mean that you think your ex-partner is your best friend BUT it does mean that you are past it. You have accepted that your divorce happened, and that it will always be a part of your history, but very critically it is NOT a part of your future.

Traditional Therapy

When I was going through my divorce I spoke to several traditional therapists. The three I spoke to all used a similar ‘calculation’ to give me an answer to this question – here’s their maths…

1 year of marriage = 6 months of therapy (min 1 session per week).

Additional connected trauma will extend the duration further.

So at 5 years of marriage, plus the additional trauma that I had as a child (I was born without fully developed hip sockets), and the infidelity (18 affairs), it would take at least 3 years of on-going therapy.

3 friggin years! That’s simply not acceptable. Given my background in corporate change management and my commitment to producing results quickly, this antiquated thinking just didn’t jel with me.

3 critical elements

I now know that there are three critical elements that dictate the duration of time it takes to heal from divorce. They are;

  1. How motivated you are to do the necessary work to transform
  2. How evolved emotionally and personally you are, this may include how exposed to personal development you have been in the past
  3. How intensive the coaching / therapy is

For the purposes of this article I will focus entirely on number three – intensity…

Another approach

Let’s take a different look at this same question using a different topic. Let’s look at fitness…

How long does it take to get ‘fit’? It’s hard to define, right? You could argue it takes years, or indeed a lifetime of regular work to get ‘fit’.

The work is in reality never ending.

This is the thinking of the traditional therapists. It’s ongoing, often a lifelong pursuit. There is no finish line, there is no agreed result, there is no end date. The work continues indefinitely – or until you run out of funds.

Now let’s ask a slightly different question – let’s ask how long does it train to run a marathon?

Because we have given the question more definition, we can better answer it. A few questions also may arise:

  1. Are their variables that effect your training?
  2. Does everyone improve their fitness at exactly same rate?
  3. Will they all achieve the same race time?
  4. Do they all start from the same position?

The answer to all these questions is of course No.

However, we can still say with some justification and a significant amount of proof that if one trains 2-3 times per week, one can get fit enough to complete a marathon with 6 months of training.

3 times the intensity can equal 5-10 times the results!

Aside from the initial fitness level the biggest influencing variable that defines how long it takes to achieve the result is one thing. “Intensity”

Intensity

It stands to reason that the person that trains once per week will not advance at the same rate as someone that trains three times per week.

It is also worth noting that at just once per week the fitness levels progress at a very slow level indeed. I would argue that anyone only training once per week will never ever ever ever be fit enough to run a marathon. Think about that…

At three times per week, the fitness level does not increase at three times the rate – it increases exponentially. SO you might even progress at 5-10 times the rate.

So very realistically 3 times the intensity can easily equal 5-10 times the results.

The Science

Scientists tell us that most of the universe is filled with nothing.

Tom Stoppard explained the emptiness of atom like this, ‘if the nucleus is like the altar of St Paul’s Cathedral, an electron is like a moth in the cathedral’. Even in something as small as an atom, it is mostly full of nothing.

If all the ‘emptiness’ was removed, the entire human race could fit into a volume less than the size of three sugar cubes (ref: http://www.physics.org/featuredetail.asp?id=41). Isn’t that amazing??

So if we could remove all the emptiness out of a the transformational healing process is it not possible to condense that down from 3 years into just a few weeks? In a word Yes!

Heal in just 21 days

The Naked Divorce’s most popular course is completed in just 21 days. We achieve this because it’s intensive. Work and exercises are completed each and every day. It’s a demanding course, it takes energy, commitment, focus and support to complete it.

To be absolutely clear, I am NOT saying that we can achieve 3 years of therapy in just 21 days. What I am saying is – you achieve much greater, much bigger results, with much more mental fitness in 21 days than can ever be achieved by 3 years of non-intensive traditional therapy. We have many participants who were stuck in therapy for over 6 years who finally healed within the Naked Divorce.

The reason I created this programme is because no one has 6 years of life to spend it suffering. Time is the one commodity you can NEVER get back. So rather than wait for time to simply pass whilst assuming it will heal the wound – just get on with the process intensively and MOVE ON. There is life to be getting back to.

When 21 days it just too long

A year ago I launched the Naked Divorce Haven Retreat. A seven day version of Naked Divorce for our elite/ executive class participants who really don’t have the luxury of time to be suffering. Where, and yes you have guessed it, the course is even more intensive.

This is for the high achievers, for those that are very committed to their better future. We have a lot of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, country managers, business owners, judges, lawyers, doctors, etc. that join us on the Divorce Haven Retreat (I’ll reveal the most popular profession that attend a little later).

We achieve this by defining the space, the location and the environment better. All consultations are completed face-to-face, in-person, and in private. As a result the intensity is much higher.

The results are even more powerful, even more profound, and even more swift. For total disclosure I should point out that whilst the retreat is only 7 days, we do start build-up work prior to the retreat, and there is ongoing support afterwards included so it does take a little more than just 7 days to achieve the full result.

This reality of course is very confronting to traditional therapists. I’ll be open and tell you that many do not believe in this process. Not one of these doubters have actually done the course!

You also might like to know that the most popular career of all our customers are, did you guess?

Yes therapists, and physiologists. Now doesn’t that say a lot? We have had psychiatrists send their patients to us (with doctor’s notes), medical professionals who advise patients to do our programme and psychologists who do the programme quietly without ever saying anything about it.

Here are a few words from what they said about the course…

Testimonials from therapists and physiologists that have completed the Naked Divorce programme:

“Really, really cool experience. Utterly life-changing”
Cecile Fontan, Psychologist

“Naked Divorce was the answer to my prayers”
Elizabeth Q, Emotional Therapist

“You can’t go very far without dealing with your emotions rather than suppressing them”
Dr Sindiyo, Clinical Psychologist

“Incredible structure… I really did experience a complete state change by the end of the course”
Mandy, Life Coach and Financial Therapist

“I am simply blown away by the powerful transformation”
Stephanie Burton, Love Coach

“Incredible experience. I learnt more about relationships from Naked Divorce than in 22 years practicing as a psychologist”
Dr Ayse Sahin, Clinical Psychologist

“The more time you take to heal, the more self indulgent you get. Better to do something like Naked Divorce to focus on healing”
Dr Nea Clark, Clinical Psychologist London

So, the bottom line is if the award-winning Naked Divorce is their chosen programme for healing and they refuse to take the time to heal, why aren’t they telling you that healing faster is possible? Possibly because the average person going through divorce therapy spends USD 6,799 to heal from divorce…

Food for thought.

Get busy living and take positive pro-active action to get over your divorce.

