8 Signs You Are Suffering From Narcissistic Abuse

8 Signs You Are Suffering From Narcissistic Abuse


Many people are not sure whether or not they are suffering from narcissistic abuse. Cognitive dissonance and the confusion that goes with abuse can have a lot to do with this.

Today I want to grant you eight signs to know that you are suffering narcissistic abuse, so that not only can you have clarity, but also you know where to go from here.

If this is your first time dealing with narcissistic abuse, you may not realise that by the time you’re suffering these eight signs things are serious, and if you don’t get clarity and start making decisions to protect yourself it’s going to get much worse.

Those of you who are going through this again, like myself and many others did twice or more, we really need to face up to the facts about what toxic relationships look like and who we need to be to get out of them and stay out of them.

This is exactly what today’s article is all about – the awareness and solutions to empower you up and out of narcissistic abuse. Please know this article is about absolutely any narcissist in your life – all the signs apply to any toxic relationship such as a spouse, lover, family member, neighbour or friend. Anyone.


Number 1: Your Relationship Is Not Kind, Caring Or Sane

Now, this is where we need to get really clear. Toxic relationships can be very confusing at times, making it difficult to know ‘who is who in the zoo’. This happens because a toxic person will spin it back on you, blame you and will not be accountable.

I really want to say this about the first of the eight signs that you are suffering from narcissistic abuse: if someone hurts you and is not capable of a genuine apology, and you keep hanging out with this person, they will continue to hurt you. They will never be remorseful and, of course, will continue the same behaviour.

We do need to understand what out-of-bounds behaviour is. It can range all the way from name-calling to physical abuse; to mental abuse and pathological lying; to having no regard for your property or the people you care about … the list goes on and on.

I have included here a link to my article Are You With a Narcissist?  so that you can get very clear about what narcissistic behaviours are.

If you are in a relationship with a person who repeats out-of-bound behaviours that are violating and hurtful, first of all know our Inner Being always registers this! This means you are being abused. If this person makes false or non-existent apologies, has no respect or care for your feelings, blames you for the problems, and even smears you to others telling them you are the bad guy or girl and that it is he or she who is being abused, then this is absolutely narcissistic.

The Truth About This

People either have a decent character or they don’t. We are not going to change who people are – it is us who needs to change for us to have any chance of a healthy, loving and happy life.

That entails letting go of our connection to someone like this, healing ourselves by doing the inner work, and getting very clear about our own self-love, self-worth, boundaries and how to generate real, loving and responsible adult relationships in the future.

A person like this simply does not have the resources to grant us this – but we can.

Now let’s look at the second sign that you are suffering from narcissistic abuse.


Number 2: You Are Dealing With Immature Behaviour and Give Up Pieces of Yourself To Comply

A hallmark of narcissistic relationships is this person gets bent out of shape on hair-line triggers that mature adults just don’t get upset about. Also, they believe they are entitled to and expect preferential treatment, and can be nasty, demanding, punishing and even explosive if they don’t receive it.

You discover that there are certain things you just can’t naturally or normally talk about. Likewise, there are things that you would normally be free to do, that may be unacceptable or risky now.

Maybe if this person doesn’t get their own way, they will abandon you or threaten to leave you, and again you start doing things outside of your comfort and value systems to stop this happening.

Often your inner being is screaming ‘no’ when the narcissist asks for something, but you know what could take place if you don’t comply, so you give up your time, resources, and even life, trying to keep this person happy, which ironically doesn’t work and the walking on broken glass doesn’t stop either.

The Truth About This

You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t, and it doesn’t matter how many shapes you twist yourself into, they are still not happy.

You will never make this person happy, and it’s not your job to either. Your true soul mission is to align with the truth of your soul and then you will serve others and life in holistic and healthy ways. By staying with someone like this, not only are you being destroyed but you are also hurting the people who care about you. By staying with them and trying to please them, you are enabling this person to continue being an abuser.

No one wins in the healthy stakes in this dynamic.

Okay, so the third sign that you are suffering from narcissistic abuse is this…


Number 3: You Are Angry, Disjointed and Are Behaving In Ways That You Normally Don’t

I believe a good indication that you are being narcissistically abused is seeing the discrepancy with how you feel with this person in relation to your everyday dealings with other people.

