How I Moved on after Divorcing in My Early 30’s

I was the person who left my marriage and did not feel heartbreak. I was so heartbroken throughout the final year of the marriage that the end felt needed. It felt necessary. It felt like it was the only way I could be myself again – and breathe again.

 All of those feelings felt true for the following year. Time and time again, I found myself disappointed by my ex-husband. And while I felt overwhelmed and tired all of the time single-mommying, I was on the road to happy.

 ……until he got a girlfriend.

 I will never forget the day he told me he was in a relationship. I had a break between sessions of Life Coaching and he told me he needed to talk. He requested “later” but I had clients all night so later didn’t exist. I said “I have 15 minutes now, whats up?”

 “I’ve been seeing somebody,” he said. “Okay,” I replied with a sigh, “for how long?”

 “A couple of months.”

 “Okay,” I said walking away back into my office.

I was not fully into my doorway before my mental wheels started turning. “A couple of months?” I thought, “that’s not ‘seeing’ somebody…”. My brain quickly took me to the time we were sitting on the floor with my daughter playing that June when he told me he was moving to another part of town. At that time, I asked if he was moving in with a girl. He said no.

It then reminded me when I picked him and my daughter up from Provincetown because the water was too rough from a storm and they couldn’t take the ferry. Then I asked him too – “are you with someone?” He replied “no.”

Each time I asked I was ready for the answer, but I wasn’t ready to be lied to. I was lied to SO often over the course of our marriage. So while I had a feeling he may be with someone for months, I also wanted us to be at a new place in our relationship where honesty was valued and respected.

I walked out of my office and said in an accusatory tone, “a couple of months? So, when I asked you if you were dating someone in Provincetown, you were”

 “Yes” he replied.

 “So when I asked you sitting on the floor a week before you moved, you were with her?”

 “Yes” he replied.

 Then it hit me. “WAIT – do you live with her?!”

 “Yes” he replied.

The tears that followed were massive and uncontrollable. It was as if all of my old pain was coming out in each tear. Every moment and emotion I couldn’t feel deeply over the last year was coming out all at once. I couldn’t tell if it was pain over being lied to, or if I was finally mourning the end of this relationship.

 It didn’t matter – I was so sad – so uncontrollably sad.

We exchanged a few more sentences with each other and I learned the tough truth – this person was someone he works with. A name I’ve heard a million times as his “best work friend.” A name now with a new association as a woman who would be around my daughter. And that was a thought I could not handle.

Related: Introducing a New Partner When Kids are in the Picture

I pulled myself together to get through my client calls for the rest of the evening and allowed myself the space to break down once they were over. I continued to break down the entire next day – just replaying the moment in my mind a million times. I kept thinking he would apologize for lying, but he didn’t. In fact, he said nothing. I asked him in a text to please not bring her around my child until I met her, but I was not ready to meet her. That was met with animosity and threats, causing me to be an anxious wreck.

This new knowledge put together a lot of pieces for me but it also made me so very sad. The thoughts cycled for the following days: “Why am I so easy to lie to?” “Imagine if I sent her there?!” “What if he is drinking again?!”

But the biggest thought of all was: Now we’re really over.

And that is a thought I could not have planned on thinking.

I thought I knew myself well and I really thought that my heart broke all it was going to break for him. I had experienced so much pain, so many hurtful couples therapy sessions, panic attacks, and fear, I really thought there was nothing left in me.  Introducing this new person, and the idea of this person, meant a finality to the relationship that gave me my only child. It means that there is no perfect world when he comes out with a grand gesture and tries to win me back into his life. It also means that he did not spend every day missing me and the life we had. These thoughts were a surprise to me in every sense of the imagination. I had no idea I felt this or wanted this – I thought I was done.

The weeks that followed put me into a place of mourning. It was time to heal the grief that was so present from the ending of this relationship. I felt like I was 16 years old again going through my first breakup. I would cry at the thought of a good memory, or a TV show we watched together. I had a plan to “Marie Kondo” my apartment with a friend and felt paralyzed by the idea of donating items that were ours.