 

With lots of love and lightness

Adele

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How to Behave After a Divorce

How to Behave After a Divorce

So much of the advice we are given is well meaning but is frankly hollow and trite…

Designed to minimise our emotional pain as if it’s invalid emotion, it’s not. This attempt to repress our emotions will actually increase the overall pain experienced and extend the recovery period, sometimes indefinitely.

Get over it.

Be strong.

Look on the bright side.

There are plenty more fish in the sea.

These classic statements do not help. And then there’s the other end of the scale: the friend that tells you to go out, get wasted, make all the mistakes you want because, hey, you’ve been through a lot. You’re single now. You get a free pass to be as self-destructive as you want, because look at what you’ve just been through. 

Or the friend that loves to come over for a good bitch about your ex. The friend that just ‘drops in’ information about some shitty thing they did, without you asking. The friend that acts like they’re on your side, but clearly revels in the drama – and wants you to go on feeling this angry, miserable and victimized, to squeeze as much entertainment out of the situation as they can.

They sound different, but these approaches all have the same effect. None of them encourage you to focus on how to recover. You aren’t looking for ways to work through the feelings. You’re simply told whether or not they should be allowed to exist in the first place – and then whether it’s better to mask them by pretending they aren’t there, to distract yourself from them as much as possible, or to keep feeding them because you’re within your rights to do so.

The most damaging thing is that all these forms of advice make you feel powerless. 

When you come through an emotional trauma like divorce, you need to give yourself permission to cry and scream and just – feel. But you also need to know that you are the keeper of these emotions. You don’t have to let them control you and your future.

Why do I feel so lost?

The pain of divorce isn’t just sadness that you fell out of love, that someone you trusted betrayed you, or whatever the cause of the breakup was. You aren’t just grieving for your relationship, you’re grieving for an entire life that you had, with all the familiar structures, habits and assumptions that made you feel safe.

You may have lost your home. You may have lost friends. You may have had to dramatically change your daily routine to facilitate extra childcare or overtime to do to make ends meet. At the same time, your default partner for everything from going to the cinema to your plus one at weddings has disappeared. The shock of the change can be bewildering and traumatic.

It’s not enough to try and get by with these old pieces of your life missing: you have to actively make a plan to restructure your life (and your mindset) completely to deal with this new reality.

What happens if I don’t?

You know the old saying that time heals all wounds? Well, It’s nonsense.

Time does not heal all wounds. Without proper care and intervention, physical wounds fester, or scar horribly, leaving permanent damage.

… Emotional wounds are exactly the same.

If you don’t take proactive steps to plan and organize your life post-divorce, you will stay stuck in the same state you were in when the trauma hit. You will continue to feel lost and hurt, and you will make no progress either on repairing the emotional damage or addressing any underlying problems and dysfunctions that fuelled the breakdown of the relationship in the first place.

That means you’re dooming yourself to keep repeating the same destructive mistakes.

Why structure is good

Enough with the doom and gloom: let’s look at the positives.

There are “best practices” for everything in life, and that includes divorce. Having a clear idea of what to do and how to behave in order to protect yourself and your kids from further emotional harm, and to create the conditions for healing, is genuinely empowering. You can take charge of your situation and your feelings, and start to rebuild.

The basics

There are 10 essential ways to make sure you’re on your best behaviour after a divorce:

Handle friends and family with good grace

Your mum’s anxious, tone-deaf advice might be about as much use as a chocolate teapot, but try not to get annoyed or frustrated. Recognise that most people in your life genuinely want to help or support you – they just don’t know how. Be thankful to them for caring enough to try, even if you’re secretly disregarding everything they say… and if you get the feeling that some people are stirring things up deliberately, politely refuse to engage.

Minimise contact with your ex

You might not be able to cut them off completely – especially if you have kids – but you do need to create distance. For as long as they’re hanging around, part of you will try to cling on to the role you played in each other’s lives before your divorce, and you won’t truly start restructuring your life without them.

Perhaps you can be friends later, but not now… and don’t kid yourself that you can’t keep sleeping together and walk away unscathed.

If you can, take a complete break for a few weeks right after the split, and then continue to keep contact to a polite minimum.

Keep your kids in the loop – but out of the fights

Your children are savvier than you think. They know you’re breaking up, they know their lives are changing, so don’t lie to them or give them false hope that things could go back to how they were before. Focus on showing them how much you love them and making it clear this is between you and your ex.

At the same time, never, ever drag them into your feuds. Try not to talk about your ex in negative terms in front of them, and don’t give in to any urge to use their feelings (or custody) as a weapon against your ex. If you do, you will sour their relationship with one or both of you, and make the experience even more traumatic for them in the process.

Take a step back from work (and then dive back in)

You need time to catch your breath, and stepping up your workload to distract yourself will only delay the start of your healing process. If you can, take some holiday, or at least postpone / manage certain projects to the ease the burden. When you’ve figured out your new structure you can jump back in and seize your career with both hands, but you need the next few weeks to focus on healing.

Don’t avoid your emotions

Your pain is going anywhere because you ignore it and numbing yourself just postpones the inevitable: at some point, you will have to deal with these emotions and start to focus on getting better. But, while you can’t – and shouldn’t – banish them completely, there are strategies you can use that will help you to listen to these feelings, negotiate with them, and lessen their hold over your behaviour and your state of mind.

Don’t look for someone to rescue you

Rebound relationships are almost always a disaster. The impulse to let someone else jump in and save you from your shitty situation, or make you feel better about your damaged confidence, is understandable, but all you’re doing is dragging your baggage into a new situation and putting tremendous pressure on the other person to make it work. Focus on getting yourself in a good place before bringing someone new into the mix.

Take care of yourself

It sounds minor, but you must look after yourself physically, as well as emotionally, after a trauma. That means trying to eat nourishing food, getting some sleep, avoiding too much caffeine or sugar, and not relying on alcohol, cigarettes or other drugs to get you through. These things wreak havoc on your mood and energy levels and will make you feel even more out of control.

Beware “false healing”

Teaching yourself to bear the pain is not the same as getting better. If you squash all that trauma down deep inside you, you will get sick. You will be miserable. You will lash out. You will repeat the same mistakes. The goal is to find functional, productive ways to deal with your problems and your relationships that make you happier, not to get through the day without crying.

Be honest

When you’re hurting or you’ve been wronged, it’s natural to want to rally people to your side. The trouble is, like that friend that loves the drama and wants you to keep on serving it up, being emotionally rewarded for victimhood can get addictive.

Reach out for whatever help you need, but if part of you is wallowing in this because it gives you a free pass to do, or demand, whatever you want, or you’re secretly enjoying the sense of righteous anger… admit that to yourself. You’ll need that self-awareness when you come to structuring a plan to heal.

