New Year’s Resolutions and Divorce

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New Year's Resolutions and Divorce

The winter solstice and the start of a new year are catalysts for many people who want to resolve to do things differently.

We’ve all tried to set goals to make improvements. We are going to exercise more, eat differently, stop spending frivolously; the list goes on and on. Often the list is fueled with negative energy, a desperate need to change in order to “fix” all that is “wrong” with you. The challenge is that punishing messages such as “I am [pick one] too fat, too lazy, too inconsiderate” are not inspiring or motivational.

The Paradox of Change

The key to making and keeping new resolutions is to first make a list of all we like and honor about ourselves. The paradox is that before we invest in the future, we have to accept the present.

Carl Rogers, psychologist, said, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just the way I am, then I can change.” Gently accepting how you are today will help you build and sustain the change you envision.

You Are What You Think

Lasting post-divorce resolutions and goals regarding the children, ex-spouse, friends, dating, and the like need to start with an acceptance of today and a motivating reason to change. That means adjusting the way you think about yourself. One way to do that is to be aware of each “Harsh Thought” you have and replace it with an “Accepting Thought.”

Here are seven examples of typical, damaging, old thoughts and their replacement, positive, new thoughts about yourself and your divorce that can support your resolutions.

Harsh Thought: I am a failure because my marriage ended.
Accepting Thought: The end of my marriage freed me to find my independence and courage. I look forward to discovering who I can be in this next chapter of my life.

Harsh Thought: I am jealous of my ex’s relationship to the children. It feels like a win-lose competition, and I feel as if I’m losing.
Accepting Thought: My kids need a safe and wonderful relationship with their other parent. I will support their relationship by saying only positive things about my ex.

Harsh Thought: No one will ever want to love or be with me again. My romantic life is over.
Accepting Thought: I am an interesting and lovable person. A broken heart is an open heart. I will keep my heart open to the possibilities of loving again.

Harsh Thought: The kids are never going to be happy. They are angry and upset all the time.
Accepting Thought: This is a difficult time for everyone. I will focus on the children and create a calm and attentive environment. I will set the tone of coping and resiliency. It will start with me.

Harsh Thought: I have no time to exercise, eat healthy, or get enough sleep. Single parenting is so exhausting.
Accepting Thought: Yes, my life is exhausting. I will feel better if I do one thing for myself for 20 minutes everyday. I will find 20 minutes to call my own. I can take a bath or a walk, meditate, work out to an exercise video, write in a journal, or another soothing, restoring activity.

Harsh Thought: It is so hard for me to stay within my budget. I just can’t seem to control the spending.
Accepting Thought: Managing money is complicated. I will find ways to help myself create and manage a budget by reading books (available at the library for free) and doing Internet research.

Harsh Thought: I never imagined that my life would be this difficult and challenging. Sometimes it feels overwhelming.
Accepting Thought: Yes, life is challenging. Whether married or single, raising kids and working can feel overwhelming. I will start a gratitude journal. Every single day for 365 days, I will write down one new thing I am grateful for. That will keep me balanced and centered.

The One New Year’s Resolution We All Need

Most people want to find ways to sustain changes that they think will make them happier. You may think, “If I were thinner, healthier, richer or in love, then I would be happy.” The core reason for New Year’s resolutions in general is the pursuit of happiness. According to Deepak Chopra, in his book, What Are You Hungry For?: The Chopra Solution to Permanent Weight Loss, Well-Being, and Lightness of Soul (aff), permanent happiness is an illusion. What we should aim for is a state of steady contentment.

Happiness and unhappiness happen to us all. Being happy all the time is not the goal. It’s to accept where you are in the present moment. Acceptance means not struggling or resisting, and it especially means not speaking harshly to yourself.

The New Year’s Resolution I recommend for you—and always set for myself—is to speak gently and kindly to yourself, regardless of the circumstances. Speak to yourself as if you were supporting a beloved friend or young child going through a difficult time. Just as it does for them, supporting yourself opens the door for the positive changes coming your way in the new year.

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