Finding the courage to end your marriage, or relationship as you know it, is one of the hardest decisions many people find themselves Googling answers for.
In the separation and divorce professional world, we find ourselves entering into Divorce Week and Divorce Month. January is one of the busiest times of the year. A lawyer I was speaking to today said ‘We have a new ad up and it’s getting more hits than the last few months’.
The reality is, these questions of ‘should I stay or leave’, ‘not another year of things not getting better’, ‘how do you know the marriage is over’, ‘am I doing the right thing?’ have been running around your mind for quite a while.
No one wakes up one day and says ‘I want a divorce’ out of the blue. Well, it might, if you haven’t been paying attention and ok, yes, some people do get blindsided, but I think you get what I am saying.
In fact, the lead time for an actual separation happening is on average 9 months.
Resentment has been building, there’s constant criticising of each other, one or both of you has shut down emotionally, you haven’t had sex in months or years, maybe there’s sex, but there’s zero passion. Things are not good. You’d rather be out with your girlfriends and more happy when he’s out with his mates or home late from work.
‘We will just get through Christmas, then we can tell the kids and they can get used to it over the school break’ is what a few of my clients have said over the years. One last Christmas together as the family you know it.
One of the hardest stages to get to is ‘acceptance’ of it actually happening. You can Google away, and then once you start talking about it, it suddenly becomes more real. First though, you have to find the courage to have ‘that conversation’.
I can clearly remember back to the night my marriage ‘officially’ ended nearly 7 years ago. Hindsight is such a wonderful thing and knowing what I know now….I guess is why I do what I do. And boy have I learnt a lot from my mistakes too.
WHY IS IT SO HARD?
Mostly it’s our fear that holds us back, from anything we don’t want to do. Fear of failure, fear of what others will think, fear of the future. Then list any emotion like shame, guilt, doubt, rejection, hurt, anger, sadness. Worried about loss – ‘my other half’, money, the house. What about the little people? Am I being a ‘the bad guy’?
Are you making the right decision?
Denial is a safe place to be too. Acting like things are OK on the surface for everyone else, and then sleeping in separate beds, barely talking to each other or making eye contact.
And no doubt there’s a million other questions and concerns going on. Even, ‘who’s going to love me now?’
HOW YOU HANDLE THE SEPARATION HAS A MASSIVE IMPACT ON YOUR ON GOING RELATIONSHIP
Could you imagine, that just say you did wake up one morning, look at your partner and say ‘I want a divorce’, which to them, feels ‘out of the blue’. How do you think they would react? Not good right, well a hell of a lot of shock. Even if it’s not so abrupt and extreme like that, it did happen to one of my recent clients.
Even if it’s not such a shock like that, and I really hope it is not, the thought of having ‘that’ conversation keeps many people stuck. Staying in a relationship that is over too long can cause extra stress, you wont sleep and then there’s a chance you can get sick – depression, anxiety or other illness. Staying in a toxic and emotionally abusive relationship can be soul destroying.
People then tend to hurt one another, because it’s like this silent conversation with your inner bad girl ‘If I hurt them, then surely they will want to leave’.
HURTING PEOPLE, HURT PEOPLE
Two hurt people trying to have one of the most important conversations of their lives is a recipe for disaster and then add in tired, angry and sad people. Saying things that cant be un-heard. Doing things that cant be un-done.
So, how do you find the middle ground and have ‘that’ conversation? You decide to have respect for each other, the marriage and your children. Because whether you love that person or not, they are the other parent and that is what matters. You are still going to be in each other’s lives. Your children need that.
TIPS ON HOW TO HAVE ‘THAT’ CONVERSATION
- ADULTS ONLY – Make sure your little people are NOT in the house or due to come home
- EMOTIONS – Don’t let them run the show. Easier said than done once/if things get heated
- WORDS – No blame, no shame and show respect, kindness and compassion. Start with I feel….
- TIMING – Don’t have this conversation late at night when you are both tired. Don’t have it go on and on for hours
- ALCOHOL FREE – Maybe you need a glass of wine for ‘dutch courage’ and definitely be sober
Then, allow the other person their ‘reaction’ and yes, it most likely will be that. Unless you’ve both had some professional help before and worked on the emotions and fears. Or you’ve taken my ‘Courage To Leave’ Course…..
