No matter how awful the marriage, no matter how traumatic the divorce, when the decree is handed down and the dust begins to settle, the newly divorced woman has experienced loss.
A marriage is over, a whole way of life - with its good points as well as its bad - is gone. Finished too is the role of wife as the woman has played it throughout the marriage, Legally divorced but emotionally connected it's satisfying aspects as well as its frustrations. As many writers on divorce have pointed out, in large part recovering from divorce means mourning and ultimately accepting those losses.
Not until she goes through the natural grieving process can the newly divorced woman turn expectantly to the "Legally divorced but emotionally connected." In many ways, the postdivorce healing period is identical with the grieving that occurs after the loss of a loved one. Both processes play themselves out in a relatively predictable amount of time, and in both cases, when sufferers move through the process too quickly or fail to reach acceptance within the predicted time span, psychologists become alert to the possibility that the process has become stalled or has gone awry.
The normal mourning for the death of a loved one can last up to two years. The range for normal recovery from divorce is approximately six to eighteen months after the divorce becomes final. On the emotional level, where grief is felt most intensely, the divorced woman, like the widow, mourns the loss of attachment, a phrase that means exactly what it says; after divorce, as after the death of someone close to us, we miss the connectedness to another that human beings crave, and we must come to terms with that loss.
Then there are the practical matters Celeste anticipated as she turned her key in the lock. Gradually, through practice, the newly divorced woman comes to terms with the logistics of being a single woman and head of household. At first, she may feel that she is going through the motions, but gradually she starts learning or relearning the ropes with respect to friends, Legally divorced but emotionally connected, work, sexuality, the handling of finances, making child-rearing decisions on her own, and finding nonexplosive, painless ways to deal with ex-husband in her unavoidable encounters with him.
When all goes well, the progress she makes on the emotional level spurs her recovery on the practical level, and vice versa: In this "Legally divorced but emotionally connected," the woman gradually shapes and comes to accept her new way of life and her new view of herself. The third critical aspect of healing takes place in the divorced woman's mind. Again and again, she thinks through the events leading up to and including the divorce itself—to find their true meaning and ultimately to accept it.
In the thick of battle it was impossible to reflect on and interpret the war, but now she has the freedom to replay her mental videos as often as necessary to reach a final understanding of what she's gone through.
Again and again, she reviews, rehashes, replays. I just couldn't let it go. Understanding is the prerequisite to acceptance, and acceptance is the prerequisite to moving on. As the answers to initial questions—"What went wrong? As questions regarding the past are answered, one by one they recede from her consciousness, and she is able to turn her attention to the present. By the end of the normal six to eighteen months though, remember, this is an average, not a strict rulethe healthy woman has laid the experience to rest.
But what of the woman who is unable to arrive at answers to her questions, whose mind and emotions are constantly stirred up by unsuccessful attempts at interpreting and laying to rest what she has been through?
Suppose, too, that Alice finds the loss of attachment unbearable and her loneliness frightening in its intensity. Finally, imagine that Alice is plagued by deep but unarticulated beliefs that a woman without a husband is incomplete, that a divorced woman has failed at her job as the keeper of the marriage, and that she'll Legally divorced but emotionally connected feel intimacy with another man again.
Alice is stalled in the recovery process. Her frequent encounters with her ex-husband only add to her unanswered questions about what she's been through, since they inevitably end in arguments even more vicious than those that led up to the divorce. Far from achieving an interpretation of her recent past that she can live with, Alice feels ever more isolated by a haze of anxiety and depression.
She's fearful of the intensity of her emotions and furious at herself for her inability to pull herself together. Months go by, then a year, then two.
The divorce is in the distant past, but the issues that provoke conflict, mostly involving the children, just keep coming.
Between periods of emotional chaos, feelings of anxiety and depression keep Alice cut off from the outside world. Luckily, she loves her work in a Legally divorced but emotionally connected firm and comes alive there temporarily, Legally divorced but emotionally connected the world at the office has a sense of unreality for Alice, as if she were merely playacting there.
At home the continual possibility that her ex will show up and another argument will break out hangs over Alice like a threat. Far too confused to understand that the healing process is being continually interrupted by the ongoing encounters with her ex, Alice begins to question her ability to manage her own life. She's bewildered by her inability to focus, by her terrible irritability, and by her eternal restlessness. Exhaustion dogs her; she has no energy, and her house falls apart around her.
She can't seem to take an interest in her appearance any longer; she can't seem to take an interest in anything. She gains weight and eats poorly, binging for comfort, then fasting for days to the point of starvation. She's terribly lonely, and knows she should get herself out of the house and involved in some social activity, but she turns down every invitation from concerned coworkers, and eventually they stop inviting her out. Another year passes, and Alice is still collapsing after work on the couch, waking at eleven to eat a TV dinner, and then crying herself to sleep.
With misery increasing daily, she finally does what she meant to do a long time Legally divorced but emotionally connected After a long silence, Alice tells her, "No, I really can't.
I just don't know who I am or what I'm doing anymore.
Sufferers of the Ex-Wife Syndrome are prisoners who are blind to the walls surrounding them, blind to the fact that they are held fast.
With their divorces final and the whole world before them, they assume their newly single status with the idea Legally divorced but emotionally connected they will live full, productive, enjoyable lives. But after a time they find themselves unable to transform their lives and move on. When they enter psychotherapy, such women present a cluster of recognizable symptoms and describe a set of specific "Legally divorced but emotionally connected" and behaviors that can safely be described as self-destructive.
Most of these symptoms, feelings, and behaviors are familiar; many are associated with psychological distress in general. In general, the symptoms are these:.
But to say that an inner conflict causes the anxiety and depression is not to say that the sufferer always understands the connection between her pain and this inner conflict. They are haunted by questions they cannot answer.
If you have troubled
Legally divorced but emotionally connected read this far out of concern for yourself, I suspect you have asked yourself these same questions at one time or another:. Why do I feel anxious and depressed so much of the time? Why am I unable to sleep and eat—or to do anything but sleep and eat? Why am I plagued by thoughts of revenge?
For the women in my practice, these questions are the starting places for psychotherapy. Now they ask such questions as these:. Why, when I am so deeply dissatisfied, am I sabotaging the good things about my day-to-day life and any chances I might have to change it? Why, when I know intellectually that my family and friends wish me well and can be my support during the transition period after marriage, am I keeping secrets, giving out Pollyanna stories, and suffering alone Legally divorced but emotionally connected in silence?
Why, when my marriage is over and my ex-husband has moved on to a new life, is he still the central figure in my life? Why can't I let him go? Two more questions keep arising, often as "throwaways" at the end of an hour or in a very hushed, sometimes shamed voice after a long silence:.