Your marriage was legally dissolved 5 (2,10, 15) years ago. Do you think of yourself as “divorced” or “single”?
One day as a friend of the family and I were chatting about her “X”, I asked her this question……
“Are you divorced or are you single?”
She looked at me as if I was speaking a foreign language that she did not understand and said… “Huh, what does that mean?”
In my last post, I talked about the power a questioner on Quora had given the innocuous word “ok” to elicit anger.
I’m continuing here to discuss the power of words but in a different context.
If you have gone to court to dissolve your marriage, you are legally divorced.
Now, as a matter of disclosure, I am not an attorney so I can’t address any legal or financial issues that involve the label “divorced”. I am only addressing the psychological issues.
Once your marriage is dissolved, you are also “legally” (in quotes based on the above disclaimer) single.
The power of words…
What this word should mean is that you are now legally separated from your “X” and can move on in your life with a fresh start.
As I explained to my friend, as long as she psychologically considered herself “divorced”, there remained a connection to her marriage and her “X”. To the extent that this connection indicates unresolved feelings including anger, guilt, shame, or regret, she was stuck in the past and was not able to grow beyond her marriage and get on with her life.
This is what was going on.
She believed her “failed” marriage was her fault. This led to feelings of shame and guilt (self-blame) and regret.
She was pissed at her “X” for cheating. This led to the feeling of anger.
She wasn’t sure she could fully recover. This led to feelings of anxiety.
While she was aware of her anger and vaguely aware of her shame and guilt (not the same), anxiety and regret, all of these feelings were wrapped up in, and elicited by, the word “divorced”.
She was emotionally attached to, and looking backward at, her (unresolved) dissolved marriage.
If you were never married or single, you would proceed in your relationship with others as an individual without “legal” encumbrances. Your decisions would involve only you, not someone else.
Again, I am talking psychologically here.
So, I said to my friend, you are a single woman, now and can act accordingly as you go forward.
I also explained, that she needed to resolve the “unresolved” issues which connected her to her marriage and that the Emotions as Tools Model would show her way to do this.
Label, validate, and Assess
The emotional process involves labelling your emotions so you know what they are, validating them so that you don’t deny or minimize them and assessing their message so you can decide whether they accurately reflect your initial perception of your situation.
The words she used to describe her situation and the emotions those words elicited….
In describing her “divorce”, my friend asserted (paraphrased)…
- I screwed up and should have known better. (shame, guilt, regret)
- He screwed up.m (anger)
- Marriage sucks and I don’t want to hurt in the future. (anxiety)
We examined each of her assertions (perceptions) in terms of the “facts” including her actions and his actions, her strengths and weaknesses, who she is a person, etc.
Once the “issues” were addressed (resolution would come with time), the emotions subsided, she was able to acknowledge that she is, indeed, single and that moving on with her life now made sense to her.
The bottom line…
The takeaway here is that the words we use to describe the situations in which we find ourselves can be very powerful in their ability to elicit strong emotions which can negatively impact how we view ourselves and our situations as well as our ability to move forward in our lives.
In my next post, I will address the power of the word “stuck”.
Below, I have given some links to past posts which are relevant to this discussion.
It is important to note that you can access all of my past posts by clicking on the Index tab. When you do this, you will get a drop down menu with several categories for my posts. Click on the category and you get a listing of all the posts in that category. Click on the post you want and the post will appear.
Note: There are so many posts on anger, I suggest you click the anger category and pick the one that grabs your attention.
You Verses Your Anxiety: 3 Secrets and 4 Steps to turn Your Inner “doom sayer” into an inner “motivator”. Part 1
You Verses Your Anxiety: 3 Secrets and 4 Steps to turn Your Inner “doom sayer” into an inner “motivator”. Part 2: The 3 secrets.
You Verses Your Anxiety: 3 Secrets and 4 Steps to turn Your Inner “doom sayer” into an inner “motivator”. Part 3: The 4 steps.