Let’s talk about one of the most common obstacles that stop us from moving on after divorce.
Fairness. Unfairness. The feeling like we’ve been screwed over during divorce.
You know exactly what I’m talking about. Do any of the following sound like things you have said or thought?
“It’s not fair that my ex has already moved on and I’m stuck here with nothing.”
“It’s not fair that they’re out having a great time while I’m here heartbroken.”
“It’s not fair that my adult children are going to be in my ex’s wedding, and they don’t understand what I’m going through.
“It’s not fair that I will have to work for another 10 years instead of retiring next year.”
Many of us have stewed in the injustice of it all, thinking that our ex should be punished for all the bad things they did. But I am here to tell you something.
You’re right. It’s not fair. But now what?
Here’s where the fairness trap gets us. We see something about the divorce situation that is not fair and we choose to shape our lives and our outlook on that injustice, so much to the point that we can’t even move on because all we’re doing is thinking about something that we cannot control.
You’re right that it’s not fair that your ex has moved on and you’re still feeling bad.
You’re right that it’s not fair that he has the beach house now and you’re now stressing about being able to retire on a limited income.
You’re right that you made a bunch of personal and professional sacrifices during the marriage and you’re not getting credit for it.
Nobody is denying that an injustice has been done to you. It sucks and it’s not right, but grounding yourself in that unfairness and choosing to let it influence how you think about things will get you nowhere.
Think about it — focusing the unfairness of your situation is like insisting on drive a car with a flat tire.
It’s not going to get you anywhere.
You’ll continue damaging your car and putting yourself at risk by when driving with a flat tire.
There is actually something you can do about it.
Instead of being pissed off at the flat tire and thinking it’s unfair that the tire is flat, what do you do?
You get the tire changed.
The same thing goes with letting go of the notion of fairness.
Instead of dwelling on how unfair it is that your ex didn’t get punished for the crap they pulled, you do something about it. Because remaining pissed off and stewing in that injustice gets you nowhere. You put your emotional well-being and the next chapter of your life at risk by letting the unfairness consume you. And there is always something you can do about it.
You need to throw out that flat tire that is unfairness and change it to something better—an easy step for overcoming that sense of unfairness so you can continue to make a better life for yourself as a divorcee.
Exercise: Escaping the Fairness Trap
Step 1: List the current events during the divorce or separation that you do not think are fair.
If you need some help, take a look at my own examples!
It’s not fair that I had to share my savings when I worked my ass off to put most of the money into that account. We’d never have as much in it had it not been for me.
It’s not fair that now I have to watch every nickel and dime on a fixed income.
Be honest and complete on this part—the more feelings of unfairness you harbor, the harder it is to move on. So list, list, list away!
Step 2: List what you can actually do about those feelings.
As a gentle reminder, remember that you can’t “make” your ex do something or feel something. The healing comes from changing your own outlook.
The fact I have a reduced savings now is merely a fact. That’s all. Reduced savings is reduced savings. The situation being unfair is immaterial to how I can move on.
Watching my money is just a change in circumstance. Thinking it’s unfair and dwelling on that does not solve anything.
Step 3: Change the “unfair” into something actionable that will move you forward.
Instead of thinking about how unfair my new situation is, I am going to focus on ways I can save more money to rebuild my savings.
Instead of thinking how unfair it is that my ex and their new partner are having a great time, I am going to focus on how I am going to practice self-care and put myself first for a change.
Remember that letting go means making a concerted effort to change the current thought patterns that do not serve you. Although you are grappling with a perceived injustice in your life, you are not powerless. You have everything you need to overcome these thoughts of unfairness and become a stronger person.