You know what really sucks? Getting divorced. Big time.
Two years on from the end of my marriage I’ve learned a lot, and I’d like to share 11 things I learned from divorce in the hope that they may help other men – and women – going through the turbulence of a broken marriage. So without further ado, let class commence.
Things I learned from divorce
1. Who the hell are you?
Remember your wedding day? Best day of your life, right? A day shared with the most special person in your life, your wife. Remember her? Be prepared to wonder where the hell she went. The journey from life-partners and soul mates to warring adversaries can be alarmingly quick and can leave you shell-shocked. Divorce is, by its nature, an adversarial process and despite best intentions, the changed focus from ‘we’ to ‘me’ quickly creates a distance from which your now ex-partner becomes barely recognizable.
2. Who the hell am I?
If you have been part of a couple for any length of time chances are you will have made compromises, compromises that enabled you to live as a couple and to respect each other’s differences. Upon separating you will find yourself rediscovering old parts of yourself and also discovering new parts. These discoveries can be exciting, intoxicating even, but can also lead you – and those around you – to wonder who you are now that you are no longer defined by the role of husband.
3. She’s going to sleep with other men
I can’t speak for the women here but I’d place a large wager that for 99% of men a predominant, sickening fear in the wake of marriage breakdown is that their loved one will, sooner or later be, in the arms – and the bed – of another man. And fuck me, can that drive you mad. What can I say?
It’s going to happen. It’s going to hurt. And there’s nothing you can do about it. Well, you could shout, scream, cry, beg and make an all-around tit of yourself but I’d recommend you don’t. Believe me, your future self will thank me. And anyway….
4. You’re going to sleep with other women
Now we’re talking! Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty you’re free at last….! Free to get yourself back out there and introduce your chap to new furry friends (and increasingly in the modern world, not so furry). Ok, let’s not be crude here.
It is however undeniably exciting to realize that, having chosen to spend the rest of your life sleeping with only one person (I hope), the world – or at least 1 or 2 women in it – are going to let you do rude things with them. Things could be worse.
5. You’ve just got to feel it
Marriage breakdown and divorce hurts. Like, really hurts. Hurts. Like. Hell. Love, security, home, family life, friends, stability, money, comfort, the future… ALL can be lost in the wake of divorce and all will be affected to a greater or lesser extent. So, it’s going to hurt.
Well, durrrrrrr, why bother pointing out the bloody obvious Matthew? Because we don’t like people to know we’re hurt do we? Especially us blokes. Often we don’t even want to admit it to ourselves. We are from the land of the stiff upper lip, of stoicism in the face of setbacks, a land where we pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and get on with it.
But there’s no getting away from it, it’s going to fucking hurt and you’d better accept that and you’d better let yourself feel it.
Cry, shout, scream, hit a punchbag as hard as you can, whatever it takes to really feel it. We might want to run from our feelings but we can’t hide.
They’re there, and one way or another, some day, some way they are going to let you know about it, no matter how hard you try to fight against it. Getting pissed, getting laid, getting away – these can help you through the acute phase and numb the pain but they won’t take it away. Unless you allow yourself to face the pain and feel it you’ll never be free of it.
6. You have no idea…
Divorce is a minefield, and potentially a bloody expensive one at that. Do your homework. Read articles, get legal advice as soon as possible, and talk to people that have been there – and believe them. Of course, everyone’s experience is different and one person’s tale of hell doesn’t have to be a portent of things to come. But… it’s going to be tough and there’s no escaping the fact. However amicable, however reasonable, divorce is traumatic. Accept this, but also know that you’ll get through it and one day it will be but a painful memory, and one that may well lay the foundations of future happiness.
7. You’ll be so lonely
The King himself said it, ‘you’ll feel so lonely you could die.’ Loneliness, bone-aching loneliness, will make your acquaintance, both the physical loneliness of being on your own and the emotional loneliness of being alone. As the saying goes, nature abhors a vacuum and the new space in your life will need to be filled. The natural tendency may be to fill it with somebody else but this isn’t necessarily the best option, particularly if you are dealing (or not) with the emotions of your break up and/or you don’t really know what you want other than to not feel lonely.
8. You’re free, to do what you want to do
There are other ways to tackle loneliness. Being newly single is an opportunity to travel, make new friends, spend time with old friends, pick up an interest that you’ve lost along the way or discover new things that alight your passions and offer the opportunity to meet and connect with new people. The internet places a world of opportunity at your fingertips – activities to try, people to meet, groups to join – if you’re going to be single it couldn’t happen at a better time. It’s not often we are able to do what we want to do and live how we want to live without having to consider the wishes of someone else. You don’t know how long this opportunity will last; make the most of it.
9. Really, you have no idea…
Dating, bloody hell. If you are emerging from a long relationship be prepared to be dazzled. Modern dating for those of us who are new to it all can be bewildering, bizarre and bloody brilliant, sometimes all at the same time. Tinder, texting, swinging and sexting, searching and settling – the options are limitless. It can be great fun. But it can also be disappointing and dispiriting. It can also be, y’know, alright.
Try not to have too many expectations, accept it will probably take a while to find someone special – if that’s what you’re looking for – take things as they come and enjoy it. You may need to develop a thick skin as you ride the dating rollercoaster but use it as an opportunity to meet new people and to meet the new you, to discover what it is you really want. But please, do it with decency; if you find yourself dating in your 30s and 40s chances are you’ve been through some shit and so has the person/people you’re dating. Have some respect for that and don’t mess people about.
10. Errrrr, see you again?
There can be few social situations that strike fear into the heart of a man like the end of a first date. You might have years of marriage under your belt, be a father, have a successful career but saying goodbye at the end of a first date has the power to turn the most self-assured of men into a bumbling idiot. Finding yourself wondering if someone likes you and wants to see you again – or wondering how to end an evening with somebody that you don’t want to see again – has the power to turn a titan into a tentative teenager. Like, totally cringe. Be prepared, as sure as night follows day, sooner or later you are going to make a tit of yourself.
11. Most importantly, remember…
You’re going to be alright.
Originally published on Love, Laughter, Truth
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