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By Sandra Beck.

This week my six-year-old son had a stomach ache. On the way to school he had an accident in his pants and since it was technically the day of obligation for my ex-husband, I called him from the school parking lot telling him that his son had the stomach flu. I was told that he would pick him up from my house that afternoon at 4:15.

Tummy Ache Or Heart Ache When Does It Stop Hurting?
Tummy Ache or Heart Ache: When Does It Stop Hurting?

I was outraged and not surprised that sick kid duty falls on me, despite the fact that I had work meetings in the city and to prepare for my live radio show in a few hours. My son was happy to stay home with me and other than making a few choice comments that his dad didn’t want him, he was relieved to be coming home.

Leaving the dad comments for the family therapist, I began to cancel my meetings from the school parking lot. My ex had told me that he was off to the gym, which really got my goat. Before I could get on the freeway, my son bent over in his seat and asked, “Mommy, when is it going to stop hurting?”

I thought about his stomach and how that paralleled my life. In some divorces, people stay friends. Some become bitter enemies. Most of us fall someplace in the middle. From what I can see from the cheap seats, it’s a lot easier to move on and heal when you don’t have to interact with your ex. When you are able to move on and forget.

When you have children, small children, and he lives one street away from you in a small town with the woman who used to be your friend and all the kids know each other it’s a lot more complicated. There are multiple daily reminders and continual interaction especially with respect to school sports and activities. Sitting alone while your ex sits with his new family at the school concert takes a joyous parenting event and makes it weird, uncomfortable and creepy.

Part of getting over the hurt is forgetting. I talk about forgiveness and the transient nature of forgiveness in other posts, but today I want to talk about forgetting. It’s much easier, I would imagine, to forget about a marriage, a spouse, or an old life when you focus on building a new life.  I can tell you from personal experience that after a long term marriage everything seems full of memories and the pain is ever simmering under the surface.

When you live in the same house, the same town, share the same friends and the same experiences, it gets a little weird – like Twilight weird. There is a Toby Keith song that has a line that says, “Who is that man living my life?”

When you divorce after a long marriage (10+years), there are so many things in common and little hurts come out of the oddest moments. Not being invited to your ex-nephew’s bar mitzvah (and the new girlfriend is), even though you were a loving aunt to this child since he was born, stings. Not being updated in the ex-family events because you are no longer legally part of the family hurts. Going to your own son’s pre-school graduation and having to bring your own chair because the “family” tickets have been used by your ex and his girlfriend and her children can make it feel like you are pushed out of your own life.

These are just some of the unexpected sadnesses that come when you divorce. I don’t want my ex-husband back. I don’t ever want to live with him again. I am so glad that part of my life is over. It was miserable. I was miserable.  The cheating and leaving were just sticky icing on the bitter cake. I think one of the hardest things to come to grips with is the loss of the future, the loss of the family you had pictured in your head. When your spouse has an affair or affairs, it really does a number on your vision of your life and your family. When things are not what they appear you start to question everything about that old life – was it all a lie? I have asked myself that a million times.

Recently I spoke with a man I know, who was actively cheating on his wife with his own air-tight justifications. I asked him, “How am I to know that you aren’t lying in our friendship? I mean, the relationship with your wife is one of the most important and you have almost grown children together. How can you be truthful in one relationship and not in another? I don’t think you can. I know I can’t.”

When does it stop hurting? For some of us it doesn’t. The more you value the concept of family, the more it’s going to hurt and the longer it’s going to last. I have had a lot of people over the years say to me, “It’s just a divorce. It happens all the time. Just get over it.” Many of the people who tell you that never experienced the after effects of a long term divorce with adultery and small children. They don’t get it.

My answer to them and to others is simple. “If I knew how and I could, don’t you think I would?”

