Separated after many years. Help me feel like I haven't wasted my life.
May 7, 2015 11:27 AM   Subscribe

I separated from my ex-husband about a year ago. I am now 40 years old and I feel like I threw my life away on a marriage that never should have happened. Please help me to move on and be optimistic for the future. (Wall of text inside)

There is no chance of reconciliation and neither of us wants one. We parted on very friendly terms that have since cooled to simply civil terms, which works for me. We have two children together and we are 100% co-operative and in agreement in how we are sharing custody and raising them.

Our relationship post-separation has cooled because he recently told me that he had an epiphany about his past behaviours*, and that he is actively trying to be a better man. Specifically, he is trying to not be the person he was during our marriage. He might as well have punched me in the face. I know it is admirable for anyone to try to better themselves, but all I heard when he said it was that he did not do any self-reflection when we married even though I asked him time and again to try; he did not even try to improve himself back then; he didn't care about my sadness. But *now* he is going to be a good person? Well, fuck you very much.

* The behaviours were mainly: 1. Extremely bad temper. I mean extremely. (This post reminded me of him.) 2. Did not respect my need for privacy, i.e., overshared things I deemed personal, and on more than one occasion humiliated or embarrassed me in front of others. 3. Didn't listen to or respect my thoughts and wishes.

I get swept up in a vortex of dark thoughts almost every day since he told me of his "epiphany", including:

- He was single when he had this epiphany, but now he is dating. Although I have no ill-will toward his GF, it burns me knowing that he is actually, you know, trying to be a good person with some fucking woman he just met, but he couldn't do it for the one he's known for 15 years and who is the mother of his children. I know this has nothing to do with her or any other person. But I am still angry about it.
- I wasted the last 15 years of my life and I wish I had never met him. Sadly, even my two wonderful children (who I don't blame or resent in any way) are not enough to prevent this specific thought.
- Even though I am now 'free' of my ex and the obligations of children 50% of the time, I can't afford a lifestyle that I would like. My ex is financially dependent on me and I have little extra money after I make support payments. What little I have, I throw into an RRSP and TFSA. It really depresses me that I can't do the things I now have all the time in the world to do (go on lots of dates, fix up my house, travel, etc.).
- I fantasize about his current/future GFs treating him the same way that he treated me. At other times I fantasize that, try as he may, he cannot change and his GF leaves him for the same reasons that our marriage failed. I don't know if these are healthy or not, because they are just fantasies and they make me feel better each time I indulge in them. I guess just thinking about it is better than taking actual revenge.
- I have lost my youth and beauty as a result of time, motherhood, and unbelievable stress. I had been considering pursuing healthy casual sex relationships post-separation; but the more I research it I am afraid of being disappointed/offended by superficial men who want young hot women. (Objectively, I know that I am not totally undesirable, but I feel like it and that's what matters most.)
- He says he still loves me, and I know it is true, but I would rather he hate me the way I sometimes hate him, because he knows I am angry. He knows, and is very sad that he couldn't make me happy, but I feel like that is just another punch in the gut, i.e., In my darkest moments I want to say to him, If you love me now, knowing what you have done and are doing, why are you still alive?
- And oh so many more...

I think that many or most of these are understandable feelings, but not reasonable. But they come to me unbidden, and they are starting to affect my work and home life because I get inattentive and distracted.

How do I stop thinking these things? How can I move past the anger and bitterness, and try to live my life? I have tried justifying moving on with purely selfish reasons, e.g., living well is the best revenge, but that has not worked yet. Any insight, encouragement, critiques, personal experiences, etc., are welcome. Thanks. Throwaway email: sadmefite1@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (26 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think that many or most of these are understandable feelings, but not reasonable. But they come to me unbidden, and they are starting to affect my work and home life because I get inattentive and distracted.

How do I stop thinking these things?


