Divorced alumni of Metafilter: help a freshman out
December 20, 2016 8:24 PM   Subscribe

Finally I am really, truly going through with divorcing my husband after about a year and a half of delay and repeatedly destroyed optimism. The legal and logistical problems are getting figured out. I'm asking more for emotional coping mechanisms and whatever other wisdom you post-divorce Mefites have to share.

In case it matters: I'm 30, hetero woman, we have no kids, our divorce case is comparatively simple and it and will probably be all said and done in 2-3 months. This marriage is my only serious relationship and my only sexual experience.
posted by a strong female character to Human Relations (31 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
It's... just going to suck for a long time. Sorry. If you don't have a support network at the ready, get a therapist and work on building one. It is very much like a death and you will go through all the typical grief emotions. I stopped drinking for almost a year because it was terrible for my emotional state. Do what you can to take care of your basic needs - food, sleep, hygiene. Get a pet if you have the resources. A dog if you can, because that will force you outside.

YMMV, of course, but it took me about a year to feel steady on my feet. Give yourself plenty of time and don't rush any major decisions.
posted by AFABulous at 8:42 PM on December 20, 2016 [11 favorites]

Response by poster: I should have mentioned I do have a therapist already.
posted by a strong female character at 8:45 PM on December 20, 2016

Understand that there are a lot of things you are going to feel, so THERAPIST GREAT! But also like, you know, it's okay. I drank a lot and partied a lot and just let my friends take me out and I was okay with just fucking FORGETTING sometimes.

You are not required to remember or repent or whatever all the time. You feel how you feel. None of that is wrong. There is no correct answer.

People will be weird. Some of them will be AWESOME. You will find out who the real people are in your life, and who are the people who are just there for the easy parts. These are not bad people, they are just people who can or can't do the thing right now. As hard as it is, be open to life. Say yes as much as possible. Do not let this stop you from doing anything, ever. Do exactly as you please.

Feel free to memail me. I'm literally this day on year three. It's all going to be okay.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:52 PM on December 20, 2016 [7 favorites]

Best answer: You're a kid! Get out there and meet new people. You'll be fine!
posted by benadryl at 8:54 PM on December 20, 2016 [11 favorites]

Keep moving forward. Do stuff. I ended up in doing a lot through Meetup and then dance and with whole new and expanded friend groups from both. Say yes a lot when you can. Don't be afraid to ask for what you want. And don't be ashamed to stay in and binge Netflix if that's all you can handle.

Some days will be brutal, but remember, that too will pass. You've got this.
posted by meinvt at 9:05 PM on December 20, 2016 [6 favorites]

When I went through it I would remind myself of this:
Part one: of course it hurts, because your relationship is an embedded part of you and ripping something out that is an embedded part of you hurts like a mf.
Part two: But staying with a partner you know you should not stay with can be a longer, more damaging pain, a slow, terrible breakdown of your spirit. Going through the split hurts acutely and then that pain fades and you get on with life and continue creating yourself, maybe with a new person who lets you grow. In comparison think of yourself in 5, 10 or 20 years if you were still being chronically hurt by this current relationship and how that would wear down who you are.
So comfort yourself as you go through the acute pain -- on the way to being well and full of potential once again.
posted by flourpot at 9:18 PM on December 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

During and after my divorce, I wrote a diary where I poured out all my frustrations and anger and messy feelings in rambling, incoherent exclamations. It helped a lot to have somewhere to get thoughts out of my head, as that made it easier to put them away and stop thinking them. I'm almost exactly 5 years from my divorce being finalized, and a few weeks ago I read what I had written for the first time since then. I don't even recognize that person in the diary, even though I remember being her. It still hurts sometimes, but that gut-wrenching I-want-to-die hurt has slowly faded away. It will for you too, I promise.

