Surviving Divorce and Loneliness
by a divorced dad who chose to remain anonymous
Loneliness. Just the word itself is depressing. People were not meant to be by themselves; we are social beings. Without a close relationship of some form in our lives, we can slowly start to lose our direction and eventually the lines between what is socially acceptable or even what is right and wrong can be confusing. Our community and our culture help guide us. However, when you take away the outside influences, distractions, and noise it is vital to have a strong sense of who you are. Without this, loneliness can be overpowering. This sense of who we are is often lost when going through a divorce. Not only have we lost our close relationship, but we are also trying to find our way in our new unplanned life.
For me to help frame my experience with loneliness, I feel like I need tell you some of my story. I am a 38 year old man that has been divorced for about four months, but separated for 24 months prior to the official filing. I got married when I was 20 years old. In a sense, I have never been alone, never been truly on my own. I went from high school, to college and married while in college. I had become dependent on that interaction. This dependency was one of the reasons our marriage went south. When my ex decided to stop being a wife it slowly destroyed me. To the point that I did the unthinkable, finding solace in the arms of another woman. I eventually told her everything and that was the end.
When we separated it literally felt like my life was ending. I felt like a failure in every sense of the word. I lost 50 lbs in about 3 months (about 1/5 of my body weight – and I’m very tall). I even sat in my garage with my car running, windows down, waiting for it to just end. I was an embarrassment to my family, my community, my faith, to everyone and everything. Thankfully, balling my eyes out the whole time, a picture I always carry of my three beautiful children is what saved me. I simply could not do that to them. They became the only reason for my existence. Not that they weren’t before, but stop and think about it – we have goals in life, things we want to do, places we want to go, retirement to plan for, careers to worry about, etc. All of that was gone. None of it mattered. I was completely stripped of everything. That was the bottom. I would have done anything to fix it. So that is what I decided to do. The relationship with my ex didn’t look like it could be saved but I was going to be a better man for myself and for my kids. This meant learning to live by myself and with myself.
Some of you may laugh at this thought. Who doesn’t want to be solo again after a bad relationship? For me it was the shocking disparity between being the very involved father that cooked dinner, went through homework, bathed kids, read bedtime stories, and kissed and tucked little heads into bed every night – to – sitting on my couch with the reality that I am completely alone in a quiet house because I couldn’t fix our problems. It was gut wrenching.
Here are the top 4 things I did to face the emptiness of loneliness and depression. I am not a physician and I’m not recommending that these things are right for you. My only hope is that by sharing my story it may help someone else that is going through the same hell that I faced.
1. Self-reflection: Reflect on who you are, who you want to be, and why you are where you are. I truly understood why monks are required to live a life of solitude and silence while in seminary – it forces you to face yourself. You have no distractions. You are only left with your own thoughts and self-reflection. Looking back I am so very thankful for this time. Everyone has their own demons. Being able to face them, recognize them for what they truly are, and rid yourself of them is not an easy task. Part of this was a weekly reflective journal. I would try to answer questions about my feelings and things I had learned and/or experienced. Simply going through this practice opened my eyes to so many things I had not recognized about myself and the world around me. It helped to teach me who I am and why I truly feel the way I do. So much of what we do is rooted in pride and selfishness. Not to sound like a zen master or anything, but learning to let those things go helped heal my soul. Anxiety lifted and stress went down.
2. Don’t drink: I went without a single drop of any kind of alcoholic beverage for over a year. Alcohol is a depressant and I didn’t need that. It can also be a crutch and gives people a way to not face their problems. Don’t get me wrong, there were times I wanted to get plastered so I wouldn’t feel the pain of what I was going through, but I made a conscious effort to think of anything positive that could possibly come out of making that choice… There will never be anything that falls into that category.
3. Set goals and make a list: This really applies to anyone, but even more so to someone going through a divorce and facing loneliness. I knew that if I sat around I would feel empty and depressed. I went back to school and got my MBA. I was working full time and took a one year accelerated curriculum. I didn’t have time to be lonely and it tested my limits. I feel like I can accomplish just about anything now. How many people work 40+ hours with 4 MBA classes a week, run a small side business, helping to take care of three kids, while going through a gut-wrenching divorce? It was very intense and I made some good friends through my MBA program.
4. Get help: I am so very thankful of the time I was able to spend with my priest. Not only was he able to provide personal guidance but he was also able to connect me with my therapist, Mark. At first I spent an hour a week with Mark, and then an hour every two weeks, and I’m now at an hour a month. Mark helped in the healing process and facing life solo. More importantly, he provided truth. The most dangerous lies are the lies we tell ourselves. We don’t even realize we’re doing it. This is tied into self-reflection and truly understanding yourself. I could not have grown emotionally or reached my current level of self-awareness nearly as fast and as structured without help and guidance.
