Updated: Apr 1, 2022
The past few years may have felt like a marathon of relationship challenges! The thought of divorce or taking a break has commonly been discussed. This may bring on feelings of crippling grief and like your world is ending. You are not alone in feeling this and there are several reasons why this is so devastating.
Feeling of failure: “The one I chose to be with forever didn’t chose me back, I failed at staying desirable and keeping the relationship going.” This is a sentiment I hear echoed by clients going through a divorce. But maybe, the worth or purpose of a relationship is not based in its ability to last until you die. There are typically moments, years, experiences, and children that come from meaningful relationships that aren’t lost or erased by the relationship ending. While your wedding vows may have meant that this relationship will never end, this doesn’t mean you are a failure if it ends. It can mean many things. Maybe experiences changed you or your relationship, maybe you are your ex were great for each other for a specific season of life, maybe poor choices by you or your ex led to wounds you can’t repair, or a myriad of other reasons why two socially complex people could not stay together for a lifetime.
Death of your partnership: There may be two losses with this. You may feel a deep sense of loneliness. Your social life and community was built around your ex and it may take time before you rebuild social support. Your partner was the person you spent the most time with and now you have to find other supports to fill that void. The other loss is the figurative death of you ex. The person who was your best friend is no longer this person. You can’t talk to them the way you did, you can’t seek comfort from them the way you did, and they will slowly become someone you knew. The process of divorce can also drastically change relationships and the person you knew may seem like a completely different person. It is an odd thing to feel the death of someone who you still see at your child’s soccer game.
Ending of your created future: When we imagine our future it includes goals, milestones, and the comfort of having a partner navigating the unknown. This can be one of the most difficult pieces to lose. What you built your life around and were working towards may no longer exist. You might find yourself in existential crisis thinking about what the meaning of life is. Rebuilding this future as a single person feels impossible but is key to healing.
Loss of identity: Your identity was cocreated with your ex and the life you two created. Often when meeting new people one of the facts you share about yourself is that you are married. Part of the difficultly and grief with divorce is recreating who you are. You have a second adolescence and young adulthood of identity exploration. You may find yourself asking if you actually enjoy your married favorite restaurant or if you want to continue your married favorite hobby. The overwhelming empty feeling of questioning “who am I” is daunting.
While it may feel like you are drowning in this grief, endings are a natural part of relationships. We typically have around three major relationship endings in our lifetime. Seek support from others who have gone through this, seek support from a therapist, seek support by rebuilding your social community for comfort, strength, and sometimes pure distraction. The next year will be difficult and a huge time of growth. And after the waves of grief start to subside a new life, a new identity, and new future emerges.
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