How I got through divorce
It has been four years since my husband left me. We got married in college and had stayed married for almost 35 years, and I thought I knew the man and could have told anyone that he hated change, and would never move from our house or leave his job and certainly he was committed to our marriage and would never leave me.
I would have described my marriage as ‘excellent’ and ‘happy’ for most of the first 30 years. As time has passed, the benefit of hindsight has sharpened my judgment. Everyone who goes through a divorce asks themselves why it happened. We don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past.
In looking back on my own marriage, I can speculate about how a good marriage of thirty years turned into a ‘bad’ marriage over a period of the last four years or so. Could I have been a better wife? Of course!! Was I a ‘bad’ wife? No, I wasn’t!! I did the best I could under the circumstances. And, despite feeling betrayed, rejected, and blaming/hating/wishing him dead, I admit now that my ex probably also did the same. He isn’t a horrible man. He’s a human being, and he did what he felt he had to do.
As much as his actions hurt me, and probably also affected our son, I had/have no control over him. What he did is in the past, and how I react to it is now. I chose to forgive him then and I still choose to forgive him, every day. Do I still have feelings of anger and betrayal and hurt, sometimes? Of course I do. I grieve the loss of my marriage, the dream of it, and the potential of it, and the history of it. Yes, I believe it could have been saved, but it takes two committed people to do that, and unfortunately (and beyond my control!) we didn’t have that.
But this story isn’t about why he left me or why our marriage failed. When I think back over ‘how I got through’ the devastating event of my husband leaving me, I can identify several things that happened ‘to me’ and several positive actions I took. And the reason I am sharing this is because they might be helpful to you, as well.
1) I recognized this was a devastating event–the death of my marriage– and I was going through a grief process. Grief typically goes through ‘stages’, as you know, if you have ever experienced it before or studied it. The first stage for me, was Denial. I stayed in denial for at least 12 weeks, believing this was all a mistake and my husband would realize he had taken leave of his senses, temporarily, and he would come back to me. Although I would like to say Denial was a waste of time, I cannot truly believe that. It was certainly excruciating. I felt so worthless, so betrayed, so hurt and so lost. Denial was a PROTECTIVE emotion and it was also a NORMAL emotion for me to feel. The next stages of Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance were all easier to get through than the first one, for me. Remind yourself of the NORMAL stages of grief and allow yourself to experience each of these.
2) I immediately sought out support systems, KNOWING I COULD NEVER GO THROUGH THIS ALONE.
The morning after he left me, I notified my mother, my sisters, my three best friends, and at least two other good friends who had gone through divorce.
I called my doctor and asked for a prescription for anxiety and to help me sleep, if necessary. (I only had to use it once). Luckily, I had a THERAPIST already, and I called him immediately and saw him every week during my divorce. I drove to my mother’s house and spent the entire week with her, and while I was there, I did an internet search for a lawyer, called and spoke to a few of them, and selected one. I told my sisters, and everyone, to tell other people WHO LOVED ME what had happened (so I didn’t have to do that). I did not post anything to Facebook. I did not go down to the place where my husband and his new girlfriend worked, and throw a hissy fit (even though I wanted to).
3) I mentioned all these support systems, but my son was a different category. I am HIS support system (he was 22 at the time) and I did NOT want to use him for a friend, confidante, or support, although I did want to share my feelings with him. I met with my son and his fiancée and we talked about it. My concerns were that I would put him in the middle of it. He told me ‘Mom, I am already in the middle of it.’ So, I promised to TRY not to use him as a go between or to lash out at his father too much in front of him. This is one HUGE reason I needed other friends and a therapist; to protect my son from the anger I felt toward his father.
In spending time with my son, I tried to never say ugly things about his father. We would have dinner at home or go out to eat so we could talk, but I sprinkled a good bit of ‘normal, fun things’ in to assure that LIFE IS STILL GOOD AND WE STILL LOVE EACH OTHER. My goal was never to make him hate his father, and especially to never make him feel responsible in some way for the divorce of his parents. Ultimately, I feel that my decision to forgive my ex has been the most good I could do for my son. I am being a role model of a person whom something BAD has happened to, but my life is still GOOD because I refuse to become a bitter person no matter what. If I become a bitter person, does that punish my ex…? Or, does it punish ME, and my son. I think you know the answer to that question.
