Holistic Divorce Counseling

Holistic Divorce Counseling Nicole S. Urdang, M.S., NCC, DHM. Free support, resources, and comfort for all life's issues and transitions.

The Holy Grail of Psychotherapy: What It Is And How You Can Achieve It July 13, 2017

 

After 40 plus years as a psychotherapist I now believe the holy grail of therapy is helping people feel safe. If that sounds too simplistic, just think about it. Whatever you are dealing with: anxiety, depression, grief, guilt or anger, the best possible outcome is feeling safe in your body, mind, emotions, and environment. If you had traumatic events in your life, physical illness, abandonment, betrayal, abuse of any kind, you may not feel safe, even if the actual experiences happened years ago. Typically, this presents as anxiety and panic, but the body-mind is very creative when it wants to express itself. It can give you all sorts of physical symptoms, like headaches, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, muscle pains, GERD, blurry vision, vertigo, and a host of other unpleasant and challenging sensations.

 

While understanding and insight are wonderful, and can feel so exciting in those Aha! moments when patterns suddenly make sense, all the intellectual knowing in the world will probably not make you feel safe inside.

 

Paradoxically, sitting with whatever arises and investigating it can help you feel more comfortable and grounded. Remind yourself the painful emotion or physical feeling is there to be felt. You might even say, “Let me feel this” when something unpleasant shows up. Giving yourself a cosmic permission slip to feel what you are experiencing is empowering and can lower the emotional ante.

 

Just as helpful as being with your experience as it unfolds is developing the capacity to soothe yourself. To talk kindly, patiently, gently, and lovingly to the parts of you that feel afraid, alone, sad, or hopeless. This may sound fairly straightforward, but it’s actually very difficult.

 

Here are a few ways to cultivate lovingkindness towards yourself:

 

Meditate. Meditation helps develop curiosity about whatever is happening in your body-mind. You sit with what is, notice it, name it, and go back to following your breath. When in the throes of a panic attack or surfing despair you probably won’t be able to meditate, but all that training can allow you to view your current situation from a different perspective: one that helps you see how everything arises and dissolves.

 

Metta meditation is a special practice that starts with wishing yourself peace, happiness, and freedom from suffering. My version goes like this:

May I be peaceful.

May I be happy.

May I be free from suffering.

May I seek, find, know, and spread joy.

May I be grateful for all that has been given to me.

May I feel safe inside and outside my body.

 

After wishing these things for yourself you wish them for:

People you love

People you find off-putting or difficult

Strangers

All creatures.

 

You can spend as little or as long as you like with this practice, lying down or sitting.

 

Physical practices can be great reminders of your deep love and concern for yourself. One way to access this connection is by simply placing your hand on your heart. There is a yogic hand gesture called Vajrapradama Mudra that has you intertwine your fingers and place your palms directly over your heart with your thumbs pointing up, elbows wide. Hold the posture for a few minutes or longer as you breathe into your heart. You can also say: I love you. Everything will be fine. This can be incredibly grounding in the midst of feeling something threatening.

 

A butterfly hug is also quite soothing. Simply cross your arms over your chest, tuck your fingers in your armpits and leave your thumbs on your chest facing up.

 

Drawing attention to your repetitive thoughts, especially the catastrophizing and self-downing ones, can be very helpful as it allows you to challenge them and substitute more helpful, loving self talk.

Watch out for thoughts, like:

I’ll never overcome this depression.

No one really cares if I live or die.

This pain will only get worse.

I’ll never be at peace.

It’s unbearable to feel this way.

I’ll always be a mess.

If you notice any of these, or other extreme, negative thoughts, ask yourself if they are true. Is there any evidence proving their veracity? Have you felt miserable every second of your life? Probably not. But, even if you thought so in that bleak moment (what the Buddhists call the hell realm) you could still remind yourself the great thing about life is its mysterious ways. The next second you could get a phone call from a loving friend or relative. You could suddenly see some of your thoughts as so extreme they strike you as funny. You never know. I have surprised myself by listening to my audio journal the day after recording an upsetting night’s experience and found things quite amusing.