It’s no fun to hurt. My little son wanted relief from a morning tummy ache, so why would we not as adults want relief from a massive, life changing heartache that requires you to rebound, rebuild and restore yourself? A divorce for many of us who took our marriage and family to heart, who made it our whole center of being, are going to struggle more than those who only put their toe in the water. Those who were betrayed, cheated on, lied to and abandoned are going to have a harder time restoring themselves than someone who left for their new life with their new wife and their new family.

We need to put things in perspective: not every divorce is the same and not everyone reacts the same. The important thing is that you recognize what it was to you and how you are going to react. Not anyone else.

I’ve always been a little late to every party. I’m not the first, or the best, or the brightest, and I have to do things in my own time frame and in my own way. I can tell by the comments I get on my other posts pertaining to divorce, betrayal and pain that we all suffer the same things – just at different times, in different intensities and on different levels. What I have learned from going through this process and watching others is that there is no one right way to grieve or get over the loss of a spouse or a marriage.

Divorce sucks and it hurts and your kids suffer. You have to let go of the vision you had of your life when you got married and had kids and that was really disorienting for me. For the first year I didn’t know who I was now because of these new labels – single mother, ex-wife, and immediately my children had a step-mother figure?  It was like getting hit by a truck. On the calendar it looked like I had time to adjust. In person it was just a Mr. Toad’s Wild Divorce ride and you got off and your family was on one side of the track with new siblings and a new mother while you got out of the wrong side of the car and stood on the track alone not able to find the exit.

My best advice for Bouncing with Style after divorce is accepting that, like a death, pain follows divorce.  You have to feel it, process it, and expect it to not go away just because you want it to. There is the death of a dream in this on for many of us– and that too is hard. I’ve decided that sadness is going to accompany for a while until it doesn’t. I have painted, journaled, sang, ran, lifted weights, prayed, meditated, lit things on fire and talked to a professional therapist until I can’t stand hearing my own voice.

Time does help. Keeping busy does help. Focusing on what you do have helps. Learning to live with the sadness feels a lot better than fighting it and to Bounce with Style I think you need to carry the knowledge with you that with the loss of anything important to you comes sadness.

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Empowerment is the through-line in of all Sandra Beck’s work. Whether she is coaching a company owner to a million dollar commission goal, training a stay-at-home mom to perform SEO on web sites, or speaking to a group of women who are in recovery, Sandra's message is about what is possible and how to create the circumstances of your choosing.

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This Post Has 27 Comments

  1. Why is it when someone dies close to you people let you grieve at your own pace but when you divorce they tell you to ” move on and get over it” ? Is there a difference? Divorce is a death.

    1. That is so true. I am going through a divorce after 24 years of marriage. My whole world has been turned upside down and I feel like I have lost my best friend and the future I thought I had. Yet, I have already had people tell me to just accept it! You are allowed to grieve a death but are supposed to just get over a divorce….which is a death of all you knew.

      1. Laura & Mary,
        I am so glad that you posted this. It is a death. A massive death of something many of us had held since childhood- the happily ever after…and though the happily ever after may come in the end…for now its an ending…a death…and a no going back to the way it was. Sending you both hugs…

  2. It is so easy for the “cheater” to just go on. No, big deal for them. Society does not judge people for shattering their families (and so many others as well) by cheating. It is just “something people do everyday.” Cheaters must be held accountable for doing this. They have other options, the best being to “get out!”

    My ex of 30 years has not changed his lifestyle at all. He is not with the trollop he was with for 20 of our 30 years because (“I don’t want to be with her, I know what she is like). His EXACT words. Mental illness?????

    I seriously believe the “alienation of affection” law should be brought back to each and every state and used. Maybe “cheaters” will think before they act. Cheaters need to be held accountable.

    I was told by a Christian person that “what my ex did, did NOT affect our family or children because they didn’t know it was going on.” I could not disagree more.

    Come on, society needs to be held accountable for these kinds of acts. People seldom change if they are not held accountable for their actions.

