Marriage...Interrupted, Part 2: From Spouse to Stranger

It's scary how quickly three months can fly by after the first few weeks felt like they would drag on forever.

Yet here I am, standing on the "other side" of those three months. I'm not sure that I'm ready to embrace the term "divorcee". With our three months of separation having just ended, I'm feeling a new wave of emotions, anger being on the top of the list.

I'm often at odds with myself for having negative feelings. Some days, I feel strong and positive and see this as yet another experience that will hopefully add to my learnings and make me more resilient. Then there are other days when I feel anger, fear, and loneliness. I am angry towards what brought me to this point of now being divorced. I worry about the future and what's to come. I fear that my life will continue to perpetuate in an endless cycle of work because hey, why not, I have the time now. Because nothing is currently worse than having extra time on your hands to sit and think. That time needs to be filled with something.

I know that I control all of this, but some days are just harder than others, and that's OK. I can have those days and still be grateful for all that I have. As I wrote in my last blog entry, sadness and gratitude are not mutually exclusive.

The one change that amazes me the most (and gives me more evidence that God does answer your prayers), is how quickly...very quickly...someone can go from being your spouse to a stranger. Someone you knew for three years; someone who saw you at your worst, best and everything in-between; someone you trusted and believed in enough to confide in; I could go on. We've gone from living with each other to being strangers who only contact one another to ask a clarifying question about something left in what is now my apartment. There's no emotions behind our words, no commitment, and what feels like...emptiness. Three years of memories and work erased in a few short months. I look at old pictures with a sense of confusion: Was that really me? Was there ever really an "us"? It feels like an out of body experience, as if I'm looking at this other woman who was married to my former spouse. But it was me.

And those memories seem like a lifetime ago.

Time is said to heal wounds. I agree that the separation process did become easier over time. I also prayed fervently, always asking God to make the path for us very clear and distinct. That's why I'm very thankful we've pretty much gone from spouses to strangers in this short time, since there's no wishy-washiness about our decision. Just a very clear fork in the road and the mutual decision that we're taking different directions.

So in my mind, it's time to start moving forward with healing and redefining what my life will look like. There's no more uncertainty, which means that I'll need to start "cleaning up" for lack of a better term. It's amazing how many ties you form with your spouse and their family and friends circle, especially on social media. I think the healthiest thing for me to do is sever these virtual ties, especially for prevention purposes and there being no chance of interference or family drama. I also need to delete old pictures, including confiscating our wedding pictures USB drive; sorting through my belongings and returning what was gifted and isn't mine anymore; changing the apartment around so that it feels like mine and not "ours" anymore; etc. These are not only a part of the divorce process, but I need to do all of this for my own mental wellbeing. I need my environment, social and online circles to reflect my life at this moment in time, and not the past. 

I've been reading a few articles and books on the divorce process, and many experts in the field state that the healing process can take upwards of one to two years, depending on the nuances of the situation. I can definitely appreciate the amount of take it will take to heal and accept what has happened. Part of the healing process for me involves reclaiming my work-life balance; being more spontaneous with a variety of activities, so that I'm not feeling weighed down at home; focusing on self-development and doing my best to improve things about myself that need improving; increasing my knowledge and connection to my faith; socializing with friends; using various methods to work through and manage a multitude of emotions; etc. Life certainly does go on, as it should, but I'm finding that I need to be very intentional about what life will look like moving forward.

And it's this last statement that I would recommend to anyone having completed the separation phase and knows that the path is heading towards divorce: be very intentional about how you plan to move forward. A few things that may be helpful to consider include:

1. Determine if you plan to stay in touch with your former spouse and if so, for what reasons? Are these reasons healthy (for divorce planning purposes) or unhealthy (you need someone to talk to)?

2. What's your "social media" plan if you're connected to your former spouse and their family/friends? What's your comfort level with them being privy to your online life?

3. Determine what you plan to do with jewelry, clothing, etc that was gifted to you from the "in-law" side. Do you plan to keep what you were given, or return them? Choose the higher ground when you're deciding what to do.

4. You've undoubtedly created a lot of memories from the time you spent together - what is your plan for wedding and other photos, souvenirs and such purchased from trips together, etc? Think about the impact on your mental wellbeing when you see these reminders, and this should help determine what your best course of action is.

5. Do you need to speak with your in-laws if you're deciding to cut ties and not be in touch anymore? What's the best way to do this, if you feel that you need closure?

6. Sit down and create a "healing and forward" plan for yourself. Determine honestly what your areas of need are with respect to moving forward in a healthy way. Which activities and people can help you reach your goals?

7. Make a promise to not get into a "rebound relationship". Yes, this happens with Muslims too, we are human after all. Be brutally honest about the most vulnerable parts of yourself and how you plan to deal with these in a healthy way. Being emotionally dependent on someone else is not the way to go. I can say that the toughest/weakest times for me are in the evenings, whether it's during the week or on the weekend. It's when work is no longer a priority and it's dead silent in my apartment.

8. Talk over the divorce process with your former spouse. There are a myriad of ways to pursue divorce: will you need lawyers, mediators, or neither? What's the timeframe? Who will initiate the process?

As much as I wish that there were easy shortcuts to get through this painful process, there unfortunately isn't. Some days will be much harder than others. Things will seem hopeless, loneliness will get the best of you, and spikes in anger levels will cause you to feel more pain than you want to. Be OK with feeling these emotions, you have every right to feel this way. And when you have moments of calm and clarity, try to create a plan that will allow you to come out of this process with more insight into yourself and your strengths than you had before.

May Allah make things easy for all of us.

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