When Doubt Lingers After Divorce

After your divorce, you may have feelings of ambivalence towards your spouse. Here's how to handle them.

When Doubt Lingers After Divorce

Red Alert

The temptation to be drawn back into the circle of your past relationship and all that it represents is real. Once the divorce is final, make it your business to establish your own life and center of activity. Make it your goal to move on.

It's not unusual, in the aftermath of divorce, to wonder whether you have done the right thing. In fact, unless your marriage has been complete hell—and that is not usually the case—you will still harbor residual feelings of affection for your spouse and the happy moments you spent together.

“Unless it's a situation of utter relief from the most adverse possible circumstances,” says Dr. Mitchell Baris, “ambivalent feelings are likely to linger.”

There is, quite simply, a period of wondering whether you could have worked it out or whether you simply gave up too soon.

One friend of ours began harboring such feelings, especially after his ex started calling him and asking him to be open, at least, to trying again. Her requests were especially tempting to him because she had been the one to end the relationship and push for the divorce in the first place. Just a year ago, he had pleaded with her to give the marriage a shot, and now, miraculously, she was doing just that.

But for our friend, things had changed. The experience had revealed to him his wife's fickle, callous side, and he had started dating someone new. Not only was he basically content again, but also he had no desire to plunge himself into the pain he had experienced as recently as a year before.

What should he do? A therapist wisely advised him to get together with his ex-spouse. “Don't be afraid,” the psychiatrist told him. “You're thinking very clearly now, and you'll see things for what they really are.”

Indeed he did. His ex-wife claimed she wanted a reunion, but within minutes of their meeting at a local coffee shop, she was commenting on his tie (too loud) and his hair (too short).

Our friend was cordial throughout the meeting but was able to walk away from it understanding he was well out of a relationship that meant nothing but pain. He had looked into the eye of the monster, after all, and he had prevailed.

The moral of the story: After your divorce, face your ambivalence head on. If your spouse has really been a louse or is just not right for you, you'll have the ability to see that, even if in your weaker moments you're still not sure.

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