So, one of my dearest friends is beginning divorce proceedings this week. She’s a really wonderful woman who got a raw deal and is continuing to get one, in my opinion (but of course I think that, because she’s my friend). Thinking about her divorce caused me to reflect on my own (because I’m narcissistic like that, or maybe I am attempting to be empathetic). She doesn’t read this blog (I don’t think), so this isn’t so much a post of advice for her (which I wouldn’t dare give unasked anyway) as it is a reflection on my own experience. These are things I wish someone had told me, if I could have been told, that would have made my life easier.
1. Don’t trust him anymore. He is no longer on your side, if he even was to begin with. You may miss him sometimes, or think that you need him for some particular task that only he can do, but you don’t. No booty calls (from him or from you), no overwrought emotional emails, no “I need him to help me move,” nothing. Cut it off. It will be less painful in the end.
2. Nothing he said (or implied through his actions) about you is true, except possibly the good things, and no idiot on the planet could fail to see those. When that little voice in your head starts telling you how worthless you are, call that “My Ex’s Opinion,” and ignore it. He doesn’t own you. Don’t let him boss you around anymore. If/When it gets really bad, make lists of good qualities. Do it for five minutes. Do not use qualifiers (i.e. nothing like “I’m good at making the bed, but any fool with two arms can make a bed.” Stop before “but.). If you use a qualifier, it doesn’t count. Read this list often. Learn to believe it.
3. There will be some things that you just can’t tell people, or tell certain people. That’s ok. That’s totally normal. If you are aware of this, tell them that. Make sure they know that you love them just as much as ever and you still need them, but talking about issue x with them is not going to help you. I couldn’t discuss my divorce or my marriage with my mother because I felt, oh, a lot of things. It hurt her, but she loved me anyway. Your people will stand with you even in your silence.
4. Say thank-you often. Lots of people are going to be nice (maybe even extra-nice) to you, even if there are plenty of others who aren’t. Let those nice people know you appreciate their efforts. This includes God.
5. You will feel totally terrible, and you really should. Your marriage is dead. It’s ok to grieve. It’s ok to feel lousy and depressed and angry. Try not to take it out on those closest to you, but when you do, apologize. They will understand. You may find yourself getting unreasonably upset about irrelevant things– wanting to stab a bank teller in the eye, bursting into tears at a red light, developing an inexplicable hatred for a particular pop star. Be aware that you are actually upset about your marriage/divorce and try to let it go.
6. Do not get drunk or high or have sex with anyone (and really, don’t date for a while. You’re crazy right now, even if you think you’re fine. You will look back and see that I am right.).
7. Do not drive when you’re hysterical. Pull over, freak out, and then drive on. Also, do not call anyone when you’re hysterical unless you are a danger to yourself or others. Do not ask me how I know these things.
8. Try to fill your evenings with good things. Volunteer at a library or a thrift store. Do church work. Do your visiting teaching. Try to help others. Rearrange your DVD collection. Hang out at the dog park with your puppies. Join a gym. This will help time (and therefore healing) pass in a fairly numbing way.
9. Keep anything official that had your name and address on it from when you were married. You don’t have to keep every telephone bill, but hanging on to a utility bill with your married name and address on it may help you later. Originals are better but copies sometimes work just as well. Also make sure you have a pay stub from your job handy. Keep things like marriage certificates or copies of them if you can. This may help you later as you try to re-establish your life.
10. It’s ok to hate your ex. He did a lot of scuzzy things. Don’t dwell on it more than you have to. He’s not worth your time.
11. It will bother you when people criticize your ex. It may feel like a reflection on you– what kind of fool goes and marries a jerk like that? Recognize that they’re just trying to be supportive. If you can laugh it off, do. If you can’t, explain to whomever you’re with that you’re not ready to talk bad about your ex yet, but you appreciate her support. When you are ready, call this friend and tell her what a @(#&^* he really is.
12. On your first anniversary apart, go out with your girlfriends and throw yourself a liberation party. Have cake. Do not get drunk. Do not call your ex or accept phone calls from him. It’s ok if you go home and cry afterwards.
13. Do your best to surround yourself with people who love you. You may be too numb to feel it, in which case use your brain. Your family, for example, will love you if they loved you in the past. Past behavior is a reasonable predictor of future behavior in this case (except, of course, for your ex, who will be pretty psycho himself right now. Avoid him if you can. If you can’t, be cordial but aloof. ).
14. When experiencing major upheaval like a divorce, sometimes it’s good to travel or to move somewhere else temporarily. The relative anonymity that comes with going to a new place can relieve some of the pressure you may feel to perform constantly for others (either to prove that you’re ok or that you’re not). Also, being in a physically different space may help you transition to a new phase in your life. If you’re traveling, when you return to your town, you will feel like a new person, but you’ll still have some home stuff to deal with. It will be easier to deal with, though, because you’ve healed a little bit in the meantime. This option is not financially feasible for everyone, but it helps.
15. Find someone who you can sit beside and cry at, someone who doesn’t require anything of you other than your continued existence. This person should be patient and loving. Moms are good at this sort of thing, but so are close friends. Your Bishop or Relief Society President may also be a good option. Heavenly Father is also an option, but sometimes it’s more difficult to feel His hugs.
16. Pray. Read your scriptures. Go to church. It would be very easy to give up on all that right now, but these simple things really will make a difference. They’ll be at least one sure thing in this whole chaotic mess. People at church may talk about you (though they never did me, to where I knew it anyway), but that’s ok. Nobody’s perfect. You worry about you and Christ and let other people tend their own gardens.
17. Remember that Jesus Christ and your Heavenly Father love you. Remember that thing from Young Women’s: “We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love him. We will “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places”(Mosiah 18:9) as we strive to live the Young Women values, which are: faith, divine nature, individual worth, knowledge, choice and accountability, good works, and integrity. We believe as we come to accept and act upon these values, we will be prepared to strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation.” These things are still true. No blessing will ultimately be denied you based on the fact that you are divorced.
18. Divorce sucks, but it’s a trial like any other. It matters more what you do with your trials, how you respond to them, than it does what’s happened to you. All you can control is yourself, anyway, and that will plenty for the time being. Recognize these things and also recognize that you probably can’t do all this alone. Get the help you need, whatever form that takes.