I’m going to try and avoid all the tired old ‘how to cope with divorce when you still love him’ advice. The kind of ‘get out there and move on’ line you’ll probably hear repeated by your friends.
The advice I will give is based on my years of experience and it starts with feeling your damn feelings, disengaging and maybe patching things up further down the line. But there’s other work to be done first.
Clearly, I’m going to be a little biased. When you still love them my knee-jerk reaction is going to be to look at bringing the marriage back together again a little further down the road. Divorce is not necessarily the end of the road and while only around 6% of couples get back together after a divorce 72% of them stay together – and it does happen.
And keep in mind most of those couples don’t try to do anything about it so the success rate if one of you is trying is going to be higher.
Contrary to what others think. Divorce is not the end of the story. It is the start of a new chapter in someone’s life. Flipping the page might not be easy so we’re going to start by looking at ways to move on and heal yourself and then ways to bring you both back together.
I’m going to be giving some general advice here which I really do think can offer help. If you’d like to get more specific on your marriage (and what we can do to get things back on track) take a moment to take the marriage assessment quiz.
Focusing on Yourself For Now
Whether your focus is on getting back together or just surviving the divorce, focusing on yourself is the way to start and I’ve got a couple of things for this:
- Disengaging – flaunt expectations.
- Feel your feelings – then let go.
- Forget the ‘What if…’
- Focus on others around you (and, of course, yourself).
Divorce goes beyond signing paperwork to confirm the legality of separation between husband and wife. It entails uprooting those deep-seated emotions that the partners might have to hang on for years. But it does happen. Healing is a route that everyone must take.
By disengaging, it meant cutting off any contact, especially if there are no children or shared responsibilities involved. No. You don’t need to be friends. Do what you feel is right for you. And not what others expect from you.
Allow yourself the time to heal yourself thoroughly before accepting friendship with your ex. Understand that friendship, like other relationships, thrives on trust and love for each other. It’s not easy to trust someone who hurt you. Being friendly or civil frees you up from all the expectations that a relationship has. Lesser expectation, lesser chances of being hurt.
In chances where you have shared responsibilities like children, it is best to remain civil with each other. Also, take note, though, that your separation doesn’t give you the authority to badmouth your ex. The truth remains that your kids have half the genes and blood of your ex. Best to let them still feel “complete,” amidst the separation. Remember, that like you, the kids also had to go through the same ordeal as you in dealing with the divorce.
For the divorce to sink in, it is best to shy away from your partner for a while. Move out, unfriend or unfollow them on your social media accounts, and temporarily block their number. Seeing physically that there’s extra room in your closet or your bathroom counter not as crowded as it was before could help you see empty spaces now available for you. Emptiness does trigger loneliness. But remember not to jump immediately to another relationship or bring back what you once lost just to fill the void. Feel the emptiness and breath.
Establish healthy boundaries between you and your ex. Let them know that you need that space and time to find and heal yourself once again.
Feel the feeling. Then let go.
Being angry after heartbreak is valid and part of human existence. Anger is a survival instinct that gives you the power to recognize anything that hurts you or puts you in an awkward situation. Often, it can be that final push you need to break out to what’s holding you back.
Being angry is understandable. But, staying mad over a long period can bring further damage to your life when you limit yourself because of your anger. It meant you’re letting the other person take control of your emotions. This is unhealthy.
The antidote to anger is forgiveness. Often, people get swallowed up in their pain, falling into the victim role. And when that happens, you block yourself from healing your broken heart.
Make peace with your past. Feel all the emotions after breaking up. Cry if you need to. For each tear, use it to wash away the pain and heartbreak to heal you. Look past the event and see things from your ex’s perspective. It may sound ridiculous, but doing this could take away the blame on the person.
Let go of your WHAT IFs
A broken marriage is full of regrets and pain. During the entire process, you’ll come to realize things that you should have done and words that you should or shouldn’t have said. After the break-up, you wallow into the blame game of what should not have happened for the perfect relationship to exist. Then you dwell in their absence, nursing your longingness. Wishing things would go back to the way it was. You promise yourself that you’ll make it better in your marriage.
Unfortunately, THAT relationship no longer exists. The marriage didn’t break up for no reason. Marriage is not a scientific experiment that lets you figure out all the probabilities to find the resolution. The divorce, in itself, is a confirmation that the IT has ended. And that the what-if questions just remain unanswered.
Rather than trying to imagine what could have been. Write in a journal, everything that hurt you in the previous relationship. Writing is therapeutic and can help you unearth your innermost fears and regrets, as well as your anger without the worry of being judged.
It’s okay if you still love them.
Divorce dissolves the marriage but not the emotions. Staying in love with your ex is reasonable even after the break. But, pursuing the other person is another story. Often, people break-up not because they fall out of love but due to irreconcilable differences such as personalities and priorities. As such, the person in love may choose to let go to let their partner find themselves and fly higher. So, they divorce when you still love each other.
