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Lessons From the End of a Marriage

A “How to Thrive” Guide After Divorce

After Being Cheated On: When We’re Told to “Get Over It”

Why “Get Over It” is Misdirected

We Wish We Could

When we’ve been betrayed, we want nothing more than for the pain to go away. We try to bargain with it, under the desperate illusion that if we can just unlock the secret code, everything will go back to the way it was. Often, we try to escape from it, looking for those brief moments of respite provided through distractions. We plead with others and ourselves to please just make the pain stop.

We see ourselves, both manic and depressed, driven half-mad with the heart-stopping realization that we’ve been trapped in an illusion, and we hate what we see. We don’t want to be that person, and yet we don’t know how to escape the pain that binds us. And so “get over it” feels like being told to simply walk away and yet we have no legs.

 

It Often Assumes One Bad Moment is Reflective of Every Moment

Triggers – and overreactions – are a part of healing. And by their very nature, they tend to be visible to others and attract attention. It may be that this sort of reaction is rare, yet for the person on the outside telling you that it’s time to “get over it,” they may perceive this as being your normal, everyday state.

 

It is Dismissive of the Magnitude of the Pain

From an outsider’s perspective, it can be easy to underestimate the impact of betrayal. They may see it as being only about the sexual relationship or think that you are better off without the cheater and that can dump them and move on as easily as you discard your trash after a picnic lunch.

Yet the reality is different. No aspect of your life has escaped unscathed. You now question everything and trust nothing. You grieve the life you thought you had and the future you imagined. You feel like you were not enough while you face the fear of being alone forever.

 

Healing Does Not Speak Calendar

Many times, “get over it” comes after a certain amount of time as passed, as though the calendar holds some magical healing powers. And while time does help to soften the memories and provide opportunities for healing, it is no panacea.

From Does Time Heal All Wounds:

Time Doesn’t Mean You Forget You will never forget. Time does not erase all memories, delete all pain. It’s still there, but there is also space for you to live alongside of it.

Provide Automatic Processing Time doesn’t do the healing. You do. If all you do is wait, you’ll feel much the same, only with more wrinkles. Time simply gives you the space and opportunity to work through it.

Time Doesn’t Provide Understanding Time won’t answer the “why” question for you. It won’t reveal why life is harder for some of us than others and why bad things can happen to good people. What time does give you is some perspective that suggests that maybe understanding why isn’t really that important.

 

This Trauma May Bring Up Past Traumas

Perhaps this betrayal has brought up childhood wounds where you felt abandoned by a parent. Or maybe this has reminded you of other situations in your past where you received the message that you were unlovable and not enough. Perhaps grieving thus loss has reignited the pain of other losses from your pass.

Regardless of the specifics, this trauma does not exist in isolation. Much like an iceberg with most of its mass below the surface, it may appear to others that you’re reacting only to the most visible injury, meanwhile you’re wrestling with everything that’s been buried for years.

 

 

Why People Tell Us to “Get Over It”

They Have Something to Gain From Our Silence

Sadly, the one who betrayed us is often the same one telling us to drop it already, as though they can reveal this bombshell and then escape unscathed. Sometimes they’re clueless, so absorbed in their own life than they neglect to consider how their actions have impacted you. Other times, they see our pain as weakness and our cries trigger them to be cruel. Consider the motivation behind the words. Does your silence somehow benefit them?

 

Discomfort With Our Emotions

This can happen either with the person that betrayed us or with others in our life. The emotions that follow betrayal are often strong and ugly, and people may be uncomfortable bearing witness to those feelings. They tell us to move on because they want us to be back to normal for their sake.

 

They Care and Want Us to Feel Better

Not everyone who tells us to ‘get over it” has bad intentions. Sometimes, those words, although hurtful, are coming from those who see us hurting and want us to feel better. They see that we’re holding on, turning the past over and over again in our minds as though looking for the secret that will unlock peace. They see us “pain-shopping,” scrolling social media to see images of the affair partner and they hear our fixation on what has happened. They know that we would feel better if we let go, but they don’t always understand why we’re not ready to.

 

Because They Haven’t Lived it, They Don’t Understand

From an outsider’s perspective, it seems so simple – dump the jerk and walk away with your head held high like some character bouncing off rock bottom in a romantic comedy. Their words aren’t malicious, they’re just clueless.

