Dear Dr. Jann: My wife and I have separated after 15 years of marriage. We have two daughters, ages 9 and 10. She keeps stressing that she wants an amicable divorce, yet I just can’t do that. My reply is,” You wanted the divorce, see how green the grass is on the other side.” I can’t get past the anger, resentment, or hatred for her for destroying everything. I just can’t let it go. What do I do?
Dr. Jann says: After the devastation of a break-up, it takes a while to get to the point where you even want to feel better. In the beginning, if you feel wronged—and its apparent that you do—it’s not uncommon to be stuck in how wrong the other one was, and that you have a right to be angry, resentful, or hate the other person. And, you probably do, but as you have already seen, your being right doesn’t make you feel better. In fact, it probably makes you feel worse because you absolutely cannot understand how someone you loved so completely ended up being that selfish and insensitive—not only to you, but to your children. People in your position often feel as if their life was a lie and have a very difficult time finding their equilibrium.
Recovery after a break-up is a process. I often liken it to recovery from addiction because getting over a painful break-up is so similar to working toward sobriety. Just like being addicted to a drug, although the decision to get clean is often empowering, the process after the decision is long, hard, and fraught with ups and downs. Some are good days, some are bad… that is why the “one day at a time” philosophy applies so well to coping with a break-up. Looking too far down the road can feel overwhelming—and that’s where it sounds you are right now.
One of the most important things you can do as you go through the process is put on a stable face for your children. This does not mean act like nothing is wrong when they are around or hide your disappointment that you are breaking up with their mother. It means while feeling that disappointment that you do not come off out of control — that your actions say that they can depend on you–and that they are safe even though you are no longer living under the same roof. Finally, when you are ready, counseling will help. There are also divorce groups through your church or temple that will help as well. Time really does heal all wounds — if you let it. One foot…