Yesterday, I attended an interesting seminar, where a Certified Professional Coach that focuses on working with women in transition, was one of the presenters. She did a great job of explaining why transitions can create so much anxiety for people. Simply put, her point is that there are 5 basic needs that we have to meet to feel happy and safe, and unfortunately when we are going through life transitions, i.e. a new job, new place to live, new marriage, new baby, becoming an empty nester, retirement, death or divorce, it only takes one of these 5 needs to be thrown off whack to make us feel off kilter:
1. Financial Security– if you are not sure how you will meet your basic financial obligations, this is a huge problem. I see it every day in my divorce cases, and that is why I spend so much time teaching and advocating about financial literacy. Women today cannot rely on their husband’s for financial support. You have to be able to pull your own weight in the event something horrible happens.
2. Identity– you have to be secure in who you are as a person. Your identity should not be tied to any one particular role in life, i.e. being a good mom, wife, or employee. You may switch careers, your kids will leave the house, and your spouse may die or divorce you. What are you going to do if these things happen? As painful as it is to go through an identity crisis, it does teach us that what we do doesn’t define who we are.
3. Socialization– do you have friends outside of work or your home? Funny how everyone is your best friend while you are on fire– until one day you or not, or you leave a company, and then you barely hear from previous co-workers. This is why you cannot put all your eggs in one basket, and you can’t have your entire social life revolve around family. Kids will grow up, and they will cease to want to hang with their parents; meanwhile it is perfectly normal for your spouse to want his/her own independent time to hang with the guys or enjoy a ladies night out. We all need to have friends we can call our own.
4. Purpose– while this will certainly change as we go through the different decades, we all need to have a purpose in life. Early on it might be sports, forming a career and/or finding a partner. Later in our 30’s, we tend to focus on raising our children. In our 40’s and 50’s we may start to want to connect on a larger scale with charitable causes. Whatever it is, just make sure you find something that makes you excited to wake up in the morning and makes you feel life is worth living.
5. Structure & Time Management– we are all creatures of habit to some extent, and knowing how our days or weeks will be structured gives us a great deal of comfort. The sooner you can establish some norms regarding your daily or weekly schedule in a new environment, the sooner you will feel at ease.
As I listened to the lecture, it became so clear to me why my divorce clients’ lives are thrown into such upheaval. Basically all 5 of these needs are disrupted all at once, and while some of us adapt quickly to change, many do not. The financial, emotional and social devastation caused by divorce cannot be overstated, especially for those that sacrificed so much of themselves for the greater good of the family or never saw the end coming. To start over after such an immense setback is never easy– but it can be done. I know because not only have I been helping people through this process every day the last 16 years, but I myself had to go through it many years ago. It is true when they say that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.
Thankfully, there is a life after divorce, and indeed it can be beautiful, exciting, and filled with far greater joy and love than you ever imagined– but it takes hard work and discipline. You have to make sure you are financially solid, secure in yourself, that you find a purpose, establish a routine that works for you, and above all else, find a good group of friends that will love you and support you no matter what. True friends are not easy to come by, but you will know when you’ve found one because s/he is not just good about helping you in a time of need, but also in celebrating your successes. There are not many that I can count in this category, but they know who they are, and we all know that I could never have come this far and still maintained my faith in love without all those that lifted my spirits all these many years, and now I’m just happy to repay that favor.
So, hopefully this helps explain why transitions are so scary. But, don’t let yourself become paralyzed by fear. Instead, find a way to face your fears– look at them as challenges that will help you grow. And if you still feel overwhelmed, well just remember you don’t have to do it all alone. There are plenty of amazing professionals trained to help guide those that feel lost, and I for one will always be eternally grateful to my life coach for being my guiding light through some pretty major storms. Hope you find your own guru to guide you through your time of need!
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.