There are two kinds of divorce situations. The first is a divorce that comes from both partners agreeing that the marriage is not working. Whether the process of divorce is amicable or contentious, there’s a mutual understanding that both partners want out. The second kind of divorce results from one partner deciding to leave. This kind of a divorce situation creates a very particular experience for the person being left, and raises emotional experiences that most people spend their entire lives trying to avoid. Rejection, abandonment, powerlessness, rage, despair, and sadness are only a few of the feelings that can surface for someone who’s been left by their partner.
If you’re reading this and you’ve been left, you know what we’re talking about. When you got married you most likely thought your marriage would last a lifetime. You imagined growing old together, watching your grandchildren play, and holding hands like the elderly people you always see and admire. As an unwilling participant in a divorce, you’re most likely feeling as if you’ve been robbed, like something very precious has been taken from you, something you feel you need for your very survival. You may also feel duped, betrayed, and blindsided, leaving you also feeling stupid and upset with yourself for not having seen it coming. Being left may evoke feelings of abandonment and a primal rage that you never knew you were capable of experiencing, particularly toward a person you once trusted and loved.
When one partner in a marriage decides to leave, it’s usually a decision that was made months (if not years) before the actual exit. In contrast, the partner being left is most often shocked and blindsided by their partner’s decision to leave. In the best of circumstances, a couple can decide together that there’s trouble in paradise and take the time to work on things before calling it quits. Unfortunately, marriages that suffer from poor communication tend to end abruptly, without any opportunity for reconciliation. The unwillingness of the leaver to work on the marriage is often a byproduct of years of unhappiness and dissatisfaction, so the desire to spend more time on a relationship that already feels dead is futile. Here’s what to do when your partner’s “I do” becomes “I won’t.”
From “We” to “Me”
Turn your focus from “we” to “me” – start focusing your energy on rebuilding your self-esteem and the new life you deserve.
Move toward acceptance and away from clinging to what you feel is “right” and “just.” Realize that you cannot control or manipulate your partner’s feelings.
Seek help from a professional to work through all the painful feelings of being left. Becoming emotionally complete with this loss will ensure that you won’t carry this experience into your next relationship.
Remember that your story doesn’t define who you are. While being accountable for your contribution to your failed marriage is important, it is not your identity.
Though it may not feel like it right away, your partner has given you a gift. You’re now free to create a fulfilling and joyful life, and to find the happiness you deserve.
About the Authors
Allison Pescosolido, M.A. and Andra Brosh Ph.D. are divorce recovery specialists working at Divorce Detox (www.divorcedetox.com), the leader in divorce recovery. Their programs provide the tools, courage, fortitude and inspiration to transform the way people think and feel about their divorce. They help individuals transition through separation and divorce to rebuild their lives. Allison and Andra understand the pain of divorce and see divorce as an opportunity for personal growth, wisdom and a happier life.