“As long as you think that the cause of your problem is “out there”—as long as you think that anyone or anything is responsible for your suffering—the situation is hopeless. It means that you are forever in the role of victim, that you’re suffering in paradise.”
― Byron Katie, Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life
I have two scenarios for you to consider. In the first, you see a single mother. Her husband cheated on her for years. She is upbeat, she is happy and she goes through life smiling. She enjoys her children, yet she is able to enjoy the weekends they are with their father when she is able to do some adult things. She encourages her children to have a good relationship with their father and feels glad that they enjoy being with him.
In the second, you see a single mother. Her husband cheated on her for years. She looks haggard, scowls and goes through life just trying to get through the day. Her children are a chore, but when they are with their father she resents that they are gone. When they have fun with him, she sees it as a betrayal of her.
We all know people (women or men) who fit into each of these categories. How is it that some divorced people are able to have a sense of joy and ease about them while others seem to have the weight of the world bearing down on them? I believe that the difference lies in attitude. If you live as a victor, you will be a victor. If you live as a victim, you will be a victim. I believe if you empower yourself with the mindset of a victor and recognize it as a choice rather than a circumstance, the victim will fall off of you life like the chrysalis of a butterfly.
The first action necessary to embrace the victor over victim mentality is to realize that you have control over your future. Whatever has happened in the past was difficult. The nature of divorce is difficulty. Once you accept that you are the only person who controls your destiny, you can let go of any resentment from past trials.
The first step in controlling your own destiny is to relieve yourself from the burden of being invested in your ex. If you are invested in your ex’s behavior whether it relates to whom he dates or how he spends money, then it is difficult not to see a cause and effect relationship between what he does and how you feel. This is a two-fold problem. It leads to wanting to change his behavior (control), and it leads to thinking his behavior affects you (victim).
The fact is, once you are divorced, you have no say in what your ex does, who he dates and how he spends his money. After all, you don’t want your ex to have a say in your decisions, right? To think that you have a say in your ex’s life is to try and maintain some degree of control over him. When you try to maintain control and realize you can’t, it invokes anger, frustration and resentment. These feelings lead to identifying yourself as a victim of your ex’s behavior. Let go of control. The knowledge and acceptance that you can only control yourself and what goes on at your house is liberating and empowering.
The next step into victory is to re-learn how to communicate with your ex, particularly in the beginning. Sometimes old habits are hard to break, so in the first stages of separation and divorce, I recommend that you communicate only by email and only about topics specific to the children. These topics are health, schedules and the academic well-being of the children. This will eliminate the temptation to get into other conversations that may not be related to the children. Anything not related to the children is in opposition to you trying to become un-invested. Eventually things may evolve and communication may flow more easily, but in the beginning, when you are trying to re-learn how to think about yourself and your own goals, it is better not to drift into past habits and hurts.
Next, practice the Golden Rule. If you behave as you would like your ex to behave, you do not create conflict. Conflict leads to negative communication and that keeps you invested in the anger and hurt of the past. If you are the custodial parent, make absolutely certain to provide your ex with schedules, school notices and information about your child necessary for your ex to participate in every way. If you are the non-custodial parent, make every effort to gather information about your child from readily available sources such as school websites, sports team websites, etc. Again, practice the Golden Rule by providing information as you would have it provided to you. Otherwise, you are provoking your ex which keeps you invested.
Keep your focus on you, your kids and the future. When you take responsibility for your own feelings and actions, you are empowered to make changes and be happy. You are divorced from your ex. There are reasons for that. The reasons will probably not change. If you do not expect the reasons to change, and you can accept the way things are, your only option is to recognize that you and only you control your reaction to your circumstances. You and only you control your future. This is your victory. And this is the lesson to teach your kids. Empowering yourself to claim responsibility for your destiny and your happiness empowers your children to know they can choose happiness, too. And they will learn to choose to be victors of their own lives rather than victims. And that is the greatest victory of all.