Become an Active Verb During Your Divorce

During the stress of divorce, strike "would, should, and could" from your vocabulary. These words have no place in your life just now - they will only hurt you.

You know yourself better than anyone. If you were a loving, supportive, and kind spouse, do not let your divorcing spouse accuse you of having behaved in any other way.

During my marriage I thought about my husband's well being night and day. I would go to the grocery store and ask myself, "What would Bob like?" I would think as he was traveling, "I wonder what Bob is doing just now?" And while he was at work, I would clean the house the way he liked, purchase his favorite soft drinks, and eagerly look forward to his return home. I had my own active life, so I didn't drop everything that nurtured me to accommodate him, but he was my number one priority.

During my divorce and shortly afterward he said he regarded my love for him a sham. "It was just for show, Vic." He did not believe I loved him.

But I knew what I had thought and felt during my marriage, and although it hurt me to know that he did not value my brand of loving, he could not shake my knowledge that for 32 years, through 6 years of dating and 26 years of marriage, he was the most important person in my life. I did not allow him to rewrite our history in my head, and I still cling to the belief that whatever mistakes I made (and there were plenty), I could not have loved him more.

We cannot make others happy. We can love our spouses, support them, make them our priority, and tell them we need them, but I fervently believe that we cannot "complete" them. There is a journey that each one of us must travel alone. Oh, the quest is easier when one basks in the love and support of a spouse, but when that spouse expects you to fill an empty hole within his soul, well, nothing you do, nothing you say, nothing you give can fill that needy, bottomless pit.

I found this out the hard way. The irony was, that as I matured and found fulfillment in my life through my creativity, my husband became deeply unhappy and restless. One of the last statements he made to me was that while he was able to make me happy, I could not do the same in return.

Not true. Before I learned that you cannot make another person happy, I tried to make Bob happy as best I could, whether it was through traveling to places he liked, or attending business dinners, or inviting his friends over, or loving his family as my own. But my attempts were never good enough. So, when Bob said he was leaving, the one truth I clung to and the one thing that I knew to be true was that I was the best wife I could possibly be. Bob's words hurt, but they did not strike my inner core. Interestingly, my nature is to settle back into contentment and happiness after I have dealt with the issues of a major catastrophic event. I venture to say that 6 1/2 years after our divorce I am as content as I have ever been. (And I strongly suspect Bob is still unhappy.)

As you and your spouse go your separate ways, be kind to yourself. Think of yourself as an active verb. You are good. You are loving. You are a spectacular person. And this world is a better place because you are in it.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Vic for once again for such sage words which I receive at a time I need them most.

Broken Hearted

Vics Still Standing said...

Bless you, Broken Hearted. You are going through such stress, but a time will come (not soon enough I know) when you will look on yourself with pride for having survived with as much strength and dignity as you can muster.

Thank you for writing.

Anonymous said...

Too true. I have also learned you can't make others happy. Most probably you got joy from living with bob, but he didn't "make you" happy, you did that yourself. I twisted myself into a pretzel trying to make my husband happy, before I realised that was his job.

Ms. Place said...

Yes, Fiona. I did get joy from living with Bob. I think we women often get joy from simply pleasing our families and men. But sometimes that isn't enough.

Isn't it strange that it took me 50 years to realize that? You are so insightful with the "twisting myself into a pretzel comment." I think that is what many spouses do, women AND men.