Recently, I was asked how someone is ever supposed to move forward when they keep getting sucked back into the heartache following betrayal and divorce.
I wish I knew what to say; I’m certainly no expert. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like I’ve moved forward until something happens that would have, at one time, caused me to downward spiral – and I realize that it doesn’t anymore. Oh, I still get sucked back in too. I feel anger and resentment. There are still times my self-confidence is shaky at best; there are still times I convince myself that I’m unlovable. But they are only temporary emotional ruts and I know I can gradually work myself out. These times come less frequently and to a far lesser degree than they once did.
But the truth is, I don’t really know how I got here – or even where “here” is.
There is no roadmap to healing after heartbreak, no marker that will let you know when you’ve finally reached your destination (“Ding! You’re now all better and ready for a new life!”). Thankfully, there are things like the five stages of grief that you can check yourself against – until you realize that you will pinball between denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance for years to come, if not the rest of your life.
I think the misnomer about “moving forward” is that you will eventually step over some magical invisible line and never have to feel it anymore. As if once you get past it, the hurt won’t catch up to you and the person who crushed your soul will never cross your mind. Wouldn’t that be nice? Instead, it’s more accurate to say that the pain never quite disappears, although it does dull into a manageable ache over time.
I was grateful to catch a TV interview with Vikki Stark, a marriage counsellor and therapist. Vikki was married more than 21 years when she was blindsided by her husband leaving her for another woman and has since turned her experience into helping women recover from similar situations. Vikki’s book Runaway Husbands: The Abandoned Wife’s Guide to Recovery and Renewal offers the following, spot-on ways to free yourself from the darkest, loneliest days and start moving forward.
So to my friend reaching out for a lifeline of advice, I really couldn’t say it any better than this – in fact, Vikki’s list might be the most solid bit of post-divorce advice I have read yet, and looking back, I can see my own journey in her valid, valuable points. So take a deep breath and…
- Recognize that the chaos won’t last forever.
- Accept that the marriage is really over.
- Integrate the fact that your partner has changed irrevocably and is beyond caring for your welfare.
- Understand why he/she needs to justify their actions any way possible – including rewriting history, lying or attacking you.
- Give up trying to get the acknowledgement and apology that you deserve.
- Revise your beliefs in human nature. You now have learned that some people are capable of deception.
- Believe in your self-worth. You must stop feeling discarded, empty and less valuable than the woman (or man) who has taken your place or than married women in general.
- Get accustomed to being self-reliant and independent.
- Expect good things in your future. Don’t assume that you will always be alone or miserable.
- Stay positive! Stop yourself from becoming bitter or developing a victim mentality.
Incidentally, Vikki is happy, successful and enjoying a new healthy, long-term relationship. She has moved forward. And so will you.