4) It was a good decision to talk to my family and friends and depend on them, but it was especially VITAL to have a THERAPIST.
Each of my family and friends was so supportive to me. Because I needed them, they all came through for me in their own ways. My sister in Louisiana sent me an Edible Arrangement with chocolate dipped fruits. My mother just hugged me and cooked and let me sleep and felt broken hearted with me, and she also made me a nightgown and sent it in the mail after I had returned home. My local sister spent the day with me on the day they served divorce papers at my house. My brother sent me Godiva chocolates. My friends came and visited and spent the weekend, and they sent countless e-mails and texts and spent hours listening to me on the phone and having coffee with me and eating and drinking sangria, and otherwise making me realize how very very blessed I am to have all of them.
My Therapist was different from all these other people. My friends commiserated with me, and sobbed along with me, held my hand, but they really weren’t trained to help me get through a divorce and deal with all my toxic feelings and figure out what to do next. My therapist was the voice of reason. He was worth every penny. (During my divorce, I was still covered under my ex’s insurance, so it paid for a lot of that.)
For example: my therapist observed that by ‘waiting’ for my ex to leave his girlfriend and come back to me, or by ‘making excuses’ for my ex (I wasn’t a good enough wife) or by ‘Planning an unrealistic Future’ in which my ex was there…I gave my EX a lot of power. I had no promises or even hopes that my Ex was ever going to come back to me or even see me again. I had no control over my Ex. So I had to start planning a Future that didn’t include him. That was pretty scary.
5) The lawyer was the other professional who helped me get though the divorce. She was essential for the financial side of things. She was expensive. But, she got me support during the divorce itself, and she got me over half of all our assets. And she also helped me realize and accept the financial reality of my new future. She was WORTH the money.
6) I made the decision to forgive, let go of the past and to live life with an open heart.
That little decision required a good many steps and some time.
I started by completely redecorating ‘our’ bedroom into ‘MY’ bedroom. I gave my ex our old bed. I moved a bed into my room from our guest bedroom, one that had belonged to my grandmother, which comforted me. I bought a new mattress and box spring, and all new bedding, in colors I liked. I added new curtains and art and lamps and pieces which were feminine, colorful, and made me feel happy. I moved out every trace of my Ex from my bedroom. Everything that I looked at and felt ‘oh…sigh…that reminds me of…him’ I gave it away.
I didn’t do that for everything in my life (which would be impossible) but I did it for my bedroom. I added songs to my ipod which helped express the way I was feeling. And I lay across MY new bed listening to the songs and feeling sad, and then I went to sleep or took a long bath and got up and did other things. I went into my bedroom and bathroom, and grieved and cried, and then I took a shower, washed my face, dressed and went outside and did something else.
As I moved through Denial, I went into Anger. I DID go through a time when I thought ALL MEN ARE PIGS. I loved imagining my ex standing in a pool contaminated with a lot of cow manure, with snapping turtles in it, who bit off his dick and then the stump turned black and fell off. And Jesus looked down on him from the sky and said ‘This is what happens to you when you sleep around and leave your wife of almost 35 years after promising to love, honor and cherish her in good and bad times.’ And then Jesus caused a huge bull to come shit on my ex, and he had really bad diarrhea, too.
But that was just a wishful dream. I learned to let go of that anger, and move toward ‘WHAT NOW?’ and in the process, to let go of the past, both good and bad memories, and focus on the Present, and the Future. How I dealt with it might not be the same as how you deal with it, but as I read, talked to people, and spent time alone/in prayer/listening to music/crying/trying to figure out how to be alone.
I realized I was very lonely and HATED being single. So, I joined an online dating site. I KNOW! I would never have thought to, but I was sitting with one of my friends who had come to visit, and just sobbing to him about how NO ONE was ever going to love me again, because I was too old, and too fat and ugly. He said ‘That isn’t true!!’ and after a little more discussion and a few drinks, he suggested the dating website. I went to ‘Plenty of Fish’ http://www.pof.com/ and we looked at it together, and read some of the Profiles, and just laughed and laughed for a while. But I made a profile, and then sort of forgot about it for a few days, but I was thinking. Making a Profile forced me to think about what I really wanted in a husband, and WHO I REALLY AM.
