A divorce can really change who you are. It can shake you to your core whether you are the Petitioner or the Respondent.
Perhaps if you are the Petitioner you have been afforded more time to think about what life would look like after your spouse is no longer hitched to you. You have had a chance to prepare emotionally, financially, and physically, as best as possible anyway. And your outlook is looking swell!
The Petitioner proactively makes an action or decision based on their own information… as they know it to be… for themselves. and they define the timing of their actions that suits only them.
The same cannot be said for the Respondent. I know. I was the Respondent in my divorce. A Respondent is in a reactive position and can only respond to the changing landscape of their life.
For me, it was a divorce that took place 20 years ago. And it’s an interesting position to be in when you look back and see how you, as a person have evolved, not to mention how your life has evolved. And… how your emotions have evolved as well. It’s fascinating!
“When people make you feel unwanted, don’t leave to make them feel sad, or guilty, they won’t. Leave because you no longer have a reason to stay. Sometimes you have to be strong for yourself. What is meant to be will end good and what is not – wont.” Unknown
I like this statement because it speaks to both a Petitioner and a Respondent. I chose to believe that when someone wants out of a marriage that they no longer feel loved in or important in, they no longer have a reason to stay.
And in the same way, a Respondent has to conclude that you can’t make a person love you no matter how hard you try. You cannot create a reason for them to stay if they do not want to be loved by you. If that is the case, they have already emotionally left you anyway. They most certainly have if they are having an affair, which is what happened in my case.
So how has my thinking evolved on this over the years? The answer? A lot!
In the early days, I was shell shocked because, first, he left me weeks after our second child was born…second, in the middle of a home remodel…and third, for another woman. It was a three-strike hit to my very existence and to say that my core was rocked would be a dreadful understatement.
But as the years have gone by, the heartbreak of course subsided and I eventually concluded that I was lucky that I loved myself enough to finally see that we were never a good fit from the start. I had settled for him because we were just together for so many years.
And, I assume that he settled for me too. We dated for 5 years and were married for almost 14 years and he was never faithful to me throughout all those years. I just didn’t know it at the time.
On the morning of my wedding, I was sick to my stomach. I assumed it was just my nerves because of the wedding production that was about to take place. But now I see that it really was my very own body telling me it wasn’t a fit.
I talked myself into this man. And I assume he talked himself into me. But, because I was raised to believe a commitment is a commitment, I stayed with him. He was always able to talk me into thinking that it was my insecurities when I would question anything suspicious.
And the signs were everywhere! I even was able to talk myself out of a pair of women’s panties that I found in his car. He said he didn’t know whose they were, and assumed it was the Nanny’s since we let her do her laundry at our house. An excuse that made no sense whatsoever since she was never in his car. But I bought it because I wanted to. I was so afraid of the truth. Don’t worry, he didn’t have an affair with the Nanny. She was an older, far too principled woman who would never stoop to being “that woman”.
So, my evolution has taken me from denial and then anger and brought me to a place that says, okay… so you found someone new. You don’t love me. Maybe you never did. I get it! Rock on!
“If you made a list of reasons why any couple got married, and another list of the reasons for their divorce, you’d have a hell of a lot of overlapping.” Mignon McLaughlin
What does this mean?
It means that perhaps you got married for all the wrong reasons. Starting with Hello! Maybe you got married because you had just been together so bloody long!
Maybe you got married because…
Maybe you got married because even though you didn’t really want them, you didn’t want anyone else to have them either. You know… Fear of Missing Out?
Maybe, you got married because you were able to talk yourself into that person because they were pretty or handsome, athletic, or smart or bubbly! Or maybe you thought you could change their behaviors, or they could change yours.
The fact that you would marry someone… anyone with the feeling that you want to change them is already a huge Red Flag! But the fact remains that you did indeed get married, and now you are indeed divorced. And in my case, divorced with two children. Ultimately it’s not the marriage ending that is hard. It’s when the marriage ends for the respondent and then the Petitioner goes on into the sunset with his new woman…new life and you are left standing there with your jaw dropped wondering how the heck you are going to do this alone?!
He may have been a schmuck, but he was a schmuck that could help out! That’s the sting that bites and that’s the sting that is hard to move on from. And you are stuck co-parenting with a person you no longer have an ounce of trust for. You are now co-parenting with a schmuck. How’s that for a bushel of apples?
So how have I shigted my vision through this scenario?
Well, the answer is, I had to. You learn that you are far stronger than you thought. You find that you have a reservoir of strength, of grit, and determination and it gets confirmed and reconfirmed every time you look into your children’s eyes. They need you so much and they expect you to be the smartest, strongest, and confident mom ever. And you are.
That and the fact that children grow up and their demands soften. My kids are now adults and the cross over with their Dad is far less. Throw a Pandemic into the mix and it has really lessened the need for interaction between parents.
And that is fine with me. I am no longer the victim who he or his girlfriend (whom he married) would humiliate either overtly or by projection. I am no longer treated badly because I don’t allow it.
I have evolved into a confident woman that has raised two children single-handedly. I have provided a home, an education, clothes, food, and every conceivable thing I can for them. I am a strong woman who is no longer injured by the action of one man. I am the sum of all my experiences both pre and post-marriage and I like who I am.
I like that even though I may not know what I want in a relationship after all these years, I can definitely say that I know what I don’t want. I had that for too many years. I have evolved into a woman who knows she deserves joy in her life and a woman who believes that she should be enough at all times to one man. And that he should be everything I want and need. I do not want to change a thing about him. He is perfectly, imperfect!
And lastly, I have evolved into being a kinder woman who even though she has experienced immense loss, she still gets up every day and is thankful for the life she has. I too am perfectly imperfect… and that is okay by me!
Embrace your own evolution as you sail through the seasons of your life after divorce. Stay alert. Stay open, to finding and accepting all that you are now. You are gonna be just fine! I promise!