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Lessons From the End of a Marriage

A “How to Thrive” Guide After Divorce

How Could They Move On So Quickly?

My ex-husband certainly wasted no time. He didn’t even bother filing for divorce before he married his second (I’m assuming here; there could have been others) wife.

Among all of the myriad thoughts that crashed around my mind in the aftermath of the discovery, one kept popping back up to the surface,

“How could he move on so quickly?”

I just couldn’t understand how he could go from sixteen years with the same person to seemingly head-over-heels within weeks of meeting this new woman. Here he was celebrating his newfound love while I was still struggling to sleep through the night.

Of course, it was apples to oranges trying to equate my mental state at the time with his. For so many reasons, we were at different places when it came to our readiness for moving on.

The following are some of the reasons that your ex may have moved on (or appeared to move on) soon after your breakup:

 

They have pre-grieved the breakup.

In some situations, one person has known (or at least suspected) that the relationship is over long before it is pronounced terminal. In these cases, the one with the prior knowledge often begins grieving the end of the relationship months or even years before it is truly over. They may begin to withdraw, they might start to expand their social circle and hobbies to fill anticipated gaps and they have time to process the loss. They will be ready to move on before you are because they have been attending to the breakup for a longer period of time.

 

They want you to think they’ve moved on.

Sometimes moving on is an illusion, a play put on social media or spread through mutual acquaintances in an attempt to make you jealous or regretful. The urge is understandable, although childlike. It can be driven by a, “I’ll show them that I am desirable” attitude. Others try to appear moved on soon after the end of the relationship because they don’t want to be seen as “weak” by appearing affected by the breakup. These people are motivated by a need to be seen as strong.

 

They are afraid of being alone.

Some people hop from relationship to relationship like life is a rocky river crossing. They cannot stomach the thought of being alone and so they waste no time in lining up the next partner as soon as a relationship implodes. This is less “moving on” and more “grasping on;” they’ll hold onto anyone like a life raft. Learn more about the underlying issues that lead to a fear of being alone.

 

They are able to compartmentalize your relationship and the new one.

For many us, we cannot enter into a new relationship before we have fully dissected and processed the previous one. Others are able to keep those two processes more separate. It may be that your ex seems to be moving quickly because they are doing the often- invisible internal work concurrent with reentry to the dating scene.

 

They are using dating as a distraction.

Let’s face it, divorce sucks. And while you’re going through it, you’d rather think about anything else. For some, this distraction comes in the form of dating. Although this can look like they’re moved on, they’re are really using others as a bandaid to temporarily stop the pain. Early dating can also be motivated by the blow to confidence that often accompanies divorce; it’s good to feel wanted.

 

They started seeing this person before your relationship ended.

If your ex seems to have moved on quickly, it may be that they were having an affair during your relationship and now that your partnership has ended, the love interest is brought to the surface. Of course, this revelation brings with it it’s own set of problems. Betrayal is a uniquely piercing pain with long-ranging repercussions.

 

They met somebody who is a good fit for them at this point in their lives.

And here’s the hard one – maybe they have met somebody that is a good match for them. I know that can be difficult to stomach when you still might be wishing/hoping/believing that you’re that person. It’s important here to remember that not being the right person for them does not mean that you’re a bad person and it certainly does not mean that you’re not the right person for someone else. It simply means that your ex found a better match for them and now you have an opportunity to look for somebody better for you.

 

 

In my ex’s case, he knew that the end was approaching and so had time to process the divorce long before it happened. He was having affairs and so his other wife was lined up and ready to go. And, from what I learned, she was a good fit for him at the time – trusting, nomadic and in possession of a decent credit score.

In time, I no longer questioned how he could move on so quickly. Instead, I got busy with moving on myself with a sense of gratitude that she helped to take him out of my life and far away.

 

How to Ease the Torment of Infidelity

Finding out that your partner has cheated is a special kind of hell. From the incessant questions that plague your uneasy mind to the sense of rejection and unworthiness, an affair causes pain like no other.

It was only later, once I had gained some perspective on that period in my own life, when I realized that I was unintentionally doing some things that made my torment even worse.

Could you be doing the same and not even realize it?

