At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem and you solve the next one, and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home.
As my marriage was ending, I struggled with shame, feeling alone in my own personal hell.
However, as my journey continued and I started to heal, I connected with others who had walked a similar path, and I discovered that I was not alone. Many voiced similar feelings experienced during their divorce, and more than once I heard “if only I had known what to expect.”
As homage to those that have split from their spouse, as well as those currently on their own divorce journey, I offer this communal list of what to expect:
1. We will doubt ourselves, and feel so afraid of the Unknown that we will reason that even though we are miserable, we are at least comfortable, and that we can endure an unhappy marriage.
We will try to convince ourselves of this, even though in our hearts we know that it isn’t true. But we will tell ourselves lies and reason with ourselves that we shouldn’t split—for the kids, for the finances, etc. We will bargain with ourselves because we are scared. Know that this is normal.
2. The roller coaster we feel when the decision is made to separate is unlike anything we ever experienced.
The regret, the grief, the pain, the confusion, the overwhelming, the fear, the desperation of wanting to be loved after our spouse is gone.
But even though we don’t know it, there is a weight that will slowly start to ease from our shoulders—the same weight that we denied all this time when we told ourselves nothing was wrong.
3. Our self-esteem may shatter, and we will be desperate for love and validation.We will think that nobody will ever love or want us again, and we may be tempted to date immediately and latch on to the first person who pays attention to us. We must resist this urge to attach ourselves, even if we have not had that romantic touch or intimacy for a long time. Trying to fill that void with another relationship robs us of the chance to heal.
4. Although we may tell ourselves that we’re fine, we will need a support system.
A therapist, a support group, good friends, or the non-judgmental anonymity of online forums. Whatever combination of systems we choose should help us attain two objectives: creating a safe place for venting, and helping us find constructive, healthy ways to cope with the divorce.
5. We will feel like we are getting sprayed with an industrial fire hose.
The number of “to-do’s” and “should-do’s” regarding emotions, finances, legal issues, custody and other logistics will come with incredible urgency. We will feel paralyzed and overwhelmed.
Understand that splitting is a process. Like any process, there are things to address immediately (safety, shelter, income), things to address a little bit later (understanding legal and custody issues, finding an emotional support system) and there are things to address longer-term (ensuring our separation agreement is something we can live with, making sure we and our children are adjusting). We will need to remind ourselves that divorce is like a marathon and it requires patience and persistence. We must save ourselves the stress by accepting that not everything has to be done right now.
6. We will have no control over our spouse’s behavior.
For serious offenses (threatening harm, cleaning out our savings account or wracking up debt on a joint credit card), we will absolutely need to take action. But there will also be annoyances that may not endanger us, but will anger us. It may seem like they are trying to make our life as miserable as they possibly can, which could result in a long, drawn-out, expensive, soul-sucking divorce—if we let it.
We will need to remember that although we can’t control their behavior, we can control how we react to it. Our decision to take the high road despite how they act is entirely up to us. Like most things during the split, it will be easier said than done.
7. We will be tempted to make decisions based on emotion, rather than logic.
We will forget that divorce is a business transaction––a splitting of assets and incomes. The logical part of us will understand this, but the part of us that is hurt may spend months fighting over things that have nothing to do with business at all. During the legal process, we will be forced to choose our battles. Choose wisely.
Being on medication for mental illness is not fun, nor is it easy, and no one I’ve ever known does it just for kicks. Kids don’t buy black-market Prozac to take to raves. People don’t use B12 shots as a gateway drug to heroin. The side effects and troubles with taking medication are very real and (if you have a chronic mental illness) are something you have to deal with for the rest of your life. Even if a drug is working for a while, it might stop working and you’ll have to start all over again with something new, which can be incredibly frustrating and disheartening. And then you have to deal with the side effects of the new drug, which can include “feeling excessively stabby” when coupled with some asshole telling you that “your medication not working is just proof that you don’t really need medication at all.” I can’t think of another type of illness where the sufferer is made to feel guilty and question their self-care when their medications need to be changed. When I went on my first antidepressant it had the side effect of making me fixated on suicide (which is sort of the opposite of what you want). It’s a rare side effect so I switched to something else that did work. Lots of concerned friends and family felt that the first medication’s failure was a clear sign that drugs were not the answer; if they were I would have been fixed. Clearly I wasn’t as sick as I said was if the medication didn’t work for me. And that sort of makes sense, because when you have cancer the doctor gives you the best medicine and if it doesn’t shrink the tumor immediately then that’s a pretty clear sign you were just faking it for attention. I mean, cancer is a serious, often fatal disease we’ve spent billions of dollars studying and treating so obviously a patient would never have to try multiple drugs, surgeries, radiation, etc., to find what will work specifically for them. And once the cancer sufferer is in remission they’re set for life because once they’ve learned how to not have cancer they should be good. And if they let themselves get cancer again they can just do whatever they did last time. Once you find the right cancer medication you’re pretty much immune from that disease forever. And if you get it again it’s probably just a reaction to too much gluten or not praying correctly. Right? Well, no. But that same, completely ridiculous reasoning is what people with mental illness often hear … not just from well-meaning friends, or people who were able to fix their own issues without medication, or people who don’t understand that mental illness can be dangerous and even fatal if untreated … but also from someone much closer and more manipulative. We hear it from ourselves. We listen to the small voice in the back of our head that says, “This medication is taking money away from your family. This medication messes with your sex drive or your weight. This medication is for people with real problems. Not just people who feel sad. No one ever died from being sad.” Except that they do.
