Letting Go of A Marriage

In the midst of a divorce, the spouse who is left often feels powerless. He or she must work at letting go of a marriage while still bonded, sometimes very deeply, to a person who has caused more pain and suffering than imaginable. Letting go makes for a tough set of marching orders that can be unpredictable.

Paradoxically, letting go does not work by gravity. Letting go is work where the reward is an unwelcomed payoff, separation from a loved one. Letting go is an uphill climb, taking effort that often gets worse before it gets better.

Letting go may seem like an easy task, even neat and orderly, but it is not. And it cannot be rushed. Along the way, a caring friend is worth his or her weight in gold. Writing down reflections of a lost love and a failed marriage can make them clearer.

For the person who is left, letting go of a marriage means accepting that it’s ending and moving on. Absent a realistic chance of saving the marriage, it’s time to give it up “as gracefully and quickly as possible.” Here are considerations to hold in mind:

Just as the bride to be or the groom to be spread the word about a forthcoming marriage, the divorcing husband or a wife must spread the word when the marriage dies. “There’s no substitute for telling your friends, your family, and even yourself that you are getting a divorce. Not ‘we’re having a little trouble now’ or ‘I don’t know if he’s coming back’ but ‘we’re getting a divorce.’ ” Some people have a very difficult time just saying the words. Giving voice to the death of the marriage memorizes the end of that marriage.

There is no point in trying to hurt the spouse who left. Trying to get even means a person is still locked in a failed relationship, and the other spouse is still in control.

Both spouses must give up responsibility for each other. A divorce means that neither is responsible for the other.

Telling a spouse goodbye is the reciprocal of Paul Simon’s “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover.” A private and imaginary conversation can cover a lot of ground — how much the divorce hurts and acceptance of the end of the marriage.

Letting go means redefinition — asking the question “What kind of person do I want to be now that I’m going to be divorced?” This is a wonderful opportunity for reinvention, for a fresh start. Someone may want to be thinner, or funnier, or more spontaneous, or firmer. Letting go means setting goals — short-term, specific, and attainable.

Grieving the death of a marriage means celebrating it. It means celebrating the good things and accepting that it is over. Grieving hurts, of course, but mourning the death of a marriage is essential to dealing realistically with a divorce.


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