Family dysfunction is emotionally crippling. Acceptance and coping are the first steps to reclaiming your happiness and life balance.
Divorce is one of life's most unexpected and painful experiences one may ever face. It was an unforeseen concept I wasn't prepared for. While I've lived a happy, adventurous life since starting over, there's also the raw fact my choices made others unhappy--and I still grieved the loss.
Divorce often carries the same type of feeling as when a close friend or a loved one dies. Even if you wanted the divorce, you'll still grieve the loss. I've experienced this, having gone through a marriage dissolution in 2013 and subsequent marriage to someone new. Just because I moved forward doesn't mean it wasn't a loss. This list represents my personal experiences and how I worked to accept, understand, and overcome each part.
1. You'll Mourn Even If You Wanted the Divorce
During the process of divorce or dissolution of marriage, some crucial comforts and familiarities become lost:
- shared friends
- financial stability
- your home and its comforts
The future you envisioned and strived for has ended. It's normal and even healthy to go through divorce stages as you would with any loss. It's indeed a death—a death of everything you've lived and known for a very long time.
2. Your Ex May Still Be A Part Of Your Life if You Have Children
You'll need to learn how to co-parent healthily. You have a responsibility to raise your children with their best interests at heart. Children of divorce can still be happy and grounded if things stay amicable between parents, and they stay out of the line of fire.
The same holds for adult children. There will be graduations, weddings, the birth of grandchildren, many events both of you need and want to be involved in. No one should have to feel uncomfortable attending such events. You created these children together, and you should cohesively partake in their accomplishments.
Remember, your children looked up to and respected you and were accustomed to your constant presence in their lives and being at their beck and call. It'll take time for them to come around and, in some cases, a very long time or maybe never. Until then, understand your relationship may be one-sided. They may not acknowledge things you're excited about, and they may not call because they're thinking about you, and they may not even respond when you contact them.
Don't push. Be patient, loving, and willing to live in a one-sided world for a while--a long while. You'll feel this is your punishment, and maybe it is. But there's nothing more comforting than the unconditional love and acceptance of a parent, and they'll appreciate you didn't give up on them when they were angry and expressing it.
3. Your Social Life Will Change
Mutual friends, even acquaintances, may shift their loyalty. You'll learn who your real friends are and it'll surprise you. Some will pick sides while others choose to stay friends with both of you. You'll receive fewer Christmas cards and invitations to social events, and it'll l hurt like hell. This shift in friendships can quickly change your priorities from being the perfect hostess and going to endless social gatherings to having a low-key social life with those with whom you've genuine connections, who stuck by you with a listening ear and an open mind. You'll find comfort in this, and your friendships will mean much more. Trust me on this one.
4. Anger Will Raise Its Ugly Head
No matter what the circumstances, there will be anger, resentment, and blame. In the aftermath of divorce, there will be thoughts and even words about loyalty, wasted time, how good the other person thought they were/are, and my favorite, “you’ve changed, you’re not the person I married.” Of course, you’re not. And you shouldn’t be. Changing means you’ve grown, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Again, divorce is a loss. It doesn’t matter if you’re happy or relieved about that loss. Loss is a loss. And part of loss and mourning is anger. For your well-being, you must deal with all the stages and move from anger into acceptance. It may not happen overnight, but at some point, you'll be able to let it go and move on.
5. People Will Talk and Take Sides
Nobody knows what goes on in a marriage except the couple, and no one else needs to get involved because of no other opinions matter. A friend once said, “there are three sides to every story…his [hers], mine, and ours”. How true that is, and people need to respect that.
Gossip can take a toll on you, and it takes self-awareness and confidence to ignore the accusations and judgments and accept the reality only you know. You were two people who did the best you could; that’s what you can say and leave it at that. Where other people are concerned; let the chatter be background noise; because that’s all it is.
6. Your Memories Will Be With You Forever
Whether you'd been married for three years or 30, you spent a significant amount of time together and made a lot of memories with your ex, your children, your families, and your friends. Choose to look at those memories as priceless experiences.
