I physically stood in the court room and divorced my ex spouse almost a decade ago. It took me many more years to complete the emotional divorce. It is so interesting. My husband chose to leave, without a process, without therapy, without trying. He said he was leaving. And he did. End. Of. Story.
I was advised by many people of a reputable divorce attorney. She was fiercely pro-women and was widely feared by errant divorcing men. I wanted to make sure I could secure the best deal possible for myself…..and then my soon-to-be-ex-husband threatened not to “be my friend” if I used this particular attorney. And guess what? I didn’t use her. Why? I was absolutely petrified of losing him! Losing him? He was lost! He left! So there I was, electing not to use an attorney I knew I could trust to get me the best deal…..because I wanted my ex to still be my friend. In hindsight, it sounds preposterous. I still regret that decision to this day!
When my ex husband’s mistress left him because he was emotionally unavailable and selfish, I gave him time out from our children so he could have the space to grieve. Yes. I. Did! I wanted to prove to him that I wasn’t the selfish bitch that he painted me to be. I needed to gain favour in his eyes……so I could prove to myself that I was good enough!
When I fInally met the most incredible man and decided to remarry, my ex protested. In our divorce agreement, we had a clause that stated that if we had conflict regarding the children, we would seek mediation. When I informed my ex husband of my impending engagement, he managed to convince me that this was a matter for mediation. Thankfully, we sought the intervention of an expert mediator, who had incredible insight. My ex husband attempted to convince the mediator that I should not remarry and that I should first live with my future husband. He attempted to plead that this would not be in the best interests of the children. To my relief, the mediator stated that this was most certainly not an issue for mediation and that my ex husband needed to process his issues in therapy. What is remarkable is that I actually even entertained mediation for an issue that had nothing to do with my ex husband.
So many times through the years, my ex has threatened to not be my friend if I did not comply with his wishes. I was petrified of upsetting him, of him being displeased with me and of him rejecting me for a second time.
I used to tell myself that I was capitulating or placing myself in compromising positions because it was in the best interests of my children. I was not being completely honest with myself. The truth is, the initial rejection I had suffered was so profound, that I feared him rejecting me a second time. And then one day I visited a brilliant life coach…..and I told her my story…..and she told it back to me…..and I realised what I was doing.
It took about a month to completely detox from my ex. My coach assisted me in putting up firm boundaries. She also helped me see that it was okay if we were not friends. The truth is, a friend would not have treated me the way that he did. She helped me see that it was okay if we disagreed and that it was okay if he didn’t like me. She explained that there are certain priviledges that come with marriage and that my ex husband lost those priviledges when he decided to leave. This new thought process was completely liberating.
Only when I took a step back and observed my interactions with my ex husband, I realised that I had not yet emotionally divorced him. The final separation was difficult, largely because it was unchartered territory for me. But it was not difficult for very long. After that….it was completely liberating. It felt so freeing to be able to disagree with him and not fear the consequence. I do admit, I am in the fortunate position where my ex husband is a prominent community member who fears the repercussions of the law, so I am never in any danger of him withholding maintenance in retaliation for not getting his way.
In the beginning of my process of detaching, I would need to remind myself that he lost his rights to any worthwhile opinion of me when he walked out of our marital home. I highly recommend seeking assistance in making sure that your civil divorce is accompanied by an emotional divorce too.