Therapy, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy. There's a reason it is always suggested around here - because when you are stuck in a thought and emotion spiral you can't get out of, it's designed to help give you tools to avoid them and get on with your life.
posted by buoys in the hood at 11:34 AM on May 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


The bad thing about making decisions you later regret is that they can become a constant and renewable source of negative, soul sapping energy. Zig Ziglar, in answering a question about what the future will bring, said winter will follow fall but will precede spring. IOW, human things happen but how do we look into those inevitabilities and plan for the probabilities as best as we can? Part of that is remembering the people who love you, the successes you have had and the true (and hopefully basically sincere) content of your own character. But along with a basic faith that you will survive, these seemingly intangible things, in the darkest times, might be the only things all us have to hold onto through the storm.
posted by CollectiveMind at 11:39 AM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


My ex is financially dependent on me and I have little extra money after I make support payments.

Is this a legal thing? Is it something you can renegotiate at some point? I was married for 11 years before my wasband and I split up. Ours was pretty civil as well but I think what made it easier was that I didn't have to ever see him again.

Having kids together is a complicating factor, of course, so you can't cut ties so easily. (Good for you for keeping things civil, btw. So much better for your kids.) It seems totally reasonable to feel resentful that you now have to support him, too. So if there is some way to reduce ties down to a minimum, I think that would help.

And since you aren't able to cut ties completely, yes to counseling. Do you have healthcare? Does it offer some sort of mental health care? Do you have some sort of Employee Assistance Program via your work? Take advantage of all your resources. No need to try and do this on your own. You wouldn't build a house with your bare hands would you? You'd use tools. So find a good counselor who can give you good tools to take care of yourself.

Second, it's only been a year. 15 years is a long time to be with someone. It will take some time to move forward. But it will happen. It does get better. I hardly ever even think about old whatshisname any more. That whole period almost feels like a movie I watched once a long time ago.

So, counseling and time, really. I know it's a pat answer but it's a good one. Good luck. I swear it gets better!
posted by Beti at 11:52 AM on May 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Although I don't have any children, much of what you say resonates with me. I too supported my ex after divorce, and we had conversations in which it became clear that only after we had separated did he begin to reflect on behavior that I had told him was intolerable and would lead to divorce. I also thought I had wasted my most attractive years on him.

Here's the thing: You don't want to be involved with someone who bases their interest on your youth and beauty. Really. Because if that's what attracts them to you, then they'll leave you for someone younger and prettier eventually and that would suck a lot.

In addition, you don't know what's out there. Every time I have ended a relationship I've been pretty sure that was it for me, and so far that hasn't been true and I'm about to turn 55. Just FYI, men get WAAAAAY better at sex in their 40s. Maybe they're not the eveready bunny any more, but they last longer and want to take more time with their partners (YMMV, of course, but this is my overall experience of that demographic). Steer clear of online dating services, though. They are guaran-fucking-teed to depress you. Meet men in person. I have a neighborhood bar that's a safe place for me, and it's easy to meet nice, interesting, single, age-appropriate men there. Find your spot but really do it in person.

I ended our marriage and he was resentful of me for that. And I paid a boatload of alimony. But I was so glad to be out of the relationship that was crushing me, in some of the ways yours was crushing you, that every time I thought angrily about how much I was paying, I stopped and thought about what it would be like if I were still married to him, and I always ended up by thinking that I would pay even more as long as it meant being free of him.

I know you have to communicate because of children & finances, but don't let him tell you about his personal life or how he feels about you or any of that. Just shut it down, politely but firmly. He doesn't know what love is, so obvs. he doesn't still love you. Love is treating someone with respect and care, lifting them up rather than dragging them down, helping them to be the best person they can be by being the best person you can be, being a safe place for them, all this stuff that he couldn't do for you and believe me, no amount of introspection will change him that radically in a single year.

