Divorce recovery is a difficult road regardless of how your divorce happens. But it is particularly challenging if your ex or soon-to-be ex leaves with no warning or has a girlfriend.
You are probably normally a pretty cool, calm and collected woman. But when a divorce like the above happens, how many times do things happen that make you crazy? Crazy with anger or crazy with despair.
I was crazy with rage the time I found a little pile of gifts on the back step of our house. Gifts he had given his girlfriend that she returned after a “lover’s spat” or something. I eventually took all of those gifts to the garage, put them on the cement floor, took a big hammer to them and smashed them to smithereens! (Especially the little angel pin he got her on the same day he bought something for me at the same jewelry store.) The neatly rolled up socks I threw disgustedly in the trash. Just realizing he had left a pair of his socks at her apartment made me not only crazy, but sick to my stomach.
How many of you find yourself wallowing in a pit of despair because of something you saw on his facebook page?
Those pictures of him and his girlfriend on the beach at some resort, smiling and according to him, “happier than he’s ever been.” Or her calling him “the love of her life.” All while you’re trying to get through the day without falling apart and figuring out how to make ends meet for you and your children?
Or how many of you spend precious hours of your time beating yourself up for not being more of what he needed. Many times he only tells you want he needed after he has emotionally or physically checked out of the marriage. You wonder, why didn’t he tell me he wasn’t happy? Why didn’t I notice what he needed? Maybe if I had lost a little weight and gone to the gym more often he would have stayed. At the same time, he is probably telling you if you had somehow been different, he wouldn’t have had to do this.
That’s usually a bunch of crap. If he had been man enough to tell you why he wasn’t happy and had been willing to work together to fix things, this might not have happened. But again, maybe it would have happened but not in such a hurtful, degrading way.
Through the years I’ve been helping women on the divorce recovery journey, I’ve discovered some things we do that sabotage our own recovery. If you can identify with any of the situations above, you should STOP doing these six things in the New Year:
1. Stop Expecting Him to Take His Share of the Responsibility for the Divorce
Somehow, instead of taking responsibility for letting you know what was bothering him about your relationship or taking responsibility for leaving the marriage or trying to fix what was wrong, our exes usually make it seem like if we had somehow been different, they wouldn’t have had to find someone else. That’s a cowardly cop out, but stop holding your breath hoping he will recognize his contribution to the demise of the marriage. According to him, it will always be about your failures, not his. Stop trying to correct this. The people who matter know the truth, stop wasting time trying to change what you cannot change. Stay on the high road. People know, regardless of his trying to make everything someone else’s fault.
2. Stop Expecting Him to Show Remorse or Ask Forgiveness for His Part of the Break-Up
Most men who have affairs are so busy with their new love, that they are frankly not remorseful about the end of the marriage, and they certainly don’t think they have anything to be forgiven for. I actually thought my wasband would at some point say, “Suzy, I’m just so sorry this happened. I didn’t mean for it to happen. You’ve been a good wife, and I’m sorry that I’ve broken your trust and didn’t keep my promises to you.” That, of course, never happened. Stop wasting any time at all wanting this to happen to give you some closure. It won’t happen. When those thoughts wander into your head, tell them to “GO AWAY!” and then find ways to develop your own closure.
3. Stop Trying to Have a Normal Face-to-Face Conversation With Him Especially at the Beginning
Other women may be different, but for me early on whenever I had to have a face-to-face conversation with this person, who I had been married to for 33 years and who now wanted to be with someone else, I was a mess. My heart started beating faster the moment I saw him. My mouth went dry and my voice had a strange tone to it. I was both so hurt and so pissed at him that my words tried to stay conversational, but ended up shaky from sadness or filled with rage.
