Angry phone calls that result in someone hanging up. Arguments about the most trivial things. Icy encounters when exchanging the kids. Infuriating meetings between lawyers as a life is legally split in two. Divorce feels like the depths of hell. Every inch of one’s life is turned on its head and ripped apart at the seams while emotions run up and down like a busy elevator.
With life, seemingly, in the toilet, one has to wonder if this is what life will be from here on? Does the drama and conflict subside? Do the raw feelings of anger and grief go away? Is it possible to find purpose again after the marriage is over? Is it possible to have non-hostile interactions with your ex or to love again?
The answer to all of these can be yes!
As we’ve all heard before, things get better with time. Even divorce-related things. Simply time, itself, can be enough to soothe and heal the injuries of the heart. Those intense emotions mellow out with time simply by putting some distance between the past and the future.
I wasn’t sure if it would ever happen. I felt certain that divorce was a necessary evil in my life because I feared I would die in my marriage. Yet, separating and attempting to go on with life wasn’t nearly as easy as I thought it would be. Maybe without children involved it could be as simple as walking out of the courthouse and never having contact with or thinking about an ex again.
With children, however, my divorce journey entered a new layer of hell I previously never knew existed. In some ways things were better. At least he and I were no longer under the same roof fighting all the time.
It was exciting to set up a place for myself that was all mine and to finally get oxygen into my lungs that didn’t feel tainted by the toxicity of our relationship. I wasn’t prepared for what it would be like to be without my children half of the time. I felt like part of my soul had been ripped out whenever I dropped them off to their dad for a week.
I wasn’t prepared for the game playing, for having my kids turned against me, for lies told to my family, for the financial struggle, or the guilt I would feel for the chaos I helped bring into my children’s lives.
There were days that I felt I had made the biggest mistake of my life. I knew I would rather die than reunite with him. In fact, I imagined over-and-over driving off of a bridge that I passed every morning because I didn’t know how much more pain I could take; only, I couldn’t leave my children without a mother.
Even though I wanted to give up, I never did. I kept getting out of bed each morning and taking each step to get through the day, and you know what? It did actually start to gradually get better!
My kids have adjusted quite well. They’re now 11 and 13, and they are happy, do well in school, and flow back and forth between our two homes with relative ease. I had long, intense talks with my son in the early days to reinforce to him over and over that he had my complete love no matter what his relationship was with his dad. I didn’t expect him to take sides, I wouldn’t be unhappy if he was happy or enjoyed his time with his dad, and I promised not to talk badly about his dad around him.
My persistence with my children paid off, because they came to realize that my commitment to their peace was legit, and they could be free within my love.
Over time, my positive attitude with my children toward my ex softened his approach to me, as well. In the beginning, I had to fight hard to put on a civil and cooperative face. It was almost impossible to ignore the things he had done within our marriage, but our ties had to remain intact to conduct business for our children. Despite our feelings for each other, they counted on us to be able to work together to parent in all aspects of their lives.
I never thought I would see the day that my willingness to compromise, be patient, and persist would pay off; but, eventually it did! Snarky comments, rude looks, and arguing for the sake of arguing gave way to productive phone calls, parent-teacher conferences and school events that could be described as normal rather than embarrassingly dysfunctional. We can all attend a school event now and both he and I participate together with minimal weirdness or needing to feel on guard or ready for a battle by the time it’s done.
I can honestly say I don’t look forward to our interactions, but it is much easier than it used to be. I still half cringe when I see his number come up on his phone; but, it does not fill me with near the anxiety that it used to. And, when we do talk, hostility is infrequent, and I can’t recall the last time one of us was angry enough to hang up on the other.
The negative emotions I was imprisoned by during our break-up and divorce have subsided, mostly because I found my way to forgive (him and myself). If I allow my thoughts to wander back to those times, they are still very painful, but they don’t consume my every thought as they used to. Again, I credit a lot of this to forgiveness, but I can also see where my new life slowly, but surely, replaced the events of the past with my current priorities.
Is it like this for everyone? Not necessarily? I think that even in high-conflict divorces with narcissists and other complex issues there is still more entanglement and drama than the parties would like; but, I have seen where even those relationships simmer down with the passing of days.
I think you have to ask yourself how much you still want to be woven together with your ex and your past? Are you willing to let it remain in the past and focus on creating a new existence? Are you going to be the kind of ex who thrives on conflict, finds every excuse to return to court, and is convinced that the best of life has already past? Or, can you be the kind of ex who faces the future and leaves the past where it belongs?
Notice that earlier in this discussion I said that life after divorce can be a brighter and more peaceful chapter in your life. Much of that is up to you! A “crazy” ex who lives to torment you is largely out of your control, but you have immense power over what your future will bring based on your attitude, the amount of growth you are able to make through your situation, and your willingness to allow yourself to be happy again!
I say that happiness, in most cases, is a choice. What’s your choice?