 

When We Need to Pay Attention to “Get Over It”

If It Pisses You Off, There May be Some Truth to It

Pay attention to your reaction to those words. If you find yourself particularly enraged or defensive, it may be because they are dangerously close to some truth that you’ve been trying to avoid seeing.  Often, we do hold on too long and sometimes those in our lives our trying to help us see the ways that we’re betraying ourselves.

 

We Hold Onto Pain Because It is All We Have Left

The innocence is gone. The trust is gone. The marriage may be gone. But we still have the pain. It is a sign that we have been wounded that can become a strange badge of honor that we wear to honor the magnitude of what was lost. We fear letting go of the pain, because we no longer know who we are without it.

 

Sometimes We Neglect to Live While We’re Healing

It’s so easy to tell ourselves that once we are healed, then we will fully engage with life again. Yet life happens alongside healing, two intertwining and continuous paths. Perhaps the one telling you to “get over it” is really telling you to get out of the waiting room and start living even while you’re still healing.

 

If You’re Wanting to Heal the Relationship, You Have to Let Go

From After the Affair: How Much Should You Talk About It?:

You didn’t have a say in the affair and you have every right to have a say in how the recovery plays out. It is not your role to alleviate their guilt or to stay quiet in an attempt to keep the peace. Your emotions are valid. That being said, be mindful of your motivation when you bring up the affair. Are you looking for reassurances that it won’t happen again? Are you wanting to make them feel badly? Are you coming from a place of self-righteousness? Are you wanting the person that hurt you to be the one to heal you? These are all the relationship equivalent of a dryer being stuck in the tumble cycle – it will beat you both up, but won’t make much of anything happen.

None of what happened is fair. And if you’re committed to staying, you have to decide what you want more – to punish them or heal the relationship. You can’t have both.

 

Ultimately, what it comes down to is this…

You are never going to “get over it,” as though it was a minor slight that stung for a moment. This has had a profound impact on your life, leaving behind permanent marks and forever altering how you view the world.

Yet even though you are not going to get over it,

You ARE going to figure out how to live with it. You will each a point when it is no longer the first thing you think of when you awake and you no longer cry yourself to sleep. It will become part of your story rather than your entire identity.

You ARE going to heal, the incredible rawness of the aching void replaced with an echo of the pain. You will allow yourself to trust again, to love again, beginning with yourself.

You ARE going to learn from it. What has happened has opened your eyes, brought you gratitude for what you do have and showed you just how strong you are.

 

 

The 10 Worst Platitudes to Hear After Divorce or Infidelity

As soon as the divorce or infidelity is public, the platitudes begin to rain down from loved ones and strangers alike. They can feel so off-base and tone deaf in the moment, even when they’re coming from a place of care and concern. What makes these platitudes sting and what wisdom might we gleam from them?

 

“This too shall pass.”

Why it stings – There is a complete lack of acknowledgment of where you are right now and the damage that has been done. It’s like focusing on the fact that the knife that has stabbed you is no longer in your body when the wound is still open and bleeding.

The wisdom within – The way you feel right now is not the way you will always feel. It will never be as though it never happened, but it will no longer be so raw and shocky.

 

“Everything happens for a reason.”

Why it stings – This can feel like a person’s bad behavior is being excused because it fits into some greater good or that a horrible experience is a positive thing because it allows for something new. It implies that you should be looking for silver linings moments after the lightening strike.

The wisdom within – You have the power to make this a starting point, to create good things from this situation. It is possible to both acknowledge how terrible something is and also recognize that there are indeed positive things that can arise from the ashes.

 

“God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

Why it stings – Being told you’re strong when you’re feeling incredibly weak and vulnerable only makes you feel ashamed that you’re struggling. Because no matter what God thinks, it certainly doesn’t feel like you can handle this.

The wisdom within – We are so much stronger than we realize. We tend to think that because something is hard, it is impossible and we fail to see the incremental progress that we’re making. You may not be strong enough today, but don’t discount how strong you’ll be tomorrow.

 

“It’s for the best.”

Why it stings – Then why is it the worst thing that has ever happened to me? From an outside perspective, it can be easy to see why the relationship wasn’t working. But from within? The loss of it overwhelms everything else.

The wisdom within – Sometimes we stay in a relationship simply because we fear losing it. And only once we’re out can we see how damaging it actually was.

 

“Time heals all wounds.”

Why it stings – You’re already feeling powerless and since time travel is still fiction, being told you have to wait some unspecified length of time to feel better, only adds to that lack of control.

