When I got divorced, my story was very clear: my husband had had multiple affairs, he was verbally and occasionally physically abusive, he didn’t care about my son or the child I was pregnant with, he didn’t love me, and he was just a crappy husband in general.
In other words, I was a victim and everything was his fault.
Now, all of those things were true. He did do those things, and he was a crappy husband in general. But by painting myself as a victim and telling a story in which he was a villain and it was all his fault, I held myself back.
Because if I was a victim and he a villain, I didn’t have to take responsibility for anything.
And if I didn’t have to take responsibility for anything, whatever I had done during my marriage that contributed to the divorce would be present in future relationships.
That’s why it’s important that you look at your divorce story carefully and rewrite it if you need to.
What’s your divorce story?
Quick, what do you tell someone if they ask why you’re getting or have gotten divorced? What are the words that come out of your mouth without even thinking about them?
Do they paint you as a victim and your ex a villain who did horrible things to you? Or perhaps they paint you as the villain who did all the horrible things while your ex was your innocent victim?
Once you’ve settled on a story, it quickly becomes your truth. Your reality. And as with so many other things, it becomes something you simply believe without thinking twice.
But the divorce story you tell yourself and others may not be accurate. Whether you think of yourself as the good guy or the bad guy, the story you tell might be wrong — or at least skewed or missing some information.
If you really want to get the most from reading this article, try taking a few minutes right now to write down your divorce story.
How does your story hold you back?
Depending on how you tell your story, it can hold you back in different ways.
If you see yourself as a victim, it means you might not take responsibility for your own actions and baggage that contribute to an unhealthy relationship. And this means those things will continue to present themselves in future relationships, possibly with the same results.
If you see yourself as a villain, it means you might end up taking responsibility for things that aren’t actually your fault. You might allow a partner to blame you for things they’ve done or not done and simply assume that since you were the crappy partner in your marriage, you must always be a crappy partner.
It can also set you up to make poor choices in future partners. You might believe you only deserve someone who treats you poorly — or that you’ve had standards that were too low and so now you set your standards so high they’re unreasonable.
In any case, the story doesn’t move you forward. It keeps you stuck in the persona you adopted for the story.
It’s time to flip the script
If you really want to heal and move on from divorce, it’s time to rewrite the divorce story if the one you tell yourself isn’t quite right.
For me, it meant rewriting my story to this: My ex-husband and I were never compatible as a couple. We never should have been together and the only reason we got married was because I got pregnant. This meant that he never really wanted to be married to me (despite what he said) so he cheated because what he really wanted was his freedom. And it meant I felt compelled to hold on to a marriage that was never going to work because I believed in getting married once, for life. Which meant that I ended up feeling very bitter and resentful toward him because I thought he was destroying my marriage dreams, and he was bitter and resentful toward me because he wanted to be single instead of married but also didn’t want to admit it.
It’s a very different story. And it doesn’t excuse his behavior. Cheating, being abusive, and all the other things he did to me are still unacceptable ways to treat someone, even if you don’t love them and don’t want to be married to them.
But it did allow me to own my part in what happened. My part being that I married a man I knew I shouldn’t marry, and I continued to try to make that marriage work even when I knew it wouldn’t just because I didn’t want to get divorced. And being able to acknowledge those things allowed me to dig deeper and learn some things about myself that would eventually help me make better choices in who I got into a relationship with and how long I stayed in a relationship that was clearly not working.
It allowed me to forgive him for what he did (again, not excusing his behavior) and myself for what I did. And that forgiveness eliminated feelings of bitterness, resentment, anger, and frustration that made me unhappy despite no longer being with my ex.
Forgiveness freed me to truly be happy again.
If you wrote your divorce story down, try rewriting it now. Where can you find a better or different perspective? Where can you admit that blame might not be assigned fairly? What can you forgive your ex or yourself for so you can truly be free to be happy?
Change your story, change your life
When you change your divorce story, you let go of ideas, beliefs, and values that aren’t serving you anymore. You stop feeling powerless or worthless and start feeling confident and empowered. You leave behind victimhood (or villainhood) and become a person who loves themselves and makes choices based on what’s best for you rather than what you think you deserve from a false divorce story.
And if you’re not ready to change your story yet? It’ll happen when the time is right. Just be open to it. You’ll know when you’re ready.
Wendy Miller is a Post-Divorce Coach & writer. After years of settling for abusive and otherwise toxic relationships, she got fed up. Using meditation and other tools, she got to work on healing herself, setting boundaries, and only engaging in relationships (romantic and otherwise) that bring her joy. She wants to help other single parents find the love & happiness they seek, including and going beyond romantic love. She lives in Florida with her two sons, where she homeschools while solo parenting, while surrounded by what feels like a zooful of animals.
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