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Bill Ferguson on Getting Divorced
Getting divorced can be a time of emotional turmoil. Bill Ferguson, a former divorce attorney and author of How to Heal a Painful Relationship and If Necessary, Part as Friends, can explain why. He has been featured on “Oprah” and runs a program called “Stop the Conflict,” which helps clients take the discord out of divorce. His most recent book is titled Get Your Power Back. Here, Ferguson shared his tips on keeping your head above water during a divorce.
Please describe the phases people go through during the first 30 days of getting divorced.
When we’re in difficult times, we’re usually in a state of resisting. This leads to fear and upset. The final stage is surrendering to truth.
Why are we often ineffective at handling the first 30 days of getting divorced?
Whenever there is a relationship or any area of life that isn’t working, it’s usually the symptom of an underlying condition. However, we continue to focus on what we perceive to be “the problem.” This tunnel vision forces us to act in a way that makes the situation worse. This leads to fears that upset us. In short, we’re very ineffective.
People are fighting the situation. To be most effective, you’ve got to be able to flow with what’s going on. What we fight is the truth. Our fighting doesn’t change a thing. My wife and I have a black and white cat. As much as I want that cat to bark, it’s not going to happen. When you can surrender to the truth—you don’t have to like it—you can see what you have to do. Whenever you fight the truth, you can’t see the truth.
What are the most important things to do during the first 30 days of divorce?
There are things to do on the outside, and there are things to do on the inside. On the inside, be willing to feel the hurt. The more you’re willing to feel the hurt, the less the circumstances are a threat. There are two types of hurt: the hurt you feel from the circumstances and the deeper hurt—on a subconscious level—of being worthless.
On the outside, you want to create a new life. Like it or not, you’re starting a new chapter in your life. Find things you love to do, and do them. The worst thing you can do is to withdraw because that leads to depression.
Who is it important to be during the first 30 days of getting divorced?
Allow yourself to be human. We put so much pressure on ourselves having to be a certain way. When the pressure is off, we can see clearly.
Why are the first 30 days of divorce so important?
Difficult times are high-growth times. It forces us to look at things and do things we wouldn’t do. Put your focus on healing inside. Focus on the relationship and ending the conflict, not as husband and wife but as one human being to the other. This sets the stage for how things are going to be later.
What’s the difference between someone who succeeds and someone who just “gets through” the first 30 days?
The difference is whether you handle your situation reactively or proactively. If you handle it like a victim, you can expect suffering.
What can we do to continue to progress beyond the first 30 days of getting divorced?
Ask yourself: “How do I want my life to be?” Then start creating it. Usually, you need to start a new network of friends. You want to move full-speed ahead to create your dreams. Use the time to heal. The key to healing fast is how you feel the hurt. If you feel the hurt as a victim, you can cry for days or months and have no healing. If you feel the hurt deliberately and purposefully, you can have healing in minutes. You’ve got to know how to do it. You’ve got to be willing to feel the emotion. Be willing to heal the deeper hurt—and make peace with that part of you.
The hurt doesn’t exist in reality; it exists in our minds and seems very real. “Worthless” is your reality, but so is “worthy.” When you’re at peace with the circumstance, the hurt surrounding it loses its relevance. Whatever the hurt is, we keep creating it. Once we heal it, life doesn’t bring it to us again.
What is the belief you personally go to during times of change?
Change is no big deal. Only when you’re threatened is it a big deal. With unwelcome change or stress, you’ve got to get your peace of mind back. You’ve got to get that hurt out of you.
The best thing about change is...
...it’s an opportunity for healing and growth.
What is the best change you have ever made?
For me, the biggest change in my life was when I lost it all in real estate. My big fear was failure, and that was when I had to face my fear. It was one of the most painful times in my life, but one of the most valuable.