They say that divorce is one of the hardest things a person can go through, second only to the death of a spouse or other close loved one. I would argue that divorce actually ranks number one in some scenarios.
When my father died of a massive stroke at age 63, I was devastated. It took me a while to accept it and move through the grief. But my divorce just a few years later was even harder on me. I’m still trying to figure it all out, two years after my wife walked away from our marriage. Divorce will definitely change you.
Here are 5 things I learned from divorce:
1. Relationships require work
This seems obvious, and we hear it all the time, but it’s true. After many years of marriage, it’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security. Your wife or husband has always been there for you, and they always will—right? Maybe not. A marriage will only thrive if the two partners are equally committed to working on the relationship. A car will eventually break down and be seriously damaged if you never change the oil and do the required maintenance. Relationships are no different.
2. Life is about change
“Loss is nothing but change, and change is nature’s delight.” –Marcus Aurelius
Another one we hear all the time. Things change. We have to accept constant change. Some of these changes will be great and some will be trying. Divorce, especially for the dumpee, is not a fun change by any means. It rips your whole life apart and forces you to rebuild it, sometimes from scratch. But you must accept your new reality if you want to find the good in it. And who knows—maybe your divorce is the start of a new and better chapter, leading to a happiness you never knew in your marriage.
3. Get help if you need it
After something as life-altering as a divorce, you will likely need help. This could be support from friends and family, going to divorce group meetups, or seeing a counselor/therapist. You might even need all three. This is especially true for men, who often suffer alone after divorce instead of seeking help due to our macho “man-up and get over it” culture. I did all the cliché things a guy does after a nasty divorce, and I did most of them alone. I lived in an apartment with no furniture for more than five months with only a sleeping bag and a suitcase.
Needless to say, it was depressing as hell—and as I spiraled more and more into despair, I finally went to a counselor to talk through some of my problems. Ain’t no shame in the reaching-out-for-help game.
4. There are two sides to every story
I think my ex-wife is a total witch. No one has ever dogged me so badly in my life, and I pray that no one ever does again. Her timing was absolutely appalling. If you’ve read my other posts you have likely heard this before, but I’ll sum it up for any new readers. After house-hunting for some three months, we made an offer on our dream house. The offer was accepted. We went on a short vacation and were planning on moving in when we returned.
But that didn’t happen. She dumped me like a hot sack of dogsh*t when the vacation was over. I did 90% of the legwork to close on that house, but she kept it. She’s living there right now with her new spouse. It was one of the most twisted things anyone has ever done to me.
But was I entirely innocent? Was I an angel who did no wrong and had nothing to do with the breakdown of our marriage? Of course not. I can be a control freak, and I can be a moody bastard. I’m sure some of my behavior over the years helped to push her away. Instead of blaming your ex 100% for the divorce, try to think about what part you played in the disintegration of the marriage. Then you can work on your own issues and do better the next time around.
5. Go easy on yourself
You’re going to beat yourself up. You’re going to play the “what if” game. You’re going to cry until it hurts. You might not be as productive for a while. You might abandon that big project you were so close to finishing. You might gain a few pounds. But don’t sweat it. You’ll get back on track. You’ve just been through one of the worst things a person can experience, so be nice to yourself.