People often describe feeling lost ending their marriage. I describe it as jumping off a diving board into a deep water, getting twirled around and not knowing which way is up.
My current guest, Missy was married for almost thirteen years. She was thirty-five at the time of her divorce and as her marriage was ending, she started her journey of self-discovery and growth. Here’s Missy:
I would say my most significant accomplishment was just regaining a sense of myself and growing confident in parenting alone and decision-making alone. Obviously, that involved living alone and maintaining a life as an individual, those types of things.
I felt I had really lost myself. I had lost my confidence and I had allowed myself to believe that I wasn’t capable of many things, so that it was almost surprising that I could make decisions, that I could stand up for myself, that I could make do with less.
It was an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship, and in my misguided effort to salvage the marriage and please my husband, I allowed too much to go on that was detrimental to myself. I allowed him to define who I was rather than believe in myself at all. So, if he was unhappy with me, I believed that I was worth being unhappy with, that I didn’t have value as an individual.
Obviously, it’s not something you plan for. Even to verbalize, at the time, I would’ve probably said, “No, I don’t do that.” But definitely, I did, especially looking back I can recognize it. The biggest thing I would say within the marriage is I allowed his opinion of me to define who I was so that I was living in a false sense of reality.
As part of my journey, I give myself permission to count in my own life. I don’t only live for the sake of others, for the sake of my children even. Little things that I just didn’t even consider: the way that I give myself permission to exercise each day, that it’s OK to spend time just benefiting me, because in the long run it does end up benefiting others.
I allow myself to have opinions that are different than those that I love or those that I care what they think of me. I am very strongly opinionated. I always was before, but over time in my marriage I lost that voice. It was easier to keep the peace and not disagree or differ or anything, so I just lost the ability to know even myself in many ways.
Part of that process was fun, because I rediscovered what I enjoyed. I enjoyed being outside. I loved taking photos. These kinds of things I just didn’t give myself permission to do, suddenly I did and it’s been such joy to recapture those pleasures in life and not just the mundane getting-through-the-day type thing.
I’m much happier now, by leaps and bounds. I value peace so highly that that’s part of the reason I gave away so much of myself. I cannot stand conflict and ours was a very high conflict marriage. To avoid conflict, I just acquiesced in any way that I could. It wasn’t worth the battle in so many cases, whether it was where we went to eat or the way we arranged the living room. Just little things.
He was so controlling. I don’t want to state on why he may have been that way, but he had many of his own wounds that I’m sure he needs to find healing for, but it manifested itself towards me that he needed to control everything in his life and I was part of that. Because I valued peace, it wasn’t worth the battle to fight against it and slowly I just gave away all of my rights to myself.
Since our divorce, I am surprised in ways, because I’m surprised when he doesn’t make things an issue, and pleasantly so. I’m surprised at my ability to emotionally detach from him in many ways. For a long time it was just hard to untangle those emotions and so as I grew stronger, I think I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how his opinion doesn’t matter anymore. He can think what he wants and really, I don’t care. That’s so freeing. It’s just wonderful.
I’m surprised at how my ability to be independent has required him to cooperate. It’s sad that that’s what it took, but sure enough it works better when I do hold my ground. I’d say things are fairly cooperative and I’d say every two months I have to put my foot in the ground about something and stand up for myself or else he would just bull over me because it’s easy to fall into those old patterns.
About every six months he’ll think I’m going to give into his way on some issue: an extra night with the kids. Sometimes that’s OK, sometimes it’s not and whenever things aren’t his way, he throws a stink about it. Every now and then I have say “No, this is the way it’s going to be and this is why it’s going to be that way.” He’ll throw a big fit about it but then he’ll be good for another couple of months. I don’t know how else to say it.
The Divorce Coach Says
My interviewees often comment on how they’d lost their sense of self during their marriage, so much so that I wonder if there’s been any research into this as a contributing factor to divorce or whether nurturing a strong sense of self helps sustain a marriage.
Sometimes it’s described as just feeling numb to everything. Other times it’s not knowing what would make you happy or what makes you laugh. At times, the realization comes with hindsight after the journey of discovery began unintentionally. Other times, the realization is what prompts the journey. Sometimes, the realization happens years before divorce and the self-discovery leads to the decision to divorce. Other times, the realization happens once the marriage is over, and the person is wondering what just happened.
If you’re feeling lost and trying to decide if divorce is right for you, my recommendation is to put the divorce question aside. This is not the right time to make the decision. Instead, focus on getting to know yourself. Once you’ve reconnected with your authentic self, you’ll have a much better assessment of about your marriage.
So how do you get to discover what makes you laugh or what you enjoy? How do you get comfortable making yourself a priority? I have some awesome suggestions for you in my 14 Ways To Get To Know Yourself -it’s a free download when you subscribe for updates from my companion site, My Divorce Pal. I encourage you to take a few moments to download this … it would really be a terrific way to start the new year.
Missy blogs at Far From Flawless where she writes about leading a Christian life with a blended family hoping that sharing her journey will empower others to shun the mask of imperfection and open themselves to authentic living.