In a best-case scenario, a marriage ends amicably – maybe both you and your spouses have changed too much over the years, maybe you have fallen out of love but can still be friends, or perhaps you have both just decided to go on different paths in life. In these situations, you may be able to look back on your time with your spouse and count many happy memories of things you did together, closing that chapter with a smile.
But what happens when you make a shocking discovery about your spouse – an affair, gambling, addiction, or something nefarious – that ends your marriage? You are now separating from someone you cannot trust and it often leads divorcing spouses to wonder “Was my marriage a lie?”
Discovering that the foundation of your marriage may not be as solid as you once believed can be an incredibly distressing and disorienting experience. As a person navigating through these emotions, it’s essential to acknowledge and process these feelings of betrayal, confusion, and hurt.
Here is some wisdom from Mandy Walker, a divorce coach based in Colorado who has worked with hundreds of people working through a divorce for every reason under the sun. Here’s what she has to say:
“With the end of a marriage, there is often a feeling that it leaves a void. It’s as if ending the marriage means it didn’t happen and so there’s this gap in your life as if getting divorced means erasing everything that happened.
“When there’s been on-going, long term, chronic deception that feeling is magnified.
“The deception changes your understanding of the fundamental character of your spouse and likely involves your spouse now appearing to be the polar opposite of one of your core values. Inevitably it raises issues of being able to trust other people but also about restoring faith in your own judgement.
“Tackling these issues will be part of your healing.
“Something else you can do is to look back over your marriage, all the places you visited together, the activities you did together, things you learned to do together and realize that these may not have happened if you hadn’t been married to your spouse. What did you get from each of these? How did each of these make your life richer? Without these you would not be the person you are today. They are a part of your history. You have a choice: you can embrace them or pretend they don’t matter. What will you choose?
Feeling like your marriage was a lie can elicit a wide range of emotions, including disbelief, anger, sadness, and even shame. It’s important to recognize that these emotions are valid and part of the healing process. Give yourself permission to feel without judgment or guilt.
Sometimes, uncovering hidden truths can challenge the narrative you’ve built about your life. When faced with the possibility that your marriage might not have been what it seemed, it’s essential to differentiate between the reality of the situation and what your perceptions were, keeping in mind that the narrative you built was based on the facts you were given, not the truth. Seeking clarity without self-blame is crucial.
In times of emotional distress, practicing self-compassion becomes paramount. Treat yourself with kindness and understanding. Engage in self-care activities that nurture your well-being, whether it’s meditation, exercise, spending time in nature, or any other activity that brings you solace.
You don’t have to navigate this difficult journey alone. Reach out to friends, family, or a therapist who can provide a supportive and non-judgmental space for you to express your emotions and gain perspective. Sharing your feelings and experiences with someone you trust can alleviate the weight of carrying this burden by yourself.
Questioning the authenticity of your marriage might lead to reevaluating the entire relationship. Take time to reflect on the aspects that feel genuine and those that might have caused doubts. Reassessing your values, needs, and boundaries is an important step towards regaining a sense of control over your life.
Education and understanding can be empowering. If there are uncertainties or unanswered questions about your marriage, seeking information and clarity can provide a sense of closure and aid in making informed decisions about your future.
A marriage often becomes an integral part of one’s identity. Rediscovering who you are outside the context of your relationship can be liberating. Engage in activities that bring you joy, reconnect with old hobbies, and explore new interests. Embracing your individuality can be a crucial step towards healing.
While it may seem daunting, acknowledging that change is inevitable can be empowering. Embrace the process of growth and transformation. This period of upheaval might lead to personal insights and strengths you never knew you possessed.
Moving forward doesn’t mean forgetting or disregarding your emotions. It means acknowledging the pain, learning from the experience, and choosing a path that aligns with your well-being and happiness. Whether it involves rebuilding the relationship with newfound understanding or making decisions for a different future, your journey is about reclaiming your agency and rebuilding your life on your terms.
Remember, it’s okay to grieve the loss of what you believed your marriage to be. Allow yourself time to heal, seek support, and focus on your well-being as you navigate through this challenging chapter of your life.
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