I romanticized everything in an unhealthy way, a way I was and still am too embarrassed to admit to my friends.

Related: 4 Steps to Plan the Ultimate Pity Party (and why you need one)

In the days of mourning, I had convinced myself I wanted to be back with him. I was convinced of this despite him still being mean and rude to me about his relationship. As a Life Coach, I am conscious of when I am stuck in a thought that may not be totally “real,” so I did not allow myself to act on any of the feelings. In this case I knew it was a pure romanticization. So instead, I journaled about it over and over. I felt like I needed to let it run its course. I needed to feel every single feeling that was coming. For the first time, I wanted this family back, but at the same time, I knew I could not push for that. I did not have a family with him. I had anxiety, I had panic attacks, I had exhaustion. And I knew in the back of my mind that if I pushed for that, it would leave me right back into that sadness. I left for a reason – a reason that any friend I have would have reminded me about if I asked over and over again.

The more I journaled, purged and cried, the more I was able to realize the harsh truth – this person may be the father of my child, but if I settle for this love I am settling for a version of love that doesn’t allow me to be my full self.

I asked myself that question over and over again in the days that followed. Why do I feel I deserve a love I left?

The answer to that question changed over and over again in my journaling. Sometimes it was: because you love him.

Jessica Knight, Guest Author

Because you want your family.

Because you love his family.

But eventually, even through tears, the recurring answer that came up was: you don’t, without a reason…

So I decided to just listen to that, even when it hurt.

I also decided I needed help. At this point, none of my healing techniques were working and I found myself with undiagnosed generalized anxiety and I could not shake it. I allowed this to be my state of being for about a month before I decided ENOUGH. I had enough. I heard myself say to a friend “if he gets engaged I don’t know how I can ever come back from that…” and decided, wait – this not going to let this take me down.

I found myself fully invested in everything and anything that helped me. I started Tapping (EFT), went to a Reiki Session, spoke to an Intuitive Psychic (twice), got a new Life Coach who specialized in breakups, amped up therapy sessions, spoke to an Astrologist who helped me through my Quarter Life Crisis and sought out group coaching for Divorced women. If someone recommended something, I did it. I stayed home a lot on the weekends and allowed myself to sleep more. I refused to see this as depression – I chose to see it as healing, just as a broken leg would need rest to heal – I needed rest to heal.

Most importantly, instead of being mad at myself for my feelings, I honored them. I allowed the feelings to exist. And I still do…

There are not many resources out there on how to handle a breakup with an ex, specifically when children are involved. Many are filled with advice that only really helps if the other person is on the same page. In my case, he wasn’t – he lied, and I needed to write my own book of healing.  Here are the three main things that helped me work through it:

I had to be very real and very honest with myself in my journaling. I would write at the top of the piece of paper “What am I feeling right now?” and then “How much of this is true?” and then go through it again and ask myself “How much of this is actually true?” and then I would do it again…and again..until I no longer believed my own romanticized version of our story. I had to see this for what it is – the real truth.

I had to allow this to feel like a breakup – a real breakup. I had so many stories and judgments against myself for not feeling anything for 2 years. I chose to forgive myself for not feeling it sooner. I was going through the breakup NOW. I had to own that. The timeline doesn’t matter – the healing does.

And lastly, I had to consciously choose to be on my own timeline and not compare myself to my ExI was not ready to date when I first left him, and I was not ready to date a year later. Yes – it shook me to my core that he moved on so quickly, but I was not remotely ready to be with someone else when he was. It was only after doing this healing work that I felt ready to date (and then I started, and then I needed more healing work, but that is another story…). 

Remember – you can write your own book too – this doesn’t have to take you down. Don’t hesitate to get what you need, when you need it and most importantly – don’t allow the romanticized thoughts trick you into believing something that isn’t real – something you don’t actually want. You deserve to figure out what that is and go after it.

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