 

Try Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), or Tapping. There are literally hundreds of YouTube videos (Brad Yates has one for almost everything) that can guide you through the Tapping protocol to calm your nervous system and clear out negative patterns. It’s very easy to learn, especially if you follow along with the video. Just remember to substitute your words when the practitioner says something that doesn’t feel right to you. That way, you customize the practice to your unique experience.

 

Wait. Yes, just wait. As Americans we are very impatient with things taking time, but simply waiting until this surge of self-downing, anxiety, anger, grief, etc. passes can make all the difference. If you can consciously choose to let your upsetting thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations be there they will eventually lessen, change, or evaporate.

 

Use Yoga Nidra, the ancient practice of Yogic Sleep. You may actually fall asleep listening to it, but even if you don’t, it will distract your active mind from all its racing thoughts. You can find more information on this incredible practice here: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/yoga-nidra-for-relaxation-insomnia-and-posttraumatic-stress-0202154.

 

Make sure you are not hungry or thirsty, as both states can trigger a negative emotional cascade. In general, it’s best not to let more than three to four hours go between a meal or snack. Eating breakfast also helps stabilize your blood sugar levels and helps you maintain a better perspective. Some people are more sensitive to these blood sugar fluctuations than others, but almost everyone gets cranky when their levels are low.

 

Get enough sleep. Resting well and long enough allows your brain to consolidate everything it experienced and learned the day before, as well as gives you the energy you need to face the day.  Some meditation teachers, like Jeff Foster, say depression is our body’s cry for rest. While I think depression can be more complicated than that, rest is crucial to feeling good. My colleague, Robyn Posin, always says, “Rest is a sacred act.” I agree. It’s also radical to slow down, take it easy, and consider that a productive use of your time.

 

Of all these techniques, the most important one is to talk lovingly, patiently, kindly, and gently to your sweet self. Notice when that inner critic’s harsh voice appears and think of other things to say to yourself. If that’s difficult, pretend you’re talking to the five year old version of yourself. Use the Recording and Listening suggestions on this site to record yourself saying supportive, compassionate, patient, understanding, and soothing things so you can listen to it when no one is there to say those loving words to you. You may find that hearing them in your own voice is even more affecting and powerful.

 

It’s not quick nor easy to change patterns, but you can do it. Every little shift you make will accrue over time into a more compassionate, loving relationship with yourself.

 

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Demons: Befriend Them If You Want To Change & Grow November 5, 2011



Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at this moment.
Eckhart Tolle


If you are reading this, the demons haven’t won.


Facing your demons is part of life. From your earliest moments when you might have been hungry and the breast or bottle wasn’t immediately available to later life crises, like divorce, death, job loss, financial hardship, illness, and other challenges, everyone is beset with demons. When things are particularly rough, it may seem as if the demons are winning, but as long as you live and breathe, you’re the victor.


Demons are excellent shape-shifters and can morph from one torturous form to another in the blink of an eye. Fear of rejection, worthlessness, false pride, anxiety, failure, pain, jealousy, anger, depression, and giving up on oneself are just some of the guises they assume.


It’s important to remember just how resilient you are, especially in the midst of an invasion. When I say invasion, I mean those times when you feel so overwhelmed by life you think you simply can’t stand another minute. When the emotional pain, grief, or hopelessness is all you can see. At those moments, it is crucial to remember how time limited everything really is, including you. Even if you live a long life, it will still be a relatively short span in the body; and, being incarnate is fraught with all sorts of experiences. When the less appealing ones visit, it’s best to welcome them with open arms, as counter-intuitive as that may seem. By denying what is really happening for you, or repressing your feelings with addictions or unhealthy habits, you forgo the opportunity to grow. You miss the chance to spar with scary thoughts, ugly impulses, or overwhelming grief, all of which move you into a more evolved and compassionate place.