Through all of these things, I made a re-discovery. I say “re”-discovery because it was something I already knew, just not at the same depth. We are all insecure and lonely. At some level this is true for everyone. The only difference is how we react to it. We all have a choice in this decision. Whether a conscious or unconscious decision – it is a choice and needs to be recognized as such. If you are going through hell right now you have a choice in how you’re going to react. Regardless of why you are here, you can chose the direction you take going forward. The easy way out is rarely the right answer. Make the right choice for you (and your family) and you will be a better person for it.
Really good advice here. Thank You for sharing such a personal story.
I would also add that there are some excellent books worth reading out there. The most complete and best written that I have found is Divorce Demystified from Henry Gornbein. It offers total insight into all the complicated steps in the process and really helps to maintain the right focus throughout. A great book that can be of immense value to someone going through a divorce.
It is SO hard when the wife tells you something along the lines of “you’ve always been wonderful and have not changed but now I have changed and have new needs that must be fed and I cannot find it with you”. And that “I want to separate before I do something that’s wrong.” (cheat, affair, etc).
What do you do? How are you supposed to feel when you have been together for 15+ years and have 3 amazing kids?! I cannot imagine not seeing her and her smile and eyes breathing the same air with her every day. She tells me she couldn’t have picked a better father for her kids but now she is not happy with our emotional connection. She has been doing solo therapy on her own and now is over her self-esteem issues and is very happy with who she is. But she does not love me the way i love her anymore.
This is pain beyond pain…I don’t know if you can call this “living”. I totally get where these guys are coming from. You reflect inside. Could I have communicated better? Could I have shown my affection for her more? Why do I do what I do? You begin to doubt yourself and who YOU as a person are. And that can be scary. I begin seeing a therapist tomorrow to help me find my way…but it is SO painful thinking of my marriage as over…
Jason the Saj
Just don’t understand… I see tons of articles, and none of them address the real issues.
They’re all like don’t do this, don’t isolate, take the high road, don’t rebound relationship, etc, etc, etc.
And yet, none of that is what I see happening to me or many divorcees.
1. Isolate? We’re begging for people to visit. Nearly our whole social circle de-friends us during a divorce. We’re the male…
2. Okay, therapy, I agree with that one. It is beneficial. But it’s costly, you need good insurance and money. And a good therapist. My ex filed a frivolous malpractice claim against my therapist, ending that. And now I don’t have the money or availability for another.
3. Let’s be honest and tell men what to expect in court. Expect that, you being a man, will have false accusation after false accusation heaped upon you. And the court, will accept EVERY one without question. Meanwhile, you can come with hard data, visual graphs, facts, and the court will pretty much ignore all of it. No matter how much you have recorded, it is irrelevant to the court. There is one deciding factor, you have a penis. Therefore you are guilty and must be punished.
4. Let’s talk about finances. Expect the following to occur. The court will routinely low ball your wife’s income. You’ll be lucky to get the court to impute full time earnings potential to be higher than part time earnings. Your ex working part time will be used to justify giving her the primary custody of the kids. As you have to use more daycare. But don’t be surprised when your ex turns around and claims far more daycare costs than are legitimate. And when you ask the court to make her substantiate those, they will do nothing. Meanwhile, understand that things like commuting costs, those don’t apply to calculations.
So expect the following. You will be left paying 40%-60% of your net income as support. You will not be left with enough money to even cover your meager housing cost, commuting costs, and utilities. You will survive on credit cards until those are maxed out. You WILL go bankrupt. Family court ensures this, both by the ridiculous costs and by their corrupt and often illegal policies.
5. You will be given very limited and quite convoluted custody time. This will work for a while until the kids get older and are too busy to want to spend their weekends with their dad. And you’ll become a stranger. No matter how much you try, your kids will eventually after years of their mother’s influence become more hostile to you.
6. Another real possibility is that you’ll find yourself down on your luck. Your car will break down, you won’t be able to afford reliable transportation. Eventually, you miss too many days at work because of it and are let go. You are then forced to take a lower paying job. Now you really can’t make ends meet. The stress begins to take it’s toll physically. Expect to deal with health issues, high BP, hemmorhoids, and tons of other stress induced illness. Eventually, you’ll find yourself in an untenable financial position where you have to move in with someone or lose your home. Well, they’re sure not going to let you have your custody weekends if you don’t have an adequate home. Or you’ll find yourself behind on your support payments. Well, I mean really, you lost your job and now make half what you used too. You’d think they’d adjust that down. Don’t count on it.
You know what happens to a dad who can’t afford his support payments? You go to JAIL – no lawyer, no jury, no constitutional rights. You get sent to debtor prison. And then when you come out, you have the great ability to find a good paying job as a convicted criminal who served time. Oh wait….ya…don’t believe that? Google, America has tens and thousands of fathers in prison for being too poor to pay child support.
