Dear Neil: For the past six months, I have been healing from a painful, acrimonious drawn out divorce/custody battle that has left me drained, angry and exhausted. I still have lots of emotions about my ex-husband and how the whole relationship—and all our love—just disintegrated in front of my eyes. I have recently begun dating again, but my friends and family have been warning me to go very slowly because they assume I am not yet healed from my divorce. How do I determine how healed I am, and therefore how ready I am for another relationship?
Wounded in San Francisco
Dear Wounded: Think of a scale that starts at zero and goes to 100. Zero is very wounded. When you reach 100 you will be completely healed. This is your Healing Scale. It is way you can measure how recovered from a wound, trauma, disappointment or setback you are, and how much healing you still have in front of you.
Now assign as realistic a number as you can to everything you have done to heal yourself up till now. For instance, what is the relative point value of growing more comfortable with being alone again? With creating new friends? With dating a new man? With getting to know yourself better? In getting your home environment comfortable again? With how you’ve grown and what you’ve learned about yourself since your marriage dissolved?
Assign a point value to everything you’ve done to heal. For instance, let’s say you total 25 on the healing scale. Your task is to get close to 100, and you are 25% there.
Now look for ways to climb that scale. By taking a hike in nature, by going to a party and being social with new people, by having the best relationship with your children (family, friends, neighbors, co-workers) you possibly can, by meeting someone new and allowing romantic hope to be in the air again, by taking a class or workshop and learning something new, by becoming sensual again, by furthering your career goals, earning money or getting ahead in some other way—assign a relative point value to each of those activities, and climb the healing scale.
Once you begin climbing the scale, you cannot slide backwards. That is, if you get to 25 on your healing scale and then, for instance, have a career reversal, you stay at 25 until something happens that causes you to climb upwards again, because the healing scale measures, in your case, how healed you are about your divorce, not about how perfect your life is in all aspects.
This is, of course, assuming you have let go of your previous relationship completely, and you don’t harbor secret fantasies about reconciling with your ex. If that is the case, you must detach from your ex first, put closure to that relationship and give up the fantasy of reconciling—before you will be ready to heal.
When you realize how much major life traumas, setbacks or disappointments force you to expand yourself—force you to grow into ever more levels of inner depth, richness of character, life experience and maturity—you may find it easier to embrace the healing process.