‘Til Death Do Us Part’, right?
If only it were that simple. When you leave a marriage, people call it a “failed marriage,” but when people choose to leave a job, people celebrate them for whatever comes next. Why is it that we are so quick to use the F word, fail, when it refers to one of the most important decisions of our lives–leaving a life partner?
I’ll tell you why.
If you’re anything like me, maybe it’s because you’ve been conditioned from a young age to believe that marriage, 2.5 kids, and a white picket fence was the “finish line” of your life. The Big Kahuna. The Answer.
But it’s not. Maybe it is part of your Big Picture Plan, or was when you decided to get married, but don’t for one second believe that your marriage or kids or white picket fence is all you are.
When you let go of these ideas that your marriage defines you, you can open up time and energy for the things that really do define you– your values, interests, the communities you are part of…There is so much more to you than your marriage!
So it isn’t working out. This isn’t what you dreamed of, it’s not what you signed up for, maybe. You need some time to think about the future. You’re considering Divorce. Fine!
Instead of giving in to the inclination to put yourself down, you should make space for yourself to feel the feelings you feel, and listen to what your heart is saying. You would never call your best girlfriend a Failure for having trouble with her marriage, so don’t hold yourself to a different standard! It’s ok to be here. It’s likely you’re contemplating divorce due in some part to not having your emotional needs met, so at the start of this journey, your turning point, it’s important you make it a point to start taking care of your emotional needs yourself.
Here are some important emotional self-care tips to use while you are soul-searching and considering divorce:
- Confide in SOMEONE. I don’t care if it is your mother, sister, therapist, best friend, or a trusted neighbor, but you should talk about what you’re going through with someone you trust who cares about you. It can be easy to succumb to embarrassment and think you have to do it all alone, but that is simply not true. That is the bully voice in your head again that is doing you no favors. When you confide in the people who care about you, you build trust and strengthen your relationship with that person, but more importantly it’s just good to be able to talk about your feelings with someone who won’t judge you, allows you to change your mind over time, and may even offer their own experiences to show you you aren’t alone. Don’t cut yourself off from that support.
- Return to your Roots. Too often, people give up hobbies or interests for no real reason once they get married. Maybe you used to be an avid reader but you can’t remember the last time you read a book. Maybe you used to bake your own bread but now you and your partner always go out to eat, so you never get to cook anymore. Get back into your hobbies and interests. If they were good enough to hold your interest before marriage, it’s a safe bet that they will provide you some entertainment or relaxation after your marriage, too. As a plus, hobbies are great ways to meet people and rebuild a friend group, should you need to surrender half your shared friends to your partner in a divorce.
- Control What You Can– The Little Things. As you contemplate a divorce, a lot of things in your life might feel entirely out of your control. A great way to feel empowered and boost your confidence is to achieve small victories all around you. I like to give myself challenges that come in different lengths of time needed: a 5-20 minute challenge, a single afternoon challenge, and a challenge that may take the whole weekend. Even on your hardest day, try to tackle a five-minute challenge. You’ll be amazed at the outsize impact the little things can make on your outlook.
- Stay Active. It is scientifically proven that exercise fights depression, so make the effort to spend some time outside, take a hike, go kayaking with some friends, or simply put your AirPods in and go to the gym to be left alone while you summon those endorphins. Whatever kind of movement brings you joy, go out of your way to give it to yourself.
- Keep A Journal. Keeping a journal with notes on your emotions as you navigate this challenge is a great way to organize your thoughts and practice expressing your feelings for the big conversations ahead.
So there you have it! Take care of yourself like you would take care of your best friend if it were them contemplating divorce, not you. If you give yourself grace and put intention into the days or months ahead, you can celebrate building the life ahead for yourself, instead of considering what you have now as a failure.