Wedding Woes

It's OK to feel your feelings

Dear Prudence,
I am a divorced mother who’s now back in college. My divorce was nearly three years ago and one of the best decisions I have ever made. I recently learned that my ex-husband (and the father of my children) has been seeing a woman. I think that’s great, and I want him to be happy. The problem is that she is a fellow student in one of my classes. When I realized the connection, I started bawling on the way home from class. I hope so much that she doesn’t know who I am—but even more than that I am beside myself with sadness, and I don’t know why. I still care deeply for my ex, but I’m currently in the best relationship of my life with a wonderful man. Why am I sad? Why does knowing who she is bother me so much? How do I heal and continue? My marriage was abusive and tumultuous, and I’m so happy with my new relationship, so how is this even an issue?

—Unwilling Classmate

Re: It's OK to feel your feelings

  • OliveOilsMomOliveOilsMom South Jersey
    Seventh Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers

    Your feelings are your feelings.  Sometimes you can't help yourself in why you feel certain ways.  Focus on your current relationship, that you escaped an abusive person and that you working to better yourself.

    If the feelings persist, speak with a counselor.  You will probably have free access to one through your college if you cannot afford one.

  • Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you feel. Sounds like it's still part of the grieving process of ending the relationship and both parties moving on, for real. Grieving isn't a linear process, but it also doesn't mean you aren't committed to your current relationship, or that you wish you weren't divorced. 
  • Emotions can be such a funny thing.  She can be as logical as she wants.  Knows she wouldn't want her ex back with a 10-foot-pole.  Yet, still feel this deep grief.

    My armchair psychologist analysis is that this woman's presence in her class is a tangible reminder that life didn't work out as she pictured it.  Even if her life is BETTER for it.  I think there is still always that grief of "the path not chosen" and/or "the dream not fulfilled".  I'm sure when she married her ex, she pictured them loving each other forever and growing old together.  But that wasn't what happened.  Not even close.  Perhaps it is also bringing up feelings of foolishness and/or failure that she might have about the divorce. 

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  • CharmedPamCharmedPam Chicagoburbs
    1000 Comments 500 Love Its Third Anniversary First Answer
    I agree, LW is probably crying for what could have been, not what was lost. It sounds like she knows she's in a better place.

  • Agree with PP, LW is upset/sad because the presence of the new woman reminds her of the feelings she felt through the separation/divorce, and even though she knows the divorce was a good thing, she also likely grieved the loss of the good parts (which there probably were at some point in time) of her previous relationship.

  • If the previous relationship was abusive for her, there's the how long did the abuse go on before she decided to enter the "Society for Fed Up Women" and get out of there that needs to be factored in to the mix.  She's dealing with emotion, not logic.  Logic says "wish that woman the best" yet emotion wants to stain in "focusing on the happy times" and FOMO on the good having chosen a different path in this case, she needs to have that moment of choice reinforced that the guy was abusive even if only emotionally and wish the gal all the best with him!  Definitely time for a couple sessions... 
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