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Nov 17 2010

Getting Divorced

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Katey asks:

I have been married for 5 years and am now in the process of getting a divorce (my choice) and my soon to be ex-husband, Jarod, doesn’t want one and still hopes that we can work things out. We fight all the time, don’t do anything together, lost our common interests and its emotional draining to me and my kids. As I try to move on with my life and be a good mom, he won’t accept the fact that life with me, not his kids, is over. I think he is becoming depressed. I care for him as a person and feel bad for hurting him to the point that I feel sorry for him and find myself pitying him because this is my decision. Is this normal to have these feelings? What do they mean? I know that he will find someone who can truly make him happy one day so why am I feeling this way? Thank you.

Hi Katey,
Yes, it’s pretty normal. I’m just doing a page for the web site that you will find helpful. It touches on what you might be going through. (it will have “the book of Jonah” in the title and I will probably use this reply to wrap up the article.) One person I worked with once said to me that getting the divorce was like strangling a marriage to death. You had to just keep squeezing and squeezing until the life was gone out of it. An awful image but one I couldn’t forget. A divorce is a violent act. I really think so. On his side, you’re a big loss to him and he’s feeling it. It’s a shame it had to come to that, that what he’s doing is much too little and way to late. You have to take responsibility for your own part in it and that’s the hard part.

A divorce is a kind of death. If a relationship is a living thing (which I say it is) then when it dies you go through a grieving process. (Some grieve the death of the marriage before they initiate divorce proceedings. Some don’t grieve it until years later. So go to their graves without grieving it but the price of this is an area of chronic bitterness in the recesses of your heart. And different partners grieve at different speeds and in different ways.)

Grieving has phases. Elizabeth Kubler Ross, a psychologist from about 30 years ago said that you had to visit all the phases as part of the process. She named them as follows: Shock and Numbness (which she called “denial”), Anger, Depression, Bargaining, and Acceptance. She thought you did them in that order but nowadays we think that’s generally true but you also bounce around a bit. Somehow all those different emotional states are what you need to do in order to reconcile yourself to the fact that what was once precious and central to your life is now hopelessly gone.

He’s in one phase of the process and you are in another. Both of you feel bad, you for hurting him, him for losing you. It has to be. Underneath all this suffering is a love that will not die. You have young children and that are precious and they contain parts of both of you. There are ways that they will embody bits of him and bits of you and you will need to be able to love all their different aspects, including the ways they are like their father. Love demands an open heart and the ability to forgive and cherish.

He’s not a pure villain. You are both mixtures of good and bad and that makes it difficult for both of you.

There’s more to say. It’s a complex process and in some ways more complex than staying married. I hope this little bit I’ve written helps you.

Philip Belove, Ed.D.

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