Even though divorce has become commonplace and the court system has become efficient at accommodating divorce requests for nearly half of all marriages, it is still devastating.
Though it may alleviate the pressure of a failed marriage, it is still painful. It most definitely sucks—it sucks the life out of you, your spouse, your children born from the marriage, your blended families, your friends, your finances and the emotional support group both spouses shared.
I find much has been written from a woman’s perspective as women generally tend to be more expressive about life experiences. Men, on the other hand, tend to bottle it up inside and only share their thoughts and feelings with their closest friends. To that end, I offer a man’s perspective on surviving divorce.
Initial Admission of Failure: No matter who was directly or partially to blame for the dissolution of the marriage, it takes two to tango. Very few people wake up one morning and decide on a whim to get divorced. Usually there are subtle signs, actions, behaviors or events that lead up to the divorce. Regardless of what happened or who is most responsible for the breakup, both spouses are accountable for the marriage. That accountability requires the admission of failure, no matter how painful or embarrassing. Until and unless you acknowledge and accept your part in the failed marriage, your stubborn blindness will affect future relationships. No one is perfect. That attitude didn’t work in your failed marriage, and it certainly won’t work in any future relationship. Own your part, learn from it and get over it.
Loss of Affection and Companionship: Granted, in the middle of divorce proceedings, little thought is given to the affection and companionship previously shared in the relationship. Yet you both fell in love for a reason and decided to spend your lives together. There must have been a magical spark along the way somewhere. But divorce wrecks all the hopes and dreams you shared as a couple. It casts a shadow on memories, favorite restaurants, vacation spots, everything. It tears at the very fabric of love, trust and being vulnerable ever again. The secret to starting over is this: you control (or should control) your heart. Yes, you took a chance at love and it blew up in your face. But don’t hold future potential mates hostage by what happened with your ex-spouse. Identify what you enjoyed about your past marriage as well as what eventually broke it apart. Cherish the good, toss out the bad. Yes, it takes time to get over a broken or betrayed heart. But your heart is still beating; you are still breathing. For the next relationship, go in with eyes wide open. Give differences as much attention as commonalities. Find out who you are first, then look for someone who is a compatible match spiritually, intellectually, emotionally and physically. Never settle for less; you can afford to be choosy.
Loss of Security and Emotional Stability for Children: Children are more resilient than we give them credit. However, they are also the silent sufferers who watch their parents fight, accuse each other and ultimately go their separate ways. Children love both parents and should never be placed in a position of “choosing sides.” Quite often, children blame themselves for the divorce. Though the parents argue back and forth about who is to blame, children see themselves as the culprits. Knowing this, both spouses—but especially the father—must do everything in their power to assure the children that they are not to blame. Reassure them that both parents still love them. Encourage them to continue loving both parents. And men, although the emotional support of the family may have fallen primarily to the children’s mother, you will now have to man up and demonstrate some emotional support, affection and affirmation of your own. Don’t hide behind the fact that your father wasn’t emotionally expressive or that society stereotypes you into being a detached, aloof and untouchable macho man. Your children need you; they need to hear and see your love, encouragement and support. They need to be hugged and kissed frequently. If you don’t have primary custody, prioritize the children in your schedule. If you promise to pick them up, show up on time. If you promise to attend their performance, be there. Honor your word and commitment to them. They are not the reason for your divorce, so don’t use them as pawns in the divorce proceedings with your ex-spouse.
Yes, divorce truly does suck. But it is survivable. Like everything else in life, own and learn from your mistakes; don’t hide from them or repeat them. Before starting a new relationship, learn who you are, e.g., your personality type, love language, spiritual gift, career goals, likes, dislikes, deal breakers, etc. This will place you in a position of strength instead of vulnerability. And do everything within your power to take care of the children. Protect them, support them, reassure them and wrap them up in your fullest emotional expression. They don’t deserve to be casualties of your divorce.