The holidays are a tough time for so many. Freshly divorced or uncoupled individuals are no exception. There are many others who suffer too – those who lost loved ones or have a loved one in a dangerous situation are two that come to mind. There are so many ways to not feel merry and bright this season, but for this blog I’m going to focus on divorcees. This is my 10th holiday season as a divorcee and I only wish I understood some of this a little sooner.
I would like to begin by stating that the holiday season does not have to be difficult for those who have recently split or are still reeling from a separation 10, 20 or 30 years later. Accepting what is, and your part is one of the key components helping yourself, your ex-partner and any children or loved ones enjoy what everyone once did.
Good marriages go bad. Why? Because they are not great marriages. Great marriages do not go bad.
The loss of prior hopes, dreams, and shared traditions leaves a hole that cannot be easily filled. If there are children involved, regardless of their ages, it is a change that makes things all the more difficult and all the more painful for a long time to come.
Most of the pain is caused by one or both of the previous spouses not being able to let go of their negative feelings toward the other and not accepting the changed circumstances.
This month the theme of my yoga classes has been Surrender. Surrender meaning
Giving up what we think should be happening
For What is Actually Happening
This is simple advice but often difficult to follow. But surrendering heals. We must accept what is and even take it a step further to realize there is shared blame. When we let go and accept responsibility, we can go as far as getting along with our exes. Once that happens, the situation isn’t as new.
When we get along, cooperate and are even perhaps evolved enough share the holidays with our prior spouse; our family, children, friends and loved ones all reap the benefits as well.
Daren and I are watching the Netflix series Versailles. We just finished Season 2 on Sunday night. This is an excerpt from that show:
“I made you who you are. I made you complete and I cannot live without you.
You cannot live without me”.
“That was true once. But not now, without you I am myself”.
~Season 2, Episode 10 of Versailles
This happens. Couples end up together for a myriad of reasons, sometimes for what they believe is love, sometimes lust, sometimes insecurity and wanting to be in a couple, and sometimes the feeling that time is running out and being in a couple is the next step in life. Sometimes it’s prearranged. And yes – many times it is actually love and compatibility.
The fate of a marriage may not be as mysterious as it initially seems –
- When you and your spouse no longer connect something is wrong.
- If you and your spouse never really connected, even before marriage or your living arrangement – something is wrong.
- When one person realizes this and recognizes there is a better life either inside or outside the marriage waiting for them, great marriages go from great to good. Good marriages go from good to poor. Often times someone leaves. True fact.
Does that mean something is wrong with the person who left??? No.
Does that mean something is wrong with the person left behind??? No.
Does that mean the person who left “gave up”?? Maybe, but probably not.
The person who left probably tried to re-connect, or talk, or reach out in some way. If their partner knew them well enough, their partner in theory would have recognized this. If there was an affair or another person involved, the one who stepped out was not getting some sort of need met. The one who was betrayed may have had their head in the sand.
I was betrayed. Not by another woman but by substance abuse that went on under my nose for at least two years, and then at least another 1-2 after the first time it came to my attention. I felt betrayed, angry, and hurt. My spouse wanted to leave at times because I didn’t understand him. I blamed him for turning to something else besides me. It’s very hard to accept, but in hindsight now 12 years plus later – I was not listening to him. There were signs but I was purposely blind to them. I was absorbed with kids, work, the condo, getting to church on Sunday, my schoolwork (MBA) and didn’t notice him struggling. We were supposed to be together for better or worse. I put everything but my husband ahead of him. I thought there was time. I thought we could deal with whatever ails him later. We stayed together for 2-3 more years after the first time I found out. When we worked on the ‘betrayal’ we worked on fixing only the surface issue of having him quit substances. And moved on…. But that didn’t fix a thing. Almost 3 years later both our problems were still there. Obviously I had some too, only I had no idea at the time. You don’t know what you don’t know. When I learned about subsequent substance abuse I shut down and lost hope. I blamed him. Around the same time I started to connect with another person outside of the marriage. A person who I felt I could be me around. It was only then that I felt I was also to blame.
In most cases divorce is not one person or the other’s fault. There is often no “real story”. How could there be when both parties feel like a victim?
When two people no longer connect and at least one person doesn’t get anything out of the marriage it starts to decay. If neither partner notices or cares, those couples will often stay together. That’s a marriage where both people get their needs met. It’s a “Good marriage”.
If one person notices and addresses it, and their partner is receptive – they grow stronger. That is a GREAT marriage.
If one person notices that they are no longer happy and their partner is not receptive, that is where things often fall apart. That is a bad marriage. It is here where there should really be no surprise when a partner walks out the door.
You can bury your head in sand like I did and hope your partner is ok with the status quo too, but the odds are not in your favor. If you really care and notice you or your partner’s unhappiness, it’s time to do something. It’s not easy, but no marriage or great partnership is. There are no shortcuts to get to any place worth going. Marriage included. If you want it to last you have to make it the first priority. There is no family, house, shared income which both people benefit from when there is no married/couple life. Putting the kids, house or a job first just doesn’t work.
I’ve heard the argument and made it myself that shouldn’t the unhappy person understand your struggles too? That the kids, house and job are taking too much of your time and we are supposed to stick it through for better or worse, so get over it and stick with me?
It took me a while, but no…. No one should delay happiness. Wanting or expecting your partner to do so is no exception if you cannot do it yourself. Our lives are the only experiences we have. We can’t live them for other people. If we committed to our partner for better or worse and one partner or both partners are unhappy; time or no time – the commitment, the pact was to the relationship first. When it’s not first and you don’t commit to it being first and one person wants that – it cannot last happily ever after.
I would have never learned this and find it unlikely that after facing my own part in the downfall of my own marriage – that the myriad of other things I’ve since learned about myself would have ever taken place. I very well may have been the same person with the same limited beliefs for the rest of my life. Perhaps it was the only way either of us could have grown.
There is no magic. No secrets. If you want a partnership to work, it takes work. If you both don’t care it may also work. However, if one person has an unmet need and the other doesn’t work with them to get that need met – it might last, but you cannot expect it to.
Stop the blame and start to love and accept that we are all imperfect. Yes – even you! The holidays can already be stressful for those blissfully in committed partnerships. It’s added stress for divorcees and their children when there is tension. It doesn’t have to be, so why let it be?
If both previous partners understand that they own a part of what happened in their life and they take the experience as one to learn from and do… it becomes impossible to be angry or bitter. When you live without the baggage of bitterness and anger your body is lighter. Your attitude is brighter. You are a better parent, employee, member of the community and partner for your next relationship. Give yourself and loved ones the best gift you can give and let any negativity go.
The holidays do not need to be difficult for those who have split from a relationship. There are plenty of other things that may make it so. Don’t let this be one of them.
Surrender. Trust me on this one. Once I did everything changed in a heartbeat.
Surrender is the inner transition from resistance to acceptance
~ Eckhart Tolle
If you enjoyed my writing, consider leaving a comment, sharing with others, or following my blog