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Has anyone else struggled with feelings of shame after separation?

(31 Posts)
Worldwithwings Sun 22-Jan-12 21:56:00

I separated from DH last autumn after years of growing apart and not really getting on well. It is a mutual and very amicable separation. We still go away for weekends with DS and DD. There is no hope of, and I do not want, reconciliation but we are much happier as friends. I have been taken aback by how conspicuous I feel in all aspects of my life. I feel shame around other families, esp school gates, at work and with some friends who fit better with society's expectations. It throws me back to feeling shame earlier in my life and also my continuing difficult/non-existent relationship with my mother.

I'm curious to know if other people have experienced this and whether it subsides and/or what works to ease this discomfort. I am generally a strong person, but I find it hard to recognise this at the moment.

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kicker Sun 22-Jan-12 23:11:45

Not shame exactly but deep disappointment that things had ended the way they had and I didn't want to share that with anyone outside the family. A year later I have only let a very few people know about it. I suppose I have been focused on the children and I haven't allowed myself time to really think about it. I am still relieved to be out of the marriage to be honest and that is what I reflect on in inevitable low moments.
You are strong, you got out of something that was not working. You have salvaged a decent relationship with your ex. It takes courage to change. and it's still very early days. Allow yourself time to get to know yourself in this new role.
Here's to a more positive, wiser, gentler 2012!

Worldwithwings Mon 23-Jan-12 11:20:07

Thanks for telling me your experience kicker, separation is a hard thing to let people see and it's a public disappointment albeit a common one. You say 'deep disappointment' and I think I've been shocked by the depth of it for me. Brings back all sorts of losses to mind from throughout my life. I hope 2012 brings you much happiness.

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chosenone Mon 23-Jan-12 11:29:24

I do and its been 18 months and wen're both in New relationships and things are very amicable. I like my ex (in small doses ) and we're friendly which confuses people, particularly close family who have been very vocally disappointed in our split. I hate telling people at the school gates, at work etc and when I see people looking at my naked ring finger I feel embarrassed. My neighbours speak to my new DP and I feel embarrassed about that, he wants us to all live together and again I'm worried about what people think ! I hate feeling like this as the rational part of my brain thinks life is too short and there is no need to feel shameful when things have been amicable and there is no scandal involved. I hope you can try and put these thoughts to one side, I'm trying.

Worldwithwings Mon 23-Jan-12 15:50:20

Thank you for telling me that. I'm sorry you still find it hard. It's funny, I was telling one of the mums at the school gates about feeling conspicuous and she was genuinely surprised. I suppose it's true that people are often not thinking too much. In a funny way I wonder whether this might be a good lesson for me in not paying too much attention to what people say. Shame is such a toxic feeling, it just seeps into everything. I am so glad of the love of my friends. I try and remember my kids' feelings too and that I don't want them to feel ashamed of themselves like I do about myself.

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Secondwife Mon 30-Jan-12 10:51:19

I did initially as single parents get such bad press, but then I do not fit the mass generalisation of the press for single parents. Most single parents on here are single as a result of a break up of a relationship rather than an foolish young girl who gets pregnant just to get a council house.

With that realisation I subsequently found out that a number of Mum's at my kids school were then single parents. Years down the line now it seems that even greater numbers are single parents for that reason.

It then dawned on me that I had done nothing wrong, I was continuing to bring up my children in a smaller but happier family and my confidence grew from there.

Don't feel any shame www, embrace the new chapter in your life and make the most of it.

Worldwithwings Mon 30-Jan-12 21:08:26

Thank you Secondwife. It does help to hear yours & others' stories and I feel in good company. I met another mother at school who'd separated from her kids' father and I've enjoyed the feeling that we don't fit the schools middle class image. Sometimes that really pleases me. If I ignore others' expectations I feel fine, but occasionally I get knocked flying by someone's pity or apparently perfect life. I'm really working hard not to fall for that and it frustrates me that I can't just effortlessly be true to myself and my family. I have noticed that my relationships with my kids are thriving as I feel more fully myself which is great. It helps to think of this as a new chapter to embrace, rather than feeling fearful that my life is over. I know that's not true, but it sometimes feels like it.

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Secondwife Mon 30-Jan-12 22:10:28

I can appreciate the feeling like your life is over, but really it is not.