The wisdom within – Time acts like a river over stone, slowly smoothing away the rough edges of the pain. You can’t force it to happen sooner, but you can appreciate it when it comes.

 

“There are plenty of fish in the sea.”

Why it stings – You don’t care about what you could have, you want what you lost. Besides, the thought of dating again is scary, exhausting and perhaps completely off-putting.

The wisdom within – Love is not, “Limit one per customer.” When you’re ready, you may just find that you not only can love again, but that this love is even better than before.

 

“When one door closes, another one opens.”

Why it stings – Why are you telling me about a door when I can barely stand? This platitude makes us feel like we need to be pushing at a time when we’re still nursing our wounds.

The wisdom within – Struggles always come with opportunities. After the initial grief passes, you may find yourself on a new – and exciting – path.

 

“Others have it worse.”

Why it stings – This hurts on two levels. First, it dismisses our experience, which although it may not be the worst in the history of the world, it is the worst in our history. Secondly, it can make us feel guilty, thinking that we shouldn’t feel the way we do.

The wisdom within – Gratitude is powerful stuff. Simply acknowledging the gifts you do have can go a long way to making you feel better.

 

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Why it stings – I don’t want to be stronger; I want to have a partner that treats me well. I may be stronger because of what has happened, but I’d prefer not being victimized thank you very much.

The wisdom within – This has changed you. You have found your inner strength, gained wisdom and compassion. And even though some days it felt like you were dying, it didn’t kill you.

 

“Forgive and forget.”

Why it stings – Don’t we wish we could have selective amnesia and the peaceful mind of a Buddhist monk? This stings because we so desperately want it to be true and yet we can’t seem to make it happen.

The wisdom within – I’m not sure forgetting ever happens, but you can find a peace with it. You don’t get over it, you learn from it.

6 Reasons People Lie in Relationships

People lie in relationships for myriad reasons, some of which are more egregious than others. By understanding the motivation behind their mistruths, you have some insight into their thought process and a sense of the likelihood that they will continue their deceptions.

6 Reasons People Lie in Relationships:

 

1 – They Are Ashamed of the Truth

I find this motivation to lie quite sad. As a former teacher, this is one of the more common types of lies I saw in my classroom. Kids lied because they were ashamed of their financial situations, their home lives or their performance on an assignment. The lie was an act of self-preservation, projecting the person they wanted to be.

This is the type of lie that I believe got my ex in trouble. As his professional life began to fall apart and he began to struggle with addiction, instead of being vulnerable and admitting to his internal battles, he instead pretended to be ever more successful. And the problem with these type of lies is that the more they are told, the more the person moves away from themselves and sometimes they are lost forever.

With this type of fiction, if it is caught early, more is to be gained from a gentle approach rather than a punitive one. They need to feel safe before the fallout from the lie can be addressed. Shame can wreak havoc on relationships; it’s important not to ignore its impact.

 

2 – In Misguided Attempt to Protect Others

It’s such an unexpected response when you discover that you’ve been lied to –  “I just wanted to protect you.” The impulse is good, but the horrible execution has had the opposite effect, hurting you instead of protecting you. This type of lie has two layers to work through – first, the realization that they have not been honest with you and second, the sense that they do not trust that you can handle the truth.

There’s a lack of respect inherent in this kind of lie as they believe that they know what is best for you. In fact, you may realize that this power dynamic is even more concerning than the lie itself. In order for a relationship to function as a team, BOTH partners need to have access to the same information. If one is acting as gatekeeper, the other is inevitably a prisoner.

If you find yourself in this type of dynamic, it’s important for you to examine your own responses. Maybe you have a tendency to overreact to difficult information (raising my hand here), you are inadvertently telling your partner that you can’t handle the truth. Work to manage your own emotions and responses so that they feel comfortable having those hard conversations.

 

3 – So That They Can Continue Their Behavior

This is the classic selfish lie – they want to continue doing whatever it is they’re doing and they know that telling you the truth would prevent them from being able to do it. They are not directly trying to hurt you, but the impact on you is less important to them than their own happiness in the moment. As long as the lies benefit them, they are unlikely to change their ways.

One of the ways to identify this sort of dishonesty is by their reaction when they are caught. The selfish liar will be angry rather than contrite, painting all of this as your fault. After all, before the fabrication was revealed, everything was perfectly fine in their world.

 

4 – They Enjoy the Thrill of Getting Away With It

These are the scary ones, the people that lie because they enjoy manipulating and controlling others. They have no consideration for the impact of their deceptions. In fact, they may enjoy looking back at the destruction left in their wake.

