During divorce, there can be so many moments that shock, enrage and hurt you. Learning of your partner’s unfaithfulness can unleash a primal need for revenge. Hearing your spouse rewrite your life together can ignite a raw sense of injustice. Having your husband or wife walk away from you and leave the life you have built together, can awaken a deep sense of abandonment. So many difficult, negative and intense emotions can come into existence within an instant and it can be so hard to know what to do with them.
Often, we react. Our first instinct being to fight back, get revenge or expose and before we know it we are engaging in behaviour that we would never have normally done. Some things can cut so deep and hit a nerve to such a degree that we are literally driven to act.
Imagine the actions of your spouse and your reaction to them as a pendulum. The force of their action is so loaded that it hits you with a tremendous impact and creates a movement or response from you, sending you swinging. The momentum drives you to react and before you know it, this is a back and forth cycle of reactive behaviour. This can become very negative and toxic amongst all the other emotions you are dealing with. You may think revenge will taste sweet but it could quickly turn sour.
I consider myself to be a pretty level-headed individual but in the face of betrayal, deceit and abandonment, I found myself considering revenge, wanting to expose my husband for his deceit on some grand stage, while at the same time wanting to beg him desperately not to leave me. I am pleased to say, I didn’t seek revenge and I didn’t expose him.
As tempting as it was, it would have been a solitary moment of glory, which I know would have been followed by panic, fear of reprisal, anxiety and regret. Regret, because I would have allowed him to get the better of me and there was no way I was going to let him get the better of me. I knew early on that there would be a lot of negotiation and change to come during the divorce process, but one thing that wasn’t up for negotiation was my character. He could take everything from me, but not that!
This doesn’t mean I was immune to craving some kind of reckoning. I would write these long, scathing emails to my husband, often in the middle of the night (everything looks worse at night) and tell him exactly what was on my mind and how disgusting his behaviour was. My family would beg me not to act out of impulse, telling me to wait a few days and then revisit the email and see how I felt. Often I would scream at them, I felt stunted, gagged. ‘Why shouldn’t I make him see what he has done!’
And there lies the problem. I realised most of my emails were me begging my husband to see how badly he had treated me, to understand the hurt he had caused. The reality is he should have comprehended all of this on his own, without my emails. He knew he had ripped my world apart, I shouldn’t need to convince him of this. I was also doing all the ‘brain work’ for him in my emails, telling him of the deep-rooted problems he had that had led him to his poor decisions. I was going through enough trauma myself, I didn’t need to do all of his thinking as well.
I took my families advice but it was a hard pill to swallow. I would shelve the emails and then after a few days, reread them and often decide against sending them. Ultimately, I probably saved myself hours of tears and anxiety in doing so. Still, we did this dance a lot, my husband would do something hurtful, it would send me into orbit and I would jam my laptop open, tapping away at a new email.
There are times when you will need to hit send but perhaps take some time, reread things when you are not reacting to events swirling around you. Reread them with clarity, a clear mind that hasn’t been muddied by shock, rage or fear. It is also important to remember that in a divorce, things can be used against you. So if you are acting out of pure emotion and reacting in the moment it can become ammunition used against you.
Throughout this time, I have developed a little motto for times when I feel the need to react; What would my future self think? When I’m close to reacting, I remember this motto and this is the I measure I set my actions against.
I can honestly say that throughout some of the worst blows, I have tried to maintain my dignity and I know my future self will thank me for that. I will come away from the marriage with my character intact.
When you are feeling the impulse to react, try to take a moment to breathe. Remove yourself as best you can from that mindspace of needing to act out of immediacy. Put some time and distance between the event that sent you reeling and acting upon it. Breathe.
Think of your future self. Think of that person who has acted with grace and dignity and come out the other side, character intact. That is you because they didn’t change who you are. They may have changed and they may have taken so much from you, but they can’t take away the person you are.
They may have bought trash to your door but you are classy. Remember that. So, Breathe! Wait! Think! Your future self thanks you!