There I was thinking life was OK and then one day I was left behind in the rubble asking how to get over divorce after a long marriage. You may be asking that same question.
They say that the divorce process is hard on a woman. There is grieving much like happens with the death of a spouse.
There are so many emotions that vie for your attention and each one must be dealt with.
There are a plethora of unanswered questions that bombard your mind and keep you awake at night.
Asking how to move on shows that you have at least acknowledged the reality of what happened. But there are other questions that come first as you try to bury your head in the sand of denial.
So let’s talk about the emotions, questions, reality, and denial that are wrapped up in the all-encompassing question, “How to get over divorce after a long marriage.”
What is a long marriage?
How would you answer that question? Ten, twenty, thirty years of marriage?
For many women, the most devastating words to hear are, “I want a divorce.”
Here are a few statistics about divorce after a long marriage.
- According to an article in Forbes magazine, the average length of a marriage before divorce is 8 years in the United States. (1)
- While many young people are choosing not to marry, divorces amongst people aged 50+ years are rising. (2) This is now called the “gray divorce revolution.” (3)
How to face the reality of divorce after a long marriage
After being married a long time, divorce often makes it feel like so many wasted years.
Your initial thoughts are usually not about how to get over this awful change in life, but rather, “Let me just wake up and find that I have had a bad dream.”
Divorce presents many unknowns. Many women just want their life back, even if it wasn’t wonderful. But, it was familiar.
Denial is a protective mechanism to help your mind and emotions get over the initial shock. But it eventually has to be put aside. Otherwise, it leads to unhealthy emotional conditions.
To face reality, it is important to exercise, eat healthy and be around people even when your mind is screaming “Everyone leave me alone.” Isolation will never help you face it.
If you have supportive friends or a good church, they can help you through this initial phase. Just knowing that someone still loves you is a lifeline. Even a support group will help since those a little further in the healing process give you tips on things that helped them.
And if you don’t have anyone supportive in your life, get professional help. If finances are a problem, there are many online resources that offer help at least initially. Some are free, while others are pay-as-you-go. (4)
How to get over the emotions of divorce after a long marriage
There are many different emotions after divorce. Crying is common. And often we just want to stuff them down out of existence. We won’t want to feel them.
The problem with trying to box up some emotions like anger, hurt, and guilt is that it will dull or block the feelings we want to have: joy, contentment, satisfaction, and so on.
So we must take each feeling as it comes and deal with it head-on. But what does that really mean?
Acknowledge the feelings you are having
It is understandable that you feel hurt, angry, and empty. These feelings are normal. It is part of the grieving process, so don’t try to ignore it.
These feelings tell us that we lost something important to us.
- Our image in the community if everyone thought we had the perfect marriage.
- Our sense of who we are. We are no longer a wife.
- The respect of some family members who don’t understand why you stayed so in an unhappy marriage for so long.
- The loss of a home if you had to relocate.
- The list could go on and on.
Decide if the feelings are worth keeping
Anger, resentment, and unforgiveness will eat you alive. Yes, it was a difficult time going through a divorce. It probably still is. But you can choose to rise above this stormy part of life.
Feelings of insignificance, worthlessness, and of being a failure are not true. Every human was created in the image of God so that makes each of us significant and worthwhile. Furthermore, failure is only a lesson, not a life sentence.
Tell yourself the truth about what you are feeling
We can’t always trust our emotions as they can change rapidly. While sadness is normal, remember that this too will pass.
This is an important step in the healing process. Each negative feeling must be addressed every time it happens. Otherwise, it will affect future relationships.
To assist you in changing the negative feelings you may have about yourself, The Creator’s Classroom has a free online Bible study, “Biblical Affirmations: Telling Yourself The Truth.”
How to get over the unanswered questions of divorce after a long marriage
Some of the questions that surface after divorce are real, life-impacting questions.
- What will happen to the family home and where will I live?
- Will I be able to support myself?
- What about my children?
The good thing is there are answers to these questions.
But there are many other questions that you need to stop asking. They usually start with the words, “what if.”
- What if I had just said…?
- What if I had just lost weight”
- What if I had just ____________? (you fill in the blank)
The problem with these questions is that they have no answers.
You can’t change the past so you are just spinning your wheels by asking them. You might as well be a hamster going around in circles and getting nowhere.
So stop asking the “what ifs”. Instead, spend your time and energy on the questions that will help you solve the problems now facing you.
These will not help you get over divorce after a long marriage
There are many things that women want to do that are not a good idea. There are unresolved issues that first must be worked through first. You will have a hard time healing if you engage in these activities.
Start dating again
Many of us grew up thinking that we must have a partner to be worthwhile. It is part of our Western culture that is not healthy.
And so off women go looking for a new relationship, a new partner, hoping to dull the pain they are feeling. Ladies, this is not the answer. At least not now.
This common practice is like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. You can expect to get burned.
Right after divorce and while you are healing you need a social network, not a social monopoly.
Even if you were the one filing for divorce, the end of your marriage will cause grieving for the loss of a dream as well as many other familiar routines and rituals.
Feelings of loneliness often are why women start dating early on. But even happily married couples feel lonely at times. Understand that loneliness and being alone are not the same things.
Bad-mouthing or spying on your former spouse
Even if you are angry, even if you are hurt, even if he left you, continuing to talk about him negatively will keep reinforcing the very pain and hurt that you are wanting to get over.
If you are in therapy you may need to talk about the painful memories. But bashing your ex-spouse does not need to be part of it.
You can not change what happened and you can’t change him. You can only change how you will live your life from this day forward.
Talking about the divorce with mutual friends
This is probably one of the hardest aspects of divorce after a long-term marriage.
You and your ex-spouse may have mutual friends that you don’t want to let go of. However, you will find that many of them will distance themselves from the two of you.
Let’s face it. How can they be supportive when they hear two different sides to the story? Who and what are they to believe?
You need a new support system if you were counting on mutual friends to meet that need. It isn’t likely to happen.
Talking about the divorce with your adult children
Your children are caught in the middle if your ex-spouse is their biological dad. Don’t make them choose between the two of you. It will only hurt your relationship with them.
Also, don’t make your children feel like they need to meet your own needs. They also are grieving the loss of familiar things.
Your children need your emotional support, not the other way around. Don’t dump negative emotions on them.
Instead, help them to remember the good times, if there were any.
Tips on how to get over divorce after a long marriage
Each person’s recovery time is different. But one thing is for sure. The first step to being in a good place in life is not emotionally hanging on to the past relationship.
- Get support from a trusted friend, divorce coach, family therapist, or church family.
- Start making new friends through service projects, volunteering, or new hobbies.
- Limit your time on social media. All those perfect relationships you see are not usually reality. People don’t post the not-so-perfect moments.
- Make God part of your healing process. He knows you better than anyone else. He knows what will heal your broken heart. He knows how to help you walk on water instead of sinking in the waves of the divorce storm.
- Start making gratitude a part of your life. You have not lost everything or everybody.
- Find your identity in Jesus. This relationship will never change regardless of everything else going on around you. He will not leave you, abandon you or hurt you.
- Learn to forgive. It will set you free from the prison of anger and bitterness.
Yes, divorce is the end of an era in your life. But It is also a new beginning with new possibilities.
Re-frame your thinking about divorce after a long marriage. It will save you a lot of heartache.
You might also like to read:
- Who am I after divorce?
- Is divorce guilt haunting you? How to destroy its grip
- Surviving the storms of life
- Reasons to forgive even when you are hurting
- Christian dating after divorce
- Things to remember when you feel lonely