When we are the ones who were left behind it feels very painful. Usually this is because we tell ourselves that it was our fault in some way. We weren't good enough or pretty enough. We didn't have sex often enough. We just couldn't make them happy. We adopt the idea that we've been thrown away like a piece of trash especially if the marriage was a long one. Being the one left behind can feel very confusing, scary and hurtful.
In this episode I'm going to address why we turn to blaming ourselves for their action of leaving and how we can begin to see their action of leaving in a different way. I'm also going to teach you a few things you can begin to adopt right now that will help you feel much better about your life now and will help you move on from continuing to retell the painful story about how you were the one who was left behind.
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If you're struggling to let go of what was, of the life you once had, then it might be time for you to decide to ask for some real solid help. Leaving the past behind, letting go of the blame we feel for being left, and allowing ourselves to move toward a future that we actually want can be scary and feel impossible alone. You don't have to do it alone. I help women like you do all of this every single day and I can help you too. Let me show you how. Click here to schedule your complimentary discovery session with me.
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Full Episode Transcript:
I’m Karin Nelson and you’re listening to Becoming You Again podcast, episode number 62.
Welcome back to Becoming You Again. I’m your host Karin Nelson. I’m a certified divorce confidence coach and this is the podcast where I teach you how to reconnect with yourself, create emotional resiliency and live a truly independent life, so you can have an even better life than when you were married.
Hello my friends. I’m so glad to be here recording this podcast for you today. I have had an immensely busy last couple of weeks with everything that has been going on in life, with kids, and birthdays, and college prep stuff, and my business, and coaching clients, and the podcast of course. It just feels like sometimes it’s all of the things. Right. They all kind of come down and it just gets really busy all at once and I know that every single one of you can relate to this. I 100% know every woman can relate to this. Usually in my down time like when I’m driving to run errands or when I’m out on my morning walk, I will be found listening to some sort of self help podcast or listening to a book that is going to help me learn more tools to help me with my business and help me coach my clients and help me know what to teach you, but sometimes I just need a break from it all and I need something that I really just love to do more love to listen to.
I’m not saying don’t listen to my podcast. Haha. Listen to my podcast. I love that you’re listening. I love that it’s helping you through your divorce journey. I give you back all the time from you lovely ladies and some men even which is amazing that this podcast is so helpful and it is helping you change your life which I think is awesome so don’t stop listening to the podcast. But you don’t have to listen to it constantly is what I am saying.
I also want you to know that it’s okay to do things for yourself just because you want to. And I had to really step into this a little bit over the last week. I needed a break for my brain. I needed a break from all of the regular life stuff. You know me, I love audible. It is my favorite way to consume books. And I absolutely love mysteries. They are my favorite most entertaining books. And so I’ve been listening to one that is so good I had to tell you guys. It is called ‘Then She Was Gone’ and it’s by Lisa Jewell. I have no idea when it was printed. I think it is newer but I don’t know. I didn’t even look. All I know is that it’s so good. I am immersed in this book. It is one of those books that from the very beginning it hooks you and you kind of don’t want to stop listening because it’s so good and all I keep thinking is what is going to happen next. How is this going to play out. It’s so good. Again, Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell. If you haven’t read it, go read it. Or what are your books that you love or what is it that you like to do that is just for you. I really hope that you take a little bit of time for yourself and I want you to just do something for yourself that is just for you. Not because the kids need it. Not because your house is dirty and your house needs to be cleaned or because you feel like you need to help your mom or whatever it is, I want you to do something that is literally just for you and give yourself permission to do that every once a while. Even I get out of practice of allowing myself to do things that are just for me and I have to remind myself consciously that it is okay. So I am telling you, I am going to be your reminder that it is totally okay for you to do something that is just for you. Even if it’s listening to a mystery on audible and really enjoying it while you are listening.
Now on to today’s topic, what to do when your husband is the one who left. And this is kind of coming from the underlying idea that either you were blindsided by him leaving. Like you thought everything was going good and then he left, or you knew there were problems maybe but you didn’t think it was this bad, or you thought that you guys were working on it together. Maybe you were doing counseling or maybe you had been kind of talking back and forth but nothing had really been decided but you kind of thought we will be able to figure this out. We’ll be able to work this out and then he just up and decides he’s done, he’s out. But in reality, what I’m going to talk about and teach you will apply to every situation when it comes to whether it was your husband leaving. And if that’s not the case for you and you’re the one who filed or you’re the one who left or you’re the one who asked for the divorce (like I was), I know that a lot of this is still going to be very helpful for you as well, especially when it comes to allowing yourself to feel all of the emotions that come up throughout this divorce process.