If you know that you have integrity, can listen, have empathy, are capable of having sane conversations and get along with most people in your life, and yet there is ‘this’ person who brings out the worst in you – this is generally because your boundaries are being violated and the normal modes of human operations don’t stand.

The circular arguments you are having make your head spin, because they go around and around on unrelated tangents – points that make no sense. Narcissists use these tactics when confronted, or they argue with you to manipulate you into something unwholesome:

Toxic people:

  • make excuses for their behaviour.
  • minimise an incident altogether.
  • accuse someone else of wrongdoing.
  • confuse you with antics or trivia to take you off the subject.
  • use allies, real or fabricated, to back up their argument.
  • use ‘tit for tat’ behaviours relating to something you did in the past.
  • state how disloyal your accusations of them are.
  • discredit your observations, owing to your ‘unstable’ past.

And the list goes on and ON! You feel like your head is spinning and the frustration, pain and trauma is beyond intense.

The Truth About This

Please get VERY clear about this – when you are enmeshed with a sick person, you get sick.

If you are experiencing these type of instances in your relationship, it is time to pull away, get away and heal. You may not realise it, but what you are doing is granting what this person wants – the drama and significance of knowing they can hook you in and affect you so much. It’s called narcissistic supply. You need to cut this off to have any chance of getting your soul and life back.


Number 4: You Find Yourself Trying To Prove That You Are A Good Person

Because the narcissist is regularly accusing you of all the things that they are and do, such as lacking integrity and love and care for people, being unfaithful, lying, making it all about yourself, wanting to use people for your own gain, etc., naturally you will be incensed and try extremely hard to prove and convince them otherwise.

You will be shocked at the allegations regarding things that you don’t do and aren’t capable of doing, which, in actual fact, you know are what the narcissist does.

You may have said in total shock and horror to the narcissist, ‘Do you have a mirror?’ or ‘You have no idea who I am’ or ‘If you really think that about me, why are you with me?’

The Truth About This

This is another deadly hook that narcissists can get us enmeshed with them on. If we believe that our integrity, character, wellbeing and safety is dependent on what other people think of us, then we are really susceptible to this narcissistic behaviour.

To truly heal we need to detach from other people who have warped versions of us and then heal inside to get to the solid place of knowing. It’s only our version of ourselves that is vital. And when we are true to our ‘self’, who and what is healthy will follow, and those that don’t we will easily leave alone.


Number 5: You Are Mopping Up the Messes

Being connected with a narcissist has lots of drama, rough edges and quite frankly means that disasters are always looming.

Narcissists usually aren’t good with detail, accountability or sensibility. They fly high, seeking narcissistic supply and acclaim with not much thought for ‘doing the right thing’. It’s normal to have all sorts of things pop up as a result of the narcissist’s loose and non-accountable behaviour, which of course is always someone else’s fault.

If your life is connected with one of these people, it is usual that you will be paying their fines, sorting out their messes and dramas, and even lying for them to cover their tracks.

It’s like this analogy – as you are watering their back lawn trying to keep it green, yours gets parched, turns brown and dies.

The Truth About This

This is how narcissists roll, and this is what happens to the sensible, well-meaning, responsible people who narcissists like to recruit into their lives.

Know that when you are emptied out you will be discarded and the narcissist will then find some other good, responsible person to take on the mopping-up task for them.

One of the greatest gifts of our recovery, when we walk away from people like this and do the inner work, is we learn how to be responsible for ourselves and generate lives with people who take responsibility, and we stop enabling people who don’t.

By walking away, healing and re-starting our life with self-responsibility – being left to ‘mop up messes’ won’t happen to us again.


Number 6 – Your Boundaries Are Being Disintegrated

In a relationship with a narcissist you will find it difficult to speak up, stand up for yourself or hold boundaries. And when you try to do so, you are criticised, rejected, abandoned or punished.

To try to minimalise the trauma and mayhem that breaks out – you start to give up on trying to assert your needs.