I see my years with my ex as a time of learning, family celebrations, milestones, and changes. They're a part of who I am. I'm not the same woman I once was but in the right way. I'm the same mother, nurse, and friend, but I am different within myself, the way I view life, people, and situations. I've changed in ways that have contributed to my growth, not my demise.
I still have a long way to go, but I'm improving who I am every day. Everything I experienced in my marriage, both good and bad, made me who I am today, both in what I have changed and what has remained the same. It's a part of my life I live without regrets because of my four beautiful and talented children that came from it. Having and raising my kids was my most significant accomplishment during that time, and I wouldn't change that for anything.
7. Family May Not Understand or Be Supportive
They may judge, blame, point fingers, and talk badly about you to your children, other family members, or their circle of friends. It'll be humiliating at best, but try to understand they, too, are mourning the loss of the family unit as they have known it. Hopefully, with time, listening, and understanding, they'll come to understand and respect your decisions.
They may even be unaccepting or intolerant of a new relationship. That'll be the toughest part. Be patient and ready to forgive. Eventually, they'll miss your company and any family bond you once had. Unfortunately, this can take years; in my case, it's taking many years with little hope of reconciliation--not for my lack of trying. I remain hopeful and focus on living my life to the fullest. I can't dwell on what I don't have and know I've done my best.
People can be influential, particularly your parents or other family members, so don't let them cause you to feel regret or remorse. You're only responsible for your feelings and reactions, not theirs. I can't tell you how many people have said this to me over the years--friends with similar experiences, therapists, and even strangers.
Holidays and monumental family events are the hardest. It would help if you made new traditions, whether with your new spouse, friends, or neighbors. I remain hopeful that one-day, hearts will soften, and acceptance will happen.
“There is a big difference between giving up and letting go. Giving up means selling yourself short. It means allowing fear and struggle to limit your opportunities and keep you stuck. Letting go means freeing yourself from something that is no longer serving you. It involves removing toxic people and belief systems from your life so that you can make room for relationships and ideas that are conducive to your well-being and happiness. Giving up reduces your life. Letting go expands it. Giving up is imprisoning. Letting go is liberation. Giving up is self-defeat. Letting go is self-care.
So the next time you decide to release something or someone that is stifling your happiness and growth, and a person dares to accuse you of giving up or being weak, remind yourself of the difference. Remind yourself that you don’t need anyone’s permission or approval to live your life in a way that feels right. No one has the authority to tell you who to be or how to live. No one gets to decide what your life should look like or who should be a part of it. No one but you.”
— Daniell Koepke
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Debra Roberts
Subhashish Roy on June 18, 2019:
I can understand. It must be so difficult and one's entire life changes. But then divorce must be a very well thought out decision and if it has to happen, then it must happen for our own good and dignity.
Tracy C on June 18, 2019:
Been there, done that. It’s extremely hard, especially when you love your in-laws. Holidays are the absolute worst. However, new and better possibilities will come your way with time. It’s much better to leave a toxic relationship than it is to stay. You deserve better.
Angie on June 17, 2019:
All of these are so true! I have never been divorced but my very dear friend has gone through it. It’s a giant upheaval of your life, even if you wanted it.
Lindsay Brown on June 17, 2019:
A very informative article on the emotional termoil that divorce brings. My parents have recently gone through a divorce and although it was emotionally exhausting for them, now that time has passed I can see that it has been for the best for both of them. My mom is so much happier and positive about her outlook on life having gone through such an expirience. Divorce is so tough, but I'd like to think that in most cases, as long as the proper healing steps are taken, it is for the best. This is a great article, thanks for sharing!
Live Learn Better on June 16, 2019:
It's has gotten to the level where I may feel surprised at the news of divorce from a friend but it doesn't shock me any longer.
We all are more concerned with the pursuit of our happiness and anyone that doesn't tag along with our dream needs to get off the wagon.
Marriage is a HARD WORK and being in it for over 12 years has thought me so much that I did not know about myself but grateful for...
Snehal on June 16, 2019:
Recently one of my friends got divorced. She was pregnant with her first child. I am just happy that her family were supportive. Even though she was ready for a divorce...she does feel sad about it sometimes though...