There are still many people out there, and I don’t mean drug dealers, who will offer you a way around your misery. Advertisers will tell you life can be rosy if only you buy X, Y, or Z. Some new-agers will claim a quick way to nirvana, and there are myriad options for dulling one’s pain with obsessive-compulsive behaviors of all kinds. Don’t be beguiled by their dog and pony show. Who wouldn’t want an easy way out from pain? Sign me up! I’d love to think there was some quick panacea; but, after 40 years of studying psychology, religion, and philosophy I truly believe the only way out is through.


That doesn’t mean you have to weather every storm alone. This is the time to ask for and graciously accept help. Whether it is from a friend, relative, therapist, hotline, clergy person, or 12-step group, please avail yourself of any support you can. Just because many of us were brought up with that old Calvinist ethic of independence and self-sufficiency doesn’t mean it was right. If you were traveling West in a covered wagon you needed to be tough, but even those intrepid souls recognized how interdependent they had to be.


Going back in time even further, they say when the Buddha was under the Bodhi tree seeking enlightenment the demons came. He tried to fight them off for days. Finally, realizing that, at best, they would reach an impasse, he invited them to sit with him. I like to think of this as the Buddha inviting his demons to tea. Take a page from the Buddha’s book, befriend your demons. Undoubtedly, you will learn something, and develop more resilience in the process.


Jung, Freud’s disciple, believed each of us has a shadow side and we need to embrace it to be fully human, alive, and whole. By inviting your demons to tea, you own your shadow. You bravely go where many fear to tread. You have the guts to face your anger, fear, jealousy, lack of self-acceptance, guilt, and anything else you deem unacceptable. By dancing with the demons you reclaim your power. If you keep trying to bury them, you unconsciously feed each one and it comes out in projection, attributing all your own issues to others. (Everyone does this to some degree, but being unaware of it is problematic.)


It takes guts to face your demons. Luckily, everyone has the innate capacity to tread this rocky path, and has. Have you been ill? Divorced? Child of divorced parents? Child of an alcoholic or addict? Moved to a place where you knew no one? Weathered a financial storm? Been estranged from family? Experienced the death of a loved one? If so, you faced your demons. You courageously soldiered on. It wasn’t easy or fun, but you persevered, even when you thought the pain would never stop. Slowly but surely, it abated. At first, you may not have even noticed the subtle lessening of your anger, anxiety, or grief, but as the weeks and months wore on you started to feel more alive and open. That resiliency supports you through every challenge, allowing you to stretch beyond what you thought your limits were, and finding more capacity to bear what you thought was unbearable.


You are here for the whole enchilada, not just the kittens and rainbows. The sooner you embrace the totality of life, its highs, lows, and everything in between, the sooner you will find some measure of peace. Practicing affirmations, self-soothing thoughts, meditation, a comforting prayer, or mantra, will ease you through those trying times everyone has. No one is exempt, no matter what their life looks like, or what story they tell you. Every life is mix of treasures and traumas.


By persevering, speaking lovingly to yourself when the going gets rough, and assuming the best, you will make it to the other side.


Just like all the molecules in you and around you, things are constantly moving and shifting. Whatever you feel at this moment won’t last. It can’t. That’s what makes life so interesting and bittersweet. By embracing the vicissitudes of life with compassion for yourself and others, you allow yourself to fully experience whatever is happening to you right now. Yes, this is also known as mindfulness, acceptance, and liberation.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

A Gratitude Practice That Doesn’t Make You Feel Guilty For Feeling Bad Despite Your Blessings May 4, 2010



Gratitude can be confusing. On the one hand, who doesn’t want to be grateful? Yet, when surfing the seas of depression, anxiety, anger, or any other intense emotion, gratitude may be the farthest thing from your mind.


Even if you are going through the most treacherous, challenging time of your life, there will always be something for which you are grateful, probably many things. The question is: Does feeling grateful at that moment help you move through your pain, or not?


People in 12 step groups are encouraged to adopt an attitude of gratitude, which can seem daunting in the face of giving up substances. It is also hard to adopt if you’re facing unemployment, divorce, illness, death, or any other major life adjustment. While it is great advice, it could benefit from adding: Focus on everything good in your life as you allow expression of all your feelings.


