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Eva M. Selhub, M.D. Headshot

Finding Love after Divorce

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According to The Americans for Divorce Reform it is estimated that 40 or possibly 50 percent of marriages will end in divorce. This means one in two couples will break their vows.

Given this trend, I am not surprised that the soon to be divorcee seeks out my help, looking to manage their sleep deprivation, weight gain, stomach pains, anxiety, depression, growing fear of financial doom, being alone forever, not making it out alive, bitterness and resentment, and of course, working through raging anger.

I think it is safe to say that most couples at some point in the relationship profess love to one another. At some point, they actually mean it. And at some point, it seems, for many, the love stops. If you are one of the lucky ones, the break-up is amicable. Each person respects and values the other as they realize the relationship has run its course. If you aren't lucky, it can get pretty ugly, as resentment, bitterness and anger take over.

Now don't get me wrong. Anger is a legitimate emotion especially when you have been hurt and it serves as a signaling mechanism that something needs to be done about it. In a healthy relationship, anger can motivate you to talk and communicate, to heal and to reach new levels of togetherness. But when anger becomes "raging" it is usually damaging to others and more importantly, to the self.

In any break-up, especially a divorce, a person can experience a myriad of feelings--hurt, confusion, hate, guilt, abandonment, and self-pity. Often the emotions and feelings are confusing as bitterness and blame towards the other person and perhaps also towards ones-self ensue. The raging anger is, of course, understandable as the result of betrayal and hurt that has accumulated over time.

But still, I wonder how can it be that at one time, the estranged couple was in love? How did that love turn to hate? When did it happen? Is the love completely gone? And can one really love ones-self when one is so angry? I wonder if couples ask themselves (what the Supremes so beautifully sang) before waging war, "Where did our love go?"

If you are in a relationship now, trying to get out of one, or are single, can you remember being in love? Do you remember the feeling and can you describe it? Do you remember that feeling of being complete, special, valued, and loved? When you think about it and re-experience the feeling, do you notice how differently you feel about yourself as opposed to how you feel when you are angry and bitter? It's quite a difference.

If you focus on that "lovin feeling", you may realize that you feel much better about yourself. You also may note that in your angry and resentment, your actions have been less than kind and perhaps you can see that you are at least partially accountable for what went wrong in the relationship. Perhaps you expected the other person to complete you, which no one can really do. Perhaps you have been feeling sorry for yourself and shifting the blame to the other person.

Perhaps now, you can shift the focus and use the situation as an opportunity to have a realistic look at yourself. This isn't to say that the other person isn't to blame or at fault. This is just your chance to look at yourself: who you are behaving like and who would you rather be?--A loving or hateful person? Because when you live in blame, anger and bitterness, no one is being loved, least of all yourself.

When you take the time to remember love, you remember what it is you want to feel and the way you want to feel about yourself--loved, special and valued. You can then make the choice to fill your life with activities, passions, purpose that supports you to feel this way.

You might then be able to let go a bit of the relationship that didn't work or the anger toward that person who hurt you. You might remember that not all relationships are necessarily meant to last forever. Some last a lifetime, others a moment in time. Neither is less valuable than the other as every kind of relationship offers the opportunity for you to love, grow, share and discover who you are.

And in the end, it is for you to discover that you are loved, special and valued no matter what the circumstances. Perhaps, this is the love we are all seeking and have the possibility of finding.