Don’t let the feeling of still being in love push you back. Instead, find ways to transform “romantic love” into a platonic love where both of you can thrive. For all you know, you might see things that you failed to see when you were still a married couple.
Love yourself first.
Breaking up with the ones you love puts a significant dent in your self-esteem. You start to question if you are not good enough for anyone and if there’s anyone out there who’s destined for you. Divorce becomes a label that you bring with you in your everyday life. A broken marriage, for some, becomes a symbol of failure and inadequacy.
The antidote for low self-esteem is self-love. You can’t give what you don’t have. Forgive yourself first and understand that everyone makes mistakes. You forgive not because the other person deserves it but because you owe that to yourself.
Use the time away to nourish yourself. Remember to take care of yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup.
Take care of your other relationships.
One thing that people in relationships do all the time is disregarding their other relationships. Divorce is not the end of it all. Use this time to reconnect with the people who had your back for the longest time, be it your friends or family members. Rather than basking in loneliness, spend time with people who give you support and believe in you that you’ll stand stronger and better after adversity.
Divorce is not a label but an event. And you are worth it.
After All That – How Do We Try and Save The Marriage?
There is a proverb that goes, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” In separation, you often see the value of the other person in your life. Getting married again after divorce does happen and statistically, you’re very likely to stay together after that point but it’s never going to be easy.
I’m well aware that the vast majority of people who get divorced aren’t going to get back together (and sometimes that’s okay – I have covered signs a marriage cannot be saved before) but the fact that you’re still in love with him tells me that maybe this is one of those times where we can make it work.
Don’t rush things. You wouldn’t want to jump in simply because your ex is still in love with you. Give time and space to grow with each other lovingly before trying not once again. Allow at least one year of courting and dating before you say your vows.
Here are ways on how to discover marital bliss the second time around:
After the reconciliation, picking up from where you left off may not be the best way to do things. Instead, seek the help of a professional. The chance of digging up old graves in remarriage has a high probability. For this reason, you would want to bury the old hatchet and keep it there. Both of you need to come clean with each other, understand what went wrong to work on your differences.
Learn from your old mistakes. Marriage should not just be centered on feelings but in choosing to protect and respect each other. You might want to take it up a notch in enriching your marriage through reading books, attending workshops, and hiring a marriage counselor to give you a different perspective on your relationship. What you invest in grows. Invest in your marriage and let the flowers bloom the second time around.
Forgive yourself and each other.
In choosing to remarry your ex, learn to separate the mistake from the person. Forgive the person, not the action. This must be clear from the get-go. The first step would always be asking and giving forgiveness.
Learn each other’s love language.
People have different love languages. The reason most couples drift apart is they fail to acknowledge and understand the love language of their partner. Don’t fall into the same trap as before. Try to find out your partner’s love language, is it:
- Words of affirmation
- Quality time
- Receiving gifts
- Acts of services
- Physical touch
Knowing each other’s love language and adjusting to them will do wonders in your relationship. It speaks all about being considerate and compassionate about each other rather than demanding what one person wants. After all, marriage requires both to be on the same boat.
The truth about remarriage is you’re not marrying another person. It may sound stupid but, often, people expect that after they remarry their ex, they have changed to a different person. They are NOT. Your ex is the same person you broke up with and may still have the same habits that annoy you. Learn to accept everything about the person but also allow some wiggle room for them to change and grow.
Don’t get back together for the sake of other people.
One of the obvious reasons why some people remarry is because of their children. This is not a good idea. Children of broken marriages are scarred and lost during the process. Learning that their parents would remarry after a divorce could harbor various reactions on your children, may even open up scars that should’ve been healed.
Rediscover the other person.
People have biases on others, especially on their partners. We often wear a glass that’s clouded by their past mistakes and habits. Living together can reinforce or disrupt what you already know. Often familiarity leads you to only recognize someone’s fault over their strength. It can be as small as not flushing the toilet or pinching the toothpaste in the middle that you fail to see how they remember to buy you a gift on your birthday or surprise you with sweet nothing every single day.
In your time away from each other, people often discover a part of themselves they never knew existed. Remarrying your ex would mean rediscovering their strengths and weaknesses. It is about learning how to support your partner to become the best version of themselves. Because that is what true love is.
Remarry for the right reason.
Whether it’s the first or the second, marrying someone is a lifetime commitment. A fact that most married people forget. Divorce becomes an escape route whenever they face hard times. Marriage is a commitment in sickness and in health, in richness and in poor, till death do us part. Thus, as easy as it is to tie the knot. Staying married is a whole new ballgame. You say your vows because you were in love. But you stay married because you decided to love the other person no matter what.
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