Getting Divorced? Advice for “I Can’t”

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By Jackie Pilossoph, Founder, Divorced Girl Smiling, the place to find trusted, vetted divorce professionals, a podcast, website and mobile app.

When getting divorced, men and women often think ‘I can’t,’ meaning, ‘I can’t take this anymore, I can’t deal with him (or her), I can’t handle this pressure, I can’t coparent with him (or her), I can’t get over my anger and I can’t date ever again. 

So, when I read this blog post by Dr. Mary Beth Wilkas (a dear friend of mine from college who has so many credentials I can’t even begin to list them), it inspired me, and I felt like it was important to share to those getting divorced or dating after divorce.

Here is Wilkas’s guest post, followed by her responses to those “I can’t” questions during divorce.

YOU CAN… by Mary Beth Wilkas

One of my favorite quotes is by Henry Ford and it goes like this, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Repeat the saying to yourself and think about it for a minute. In other words, if you “believe you can”, you are optimistically looking at something, whatever it may be in that moment and, by simply saying “you can”, you will shift an “impossibility” to a possibility. However, if you “believe you can’t”, well then, sadly, you just closed the door to the possibility of being able to or, at the very least, you have put up a formidable barrier to being able to accomplish whatever it is you are saying “you can’t” do. Either way, you are right. It is that simple!

I have shared Henry Ford’s sage words with students on the firearms range, during therapy sessions, with colleagues and friends when they have all been experiencing doubt. I tell them that by saying you “can’t” do something, you are already doubting yourself, throwing up the white flag, closing the door and locking it. Why would you do this? Ugh. I get frustrated even writing about this. It’s not that you CAN’T. Even if you really and truly “can’t” do something (e.g. fly a B-212 Helicopter), there is always a different and more positive way to express that.

Confession — I have a visceral reaction when I hear someone utter, “I can’t” in ANY context. It literally makes me cringe or, more often, I close my eyes, shake my head, and scrunch up my face. The word can’t is ugly, it’s disempowering, it’s defeating, AND it’s not part of my vocabulary – at least not since I recognized how negative it is.
And, it’s not just in situations when people are doubting themselves. People use “can’t” in response to everyday questions, such as:

• Hey, do you want to hang out Friday night? No, I can’t.
• Would you mind taking me to the train station tomorrow? I can’t.
• Would you mind lending me some cash until my next paycheck? No, I can’t.

Ick, ick, and ICK!!! It’s not that you CAN’T; in fact, you actually CAN. However, instead of being honest, you choose the icky I can’t as your default answer. There are so many ways these questions can be answered in a more positive and/or honest way. How about this:

• Hey, do you want to hang out Friday night?

No thanks. I have other plans on Friday. Maybe another night.

• Would you mind taking me to the train station tomorrow?

Oh, bummer, I’ll be working. If you change your ticket, let me know, I could leave work as early as 4pm tomorrow.

• Would you mind lending me some cash until my next paycheck?

Oh gosh, I am short on cash this month and don’t want to stress myself out.

Now, there is another perspective as well. Maybe you are just not up for the task or you are not willing to do the thing(s) being asked of you. No problem! It’s better to be honest about whatever is being asked vs. saying, “I can’t”. Try these out:

• Hey, do you want to hang out Friday night?

I am just not up for hanging out this weekend. Maybe another day/week (this is an honest answer and not at all icky).

• Would you mind taking me to the train station tomorrow?

I am slammed at work and me leaving to do something personal is too stressful right now (this is essentially saying you are not willing to do this in an honest context that 100% supports your answer).

• Would you mind lending me some cash until my next paycheck?

I have a personal rule of not lending money to friends (again, you are essentially saying you are not willing to lend this person money. By sharing your “personal rule”, although maybe a bit awkward, will lay a foundation. That person will (hopefully) never ask to borrow money again).

Responding honestly, in a positive way is not just empowering, it is so freeing. Ok, so it might be a bit uncomfortable at first for some of you BUT I promise it gets easier and it feels great.

Words reinforce your thinking. Positive thinking is reinforced by positive speech and vice versa. Your words create your destiny…



So, today, remove the word, “CAN’T” from your speech. I am confident you CAN do this! Let me know how it goes!

Here are Wilkas’s answers to my “I can’t” questions when it comes to divorce:

1. I can’t co-parent with my ex.

Co-parenting with my ex can be challenging more often than not and really tests my patience. However, I can only control my actions and will do my best for my child/children.

2. I can’t get over my anger about the divorce.

I have a choice – when events and emotions come my way, I choose how I am going to react to them. I am in control and that’s a gift. It’s ok to be angry, it’s all part of the process BUT long-term anger is not healthy. Acknowledge the anger, be honest about what you are angry about, maybe even keep a log on your angry thoughts, and then choose to move past it.

3. I can’t go out into that nightmare world of dating again.


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I am not ready to go out into that nightmare world of dating again, that’s for sure. Tumblr, swipe left/swipe right, what the heck? I will take my time and, only if and when I am ready, will I step into the dating game again.

4. I can’t be a single mom. Being a single mom sucks. It’s not what I expected, planned for, or wanted… I will not only do my best for my child/children, I will do my best for me because I deserve to honor myself.

Mary Beth Wilkas is a Former US Secret Service Agent, Freelance Protection Agent and Investigator, Forensic Psychology Expert, Personal Protection Instructor, Self-Esteem Mentor, Doctor of Clinical Psychology, Psychology Professor, and an author. She’s also a coffee connoisseur, wine lover, and pot bellied pig owner.

Like this blog post? Check out my post, “Loneliness: It Might Be The Worst Pain Someone Can Feel”



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    Jackie Pilossoph

    Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

    Jackie Pilossoph is the Founder of Divorced Girl Smiling, the media company that connects people facing with divorce to trusted, vetted divorce professionals. Pilossoph is a former NBC affiliate television journalist and Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press features reporter. Her syndicated column, Love Essentially was published in the Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press and Tribune owned publications for 7 1/2 years. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University. Learn more at:

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