My therapist told me early on that divorce is war. Naive me. I thought to myself, “No, it’s not. We will be kind. We will not go to war.” But I did not understand.
Retrieving yourself from a marriage in which you’ve become so entwined with another human being is a battle like nothing you’ve ever seen before. I am not talking about fights over finances or custody, although that stuff can be brutal too. I am talking about the fight to reclaim the pieces of you that you forgot existed or never even knew were there.
Divorce IS War:
This fight is a fight to salvage yourself, your sense of calm, your dreams and hopes for the future, your routines and ways of living, your traditions for yourself and for your family. The money and custody, that’s another story. You can’t do any of that if you haven’t fought for yourself first.
The day I ended my marriage, I felt gutted and raw. Who would I be? How would I move forward? What would my life look like? It broke me open, and while I knew it was exactly what I needed and there was no other way, it hurt with an intensity that frightened me. I didn’t only feel emotionally raw — the pain was physical too. My whole body ached.
Everything you imagined the world would be has just been decimated. You have to reinvent all of it for yourself without the husband you chose in it. You’re on your own. And depending on how long your marriage was, it may have been a long time since you’ve been this alone. I get how scary that is. I was married fifteen years and in that relationship for twenty. I wasn’t single in my twenties at all and had only a few months left in my thirties.
Even in kindness, divorce is war.
You are at war. When you are trying to make a marriage work, you take the armor down and try to connect. Going through a divorce, you put the armor up and keep yourself safe.
When I first realized my broken marriage could not be salvaged and that I could not stop my husband’s lies and betrayals, I cried. I cried a lot. I didn’t sleep much. I didn’t want to eat. I didn’t feel strong. But I wanted to be strong.
I needed to be strong.
The night I told him that he needed to get out, I cried until two a.m. and then woke up the next morning, tired and weak, and I ran.
I was not a runner. I did not run fast. I did not run well. I did not even love to run. But I loved to feel strong. The more I ran, the more mornings that I got up at the crack of dawn and carried myself out the door, the stronger I felt. I did yoga sometimes. Hot yoga, with half-naked smelly people in a room heated super-hot. And when I did it, I felt strong. I went to the batting cages and hit balls.
It felt good to hit things.
I went to kickboxing classes and punched heavy bags. The instructor asked me who I was so mad at. It felt good.
I was training for a fight that I didn’t even understand. At the time, I couldn’t wrap my head around any of it. All I could do is cultivate my strength.
If you are going through a divorce, you need your strength too. Even if your divorce is kinder than mine, you will need the fight to reclaim your sense of self.
To get through this, you need to be stronger than you’ve ever been before. Whether it’s running or meditation or weights or yoga or swimming or dancing or whatever – go do it. Find all the strength you can even when you think there’s none left. Connect to your body, your physical strength first. The rest will follow. It’s tempting to curl up in bed and eat your way through this, but it will leave you feeling weak and sick.
You never needed him to be the person you want to be. Fight and reclaim the pieces of you that were so wrapped up in your dreams for the future with him.
You can do this. I know that you can. And if you believe it, you will.
Eat well, exercise, sleep – these are the three things that you can do to train. As a therapist, I also know that these are the three things that help balance your brain chemistry and keep you feeling balanced. But don’t do it to balance your brain chemistry. That is too reasonable for how you feel right now.
Do it because you want to come out of this stronger and fiercer than ever before. Do it because you need your fight and you are worth fighting for.
If it feels like there’s a dark cloud hanging above you that you can’t get out from under, fight like hell to get to the other side of it. If you can’t, find a good therapist or someone to help drag you through. There is no weakness in getting help. I did. Get the help you need before you sink and then get up and train because divorce is war.
It will pay off, no matter how much it hurts. I know. I have been there.
Excerpted from You Got This: Healing Through Divorce