    1. I couldn’t agree more with the above post. When your blindsided by a cheating spouse it’s absolutely devastating. Adultery is still technically “illegal” but there is no recourse. I am a working dad with 4 beautiful young children. My wife a stay at home, cheated on me, divorced me, had me removed from my home, and took my kids away from me. She won’t work. Now I have to pay her child support and alimony?? There is no justice for doing what’s right in today’s world. Rather just the opposite. The best liar, cheat, stealer, and deceivers in our society are rewarded.
      Especially in a divorce.

      1. I agree with you. Our society seems to reward those who are least responsible. My faith helps me in those areas. But I totally agree. The wrongdoer seems to go on and even prosper.

  3. Thank you both for your comments on my article. Our society does reward the liars, the cheaters, the stealers and the deceivers. I have to hope that somewhere deep down they feel something about the wrongness of their falsely justified behavior but have to wait until justice is served by the universe. The gift of their betrayal has been my connection with people of shared experience and though I wouldn’t wish this on anyone – it sure is nice when you know you are not alone. Bless all the tiny hearts like No justice’s 4 chidlren, my kids and other kids who are harmed by selfish behavior.. To address the idiot friend in the above post – any time spent with the affair partner ROBS that family of your time and attention. It does hurt. The kids do know. My kids heard their father referred to as he is a local basketball coach as Coach Cheater…because his affair in our small town was made wildly public by their actions. You don’t think that affects a pre-teen and elementary school age child? I can tell you without a doubt the children are affected the most.

  4. I googled “when does the pain of divorce go away”, and found your post. It is 2:30 am and I can’t sleep because I can’t stop thinking about how my husband of 21 years and father of my 20yr old son and 19yr old daughter is now spending his nights with a 21yr old girl. I have been with him for 25 years since we were 15, I am so hurt and devastated by him destroying our marriage and family, the only thing that keeps me going is knowing that my kids(even though they are technically adults) need me. Their father didn’t do anything for their birthdays and when my son was in a serious car accident, he didn’t even bother to call his dad because he knew that he wouldn’t answer the phone. It isn’t just me that he’s been betraying, it’s our family.

    It is like a death, and I lost my husband, best friend, lover, and plans for future all at once. I don’t want to be with him anymore because he is like a cancer that is killing me, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking about him and mourning what I thought we had.

    Thanks for sharing your stories, it does help to know that I’m not alone.


    1. Hi Cheryl,
      Good for you to reach out. Thats part of the way we heal. Through sharing and compassion and understanding. I love your analogy of a cancer that is killing me…very apt words. You are not alone and you are heard and your words are valued. Hugs, Sandra

    2. That is how I feel. My husband of 19 years did not have a “girlfriend;” his lover was addiction. But what you described is the same. No choice but to divorce because I could not compete with the addiction. We had two little girls at the time. He got sober. But he always came up with a “story” that everybody bought and he covered his “sins.” It is not just the loss of a marriage, a partner in rearing of children, a partner in life, a loss of a friend, it is a huge betrayal in that something that he lied about and allowed to be the preference over family essentially destroyed our family. But he spins it differently now that he is sober. Hurts in so so many ways. Mothers are often left to raise the children through diapers, bottles, school, and all the unpleasantries, while fathers show up for play dates and take bows and spin the stories about why the family is no longer together. It is a pain that is a gift that keeps on giving. I believe as you said that the Universe eventually metes justice. But I certainly can identify with all the stories posted here. My divorce was almost twenty years ago. The deep pain comes in waves. But the devastation, I am sad to say, it is a forever thing. The devastation is forever.

  5. I know you wrote this article over 2 years ago but I am struggling with this issue now. I found out 2 1/2 months ago about the cheating and I have everyone telling me that I need to force myself out and about. The thing is that I am still adjusting to the loss and I am not ready to go out. My husband is still loving in the house while go through mediation. He is actually on “vacation” right now with her as they met in line and she lives in another state. He has almost totally removed himself from my 13 year old son’s life. I am having difficulty in letting him do this, I feel like I need to tell him what he is doing to my son but honestly he will be moving halfway across the country to be with her and will mostly likely only see our son over the summer so I am trying to let him figure things out but it is killing me to watch this happen. Not to mention that I have lost like said about, my future, my husband, my best friend, my everything. I just want you know the relief I found in this article. Almost like I needed permission to take my time getting back into the world.

