In a previous post I mentioned two types of folks who have the most difficulty getting through divorce.
The first type is mothers (and sometimes fathers) facing the empty nest. The second, which is the subject of this article, is folks who did not have the parental guidance and other resources they needed as children to become happy, secure adults and go through a divorce from a child-like, helpless position. Perhaps their caregiver experienced a major life event that took them out of the home. They became an addict, ran away from home, got divorced or left emotionally in other ways, including the ultimate abandonment, death. When a child feels abandoned, parts of them can become frozen at the age they were when they experienced the trauma. They can be freed, brought up to date, and healed with therapeutic help, most commonly with Internal Family Systems (IFS) work, but most people don’t know that.
Because of these difficult life experiences and resulting lack of of internal and external resources the divorce journey is particularly difficult. If this is you, you likely feel like a lost child in the big world of divorce. The divorce experience is too much for any child. You may have felt abandoned as a child and here you are again, feeling abandoned by your partner, too.
The Under-Resourced Partner
You are likely quite child-like in many areas of your life. Your emotions may take you over causing you to experience intense anger or succumb to deep sadness. Your relationship was likely power-imbalanced and you were probably the under-powered partner. You may not have related to your partner as a spouse at all but related to him or her more as your parent, maybe even as Mommy or Daddy (probably without realizing it of course). You may have felt you had to do what you were told, not make any mistakes, take care of of your partner, keep them happy, be seen but not heard, or live in fear that they would withdraw love (or financial support, or sex), or lash out in anger. There are many behaviors that can stem from a power-imbalanced relationship. It can take a while to realize this, because after all, it is your life view. It’s like being a fish in water.
The tricky part about this is that we can be 54 years old but have parts that are stuck as a 3 year old. It doesn’t visually appear on the outside that there is stuff wrong on the inside. Friends and relatives may have high expectations that you put your big boy/girl pants on and deal. What they don’t know is that you are incapable of dealing. If you could, you would. Your world is falling apart. The intense feelings of abandonment are crippling. It’s only natural that your entire focus is turned toward getting connected again—somewhere, anywhere. This is what friends and family don’t understand. Often the focus of that connection is your former partner.
Your longing to be back with your former partner may become all consuming. S/he may be more distant than usual feeling that s/he has taken care of you long enough. This adds to the feelings of abandonment. If your relationship has gotten to this point it is important that you find other places to connect. Find a coach, therapist, support group, friends. The last thing you need is a restraining order on top of everything else.
You Need Resources
In this child-like state you are no match for the demands of divorce. You need support and a lot of it. In a way you are making up for the lost time and lost support you missed as a child. I encourage you to find therapeutic support to mature these parts that are hurting. There are many places that offer discount therapy these days. Many people in your situation have been helped by being involved in a church family. If you’re fortunate, you have some wonderful friends who never tire of your need to talk and are willing to help you find some resources. That isn’t always the case. Most people just can’t grasp how devastated you feel. All you need to know right now is that you need a lifeline. One step. One thing to do. Get connected somewhere.