I expected to be married for the rest of my life. I figured my wife and I would go through some difficult periods as we age and slowly transform as people. But suddenly she left. There was very little time to work on the relationship. She just suddenly wanted out. Her life was not what she wanted so her solution was to drop it all and do a reboot rather than try to work on it. I couldn’t believe it. I would have died for her. I would have done anything for her and she never cried over the relationship – she just left. I had expected to be one of those couples that has their 50th anniversary and all of our friends show up. Now I’m a single dad in a house with two boys. What could I have done? How could I have done something different? Was I really that hard to be around?!
My expectations for my life are different than reality. They are VERY different. That’s the thing about divorce. It is a loss of expectations. We didn’t expect to be divorced. We didn’t expect life to take a turn for the worse.
So now what? Life is different than I expected. Why is that? What can I do?
I wish it were as simple as just let go of the past and accept my new future but it isn’t. It is a constant process. And what is that process?
First, it is key to understand and accept our situation. “What you resist persists”. This is denial and acceptance. We can say to ourself things like “This is my new life. Now I get to choose how the rest of it will go.” We need to transform our perspective from victim to victor, from powerless to powerful. Also, we can write down our story. What happened? A lot of times people let their marriage and divorce “story” live in their heads. Over time, as they tell other people, it morphs a little. It becomes very compelling to have a version that portrays the storyteller as the victim. Write your story. What happened? Why? And answer the question, “What was my role?”. For me, I said that she could try an open relationship, and then I realized I wasn’t okay with it. Too late, she had already had some outside relationships. I didn’t plan or do a lot of romantic things with her. We had busy lives, two young boys – I thought she didn’t need that. I could have done more.
By writing out your detailed story you allow the past to be in the past. You don’t have to carry your history with you. Now you can begin to move forward. Don’t get me wrong, every day you will be reminded of your past and the loss of expectations but time and the written story will diminish those sharp memories.
The second step for me with the loss of expectations is letting go of the relationship. We have to say goodbye to the relationship, to our ex-spouse. I held a funeral for her. After 17 years together I thought I knew her. I said goodbye to my best friend, the person I thought I knew, the person that gave me my wonderful children. I went through the list of expectations I had for us, each other, our future, our retirement and I said goodbye. I cried so hard that my abs hurt for days. I then got rid of everything that strongly reminded me of her: pictures were taken down, kitchen equipment was sold or donated, I did a bedroom makeover. I let go of her and the memories.
Guess what? It worked pretty well. Now I see her and what goes through my head is: “I used to know somebody that looked a lot like her”. I don’t have the anger like I used to. I don’t want to be with her ever again. There are simply no feelings for her. She is a person that helps take of my children, like a nanny. She also helps with some of the bills (unlike a nanny!). I like her as a person but I have no romantic feelings for her.
So, if you are struggling with a loss of expectations the way forward is to let go. Write your story, then have a funeral. You will feel cleansed and ready to move forward.
When you are ready to move forward you will want to set goals. That is the subject of a different post.