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  7. It’s not true that cheaters have it easier. Many live with the guilt and baggage of their deception, hoping and praying for forgiveness while knowing they destroyed a part of a person they once loved and cherished. Some would do anything to right their wrongs but can’t because they are locked out. And they have no one blame but themselves. They destroyed their home and future and family. What a burden to bear. You caused it but you can’t fix it. No matter how hard you try. And you have no one to blame but yourself.

  8. What your have addressed is all painfully true. I was hoping for a quick fix or some wonderful secret to help me let go and move on. I guess it doesn’t exist. Best wishes to all of us still hurting.

  9. Sandra,
    After reading this I felt like I was literally reading my own life story because your experience is almost to the tee what I have gone through recently in the last 6 months. My husband has had multiple affairs and I feel like a naive idiot for letting this happen more then once believing he was truly sorry. He now has a girlfriend who I feel has literally stolen my life out from under me. I relate to when you say that his new family is on one side while i sit on the other and watch. We have 3 small children who know very well who she is which is continually bothersome because i never expected this to evolve so fast. I am hurting very badly and have tried as you suggested to stay as busy as possible to get my mind off of the events unfolding in front of me. It seems to work for a little bit until I am reminded of his disloyalty even by the smallest phrase or picture. I feel like I have grown a little in my anger that seemed to be constant at first however when these moments arise i get more uncontrollably upset then even before. Why is this? Why do I experience more violent outbursts of emotion at random times then when I first learned about his 3rd affair? Trying to cope but i am finding it more and more difficult. Did you experience anything like this and if so how did you move past it?

    1. Hi Michelle,
      I was the same way. The first one hurt. The second one was disbelief. The further ones I just got mad. At myself. At him. But I also started to get in touch with how I really felt. I stuffed my hurt aside to make the marriage work. Then I numbed myself to keep moving our family forward. By the third one I was like are you kidding me??? And thats when my anger unleashed. Im not saying it was healthy the way I dealth with it – but it had to come out…all the grief…all the disappointment…all the humiliation. It just was. I have found that writing out my thoughts in the morning before the kids get up helps a lot. The anger can and will resurface years later…like yesterday when the kids were fighting, my dad lost his hearing aids and our dog was sick and I didnt know if it was time to put her down…I felt this rage that I was handling this all alone and he was living with the latest wife taking care of her and her kids. Its tough. Im sorry it took so long to respond but Im doing my best to support us over here and I am sending you the biggest hug from one sister to another. Sandra

  10. I’ve coping through creative expression. I’d love feedback and ideas. Is it YouTube channel Vixen is 70? And make sure to start with vlog 1. By the way I’m not even close to being 70 but it’s fun to play with his words.

  11. I know this was posted years back by I, like another reader, couldn’t sleep and so googled in the middle of the night. What a lovely piece of writing that clearly portrays all the feelings we go through in separation. I have been with my husband for 32 years and my whole life is intertwined with his. Even though I have always thought of myself as fairly independent it has hit me so hard – how can he not love me? Was it all a lie? It’s nice to see that the feelings are what most people feel. I thought I was getting more accepting of my situation, only to feel so much anger whilst I am away on a mini break, it shows how up and down the whole process is and how things can suddenly seem worse just when you kid yourself you could be hurting less.. Thank you everyone for sharing, we can all find things which relate to our situation. Can we ever get over it though?

