How Do I Move On After Divorce?

Question: “How do I move on…… My ex-wife was unfaithful 3 times during our 12 year marriage. First time was just kissing she claimed; second was a one-night-stand and she was disfellowshiped but later was reinstated and we had our 2nd child after that; third time she had a full-blown affair, left home with the children when she fell pregnant to him (she later told me) and then had a abortion due to complications with that pregnancy. She then returned home, confessed all and was excommunicated. Due to that excommunication, she claimed, left home again with the kids secretly when I was working. I did question her probably too much after she was disfellowshiped asking how she could claimed to love me when she went with someone else and after the last time she came back home I questioned her more and openly doubted her story of ‘sorry, I made a mistake with him’ etc. After she left last time, I filled for divorce and obtained it with her absent. That was five years ago. There was never any violence or similar major incidents during our marriage(apart from these infidelities of course) but we did argue almost every week for this or that. I’ve always held a temple recommend, as she did too except during the disciplinary time, and I had many leadership callings in church, as she did too as relief society president(which she was when she was having that affair) and YW leadership, in both ward and stake. Today she is totally inactive with our kids, but I’m still active with temple recommend, calling etc My problem is that I can’t seem to move on. The times I’ve even talked to other single women I ended up feeling guilty and then turn away from them. I’ve turned down several opportunities to date new women. More often than not I find myself praying that she could return or we could get together again, but then later I know its not realistic. I also worry that because the church will not call even a bishop who was once divorced nor is there any GA who was once divorced, I fear that divorcing was a sin which I’ve committed since I filed for it and went through to the end although church leaders say that sometimes divorce is necessary. I’ve read all the related talks available at lds.org, especially Elder Oaks recent one but even then I go through different emotions because when he starts his talk I’ll say Yes, that was me, I needed to divorce but then when he talks to couples who have descended into a marriage in name only and tries to counsel people to not divorce (that it do! isn’t solve any problems etc) then I feel guilty again and inevitably will end up praying again for her to return or for another chance of marriage to her again. I’ve also thought about suicide many times but I end up not doing anything just so the kids will keep receiving their child support payments, and I can still see them too. But usually, I’d say people see me as generally bitter and conflictual possibly stubborn too maybe. Well I’ve written too much now, so the basic question is how do I move on to be able to one day maybe remarry. I know I have to stop hoping for my ex-wife since if not I’ll just be stalking her, if in thought only.”

Answer: Sounds like you have had a really difficult journey. The affairs your former spouse had, the mother of your children, must have really hurt. Dealing with the pain from divorce can be heart wrenching, but more difficult the pain from the infidelity and betrayal by her due to her consistent relationships outside your marriage. The pain for the children must be immense too.

I have a few questions to think about that were not explained in the post. Do you have custody and a relationship with your children? If not, why does she have them solely? From your post, it appears that the marriage was conflict ridden and that there were some problems before or during the affairs she was having. My recommendation here is to process what happened prior to the divorce. The relationship was rocky, or so it appears, and you were hurt, really hurt. I feel your pain when you speak about the 3rd affair and it’s leading you to divorce her.

The bottom line at this point is you are divorced. The marriage is over, the trust is broken due to the betrayal and pain. Your praying that you both can get back together is natural considering this loss for you. Her coming back is unlikely, and if she did she would likely replicate the same patterns in marriage with you again. My suggestion would be that you pray to understand the resistance you have now to dating. Sounds like it has been a few years and you are still hopeful that it will work out and it likely is not. You really need to do some loss and grief work with a therapist. The bonding and attachment are both still alive and are prohibiting you from seeing clearly and dating other women. The internal silent fixed beliefs that you are sinning or that you are hopeless. Clearly is suicide was on your mind as an option or solution you are in pain and need to work through the thought processes that lead you to feelings of despair that culminate in suicide. You also mentioned that you may appear bitter and conflictual with others or at least stubborn. Why would they say this? What are you doing to work on you, to make yourself for of a partner that others would want to be married too? Again, working on you can help you prevent this from happening again in a relationship. It is clear you want to date but the guilt you feel is flowing from faulty beliefs you have about the nature of the divorce. It is as if on some level you are not divorced yet emotionally. The way to do that is to work through the feelings of loss and grief and start healing so that you can prepare your heart and mind for the next relationship. I wrote an article on this topic here.