Debra Roberts (author) from Ohio on June 16, 2019:
Ah yes, the mascara-stained, chronic puffy eyes! I know them well. Temporary battle scars to overcome though, if willing to put yourself out there and take chances! I'm glad your sister is happy...I know that scenario too!
Lyosha on June 15, 2019:
The D word is scary but seeing person suffering with it even harder. I remember seeing my sister going through this face colored black (the eye bags etc, we have white skin), bloodless and endlessly sad. I wish this post was there for her those days. (P.S. she is happy now with different man for 3 years straight, I do hope it will stay this way)
Scott DeNicola on June 14, 2019:
Divorce is tough on more than just the two people and I see a lot of it these days. We have many divorced friends and it does create challenges. You not only lose your spouse but as you said you also lose mutual friends. It can obviously affect your children as well and the family dynamic can also suffer. The most important thing though is to be happy and don't hang in a relationship if you aren't happy. Life is too short to be unhappy.
jerry godinho on June 14, 2019:
I have seen 5 close friends go through a divorce and everything you mention has happened. The kids suffer the most. I was a financial advisor and when men asked me for the best advice i always said keep the first wife. thanks for talking about stuff that is stuffed under the carpet
Erica (The Prepping Wife) on April 30, 2019:
My favorite person on the planet has set the single greatest example of this that I can ever think of. He divorced his wife when their two kids were fairly young. But they are still friends to this day, and their kids are in their 20’s. When he was in the process of moving, he stayed with his ex wife and her current husband, until he moved to a different state to care for his parents. She still talked to his parents during holidays. He came back to attend the funeral of her brother. The list goes on and on. But being able to set that kind of example for their kids is something I think all divorced couples should strive for.
Debra Roberts (author) from Ohio on April 29, 2019:
Well said! Unfortunately, my divorce also divided my entire family. Not one person supported me...it's been beyond damaging emotionally and psychologically. It's as if no one wants me to be happy. It's a tough pill to swallow.
Live Learn Better on April 27, 2019:
Your opinions are very reasonable and valid.I have friends going through tough times in their marriage, and I tell them marriage is not bed of roses neither is it bed of thorns.
Life is for the living and we all have different level of tolerance. Successful or failed marriage should not determine who you are in life.
ThatGuysWithHat on November 09, 2018:
Great article. Unfortunately, this happens to each of us ... the main thing is not to become self-contained. When I broke up with one girl, I was completely broken. But I started drawing and it helped me to understand myself ... to move on. Drawing or other creativity helps a lot with this, I usually draw with pencils like this https://wowpencils.com/best-mechanical-pencils/. If you also want to draw, then I advise you to start with black and white drawings.
Debra Roberts (author) from Ohio on October 16, 2018:
Sadly, I didn't see mine coming really. I think I was just on autopilot, thinking I needed to live with the decision and stay put due to longevity and my 4 kids. Sadly, I'm still the source of contention in my family because I made the break and remarried, but I'm happy now, and isn't that what life is about? Being happy? Or is it living a lie so that others don't have to be uncomfortable? Food for thought for sure!
Liz Westwood from UK on October 10, 2018:
There's a lot of food for thought in this article. Its useful for anyone contemplating or going through divorce, but also for others to aid their understanding of the trauma the dissolution of a marriage can cause.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 04, 2018:
You really laid it out well for would-be divorcees to consider. For those who do it anyway, you encourage them with the truth that "Divorce Won't Kill You." Good article. Dashingscorpio also gives good counsel (except that I would hate for the phrase "practice marriage" to become a self-fulling prophecy).
dashingscorpio from Chicago on October 04, 2018:
And yet some people will tell you; "Divorce is the EASY way out." Clearly those who believe that have never actually gone through a divorce. Getting married is a lot more fun and way easier to do!
Nevertheless divorce does not have to be the end of the world. Oftentimes people go on to find new love with a (better partner) and remarry. I call my first marriage my "practice marriage".
"Some people come into your life as blessings and some people come into your life as lessons." - Mother Teresa
Every ending is a new beginning!