Today’s statistics show that about half of all marriages end in divorce or separation. That is a pretty grim figure. It means that more people are having to deal with the pain and trauma of broken marriages than ever before and the most common questions are how to heal from a broken marriage & how to fix a broken marriage alone?
It would be wrong to sugar coat it. Anyone who has been through a separation after marriage knows it is one of the most difficult struggles to get through. No one ever goes through the separation with a smile on their face, unscathed by the experience no matter how dysfunctional the relationship was.
Healing and recovery take time. It is a journey that is unique to every individual but a journey all the same.
The length of the concluded marriage does influence the length of the healing process. It takes longer to heal from the end of a twenty-year marriage than it would take another person healing from a two-year marriage.
10 Ways to Heal From a Broken Marriage
1. Allow Yourself to Grieve
Quite often sermons and speeches of advice to the couple at wedding ceremonies call on couples to see their relationship as a third person. More so a child who needs to be fed, nurtured and allowed to grow.
They personify the marriage, likening it to a living being which needs to be kept healthy and nursed when it is ailing.
It is probably because of this idea that the end of a relationship is compared to the death of a person. Many people who have been through divorce or separation admit that it feels like the death of a close friend or family member.
Clinical psychologist and family therapist Barbara Dydyk says it feels like this because it is basically the death of all your hopes, dreams and fantasies of ‘happily ever after’ with your partner.
As a result, during separation and divorce, people often experience the same feelings and emotions associated with death. Feelings of loss, sadness, anger and even denial are all quite normal.
The first step in healing from a broken marriage is to allow yourself to grieve. Allow yourself to cry it out whenever you feel the urge to do so. It may feel like you are being weak but it is a necessary part of the healing process. It eventually makes you stronger.
2. Mixed emotions
One difference between grieving the death of an actual loved one and a broken marriage is the presence of mixed emotions when grieving from an ended relationship.
In the latter, you may find yourself experiences a mixture of negative and positive emotions. Expected negative feelings are sadness, anxiety, abandonment, disappointment, anger, and loss.
These may be intertwined with positive feelings of relief, liberation, and optimism for a better future. Again, these are normal. Don’t beat yourself up for having contradicting emotions. Allow yourself to experience each one of them.
Perhaps one day you will be totally healed. The ‘death’ will be so far in the past that you will be able to look at your wedding pictures, smile and say ‘Rest in Peace.’ Just like you would when you look at an old photograph of a loved one who passed away many years ago.
3. Understand and Manage Your Anger
Anger is one of the most difficult emotions to deal with. It rages in you and sometimes you can feel it simmering in the pit of your stomach. Understanding it is one thing, managing it is another.
First, understand your anger by recognizing that it is purely a symptom of profound pain and hurt. Work towards identifying that underlying hurt and process it directly rather than the anger. Once you do this, it enables you to deal with it yourself rather than wait for the offending party to fix it.
They may never apologize for what they did to hurt you. That should not hold you at ransom. Occasional feelings of intense anger at your ex are impossible to avoid.
The challenge is in learning how to minimize them and manage the anger when it does come upon you.
4. Distance yourself
One proven way is to distance yourself from your ex. Physically distancing yourself works great. If you can avoid seeing the anger-inducing person (your ex) do so.
Go out of your way to make sure you don’t meet for as long as possible.
In situations where there are children involved, this may be difficult. However, make an effort to minimize your meetings. Another form of distancing yourself is emotional and mental distance.
Tell yourself that you are not interested in where he is, who he is with or any aspect of his life.
5. Forgive Your Ex
First, let’s admit that forgiveness is not easy. Letting go of the pain you feel after a spouse cheated, lied or betrayed your trust is extremely difficult. That said, it is not impossible.
6. Forgiveness is for you
Although it is great for your ex when you eventually come out and say I forgive you, it is first and foremost for you. Continuing to carry the bitterness and anger from the past is like gobbling down a cup of poisoned juice over and over again. It causes you pain each time.
It is also like dragging a huge load along everywhere you go. Forgiveness, on the other hand, are you making a decision to let go of the load. It relieves you of the weight you have been carrying around.
It means you never drink that poisoned juice again. Look at forgiving your ex as a gift to yourself.
7. Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting
All too often we are told to forgive and forget. As if forgiving is not hard enough, now forget the terrible things your ex did to you? Well, sometimes it is necessary to remember in order to implement necessary change.
For a spouse who has had to endure many years of mistreatment or abuse, remembering the past helps to draw boundaries. To teach the other what kind of treatment is acceptable and what is not.