Be proactive

Don’t sink into a stupor and wait for it to pass. It won’t. You have to decide to start healing. You have to be willing to take those steps. You have to be prepared to make a plan.

What do I do now?

Now it’s time to regain control of your life. Start with the practical things: how are you going to organise your finances? Your workload? Your social life? Childcare? Build new structures that work for your independent life.

Next, ask yourself: what sets me off? What factors send me into a downward spiral? When do my emotions start spinning out of control? When do I feel powerless or vulnerable?

As you identify the stuff that really scares you, you can start to plan out a daily routine that strips out some of the ways you torture yourself – the self-destructive behaviours, obsessions and thought processes that impact on your ability to heal.

 

Restructuring your life after a divorce is a BIG task. If you feel you’d benefit from expert guidance, click to learn more about the Naked Divorce 21 Day Programme, and how it can help you put all this advice into action to get over your divorce in just 3 weeks.

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Divorce – easier for Men or Women?

Is divorce easier for Men or Women?

We hear a lot about the damage divorce does to women, much less about the damage that divorce does to men.

So do women really feel the damage of a divorce more than their male counterparts?

Historically, women earned less than male partners and took a far greater role in raising children, meaning that a breakup left them poorer, more vulnerable and isolated, and less able to move on.

Men, on the other hand, were thought to have it easy: off they scuttled into a life of freedom and fecklessness, with fewer responsibilities, more cash and plenty of time to pick up a new model between weekends with the kids they’d left behind.

While that might be true for some guys, it’s certainly not the norm.

A bunch of studies in recent years show that, on the whole – provided they don’t already have someone else lined up – men find it harder to recover from divorce than their ex-wives do.

 

Often, this boils down to an inability to talk about emotions.

Women generally have a circle of friends to pour their hearts out to. They seek out the support and reassurance they need to make the pain more bearable.

Crucially, if a woman initiates divorce (or at least saw it coming) she’s probably been confiding about her experiences for a while. She may have reached the conclusion long ago that she’s too miserable in the marriage to continue.

Men, on the other hand, are much less likely to have had those conversations out loud. Dealing with the sudden tidal wave of despair can be more than they can handle.

That’s why women are more likely to report feeling relieved or even liberated after divorce, while men are more likely to report feeling devastated, betrayed, confused or even suicidal.

It’s also why men more often become embittered and fixated on finances and injustices, real or perceived. As Jim Patton of Families Need Fathers puts it:

“It’s easier for men to battle over hard cash than on an emotional level. Men don’t do emotions. It’s too psychobabble for us, so money becomes the catch-all for everything men feel and all the anger they have at how badly they feel they have been treated by their ex-wives, the courts etc.”

In other words, it’s easier for men to wallow in rage and hatred, obsessing over the wrongs they feel they’ve been dealt, than to face the weight of their pain, fear and loss.

 

This isn’t just terrible for your mental and physical health, it also wrecks your chance of future happiness.

Giving in to fury might feel great in the moment, but it hardly lays the groundwork for a loving relationship with your kids, or helps to navigate the practical stresses of divorce.

In fact, preoccupation with shame and anger over a marriage failure, and panic at the thought that their kids will see their weakness, leads some men to essentially abandon their children, causing irreversible damage to the most important relationships in their lives.

To give themselves a chance to recover, men desperately need to stop bottling everything up, allow themselves to grieve, process their feelings and take practical steps towards the healing process.

Without this, you risk carrying all the nastiness and dysfunction into your next relationship, too… and you have to ask yourself: is this trauma something you can face experiencing again?

 

Know someone who needs to hear this? Share this article with them today!

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Divorced – and shit at it

“Divorced – and shit at it”

I launched my Naked Divorce business on the back of my first book ‘Naked Divorce for women’ written over five years ago

Since then the business has grown and grown, and I’m delighted, and blessed to have been able to touch so many people’s lives as they wrestle with the chaos, despair and trauma of divorce. The transformations that take place in our programmes are truly stunning.

Sometimes I feel like I have been put on this planet to help people through their life traumas. I really do have the best job in the world – For example just earlier today one of my Relationship Counselling couples told me that not only was their relationship saved (they were on the brink of divorce just a few months ago), but they have just discovered to their delight that they are pregnant!

There were lot’s of tears of joy. And when I was told that would never have happened had it not been for me helping them – well let’s just say I was in lot’s of tears too.

Like I say, I really do have the best job. Honestly though, it’s not me, it’s the process. It just works. Sometimes my clients need me, or our Angels to assist them through the process – but ultimately it’s the process – what can I tell you, it’s the bomb-digidy!

OriginalBookLaunch
Adele’s original book launch at the largest Waterstone’s in London

 

Book Announcement

So I’m delighted to announce today for the first time, the launch of my new book for women (men you’re gonna have to wait a little longer – but it is coming). This revisedenhancedupdated book builds on the first book I wrote which was an Amazon Best Seller. Over the years the process has been tweaked, and refined to deliver ever more powerful results – so it was great to get that fine-tuning into this new book, and give it a make-over at the same time. The new book is called ‘DIVORCED – and shit at it‘. Because we are. We’re taught to ‘get on with things‘, to ‘feel happy‘, to ‘get on with our lives‘, to just ‘get over him‘, that ‘time will heal‘ – well it’s all BS. Quite frankly most of the advice out there is not only unhelpful – it actually makes things worse. So no wonder we are ‘Shit’ at getting over divorce – we’re being fed bad info. Friends and family may mean well – but they really don’t have a clue how to help. Ok – rant over.

Launch Offer

We have cunningly decided to launch the book officially on March 8 – International Womens Day! With the help of my team we’ve put a whole bunch of Bonuses together to help celebrate both International Womens Day – and the launch of ‘DIVORCED’. I should point-out this launch is for the digital version only – the printed version will be a little later. For more info on the book, the Special Bonuses that will be made availalbe only on MARCH 8 – click here >>> http://nakedrecoveryonline.com/product-book-divorced-women-2017-comingsoon/

Extract

You can download an Extract of the book for Free now >>>     Many thanks Adele

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The perfect relationship

The perfect relationship

Brad, Angelina and the Death of the “Perfect” Relationship

Ever been told “Oh my god, you guys are just SO GOOD together?” even as the doubts are starting to set in?

Or had friends roll their eyes when you mention issues that are starting to bother you because hey, your relationship is great – what are you whining about?

Or worse: broken up with your partner after much painful soul-searching, only to have your parents say: “Are you crazy? They were perfect for you!”

