For this week’s strategy, I’m searching for the silver linings in the bad parts of life. Officially this is called post-traumatic growth, but I don’t like using the word trauma. Ironically I find that calling something trauma is traumatic! It seems to make the situation worse than it is. I think of trauma as almost dying, a loved one dying, barely surviving a natural disaster or living in a war zone. I find it hard to call the ending of my marriage as trauma. I’m not sure if this is me trying to minimize the situation and tell myself it’s no big deal. Almost half of marriages end, so this isn’t something uniquely horrible to me. I do know that it has caused pain and stress and an upheaval to my life, so perhaps by searching for the silver linings I can cope better.
When you have a horrible experience and you come out of it stronger, that is post-traumatic growth. It can include finding strength and abilities that you didn’t know you had, which can increase confidence and ability to face new challenges. You can grow by strengthening relationships with the people who you turn to during the hard times. Trauma can also lead you to reassess your life and alter your priorities.
One thing I learned while reading about post-traumatic growth is that it tends to be evident two or more years after the event. I feel as through I’m still in the throes of my ordeal since a divorce is still six months away. I cannot look into a crystal ball and see how fabulous my life turns out (keeping my fingers crossed!), so even though I’ll work through the benefits now, this is something I should come back to in a couple of years.
I’m proud of myself for standing up for what was right for me. The soon to be ex wanted to be best friends and hang out as though nothing was different. This was incredibly painful for me, so I told him that I needed to be left alone. I tend to be a people pleaser, so this took a lot of courage for me to do.
I started seeing a psychologist. Admitting that I needed help and someone to talk to was a big hurdle, but very helpful. Having a professional validate my feelings, that it’s ok to be sad and angry, that I should feel this way, made me feel better.
I’m also proud of what I didn’t do. Countless plots for revenge and vindication have occupied my mind over the past six months, so I’m proud of myself for not following through with any of these. I’m also proud that I didn’t excessively text him or stalk him.
Dealing with refinancing the house on my own. I’m not a fan of handling phone calls and paper work and that was something that J usually did. I’m proud that I refinanced without his help.
I’m living through what was one of my biggest fears in life. Let me explain. When I was a kid my father left before my twelfth birthday and I never saw him again. I’ve had abandonment issues throughout my life because of this. I’ve always told myself that if my own father didn’t want to stay in my life, then why would any other man. Even though I know as an adult that my father didn’t leave because he didn’t love me, these abandonment issues would always resurface. (He was married, not to my mother, and had another family. He had gotten sick, limiting his ability to drive and visit us.)
When J asked me to marry him without any cajoling on my part, I thought I’d finally found the stability I’d been seeking my whole life. I thought my fears of abandonment were a thing of the past. I learned that wasn’t the case. Both he and my friend that became the other woman knew about my childhood and my fears of abandonment, which made their betrayal even more painful and heartless.
What I’ve learned is that the thing I feared most happened and I’m still alive. If I can survive my biggest fear then I feel like I can face anything.
Through this ordeal I’ve learned that friends and family really do love me and are there for me when I need help. Going through this has definitely strengthen my relationship with my mom. Those times when I wanted to call him, I would call and cry to her instead. At times it seems as though she has psychic abilities and reached out to me when I was feeling very low.
My relationship with my sister and friends has also been strengthened and even coworkers. My mom and sister drove here when all this happened and so did my best friends. It made me feel that there are people in this world that I can trust and depend on even when it felt like trust was something to be avoided.
Although post-traumatic growth focuses on strengthened relationships, new perspectives and gained confidence, there’s some other benefits that came out of our relationship even though it ended. The most important is my dog, Domino. J gave him to me for our first Christmas together. If nothing else, getting Domino was worth meeting J. I guess another benefit is that he gave me the house. I assume he did this out of guilt or that he thinks a financial sacrifice makes up for emotional pain. Either way, I have my home or if I decide not to stay, then enough equity to pay for another place.
These are my silver linings so far, perhaps as more time passes I’ll be able to see through the dark clouds and focus on the light shining through.