By Laura Bonarrigo
No one goes through divorce school when they’re getting married. We barely go through marriage school, never mind parenting school while interviewing caterers or picking out flowers for the wedding reception!
So when a family falls apart and divorce is imminent, it can be very upsetting. But when divorce is unavoidable because you didn’t have a say in the decision, and you’re still in love with your partner, it is most certainly devastating. It completely rocks your world.
We look at the intimate husband-wife commitment with the idea of two people creating a life together. The daily choice to be faithful, loving, and kind requires us to override our innate antagonism, our daily frustrations, and our mercurial moods. Men and women equally can make a marriage miserable without some kind of commitment to the bonds of their marriage contract and a willingness to grow together, and be kind.
So if one partner chooses to step out of their commitment, dally in friendship, flirtation, and infidelity, there’s usually no closure. The faithful partner is left to pick up the pieces of their family and manage their broken heart on their own.
In such cases, there’s often no discussion, useful explanation or logical reasoning. Sometimes the story makes sense – it’s the need for outside affection, stimulation, love, or just sex that pulls one partner’s attention away from their vows. But for the person left, then what?
The pain of being left is devastating. It completely rocks your world. It can take a very long time to understand how to get over a breakup you didn’t want or you didn’t have a say in. That sort of loss affects us on a deeply personal level. It calls into question our self-worth, our identity, our self-confidence, our sex appeal, our beliefs, our trust in others, and institutions. It rips away the fabric of our lives.
When that happens, on our knees, it’s difficult to face the shame and stigma most people have towards those who divorce. It’s easier to pull in and hide. I spent an enormous amount of time second guessing myself. I had to be careful: such thoughts can cause permanent pain, a sense of righteousness, heightened anger toward the opposite sex, long-drawn out court battles, and a loss of faith in the very idea of marriage.
It’s cruel to leave another who thought you were their soulmate. It’s also cruel to abandon your friendships when this occurs. Remaining hopeful and optimistic is crucial. The ending, as painful as it is, doesn’t need to be the end of one’s entire life. And those of us on the outside looking in can offer so much more than we realize.
My goal is lofty: to create community healing from divorce. Leaving the legacy of shame and stigma in the past so that one can recreate their life moving forward. But I need your help.
As you look around your community consider those in need of compassion and kindness. (Especially when they don’t want it.) Help them feel included. They may resist, vent, argue, and turn down your offer. Please know, they truly just need a dose of patience and are doing the best they can. On one’s own, there’s often no manual for a breakup based on being dumped.
The one thing I needed during my divorce was to be included at my friend’s homes; to be invited and considered, as opposed to feeling shunned. If you can muster it, invite your friends to your dinner table, help them have a good day. Workout together and include them in your activities.
Sometimes, divorce is truly unavoidable, and the manuals for how to get over a break up, are being written by all of us today, in community.