5 Things to Know When Your Marriage is Over

What’s happening?” You went through the ceremony, said all those words, made promises and went on a honeymoon. Those were real events... physical, real experiences and you took to heart the vows coming out of your mouth. Years passed, there were the routines, children, friends. What you had was comfort, familiarity, love, sex, partnership. And then one day, it was over - you discovered the drugs, the girlfriends, his things packed, gone, the locks changed, she left with the kids. You begin what feels like the worst moments of your life...

It’s such a fragile, frightening place and I’ll admit, at first you’re simply spinning, tethered to immense fear and anxiety searching for answers to something you’ve no idea how to figure out. When you start to see the marriage you’ve been living (whether you simply can’t take it anymore or if you’re finding out what’s been going on) it feels nearly impossible to look at this time as something good. This is good old-fashioned, “I’m freaking out!" time

NEWS FLASH: you’re going to FREAK OUT for some time before you’re ready to see the big picture. 

So in this particular moment - the beginning of your rite of passage… 

1) You’ve been the fish in the fishbowl unaware of what your life really has been for a long time. Tolerance and your rose-colored glasses have kept you feeling it’s all you, and the role of being blamed, has you convinced that you’re responsible for the breakdown or the opposite, 100% the victim. What you don’t get is just how fragmented the agreement’s been for a really long time; how having a spouse in your bed, a mortgage, vacations or even family celebrations doesn’t equal partnership, fidelity or respect. This is when you begin to grasp the person who’s been your spouse and to take stock of your life. Balancing this new understanding while being more unstable than ever, and having compassion is difficult.

2) In the freak-out, it feels as if your reality, your marriage - the thing you believed in and did every day - never really existed. You feel like you’ve been living a fantasy in a house of cards. You feel duped, used, so unbelievably naive, foolish, stupid, angry, fed-up, frightened to your core. You grapple about looking for a reality check because you will go over and over and over the details of your marriage: every nuance, every conversation, every moment, every voice message, every email, every thing until you figure out the lies, catalogue the disrespect, the lack of love all in order to become steady on your feet. 

You’re searching for blame.

3) You won’t want to feel the hurt, the anger, loss, panic and the tears, but you will. You really can’t deal with being this wobbly and you’re not in any shape to face the future, never mind being positive and tethered to optimism or experiencing joy. Knowing this, you’re going to feel weak, unable to get out of bed in the morning or the opposite, determined to hold it together with a framework of work and family duties, or you’ll waffle between the two while throwing in a few dates, lots of sex and anything that helps to numb out. 

You are not alone.

4) Your armor will get thick. You stop trusting everyone - you’ll look around for spies, start using cash, worry that your email is being hacked, that there’s a PI behind you, that your friends are no longer your friends. You’ll assume every professional from an attorney to your doctor to your kids’ teachers knew something you didn’t. You’ll assume everyone is fabricating tales including me. This is the worst part of this part of separating: it’s a very lonely place because, in your pain and shame, you’re pulling in, hiding from others who you think are judging, judging, judging. 

Here too, you’re simply creating an answer, any answer, anything tangible in order to piece the future together.


5) Find safe ground, there’s nothing wrong with you. You may have work to do, even lots of work; you may have to parent, you may have to learn a few skills, change some habits, get some help but you… your passage for your lifetime is just beginning. In fear and resentment, this is incredibly hard to hear but try to believe... you’re definitely not the only one who’s life has been a mirage. 

That’s why I’m optimistic and bold and champion your courage. This is simply a period of time and you need it. 

Being despondent you’ll take the steps necessary to make the torment and the panic go away. In so doing, the aching goes away and you get to begin getting better and growing. So the heartache and dread and the awareness have to come first. It’s part of what’s going on. You have to see the truth. Figure out as much as you can about the stories you’ve been living, it gives you purpose to get out of bed in the morning. It also means using the fuel of anger and self-righteousness to propel you into accepting, changing, evolving into who you’re supposed to be.


Laura Bonarrigo

New York NY