HEARTACHE AND HEALING: Life’s Unexpected Lessons

I have said for years that the biggest reason people get divorced is that one or both parties have a lack of self-esteem.  Yet even when you realize that your sense of self-worth is in the toilet, divorce is an ominous option. Oftentimes, it has been the relationship itself which acted as salt on the already gaping self-esteem wound. So what is one to do when marriage has wreaked havoc on your dignity?  A dark place indeed. One which I have visited personally and have also guided many clients from and into a place of feeling empowered and in control. 

The menacing vortex of no self-esteem coupled with divorce can feel like a lethal mix, and the brutal reality is that at that one moment in time, you have no attractive options. You can opt for the miracle of reconciliation at the cost of your already damaged self-worth being further eroded, or alternatively, face the consequences of divorce. The recognition that neither option is appealing can be foreboding. This is the moment. The moment of a “soul choice” or a “soul decision.” It is in that moment of clarity that you realize that there is really only one viable option. That is to recover your self-esteem by extricating yourself from that dysfunctional relationship that is stealing your soul. Unfortunately for many, that recognition only becomes clear after months or years of fruitless efforts in attempting to both save your soul and also your relationship. Two battles that may be hard-won, but too many times, it is your soul that becomes the casualty. 

One of the most shattering blows one can experience is the devastating betrayal over a spouse’s infidelity. This is especially hurtful when you have operated for years under the now apparently misguided assumption that the marriage was built on a solid foundation of trust, respect, and integrity.   Infidelity is just one example of insidious behavior that destroys marriages: alcoholism, drug abuse, emotional and physical abuse, and deceit and a myriad of other behaviors can be equally damaging. Controlling your emotions under such circumstances is a formidable, and usually futile task.  The pain can seem insurmountable.  

Yet, despite this rampage of all of the negative emotions which include some variations of sadness, anger, hurt, and resentment, there is a path to healing. It is not always a smooth journey and the only way out is through. But what I know for certain is that while unhappiness has no season, restoring one’s self-worth is invaluable in any season. The good news is that you are not the first person who has experienced this pain and the others who have traveled the road before you have demonstrated that the road to healing has definite steps. 

First, stop praying for your spouse to change. You know or should know that change is unlikely to manifest. Stop lying to yourself about your spouse’s demeaning and disrespectful behavior and stop blaming yourself. If your life were a movie called Hell on Earth, and you were the star, how long would it take for you as the viewer to yell at the screen “stop being a martyr!”

Second, while this may seem counterintuitive and while you may not yet be receptive to this advice, you must find a way to forgive.  Forgive yourself and forgive your spouse. The old saying goes “resentment is like swallowing poison and waiting for the other person to die.”  You are not doing it for the other person.  This is for you and your healing. Do not confuse forgiveness with condonation; you are not condoning your spouse’s behavior nor saying it was okay. Rather you forgive your spouse so that you can disgorge the anchor of resentment lodged in your gut. The reality is that if you give your spouse the power to control how you feel, then you have empowered him or her to control your emotions indefinitely. In essence, the forgiveness is for your restoration of self-worth and this can only occur with total resolve and the ability to attack your fears. Put simply, you either remain entrenched in martyrdom or you free yourself from the anchor of resentment.  

Finally, find humor daily. So what is possibly humorous about divorce?  Clearly, we divorce lawyers often see people engaging in behaviors that are so curious, it can be funny. For you though, humor is self-realized as you start to regain your sense of self, your sense of purpose and vision.   You’ll then find yourself realizing that you can actually laugh about things used to incense you. It is in that moment that you will retrospectively have a flash of your past behavior and not even recognize that person who was once inured to abusive behavior at the extortionate cost of your self-esteem.

While heartache is demoralizing and excruciating, it is true that we learn our biggest life lessons from the difficulties in our lives.  Nearly every client I have ever had has come back to say that their divorce was the best thing that ever happened to them.   Once you forgive and find humor, you know you are on the other side and have reclaimed your self-esteem.  It is then that you will know, you have overcome, endured, survived and now thrive.