Without the added words it is all too easy to use this helpful reminder as a lash to whip yourself into an frenzy of guilt. You already face a hard situation; and, now, you are told you should feel grateful for all your blessings. For many this is more than a cognitive conundrum, it’s a invitation to self-downing. Not only are you miserable about some real life issues, you can’t even be grateful for what the universe has given you.


The first thing, as always, is to give yourself that cosmic permission slip to feel whatever it is you are feeling. Denying what is true for you now will only delay the deeper gratitude you want to feel. Paradoxically, by making it safe and OK to feel what your are feeling, you will get to gratitude more quickly.


The next step is understanding how, as a complex person, you are capable of floating two, or even more, seemingly mutually exclusive thoughts and feelings at the same time. Appreciating life is a great idea, but not if it means burying your emotions. For example, you can feel: gratitude and grief, gratitude and depression, gratitude, and anxiety, gratitude and anger, even gratitude and worthlessness. Perhaps, that is because gratitude is a thought rather than a feeling. When you think: I am so grateful I can see, hear, think, etc. you realize you are blessed and feel more joy in just being alive. While that’s wonderful it doesn’t eradicate your financial, health, or other concerns.


Recently, I was asked what I am grateful for. Rather than list all the usual suspects, I reframed the question to: For what would I like to be grateful? Immediately, I thought of 80 year old Jean Vanier who, when interviewed by Krista Tippet, said he was still working on loving reality. In other words, I would like to be grateful for everything; especially the things that challenge me. The body’s expressions of stress, bad moods, insecurities, ups and downs of relationships, day-to-day worries—all of it. Jean Vanier said he had been practicing for 40 years and he was still practicing; so, as a relative rookie I am not expecting an immediate turnaround. Just the ability to meander around the topic fills me with optimism.


If you try this philosophy on for size, or you have already adopted it, feel free to let me know how it has changed your life.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

From Loss To Liberation October 29, 2009



Willing to experience aloneness,
I discover connection everywhere;
Turning to face my fear,
I meet the warrior who lives within;
Opening to my loss,
I am given unimaginable gifts;
Surrendering into emptiness,
I find fullness without end.

Each condition I flee from pursues me.
Each condition I welcome transforms me
And becomes itself transformed….

Jennifer Welwood


 

The positive aspects of loss may not be immediately apparent, but they do exist. I am not talking so much about the old saw: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but the liberation that comes with losing a relationship, a job, even a coveted aspect of one’s health. At first, this may sound absurd. What liberation? But, in time, life strips you of your illusions, and you come face to face with your demons. The thing you feared the most happens. It might be the death of a loved one, illness, financial hardship, or divorce. You think you’ll implode, explode, or become catatonic; but, no matter how you react initially, you usually end up coping. The very act of dealing with catastrophe liberates you from the old fear that you wouldn’t be able to stand X, Y, or Z.



At some point after the initial shock has passed, you may find yourself feeling a freedom that is so deeply pervasive it’s overwhelming. The unbearable lightness of being, Milan Kundera called it. Simply too heady to contemplate, let alone assimilate. Yet, like so many things in life you didn’t think you could bear, you slowly adjust to this internal vastness and possibility. Sometimes, you react with the old fear; but, more typically, you feel some heady delight in your ability to cope. With each passing month you find you can make decisions more easily because you understand yourself better.



The thing you feared the most is a gateway to your liberation.  The “shoulds” commandeering your life no longer have any sway, as they are overridden by self-knowledge. Even when you may not know what exactly you want you are open to discovering it through experimentation.


By cultivating patience for yourself and the process of envisioning, creating, and navigating your new life,  you can actually see how loss opens you up. Not only for new experiences, but for a better relationship with your own sweet self.



Major change is akin to dying and being reborn; neither is easy, but both are necessary if you are to move forward. By going through the dark, whether it’s anger, grief, anxiety, or despair, you clarify what you want. Each time you encounter something you don’t want it helps refine your desires.


Fighting against loss, and the grief it engenders, slows your progress.  However, it may be a necessary part of your healing, so allow whatever comes.  It won’t last. Eventually, you will get more comfortable with the ebb and flow of life, moving towards acceptance.