 

Brad&Ang
The perfect couple, or so many thought

Perfect

The problem with being the “perfect couple” is that you’re never allowed to break the illusion. The daily problems and struggles that every marriage experiences are glossed over, ignored, denied.

Sanitised for other people.

This puts insane, unrealistic pressure on your relationship. It makes you feel like every imperfection or tension is a personal failure. It prevents you approaching problems head on and working through them rationally. It speeds up the demise of your marriage when the cracks start to form.

And eventually, it deprives you of the support you desperately need right when you need it most: after your divorce.

 

Brangelina

Let’s take a look at the Brangelina breakup for a moment. These are two of the most beautiful, successful people in the world.

Two people that, on the face of it, seem to have the most picture perfect marriage.

They’re wealthy. They’re both top of their profession. They’ve worked together on a ton of successful projects, as well as pursuing independent goals. They’ve raised a beautiful family. They travel all over the world and own houses in far flung, exotic locations.

“It doesn’t matter how rich or beautiful you are, presenting a sanitised version of your relationship is exhausting.”

 

Performing

But you know what else?

They’re two people who spent their entire ten-year relationship in the public eye. Who have had to perform being happy in love for a press mob that picks apart every word and gesture for a decade.

They’ve had to put a flawless face forward even as they’ve negotiated some of the most stressful and emotionally exhausting events a couple can possibly experience together: the serious health problems and multiple, invasive surgeries, the death of parents, the high profile criticism of professional and personal choices, adopting and raising children, running their own businesses and managing their own creative projects.

Who had to cultivate a façade even for those people they see and speak to and confide in every day, in case their words are sold to a newspaper by a “source close to them”.

 

brad-pitt-angelina-jolie-happierdays
Brad and Angelina in happier times

Exhausting

It doesn’t matter how rich or beautiful you are, presenting a sanitised version of your relationship is exhausting. There’s only so long you can pretend that difficult, hurtful, stressful things aren’t taking their toll on your relationship. And when it falls apart, you absolutely need people who love you to step in, give you a hug, listen to you talk about what you’re going through and really listen.

Now, hopefully no one reading this will ever be in a position where the dirty laundry of their divorce is publicly strung up in the tabloid press, but I’m sure many can relate to the feeling that you’ve been horribly misrepresented by your partner, by your friends and family, by your social circle, or even (if, for example, you’re battling for custody) in a court of law.

If you’ve gone out of your way to present the happiest, shiniest, most perfect version of your marriage until now, it can be particularly hard to counter or handle this. Especially if everyone adores your ex and you’ve never attempted to disabuse them of the notion that this person is just as perfect as you’d always let them believe.

 

How do you backtrack?

How do you persuade them, after all this time, that actually things weren’t as wonderful as they seemed, behind the scenes? How do you trust someone to really listen and be supportive when you feel that they’re judging you harshly for “throwing it all away”?

Here’s the thing: you’re not going to be able to change a bunch of people’s minds when they’re dead set on siding with your ex. And do you really need to, anyway? What will you gain by it? Is it going to help you to move on?

Of course, if you’ve spent years putting on a show of being the perfect couple, it will most likely cut you deep that you’ve lost control of your “public image” now. You might panic that people no longer see in in the positive way they’ve always seen you in – or even as the cause of your relationship’s breakdown. At this point, it’s tempting to go on the offensive, painting yourself as the victim and telling everyone who will listen about your ex’s every fault.

 

Won’t help

But this will not help you heal and move on. In fact, it will do exactly the opposite.

Firstly, you will probably end up fighting a proxy war of he-did-this-she-did-this with your ex via your friendship group. That’s bound to get ugly, souring your relationship with your ex even more and leading to stuff coming out about you that you really didn’t want shared.

Secondly, you’ll find yourself becoming a person that you just don’t like. After all these years of fierce loyalty to your partner, striving to show both of you in your best light, here you are bad mouthing or exaggerating their faults to score points. That has to feel a bit grubby. It has to detract from whatever was actually beautiful about the time you shared together.

 

BradAngelina_divorce_battle_NakedRecoveryOnline
Will Brad and Angelina go into battle against each other?

Betray

If you go as far as betraying the trust of that person, unnecessarily disclosing intimate secrets or things that will really hurt or embarrass them, that’s even worse. Mutual friends will most likely think less of you for being so vindictive, your ex will (rightly) be appalled and you will have lost the moral high ground forever. From there, you can only keep clinging your ex’s wrongdoings and your victimhood in an attempt to justify yourself, admit guilt and grovel to your ex / your social circle for forgiveness, or continue along a path of petty revenge. None of these is exactly going to make you feel great about yourself.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should lie, cover up your feelings or sugar coat anything your ex has done that led to this breakup. You’ve done enough of that already, and it probably contributed to your marriage’s demise.

“It’s tempting to go on the offensive, painting yourself as the victim and telling everyone who will listen about your ex’s every fault. But this will not help you to heal and move on. In fact, it will do exactly the opposite.”

 

Honest

Instead, it’s a case of being honest with a small circle of people you really trust, and being painfully diplomatic with everyone else.

Again, let’s go back to Brangelina. If, like them, you’re splitting up under the media glare, you have to be incredibly careful about what you say and who you tell. After all, they have six kids to protect as well as each other’s feelings, and they certainly don’t want to go feeding the sharks.

Instead, they decline to comment, or release carefully worded statements like this one, from Brad Pitt:

“I am very saddened by this, but what matters most now is the wellbeing of our kids… I kindly ask the press to give them the space they deserve during this challenging time.”

“I am very saddened by this, but what matters most now is the wellbeing of our kids… I kindly ask the press to give them the space they deserve during this challenging time.” 

Okay, you might not have to worry about hacks quoting you out of context, but you can take a valuable lesson from this. People are people and they will gossip and twist your words. This is even more the case if your relationship always looked perfect from the outside and your breakup came as a shock.

 

Open and honest

Make sure you sit down the people closest to you and tell them, frankly, that while things weren’t as rosy as you perhaps made them out to be, you are trying hard to keep things civil. Be strong: don’t minimise the things that hurt you or allow them to make you feel these were nothing, but don’t exaggerate them either. Emphasise that you’ve already made your decision and now you need their support, not their judgement.

Ask them to keep what you tell them to yourself. Be open about what you need from them in terms of emotional support. Tell them you’re hurting. Tell them you’re scared.

“If you want to heal, you’ll have to focus on dealing with your own pain and the proactive steps you’re going to take to move on and get your life on track – on your own.”

 

BradAngelina_PressDivorce
Outside pressure is the last thing you need when going through a divorce

Trash talk…

But apart from the specific concerns and frustrations you need to get off your chest, don’t make it all about trash talking your ex. This will become exhausting very, very fast and will prevent you from moving on.

