When my husband initiated a seemingly innocent discussion of our relationship nearly a year ago, I developed a gut feeling that something was very wrong – despite his protestations to the contrary. Fast forward a few months later and our 23-year marriage ended in divorce – something I didn’t want or expect. Thus began the process of creating a new normal. The following six steps have been essential to my divorce recovery and may provide some similar comfort and direction for you:
During my divorce, I read everything I could get my hands on pertaining to separation, divorce, mid-life crisis, infidelity, and more. I read instruction manuals, legal documents, fiction, non-fiction, testimonials, and more. You need to know the laws in your state regarding separation/divorce in order to advocate for your rights. You need to know you are not alone. Reading the stories of others who have had similar experiences provides camaraderie and strength.
2. Find your support system
Find out who your friends are and lean on them. Do you have family that you can confide in? If so, turn to them. I am lucky to have some particularly close friends who have been rock solid in their support of me. My very best friends have listened to me, cried with me, and provided unconditional love and support. I have found support in unexpected places as well. Sometimes, folks who reach out to you do so because they have a story to share that you would have otherwise never known. Many friends have taken the opportunity to let me know of prior relationships in which they experienced the same heartbreak I endured. I felt honored to be trusted with their confidences.
3. Talk, talk, talk
Once you know who you can trust, talk to them about your feelings. Be honest about your hurts and ask for help. Recapping my story over and over again has been helpful in my recovery. Speaking out loud about what you’ve been through can help you acknowledge and accept your new reality.
Put your feelings and thoughts down in writing. Jot down random thoughts, write out your story, make lists of things that come to mind regarding your past, present, and future self. I began journaling shortly after learning of my husband’s affair. Writing helped (and continues to help) me express my thoughts, work through my pain, and witness my growth.
5. Ask for and accept help
Sometimes, help comes from unexpected sources. Identify what kind of help you need and ask for it. When folks offer help that you didn’t seek, consider whether it may be useful to accept and say yes when you can. Don’t let pride prevent you from accepting help and support. Sometimes, it’s not about you. Some folks wish to help you because they wish they had had similar help when they needed it. Think about it and be gracious in your choice to accept (or decline) help.
I bought a charcoal grill during my separation. My husband had taken our gas grill to his new home and I still wanted to enjoy grilled food. But, like many couples, we had defined roles and I was not the griller in our relationship. Purchasing my own grill seemed like a nail in the coffin of my marriage – an acknowledgement that the gas grill (and the husband) was never coming back. My younger daughter and I chose the new grill and I sent out an SOS for feedback on how to use it. We scoured the directions that came with the grill and we heeded advice from friends on how to get it going. And guess what? We figured it out!
Stop what you’re doing and take in deep, deep breaths every single day. Breathe air deeply into your lungs and let it out slowly again and again. Accept the reality of your situation and know that you have what it takes to survive it.
One of my dear friends advised me that time is the “great elixir”. She is so right, but it’s hard to hear that when the passage of time is one of the many things over which you have no control. When you are hurting, you want time to speed up and get you through the bad times. When things are wonderful, you want time to slow down so you can savor the moments.
Take your days one at a time. When that seems too difficult, adjust to one hour, one minute, one second – whatever it takes to get from one moment to the next. This is the process of moving forward. Be as strong as your are able to and let others help you be strong when you can’t manage to do so on your own. Please know I’m doing it with you and we will both be okay.