How to Survive a Divorce You Didn’t Want

Everyone has a sad story. The thing that changed you forever, changed how you saw the world. When I lost someone I’d grown up with and considered to be my little sister, I thought that was it. And it was true – losing her changed me forever. It put a cloud over the sunshiney disposition I’d always tried to have.

Losing a friend, death of a friend
My girl and I in happier times <3

But, her death had nothing on divorce. Her death wasn’t personal. Divorce is only personal. Your person doesn’t want you. YOU are the undesired. Since my divorce (2014), I’ve found happiness and peace. But, I’ve also had to watch my lovely friends go through the same thing. Some had cheating husbands, others had husbands that still refuse to tell them their real motive. But, they all had one thing in common – their husband wanted a divorce and nothing they said or did could change that. Of course, I’m only speaking from my own perspective and that of these girls. I know there are MANY sides to MANY stories.

The thing that we all needed to know was how long that terrible feeling would last. I would ask absolutely anyone that gave me more than a passing glance how long that horrific hurt was going to plague me. I wanted a timeline. A spreadsheet would’ve been even better. I needed to know that I would see light again.

So, when my friends went through similar sadness, I could tell them:

I know this hurts like hell. You can’t imagine ever not feeling that knot wringing and twisting in your stomach and that nausea wracking your system. I know you just want to go back in time and do things differently.

But, IT WILL GET BETTER.

One day, you wake up and, as your mind cruelly regurgitates the same tragic story to remind you that it wasn’t all a nightmare, you realise that the very intense sick feeling has eased just a tiny bit. There’s a small part of your mind that can look forward to the day. Of course, the depression and anxiety still wash over you in waves. But, soon, the waves get smaller and further apart. One day, something will trigger what feels like a tsunami. That’s ok. You feel it, it’s horrific, and then it passes and you’re stronger for it.

You’ll laugh again, your friends will see the sparkle in your eye again, you’ll crack jokes again and dance again and even flirt again.

Life goes on.

When you’re at the very beginning of that sad, long road, it can be impossible to believe this. That’s why it’s important to read it and hear it. Here are some of my personal top tips to surviving the horror of an unwanted divorce:

  • Surround yourself with friends that genuinely love you and want what’s best for you. Kick negative friends and emotional abusers to the curb (in a nice way) during this fragile time.
  • Look after your health – eat nutritious foods, get out for a walk, wash your hair. These are so basic, but they can feel like mountains when you’re at the bottom of your pit.
  • Get your feelings out. I spoke to a counsellor (my dad paid, I had no funds to indulge myself), which was absolutely the best thing I could have done. She coached me through panic attacks, spelt out the emails I needed to send to my ex about settlements, and told me I was pretty (don’t laugh, I needed to hear this when I was all gaunt and black-eyed from crying). If you feel more comfortable writing about your feelings or talking to trusted friends, do that. But get those feelings out.
  • Spend wisely. You may want to splurge on an expensive getaway to escape ‘real life’ or buy a car to spite your soon-to-be-ex. Don’t. Don’t make any major decisions, especially about money.
  • Lean on friends that want to help you. If someone offers you their spare room for the night, take it. If someone wants to drop off a hot meal, eat it. I don’t know how I would’ve survived without the friends that mommied me back to sanity.
  • Pick your battles. There are probably (almost certainly) going to be disagreements or disputes during your divorce. Choose which are the important ones and give in when it’s not important. Does he want to take the kids to his mom this weekend? Let him (obviously, if there’s no danger). Does he want your two AMC pots? Meh, you can use the others. He wants to lay claim to the house that you paid for? Hm, now it’s time to stand up. And, because you haven’t made an issue of the smaller decisions, he can also (hopefully) be more reasonable. But, fight about the little things and you can be sure that he’ll dig his heels in for the bigger things. This is especially important for moms. Be careful about making issues, you don’t want your kids to suffer for the sake of stubbornness.
  • Relinquish control. I don’t know what vibe you had in your marriage but, if you had a measure of control over your life together, now is the time to give it up. My friends and I all couldn’t believe that this person was once our husband. We didn’t know or understand him anymore. We couldn’t believe that he was capable of cheating on us or living this double life. Don’t treat him like the person that you once loved. Realise that he’s capable of more than you imagined and protect yourself from emotional, financial or physical harm. A friend told me to change the locks. I thought that was ridiculous. But, I was so glad I did. I don’t know what I would’ve lost with him having access to the home we once shared.
  • Be the best version of you that you can be. Be fair, reasonable, logical and calm. Even when you don’t feel it. If he sends you a text that riles you, wait before you reply. Even better, sit with friends and talk it through before responding. Don’t lose your dignity or self-respect in a fit of emotion. You’re hurting and angry, but remember that your response will probably create his lasting memory of you. Don’t let him have the fuel for a nasty, destructive fire.

Wow, this post grew legs and ran away with me. I sat down to write about South African beaches for a client, but all this flooded out of me. I hope that it helps.

PS I should add that I’m now happily married to a wonderful person that cherishes me in ways I didn’t know extended beyond Disney. Sigh.

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