Sad to say, I find myself to be a bit of an expert on divorce. It certainly wasn’t my intention to know so much about it, but there it is. The first thing I learned from my own experience and from many others is that divorce is always traumatic.
When my husband of six years and I decided to call it quits, we went about it in the most civilized way. We both agreed that we were making each other miserable.
We were simply too different in our goals and interests to stay together. In other words, it was a purely rational decision.
Unfortunately, my emotions didn’t agree. While it seemed easy for my soon-to-be-ex to cruise through this difficult time in our lives, I was crushed. I felt like the biggest failure in the history of womankind, and his inability to show any feelings just made things worse.
I quickly launched into a midlife crisis of astronomical proportions, asking myself all the tough questions: “Why can’t I ‘do’ marriage? What is it about me that makes me unable to be with others emotionally? Do I have to live alone forever? Why doesn’t love last?”
As luck would have it, I lost my job soon after my divorce, intensifying the depth and drama of my ongoing crisis. Thus began even more difficult questions like: “What am I doing here? Will I ever find meaning in my life? How do I want the rest of my life to be different?” I felt a strong need to understand the first half of my life, so I could make the second half better.
I got so wrapped up in this quest, I decided to start my own matchmaking service to explore the simple question, “Do I still believe in love?” Although it wasn’t a conscious choice at the time, it turned out to be the best therapy to help me understand my own feelings about love and rejection.
First of all I learned that I most certainly was not alone in my disillusionment with love. There are millions of us out there who have our doubts about love and relationships. Interviewing scores of disillusioned divorcees showed me that we all have a lot to learn.
I slowly realized that we learn much more about a person by divorcing them, than we could ever have learned by staying married. While married, we are always “playing nice” to some extent. We still have a lot invested in the relationship and its future.
When divorce becomes real, and it takes varying amounts of time for each of us to register this disturbing reality, the gloves come off and we become more honest with our soon-to-be-ex. There is no more relationship to protect, so we naturally begin protecting ourselves and our own interests. In short, we say what we’ve been thinking all along!
A post-divorce workshop I offered to my dating clients a few years ago, provided a moment of true epiphany for me. We were involved in a discussion about the distance between the simple rational decision to get a divorce, and the contradictory deep emotional emptiness that can ensue after it all sinks in.
A short, elderly gentleman who looked a bit like Sigmund Freud and spoke with a heavy German accent stood up and said,
“Divorce is not about the loss of a relationship, it’s about the loss of the dream.”
Truer words were never spoken. I had not only lost a significant human connection in my life, but, more importantly, I had lost faith in love and the beauty it can bring to an otherwise difficult existence.