Detachment from our ex is a long and often times bumpy process. It has more to do with our emotional and mental state than with time alone. Some people never fully detach from their ex even years or decades after the divorce. If we are still angry or overly sad about it, if we still blame him or her for ruining our lives, if we still wish it was different, then we are still very much attached to them, and have absolutely no chance for developing a new and satisfying life for ourselves.
Detachment can be a conscious and self-driven process so it is very much up to us to stay attached and let them affect our lives for much longer than necessary or intentionally detach from them layer by layer. The less attached we are to our ex the less power we give them over our feelings, thoughts, lives, and future, and the more in control we are going to have in these areas. If they are leaving our lives we need to be sure they are leaving our thoughts and feelings too. And the later two are absolutely under our own control.
We attach to things or people in an attempt to make us whole and fulfilled. Nowhere else it is as obvious and accepted as in marriage when the “two becomes one”. When in divorce the one becomes two again the opposite of attachment has to happen. The more codependent we were in our marriage, meaning we relied heavily either on the relationship or on our partner for our identity, the harder it is for us to detach because we feel like we are loosing our very selves.
If we are having trouble detaching in a healthy way and manner it is important that we look at and face our codependency issues first. Only after being aware of them we can create complete detachment and have a chance to move on with our lives.
Detachment doesn’t happen overnight or passively, without our conscious efforts. Here are five major areas we need to be sure we are making deliberate steps to detach from our ex.
Physical detachment includes sexual but is not limited to it at all. It is crucial that we completely detach sexually from our ex and does not allow any exceptions or hook ups for old times sake. It will throw us back to earlier, more desperate stages, offering false hope or more disappointments. If it’s any way possible, having a full physical separation is the bests so we can start establishing our own space and separate life. If it’s not possible because of financial, custodial, or any other reasons, it is wise to create at least a safe and private room for each, which is completely off limit to the other one. The longer physical separation is prolonged the harder it is to detach in all other areas.
Separating our social life from our ex can be difficult if we have been involved in the same hobbies, activities, or groups together. We don’t want to give up things that are important to us, mostly in such stressful time when we need all the outside support we can get, but staying involved together, even in the worthiest cause, organization, or church is not a good idea. Our friends might be already divided between us, as far as their support goes, so it is wise to pick our own people, places, and activities, and let our ex have his or hers too. It is also an opportunity to figure out which of these things are important for us individually and which ones did we do for the sake of the relationship or other person. Keeping the former and letting go of the later is a healthy way to detach farther.
Emotional detachment during divorce looks and feels very different for people who are leaving the marriage and for the ones being left. Usually the one who made the divorce decision has been detaching emotionally for a while with or without their partner’s awareness. They might be stages ahead of the other person by the time divorce comes and can seem coldly detached and even emotionless. The key to emotional detachment is to learn to depend on other people for our emotional needs and not on our spouse anymore. The loving support of friends and family are crucial in this area. We need to have at least one close friend, but ideally two or three who can temporary replace our spouse in the everyday processing of life. Few people we can share our pain, hurts, disappointments and joys on a regular basis. Without this kind of support we will feel alone and tempt to try to get our needs met by our ex which will lead to more heartache and sadness. We need to start looking at our ex as an empty well of support and not expect anything anymore. The sooner we can do it the quicker we will heal.
Mental detachment from our ex is probably the hardest one to achieve. It means we change how we think about them or even get them out of our thoughts completely. We give them no power in our head, no more space than what’s necessary and beneficial for the divorce process. We don’t blame them, hate them, or wish they would behave differently. Energy and emotions follow our thoughts, so the more negative thoughts we have toward our ex, the more negative and destructive emotions we will feel and as a result we will stay attached to them. Stopping the flow of negative thoughts is hard but with intention and self-awareness it can be learned and practiced. We do possess the power over our thoughts but many of us never learned to exercise it, so we remain victims of our own head and feel like victims of other peoples’ decisions. Until we choose to think of ourselves as the victim of this divorce we will stay fully attached to our ex.
Spiritual detachment is an important area for people with strong spirituality or involvement in a religion that holds the belief that marriage unites people spiritually. As beautiful as this belief is, it can be the most shame and guilt producing conviction during divorce. We might need the help of a clergy, therapist, or coach to work through all the shame that spiritual separation and detachment might bring up for us. Otherwise we will be stuck in uncertainty and guilt for a long time. Just like there are marriage rituals for every religion, it might be a good idea to perform some rituals with friends or family that symbolically separates us from each other. Anything that would symbolize our separate spiritual paths from this point forward. We don’t need our spouse’s physical presence for it, we are marking our own spiritual journey for ourselves and consciously detaching with grace and dignity.
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