As time went on, I revised my profile several times, and identified clearly who I think I am, and who I was looking for. I did all this in a very rapid time…I was seeing my therapist every week and this was extremely helpful to me in feeling normal and having that reassurance that I was making good decisions.
Living Life with an Open Heart meant that pretty soon I was dating again. This was quite a shock. I had not realized that in my age group, men had three choices of hair: white, gray, and none. And I was dating men from age 52 to 65 (my parameters) and I was very specific about certain expectations and had no hesitation in saying NO to certain men who did not meet them. But, I also said YES to men who I was interested in, and this allowed me to start to realize that I was still attractive to someone, which was a good kick for my self-esteem. I still was struggling with feeling bad about myself and one of the men I only talked to but never dated, asked me ‘How do you expect other people to like you, if you don’t like yourself? Would YOU want to date you?’ And gosh! He was so right!! I started thinking about my ‘strengths’ and how I AM a worthwhile person and by golly, I had been a pretty good wife, too, and certainly didn’t deserve what had happened to me! (Not that my ex intended to hurt me, I don’t believe that, I think he just did what he felt he had to do).
As I talked to men and started to have a few dates, I honed my expectations even further to what I wanted. Do you see the shift there…?? WHAT I WANTED. Not what my ex wanted or what anyone else wanted. I was finally becoming the person I needed to be to take charge of my own life.
This didn’t mean I was going to live the ‘Disney Dream’ of life as a pampered and loved wife and mother in a nice house with my first love happily ever after.
I started to adjust my expectations, because Life is not a fairy tale, nor is it always Fair.
I grew up watching Roy Rogers and I always thought how wonderful it was that Roy Rogers and Dale Evans had such a romantic and wonderful relationship. Well, guess what.
Roy Rogers and Dale Evans didn’t meet each other, fall in love and live happily ever after. Not until both of them had many different hard times, and OTHER loves/marriages.
This story was an eye-opener for me. And all I had to do was look around me, to see many examples of people who had married, divorced or become widows/widowers, and remarried, and were now very happy people…and the light went on. I realized…finally…that IF THEY COULD DO IT, SO COULD I.
I put myself out there and took a chance. I dated about twelve different men in a relatively short time. Many of them were obviously wrong for me, but we still had a good time talking to each other. I had one that didn’t show up. I had a couple that obviously, only wanted sex. I had some that weren’t really attracted to me, but were friends. I dated a man who was very sweet, but had complicating factors like three failed marriages, a recent, needy ex-wife, and four children, two of whom were teenagers.
And then, I met Bruce.
It was almost love at first sight. I mean, for both of us. He asked me to marry him eleven days after that, and we got married in Hawaii three months later (one month after my divorce.) I am so glad I took the chance, I am so glad I waded through the ‘loser’ and ‘not so right’ men and I am glad I opened my heart fully, because I have been so happy with Bruce for the last 3 1/2 years of our marriage. Bruce is really perfect for me. He loves me even with all the things I think of as negative. He actually likes plump women, he likes extremely tall women, he likes my loudness and awkwardness and snorky laugh. In return, I adore him. He is my Sun and Stars.
Making the decision to Forgive my Ex meant that for almost two years, I kept making that decision until it became reality. It was a process. For about a year, I didn’t see my ex, or his wife, but I texted him a couple times to tell him of the death of a mutual friend, or something related to our son. He texted me a couple times about similar things. It was so weird to have almost NO relationship with a person that I used to share almost everything with. Eventually, my heart became softer and more forgiving, and with time, I forgave my Ex in spirit and truth, and now we do see each other sometimes. My son’s birthday last year was celebrated with a meal at my house, and my Ex and his wife and baby daughter were invited. Some people think this is awkward and they are uncomfortable with it, but I think it’s a valid lifestyle choice. More than any other decision I made, the one to forgive has given me peace.