I first want to first address the story that commonly comes up when the husband leaves the relationship. Most of us will take his action of leaving as a personal offense, like he left because of something I did or didn’t do. Right. He left and it’s my fault. Most often we take his action and we make it mean something about us. We do this all the time. This is what our brain naturally does about literally almost everything. Someone will do something and because our brains our meaning making machines, our brains like interprets their actions to mean something about us. This meaning is usually coming from our primitive part of our brain. The part that is not really thinking consciously. The part that is habit and it is choosing meaning in a not very purposeful way. Instead it’s just kind of spitting out what we’ve probably been thinking and believing for a very long time. Something like, he left because I’m not enough. He left because I wasn’t a good enough wife. He left because I wouldn’t have sex as often as he wanted. He left because I’m not as pretty as the other women out there. He left because I didn’t know how to make him happy.
So if we have some kind of story like this going on in our mind about why he left and then we’re placing all of that blame on ourselves I just want you to be aware of it. Just notice it. Because what do I always say when it comes to being able to make a change in the first place? What do we have to do very, very first? We have to be aware of what we are thinking. Right? We have to be aware of the story that we are making it mean about ourselves first before we can ever change it.
So if you have a story like this about why your husband left, I want you to know that it makes perfect sense that you would have a story like this. I want you to think about why it makes sense. Sometimes just understanding why it makes sense is a great awareness in and of itself. Your brain always has a good reason for thinking anything – even if you know logically that his leaving really had nothing to do with you, or even if you know logically that like it doesn’t make sense, we want to get underneath that logical thinking and kind of see it from your primitive brain’s point of view. Why does it make sense that you would tell yourself this story? I want you to figure out why.
My guess is that you have been in the habit for a very long time of either being told that you are not good enough from your partner or because of his actions or whatever’s going on in your relationship you’ve adopted that story yourself and then you continue to perpetuate that belief by watching his reactions to things happening during the marriage and then placing that blame on yourself.
I also want you to know that many of the stories that we have about women’s roles and men’s roles in society has been woven into our system through years and years and years of systemic patriarchy. Women have long been regarded as being the caretakers of the home and of the children, of making their husbands happy and meeting their every need. And men’s responsibilities have long been to provide for the family and lead the household. So it really does make sense that if your husband leaves, that just based off of these societal norms and a woman’s role that you would make it be your fault because she didn’t do the job of meeting his needs, and you didn’t make him happy and you didn’t take care of the home in whatever way he maybe thought you should be.
Now listen to me. This is really important. Because I am not saying I agree with those societal norms. I am not saying that I agree with the underlying patriarchy that is throughout our entire society and it has been for years and years. I am not saying that you should be the one to blame. I am saying it makes sense that you believe you are the one to blame. None of it is true. Okay. I am not at all agreeing with this narrative or saying that it is right.
This narrative is actually all bullshit. It is not true in any sense, but I want you to see that it makes total sense if you are telling yourself that story. Okay? And that’s a good place to start, is just understand that yes it makes sense that you would have this belief about yourself because it has been woven into our culture for years and years and years.
So please hear me when I say this, it is not your fault that you are telling yourself the story or you are thinking this way. It is not your fault that you have these stories and this narrative running through your head. But if you want to feel better; if you want a better life; if you want to move forward instead of continuing to go to the past and feeling bad about your relationship ending it is your responsibility to question this belief and decide consciously what you want to make it mean about his leaving because right now what you are thinking is not conscious. It is not coming from a place where you are intentionally choosing what you want to think.
So if you were going to decide consciously what you want to think about his leaving what would it be? I like to teach my clients that relationships can be complete. You can decide at any time that a relationship is complete and it’s time to move on. And I want you to know your husband didn’t throw you away like a piece of trash. I hear this a lot. And it makes me so sad for women who believe this about themselves. And I want you to know we can lay that story down.
He didn’t stomp on the last 15-20-30 years of your life together. He didn’t break it into tiny pieces. What he did in reality was he made a decision to go in a different direction and your relationship is now complete.
Now many of you may not be in a place yet where you can accept that or believe that and that’s okay. What I want you to notice is the difference in the feeling that you have when you think about these stories in a different way. When you believe that your husband threw you away like a piece of trash, how do you feel? Remember a feeling is a one word descriptor. Okay? So how do you feel when you think my husband threw me away like a piece of trash? My guess is you probably feel ashamed, maybe worthless, or maybe even abandoned. Take a minute and think about how those emotions feel inside your body. They don’t feel good. Right? They feel miserable.
