People often struggle with the decision to stay or leave their marriage, often not realizing the third option– to stay and really work on the marriage. One of the most difficult things as a therapist to see in marriage counseling is when a couple comes into your office with one person having already made up their mind to leave the relationship– without choosing the third option (to stay and work on the marriage). I have seen many devastated people, who are more than eager to work on the marriage, only the other person has decided it’s too late for them. For those people, my heart goes out to you through such a difficult and painful time. Though your spouse may have decided to end the relationship, there are still many things you can do to assist you in the healing process:
- Remember to focus on the process of healing. Allow yourself to grieve the loss of the relationship. Expect to go through many different stages of emotion, as well as the five stages of grief and loss (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Acceptance, Depression). Try not to rush closure in the relationship through reactive gestures (hurrying up and throwing away the pictures of you as a couple, throwing your wedding ring away, etc.). The process of grief and loss runs it’s course in time… it can’t be rushed. It’s not only unhealthy for you to rush things, it actually can cause you to cut off to healthy emotions that help you heal.
- Try not to turn your pain into intense, unhealthy anger or rage. Many times, as human beings, we might be tempted to feel unhealthy anger or rage towards the other person, which is only the tip of the iceberg for feelings. While anger may sometimes be a part of the healing process, to get stuck in victimized rage, we only cheat ourselves of feeling deeper emotions like sadness, which actually help us. Rage is usually a feeling that pushes others away, and can help someone feel protected (though that is far from the truth). It actually only causes more problems, because it leaves behind more destruction to deal with later when things have calmed down.
- Set healthy boundaries with your soon to be ex-spouse. If you are uncertain as to what this entails, contact a professional counselor. They can help assist you in this process.
- Make sure you have a good, healthy support system and be willing to ask for help when you need it. That might mean asking someone to stay with you through the most difficult nights, or simply listening to you share your pain. Try not to isolate yourself. You probably need your support system more than ever right now.
- Eventually, try and see your situation as an opportunity to grow, change and learn. All difficult situations can be an opportunity for growth. It might take a while to get to that place, but this is a pivotal moment where true healing can begin. Even though marriage counseling may no longer be an option, be open to looking at your role in the relationship issues through individual counseling with a therapist or through self-exploration. Many people leave relationships only to find themselves in another relationship on down the road having the exact same issues and relational problems. Realize what areas you need to grow and improve upon, and take the time to work on those things. You can only be healthier and happier as a result! On the same note, do not accept blame for the entire problems in the relationship. Unhealthy guilt and shame can keep you stuck and prevent you from healing. Again, if you are uncertain about what your role was, and think you are experiencing unhealthy shame and guilt, contact a professional counselor to help you sort things out.
While these are only a few tips to healing, feel free to contact our office for more information. Healing and peace are right around the corner if you choose them…
Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling. Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.