Once you relinquish the notion that any transformation should be quick and easy, you can fully allow what is happening in this moment.  The minute you lessen your resistance to reality you open yourself up to myriad possibilities.  That’s when things change for the better. Your optimism and open-heartedness bring new avenues of joy, meaning, and fulfillment.


Life is flux, whether it is obvious or not.  What appears to be hibernation and inaction may be a period of necessary downtime to energize you for the next leg of the journey. Things are exactly as they should be; and, as Louise Hay says: “Everything is happening for your highest good.”


Today, while being stalked by fear, loneliness, or grief, you may not be aware of the mechanism through which your highest good will manifest. By adopting Louise’s assumption you acquire the necessary faith to carry on.


Liberation from your old ways is challenging and frightening because it is new.  Whatever or whomever you were dealing with before was familiar.  Allow yourself to adjust to these changes. Whether they are from divorce, death, illness, or an empty nest, take all the time you need to get comfortable.  Be patient and compassionate as you adapt in your own unique way.



Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

How to Handle: “Get over it already.” July 23, 2009

There seems to be a prevailing philosophy that all grief should disappear in a short time.  Its mantra, “Get over it already,” is uttered incessantly, whether you just broke-up, lost a job, had an accident, or buried a loved one. What’s the rush, and whose healing schedule are you on? Surely, not theirs. Grief work (which can include anger, anxiety, depression, remorse, resentment, and feelings of worthlessness) has no timetable.  It is as unique as your fingerprint; yet, there seems to be this belief that moving on as fast as possible is the only right way.  Of course, with this mandate saturating our culture, anyone who takes his or her time to fully grieve is left with the double whammy of having endured whatever sparked the grief and feeling like a failure because they haven’t “gotten over it” yet.

We all know plenty of people mask their misery with drugs, alcohol, random sex, and a plethora of other addictions. Could this possibly be healthier than dealing with it? In some circles as long as someone keeps their pain under wraps, and puts on a happy face, everyone can just party hearty.  After all, it’s no fun being around a grief-stricken soul; and it’s even worse feeling ineffectual because you can’t make them happier.  No wonder there’s such a deep societal desire to “get over it already.”

So, what is the best response to: “Aren’t you over that already?” (Especially, when it’s delivered in a tone that seems to imply, “What’s wrong with you?” and, puts you on the defensive).  In a perfect world, where everyone has their wits about them 24/7, it might be utter silence accompanied by a slightly quizzical look. This would circumvent the the knee-jerk defensive response to what sounds like a criticism.  A simple “No” might suffice, but you risk the person replying with, “Well, you should be!”  If there’s a little two year old inside you, and there is in almost all adults, he or she is likely to take offense at being told what to do.

Henry Ford II once said, “Never explain, never complain.”  Perhaps that’s the best guide. Unfortunately, if the person exhorting you to “get over it” is a close friend or relative, you might feel a vested interest in sharing your true thoughts and feelings, if for no other reason than not having them ever utter those words to you again. You might even share how you’ve decided to give yourself a cosmic permission slip to take all the time you need to process your grief.

If you’re feeling particularly honest, you could say: “When you ask that question I feel denigrated and judged,”  letting your comment hang in the air and putting the onus on the other person to respond.

Or, you might try: “One of the things this whole experience has taught me is that I can take whatever time I need to let go and forgive. I may never completely get over this. I’ve decided to make that OK, too.”

Then there’s the very direct approach: “I don’t find that a helpful question,” or, “Please don’t ask me that.”

I generally like to assume the best (or, at least some neutral motivation) on the part of people saying, “Aren’t you over that, already?”  Perhaps, they want to propel you to healing faster, because they don’t like seeing you in pain or they feel helpless in assuaging your misery. It really is all about what they think and feel, and their projection of what they believe they would do if in your shoes.  While understanding the genesis of their comment can be helpful, it doesn’t really solve the problem of the best response.  Clearly, that depends on your mood, with whom you are speaking, and your stage of grief. (Contrary to what Elizabeth Kubler Ross said, those stages do not follow linearly, and can come back to haunt you in all sorts of disorderly and unpredictable ways.)