Now I want you to just take a second and try on a story that your relationship is complete or that you’re leaning to believe that your relationship is complete. When you think that, how do you feel? Again, one word descriptor. My guess is you feel more calm, maybe self assured, or maybe even sad – but I guarantee that those three things including sad feel much better than ashamed, worthless and abandoned. And sometimes all we really need is to feel just a little bit better than where we’re at right now.
So notice how the story that you’re telling ourselves is making is feel and remember that you get to decide anytime to change a story by working on what you are believing.
I wanted to give you a few more tips on what you can do when your husband leaves or when you find yourself in this situation because it is not a one and done thing. It’s not like I’m just going to start thinking that my relationship is complete and everything is going to be great. Like no. Sometimes that can work for us. Sometimes we can literally just change one thought and everything else changes for us but usually that is not the case and it is going to take a little bit of time and it’s like a journey. We are on a journey through our life, I don’t know if you guys remember this, but it’s not like we’re running a marathon after divorce and we get to a certain point that is like the end and then we’re like oh great, now I can just move on with my life and everything is great. No it’s like a journey. Life in general is a journey for us and there is so much nuance that goes into it. Sometimes it is a conglomeration of many things that we do and think and feel that are going to create a better experience for us overall.
Relationships are complicated and humans are complicated and nuanced and there is just more that goes into the whole story of being left behind and so I wanted to offer you a few more things that I think are going to help you unwind this story of his leaving to help you create more emotional resiliency and overall just to help you feel better.
First, there’s going to be some disappointment that surfaces after he leaves. There’s going to be disappointment over what you thought your life would be in the future. There’s going to be disappointment over the life that you once had. There’s probably going to be some disappointment over how this will affect your kids. There’s probably going to be some disappointment over not being a partner any longer. There’s going to be some disappointment in many other facets and I want you to allow this disappointment. I know this sounds counterintuitive but I promise you that when you can allow wit it will move through you and you will be able to process through it and move forward. Because often what happens when we are feeling disappointment but we are not allowing disappointment is we are ruminating and we are spinning in it.
And so I don’t want you to spin in it. I don’t want you to ruminate in it in your head. What I want you to do is I want you to notice the thoughts when they come up, like maybe you are at home one night and you are thinking gosh I really miss being with my partner and being able to tell him about my day or being able to watch shows together or being able to snuggle up to him, I really miss that. Notice those thoughts but then don’t go down the rabbit hole. Because down the rabbit hole is where so much of the pain and injustice and indignation comes in of what we missed out on. Notice the thought and then just allow that disappointment to be present inside of you and really focus on what it feels like inside your body. Remember this is part of processing that emotion. And we think it is going to make it worse and make it more terrible but what makes it worse and makes it more terrible is resisting it and spinning in the stories in our head about how much worse off we are without what we had or without what we are going to have in the future.
Open yourself up to just allowing it. Allow the disappointment. Let it sit in the your body and breathe through. I promise you it will dissipate faster and faster and faster each time you allow it.
Often our gut reaction when we feel this disappointment is to distract ourselves. We don’t want to feel it. This is the resistance. So we’re just instead going to get busy with the kids, or we’re going to clean our house or we’re going to watch TV, or we’re going to drink something or eat something. Anything to distract ourselves from feeling that kind of uncomfortable feeling. That uncomfortable disappointment. And I’m telling you just instead allow it, even if it’s just for a few minutes a day. Because this disappointment is ultimately part of the grief process that you’re going to go through when a relationship is ending and if you try to bypass feeling and allowing and opening yourself up to this disappointment and to this grief it is going to continue to show up. You are never going to fully move through. It is going to show up later on and it is going to keep coming back until you open yourself up to it. Be disappointed. You are allowed to be disappointed about the end of your marriage. You’re allowed to mourn the idea that your relationship is complete. It’s ok for you to recognize that what you thought was going to be isn’t the reality that you are living in and it’s totally ok for you to be sad about that. Allow it. Accept it.
The next thing that will help you is to drop the comparison of what your new life is compared to what your old life was. Or, we do this when we compare right, or comparing your life to what you’re seeing in all of the lives around you. Comparison is the killer of forward momentum. Comparison it is really a liar in so many ways, because what we do when we compare is we look at things through a lens that is only showing us part of the story. And we’re always on the losing end when we compare ourselves in this way. So if you’re comparing what your life is now to what it once was and lamenting what was lost, it’s okay to stay there and accept it and feel it but it’s not okay to spin in it. Because what you’re doing is you’re completing discounting the life that you have right now in the present and you end up not eating living your life in the present. You end up completely immersing yourself in the past and what you wish your life was.
