Does Divorce Mean I’m a Failure?

Susan Leigh's blog post for Smart Divorce

We regularly read that relationships are not easy. They require hard work to succeed, with long-timers frequently referencing their ups and downs with a wry smile. When we marry we make a commitment for better or for worse. So, where did the love go, what went wrong that resulted in us now being divorced? Should we have tried harder, made more of an effort? Does divorce mean I’m a failure?

Change happens

We remember how way back in the day we loved each other. We couldn’t envisage life without each other, planned our future together, discussed children, travel and old age, musing over the many future possibilities with laughter and affection.

Throughout the years we come to accept that change happens. Life brings different opportunities and challenges that may take us in unexpected directions, so opening up new choices, perspectives and priorities. Children, financial pressures, health changes and the demands of family all bring additional pressures into our lives.

As a consequence, the things that initially attracted us to each other may begin to irritate. The easy-going charmer may now be viewed as lazy and lacking in motivation. The person who’s focused and career-driven may be now regarded as a ruthless, money-obsessed workaholic. Qualities, which may in themselves be fine, may no longer be wanted in our lives.

When it ends

When one person reaches the point of saying ‘enough, this can’t continue, it’s time to go our separate ways’, it’s not a decision that they’ve taken lightly. Many people will repeatedly try to rekindle their relationship, perhaps undertake relationship counselling, in their desire to make it work. After all, they once cared deeply for each other. But ending a difficult and unhappy relationship often ultimately works out best for all concerned.

Feeling a failure can be part of the healing process. Everyone needs time to reflect and grieve after a significant death or ending and divorce is no different as it means the end of a special relationship and the life we’d anticipated living, possibly after having invested many years in it.

What can we do?

During and after the divorce it’s important to take time to process what’s happened. Lessons may need to be learned, regrets worked through and feeling a failure may need to be healed. Counselling and hypnotherapy can play an important part in the recovery process, helping with self-esteem, improving the diverse emotions that may be agonised over, like anger, hurt, frustration, ‘why me’, especially if the ex initiated the divorce and appears to be moving on well.

It’s important to grieve over what’s been said or done, both by yourself and by others. A divorce will have significant impact on virtually every area of our lives. It can take time to recover from any harsh exchanges of words and actions. We may need a period of reflection to determine our next steps. Consider how to start again and forge a new identity. Sort out the practicalities like childcare, financial considerations, work and retraining. All these important decisions can reinforce feelings of vulnerability and of being a failure.

– Children

Children are often a major consideration throughout a breakup. No matter how amicably their parents try to handle it, they may need to move home or school. Children may struggle after the trauma of the breakup. They often need reassurance that they are loved by both parents. Most importantly, they were in no way responsible for the divorce and can speak to the absentee parent as often as possible.

It can help to let them know what’s going on. This should be done in an age-appropriate way. Additionally, they can be included in the choice of decoration for their new bedroom(s), enabling them to feel more positive, considered and settled about the changes.

– Close family

Close family may struggle to accept the breakup and find new arrangements hard to take. But grandparents can be invaluable after a divorce and offer stability and security in a potentially distressing environment. You often hear of one set of grandparents being relied on heavily. Maybe providing housing, financial or childcare support whilst the other side becomes almost estranged. Both sides need to work hard at staying reasonably neutral. Therefore, they should avoid too much comment or criticism if they want to retain contact with each other.

– Home

Home and where to live is an important decision post-divorce as it has major implications. Separating one home into two is stressful and expensive. This can reinforce the sense of overwhelm and feeling a failure. Would it be worthwhile to house-share or rent for a while so as to allow things to settle before embarking on the next decision?

– Work

Work often becomes more important post-divorce. There’s the pressure to earn money in order to live, but there may also be the desire to use this time as a catalyst for a change in career, to maybe retrain and use this as an opportunity to start again.

Balancing the desire for a fresh start against the need to earn money can be difficult. However, try exploring options like night school, working part-time, accepting offers of support. There may be viable ways to enable a new path to open for you.

Finding appropriate childcare, deciding how to next proceed, accommodating immediate necessities whilst maybe losing the existing support network of friends and family, can all add to the stress and feeling of being overwhelmed post-divorce. Already in a vulnerable situation, it can add to us deciding that divorce means we’re a failure.

Try to take things at your own pace. Remember, there’s no lonelier place than in a loveless relationship. Divorce can be the start of a positive new life.

Susan Leigh, Altrincham, Cheshire, South Manchester counsellor, hypnotherapist, relationship counsellor, writer & media contributor offers help with relationship issues, stress management, assertiveness and confidence. She works with individual clients, couples and provides corporate workshops and support.

She’s author of 3 books, ‘Dealing with Stress, Managing its Impact’, ‘101 Days of Inspiration #tipoftheday’ and ‘Dealing with Death, Coping with the Pain’, all on Amazon & with easy to read sections, tips and ideas to help you feel more positive about your life.

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