Low self esteem after divorce is underpinned by the idea that we are no longer whole without our partner. It feels like half of us is missing and the future seems unimaginably lonely. These are entirely normal and natural feelings. Not only have you lost the individual who shared your life, but also part of your identity as “the couple”.
However, choosing to look differently at deeply held beliefs about love, can lead to reframing some of that despair.
The notion of love and relationships is heavily based on an idea that a romantic partner is the answer to what we’ve been looking for. There is a profoundness in the idea that you can’t live without that special person; your soulmate, “The One”.
But when it goes wrong and the relationship ends, who does that myth serve?
When my marriage ended I was utterly lost. I had truly believed that my ex-husband was my soulmate and that my life had lost meaning because our relationship had failed. But somewhere in my grief was a small voice insisting that thinking like this was unreasonable. Had I not been a whole and valid person before I met him? Had I been less than complete from the day I was born because I was not to meet him for another 22 years? Of course not. As passionate and romantic as finding “The One” feels, the myth does a lot of damage to our own self-worth.
At first I worried that, by claiming my validity as a single separate person, I was minimising the impact of my pain. Was I downplaying the significance of my relationship and heartbreak in order think more positively? However, on reflection, I realised that it wasn’t the case. I had loved deeply and greatly during my marriage. I knew I had given my heart fully and opened myself to receive his in return; it was bound to hurt and I was entitled to grieve. But looking from this new perspective, I began to ease some of the fear and pain around losing “half of myself”.
Healthy relationships consist of whole people
I don’t regret experiencing that “can’t live without you ” love but this is what I’ve learned since: In order to belong to someone and have them belong to me, I sacrificed parts of myself. In order to let another person “complete” me I disowned some of what made me who I am; the parts I thought were unlovable or unacceptable; the traits I knew he wouldn’t like or approve of. Some years later in counselling I looked back at my marriage and realised that I never truly felt enough, so I conceded more and gave more in order to be enough. And in the end it still wasn’t enough, so he went. So, now I know that’s not how a relationship works (a healthy one, anyway).
In my current relationship I bring all of who I am and it’s enough. The love I receive in return does not fill a void in me but compliments and adds to the person I already am. We have healthy individual space and healthy loving togetherness. We can connect deeply but I can also separate myself from him and it doesn’t scare me (in fact it makes me feel stronger). I love our relationship and see nothing but good for the future but if it ended, I would be ok. Not because I love this man less than I loved my ex-husband but because I love myself far more now than I ever did when I was married.
You are still you
I don’t mean the you who is feeling broken, angry and hurt; those are the emotions of loss. Underneath it is the truth of who you are and all of your potential. You might take some re-finding, because we all lose ourselves a little bit in love, but the healing you gain from reclaiming yourself will be life-changing.
Ask yourself “who am I without my partner?” and see what comes up for you.
“this book helped me see my divorce in a new way”