One of most common side effects of being betrayed is an obsessive drive. This can take the form of wanting to hear every little detail about the affair or the affair partner. It can manifest as a relentless need to analyze the marriage and cheating spouse. Perhaps it takes the form of a fanatical attempt to perform CPR on a struggling marriage.

Regardless of the form, these compulsive thoughts and actions only serve to magnify the torment of infidelity. Fortunately, you do not have to allow these obsessive tendencies to take root and thrive. By making sense of why you’re responding that way, you can begin to find new ways to cope that don’t make you feel even more miserable.

Busyness

Infidelity is an ugly pain. And one we would rather not face. Often, the obsessions act as a distraction from the true issues at hand. This is often the case when the betrayed spouse becomes a self-appointed private investigator tasked with finding out every little detail about the affair partner.

This need for knowledge is driven less by necessity and more by a fear of looking at the cheating spouse and the troubled marriage. The problem is that when we try too hard to avoid something, we unwittingly give it too much power over us. Busyness may keep you from exploring the pain head-on, but it also prolongs the pain as its presence is always felt.

Slow down. Allow yourself to feel. Breathe and trust that you’ll be able to handle whatever emotions come your way.

Control

 

Being cheated on is like discovering that you’ve been a blindfolded passenger in a runaway train. And a common reaction to this discovery is an intense need to control everything. This relentless drive can manifest in a variety of ways, from an obsession with a new diet or exercise program to an overwhelming urge to know every detail about your spouse’s location and actions.

There is some comfort felt initially by exerting this control. It makes the world feel a little less scary and a little more predictable. Ultimately, however, this need for control becomes it own source of misery because control always has its limitations.

Rather than trying to keep the unknown from ever happening, strive to build your faith and confidence in yourself. You may not be able to stop it from occurring, but you can survive it.

Purpose

 

One of the cruelest aspects of infidelity is that the unfaithful spouse holds most of the power – they can decide if they want to end the affair or continue to pursue it, they can commit to working on the marriage or they can elect to keep hiding behind lies and misdirection.

And a sense of purpose helps to counteract the awful feeling of waiting. Purpose in life is important. It gives us a reason to keep going even when the going gets tough. It gives us a sense of the bigger picture and the connection between ourselves and others.

After an affair, purpose is often misappropriated. What feels important is really just noise and the all-consuming drive can overwhelm. Obsessive purpose often mutates, taking on a life of its own. And taking over your life with it.

Rather than making the affair and its components your focus, shift your purpose to yourself and your own wellbeing. Put your energy into making you better. That’s never a waste.

Understanding

 

I think every betrayed spouse utters the words, “How could you do this?” at least once. And the need to understand why and how can easily become a neurotic obsession. A belief that once that question is answered, everything will again make sense and moving on can begin to happen.

Yet the truth is that no explanation will ever suffice. There is no reason that will excuse the pain or the betrayal. And strangely enough, accepting this can lead to a place where you are able to view the entire marriage and affair with a more rational eye, which is where you can find some insight into the particular environment that allowed this betrayal to grow.

Understanding doesn’t happen when you aggressively demand it. It comes when you are ready to listen and accept with an open mind.

Release

Being betrayed is scary. It throws everything into doubt and makes you question your own perceptions and sanity. And all of that fear has energy. Energy that demands to be released.

Undirected, that energy will often find its way out through obsessive acts – refreshing your ex’s Facebook page in an attempt to find information about their new relationship, endless talking and thinking about the betrayal, or planning ways to spy on your repentant spouse.

Find healthier ways to release your energy. Move your body to free your mind.

There is no easy road back to happiness and trust after an affair. The pain is real, the impact significant. So be mindful that you’re not adding to your burden by tormenting yourself. You’ve got enough of that to deal with already.

 

When It’s Raining, Let it Rain

I made my intention clear in the first few weeks after the marital tsunami – once the divorce was final and the school year over, I was going to leave my former life behind and move across the country to Seattle.

As I saw it, there was only one little problem.

The rain.

As a lifetime resident of the south, I was accustomed to huge sky-opening downpours followed by endless days of sun. And Seattle, with its endless drizzle beckoned like a form of impending water torture.

And since I had yet to master the art of controlling the weather, I decided that I needed to work on changing my approach to it instead.