Where destructive patterns and habits need to be broken, forgiveness does not necessarily call for forgetting.
8. Forgive Yourself
What if you are the one who betrayed your partner? What if the end of the relationship was largely as a result of you actions? Perhaps it was only after your wife packed her bags and left you that it dawned on you how much your actions were hurting her.
Some women don’t realize how far up the wall they have driven their husbands until the day he walks out and never looks back. You screwed up. Big time. What next?
You may deny it to the world but at some point, you will deal with feelings of guilt and regret. These feelings could lead you into a place of self-loathing. You could end up stuck in the belief that you are a terrible monster unworthy of love and happiness.
This is not a healthy place to be, regardless of your mistakes. These are some points to keep in mind to forgive yourself for messing up.
- Acknowledge that you are human and human beings make mistakes. The fact that you feel bad about it means you care. You are not such a monster after all.
- Avoid negative self-talk. You are your harshest critic. When you are dealing with guilt and regret, that harsh, critical voice inside your head can get you down. Catch the negative words in your head and reject them. Counter them with positive statements about yourself and to yourself. Instead of accepting ‘I am such an idiot. How could I have done that? Say to yourself ‘I really could have done better… but I will definitely do better next time.’ The former leaves you with a deep sense of shame and the latter gives you a sense of hope for a better tomorrow.
- Make a point to genuinely apologize to the person you hurt. This is not only important for them but does you a lot of good as well. Even if your ex doesn’t accept your apology, the fact that you made it and made it genuinely does help to relieve some guilt. It takes you a step closer to forgiving yourself.
9. Leave the Children Out Of It
No matter what your differences are, the two of you will always have a common goal when it comes to the children. You both want the best for them and should be willing to do whatever it takes to protect them.
At the height of your pain, it could be very tempting to tell little Bradley what his father has been doing with his assistant at the office. An angry father may be tempted to tell their teenage daughter that her mother has taken a fancy to another man, but it never does them any good.
Another mistake separated parents make is openly criticizing one other to the children.
Dad criticizes Mom and Mom keeps saying nasty things about Dad. This only serves to put them in the middle, in a position where they are subtly expected to take sides. Needless to say, it is an unfair position to put a child in.
Don’t forget that a broken marriage could have adverse emotional effects on children. Children process it in different ways depending on their age.
- Young children may worry that if Mom and Dad could stop loving each other, they may one day stop loving them.
- Older, grade school children may construe the separation to be their fault. They may assume they misbehaved too much or did something wrong to make it happen.
- Teenage children may develop intense anger. In many cases, they blame one parent for the broken marriage and resent them for all the upheaval in the family.
10. Assurance and security
Instead of openly criticizing each other, strive to create a stable environment for them. Assure them that the love they have always known from their parents is not about to change.
Make it clear that your love for each other (or lack of it) doesn’t change your love for them.
11. Take Care of Yourself
Divorce or separation takes a toll on you. It is physically, emotionally and psychologically exhausting. Not to mention the pain it brings. Some people say it is the most difficult transition they have ever had to make in their entire lives.
- With that in mind, it only makes sense that you should go out of your way to take care of yourself during the healing process.
- Get enough sleep. The value of sleep is often underestimated. During trying times, you may have trouble sleeping or be inclined to sleep too much. Whichever the case, make a point to maintain sleep hygiene. This means you sleep at the same time you have always slept and don’t give in to the temptation to sleep in every day. Proper sleep patterns help maintain both emotional and physical health.
- Spoil yourself. This is the time to take that holiday you have been meaning to take for years. Don’t feel guilty about spending an afternoon at the spa or getting your hair done. Focusing on activities that make you feel good can go a long way in healing and alleviating pain.
- Activity is key. We have all seen guys and girls who want to lie on the couch and watch television for days or weeks after a break-up. It is normal to feel like you don’t want to face the world but don’t let yourself wallow in it for too long.
Get up and do something. Exercise is ideal but it is not the only thing that works. The point is to be up and about. Go to the store and pick up supplies. Meet up with a friend and spend a couple of hours catching up.
12. Seek Professional Help
The mentioned feelings of sadness, disappointment, anger and anxiety are to be expected. However, there are certain behaviors that you may notice in yourself or a friend which are sure signs of need for professional help. These include:
- Inability to sleep
- Excessive drinking or use of hard drugs
- Abusive behavior towards children
- Prolonged self-isolation
- Persistent anxiety
- Threats to harm yourself or commit suicide
- Unexplained illness
All these negative behaviors are as result of an individual’s inability to deal with the emotions that come with the separation. A professional therapist would therefore help you process these feelings and help you turn the negative thoughts into more positive ones.
