Recovering From My Divorce: My “Wasted Years” Stage

I created a sixth stage of grief after my divorce: the “Wasted Years” Syndrome is when you feel like your years of marriage were a big waste of time.

man recovering from divorce

Recovering from my divorce has been difficult. That experience is different for everyone. We’ve all heard of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

You will likely go through one or all of these stages in the months (or even years) after your divorce, but the intensity and duration of each vary from person to person.

Were you the one who initiated the divorce, or were you the one who never saw it coming? Were you married for twelve years, or for twelve months? Do you have kids together? There are so many variables that affect your recovery from a divorce.

Recovering From My Divorce: The Sixth Stage of Grief

I’d like to propose a sixth stage in the process, what I like to call Wasted Years Syndrome. Maybe it’s a subset of one of the established stages – depression perhaps – but for me, Wasted Years Syndrome seemed to have a lot of power.

I was married for nearly a decade, but I was with my ex-wife for a total of 14 years. I was the one who got dumped. It hurt, and it changed my life dramatically and caused me more stress than any other event in my life. I’m not sure exactly when I caught Wasted Years Syndrome, but it still hasn’t entirely gone away.

What exactly is this syndrome? It’s basic and it goes something like this: I’ll never get those fourteen years of my life back… those were some of my best years… I was with her through all of my 30s… I could’ve been dating all kinds of women… I hate my ex! All those years were a complete waste of time!

Is there any truth to it? Absolutely.

Time is our most precious commodity, and you may now feel like your ex stole some of your best years. Years you can never get back. I should state here that I’m child-free, had an ugly divorce, and never want to see my ex again. I’m lucky to have that luxury.

No kids to keep me tethered to her. I’m sure that Wasted Years Syndrome is different if you have beautiful kids together — at least something good came out of the marriage, right? But those with children may suffer from their own form of Wasted Years Syndrome. I don’t know. All I can do is tell you about my version of the disease.

Did I have a lot of good times with my ex? Of course.

I’ll never forget the day I met her. It was just a few days after 911 in 2001. I was visiting my family at the time and was scheduled to fly back home on September 12th, which didn’t happen due to the lockdown of airports and the cancellation of numerous flights. When I was finally able to return, my roommates at the time couldn’t pick me up at the airport, so they sent their friend to do it – in my car!

At first, I was irked that a total stranger was using my car, but when I finally saw my little red Honda Civic roll up and I made eye contact with this unknown woman, we both smiled. There was some sort of spark between us from minute one.

Writing the previous paragraph made sad, and a little nostalgic too. I have many “good” memories of times spent with my ex, but there’s a major problem with them now. They’re tainted. It’s hard for me to recall them with any real fondness, for they are only memories of a ghost — the ghost of a person who is still alive. The ghost of a person who caused me immense distress.

Feeling Like Your Married Years Were a Waste of Time

It’s no wonder that so many divorced people experience Wasted Years Syndrome when recovering from divorce. The person who was supposed to be there “till death do us part” has instead abandoned you. It’s easy to feel like all those years were a big waste of time.

In the months right after my divorce, I felt like my past, present, and future had all been compromised – and I floated in that awful place for quite some time. I’ve finally gotten a better hold on my present. I’m happy in the now. The future is still uncertain, but I’d like to think that I can build a better life for myself and things will be alright. But the past? Those 14 years with my ex? Were they a complete waste of time?

I don’t know, but it sure does feel that way.

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