By Elizabeth Shaw
Even when ending your marriage is the right choice, it’s still hard — and not always in the way that you expect it to be. We all know that about half of marriages end in divorce, but not a single one of us ever thinks it will happen to us — which is why it can feel all the more unreal and heartbreaking when it does. In those early days, especially, it’s easy to feel like you won’t get through the next hour — let alone the whole day. Here’s what we wish we’d known.
1. You’re Braver Than You Know
You’re going to hear a lot of people telling you that you’re taking the easy way out and that you should suck up all the hurt and sadness because you took vows or because it’s better for the kids. Ignore them. It takes a huge amount of courage to stand up and demand a better life for yourself, your kids, and, yes, even your ex. Making a change is always harder than sticking with the status quo, so be proud of yourself. As for the kids: They deserve to have happy parents who can actually be present for them — and they deserve the chance to see what a healthy relationship looks like so they have a shot at having one someday, too.
2. Telling the Kids Will Be One of the Hardest Moments in Your Life…and You’ll Have to Explain It More Than Once
When it’s time to tell the kids, share the news together. Try not to demean or blame each other. And if it’s within your means, get advice ahead of time from a therapist. How the children react will, of course, depend on their age and temperament, but be prepared for anger, tears, screaming or even silence. They may blame one of you outright (rightly or wrongly). They may blame themselves (the hardest). And if they’re older toddlers or young preschoolers, there’s a good chance they’re not going to get it right away. Which means you’ll have some version of this conversation again and again.
3. Once News is Out, People Will Tell You They’ve Had a Bad Feeling About Him for Eons
You’ll ask them why they never said anything before. They’ll say, “Oh, you know, I didn’t feel like it was my place,” or “I didn’t think it would change anything…you were so in love with him.” Both may be perfectly true, but having this information now isn’t helpful or supportive. Feel free to say as much.
4. Friends Will Disappear and/or Take Sides
Obviously, you enter every relationship with your friends and his friends, and when you split, your people go with you. What’s harder is dealing with friendships you genuinely shared. For a while, you may still see each other solo, but as time goes on, some of those relationships will fade. Divorce makes people uncomfortable, and sometimes, it’s easier for them not to be around it. As unfair as that is and as hard as it may be to let go, it may be for the best. Surround yourself with people can see you for you — divorce and all.
5. You May Cry Spontaneously (And That’s Okay)
The trigger could be anything: A family walking down the street. A pregnant woman. A co-worker announcing her engagement. Or the fact that the dumb cable people are three hours late and why can’t something just go right?! Go ahead and let it out. You’ll feel better. And look, there are some things you might just not feel like doing for a while, especially if it involves celebrating someone’s marriage or baby. Try to go anyway. Yes, you’ll need to put your game face on but your friends, who’ve been there for you, still need you there for them.
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