I am a 54-year-old woman who has been divorced for ten years. In retrospect, the divorce was the easy part, but the events post-divorce have affected me the most. About four years after our divorce was finalized, my ex-husband told me that he was gay and that he had informed our three children (all teenagers and young adults) about it two years previously. He had asked them to keep this secret from me. Needless to say, I was devastated. Two of my children have suffered significant psychological distress, I believe, due to the above. Two years after this event, my ex-husband lost his license and business due to sexual misconduct with several clients (he is a psychologist.)
I can't seem to be able to move forward and stop blaming myself for marrying this man knowing he had serious issues and thereby not protecting my children. I am battling depression, panic attacks and I avoid being in any social situations. I did have a relationship with a former college boyfriend that ended. I, too, thought that we would get married and "live happily ever after." Boy, was I wrong. He dumped me unceremoniously after telling me that he "was no longer attracted to me." This has dramatically affected my self-esteem. I feel unworthy, unlovable and incapable of finding happiness.
I maintain so much anger toward my ex-husband for his actions and I struggle not to bad-mouth him to my children. Two of my children seem to be doing well; the third has aligned himself with my ex and rarely speaks to me. I have lost many friends in the past several years because they wouldn't stick with me throughout all the drama. This has added to my feelings of failure and loneliness. Fortunately, I have a wonderful career, which sustains me, but I am unhappy in most other aspects of my life.
Agi, I would appreciate any insight, suggestions, help that you can provide!
Dear Down, but not for the count;
Yes indeed, it sounds like you have had a very rough experience for far too long. I am going to try and address everything in chronological order because I don't want to miss anything you present. Let's start with the post-divorce shocker -- gay ex-husband. Shocked, I could understand, but devastated, why? What do you care what his sexual preference is post-divorce? You are both free to live your lives as you see fit and his asking your young adult children to keep it from you is his prerogative. I get that the first place you want to go is "our whole marriage was based on lies!" This is a self-destructive story your ego has concocted in your head, because the reality is, you and your husband had a successful marriage. If you had not married this particular man then you would not have these particular children, whom you love very much. Everything would have been different, including your children. For this issue I would like to see you change your point of view and live in gratitude for the union you shared with your ex and know that the two of you were meant to be. As far as his discrepancies in his career; again, I have to ask; Why do you care? This is no longer your problem, so stop wearing it. Try to show some compassion for the pain he must have felt all those years trying to be someone he wasn't. He must have been in agony constantly concealing his true nature and living like a CIA agent who had to remain undercover. Let it go and wish him peace.
Regarding your current emotional state of mind; depressed, panic attacks, avoiding social situations, well, I think those issues reach further back in your life than just to the years in which your ex-husband entered your world. I hear you when you talk about the former boyfriend ending it in a crappy way. His saying he is no longer attracted to you was unkind and unnecessary; however, it could serve you well if you are willing to look deep inside of yourself. What I'm hearing from you is that all your pain and anger is being triggered from external sources, when in fact, the cause lies within you. I know this is a real "ouch" to hear, but I have to be straight with you since I only have this one article to send you. The easy escape from our own pain and suffering is to place blame anywhere that isn't near you or your nasty ego -- by the way, I'm not calling your ego names, it's everyone's ego. It is such a slippery slope when we try to look externally for happiness or find blame in others for what we are responsible for internally. I wish there was a simpler way for you to discard your pain but the hard facts are, you have to do it yourself. I have ideas for you so hang on...
I really want to address your statement: "live happily ever after" with your fellow who was ignorant. First of all, happily ever after is not a realistic expectation for anyone. As humans, we are never in a constant state of any one emotion. In fact, we are more prone to bounce all over the emotional Richter scale. Therefore, placing an expectation into the universe that something will last forever in a static position is only our ego-centric mind being foolish. Pure trickery. This former college boy came back into your life to force you to look inside and ask important questions; Why am I so angry? Where does my anger stem from? And so on. Your anger towards your ex-husband or anyone for that matter is a cover for the fear that is lurking inside of you. Fear of survival, whether it be emotional or physical, can make us react with extremism. What's really going on here is your internal child was hurt somewhere along the line by someone she trusted long ago and she has been living in survival mode ever since. Today is the day you can help her walk out into the light and let her know that she is safe at this present moment. She can no longer be hurt by anyone and the two of you are safe and loved, by each other. You're not really angry at your ex, you are just stuck in an old story of betrayal, but it has nothing to do with him. Here is a good exercise for you; start by writing a letter to your ex-husband. Let him have it! You get fifteen minutes to spew all the gunk at him that you want, then, in the next fifteen minutes you will release him and tell him what was between the two of you is now over and he no longer has a hold on you. Tell him good-bye. Moving forward, everything in his life is between he and his maker. Don't send the letter. Keep it.
Listen up, my sweet spirited friend, you need to breathe and release all the fear that rattles up the anger, which inevitably only hurts you. Your friends were all teachers trying to let you know that spewing anger for long periods of time is toxic to you and those around you. You should never bad-mouth the father of your children. He is off limits to you and your opinion moving forward. Your only focus from this day forward should be to heal your internal self and discover the beautiful sapient being that resides inside of you. Whenever you feel the trembling of anger rising up into your throat, find a quiet spot, sit down, close your eyes and take a deep breathe. Then tell yourself that you are safe and whatever lies your mind is blabbing at you are simply not the truth. The only failure you speak about in this journey would be if you gave up on yourself. Move into your future with loving grace towards yourself and those around you. I promise you the anxiety and anger will dissipate. Love your life, because your life wants to love you.
Take great care my friend ~