I got here because I started saying "yes" to more things. Do you want to go to a hockey game? Yes. I remember liking camping (that my ex hated), should I do that again? Yes. Hiking? Yes. Do you want to meet up with your online friends in RL? Yes! Do things that you like with people you like until you are able to be alone without thinking so much about it (even though that's OK too, you're allowed). Allow yourself some time to grieve, and to focus on what YOU want to do. If that means playing video games and bingeing on trashy TV, like it did for me, so be it. If it means getting a massage, or an expensive meal, so be it. Allow yourself time, and it will get better. I know it doesn't feel like it ever will, but it really does. Hang in there!
posted by gemmy at 9:29 PM on December 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

Seconding getting a dog, if you possibly can. I was in a similar situation to yours-- first serious relationship, first sexual experience, etc, and I believe it is harder for us; we don't have all the coping-and-moving-on experience that someone who's been through several relationships has. But getting a dog was a huge help to me-- first, 'borrowing' someone else's dog, then eventually a dog of my own. It allowed me to have companionship without worrying about being judged by another human being, and that was important. Plus, as said, it helps you get out and move around, which is healing on its own.
posted by The otter lady at 9:44 PM on December 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Get moving. I took up hiking and trailrunning. I'm a bookworm and I'd never been a runner type in my life, and after some working up to it by walking and getting acclimated, I was out on the trails a couple times a week, ponytail swinging, bottle of water sloshing, pink in my cheeks!

It was really cathartic and positive. I'd leave the house feeling down and confused and by the time I had 4-5 miles in out in nature, my worries had worked themselves out.
posted by mochapickle at 9:46 PM on December 20, 2016 [7 favorites]

I have been separated for coming up on a year and half now, and just recently have started the process of divorce. (It takes a bit longer to file for divorce in Canada.) If all goes well everything should be finalized in 4-6 months. The advantage of the long period of limbo (I have found, at least) is that by the time you can actually legally file, a lot of the emotional stuff has been dealt with, which is why I figured I would weigh-in on this, even though I am not exactly 'post' divorce. So, anyhow, here are a few things I found helpful, take it all with a grain of salt...

Staying at home by yourself is the worst. It's unavoidable, sometimes. But now is the time to cash-in all of the favours your friends owe you, and spend as much time on their couches as possible. If no one is free to hang out, and you aren't sure what else to do, find a way to be around people. Take a book to the coffeeshop.

On the topic of books, a lot of people recommended I read When Things Fall Apart. (It seems to be one of those books that always comes up in these situations.) So I did, and my advice, if you are thinking about it, is don't. It's not that it gives bad advice, but it is a very severe, unflinching book, and depending on how you are feeling, something with kid gloves on might go down better. In the end I got more benefit out of losing myself in trashy epic fantasies.

I found therapy to be useless. (Still good to give it a try, though.) Guided meditation, on the other hand, I found to be helpful. Go find some Buddhists to show you how it's done. (I know, I just finished dissing Pema Chodra -- but there's a difference between reading about a thing, and actually doing it.)

If you enjoy your work, pour yourself into it. If you have a hobby, pour yourself into it. If you have a sport, sport it more. If you don't have a sport, find one. Now is the best time ever to start a gym program. Increasing your activity level will do nothing but help you to feel better.

On nights that are bad, it is fine to drink until it is not bad. Just be careful not to start doing this all the time. Same goes for cheesecake. And Netflix. Or all three together.

I wouldn't rush to start dating. But honestly, I wouldn't wait a really long time, either. I know a lot of people may not agree with me about this, but here's the thing, you don't have to be looking for anything serious, or anything at all, even. It can be nice just to go out and have a drink and be flattered by some nice-looking fellow, even if it goes no further than that. Believe me, this will do wonders for your ego.

If you don't already have one, get a cat. They're great.

