This reader is seeking divorce advice:
I have been divorced for two years (no kids), and I have since gotten remarried to an amazing lady and we have a child together. You would think all of the emotion would be gone regarding my first marriage, right? WRONG.
He goes on to say that his ex was an alcoholic, and that they sought counseling and were trying to work through it. She ended up cheating one night and he told her he would be willing to stay in the marriage if she gave up drinking. She did not choose to do so and they got divorced.
I never lost the love in my heart for this woman, and after the anger and disgust of the incident that caused our separation faded, I found that I began to think about her (and still do) every day. When I think about her, I want to call her, I want to see her, I want to make sure she is okay, and I miss our relationship tremendously. I recognize that our marriage ended for legitimate reasons, and I cannot begin to tell you how amazing my current wife is, but I just cannot comfort that part of my heart that loved my ex.
I believe that I have a tendency to hold on to things from my past, but I still get almost physically ill when I think of how we failed in a marriage that was so strong. I don’t want these daily, depressing thoughts going through my head. I really do want to put this behind me and be comfortable with it. I don’t want to miss her or wonder how she is doing on a regular basis. I just want to be happy!
Do you have any suggestions on how to put this chapter of my life to bed?
It’s interesting that I read this email the day after I had dinner with a friend of mine who has been divorced for 4 years, and we were talking about how long it takes to get over a divorce.
My friend, who has recently met someone and fallen in love, said “I had to do the work before I was healthy enough to move on and start dating.” She said “the work” took 2 years, and what she meant by it was regular therapy, to understand what went wrong and what you want for your future.
I think there is an epidemic of people who get divorced and try to fix what happened with another relationship. That is why 72% of second marriages fail, in my opinion. I feel like I hear someone is getting divorced, and less than a year later they have a ring on their finger and seem blissful and ready to walk down the aisle again.
I’m not minimizing the importance of moving on and falling in love again. Anyone who wants love after divorce deserves to have it and be giddy and blissful. But, I do think that if someone moves on too fast, without doing “the work,” he or she will find themselves in this reader’s shoes.
Let me explain. Divorced for 2 years and already remarried with a child?? Wow. That makes my head spin. I am not going to say that he is going to end up divorced again, or that he doesn’t love his current wife, but rather that he could have had the same result with this relationship—even better and stronger, and not had these painful feelings had he taken the time to “do the work,” which would have helped him heal and be at peace with his divorce, and not tried to put a Band-aid on his divorce by quickly getting involved and making a commitment to someone else–and having a baby!
I’m not a therapist, but here are some things I think a therapist would say to him (and by the way, maybe he is in therapy, I’m not sure.)
First of all, when someone is an alcoholic, no one can help that person but him or herself. So, this guy was trying to fix her, and is STILL trying to fix her. He has to let go and realize that the only way she can manage her condition is to get help and stay sober HERSELF. He would benefit from going to an Al Anon meeting, where they drive this message home every week.
Secondly, he makes two references to how great his new wife is, and I think that is wonderful. But, he might be a little bored. Maybe he is used to the drama and energy of trying to help his ex-wife, so now that he is with someone who doesn’t need “fixing,” he doesn’t know how to be in that relationship. If he recognizes this, that might be key in moving on from his ex and enjoying his new family.
The last thing I thought was notable was his comment “I still get almost physically ill when I think of how we failed in a marriage that was so strong.” My opinion is, he didn’t fail, his ex-wife failed and I’m not sure why he is blaming himself. I’m sure he wasn’t the perfect husband (no one is) but her alcoholism and cheating was the demise of the marriage, and for some reason, he can’t get over the fact that he couldn’t fix it. So, what else in his life is he trying to fix? Did he have an alcoholic parent? Was there something from his childhood that he couldn’t fix and he is still trying to fix it in his ex-wife?
The thing is, I’d hate to see this guy get divorced because of his obsession with his ex-wife. My advice would be to go to therapy (or continue) and explore why he’s feeling this way, and also possibly contacting the ex-wife to see where she’s at right now. I think obsessions are worse when you don’t know what the other person is up to. Maybe if he got together with her they would talk and he would realize how much better off he is right now. Or, maybe he would talk himself into the fact that he still loves her and wants to work it out. Highly doubtful. I also think he needs to be upfront with his new wife if he is going to contact his ex. She might not like the contact, but she would be wise in giving him his freedom.
I feel terrible for his new wife because she’s being cheated out of a good marriage because of this guy’s issues.
I hope this helps, and I hope that this guy won’t blow this wonderful relationship because he moved on too fast after his divorce. That said, even though he is already married, he can still get help—the help he should have gotten before he got married again, to come to a place of peace and acceptance, and to truly move on to a better, happier life.
Like this blog post? Check out my post, “Is He Second Marriage Material?”