It happened to be the case that when my ex-husband got involved with someone else, she was a very good influence on him and taught him a lot about being kind and loving. It irritated me to no end that I hadn't stipulated that his alimony end on marriage, but I hadn't thought it would make a difference because I figured he would just live with his SO rather than marry them, considering that money was his strongest motivating factor in any personal transaction. As it happened, I think his second wife would have put her foot down about marriage. Instead, I got to make some snide comments to him about his wife, who didn't want him to talk to me but who evidently was okay living off me. But in general, I was glad he was turning into a better person.

Except it turned out he wasn't. A few years into the marriage, she left him. I inferred from his description of events that he was just as surprised by her leaving as he was when I left. That told me volumes. I suspect he hadn't really changed at all and she got a taste of what I had put up with.

So the gist of what I'm getting at is that this is all stuff that your monkey mind is telling you and you have no way of knowing whether it's true. Your monkey mind says, "I'll never find another decent relationship" or "No man is interested in me now" or "My ex-husband is only now turning into a good person" or "I don't have enough money to do things that will give me pleasure." You need to focus on where those thoughts are coming from because they are not coming from true experience. They are coming from expectations and assumptions. Maybe you won't find another relationship, but right now you honestly don't know whether that's true. Maybe your ex-husband is turning into a good person, but maybe, like mine, he can talk the talk but can't walk the walk. You just don't know.

Just because you think it doesn't make it true. If you let yourself argue for your limitations, you will never see a way around them. I'm not saying that if you're optimistic everything will turn out right but it is pretty clear that if you're pessimistic, you won't even try, so nothing will turn out your way. The only thing you get from these thoughts is the pleasure of being right and the pleasure of being angry. I understand the attraction of those pleasures, but they are bitter bitter pleasures.

Have you given mindfulness meditation a try at any point in time? One thing it's really good for is seeing that thoughts arise without your conscious will but you have the choice to believe them or not.

Cultivate "don't know" mind.
Cultivate optimism and look for what works.
Don't underestimate yourself and don't overestimate him.
And really look into whether you have any attachment to being right or being angry. I have both and I have had to work on both of these issues quite a bit but every bit of work I've done has repaid me richly.
posted by janey47 at 11:59 AM on May 7, 2015 [73 favorites]


Oh, this sounds so, so painful and I empathize so much. You're right that these are absolutely understandable feelings, and you're also right that they're unreasonable, but most people's brains just . . . spit out stuff like this for a while after a deeply painful interpersonal event, it's nothing weird or dark about you individually.

About his epiphany . . . some people can take action when they sense a problem building up, and others are just flat-out unable to break a pattern of behavior until something big and dramatic happens. This is infuriating, but it has nothing to do with you not being good enough to change for. Horseflies bite, hornets sting, some people coast until they can coast no longer.

You're being assailed by these thoughts now because a fifteen-year relationship is a big deal, but as as time passes and all this starts to recede a bit in the rearview mirror, you just won't care as much whether he's a feckless douche or not. The longer you live without him, the less important he and his behavior will seem in the overall story of your life. You may end up feeling more sympathetic toward him, or he and his epiphany may always seem feckless and douchey to you, but either way, you will stop being tormented by intrusive thoughts about him.

Best wishes -- this will pass.
posted by ostro at 12:09 PM on May 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


I absolutely do not believe that anyone who can be a jerk for 15 years to his wife can suddenly turn around and become an awesome guy. My ex-husband fed me that "epiphany" line too. But 6 months later, his new GF dumped him because he was still acting like the jerk he had been to me. A year later, same thing. A year after that, guess what? He got dumped again. Even if he gets a steady GF later, I will know that he just found someone who puts up with his behavior, and I will feel a twinge of pity for what she's going through. I don't think about this often, though. I don't allow my ex to take up very much of my mental real-estate.

Guess what else? As a woman, you are not usually expected to pay for dates. Even now, in this modern equal-rights era, that's how it is. I'm not saying it's a good thing, I'm just putting it out there. You are totally allowed to date and have someone pay for you.

