Mind the Gap, Taking Stock of Where You Are And Where You Want to Be

One evening my husband invited a co-worker who was going through a messy divorce over for dinner. Apparently it was something this guy hadn’t seen coming. Since my husband had walked in those shoes when his first marriage ended, he felt for the guy and wanted to help out.

At first glance, my husband’s friend seemed like a guy who had it all together. Over dinner he talked about all the changes he’d made since his separation. He had drastically changed his diet, invested in a vigorous exercise program and dropped about fifty pounds. And the changes didn’t stop there.

Along with the physical transformation, he had also engaged in a little retail therapy. His new and improved life came with a spanking new sports car, an updated wardrobe and an array of very cool high-tech gadgets.

The façade, however, didn’t last long. While he professed a “been there, done that” attitude nearly every aspect of our conversation that evening circled back to his divorce. It was obvious that this guy felt gutted, lost and alone. Like many divorcees, he had tried to gloss over the pain by fast tracking his way to a new and improved life.

Throughout England, train stations post the warning “Mind the Gap” to call a passenger’s attention to the space that exist between the platform and the door of the train. From my perspective this cautionary phrase also serves as a powerful metaphor for taking note of the space that is created in our own lives when we face a significant transition.

As a divorce coach, I’ve seen lots of parents radically transform themselves when their relationships begin to unravel. While embracing change and using it as catalyst for redesigning your life isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Hopping on the life makeover train without bothering to look at where you’re headed isn’t the answer either.

Choosing to share your life with someone undoubtedly changes you. It permeates your sense of self, who you are and what you value. Your way of life is no longer exclusively defined by your own hopes and dreams, desires and choices. In short, your me becomes a we. When a relationship ends it’s only natural to feel a gap. A space has emerged that wasn’t there before.

Shifting back into me-ness is no easy task. It feels foreign, uncomfortable and pretty damn scary.

Although it might be tempting, don’t ignore the gap. Accept it for what it is and use it as an opportunity to grow. While the impulse to change everything all at once may seem enticing, there are some benefits to taking a more thoughtful approach.

To get started, consider taking stock of where you are and where you want be.

Ask yourself
• Where in my life do I need to put energy into feeling whole again?
• What has this relationship taught me about myself?
• How would I like life to be different?
• What do I value and what would it take to design a life that reflects those values?
• What in my life am I ready to let go of?
• Are there compromises I’ve made in the past that hold opportunities for me now?

American writer, Irene Peter once said, “Just because everything is different doesn't mean anything has changed.” To ensure your change is long lasting, instead of a quick fix, avoid taking rash or impulsive action. Think through decisions, especially about significant matters. While it may not be easy, do your best to honor what the emptiness has to offer and make time to Mind the Gap.

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Christina McGhee

divorce coach, speaker and author of Parenting Apart, How separated and divorced parents can raise happy and secure kids.
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