When my ex-wife disclosed to me that she wanted a divorce I was present in the conversation but it took me quite a while to grasp of what is happening. Divorce wasn’t part of my life playbook. I was taken totally off guard. I tried to protect my inner self with (self) denial and false hopes.
The first thing that changed for me was that I lost my ability to analyze, think straight, make decisions and stick with it. If you have been through this process before I am not telling you anything you don’t know.
I experienced the power of my subconscious battling my conscious – pulling me in many different directions over the course of one day. Add some self pity, guilt, anger, fear into the brew and stir it well. I could not believe how irrational I had become. I learned how little control I have about many aspects of my life. I would have provided a field day for any Jungian analyst.
I went back and forth from enjoying the presumed benefits of my new single status to being very depressed due to the tremendous loss in my life numerous times each day.
Our original plan to continue to live together in the same home and co-parent our daughter fell through. We tried hard. But it was simply too challenging to untangle our lives right in front of each other. I felt like an invisible rubber band tied around my waist was constantly holding me back when I tried to move on. On the positive side we managed all the “technical” aspects of our divorce in a peaceful manner.
My fear of loosing my marital relationship prevented me from taking an honest inventory. There was too much at stake.
Was I really living the life that I envisioned for myself when I entered our marriage? My total commitment to my marriage prevented me to ask myself the hard questions – let alone answer them. Eventually we reached the point where we both looked at each other and spoke in total truth about what was coming up for us when we looked at our marriage. Ironically we agreed on a lot of the data and I felt very connected to the woman that was turning into my ex-wife. It almost felt like being on a first date and discovering a lot of common ground. These conversations will stick with me for the rest of my life. I spoke about this process in a prior blog post.
My ex did her homework sooner than me and was way ahead in terms of the emotional divorce process. The date of our legal divorce is the same. As for our emotional divorce we are on separate timelines. At times I looked at it as a race and tried to catch up with her. At other times I tried to pull her back – not willing to accept how far she had moved on already.
My transitional period
As much as I glorified my marriage I will stay away from glorifying my single life. It is a moment in life to do some work on myself. From prior experiences in my life I understand the tremendous power of time. Patience is key. I know that many things that cause me pain today will cause me a little less pain tomorrow. I am looking at the opportunities that my new life has to offer. But I am humble enough to not label this lifestyle as superior to anyone else’s. Being humble means being less judgemental. I put myself above others when I was married and consider making the same mistake twice immature.
For now I am embracing my new life. This is a time for reading, for redefining, reemerging, reconnecting, self reflection and healing. Eventually this phase will come to an end. Living through it consciously will allow me to build a solid foundation for entering the next phase of my life.
As a creative person I now have more time to turn thoughts into ideas and ideas into reality. I know that I will look back at this stage with a feeling of accomplishment.
Some lessons learned
I still look at a committed long-term relationship as a major source of happiness in my life. I will not give up on this belief because of my divorce.
I couldn’t figure out that my partner was contemplating divorce for a long time before it actually happened. I totally missed that point. I thought I was in tune with my partner but I obviously fooled myself.
As a consequence of this I am concerned of becoming overly suspicious and overanalyzing. I still feel burdened by the experience of not knowing what was going on with my ex. I believe that trust is a key element of a committed relationship and don’t want my past experience to stand in the way of getting close to my future partner.
My trust went too far though. I let it rule over my intuitions and let it numb me. Ever heard of “blind trust”? I learned my lesson about the negative aspects of this phrase. I could elaborate much more on the risks and benefits of completely trusting someone but this would be an entire blog post by itself.
Going forward I will make more room and time with my future partner for looking deeper at each other – without fear of what I will see and what will come back to me. I will try to listen closer to my intuitions and give them a stronger voice. As a hypersensitive person I have no shortage of them.
I will still not run away from a committed relationship when things become challenging. I’ll simply try to be more persistent when I sense something in my relationship needs to be worked on.
I think the inbound piece of a relationship is often underrated. The state of a marriage doesn’t really depend too much on what the outside world thinks. Outside support feels good but it doesn’t change the fundamentals of a relationship. My ex and I were a poster child couple for all our friends and family and this somehow prevented us from taking an unbiased look at our relationship. It turned out that their truth wasn’t exactly our truth.
I will not set up myself for failure by entering into another marriage anytime soon. The statistics show that 50% of all first marriages fail. For 2nd marriages the rate climbs to 70%. That alone is a reason to think more than twice.
I am able to separate any negative sentiments I am a carrying inside myself from holding grudges. I can decide which feelings I want to hold on to and what to let go of. This is not exactly a new lesson for me but it is worth reminding myself of it once in a while.
Will I say “yes I do” again?
It is way too soon for me to answer that question.
I feel that being in a relationship – as in being fully being present – is more important than how I label it to the outside. I am very intrigued by the self-discovery and discovering-each-other process that can happen in a committed long-term relationship. Therefore the “relationship light” lifestyle doesn’t really appeal to me.
Does this have to be within the “institution” of marriage? For many reasons I see the role of marriage morphing into something different than what it used to be. Until our society has caught up and adjusted to the changes in modern day family life we are challenged to define for ourselves how much of the traditional elements we’d like to carry over into our own lives and what to let go of. I believe that this is a discussion we should all have with our partners – blocking out the noise from the outside world.
Finding out where your partner is at
I feel that at the beginning of the discussion both partners need to throw all standard conventions over board and need to envision their relationship as they’d like it to be. How about both partners doing this a piece of paper without your partner seeing it? Then you exchange what you wrote down. If you are both on the same page you can enter into the next round.
If you put something on your list because it sounds good or try to win your partner over you are setting yourself up for failure. Eventually you will get busted.
Repeating this process once in a while with total honesty might also present an opportunity to check in with your partner further down the road. The rewards of this potentially painful process might be greater than the risk of some unpleasant surprises. The sooner one partner learns about issues of his/her spouse the less overall pain is caused and the more options both partners have.
Of course I wish I would have known sooner about the feelings of my ex. But at the end I have to give her credit for the courage she had. She ended my life as being the fool on the hill. I went from blaming her to blaming me. Eventually I reached the point of letting go of blame and just accept what happened as a part of my life. I much rather have both us living in integrity than living a dream that doesn’t exist.
I still think highly of my ex wife. I am grateful for our post-divorce life allowing for both of us to move on but still being in close communication where it still matters. Raising our daughter clearly tops that list.
As for personal growth: What better opportunity is there than dealing with big challenges in life? And isn’t personal growth one of the big focus areas for all if us highly spiritual people? No I am not trying to cheer anyone on to go through the same process. I am just offering a way to look at the cup half full.
Divorce is uncharted territory for me. I do take pieces of advice.