And when we see celebrities who fall victim to depression’s lies we think to ourselves, “How in the world could they have killed themselves? They had everything.” But they didn’t.
They didn’t have a cure for an illness that convinced them they were better off dead.
Whenever I start to doubt if I’m worth the eternal trouble of medication and therapy, I remember those people who let the fog win. And I push myself to stay healthy. I remind myself that I’m not fighting against me … I’m fighting against a chemical imbalance … a tangible thing. I remind myself of the cunning untrustworthiness of the brain, both in the mentally ill and in the mentally stable. I remind myself that professional mountain climbers are often found naked and frozen to death, with their clothes folded neatly nearby because severe hypothermia can make a person feel confused and hot and convince you to do incredibly irrational things we’d never expect.
Brains are like toddlers. They are wonderful and should be treasured, but that doesn’t mean you should trust them to take care of you in an avalanche or process serotonin effectively.
~ Jenny Lawson, Furiously Happy: A funny book about horrible things
It never fails that when I hear a sermon Sunday morning that convicts me spiritually, I am tested HARDCORE on the subject. is it just me?
Maybe I dont want the eyes of my heart opened!! 🙈
I’m a love cartographer.Each of us has our own internal landscape to navigate when it comes to loving another person.
Each journey into love is an opportunity to map out new territory, to discover and navigate parts of ourselves previously untouched by another, and perhaps untouched even by ourselves. Some of these territories will be blissful and others terrifying, but as we get to know our internal landscape, we begin to gain mastery of it, no matter what it is.
We learn how to work with ourselves in all of these places.
I spend my days helping others map out the landscapes of love and relationships in their own lives, and every day I expand and detail my own map, too. Every day I’m inspired by just how much adventure the land of love can provide, and at the same time, I feel a sense of urgency.
I see so many people with tiny little maps. I see so many people spending their lives never venturing out past their own backyards. I see so many who never risk finding out what’s possible.
Each time I sit down to write, I ask myself what I want them to know. I ask myself what I would want someone to tell me if I didn’t already know it.
Today, what I want you to know is that everyone has at least one spot where we always get lost.
We all have that spot where we’ve eventually gotten stuck in every relationship. We all have that empty space on our map; that unexplored, uncharted territory just waiting to be understood and filled in. It may be that a little corner of our map remains an empty mystery as we’ve struggled to get the lay of the land, or it may be that most of our map is still empty because we’ve never ventured to navigate outside the comfort of the world we already know.
We tend to have a hard time acknowledging that our sticky spot has anything to do with us. We like to think we just haven’t met the right person yet. But the truth is that no matter how promising a new love seems, no matter how different this one is from the ones that came before, we will always end up at the place again eventually. We can hope and pray that this time the road will lead us somewhere new, but the truth is it won’t because this is the map of how we navigate love and we haven’t changed yet. So when we get there (and we will get there), we still won’t know how to make it through the terrain.
After enough times, we begin to believe this is just how it is destined to be for us. We begin to accept the current boundaries of our map as our fate. We begin to assume that we’ll never make it any further than we did in the past, and when we believe that, it becomes true.
I lived inside of my patterns for so long. For most of my life, each one of my long-term relationships ended up with the same feeling: I felt bored. The respect and adoration I’d once felt was gone, and the spark in our sex had died out.
This was where all my relationships had ended, each one like the one before. This was as far as I’d ever drawn my map. For all I knew, this was all there was or would ever be for me. I didn’t see that my apathy was keeping me locked in a cycle that I completely had the power to break out of. I didn’t see that I could change it by changing myself.
No, I just saw the challenge as the end of the road.
I stopped trying, so I stopped getting feedback. Without feedback I didn’t learn anything new about my situation that could help me see solutions. And then, eventually, my feeling of hopelessness was validated by my failure. Giving up was a dead end.
Until I finally admitted I was stuck.
Being stuck isn’t the end of the road we paint it out to be.
Actually, stuck is a pretty good place to be. It’s a lot better than denial. As long as we live in the delusion of hoping for change without making a concentrated effort to change ourselves, the pattern will play on repeat forever. Being stuck, on the other hand, is quite a sobering wake up call. It’s an alarm bell telling us it’s time to do something different, and sometimes desperation really is a great motivator.
I got stuck and it totally changed my life. I reached a breaking point; a beautiful breaking point where I grew more courageous than I’d ever been. I realized that anything would have been better than the way things were and I decided that no matter how hard it was and no matter how much courage it would take, I’d do whatever was required in order to finally forge a new path for myself.
We all have that place we get stuck and the sooner we acknowledge that it exists, the sooner we are going to figure out how to get through it.
All those stuck places are actually beautiful opportunities.
They’re difficult for a reason. They stand guard to the deepest, most tender sort of love and they’re there to make sure we are truly ready.
Diva: Everytime I see the name Gaylord I think of Jesus loving on some dudes.
Diva: No. Like a group of dudes, the apostle people, are like, “Jesus! We love you, man.” and Jesus is like, “I love you too. Come here. MUAH!”