Or maybe, because you have dissolved into so many feelings of powerlessness, helplessness and despair, you find yourself begging or pleading for your boundaries to be respected. Discovering that the narcissist has zero empathy for you and won’t comply, takes you down into an even deeper place of helplessness.

The Truth About This

It’s extremely common for people with poor boundaries to get involved with narcissists. When we get away and start healing and recovering our True Selves, we can become someone who has a healthy boundary function.

Then we know going forward that it isn’t about other people getting our boundaries, rather it is about us knowing our values, limits and truths; and if people can’t respect that, then these people can’t be in our life – no matter who they are.

For most of us this is our most important recovery work – because when we were young we weren’t able to establish and develop our inner truth, values and needs.


Number 7: You Feel Addicted, Disjointed and Manic

A perverse addiction happens with narcissists. There are many reasons we get trauma-bonded to them, and I’m sharing these resources on trauma bonding and peptide addiction to help you understand what it is all about.

Trauma Bonding – Is It Love Or Something Else?

The Answer To Narcissistic Abuse That No One Is Talking About  – Peptide Addiction

Suffice to say, before you understand what is going on with you physiologically – meaning within the cells in your literal body, which is hijacking 95% of your feelings, thoughts and your nervous system – you may feel manic and unable to stop trying to contact or hook back up with the narcissist, even when you know how much you continually get hurt by doing so.

We can be horrified with how addicted we are to someone who treats us so terribly. It just doesn’t make logical sense, hence why you really need to look at these resources above that I have provided you with.

I have had ex-heroin addicts tell me that getting off a narcissist is ten times harder than getting off heroin. After going through the horrifying narcissistic addiction myself, which nearly claimed my life, I can see what they mean.

The Truth About This

It is of course very serious when it gets to a stage where we simply can’t talk ourselves out of doing the actions that we know are putting ourselves back into the fire to get burnt again.

Deep inner healing in our subconscious is so necessary to start shifting out the trauma; to be able to be in our inner beings with ourselves, self-soothing, looking after ourselves and no longer handing power away in ways that are dangerous and possibly even tragically self-disintegrating.


Number 8: You Are Suffering Abuse Symptoms

Things are now very serious. When our emotional Inner Being has been screaming out for our attention and we haven’t as yet pulled away and turned inwards to heal and tend to our own soul and life-force, then physically we start breaking down for our soul to fully get our attention.

It is likely that anxiety and depression, and even greater issues like fibromyalgia, adrenal issues, PTSD and agoraphobia, start to develop. You lose interest in the activities, people and self-care, which used to grant you energy, as the toxic person in your life takes up more and more of your energy and focus.

As we get stripped away more and more, and keep handing our power, energy and attention away only to become less and less, the shame and pain becomes so great that we may start hiding out from the world, lying to people, covering up and feel even more isolated in our traumatic feelings and symptoms.

The Truth About This

How bad does it have to get before we awaken to the truth?

If we stay things get worse. And if we leave and don’t attend to our inner healing, things get worse.

We may lose a lot by leaving, as many of us have, however, by leaving we can achieve the greatest gain – finally turning inwards to integrate with ourselves so that we are in a position of wholeness and can be in control of our choices and have the power to look after ourselves and create a healthy, happy and truly loving life.


In Conclusion

Okay, please know this – there are varying degrees of narcissism and there also are people who can just be clueless and selfish but not necessarily afflicted with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

If someone in your life does not share your values and doesn’t care for your feelings, then this is not a healthy relationship for you. As soon as we try changing other people, it’s time to pull away and say to ourselves and them, ‘This is who I am and what I need for us to continue.’

The person then either steps up, because they wish to change and meet us there or doesn’t – and if they don’t, we care and love people enough, regardless of who they are, to let them have their version of life for themselves – even if it is not what we want.

But the real question is: Are YOU whole enough to walk away if they don’t or can’t meet you where you are at?

That’s the Thriver development that we all need to do if we are to be whole and safe and powerful regardless of what other people are or aren’t doing.

That’s my favourite personal inner work, and I love to help others get there too – hence why I’m inviting you now to join me in my 16-day free course, which you can access immediately by clicking this link.

Or if you think you are ready to truly ready to heal for real from abuse, I’d love to guide you every step of the way in the Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program.

