In the majority of divorces one partner wants to divorce and the other doesn’t. In other words, one partner is done and the other wants to keep trying. Both typically agree there are problems, but how they see the severity as well as the possibility of resolving them is usually very different. So how do you get through a divorce if you’re the partner who doesn’t want it, and what if you still love him?
The question really should be - how to get through a divorce when it’s being forced on you, you didn’t choose it, and especially when you don’t want it. The fact that you still love your partner and they don’t love you just makes answering these questions infinitely harder.
My husband just walked out, 10 days before our 23rd wedding anniversary. He said he didn't love me anymore and wanted a divorce. Our marriage has always been rocky, but this was still a shock to me. Several of his friends, including his cousin, have recently separated and/or gotten divorced and would tell my husband how much happier they were and they would brag about their new girlfriends. My husband has always been a follower and I think that hearing his friends, he began to think the grass was greener on the other side. I think that had a lot to do with his leaving. In the meantime, we have a fourteen year old daughter who is very hurt and angry with her father right now. I really don't want a divorce. I don't want to throw 23 years down the drain, and I certainly don't want our daughter to suffer any more than she already does." -Susan
If you’re asking the question of how to get through a divorce then what you want in an answer is going to be different not only depending upon whether you want it or don’t, but also on where you are in the process. If you’re still contemplating divorce then the answers you’re likely seeking are about what steps do you take, how do you not make mistakes, what should you look out for, how do you not get taken advantage of. However, if you’re in the middle of a divorce the questions often will look more like, when will this ever end, how can I get it over quicker, I’m overwhelmed or stuck – what do I do???
As you can begin to see, the answers people are seeking to the how to get through a divorce question can vary widely and be complex.
Why Is Divorce So Hard and Painful?
Divorce is difficult and painful, even if you’re the spouse who wants it. And when you’re the one who doesn’t, getting through your divorce turns from practical ‘how-to’ questions to ones of survival. Such as, how am I going to ever get through this?
One of the biggest reasons divorce is so hard is that it takes a significant emotional toll. People don’t even think about this aspect as they enter into it. In fact, divorce is most often initiated to relieve emotional pain, not cause it. Yet it does just the opposite. It brings more pain, not less.
My husband recently divorced me because he said, "I did not love him right!" I finally got the idea of what I was doing wrong. I went into a deep depressive state, where I did not want to do anything, basically I wasn't living! I know he still loves me, but what can I do to get him to understand that I do want to "love right", and to have us back together???" -Kendra
There are significant lifestyle changes that occur during divorce. The financial resources that used to run one household must now run two. Even people with significant financial resources can feel this impact. Many people, particularly men, can struggle with accepting the loss of assets (financial and other) that they’ve spent years accumulating. And for many this loss means basically starting over. Spousal support is another pain point that hits your bank account every month.
If there are kids then everyone gets less time with them and has less say in their lives. Another common point of emotional pain is the parenting and lifestyle choices of your ex that impact your kids and you, and no longer being able to do anything about.
Getting through a divorce requires being aware of each of these challenges that will look different for each person, and having strategies on how you’ll deal with them. A key piece of ‘how-to’ get through these aspects of divorce must include the emotional and mental impact, not solely the practical. A natural question to ask is, how am I going to afford this? A not so natural question that is just as important would be, how is this impacting me?
Accepting Divorce When You’re Still In Love
It’s common for one partner to really struggle with accepting their spouse’s choice to divorce. When there are still feelings of love, which is often the case, this is immensely harder.
In troubled marriages the threat of divorce is usually vocalized during times of conflict. But almost always it’s thrown out as an emotional response to feeling hurt and in pain, and is used as a way to hurt the other partner. Then at some point one spouse decides they’re done and just acts on it – they move out, retain an attorney, file for divorce, have their spouse served the papers, etc. Often without any communication with their soon to be ex-partner.
Marriage has been rocky for a while. Wife was unhappy and I never realized how bad it was. (We still did all the normal activities and most friends thought we were the perfect couple.) Now she’s talking about divorce and I love you but not in love. What do you do when wife wants a divorce but you don’t and want to make it work?" -Mark
The suddenness of a partner initiating divorce, the lack of discussion about what it means and how the partners will go through it, that is compounded by one partner still being in love makes accepting divorce very, very difficult. The partner on the receiving end is forced into dealing with a legal process they don’t want, understand, are fearful of and is also denied the opportunity to express what they want from the marriage, for themselves or their kids.
Getting yourself through a divorce when you’re still in love and your spouse has shut you out of their life is a big, big struggle for many partners. There’s not an easy solution of how to change it either. Many people find the guidance and support of an experienced divorce counselor extremely helpful getting through this difficult life change. An unbiased professional who’s been through this before and knows the pitfalls and strategies for navigating the process is immensely beneficial.
They can provide a sounding board for racing thoughts and a checkpoint for emotionally driven responses.
Unfortunately, accepting divorce when you’re still in love is a process and isn’t something that will just happen. Having someone with wisdom and objectivity walking alongside you can make it easier and quicker.
Why Can’t I Just Move On?
