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.
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.
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.
17 thoughts on “How I Recovered From Spousal Abandonment and Betrayal”
Thank you Lisa! The perfect day for this to come into my life. I stopped “time stamping” the ugly events, but I know it has been ~ maybe 7 years since he walked out. My question for you and others is –do you still have memories of “bad” things pop into your head ? and what do you do with them? I will be driving on the toll way and see something and think about an awful past event. Why is this happening, now after all this time? I have not dated since the event, I did get my graduate degree and purchase my own home.
Thanks in advance for any tips/insights.
Congratulations on your achievements! I do occasionally have memories pop up. Sometimes they even take my breath away. Overall, I tried to keep my life so full that they cannot set up home. They simply pass through and move on as they should
Thanks Lisa! I am glad to know I am not alone….I will let them pass on through my memory.
What does a man do when he’s 67? I don’t think my life has ended but it isn’t going to be easy. The event knocked me on my back and I’ve been telling the doctors that I’m going to get strong again, got no choice either.
One episode had me calling the Crisis Center to just talk to someone, I was trying to prevent another trip to the hospital and it worked. It was the VA Crisis Center and they usually deal with suicidal people, I just needed an ear. It was sort of funny, but pleasant, that the Sonora VA Clinic got the message and they’d call me asking if I wanted out and I told them to calm down.
One thing is interesting, some days I have good energy and some days none. This morning I had to climb the roof at 5am in order to clean my smoke stack as it was smoking me out of the home. Got it done!
Don’t ever ghost a person, especially your spouse of many years. Ghosting can hurt even people who are just dating for a short while. It’s mean! Almost killed me after 22 years with the woman.
It won’t be easy and it can also be done. I applaud your spirit and tenacity in the face of such a horrific act. Ghosting is incredibly cruel. and the repercussions can feel endless.
I’m so glad you have the resources you do and I’m proud of you for seeking out help. All too often, people make the mistake of thinking that they can handle this alone, when it’s too large for anybody to move through alone.
Kudos to you for getting done what needs to be done. I hope you were able to see a beautiful sunrise from that roof:)
Excellent post! I’ll take a few tips
wow, again a really good post. I believe your quote of “I Did What Felt Right Rather Than What I Was “Supposed” to Do” is so incredibly important. It will be different for eveyone, and what works for and is good for one person might be complete wrong thing to do for another. Everyone has an opinion of the “necessary” course for people after a betrayal of this magnitude yet it can’t be a one size fits all method. For instance, for me: I actually met my current husband very close after separation and started dating him very close after the divorce process started with my ex. (betrayed and abandoned by Ex i might add(. It’s not something i would advise for everyone to jump back into the relationship fire so close to ending a marriage especially a betrayed one., but he was part of my grieving, teaching process not only about myself but about relationships in general. Through just being in another relationship i learned I was being emotionally abused in my first marriage and i learned i was actually a servant to my husband and expected to be from my ex and that for me i needed craved, physical displays of affection and words of affection to feel loved. Something that was opposite of my ex’s ways that he portrayed love. A non communicator and i was lucky i got a You look nice, comment from him a few times a year. Not that it was wrong that way he showed loved, it just wasn’t a way that i need ed it to be. So we were mismatched in each other’s love language. It was all wrong, and i was able to kick start the grieving process a little easier once my eyes opened to the facts that were always plainly there. A very, very, very patient person my current husband is, and also made that possible as he not only gave me space to greive but stayed by my side to be there when i needed him to be.
I am 3 years post betrayal, and two years post divorce. I could have written this article, it so closely parallels everything that I experienced. I have followed a very similar recovery path, and I have a ways to go. I am a much happier person today, though, than I have been in over ten years.
I appreciate your ideas. My husband just left me this week and he did it with a text message. We have two small children and have been married almost 17 years. I am really struggling right now. I still think I am going to wake up from this nightmare, but reality is, I need to move on and pick up the pieces.
Oh, how my heart aches for you. Of course you’re struggling right now. The shock and pain are off the Richter Scale. Your world is still shaking and you’re still trying to make sense of it. The good news- the trembling will stop. You’ll be able to take inventory of your surroundings and you WILL rebuild. Have faith in that and begin to work towards that. And know that it’s okay if all you can do today is cry. Sending you hugs and hope.
Excellent read! I am in the throws of betrayal and divorce after a five and a half years long on again off again affair with my husband and a coworker. It’s just so hard to cope and battle thru each day……good days and bad. I, too, am using my anger and pain to detach.
Day before Thanksgiving, my husband of 34 yrs. left. Week before that, my seasonal job ended! What timing! In March of this year, my mom died. Family relationships with grown children at an all time low…….oh, yeah, car needs repairs, and still no permanent full-time job! Unemployment is taking a while to get started….Ugh!! and it’s almost Christmas……please tell me this will get better and won’t last forever……
Talk about being hit while you’re down! I am so sorry that you’re dealing with all of this, especially all at once. It’s so hard when we face multiple things at once because we don’t have the time or energy to fully grieve, process or work on any one thing. It’s purely about survival. As awful as this is, it is temporary. As you struggle to stay afloat, pay attention to those little glimmers of hope and acknowledge any improvements (no matter how small) that do come your way. Sending you strength, comfort and hope.
I am 2 months in to sudden abandonment & betrayal. I could have written this! I am in the depths of despair and finding myself questioning WTH just happened. This is not the man I married, my head is spinning and I feel utterly lost.
I am so sorry you’ve experienced this. Of course your head is spinning, especially after 2 months. It’s so hard to wrap your head around the knowledge that everything you thought you knew was a false front. Sending you hugs, hope and strength. It is the end of the world you knew, but not the end of the world.