I received so many heart-felt responses to my recent post about the many reasons and ways that we grieve. One really hit home. Writer and member of Women of Midlife, Carla Birnberg, told how the grief from divorce “hits me in waves at odd times and often in public places.” This brought back memories of how I struggled with my own divorce in the early 2000s, so I decided to share this essay:
Divorce: The Loss of the Dream:
Sad to say, I find myself to be a bit of an expert on divorce. It certainly wasn’t my intention to know so much about it, but there it is. The first thing I learned from my own experience and talking with hundreds of others is that divorce is always traumatic.
When my husband of six years and I decided to call it quits back in the year 2000, we went about it in the most civilized and ‘adult’ way. We both agreed that we were making each other miserable, we had tried various counselors, and we were simply too different in our goals and interests to stay together. In other words, it was a purely rational decision. Unfortunately, my emotions didn’t agree. While it seemed easy for my soon-to-be-ex to cruise through this difficult time in our lives, I was crushed and temporarily emotionally disabled. I felt like the biggest failure in the history of womankind and his apparent inability to feel anything, just made things worse.
I quickly launched into a mid-life crisis of astronomical proportions, asking myself all the tough questions. Why can’t I ‘do’ marriage? What is it about me that makes me unable to be with others emotionally? Do I have to live alone forever? Why doesn’t love last?
As luck would have it, I lost my job just two years after the separation and divorce, intensifying the depth and drama of my ongoing mid-life crisis. Then I began to ask myself even more difficult questions like: What am I doing here? Will I ever find meaning in my life? How do I want the rest of my life to be different? I felt a strong need to understand the first half of my life, so as to make the second half better.
I got so wrapped up in this quest, I decided to start my own dating service to explore the simple question, “Do I still believe in love?” while helping other recent divorcees with their own explorations. Although it wasn’t a conscious choice at the time, it turned out to be the best therapy for understanding my own feelings about love and rejection.
Lessons learned from divorce
First of all I learned that I most certainly was not alone in my disillusionment with love. There are millions of us who don’t know how we feel about love and relationships. Interviewing scores of disillusioned divorcees showed me that we all have a lot to learn.
It became clear to me that we can learn a lot more about a person by divorcing them, than we could ever learn by staying married to them. When we are married, we are always “playing nice” to some extent. We still have a lot invested in the relationship and its future. When divorce becomes real, and it takes varying amounts of time for each of us to register this disturbing reality, the gloves come off and we become more honest with our soon-to-be-ex.
There is no more relationship to protect so we naturally begin protecting ourselves and our own interests. In short, we say what we’ve been thinking all along!
A singles workshop I offered to my dating clients provided a moment of awakening and clarity for me. We were involved in a discussion about the distance between the simple rational reality of divorce, the total ambivalence we may feel towards our ex, and yet the contradictory deep emotional emptiness that can ensue after it all sinks in. A short, elderly gentleman who looked a bit like Sigmund Freud and spoke with a heavy German accent stood up and said, “Divorce is not about the loss of a relationship, it’s about the loss of the dream.” Truer words were never spoken. I had not only lost a significant human connection in my life, but, more importantly, I had lost all faith in love and the beauty it can bring to an otherwise difficult existence.
For what is life, if we fear that we will never feel true love again?
I knew then that I had to get busy and turn my heart around. I needed to find a way to believe in love again. In my case, this wasn’t an easy assignment, but I took all the necessary steps and love did return, so much better than I could ever have imagined!
This essay appears in my first book “Midlife Magic: Becoming The Person You Are Inside.” Please let me know if you would like to purchase this or any of my books direct from me for a great price! MidlifeCrisisQueen@ gmail.com
7 thoughts on “Divorce: The Loss of the Dream”
I remember feeling like a failure when my first marriage ended after six years. I had a newborn baby and was leaving an abusive relationship. I met my now husband a short time later. We met on a Friday moved in together on a Saturday and 27 years later we’re still happily in love. I think that each person has THAT person it’s just a matter of finding them and not being afraid of hard work.
WOW! That was quick Rena! I took four years to grieve my divorce and four months to move in with Mike, but you are so right! It is important to find that person who is right for you and you alone…
It says so much about you, Laura, that you found yourself by helping others!
I think we should make a new movie: Serve, Pray, Love.
Thanks Diane… It has always seemed like a natural act for me to teach others after I have learned something important 🙂
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I haven’t been divorced but was widowed. I’ve never been good at breaking up with someone. There is always something standing in the way, like money. So I divert to “roommate.” Not the best situation but good for now.
Yes Rebecca. Living with others can be such a challenge. I’m so glad I found someone I really get along with this time! 🙂