What happens when the spouse who was more serious, focused or successful becomes the one who struggles following divorce? 

Or, perhaps the spouse who needed more coaxing to improve the marriage seems to have a more successful relationship with a new love interest after the breakup? 

Could the problem have actually been rooted in the one who seemed to care more about marriage, life planning and success?  Let's find out!

Get in and get out of divorce

While a typical divorce has approximately 7 stages, the overall experience could be said to have 2 main parts from start to "successful" finish. 

Part 1.  Get in.

The first is an ongoing sense of loss that can range from anger and blame to sadness and regret.  It usually consumes both spouses during and for-some-time-after divorce.  

You know you're experiencing this when you consider your recent month and had more bad days than good.

Part 2. Get out.

The second is the "second chance" outlook on your life.  It's the transformation period from feelings of defeat to a quest for happiness and success.  You quit focusing on the past in an effort to better enjoy your present day, while securing a better future.   You'll have more good days than bad during this part of your divorce experience.

Nearly all of us experience the first, but for some, the second may be difficult to consistently achieve for many years following divorce.  It may even elude others for their entire lifetime following divorce.   When individuals fail to get beyond the first part of divorce, it could be said they let their divorce ruin their lives and/or defeat them. 

They got in, but never got out.

Fight back 

Don't let your divorce ruin your life or even one more day.

DMK's philosophy is to help our readers, just like ourselves, reach that second part of divorce in order to achieve the purpose it was ultimately meant to provide, a chance to achieve personal happiness and opportunity to find lasting love.  After all, divorce itself has two simple purposes:

  • end something bad in order to...
  • find something good 

Often, we are so caught up in the bad from the past, we fail to take that next step in order to achieve the real benefit our divorce was meant to provide. 

We must focus away from past problems and enjoy right now to improve our chances of finding purpose and satisfaction in our life.  We need to find the "good".

He's moving on.  WTF!?

What happens when your ex reaches that period of transformation and healing faster than you? 

Worse yet, what if he never really identified your mutual, marital loss?  Maybe he was no longer in love, was unfaithful, narcissistic or had some other personal issue that detached him from a marriage that you were still dedicated to until the very end.

The mere fact that he could suddenly be the spouse for someone else and/or the self-assured man he never was with you could bring about a great deal of confusing feelings.  It wouldn't be uncommon for some of your feelings to include the following:

  • self-scrutiny
  • increased feelings of failure, regret or blame
  • inability to let go of anything related to the past
  • unhealthy habits
  • risky behavior and impulsivity
  • unusual or unexpected feelings for your ex, including spite, anger, jealousy and/or adoration or love

If your divorce was justified and your attempts to fix it unsuccessful, it's important to recognize your reactions to how your spouse moves forward as what they are, reactions, rather than feelings that are most true to your overall personal objectives, desires and needs.

Below we'll address each issue with a brief explanation of why you feel the way you do and why it may affect your ability to reach your own personal transformation into the person you most truly want to be without the stress, heartbreak and pain associated with a failed relationship.


Was it me?  Was I my ex spouse's problem?

It's easy to wonder if you were the reason your former spouse was less happy or successful when he was with you. 

You may wonder... 

  • Why does he suddenly do the things you wanted him to do for so many years, but didn't do when together? 
  • Or could your former advice been a contributing factor to his becoming a person for whom you could no longer stay married? 
  • Did your expectations of your former spouse contribute to your relationship failures?  


Here's the sad truth that may be very difficult to face.  In a bad marriage, the inability for one or both spouses to actually be personally happy and successful is common, regardless of what either lacks,

e.g., empathy, career stability, communication and social skills, ability to show love or affection, interest in living a healthy lifestyle, sexual desire.  Anything.  

The feelings you had and actions you took regarding your spouse's "wrongs" may have been negatively absorbed that it clouded his ability to make the individual corrections needed due to low self-esteem.  His self-doubts and/or fear of failure or disappointment, partly or wholly as a result of criticism, could have actually been in his way. Your opinion of any of his setbacks may have been more damaging to the relationship than his awareness of your opinion helpful. 

