Why A Clean Break Is The Best Idea When Your Ex Regrets Divorce
Updated February 27, 2020
Reviewer Karen Devlin, LPC
Finding yourself trying to navigate the complexities of divorce can be overwhelming and feel seemingly impossible at times. Time Magazine tells its readers in an article that the current divorce rate is dropping. Instead of the former 50% chance a married couple will divorce, the odds have lowered to a 39% chance of a marriage ending in divorce. Seems like progress for the pro-marriage culture we live in. Although this is certainly good news for the 11% beating the former odds, it doesn't change much for the 39% doomed to the frustration of maneuvering the landmines of divorce.
Happily Ever After
Don't fret if you fell victim to the childhood fairytales that suggested little girls are princesses who grow up and fall in love with a prince. The social acceptance of romanticizing courtship and marriage without giving equal time to the realities and challenges of sharing your life with another person propagates the expectation of a "happily, ever after" marriage with your partner. The saying would better serve us as, "Happily on some days, Meh - on other days, and 'What the heck was I thinking?!?' on still other days."
Over time, you begin to see your partner without the rose-colored glasses that used to hide so many of your sweetheart's "less sweet" characteristics and habits. Unfortunately, there are many paths that can lead couples to divorce. Thankfully, society has become far more tolerant of what used to be a taboo topic. While society at large has better learned to deal with and accept divorce, this hasn't necessarily improved the individual experience of traversing a divorce.
Sex After Divorce
It's not uncommon to struggle to find the "New Normal" when your past has included the intimate relationship of marriage. Deciding that you don't want to be married anymore doesn't shut off all the feelings once shared by a married couple. Sex is often a difficult area to manage. There may still be physical urges felt between exes. While an occasionally 'roll in the hay' seems harmless, the actuality is that this prolongs the feelings of intimacy and can create confusion for one or both partners, and even lead to temporarily forget some of the "major issues" you struggled with, and you may discuss that one person regrets divorce.
There are no guidelines that ensure there's a perfect way to handle a divorce. It makes sense that a divorce that is mutually agreed upon has the potential to be less challenging than a contentious divorce. Even for the fortunate folks that fall into this group, divorce can become increasingly difficult when one of the partners realizes that he/she regrets divorce. If BOTH partners felt this way, simple! They could give it another go! But when only one partner regrets divorce, this can be the beginning of a tumultuous experience. It's not uncommon to second guess yourself. Especially on such a big decision as ending a marriage. Having doubts, however, does not mean you've made the wrong decision.
Boundaries are Important
Shared responsibilities after a divorce can force ex-partners to be more present in one another's lives than they would otherwise be. Children often want both parents to participate in significant milestones over the years, which means it's important to master the art of civility. However, being kind to your ex does not mean you can't have boundaries. Understanding this will leave you in a much healthier headspace during (as well as after) these forced encounters. Especially in situations when your ex, because he or she regrets divorce, relishes spending the extra time with you.
By simply being aware of what you are and are not comfortable with, you are more empowered to speak up for yourself. Boundaries are not a tool to punish others with, rather an awareness of your limits regarding interactions with those you don't naturally gravitate towards. Instead of silently arguing with yourself in the heat of a questionable moment, you will already be mindful that you have every right to not participate in anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.
This level of awareness is the key to relieving anxiety before it takes the wheel. When you have already permitted yourself to disengage in any uncomfortable interactions, this frees you up to not deal with the anxiety that can have you feeling crazy before the occasion has even arrived.
No Perfect Marriage - No Perfect Divorce
It's fairly safe to say that considering there's no such thing as a perfect marriage, there's likely no such thing as a perfect divorce either. Take courage in knowing that, just like the other huge steps we take in life, learning to navigate the "right way" to be divorced will be more of a journey and less of a destination. Rarely is it heard, when this is the topic of conversation, that someone has completely mastered the art of divorce. It's not uncommon for your ex to continue to be a source of a great amount of irritation long after the marriage has ended.
If you're one of the fortunate people that have little to nothing to do with your ex after divorce, then count yourself as lucky. Again, dissolving a marriage often doesn't mean you never have to be involved with your ex ever again. It might seem like a contradiction to say you can make a clean break while still having to participate in family events with your former partner, but it CAN be done. Once again, this is where an awareness of your right to healthy boundaries can be your saving grace.
By clearly communicating to your ex that you are treating the position as a co-parent with him/her as a business arrangement and keeping personal feelings and emotion out of it, it sends a clear message that is less likely to be misinterpreted as reciprocal feelings of "regrets divorce" on your part. By staying as firm in this resolution as you can, the message will eventually become clear to your ex. And if you mess up and veer from the course, then realign yourself according to what works best for you and begin again. It's not about perfection, but rather consistent effort and a commitment to the arrangement you've agreed to.
Give Yourself Time
As in all things to which we aspire, time is of the essence. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither will a clean break from your ex happen overnight. Making a clean break is certainly easier when children are not involved, but it is also achievable when shared commitments create repeated exposures to your ex. Remember that sharing a love for children doesn't mean you both have to be at EVERY event that comes along. You can find ways to creatively participate without both of you having to be present at the same time and place. Even when your ex persists, being consistent with the boundaries you've committed to will eventually (in most cases) get the message across. It just might take some time.
Take Care of Yourself
These simple approaches apply to many people navigating a divorce and finding that their ex has feelings of regret about the separation. However, as in any case, there are always exceptions to the rule. If yours is a more volatile situation, one that doesn't respond to the civil approaches mentioned in this article, it may be that you need to reach out for professional help.
If you find that the complexities of maneuvering through these choppy waters are more than you can handle on your own, then reaching out to a licensed counselor to discuss the unique challenges you're faced with can be very helpful. There are many sources you can turn to. One resource that is readily available and easily accessed is ReGain.
The combination of flexible availability, as well as reasonable cost, make this an invaluable resource. We hear it all the time. "Take care of yourself!" This is something we should all subscribe to. Living a healthy, serene life is the best way to navigate the challenges we face. The professionals at Regain can help you live the peaceful life you deserve.
Embrace Your Authentic Self
Just as nothing is ALL GOOD, nothing is ALL BAD, either. It's important to remember that although divorce isn't something any of us set out and plan for, it can be a very rewarding and growth-filled experience. Its doesn't have to represent a failure to realize a dream that went wrong. It can simply be a catalyst to the best life you never even imagined for yourself.
The saying, "Nothing is wasted" is a good way to reframe any situation. By considering that everything you experience brings value and experience into your life, then even unplanned, regretful experiences - like divorce- can serve as a lesson for you to be bettered by. What better to do at such a time than to reacquaint yourself with who you are today.
The person who has taken some unexpected turns in life, but then found the destination far better than anything that was planned! Embrace your authentic self! Unapologetically allow yourself to be swept away in a relationship with YOU! The best way to position yourself for a happy, healthy relationship, is to become an expert of being in a happy, healthy relationship with YOURSELF! So, here's to you and the future that is yours for the taking!