I just finished reading a great article from the Wall Street Journal titled, “Divorcé’s Guide to Marriage” by Elizabeth Bernstein. The first line in this article reads, “Want great marriage advice? Ask a divorced person.” I thought, ‘this is so true’! People that have been through a divorce often have a clearer perspective on how to build a stronger relationship, because they have spent a lot of time reflecting on what went wrong in their own marriage. They use this as a blueprint of how they will do things differently the next time around.
Of course, this is not true for everyone. Some people rush into another relationship because they can’t stand to be alone and end up in divorce two or three more times. These individuals have not taken pause to analyze the issues in their relationships, nor have they taken ownership of the part they played in the breakdown of the marriage. Sadly, they continue to repeat the same dysfunction time and time again and they tend to end up with the same person in a different body.
Although I agree with most of what was said in this article, especially since the finding came from a longitudinal study by Dr. Terri Orbuch, a psychologist and research professor from the University of Michigan, I do have a few additional insights of my own to share. Take just a few moments to jot down your thoughts to the following questions:
#1) What were the top 5 issues in your marriage that lead to arguments or disagreements?
#2) How did those issues get addressed? For example, did you and your spouse scream and yell or did everything get swept under the rug which caused resentment or passive aggressive behaviors?
#3) Was it always one of you that had to compromise in order to resolve this conflict?
#4) Did these behaviors change or did they repeat themselves throughout the marriage?
#5) Were these issues considered “deal breakers” to you or your partner? Did you recognize these behaviors prior to getting married?
Simply asking yourself these 5 key questions can help to recognize the reasons your past relationships failed and help you avoid heading to divorce court again. Be self-reflective. Don’t place all the blame on the other person. Be honest with yourself about how you played a part in the destruction of the relationship…remember, it takes two to tango.
I have learned so many lessons in the past four years since my divorce. Yes, sometimes I had to learn them the hard way, but never-the-less, I learned. As I write in my book, going through divorce is a process of going through various stages of healing. Much like mourning a death. Just when you think you’re doing okay, you get slapped upside your head with a reality check to let you know you haven’t quite gotten over all of the pain or you are not quite ready to be in a healthy relationship.
A perfect example of this happened to me just this week. I found myself becoming hurt and resentful by all of these pictures of my ex-husband with his new wife touring Europe, while I’m stuck trying to support our kids and pay the mortgage. I was upset with myself for letting it bother me and getting angry that the person that broke my heart and destroyed our family gets to live a happy care-free life with someone new.
After a few days of lamenting and riding a roller coaster of feeling angry, sad, resentful, jealous, competitive, angry (did I say angry already). I realized that this is a normal reaction for anyone that has gone through a breakup or divorce. Even though you know 100% that you do not want to be with this person, you still feel a sense of jealousy when you see them with another person. This is the ego in full effect. There’s no escaping it. I was beating myself up for feeling this way. I tossed and turned all night thinking of ways I wanted him to suffer and creating these scenarios of how it’s all a facade on social media and in reality their relationship was as miserable as ours was. (After all, we all know that the couples that profess their love all over Facebook are usually living a lie, trying to cover up the truth that their marriage is a fraud). I found myself saying snarky things like, I feel bad for that woman having to put up with him and how it must be nice that all he has to think about is himself and not his kids.
I woke up feeling ashamed at my immaturity and hated the negative thoughts and feelings. It felt gross! I thought I was in a better place? I thought I was better than this? Then, I realized that I’m not perfect and it’s a natural human reaction. I quickly wanted to release these nasty thoughts and learn how to deal with these emotions in a more constructive way. So, I decided the best thing to do would be to use this as another guide to help myself and others learn how to deal with getting through your crappydivorce:
The first step is to allow yourself to feel the emotions and not to push them away or use distractions to cover them up. Identify what the emotions are and where they stem from. Talk to a close friend or family member and let yourself have a good cry.
The second step is to normalize your emotions. Understand that this is our human condition and it is completely natural to hold some resentment and jealousy towards an ex when you see that they are with someone else. Psychologically, we want to hold on the belief that our ex is still longing for us and it is a hard pill to swallow when we realize that we are replaceable.
The third and final step is to let the negative feelings go. Instead of allowing your ego to control your behavior with feelings of bitterness and jealousy, find your higher self and wish them well. It’s not always easy because the ego can be a powerful force, but if you look at this as an opportunity to grow, you will be able to shift your focus to finding that happiness for yourself instead of holding on to resentment. If you don’t you may stay stuck in that anger and it will lead to self-destructive behaviors that will be counterproductive to your healing process.
Self-awareness is key to the healing process, but stepping back and looking at it with a different perspective is also extremely important. Use this time as an opportunity to recognize the lessons from this seemingly tragic experience and view them as a blessing that will allow you to be in the loving relationship you deserved all along. Don’t waste these important insights by repeating the same dysfunction over and over again. Want better for yourself.
Know your value and never allow yourself to make those same mistakes again. If you don’t…what was the damn point? Do you want to continue to be in toxic relationships that make you miserable? I certainly don’t! That’s why I’m taking my sweet time getting into a relationship again. I want that special kind of love that I’ve always dreamed of with someone that is my best friend, someone I can trust with my heart and who will never mistreat me. Isn’t that what we all want? I would rather spend years searching for that special someone than go back to the frustration and pain I felt in my past. Do yourself a favor and give yourself that time as well. I promise you it will pay off in the long run.