When Will The Pain End?


Depressed

Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of going through a divorce is saying yes to the change, your “new normal.” Even many spouses in troubled marriages (not abusive ones) would rather work to fix what’s wrong instead of ending the relationship! Most often, though, the abandoned spouse is forced to embrace a life he/she doesn’t want and ask the children to do the same. It’s unfair, unjust, and a horrible reality to face.

How do you cope with this new reality? I recently received this note from a reader asking this same question:

My divorce was final Oct. 15, just a few months and it feels like I’m barely afloat in a life full of constant tears. I want to move forward but all I can do is look back at what went wrong. I still love my ex-husband but am so angry. It was so important for him that I go through RCIA, etc. so that we could have a Holy marriage in the eyes of the Catholic faith. When he told me on Valentine’s Day (same holiday he proposed) that he wanted a separation, I asked him what about our vows & why did he have me go through RCIA, first Communion, confirmation if it was no longer important to him? His response was, “Yeah, I’m sorry I put you through all that… I don’t believe in the Catholic faith anymore.” This still is such a shock to me because God and my faith has been my saving grace through this divorce. My Priest has stated that he said this to me because it takes away the guilt he’s feeling about being the one abandoning our family. There are days I believe that 15 1/2 years were a waste of my life and there are other day’s I’m thankful that he not only gave me my three wonderful kids but the Catholic faith also. I know it’s been a short year of pain, but I want to know when this pain will go away, when will I stop loving him and when will I be able to forgive him?

These are big, important questions and deserve much more time for a response than can be dedicated here, but I would like to offer some suggestions on how to cope that can be a beginning:

1. The first 3-6 months after your spouse walks out are typically spent trying to get your feet firmly planted on the ground as you recover from the shock of what’s happened. Divorce is shocking. Being abandoned by someone you trust is shocking! Extreme emotions are normal and you need time to get them under control. Try not to make any big decisions during this time if you can help it, and don’t be hard on yourself because of the way you feel. It’s normal.

2. Unfortunately, this pain will accompany you for a long time. The best thing you can do is find ways to manage it so it doesn’t control you. It’s important for you to give yourself permission to feel bad because otherwise, the temptation is there to ignore it. Ignoring it will only backfire on you so give yourself permission, but also give yourself some parameters. For example, if you’re having difficulty making it through the work day because of things that happen or strong emotions, promise yourself that you will take a few breaks to be alone and can be upset during that time. That makes it easier to deal with people without breaking down in front of them.

3. Try to remember the proverbial fire you are walking through will be a cleansing one. I’m sure it doesn’t feel that way now, but one day you will look back and see that God was with you and working your circumstances for your good. Until that happens, let these experiences, as awful as they are, draw you closer to Christ. He will give you consolation and solace, especially if you seek Him in the sacraments.

4. Wanting to forgive is already winning half the battle. Many people believe it is impossible to forgive their ex-spouses so desiring the ability to forgive means you’re way ahead of the game. Just keep in mind that forgiveness is something that must be practiced every day. One day you may feel you have forgiven your ex-spouse and the next the anger may overtake you all over again. Don’t worry, this too is normal. Just take it day-by-day and one day you will have achieved the forgiveness that lasts.

There is life after divorce. You won’t always feel as bad as you do in the beginning. But your divorce does not define who you are and you must remember this as you move forward. This too shall pass, even though it seems impossible. Let this experience change you for the better… make you stronger, wiser, and a better person for the experience.

Got questions? Email me at asklisa@catholicmatch.com and follow me on Twitter at @lisaduffy.






9 Comments

  1. Anne-1043855 January 10, 2014

    Dear Lisa,

    It took me a very long time to be ready to separate from my husband of 20 years. I did not take my vows lightly, even when the relationship was troubled over a period of years. My ex-husband had gone through RCIA and had obtained an annulment of his first marriage in order to marry me in the Catholic church. We had two teenage sons. We had a lot of reasons to stay together. We had attended Retrouvaille and marriage counseling to attempt to restore the passion and joy to our marriage. I prayed fervently for that for a long time. Ultimately, we had become so miserable in each other’s presence that I asked for a separation and he readily agreed.

    I believe the only way I was able to take that step and accept the ending of the marriage was because of a book I found and read entitled “Coming Apart: Why Relationships End and How to Live Through the Ending of Yours” by Daphne Rose Kingma. The key concept from this book that helped me to let go was that partners come into our lives and we are attracted because we are meeting each other’s emotional needs at the time. So long as we continue to feel our emotional needs being fulfilled, the relationship is strong. People and situations can change drastically though. And if that happens the best way to end the relationship is to thank each other for the gifts we brought to each other, and then release each other to find a way to once again have our emotional needs met. My parish priest once told me he did not believe God intended us to be miserable. This book gave me permission to let go of the marriage, let go of the vows I’d held so sacred and accept why these things happen.

    I hope this helps you. It has been four years since I separated from my ex-husband and we have been divorced for three. I have dated one man since I have been single again and recently we ended that relationship. I will probably read the book again to work through the things I will miss about my boyfriend, as well as to neutralize residual thoughts and sadness that can creep back regarding my marriage ending. I feel the book is an excellent resource for moving on and being happy whether we are on our own or looking forward to a new love relationship.

