02/23/2014 02:43 pm ET Updated Jun 03, 2014

The Myth Of Moving On After Divorce

By D. A. Wolf for DivorcedMoms.com

If I hear it one more time -- "Why don't you just move on?" -- I'll scream.

Long and loud.

I'm so sick of the insistence on "moving on" -- the feel-good, you have to do it, non-stop stream of well-meaning advice that you cannot be happy after divorce until... you got it... you "move on."

What exactly does that mean anyway?

How do you "move on" when you're smack in the middle of the anger, the sadness, the bewilderment and the consequences every day -- even years later?

When your divorce is high conflict, when the aftermath of your divorce leaves issues that cannot be swept under the rug or "made better" regardless of what actions you take, your attitude and behaviors are not about refusing to leave the past behind or hanging on to feelings for your ex.

Rather, you're dealing with the present -- acts or mind games that are still taking place -- affecting you, your children, your health and well-being, your livelihood, your social life.

These emotions remain in the present because this is your now. These consequences are also your now.

Living With Long-Term Impacts

In some situations, divorce leaves us (and our children) with wounds, but over time we put the pieces back together in ways that lead us into a better life for all involved.

We may no longer be in an emotionally or physically abusive situation, and our children are now spared this trauma as well. We may find ourselves better off, though starting over means living with a difficult legacy.

We may have made our way out of an empty marriage, and all parties are relieved to be on their own, and even financially solvent. That sounds like a "win" to me.

We may be creating new families, and blending our children with new partners -- and it's going great!

But this isn't the case for everyone. For some of us, money problems dog us for years. Health problems, too. Our careers may have been sufficiently interrupted as to have played a role in the financial vulnerability where we find ourselves. Likewise, legal fees and support problems may add to the money mess and on, and on, and on.

We may also be struggling to understand the narrative that is -- or was -- our life with a partner. We may be piecing together a past that makes no sense in light of new information, or signs we noticed but thought it better not to act on.

Living With Anger, Regret, and Societal Views

We kick ourselves for not "seeing," for not "reacting," for somehow not knowing what was going on. And those who tell us to move on are kicking us, too.

Angry? You bet. Sad, too? Probably.

But anger doesn't mean we can't love -- ourselves, another person, our children, our friends. That's another pop culture myth, and it's simply not the case.

Specific anger over vindictive or manipulative actions? What's not to understand? Especially if your children are caught in the crossfire?

Angry and bitter all the time? That's a different matter altogether, and I'm not suggesting that we don't do everything in our power to rebuild our lives for ourselves and our children.

Dealing With, Not Moving On

I know a handful of mothers whose divorces were high conflict, and the aftermath that followed -- for years, and in some cases still raging -- even worse.

How are their situations worse?

Imagine still battling divorce-related issues -- logistical, financial, and emotional -- after five years, seven years, ten years. The term "battle fatigue" comes to mind.

Imagine thinking the divorce wars are behind you, only to find that legal actions pop up when you least expect them, or your child is being manipulated by a master puppeteer who may suffer what some call "character disorder."

Divorcing the character-disordered spouse?

Nightmare. And the official termination of the marriage doesn't mean it's "over." There is no moving on, only "dealing with" -- and a state of hyper vigilance that we're hard-pressed to explain to others. There is only whatever happens today or tomorrow, and the worry over what might hit you next month.

How will you protect your children? Where will you get the money to go back to court? How much will it cost to get a lawyer involved again? Can you make the rent? Will your boss put up with yet another afternoon off for depositions?

You take each challenge as it comes. You steel yourself. You protect your children as best you can, making difficult choices that offer no real "win."

High Conflict Life After Divorce

A single mother I've known for some time lives with the legacy of an ex who was not only emotionally abusive prior to abandoning his family, but whose manipulations resulted in serious impacts to her children, and to the health of one.
That child -- and the mother -- will live with those health consequences for the rest of their lives. He, with an illness and she, with the worry, the care, and the expense -- none of which she's in a position to bear.

The ex? What he caused he has never attempted to address in a responsible way. Not emotionally, and not financially.
How could they not all feel anger, not to mention confusion and betrayal? Does this mean this divorced mom doesn't experience moments of joy?

Of course not.

But "moving on?" I'm guessing she's just as irritated as I am when she hears an acquaintance remark: "How long has it been since your divorce? Why don't you just move on?"

More from DivorcedMoms.com:
Fair: The Four Letter Word You Won't Experience During Divorce
7 Things To Do When Your Husband Leaves You
Is It Depression Or, Are You Married to An Asshole?
Sexless Marriage: When a Man Doesn’t Make Love to a Wife

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