How to Get Over A Divorce: Stop Playing the Victim!

how to get over a divorce

By Jackie Pilossoph, Creator and Editor-in-chief, Divorced Girl Smiling site, podcast and app, Love Essentially columnist and author

When I was first getting divorced, I was beyond depressed. I was sad, I was scared, but mostly I was angry. ‘Why did this happen to me?’ and ‘It’s not fair’ were constantly going through my mind. I constantly felt like somehow I was terribly wronged. By everyone. I always felt like “Whoa is me… You should feel sorry for me. I’m a single mom. Finances are tight…I’m alone…” After some time went by, I felt like I learned how to get over a divorce: Stop. Just stop. Stop what?

Stop playing the victim.

The word victim means “somebody hurt or killed or harmed or duped.” So, according to that definition, is everyone who gets divorced a victim? The answer, in my opinion is yes, you are a victim. You are hurt, you’ve been harmed. You have been lied to or cheated on or treated badly or called names or dumped or ignored or humiliated.

Because you are a victim, I think it’s normal, healthy even, to grieve, feel angry, and feel sorry for yourself. FOR A LITTLE WHILE, that is. If you truly want to know how to get over a divorce, there comes a time when playing the victim needs to stop, and it’s time to pick yourself up off the floor, dust yourself off and start your new life.



I’m not trying to make it sound simple or easy. It’s not. But, you have two choices:

One, play the victim and blame everyone else for the rest of your life, or two, go out and grab the life you want. And THAT is a simple choice, isn’t it?

I recently got an email from a reader with three young children whose husband left her for another woman.

I just put my house on the market and I can’t pay my bills,” she wrote. “I’m really scared. I hate that man so much, I wish he was dead! I can’t believe he did this to me. Because of him I haven’t worked in 10 years, and now I can’t find a job. No one wants to hire me. I hope he and his new wife burn in hell.”

I wrote the woman back, telling her I was really sorry about her situation. I then asked her what field she was in before she stopped working.

She wrote back, “I was a financial advisor and was really successful. I quit because the fucker wanted me to be a stay at home mom. I gave up everything for him.”


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I wrote her back and said, “Look, it must be very frustrating and I feel terrible for you. That said, let me help you. You need a job. Tell me more specifically what you’d like to do, and I will connect you with some people in the industry. I have 500 LinkedIn friends, and I can put out some feelers for you.”

Know what her response was? Not, “Thank you so much! I would like to get back into the industry, blah blah blah.” Or “Let me get my resume together and I’ll be in touch.” Instead, she wrote back, “Do you know he has over a million dollars in his savings account? He’s living in this huge house, enjoying a great life, and supporting the woman’s son, while I can’t even pay my mortgage!”

She never even acknowledged my offer. In other words, discussing getting a job and supporting herself  wasn’t as important to her as expressing blame and her hatred for him.

The woman is clearly not ready to see clearly how to get over a divorce by ceasing to playing the victim. I wish I could put a magic spell on her so she would say, “Okay, what happened to me truly sucks, and it wasn’t fair at all, but that’s irrelevant now. I have three healthy children who love me, I’m beautiful, I  have the ability to be successful professionally, and if I have the guts to put myself out there, my opportunities are endless, both professionally and personally.” I’m not saying that is easy, or that that happens a week after someone leaves you. But if you want to be happy, it has to happen at some point.

Instead, she’s being the martyr. Her focus is solely on her ex-husband (who don’t get me wrong, I would love to punch in the face) but she’s all about wanting people to feel sorry for her and hate her ex-husband, when she could be getting herself together and making plans for her future. She doesn’t realize that when she stops the fury, doors will open up.

I want to add that I know how hard it is, not only to figure out a career that works with kids, but to get in the door of any company after not working for a long stretch of time. I have been there. Before I got my job, I had so many rejection emails I couldn’t even count them all. It’s hard, but you have to be persistent and strong and display an obnoxious amount of perseverance. That’s just the way it is.

Here’s the scariest part about playing the victim:

People who don’t get out of that mindset end up miserable for the rest of their lives. Not playing the victim is the difference between a hard life and a life of peace and happiness. I swear by that.