7. You’re going to live your life for your kids. You’re going to be absolutely alone, because you’re broken, you barely have the means to support yourself, let alone any significant other partner. You’ll endeavor to not become one of those 8 out of 10 suicides that are men. A large portion of whom are divorced fathers who had their lives utterly destroyed.
8. You’re going to get odds reactions, when you explain to folks that divorce, is far far worse than rape. That rape is one moment and over. It is abuse done to your body. But divorce, you have to watch your children be repeatedly harmed. And the abuse done to you, akin to a slavery….isn’t one day. But continual for many years.
Is it any wonder why America has a suicide problem?
And you won’t find a single article that talks about these issues. Nope. Nada….because there is no real support for male victims of abuse or divorce.
Is there any way we can talk? I’m 36, been separated and now filing. Have two kids and am feeling very alone and scared. I have such a similar story as we got married when I was 21. This is the most difficult thing in my life ever!
all of your feelings are very very normal. Any divorced person will tell you they have been where you are. Take things day to day. You will figure it out and your future will look so much better in the days ahead. xo
I’ve researched stuff learning how to cope post divorce and this feeling of alone.. it’s been about 3 months that I got separated and move out. I was so used to seeing my daughter everyday, taking her to school etc that now I get to see her every other week and maybe during the week if I’m off. I was the one that end the relationship and regretted after but haven been told numoreous times by her that she doesn’t want to get back. Basically what I’m asking is approximately long does it take for this feeling to go away. I got married at 20 and now 26 was together since 18 so that’s all I’ve known I’m not sure how to come out back in the single game or interact with females in a sense
State sanctioned male destruction. Take his money and soul leave him with nothing. Sick world. Men need help ASAP. Loneliness alone is enough to kill you.
I identify with this. My ex claims the same, I’m a great father and I didn’t change but she did, and I no longer satisfy her emotional needs. I was heartbroken by this. I was married 22 years and exclusive with her for 27 total. I never cheated on her, hardly even flirted. I was not the perfect husband, I distanced myself emotionally but I always provided and always had her back and always did the little things without much thanks. I was content, she wasn’t. And now the loneliness is the worst. I am lucky, we waited until the kids were high school age to get divorced. So the childcare stuff wasn’t a big issue. We also mediated and ended everything amicably enough. She has a good career and in fact I was the part timer, staying at home with the kids while they grew up, and slowly building a consulting business. I had panic attacks every morning for 4 months. I thought my world was ending. I went into busy mode to get the house sold and that distracted me. Moved out and the loneliness began to heap on inside of me until it broke me. I try and get out more but I don’t want to use things to overcome something I need to deal with, which is becoming comfortable with me. After 27 years of being intimately with someone, this is a giant mountain to climb. I feel for every single guy who had good intentions and now has a broken marriage and all the guilt and shame and everything that piles on. I really feel for those who get screwed by the system, I’m a fortunate one who didn’t I pray for you all. Please don’t do anything rash. Keep living right now for those who love you, and later, you might be able to live and love yourself.
Wow! Reading your post was like you had lived my life…I was married until two weeks ago…for 30 years…plus 6 years as friends and lovers before marriage, she was and is the only woman I have ever been intimate with. We had one kid….now a successful married young man. I don’t know what exactly got into my wife’s head, but there are a few close friends of her who are divorced and who like to bashing males and their own ex husbands. I am depressed, but aware of my thoughts and watchful about my doom and gloom internal voices. Trying to be positive and stop feeling like a corked bottle floating in the ocean, without direction or purpose in life. Had to stop day trading because I couldn’t concentrate and it was costing me money…I worked from home and took care of everything, including cooking, cleaning, and the total restoration of our home….now she wants me out and keep the house. So no health insurance, job prospects (haven’t work as a Biologist in 17 years, so have lost my networks)
I don’t care about getting involved with any other women, ever…no more emotional trips, getting used and abused. I just turned 58, so I am very much screwed.
You may have stayed in an unsatisfactory relationship for a long time because you were afraid of dealing with the changes that splitting up forces upon you.
You may be unwilling to accept that your marriage or long-term relationship, is over because of the upheaval it will bring to your life.
This is only normal. But you will have to deal with all these changes at some point. Putting off important decisions will only make it worse.
