Leaving the family home is one of the most terrifying things that happen during a divorce. It becomes one of the single, most defining statements a divorcing couple makes that their union is over. No matter who stays in the family home, the shift is real, dramatic, and ushers in a new phase of separation. It also brings up a lot of pain and disappointment which can then lead to loneliness and sometimes depression.
We on the outside rarely if ever understand what it takes to break apart a couple. We’re usually not there when they fought, made love, lied to one another or sat quietly on a couch together. We weren’t part of their daily fabric, the rhythm of their breath, the pace of their days. So for us, on the outside, we also don’t get what it takes for some couples to break apart. We’re stumped by the behavior, the level of rage, the lying, the mean-spiritedness. We simply don’t get it.
But often, the partnership doesn’t get it either. It takes a lot of energy to break apart a family and that energy usually isn’t our more attractive sides. We usually don’t break apart with a handshake just the way we don’t fall in love with a peck on the cheek. These are big statements. Big actions. Life changing dramatic shifts which can be terrifying. Moving out is one of those big statements. Big changes. What we don’t realize, any of us really, is what it’s going to take to make that shift happen.
Because ‘moving out’ is real, it usually requires a lot of momentum and energy. Emotions like rage, frustration, and anger often precipitate the break. Actions like arguing, yelling, and aggressive packing and the grabbing of stuff tend to initiate the walking out. There’s no mistaking when one partner leaves but what is often mistaken is what happens next.
There’s a re-grouping that begins to happen as soon as the move occurs. No one can sustain that level of anger or rage for long (and if they do, they may need medical help). The body naturally seeks balance and usually, that means a big drop in feelings. Often to the level of sadness, tears, even depression. A wallowing in self-doubt and second-guessing usually happens when the mind plays tricks on us and we start minimizing what really led to this point in the relationship. This is natural and to be expected. It also doesn’t mean you’re crazy. This is a normal part of the process.
However, what you want to do is prepare yourself for this to happen. You’re creating a safe place hopefully. (Please don’t be leaving one difficult environment for another stressful one!) You’re looking for a place where you can begin to get your feet under you - a family guest room, a friend’s pad, a hotel room, a week-to-week sublet. Any place you can begin to calm down and think. A place where you can cry and scream without worrying the neighbors. A place where, if you wish, you can curl up and watch your favorite movie, spread your papers all about or simply sit and look out a window. This is your space to begin processing, feeling, and healing.
This is not the place for you to have your soulmate. It’s not the place you’re going to spend the rest of your life. Just about everyone needs a safe landing… a place to call home while the initial rage and anger of ending an unhealthy dynamic can begin to shift. The tears, sadness, and lethargy mean balancing is beginning to occur. That’s all.
So expect this sort of physical behavior. Be prepared for what’s happening and not mistaking it for going crazy or losing it or acting out. You’re fine! Safe even. It’s what your body and mind need to do next.
Many times clients come to me thinking they’re freaking out. They go on anti-depressants because they’re angry or in a crying jag. They mistake their rage as a new normal or misunderstand their need to rest as being out of character for how they view themselves. I’m here to reassure you that this is a normal, natural reaction to the level of energy, emotion, and physical exertion that’s required for the moment of moving out - the literal, physical manifestation that the relationship is over. Whether you were the one who stayed or you’re the one who left. Anyone who seems to have it all together is momentarily mistaken. I rarely or ever hear a client say they’re just fine.
The next shift is the deeply personal one… once the union is broken, the mind shifts to what’s happening in your own life. Or in the life of the person, you just left. (News Flash: it’s way easier to think about them than it will be to think about and begin to heal yourself.) Don’t be surprised when you become fixated on them. Do your very best to focus on yourself, however. Not because they don’t matter but because once you’re out of the home (or they’re out of the home) you’ve shared, you’re done with them. You’re only responsible for yourself - your healing, your food, your sleep, the rest you require, the things you do to stay calm, centered, safe; the feelings that come up and need processing, the thoughts you have. These are yours to manage and to control. Not theirs.
So at this point, I want to make a suggestion. doingDivorce School begins the end of January. Leaving the structure of family and becoming single again isn’t easy. It’s not for the faint of heart. There’s a big shift that may need some structure to stay healthy. Your thoughts can affect your mood. Learning how to step away and co-parent or step away and let them be will need some accountability and direction. No one does this healing work on their own. (If they did, there’d be no second or third divorces.) So consider joining me and giving yourself a new community of like-minded people to help you along the way. You’re worthy of having a great life and moving out doesn’t have to be terrifying.
Laura Bonarrigo is a Certified Life Coach and a Certified Divorce Coach at laurabonarrigo.com. Laura's a writer, public speaker and the founder of doingDivorce™ School an online coaching program for those ready to shed the pain of divorce. For empowering and practical ways to lose the identity of your past, visit www.doingDivorceSchool.com and laurabonarrigo.com.