The same goes for people who will inevitably pry or try to goad you into saying things about your ex you wish you hadn’t. Be gracious about this. Say that you don’t want to speak ill of them or go into detail about what went wrong, but ultimately it didn’t work out and you wish them well. Then change the subject and don’t get drawn in: you will feel better about it, and you will come out looking like the better person.

You have to let them go

Ultimately, the important thing is that you don’t fixate on your ex. After all, you’ve broken up now. They should absolutely not be the central focus of your life. You have to let them go.

If you want to heal, you’ll have to focus on dealing with your own pain and the proactive steps you’re going to move on and get your life on track – on your own. You need to work on treating the wound, not keeping it visibly open to win the support of your friends.

If you’re lucky enough to avoid a divorce as public as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s, embrace the privacy that this gives you to heal. Don’t turn it into a min media circus of your own creation. At the end of the day, it’s you that will get hurt.

 

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Time heals. Really?

Do people keep telling you to give yourself time to heal? That you just need to put some distance between yourself and your trauma? Simply wait for long enough and you’ll feel much better, get over it, and move on.

Well… tell them to get stuffed.

Time is not a healer

Time doesn’t do anything, in fact. It’s passive. It just passes by. Everyone’s seen the elderly person that’s still bitter and angry about something that happened decades ago – clearly time didn’t heal for them. I’m sure you know yourself that old rejections and cruelties and breakups still smart years on, whereas the fights you strive to make peace over straight away are barely remembered a week later.

That’s because healing is an active decision, not a passive one.

Be proactive about tackling the problem head-on

If you want to get over an injury, you have to be proactive about tackling the problem head-on. You clean it, dress it, fix it and make sure it heals properly, so that it doesn’t keep giving you trouble for the rest of your life. We know this about physical ailments. Why pretend it’s any different for psychological ones?

Do you have emotional scare tissue?

If you don’t come to terms with your trauma, it just sits there, like a festering wound. Eventually scar tissue might grow over the top, covering over the cut, but it’s still the same old untreated wound.

Worse, this emotional scar tissue is incredibly damaging, because it acts as a kind of “false healing” that prevents you from ever getting to the root of the problem. If you keep telling yourself that you’re fine when you aren’t, if you keep waiting in hope that the anger or pain or dysfunction you’re experiencing will simply diminish over time, you not only deny yourself the healing you so desperately need – you will also keep repeating the same self-destructive behaviours and mistakes that caused the trauma in the first place.

The chances of divorce increases each time they get married

Did you know that the chances of divorce increases each time they get married? As in, you were to marry a second, third or fourth time, there’s less hope of it working out every time you do? You might think that someone whose first two marriages had gone tits-up, who had lived through the awful trauma of divorce twice already, would learn from their mistakes, get better at choosing the right partner and become more adept at navigating the issues that damage or weaken a relationship. But statistically speaking, they don’t.

Why? Because they trample from relationship to relationship with the same baggage, the same hang-ups, the same issues in tow. The more you repeat an action or way of responding to something, the deeper it becomes ingrained as a habit. The more instinctive that behaviour feels to you. Ironically, it makes you feel safer to repeat a behaviour or a decision you’ve made in the past, purely because you recognise it – and even though it hurts you.

Feels safer to repeat a behaviour or a decision you’ve made in the past – even though it hurts you

False healing doesn’t address these problems. Waiting around until the ache isn’t as sharp as it used to be won’t stop you doing the things that caused the ache in the first place. It doesn’t help you to walk into your new life or your next relationship with the skills, self-awareness and confidence to do things better. It might give you a brief feeling of reassurance that your past misery is behind you, but it doesn’t place happiness firmly on the horizon.

Brighter future

If you want your future to be brighter than your traumatic past, false healing just won’t cut it. Don’t wait for “time” to fix things. Take control. Decide it’s your time to heal, right now. And commit yourself to doing the proactive, practical things you have to do to make it true.

 

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Second marriage mistakes…

Second marriage mistakes…

Starting a Second Marriage? Don’t Assume You’ve Learned from Your Mistakes.

No doubt you already know these depressing statistics: nearly half of all marriages in the US and the UK end in divorce.

What you might not realise is that this number doesn’t decrease as we get older and wiser and (theoretically) better at figuring out what we want in a life partner. In fact, it goes up and up every time people try again.

In America, divorce rates for second and third marriages stand at 67% and 73% respectively.

How can this be?

Let’s just think about that for a moment. It’s scary enough to imagine that, statistically speaking, your first attempt at lifelong commitment is equally as likely to fail as it is to succeed. But for your third attempt to be three times more likely to screw up than to work out…? That people actually get dramatically worse at keeping a marriage together the more chances they have to get it right?

It’s a common and entirely natural compulsion to leave a relationship swearing to yourself that you will never, ever, fall for someone like that again. That, next time, you’ll go for someone utterly different.

And then, in your rush to prove to yourself that you won’t fall into the trap, you find yourself charging headlong into a relationship with someone that, on paper, is the polar opposite of your ex.

Becomes a purely superficial exercise

Now, I’ve talked before about how the main problem with this way of thinking is that, far too often, this becomes a purely superficial exercise.

That’s because the thought process tends to go something like this:

“My previous partner was a total workaholic who never had time for me and it made me miserable – so now I’m going to go for this super-carefree-seeming person who is mostly interested in having fun, and I’ll be so much happier!”

Root of the problem

But this doesn’t get to the root of the problem. It doesn’t address the communication issues or the self-defeating psychological habits and kneejerk reactions to problems and conflict that, in all likelihood, dominated the decline of your relationships.

It doesn’t help you to recognise the destructive cycles of behaviour that you and your ex were exhibiting. It doesn’t help you to heal and change.

Instead, it externalises the issue in a way that almost dooms you to fall into the same traps, time and again.

Let me explain.

Take the example I gave above. No one really divorces someone because they work long hours and are deeply involved in or passionate about their job.

You might divorce them because you feel feel hurt, neglected or even jealous that your emotional needs seem always to be secondary to something else in your partner’s life.

Or perhaps because you hate feeling shut down or belittled when you try to make demands on your partner’s time.

Or maybe because your partner is actually pretty miserable and resentful about having to work so hard to pay the bills – and that’s translating into aggressive or unpleasant behaviour at home.

Or even the real reason your partner is pouring so much energy into their work is because there’s been a breakdown in communication between you, or there’s a fundamental lack of connection in your relationship, that neither of you have been willing to address.

In which of these cases would it help to avoid a career-focussed partner and opt for a carefree hedonist instead?

Zero, is the answer to that. Zilch.