My normal approach was to wait for the nice days to go for a hike or a run. And on those inevitably rainy days, I would tuck into a good book or carry my laptop to a seat by the window where I could work while listening to the rain. In my determination to acclimate, I upended my tendencies, actively seeking the rainy days for my outdoor pursuits.

My early approaches were rather comical. I would cover every inch of skin, as though the falling water would cause blisters to rise on unprotected flesh. I would pull my cap down low over my face, intent on shielding my eyes from even the smallest drop. And before venturing out, I would steel myself in my car, a pep talk before greeting the downpour.

I went out the rain, yet I fought against the rain. I saw it like a battle. One I was determined to win through sheer will alone. And I guess I did okay. I refused to allow the precipitation to dictate my day. I carried on regardless of the weather. I allowed the rain to wash the sweat off my limbs and to carry away my tears.

But I still wasn’t ready. Because I still didn’t get it.

Then came the day of my first-ever race. A 10K. Longer than I had ever run. The day came with a cold dampness heavy in the dark. I blasted the heat in my car as I drove across town to the starting point. I felt a hesitant confidence. Excitement mixed with apprehension as the coffee pooled in my belly.

Buoyed by the energy at the starting line, I took my place in the group with building confidence. And with my first few steps came the first few drops of rain. Within the first mile, the light drizzle had turned into a steady rain, each drop like a cold steel ball dropped upon my skin. My skin was unprotected by a hat or excess clothing.

I felt my spirits drop and with them, my certainty that I could do this thing. Doubts crept into my mind as the rising water found its way into my shoes and through my socks. I cursed the sky for letting it rain and I cursed myself for not being prepared.

In my lowest moment, I saw the frontrunner on their return to the starting point, as this was an out-and-back course. I almost turned around and gave up with the belief that the rain was too much for me. That I needed to seek shelter and wait for sunnier days.

And then I remembered my goal for the year – to adapt to the rain. To accept the difficult times and continue nonetheless. To refuse to wait until conditions were ideal to make a move and to trust in my ability to make it through.

And so I kept going that morning. One step at a time. Two hours later, I crossed the finish line. Cold. Shaking. And soaked through to the core.

But also triumphant. Because the storm didn’t stop me. My own tears soon joined those from the sky, streaking down my face.

Because the only thing to do when it’s raining, is let it rain.

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How I Recovered From Spousal Abandonment and Betrayal

Are you struggling with recovery from abandonment or betrayal?

I wish there was a recipe for healing after the demise of a marriage – add these ingredients, sift out these elements, let the concoction rest for a specified period of time and then apply heat to set it in place. But divorce is not so simple. Not only do cooking times vary, but the ingredients are as diverse as the stories.

So, don’t look at this as a specified and exacting recipe that has to be followed to the letter to create a favorable outcome. Rather, consider these suggestions and feel free to add, subtract or manipulate ingredients to suit your taste and your resources.

These are the steps and strategies I used to find peace with my past, happiness in my present and excitement for my future:

I Believed I Would Be Okay

The reality hit like a cannonball to the gut. My body slid to the floor as my brain attempted to make sense of it all. Even in those early moments, when I had to face the truth that the man I adored had been systematically destroying everything I loved, I believed I would be okay again. I had no idea how I would get there; the future was one big question mark after another, but I held fast to the idea that there would be an “other side” of the hell I was thrust into.

I Asked For and Accepted Help

I was beyond fortunate that my dad was with me when I received the news and that the rest of the family soon rallied to render aid. I composed an email to them that let them know how best they could help.  I set aside my stubborn independence to move in with a friend when she offered her spare room. After declaring that I did not want medication, I listened when others advised it was needed. I went from a leader at school to the cared-for one. And I accepted every offer of help.

accept help divorce

I Surrounded Myself With the Right People

Until I experienced it, I was unaware that sudden spousal abandonment was even a thing. In the early days, I desperately turned to Google for answers and to assure myself that I wasn’t alone. I stumbled upon message boards where shocked and grieving spouses shared their stories of the awful and traumatic ends. After posting my own story, I logged off for good. Although I felt comfort at knowing this had happened to others besides me, I didn’t want to focus on the pain. Instead, I intentionally surrounded myself with the right people – compassionate even though they didn’t understand and positive even though they would bitch along with me.