While you thought you were being open and promoting communication with your spouse, it's possible you may have been the only one who felt better for it.  Moreover, he may have lacked the ability to convey his feelings and opinions or truly understand yours. 

Generally, women are more expressive than men, but that doesn't mean he wasn't affected by the problems in your marriage, he just may not have known how to convey his feelings.

Think of it as your spouse talking to someone on a very important phone call and you being next to your spouse telling him what to say. 

Even if you could say it better, your input may be felt as overbearing, unnatural or "not him" rather than helpful (ultimately making the objective of the phone call a failure).  Even if your input on the call is right, the result is still wrong.  Your spouse needs you to believe in his ability to make that call.  The same holds true for much of your relationship.  

But the fault is not yours alone.  

Why "get in" to divorce?

Again, this goes back to the second purpose of divorce.  One or both of you determined you were each meant to grow more successful and happy apart.  Even if it wasn't your initial decision, the choice was made and while it takes two to marry, only one person needs to file for divorce. 

A marriage where one person has committed to end it, is a marriage that is emotionally over (meaning one or both people are no longer vested in it's survival). 

Accepting your divorce

Once you reach the "getting out" part, you'll probably realize divorce wasn't really the enemy.  It's a liberator of an emotionally dissolved marriage. 

Divorce is a long journey to help you both become the individuals you couldn't be together.  It's purpose is to help you get more from your life, find good in yourself and others.  

Recognizing this helps you find the same happiness in yourself as it may appear your spouse has found in himself.  Accepting and growing from the experience will help you improve your relationship skills in the future.  You'll not only learn to be more accepting in future relationships, but to find someone who already has the qualities you seek, rather than someone you feel you need to improve or shape into your ideal mate.

Let's talk fault

So, yes you were in the way of your spouse being who you wanted him to be, as well as, his being true to himself.  But, no it wasn't your fault anymore than his not taking the initiative to be himself and find his own avenues to his success. 

It was his responsibility to himself to manage his life and his responsibility to his marriage to represent his ability to do so, in order for you to fully focus on yours.   It was to your relationship's betterment to have faith and belief in him doing so.  Yet, possibly not right for you and your own personal needs and happiness. 

While you both may have provided support to one another, neither should have continually directed the other's life choices, nor rely on the other for management of his/her life, happiness or success.  

Each of you are wholly responsible for your own personal happiness, then and now.

Love fades and personality quips overtake the marriage.

In these types of relationship problems it comes down to both spouses being in each other's way. It's basic incompatibility.  We don't plan it, but in reality, we all grow and change over the years and eventually, for some of us, the love, patience and friendship just run out, leaving us with irreconcilable differences (among other things).

It basically means your love wasn't strong enough to overshadow your marriages shortcomings. 

It's not necessarily right or wrong.  People fall out of love.  Relationships endure a great many things, until they don't.  When you love something or someone dearly, you know it and you'll do everything it takes to make it work.  If your spouse feels the same, then it will work. 

But, when there are doubts, for even one spouse, you have to make the hard choice to either reaffirm your love and resolve the differences or get out.  But first, you have to get in and commit to dissolving the marriage in order to find individual peace, love and happiness (or at least the whole bed). wink

Once you reach that second part of divorce, you will have hopefully found individualized clarity, allowing each person to solely focus on his/her own path rather than trying to think in the best interest as a couple.  

Increased feelings associated with failure, regret or blame

You don't need to achieve everything you want overnight.  Divorce is an uphill adventure that most of us experience as more uphill rather than adventure

But, you must look forward towards goals and choose activities and relationships that counteract all you feel you have lost or never achieved while married.  You must not live in the wallows of the past.   

Focus on you

Don't allow your spouse's progress to impact your own feelings and progress, too much.   Just like you, a lot goes on behind the scenes.  He may seem really together, only to be falling apart alone.

Also, it's not uncommon for either spouse to experience "temporary periods" of seemingly complete transformations only to fall back into the "blahs" or life sludge later.   

