When divorce happens it is usually a relative surprise for one of the couple.
You may both surmise that things are amiss since there is usually considerable conflict or disconnect before the words “I want a divorce” are spoken, but most often one person has been thinking about their freedom a while longer, sometimes a long while longer, than the other.
Because of this, divorce is a very different experience for each partner in a marriage.
If you ended the relationship, you will experience higher levels of anger and guilt.
Anger because you remember all the things that have gone wrong and all the wrongs that have been done to you. Guilt because you’re making the choice to end the relationship and—it feels like—you are intentionally hurting this person you promised to love.
It’s hard being the initiator of the divorce.
Many times friends and family are upset with the person who, in their mind, gives up and causes such turmoil. Rarely do friends and family realize the emotional turmoil you’ve lived with, or the importance of getting out of the relational straightjacket that is choking the life out of you.
If you are on the receiving end of the divorce your predominant emotions will be grief and rejection. Any loss, and divorce encompasses many losses, throws us into grief.
A good description of grief is reaching for something that is no longer there.
That can be reaching to the other side of the bed where your partner used to lay, or reaching for the toaster oven that used to sit on the counter.
Grief, though the most useful of our emotions because it helps us to move on, is amazingly painful. Your relationship mattered and that makes it hurt. When someone who promised to love you forever rejects you, that rejection is like no other. Being rejected by the most important person in your life has a far-reaching impact on your self worth that isn’t easy to overcome.
Two Loss Experiences
The Heartbreaker experiences the loss similarly to losing someone to a long-term illness. You know the end is coming, you just don’t know when.
You have the luxury of time to prepare financially, contemplate housing, and to think through the impact and plan responses to friends, family, and your children. You’ve done most of your processing before the legal aspects begin.
The Heartbroken experiences the loss more like someone who gets hit by a bus. It is immediate. The pain is more acute. There is no preparation time for it because it is so sudden.
Even if the Heartbroken knows things are amiss s/he may still feel blindsided when the words are finally spoken. The Heartbroken must do the emotional processing while going through the legal aspects, which can be doubly difficult.
It is important for both of you to remember that the divorce process can only go as quickly as the slowest person. The slowest person is the one who is blindsided and trying to process everything at once.
It’s hard to make life-impacting decisions while grieving. “What do you want to do with the dog? Come on. Hurry up. Make a decision.” The brain just doesn’t work right.
There are many other emotionally loaded details to tend to while divorcing: selling the home, packing, which includes boxing up memories or trying to leave them behind, relocating, figuring out how to live on half the income you’ve been used to, and if you’re a parent dealing with having your kids half-time. Along with all that, the Heartbroken is often trying to shut out the outside world, to slow things down, to find some internal peace.
To the Heartbroken I would advise that you take the time you need. Don’t delay just to be stubborn but take whatever time you truly need. To the Heartbreaker I would advise that you give your mate the time s/he needs to process.
It will go better for both of you in the long run. One thing you both want to avoid is the need to go back to court after your divorce completes because you rushed it and didn’t let it organically complete on its own. Ouch.
Jeannine Lee’s award-winning book, Beyond Divorce: Stop the Pain, Rekindle Your Happiness, And Put Purpose Back in Your Life is available at: http://beyonddivorce.com/book/, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.
She is an author and speaker and was a founding member of Talking Divorce radio. Jeannine has been on both Talking Divorce, and Dealing with Divorce radio programs as an emotional health expert.
Jeannine Lee, ACC, CPCC, GRC, is a certified life, relationship, and grief recovery coach working with singles and couples in all stages of relationship re-design including conscious divorce, effective reconciliations, successful singleness, purposeful partnerships, and life design to use the divorce experience as a powerful transformational tool.
You can reach Jeannine by email via her website