How to Heal From Divorce You Didn’t Want
Divorce process with all its legal issues and complicated rules is challenging almost in every case, even if the spouses’ intention to get divorces is entirely mutual. But coping and healing from a divorce you did not want is much harder.
Psychologists research divorce from various sides for long years, so they have their point of view on a divorce undesirable for one of the spouses as well as some recommendations for those who feel abandoned.
A person who has suffered a severe loss feels a mix of the strongest emotions: hatred, love, shame, guilt, resentment, or even thirst for revenge. Habitual life is gone, so the fear of loneliness creeps into the soul along with the remorse of conscience and desire to return everything and to crawl back into their unhappy but so familiar world.
This would be a bad idea, and, surely, you should get over a divorce without clinging to the past; however, your fears and questions are quite understandable and natural.
How to survive loneliness? How to raise children? How to live, on what? How to explain the reasons for divorce to common friends? After a divorce, many individuals have to change their careers, re-enter a job market, or adapt to a new workplace after moving. Both ex-spouses can face the need to carry out unknown functions if previously the roles and responsibilities were clearly allocated within the family.
In other words, after many years of marriage, a lot of couples have the feeling that they are a single whole. Psychologists call this a merger. To restore your integrity, it is necessary to psychologically separate yourself from your partner, family, and to some extent even the children. This is a painful process, during which you have to redraw all the existing ideas about yourself and your role in life, to re-discover yourself and your personality. A divorce is a sad event, but treat it as a severe, but completely treatable disease. Healing may be challenging, with periods of exacerbations, but it will definitely happen!
To overcome the grief, you need to experience it without hiding from yourself. All severe stressful situations associated with the loss, whether it is a breakup in a relationship, death, job loss are experienced according to more or less the same scenario. Psychologists distinguish several stages of suffering a loss, and the most critical task is to go through each step in succession, without jumping over or getting stuck on any of them. The experience of grief is an individual process, and it is impossible to precisely define the time that will be required to complete a particular stage. The higher the shock, the harder and longer the process will go. In the case of a divorce, we can say that all phases must be completed a maximum of a year. There are several scientific concepts of experiencing loss, but they all have much in common and can be conditionally combined in five stages. Let us dwell on each of them.
The Emotional Stages of Divorce
Shock and denial. Have you ever got hurt or burned? At the first moment, you probably did not feel anything, and only after a couple of seconds, you felt severe pain. It’s about the same here. Consciousness tries to protect you and refuses to believe in what happened, and you may for some time live in an imaginary world, where everything is as before. The leading emotion at this stage is the fear of the inevitability of loss. Now you need to find the resources that will help to cope with the fear of loss. Tactful and unobtrusive support and care of close people is important. But the essential resource is self-support and self-care. There are fairly simple exercises that can help you find a source of strength for the proper experience of all the divorce stages. A written answer to the question “How will I live without a husband/ a wife?” can be such an exercise.
Anger. If the first stage is completed, the next phase begins, which includes trying to change the situation. Anger provokes active actions, and in this case, this energy is sent to search for the guilty. Not only your ex-husband or ex-wife can be the object, but close people and yourself as well. Often people get stuck at this stage. To go further, it is very important to learn to recognize your anger and to express it correctly. This, of course, is not about fighting with your ex. While you are in the heat of passion, you should not do anything at all. Wait for the tantrum to pass. But do not leave anger within yourself. If you want to shout – so shout. Break plates. Cry. Speak your feelings alone with yourself, or tell your friend about them. To help yourself, you can make a written analysis of the situation. Exercise is to describe in detail your negative emotions, what you do not like in the current situation, what causes anger and why.
Compromise and guilt. At this stage, usually comes the desire to find and correct errors. It was at this time that some people make desperate attempts to get the ex back at all costs, humiliating themselves, accusing themselves of everything and promising to do better. Do not fall into self-incrimination. In order to do this, it is important to separate the concepts of “responsibility” and “blame.” Responsibility is to accept and correct their mistakes, while the blame means self-punishment. At this stage, be especially attentive to your network – tormented by guilt feelings, people tend to fall under the influence of others and even a cult. To cope with this stage, you may do the written work on the mistakes (which was not pleasant in your behavior, how to fix it) and write to yourself the forgiveness of your mistakes, and some essential conclusions for the future.
Depression. This is the hardest and longest period when suffering reaches its highest point. The point is that at this stage there is a full awareness of the loss, which means that it becomes necessary to break the emotional ties with the former spouse. Surviving depression means accepting this breakup, “letting go” of a once close person. Make a list of all the advantages of marriage with your ex-spouse. Then write a letter in which you recall the positive moments and thank him/her for all the good things that happened during your life together (you do not need to send a letter to the addressee).
Acceptance. At this stage, the pain weakens, an individual recovers. It becomes clear how to live without the spouse, what resources for personal growth are available. A new life begins. When it comes to understanding that as a result of the divorce, conditions for further development have been created and new opportunities have opened up, you can assume that you got over the divorce. Of course, the pain cannot disappear without a trace, but you will definitely gain invaluable experience and learn how to turn failures into a resource for personal development.
Frequent Mistakes While Getting Over a Divorce
Being in a stressful situation, a person does not control themselves and often commits rash acts. What are the typical mistakes people make after a divorce, and what do you need to stop yourself from?
- Attempts to get the abandoning spouse back
- Even if it works out, the “honeymoon” will end sooner or later (more often, sooner), and the reality will be as joyless as before. Do you remember the notorious expression: “A cracked bell can never sound well”? This includes all attempts to keep a husband/wife in the family, tying him/her with children, and so on.
- Start a new relationship immediately
- For some people, it becomes important to prove to the former spouse and themselves, their attractiveness and sexuality. The result is random hookups, after which there is a feeling of deceived expectations. On the other hand, many people rush into a new relationship with the firm intention to correct all the previous mistakes. In fact, not having time to realize what happened, people bring the old model of relationships into a new marriage, along with the old unsolved problems. Psychologists generally do not advise to enter into a serious relationship earlier than a year after breaking up with a previous partner.
- Involving children
Children suffer a mom and dad divorce almost the same as their parents. Often, they blame themselves, which is the feature of the child’s psyche. During a divorce process, parents often lack time for the children so the children may feel abandoned. Add to this age crises, and your grief will seem trivial compared to what is happening in the child’s soul. Children are not your friends and buddies, so do not impose on them a role of the keepers of your secrets. Crying on your kid’s shoulder, you place the burden of your responsibility on him.
Online, you can find many methods and tips regarding how to heal from a divorce: the advice of psychologists, the experience of those who suffered a separation from a loved one, the literature on the subject. Of course, the most effective option is to resort to the help of a professional psychologist or therapist who will help to go through this difficult path with the least loss.