I have always been the “good girl”. Even when I was in my teens and some—OK, a lot—of the stuff I was doing wasn’t considered “good girl” caliber, it was more motivated by peer pressure than personal enjoyment. If I participated in “bad girl” stuff, it was usually because I didn’t want to be a disappointment to someone.
You see, I’ve lived my life teetering between disappointing one person or another. Or at least that's how it felt.
I tend to put way too much importance on other people's opinions of me. It’s kind of crazy, being a writer and all, but I tend to believe what other people say about me rather than what I know to be true. When you get a divorce, it seems like everyone and their Uncle Bob—and even their cat—has an opinion. They all think they know what you should do about it, how you should handle it, and why it happened. If you take all of that stuff seriously, you are going to lose what mind you have left.
They Don’t Know You
One of my sons and I have a running joke where we’ll look at each other and say, “You don’t know me! You can’t judge me!”
It causes us both to laugh hysterically. It’s a lot funnier in real life than it sounds on paper. Anyway, the fact is that people who have all kinds of opinions and advice don’t know you. They aren’t the ones that have cried themselves to sleep for months, or years. They aren’t the ones that have stayed up late searching the Internet for answers. They aren’t the ones that have read every fix-your-marriage book ever published. They have no clue about the time, effort, and prayer that you have put into your marriage, so they really can’t identify with what you’ve been living through.
You Don’t Owe Them an Explanation
I went through weeks where I felt that I owed an explanation to everyone who asked me about my separation. I would stutter and stammer my way through the story of what had happened, and why I was now doing the unthinkable and seeking divorce. The entire time I was explaining what happened, I was inwardly begging them to understand and feel empathetic toward me. I found that, all too often, the person I was hoping for affirmation from would listen with a sympathetic look, and then talk about me behind my back.
In fact, I’ve found over the years that my explanations tend to do me more harm than good. I’ve been accused of complaining, whining, being vengeful, and numerous other things because I had the audacity to give an explanation.
A Note to My Christian Readers
If you are christian, you may understand when I say that the majority of my critics were from my church. In many churches, divorces are considered the ultimate fall from grace, and proof that you never had a relationship with God in the first place. I was actually, literally told that.
The hardest thing for me was being attacked at the place I had most expected to find comfort and help. I had been betrayed by my cheating spouse, and on the heels of that I felt betrayed by my church.
Well, here’s the thing. God hates divorce, but He also hates gossip, backbiting, mean-spiritedness, pride, rage…all of that. Divorce is not on the unpardonable sin list. If you are in a church that responds to your divorce by adding to your pain, it is time to move on. You’ve got enough on your plate without dealing with that stuff.
You’re Conditioned to Listen
If you’ve been married to a narcissist you’ve been broken, and you’ve likely been brainwashed to believe that you don’t see things correctly and that your perception is off. You’ve learned to trust other people’s opinions of you and your situation. Here’s the deal…
You don’t have to listen at all. You can smile sweetly and refuse to discuss it. You can walk away. You can even tell them it’s none of their business.
Let that sink in for a bit.
If you are going to get through this as quickly and painlessly as possible, you have to give yourself permission to walk away.
This Is What I Regret
Of all my regrets, the biggest one is doing what other people told me was right leading up to my divorce, rather than what my gut told me. For two years, I was told by people I respected to hang on a little longer, to continue praying, to look at my own negative qualities and work on those. Those people did not live like I did. They did not deal with the circumstances I did. They were speaking from a place of inexperience and pride.
When I finally made the break, it hurt a lot. I went through betrayal. My kids went through betrayal. I asked myself why I had to let things get as bad as they did before I took action.
I wish I would have learned to tell people to back off and mind their own business much sooner than I did. Now I know that people don’t approve of what I do, but the truth is that they didn’t approve when I was trying to do everything right, either.
The people I do listen to are those that have been through it themselves. They can identify with how I feel and the challenges I face. Do you need people you can talk to who have been there?
Join First Wives World and you’ll always have someone to talk to who understands what you’re dealing with.
Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, User : Mahalie Stackpole