This is Part Two in a series. Part One can be read here
In the last article I highlighted three important considerations to think about before leaving your marriage: Be sure, be kind, and the guilt you might experience about leaving.
These three considerations are very much about you and your internal dialogue and in this post, we’ll see how the next stages are very much influenced by those around us.
4. You’re Going to Be Seen as the Bad Person:
Your partner (and Children) will see you as the bad person in this break up because you ended it. No matter how valid your reasons, because you left, they see it as your fault. This blame can be very hard to deal with, especially if you know the reasons you left were because of your partner’s poor behaviors.
Accusations may come your way, whether or not true, and no matter how adult, conscientious, and kind you are in this breakup, your name will be mud. Being the one to face all the anger, and vitriol shot your way isn’t comfortable, but this is part of being the leaver.
I often tell people to equate ending a marriage to that of the death of a loved one, because understanding the common stages of grief helps put leaving into a different light. These stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It doesn’t mean your partner will experience this, or even in this order, but anger is a stage your partner might experience a lot before they accept the inevitable and move on themselves. Until then, there is little you can do that will seem right.
5. Friends Drop Off:
It may come as a surprise if your friends question your decision to leave. Even if weeks before they were telling you to move on and find happiness elsewhere. In what seems like a complete U-turn, your friends might even put pressure on you to get back with your partner. Sometimes this occurs from a place of genuine care, and other times because your leaving doesn’t suit their lifestyle. Friends can feel awkward because they think they must choose sides. And instead of dealing with their personal discomfort, they push their feelings onto you.
You might even find hostility comes from certain friends whose marriage is not in a good place. As strange as it sounds, you might find one person in that relationship becomes vocal about what a terrible person you are and what a disgrace you are for leaving. This tactic of discrediting you can be a covert message to their partner. A way of telling them not to follow your lead. If this happens, just take time to ask yourself, “Who is their anger about?” Because projection is a powerful thing.
Also, if the bulk of your friends were your partners friends first, then you might find they’ll call less and less until those relationships drift away. It might shock you at how many friends you can lose in this process, but the friends you keep will be worth their weight in gold.
6. Crippling Doubt:
You may be certain in your decision, and if you are that’s helpful. However, many people find once they’ve left the marriage their emotions crash. You might have cycles of crippling doubt about your decision. You may be fearful of the unknown. And when facing a future without being in your familiar marriage, you might have a strong desire to seek safety back there, even if you know it wasn’t right for you.
All these feelings and thoughts are usual and just because you have a doubt, it doesn’t mean your decision was wrong. What this doubt can do is help you reflect on what your marriage was and what you want more of in a future relationship. Sometimes, we need to step out of an unhappy situation to gain perspective. Doubt helps us question and argue for the path we have taken.
However, if you don’t counter your doubt with rational arguments on why your decision is still right for you, dropping into depression is not uncommon. It’s easy to change your mind on leaving with so many challenges assaulting you. Not because you want to go back for yourself, but because it’s easier for everyone else involved. Doing something that makes others less angry at you can be a strong motivator, but that’s not the right path. If you have a doubt, take your time with exploring your thinking and feeling.
7. Involving Children:
This is the last consideration on this list, but that doesn’t mean it’s the least important. If you have children, this may have been the number one reason you haven’t ended your relationship sooner. Many people stay in unhappy relationships for years longer than they would have because they want to do what is best for their children. But at some point, even the desire to do what you feel is right by them isn’t enough to hold a marriage together.
If you have children, I suggest keeping in constant contact with them. Make sure they know you love them, and your decision is not about them. Be honest with them, no matter their age, and remember tip #1 – be kind. Don’t badmouth your partner and don’t go into too much detail on what was wrong in your marriage. Be clear that whatever your feelings about your partner, you will always love them.
Try to stay involved in all their activities as you did before. If you went to their soccer matches, keep going. Make time to take them out, but don’t go over the top and let your guilt be your parental guide. Spoiling them won’t change how they feel about you, still be the parent and that means rules.
The hardest things you might experience is the hurt your child(ren) will feel about being “abandoned.” And this feeling can have many repercussions. They may tell you they hate you and never want to see you again. If this happens, keep communicating. Keep telling them you love them and don’t withdraw. Often this behavior is a test to see if you can still be a safe person for them. Stay calm with their outbursts even if on the inside you’re in the worst emotional pain ever. Once they learn their world hasn’t ended, just changed, you’ll be in a better position to build a new relationship with them. It may never be the same as it was, but it can still feel good.
Over the coming weeks and months, you’ll discover so many things changing that you (or I) hadn’t considered. Some will challenge you and make you question your decision. But sometimes making the hardest decisions are the best things we can do for ourselves and our family, even if it doesn’t feel good. Moving on can be rough, but like all things, time changes everything and my hope for you and your family is that in time you all find your happiness.