My boyfriend and I we just rewatched the movie, The Great Gatsby with Leonardo DiCaprio, you know it’s a book also that everybody probably reads in high school, but we watched the movie again and this is basically the theme of that movie. It’s trying to live in the past or recreate the past. But what we do to ourselves when we are constantly focused on the past is we forget to actually live right now. We forgot to be present and make our lives what we want. This is why comparison is the killer of forward momentum, because you stay stuck in a cycle of wanting what you once had, instead of focusing on creating what you want moving forward. He cannot ever go back to the past and it might seem important to spend time there but I promise you that if you can be present in where you are at right now and decide for yourself what you want your future to look like, you will serve yourself so much more and be so much happier on your journey than if you spend all of your time focused on the past and what you used to have.
And this is the case with comparing to other people around us. Often when we’re going through a divorce we look at everyone around us and think, oh they’re so happy and there’s all of these couples and they look so happy and they’re doing all of these fun couple things and I’m the loser who is getting divorced. I’m the one who has a broken marriage and a broken family. First of all that story feels terrible, and it’s not true. Because we truly have no idea what someone else is going through. All we see is what they want us to see. So when we tell compare ourselves to other’s lives we are lying to ourselves about what their life is really like when we truly have no idea. We are making up a story about them that kind of perpetuates this idea that our life will never be because of the divorce and their life is amazing because they have a partner.
Most of us if we really think about it we did have a partner and our life wasn’t super great and that is why we are getting divorced. So stop telling yourself this, that their life is amazing in your life sucks. It is not true.
And this leads me to the last one that I think is going to help you when it comes to being the person who was left and it is to let go of the self-pity. Because when we use that story of comparison it kind of, like we go into this self-pity, right. Oh poor me, I went through this hard thing. This is terrible. This sucks for me and it kind of justifies us feeling that self-pity. And I’m not going to lie, self-pity kind of feels useful. It kind of feels validating sometimes. It kind of feels even a little good sometimes. It validates to ourselves that yes our life is hard and the divorce is hard and everyone else around me definitely has not gone through this. I have gone through this and it’s kind of like this counterintuitive reaction that we step into when we go through something really challenging.
I think that the reason that we turn to self-pity is twofold. The first reason is because self pity feels a little bit better than rejection. When someone leaves we feel rejected. That makes total sense that we would feel that. But rejection does not feel good. It feels terrible and so we will often cover up feeling that negative emotion of rejection by creating self-pity and feeling that instead. Because even though self-pity does not really feel that good. It feels very disempowering and it feels very stagnant I guarantee it definitely feels better than rejection. Because rejection feels heavy and rejection feels scary and so if we can minimize feeling that way and feeling that rejection by pitying ourselves then why wouldn’t we choose that.
And then the other reason that we often will turn to self pity is because not only are we seeking validation from ourselves but we are also kind of seeking validation in some way from other people. Because if we can tell them our story in a self pitying way and then they kind of validate our experience then maybe we can believe that it is not our fault.
I just want you to see, go back to the beginning of his podcast and when I was talking about when it comes to this story of the left and it’s my fault, I want you to see how all of these actions fold into one another. Because they are all coming from that root story. You are believing that you are has been left because of something that you did. Because you did something wrong. Because you weren’t good enough. Because it was your fault in some way. And I really want you to see this is why it is so important to work on loosening your grip around that story. And if you need to go back and listen to the beginning of this episode again please do. When you can let go of that story of it being your fault, of it being you being the reason that he left, it is going to change everything for you.
Okay so that was a little bit of a tangent. I want to get back to the validation part of self-pity. Because we want other people to validate us in our experience and the reason why the one that is because we are trying to fill this void inside of us that is telling us that we are okay. That is telling us that we are not broken and there is nothing wrong with us. And first of all you are not broken. There is not anything wrong with you. You are okay but other people can’t fill that void for you. Their words and their actions will never make be able to meet you feel a certain way. If we want to feel lovable, if you want to feel whole, and complete, and worthy, and valuable you need to think thoughts about yourself that make you feel that way. You need to fill that void from the inside. It is never an outside job but we think it is not as often why we turn to self-pity, for ourselves and to get that validation from other people as well.
So learning to drop the self-pity is really going to open you up to learning to be able to validate yourself and fill that void for you.
I hope that this helps you understand that it is not your fault when someone leaves. You can change the narrative. It may take a little while. It may take some practice and that is totally fine. Remember it is all part of this journey and you are 100% capable of creating any kind of story that you want that is going to help you and serve you as you move forward after divorce.
Alright my friends, you’ve got this. This is your work to do, and you’re totally capable of doing it. I will be back next week.
If you like what you heard on today’s podcast and you want to know more about working 1:1 with me, you can go to www.karinnelsoncoaching.com and schedule your free consult to find out more. That’s www dot Karin nelson coaching dot com.
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