The best thing to do is focus on your life goals and when things get out-of-whack, confirm your goals and continue to move forward towards what you individually want and need.

Life is filled with failures and successes.  In your effort to achieve more good than bad you must still expect many difficult days ahead, but you must write-off each bad day and move forward toward better ones. 

You can't live a life where everything is perfect.  To expect to do so will be a life filled only with disappointment.

Inability to let go of anything related to the past

Let. it. go.  Plain and simple.   The more you think about why your ex is the way he is now will only bring up and cause you to ruminate over the past.  So what if he is a better person without you.  It doesn't mean he can be that person with you now since he seems to have figured out what was missing.  Not because you were a bad person.  In most cases it's years of staying together while growing apart.

The relationship as a married couple was obviously detrimental to both your happiness. 

If you're still floundering since your divorce or separation, then briefly remind yourself of how much your relationship has damaged your life and what needs to be done to make improvements.   If he is making significant improvements since your divorce, obviously the marriage was also detrimental to his. 

What if this time, things seem different between us?

Unless you both have the ability to completely let things go in an effort to work things out (which is often unsuccessful without a great deal of time, individual therapy and/or couple's counseling), the same old problems are going to reemerge to block what you really seek for your own future happiness. So, be cautious!

Unhealthy habits

So common, but so dangerous.  In times of great stress and life changing events like divorce, reaching for that bad habit or toxic friendship seems righteous. 

In our minds, following a loss like divorce, we have been robbed.  Our hearts suffered.  We deserve something to express our pain, grief, frustration.  Something to replace what seems missing. 

Our inner child emerges, and we've been "sent to bed without dinner", we need something to comfort us.

Many of us have at least some childish, perhaps embarrassing, out-of-personality behavior, choices or thoughts during a divorce.  Vices aren't uncommon.  But it's the adult in us that needs to know, set and abide by our own limits.  When we can't, we need professional help.  Seeking it makes you a stronger person.

Before you start down a path with any vice or bad habit...

Consider this:

  • Are you addicted to what you want to do?  Yes.  Then say no.
  • Are you risking your life or others?  Yes.  Then say no.
  • Could it hurt you or others? Yes.  Then say no. 

With all other - not smart, totally unwise, bad habits - use caution and let your adult emerge at some point to say "stop", vice time is over and I need to officially end this stage of my divorce and find more fascination in my opportunity for a good life rather than in my ex, our past or my vices.

If you're someone who never took chances or perhaps, it was your ex telling you all those years to be more daring, exciting or wild, still use caution. 

This is a temporary time in your life where throwing caution to the wind may seem appropriate, but not helpful to your divorce recovery. 

Once you're entrenched in a stable, healthy "you", consider the changes that would help you stay on your right path rather than those changes that would have only satisfied your ex, regardless of reasons. 

Get help when you need it

If you are still unsure if you're missing out on something or if something is holding you back, consider counseling.  Again, you're an adult and should know when you need help, it's usually in the way you feel, behave or react.  The real problem for most of us is not knowing how to seek help, who to call or when.  So here's some, been there, done that advice:

Seek help:

  • when others who care for you suggest it
  • if you feel like your life, people or things in it have more control of you than you, it
  • when you feel pulled away from productive and healthy activities for partying, overconsuming or generally unhealthy behavior or activities
  • if your new lifestyle is damaging relationships, family, health, finances, career or anything

How to seek help:

  • contact your insurance provider for coverage benefits and a list of health and wellness providers near you
  • use the DMK Directory to find local health and wellness providers near you
  • speak with your family physician for guidance and referral to a recommended health and wellness provider
  • seek group therapy, grief share groups or other social counseling opportunities to discuss your problems and make friends who share similar concerns/issues in order to develop an empathetic friend network to rely upon while getting through this period of your life
  • contact local religious organizations that can help with group therapy or provide information about local, religious affiliated programs or therapists near you
  • contact your local Department of Health & Family Services for programs for which you would be qualified and a list of publicly funded, free, sliding scale health and wellness providers in your area 
  • research health networks in your area that are funded by other sources, such as donation