Just because the hot party animal bartender you’ve hooked up with on the rebound bears no obvious resemblance to your investment banker ex doesn’t mean that your problems and hang-ups will magically disappear. That they’ll treat you or relate to you any differently. Or that either of you will be better equipped to handle conflicts when they inevitably arise.

You aren’t going to feel less hurt and neglected because they’ve ditched you to go on a 5am bender than you did when your ex called to say they had to stay in the office until 10pm.

You aren’t going to be any less upset when they tell you you’re being clingy, dismiss your feelings out of hand or start taking out stress and frustration on you, whatever the cause.

And you aren’t going to be any better at expressing your emotions in ways that are healthy and productive. Or preventing either one of you becoming domineering or bullying in the way you communicate.

Change or expect the same outcome

In short, unless you do the hard work of interrogating your own feelings and behaviours, figuring out where and how to draw boundaries and facing up to the ways that you, too, might have contributed to your breakup, you will not begin to heal. And until you heal, you are dooming yourself to repeat (and to accept) the self-destructive behaviour or coping mechanisms that killed your first marriage, again and again.

And each time you do, you’ll wind up feeling even more helpless. Even more confused. Even more fearful, on some level, that you are unlovable

And each time you do, you’ll wind up feeling even more helpless. Even more confused. Even more fearful, on some level, that you are unlovable.

And even more likely to start pre-emptively sabotaging your next marriage before it has even had a chance to succeed.

This is a seriously important issue. These days, nearly a quarter of people in the US who are currently married have been married before. That’s a quarter of married people potentially carrying around the baggage of a previous marriage. A quarter of married people who, based on divorce statistics, aren’t learning from their mistakes.

A quarter of married people who, if they don’t get their act together and start taking control of the situations, are 67% likely to end up going through the pain of another divorce.

Divorce is traumatic

Divorce is a truly traumatic event. It is psychologically devastating. It harms your physical health and wellbeing. It’s financially catastrophic. And while, when divorce is necessary, you have to find the strength to survive it, you never, ever want to put yourself through that pain for reasons that you can absolutely avoid.

No matter how left of field you think you’re being in your dating choices, there is only one person in your new relationship that you can ever be sure will behave differently this time around – and that’s you.

Focus on how you will do things differently

So focus on how you will do things differently. Instead of shifting all responsibility for making the relationship work onto your next spouse, focus on how you yourself will grow, change and adapt your behaviour.

Be honest with yourself

Work on pinpointing the specific ways you react to problems that might escalate and exacerbate them, or on the other hand, that allow them to fester unchecked. Work on recalibrating the instinctive behaviours that are hurting you and the people you love.

Focus on figuring out what you really need from someone and how you will communicate that to them.

Think about how you’ll really figure out if the next person you fall for really meets the criteria you need – and how, if they don’t, you’ll spot the danger signs and change course long before you find yourself walking down the aisle.

And then, listen to yourself. Learn from the past. Break the cycle. Give yourself a chance, this time, to really be happy.
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Later life divorce…

Later life divorce…

Congratulations!

You made it all the way through to retirement together. You survived all those early fights, the nappy duties, the teenager tantrums, the little jealousies and resentments, the financial strains, the never-ending couple conflicts, and now…

Now you’ve decided enough is enough. You don’t want to grow old together, after all. You’re getting divorced.

Average age of divorce

In fact, the average age for divorce has been rising steadily since the mid-80s. Three decades ago, people tended to wed younger and hit that crisis point in their marriage by their mid to late 30s.

Traumatic as divorce is at any age, that’s well and truly young enough to bounce back. After all, you’re less than half way through your working life. You might have split everything you own straight down the middle, but you have years and years to pay off a mortgage on your own, to build a new home and a new life. To meet someone else and lay down a history with them.

After all, life begins at 40, as a million fridge magnets will attest.

But shift that divorce to your late 50s, 60s, or even later, and the situation can feel very, very different.

Big changes are coming

No matter whether you are male or female, whether you are the primary caregiver for your kids, whether you paid the bulk of the mortgage – going through a divorce means that you are highly likely to lose your home, your current standard of living, or both.

Unless one of you has the funds to buy out the other outright, it is highly likely that you will need to sell your house and split the money. Minus, of course, the formidable legal and admin costs that come with this process.

If you were lucky enough to be living in house that’s worth a fortune, or you’re willing to move away and start again somewhere a lot cheaper, you might still be able to buy a home of similar proportions by yourself. Far more likely, you’ll downsize dramatically.

After all, these days, it’s hard enough for two relatively young people working full time on a decent wage to get onto the property ladder. Trying to get a mortgage when you’re nearing retirement is seriously tough, regardless of your financial situation.

This particular sacrifice can come as an unexpected blow to many people who decide to divorce late in life.

Yes, you may have come to the painful decision that you do not want to spent your golden retirement years with the person you’ve lived with all this time. Yes, you might be terrified of loneliness after so many years of sharing your home with someone. Yes, you might have prepared yourself for the emotional punch of breaking the news to your children and/or grandchildren, who may have assumed, always, that you would be married for life.

But you might not have seriously considered the practicalities of separation. When you’ve spent years and years feathering your nest in exactly in the way you love, it’s easy to be caught out by the pain of walking away from a home that has become an expression of who you are.

Don’t forget the kids (even if they are parents too)

You may be caught out, too, by how traumatic your kids find the loss of the house. Even if they grew up and left home years ago, this house probably still represents their childhood to them. It’s an enduring thing in their lives, a trove of memories, and they may be far more sentimental about this than you could have expected.

I’m not saying this because you ought to feel guilty about your divorce. Far from it.

I’m simply saying this because many people who divorce late have become so comfortable and complacent in their lifestyles that they simply aren’t mentally prepared for how strong they need to be.

They assume, deep down, that getting divorced means continuing their lives in the same way, minus their spouse.

To put it bluntly, they often assume that the only thing that will change is that they no longer have to put up with this person.

That they will be able to do away with a relationship that they find hurtful, or a hindrance, or that no longer gives them what they need emotionally – but that all other elements of their lives will magically remain intact.

Divorce changes everything

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Divorce changes everything.

You don’t only decide to divorce your husband or wife. You decide, in the same breath, that you are willing to be financially and emotionally independent. That you will start again. That you will, in all likelihood, give up your home. That emotions will run high and you will fight with your family. That you will have to divide up your friends.

That, ultimately, you will shelve a lifetime’s worth of shared memories and plans and accept that, now, you are responsible for your own happiness – there’s no one else’s failures to pin it on.

Survive

This is scary. It’s terrifying. You can only survive it if you are willing to let go of everything you assumed would be a constant before.

