"It's not you, it's me"--a cliché phrase and yet an appropriate one when one spouse wants a divorce and the other does not. I just had a client (Elie) whose husband dropped the bombshell on her without prior warning. Not only did she not see this coming but there were no obvious indications that her marriage was in trouble. It took me six sessions to help Elie heal from an unwanted divorce. This was rare since I will typically only see a client four times.
Elie needed to put her husbands abrupt decision into perspective by thinking about two words: What else? As in, what else could be lingering in his head or going on that she knew nothing about? Normal humans do not simply wake up one morning and decide that they want a divorce. Instead, he very likely had some baggage that would have slowly killed the relationship. Instead, Elie dealt with the gut punch of his quick departure before moving forward with the (rightful) feeling that she likely dodged a bigger bullet.
There are other things that we can do when we want to heal from an unwanted divorce. Something else that comes to mind is painful reflection. That's right, when someone leaves us, it actually helps to think about the hurt and pain that we will no longer be subjected to. When Harry and Nicole were married, he constantly berated her. Despite this, she did not want a divorce. It was not until her girlfriends reminded her of the anguish he put her through that she was able to be content with their divorce. Even non-abusive marriages with quick ends have painful memories to reflect on. A perfectly civil couple can have everything from a vacant sex life to frequent bouts of boredom. Thinking about these realities and our detachment from them can help us move forward.
Do you know what else can? Getting excited about the idea of someone else, that's what. 47% of women that are getting over an unwanted divorce cite the fear of being alone as their most stressful ordeal. Unfortunately, this statistic increases the older the divorcee. What's more, it is harder to remove the fear of being alone when he wanted a divorce and she did not. The reason for this is simple: she thinks of herself as the unwanted one and if he does not want her, why would someone else? Except, 43% of all American's over the age of 18 are single. That represents 96 million adults and hundreds of thousands of options within 'any' mile radius for the average adult woman. Who is your someone else? What do you they like to do for fun? What is their kiss going to feel like? These are perfectly reasonable, fun, and healthy questions to ask yourself. And yes, they are helpful.
It is also helpful to avoid meaningless things. Do not do things just to pass the time. Do not put yourself in situations that aren't you. When we do these things, we may feel temporary relief and pleasure from the stress and pain but soon thereafter, our angst will multiply. This is because we will have wasted a lot of time and effort on something that does not mean something to us. In some cases, we will lose ourselves in the process and that does not feel good. By the way, I am not referring to one-night stands. If you have genuine attraction to someone and you like who they seem to be as a person, it's very possible that your connection with them will not be meaningless so have at it. We all have needs. Just make sure you are not losing yourself in the process.
There is nothing fun about being caught off guard with a divorce but there are things that you can and must do in order to fully heal. I will leave you with one more: Take care of yourself! Whether this is working out, eating right, or spoiling yourself, the art of self-love goes hand-in-hand with healing. All too many times, a surprise divorce will have us putting other people first, mostly because we believe that taking care of others will be a nice distraction. The truth is, the time and energy we have for taking care of others will quickly dissipate and turn into resentment towards them.
Think about these things and move forward purposefully. After all, you don't want someone that doesn't want you, you're better and you deserve better than that.