The 5 Stages of My Divorce

woman praying contemplating divorce

by Lauren Hawekotte

The Deep Knowing

Oftentimes it’s only when we look back and can see things from a different perspective that we recognize what was happening in the moment.  If I look back, I can recognize a time when I knew that my marriage was not right for me.

In my case, it was shortly before we had children.  Part of my decision to ignore this deep knowing was for fear of the shame that would come along with a failed marriage.  The fear of judgement, the fear of not knowing how I would start over.

Ultimately, if I was honest with and connected with myself, this deep knowing of the truth should have guided my decisions rather than the fear.

Something is Very Wrong

Fear can sometimes be a good motivator.  When enough time had passed, I stopped being motivated by fear of what others would think and started being motivated by the fear of what my future self would think.

Would I look back and wish I had been brave enough to make a different decision.  Would I one day look back and regret the path I was choosing to stay on simply because it was the path I had started on, and the commitment I made was to stay on it – no matter what.

The deep knowing was rising to the surface and I could not ignore it anymore.  I knew that something was wrong, and I had to do something to fix it.

How can I Fix it?

My problem-solving brain went into overdrive.  I tried to identify the sources of “the problem” in my marriage and develop a way to fix it.  I didn’t want to leave, but I knew I couldn’t stay the way it was.

Part of the problem was, of course, me.  When we are in a relationship, there is your spouse or partner, you, and the relationship itself is the result of the interplay between the two of you.  In looking at this, there was only one variable in the “you+me=us” equation that I had complete control over, and that was me.

I went to work on myself in any way I could think of – I went to therapy, I started taking care of my physical well-being by exercising, getting enough sleep, eating well, I developed new hobbies, and I focused on making myself the healthiest I could be.

I could only “fix” myself and trust that the rest would work itself out.

Gaining Clarity

For a long time, I didn’t know how things would end up.  The time between truly recognizing that something was “really wrong” and when I finally got clarity about what direction to go was almost two years.

That may seem like a long time…and it felt like a long time.

For me, I needed to know that I was making the right decision, that I had done what I could, that this was the right decision for me.

This is going to look different for everyone. Someone else may have looked at my situation and said, “I would have stayed”.  Another person may have looked at it and said, “I can’t believe you stayed for so long!”

The clarity was really a reconnection with my deep inner knowing.  With gaining the confidence to know that no matter what someone else would do, this is what I know is right for me.  And, ultimately my children, because they deserve to have whole, healthy parents, even if that means they are divorced.

Getting Divorced

This is the tip of the iceberg that everyone sees – the physical representation of what divorce is.  Moving out, filing the paperwork, separating assets, deciding on custody arrangements, etc.

This is the part that I call “the dark before the dawn”.  It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting, but there is also renewed strength that comes with the finality of the decision.

I had lived in limbo for so long, that even as difficult as this part of the process was, it was a tremendous relief.  We got through it in a very short period of time, which was a blessing.  This was due, in large part, to the professionals we had working with us.

While these stages of divorce can look different for everyone, my hope is that in sharing my story you feel less alone, that you know others have walked this path before you, and that you can learn from our experience.  Divorce can be a long, difficult process, but you can get through it with clarity, confidence, and grace.