Professional therapists generally walk with you through the grieving and healing process and steer you into psychological recovery. After separation, different personalities make one of two assumptions.
The first is self-blame. The individual struggles with thoughts that the separation was their fault. Others believe that the other party was completely to blame and that they has no part to play in it. Both of these are incorrect.
Post-separation therapy helps you get past feelings of self-blame for the way the relationship ended. In other cases it helps you acknowledge your role in it all even if most of the blame can be placed on your partner.
Many people come out with a battered sense if of self-worth. This kind of therapy also helps to lift an individual’s esteem. Professional therapy helps to start rebuilding it.
13. Spend Time with Friends and Family
Separation is tough. It leaves you emotionally unstable and your esteem is at the very least, injured. If you are going through or have gone through it, you are generally advised to spend time with friends and family.
These people love you so it is unlikely any of them will do anything that will make you feel even worse.
Make a point to spend time with people who you care about and who care about you. Being in a warm loving environment, even if it is for a couple of hours every so often, reminds you that you are loved and you love.
These people remind you that your partner was not the only person who loved you.
If you were a jolly, confident person before all the emotional turmoil and have been reduced to a quiet timid individual, being around people who have known you all your life reminds you of who you were.
It encourages you to rebuild yourself into what you were before.
14. Envision Your Life without Your Ex
Like many other aspects of life, attitude creates the outcomes we experience. In this case, look at your life without your ex positively. Grow your positive attitude and before long you will be looking forward to the rest of your life.
Look at it negatively and you will sink into misery, with no will to wake up tomorrow morning.
That cliché statement ‘I can’t live without her’ is misleading. Yes you can. In fact you can have a fabulous life. Yes, there is life after a broken marriage.
This is the time to make a list of all those things you always wanted to do but couldn’t because you were married. Not to say that you should get into irresponsible sexual escapades. We are talking about travels, adventures and the like.
Also, think about things you rarely got to do because your partner didn’t like them.
If you have always loved Indian food but rarely got to go to Indian restaurants because your partner couldn’t stand the spices, now is the time to enjoy an Indian dinner.
Regardless of how long you had been married, there is always a thing or two you missed about being single. See yourself enjoying those things for the rest of your life. Sit back and envision your life ahead. See yourself happy.
Now that you have a good idea of what you should be doing and thinking in order to heal from a broken marriage, let’s look at some thoughts and habits to avoid. Here are some don’ts to stay away from.
Don’t blame yourself because you couldn’t ‘fix’ your ex. You cannot ‘fix’ a person no matter how much you love them. You can comfort them, encourage them and even try really hard to tolerate their behavior but you cannot fix them.
Pathological behaviors, which are often linked to broken marriages require professional help. Even if this help is sought, change must come from a compliant client who recognizes the problem and is willing to put in the effort it takes to make the change. In the absence of that, there is little you can do to change someone.
Don’t feel foolish for having fallen in love with your ex. After a breakup, people often ask themselves ‘how could I have been attracted to someone so troubled?’ ‘Why didn’t I see the monster in her from the beginning?’
It is very possible to fall in love with someone and fail to see the potential for trouble. Your ex’s problems may have come up after you were married. It could also be that they deceived and manipulated you into marriage and you never saw it until it was too late. Perhaps you were young and naïve, you didn’t quite understand what you were getting into.
Whatever the case, don’t feel like a fool for finding yourself in the situation you are in now.
Don’t second guess your every decision after that. Don’t allow the bad decision to get married to your ex (it probably presented itself as a good decision at the time) make you doubt your ability to make good decisions. Make a list of as many good decisions you have made in your life.
Remember that the ability to make sound decisions is not lost by one bad decision.
Just because your marriage didn’t work out, it doesn’t mean you cannot make sound decisions at work. It doesn’t mean you cannot choose the right friends.
The bottom line is that you can heal and live a very happy life after a broken marriage. Whoever told you that you cannot live without your ex lied to you.
That said, you cannot break up with your partner after many years of marriage and expect to heal immediately. It takes time and deliberate effort to get yourself back to a happy place.
Never the less, it is worth every effort. Don’t forget that allowing yourself to wallow in sadness and self-pity can also affect your health. You owe it to yourself to lift yourself up and out of misery.