Does is matter that my ex is overjoyed with her divorce?

A reader is hurt upon hearing how relieved and happy his ex-wife has been since their divorce was finalized a few months earlier. Such feelings, on both ends, are not unique, Carolyn Hax notes.



February 23, 2024 - 2:51 PM

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Dear Carolyn: My ex-wife asked for a separation in December 2022, and we finalized the divorce in August, so it’s not even been six months. I know it was for the best; we weren’t happy and had a lot of issues we couldn’t seem to work through.

But I’m struggling after hearing my ex’s feelings about it all. I recently saw her for the first time since we signed the papers, and she was just glowing with happiness. She assumed I felt the same way and was yakking on about what a relief it was to be single and dating and living alone and so on, and I just stood there pretending to agree, but inside I was numb from shock.

Nearly five years of marriage, eight years together and she is just so relieved it’s over? No grief, no regret, nothing?

Ever since that meeting, I’ve been so angry, and I feel like I need to get it out. But on the surface, she didn’t do or say anything wrong.

My feelings are what they are, though, which leaves me with no good place to direct those feelings. Can I at least email her about how callous she is, or do I need therapy, or what? If I’m better off without her, then why is learning she’s so happy post-divorce so hard for me?

— Divorce Is Weird

Divorce Is Weird: Divorce is weird, your signature gets it right.

So it’s normal to have big, uncomfortable feelings that have no place to go. You don’t really need an explanation beyond that for your anger. Getting our equilibrium after a divorce takes time, pain, a lot of mental sorting through old files, and lonely sessions with our faults and mistakes. And that’s the best case, when the parting is amicable and we’re big enough to accept our share of the blame.

It is a fact of breakups — and any form of loss, really — that some people do their hard work and grieving as the loss is in progress. They’re the ones who emerge from a wrenching breakup almost giddy with relief, or who worry there’s something wrong with them when they don’t cry over a death or a big departure. It’s not that people like this don’t care — they pre-care, from the moment they sense something big is coming to an end.

The way you describe your ex-wife, I’d say she’s in that emotional camp, grieving before you even separated. I’m guessing you’re in the other camp: living more in the moment, so your grief-and-hard-work clock starts upon the fact of a loss.

There is nothing wrong with either emotional makeup. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Hers was harder then, and yours is harder now.

The problem is when the two don’t understand each other. Let’s say she misread you when she thought you’d share her relief, completely missing the fact that you’d process the divorce too differently for that. You misread her when you perceived her glow as a failure to care about you or grieve.

This can remind you why you’re better apart, as post-divorce encounters have a way of doing. “Nearly five years of marriage, eight years together,” and you still don’t get what you need from each other.

You divorced each other, sure, but really you both were divorcing that signature frustration.

A blamey email would only give it an afterlife, and for what?

Divorce is an agreement to manage your lives apart. So, manage your anger apart. Therapy isn’t the only way — time and temperance are pretty great, too — but it’s appropriate, if you’re stuck.

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