I know a woman who has played the victim for 45 years. She is still blaming her ex-husband for everything in her life that isn’t going well (which is everything.) She never got over the hatred, the bitterness and blaming her ex husband for leaving her, so she made bad choices, she didn’t have self love, and therefore could never prosper professionally, or in personal relationships.

The thing is, it’s okay to play the victim for a little while. But at some point, it not only becomes unproductive, but it will destroy you, and it will ruin you (and the kids.)

The opposite of “victim” is “criminal” or “culprit” so I don’t want to tell people to be the opposite of a victim. But, in a sense, yes, be the opposite. Be the culprit (which technically means “the accused person.”) Be accused of pursuing your dreams, finding things you love to do, having as much fun with your children as you possibly can. Be accused of going out on dates, traveling too much, smiling excessively and finding love again. You’re only a victim until you decide you’re not one anymore. And that is how to get over a divorce.

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Jackie Pilossoph

Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

Divorced Girl Smiling is here to empower, connect and inspire you. Jackie Pilossoph is the creator and Editor-In-Chief of Divorced Girl Smiling, the site, the podcast and the app. A former television journalist and newspaper features reporter, Pilossoph is also the author of four novels and the writer of her weekly relationship column, Love Essentially. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism and lives in Chicago with her two teenagers. The author of the novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationships advice column, “Love Essentially”, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press and the Chicago Tribune online. Additionally, she is a Huffington Post contributor. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University.

14 Responses to “How to Get Over A Divorce: Stop Playing the Victim!”

  1. kelly

    Jackie, this is so good. Thank you. Thank you! It can be so hard to stop the blaming and victim feelings, but you are right. I believe it could possibly be the Big Reason you never get over your divorce, and end up carrying the pain with you everywhere you go–your new relationship, your job, your friendships, and most importantly, your childrens’ lives. Even if you have a legit reason to be angry, the cliche is true–the anger only hurts you, not your ex. Your ex has moved on and isn’t even thinking about any of this! Grieve, by all means. Grieve so fully that you squeeze every drop out of it, then you won’t have to carry it with you. But there comes a time (and not moment too soon), that the victim games wears itself out. You’ll know when even YOU are tired of hearing about ‘him’ yourself. Do yourself (and everyone else) a favor–acknowlege what has happened and let it go. Life is going on with or without you. Might as well join in.

  2. Denise Williamson

    What advice do you have for me? I left my verbally abusive husband of18 years 11months, 7 months ago, now going thru divorce, I left him the house, newest car, all assets except my retirement, I took the car debt and credit card debt, now he wants 1,100 a month alimony because I make more then he does. Our 18 yr old son lives with me and I am supporting him and paying for his education, having to pay this much alimony will make it almost impossible to buy a home for quite some time. I am very very angry. I worked my ass off all those years. And now he’s screwing me again

    • Jackie Pilossoph


      I’m really really sorry you are going through this. Please take my comments as I write them to the masses. I completely understand how frustrated you are. I really do. I don’t know if i can give you advice, but make sure you trust your attorney, because that doesn’t really sound right. Also, try to focus on the fact that you don’t have to be with an abusive husband anymore. Doesn’t that feel good?? Many women would have been too afraid and stayed in the marriage unhappily for life. right?

  3. Carrie

    I played the victim during the marriage towards the end. Crying all the time. I guess I was hoping for pity from him? Who knows. All this horrible stuff was coming my way and I was angry. He sure was a mean SOB though (but successful in business so unfortunately I was the only one who *GASP* suggested he may not be perfect). We had a lot in common though so the relationship did have its great times. But ultimately it was this one thing in particular that we had in common that tore us apart…..we both lived to make HIM happy. I gave up everything to be with him. There was certainly no part of “me” that fit into his life that I found my self living. Did I mentioned he was a mean SOB?

    It’s only been a couple of months and I’m feeling better, stronger, and there are even days where I’m authentically HAPPY (not just faking it). Isn’t that something? I gave up everything for my ex to be with him. EVERYTHING. But you know what? By doing that I was able to start FRESH. For the first time in my life at 41 years old I am FRESH. I have no debts. No restrictions. My son is in his 3rd year of college and doing great. For the first time in my adult life I am able to be ME. WHAT A GIFT! Thanks SOB for allowing me to become a more enlightened individual. Because the reality is this. He took my world, turned it upside down, stomped the ever living crap out of it until all that was left was the faint flicker of my soul. It took me a good long while to dig deep enough and sit in silence long enough to realize that was what my life needed. I am pretty head strong and no amount of politeness would have taken me to the point I am at now. Tough pill to swallow but it’s true. Even before “he” came along my life was chaos. That’s the reality. And today, I take full responsibility for everything. I walked right up to it, invited it and hell I even begged for it at times. He didn’t do one thing I didn’t allow him to do.

