I can’t speak for every divorce, but what I see so often in newly separated couples is pretty common: the ex-husband has a girlfriend soon after the couple decides to get divorced and/or separates. Regardless of who wanted the divorce, the guy usually ends up in a relationship right away. And, this leaves his soon-to-be ex wife infuriated. I experienced this personally.
You might be wondering, ‘Why would the wife be infuriated (or even care at all) if she is the one who decided she wanted the divorce?’ There are many possible reasons.
Here are some feelings a person might have when learning her ex-husband has a girlfriend:
Women and men process divorce differently, with women often choosing to wait a longer period of time before dating. A man might get into a new relationship to numb the pain he is feeling about the divorce, to ease loneliness, and/or even as a subliminal way to get back at his ex who left him.
Or, maybe even though it was his wife who left, the man was lonely and felt alone for years. So now, he is experiencing happiness from a woman who is showing him love. Whatever the reason the ex-husband gets a girlfriend, the ex-wife is in shock.
I can attest to this feeling firsthand, but now, looking back, I’m kind of wondering why I was so shocked. My ex wasn’t doing anything wrong. We were separated so he wasn’t cheating. We both knew the marriage was over. But at the time, it seemed very strange my jaw was on the ground when I found out he had a girlfriend.
I have seen women become furious when they find out their ex-husband has a girlfriend. Not just furious, crazy furious. Enraged furious. And what is bad about that is that the legal battle, which might have been amicable, all of a sudden becomes so much more contentious. The deals that are already on the table can fall through, with the woman putting her emotions before practicality and making divorce decisions based on her newfound hatred for her ex, because he is now dating another woman and seems happy.
She might change her position on financial issues, or the worst, try to restrict her ex from seeing the kids. It’s sick, I know. But I’ve seen it happen. The anger is blocking any sense of good decision making.
Being newly separated makes men and women feel broken. And when a woman feels that way, the last thing on her mind is getting into a relationship. So, she can’t understand how her ex-husband could do it. And, maybe there is a part of her who wants to be in a relationship, so she is jealous of his newfound, giddy high-school type happiness, yet doesn’t want to date for herself.
4. Resentment and bitterness.
This is a big one, which I can best describe with this reader’s comment on Divorced Girl Smiling:
I was the one to have the kids, get the stretch marks, make do while his career expanded. I left after 25 years, since we hadn’t really talked for the past 10 of them. We never fought.
So now after a long successful career (by ignoring me and working at home at night), and trying couples therapy, we are divorced and SHE gets the now communicating, now time taking, now rich guy who was mine for so long.
I hate her for enjoying the fruits of MY labor.
What I have to say to this woman is, I totally understand how you feel. I really do. It’s hurtful and it seems unfair. But, here is what you might not be seeing:
1. You are the one who left.
Don’t forget that. You and your ex hadn’t talked in 10 years and then you asked him for a divorce. Did you expect him to sit around and mourn the divorce? It sounds like both of you have been doing that for 10 years. It’s a good thing that you left! Because even though it’s unfair, what do. you think would have changed? Nothing.
2. Why do you resent that he became successful?
Are you solely responsible for his professional success? I don’t think so. Yes, you supported him emotionally, took care of the house and kids, etc. but if he became a success, he must have earned it by putting in long hours at the office and working his butt off. Right? Also, you can become successful in a career, as well. I know you might not think so right now, but women I know (including myself) went back to work late in life and ended up having a lucrative and very fulfilling career. I started a new career at 51, fyi.
3. She gets the now communicating, time taking, rich guy, you write.
I understand your feelings. I really do. But, you have probably changed for the better as well. So, your ex-husband has a girlfriend and she is getting the best version of him, but someone you eventually meet will get the best version of you. People grow and learn from a divorce—one of the good things that come out of it. We are better people in our next relationship. So take advantage of what you have learned and be a better partner for someone else. You deserve it!
I remember going out on one of my first dates after I was separated, and I was complaining to the guy about how my ex was already in a relationship. The guy said to me, “Well, what’s stopping you from doing the same thing? Why do you care what he’s doing? If you want that, what are you waiting for?”
At the time I was very angry at his comments, but after awhile, I realized he was right. Why was I so angry and bitter? My being alone was my choice. When two people get divorced they start to travel on their own roads. They drive further and further apart until they are going in completely different directions.
In other words, after we become separated, (with the intent of divorce) we are responsible only for our own happiness, and we have no control (and we shouldn’t want it) for our ex and his love life. By the way, no more than a month later, I met someone and had a 3 month romance that was fun and refreshing and very endearing.
In closing, what I want to say to women that when the ex-husband has a girlfriend I know it hurts like hell. It seems unjust. Unfair. He hurt you. You might feel like you wasted years of your life. Why does he get to have so much happiness so soon? Why does the new woman get to benefit from the new him? I get that. But, that is completely the wrong way to look at it.
Remember your own road and travel it. Life is such a gift and you now have the freedom to find your own happiness. In other words, don’t worry about him. Focus on you (and your kids, of course.)
I do want to add that people don’t change in their core, so there are certain things that might have really bothered you, that she is getting. This can include: a heavy drinker, someone who doesn’t treat someone with respect, a gambler, someone who can’t communicate well. In other words, unless he goes to therapy and gets help for his issues, he might be on his best behavior for awhile with this new person, but the real him will come out. So, don’t think they are going to be blissful and never have problems.
Also, by jumping into a relationship, he hasn’t worked on himself and hasn’t mourned or taken time to grieve the divorce. I’m not saying that’s the reason his relationship will fail, but it will definitely have an effect on it at some point.
In closing, if your ex already has a girlfriend, don’t worry so much about HIM and think he is blissful and life is perfect. There is a lot more to the story that you aren’t seeing. You just focus on yourself and what you want during and after the divorce. Keep being the best mom you can be and get the help and support you need, and things have a way of working out.