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My husband and I sat in the car while our kids were having their piano lessons in the house across the street. I recently learned he was having an affair, and to put it gently, we had a number of things to discuss. He sat in the passenger seat and I leaned over and touched his arm to get him to look me in the eyes.
“Do you still love me?” I finally asked.
“No.” he said, “I don’t love you anymore. I love someone else.”
This was a freaking blow-my-mind experience. The affair was one thing, but not loving me anymore was another. My heart ripped and my soul flooded with pain. I felt complete and total devastation. How could this be?
I went into shock. I thought it was a cruel joke and he would say, “Oh Deb, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean it. I really do love you. I’m coming back and this is all a big mistake. I’ll never do this again.”
Isn’t it interesting that even though something’s really bad, it’s still yours — and you just don’t want it to go away? This is how it was for me on this day. Our relationship was over, but it was mine; and even though it was terrible, I was afraid to let it go. I know it’s cliché, but change is so very hard.
His “someone else” was 18 years old and he was 40. I couldn’t even fathom that this man who I had shared 17 years of my life with, who was the father of my two gorgeous children, was honestly telling me he didn’t love me anymore. I’d given him everything. I’d sacrificed. I’d paid the price. How could he not love me? He had to love me. I’d done everything.
But we can’t make anyone love us, can we?
We can’t give, and do, and be for others in order to make anyone feel anything. We may try, but giving away our power, even until we completely lose ourselves, cannot make our partners do what we want them to do. It just doesn’t work.
And so it’s a blow. A blow that even people with the strongest sense of self-acceptance have to weather and survive. It’s a blow that, if we’re not careful, can keep us locked in a place where we question our worth, look for approval outside of ourselves and ask the world: Am I lovable? Am I okay? Do I fit in?
Later, when I finally crawled into bed, I cried and wrestled with my fears, “Can I do this? Can I make it alone? Will anyone ever love me? Can I really do this?”
It took me a very long time to finally hear the answer, but it was a resounding YES! It was yes for me then, it’s yes for me today, and it’s yes for you too.
You can do this.
You are lovable.
You are good enough.
You are stronger than you think you are.
FIVE RULES TO HELP YOU NAVIGATE THE DARKNESS OF DIVORCE
1. Positive self-talk.
What you say to yourself makes a difference. Positive self-talk’s critical and must be practiced every day. Speak kindly to yourself, as though you were your own best friend.
2. Detach from the harshness of the experience.
Separate yourself from your partner’s choices which are independent of you.
3. Let it go.
You can’t control all of the change happening around you, but you can learn to effectively manage that change. One of the first steps in managing the change is to accept it for what it is, surrender to it, and then let it go.
4. Clarify what you want.
This is the fun part! Figure out what’s important to you. Identify your values, interests, and beliefs. You don’t have to compromise on anything while you develop a loving relationship with yourself.
5. Allow yourself time to grieve.
The end of a relationship’s like the death of a loved one, and you’ll experience the various stages of grief. Be gentle with yourself as you heal and know that pangs of grief can strike at later times, even when you’re having a good day.
Continue to walk your journey of life, which sometimes feels like plodding through the swamp of life, but you still move forward and know that you will rise. Just like the precious words of Maya Angelou in her poem, “Still I Rise.”
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Divorce is nasty, but your personal transformation through and after divorce can be glorious. It’s a time of change and an opportunity to reacquaint yourself with a part of you that may have been buried for years.
It’s a time to experience the full bloom of a happier and healthier you. A you that believes in yourself. A you that has done something really hard. And a you that can do anything you want in the future.