Whether you’re already divorced or just thinking about it, this is an honest look inside Joan’s personal story of how divorce affected her and how she continues to move through it. Just because you are out of the relationship does not mean the relationship is over, especially when you’re healing through the experience.
Joan discusses what it’s like to learn about a partner’s remarriage and how it can still be painful long after the relationship is over. But have no fear, Joan reminds divorces they are not alone and sooner or later, they’ll be just fine.
Q. You recently learned your ex-husband got engaged. Tell me about what that felt like.
Joan: After living for more than three decades with this man in my life, I must admit, hearing this news was a punch in the gut. I spent the next two days with a horrible feeling surrounding me, you know that uneasiness you get in your stomach after someone close passes away? My body was on edge, I shook inside, and could not shed the anxiousness of impending doom. Even with all of the horrific things that transpired between us, I had an emotional reaction to his engagement.
Q. Clearly you got divorce because it was an unhealthy relationship. Why the angst?
Joan: I’m not really sure why I felt the way I did. I knew he was dating someone exclusively and we haven’t been part of each other’s lives for six years (as he severed all ties when he met her), and yet, I felt a tremendous sense of loss. Loss of the life we were supposed to live, loss of the family I so desperately wanted, loss of many dreams.
I thought I had grieved the divorce and moved on, my life is on a wonderful trajectory and I’m happy, but, there I was again, right in the middle of the pain. Divorce truly is the gift that just keeps giving!
Q. Did you expect he would never remarry or that you would never find love again?
Joan: It would be unrealistic for me to think that one of us would not find love again, it’s bound to happen. Some day your ex will remarry and when that day happens, you may feel a surge of random, unexplainable emotions. That day for me came sooner than I thought, but here it is.
Trying to figure out how I feel about it is actually more difficult than I thought it would be.
First of all, it’s weird. Sorry, but that’s the best word I can come up with. Seeing your ex put a ring on someone else’s finger and make all the promises that were made to you comes with emotions that are difficult to put into words. I don’t have romantic feelings for him, but I am experiencing loss. I grew up with a fairy tale notion of marriage and my role models were married until death parted them. When that fairy tale picture is shattered, you feel like you’ve lost your innocence. Probably way down deep, in some remote corner of my subconscious, there is a part of me that secretly hoped he would return to his family. The weirdness comes when you realize that the ideal you held when you got married really is gone forever.
I’m not in any rush to marry myself, but I feel like I’ve lost a competition I didn’t know I was a part of. It’s important to remember that there is no competition and everyone heals at his or her own pace. Rushing into a relationship to avoid being alone or to prove something to another person doesn’t make sense and it comes with painful ramifications down the road. There’s a reason why the divorce rate for second marriages is higher than the rate for first marriages. I had to remind myself that it isn’t a competition, and the “prize” isn’t anything I want.
Q. What is the most difficult part of this for you?
Joan: A big one for me was the removal of resentment. I had to immediately squash being resentful about all the work and energy I put into our marriage. My initial thoughts went to all of my sacrifices that will now benefit another woman. But, imagining the scenario of your ex pampering another person or doing for him or her what you begged to be done for you serves no purpose. Resentment just leads to bitterness, which just holds you back from moving on to much better things in your life!
With that resentment came all kinds of negative thoughts. Hey, I’m Sicilian … it’s in my DNA. Fortunately, I’m a bit wiser now and quickly reframed my wishes for him. While I’m not quite ready to offer congratulations, I’ve moved away from sending all the curses I can think of.
Q. So, how do you get through this?
Joan: To help you move through this process and get centered, it’s important to feel the emotions, process them and then let them go. Have a good cry, talk to a friend, and let it all out. That’s exactly what I did. My friends have been on standby since I learned the news. There have been long chats, bottles of Sangria, and lots of hugs.
Surround yourself with people who love you and build you up. Nothing can deflate one’s self esteem faster than experiencing the feeling of being replaced. That was the thought that kept going through my mind – this woman is taking my life.
Nothing could be further from the truth, but I never said our thoughts are rational. Spend time with people who appreciate you and love you unconditionally.
Another tip: stay busy. Too much time on your hands gives you too much time to think. Get outside, engage in a hobby, stay on the move. An active mind is a healthy mind.
Having your ex remarry is weird. It’s an influx of feelings that caught me a bit by surprise. But, I’ll process them and come out stronger because of this experience. Onward in this divorce journey! I know I’ll be ok, and you will, too!