As last week's blog showed, moving through your separation or divorce includes having to contend with some practical issues around managing your online world. It also means navigating the emotional weight that can come with online interactions. Here are some of the common ones that come up for my clients. They may sound familiar!
Comparisonitis – once you separated, did it feel that everywhere you turned you were surrounded by happy, loved up couples? Your Instagram and Facebook feeds can suddenly seem to be a showreel of blissful family lives. Compared with how you feel, it can seem everyone else has got their picture-perfect lives together. It’s very easy to start feeling “less than” and, let’s face it, a little resentful and sorry for ourselves. Pretty soon, you may find yourself asking “Why am I not getting that in my life? What’s wrong with me?”.
Nothing kills your sense of wellbeing quicker than a case of comparisonitis! Remember, though, you are usually not comparing your life with a realistic version of other’s lives. These images are the images of fabulousness that your friends are choosing to share. They don’t tell the whole story.
Communicating Online – OK, right now eating a kilo of lemons soaked in dishwash liquid may feel preferable to speaking with your ex in person. Defaulting to using text messages or emails to share information and make necessary arrangements feels easier than facing the angst of face to face contact. However, it can create problems of its own.
Without being able to see and hear each other, we miss important cues such as tone and body language that communicate just as much as the actual words being used. Miss those cues and we can start reading in intentions and attitudes that aren’t there and miss those that are. Add into that hitting ‘send’ too early after writing a heated response and before you know it, the conflict you were hoping to avoid by communicating online is suddenly there in your inbox.
How can you avoid this? Consider what you really need to respond to. Not every text or email needs a full response. Following the BIFF formula avoids you moving into emotionally reactive responses. It may be preferable to have face to face discussions with a trusted friend or family member present to keep things on track.
Following Your Ex – If you and your ex still follow one another on social media or your ex has a public profile for the whole world to see, chances are you are getting regular insights into the brilliant life they seem to be living now.
You may have an amazing attitude and wish your ex all the best and love seeing them so happy. Or not. In which case, you may fall into the camp that finds themselves alone on a Friday night, on the couch, polishing off a block of chocolate while scrolling through all the images of your ex living their best life. Perhaps you are busy creating your own enjoyable life too but every now and then an unsolicited image of your ex pops into your feed like an emotional grenade, leaving you reeling. If so, it is likely time to ask yourself: Is this serving you emotionally? Is this serving the new life you are creating for yourself? Is having a connection into your ex’s online world (which, remember, is likely a carefully curated show-reel) really helping you to move forward or is it crippling you? Is it time to press “Unfriend”.
The Echo Chambers of Support– When I started thinking about The Divorce Lighthouse Group, I joined a few online support groups for people going through a separation or divorce to see what was out there. Some of what I found felt anything but supportive. After visiting some of the pages, I would come away feeling I had just inhaled toxic fumes from which I had to escape.
Typically, a person would post about a situation that was troubling them and everyone would pile on in, reinforcing the negativity and slamming the ex in their comments. This is fine if you want to vent to an echo chamber who will reaffirm all the terrible things you feel but not if you are seeking to come away feeling uplifted, in a more positive frame of mind and with constructive solutions that help you move forward.
There are great channels of support in the online world and wonderful friendships can be formed online. The key is to be discerning and, again, ask yourself is this serving you emotionally? Do you really need an echo chamber that tells you want you want to hear or do you need a community that tells you what you need to hear?
Your online world can be great for providing you with a way to remain in contact with friends, to access information and to seek constructive support. However, moving through your separation or divorce in a smart, savvy way means recognising when it is time to delete, block, unfriend or switch off entirely.
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