Remember that you aren't the first person in the world to go through a divorce, even though it sometimes may feel that way. The truth is that there is a fine tradition of it, and you are in good company. And you are really so, so young, with so much life ahead of you, looking back on this time from your 40s, 50s, 60s and on, you'll see this as the time when everything changed, and new, good things finally became possible.
posted by rabbitfufu at 10:05 PM on December 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

I got divorced at 30, too, (also my first sexual relationship). I spent alot of time with my therapist (good on you for already having one!) dealing with my feelings of failure and how I didn't actually know myself or what I wanted. I spent alot of time reading (mostly about feminism, YMMV) and having flings and just figuring myself out. I read alot of books and walked alot and listened to music (Ani Difranco, Aimee Mann, Anastacia, Tonya Donelly among others) and bought cookbooks and just made myself happy.

Ten years later, I'm the single mom to two awesome kids and I regret nothing.

TL:DR: Figure yourself out and be true to that. Everything else will follow.
posted by blessedlyndie at 10:13 PM on December 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I divorced at your age! It was my first serious relationship. Man, I gave up SO MUCH to get out of there because although my ex was lovely, that was not the man (or family) I wanted to have children with. I gave up almost every dream I had to walk away.

17 years later, here's how it turned out...

First of all, I moved overseas, came home, moved to a new part of the country with no connections. I had many many life changing adventures. Sometimes, shit was hard. I had many romances, I blossomed emotionally and intellectually as a person in deep and lasting ways. I made mistakes! I learned to love my mistakes! I learned deeper truths about how the world works. I developed my compassion for others AND it's also true I give zero fucks. Life is still painful sometimes. Meh. I know I can live through anything or chuck it all. I know everything is my choice or I can tolerate loads I could not before. Sometimes the best way to overcome hardship is to go through it. So I do that most of the time. Sometimes I'm fetal crying in a corner, but much much less often these days.

Also, your 30's are sexy. You are on fire right now with more power and opportunity than you've ever known before because Life Experience is true wealth.

The story turns out great! Ask me how I know!!
posted by jbenben at 10:28 PM on December 20, 2016 [25 favorites]

I am also going through this right now and I am so, so sorry you're going through this. FWIW also hetero female, 33, no kids, easy divorce logistics-wise.

We signed the papers a week ago (Merry Christmas indeed!) and I am feeling every.goddamn.thing. People say to take it day by day, but right now it's more moment to moment. It is unrelenting grief and don't let anyone tell you there are linear stages to it because sometimes the stages feel like they are all caving in all at once. Stick with the therapy even when it feels like you just paid someone to listen to you ramble and cry for an hour and you have friends who would do that for free. It has been crucial for me to have that designated time and space for myself each week to process my feelings so I can bring my best self forward in the divorce process. I do a lot of screaming into pillows, which I vastly prefer to emailing diatribes to my ex at 2am.

Going no contact feels like the Correct Thing, and in basically all ways it is, but it is brutal especially with the holidays. I'm sticking to my guns but WOW the pain, the longing, the missing. If there's a way around this part, I've yet to discover it. I will say that having space from him has allowed me to see the ways in which I have been unhappy in our relationship MUCH more clearly.

Things I have been doing: throwing myself into work, avoiding alcohol, long weepy drives, calling a friend when I want to call ex, watching bad TV to check out, catching up on good TV, saying yes when I am invited to something no matter what it is, Kristin Neff videos on YouTube (self-compassion stuff), going to bed early instead of staying up all night googling "divorce", setting small goals ("I will go for a walk today!"), typing up stream of consciousness-type emails I will never send when I'm stuck in a messy thought spiral (gmail drafts are basically my journal). I booked a trip with a friend to a faraway place to have something to look forward to. Toying with the idea of downloading Tinder just to get some "likes" and flirt a little to feel like a desirable human woman again, but I know that can get depressing too. The other day I bought some fresh flowers for my apartment, a thing I never do. Just trying to be kind to myself.

I often feel convinced that I will never love again and I will never be loved again. When I catch myself thinking that way, I try to remind myself that my heart is too shattered to feel hope at the moment but feelings are not facts and they are not forever and it will all take time.

