Ask someone why he or she got divorced, and typically you’ll get one of these kinds of answers:
- My husband left me.
- My wife cheated.
- My husband’s an asshole.
- My wife’s a bitch.
- We grew apart.
- We were really unhappy.
- We never loved each other.
- How long do you have?
While I’m not judging anyone for what he or she wants to say or remember in their mind about why they ended up divorced, I think there are some divorced people who have an edge– they have something that helps them find peace and the strength to live a beautiful and authentic life moving forward. That edge is self-awareness.
These people have a gift of being able to look within, realize that divorce is never black and white, and take some accountability for their contribution to the demise of their marriage. And I believe that having the ability to admit some fault is the difference between not only moving on, but having better romantic relationships in the future.
Divorce is a journey. A long one. It’s brutally painful at times, a struggle that often feels hopeless, and includes a roller coaster of emotions, along with lots of mistakes. But, there are some surprisingly amazing parts of the journey. There are moments of sheer joy, inner strength and courage you never knew you had. It’s empowering and you are almost grateful–not that you got divorced, but that you had the privilege of this journey, no matter how painful it is at times.
Part of the journey is self-reflection, looking back and remembering the truth of what the marriage was really like. Some people, to self-protect, only remember this blissful marriage that they thought was perfect. They fail to recall little, subtle things that should have been red flags or signs that the marriage was troubled. Perhaps they turned a blind eye to things because they didn’t want to be divorced.
Others decide their ex is the devil and he or she was 100% to blame. This is easy to do if their spouse was the one who wanted the divorce and /or left for someone else. I’m not saying that someone who had an affair and ended a marriage over it should be vindicated. Having an affair is a horribly selfish, hurtful and cowardly thing to do, in my opinion. But the cheatee isn’t perfect either. And so if that person is willing to face up to that, I think they are better off.
Of the tens of thousands of comments and questions I have received to Divorced Girl Smiling over the years, this reader’s might be one of the most inspiring:
Divorce sucks. I did a lot of the wrong things in my marriage and don’t blame her for leaving. I own it. I do wish however she stayed to see my transformation and give us another chance. I hate that we can’t be together as a family with the kids. I hate some other male figure will be in my kids lives. But I did it and own it. At least I am becoming a better person as a result #getcleanandsober
Whoever this guy is, I want to give him a huge hug and tell him how extremely amazing I think he is.
“I don’t blame her for leaving.”
“I own it.”
“I did it.”
“I am becoming a better person as a result.”
These are statements that only winners–with self-awareness would make. This guy is remorseful, but takes true accountability for his actions. Because of this, he has a better chance of finding inner peace and leading a happier, more fulfilling life, which includes better future romantic relationships.
His hash tag at the end: #getcleanandsober speaks volumes. I’m not sure if this guy realizes how special he is. Countless men and women with addiction issues don’t have the self-awareness needed to overcome the addiction, in my opinion, even after a divorce. This is a real man who has guts and I respect him unbelievably.
Self-awareness is defined as “knowing self well,” but put in the context of divorce, I think it means having the courage to look in the mirror and say, “Hey, a lot of this (or all or some or a little bit of this) was my fault.”
Another time I heard someone take accountability for his divorce was a few years ago when I was sitting at a Bears game and I met this guy sitting behind me. I’ll never forget. He said,
“I really didn’t treat my ex-wife like I should have. I loved her so much and I did some really stupid things that I truly regret now. I tried very hard to get her back but couldn’t and I have to live with that now.”
Isn’t that more refreshing and honest than someone who plays the victim and takes NO RESPONSIBILITY for anything that went wrong?? It’s maddening how some people just can’t see anything. It’s like they are blind.
The bottom line is, I think to find peace, acceptance and happiness in life after divorce—and to really move on, a person must have self-awareness. Without it, the future will never be as bright.
Self-awareness is the first step to making changes in your life to be the person you really want to be. No one is perfect, but I think we would all agree that each of us strives to continue to grow and evolve into a person we like more and more with each day.
No one can teach a person how to obtain self-awareness. It has to come from within. Faith, therapy, and leaning on friends and family help, but when it comes down to it, self-awareness is about opening your mind. It’s about remember things as they really happened–not what is convenient, or what you wish would have happened.
The journey of divorce never really ends, but rather it is melted into the journey of life. Those equipped with self-awareness will not only have a better journey, but will be able to live each day moving forward with grace, courage, strength, possibly with regret (which is OK), but absolutely with authenticity.
Jackie Pilossoph is the creator of her website, Divorced Girl Smiling. The author of her novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationship column, Love Essentially, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press. Pilossoph lives with her family in Chicago. Oh, and she’s divorced.