I didn’t want to be divorced. I always thought my ex and I could fix anything and could even be stronger than ever. But when I finally realized I couldn’t save my marriage, and my unwanted divorce was final, I wondered how I could survive.

I honestly thought I would never really be happy again. I knew I could find little bits of joy here and there, but deep down I thought my life would always be less than I wanted it to be. I worried I might feel that lonely, despairing heartache forever.

While you’re coping with an unwanted divorce, keep in mind that you won’t always feel this devastated. I will admit, though, that at first I saw my divorce as a life-changing catastrophe that I might not ever get over.

As part of accepting my unexpected divorce, I felt compelled to tell people that I didn’t want the divorce. I didn’t want friends and family to think that we both thought this divorce would be best. Lots of our ex-spouses tell people that we just drifted apart or decided to go our separate ways.

No, I wanted everyone to know that he had been carrying on with another woman for three years, and I finally decided I just couldn’t stay in a relationship like that. Your ex may have refused to stop drinking, or was continuing to do drugs, or watch porn, or gambling your relationship away.

However it happened, you find yourself faced with an unwanted divorce.

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Stopping An Unwanted Divorce

I remember the day my ex-husband told me about the other woman. I was crushed with a kind of despair I had never experienced. As hurt as I was, deep down I thought we could fix our marriage.

I tried everything to stop the divorce.

  • Bargaining
  • Begging
  • Separation
  • Counseling
  • Ultimatums

I finally realized he was unable to separate himself from his new love. Even though he promised to give her up, and at different times said he would or said he had, he never could … or at least he chose not to end that relationship. (Your ex might be refusing to end other things that are destroying your marriage.)

I know some women decide to live in a continually compromising relationship. I couldn’t do that. I didn’t want to worry that when he was next to me in bed, he actually wanted to be in someone else’s bed. Staying in that kind of relationship would have been worse than ending it, as life shattering as the divorce was.

Sometimes we cannot stop an unwanted divorce no matter how much we pray or how hard we try. We can’t fix our marriage by ourselves.

Surviving An Unwanted Divorce

After any midlife divorce, but especially one you don’t want, the first thing you have to do is decide to survive. And I mean literally survive the raw grief and pain. People who haven’t been through an unwanted divorce do not understand the level of rejection, hopelessness and loneliness you’re probably feeling as you read this.

People think, when we say we are barely surviving, that we are being overly dramatic. I wasn’t. Most women wonder if they can feel as bad as they do and still be walking around. At one point a counselor told me it could take years to get better. I wondered if I could survive that long, feeling like I did.

For more resources about surviving an unwanted divorce in midlife take a look at one of these articles: Divorce after 40, Divorce After 50, Divorce After 60.

Seek Help If Needed

Our family and friends want to help, and they can be a great support. But what they really want is for us just to feel better. They don’t realize that we have a lot of work to do to get to that better place after divorce. For awhile it was literally all I could do to get through each day in one piece.

After you figure out that the pain is not actually going to kill you, you still have to do the grief work and the healing work after the reality of the divorce sets in. We’re overwhelmed by the whole process. All we want to do is stay in bed and hibernate until all of this chaos and pain goes away.

Seeking help after an unwanted divorce is not an “If needed” option. Get help! Period. You can get started with our free 10-Day Divorce Recovery Crash course …. 10 days of encouraging, helpful emails sent to your inbox.

Recovering From An Unwanted Divorce

My first piece of advice:

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF FIRST! GET HELP!!  

Do not try to slog through this alone. It’s just too hard and it takes longer to get back to anywhere close to your normal self if you don’t get help. Sometimes we’re embarrassed to ask for help healing from divorce. We almost always think we should be doing better than we are. We think, “Everyone else has moved on. Why can’t I?!”

Acceptance

Hope dies hard. Especially if you are a spiritual woman, you keeping hoping for a miracle. I kept thinking if I just did or said the right thing, he would change his mind. Even in the courtroom the day our divorce was final, I kept thinking he might walk over to me and say, “Suzy, what are we doing here? Let’s go home and fix this.” He didn’t.

When the paper was signed, and I stood on the courthouse steps that warm October morning, I had to accept that my 33 year marriage was over. I didn’t have a clue about what I was supposed to do next.

I was terrified in so many ways. Where was I going to live? How were my kids going to get through this? What were we going to do about the holidays and vacations and graduations and marriages that would be coming up. And how was I going to accept that we wouldn’t be playing with our grandchildren together?

We have to finally accept, that as much as we didn’t want to be divorced, we are … or will be divorced soon. We also have to accept that we are responsible for what happens next.

Re-discover Yourself

Part of our healing process is figuring out who we are after this divorce that we didn’t want.

In the beginning, we keep asking questions that have no good answers ….

  • How could he do this?
  • What could I have done differently?
  • Why didn’t I see this coming?
  • Why doesn’t he love me anymore?
  • What’s wrong with me?

Stop asking questions that have no good answers! Even if they did, it would not change the reality that we are on the road of divorce … a divorce we didn’t want and couldn’t stop as much as we tried.

So, the only question we need to ask ourselves every day is ….

What can I do today to get closer to the life that I deserve?

Here at Midlife Divorce Recovery, we help you figure out …

  • What are your gifts?
  • What are your goals?
  • What are your dreams as you move forward?

It’s hard to even envision a future when you’re still in the raw grieving stage and even the getting-back-to-the-land-of-the-living stage. Give yourself time and space to do that grief and healing work done first, and then start thinking about who you are now, and what you want your future to look like.

“The more time you spend trying to figure out why he did what he did, the less time you have to figure out what you want moving forward.” Suzy Brown

Travel

After my unwanted divorce was final, the thought of travelling by myself was sad and overwhelming.

I did two things that helped. I called my best friend from high school and told her I needed to come visit for a few days! She welcomed me with open arms, a full refrigerator and a loving heart to listen to me cry my way through the long weekend. It was exactly what I needed.

Another weekend, I booked myself into a hotel in my hometown and just holed up for a “Feel Sorry for Myself” weekend. I ordered room service. I watched mindless TV and read magazines I usually pass up on my way out of the grocery store.

I sobbed and screamed into the big fluffy hotel pillows. I wrote things I wanted to tell him. I let myself wallow in self-pity for the whole weekend. It was something I needed badly. Those weekends away are sometimes good for our children too. It gives them a break.

Note: It’s good to be past the sobbing and screaming phase before you plan any big vacations.

I also remember thinking I needed to go to every social event I was invited to. Hit the social pause button if you need to. Friends and family will understand. I secretly worried that if I disappeared, no one would notice. That made me cry, too.

Divorce recovery after an unwanted divorce is a process.

Be kind to yourself. Be patient with the process. Your new life will become more sure and clear as you go along. Try to learn to be comfortable about not knowing exactly what’s going to come next.

It’s actually an amazing (if sometimes terrifying) way to live this one wild and crazy, but very precious, life we have each been given. We can make it wonderful. Or we make it miserable. It’s our choice. Unwanted divorce or not.

Unwanted Divorce Quotes

“If he is dumb enough to leave, we have to be smart enough to let him go.” – Anonymous

“Sometimes what you’re most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free.” – Robert Tew

“What God knows about me is more important than what others think about me.” – Anonymous

“We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” – Carlos Castaneda

“Be happy in front of people who don’t like you. It kills them.” – Anonymous

“Do not chase people. Work hard and be you. The right people who belong in your life will come find you and stay.” – Will Smith

“Okay, so what he did was unfair. I know it’s unfair. But that doesn’t change the fact that you still have to figure out how to deal with it.” – Woody, my brother

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