As with any significant change in life circumstances, when you leave your long-term relationship, you move through distinct stages on the road to reclamation and recovery. It doesn’t matter if you initiate the change or it happens upon you, the recovery stages are quite similar. You may have to contend with different emotional challenges, depending on who did the leaving, but in the end it’s all the same. You get to deal with all the feelings, everything from a sense of relief and liberation to abject fear of the unknown future, and guilt, and remorse, and back to liberation again, all of it.
Based on my experiences, and those of other women who have left long-term marriages, I have distinguished 4 stages in this process, the first of which is the decision, that moment in time where you or your partner vocalized your inner knowing, that your marriage is done. From this point you make your first decisions: will you both leave, will one of you leave, where will you go and when will all of this happen? This was the stage where I first “cried for help from above” and Your Chapter Next was conceived. I needed a soft warm place to land. And I wanted to provide that for other women.
The next stage is what I call the Bouncy stage. Whether you’re the one who leaves your marriage house or your spouse departs, leaving you in a familiar-but-strange place, the first year or so can be awfully bouncy.
Navigating my Bouncy Stage
In my case, I was the one who left. My first goal: to return to Sedona, Arizona where I had a nice little friend network I knew I could connect with. Well, when I flew out to look for a place nothing materialized, nothing that I could afford or live with anyway. A few other challenging things happened on that trip so I decided to check out Phoenix where another of my friends lived. Success! I secured a 6-month lease in her apartment building. It wasn’t Sedona but it got me out of Colorado, my first initiative.
About 2 months before my lease was up I found a room in a house in Sedona and split my time between the 2 locations (it was a 2 hour drive I was very willing to make). Getting happier! Now I could visit my friends and more easily look for places in this town where anything good goes quickly. Still, nothing was materializing. My Phoenix lease was almost up and there was no way I was going to spend the summer in Phoenix. If need be, I was ready to put everything in storage until I discovered my next place.
Then on a fluke (was it really a fluke?) I looked on Zillow “one more time” and there it was! An apartment I could afford. It was so small that I knew there would be little competition, and I was right. Score! Back to Sedona I went. I made it!
I Thought I’d Landed But it Was Not to Be
Well, dear reader, after about 9 months back I noticed how difficult it was for me to get traction with much of anything on the business side of my life. I was still bouncing around trying to find something called stability but it eluded me. I found myself easily distracted and easily swayed by what others were doing, so much so that I’d abandon what I was working on, changing directions more than once.
What’s more, at 600 square feet it turns out that my apartment was too small and poorly laid out to effectively contain me. Except when I was ill or after dark, I couldn’t stay inside for more than a couple of hours at a time.
So out of the apartment I went, looking for people to connect with or a cafe where I could work. If the 2 came together, it was even better. I deemed it a good day. On other days I never quite settled and eventually landed back in my apartment. I deemed those not good days. I was very much at the effect of my circumstances.
Me bouncing out of my marriage house, looking for love and home.
I decided I needed to move yet again; it was time to extract myself from the 2-3 mile strip that is West Sedona, to put some distance between me and this beloved place, and settle my ass down so I could deal with the insatiable beast, the seeker inside me who kept looking outside for answers. This time I had no idea where I would go. I chose the date to give notice and started to look around.
The day before my give-notice date I still didn’t know where I would go, but I remained clear that I needed to give notice. I was fully prepared to leave the area entirely if nothing materialized. Thankfully, it was not required. A miraculous unfolding of events and actions on “give notice day” landed me in a house in Camp Verde, which is only about 30/40 minutes from Sedona, depending. And it was only $150 more per month. “This could work!” I thought. It was far enough away to get out of the vortex that is Sedona, but close enough that I could visit or be visited by my friends and co-working pals.
Home Sweet Om
In this new home, a home that truly contained me, I could deal with that seeker beast, the one who preferred the company of others over what I’d have to deal with in solitude, my feelings and fears!
Embrace the Bounce as You Seek Stability
Yes, the first year or so out is probably going to be bouncy. You’re leaving a long-term relationship and one or both of you are likely leaving your home base. What gave you a sense of security, rightly or not, is dissolving. The foundation created by your union is disappearing. Where there were two, now there is one. It doesn’t matter if you were the one to call it, learning to be your own foundation is a trial and error process. One minute you think you got it; the next minute not so much.
You’re learning to navigate uncertainty and to rely on your instincts, independent of your partner.
We’ve all been where you are. Give yourself a big hug and a nice high 5! By all means, reach out for support if you need it. I’m here, we’re here.
~~~ What About You? ~~~
What was your first year out of your marriage house like?
Were you/are you “bouncy” like some of us or did you settle fairly easily?
If you settled fairly easily, what helped?