Know this, if you initiate ‘that’ conversation, you aren’t ‘the bad guy’, you aren’t ‘the one who broke the family’ and there is no shame, there is no failure. We weren’t taught ‘how to do relationships’ in high school. Most of us have had some patterns in our past that may have lead to this, or not. Maybe this relationship has reached it’s expiry date.
When two people are happy and thriving in a relationship, it doesn’t end, so there is a reason this has to happen. You can choose to see this as an opportunity for a fresh start, or not. So long as you keep the conflict away from your little people, they will be OK.
You both also don’t need to end up hating each other. You can take responsibility for your part in the relationship ending and accept that this is not a ‘for better or worse’ situation. Be OK if there is more relief than grief too. This is happening. Breathe. You will be OK.
If you are reading this, thinking about going through a separation or know someone who is, then share this with them. Let them know about my ‘Courage To Leave’ course. I was suffering from anxiety and depression when my marriage ended. I know there can be hard days, but it does get easier and life does go on. Trust me on that 😉
What if I said to you ‘divorce could be one of the best things to happen’.
You’d probably want to slap me or think I was a little crazy…think, what does she know.
I can tell you the exact moment in time that my heart was completely crushed. I can tell you where I was, what I was doing, what I was wearing and eating.
6 months later, we had an official separation date. A time in my life that I was at my rock bottom. Dealing with a bit of depression and high anxiety.
But I decided the only way was up! I had two very amazing reasons for this choice. My beautiful kids who were 3 and 4 ½ at the time. I had to put me first. What good was I to them if I couldn’t take care of myself.
This is kind of the stuff that no one really wants to talk about during and after a divorce. No one really understands it until they have experienced it, and quite frankly, sometimes it is really freakin’ hard to deal with something that feels wrong with you, but no one can see. The first time I dealt with these feelings was while I was in rehab from being hit by a car. I was dealing with minor brain damage at the time, post traumatic amnesia and post-traumatic stress disorder, plus a few other injuries. Trying to cross the road was quite an ordeal. Then when I was able to drive again 3 months later, I kept picturing people being hit by a car.
Not a pleasant time. I found it hard to comprehend that there was something wrong with me, but I couldn’t see it, and nor could anyone else. All I was doing was focussing on what was wrong, what happened and playing a bit of a victim. This was about 12 ½ years ago.
Then next time I dealt with these feelings was 3 years ago. I was not long out of hospital, recovering from major knee surgery that saw me in a leg split from thigh to ankle. I went from Mrs Independent to Mrs Dependent on Everyone. There was zero support (as far as I am concerned) from my (then) husband. We were staying at the Mother in Law’s, big mistake, and my idea too! When you are lying in bed, in a fairly decent amount of pain, taking OxyContin and Endone, feeling like crap, you cannot shower yourself. Cannot pick up your kids for a big squeezy hug. Cannot walk your dog or drive a car. You are used to taking care of your appearance, but you can hardly dress yourself in anything decent and feel pretty and made up. Then from the bedroom you can hear quiet conversations in the kitchen that go something like this, ‘Oh, it is so hard on Blah Blah (the ex)”, you kind of say to yourself, um, hang on, who is the one who just had surgery? Hard on who? Oh, that’s right, the one person who is supposed to have your back and be there for you and take care of you when you can’t look after yourself, that’s right, forgot, hard on the one who can still go to work and whose mother is cooking dinner and doing everything. Mmmm These types of conversations I would hear at least once a day. Slowly, and ever so slowly they chipped away at my inner self. (Well, in a way, I allowed that, but that’s a different story). Chip, chip, chip. Then ‘that’ night, was when my heart was completely crushed. That night was one of the hardest of my life. My ex basically allowed his mother to belittle me at the dinner table; I hobbled off to the bedroom in tears. He politely then came down and said to me ‘now you know what it’s like not to be supported’. WOW. Heart crushed. However, what state was I in to walk out the door and take the kids then. Zero. Upon returning to our own home, our marriage was in tatters. Where we lived was quite remote, as far as I am concerned. I felt so isolated from my friends and people don’t randomly drop in any more. I was feeling lost, alone and unsupported. I had no immediate family around. I could hardly walk, couldn’t drive, so I had to stay put. Chip, chip, chip. Again, focussing on the lack, the girl I saw in the mirror was almost someone I didn’t recognise. There was no sparkle in her eye, and no big smile to be seen at all, barely a pathetic grin. The only thing