    This all being said. THANK YOU for your time and efforts in creating this site, blog, and having the strength and courage to expose yourself and the creativity and intelligence to do in a funny yet pointed and sincere way.

  4. Katrina

    I’m right there now. 18 months since the split. Divorce papers on the desk. And I’m stuck in the victim role. for very good reason. I’ve read your words, and the comments from others. My question is How do I stop? I know that I have to but I’m struggling with how to do it. If you have any practical suggestions I would welcome those very much. I have a new partner, a good job and support my kids financially. thanks

  5. Knyiesha

    I hate his new wife…. I blame her. I don’t know how to allow myself to let go. I’ve tried therapy. I just don’t know. I commend each of you who has been able to move on. What help is there for me? Its all her fault he left us, his family. Two years and still sad. What now?

    • Jackie Pilossoph

      Read this a hundred times: IT’S NOT HER FAULT, IT”S HIS FAULT! HE did it. Not her. Women will always flirt with men. Men will always flirt with women. it’s human nature. He made a decision to cheat and leave. NOT HER. I’m not saying she’s a saint. trust me. But stop blaming her, because without knowing anything else, i can tell you, if it wasn’t her, it might have been another woman. There was a disconnect somewhere with him. Every day that you don’t move on, you are wasting a precious day of life. Look in the mirror and ask yourself, “How am I going to get to a good place?” You have ALL the control. I will be rooting for you. xoxo

  6. Melanie

    Bitterness, behaving like a victim and thoughts of hatred will only do one thing.
    Make you unable to move on.
    I look at it now as “He actually did me a favor”..I knew it was over two years before he had an affair. I was just angry that I was to lazy to get out of this marriage, but thought about the kids.
    Guess what….the kids are marvelous…just fine. Should’ve just followed my instinct right when I knew something was wrong. After 4 years I am in a very different relation ship that is mutually fulfilling and loving every little bit of it.
    Also…what a lot of folks don’t understand is that your mate is not responsible to make YOU happy….you need to be happy on your own first, before you can be happy with someone else.
    Just my 2 cents of finally attained love and relationship wisdom.

  7. B Byram

    I enjoyed reading your article, and wholehearted agree with what you are saying, as a “survivor” of a terrible divorce myself.But I did find it somewhat simplistic to say, “don’t worry, be happy.”
    I feel I had to say that having a ‘non-victim’ mentality is harder if the rich ex won’t leave you alone, and keeps coming back and coming back with litigation after litigation even AFTER A LONG DIVORCE. There is a type of man, who is not content with just getting everything. He wants to destroy you, and has the means to do it. And every time you get that job, or persevere and get your life together. he is there like a horrible specter, taking more and more, taking your friends to court who support you, trying to take away the kids, discrediting you for years in the small community where you live, etc. This becomes an almost impossible scenario to beat, because you are recovering, and trying to gain new momentum to your life over and over again. Your only money for lawyers used up long ago- maybe you are STILL paying off old attorney fees from your divorce.
    This type of narcissistic “I must destroy her” behavior has sadly been my experience, and is more common than you think. As brave as I want to be, it becomes harder and harder to resurface after each bout. Also, any woman who has lived with an abusive ex, be it emotional or physical, gets a kind of PTSD with the ex, and the mere sound of his voice, and the smell of his expensive aftershave brings her tremblingly back to all the old memories. Now he comes for a Modification of the Divorce Decree, and for full custody of the two children. I have no more money for attorneys- the option, as far as “not being a victim” and not putting myself through a pro se experience, is to walk away from my kids. It is hard to maintain a positive attitude through this, especially in the face of parental alienation and the hatred for the parent being more than the love for the children.

    • Chas

      Totally agree. Its his mission to take every single thing I ever loved and will not stop until he wins. I am sometimes afraid something very bad will happen to one of us if he doesn’t stop. And the homewrecker right beside him, pushing and pushing…


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