Strategies to help you heal & recover
The unthinkable has happened: one night, your husband came home and announced he is leaving. Maybe he is in love with someone else, maybe not. Either way, it is probably the most painful moment you have ever experienced, particularly if it comes as a total shock.
You thought you were in this together, forever, and suddenly you realise that everything you believed, everything you built your life’s plans around, has come crumbling down. In many ways, it is like experiencing the death of a loved one.
Here is the tricky part – he may want a divorce, but that does not mean you do not love him. Feelings cannot be turned off like dripping tap water; emotions are not structured that way. Even though his request may be cruel, even if he has been unfaithful, that does not mean you can wake up the next day not loving him. If only it were that easy.
You cannot turn love off like a faucet, but you can employ specific strategies to help you cope. This is going to be one of the most challenging and profound processes you’ve ever endured, but you can make it easier on yourself.
Here are some suggestions to keep in mind over the coming months…
– some things you should (and should not) do to get and stay on the path to recovery.
He has gone, but your friends are not
This is one of those moments when your friends can step up and help you cope, and you should take them up on their offers to do so at every opportunity. It is crucial that you do not sit at home, in self-imposed isolation, weeping at every romantic comedy on Netflix that reminds you of your relationship.
Spending time alone figuring out what went so desperately wrong is healthy, but staying alone constantly is not. See close friends and tell them everything. Ask outright for their support and advice. Ask them (if you are sure you are ready) if they have opinions about why the divorce is happening, but do not engage in bashing your soon-to-be-ex.
What if you get back together? Do you really want to hear how terrible your friends always thought your husband was? It is tempting, but do not ask any question if you are not adequately prepared to hear the answer.
Do not act on your revenge fantasies
You will have them, of course, but for goodness sake do not get a bit tipsy one night and sleep with his best friend. Revenge like that only ends up making you feel terrible about yourself, and those actions complicate everything.
Moreover, when he hears about it, and he will, make no mistake about that -your ex-husband will feel little respect for you. And you will feel awful about yourself, which is not what you need at this moment.
Start making plans, but not for romance
This is not the time to begin pondering a new relationship. Focus on yourself, your new home (if you have moved) or recreating the one you have now that your husband is gone. Do not keep pictures of him around; that only reminds you of better days.
Remember: he is not thinking about you, so you have got to start putting him out of your mind, too. One concrete way to do that is by redecorating or redesigning the space you used to share.
If you have children, do not turn them into pawns
We understand that you are angry, but using the kids as a weapon against your ex is just plain wrong. They did not cause this; they are victims of his changing affections, but he is still their dad, and your anger and pain must not come into play in his relationship with his children. It is a tall order, we know, but you will only hurt them if you use them against their father, or tell them he is a terrible dad for divorcing you.
If you need to bash him, do it in a therapist’s office or with one close friend – but make sure the kids are well out of earshot. If you do it in front of the children, sooner or later they will resent you for it.
Do not turn to substances and screens too often
Staying home and binging on booze, television and YouTube videos is therapeutic for a night, maybe two, but after that, those crutches become troubling. Get outside for a walk. Do an online fitness class in your living room or have a long talk on the phone – don’t just text – someone you love and trust.
These activities foster connection, rather than isolation. They are all healthier options than curling up on the couch with a bottle of wine and endless episodes of some cable show.
Remember: you are going to heal, eventually, although it feels like your love for him has not dimmed even after his demand for a divorce. Feelings take time to diminish, just like they took time to grow when you two first met.
None of the changes you are craving is going to happen overnight. You will not wake up out of love and feeling good – it takes time. Nevertheless, each day you get through is a battle won, and soon you will realise that, although you may not feel terrific, you feel a little less terrible. That’s how we grow and change, in small steps that happen when we love and respect ourselves.
Tell yourself repeatedly: you may still love him, but clearly he does not love you. Ultimately you’ll realise that no man, no matter how special he once was to you, is worth endless grief, pain and fury with no resolution in sight. Life is too short to waste it pining for a man who no longer loves you. Begin loving yourself again, and the healing will flow from there.
If you need advice and legal assistance on family law, divorce and relationship breakdown, find a specialist divorce solicitor now.
Related article: Coping with divorce – even when you don’t want it
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