image by Eric Magnuson
Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you.
– Roger Ebert
My husband and I decided to get a divorce over a year ago now, and have been separated since then. It’s not a secret, but I haven’t spoken about it here on Kaizen Journaling until now, because I think it’s important to take the time to process your emotions when it comes to major changes in life. It is important to hold off saying things, until you are certain of what you want to say, because words spoken can’t be taken back.
I take the institution of marriage very seriously, and to be fair, so did my husband. Therefore accepting that we needed to end things was not an easy thing for either of us. For me, personally, it also felt like a huge failure, because I’d agreed to do something for life, and I was breaking that commitment. For someone who takes commitments and responsibilities seriously, it’s a big deal.
It’s been over a year, and only now, I’m beginning to get a clear perspective.
It was not because I wanted to stay married. I didn’t. Splitting up was the right thing to do for us.
It was not because we were vicious to each other. We weren’t. We parted more amicably than most couples.
But it was still difficult to get instant perspective, because you don’t realise, until you’ve given yourself time and emotional freedom, just how much you feel and how much you’ve kept inside you.
It is a sad thing when a relationship you’ve dedicated years to, ends – whether it’s a divorce, or a break-up. No doubt, most of you, have experienced a break-up at one point or another. As my life is about Kaizen Living, about continuous improvement, and continuous learning, I want to share the things I’ve learned/realised so far (through personal experience, as opposed to theory or logic) because my marriage ended.
5 Lessons I Learned Since the End of My Marriage
1. Don’t get over-exuberant about the initial relief
When we decided to get a divorce, people were surprised that neither of us seemed very upset. It wasn’t because we didn’t care, but rather because we had spent so much time being unhappy together that finally having made the decision to get a divorce, we had come out on the other side of misery.
At the time, it was just a relief to have finally decided, instead of remaining trapped in the perpetuity of “let’s try some more” and basically doing what Einstein advised against:
Insanity: doing the same things over and over again, and expecting different results.
We’d made the decision. It was a huge relief.
A lot of people feel that. However, a mistake many people make is to believe that it is the final feeling. I thought that too. I was wrong.
Relief is merely the first feeling. It’s similar to feeling relieved when you finally get to the top of the mountain, because the hard work is done. That’s because you haven’t started thinking about going down the mountain yet through a different, unknown route.
2. Be prepared to face unexpected emotions and deal with them
It will be different in every case, of course, and dependent on the circumstances of your divorce or break-up. But it is inevitable that once the initial relief is over, and you spend some time alone, you will face an array of emotions. Generally, these emotions fall into three categories: Resentment, Guilt and Regrets.
Accept your emotions. You don’t need to justify them.
This is where journaling becomes a life saver. Write down how you feel, and be honest. If you think your ex was horrible to you, write just that. If you think you did something wrong, admit that to yourself. You don’t have to discuss it with your ex. In fact, it’s better if you don’t, because discussions about break-up with the person you break-up with, is almost always going to end in tears.
But get your feelings out in your journal, or talk to a friend you trust.
WARNING: Do not talk to a mutual friend. That would either put your friend in the uncomfortable middle zone (if they are a nice person), or give them gossip/stirring power (if they are not a nice person). Stick with friends or family who are unreservedly on your side, whether or not they like your ex.
I was fortunate that I got to spend the last seven months visiting my family and friends in India and the US. Find your shelter. You don’t need to go to another country (though it helps to get away for a bit), but don’t feel guilty about the escape. It’s good to have that time, where you feel loved and protected, so that you are in a stronger emotional position, and able to handle your feelings better.
I spent so much time dealing with things on my own before we agreed to get a divorce, keeping it secret from my family because I didn’t want them to worry, that it was a relief just to have it out in the open, and just be present with the people who love me unconditionally and want what’s best for me.
3. Don’t End Things in Bitterness. Just Let Go.
It is very easy to be bitter and resentful, because your brain easily recalls bad memories. It’s difficult to focus on the good, when the bad is more recent in your mind. But there is no point in dwelling on it.
Why end a relationship, that you committed to for years of your life, in complete bitterness?
Why end up hating the person that you once loved?
Why wish them ill when you tried to make them happy for years?
There is no point.
If things don’t work out, regardless of whose fault it was, just let go. You will be angry, sad, resentful and bitter. Process your emotions when they happen, vent in your journal or to a best friend, then let go.
Try to control what comes out of your mouth when you talk to your ex. Try not to say things that can never be forgotten.
The relationship is over. Why make it worse by adding hate to it?
If you can be friendly with your ex, great. If you can’t be friendly, then that’s okay. You don’t have to feel guilty about that. Just wish them well – even if it’s only because you loved them once – and get on with the rest of your life.
4. Learn From Your Mistakes
Your relationship may have ended because of one specific reason, or for multiple reasons. It may have been your fault, his fault, or both of your faults. It is now irrelevant.
What the other person did or didn’t do, no longer matters.
You need to focus on you, and how you can be a better partner in the future.
Think about the mistakes you made, and how not to repeat them. Because we all make mistakes. Even nice things, taken too far, can become mistakes. Like sheltering a spouse’s faults, when you should have given them a kick in the behind.
Focus on being more self-aware, know what you want, know what compromises are acceptable to you, and what compromises would cost you your happiness.
Focus on being a better person, because when you focus on being the best you can be, you will inevitably become a better partner in any future relationship.
5. Be Single for a While
Seriously! Take your time. I’ve technically been single for over a year now. But until last month, I didn’t really have an opportunity to be alone as I was visiting my family and friends. I was loved and cherished – which was very heart-warming – but it didn’t leave me much time to feel single.
Now, I’m back in the UK, settling into a new city, and now I feel single.
What does it mean?
It means, enjoy the space and the time to focus on yourself for a while. Get perspective so you know what you actually want in a future partner, or a future relationship. Don’t just go blundering into a rebound relationship with someone who happens to be an opposite of your ex. Get clarity about your priorities, so that you don’t end up compromising the things that are essential to you, because of someone else.
I moved to London, because this is where I’ve always wanted to live, even though I’ve never actually lived here before. It wasn’t the place my ex wanted to live in. I have been a Londoner for about a month now, and I know that I was right all along. This is where I belong. I love this city. I love being here.
Even before I had a permanent place to live (I’d a temporary room for a week in a really crappy area of London), or made any local friends, and though I was still living out of a suitcase because all my stuff was in storage, I loved being in London. I will not move away from here for any relationship, because this is home. That’s establishing priorities, and getting clarity on what’s important to you.
When you are in a relationship, you need to focus on the other person too. Relationships require compromises. You hope that those compromises will be worth it for the love and the companionship you receive, but when you are single, that’s the time to enjoy not having to compromise.
I want to stay single for a while, so that I can be sure that when I meet someone special, I am in the right place in my life, and that I can be with someone whose values and lifestyle matches my own so that neither of us have to compromise who we are.
Remember, happy individuals make a happy world. That means, happy individuals make happy partners. Two happy individuals have a better chance of creating a successful relationship than one happy person and one miserable person. Focus on finding your self-reliant happiness. It isn’t someone else’s job to make you happy. It is your job. Find your happiness, take responsibility for the person you want to be, for the life you want to lead, and then when you meet someone who is also doing that for himself, you will have better odds for creating a happier relationship.