Whether you proposed a divorce or were on the receiving end, or someplace in the middle, it is very likely that someone, if not many, may criticize you. This can be one of the most painful parts of divorce. When going from “we” to “me,” many whom you thought were friends, or even family members, can come out of the woodwork with harsh criticism. What to do?
First, take care of yourself. If you don’t, the abrupt words and actions of others will take more of a toll on you. Create some space between yourself and your critics. Do not react to their often highly emotional outbursts, nor let yourself fume with them, for doing so will just add fire to the flame. It’s important to focus on your basic needs to build a stronger you: sleep, rest, solid nutrition, exercise… Getting these right can take the sting off of the hurtful comments and behaviors of others, and lessen your own chances of getting emotionally reactive.
Second, find a therapeutic setting to deal with any shame or rejection that you are experiencing over the divorce. These are common feelings that have many potential sources, even if you did nothing “wrong:” A sense of failure over the demise of the relationship; regret over an extramarital relationship or some form of abuse; guilt that you aren’t abiding by societal, cultural, familial or religious standards; feeling blind-sided by the abandonment of friends can all cause tremendous guilt and prompt judgment from others. Working through this with a therapist or counselor can help you get to a place of forgiving yourself and others, which is the most healing result for all.
Next, find support from those who are just that: supportive! Often this can be found in support group settings, with other divorcees who can relate to what you are going through. Or through friends and family members who have chosen to stick by your side. Or even through new friends that were not possible to make in the context of your marriage. It’s important to choose others who can empathize with your pain, but not add to it by assigning blame or adding negativity. Be with others who can simply be present with you exactly where you are, without inserting their opinions or advice. If they try to do so, tell them what you need instead.
Finally, entertain the notion of approaching those who have hurt you in a neutral manner. It’s likely that they feel hurt by you, too, and that this is the very pain that has provoked their anger and criticism, as unjustified as it felt. Remember that just as with your broken marital relationship, the focus needs to be the future, not fighting over the past. Over time, reactive emotions on both sides often settle, and all parties are in a place of greater mental clarity. This can lend to healing conversations of mutual understanding or “agreeing to disagree.” If this feels invited, consider reconciling with others by simply offering an acknowledgment of what IS: “I’m sorry that all this has happened.” Then, state a positive intention: “I would like our relationship to be better. Can we talk more about that?” Whatever the reply, honor it and know that you have done your part.
Sometimes you, your former partner or other family and friends may never get to a place of reconciliation. This is a painful reality. However, sometimes it simply needs to be respected. You are the only one you can control, so focus on your future and how you can live into your best self in all your relationships moving forward.