Find the real you after "us"

Married life starts pretty good for nearly all of us.  We venture into it with open minds and hearts and are rewarded with the comforts of a growing, symbiotic relationship.  We may start to think like our spouse, share the same beliefs, maintain similar goals and enjoy the same lifestyle.

Some of us grow so close we can finish each other's sentences and feel each other's pain.  Unfortunately, "melding" doesn't ensure a lifelong, happy marriage.  But, it does generate a great deal of spousal influence in each other's lives.

Each marriage has different levels of this symbiotic relationship.  Some experience it from the beginning of their relationship and even after they get divorced.  Though they may not have actually loved each other more than others who did not share such closeness, they may have had a stronger compatibility factor. 

Sometimes the couple shares such closeness because one spouse has considerable influence over the other in the relationship.  This can be based on personality types and expectations one or both spouses has for marriage.  This may result in one spouse making many of the decisions that affect the marriage and family.  While this may not be right for everyone, it isn't necessarily wrong for some marriages as long as it doesn't lead to low self-esteem for the supportive spouse.

Regardless of the reasons for shared beliefs and lifestyle, a close relationship prior to divorce may cause each spouse more difficulty making decisions as an individual and moving forward alone much harder.

Divorce can be disorienting

The biggest surprise for many of us at the end of marriage is that we share far more of our spouse's goals, views and personality traits then we realize.  It becomes so interwoven within our personality that it isn't always initially realized.  In many ways it can become difficult to know if it's our likes and dislikes - beliefs and goals or that of our former spouse. 

It can affect everything from the way we think to how we live.  Following divorce, it can feel like something is missing from our life.  We may seek help from others in making decisions and validation for the choices we make. 

It isn't because we're weak minded, we may just lack the objectivity of two people making decisions for one common interest, as when we were married. 

A little less of "us"

It can feel like you have half a brain, especially when one spouse became comfortable making left brain decisions and the other right brain. 

A spouse who became relied upon for managing the household, kids, pets, supportive income may find it difficult to suddenly be a primary income provider while maintaining his/her normal personality and role. 

A spouse who has been primarily focused on being the family provider may find it difficult to keep the kids on their schedules and keep up with demands at work while cooking, cleaning, paying bills and managing the non-nuclear family household during off-hours.

The longer you're away from your former spouse, the more confusing things can get.  You're not the same person as when you were married to him/her or before you met.   As your identity as a wife or husband begins to fade, you aren't quite sure who you are now either.  The longer it takes to release your identity from your former spouse's influence, the more influence there was to shed.  

It's not always an equal share of influence from each spouse.  As mentioned above, it isn't unusual that one person had considerable more influence over the other in some or all areas of decision making, goals and beliefs. 

An influential spouse, in a marriage, doesn't necessarily mean he/she was demanding, controlling or abusive.  Your former spouse may just have had a great deal of your respect and admiration or good communication skills.  You may have also been very dedicated to necessary relationship skills in order to maintain the longevity of your marriage.  In other words, you valued your marriage more than your need to have control when making certain decisions. 

Having a supportive role in your relationship can be as demanding as being the one who takes the lead.  It takes a great deal of patience and compromise.  Over the years, it's easy to forget your "true" self, wants, needs and beliefs.  This is why some spouses eventually develop low self-esteem in such marriages.

Are you really "you"?

Now the eye opening experience begins when you admit to yourself that how you think, the choices you make and the way you live may not necessarily be all you.  It may still be "us", that is, you and your former spouse.  It's both liberating and enlightening to begin to think for yourself.  -take responsibility and really own everything you do, want and say. 

Once this happens, you realize the most important thing that was missing in your life and marriage, was you.  This gives a renewed sense of self and personal happiness.

You may still co-parent with your spouse, which requires cooperation, communication and some compromise.  But, it's okay to hold your ground on decisions and choices like: how you care for your children, who you choose to befriend and your household routine/schedule. 

You don't need permission for the choices you make.  This may cause some friction if your former spouse was the one calling most of the shots when you were married.  If things get difficult, call in a mediator.  Be realistic with yourself and pick your battles.  But, for the sake of your children and your individual happiness, health and success, battle when necessary.  Hold your ground and show your former spouse you're empathetic of his/her concerns, but capable of making decisions within your rights to make.

In other areas which can include religion, housekeeping, career, politics or friends - start to think outside what has seemed normal, but somehow doesn't really fit you anymore. 

You don't need to change everything about yourself.  But, open your mind and see past what you formerly compromised for the sake of your marriage, respect for your spouse or family cohesiveness.  The choices are yours to make.  Own your future, your success and your failures and you will always find your true "you".  

Check out our Editor's Choice Single Living Book List

The more you rebuild your own identity, independently, the more you'll develop your true interests and find your greatest strengths.  The book list has some great suggestions for books that can help you determine your strengths and rebuild after divorce.


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