Divorce and Emotions

In most divorces, there is usually one person that is asking for the divorce and one that is not. Most would believe that the one asking for the divorce gets to bypass the pain of the loss associated with the divorce, but that’s not necessarily true. No one gets out of divorce free of hurt, even when you’re the one initiating it. Often times however, the one being left seems to have a different type of healing to do from the hurts inflicted from unwinding a marriage.

I had been married for six years. I knew we had been struggling as a couple; I knew he had been struggling individually. But I thought if I took care of him and gave him space, he would be able to pull his life back together and in doing so, would give us the opportunity to fix what had been broken. One Thursday morning in April, my husband left to go to his mother’s home several states away for a couple of weeks. He never came back, he did not call for months, and no explanation was given.

My emotions were all over the place.

Some days, I was incredibly angry and feeling manipulated. Others, I was sad and hurt.

And still, I held out hope that he would eventually come back…that we could find our way back to one another.

I live and breathe in the space of self-help and enlightenment, so I’m wise enough to see clearly all the ways in which our marriage had stopped working and the signs I had ignored along the way in an effort to see and hope for the best in my husband. I saw his potential, but I ignored the reality of where he was and the depth to which he was struggling. At the time, I was consumed with caring for my parents, moving us across the country and just keeping our heads above water. I couldn’t see his struggle; I frankly didn’t have the time or energy to deal with his struggle.

I remember how I did much of the heavy-lifting in our home and life, worked hard, paid all of the bills while he struggled to find his way. I gave everything I had to what I thought was a relationship that we both wanted to work. I thought giving him space to heal and grow stronger was the right answer.

In a tailspin, trying to understand what had happened, I honestly went searching for what I could have or should have done differently. Maybe there was something I hadn’t seen that could make the difference in our relationship now that could be the change we so desperately needed.

There were still days I could recall why I fell in love with him…
I could remember the happy times we shared…
Even today, I still see all the good in him.

Our marriage likely won’t last much longer and even though he was the one who left, I will have to be the one to initiate the paperwork that accompanies unwinding a marriage. I’ll have to be the “bad guy.” But I have no intention of rushing it; instead, allowing it to unfold gently for both of us. There’s no rush. I’ll know when it’s time.

The broad range of emotions we feel as a marriage ends is so common and so confusing; it’s what makes going through a divorce so incredibly hard. We struggle to make sense of how we really feel, as it changes almost daily, and wonder if we will ever feel the same way again for someone in the future.

The process of letting go of a marriage will not leave us where it found us, but these things I now know:

  • We will run the gamut of emotions, sometimes daily, sometimes hourly. Some days we will hate our partners; other days we will love and miss them desperately. Nothing has gone wrong, this is the process.
  • Divorce is a loss; it is the loss of a partner, the loss of things to come, and the loss of a dream that we once had. Therefore, we will move through all the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) just as we would with any other loss. These emotions will flow, not in any particular order and we never really move through them in any particular order and graduate from one to the next, which only adds to the confusion.
  • Sometimes our partners leave us. Sometimes we leave them emotionally before they ever left us physically. And even after one partner physically leaves, it may still require us to be the one to walk away and take the next step of filing for divorce.

Regardless, no one is getting out unscathed. There’s plenty of hurt and responsibility to go around. And our emotions will have their way with us.

Here’s what I can tell you: There’s never been a single emotion that’s killed anyone ever. Negative emotion will never feel good; but it will not kill us. And when we’re able to feel the weight of our emotions…without running away from them or using those emotions as an excuse to point the blame on our partners…there is some peace and some freedom.

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