Wow, the replies resonate. I made it to the other side, but very nearly didn’t. My hearts out to those struggling or gradually coming to grips with their new reality. God pulled me through and a few good people, mostly women. If I had no job or money, all there would be is God and hopefully a decent person to cross my path and give hope. For you guys not yet divorced, make sure your not the dude like me who stopped ‘traditional’ work – you very likely will regret, sooner or later OR your ‘wife’ will be getting it on the side & you will be oblivious. A lot of learning experiences for me, but above is the biggest. When stopped regular work I was commuting 3 hours a day, absent but supplying the majority of income. 4 years later the wifes business trippled with my full time involvement. 9 years later I moved out / forced out of dream home I found, some hubris that declined carried me the 1st for years, but sinking feeling – loss of pretty much all friends, no family around, realization (like gentleman 17 years out of bio field) that it was very problematic to return to my old career, increased drinking, tried dating – realized even with a few $ and a salary from business, but no job – i had no chance with women. As said above like a creeping death, i realized i had lost EVERYTHING, except I was alive, drink, ambien 24/7 and i separated from realty and almost chose death by cop. Hospitalized, the most pure hell i can describe, forced on more meds, got out with even more nothing. Grace be to God i had out of state family who took me in. Because of my professional resume, i could not get work even at CVS. Would have done Uber if it existed … Again by the grace of God an old colleague had a job lead. Got the job and 5 years later I am reassembling my life. I have a new baby boy (and to far away teenage boys) I think Im a better person, but scarred badly. I know there are so many less fortunate than me, i walk by them in street, saw them in jail (i ended up there too), those with heartbreaking stories from my psych stay, suiciders on the news. … It took years and still feel on tge edge. Went bankrupt & jail at about the sametime. Don’t drink, off the psych meds – passed the bar – no meds – but drunk on second day … got colin cancer (probably the hard drinking and horrible single diet) Cured by surgery, praise be to Allah, and the good people of the world. I married a muslim woman. Creating new lives. Guys, keep your jobs, your friends, family close, have faith that there is someone above and you can climb your way out of the abyss. …First time I ever told my story, even my new wife dosnt kniw half of it. Thank you guys for sharing and I hope this has some value to someone. PS I did not proof, my two year old son is crawling all over and wants to play 🙂
It is much worse for many of us men that use to be married after our Ex Wives were the ones that cheated on us which makes them real total losers today for hurting us that way, especially when many of us were very good husbands that were very committed, loving, caring, and showed a lot of respect to these women which it still wasn’t good enough for them anyway. Being single now has so many disadvantages for many of us men since wherever we go we will always be alone unfortunately, and meeting a good woman today is very impossible now with so many very pathetic men hating Feminist that are everywhere now. These type of women ate just real total losers the way they act now with many of us good single men trying to find love and want to get our life back again. Today women have no respect for many of us men anymore, and they have such very horrible manners and no personalty at all when many of us men will try to start a normal conversation with a woman that we would really like to meet. The dating scene is very horrible now for many of us men that are very tired being played by women when there are many of us good men out there that aren’t like that at all.
I have been with my wife for 28 years, 22 married and everything hit a brick wall this past year. She had an affair and almost left me. I wanted to work things out but she continued to lie about who the person was and one night I lost it and things got physical. In all our time together I had never done that. She turned it against me and became a victim. Anything she had done to bring us to that point seemed irrelevant. My own teenage daughters and son believed she was hoping I would do something emotionally stupid. Now we live a sexless, unemotional marriage where she does whatever she wants. I worked for 28 years and now work on my own trading which is very stressful. She drinks, goes out and does what she wants. I hope to God there is something out there better. Living like this is pure hell. Thankfully my kids love me but the hard part is knowing my family is no more. All I feel is sadness from this. How do you move on?
I’ve been reading through all the replies and it seems like I’m about to go through all of this. The last two years I’ve probably been going through depression and have been distant from my wife. My wife intern has been shut off from me. I realise my problem and was about to get professional help but then discovered a Facebook pic request from a male from our mutual work. It’s only a matter of time before The whole work will know and I feel embarrassed and betrayed. She claims she had never responded but had been in contact with him. She has switched off obviously and was seeking outside attention. Of course the trust is the most important thing to me and I don’t know if I can move on from here. I’m already considering myself a divorced man. I don’t understand how someone would do this with 17 years of wonderful marriage and three fantastic kids. No matter how bad it got I would’ve never cheated. She is seeking help professional help because she claims she was numb. I don’t know if mentally she’s already left she says she wants to try if I get help and she gets help.I know this is not as bad as other stories but it feels like I’m heading that way. Mentally I feel divorced and at the whim of a woman I thought I knew. I’m not sure what to do so I am just focusing on fixing myself in any event. I am alone with regards to family, she was my family and have two good friends but I can’t have them for 24/7, which I really need. I want everything to be the same if not better but on the other hand I Just want to end it. My world is gone and nearly ended it yesterday. I put so much into this marriage and dropped the ball for the last two years. I thought I could have relied on my wife but I guess I drained her if I can believe that. I know this is not as bad as everyone else’s story but it looks like it’s heading that way.