It’s no secret—ending a marriage is tough. Beyond tough. Really, it’s as tough as you and the person you’re separating from make it. But, it’s difficult to explain the damage to anyone who hasn’t experienced the throes of divorce themselves. There is a whole host of emotions you’ll experience during the battle and in the aftermath. And yet, the end of one chapter marks the beginning of the next. There is a reason the partnership had to dissolve, and you’ll have to stick it out to find out why. Let’s take a closer look at each emotion we may experience in the destructive path of divorce, discussing the importance of each and how to power through to the other side.
Failure. A word that is likely to be running through your mind time and again. You never wanted to be a statistic. You just knew the day you slipped your ring on that you would keep it on forever. You were going to always remember your vows, ‘til death do you part.
Getting divorced makes us feel like we’ve failed, whether or not we’ve done everything possible to make it work up to the point of the papers, regardless of the circumstances that have led us to this point. Something deep inside of us tells us we might not be in this difficult position if only we had tried just a little bit harder, if we had just summoned that last ounce of courage to pull through.
Regret. This is a heavy one. Whether the separation is the direct result of an action we took, a compilation of actions we took, the actions of our significant other, or the actions of both partners equally, we often regret. We ask a lot of ‘What ifs’ and our minds automatically try to resolve these with ‘If onlys’. We may regret certain things we said or did, didn’t say or didn’t do. ‘If only’ this had happened, then this would have been the result. But the truth is far more complicated than this simplified formula, and it’s too difficult to decipher what could have been done differently to avoid the relationship’s demise.
Guilt. This is closely related to regret, often coupled with it and it’s a side effect of failure. We feel guilty for ending things, or for agreeing with our partner who has chosen to end the relationship that it’s the right decision. This is particularly true if we are deeply intertwined in the social circles of our partnership, having mutually close relationships with the same family members and friends. It is particularly true if children are involved. They ask a lot of questions, and there are often many we can’t answer simply because there’s either no good answer or no answer at all. Having to justify failure to others is a guilt-inducing task. By nature, we’d rather run away and hide from our circumstances just long enough for the dust to settle so we can emerge and pretend it never happened.
Fear. There’s a lot of fear associated with the dissolution of intimacy, especially if the relationship has been long-standing. There have likely been many positive memories shared and good times had together. We have an idealized view of marriage and learn at a young age that we should marry our best friend, our forever friend, someone we know will be there for the rest of our lives. So, when we realize this version of events isn’t going to come to fruition for us, this can be petrifying.
Pain. Mental and emotional pain that is so profound it becomes physical. We can be caught in a whirlwind of depression, anxiety and panic, so much so that we literally feel its aches and pains throughout our body. Divorce is painful. It’s something we hope to never experience again. And many of us guard our heart thereafter, refusing to remarry or engage in a new partnership altogether, at least for a significant period of time. At worst, we enter into a new relationship but remain too guarded and keep our partner at arm’s length.
So, what can we do?
To sum it up, divorce can make us feel pretty crappy. It is something that is life-changing and forces us into a new, unanticipated direction. How do we combat this negativity and move on?
The single most important thing we can do in the midst of all of this chaos is to make a concerted effort to check in with ourself regularly. This seems silly, like a waste of time, perhaps. Yet, it is anything but a waste of our time.
Just like any other mistake we make in life, it is important to learn from it, so it doesn’t happen again. More importantly, it is important to learn about ourself in these moments. By focusing on what about ourself may have caused this mistake, really honing in on this rather than running away from it, we can focus on how to do things differently moving forward.
I have been through a divorce. A very messy one, in fact. I’ll even venture to guess it’s in the top one percent range for messiness. I’ve felt all of these emotions and then some. But, you know what? Had I never gone through this formidable phase in my life, I would have never truly understood who I am. Things had to happen exactly as they did, be just as messed up as they were, so I would reach an understanding about myself that I believe was orchestrated by divine intervention. Had I not experienced this, I would have been stuck in stagnation with all of my sins, and turning a blind eye to all of my ex’s sins, trying to minimize my inner loneliness and depression just long enough to continue coasting. What kind of life is that?
I can tell you with utter certainty that I would not be writing this article, or any articles in fact, if I hadn’t gone through this hell. But, I now fully understand what makes me tick, and how I can help myself and others going forward.
So, I can attest to the importance of allowing ourself to feel fully each of these crummy things and coming clean with ourself about who we were leading up to this point and who we need to become in order to successfully rebuild. Attempting to brush these emotions aside or mask them with substances and other true time wasters will only prolong the healing process.
In consistently looking inward and continuing to be honest with ourself, gradually each repulsive emotion that plagues us will give way to hope. Instead of surpassing these, choosing remaining fragile and, therefore, susceptible to the plight, we must summon the courage to face our fears and conquer them. If we do so, one by one, they will fall by the wayside and we will emerge to a beautiful new chapter—life’s second draft.