    Wish you all the best,
    Anne

  2. Lisa-727959 January 10, 2014

    Hi, Anne,

    Thank you so much for your comment and candid explanation of your situation. I know that some spouses are desperately unhappy with each other and that is a difficult thing to endure. I am sorry to hear that your marriage eventually ended in divorce, especially after working so hard to revive it.

    You mentioned you’ve been divorced for 3 years but you didn’t mention anything about going through the annulment process. If you haven’t done this already, I encourage you to consider doing this, not so much for the healing aspect because from what you’ve written, it does sound like you have accepted what’s happened and moved on. But, I’m sure as you move forward and look for a new relationship, you want to be truly free to give yourself and this is why going through the annulment process is important. The Church considers all marriages to be valid/sacramental unless proven otherwise, therefore, if you haven’t received a decree of nullity, you are still considered a married woman even though you have a civil divorce decree. If you give a tribunal the opportunity to take a look at all that’s happened they will be able to determine if you are indeed bound to your ex-spouse or if you are free to date and marry again.

    If you have already received a decree of nullity then please disregard that and I wish you the best in finding a lasting, happy relationship.

    Sincerely – Lisa Duffy

  3. Lisa-727959 January 10, 2014

    I also confess, I disagree with the premiss of the book you referenced, Anne, because it turns marriage into a “me”- centered relationship. If my marriage is only about seeking to have my emotional needs met, then my marriage becomes all about me. That is not the purpose of marriage. Marriage is about seeking the good of your spouse. That’s what love is, and in marriage, I promise that love for richer or poorer; for better, for worse; in sickness and in health ’til death do us part. I don’t deny that marriage takes a lot of work and perseverance at times but it should always be about your spouse.

    In no way do I intend this remark as a judgment on you, Anne, I just feel it’s important to state that kind of advice is detrimental to having a lasting marriage.

    • Joan-529855 January 11, 2014

      Lisa, my thoughts exactly on Daphne Kingma’s book. I had read “about” the book, as well as many other books by so called experts on divorce who suggest that when your partner is no longer meeting your needs the relationship has ended. A much better book is Gary Thomas’ book, Sacred Marriage. Though the book is about “marriage”, not divorce, it gives the reader an opportunity to see what a “sacramental” marriage looks like. My former spouse and I also attended retrouvaille and not once did the presenters suggest that anyone needed to restore the passion and joy in our marriage. Retrouvaille’s focus was on almost exclusively on communication. Unfortunately many marriages do not so much lack in communication as they lack in respect for each other and the sacrament of marriage. Again, marriage is NOT about getting our emotional needs met! It is about helping one another become more “Christ-like”.

  4. James-141787 January 11, 2014

    Okay, so when will the pain of being single and never-married end?

  5. I agree with what others have said about the book making marriage me centered…we are not to abandon our spouses when we are not happy…we are to stick things out…and work through things…marriage is supposed to be forever. I wholeheartedly agree that that book mentioned earlier is very very worldy and contrary to Church teachings on marriage.

  6. Rodney-1037137 January 12, 2014

    I was utterly shocked at the information about children portion of the divorce proceedings when the presenter stated that 50 to 55% of first marriages end in divorce. I raised my hand to ask her to confirm that that was what she meant to say. She confirmed that. I fear that many souls will be unpleasantly surprised by the amount of purgation they will have to undergo after death because they did not unite the inevitable difficulties of marriage with the suffering of Christ during their lives on Earth.

  7. Larry-992452 January 12, 2014

    HI Lisa,

    I have just read your post. I tried desperately to keep my marriage alive (even though I was an ex-catholic and we both were protestant–I accepted that for her) This was her second time to divorce me. She walked out 9 mos ago and if I have to say good could come from this, it was that I returned to my Catholic faith and have been so nourished by that and my priest–better than any psych I had talked with. I am only learning to forgive now, but do feel it happening. But I did want to point out that marriage needs the basic staple of LOVE. After reading Greg Baer’s book, real love, it became apparent how much and how many of us have never even really learned that basic fact. And it is a learning process that should begin in childhood. I have read his book now three times and if, perhaps, I am lucky to meet someone again, I now have internal radar to detect the real thing–as well as the ability to make that choice also. To love and be loved. Man. That still has to be the greatest of all gifts. I can honestly say I have never felt the “be loved” part.

    But, I have also pledged to God that even though he slay me, I choose to still love Him. I’ll have to comment on Tribunals later as I feel that was something started by the church (or man) and not the Christ whose baptism we celebrated today. Anyway, thanks for your comments and allowing me to ramble.

    Larry W. Banyash, MD

  8. Nancy-860829 January 13, 2014

    My husband left four years ago. We got divorced on October 2013. I am still angry at him. Very angry. He has moved on with another woman. He is happy. I am not. The pain is still too much for me. I do not see how can I forgive this guy: the father of my only child. I really do not see the purpose of the situation. I’ve done everything to move on. Nothing has worked. I know this will shock and annoy most of you but really…I am losing faith. Slowly, but consistently. Every year is worse than the previous one. Time heals nothing. I’ve got help (physical, mental y spiritual). No results. Nothing. Having said that: for me this pain will never end.

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