Try to communicate through emails or at least on the phone to minimize this frustrating lack of control at the beginning. Keep all communications to a minimum and keep them businesslike. That is the best policy when your emotions may be screaming inside… “How could you be such an a$$h0!&?” Or begging him in between sobs to “Please, please come home!” I look back now with embarrassment at some of our exchanges. At the time, I didn’t know how to prepare for them or control them. Sometimes I shouldn’t have engaged at all.
4. Stop Looking at His Social Media…. Especially Facebook
Also stop looking at the girlfriend’s pages, too. Its agony and heartbreak and like a knife in your heart. (According to research, personal pain like what you’re feeling is just as real as the pain of a knife in your chest.) You see him and his usually younger and thinner new love and they both look like they have never been happier. And they actually post words to that effect for you, your children and the whole world to see. You’re embarrassed and ashamed and, for most women, full of absolute despair. There is nothing positive that you can gain by visiting these pages. I know it’s tempting. But it brings so much hurt that it is definitely not worth any information you might gain by sneaking a look at those pages. Promise yourself that you are not going to go there in this new year. Period!
5. Stop Blaming Yourself for His Bad Choices. He Is Doing Enough Blaming for Both of You
According to him, he tried to make things good, but you weren’t fun enough or sexy enough or smart enough or interested enough. Or you were too independent or too dependent, too brash or too quiet. In his mind, the problem in the marriage was you. Let him say whatever stupid things he wants to say.
I know in my heart I wanted to be what he wanted and needed. I took him snacks when he was studying in med school. I sometimes started his car on snowy mornings when he had to leave early for work. I’m a great cook, was fun in bed and bought us books like 101 Nights of Great Sex. I loved parties. I was healthy, fit, had my own little business the whole time we were married, and did most of the personal, day-in-and-day out stuff of raising four amazing, wonderful kids. But somehow, I was the reason he needed someone else. That is hogwash! Maybe he wanted something different than what I was giving him. But all he had to do was honestly and straightforwardly tell me, and we could have figured out together if we had a future or not. But the way these guys try to blame you is a total cop-out. Stop blaming yourself, too.
6. Stop Fretting Over (1) Things You Cannot Control, and (2) Things You Cannot Change
I wasted so much time worrying about and agonizing over those two things. That is a total waste of time. Anything that has happened before this moment is something that you need to give up. Instead of continually asking yourself “Why?” or wondering what he’s doing with the girlfriend or wishing he would stop bad-mouthing you (things you can’t change or can’t control), the better off you’ll be.
Spend a little time learning from your past mistakes, but don’t set up camp there. Figure out how you can do better and then let the past go. The only question you should ask yourself day in and day out in this New Year is “What can I be doing right this moment that will get me closer to where I want to be?” This moment is the only moment you can control, and you can always choose to make it a moment to be proud of. A moment to do something good.
Each of us has the potential to make this New Year a positive year in our development as a good, strong, fun, purpose-filled human being. Suffering is often part of that journey. (I hate that!) Divorce, regardless of the causes, almost always brings the pain of lost dreams.
But to make this a year of healing, adventure, excitement and all kinds of good things we need to give up some of the things that hold us back, including the six suggestions above. Recovery is your choice. And in each moment you can decide to become the woman you were created to be in the best way possible. Make that good choice every day!
As a way to get through my own midlife divorce in 2000, I called together several women in my general neighborhood who were also going through divorce, and we started meeting together to talk through a few of the issues we were facing. I put together a binder to give a little form to our meetings so we wouldn’t just sit around the table and start crying or spend the hour and a half bashing our ex with no progress forward.
I put the word RADiCAL on the front of the binder which stands for Rising Above Divorce In Confidence And Love. That binder of discussion topics turned into my book Radical Recovery: Transforming the Despair of Your Divorce Into an Unexpected Good which is ready for it’s fourth printing. I now have a year-long divorce recovery program called the MasterPlan, a 3-month Divorce Survival Kit, the MDRcommunity a online place to connect with other women going through divorce, a 10-week RADiCAL Divorce Recovery Class, and other recovery resources.