Are You Legally Divorced But Mentally Married?

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red hair woman looking at ring
Are you holding onto a relationship that's already over?

When consulting with a client about the content in this post, he approved the text and replied:

Side note, I need to find a new 'emergency contact' to write down on medical forms. I still put my wife ... oops, ex.

If the scenarios above sound familiar, it is quite possible that you are divorced on paper but still emotionally married. If so, consider the following:

1. This may reflect that you never wanted your marriage to end. Most divorces are not a mutual decision. If you did not want it to end and your partner broke it off, consider that it is never optimal to direct emotional or romantic energy toward an unavailable partner. Instead of torturing yourself by over-focusing on your ex, feel good about your ability to commit to a relationship and start seeking one with an available and therefore suitable partner.

2. This may instead reflect that you did want the relationship to end, but you are conflicted about this decision. If so, seek professional help to see if your marriage can be reconciled. If you do not want to explore this possibility, keep in mind the likelihood that your ex did not want the marriage to end. You are sending mixed messages by continuing to make him or her your number one emotional priority. It is as if you are pouring salt on his or her wounds each and every time you indulge yourself by reaching out.

3. If you have children, keep in mind that your ability to get along and make shared parenting decisions is a strength that will reduce anxiety for your kids and will serve your children well. However, if you remain each other's number one for years to come and continue to be legally divorced but psychologically married, this is incredibly confusing for children. It is quite likely that they will have a much harder time understanding and accepting your divorce. They will also be vulnerable to following in your footsteps by choosing romantic partners who are not truly available to them.

If you are seriously struggling to move on, it can be helpful to speak with a professional. It could also be helpful to check out the film Celeste and Jesse Forever, as art reflects life; it might help you move on once and for all.

Learn more at www.elisabethlamotte.com and follow @elisjoy

Article contributed by
Advanced Member

Elisabeth LaMotte

Counselor/Therapist

Social worker, psychotherapist, blogger and author of "Overcoming Your Parents' Divorce"

Location: Washington, DC
Credentials: LICSW, MFT, MSW
Specialties: Communication Problems, Dating/Being Single Support, Divorce/Divorce Prevention
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