Marriage...Interrupted, Part 5: The Final Chapter

There are many losses you endure during a divorce - the loss of hopes and dreams; the loss of trust; the loss of a partner and spouse; the loss of company; the loss of a spiritual union.

And the loss of self.

It's only been recently that when I look into the mirror, I start to see myself again. You know, that sparkle that everyone has in their eyes when they genuinely laugh or smile? Three months post-Islamic divorce, and I'm slowly starting to feel like myself...and part of a new person. This experience has changed me for the better, I think.

But what I didn't know was how much of my confidence would be shattered and how much effort it would take to build back. I'm still working on it, and I will for a while.

My work life has thankfully been very stable and has continued to blossom. This is a huge blessing from God, since it's been my crutch during difficult times. But I've also poured my heart and soul into working a little too much, trying to compensate for loss felt in other areas. Apart from the demand from the community to keep up with programming requests, I was much happier to immerse myself in work than be alone at home, allowing negative and repetitive thoughts to berate me during the evening hours. I'm slowly starting to realize that I cannot live solely from one event to another workshop to another presentation. I need time for myself and I need to learn how to stop the cyclical thought patterns from arising.

What I also didn't realize until recently was how shattered my confidence was post-divorce. There were little signs in retrospect that now make a lot of sense - I didn't feel truly joyful, like deep down from my heart; I had a hard time looking into the mirror because I didn't like what I saw looking back (this continues to be an issue); and there was a lifelessness in my eyes that I had never seen before. Which would trigger negative thoughts from starting up again:

If you can't stay married now, what makes you think that you're going to be able to in the future?

It took you this long to get married the first time...and you really think that you're going to get married again?

Or, worse yet, criticisms from my ex-husband that were incredibly hard to stop thinking about would pop up in my memory. I now realize that one person's perspective is not wholly representative of the truth. Easier said than done, especially when those words came out of the mouth of someone who claimed to "love" you.

Rebuilding confidence in myself has been and will be a slow and painful process. Putting an end to negative thought patterns has been challenging but I'm starting to be more successful at it. My emotional breakdowns are not happening as often, and I don't ruminate on "what was" and "what is" anymore. I rarely reflect on my marriage and wonder "why?" about the divorce. My anger has calmed down and I'm not finding myself having any ill feelings towards my ex husband. Heck, when I had to message him this evening about a letter of his arriving at my address, I added a smiley face emoticon and "I hope you're doing well." This would have not happened even two months ago. Progress, me thinks!

I'm also realizing that I need to focus on the blessings I do have and hold a sense of wonder and hope for the future. It's true that one aspect of my life may have crumbled, but I'm left with many more pillars holding me up. I don't regret the decision I made three and a half years ago to get married. In fact, having gone through this experience, my outlook towards marriage and how I want to get there in the future have completely changed. Since I was not afforded much experience around building a healthy relationship before marriage, I think I needed this divorce to inshallah, if it's in the future, get it right the next time. And to also have a much more practical lens through which I view things.

Come on people, practical CAN be exciting! :P

And so, as my confidence slowly starts to creep its way back, I hope the following helps those of you struggling with the same:

1. Allow yourself space and time during your challenging moments - and once you're calm, question the negative thoughts you're having with at least something more neutral, if not positive.

For example, if I keep remembering "we have nothing in common, we're two different people who don't belong together" ... I would try to switch this to "we didn't spend enough time working on a foundation before thinking about getting married. If we had focused on a foundation built upon friendship without the pressure of marriage, we would have realized that we are two different people who don't in essence get along."

2. Celebrate the small successes and use those to build back your confidence

Whether it's work related, or the fact that you enjoyed time with a good friend or a good activity, celebrate that success. As cheesy as it sounds, and perhaps only those who have experienced a loss can relate to this, making plans and getting out there can seem scary. Especially if you're doing things alone. So when you do push out of your comfort zone, be proud of yourself and make plans to do it again soon!