You could say, “Perhaps, if you had this experience (divorce, break-up, death of a loved one) you would have already worked through your grief, but I haven’t. Part of my journey is making it safe to allow my feelings to evolve.”

A deeper issue here is having the courage of your convictions and the confidence to express them.  The only way to build confidence is by doing difficult things.  Assertively standing up for yourself can be very challenging, especially when you feel beaten down by life; but, that’s the time to practice speaking your truth. It will not only build confidence, but you might feel a new lightness from unburdening yourself and being authentic.

In a perfect world, people might have the sensitivity and awareness to say, “I am so sorry this situation is painful and difficult for you,” and just leave it at that.  But, if they continue to say, Aren’t you over that already?” perhaps responding with: “I appreciate your desire to see an end to my suffering. Thank you for your sympathy and concern.” could be liberating, and keep you from reacting defensively.

No one likes to feel judged, put-down, or chastised. If you know that question pushes your buttons it’s best to get away from it as quickly as possible, especially with acquaintances.  If you want to explain how you really feel to friends or family, that’s different as you have a long-standing bond with them, and presumably many years of relationship ahead.

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

The Most Important Relationship You’ll Ever Have May 31, 2009

 

The most important relationship you’ll ever have is with you.  Considering that you are with yourself every minute of every day, why not make this your most loving alliance?

 

While there are many reasons for not having developed a great bond with yourself, there’s no upside in cataloguing them.  In lieu of focusing on the past, here are some ways to cultivate an enjoyable, dependable, tender relationship with yourself.

 

As the Buddha said: There is no one more deserving of compassion than you.  By fostering a gentle, patient litany of self talk you will reap more benefits than you can imagine. Think of all the harshness you have heaped on yourself. Perhaps, it was setting perfectionistic, unattainable goals, or an incessant catalogue of self-criticism. Decide today that you will counter those old tendencies towards self-downing with tenderness.  If you hear yourself being judgmental of the way you are handling some aspect of your life, stop, take a breath, and talk to yourself kindly, the way you would calm a child.  Those same messages will soothe you and, more importably, build inner trust.  In time, you will be able to count on yourself for compassion and self-nurturing.  You will be that safe haven for you.

 

It may sound banal, but taking good care of yourself begins with eating well, including treats.  Unless you are someone who eats to live, and doesn’t really enjoy your food, eating something delicious every day is another way you show yourself that you matter.  Getting enough sleep is crucial, too.  Just like the people who think they can have one drink and drive, while every study shows they are impaired, many think they can do just fine with six hours a night.  Perhaps, you are one of the very few who can, but most need seven to eight hours to function well.  Last, but not least, is exercise.  Move your body.  It really doesn’t matter what you do, but do something on a regular basis and it will improve your outlook, as well as your physical health.

 

Meditation is a wonderful way to befriend and better understand your mind.  What are its tendencies?  Do you focus on all the tasks that still need doing?  Are you preoccupied with everyone else’s problems, worrying day and night?  Do you live in the future, waiting for your ship to come in, lose 10 pounds, or meet your ideal mate? Whatever your predilections, you can learn to re-focus on your breath and quiet some of the incessant noise.  Meditation is also a great way to notice any tendencies towards self-downing, or habits of assuming the worst.  Once you see a trend you can actively work towards substituting unhelpful thoughts for positive ones. (See Affirmations.)

 

Even your sex life can benefit from a better relationship with yourself.  By getting to know your body’s reactions you can please yourself, if going solo, or help your partner understand what you like, if coupled.

 

Socially, you can develop comfort within yourself, so going out alone is not a hardship; but, something you might choose on a regular basis. After all, you are always available without prior notice and you already know what you like to do.  For many people, this is a very difficult thing to imagine, let alone practice.  I encourage you to bravely go forth: see that movie or art show alone, go out for a meal by yourself (you may want to start with breakfast or lunch as they are often eaten without company), take a beautiful drive or walk (you will notice more when solo), do all those things you know you would enjoy and you’ll probably end up making new friends (all those other folks who like the same thing you do and who didn’t want to call their friends to see who wanted to share the experience).  I am sure that right after people’s fear of public speaking (the number one anxiety in this country), is venturing out by yourself.  Wouldn’t it feel like a great coup to tackle that old irrational belief?  You know, the one that says you’re a loser if you’re alone. You’re not. One third of all adults in the U.S. live by themselves. 