Please share this article with your communities so that we can help people awaken to these truths.

As always I am greatly looking forward to answering your comments and questions below.



divorce hangover syndrome

Book Excerpt: Are You Suffering From Divorce Hangover Syndrome?

divorce hangover syndrome


Divorce is a profound, life-changing experience. It’s painful, it’s confusing, and it turns your world upside down. But at some point, it should be over. If it’s not – if the pain, anger, resentment, depression, or emotional confusion seem to go on forever – then you’re in the clutches of a divorce hangover.

A divorce hangover is an ongoing connection with your ex-spouse or former life that keeps you agitated or depressed, unhappy, and stuck in the past.

You deserve to come to peace with your divorce so that you can begin a new and richer life. To do that, you must first understand your divorce hangover.

Divorce Hangover: Pain That Won’t Stop

Jan thought her divorce was over when the judge’s gavel swung down and the decree was final, but months later she was still crying herself to sleep.

She thought the pain and frustration would end when she received the financial settlement, but she still caught herself lashing out for no apparent reason at the children and strangers. There were days when her emotions, her finances, and her life seemed completely out of control.

Later, she thought the anger and resentment would finally end when she moved to a new city…when she began seeing someone and remarried…when her ex-husband, Tom, remarried and had a child.

But the knot in her stomach still hasn’t gone away, even after eight years. She still finds herself replaying the marriage and divorce over and over in her mind, and often feels angry, depressed, or victimized when she thinks about Tom. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to set her off – a wedding invitation, parents’ night at the kids’ school, a Fourth of July picnic, anything that reminds her of all that she has lost.

For Jan, the emotional loose ends and unresolved bad feelings have become a habit. Ever since the divorce, she feels as if she’s living at only half-speed or underwater. Her feelings about Tom and the divorce still control her life. So much of her attention and energy are focused on the past – which she can do nothing to change – that she sees even her new marriage to John through the filter of this “failure.”

Jan’s “hangover” has little to do with external events like signing the final papers or starting to see other people. Rather, it is an internal state of mind that she carries with her everywhere as a shield against the loss, change, pain, and devastation of her divorce – and the fear that something even worse could happen in the future. This shield, which is keeping her from moving forward with her life, is a divorce hangover. And Jan is not alone.

Divorce Hangover Scenarios

Does any of these situations sound familiar?

  • Seven years after the divorce, Fran calls her ex-husband’s new wife, Isabella, and shrieks into the phone, “Give me my husband, you bitch!” Robert, now Isabella’s husband, passively sits by, refusing to get an unlisted phone number, thereby causing a rift in his present marriage.
  • George has been divorced for three years and is happily remarried, but he continues to pay for his first wife’s subscription to TV Guide.
  • Stacy continues to drive the old Mustang that she and Rick shared when they were married, even though she can afford a new car. Each time it breaks down, she calls Rick immediately, convinced that he is the only one who can fix it.
  • Jennifer, 10, tells her mother “all kinds of things” after weekends with her father, particularly about his “rotten new girlfriend.” She will do anything to keep her divorced parents “together,” even if their only connection is arguing on the phone.
  • Two years after his divorce, Ed is still living in the same small apartment, complaining about the unfair financial settlement. He bitterly claims he doesn’t have enough money to date and spends his energy bad-mouthing his ex to anyone who’ll listen.
  • Allen’s ex-wife, Judy, has been living with her boyfriend ever since their divorce four years ago, but he still thinks she will one day come back to him.
  • Mary “accidentally” packs dirty clothes for the children’s weekends with Dan, remembering how much he always hated to do the laundry.
  • Bart is convinced that the only reason his ex-wife isn’t marrying her “live-in” is that it would end his alimony payments to her.

While the legal process of divorce is fairly simple – one entity is divided into two separate entities – the emotional experience of divorce can be complex and devastating. When a divorce does not promote healing and lay the past to rest, you feel the pain and paralysis of a divorce hangover. A divorce hangover is the unfinished emotional experience of the divorce.

When you have a divorce hangover, life is a battlefield – and unfortunately, you and the people in your life are often the worst casualties. Anger, resentment, bitterness, depression, and frustration can also cause physical illness if you keep them around for long periods of time. Ultimately, you only hurt yourself with vengeful or bitter thoughts and actions.