that made me smile at all was the kids and their cheekiness. My husband was sleeping on the couch every night and I felt my marriage crumbling away. There was nothing I could do to stop it, and in all honesty, I don’t think I wanted to stop it crumbling. Chip, Chip, Chip. When you are at your absolute weakest and feel like there is no one to turn to who ‘gets it’, it feels like the loneliest place on Earth. I think the hardest words to ever utter are, “We are done”. It’s fricken hard enough to admit it to yourself. No one ever goes into a marriage thinking it will end, so how the heck do you deal with the lead up to the end. How do you even comprehend this? One day, and I remember this ever so clearly. I was at my daughter’s swimming lesson, and coming out of the pool with Moo in my arms, she was just 3. A girlfriend and her daughter were coming into the pool for their lesson. We’ve been friends for 15 years. I looked at her. I had nothing in me, absolutely nothing; I was completely spent of any emotion or energy. Not even enough to smile to her. I just looked at her and gave the most smallest of grins, as if I was looking at a stranger. That was it, enough. I knew I needed help because I just couldn’t do this state of mind any more. But what could I do? Chip, Chip, Chip. I made an appointment to see my acupuncturist. Went and saw him regularly for a week. Then one day, another clear memory, I was sitting on the corner couch in my pale green dressing gown, staring out the window, looking at the trees in the breeze, my stomach churning, breathing abnormally, feeling like I had to go to the toilet every 2 seconds, couldn’t sit still but couldn’t get out of the couch. Dry mouth. Crying uncontrollably. No idea what to do. I called my Doctor. When I saw her, I told her everything and just burst into tears. At least by now I was driving and more mobile. She prescribed me some medication for anxiety and depression. F*ck! Really, this again, I though. F*ck. (I suffered from anxiety after I was hit by a car 13 years ago). But I just knew that I didn’t have it in me to deal with any more without some extra help. I then started seeing a psychologist. I absolutely did not want to have to rely on these “happy pills” but right now, they had a place and purpose. I was also advised to walk, get some sunshine on my skin early in the day, eat healthy and I continued the acupuncture. I did all this. Saw the physiologist weekly and then I got over all the talking about the problems and my past, so I also enlisted the guidance of a life coach. About 4 weeks later I uttered the words, there’s the f*cking door! Then about 2 weeks later the official words from my ex were “I think we need to separate’. Ummm, that’s what happened 2 weeks ago, but sure ok, let’s have that discussion. It wasn’t pretty, but again, I will save that for another time. However, I cannot tell you how much ‘lighter’ I felt inside. Like the world had been lifted off my shoulders. It still wasn’t an easy time at all, but I knew it was right. I am not sure why I didn’t listen to my body earlier, but I definitely listen to it now and use my intuition for so many decisions and choices. I trust me and how situations make me feel. I try and stay out of my head and listen to my heart. I ended up taking the happy pills for about 6 months in total and then slowly got off them. I stopped seeing the psychologist, she was great, but that purpose was served. I saw the life coach regularly and changed my view on what divorce meant. I found my love of meditation, I learnt mindfulness, kept up the acupuncture and also had reiki. I got in touch with my woo woo side. I also put me first. No playing the victim, no endless pity party and no being a martyr either. What good was I to my two gorgeous children if I couldn’t look after myself? So I had to put me first. I made time for me, I made time to treat myself to have massages and meditate. I also changed my focus. I didn’t sit around and look at what I lost and what was in the past. I didn’t look at my marriage as a failure. Sure it was the end of something, but how about that start of something even better. No time to be bitter. I was grateful for what I had in my marriage and that it gave me 2 of the best little people on the planet. I was grateful that there were lessons to be learnt and time for growth. I was grateful that at nearly 40 years of age, I had an amazing opportunity at a fresh start in life. How cool is that? I was running a travel biz from home (still am), but I am now sitting here sharing this story with whoever reads it, I am speaking at networking events to help others get through this, I am mentoring and coaching other’s through their divorce. If I can do this, anyone can and I found my passion to help others in the same situation. So honestly, how cool is that? While I sit here now, I am happily single for 2 ½ years. It did feel like all doom and gloom at the start of my marriage ending, it most definitely did not continue that way. I went on a great journey to find my sparkle and smile again. I decided to “Show Up For Life” and I created my ‘What’s Next’ Chapter. I have never been happier and felt more like the real me, a better version of me.