One Saturday night in April of 2005, my husband of sixteen years confessed that he wasn’t happy in our marriage. He also let it slip that he’d been having an affair for the last month. Then he asked me if I wanted something from McDonald’s.
I thought it was so odd. How could he eat at a time like that, especially cheap fast food? It didn’t seem like I’d ever feel hungry again. Then I realized none of this news was new for him. He’d dealt with all the feelings associated with ending a marriage long before that night. Before he dropped the bombshell, I honestly thought we were going to discuss a place to go for dinner since the kids were at Grandma’s.
Even now, I wish I would have handled things differently from then on. Instead, I cried and whined and begged him to come back. I give myself a break about it, though, because I was much more weak and fragile than I am today. The pain of the breakup lasted for years while my husband had already moved in with his mistress. I prolonged my own agony by the way I acted. Only after I got real with myself did I begin to heal.
Luckily, I learned a lot about myself in the process, and it’s easy to see where I went wrong. I’m sharing these five things I shouldn't have done below in hopes you recover more quickly than I did.
Don't Keep Your Head Buried In The Sand
When I think about that marriage now, it felt like I lived in a protective bubble. I thought my marriage was bulletproof, especially because we never seemed to fight or argue after so many years together. Our friends looked up to us as an example of a “perfect marriage.”
I’m not saying we never got mad at each other. In fact, my husband became more annoyed with me as the years went by, but I chose not to see it. Red flags were everywhere, but I refused to look at them out of fear for cracks in our armor. My husband never yelled at me once. Instead, he stuffed his negative feelings down inside his body until they leaked out in other ways. He thought of me like a piece of china, too fragile to handle the truth, and that’s the way I behaved.
One time, he took his cell phone outside to put out the trash. Those were the early days before phones were constantly glued to our hands, so I found it unusual. One night he told me I looked tired and should go to bed. When I came out a few minutes later for water, he was back on the cell phone in deep conversation with somebody. He looked guilty as hell when he saw me, but I played the ostrich and took my glass back to bed.
I purposefully ignored the truth because it was much too scary and incomprehensible. I’d been marriage since age twenty and didn’t know any other life. While I needed to pay close attention to what was really happening in my relationship, I bolted and ran the other way. My biggest regret is not facing the truth about what was going on with both of us.
Don’t Fail To Learn How To Be Independent
My husband always took care of everything, including me. I didn’t learn to pump my own gas until we were married about ten years. I didn’t understand auto maintenance, filing taxes every year, or even how to cook a decent meal. He wanted it to be that way, and so I let it.
There was never a thought in my head that he wouldn’t be around someday to help me with things. He was always concerned about my welfare and stepped in whenever things got too touch for me to handle.
While I appreciated the care he showed me, I should have taken the initiative and learned how to do those things myself. After we divorced, I was jaw-droppingly unprepared for the real world. I’m still learning how to do things I should have known a long time ago.
Don't Stalk Your Ex During The Separation
My obsession with getting my husband to see reason and come home knew no bounds. There was always “one last talk” I insisted we have, or I’d send him a barrage of emails every time I thought I had another good point to make. None of it mattered. He was gone long before he told me about it.
Every unanswered message was a clue for me to get over it, too. There wasn’t a solitary thing that was going to change his mind. No contact would have been the healthiest way to go, even though we still had to interact occasionally about the kids. Instead, I was intent on dragging out our messy relationship to its bitter end.
We had absolutely nothing to say to each other. It would have been better for me to see a therapist and vent there instead. I just wasn’t ready to accept losing my husband, my best friend, in one horrible night. However, a little acceptance on my part would have gone a long way.
Don't Isolate From Friends And Family
There’s so much shame involved with being dumped. I felt like dog poop on the bottom of somebody’s shoe. Surely nobody else would ever want a loser like me for the rest of my life. I just didn’t feel “good enough.”
It was a dangerous mindset right from the beginning that caused me to make the worst decisions of my life. Acting out caused more suffering than I ever intended. I hid from people I loved because I felt so badly about myself. I didn’t reach out when I should have, and I ignored people who reached out to me.
Working on my self-esteem would have done wonders in those days. I could have told myself I was beautiful and worthy even if I didn’t believe it right away. Because I was still broken, I settled for the first man who charmed me and got eight years of physical and emotional abuse in return. I didn’t think I could do any better than this man and was lucky that anybody looked at me at all.
Being dumped is not a flaw in your character. It’s the other person’s feelings, the ones you have no control over, that drives the narrative unless you speak your truth. It doesn’t make us less as people when our spouses preferred somebody else over us. In fact, I think that makes us better people. If our spouses are particularly unkind about it, shame on them, but never personalize yourself with somebody else’s emotions.
Don't Close Your Heart To Love
“Bitter” felt like my middle name for a long time after my divorce. As far as I was concerned, all men were scum and I couldn’t trust a single one. Terrified of getting hurt again, I slammed my heart shut behind an impenetrable barrier that nobody could reach. The last thing I ever wanted was to be caught blindsided again. I was determined to never get fooled again by a romantic partner, being more fueled by resentment and spite than the thrill of actually meeting and liking somebody.
Still, life doesn’t function without love. It becomes lonely, ugly, and sad. Saying you’ll never love again puts a giant chip on your shoulder that other romantic prospects will see as a red flag. If you’ve had a rocky or broken relationship, I feel for you. It can hurt worse than physical pain at times, but please believe that real love exists for all of us. Part of that is healing our wounds and loving ourselves first. A little forgiveness goes a long way, too.
Everything will be okay if you leave your heart wide open all the time. I can't imagine the alternative.