You have more resources and options that you are allowing yourself to look at right now. That's ok. Just remember that they are there when you are ready. Mourning a relationship takes time, so please be gentle with yourself.
posted by ananci at 12:10 PM on May 7, 2015 [27 favorites]


The positives: it sounds like you learned things from your 15 years with your ex, about yourself and what you want in a relationship. I imagine you have some fond memories of those past 15 years, if you can now be civil with your ex. Try to focus on those to help find some value from your years together.

And I'm sure there are things you can and do now that you couldn't when you were with your husband, even if they are little things. You can treat yourself to little luxuries and inexpensive personal gifts. Indulgences don't have to be extravagant to be enjoyable.

Similarly, spend more time getting to know the area you live. You said you can't take vacations, but there are probably hidden gems around where you live that could make for some nice weekend trips with a few close friends and/or your kids.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:19 PM on May 7, 2015


janey47 wrote a great, concise post-divorce manual for you. I would just stress: don't imagine everything is all hunky-dory for him and whoever he is dating now. People like to present that picture to their exes, especially people who didn't treat their exes very well. It is very, very easy for them to do that; it's like all you are getting is the Facebook picture. But we are who we are, with all that implies.
posted by BibiRose at 1:13 PM on May 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


I have lost my youth and beauty as a result of time, motherhood, and unbelievable stress.

I don't know much about divorce so I'll focus on the statement above. Excuse me while I call BS: You're 40! 40 is NOT old enough to even begin thinking you've lost anything. I agree with the suggestions for CBT to adjust this thinking but for some quick hits:

1. Google something like "fabulous after 40". (OK, maybe not that cheesy but you get the idea.) Look at all the amazingly gorgeous, talented, forces of nature in our society who are over 40. Hello Susan Sarandon, Tina Turner, Vanessa Williams, Sheryl Crow, etc.)

2. If you are indeed feeling blah (as you have EVERY right to), start doing some little things to gird up your self-care. Manicures, if you like that. Some good, hard exercise. A new haircut.

I don't want to simplify this issue. I know we are a youth-obsessed society but you have much life ahead of you. Do your best to enjoy it.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 1:14 PM on May 7, 2015 [7 favorites]


I think many people work on themselves after divorce. The husband I married is not the man who was married to his ex wife. I would not have married that man given the way he describes himself, he admits a lot of insecurity-driven behavior that would have been intolerable to me. He spent a lot of years after his divorce figuring this all out although his wife really tried to get him into therapy...he just didn't see that he was playing a major role in both of their unhappiness. I would say the same for myself, I changed a lot after my first marriage, got older and wiser and a lot less insecure. Look at it this way: if you decide to marry again you will likely meet a man who changed for the better after his previous marriage ended. People really do change all the time albeit a little slower than we would like.
posted by waving at 1:17 PM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think it's really too soon to tell. Both for your life (40 is a long time from even 30 - so much has changed in 10 years, why wouldn't the next 10 be as transformational?) and in terms of distance from your separation. People don't really change that much in a year (despite what he may intend and idealize, he is still the same person). You really just have to give it time to play itself out. Work hard now on building what you want to be in 5 years, and you'll get there.

Time tells the truth like nothing else.
posted by Dashy at 1:27 PM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


After it's all said, there's a lot being said. Here's the nut of the matter: You had an experience that didn't work out. Now it's time to go after a better experience. If there is anything you learned from the old paradigm, now is the time to put it into practice.

Blaming yourself and/ or mourning the loss of 15 years is a waste of time. The question is whether you will insist on the respect you deserve in future relationships. I think you will, without being bitter, because you are not the person you were at 25. Men you meet of your own age have had a chance to acquire wisdom as well- accept no less. We all need to love. Now you can love without losing yourself, and this will give dignity to you and your partner.