3. Realize that you are not defined by what has happened to you

The best thing you can do for any challenging life event is realize that you're not defined by what happens to you. I may have gone through divorce, but that's only an experience and not how I define myself by it. I have learned a lot, and continue to learn from the process - but I don't allow this experience to be at the forefront of my existence. I don't think about it or talk about it all the time. Actually, I rarely speak about it to family and close friends now, which is a good sign in that my life goes on. Set boundaries between those challenging moments and who you are as a person - otherwise shame can result which is an incredibly painful and challenging emotion to deal with. Especially since our community already has so much of it around pretty much every social issue that exists.

4. Set firm boundaries with people who are intrusive or exclusive

There will always be those people who want details - even when you've said it's none of their business. There will also be those people who keep asking about "how you're doing" followed by "you should talk with me about what happened". Umm, how about no? Luckily, I have had plenty of recent practice around being assertive. At the same time, there are those people who suck the living daylights out of you when all they want to talk about is THEMSELVES. Because really, what do you have to say that's interesting. Anything that comes out of their mouth is a long drawn out story with too many details, which leaves you wondering if there's any space for you in this friendship. Both of these are examples of people who trigger things in me in a very unhealthy way. So, know what your triggers and boundaries are, and draw the line. You'll instinctively know who those friends are that you'll want to keep close.

5. Do something that challenges you - it will build your confidence!

This strategy may not work for everyone, since you need to be driven by "extreme" challenges. Ok, so extreme is relative! But for myself, I've taken on a 60-day Jillian Michaels Bodyshred challenge (I'm on week 6 of 8 and Alhamdulillah, it's been sweaty and painful, but I AM feeling stronger and more confident) because fitness is a huge goal for me. And I wanted to know that I could mentally and physically tough out her crazy routines, as a practice for whatever tests lay ahead in my life. I also recently decided that I need to try traveling solo again for leisure. I had been doing lots of solo trips in the fall but they were all work related and I was never truly alone and without a schedule. I'll be jetting off solo this week for the first time in 4 years, and I hope that my confidence is back in this area and I don't drive myself crazy! This will be the ultimate test :)

And with that, I think that this may be the final post in this series. Not because my own journey is over by any means...but because I've arrived at a place where the rest of it needs to be my own. And shared with close friends rather than the general public.

I'm not sure if sharing this journey has been helpful. I don't wish upon anyone to experience the loss of a relationship. But if you know someone going through separation or divorce, I would ask that you please share my blog posts with them. At least they'll know that they're not alone, and that there's no shame in reaching out for support - from friends, by blogging to achieve some therapeutic gain, AND to be a voice and advocate for so many others who are going through the same thing!

I think it's time that I start blogging about new topics - we'll see what the future holds :)

Comments

  1. Hi Sameera,

    Hope this email finds you well. I'm with HuffPost Live-- the live-streaming network with The Huffington Post.

    WEDNESDAY at 3pm ET, I'm producing an online docu-series on sex & religion and how the two worlds intersect, and I'd love for you to be apart of our panel. Would you be interested in joining us next us tomorrow for a 20 minute discussion online?

    If interested or available, please let me know and I'd be happy to provide you with further details.

    Hope to hear from you soon!

    Best,
    Felicia

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Felicia! Yes I'd be honored! Please contact me at sameeraq@gmail.com :) Thank you!

      -Sameera

      Delete
    2. Assalamualaikum,

      JazakaAllahu Hair for this wonderful series. It was much needed. I was struggling to find Islamic practical content to help me through the process. People think that just because it was your decision to walk out it doesn't matter to you... they forget to see the pain and strength it took for you to walk out of that which was all you dreamed your life would be about.

      May Allah make it easy on all of us facing trials in our marriage to heal ourself and find our confidence again.

      JazakaAllahu Khair once again. If you don't mind I would like to repost a part of your article on my blog in near future inshaAllah.

      Delete
    3. Salaam Alaikum Unaiza,

      Thank you for your comment and I pray that you're able to heal and grow from your experiences and that it becomes easier for you inshallah! Yes, feel free to post this on your blog, and link it back to my blog if people would like to read more. You'll be in my duas and keep in touch inshallah!

      Sameera

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Marriage...Interrupted, Part I: The Separation

FGM, Islam and Sexuality: One of these doesn't belong

On Muslims, Relationships and Abstinence