Clinging to your past existence, resenting your partner for taking this away from you, turning the breakup into a bitter war over the scraps, forcing your children to take sides, chastising yourself for throwing away the “good” life you enjoyed before – these are the emotions that will drag out your suffering and make it impossible to heal.

Divorce doesn’t mean cutting a person out of your life. It means embarking on an entirely new, different life. It’s essential to go into this with your eyes open, and to focus on healing and rebuilding. It’s not easy, but it’s the only way to weather the loss, and create a new home of your own.

 

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Compromising Who You Are? Look Forward to that Midlife Crisis

Relationships are about compromise. Right? I mean, we hear that a hundred times a day. It’s drilled into us non-stop. If you want to make your marriage work, you have to be willing to compromise.

But what does “compromise” actually mean?

There’s a huge difference between accepting that you won’t always get your way and feeling you have to crush a piece of who you are to please your other half.

A world of difference between letting your partner pick tonight’s film on Netflix, or dropping a pointless argument because it’s not worth the drama, and letting your partner tell you that your feelings, interests, beliefs, passions or needs are invalid.

… Between letting go of the things that don’t matter and putting up with things that chip away slowly at your soul.

This is a mistake that so many couples make, and it can be fatal to a relationship in the long run. If one of you always has to be right about everything, if one of you feels like you had to settle for something that wasn’t right, if you were pressured to give up a career, a dream, a friendship group or a part of your personality (or you pressured your other half to do so) – beware.

Because that battle isn’t over. That sense of loss is still there, simmering under the surface.

You might ignore it for years. Decades.

But it hasn’t gone away.

And if “compromising” in your relationship makes you feel genuinely diminished, there is only so long you’ll be able to cope with this. Essentially, you’re a ticking time bomb.

You’re a midlife crisis waiting to happen.

When we talk about midlife crises, what we’re really talking about is this time bomb finally going off. A midlife crisis is the inevitable outcome of a lifetime of compromising on who we are – turning parts ourselves off, brushing over things that really matter to us, saying that these things are ok when really, they’re not.

Perhaps you’ve come to just accept your partner’s rudeness or bad behaviour, even though it cuts you and slowly erodes your confidence and self-respect. Perhaps you find yourself justifying a vanilla sex life that bores you to tears as an evitable part of a long-term relationship. Perhaps your parents and your other half hate each other and you’ve never managed to resolve it, even though it brings you out in hives every time there’s a family dinner. Perhaps you act as if you’re perfectly happy to sacrifice things that matter deeply, be they career opportunities or personal passions, just to keep the peace back home.

Eventually, you’re going to crack. You’re going to make a crazy grab for your freedom or to take back control of your life or resuscitate that part of an identity you thought you’d lost forever.

Midlife crises are the butt of many a joke. Often, we see them as superficial or pathetic in some way – an unseemly grab at a youth that’s starting to fade away. But downplaying their emotional significance is a mistake; these crises are symptoms of a genuinely traumatic time in many people’s lives, a time when they are suddenly deeply aware of their own mortality and petrified that they have failed to live the life or be the person they’d hoped.

It’s an experience which is often exacerbated by years of feeling demeaned or belittled by the person you’re facing the rest of your life with – and if that person responds by dismissing your fears just as you feel most vulnerable, that reservoir of resentment can break its banks.

For many people, the fallout is enormous, leading to a reassessment of your relationship, or even divorce.

As divorce support expert Cathy Meyer explains, a midlife crisis can manifest as:

  • Unhappiness with life and the lifestyle that may have provided you with happiness for many years
  • Boredom with people and things that may have been of interest to you before.
  • Feeling a need for adventure and change
  • Questioning the choices you made in your life and the validity of decisions made years before
  • Confusion about who you are and where you are going
  • Anger at your spouse and blame for feeling tied down
  • Inability to make decisions about where you want to go with your life
  • Doubt that you ever loved your spouse and resentment over the marriage
  • A desire for a new and passionate, intimate relationship.

These are big, painful, scary emotions, for you and your spouse. It’s no wonder that so many midlife crises lead to the breakdown of a relationship.

What’s more, a lot of people whose partners are heading for a midlife crisis don’t even realise it’s happening. Later, they say that their partner seemed to change overnight, switching from a seemingly content person to a stubborn, selfish a**hole who no longer cared about anyone else, including them.

What they don’t realise is that this unhappiness has been building for years. It’s just that their partner failed to assert their identity in meaningful ways sooner and/or they failed to realise that they were pushing them too hard to change.

The worst thing is when everyone can see it coming – except you.

Take my friend Harry.

He’s an awesome, outgoing guy that met and fell in love with a vivacious, larger-than-life woman who the thought was the one. She was desperate to have kids straightaway and even though he wasn’t ready, he went along with it. Then, once the baby was born, she started demanding more and more “compromises” – she became increasingly controlling, as well as cold and bitchy to his friends and family.

In little stages, Harry’s ended up agreeing to compromise so many little pieces of who he is, what he wants and the kind of relationship he was looking for that there’s hardly any of him left. These days, he looks like a shell of himself. Already he books himself on every work trip he can, as a chance to escape from a home life he feels trapped by and blow off steam. Each time, it becomes harder and harder to return. Each time, he’s more and more resentful of having to push himself back into that little box called “compromising your personality”. You can just tell that eventually, he’s going to snap like a twig, and I hate to imagine what ill-advised or self-destructive cry for help will constitute his personal mid-life crisis.

Because the trouble is, your midlife crisis isn’t genuinely tackling the problem; it’s superficial.

Buying a flashy car, pursuing an extra-marital affair or experimenting with drugs (or all three, if you’re Kevin Spacey’s character from American Beauty) might give you a temporary sense of reclaiming your youth, but it’s not going to help you feel at peace you are in any real way.

To do that, you need to actually reassess what’s been lost. What parts of you that have been compromised.

Did you used to have the confidence to speak your mind? Were you once spontaneous and open to trying new things? Did you always dream of being able to travel and have an adventure but somehow ended up going on the same package holiday every year? Do you resent your other half for talking down to you, for acting as if everything you say is nonsense, for refusing to recognise your needs?

These feelings and frustrations won’t evaporate now that you’re the proud owner of a Harley Davison or tattoo.

You might have a nice shiny distraction, but it’s your relationship dynamic that you need to address. Rather than escaping into a fantasy world where your partner can’t dictate your behaviour, the important thing is to start setting boundaries in the real world. Getting used to asserting yourself, calmly and rationally – and breaking out of the cycles of behaviour that see you ceding too much ground on the things that really matter to you.