Your life begins at your next step. You have the time for worlds of love and experience. All love, strength, wisdom, and courage go with you into your further adventures.
posted by halhurst at 1:50 PM on May 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


he had an epiphany about his past behaviours*, and that he is actively trying to be a better man . . . all I heard when he said it was that he did not do any self-reflection when we married even though I asked him time and again to try; he did not even try to improve himself back then

1. If he is indeed motivated to make real change in his life now, it was likely very necessary to go through and extreme crisis, like the divorce, for him to come to that realization for himself. Analogy would be addicts/alcoholics who often must reach rock bottom first, then decide *for themselves* to make the needed changes--not because someone else is asking them to do it.

2. As the wise man said, the leopard cannot change his shorts so easily. *****If***** ex-husband is really, truly motivated to change his behavior permanently, it is going to be a mult-year, multi-decade slog with many regressions and a very hard row to hoe for everyone involved.

More likely, ex-hubby is going to make a few superficial changes for the sake of current-person-he-is-trying-to-woo and then once that new relationship is established, gradually revert back to form. "Back to form" is exactly what you were desperate to escape from; be very happy that you did.

In short, if you were happy/relieved to be out of that relationship at the time of the divorce, you are so, so, so happy you are not stuck in it for the next 5-10-15-20 years as hubby tries (and very most likely fails) to change. If ex-hubby is fortunate enough to make this transition with a new partner, you can just be happy that you played a key role in his life that helped him become a better person--a change that would never have happened if you hadn't put your foot down about the unacceptability of that behavior.

Whether the explanations above are literally true or not, they are far more productive stories for you to tell yourself now than the story you are currently telling yourself. "Husband magically listening to me and turning his life around" was just never going to happen without (at minimum) the shock of a divorce intervening to wake him up.
posted by flug at 2:11 PM on May 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


Just to echo ananci, it is much easier to have an epiphany, or even to tell others that you've had an epiphany, than to actually act on that epiphany.
posted by Mr. Justice at 2:56 PM on May 7, 2015 [9 favorites]


It may seem obnoxiously simple advice but what is done is done. If you want to avoid rumination about the past try recognizing those thoughts and replacing them with thoughts of the future. Pick a dream vacation and plan it for three years from now. Budget and plan for it obsessively when your mind wanders. You don't even have to actually do it though it would work better if you committed to do it. Divert a tiny amount from retirement savings to a savings instrument instead so you can use it for the vacation if you want to. The real key is teach yourself to think forwards rather than backwards.
posted by srboisvert at 2:56 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


If I could second ananci's comment more than once, I would. My guess is that he's hurt, and he's certainly not going to tell YOU that, so instead, he's going to tell you about his epiphanies and how much more wonderful he is NOW. It's a truly jerky move.

Another thought: when he tells you more of this epiphany BS, while it's perfectly normal to feel pissed that he couldn't be bothered to get his shit together when you were together, remember that him becoming a better person will serve your children well. And that's a very good thing.
posted by kinetic at 4:09 PM on May 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Hey, Sister. All of what you are feeling and going through right now is perfectly normal. I've been through it. Do me a favor and don't make any instant decisions right now, okay? Just let it ride.

Yes he is this and that and blah blah blah him. Him and his girlfriend. Him him him. Him. Him Him Him. Him him him him him.

Then all of a sudden your life will be like, oh! Me! Him, Me, HIM, Me, Him. Me! Me, me, me, ME! It's all about ME!

Then you can begin to start your life. Without HIM. And make it about ME. You can go, hurm, I can wake up and put on sweats and just chill in my own house, drinking coffee however I want it, and do my own thing.

Next it will be, I can buy some pedi supplies and do a pedi with me and/or my girlfriends and just be all, pedi day. I can do face masks with myself and my kids and no one will question it. I can be myself.

That is what you are going for, girlfriend: is to be yourself, in your own house, without someone questioning you about what you are doing, as part of a normal routine that will make you happy. That guy wasn't it. He was a guy who wanted to question your every move, let alone being happy in the things that the rest of us do as part of a normal routine.