Divorce is a loss. It’s also a failure. These are two big reasons why it’s hard to just move on from a divorce. Many people miss these two important points and by doing so prevent themselves from fully healing and moving forward.
In my years of divorce counseling I’ve found that despite wanting to move on a lot of people really struggle to do so. They may try meeting new people and dating, establish a new life, and have their ex out of their life almost completely, yet they’re unable to stop their former marriage from continuing to negatively impact them. This influence is most often mentally and emotionally, but failed new relationships are common outcomes as well.
In addition to dealing with the loss and failure that divorce brings to both partners, whether or not you’re the partner who wanted the divorce plays a part in how much. Yet I’ve worked with many people who wanted and initiated the divorce who later on (sometime years later) question their decision, have regrets, or just struggle with being able to let go. Questioning how to get through a divorce can turn into asking how to get over a divorce many years after it was finished. Any partner, regardless of who initiated and the circumstance around the end of the marriage, can have a challenging time moving on.
I am a recently divorced woman. It’s very shameful that I am the one who was unfaithful to my husband during my marriage which I am not proud of at all. I cheated on my husband with my old friend for a long time (he lives in a different city so my husband never found out). But things didn't work out in the end with that person. But I still love that person in my heart. Now I am not seeing anyone. My husband didn't know about my cheating and I do not plan to tell him because it will hurt him more. Though my husband didn't know, my affair affected our sex life badly. I divorced him because I felt so guilty and wanted to set him free. Since he didn't know anything, he felt I ruined his life by leaving him and he is so sad that I left him and he still wants me back. I want to go back to him sometimes. He is a very good person to me and I have love for him as a husband. (Though I still love my old friend so much) I think I am the worst wife ever in the world and I don't deserve him. If he knows I cheated on him then he might not feel the same way anymore. Should I go back to him and try to be a good wife or should I let him go as I am already divorced from him and let him find someone who will make him happy? Please help me what should I do as I feel guilty and feel so bad for him." -Jasmine
There’s no question that spouses who were cheated on or did not want the divorce can have the hardest time accepting it and moving on. You can find out that your partner is divorcing you in some pretty shocking ways – a police officer knocks on your door on Halloween and hands you a divorce petition, or you come home from work and there’s a note on the kitchen counter telling you and your partner has moved out (true stories).
Secrets To Getting Through A Divorce
It may come as a surprise to hear that every partner struggles with getting through a divorce. Yes, even the one who’s already moved on with someone else. You may never see it, but I can tell you as someone who hears the things people think about but never tell anyone this is absolutely true. Obviously, some spouses struggle much more than others.
Is there anything you can do get through a divorce easier? Yes, here are 5 secrets that make a big impact.
- Don’t Ignore Emotions. Everybody’s got them (anger, hurt, fear), even us men who often pretend we don’t. Divorce brings them out big time. If you don’t address and have a way to manage them, they can make a divorce very, very difficult.
- Watch for Roadblocks. We’ve all got bad habits that we can fall into that undermine our ability to make good choices for ourselves. A guy I’m giving divorce counseling to right now is struggling with procrastinating on completing the financial forms for his divorce. He’s been putting them off for months. He wants the divorce over with, yet keeps dragging it out with his avoidance. Unfortunately, some of the issues with getting through a divorce are self-inflicted.
- Get an Anchor. You need someone in your life to keep you on track and your head above water. It’s easy to use a friend or family member for this purpose, but some of the risks with choosing one of them is that they won’t be as honest and direct with you as you need, their own biases with influence their responses, and they don’t have enough knowledge or experience with divorce to give you the help you really need. As I described earlier, an experienced divorce counselor is a much wiser choice.
- Set Boundaries. This is a rather simple concept to understand, however the application can be challenging. One of the things divorce does is take over your life. it highjacks it, puts it on hold, and consumes it. You’ll need to set boundaries with your ex in a variety of areas, communication is one of the biggest, and you’ll need to set them with well-meaning family and friends too. (Here’s some divorce advice on using boundaries to survive a divorce).
- Make Post-Divorce Goals. I don’t mean take a vacation to Hawaii, although you certainly can. What I mean is set some goals of what you want your relationship with your ex to look like post-divorce. It’s easy to become consumed with getting through the divorce and forget about the life you’ll have afterward. Most people go through a divorce in a very destructive manner and permanently damage any possible relationship with their ex. You can actually not do this, but it first requires making this a goal you want to reach.
How to get through a divorce is a very important question to be asking. So, congratulations on trying to look at how you can improve your situation and yourself, even during the destructive process of divorce. Sadly, many people just wait for it to be over. What will you take away from this article to help you make it through your divorce?
Struggling to get through a divorce? You’re not alone. Please share a little about your divorce story with other readers and you’ll probably get some responses back from others in the same situation (you can always stay anonymous if you like).
Looking for More? Check Out These Articles
- It Hurts When Your Husband Doesn't Love You Anymore
- It May Not End Up Being The Divorce Of Your Dreams
- Do Women Have The Same Midlife Crisis Symptoms As Men?
- Get More Divorce Advice