Recognize your Divorce Hangover

Recognizing your divorce hangover is the first step towards healing the pain. You’re in the grip of the divorce hangover if:

  • You still have strong emotional ties to your ex-spouse. These ties may be negative. These ties may be negative – a confusing, chaotic storm of anger, depression, bitterness, fear, resentment, guilt, blame, anxiety, or frustration – but they still keep you connected. You get upset when you think of your ex-spouse or hear his or her name, even bursting into tears if something reminds you of that person. You think about what you could do to get back at the other person, or what you could do to get him or her back.
  • Your energy is galvanized by these feelings; sometimes, they’re the only things that get you going or keep you going.
  • You feel victimized by your ex-spouse, the lawyers, or the divorce in general. You want your ex-spouse to be punished, to suffer for all he or she has done to you… or you just want to crawl under a rock, letting the world go on without you.
  • You think obsessively about your ex-spouse. You wonder who he or she is seeing; what sex is like with that new partner; how your ex-spouse looks now; what he or she would think of the person you’re seeing; what it would be like if you got back together; and whether there was something you could have done to avoid the divorce –or you look back in anger, preoccupied with what your ex-spouse did to you or what you’re going to do to him or her.
  • You see him or her more often than necessary. You could have called a plumber to fix the faucet, a decorator to arrange the living room furniture, your mother for a recipe, or a financial advisor about buying this or that stock – but you didn’t. Instead, you called your ex-spouse. You could have handled that matter with the kids or the finances over the phone, but instead, you met for cocktails.
  • The past seems more real to you than the present.
  • You still feel as if your life is on hold.

These feelings can be conscious or unconscious, explosive or subtle. If they focus your attention and energy on the past, or if they make you angry, anxious, depressed, or wistful about what might have been, then they are not healthy. As long as you are still emotionally engaged and entangled with your ex-spouse in these ways, you can’t live in the present or move forward into the future.

The divorce hangover doesn’t discriminate. It can affect anyone, regardless of sex, social or financial status, or even who initiated the divorce. And it doesn’t matter how long ago your divorce happened. If you still think about it or about your ex-spouse in emotionally charged ways, if your fists clench or your body tightens when you hear his or her name, if that former life is as real to you as your present life, then it’s time to stop and take stock of where you are.

Healing Your Divorce Hangover

Everyone experiencing divorce is held in a maze of devastating emotions. The one that seems to be the most shattering and the hardest to endure is loneliness. The fear of being alone has held many in intolerable marriages.

Friends and clients alike speak of the loneliness of divorce and afterward. “I have been divorced for 15 years,” one said. “The pain is as sharp and exhausting today as it was the moment the whole thing began. Maybe even more so.” In order to escape, anything is preferable – running to relationships, bad or good; alcohol; drugs; work – to numb the pain.

You can cure your divorce hangover. It may take some patience and attention, but the most important ingredient is your own desire to be free of the hangover.


The emotional tailspin of a divorce hangover is fueled by feelings of anger, depression, confusion, and loss of control. It’s a vicious circle. As long as you are in an emotional tailspin, you are motivated by fear – and fear feeds the tailspin. Before you can do anything else, you have to stop that downward spiral.

It’s hard even to do grocery shopping or walk across the street when you’re in an emotional tailspin. You’re at the end of your rope. One more question from the kids, one more bill in the mail, one more harsh word from your boss, one more “chance meeting” with your ex-spouse’s new partner, and you’re going to lose it.

Tailspins don’t stop by themselves; you have to pull yourself out of them. At some point, you have to reach out and consciously begin to manage your emotions. This will become easier to do as you begin to understand how the hangover starts, what keeps it in place, what yours looks like, what it’s protecting you from, and how you can release it.

The minute you start to consider those answers, you begin a mental process that pulls you out of the emotional freefall. At this point, you start to take charge.

Moving from feelings to rational thinking is the way to stop the emotional tailspin. If you can think about something, you can put it outside of yourself. You may still have some of those feelings, but they don’t have you.

