A Newly Divorced Woman Doesn’t Want to Be Angry the Rest of Her Life

March 30, 2023 K.O. Herston 1 Comments

This old column by The Washington Post advice columnist Carolyn Hax offers some timeless advice that’s worth repeating.

A Newly Divorced Woman Doesn’t Want to Be Angry the Rest of Her Life

Dear Carolyn: I am a newly divorced, middle-aged woman who did not see the end coming. He cheated but wanted to stay married and keep the girlfriend. I said okay because I was in shock and didn’t want to react; I wanted to give him a chance to decide if this is what he really wanted, a chance to change his mind.

After six months, I changed mine. I decided I could no longer stay.

I was sad, but now I am mad. I am so mad at what he did and how he treated me. I am now building a new life with wonderful people I never would have met otherwise, most of them divorced. I have noticed many of the women — divorced 20 or more years — are just as angry as I am at what happened to them. Still.

I understand I’m in the grieving process, but I had hoped I would get to a place where I wouldn’t be as angry. The thought of not getting to the other side is almost as upsetting as going through the actual divorce. I don’t know what to do, and I get angry when people wave away my anger with, “You will find someone else.”

— So Mad

So Mad: Ew. That response angers me, and I have no stake in it whatsoever. A “someone else” can put you through the wringer, too, duh. Possibly even more cruelly. Especially if that “someone else” is hastily or mindlessly acquired primarily in the interest of pain relief.

Plus, tossing out “someone else” as a cure-all somehow manages to minimize:

  • Men (so interchangeable!).
  • Your feelings of betrayal. (Here’s a Band-Aid for your agony!)
  • Your value as a person. (As long as you’re not a-a-lone, you’re A-okay!)
  • And the commitment to your friendship. (Here, let me give your suffering five words and 0.5 seconds of my sympathy and attention!)

All in one glib swoop.

It’s just a weak effort all around, and I’m sorry you’re being dismissed like that.

I’m also sorry you don’t have better examples to learn from. Anger 20 years after the initiating fact sounds like a waste of time — and, worse, a lack of imagination, encouraged by groupthink.

I won’t minimize the pain of rejection or the trauma of divorce. The person who couldn’t see living without you suddenly can; it’s devastating — and you have to process that while virtually every piece of your day-to-day and long-range existence changes. It is a legitimately defining, transformative switch.

But the anger it generates doesn’t have to be. The sense that you were personally targeted and done wrong can give way to the understanding that people’s priorities, feelings, choices and fundamental understanding of themselves — yours or his — can change, and do change all the time, for reasons that often aren’t personal. The fury over his mistreatment of you can give way to the relief of understanding this says more about him than about anyone else. The sense that you were treated horrendously can give way to the excitement at the promise of Life II: The Sequel without his selfish self as a co-star. Or just the promise of having any weird thing for dinner without having to factor him in. It’s okay to start really, really small.

The sense that all your current hardships are his fault can give way to an acceptance — even appreciation — that no one else has any say in how you handle them. No one but you.

That’s where the imagination comes in. You can see either a life plan wrecked behind you, or do-over opportunity ahead of you — into which you build any joy you can. Even the idea or intention of joy, before you’re actually able to feel it, will help shift your center from regretful-then to hopeful-now.

After you sort through the grief, of course; it’s normal and healthy to be as mad as you want to be.

But what often gets people unstuck is not wanting to be mad anymore. Getting sick of it. Growing weary of endless talk with people who are still mad about it themselves. Though it’s not a failure if you don’t get there — it just means you might need some help.

You seem further along than you realize, poised on the threshold, ready to bring your back foot off the ladder of your divorce and onto this new place of your own creation. You also seem to possess all the inner drive you need for the last push, since you already propelled yourself out of a marriage you wanted but whose terms you couldn’t abide.

If you can manage it without collapsing into a heap of cognitive dissonance, then try the unthinkable: gratitude, if not for the betrayal (Mary Sunshine here has her limits), then for the do-over opportunity. That’s because, when you do the hard inventory after a breakup, then invest yourself in a meaningful new life course, the “someone else” you tend to find is your own beautiful self.

Source: A Newly Divorced Woman Doesn’t Want to Be Angry the Rest of Her Life (The Washington Post, December 7, 2019).

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A Newly Divorced Woman Doesn’t Want to Be Angry the Rest of Her Life was last modified: March 17th, 2023 by K.O. Herston

1 people reacted on this

  1. This is wonderful advice! I know a woman, now deceased, who held a grudge for many years and then twenty years after her former spouse had died. What a waste for her.

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