I have counseled many couples who were on the brinks of saving their marriage. Some were successful in staying together and others, well, they didn’t make it. That’s not to say, my skills led them in that direction. It only means counseling gave them clarity and they were finally honest with themselves and decided that for whatever reason, they couldn’t be married anymore. I love marriage and I will, the majority of the time, encourage any couple I come in contact with, to find a reason to “stick” it out.
By the same token, what happens when you or your spouse can’t be together forever? The hurt has become too much and the only way to forgive is to move on. What do you do? I don’t care who you are, NO ONE gets married with the intent to divorce. Sometimes, you don’t know what’s on the other side of “I Do” until you say, “I Do,” hence why this blog is titled, “The Unexpected.”
Life after divorce comes with so many thoughts, emotions and behaviors. I’ve been divorced before and it changed me. I was angry; I grieved. It felt like someone died. Truthfully, a part of me did. Mrs. Thomas was leaving the building. I went back to my maiden name. I moved out of our home. It literally felt like someone pulled another soul from my body. Although, I was the one who filed, I was still devastated.
Beyond all of the sadness and anger, I knew that how I grieved, determined how I healed, and for our son’s sake, I tried very hard not to become bitter.
Where does bitterness come from?
Well, its simple: Bitterness comes from the BELIEF that what we put into a relationship, didn’t match what we got out of that relationship. We EXPECTED a return on our investment and didn’t receive it. As a result, the core of us, is left sour.
I mentioned to my readers and clients before, that expectations are the root of all heartache. I meant that.
5 Ways to Avoid Becoming The Bitter Ex-Spouse
1. Take the loss
The hardest part about facing a break-up or a divorce is experiencing the feeling of defeat. Outside of the typical relationship struggles (communication, living together, finances, etc.), you now have to battle the universe. This looks like, things outside of the relationship working against it, such as an affair or a spouse being addicted to strip clubs, drugs or porn. If it takes away the attention allotted for the relationship, it can feel like one has lost. In some ways, this is true. It is a loss. A loss of future affection, future time, future attention and more over, future plans with that person. Notice I didn’t say, it was a loss of the past. If you learned something and gained a positive feeling during the time you were together, it is not a loss.
Perception is everything and when STB (Soon to Be) ex’s view severed relationships as a defeat, it makes it harder to get back up and fight when the RIGHT person comes along. So, embrace the loss. Don’t think about what the relationship use to be; focus on what it became. When relationships go bad, people stay because they hope for what was. Very seldom do they look at the current state of things and doing this stunts growth.
Anything that causes someone consistent pain, shouldn’t be held onto. Staying in a toxic situation creates a sense of anxiety and panic within the spirit, because its only a matter of time before the next bomb drops.
Tell yourself that the loss is OK and that you will get through it. Seek out evidence to support the fact that the loss was neccessary and there is hope on the other side.
2. Don’t check for who’s coming next
Regardless of who’s next in line to be with your ex-boo, or who was there when you were too, it is no longer you. That may sound harsh, but I’m a firm believer that anything before me was a mistake and anything after me, will be a downgrade. (Unless, you’re my current husband, he did a major upgrade and hit the jackpot with me 🤷🏾♀️.) Anyway, if you know you are the type to add value to a relationship, then there’s no need for comparison, jealousy, or “shade.” Avoid the search tabs, the urge to lurk, or sending that “friend request.” (Although, we all have that one friend who’s going to do it anyway). For you as the ex, it’s not worth it, and it only increases the anger should you be convinced that the quality of the new person was less than basic.
On the flip side, you might witness your ex do well after the break up. In your head, they probably don’t deserve happiness after the way they treated you. I get it. Do me and yourself a favor and still wish it well. Congratulate it “Vesta” style, because you don’t ever want to block your blessing, raining on someone else’s parade. I am a witness that God has a way of restoring and when He does, your “kickback” will be positively overwhelming. Remember, vengeance isn’t yours and it never will be.
Keep in mind that, while you may have been the best, it doesn’t mean you were the best for your ex. Some people need spouses that match their aura. For example, if your ex-spouse was controlling and you were the independent type, he or she may work better with someone who’s dependent. Some people just need to feel needed, and it’s not personal. Relationships are about what works and everyone isn’t interested in a challenge.
3. Get your numbers up
You know what they say, “the best way to get over one person, is to get under another one.” Now, I am not recommending that anyone goes out and have a “thot fest.” I am only suggesting that people who experience break-ups put themselves on the market to date others and see what’s out there. Sometimes, ex-spouses get so caught up in how the old one use to do it, they don’t consider the idea that a new one, just might and can do it better.
If you find yourself dealing with loneliness, shake it. Call up your friends, have a night out and create new hobbies. Boredom is the worse position to be in when going through a divorce or a break-up. Boredom provokes a trip down memory lane and that’s no good. Remember, the past is the past and that person you use to be married to, isn’t present anymore. Don’t be afraid to create new memories with new people.
4. Leave the children out of it
Some marriages end with children involved. Depending on why the couple had children, it is possible their children can make it through the divorce unscathed. Some couples have children to be parents. Other couples have children to use them as pawns. If you had a child to be a parent, great! Chances are, you will make sure that child is taken care of regardless of what happens between you and your ex. However, if you had children to control the other parent, God bless that child’s stability because they are about to be in therapy for the rest of their lives.
Parents who have children to control the other parent are described as parents who: refuse visitation or make visiting with the children difficult because someone else is involved; they speak poorly about the other parent to the children or in the presence of the children; they make up the most ridiculous reasons to get the other parent’s attention regarding the child.
For example, an ex-husband is tagged at a restaurant on a date and as soon as his ex-wife noticed, she called him and said “Hey, Lil Johnny may have chicken pox, get here quick…” He ended his date and rushed over. However, when the ex-husband arrived, he realized Lil Johnny, just had a mosquito bite. The date is over and the ex-wife disclosed that she really wanted to talk to her ex about what use to be. Please, don’t use the children. They didn’t ask to be here.
If you are an ex-spouse who finds themselves having an urge to use the children to gain the attention of your ex or ruin the current relationship of the ex, STOP and think about the child’s well-being. The child will eventually grow up with emotional baggage and possibly resent you for interferring in their relationship with the other parent. To use children as pawns is selfish and only hurts the children. Children do not look at their parents and see the pain of their parent’s past relationship. They only see their parents and their heros.
5. Get professional counseling
I will be the first to tell anyone that having a good counselor saves lives. Life can be a challenge, even without a divorce so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Bitterness can sometimes turn a person into someone they thought they’d never become. It’s important to have someone who is confidential and nonjudgmental when you tell them that you felt like smacking your ex or punching their new partner in the face. They’ll understand and they won’t interrupt the telling of your truth. Of course it’s great to talk to friends and family but your loved ones are on your side and most likely bias. Furthermore, you never know who’s using your experience for their entertainment. Counseling is just safer.
People need confidants who have no emotional investment in them as it allows the professional to listen with a helping ear. Healing and learning to appreciate the new-you is very crucial when getting through a divorce. Relationships are about learning who we are and what works for us. It’s never about the other person. If you ever been through a break-up or a divorce and came out unchanged, you probably wasted your time.
This post was written to help ex’s or STBs identify appropriate ways to grieve the loss of a marriage and avoid bitterness.
Nya B is an author, mental health clinician, professor and speaker. To learn more, check out her website at http://www.nya-b.com. Also, follow her on IG and Twitter @author_nya_b and on FB @Nya B