I attended a support group for women going through divorce via Meetup and it was helpful to hear other people's stories in a supportive space. I felt a tiny bit less alone. It also provided me with a major dose of perspective. There were women in the group in much more complicated situations, who'd been married for nearly my entire lifetime, going through bitter custody battles, and coping with severe illness. It was heartbreaking, but one woman (who learned her husband had been having affairs for 28 years!!) came up to me after the group and said "I could've been you 30 years ago, except I stayed. You've been given a gift." In my dark moments, I think of her.

Dogs are a popular suggestion, but taking care of a dog is a big responsibility and could be stressful, expensive, and is a commitment at a time when all you want is to be as free and flexible as possible for awhile. I loooove dogs and was thinking about volunteering with animals to experience the love and companionship without having to commit.

Please feel free to memail me anytime. All the hugs.
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 10:47 PM on December 20, 2016 [12 favorites]

I'm not married or divorced myself, but I just wanted to chime in that my mother's experience bears out what others above have recommended. Having a network of friends and keeping busy and out of the house with enjoyable activities is the best medicine. Especially if they're things that you wanted to do during your marriage but weren't able to. Having a scheduled activity is good, too, because it helps you build up a new routine.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:22 PM on December 20, 2016

Paint your house. A change of colour scheme really helps reclaim the space whether it's a new space you're moving into, or an old space that's no longer shared. Change the keys even if he says he doesn't have keys so you know in your bones you are the only one with keys (or get a smartlock where you can issue temporary pincodes if you need to give him access occasionally), so your space is YOUR space. Change your bed or at least mattress/duvet to something that is comforting and snuggly and entirely your taste.

Decide on your level of risk about financial and social security and tackle whichever one is most stressful for you. Is the prospect of being broke/financially solely responsible more terrifying than being alone/friendless? You won't have the energy to do both - some days will just be "I got up, showered, went to work and did not burst into tears until I came home. YAY ME" so pick your priority for the first six months. Then make a list of concrete small steps and pace them out over those six months to do.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 1:03 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

A small suggestion: respect the rebound. When I split from my husband (also no kids or property, so straighforward) I went on an old fashioned dating website known as nerve.com. For about six months I had a lot of fun having sex with amiable strangers. For me this was a good way of working out all the emotional projections and relationship leftovers that seem to be unavoidable when you're on the rebound (and you never think you're on the rebound.)

I should add that the idea of online dating was unthinkable at first, in my grieving state. It may feel the same way to you. But if, a few months from now, you find yourself typing "ok cupid" into google, I encourage you to respect that urge. Respect the rebound.
posted by Morpeth at 2:55 AM on December 21, 2016 [5 favorites]

A phrase that I used frequently during the year after I split up with my husband: "This sucks. But it would suck worse if I was still married to him."
posted by shiny blue object at 4:10 AM on December 21, 2016 [18 favorites]

So in tune with many of your stories. I offer my own memail as an option for anyone who wants to reach out in some way to a real person who understands.

I struggle almost daily as I recover from my own broken relationship. Lonely hurts. Alone doesn't. Learning to be alone in a content, safe, healthy way, and using that time to discover who I am and what I truly want, is where it's at for me.

But sometimes you just can't handle it. Like holidays. And friends are great, I love my friends dearly, but who wants to be that sad friend calling on Christmas because [reasons] and emotions and all? So you watch Love Actually again, and cry, and then you walk your dog, and take a nap, read a book, and... sit in your aloneness and maybe cry some more.

I'll memail or chat with anyone who needs it. Massive hugs to all.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:19 AM on December 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

Make life as easy for yourself as possible. I stopped cooking anything that took more than ten minutes in the kitchen. I should have hired a maid. I untangled my social media from hers and used it as a support system -- you might feel bad calling your BFF at 11PM because you're sad, but the nice thing about the Internet is that there are always people out there who are awake and some of them will listen.

I was completely unable to connect emotionally with new people for quite a while. If that happens to you, you are not becoming a sociopath. Your brain is trying to protect you. It will pass.

