I don’t typically watch MMA fights. They’re brutal, violent and, at least for me, hard to watch. And yet when my neighbor invited me to join his buddies and him for a “fight night,” I decided I would just “drop in” for a few minutes. Two hours later, there I stood in the middle of a crowded living room with a piece of cold, half-eaten pizza in one hand, a crumbling cookie in the other, yelling “get him, get him!” in unison with my male cohorts at the top of my lungs toward a 70-inch TV screen. My internal constitution gave way to male bonding and to celebrate that sacred quality called “winning.”
For many men, marriage can feel similar. When we get hitched, men win. We check off a major life goal on the proverbial tally of things to do while you’re on earth. We’ve Won! As a married man, we’ve won the match, crossed the finish line, GOAL!!! We’ve navigated through the throngs of human beings to find that someone, and in many cases, to settle down and procreate with. But if and when divorce raises its ugly head, for men, it can feel like a devastating loss. For us guys, we turn in that shiny ring, and bragging rights like phrases such as, “my wife.”
As a divorced man and father to two boys, the biggest blow of all for me was that day my ex and I signed on the dotted line of our separation agreement, making it official. It felt like I had been stripped of a hard-earned title I had worked so hard for. Nine years of being the undisputed champion … done. If this sounds like I’m oversimplifying the end of a marriage, I am, and deliberately. The fact remains, for many men, divorce spells “game over,” whether we’re the ones who caused or initiated calling it off. But believe it or not, divorce does not spell the end of life, just the end of life as we may know it.
Here are five things I try to remind myself of as a no-longer married man:
1. It’s Over and I’m (Getting Better with Being) OK With That
There’s a theory I have, a societal agreement that marriage should last forever. Perhaps you’ve felt this assumption too. The most powerful tool I have in those moments where I judge myself is expressing firm honesty to myself. That looks like being real with myself when I declare, “My marriage is done, but the family we created will forever always be.” On a good day, I’m clear and un-triggered with facing this truth. On others, not so much. For the bad days, I have my buddies to call who will help me, by not advising, but get this: simply listening to me. Hard to believe, I know, but my support system, two friends I call my “East Coast Empathy Buddies,” are there to listen and provide empathy. It’s a lifesaver.
2. Life Doesn’t End Just Because My Marriage Did
Recently I was listening to a recording of a guided meditation where the facilitator asked everyone to imagine the next five years of their life. “Oh shit,” I thought. I couldn’t do it. I just kept getting stuck in the ghosts of the past, my marriage ending. I hadn’t begun to contemplate the future. Happy to say, after listening to the meditation a few times, I broke through and began to see possibilities.
3. My Marriage Ending Doesn’t Make Me a Loser
When the referee in life counts you out, AKA experiencing an end of a relationship like me, it’s easy to think, “I’m finished.” The following phrase, which I didn’t create but have tinkered with goes like this: “Divorce isn’t failure. It’s a diploma.” This is super helpful and I hope it is for you too.
4. I Can Still Be a Happy Human Being
For many, divorce can seem like an unfair prison sentence where one is forced to live out their days at singles bars and coffee shops where everyone else seems to be with somebody, laughing, living life as you sit there in scorn. Are there times I relate to the above? Absolutely. And, there are days I go out, hang with friends, and it feels fantastic.
5. I Don’t Have to Make My Ex a Bad/Wrong/Terrible Person Because It Didn’t Work Out
This one is truly liberating. It can be easy to blame the other person for somehow bringing this era of challenge and strife upon us. Perhaps in some cases they did, but blaming the ex or shaming ourselves won’t lead to peace of mind. When my two boys see their mom and I communicating, they see genuine smiles, hear laughter, and hopefully note their parents are getting along in the best way possible. And when my ex and I have a disagreement, we take it offline. Translation: When the boys are at school or asleep.
So, the next time you find yourself on the proverbial canvas of life having been dealt a life-altering blow, remember, a relationship that ends does not signal the end of you. Be willing to consider that your relationship moved you to a place that you may not have necessarily planned, but that you can nevertheless recover and thrive in.
This story was syndicated. Read Cory Tyler’s original post on Medium.