Valentine's Day: my husband left me for a younger woman. Now what?

Photo sourced from divorceasiknowit.blogspot.com

Separating from the one you've loved is like pulling apart the ties that bind, the connections that have been forged over time and the shared life experiences; it's, at best, an exhausting thing, and it's, at worst, an ordeal that may descend to nightmarish proportions. Breaking up is hard to do, as the song goes.

But the song doesn’t describe the many levels of one’s life that fall apart when a relationship does. If you're the one who didn't initiate the breakup then everything you know about who you are may fall prey to self-doubt, questioning, examining and judgment.

Did I do something wrong? Has he stopped loving me because I'm older, less attractive, less desirable? How did I miss the signs?

It's natural to feel as if your whole world is falling apart, and in a sense, your external world – the roles and structures – will surely “fall apart” (i.e.) so that change can come and new roles and structures can emerge. But your internal world, while also changing, need not become undone. That is to say, your deepest sense of self, the essence of who you are, can become even more assured and validated, even more actualized (i.e. reaching its highest potentials), depending on how you negotiate the troubled and rapid waters of change.

What you are experiencing, since it is still early in the process, are the beginnings of the stages of grief (denial, shock, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance).

These are your own, intra-psychic responses to the loss that you have experienced. You may experience them very intensely soon after the break-up, and less so as time goes on. These reactions are not neccesarilly linear or sequential. They may come up, diminish, and then resurface time and time again.

Gradually, they will diminish substantially. So, it does get better. But in the meantime, if you need to curl up and sleep a lot then find a way to do so. You may take time off work or arrange for your children to spend time with friends and relatives so that you have more contemplative time.

You could journal, meditate, walk, dance, or work out – whatever it takes to move your emotional and physical energy. If there are tears that need to come forth, put on "The Joy Luck Club" or any other sad movie, and let it pour. Pent-up energy can go stale and produce effects that may work against you. Let it all pass, but do it in a healthy way. That means make choices that do not result in negative results for you or anyone else.

You may want to spend time with supportive friends, though a word of caution here: it is often helpful to share your feelings with friends, but you might want to focus on how to make things right and better for you and your children, rather than become stuck on answering unanswerable questions (like, “Why did this happen to me?” or “How could he do this to me/our family?”) or how unfair the whole situation is (e.g. the bitterness you might feel that he's now presumably happy while you're not). Letting yourself be stuck only wastes your energy and festers negative emotions. You will need that energy to take care of yourself, so that you can take care of your children.

If you are able to communicate with your husband, then try to be civil and work out the logistics of separation: child custody arrangements, child support, new living arrangements, etc. It is probably best if you also get legal representation to work out these issues in a fair and equitable manner. Your husband may have chosen to leave his relationship with you, but he cannot end his relationship with his children.

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