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Allison Pescosolido, M.A. and Andra Brosh, Ph.D Headshot

You're No Mind Reader: What Your Ex Is Really Thinking

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MIND READER EX
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One of the hardest things about divorce is not having full access to your Ex the way you did when you were together. You knew the ins and outs of their lives, and were included in their thoughts and feelings. With divorce, this intimate understanding disappears. Suddenly, your Ex is doing and saying things that come as a complete surprise to you.

Like many people, you may be tempted to "read into" your Ex's behavior, and to make presumptions about him or her based on this past intimacy. This can often lead to unnecessary suffering for both parties.

At Divorce Detox, we've observed a number of universal truths about what people go through during the divorce transition. Read on to learn how to distinguish the facts of what your Ex is truly experiencing from the fictions you may be creating.

Fiction: Your Ex has a new partner already, so he has "moved on" and forgotten about you.
Fact: Many people do not like to be alone, and thus move from one relationship to another quickly. There is nothing wrong with this, but it can be misinterpreted as "not caring" or having disregard for the past relationship. Your Ex might prefer to be with someone more than being alone, but this has little to do with you.

Fiction: Your Ex is having fun, traveling, hosting parties or going out on the town, so she has "gotten over" the pain of your separation.
Fact: Many divorcing individuals keep themselves busy to distract from the pain of the split. You might be wondering why she is not home crying and feeling like her life is over, but distraction can actually be a healthy tool when the heartbreak feels unbearable. However, it can also get out of hand, as unprocessed feelings can only be suppressed for so long and can cause future damage. Whether it's healthy or not, your Ex's desire to fill her time with activity is most likely a coping mechanism for handling her feelings of sadness and loss, not a sign that she no longer has these feelings at all.

Fiction: Your Ex has suddenly lost weight and/or gained a whole new stylish wardrobe, so he is clearly on the prowl for a new partner.
Fact: Many divorcing individuals have an "awakening" after a separation or divorce and begin to see themselves with new eyes, realizing that in the comfort of their relationship, they "let themselves go." Nowadays, it may seem like your Ex is putting energy into things he never did while you were married. He might be working harder, taking better care of himself, or paying more attention to his looks and style. This is actually a healthy way of processing the pain of divorce, and a sign that he is simply learning to take care of himself again--not anyone else.

Fiction: Your ex has suddenly shifted focus, pouring energy into her job, family or children like never before, so she can show you that you were wrong to want a divorce.
Fact: Your Ex may feel insecure about being a "failure" since your relationship did not work, so she is focusing her attention on ventures in which she can succeed - for example, being a better parent, a better daughter, or a better employee. She may also simply be trying to prove something to herself--not to an outside audience--about her personal worth.

Fiction: Your Ex is now trying and doing things he never wanted to do with you, so he is trying to rub salt in the wound of your breakup.
Fact: Whether you were pushing your Ex to try your favorite yoga class with you or learn to make some of your favorite recipes, it may be the case that your Ex was curious about these activities, but nervous about performing them in front of you. Perhaps he feared your criticism, or even your overbearing help. He may also have been content to enjoy the fruits of your labors (such as the great meals you made when together), and to contribute to the relationship in other ways. Now he feels more capable of investigating these curiosities, getting over those old fears, and learning to care for himself completely.

Fiction: Your Ex has begun avoiding you, so she no longer respects or cares for you.
Fact: Your Ex may harbor feelings of genuine care and concern for you, and perhaps even the hope of a future friendship. But at this time, your Ex may also see you as a painful reminder of the past and how she "screwed up." She may need more time to process the pain and shame of your breakup before you can spend time together without triggering difficult emotions.