Primal fear is what makes going through divorce, separation, bereavement, loss of a job, loss of a dream so difficult. It triggers abandonment — our first fear — a fear universal to all human beings. It is a feeling of being left on the doorstep, of feeling left behind.
The upheaval of divorce involves the heart-wrenching process of separation, along with the added stress of legal issues, having to move, extra financial burdens, childcare complications, changes in social status, and the list goes on. The bottom line is that divorce is an emotionally charged experience that jangles the raw human nerve of abandonment.
If rejection and betrayal were involved in the reason the marriage ended, abandonment feelings are right there on the surface. Rejection stings, burns and aches. But even if the divorce was your choice, the process can leave you feeling alone and isolated. Some people felt abandoned during the marriage; others decided that the lack of love and passion in the marriage caused them to abandon themselves.
Going from married to single can be a cause for celebration, but can also spark an identity crisis. You trade in being someone’s wife or husband for being alone. You no longer have someone you belong to, no longer have that go-to person. Where once you had the status of “being married” (for what it was worth) you now check the box for “divorced.” A small thing, but a reminder that you belong to a new “group.”
No matter whose fault the divorce was in reality, there is usually sense of failure on both parts. How did I land up here? Why couldn’t we make it work? Why did I choose someone like this? Why am I not like the others who have successful long-term relationships? Is there something wrong with me?
Getting divorced becomes a semipublic event as the people in your life begin to learn about it. It can leave you feeling abandoned by public approval, as if you’ve somehow fallen from grace. You may feel exposed, that getting divorced red-flags your shortcomings. Will people begin to wonder if I am capable or worthy of a healthy relationship? Might they suspect I am deficient in some way?
And what about losing your membership in the coupled world? No longer two, you are now barred entry to Noah’s ark. You may be invited to fewer dinner parties now that you are not part of a couple. By losing my other half have I lost half of my social value?
There is secondary abandonment. Some friends tend to pull away because they don’t want to take sides or have clearly taken your spouse’s side. Your coupled friends may seek out new couples to go out with. Sometimes secondary abandonment hurts worse than the loss of the partner.
Divorce is a time of reawakening and change. To make sure that change is for the better, you must grab that abandonment nerve by the tail and flip it to your favor. Make a commitment to yourself that you will benefit from your experience rather than be diminished by it. This means that you must:
1. Welcome all of the feelings that are stirred up — including abandonment, the primal fear itself. This brings you to the depths of yourself, opening you to an opportunity for profound personal change.
2. Nurture your feelings. This is a time to practice self-love in the form of accepting and validating yourself as an emotionally self-reliant human being.
3. Take action. Baby steps build momentum. You don’t think your way out of the turmoil of like divorce and separation; you DO your way out. Keep moving in a positive direction. Constructive behaviors lead to profound personal growth.
4. Spur your growth by becoming involved in the abandonment recovery program. The tools are there to guide you through. You will learn how to work with your feelings rather than against them, how to support yourself by taking positive, goal-directed actions, and how to make healthy new connections.
5. Take advantage of the resources at www.AbandonmentRecovery.com.