Q. A few months ago, I separated from my husband of twenty years and we are in the midst of a terrible divorce. While I know I was right to get out of my relationship, on some level I still have many moments of self doubt. I don’t know why I’m feeling this way, as he was verbally abusive to me and I saw the writing on the wall ten years ago. He’s been making my life and my daughters’ lives a living hell since I kicked him out and has stopped paying for everything (mortgage, car payments, bills, etc.) which is especially bad since I lost my job recently. So why am I feeling jealous of the fact he has a girlfriend and why is part of me wishing things could be the way they used to be?
A. First let me say that I’m truly sorry for the horrible situation in which you find yourself. Remember that many people have walked in your shoes and have not only survived it, but have become stronger and more enlightened people on the other end. It’s natural to feel jealous in a situation like this because you are feeling down and lonely and wondering how he can be off with someone new. But this is not the reality of the situation. The reality is that a man who has been that abusive to his wife and children is not going to suddenly become Prince Charming with somebody new. It’s just a matter of time before she figures him out and if she’s got her head screwed on right, she’ll kick him out of her life, too. If not, then at least he is her burden now. I can see that logically you know you did the right thing. It’s just a matter of time before your heart catches up and realizes what your head already figured out. To help this process along I have some suggestions.
1. Make a list of all the rotten things you recall that he’s done and said and leave nothing out. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how an ex has hurt you, but being cognizant of how he’s hurting his own children should be a constant reminder that he is unworthy of your love, your devotion—or your jealousy. Whenever you are feeling insecure, read the list over (several times if necessary.) It may make you angry and if it does, that’s a good thing. You should be angry!
2. Get busy with job hunting. Since you’ve lost your job, the situation seems even more daunting for you. Therefore, doing something productive like trying to secure a new position can only help your state of mind. Additionally, try to make some time for your hobbies and your passions. Many people lifting out of abusive relationships find that they’ve lost themselves along the way. Do the things you used to do that made you feel quintessentially yourself—the things that your ex most likely squelched over the years. Experiencing the joy that comes from these passions will help to heal you.
3. Find solace in close family and friends. Chances are the people around you have been more aware of what has gone on than you think. Find non-judgmental, loving friends or family to confide in. Some simple nurturing can work wonders. Tell them that you are finding yourself weak at times and would appreciate a pep talk when these episodes occur. Focus on your children and helping them get through this difficult time. If possible, seek assistance from a counselor or therapist. If you don’t have anyone in your life you feel you can confide in, join a support group of divorcing women. They will surely understand your plight.
4. Let the law be your friend. When you are dealing with an abusive ex, it’s best to let a lawyer do the talking for you. Keep your interactions with your ex down to a minimum, or better yet, disengage altogether. I realize that is hard when you have children, but the hurtful things he will be saying when he has your ear will only set you back and cause further destruction. Don’t give him the opportunity. Discuss your options with an attorney, and make sure your attorney is an attentive and effective one who comes highly recommended.
5. Always remember that however difficult things seem to be now, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Going through the divorce may be hell, but when you are free from the albatross you’ll feel like you’re in heaven!
Of course there are many other factors that will play into this as you go along, but if you are feeling stronger, navigating them won’t be as overwhelming. When you fly on an airplane and the flight attendant tells you to fit your own mask over your face before helping others, there’s a reason. You need to be well and strong before you can assist those around you. The same is true here. Nurture and heal yourself and you’ll find you can make good decisions for yourself and your children. Always remember that you are on the right track now and heading into a much brighter future!
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