“Do you think it’s worse to be left for a woman than a man?”
If I had money for every time that question was posed to me, I’d have a lot of money. The truth is, I wasn’t left for either. I was put on the back burner so he could figure out his station in life. He came to the conclusion that, at 47 years old, he preferred men.
The question itself is thoughtless. I mean, how can anyone really think that if you are left for another woman, it hurts more than finding out that your partner of 20-plus years prefers the same sex? Either way, it is a loss and it encompasses all the components of any grieving situation. No matter who you divorce from, we all go through similar steps.
First there is denial. NO, this is not happening to me! How could this be happening to me? We are happy…sort of. We like each other…sort of. We are trying to working on the two of us as a couple…sort of. However, as you reflect on why you are so sad, you realize that it is the loss of your family and the family dynamic that has you all twisted up. You begin to unravel, but realize in this descent that you are not heartbroken over the loss of him, but rather the loss of the family you’ve built.
Next comes the bargaining. You make underrated deals with yourself, G-d, the universe, pretty much anyone or anything out there to whom you can connect. Let this be a phase, a moment, a blip in time, and I will be OK. Give me back my “sort of” relationship with all its faults, and I will pretend that this didn’t happen. Bargaining is short-lived because at some point you realized the house always wins and the truth has been given life.
Anger rears its head pretty quickly. Anger, embarrassment, fear and shame all come together in one ugly package. You find yourself angry at each scenario you put in front of yourself. You are so angry that it interrupts your daily activity. It is exhausting to be so angry and you know that in order to function properly you need to let go of this rage.
Depression helps ease the rage and turn the ugliness of your situation into a sadness that you are sure only you can understand. You want to wallow in your “woe is me” life and stay there. It doesn’t feel good or healthy but it fits because everything you thought to be true has been unearthed and tossed into a bottomless pit. Your memories are blurry and you question every piece of the past as a bystander, rather than the participant you were. You reach out to professionals because you know that there is extreme danger in staying on this road too long.
Slowly, painfully, and sometimes begrudgingly, you begin to accept what has happened. You start to see little specs of light where there was complete darkness. Although you don’t understand the “why” part, you do know that there is hope for happier days ahead. You fall a bit helplessly into the people that care most about you, and you lean on the ones you trust unconditionally. You are still not okay but you believe that one day you will be.
The grief that I suffered was not any greater or any less because of this situation. It did not give me any comfort to know that the next partner of my husband was to be a man. I was a woman who was losing her family, a family that I was proud of and adored. I was losing my primary asset and my biggest riches. I would no longer be a party of five and that was a loss that was hard to swallow.
Like many of life’s other losses, time is always a friend. Time and patience seem to take over no matter what and let your mind and body adjust to the new normal.
So, the next time someone asks me, “Do you think it’s worse to be left for a woman than for a man?” This is my answer, “there is no worse.” Loss is loss and it is devastating for all involved, especially the loser. Don’t be colloquial or try and find the good in the situation. Loss sucks and hurts and sometimes the person needs to just be in it, without any optimistic crystal ball predictions. Just lend your shoulder or ear and listen. Listen and let the person vent, cry, fall apart and heal. Don’t try to fix anything, especially since you didn’t break it.
Lastly, remember you can’t always put yourself in someone else’s shoes because your feet may never fit.
Randi is a freelance writer at The Write Thing to Say. She is a consultant for the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research. She is a living donor. She is also a lawyer, a canasta teacher, a bridge student and most importantly a Mom. She consults, counsels and writes for anyone and everyone on most everything. Toasts, Roasts, Marriages, Divorces, New Homes, Old houses, Mitzvahs, Funerals and College essays and applications…she’s played a part in them all. She hopes to write a book one day too!