A friend of mine is getting a divorce. Actually, if I’m being honest, it was her soon to be ex husband who was our friend first; I met her through him. As two professional women sometimes do, though, we struck up a friendship.
I liked her personally. I liked her work ethic. I loved her dogs. I loved her love for her husband, too. I wanted to support her, and I looked forward to the two of them having children together.
But things went south, through absolutely no fault of her own. I won’t belabor the point, because it doesn’t really matter and it’s not the point of why I write today. When I realized what had happened, I reached out to her. Frankly, doing what I do, I don’t know how to do anything else. Because I know him, too, I didn’t want to offer professional advice; I just wanted to tell her, personally, as one woman to another, that I see her. That I understand. That it’s okay.
Because you never know what women are hearing from other corners of their life. Even people who are supposed to be their friends, even family members who are supposed to be there to support them, can sometimes be the most damaging voices in a woman’s head. Those voices who say, “It’s not that bad,” or “He’d never do something like that,” or “Can’t you just stay for the children?” are some of the voices that feature the most loudly in a divorcing woman’s mind.
My friend told me some of these things. She told me she battled with knowing that many people she knew didn’t think that he’d be capable of what she knew he’d done. She didn’t want to be the bitter ex-wife, but neither did she want to be the one who was unable to get any kind of support from the people she depends on most.
Will anyone even believe me?
It’s hard enough to admit personal, embarrassing, heartbreaking truths about your marriage to outsiders. It’s harder still when you aren’t sure of what kind of reception you’ll get. Sometimes, even well meaning people have a tendency to gaslight, to downplay, or to minimize the feelings of others. When you’re in such a weak and vulnerable state, it’s hard not to let those words eat you alive.
Abusers often function under a ‘nice guy’ exterior. Narcissists do, too. And, look, it’s not like I think every man who has hurt his wife is mentally ill, physically abusive, or an actual narcissist – but I do want to put that out there, in case that is your lived reality. Maybe you haven’t even been able to put those specific words to it yet. But it can often be very difficult for others to imagine what you have experienced, given the veneer that he has so carefully cultivated over so many years.
Maybe that’s not it. Maybe it’s something else. But expressing skepticism or refusing to understand or acting confused is hurtful when you’re already hurting.
I know – you can’t help it. You’re listening. You’re hearing what they’re saying, and you may even be blaming yourself a little bit. You’re stupid. You should have known. You should have seen the signs. Maybe it’s not that bad. Maybe you overreacted. Maybe you should look the other way. Maybe, with therapy or marriage counseling, it’ll get better.
And while I do believe that we all have to own our own paths on the way to divorce, I also think there are some things that are deal breakers. You’re not wrong for saying so. In fact, you’re STRONG for saying so. I’m proud of you. You’ll have to go through your own ups and downs on the way to accepting your own divorce, and there’s no one who can do that work for you – but knowing that you’re worth more and refusing to accept subpar treatment is a sign of strength and not weakness.
If you’re not getting the support that you need from your friends and family members, you need to find out where you CAN get it. Maybe you need some new friends. Maybe you need a good therapist. Maybe you need some medicine – just in the short term – to help you get back to a mentally healthy place.
I talk about gaslighting all the time, and how harmful it can be – but it’s one of those things that’s easier to see on the outside looking in than it is to see from the inside. Because someone who is gaslighting you is making you question your entire perception of reality, it feels like maybe you really are crazy. Maybe you really aren’t to be trusted. Maybe it’s not what you think it is. That’s what makes it so difficult.
But, if you’ve found your way here, I hope you’ve found a source of strength. If you share your truth with the right people, you’ll find a mirror that is supportive of you and listens to you – as opposed to one that questions your truth. Maybe your current friends and family aren’t the ones who you need supporting you right now.
I’m glad you’re here. I hope I can help. While I can’t pour you a glass of wine right now and let you pour out your troubles to me, I can help point you in the right direction. I can help you find our divorce books for Virginia women, and encourage you to come to one of our upcoming monthly divorce seminars. I can tell you that divorce is not the end of the world; that, in fact, my clients end up better, stronger, savvier, and, ultimately, happier as a result of the process. No, not immediately – but eventually.
Divorce is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to see the life that you’re living and to exchange it for something better. For someone better, maybe. But certainly for respect, for happiness, and for peace. You can give yourself that.
Who CARES if they believe you? Okay, you do. I know you do. And I would, too, if I was in your shoes. But don’t for a second let them make you question your reality. If your brain is telling you that this isn’t right, that you deserve better, that this marriage isn’t it for you, I hope that you find the strength to break away.
For more information, to schedule a consultation, or to request a copy of one of our divorce books for Virginia women, give us a call at 757-425-5200.