You will often first see this when your partner pulls a fast one on someone else and can’t help but share their “victory” with you. I remember my ex delighting that he convinced some guy running a survey at the mall that he had diabetes and therefore couldn’t participate in the study. The interaction was minor and of no consequence, but I should have paid more attention to his reaction at his lie being believed. If they will lie to others, it’s only a matter of time until they lie to you. Furthermore, these lies will continue to escalate, as a bigger and bigger “hit” is required in order to get a rush.

 

5 – They Believe Their Own B.S.

If someone lies often enough, they begin to confuse their fabrications with the truth. It’s a snowball effect, as one lie begets many more downstream. At some point, the lies and the half-truths become so entangled with reality that it becomes impossible to sort them out again. As a result, these lies are not only told externally, but also believed.

What is so wild about these types of people is that on some level, they are aware that they are lying. Yet they have spent so much time living in the fiction section, they no longer know how to navigate reality.

 

6 – Their Lives Are Compartmentalized

This is another situation where they may truly believe that they are not lying. They convince themselves that one aspect of their life has no consequence whatsoever in other areas. A classic example of this type of liar is the person who only cheats when they are traveling for business. It doesn’t happen at home, so they believe that it has no impact at home.

Confronting this type of liar can be crazy-making, as they will seem legitimately confused about why you are so upset. Asking them to understand requires for them to confront their own cognitive dissonance head on, which is unlikely to happen.

Is It Love? 10 Things We Confuse For Love

When we feel it, it seems so clear – this must be love! Yet in hindsight, sometimes the glossy coating starts to chip away and we realize that those intense and very real feelings weren’t love, but actually something else.

 

Is it love? Or, is it…

 

Limerence

The year was 1991. Even though my history teacher was delivering important information for the upcoming exam, my mind was focused elsewhere. Or, actually I guess I could say elsewho. Because I was completely obsessed with the boy I had recently started dating. The thoughts and feelings were all-consuming, obsessive even. Based on intensity alone, I just knew that this had to something something special – true love. It was only once the relationship ended a couple months later (as high school romances often do), that I realized how little I actually knew this boy that I had professed to love. What I was actually in love with was the fantasy that I had created within my own mind.

Limerence is basically the rom-com of the romantic realm. It starts with some element of truth and then surrounds it with layer upon layer of sugary-sweet fantasy. It feels like love because of its overwhelming intensity, as our neurotransmitters are played like Chopin on the keys. Yet, because limerence is not strongly rooted in reality, it lacks the vulnerability, sacrifice and authenticity that characterizes mature love.

 

Chemistry (AKA Lust)

I think most of can relate to this experience. You meet someone. Maybe they’re conventially attractive, maybe not. It doesn’t matter. Because when their fingertips brush against you arm, sparks fly. Things are amazing for a time because everything is focused on the physical. And in that realm, you make the perfect pairing. But then something happens that feels like being on a train that has abruptly slammed to a halt. In communication outside of the bedroom, you realize that not only do you not really know this person, you may not even like them all that much.

Biology doesn’t care if we love someone; it simply needs for us to get it on to keep the species on. Lust can be quite powerful and can be a driving force in a relationship for quite some time. However, lust is at its most intense when the experience is new. And new can only last so long. Lust can be a precursor to love, as the relationship transitions and deepens, or it can simply be an enjoyable stopping point along the way.

 

Feeling Wanted

I was mere months out from being suddenly abandoned by my husband of sixteen years. My self-esteem was at rock bottom and the fear of being alone forever vibrated through me with the constant hum of a ceiling fan on a summer night. And then I was approached by a man at the gym. A good-looking man, who expressed interest in me. And, damn, did that feel good on that day. I went out with him, even though my still-shattered heart had absolutely no business dating. I got sucked in, too far and too fast, not because it was love, but because it made me feel like I was lovable.

We all want to feel wanted, chosen. And when we’re in particularly vulnerable spots in our lives, we can end up falling for people not because we want them, but because they want us. This is exactly why the advice is that you have to love yourself first before you can find love. Otherwise, you may find yourself committing to the first person who picks you.

 

Mirroring

is it love

I thought we had the perfect marriage. We never argued. We had the same likes and dislikes. And we even had similar views on pretty much everything.

Too bad none of that was real. 