 

Attending to your spiritual side, developing a deep bond with the ineffable qualities of life, and finding peace within are all ways of enhancing your joy.  Trust that you will find your way to that still, small place inside where all goodness dwells.  By practicing being there for yourself, in all circumstances and on all levels, you will watch joy ripen in your heart.  You can choose to feel truly loved right this minute. Don’t take my word for it, just go for it.  It’s a radical step, but one you’ll never regret.

 

 

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

Sex With Your Soon-To-Be-Ex October 13, 2008

 

Only you can gauge if sex with your soon-to-be-ex is a good idea. In the short term it may feel wonderful; after all, you may have enjoyed a happy sexual relationship. It’s natural to want some physical affection and attention during this draught, and divorce is fodder for insecurities. What better way to quell those demons than with a rendezvous between the sheets?

 

First of all, there’s always the possibility it won’t go as well as you imagine; secondly, even if it does, it rarely leads to reconciliation.  If having sex was going to repair your marital issues they probably would have been all sewn up years ago.

 

Do you have another reason for wanting sex with your ex, or soon-to-be-ex?  Is it to show him or her how you’ve changed?  Have you lost weight?  Learned some new tricks?  Want to make him or her regret the decision to split?  Do you fantasize having another baby?  (A baby could keep you together, but at what cost?  Or, you might decide to end the pregnancy.  This is one of those situations when it’s good to be careful what you wish for because you might get it.  If you’re already a parent, you know how much extra stress a baby brings to a relationship.  Is this the wisest choice?  You may find yourself in the throes of passion and jointly craving the excitement and fantasized marital glue of a new baby; but, one second’s decision can change your life forever.  Think carefully.)

 

It is axiomatic that separated and divorced people often connect for sexual relief, and its accompanying meta-messages that you are still desirable.  Quite a heady emotional cocktail.  Just be sure your liver can handle the detox and you won’t have a huge hangover in the morning.

 

If you’re lonely or randy there are other options: call a friend or make a play date with yourself.  The long term consequences of giving in to your momentary craving may create emotional residuals that rock your world more than the best sex.  Short term gain could easily morph to long term pain.

 

OK, let’s say you decide to have sex with your soon-to-be-ex.  What are the likely consequences?

 

1. One night of great passion may ignite a reconciliation.  Not likely.  If it were that simple it would have already happened.  And, if the relationship ended because of very different sexual appetites then your suddenly changing your style (i.e. having sex more frequently, or engaging in behaviors you used to shun) may woo your mate back, but you will probably revert to your old preferences as soon as you feel secure in the relationship again. 

 

2. You might end up feeling guilty because you know you’re definitely divorcing, but you let your momentary desire rule the day.  This could easily make a difficult situation worse: emotionally and legally. The last thing you need is a more scorned, bitter and resentful soon-to-be-ex-spouse.  

 

3. Your children could wake up, find you together in bed, and assume all’s well.

 

4. You could get a sexually transmitted disease (STD).  Whatever you think, you don’t know what your mate’s been up to.  So, if you do choose to have sex, use a condom.

 

5. It may be hard to believe, but you could feel worse afterwards.  More angry, depressed, anxious, worthless, or grief-stricken; especially, if things didn’t match your fantasy.

 

6. You could have more clarity about ending your marriage.  Sex can bring semi-dormant or repressed feelings into high relief, and you may realize anew why you’re divorcing.

 

7. Perhaps sex was the one reliably good aspect of your marriage.  If so, you could both have a good time and recognize it for what it was: connection, fun, satisfaction.  However, since sex is fraught with emotional and psychological subtext, that’s pretty unlikely.  Not impossible, but unlikely.  What’s more typical is one of you would be just fine and dandy while the other surfs an emotional storm.

 

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

 
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