Step 1 Exercises

  • At the time of the divorce, which feelings hit you the hardest? Rank the following: anger, depression, anxiety, tiredness, fear, loss, helplessness, aloneness, bitterness, vindictiveness, feeling exploited, others.
  • What are your feelings now?
  • What caused and continues to cause these feelings?
  • What can you do about each of these feelings?

If you’re in the process of a divorce now, these questions will be the basis for all your other decisions and help you avoid a hangover. If you’re healing a hangover, they will help you clarify what really happened in your marriage and divorce, why it happened, how your hangover developed, and what you can do about it now.


If you’re in the process of a divorce now, these questions will be the basis for all your other decisions and help you avoid a hangover. If you’re healing a hangover, they will help you clarify what really happened in your marriage and divorce, why it happened, how your hangover developed, and what you can do about it now.

Here are the key questions to ask yourself:

  1. Was your divorce inevitable?
  2. What was the cause of your divorce?
  3. What were your expectations going into the marriage?
  4. How long did you want it to take to get the divorce?
  5. What was your first priority in the divorce?
  6. What was the greatest benefit to you?

As you answer these questions, you’ll begin to see exactly how your divorce hangover took shape.

1. Was your divorce inevitable?

This is the first question you should ask; not asking it is a primary cause of the confusion surrounding divorce. If your divorce was inevitable, then at least you know that you’re in the right place. You can put to rest forever all the doubts, worries, fears, and second-guessing about whether you did the right thing. You did! There was never really an alternative.

This seems like an obvious question, but I know some very bright men and women who never asked it and spent the next 20 years wondering:

  • “If I’d given in on that one issue, would we still be together?”
  • “If he’d just stopped drinking, would the kids have had a father over those important years?”
  • “Maybe if we’d seen a therapist, or if I’d just overlooked those two affairs, we might be happy today.”

This kind of backward, “coulda, woulda, shoulda” thinking keeps you trapped in the past. It can also keep you trapped in the present when it’s time to move on. In deciding whether or not to stay in a relationship, I’ve heard equally bright men and women say things like:

  • “He just drinks because he doesn’t know what it is to be really loved. I’ll show him, and then things will be better.”
  • “I’m sure once we’re married awhile, she’ll change her mind and want to have kids.”
  • “If I’m patient with him, he’ll open up to me emotionally.”

These people were all walking into a trap, the false hope that maybe the other person would change. None of us would be divorced if it were possible to change other people into who we think they should be. Thinking that the other person will change is like dropping a pencil and expecting it to fall up instead of down. Things just don’t work that way. Rather than thinking about how things might have worked out, the question to ask is: “If the other person had never changed – and if I had never changed – would I still have wanted to stay in that relationship?”

As you were then, and as the other person was then, would it have worked? Answering this question eliminates all the false hopes, the self-delusions, and the “what if’s.”

Notice that the question is not “Did you want your divorce?” but “Was your divorce inevitable?” You know the answer. Face it head-on. If the other person wanted to leave, and especially if there was a third party involved, it probably was inevitable. If your ex-spouse was involved in something you couldn’t live with – alcoholism, compulsive spending, etc. – you may not have wanted the divorce, but it may have been the only real choice between two evils.

The inevitability of the divorce is your take-off point, the basic piece of information to which you can always return when you feel yourself waffling. Eventually, you must come to feel there was nothing you could have done then, and there is nothing you can do now to bring that marriage back. You must believe that any effort in that direction is a waste of time. Then you’ll see that the only direction to look now is ahead.

2. What was the cause of your divorce?

Some of the most common reasons people give for divorce are drug or alcohol abuse, sexual differences or preferences, infidelity, physical violence, difficulties with the balance of power, money problems, children, and in-laws.

But other, more subtle reasons have surfaced only in the past 30 years or so, as personal growth and fulfilling relationships have become more important in our culture. Today, we are less willing to tolerate stagnant or psychologically destructive marriages.

You may wake up one morning and realize that there is nothing there. You may feel you are in a cage and the walls are closing in. This situation can be psychologically punishing, and in many ways as damaging as being physically abused, even if it appears that the other person isn’t doing any intentional or tangible harm.