Go back and do some stuff that your ex hated but you loved. My ex hated Christmas and I did a huge Christmas thing that year. Made me feel so much better. Also, get rid of stuff (if you can) that your ex loved but you hated. That ugly couch -- gone. And some stuff might be off limits now, whether for good or just temporarily. Maybe don't make that ziti recipe your ex loved so much if it makes you think of him, etc.

If you can, I'd recommend moving (after a few months), and also buying brand new bedding. Just getting out of the old environment as much as possible.

I'm almost three years out and I still think of my ex in passing at least once a month. I'm pretty sure that's normal. After a while, the wounds close up and you scar. You can feel that the scar is there, and it hurts to press too hard, but you heal. I don't have happy emotions when I think of my ex, but it isn't as devastating. I can move past it.
posted by possibilityleft at 4:45 AM on December 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

I had kind of an ugly phase before/during/after my divorce that involved some drinking, some staying out too late, and an ill-advised car purchase (my car was totaled right before I filed). But all this being said, I am totally fine now! It just took a while to get through it.

Nthing brand new bedding. It made such a difference. And yes, I got rid of just about everything that was his/reminded me of him/came from his parents.

There were definitely a few months of wallowing. Mine was final in mid-November, so the holidays that year were a drag. But after that, I was ready to go!
posted by getawaysticks at 5:32 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Make sure you take care of the basics, health-wise. Eat small, nutritious meals; drink water. If you are not exercising already, try some mild exercise, e.g. walking in the part. If you are not getting outdoors much, consider a full-spectrum light if it is midwinter by you. (Shortest day of the year in North America!) Do be careful with alcohol and drugs. All the joking about living on wine and Ben & Jerry's is funny until you actually do it. I felt unable to eat and and thought alcohol would help me wind down and recover my appetite and would just end up drinking instead of eating and feel a hundred times worse.
posted by BibiRose at 7:09 AM on December 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

I finalized in May this year after leaving in January, no kids, I'm 36, after being married since I was 23. I feel you. What helped for me was therapy, living with a roommate until I felt like I could live alone, drawing a lot, going out with friends all the time, cultivating one on one relationships with friends and family, making playlists, drinking socially, and generally just cutting myself some slack to Just Be. All the other goals I had for 2016 got put on hold, and I didn't let myself feel bad about that. What I WISH I had done more of was exercising and eating right, since I gained 30 lbs this year and that has made me feel like shit. I also started dating again, and while I have enjoyed feeling desirable again, turns out there's a LOT of weird shit that bubbles up when trying to be intimate with someone again, and so if I had to do it over I might have waited a little longer to dive into that. My main advice is to trust your gut and learn to listen to what you actually want instead of what you feel guilty about, let yourself feel feelings again, and remind yourself all the time that you deserve a good life full of wonderful things.
posted by oomny at 7:47 AM on December 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I am SO PROUD of you, as I'm sure many Mefites are!

I think that the difficulties (and there are many - I've divorced twice (and am now married #3)) such as those mentioned above will be mitigated somewhat for you.

What happened to you was torturous and you've been trying self care within the ashes of your marriage for so long. This is a huge self care step, and is going to empower you to move forward more than you can imagine. Despite the hardships.

Life can change so quickly, and so dramatically! I cannot wait to know what your life will be like in two years' time.

Yay ASFC!!!
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 8:42 AM on December 21, 2016 [5 favorites]

Every now and then, I remind myself, No one leaves a happy marriage. I am better off.
posted by Etrigan at 8:48 AM on December 21, 2016 [7 favorites]

Give yourself permission to grieve, and also to make mistakes. Grief is hard and it sucks a lot, but grief is also making room for the new in our brains and our attachment systems. It's part of the healing, so when it's hard, really know that we are wired to grieve so we can then form new relationships and experiences.

