Your husband has asked for a divorce and you are blindsided. There have been moments of unhappiness in your marriage, sure, but nothing that you thought would ever make him leave you. You married for life, and never imagined that you would be signing paperwork to put an end to your time as a married couple.
And…you still love him.
He may have betrayed you with another. He may have fallen out of love with you and feels that there is no possibility of rekindling those loving feelings. He may be having a midlife crisis. In any case, his decision is final and there is no going back. You are left to heal your heart, a heart that still is connected to this man, despite him no longer loving you.
What are some ways that you can heal?
Acknowledge that this is happening
It would be a mistake to pretend that “everything is fine” or try to put on a happy face so that those around you think that you are handling this life change like the competent, strong woman you have always been. There is no need to be a hero during this tumultuous time. If you don’t show your friends and family that you are suffering, they can’t offer to help you shoulder the pain. Let it out. Be honest. Tell them you are shattered, you love your partner, and you need them to be there for you as you navigate this significant life event.
Find a support group
There are plenty of community groups where people going through a divorce can connect, talk, cry, and share their stories. It is helpful to hear that you are not alone in what you are experiencing. Make sure the support group is guided by an experienced counselor so that the meetings do not devolve into a series of complaints without any sort of solution-oriented advice provided.
Banish negative self-talk
Telling yourself “I’m an idiot for still loving him after what he did to me!” is not helpful, nor true. You are not an idiot. You are a loving, generous woman whose core is made up of love and understanding. There is nothing shameful about feeling love for someone who has been your life partner for many years, even if that person made the decision to end the relationship.
Give yourself time to heal
It is important to recognize that healing from a divorce, especially a divorce that you did not initiate, will take the time it takes. Keep in mind that you will, eventually, bounce back. Your grief will have its own calendar, with good days, bad days, and days where you feel you aren’t making any progress at all. But trust in the process: those little cracks you see on the horizon? There is light coming in through them. And one day you will wake up and realize that you will have gone hours, days, weeks without dwelling on your ex-husband and what he did.
When you are ready, rid your home of reminders of him
This will help in “casting off” your feelings of love. Remake your home to your own tastes. Have you always wanted a living room done in pastels and wicker furnishings? Do it! Make your home over to reflect you, and sell or give away anything that triggers those wistful thoughts of “how it was when the husband was here.”
Involve yourself in a new and challenging hobby
This is a proven way to feel better about yourself, and help you build new friendships with people who did not know you as part of a couple. Check local resources to see what is on offer. Have you always wanted to learn French? There are sure to be adult education classes at your local community college. What about a sculpture or painting workshop? You will not only keep busy but come home with something lovely that you have created! Joining a gym or a running club is a good way to work off any negative thoughts occupying your head; exercise provides the same mood-lifting benefits as taking anti-depressants.
Online dating can be a positive experience
Just flirting online with a wide range of potential dates can make you feel desired and wanted again, which, if you’ve been indulging in negative self-talk (“Of course he left me. I’m unattractive and boring”) can be a great lift to your self-confidence. If, after communicating online, you feel like meeting up with one or more of these men, make sure you do so in a public place (such as a busy coffee shop) and that you’ve left the details of the meeting with a friend.
The pain you are feeling can be used to create a better version of yourself
Take the sadness and use it to motivate you to get in shape, swap out some wardrobe items that should have been thrown away years ago, review and update your professional resume, change jobs…put this energy into living your best life.
Find the perfect balance of alone-time and friend-time
You don’t want to self-isolate too much, but you do want to carve out some time to be alone. If you were married for a long time, you may have forgotten what it was like to be on your own. You may find it uncomfortable at first. But reframe these moments: you are not lonely, you are practicing self-care. In order to love again, it is essential for you to learn to be fine with being alone. This will allow you to open up to another man (and it will happen!) from a place of stability, and not desperation.
It is normal to feel a sense of loss and sadness when the man you were in love with decides that he is no longer in love with you. But remember that you have now joined a large community of fellow-travelers who have survived, and ultimately thrived, in their post-divorce lives. Give it time, be gentle with yourself, and hold tight to the knowledge that you will fall in love again.