And as far as everyone else having a perfect life and them showing you pity. I bet if you look close enough their's will be far from perfect. No one's life is totally 100% as you would want it.

If anything you have the ability to make yours more of how you'd like it to be as you do not have to convince another adult that your way of thinking is best, you can just do it!

I changed many things about my life when my Ex left. I did the obvious re-arranging the furniture to make the house feel slightly different, to even cooking new types of meals, both of which would have annoyed my Ex somewhat. He had expected me to curl up and die without him, but I didn't. My children gave me new strength, strength I didn't know I had and now years down the line life is nothing like I had ever expected it to be, but I'd not change a thing.

Worldwithwings Tue 31-Jan-12 14:29:03

Thank you. I'm really starting to believe that my life may not be over and feeling some excitement for how it may be. I am really lucky that my ex and I remain friends and actually I think our relationship is better for the separation.

You are right that people's lives are rarely perfect - it annoys me when I start imagining that they are! I want to be true to myself and what is good for my family. I am finding that it takes all my courage to do that, but I'm beginning to feel my way forward. That helps me feel less shamed and more worthy. Beneath the shame I am beginning to feel that the separation has freed my heart and I want to protect it. And I want my children's hearts free and for them to be who they are.

I'm glad you didn't curl up and die secondwife, but found new strength. I can see that there can be real benefits to being single. Perhaps my shame will return in spades, but I think I am beginning to find ways of coping with it. I'm enjoying the book 'Gifts of Imperfection' by Brene Brown. Hearing about other people's experiences all helps.

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Minstrelsaremarvellous Sun 26-Feb-12 09:39:20

Shame, humiliation, embarrassment…however, now it's happiness, joy, confidence having created a wonderful new life on my terms. smile

Worldwithwings Sun 26-Feb-12 15:43:38

Thank you minstrelsaremarvellous, I think I'm beginning to feel some of that change so it helps to hear what happened for you. Now I sort of expect the shame etc but I sometimes catch myself being quite contented! Is a bit surprising after such pain!

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Minstrelsaremarvellous Mon 27-Feb-12 07:22:26

It was through separation, horrendous divorce (i think they all are but mine ended up gruesome) and being a lone parent that I found a strength of character. I discovered I liked myself. Don't get me wrong, I know my flaws (bossy, control freak etc etc) but essentially I recovered from the shame and sense of waste. Fast forward to now, I'm engaged to a man who treats me like I dreamed of, who's an amazing step daddy and we have a brand new baby of our own.
I couldn't/wouldn't have got here without the shit that I experienced (that bizarrely I can laugh about now).
I love the quote: it's always darkest before the dawn. It's ridiculously true!

Worldwithwings Tue 28-Feb-12 06:56:44

Thanks Minstrels for sharing your experiences. It helps to hear how you have moved on. Sometimes I feel clear and strong and other times, like this morning, I doubt everything. It helps me to hear that you've found a happy and secure future and that you're happy with a new partner. Maybe when I look back in years to come this period of my life will just look like a temporary time of change before something new took shape.

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Minstrelsaremarvellous Tue 28-Feb-12 15:15:43

World, every time something bad happens I'm convinced it's to allow a new path in life to be followed with new opportunities. My DP lost his job last year - huge confidence blow, he was worried with baby on the way. I just said, wait, bide your time etc.. and he ended up getting a new job which was a massive promotion!
Of course we worried and wobbled, but optimism wins out.
Someways it's small steps, somedays it's no steps at all, you'll go up and down and when you realise you're up more than down then you're winning. Be kind to yourself and trust yourself.....

Worldwithwings Tue 28-Feb-12 20:42:01

Thank you Minstrels, I've heard other people too say have faith, that there's a reason for things & new opportunities arise. Somewhere deep inside me I feel that & I can be true to my self. It's more on the surface that I feel battered & I really am so bruised. Today has felt like climbing a mountain range in every area of life. But I will take your wise advice and be kind to myself and trust myself. This too will pass I'm sure. I'm glad your DP found a good job.

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Minstrelsaremarvellous Tue 28-Feb-12 22:38:41

It's awful when you feel so battered, I'm sure you want to lick your wounds? Maybe you should? It's ok to look after yourself! At least tonight you can say to yourself that you got over those mountains today. I think if you can stay true to yourself you might notice how proud you are of yourself - for every mountain you get over/around.