Fuck that guy. Fuck him, him, him, him. Let that guy go. And embrace the you, you, maybe you, you, you, YOU, YOU, YOU!!!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:43 PM on May 7, 2015 [8 favorites]


I think that what turned things around for me, after I woke up in my early thirties after a 13 year marriage, was the idea that I didn't waste those years on HIM. I wasted them being unhappy. It gave me a sense of control back, and I gave myself permission to start finding happiness on my own terms.
posted by meringue at 5:49 PM on May 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think you're depressed. It's not the situation that makes me say this but the lens you're filtering through -- there are a hundred different ways to see this starting with 'thank God I got out of that when I was forty instead of fifty, sixty, or God forbid, never'.

So I guess maybe start with asking yourself if that could be true, that you're depressed. Then you can decide whether you'd like to go see a therapist or get some meds or color your hair and buy a great pair of shoes or throw yourself into work or a new hobby or exercise, etc. etc.

You're forty (you're younger than me) but by forty you've kind of been around the block and you know the twists and turns of life. It keeps on twisting and turning and you never know what is around the bend, and that can either freak you out or make you optimistic but at the bare minimum, it's at least interesting and you know you don't know everything yet, in the same way you didn't know everything at twenty. The difference is at forty, you know you don't know everything. Your life is still interesting.

I'd say 'you need to work at letting go of this' but I don't think any of us let go of our negative thoughts like we're dropping Kleenex into a wastebasket. The thing that helps is the passage of time and other things moving in to take up that mental space.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:50 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


FWIW while both my ex husband and I have since resolved the problems we somehow couldn't be arsed to resolve for the sake of our marriage, we definitely didn't turn into people who should be married to each other. We thought those issues "caused" our divorce but really they were just the most obvious problems. If we had solved them while married, we would have no doubt ended up getting divorced for completely other reasons.

So, just a thing to consider: even if your ex *does* really end up making the changes you wanted him to make, at the end of it all you still might look at him and think, "Christ, what an asshole."

Hopefully by the time this happens though you'll be so thoroughly ensconced in your new life that you won't give any of it a second thought. I know it's hard to picture that now but it's pretty inevitable.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 6:43 PM on May 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


Here's the thing, he may still be a selfish asshole. Here's why. Many years ago, I used to date a guy who treated me pretty badly, and did so for years. He knew it made me unhappy, we used to have umpteen conversations about how he needed to change and not leave me waiting at restaurants for three hours for him to turn up, to make an effort, to not drink himself into a stupor etc etc. never happened, so I left him after eight years. Well, then he appeared to make a remarkable transformation. He started making an effort and doing everything I had previously asked him to do in an effort to win me back.

I was confused. I asked, why, in all those years when he knew I was miserable with how he was treating me, did he never try to change then and only did it now, when it was all over. Ahh, he said. Because now I'M unhappy. Without me and all. And that was when I realised, he still didn't give a shit about me, it wasn't about me being unhappy at all and him being a better person. He was still the same selfish asshole, he was only changing because this time he was miserable instead so he was trying to make things better and get the relationship back for himself. Um, I ran so fast his head must have spun. And just an FYI, from what I heard, these changes were never permanent and apparently he's still the same guy that he always was. So there's that.

Anyone can maintain a facade for a few weeks or months. Not many people can sustain real change for a lifetime.
posted by Jubey at 7:14 PM on May 7, 2015 [12 favorites]


A couple things stood out to me.

First, based on mentioning TFSA/RRSP, you're in Canada. While it's not always easy to access mental health resources, they are out there, and some are covered by provincial insurance plans. What I'm saying is, a round of therapy to address your thoughts might be a good idea. Probably the best place to start looking is the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Second, this:

I feel like I threw my life away on a marriage that never should have happened.