I Wrote, Posted and Tracked Goals

There was so much I could not control. I couldn’t go back in time and change my choices. I could not alter my ex’s actions. I couldn’t speed up or steer the legal process. So I grabbed on to what I could influence. I wrote and posted twelve goals for the year ahead: everything from running a race (my first) to making two new friends. Some of the goals were multi-faceted and overwhelming (find a new job), whereas others were simple and direct (learn to cook one gluten free meal to excellence). Those goals were all written with healing in mind; they were my stepping stones to happiness and gave me some much-needed control when everything else was insanity.

 

I Embraced Dark Humor

I started making jokes about the situation mere days after it happened. It wasn’t funny. Not really. But it was absurd. And whenever I could choose between laughter and tears, I opted for the former. Of course, they often commingled. Humor was an outlet to vent that was more uplifting than simply complaining or bemoaning. It served as a unifying factor as others joined in on the jokes. Perhaps most importantly, humor was a reminder that you cannot always change a situation, but you can always change the lens you view it through.

I Used Anger as Repellent and Propellent

The primary emotion I felt in those months was rage. I harnessed that anger and used it as fuel. I allowed the anger towards my ex to help me disengage from the man I had entrusted half my life to. I filled the void he left with wrath and I used that anger to keep me moving forward. The anger was ugly, yet without it, I still would have been a crumpled mess on the floor. Eventually, I had to learn how to release the anger once its purpose had been served. That was the difficult part.

I Accepted Responsibility For My Own Well-Being

In the beginning, I wanted my ex to accept the responsibility for his actions and for the fallout. He never did. And eventually I realized that it didn’t matter. I could wait around forever for him to change, or I could take my own happiness by the reigns and accept the responsibility for my own well-being. I shifted my focus from what happened to what I was going to do with it. The abandonment and betrayal were not my fault, but it was my responsibility to ensure that they didn’t capsize me.

I Did What Felt Right Rather Than What I Was “Supposed” to Do

Join a support group. Swear off of men for a year. Move back home. I heard it all. But I did what felt right to me at the time. My decisions may not have always been the best; there are a lot of missteps as you’re learning to navigate a new world, but they were steps of my own choosing. Part of the reason I ended up in that situation was from not listening to my gut. I was determined to not make that mistake again. So I followed my instincts even when they went against the conventional wisdom.

I Replaced Pity With Purpose

It was easy to feel sorry for myself. Easy, but useless. Much like people who have found lasting sobriety through AA, I used writing and sharing to create purpose from the pain. I needed to find a way to balance out the bad with the good. I see it like taken the molten remains and channeling them into a mold to create something new. It didn’t relieve the pain, but it kept it from drowning me.

I Made Fun a Priority

I said “yes” to every invitation. I sought out new experiences. I pared down my “have-tos” to give more precedence to the “want tos.” I filled my calendar with scheduled smiles, intentionally book-ending every upcoming “bad” day with fun days. I didn’t always feel like having fun; I would cry on the way there, but I would rarely cry on the way home. The fun took me out of my head for a few blessed hours. It was a needed reminder that life goes on and that I didn’t have to wait until I was healed to enjoy it.

I Experimented Until I Found the Tools That Worked For Me

I identified my needs – namely, reducing anxiety, finding acceptance and limiting overthinking, and tried different strategies until I found ones that worked for me. After some trial and error, I settled on running for reducing the anxious energy, journaling for processing, meditation for getting out of my head and yoga for finding acceptance. As my needs changed, the tools changes as well.

I Learned to See the Good

At first glance, there was nothing good about the ordeal. So I looked again. And again until I could see the benefits. And then I embraced them. To the point where I am now happy that my life didn’t go as planned.

Grow divorce

I Approached Healing With Laser Focus

I looked at finding peace, acceptance and happiness as the most important job I would ever have. I knew that if I didn’t find a way to heal, not only would it limit me, but the negative energy would also seep into those around me. I set my sights on where I wanted to be and worked to align every thought and action with that goal.

It starts with hope. And it happens with baby steps towards that intention.

 

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