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How Do I Get Past My Divorce?

QUESTION: I am angry and depressed after my divorce. I have not lived with my ex for two years, but see him almost every day as we work in the same profession. The only good thing is that he pays more attention to our 12-year-old son now. I have someone in my life who says he loves me, but I just want my old comfortable life back. How do I get past this?

ANSWER: Divorce is the death of a relationship so it is natural to feel a great loss of self when a marriage ends. Reclaiming yourself from the marriage involves deep grieving, as well as discovering the personal meaning of this event in your life. (Seeing your ex-spouse on a daily basis does not give you much emotional distance for doing this inner work!)

Consider the possibility that you are living out a pattern of attachment to an absent lover. You imply that your ex is a more attentive father outside the home than he was in the marriage. This points to an emotional withdrawal from family relationships when you were married. Try to identify why you would have been attracted to a man who did not have much emotional energy for family relationships.

We commonly choose our partners to fulfill unmet development. The marriage holds unconscious promise for healing past wounds, or for repeating them. An early childhood bond with a remote father or mother could be at the root of "wanting your old life back" despite the fact that you are better off out of the marriage.

Your craving may be older than your marriage or divorce. It may be the craving for someone who was not there for you as a child that has caused you to remain stuck in longing, rather than moving toward love.

Divorce presents an opportunity to recover lost parts of yourself, if you are not afraid to look further back. Individual counseling aimed at understanding your choices and the meaning of the divorce in your life will help you let go of the past and move toward the future. Books such as, "Rebuilding: When your relationship ends," by B. Fisher can also help facilitate your recovery.

Your seeming disinterest in available men may also be a result of fear that you could lose in love again. Failure in remarriage is more likely if you do not explore childhood relationships and their impact on your past partnership patterns.

Do not let fear or nostalgia stand in the way of doing the emotional work necessary for your full recovery. You may not be happy now, but you are certainly eligible for future happiness!

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Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter..

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