Do people get divorced and never look back? Some do. But I think most divorced men and women spend weeks, months, years, and even decades in some cases, rehashing things that happened in their marriage, looking back and second guessing decisions they made before, during and after their divorce. Some wonder if they gave up too soon, or what would have happened had they stayed or tried harder. Some regret getting divorced, while others come to realize divorce was the best thing.
Some regret is justified, in my opinion. What I mean by that is, someone might regret the way he or she treated the spouse in the marriage or during the divorce. They might regret cheating, or taking the person for granted, or drinking heavily, or being abusive, or ignoring the person or being unethical during the divorce. And while I think regret should have a time limit; that people need to accept their mistakes and move forward, I think it’s actually healthy to have the self-awareness to realize regrets and self-blame.
But sometimes, people regret getting divorced for the wrong reasons, which is the case of this heartbroken reader:
My divorce was final a few months ago, and last week my ex surprised me by telling me he is remarried. This is his third marriage. I had to meet “her” because I wanted to see who would be around our young son. Now, every time we meet for visits, she is always there and it rips my heart out seeing her smiling.
Two years ago, I asked him to leave because he wasn’t being financially responsible, was accusing me of cheating, wouldn’t take care of our son, and couldn’t keep a job. Once the anger settled a couple months later, I apologized and wanted to work things out in counseling. He refused and asked for a divorce. I fought like hell but he said no.
I have a lot of regret, and blame myself for the divorce. I feel like it’s my fault and I’m feeling stuck. Before I found out he was married, I was feeling okay and now this has me in a sad place.
Here’s how I feel about this. I feel sad for this woman that she decided to re-write history. Instead of recalling the facts, which are that she wanted him to leave because:
1. He couldn’t keep a job.
2. He wouldn’t take care of his child.
3. He accused her of cheating (which might mean HE was cheating.)
At the time, parting ways with him probably seemed like a no-brainer. Her gut told her to do so and she went with it. So, why now does she regret getting divorced? Does she miss the days when she did everything for her child, when he sat around unemployed and unmotivated, when he was financially irresponsible, and when he accused her of cheating? I highly doubt it.
She is most likely feeling lonely and isolated because he SEEMS blissfully happy, (which he probably is because he is a newlywed and what newlywed isn’t?) and because it seems unfair that he got his happily ever after and she is now a single mother and alone. She needs to wipe off her glasses so she can see what’s going on clearly:
First, her unemployed husband who didn’t do anything for his child put a Band-aid on his issues by rushing into marriage number 3. Is he now a changed man because he’s with “the right woman?” Not feeling it.
My advice to this woman is to face the truth and remember why she wanted the divorce in the first place. It’s time to focus on her son and herself and the new and wonderful life she is going to have if she lets herself be happy. I mean, what was this guy really bringing to the table that she is now left without? NOTHING.
Honestly, I really don’t like the word regret. I think it’s a huge waste of time to look back and regret something you did because it’s not going to change anything, and will probably only make you feel worse. That said, I have so many regrets in my life I can’t even count them, so I’m not judging. Regrets are unavoidable. But if you’re going to have regrets, have them for the right reasons. In this case, this reader is panicking and her knee-jerk reaction is to want the safety and security of her former relationship–which to me seems like it wasn’t good at all.
In closing, I will say this. the good thing about regrets is that hopefully we can learn from them, and not make the same mistakes again. Having regrets is like beating yourself up for a little bit, and that’s OK. Maybe that’s what people need to do to mourn the loss of a marriage. But, know when to stop punishing yourself and start moving forward. Because when you stop looking back and you start moving forward, wonderful, beautiful things start happening, and the regrets start to get buried, which is where they belong in the long-term.
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