“It’s going to take you years to get over this,” a member of my husband’s family told me.
She was one of the first people I called to tell the news, the news that my husband had left me for another woman. I barely remember the call, what I said to her, only the silence on the other end as she processed my words, something I had yet to do.
Nah, I thought. Years? No way. Six months. Tops. With my mother reassuring me every day that I would “meet someone else,” how could I be wrong? Just push through the legal stuff, go out on some dates, and I’d be over it. Sounded like a good plan.
As it turned out, not entirely.
I rushed through my divorce as fast as I could. I hired a lawyer within six days of finding out my husband was cheating, and while he was off on a whirlwind romance, I prepared for Discovery. Although I was committed to getting a divorce and paid a hefty retainer to prove it, I still held out hope we could save our marriage and begged my husband to try. Try we did, for five days three months after his big announcement. On day six, I pulled the plug. His head wasn’t in it. By that point, neither was mine.
“Get a lawyer,” I told him. “And get out.”
He did get out but dragged his feet on the lawyer part. I stayed on him, parroting my request until he found representation he liked. Our divorce took 11 months to complete. Less than a year-and-a-half after my husband told me he was done, we were done. Our 24-year relationship was over.
Why, then, wasn’t I over it?
I soon discovered that many factors contribute to how long it will take to get over a divorce, and recovery time varies. Though no one, not even the person going through it, will be able to predict the timing, some circumstances dictate why divorce is easier to recover from for some people than it is for others. Here are a few that come to my mind six years after my separation.
The answer to this question can be significant, and, for me, was a hurdle I had to overcome. Not only was I dealing with the reality that my marriage was over, but I also felt rejected by my husband because he was the one who chose to leave. I had a bruised ego and, as a result, my self-esteem was in the toilet. As I began to pick up the pieces after my divorce, I questioned what I missed explicitly from my married life. Did I miss my husband? The marriage? Our relationship? Once I clarified my feelings, only then was I in a position to work through my grief and give my emotions the attention they deserved.
The best way to heal after a breakup is to cease all contact with your ex. When you share children, however, this is usually not a possibility except in the most extreme of circumstances. Continuing to see and speak to an ex or receive information about them from your kids tends to prolong the healing process. If at first you find having contact with your ex is negatively affecting your recovery in a substantial way, do your best to limit your exposure to him or her as much as you can. I did. Unless my kids were having a problem, I told them I would prefer not to know the day-to-day details of their dad’s life.
This scenario can play out in various ways. It is not always the case that an ex’s involvement with another person causes pain. Sometimes when an ex is involved with someone new, they have less of an interest in making waves between you because they are happier overall. Your involvement in a supportive relationship or the opportunity to date different people can also ease the healing process. My only caveat is to make sure you are not using your dating life as a distraction from your pain. If you are, rest assured those repressed feelings will resurface later when you least expect them to and in ways you cannot anticipate. The result may not be pretty.
Mending a broken heart can take a long time, particularly if you are deliberately engaging in behaviors that will inevitably work against you. Enlisting the help of a professional such as a psychiatrist or therapist, confiding in friends, resisting the urge to keep tabs on your ex, and purging your surroundings of objects that keep you tied to the past can make a huge difference in the time it takes to move on after a divorce.
How long it takes to get over a divorce ultimately turns on how you see your recovery. But like most life-changing events, the beauty doesn’t lie in getting over them. The beauty lies in what we discover about ourselves while trying.
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