You say that you want to move on, putting the divorce behind you and getting on with your life. You claim that you want to feel better, to stop crying and start living. Perhaps you even announce that you're over your ex and that you're ready to start looking for someone new.
Yet that desired progress isn't happening.
The life you envision isn't unfolding and instead, you find yourself stuck. Anchored in the muck and mire of the divorce. Not a member of your old life, yet not yet fully living in your new one.
It's easy to make excuses for why you can't seem to move on. You're angry, and rightfully so, that your life plan turned out to be written in disappearing ink. Maybe your ex cheated, stealing your ability to trust along with your imagined future. Perhaps your bank account is anemic and all of your energy has to go to replenishing its stores. You might have endured horrible court battles that wounded you and your children. You may be adjusting to life as a single parent or a sole breadwinner.
But those are all excuses, bindings that keep you lashed to the past. After all, it's easier to say, "I can't move on because of (insert favorite excuse here)" rather than shouldering the responsibility of moving on by yourself.
So, here is your metaphorical slap across the face. This is the advice you've needed to hear, but your friends and family are too nice to say it. But I'm not your friend. I'm someone who has been there, done that and now makes the T-shirts. I'm okay with making you a little angry if it helps to make you better.
I'm also not going to tell you to "get over it." I find that phrase insulting and shortsighted, only uttered by people who have never felt a certain depth of pain or who prefer to bury it rather than address it. But even though there are some things you don't just "get over," you don't have to let them hold you back.
If you're having trouble moving on, you're probably doing at least one of these things wrong.
My response to people encouraging me to forgive was one of indignation. How could I be expected to forgive? He deserved all of the wrath I could send his way and then some. How dare someone tell me I should let that go?
But they were right. By refusing to forgive, I wasn't hurting him. I was hurting me. I was allowing myself to be a prisoner to his actions and allowing them to dictate my feelings. Forgiving him was a gift of peace to myself.
Forgiveness isn't a pardon. It acknowledges the wrongs and then wraps them in compassion and acceptance. Forgiveness is an inside job, quietly accepting the apology you never received.
Forgiveness is a difficult road. But you're worth it.
When we lose everything, it is human nature to grasp onto whatever remains. And, often in the case of divorce, what is left is the pain. And so we hold onto that pain, claim it. Own it. Defend it. Even feed it.
That pain can become our identity. I remember how I would receive care and kindness when I was hurting, yet would be comparatively ignored when I was not. It's tempting to stay in pain, to allow others to continuously nurture our wounded hearts.
But is that really what you want? To be the hurt one? The weak one? To be so determined to lay claim to your pain that you do allow anything or anyone else in? Releasing that pain is strangely scary. It's willingly loosening your grip on your past and trusting that you'll land safely.
Let go. It's worth it.
Do you have triggers that are like a time warp to the past, pulling you back to moments of agony and anxiety? I do. In fact, I would say this has been my greatest challenge -- learning to respond from the present and not from the past.
Even though some healing is passive, slowly softening with the passage of time, triggers are often more resistant. They take repeated attention and deliberate action to remediate. Triggers and associations are not inevitable; you can retrain your brain.
It takes work. But you're worth it.
One of the most difficult parts of divorce is that at the same time you're mourning your past and present, you're also grieving the loss of the future you thought you would have. Maybe you're lucky and you're life is relatively untouched. Or, maybe you're like me and you were left with only the clothes on your back.
Regardless of your situation, it is important to not try to recreate what you had. You'll fail. My situation was unusual in that I never spent time in a decaying marriage. So, after he left, I stated I wanted to same thing again (well, without the bigamy and hidden life!). Only there were two problems with that. First, I would always be disappointed because no person and no relationship would exactly fill the shoes left behind from the first. Secondly, I was no longer the same person and so my desires and needs had shifted.
Just because something is different, does not mean that it is worse. Rather than fight against change, learn to be grateful for the hidden gifts within.
Just because your future isn't the one you wanted, doesn't mean you can't make it beautiful.
Dream it. And then do it. You're worth it.
This is more of a problem for us introverts, but anyone can fall sway to the call of isolation after divorce. We're wounded and often ashamed, wanting to hide our vulnerabilities from the rest of the world. Our self-esteem may have taken a blow and further rejection is too scary to risk.
It seems safer to tuck away from prying eyes until the new skin has formed over the exposed rawness. Safer in the short run, perhaps, but deadly in long term. When you isolate yourself, you lose out on the important perspective provided by others. Your social anxieties grow, making future connections even more difficult. And perhaps worst of all, you give up on the support that others can offer.
It's scary to put yourself out there, to risk being hurt or rejected. But connection with others is what life is all about. You're too special to hide.
Take the chance on opening up to others. It's worth it.
This is often the biggest struggle for single parents. You may now bear the sole burden of your children's well-being and so you push your own care to the side. You know that your oxygen mask comes first but no parent can watch his or her child suffer while standing by.
But part of your responsibility as a parent is to teach your children how to take care of themselves. If all they see is you sacrificing yourself for others, they will emulate that in their own relationships. It is okay to be both a parent and a person; they don't have to be mutually exclusive.
Furthermore, in order to be the best parent you can be, you have to be the best person you can be. And that means taking care of yourself and your needs. Make your diet, your exercise, your sleep and your social time a priority.
You're worth it.
You can move on. The bindings holding you back are the excuses kicked up by your own mind. And they only keep you bound if you let them. Moving on doesn't happen when the calendar cycles to a certain date or when a certain event transpires.
Moving on occurs when you take the responsibility to make it happen.
Just because there are some things you don't simply "get over," it doesn't mean you have to let them hold you back.
For more metaphorical slaps that will help you create the life you want after divorce, visit the author's blog at Lessons From the End of a Marriage.