My marriage fell apart. Here’s how I coped.
Walking through the dark with twelve trusty tools.
I walked into the public library with a thin sheaf of papers. I spotted the person I’d arranged to meet there, the person whose notarized signature the papers required, the person who was completely familiar and totally foreign.
We found the library’s notary public, signed the papers, handed over some dollar bills.
I walked out of the library, back to my car. I then deployed two coping strategies: I picked up a six-pack of crafty beer and stopped by Sister E’s house for doses of deep familiarity, cute kid, and wiggly pooch.
During the year that my marriage fell apart, I relied on a dozen coping strategies keep me functioning:
- Talk to people: on the phone, over Google Hangout, in person, via SMS.
- Cry: alone, in public, with friends, with family.
- Go to church.
- Go to therapy.
- Read the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix.
- Read The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: The 25-Year Landmark Study, by Judith Wallerstein.
- Watch Drop Dead Diva and Strip Search.
- Watch sunsets.
- Occasionally rant.
- Occasionally drink a lot.
- Write: journal entries, poetry, emails, letters to my cousin, late night texts to my left coast peeps and known night owls.
These strategies passed the time, numbed the pain, gave me hope. And some were tools for the growth I knew was possible. I knew this painful experience had so many opportunities for growth and I‘d be damned if I was going to pass them up. Thus the therapy. Thus the academic reading.
And thus the writing. The most important coping strategy and tool for growth was this:
- Rewrite narratives about who I am and what I am worth.
Reading Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass helped with this. Listening to my friends and deciding to believe their compliments helped with this. Writing down affirmations and evidence from my lived experience helped with this.
That library was completely familiar to me; I’d visited it a hundred times before. Signing papers that would dissolve my marriage was a totally foreign act. And what do you do when the familiar and the foreign clash?
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