Divorce is painful. Some couples however still care deeply about each other. They’ve either grown apart, fell into an unhealthy dynamic, or have certain irreconcilable differences, which make staying together impossible.
If you’re like my ex-partner and me, you try to talk it all out logically, over hours and days, and clear the air. Once we had all of our assets split up, and issues laid to rest (mostly), and since we didn’t have any kids, my ex and I thought we could gingerly transition into a redefined relationship. We’d consider each other friends or even family.
Since everything seemed so amicable, we were both lulled into feeling we wouldn’t mourn very much. Or at least I was. Instead, I went through several stages of grief and am still mourning. But it’s getting better day-by-day.
Actually, I’ve done a lot of soul-searching. I learned quite a bit about myself, who I am in a relationship, what emotional baggage I carry, and what kind of traits a future partner might have, for a better fit. I found this line of introspection a useful intellectual and emotional exercise. It’s helped me move forward in a healthy way.
Am I still Attractive?
One of the reasons why my ex-wife and I split was because she’s starting to come into a sexual awakening. She feels she might be more attracted to women. My ex never let herself completely own these feelings, because she thought they were inappropriate. I encouraged her to embrace them. We decided to try polyamory for a while. But when I found her texting for hours on end with another woman and completely ignoring me, I started feeling jealous.
Soon, I began seeing someone too. For a long time, my lover and I played together, but never went all the way. I didn’t feel comfortable doing so. Then the day after my wife and I decided to separate; I had sex with this other woman.
My ex said it didn’t bother her, that it never bothered her that I had a lover. Yet, she’s brought up that I had sex with someone the very day after we split many times in conversations since. Now I know it did bother her.
The reason I did it is, I felt terrible about myself. I thought no woman would ever find me attractive again. I felt insecure, lonely, I was hurting, I felt ugly, and abandoned, and this woman made me feel special and attractive again. Sex just happened. I felt affirmed afterward. But now, I wish I had done things differently and didn’t hurt my ex.
Am I Broken?
I went through what I call the crying-in-different-rooms stage. I have a caretaker personality. My ex-wife and I, when we were together, fell into an unhealthy parent-child dynamic. As such, I found the separation extremely painful.
I had to transition from “us” and “we” thinking to “me” thinking. I had to make myself my top priority, instead of always focusing on my partner.
Another problem, I had all this love to give and nowhere to place it. I decided to practice self-love. I would give myself some slack. I wouldn’t feel like this forever, I told myself. And I wouldn’t judge how I felt. I would just feel it as it came. The judging of yourself and comparing how you do feel to how you think you’re supposed to feel, usually makes matters worse.
Next, I decided to refocus my energies on my own life. I fixed up my apartment and cleaned it. I got my smartphone repaired. I got a new haircut. I sat for many hours thinking about how I felt and what I had learned. I called friends when I got lonely, and even overhauled my resume and got a new job.
Am I Damaged Goods?
Everyone has emotional baggage. It’s easy to blame your partner for theirs, but not so easy to face your own.
Another unhealthy dynamic my ex-wife and I fell into was, she’d come home loaded with anger from say, fighting traffic or something that happened, or she’d be wrestling with anxiety over a problem and would dump all of her negative emotions on me. She would hammer me with them, bombarding me with question after question, demanding I help her fix her problem, or she’d vent in such a way that it seemed like she was attacking me. Either way, she’d smother me until I exploded. Her problem is controlling her anxiety. Mine is dealing with my anger in a constructive way.
When I feel like someone is buffeting me and not letting up, air pressure builds up in my chest. I didn’t know how to deal with this except yell at her. I have ADHD and impulse control is a problem. Culture is another part of it. I come from an Italian-American household where yelling was not only tolerated but a part of life. My ex came from a Northern European culture, where yelling is never tolerated. But just because her issue would trigger mine, doesn’t mean I’m off the hook.
I used this as an excuse. If she could only get herself together, everything would be fine. I should’ve found better ways to deal with my anger. Instead, I blamed it all on her.
I don’t know if getting myself together in this respect would’ve saved our marriage. But it certainly would’ve saved her, the person I loved most in the world, a lot of pain, pain that I caused and still feel guilty about.
Did I do Everything I Could to be a Good Wife/Husband?
This is a serious question that takes a lot of self-reflection and talking to your ex, when they have a clear mindset and aren’t blinded by resentment. In the end, neither my ex-wife nor I could get our emotional baggage under control. As a result, we fell into a negative pattern we couldn’t break.
I found the divorce to be a wake-up call. I’d better work on myself, or my anger could damage my life again. Now, I am working to get this squared away so that next time, I can have a deeply fulfilling relationship or perhaps even marriage, that’s healthy, dynamic, and worthwhile.
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