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Lessons From the End of a Marriage

A “How to Thrive” Guide After Divorce

16 Things I Wish I Knew On the Day My Husband Left Me

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The text read, “I’m sorry to be such a coward leaving you this way, but I’m leaving you and leaving the state.”

My world collapsed.

I did too.

Here’s what I wish I could tell that woman folded on the floor, trying to process those words from her husband –

 

1 – You will spend so much energy on things that don’t matter.

It all seems so important right now – Why is he doing this? What is causing him to act this way? How could he say that he loved me and yet betray me behind my back? You are going to spend so many sleepless nights agonizing over these questions. Your journal – and later your blog – will be filled with unanswered “Whys,” because you believe that you need those answers in order to be free.

But eventually, as those pleas for understanding remain unanswered, you’ll come to realize that it matters so much less than you thought it did. That the things that really matter are right in front of you and that your energy is better spent forward than on paying the parking meters in the past.

 

2 – Details that seem so important now will be forgotten.

You’re going to obsess over the details of his double life, holding up the life you thought you had to what you now know like one of those “What is Different?” spreads in Highlights Magazine. It will seem so critical to uncover every detail and reveal every lie. It will give you a sense of control even as your world spins around you. If you just know all of the pieces, then maybe you can put yourself back together again.

Those memories, so painfully imprinted on your mind right now, will fade like a bruise over time. You will forget the curve of his cheek, no longer remember those shared moments clearly and even those painful images from the end will become blurry and distant.

 

3 – Things that feel impossible will happen.

In a few days, you’re going to discover that you are the victim of financial abuse. And the fallout of this is going to feel impossible to ever climb out of. But don’t underestimate yourself. You’re a fighter. It’s going to take you several years, but you WILL rebuild and pay off all of the debt he has left you with.

Those other things that feel impossible right now – trusting again, loving again, being happy again – those are going to happen too. You got this.

 

4 – Those words that hurt so much will be seen for the projection that they are.

Through letters to others and emails to his lawyer, he is going to say some horrible things. Words that will cut deeply and echo through your head for years to come. A part of you will immediately know that none of what he is saying is true. But a bigger part – the part that trusted him and valued his opinions for so long – is going to internalize what he said.

Gather up all of the evidence you can to refute his projection and gaslighting BS. He’s painting you out to be the bad guy in an attempt to make himself look better. One day, you’ll be able to see his words for what are – the desperate lies of a desperate man.

 

5 – You’re going to learn some shocking things. Don’t get too hung up on it.

Your life is about to go full-on reality television as the revelations come one after another. The shocking details are going to bring about a strange sort of energy, a rush that temporarily cuts through the sadness. In a way, you come to look forward to the next thing because it tells you that you are still alive.

For a time, you are going to hold to those shocking elements as something that sets you apart, makes your situation different than anyone else’s. As you meet others and hear their stories, you will realize that although your divorce makes a damn good story, the healing from it is really no different than it is for anyone else.

 

6 – You will shift from “Why didn’t he want me?” to “Why he doesn’t deserve me.”

Rejection hurts. And sudden rejection from the person you loved (and though loved you) is horrific. You are going to spend a lot of time thinking about what must have been wrong with you for him to discard you so easily.

But with time and perceptive, you’re going to realize that none of this was about you. He was on a path of destruction and you were just collateral damage.

 

7 – You’re not broken and you’re not unlovable.

You know that sweater that you adore? That one you got from Goodwill almost 20 years ago that still looks brand new? Well, someone once discarded that sweater, thinking that it had no value to them.

You’re kind of like that sweater. Someone has discarded you, but that doesn’t mean that you have no value. You may be shattered, but you’re not broken. You may be lost, but you’re not unlovable.

 

8 – He’s been lying to you, but you’ve been lying to yourself too.

You’re going to uncover his lies first. After all, they’re pretty easy to spot once you know which thread to pull to unravel it all. The lies you’ve been telling yourself will take longer to see. You’ve told yourself that you can’t live without him, but you can. Your subconscious mind believed that you couldn’t handle the truth, but you can. You thought that if you played by the rules, you couldn’t get hurt. That if you stayed quiet to keep the peace, that everything would be okay.

It’s going to be scary to face those truths. But you can do it.

 

9 – You’re having a perfectly normal reaction to a completely crazy situation.

There will be moments where you are going to feel crazy, when the situation seems like the fiction spun by an unstable mind and your reactions are outside of your control. Your sobs are going to come so hard that you worry you’re going to somehow tear your body apart. The confusion will leave unable to make even the smallest decision.

None of this is a reflection on you. You’re doing the best you can in a completely crazy situation. The good news? The situation – and your reactions – are temporary.

 

10 – You are going to screw some things up and that’s okay.

You’re going to send emails to him that sounds pathetic and pleading and others that make you sounds like a raging lunatic. You’re going to put your faith – and by extension, your paycheck, into the court system, thinking that they will bring about some sort of justice. You will let your anger about the ongoing financial betrayal consume you and impact those around you. You are going to date too soon and swing between being too available and too distant.

And all of that is okay. There may be thousands of “How to Rebuild Your Life” manuals, but that’s because you only know how to do it once you’ve done. As long as you’re moving forward, it’s okay if you’re making (lots of) missteps.

 

11 – You will have to find a way to live without justice or closure.

You’re going to think that you need an apology from him and some sort of justice through the court system in order to move on. For the better part of year, you will wait. But the apology will never come, the criminal trial will fizzle out with a diversion and the divorce decree will never be enforced.

You will be angry. You will be devastated. You will feel stuck. And then you’ll decide that it doesn’t matter and that damn it, he’s taken enough from you already and you refuse to let him have any more. And so you pack up all that reliance on outside factors to decide when you can move on and you just get to it.

 

12 – Your brain will protect you from acknowledging too much at a time.

The abandonment came as a shock. The betrayal and financial abuse were the aftershocks that rapidly followed. Now, your brain is on the defensive. It’s acting to protect you from any further harm. This is a good thing, because it gives you the space you need to acclimate to each new piece of information.

But it also means that processing all of this cannot be rushed. This is like a great big hunk of steak. The only way to get through it is by taking small bites and giving yourself time to fully chew.

 

13 – There will be surprising benefits to all of this that eventually you’ll be able to appreciate.

You’re going to like who you become on the other side of this. You’re going to learn so much about yourself and about the world and you’re going to find some really neat ways to put that knowledge into use.

You are going to have so much gratitude about what you do have and compassion for yourself and others. Even the worst experiences can have silver linings if you know where to look.

14 – Healing will take longer than you think.

At first, you think that you’ll be better by the time the divorce is final. Then, you will reluctantly extend that timeline to a year. Then another. You’re going to have months strung together with no issues and then you’ll walk headfirst into another trigger when you’re not looking.

Healing does not speak calendar. It is going to take longer than you think. Don’t forget to live in the meantime.

 

15 – You will meet some amazing people.

Any second now, your dad is going to rush to your side. And he won’t leave it. He’ll be followed by your mom and then one friend after another. You are going to become very aware of the support that you’ve always has around you.

And then once you’re back out in the world, you are going to meet so many amazing people. People that inspire you, challenge you, teach you. People that you never would have met if it wasn’t for all this.

 

1 6 -Your world will become bigger.

You’re going to dream bigger and have the courage to take those leaps of faith.

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