It might help you to reframe away from using the word 'should.' It's not possible to change the past. It happened; perhaps it could be useful to try radically accepting everything about the past without judgment. And move into the future.

Something that's helped me in traumatic situations is to essentially hold a funeral for whatever ended. I don't know what's likely to be personally effective for you--maybe pour out all your frustrations onto paper, then burn it while mentally saying goodbye to the shackles holding you to the past. Something like that. Best of luck.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:52 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


My relationship of 18 years -- 10 of them married -- ended a couple of years ago. Some of those years together were good, but the last few were not that great although I tried. Our separation was civil, but he "found himself" and started a life with his new girlfriend while I downsized and lived alone with our cats.

Oh man, was I ever bitter. I so understand. I guess what used to really piss me off me was the idea that he had changed and was this happy new functional person and partner (apparently) while I was.. the same.

I started trying out bunch of cheap new hobbies. Some of them I ended up liking and some I didn't, but either way I was having brand new experiences without him. My personal favorites ended up being home canning, used bike repair, and making stupid videos for YouTube. I learned things about myself, I met new people, and sometimes I would think, "yeah, you didn't know when we were together that I could make bomb-ass pickles, but I do that now!" which is kind of silly but it helped.

Keep busy, be nice to yourself. Drink more wine. For what it's worth in my experience life gets infinitely better over time.
posted by jess at 9:37 PM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Everything that we experienced in life made us what we are today. Thus, the time you have lived cannot be considered a waste.

If you have regrets, about "road not taken" (like Robert Frost poem), that's almost like crying over spilt milk... There is no point in lamenting over something that had happened. Instead worry about things you can do now.

The way we live, (sometimes called "time sense") should be only a little in the past to recall lessons learned, a little in the future as goals and planning, but mostly in the present.

It is very difficult to unlearn the habits you picked up while living with a partner and the shock of transition had caused you to shift your time sense. You need to rebalance that asap
posted by kschang at 5:17 AM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


40 is young. 40 with kids is young. Jennifer Aniston is 46, JLo is 45. You aren't in a bad place. Just get to a place where you feel great and you are your number 1, and everything will fall into place:)
posted by discopolo at 6:23 PM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have had similar fears, though the relationship only lasted a year and we didn't have kids.

At the base of it, for me, I think there are two separate things going on:

1) He didn't feel safe to be authentically himself when he was with me and I felt like he treated me poorly as a result. He insisted that his challenges were about himself, but (my fear) that they might suddenly disappear with someone else seems to speak to a deeper fear in me, that *I* was the problem, that I somehow brought out these not-ideal qualities in him. It triggers this recurring thought: if he was able to be different, why wasn't he different with me? Why didn't he love me enough to be different with me? And at the base of that is the fear that I wasn't good enough, worth enough, that I am somehow "bad". It covers up a deep fear in me that worries I am somehow fundamentally unlovable.

2) Loss is sad. Losing people you love, or the plans you had for your future, is a normal boring human sadness. I loved this other human and I wanted the best for him and I wanted the best version of him for me. I pictured a life with him that I will never get to have, and that is sad. Its the normal sadness of loss and I think one of the ways our brains try to cope with loss is by externalizing it. Anger is easier to deal with than sadness, aimed at something outside our bodies so we can believe *that other thing* is the source of our bad feelings. Sometimes its important to go back to that original feeling: to remember that all the thoughts and ideas and theories are just overlays atop of 'feeling sad about a loss'. Sometimes it's important to just sit with it, allow yourself to feel all the sad in your chest and try to remember that very simple feeling is what lives at the base of all our complex thoughts and rationalizations and angers and fears. Normal boring human sadness - I'm just experiencing some normal human sadness.

I don't have a quick fix here, but what I'm trying to say is: it might help if you can figure out what the feeling *underneath* the anger is. Anger tends to be something we invent to mask other harder sadder feelings.
posted by othersentence at 9:59 PM on May 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


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