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Lessons From the End of a Marriage

A “How to Thrive” Guide After Divorce

Just Because It Happened To You, Does Not Mean It Happened Because of You


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Rejection always hurts.

From the lack of an invite to a classmate’s party to the failure of a job offer, we feel the pain of being dismissed.

And when that rejection slip comes from our partner?

Let’s just say the pain is searing. Unescapable.

fMRI results have shown that the agony of rejection follows the same neural pathways as physical pain.  It is real. And it can be devastating.

We all have an innate drive to want to be accepted. To be recognized and wanted. As social creatures, we have evolved to need the group and to fear being ostracized.

The worst feeling in the world is not to be seen and hated. It is to be invisible and discarded.

When rejection from relative strangers occurs, we often rationalize the reasons:

“I wasn’t invited to the party because she is a stuck-up snob.”

“They didn’t accept my proposal because they’re short-sighted morons.”

“He didn’t call me back because he lost my number.”

“I was passed over for the job because I am over-qualified.”

It’s easy to perform this ego-preserving mental choreography when we do not intimately know the rejector and the rejector does not fully know us. We can depersonalize the experience, shifting the reasons for the refusal to the other person while protecting our own sense of self and worth.

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But when the rejection comes from the one that knows you best?

The one that promised he or she would always be there?

The one with whom you felt safe exposing your deepest fears and greatest vulnerabilities?

It’s personal.

I felt like I was discarded like so much garbage. No longer able to provide utility or beauty. Lacking in key features as I was replaced with a newer model. I trusted this man, had valued his opinions for years. So when he indicated I wasn’t enough, it was easy to believe him.

I think my desperate quest to label him was not only coming from a need to understand why, but also from a need to prove that his judgement was somehow faulty. That I was rejected because of something in him rather than something in me.

It’s so difficult not to internalize intimate rejection.

We all too easily assume that because it happened to us, it must have happened because of us. Sometimes we’re just collateral damage.

We take rejection by our partners personally.

He or she turns down a proposal of sex? It must because of the five extra pounds you’re carrying.

He or she is withdrawn? You must have said or done something to make him or her angry.

He or she requests time alone? It must be because you’re not wanted.

Yet much of the time, what we perceive as a personal attack has more to do with our partners than ourselves.

Perhaps sex was refused because of pressures at work.

Maybe the withdrawing was due to a sense of being overwhelmed.

And the alone time may just be a need to breathe.

Don’t let one person determine your value.

One of the biggest problems of internalizing rejection within a relationship is that it lays the groundwork for the marriage-destroying pursuer-distancer dance. The more the rejected partner feels abandoned, the more he or she desperately pursues attention and affection. The more the distancer feels hounded, the more he or she retreats and withdraws.

It’s a common pattern. And often a deadly one, slowly starving the marriage of trust and intimacy. If you feel rejected, it’s easy to respond with a frantic attempt to be wanted. 

And when the rejection comes at the end of a marriage?

It’s all too easy to respond the same way. Looking for worth and validation from anyone that will provide it. And holding on too tightly will suffocate any relationship.

Your worth can only come from within. And no rejection can ever take that away.

Rejection is about opinion, not fact.

When someone we love suddenly makes claims that we are substandard, we often believe them. Take their assertions as facts. Truth.

When they are actually opinion.

Opinion that may easily be influenced by other factors.

When I first read the suicide note that my ex sent to his other wife and my mother, I felt worthless. He spent full paragraphs discussing how impossible I was followed  by more paragraphs singing the other wife’s praises.

Of course he did. By demonizing me, he justified his actions. By discounting me, he secured his own value. And by praising her, he stood a chance of winning her back.

I was rejected because he could not continue to hide the truth.

I was rejected because he needed an escape.

I was rejected because he convinced himself that I had already rejected him.

I was rejected because of his opinions. And I no longer care what he thinks.

It’s a delicate ego dance learning to sift through the facts of the rejection to see if there is some truth to be learned.

Cheaters and deceivers often try to place the burden of the blame for their actions at the feet of their spouse. They act out of selfishness and greed and then claim that “you made me do it.” Yet nobody ever makes anyone else do something. Their choices are theirs alone.

Still, sometimes there is a bigger picture. Nothing you did or didn’t do make your partner act a certain way. But that doesn’t mean you have nothing to learn.

There is a difference between taking the blame for someone else’s actions and accepting responsibility for your own.

One man’s trash is another person’s treasure.

Just because one person took you out to the curb, doesn’t mean you have to stay there.

Reject their opinion of you and form your own.

Someone will see you for the treasure you are.

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26 thoughts on “Just Because It Happened To You, Does Not Mean It Happened Because of You

  1. I love your blog! I read every post it’s very inspiring. This is my favourite so far. I couldn’t agree more.
    Anyone in our position should know that it is never our fault, they made their choice and they have to live with the consequences. Often they don’t want to and so they blame us and find reasons for why they did it.. as you say we will really never know why but it most certainly is not about us. I think there is something missing within them and perhaps always will be.

  2. I’ve spent my life, trying to be the person, whoever I was with, wanted me to be. I’ve just started to recognize this. And of course, that rejection hurt so much, when that still wasn’t good enough. But the worst came from my husband of six years. I had gotten sober, been the perfect little housewife cooking and cleaning, and I tolerated his drinking and bullshit behavior (with a lot of yelling) only to realize that while I was trying so hard to be perfect, I lost myself. I was confused, lonely, sad, and definitely couldn’t understand why I wasn’t good enough.
    I’m a perfectionist and a love addict. I need my friends, family, husband to acknowledge my awesomeness, or its like its not there.
    Over our separation, I was lucky enough to start finding myself. I did my hair and makeup how I wanted, dressed how I wanted, starting doing things that I enjoyed.
    I also have learned detatchment (through al anon) I have learned that just because he drinks or doesn’t kiss me when I need it, or would rather hang out with his friends at times, doesn’t mean he doesn’t love me. He shows his love in a different way now, after six years of pain and misery I can say I know he loves me. He just has a funny (different than me) way of showing it.
    I’d like to share my story of rejection. Unfortunately, mine led to a cocaine and heroin relapse after over two years of sobriety.

  3. And by the way, great post, i related to every word. the rejection from my husband, who I had tried so hard for so many years to “make happy,” was described perfectly within this post. Its nice to not feel so alone.

  4. Lisa, it doesn’t matter what you write; it seems everything connects with me, some more than others. I have described my abandonment by my ex of 31 years as “if I were thrown away like a piece of trash”. I do know now that it was all about him and what he felt at the time. I totally agree with everything dzmy (above) wrote. He too will suffer the consequences of his choice for the rest of his life.

  5. Reblogged this on " I hate to see something right fall apart… " and commented:
    stilllearning2b – Thank you for this.

    “I felt like I was discarded like so much garbage. No longer able to provide utility or beauty. Lacking in key features as I was replaced with a newer model. I trusted this man, had valued his opinions for years. So when he indicated I wasn’t enough, it was easy to believe him.”

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