The paperwork has been filed, the assets divided, the move out done and yet you are still struggling to let go of love after a divorce.
It’s the ultimate irony. You have been left, your finances are probably decimated, your family has been torn apart and yet you still love your ex. And you don’t like that you do.
There are reasons that it’s so hard to let go of love after a divorce. If you understand what they are, you might find it easier to accept what has happened and move forward in a way that doesn’t involve regret and loss but instead happiness and hope.
#1 – Broken vows.
I remember when I asked my husband for a divorce. He said that we had taken vows that he wouldn’t break. I thought that idea ridiculous but the talk of divorce stopped for a while.
5 years later, he asked for a divorce and I was devastated. When he asked, the broken vows weren’t addressed even for a minute. But, in my head, those vows were there, making it hard for me to let go of love for him.
We had stood up in front of 150 of our friends and family and promised to love each other for ever. In sickness and health and until the fat lady sings. And now he was walking away and I was embarrassed. Embarrassed that he would walk away, for another woman, one he paraded out in public with alarming speed.
My mother was also furious at the broken vows. He had promised her that he would always take care of me and he had let her down. She talked on and on about this betrayal which didn’t help me move on.
My husband of 20 years had broken a promise to me, a promise that kept me tied to him for some time after our split, unable to let go of love after a divorce and feeling somewhat broken.
#2 – Letting go of dreams for the future.
We had been married for 20 years and our kids were headed out to college. We had been talking for years that if we could just make it through these difficult child rearing times we would have a ton of fun. We had always really enjoyed each other before kids and hoped that we could find our way back to each other again.
When he left, 48 hours after our son went off to school, those dreams for the future were immediately dashed. The picture of us traveling together, buying a house in the country, reaping the financial fruits of our years of hard work – all went up in smoke in a single moment.
Letting go of those dreams made it really hard for me to let go of love after a divorce. I no longer had dreams for the future – instead I had hopelessness and fear because the future was so unclear. What was I going to do, how was I going to build a new family for my kids, what would happen when my alimony stopped? I was scared and I constantly thought that if only he still loved me my future would be clear again.
#3 – Letting go of family.
I always loved our little family of four. We were all very close. Every night we had a family dinner that involved lively conversation. We had moved to Tokyo as a family and travelled extensively while we were there. We had a little house by the ocean, our kids were excelling at school and my husband and I were both very successful in our careers and our finances were secure.
When my husband told me he wanted a divorce, our family was destroyed in one fell swoop. The family that I had worked so hard to ensure that it was healthy, a family that travelled and laughed and supported each other. It was my life’s work and it was destroyed.
I know that it was hard for me to let go of love after a divorce because the image of our connected family was such an important one. I believed that if we could rebuild our relationship, that if we could love each other, our family would be rebuilt and happy again.
#4 – Fear of being alone.
I know that one of the worst parts of getting divorce was that, after 20 years, 18 of them raising kids, I was suddenly alone. My kids were off at school and my husband was gone. My days, long filled with making lunches, driving everyone around, supporting my husband, were empty. And I couldn’t see how I could possible rebuild them.
It was also so hard for me to see a future with another person. I got right onto dating sites and, while I met some great guys, none of them were the guy for me. Would I, I often wondered, be alone forever?
I had loved my husband and the life that we built and I had a hard time letting go of those emotions. In fact, with every disastrous date, I would go back to the love and companionship that my ex and I shared and wish it was alive again. If it only was, I would no longer be alone.
#5 – Believing you can fix things.
I remember that from the moment my ex asked for a divorce, I believed that I would be able to fix our marriage. I believed that with enough love and sex and fun, our marriage would be saved and we would live happily ever after.
But that wasn’t to be.
As I have alluded to in this article, one of the reasons that I held on to love for my ex was that I believed that I could fix things if I loved him enough. That if I loved him he wouldn’t walk away from our family, that our dreams for the future would happen and that I wouldn’t be alone. I held on to that hope for so long that it made it increasingly hard to let go of love after a divorce.
It can be incredibly hard to let go of love after a divorce.
Marriage is something that we all hoped and dreamed for as we grew up. The idea of having a team mate in life, someone who would always have your back, who would love you unconditionally, was compelling. When marriage is broken, all of those comforts disappear.
I do believe that, if you can recognize that what you are in fact holding onto is not love for your ex but dismay at your broken vows, the loss of your dreams for the future, your sadness at the destruction of your family, your fear of being alone and your belief that your marriage is still fixable, you will be able to move on in a healthy way.
All of those things that you are mourning are things that you can have with another person. It might take some time and effort, but that person is out there for you. You don’t have to hold onto love for someone who no longer loves you because your life is still a promising one, out there waiting for you to start living it again.
You can let go of this love and move forward. And you will get your happily ever after if you do.
I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.