    1. Hi Claire,
      I think its like a death…speaking from 8 years later. Its there. It reduces to a dull ache. And there are times that I feel fine – on top of the world…then there are times I am lugging all our stuff to the movie night in the park…and there are dads holding their kids and dragging the cooler…and Im dragging the chairs and the kids while their dad walks around with his latest girlfriend or wife….Its not that I want to be married again…but there are reminders that this was not the way I expected it to be. Everyone has different triggers for the hurt. I find it just easier to feel sad…and then move on and be thankful for what I have – healthy kids and I am healthy. I think it is something we have to learn to live with – I havent yet experienced that it goes away…because my marriage and my family was so precious to me – so how could it ever go away….hugs Sandra

  12. Hi Sandra, I was searching for a forum to deal with divorce, you nailed it. I am constantly abused verbally for every single fault of mine and told that i have ruined lives when he was the one to walk out. I only hope and pray that one day this painful constriction in my throat nad heart lessen and I feel like living again.

    I have 2 kids aged 3 and 5 girls. Its been very hopeless and hard as i am in the same city with no job. Actually i just need some peace.

    1. Hi Vidhya,
      I am so sorry for what you went through. There are a lot of us out there who have spouses that push their blame, their insecurities and their anger on many of us. Its hard to think about all you tolerated and then have them leave. Your heart will feel again. You won’t have that awful tight throat and you will feel alive again. Its really imporatant Vidhya that you either write in a notebook all your feelings…or talk to someone trusted…the feeling dont go away and they can hurt you. You have to grieve your marriage…your choices…and honor what happened…for your own sake. Sitting with the feelings helps and feeling them fully so you can let them start to lessen and pass through you. I too was told I “ruined” things…but yet here we are Vidhya— you read what I wrote…you posted…I responded…two women in the same boat…actually lots of women like us as proven by these posts…and here we are helping each other…reaching out…sharing feelings so we can both heal. See everyone who posts on my articles touches my heart and helps me make sense of what happened because I can use it to help others….so you are helping me…as I am helping you…really doesnt sound like two women who ruined lives…those words are just one of the many ugly words thrown at us by childish, selfish, unhappy and sometimes ill people. I am sending you a hug…you are not alone. We are all here doing the best we can…and guess what…that is enough for today… hugs

    2. My ex used to come into my home and verbally abuse me. Same deal–his fault the marriage ended; however, he came in and verbally in front of children listed every human fault imaginable. My attorney advised that I tell him he could no longer enter my home. That really alleviated a lot of pain. The man—by any sane opinion—was drug addicted and the cause of the marriage failure. He was in rehab; yet he chose to heap loads of vitriol on me. The best thing I ever did was to forbid him in my home. He concocted stories. I was advised to keep living a good life and the stories would fall apart of their own weight. Eventually they did. But I have been through horrendous hurt. If you are divorcing a highly intelligent person, some of these individuals can spin stories to make you look like the biggest creep from Satan. If they are an accomplished liar, people may believe them. In my case, people either because they liked gossip or because my ex could tell a good story, would believe the stories. But I just kept working, taking care of the kids, paying my bills and going on. Eventually he kept telling his stories. He now is the deacon of a church. That makes me want to barf. I wish I did not have to have him in any way in my life. He lied about me. He never owned up to any of what he did. Now he teaches Bible Class???? O.k. But as long as your children live, that person will be a part of your life like it or not. So that is why the pain is there and ongoing. I really try to be active in my faith. I try to practice forgiveness. I try to understand that I have faults as well. But I identify. After almost 20 years after the divorce, pain is there, I cope. I identify with all the stories here. Thank you for sharing. They help me tremendously. I want to add, I was married and loved my husband and was faithful19 years before the divorce. Our two girls were small when we divorced.

  13. I came home early from work and I find being by myself is the worst time for me. I was married for 21 years to a woman I treated with the utmost respect. I miss her dearly. I just can’t stop thinking of what our future was suppose to look like. The pan I find sometimes is unbearable. My heart aches and I’m overwhelmed by sadness. I am in therapy and read books etc etc like you said I’m tired of hearing myself talking. Is there a light at the end of the tunnel ?

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