Once the ink is dried on your divorce decree and you’ve recovered from the hangover you got trying to make it all go away for a few hours (or celebrating with your friends, depending on your personality), reality hits hard.
You have no identity at all and you don’t even remember who you were before the relationship. Think of it as a weird type of amnesia.
Who Am I, Again?
I had been married for 30 years and I’d spent the entire time trying to be what he wanted me to be. Maybe I misunderstood his signals or maybe I failed miserably but I never could do anything well enough to rate affirmation – something I was desperately hungry for.
I will do a lot for someone to hear a simple compliment, heartfelt affirmation, or word of praise. In fact, it is one of my biggest weaknesses, my Achilles heel if you will.
So after decades of trying to second guess someone hoping to do something that warranted affirmation I was a conglomeration of characteristics that I had developed in response to pain rather than a deeper, more mature version of who I already was. Sure I was free to be myself but my biggest problem is that I had no clue who that was. I had come to believe I was the person that other people told me I was, that I liked things that others told me I liked, and that I had talents that I wasn’t on board with. I learned to be that person but in doing so I had to file my real self away.
In other words, I had no clue about me. I felt like a blank canvas or an emptied jar. One thing I did know, though. I knew that I was in control of what went back into that empty jar! I had to learn who I was and I knew that would take time.
Think About What You Really Want
The first thing I had to do was to think about what I really wanted out of life. I had to think about my goals and desires – some of which I hadn’t examined since I was in my twenties.
When we constantly overlook our own desires so that someone else’s desires become the priority we are sending ourselves the message that we aren’t important. Over time we begin to believe it. In a relationship there has to be give and take. There has to be times when one person’s desires are made the priority but there also has to be those moments when the other partner’s desires are honored.
If you’re anything like me, and of course you are because you are reading this, you’ve pushed your own goals, desires, and needs to the bottom so many times that you have no idea what they are anymore. It’s time to think about what you really want out of your life. You are in control, now. What are you going to do with all of the hours that stretch in front of you?
Give in to yourself. Stop saying no. Do one thing you have wanted to do but couldn’t. Eat crackers in bed, sleep naked, eat chocolate cake for breakfast. Do whatever it takes to prove to your deepest self that you are free.
Sometimes it takes us a while to remember what really makes us happy. Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons, User: Francisco_Osorio
What Makes You Happy?
When you are in survival mode you don’t have time to think about what makes you happy. Over a period of time you just stop doing those little things that add joy to your life – you even forget what they were.
You don’t have to be in survival mode anymore! Make a list of things that make you happy. They don’t have to be big, giant things, either. Honestly, most of the time the things that make you happy are going to be small and insignificant.
Roses make me happy. They always have. My new, upgraded husband version 2.0 brings me fresh roses every week and has since the beginning. I have boots with a rose design, dishes with roses, and roses planted all over the place.
I like red. I have a red computer, a red iPhone, a red iPad, a red car, and lots of red clothing. My sheets are even red.
I like sitting on the front porch drinking sweet tea in the summer or watching thunderstorms in the spring. It’s the little things that make life so much fun.
Who Are You, Really?
You need time alone. It may be the last thing you want right now because it means you will have to think about things but you need it.
When no one else is around for you to perform for who are you? Are you snarky, sarcastic, sweet, dramatic, confident, or shy?
How would you describe yourself to someone who didn’t know you?
You know, the person you are when no one is around is the person that you need to let out of the cage. You don’t have to be perfect anymore, you don’t have to be quiet, or confident, or anything at all! You get to be exactly who you are but in order to do that you’ll have to let yourself try new things and make some mistakes.
It’s OK. Mistakes are normal!
How Do You Like to Spend Your Time?
This is big. Ask yourself how you really like to spend your time and then let yourself do it! My mom believed that if you weren’t sleeping you needed to do something work related. There were things to clean, things to organize, and if all else failed you could weed the garden. By the time I got married I felt like working harder made me more desirable, appreciated, and important. I’ll be honest, I still have trouble taking time off but I am working on it.
Think about how you’d like to spend an afternoon if you had no responsibilities at all – the do it.
Learn to Say Yes!
One of the weirdest moments I had after he was out of my life was in the shoe department. I had gotten used to saying I can’t to myself. I had let myself go out of necessity – there wasn’t money left for me after he was done with himself. Anyway, as looked at shoes I saw two pair that I really loved. They were expensive. They were gorgeous. They were unnecessary.
“I’ll take both pair,” I said to the salesman.
That was a turning point for me. I used to love to shop for clothes and I love shopping for clothes again.
Honestly, sometimes I do imagine ways I’d like to get him back for the various things he has done but I always come back to the same thought. My best revenge is for me to be successful, happy, and unencumbered by the hooks he has used in me over the years. It takes time but it is worth getting there.
This is my new normal and I am learning to love it.
What about you? Who are you when you no longer just the shadow of the narcissistic ex? Join First Wives World today and share your thoughts.
Lead Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons, User: pedrosimoes7