THE BLOG

How to Recover From Divorce: Stop Playing the Victim!

08/02/2013 11:09 am ET | Updated Oct 02, 2013

When I was first getting divorced, I was beyond depressed. I was sad, I was scared, but mostly I was angry. 'Why did this happen to me? ' and 'It's not fair' were constantly going through my mind. I felt like a victim, and honestly, I was playing one. Until I learned how to recover from divorce: Stop. Just stop. Stop playing the victim.

The word victim means "somebody hurt or killed or harmed or duped." So, according to that definition, is everyone who gets divorced a victim? The answer, in my opinion is yes, you are a victim. You are hurt, you've been harmed. You have been lied to or cheated on or treated badly or called names or dumped.

Because you are a victim, I think it's normal, healthy even, to grieve, feel angry, and feel sorry for yourself. FOR A LITTLE WHILE, that is. If you truly want to recover from your divorce, there comes a time when playing the victim needs to stop, and it's time to pick yourself up off the floor, dust yourself off and start your new life. I'm not trying to make it sound simple or easy. It's not. But, you have two choices. Play the victim and blame everyone else for the rest of your life, or go out and grab the life you want. And THAT is a simple choice, isn't it?

I recently got an email from a reader with three young children whose husband left her for another woman. "I just put my house on the market and I can't pay my bills," she wrote. "I'm really scared. I hate that man so much, I wish he was dead! I can't believe he did this to me. Because of him I haven't worked in 10 years, and now I can't find a job. No one wants to hire me. I hope he and his wife burn in hell."

I wrote the woman back, telling her I was really sorry about her situation. I then asked her what field she as in before she stopped working.

She wrote back, "I was a financial adviser and was really successful. I quit because the *ucker wanted me to be a stay at home mom. I gave up everything for him."

I wrote her back and said, "Look, it must be very frustrating. That said, let me help you. You need a job. Tell me more specifically what you'd like to do, and I will connect you with some people in the industry. I have 500 LinkedIn friends, and I can put out some feelers for you."

Know what her response was? Not, "Thank you so much! Here's what I would like to do..." Or "Let me get my resume together and I'll be in touch." Instead, she wrote back, "Do you know he has over a million dollars in his savings account? He's living in this huge house, enjoying a great life, and supporting the woman's son, while I can't even pay my mortgage!"

She never even acknowledged my offer. In other words, discussing getting a job and supporting herself wasn't as important to her as expressing blame and her hatred for him.

The woman is clearly not ready to stop playing the victim. I wish I could put a magic spell on her so she would say, "Okay, what happened to me truly stinks, and it wasn't fair at all, but that's out of my control. I have three healthy children who love me, I'm beautiful, I have the ability to be successful professionally, and if I have the guts to put myself out there, my opportunities are endless, both professionally and personally."

Instead, she's being the martyr. Her focus is solely on her ex-husband (who don't get me wrong, I would love to punch in the face) but she's all about wanting people to feel sorry for her and hate her ex-husband, when she could be getting herself together, and making plans for her future. She doesn't realize that when she stops the fury, doors will open up.

I want to add that I know how hard it is, not only to figure out a career that works with kids, but to get in the door of any company after not working for a long stretch of time. I have been there. Before I got my jobs, I had so many rejection emails I couldn't even count them all. It's hard, but you have to be persistent and strong and display an obnoxious amount of perseverance. That's just the way it is.

Here's the scariest part about playing the victim. People who don't get out of that mindset end up miserable for the rest of their lives. Not playing the victim is the difference between a hard life and a life of bliss. I swear by that.

I know a woman who has played the victim for 45 years. She is still blaming her ex-husband for everything in her life that isn't going well (which is everything.) She never got over the hatred, the bitterness and blaming her ex husband for leaving her, so she made bad choices, she didn't have self love, and therefore could never prosper professionally, or in personal relationships.

The thing is, it's okay to play the victim for a little while. But at some point, it not only becomes unproductive, but it will destroy you, and it will ruin any chance you have at happiness.

The opposite of "victim" is "criminal" or "culprit" so I don't want to tell people to be the opposite of a victim. But, in a sense, yes, be the opposite. Be the culprit (which technically means "the accused person.") Be accused of pursuing your dreams, finding things you love to do, having as much fun with your children as you possibly can. Be accused of going out on dates, traveling too much, smiling excessively. You're only a victim until you decide you're not one anymore.