Loving Yourself Through a Divorce
Dating in Theory
Ask any woman, and they will be able to recall that particular day, the place, and more than likely-the outfit she had worn. The long awaited and oftentimes dreaded, first date. The night that has been building up since the moment you first saw him and the fantasies that followed; dancing, laughing, sharing a private dinner with no interruptions, ultimately becoming an actual couple. The flirting is usually a bit contrived and if lucky- perfectly timed. Whether it be short term or long, a brief fling or investing a lifetime, there is one relationship that may just lead to...... holy matrimony.
One could say couples who marry for the right reasons that don’t include escaping smothering or abusive parents, monetary comeuppance, or a path to citizenship-believe for the most part they are immune to such a parting of ways. Let’s face it, there are some that are the ‘romantics’ that believe even the aforementioned exceptions find true love and live happily ever after. One can only hope.
When the Two Shall Become One
Some of us get comfortable after a certain benchmark. When you have celebrated a particular anniversary, traditionally symbolizing a silver anniversary, you begin to believe you are in the home stretch. So your annual Pap becomes a reminder to thoroughly shave your legs and your workout pants become your P.J.s. If you are really lucky, you have made it to ‘Coral’ or the 35th year, which marks the time to pull out the stretch pants you swore you would never wear and put away the TV guide. Both of you already know what shows are airing each and every evening as well as who is broadcasting them. Trends are passé and you let the woman's department coordinate your outfits from their display racks. Foreplay is defined by how clean he leaves the bathroom and to be completely honest, sex can be easily replaced with a great glass of wine, caramel corn, and a riveting suspense novel.
Most would agree when you have been a couple for any great length of time, there are few surprises. You simply know what your spouse would rather do instead of visiting a craft store, what he may secretly think when you tell him the in-laws are coming for the holidays, or his go-to shirts when he calls you to lay out something for a quick trip. You are in perfect sync-or so you thought.
Gray Divorce Statistics
The statistics for divorced couples under the age of 50 have actually gone down, while the over- 50 folks have doubled between 1990 and 2010, according to a study that was carried out by Bowling Green sociologists Susan Brown and I-Fen Lin in a comprehensive analysis of U.S. Census divorce data. There have been many theories as to reasons why; We are living longer than past generations, the stigma of divorce has somewhat lessened over the years, and quite possibly women have grown more financially independent. Some theorize that the data may also reflect second or third marriages that carry a higher risk of divorce as first timers.
Whatever the theories- they can’t mean you. The statistics are given as much weight as crime statistics, lottery chances, and surveys. When you think about it, we tend to fret over that one statistic – the one involving finding a mate in the first place. What happens after, is oftentimes glossed over.
The Sense of Loss
So when was the betrayal a cognitive choice? Why change stripes at this late date? Why do they abandon all decency and responsibilities? Most importantly….how can he do this to YOU, the love of his life?
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D. (A Swiss-American psychiatrist) identified the 5 stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. While there are plenty of professionals in the mental health field that may dispute the theory’s rigidity or even validity it could very well be applied to some of us dealing, not with a loss from death, but a loss from divorce.
The Five Stages of Grief- Elisabeth Kübler Ross
“With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.” – Wayne Dyer
It's all about Me
While jumping from one stage to another, and this may require a few rotations, a need arises. One must begin to heal, to move forward, and the granddaddy of them all- you need to love yourself. As Oprah- motivated as it sounds, it's true. One can assume if you are a woman experiencing a 'gray divorce' you had been adhering to schedules involving the whole family for years. Rarely did the trips to the grocery store not involve a mental list of favorite foods or blacklisted menus verbalized by your loved ones. All household decisions were primarily made by a consensus rather than individually. Me somehow moved to the background of your mind.
The kids most likely have gone or will soon be leaving the home. The emptiness one may feel after the last child spreads wings and flies away may be filled with hobbies, physical fitness, and other bucket list pursuits as an empty- nester. But with divorce, you are truly the only one left in the nest. The sadness and loss can be crippling. As anything in life-you can let it consume you or you can take it as a positive challenge toward moving forward. A way to get back to who you are and what makes you truly happy in life. While it may be helpful in listening to empathetic friends, co-workers that have experienced similar loss, or support groups designed to facilitate problem- solving discussions, incorporate coping mechanisms,and offer clinical support-the change will ultimately come from within.
One Challenge at a Time
Whether it be for a diet, an event, or even a shopping trip- we make lists. Some may compile their lists mentally, while others may find the need for the written word as a personal reminder or as inspiration. Divorce checklists shouldn't be any different. But they feel like it. Such goals as ; finding true happiness, to love again, and learning to forgive, could prove daunting if not unrealistic if you aren't willing to be introspective. You can't slap on a coat of paint on damaged wood. 'Damaged' may be too harsh of an analogy, but too many of us fail to take the opportunity for reflection, for personal growth.
We use reflective techniques almost daily and not know it. How many times have you asked yourself; Did I handle that situation as best as I could?, What went wrong with the job interview?, Why do I get sick to my stomach at the thought of asking for help?. It is way too simple to lay all blame at the feet of another- how is that working for you?
"Reflective practice is an active, dynamic action-based and ethical set of skills, placed in real time and dealing with real, complex and difficult situations."
-Moon, J (2004)
A Handbook of Reflective and Experiential Learning , Routledge Falmer, London.
Take a breath, make lists, join groups-most of all, laugh at yourself. Do what works for you. Just don't miss the golden opportunity toward insight, healing, and positive change for the greater you! It takes time, practice and solid commitment for self actualization. And the rewards can be phenomenal. A happier and fulfilling life that may or may not include another relationship. It may come to being that a relationship wasn't what you desperately needed. A happy life living with you- was the cohesive relationship you have been striving for all along.