Who to call and when:

  • trusted family and friends when you need to talk or need more perspective of your situation in order to find your solution 
  • counselor or therapist for guidance finding a path to a happier, healthier, YOU when you can no longer find a solution alone or with those who care for you
  • psychologist for therapeutic guidance as well as in depth clinical evaluation for possible psychological/personality disorders
  • outpatient rehab for dependency problems (e.g. I don't feel like myself without "this".  I feel unhappy, sick or angry when I don't have or do this, etc.)
  • inpatient rehab for addiction (e.g., I can't live without this.  I need this.  Nothing and nobody is as important as this, etc.), dependency, depression, feelings of wanting to self-harm or harm others

Risky behavior or impulsivity

This can include the vices, habits (dependencies/addictions), disorders and actions listed above; but may also include a greater disregard for your safety or healthy lifestyle. 

This may be very difficult to realize amidst a highly stressful time, such as divorce.  It may seem that the unusual circumstances surrounding home & family, finances and love life make it an ideal time to just jump into bad decisions, relationships, habits or behavior. 

Part one of divorce "getting in", feels like a kinda' nothing time in an all or nothing mindset.  We get discouraged, feel like things can't get worse; so we just reach for something bad to feel better that will, in fact, make things worse.

Adding one more log to the flame seems harmless, but it's actually a significant barrier to your ability to find a better path you and your ex, individually, are trying to make for yourselves.  It may be one "small thing" that adds a great deal of burden and contribution to poor decision making, ultimately leading to a legal, financial and/or heartbreaking divorce recovery nightmare!

Unhealthy feelings towards your ex or jealousy

First things first.  If you feel jealous, understand you may have unresolved regrets that may mimic jealousy, but, unless you have good reason (recent therapy, resolved marital problems, validation of incorrect assumptions for your ex) your madly, deeply passionate feelings (good or bad) are probably just "marriage aftershocks.

Many of us here have gone through this. You're with someone for a long time, then you're not.  Most will be with no one else until many months or years following separation or divorce.

You're bored, lonely and thinking way too much about your divorce and relationship issues that lead to it. 

Your spouse seems to be moving forward, perhaps appearing happier, more successful or well-adjusted than you expected.  Maybe he has someone new.  Maybe you have gone on a date or two and the prospects for a "new special someone" suddenly seem uphill.

Then boom!  Regret.  Suddenly, the "after divorce party" is over and the immediate future seems pretty awful.  Wouldn't it just be easier to work things out with your ex?  Were things so bad?

No! to the first and Yes! to the second.

Look, you're basically just delaying the stage of divorce you're both processing.  If the divorce was a good decision for good reasons, don't second guess yourselves.  

If you both think you want to give it another, try, we say go for it.  Then get counseling, you're going to need it. 

Hope won't provide lasting love, rebuild trust or pay the bills.  It will only dangle "possibilities" in front of you for weeks, months or years, wasting your chance to possibly experience a wonderful relationship where love, friendship and happiness is actually possible and somewhat effortless.  Moreover, it will get in your way to just be happy.

Remember, throwing a few, new good times after bad just makes for a miserable life and a constant state of hope.  So again, use caution.  We'll never say we told you so.  We'll be here either way.  Consider our Marriage Workshop for tips and articles, as well as the DMK Directory for counselors and therapists near you.

Get in, get out and get the life you really want

There are just as many ways to get out as there were to get into divorce.  Don't let your divorce keep you from finding the life you really want to live.  Instead allow it to liberate you from a failed marriage and unhappiness.  Don't remain fixated and consumed on what got you where you are today.  Even if you were treated unfairly, the result of your festering will only damage your life and the lives of those that love you. 

To get out of the last stages of divorce, you need to stay focused on your life, needs and dreams, not others, including your former spouse.  The time that passes during the second part of your divorce will lay the groundwork towards you and your ex living separate, more successful lives with little significance of each other's progress!