Worldwithwings Wed 29-Feb-12 20:57:23

Thanks again Minstrel for your wise words. I am trying really hard to be true to myself and this afternoon has been a bit easier. I have a few friends who are also wise & understand the challenges of being fundamentally truthful when it's not on the beaten track. One day at a time I guess...

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Minstrelsaremarvellous Fri 02-Mar-12 05:27:07

Hi World… I'm so pleased the afternoon was a bit better. And pleased to hear you have good friends. I bloody love my bestest friends for all their help. Even if it was just nagging me to eat! (I lost 2st in 6wks, sad and aged 10yrs with it. Meh to being skinny I say!)

Worldwithwings Sat 03-Mar-12 07:36:34

I'm glad your friends helped you too Minstrels. Mine have been just wonderful. When I'm at home with the kids I feel good (sometimes really brilliant), but I am struggling at times with anxiety/fear (esp at work). Did you have that and did it pass with time?

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Minstrelsaremarvellous Sat 03-Mar-12 22:12:52

I distinctly remember the drenching sweats at work sad and how on certain days my confidence was crippled. Only today a conversation about money took me back to a dark place and my DP took time to coax me out of my head. I can honestly say it does get better though and these moments are very rare. In fact, work ended up being a crutch for me and a very understanding work colleague became a very good friend. Can you get yourself a little saying that you can whisper to yourself when you're having a wobble? "I Will Be Fine" on repeat in my head got me through some lip trembling, lump in back of throat, teary eyed moments……

Worldwithwings Mon 05-Mar-12 20:44:43

I'm glad your wobbly moments are rare now and I can identify with those anxious moments. My work organisation is in difficult flux at the moment and so there's lots of free floating anxiety at work. I also ended up with a lot of feelings for a colleague which was a catalyst for the end of my marriage. So seeing him is really painful & means work is not an escape! I do love my job in general though and today was better. I am also lucky to have two really close friends at work who are resolutely alongside me. I have got some sayings that I hold on to, my favourite at the moment is 'this too will pass'. Hard to believe them in the tricky moments though!

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Minstrelsaremarvellous Tue 06-Mar-12 19:31:02

'this too will pass' is a great saying! Another thing I did was put little messages to myself around the house. These were positive phrases hidden inside cupboard doors/on fridges/by make up mirror. I also made a little card to put in my purse with photos of my DD and things that were/are important to me. (I still do this!)
Keep going - this too will pass wink

Worldwithwings Fri 09-Mar-12 07:05:59

Thanks for your words Minstrels. You are evidence that life goes on after separation. I hope the pain will pass and (although my life is good as it is) I will find someone who does love me properly. I like the expression 'just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly'.

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ScapeGoat Fri 09-Mar-12 20:46:50


My husband left me suddenly (sudden for me - I was the last to know he was leaving!) and felt a huge sense of being a 'social failure' and our children were now another statistic. After nearly 22 years together, I became single for the first time at 39 - I'm loving it now but I still feel a sense of shame that our marriage 'failed'. I'd never marry again - at the risk of sounding very negative I couldn't risk another divorce! Living together would be ok...

Worldwithwings Sat 10-Mar-12 06:36:08

Thanks Scapegoat. I'm sorry to hear both that your husband left and that you have a sense of failure. I am getting comfort from what the wise people around me (including my STBXH) are saying about not getting too caught up in what others think. I'm a bit surprised by how much I do. But I also see that a massive sense of liberation might lie behind that if I can tolerate my sense of fear and shame. It's like if I can learn that, I am free to be anything! Suddenly I also see how much we (and I) compromise to stay inconspicuous. I'm also getting comfort from those I know who aren't conventional either (e.g. They're gay, childless, widowed or divorced too). I feel safer with them, like I belong. My (very conventionally successful) friend yesterday sent me an email stating that all I had really lost was the definition and if I trusted myself that things would work out well. So I suppose I'm saying, for you, me and others, I wish us the courage to know that our lives are worthwhile even if they aren't progressing as scripted.

My other thought is I'm not sure exactly who it is that I'm giving the right to class me as a failure. The people I care about love me anyway.

Thank you for telling me that you share some of that sense of shame. I hope my thoughts help you too.

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