Glad to hear you have done your own research on divorce and that process from the LDS paradigm. Divorce is not a sin but the Lord does not sanction individuals that quit or close a marriage down due to ‘personality conflicts’ or the like. Gaining guidance and confirmation from the Lord on such matters is requisite prior to making a decision to divorce. I typically do not counsel couples to divorce but to work on their marriage and to seek the Lord. In cases of abuse and the like I counseling people to ensure they are physically and emotionally safe.

My final suggestion for you in addition to the questions you posed is to start working with a counselor and sort through your feelings of loss and grief. Reaching closure and finding meaning is key to your moving forward and will help resolve some of your heartache. Best of luck in your journey.

Additional Resources: Official LDS Church Articles on Divorce as well as YouTube video below

3 Responses to 'How Do I Move On After Divorce?'

  1. Anon says:

    Thank you for answering. I had never really thought about looking at this starting from the infidelity and the loss and hurt involved there, ie processing what happened before the divorce as you put it. When I did speak a to stake president about it (who was a friend too) he was quick to avoid any details and jumped straight to “couldn’t recommend to divorce or not to and that it was my decision” and so on, so I’ve never really spoken to anyone about those affairs in any detail. When she was disfellowshiped and later excommunicated I found out the result from her the night of the council (and she didn’t take the sacrament obviously) The bishops, 2 different ones, never said anything to me directly, although I found out that many in the ward knew, so I ended up simply moving away as soon as I could when we split up, practically running away!

    I had always considered it from the divorce onwards. By the way I probably didn’t write clearly because by saying that I’m bitter and stubborn I meant that that is what I’ve have become since the divorce. Even though I wanted to end the marriage deep down I still have conflicts due to the ‘failure’ of it all, especially when the subject of eternal marriage comes up somewhere. My ex-wife was critical about my personality but it was that I was too laid back and too trusting of her when she looked for others. The times we did speak about it, and I’d question her a lot really, it was always that I had married too young or that I wasn’t looking out or wasn’t vigilant enough to see if she was cheating but trusted her too much etc etc. It always seemed to be my fault in one way or another according to her.

    Anyways, thanks again for your answer and the pdf too. It has changed my view on this and I’m feeling better today. With the custody issue we never really had any issue there per se. I file for divorce and it was granted without her participation at all, as it can be done under most no fault divorce systems, but didn’t address any property or custody matters since we had shared custody without any problems. The only thing we’ve argued over since was which high school our oldest would attend but that was settled without courts or mediation. Today my ex is involved romantically with the man who was her stepfather up until a few years ago , and 31 years her senior , so really that relationship is the only problem I have with her today because the kids see it and it affects them negatively offcourse. But both have said that if she marries him then they want to come and live with me, so its a wait and see for now from my viewpoint. But honestly I wouldn’t want to go to court to fight for custody, I’d rather they choose themselves what they want to do and who they want to live with for now. Its been 5 years since the divorce but we were separated almost 2 years before that so we have learned to negotiate ok with the kids as separate parents, I believe.

  2. Anon says:

    What did you mean by this: “The internal silent fixed beliefs that you are sinning or that you are hopeless.”

    –Reply
    What I meant was that internal beliefs that are not talked about that are often in fact quite strong. For example, a rip tide or current cannot been seen in the ocean or a river but its influence can be felt. Often individuals develop internal messages that are faulty. Those that are abuse often tell me in session, “I am dirty and I am somehow flawed.” That belief fuels other beliefs and they rarely understand that this fixed belief is in fact damaging them and their perceptions. Hope this helps! – JustinS

  3. Jennifer Johansen says:

    The circumstances and events that lead up to a divorce can certainly be painful and, unfortunately, you are one of so many who endure the painful journey. Oftentimes, during our ‘alone’ time, however, we can learn so much about ourselves that we never knew before and we can grow in the process. There is good that can come out of a bad situation and I hope you are able to find that in your process. Best wishes to you in healing.