I didn’t see it coming. I thought we were a happy couple. We were together over 20 years; we were best friends, we shared everything. We laughed, we made plans for the future. And then I was blindsided.
There were (and still are) so many unanswered questions. What did I do wrong? When did he stop loving me? Is there someone else?
Time stood still. The days felt endless and the nights were worse. Going to bed alone, I never actually slept. I ruminated. I cried. I prayed that all of it was a nightmare that I would wake up from.
Eventually, I realized this was my new normal. I couldn’t change what happened. And I knew I would just have to exist in a state of limbo for a while until I could embrace this dramatic change and chart my new path forward.
When someone you love doesn’t love you back the way you thought they did, the future feels unknown and scary. But try to think of it as a blank slate. This is an opportunity to rewrite your story. A lot of people don’t get that chance.
This is how I rewrote mine:
I got out there.
Not that kind. (I wasn’t ready to date again for a long time.)
Fitness has always been a huge part of my life. I’ve run seven marathons, dozens of half marathons, 10ks and fun runs. I’ve done spinning, Barry’s Bootcamp, Orange Theory and countless other boutique fitness classes. As founder of Trainers in Transit, fitness is my day job. But fitness was also an outlet for me as I struggled through the pain of being left, and of divorce.
I did a little running. I tried fun classes like trampoline and barre, and I felt more balanced and centered. Some days I went to the gym and called it my “intuitive exercise day” – a day of listening to what my body wanted to do that day, and then doing it. All of this helped me to feel stronger, to reconnect with myself, and to avoid falling into unhealthy traps (hello wine and ice cream) that would have let me wallow in my misery and probably feel worse.
I can’t stress enough to you the importance of taking care of yourself and your health during this tumultuous time. Just listening to a guided meditation or practicing some breathing techniques can have a great impact. The feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine that are released during exercise are especially healing. The food you fuel your body with is a huge part of feeling good about yourself too.
I found a support system.
I repeated my story over and over again to anyone who would listen, hoping someone would tell me what I wanted to hear. I worried that I was becoming a burden – the one who was always so miserable that soon people would stop answering the phone. But, you know what? True friends won’t. True friends and family will be there to help you through this. They may not always say the right words, but sometimes you don’t need any words. Sometimes you just need a body with ears and arms to hug you.
I accepted reality.
The process of healing after a divorce you didn’t want won’t happen as quickly as you’d like it to. Accepting that your life has gone off course is the beginning of the healing process. Learning to accept where you are without constantly thinking about “what could have been” is a difficult state to achieve.
Be present. Believe in yourself and your power to heal your heart. Try to embrace the idea that “bad” things happen in order to deliver you to a better place. It might take a while, and you may hold on to those residual feelings of anxiety and fear for a while. It’s okay. Sit with those feelings. Then let them pass. Embracing change is painful, especially when you are thrust into a situation that was not planned.
When you’re ready, reframe the situation: this is an opportunity to explore things you never thought you would or could do. For me, it was yoga retreats and surfing in Costa Rica – things my ex husband would have scoffed at, but that I love. This is my time now.
Move forward. Reconnect with distant friends, foster an animal, volunteer your time, journal, travel, and love yourself.
You will come out of this on the other side a changed person, and that person can be anyone you want her (or him) to be.