Otherwise, what are you doing except lashing out at your other half? Having a teenage tantrum at the tender age of 50? This is not going to give you the peace and happiness you’ve missed out on all these years. It is not going to give you the tools you need to establish a healthier dynamic in your current relationship, or in your next one.

Of course, if you’ve left it too late, it might not be possible to fix things with your partner. This feeling that “Enough is enough, I’ve lost too much of myself already” is a common enough reason to go through a divorce.

But like any midlife crisis or reassertion of independence, divorce itself is not the cure.

Once that person is out of your life, you won’t have someone to resent or blame anymore for your failure to be yourself. Suddenly, you’re exposed and vulnerable, and it’s all down to you.

You now need to find your way back to that person you were before and re-learn how to live in their skin. You need to figure out how you hold on to your principles or the things you value the most, even when someone pushes you to drop them. Otherwise, you’ll soon find yourself making the same compromises again and again – and there are only so many times you can go through a crisis and survive.

Know someone who you think might be heading for a midlife crisis? Or have you been through this process with your own partner? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Sad depressed woman sitting outdoors

Are You a Therapy Junkie?

Recently I had a client in her 60s (I’ll call her Tammy) who had spent 12 long years in therapy, trying to figure out what was wrong with her and searching for ways to improve.

Tammy had tried every self-help, positive thinking, mind-opening, behaviour-correcting course you can think of. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy? Check! DBT? Check! EMDR? Check! PTSD therapy? Couples Counselling? Weekly check-ins with a depression specialist? Check – check – check!

I’m not saying there’s no value in these approaches. For some people, they can really help. But clearly, it just wasn’t working for Tammy.

After all, if you’ve tried out “talking cures” for over a decade without getting anywhere, it’s probably time to admit that this isn’t the path for you.

So why did Tammy keep plugging away at this, jumping from course to course, trying new variations of the same thing, without ever getting results?

It’s not because she’s gullible, or irrational, or an eternal optimist.

It’s because these dalliances with therapy were never about getting better.

Deep down, Tammy wasn’t interested in finding a cure.

She was going to therapy to wallow in her disease.

Being damaged made her feel validated. Talking about the ways in which she was broken gave her an iron-clad excuse for talking about herself at all.

Tammy was a therapy junkie.

Why is this such a bad thing? Well, let me put it like this.

Being a therapy junkie is a bit like having Munchausen Syndrome.

If you haven’t heard of Munchausen Syndrome, it’s a very damaging psychological condition where people feign the symptoms of a serious illness.

Often, sufferers will actually find ways to induce these symptoms in themselves. Sometimes, they’ll end up going from hospital to hospital demanding care or treatment, even undergoing dangerous surgical procedures that they know are unnecessary rather than admit that the symptoms are fabricated. When they get caught out, they disappear and move on to the next doctor or hospital that will give them the time of day.

There are a number of reasons people are thought to develop Munchausen’s syndrome, but one commonly cited cause is that, early in life, sufferers were struck down by a real illness. They were fussed over. They were important. Perhaps it was one of the few times that their parents, or someone important like a doctor, paid them any attention. As a result, they’ve come to associate being sick with being a person who actually matters – maybe even with feeling loved.

In their explanation of Munchausen Syndrome, the NHS sums up the three things that sufferers are trying to get out of faking an illness:

  • They have a compulsion to punish themselves (masochism) by making themselves ill because they feel unworthy
  • They need to feel important and be the centre of attention
  • They need to pass responsibility for their wellbeing and care on to other people

Sound familiar?

Let’s think about this for a minute. If you’re running from therapy to therapy, continually looking for new ways to improve yourself, what are you actually doing?

First, you are constantly reinforcing this idea that there is something deeply wrong with you. You’re revisiting your failings over and over, dwelling on them, exploring them from different perspective. But you’re never actually coming to peace with who you are. You’re not healing from the pain or trauma that actually underpins your self-destructive behaviours. You’re not taking action to make things better – you’re just holding the wounds open for different therapists to rub with their preferred variety of salt.

That sounds like masochism to me. That sounds like the actions of someone who things they’re unworthy. That they deserve to stay sick, to suffer – not to heal.

Secondly – and this might be hard to admit, even to yourself – by dragging out your therapy, you’re creating a situation where you can legitimately focus on yourself, demand the total attention of a professional, and make the conversation 100% dedicated to one subject: you.

In any other situation, this would sound like narcissism, but by calling it therapy, you get to take the moral high ground. You’re above criticism. That can be intoxicating. If, secretly, the chance to feel important is what’s motivating you, of course you will never find closure. The minute you do, your free pass to be the centre of attention will expire. No more special treatment for you.

And then, of course, there’s that glorious sense of abandonment that comes with placing your wellbeing in another person’s hands.

Rather than having to take responsibility for your own wellbeing, you get to pass the buck to someone else. And, when one therapist doesn’t succeed in providing a magic cure, you can just move onto the next. You’re always the victim. You’re always the one that’s being failed. You’re always the long-suffering patient that no one knows how to treat.

But that’s not how healing works.

Healing is an active process that takes sustained effort. It’s a process that needs you at the helm.

When Tammy came to me, she was used to taking a passive role in her own self-care. She had been talking about her problems for years, but no one had ever really asked her to do anything about them.

Instead of tackling negative behaviours head-on, she had become more and more obsessive about constantly figuring out what else was wrong with her. Her addiction to therapy dominated her marriage and sucked the joy out of everything she did. It played a major part in her husband’s decision to leave.

When Tammy started the Naked Divorce programme, she finally recognised that her constant need for therapy was really a cry for attention and the need to feel significant. She realised, at last, that it was precisely this that was damaging her relationships, rather than whatever insights she was searching for in the therapy itself.

Now, Tammy has switched approach. Instead of worrying about self-improvement, she’s working hard to break these cycles of behaviour. She’s given herself permission to enjoy life. She’s stopped making everything about her.

Instead of navel-gazing, she’s focussed on volunteering, on giving back to others – on real, positive actions that give her autonomy over her life, instead of talking in circles about supposed shortcomings that never get fixed.

If you’re constantly looking for ways to “improve” yourself, you need to take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself why you’re doing this. What, really, are you getting out of it?

Is the course of therapy you’re genuinely impacting on your life in positive way? Do you feel more in control of your emotions and behaviour?

Are you empowered enough by what you’ve learned that you’re already changing the way you interact with people? Are you getting more happiness out of life? Are you seeing improvements to your relationships?

If you’ve been working your way through different types of therapy for years (or even months) and the answer to these questions is “no”, it’s time to reassess exactly why you’re putting yourself through it. If not, you might just be a therapy junkie – and it’s time to kick the habit and take charge of your healing before it takes over your life.

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