Looking back on my first divorce, it is like remembering someone else’s life. I like to refer to that period of time as the, “Divorce Fog”, because as I experienced it, it was as if emotions had completely blinded me to reality and I couldn’t see anything clearly. I felt like I was trapped in a nightmare and simply went through the motions of each day, without really feeling present. I was so overwhelmed with severe depression and denial that I temporarily became someone I didn’t recognize and did things that I never would have done otherwise. Are you are undergoing something similar as you navigate the devastating effects of divorce? Let me be the first to say that this is normal, so don’t beat yourself up for making mistakes. It is extremely difficult to know how to act when your life crashes down around you.
The immense pain that I felt those first few months after my ex had filed for divorce caused me to completely lose my mind. It’s the only way I can explain it, because I did things that were so out of character that I still can’t understand what I was thinking, other than to say that I was overcome with emotion and was unable to make rational decisions.
I tried everything to try to heal my heart and move on with my life as quickly as possible. I through myself into volunteering in my community, became active in the 20s/30s group at church to meet new people, went to therapy, and joined a divorce support group. Against my better judgement and all advice I had received, I immediately dating a man I met in my church group. He was a divorcée as well and could relate to the sadness I was feeling. At the time I was in my mid-twenties and he was nearing his mid-thirties. Although I was not physically attracted to him and we had nothing in common, other than divorce, I found myself quickly becoming attached to this person. I told him all of the sorted details of my marriage and the things that brought my shame in my part of how the divorce came to be. We became close through our shared stories and spent hours talking on the phone and hanging out whenever possible. After two months of hanging out he told me he no longer thought we should spend time together. On top of the pain I was already experiencing, this rejection felt unbearable.
I later learned that the man I had been spending time with was now dating another young divorcée. Apparently, it was common knowledge among the 20s/30s group that he preyed upon young women who were going through divorce. Unfortunately, no one thought that it was important to warn me of this behavior until after the fact. Thankfully I had never given myself to him sexually, but being pushed away after sharing my story made me feel abandoned all over again. The moment I realized that I had been used for his amusement it was like the veil had been lifted and I began questioning what the hell I was thinking! I NEVER would have been interested in that person if I were in a healthy state of mind. We had nothing in common, I found his mannerisms repulsive, and I found him quite unattractive.
The divorce fog continued affecting my life for years. Although I was over my ex husband, I was not over the pain of feeling abandoned, nor the low self-esteem that accompanied that volatile relationship. Through that fog of emotions I dated people I didn’t even like, I said things I didn’t mean, and I even ended up marrying someone that I didn’t love, because I had lost all faith that I could find real happiness, nor did I believe that I deserved it.
Shortly after getting married again the fog lifted. I began to see that I had allowed depression to rule my thoughts and actions. I found myself in a marriage with a man whom I cared for, but could not love romantically. Furthermore, I didn’t really know who I had married. Our relationship was not only surrounded by a fog of emotion, but a prominent alcoholic influence. We spent most nights drinking ourselves silly, which was fun for a while, but lost all of its appeal once the fog faded. When I stopped drinking and began to feel more like myself again, I noticed that my new husband may actually have a problem with alcohol that I was too oblivious to see before. As I tried to ignore these new revelations and forced myself to try to fall in love and act happy, I only drove myself deeper into misery. After only one year of marriage I filed for divorce.
Unlike the first divorce, the second was free of fog. I was sad, don’t get me wrong, but I was also relieved. I finally felt like myself again and was able to experience true freedom, without the constant internal pressure to find happiness through a man. I learned to love living alone, doing what I wanted, and was able to figure out who I was on my own. I didn’t have any desire to date, instead I spent time building my female friendships and learning to love myself. It was because of that second divorce that I found real happiness doesn’t come from being with someone, but rather can be discovered from within.
If you are going through a divorce and find yourself acting completely out of character, know that you are not alone. Divorce is a painful and life-altering experience, which can greatly impact the way you behave. There is a good reason that therapists and support groups suggest that people who are going through a divorce don’t date for a couple of years after. I was ignorant enough to believe that I was fine to date, but I was far from fine. Please take my advice and give yourself time to feel your pain and heal from it. It sucks and it can seem unbearable at times, but if you don’t allow yourself to completely heal, you will only delay the process and will possibly hurt others along the way, just as I had. Find comfort in your family and friends, fun activities, and new experiences and remember that you are not alone. I’ve been there, I’ve done the sleepless nights and have cried myself to dehydration. I made it through and can honestly tell you that my life is better than it has ever been. You will make it through this horrible time of your life too, so stay strong!