4 Big lessons my therapist taught me about divorce
Why see a therapist? I knew nothing about divorce, and she had seen hundreds. She had no emotional connection to my marriage. Best of all, she had a world-class bullshit detector that I needed.
1. You are getting a divorce
Not three minutes into my first visit, I whimpered, "He wants a divorce."
She nodded calmly. "So, you're getting a divorce."
I shook my head. "Well, I haven't decided if I want a divorce."
With a gentle look she repeated, "You're getting a divorce."
I spluttered for a minute, but she was right. As I said on my blog, it takes two, baby. For ten years, I had tried to be kind enough to make him kind and faithful. Now, I thought I could be married enough to save our marriage, but it just can’t work that way.
2. You don't have to answer the phone when he calls
A few weeks after we separated, I found out the real reason: he had had an affair and she was pregnant. My therapist wasn't nearly as shocked as I was.
He wanted me to forgive him and “fix things.” I went into a complete tizzy. I was furious, but I couldn’t let him have it because he was already so sorry. Every time we talked, we talked about his feelings and his pain. He talked more than he ever had when things were good. I told my therapist he was finally expressing what I meant to him, and she gave me a look that said “Girl, please."
I had to hang up the phone and feel my own feelings. I sent him to voicemail or to email. At first, it felt like turning my back on my husband, but with practice, I reclaimed space for my feelings. My therapist said I was taking care of myself instead of him, finally.
3. It's all about clarity
Every little detail I found out about his other life hurt. I've written about how I had missed so many signs along the way. Here was this person I had vowed to stay with through sickness and health, for better or for worse, but how much could I forgive?
My therapist encouraged me to get every fact I needed before I made a decision. I didn't need comfort or haste. I needed clarity. I needed answers.
We invested in marriage counseling so I wouldn't second-guess my decision to stay or go. That counselor recommended a three-day retreat — for $800. I agreed, but my husband needed the weekend to think about it. On Monday, I told a friend I still hadn't heard from him. "Sweetie?” she hooted, “If it takes him all weekend to decide if your marriage is worth $800, there’s your answer." That’s clarity.
4. Believe what they do, not what they say
Splitting up. Getting back together. Splitting up. This went on for months. He cried one day and said, "I can't be happy without you." I melted.
At my next appointment, I shared the wonderful news. My therapist asked, "Has he moved back home?" Uh, no. "Have you decided when that will happen?" Uh, not yet. "Is he dating other people?" Good question.
When he took me out to dinner for my birthday, I asked: "Are you seeing other people?"
In exasperation, he said, "Can we just have a nice dinner?"
Turns out, he was still dating other people. Guess what the number one cause of a marriage not working out? Dating other people. I had been so snowed by what he was saying that I ignored what he was — and wasn’t — doing.
Maybe it took me longer than average to make the break, but with the clear-headed advice of my therapist, I saw my way through the lies and made a strong, honest and rich life for myself — with way less bullshit in it.
If you're facing a divorce, consider this a gift from my therapist and me! You’ve saved thousands of dollars here. Go do something delightful for yourself! It's going to be tough, but you're going to be OK.