The day after. How do you feel? Did you make it through the night? Hopefully you did and can look out on the other side. You might be asking what did I survive or outlast? Well….According to some in the universe, The 25th of January is the Saddest Day of 2010.
Now there could be a number of reasons not the least of which are associated with gray skies, a depressed economy and on and on….right?
Or could it be just a seasonal thing…something that occurs because the euphoria of the holidays is over and we are left with only tax season on the horizon…or could it be something entirely too close to home?
I am not sure what it is or why it is or why we would bring focus each year to something not exactly uplifting, but what I am sure of is that gray skies outside can translate into gloomy nights inside.
As this week steams ahead like a runaway train we are going to explore the Divorce Life-cycle. Gloomy to some…liberating to others. Divorce can be a very lonely and desolate place for the individual and the couple as a whole.
We are going to look at how one assesses where they are at…the decision before them…the internal and external pressures…and the outlook once a decision is made. In short, we are going to breakdown divorce into the following categories:
Why should I be tackling this series? What do I know about it? Well,in short order I am a divorcee and have worked with divorce from all angels and situations. I have seen the impact on the adults and the children and know of many individuals who struggle to answer this question:
“Am I just in a funk or is this state-of-mind permanent?”
And of course we hear of the “7-year-itch” aptly depicting the rash-like feeling we can feel when every move taken or word spoken by our spouse elicits anger, irritation, and debate. So let’s examine this first stage and try to get a grasp on this stage of a relationship entering the E.R.
Stage 1: Irritation
Whether it is the man or woman that becomes increasingly irritated with their spouse one thing becomes clear…as one partner’s irritation increases—the likelihood is that their spouses irritation goes up too! And as we begin to experience our once perfect spouse as not-so-perfect we begin to have conversations with ourselves. Often we do not share our thoughts with our friends, relatives, coworkers, or spouse. What we do is go down a list, in our head, that mimics a security checklist for a school field trip:
1. Where are we going?
3. Did anyone ask if I even wanted to go?
4. How long do I have to stay?
5. What will I need to take with me?
6. What’s for lunch?
7. Who is going?
8. Am I responsible for work I am missing?
9. Who do I HAVE to sit by on the bus?
10. Am I the only one who doesn’t want to go on this trip?
You might think that this list is either limited or exhaustive, but what you cannot do is deny the mental tussle one goes through on a moment-to-moment basis when contemplating the survival rate of their relationship.
Let’s Translate shall we…
1. Where are we going?= What happened to our original plan and why do I feel like this relationship is out of control?
2. Why?= Why have you changed and do you even care about me anymore?
3. Did anyone ask if I even wanted to go?= I feel like you never ask me what I want. I feel like I am trapped doing what everyone else expects a wife/husband to do.
4. How long do I have to stay?= I am not sure that I want to continue feeling this way and I don’t know how to tell you or if this thought is fleeting…either way I want some control over MY life.
5. What will I need to take with me?= I don’t even know what I need to do that will help me feel better if we are going to work this out…and if we decide to end it I really don’t know what I need to do!
6. What’s for lunch?= I don’t feel nourished by this relationship. My tank is empty and I hate feeling and knowing that one of us is going to have to “give back” with only fumes. I hate this vicious cycle of bartering for our needs.
7. Who is going?= Am I the only one that is scared my marriage is falling a part? Do my friends ever go through this?
8. Am I responsible for work I am missing?= Our routines are killing any opportunity to “get back” what we had. Why can’t life wait so that we can recapture our magic of yesteryear?
9. Who do I HAVE to sit by on the bus?= If I am to risk “losing hand” by bringing up my sadness…what conciliatory acts am I going to have to take on?
10. Am I the only one who doesn’t want to go on this trip?
= Does he/she not notice how bad things have gotten? Do they not care?
The result of this long and drawn out conversation is that many are left wondering…“Why should I care anymore?”
And, instead of sharing our fears (speaking to the men out there) we close up shop, build up walls, and act out for hope that she will notice. Normal Males will work hard to share their feelings and concerns sending a message that the relationship is that important to them.
Easier said than done. I know. I struggled mightily to fight routines and speak up when I so desperately wanted answers to my growing frustration and irritation. But, I am human as are you and sometimes men and women demonstrate their fears by acting out in hopes that their spouse will translate the community theater production being put before them on a daily basis.
It hark-ins back to a friend of mine who became so irritated with his job that he wanted to send a message to his superiors, of which he had many, by playing the movie Office Space on repeat in his section of the “cube-farm.” After the movie played 62 times…my friend glided into work one day to find his computer gone…vanished…no more secret “telegrams” to be sent.
Relationships go through bumps and bruises and so many in the media and in mental health want to lie to you and say that, “It’ll be ok…just hang in there.” I am here to tell you a truth…sometimes the Irritation reflects the different paths you each are on and that is Normal.
It does not imply that one person is at fault or malicious. It might simply mean that as you have evolved as individuals your values, goals, dreams, personalities and outlook might have taken a separate and individual path. This country prides itself on “finishing what we started”….”never giving up”….and that one gender has to “go down with the ship.”
These can be destructive messages to both men and women resulting in children and friends who no longer understand or enjoy being around you. As we walk through the Divorce Life-Cycle please be cognizant that you are NOT alone, you ARE Normal, and if too much damage hasn’t been done, you can work it out. Be aware of your thoughts and actions and look beyond the Irritation to understand the cause and source…it might very well be You…I know it was Me.
See you tomorrow when we will look at the progression of the Divorce Life-Cycle and Stage 2: Contemplation
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male