I’m Separated. Now What?

Tips for Venturing Forward on Your Path When Your Marriage Is Coming to An End.

Ten months ago my life completely changed. My husband and I mutually agreed to separate. I made the difficult decision to move out of our home and into my own place. So many factors contributed to this ultimate decision, and rest assured, just like so many decisions that have been made thereafter, it was well thought-out.

Through this process I’ve realized what it means to grieve profoundly, what it means to lose my mind almost entirely, and what it means to be strong. I’ve learned that on certain days I’ll drop my daughter at preschool and proceed to cry my way to work. I’ve learned that there are outlets–blogging, alcohol, a friendly ear, a long walk — and it’s so important to engage in them as you need them, but choose wisely. Blogging can start out as self-discovery and become an invitation for well-intentioned friends, relatives, and perfect strangers to provide unsolicited feedback. A casual glass of wine can become two, three, a bottle; you can see where I’m headed with this.

During these ten months of tumult, I’ve often searched for tips or tricks to help me figure out what I should be doing. A list of, “Hey, consider this!” I certainly haven’t found all the answers, but I’ve ventured forward on the trail, and learned a thing or two in the process. Looking back, these are a few things I’d tell myself.

Find a Neutral Guide

I don’t care if it was your decision, his decision, a mutual decision; it’ll still be challenging. Find a neutral party who can guide you through the decisions, emotions, and doubts. I can say with utmost confidence: they’ll come. I’m a trained mental health counselor, and even I resisted therapy at first. Once I finally accepted that I should go, I was adamant about finding someone who would walk me through where I was, but focus on specific goals, and once we completed those goals, our relationship would come to an end. I found exactly that by asking for recommendations from some close friends in the counseling profession, who I relate to theoretically on a variety of levels. I was referred to a woman who specializes in “women going through transition,” and the fit couldn’t have been better. Even if you don’t have connections in the mental health field, use your network, including resources through your healthcare provider, and ask friends for referrals. Also, be sure to request a brief consultation with the therapist before moving forward. Let them know what you would like to get out of the relationship and see if they’re a fit for you. You’re the client, and paying party. You should get exactly what you want.

Identify Your Tribe

There will be people who support you and people who don’t. Focus your attention on the ones who get you, love you, and care about you. In October after I moved out, I hosted a small “new phase” party, and brought together the members of my tribe; the friends who I knew had my back. These people became my bedrock. When something good happens, I text them. If I need a helping hand, I reach out. And I always show my genuine love and appreciation. They get it, they get me, they’ve got me. Find your tribe and love them hard.

Press Pause on Relationships

Not everyone is going to get it or get you. There will be people who just don’t, and they will say some hurtful things. It happens. It will happen. I believe the best way to approach these moments is to believe the person is coming from a good place, and is well-intentioned, but the lens through which they see the situation is uniquely their own. Their own life journey has affected how they’re viewing yours. It’s not about you, it’s about them. At some point, as I was describing a few such hurtful comments, a friend said, “It’s okay to press pause on the relationship. Sometimes you just need a break when it’s not working for you, or the other person. You can still love and care for that friend, but take a pause. It’s okay, it’s in your control, it’s up to you. You’re not stopping it completely, just putting it on hold.” So remember, just press pause and walk away for a bit if you need to. It’s okay.

“Eat, Pray, Love” Like Mad

Travel! Go on adventures! Eat dinner by yourself, whatever the heck you want. For as many moments of heartache and pain as I’ve had these past few months, there have been just as many moments of joy in rediscovering my love of adventure and travel. Book a one-night stay in the town an hour away. Spend the afternoon wandering the shops, having a delightful meal in a quaint local restaurant, and walking outside. Over the past ten months, I’ve spent numerous days and nights in nearby towns; traveled to visit family and friends in Florida, Boston, and the Jersey Shore; I’ve done exploratory trips to New York City; and hosted friends from California and Indiana. Through this I’ve contemplated, journaled, and reflected. Stepping away from the routine of life and into a new setting is often the fresh perspective I need to reframe and move forward.

Find Your Theme Songs

This is kind of a funny one, but something that really worked for me. Find your theme song in the moment, and let yourself go. Music by Sara Bareilles became my go-to aesthetic during the ups and downs. I would blare her songs over and over again, sing along, connecting with the heartfelt — and sometimes carefree — lyrics. There were songs on the “Bad Moms” soundtrack that I really vibed with. And Christina Aguilera–with her bold, strong lyrics — got her fair share of rotation. Whatever you’re feeling, I guarantee there’s someone singing about it. It reminded me that I wasn’t alone, that what I was feeling had been felt by someone else, and they ventured through, just like I was going to.

There Is No Accelerated Route

During these ten months I’ve gained over ten pounds. I’ve sat in front of the television with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and downed a cheeseburger and fries. After a few months I signed up with a virtual health coach, joined weight loss clubs, committed to running a 5K, ended up walking, and eventually, eventually, I gave myself permission, and told myself it was okay. Your vice might not be food, but whatever it is, realize that you’re going through an extremely difficult time and there is no quick fix. Working through what you’re experiencing with your Neutral Guide is key, and eventually, the rest can be addressed. I know now that for me, junk food became my comfort through the turmoil, and until I worked through all the emotions, just taking it away wasn’t going to work. I’m at the point now that I’m addressing my health in a more realistic way, and I recognize that food is another crutch I lean on. I’m trying to replace it with calling a friend or going for a walk, one step at a time. There is no accelerated route, and as with any challenge life puts before us, we overcome it in our own way and in our own time. You’ll get there.

This next year is going to be hard as heck, venturing off on your own into uncharted territory is not an easy thing to do. You’re already a trailblazer for starting the trek. With the help of a guide, the right tribe, many adventures, some good music, and the understanding that there is no accelerated route, you’ll get where you need to go and make it through this difficult journey. Ten months out, and I can say I have come a long way. Good luck, you can do this. I know you can.

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