I think just do whatever the fuck you want to do from here on out, or at least awhile. I'm not saying blow up your life, but you know, you're allowed to not have to be the good girl, the good friend, the reliable one for awhile. You can try things on, move, change jobs, have sexy times with whoever you want, stay in your PJs for the rest of the winter, go out every night, both, drink, not drink, spend some money to feel good, take a class, go on a retreat, get your hair cut. Let yourself dream up some juicy, big fantasies, and maybe even go for some of them.

Definitely reach out to people.

I don't know, whatever FEELS good for you in the moment, I say do it. For like 6 months or a year, just say, if I want tacos, I'm eating tacos. If I want to take a day off, I'm doing it. If I want to be a hermit for the weekend, it's on.

Be gentle on yourself, being gentle is part of it, but also don't hold back on putting your needs, wants, desires first and trying them on. There is so much to discover now!!

You've been holding a lot of space so this manchild could play out whatever it is he needed to, but yay, that's over now. You get to have you back, while becoming yourself in a whole new way, and that is going to be amazing.
posted by Rocket26 at 10:48 AM on December 21, 2016 [5 favorites]

Everyone above has great advice. My situation was different, ending a 22 year marriage with 3 children was brutal. At the dissolution hearing, after all the legalese and answering rote questions, the judge turned to me and said congratulations on beginning your new life. It was like a tiny light in what had been dismal darkness.

Things will get better. You have a life of your own now. Explore it, and have fun!
posted by LaBellaStella at 3:55 PM on December 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

Like others have said, give yourself the appropriate time to grieve and don't rush how you feel. Don't be hard on yourself if you find you still miss him at times. Everyone is didferent and goes at their own pace.

It's been 3ish years for me and there are days where I hardly think of him at all. But after being together for 17 years, he's always there when I want to tell a story about my past. So it's tough. I don't believe the goal is to not think of them EVER, but to get to a place where thinking of them doesn't bring up anger or longing or regret. I do still grieve at times and that's fine.

You have plenty of life yet to live and you will be proud of yourself for making the kind of life that you want. It's interesting to be given a chance to try on a "new" you. Peace does not come overnight, but it does come. And you will be suprised at just what kind of amazing things you are capable of that you never thought you could do, before.

Wishing you and all my divorced sisters and brothers (from other mothers) love during this holiday season.
posted by Kloryne at 1:36 PM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Something that I found really helpful was giving myself permission to feel relieved. My ex and I had been miserable for years and I feel like I did my grieving while still in the marriage - once we made the decision it was still awful and sad and disappointing, but wow was it the hugest weight lifted off of me. I felt a lot of guilt for feeling relieved but once I let that go I could really move forward with the rest of my life. So definitely feel all the difficult feelings that come up, but if relief is there, let it blossom.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 10:42 AM on December 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

This marriage is my only serious relationship and my only sexual experience.

One of the best things I did: I vowed that my first sexual experience would be a throw away casual thing with someone who meant nothing to me. I didn't want a repeat of "We have had sex! This must be True Love! Etc!!! So let's live miserably ever after!"

You might consider something similar.
posted by Michele in California at 11:53 PM on December 25, 2016

Response by poster: Update, if anyone cares: I've been living on my own for about 6 weeks now and the divorce will be finalized this month. It was extremely difficult the first couple weeks, EXTREMELY difficult, but I am slowly getting used to living alone. Now that I have left him, I know for certain that I never want to go back. I am very glad that I finally gave myself permission to leave, and I don't even care if I am single for the rest of my life. I hope anyone who is reading this and who is also considering leaving an unhappy relationship will find some strength from my experience. If I can do this, literally anyone can do this.
posted by a strong female character at 8:17 PM on March 8, 2017 [19 favorites]

So glad you checked back in. Came to this thread after reading the one from last July, which made me cry on the Bart ride home (even tho it's been a year since my divorce and 2.5 years since I found out about my ex-wife and my best friend). Good for you!
(Alumnus, class of 2016)
posted by mabelstreet at 7:29 PM on April 28, 2017

« Older In the name of all that is holy, let the nice lady...   |   Help us Chill with our Kid while Drinking in our... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.