Have you found yourself the recipient of an unwanted divorce? Your spouse may have just walked out, or left you for another woman. There may have been a midlife crisis and you no longer fit into his "new life."
Whatever the reason, coping with an unwanted divorce can be very difficult. Many people in this situation find themselves depressed, tearful, and afraid. Moving on with your life may seem insurmountable, but there is hope.
It takes time. The old adage, "Time heals all wounds" is only partly true. Time does heal some wounds, but many wounds from an unwanted divorce will never heal. However, time does lessen the sting, and with time, the flood of memories and regrets will happen less and less often. You will one day appreciate the pain for what it was — an opportunity to learn and grow. Here are a few guidelines to help you survive an unwanted divorce:
- Don't blame yourself. If your husband has left the marriage, you can bet your self-esteem will take a beating. Some women report feeling worthless or unlovable. Just because you weren't able to make the marriage work with that one person doesn't mean you can't move on and find a loving relationship. The divorce may have had much more to do with your spouse and his issues than anything you did or said during the marriage. Don't blame yourself. Self-criticism only makes it harder. This is the time to be good to yourself, not beat yourself up.
- Surround yourself with friends who appreciate who you are as a person. Evaluate existing friendships, hold onto those of value and make new ones. Many recently divorced people are surprised to receive the cold shoulder from some of their friends. If they were mutual friends with your ex-spouse, they may be more loyal to him than you. It's likely, though, that you have some true friends you can reach out to at this time. You need friendships to support you through this transition.
- Remember the past and I don't mean the past relationship. Reach back in your memory to your life before your marriage. What were your hopes and dreams? Were there places you wanted to go or new things you wanted to try? This is a perfect time to take that writing workshop, art class or engage in other activities that interest you. Maybe you want to go back to school. You have to make a new life for yourself and it should be self-nurturing.
- Don't forget to grieve. Take down old picture albums of the marriage, play "your" songs. Have a good cry, have many good cries. Cry deeply and then let it go. Give yourself a time limit on your grief, and then make a pact with yourself not to dwell on the negative feelings any longer. Having a daily pity party is good in the beginning of your adjustment period, but you need to set a limit on it.
- Get to know yourself again. When you've been part of a couple, chances are many of the choices made in the relationship, such as where to eat or where to go on vacation weren't your choices but your husband's. You may not know what you really like anymore. Try new things and learn what makes YOU happy. You now have the freedom to explore and you may be surprised to learn that you're a very interesting person!
- Celebrate life as a single woman. There are many "die-hard singles" who really enjoy living alone. There are definite advantages to being single and living alone. You don't have to share a bathroom. You can stay up late without disturbing anyone. You can cook what you like to eat. You can spend your money the way YOU want to. You can't change being single now, even if you didn't plan it, but you can find ways to enjoy it. Solitude can be a time for reflection and an opportunity to reorganize priorities.
- Be careful to take some time to get yourself grounded again before trying to tackle another relationship. Rebound relationships are never good for either person involved. Therapists generally recommend waiting at least a year to give yourself time to work through the issues associated with divorce before getting involved with someone else.
As much as you're hurting right now and as lost as you may feel, I promise those feelings won't last forever. I can say this because I've been through it. When my ex made the choice to leave, it was devastating. It took me a while but, I eventually came to realize that unexpected change can have positive results. You may be dealing with the end of your marriage, but even a negative can be turned into an opportunity.
For further help and support from women surviving an unwanted divorce, join the social network and become a member of the Women's Divorce Forum: Surviving an Unwanted Divorce
Click the following for a directory of more articles to help you keep a healthy mind and spirit through divorce.
Cathy Meyer is the head of About.com's Divorce Support channel.