I wasn’t seeing him; I was seeing a reflection of myself. And it felt good. “He really gets me”, I thought, as his sentiments echoed my own. But that’s not love. After all, you cannot love something that you cannot fully see.

Sometimes mirroring is done by those who are afraid of being alone, as they morph into what we want them to be. Other times, mirroring is more nefarious when it is one of the tools used to lovebomb a partner or prospective partner.

Real love doesn’t ask for two people to blur into one; it allows – and even celebrates – the differences that each person brings to the union.

 

Relief From Discomfort

When is a sip of water most refreshing – when you’re sitting at your desk drinking water throughout the day or after two grueling hours spent mowing the lawn on a hot summer day? When do you think attraction is at its most powerful – when your life is full and happy or when you’re experiencing scarcity or hardship?

Sometimes, it is less about loving the person and more about loving some discomfort they have alleviated for us. Maybe great aunt Sally has finally stopped pestering you now that you’re in a relationship. Or, your financial worries have been replaced with nice dinners out. Your life is better, but it may be more about what the person brings with them and less about who the person is. A quick test to determine the difference – which thought causes you more distress? Losing them, but keeping everything else that has changed in your life once they entered or keeping them, but without the ancillary benefits?

When our lives are in a drought, any romance becomes the best thing on earth. It is only when our lives are already lush than we can truly discern what we truly love.

 

Flattery From Partner

“You are the best thing that has ever happened to me.”

“I’ve never met anyone like you before.”

“I’ve never felt this way with anyone else.”

In real love, each person helps the other grow and become better. Excess flattery is like a shortcut of this process. Instead of engaging in the messy and difficult worth of growth, it jumps straight to the “you’re the best thing ever!” Of course, that praise comes with a price. You must stay that way in order to keep those feelings flowing.

There is a difference between being adored and being loved. Although they both feel good to receive, only the latter allows you the freedom to be yourself and to grow.

 

Approval From Others

“I like her,” your mom says after meeting your new girlfriend, followed by a list of all your date’s desirable qualities. Immediately, your interest in your partner increases. After all, she got the mom stamp of approval, which is something you’ve sought yourself your whole life.

We care what others think about our romantic choices. We want validation for attracting and selecting a good mate. Sometimes, especially if we are insecure in ourselves, we can put too much emphasis on this external approval and believe that we love someone solely because the others in our life seem to love them.

 

Security

I received a letter from one of my students recently. In it, she detailed how my classroom always made her feel safe. And for most of us, when we think back to the most important people in our childhood, part of what made them so influential was their ability to make us feel protected. And when we’re young and vulnerable, protection is one of the most important signs of love.

Most of us struggle with feelings of uncertainty. We want to know how things are going to unfold. And relationships often bring with them some sense of security. After all, we are more accepting of risk when we have that safety net beneath us.

In a loving partnership, a sense of security is built over time by continually showing up for each other and working to solve problems as a team. The love comes first, and the sense of dependability comes after. If instead that security comes from one side or precedes the teamwork, it is easy to confuse that sense of safety with being loved.

Control

My friend came from an abusive household, where her alcoholic and controlling father ruled the roost. In her first serious relationship, she described her new fiancé as, “Wonderful. He cares so much for me that he won’t let me work. He just wants to take care of me.” Alarm bells went off in my head, but her childhood had taught her that control = love.

This can go the other way as well, as some people confuse a sense of possession as love. If the person is malleable and submissive, that must mean that they truly adore you, right?

The irony here is that for the deepest love, you have to learn to release all control.

 

Narrative Matching

“I’m going to be married by the time I’m 30,” you declared in your youth. So then, with the end of your 20s rapidly approaching, you convince yourself that you love this person so that your life will match the story you’ve been telling yourself.

This is basically like reading a book backwards – you are beginning with the conclusion of love at a certain time or in a certain way and then you’re working backwards to make it happen.

Sometimes this works. After all, look at arranged marriages where the betrothed find a loving and meaningful connection. But if the love cannot be created, there is a human tendency to allow confirmation bias to convince us that our conclusion is correct.

 

We push people away because we are afraid of letting them in and being hurt when they leave.

We grasp on to people that are not good for us because we are afraid of being alone and someone is better than no one.

Pushing and pulling are fear, not love.

Love is holding.

Loosely enough so that each person has the freedom to grow and change.

And firmly enough so that each person knows they are supported.

It is trusting the other person enough that they want to stay even if they have the ability to leave.

And trusting yourself that you will be okay if they do.

 

 

 

 

 

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