Family and friends often just don’t get it
People who have no experience with a divorce after a long-term marriage say dumb things like, “Just get over it. You’re better off without him (or her.)” Or they give advice like, “You need to move on!” “You should be over this by now!” Or the worst: “You need to start dating.”
Here’s a tip: If the person who is advising you has never been in your shoes, where the person you have invested your life energy and time and love into for 10 or 20 or 33 years like me, they simply don’t get the devastation and loss you feel.
They don’t understand your despair that your partner didn’t think you were worth being faithful to. Or that you weren’t fun enough or sexy enough or attentive enough or smart enough to stay married to. And not only that, by the time you find this out, your ex has usually already hooked up with someone who fits their new definition of who they want.
Related: Learn what to say to a friend who is divorcing.
Our culture is unrealistic about divorce and recovery
Another roadblock to divorce recovery is that our culture doesn’t get it either. In the movies, you seldom see the children having to shuffle back and forth between Mom’s house and Dad’s house and wonder “where is my house?” Our screens seldom show the dysfunction that is the norm with many divorces. There is rarely the mortgage that can’t be paid, or the second job you have to take or dealing with how complicated every single holiday or family function becomes.
Celebrities show up together holding hands and do “Conscious Uncoupling” as Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband did …. and who are now “better friends than we’ve ever been.” Really?!
Plus, there are no cultural rituals to get closure. There is acceptance, but as you’ve probably heard, there is no closure like there would eventually be if your partner had died. With divorce you have to keep seeing the body over and over again and your ex is usually beaming because he or she is finally with, “the love of my life,” while you’re still in the fetal-position-stage of grief.
If your spouse had just been hit by a truck, there wouldn’t be all the doubts about yourself or your worthiness or your faults. You wouldn’t have to realize that they wanted to be in someone else’s bed instead of yours. You wouldn’t keep second-guessing yourself and obsessing about what you could have done differently or what they are doing together now.
On top of that, our culture doesn’t give us time off for divorce grief. We’re expected to be able to move on from the end of our marriage with no trouble at all. If your spouse dies, you get some time to deal with that. Not so with divorce. No one’s dead even though it feels like you are, even though you’re still breathing.