We are much more alert and sensitive to these kinds of issues today than we used to be. Before the revelations and revolutions of the 1960s, people were more inclined to stay married and turn to affairs, drugs or alcohol, prolonged absences, or whatever they could find to dull the pain of a marriage that wasn’t working. Today we deal with the issue more directly, and sometimes that involves ending the relationship.

Having differences doesn’t have to be a recipe for disaster. They can be worked out and this process can actually strengthen and enrich a relationship. But often when we feel that our needs aren’t being met, or that our desires aren’t being recognized and appreciated, we have a tendency to withdraw from the relationship, to stop loving or expressing our love as much. That makes the other person withdraw, and can eventually create hurts that are hard to mend.

3. What were your expectations going into the marriage?

Beautiful bride and groom sitting

We all grew up hearing about Cinderella and Prince Charming and may unconsciously hold these stories as life truths. Whether or not we are aware of it, some part of us may still believe that good, passive, beautiful girls get magical help to find eternal love with rich, handsome princes — or that brave, dashing boys who persevere always find gorgeous, angelic girls who become perfect, devoted wives.

Sometimes our expectations about marriage aren’t much more realistic.

Many women think, “I’m going to open up this strong, silent husband of mine. With me, his feelings will come bubbling to the surface and he will be saved.” This expectation is rarely realized. A common male fantasy is finding not only a replacement for mother but someone who is also a fantastic lover. Other common expectations are:

  • “He’ll provide me with financial security forever; I’ll never have to think about money again.”
  • “She’ll be the perfect wife who makes a beautiful home, anticipates my every need, and has a delicious dinner on the table each night. Our life at home will be perfectly harmonious, filled with lovely things and happy, beautiful children.”
  • “He will bring excitement and adventure to my life; I’ll never be bored with him around.”
  • Sex will be absolutely fantastic all the time.”
  • “Finally, someone who appreciates me enough to make my life easy and give me all the strokes I deserve.”

Knowing what your expectations were will give you a deeper understanding of why the marriage didn’t work, and where your resentments may lie.

4. How long did you want it to take to get the divorce?

If you wanted to get it over as quickly as possible and then found yourself in the midst of a long, drawn-out procedure, you probably felt frustrated and thwarted. Resentment or anger at the slowness of your ex, the lawyers, or the court may be part of your divorce hangover.

On the other hand, you may have wanted to drag the process out, hoping that you might get a more favorable settlement, make the other person suffer, or perhaps even get back together. If it went very quickly, you may still feel frustrated or upset. (If you hoped the divorce would be long and painful, you may want to examine your motives.)

If you’re in the process of a divorce now, tell the truth about how long you want it to take. If you realize that you want to draw it out, ask yourself why. If you want to complete it as soon as you can, talk to all the parties concerned and if possible agree on some dates. Be prepared to make some adjustment if your pace is very different. You’ll come out ahead in the long run.

5. What was your first priority in the divorce?

Your first priority may have been getting out of the marriage as quickly as possible, the well-being of the children, having the divorce be amicable, getting a good financial settlement, freedom, or whatever was important to you at that time.

Or, you may not have set any priorities at all and simply “winged it,” handling issues as they arose.

If you knew what your first priority was and you stuck to it, you’re less likely to have a divorce hangover. If you didn’t have a specific priority to guide your steps, or if it was thwarted, the results may have been brutal. You may have residual anger about things not working out the way you wanted them to, or not getting what you wanted out of the divorce.

If you’re involved in a divorce now, I can’t emphasize enough the value of setting your first priority for moving through this process. Your priority determines the answers to almost all the other questions that arise. It gives you a long-term goal and keeps you on track.

You’ll want other things from the divorce and it’s important to rank these lesser priorities, but there will be one thing you want above all else and that thing must be your focus.

6. What was the greatest benefit to you?

You probably weren’t thinking along these lines during the divorce itself, but by now you may have some perspective. You may be aware of some good things that have happened in your life as a result of the divorce, some benefits you’ve accrued by taking that step. Among the benefits that people often mention are:

  • Increased sense of power and independence.
  • Freedom to explore other relationships.
  • Relationships with children that have become deeper through the adversity.
  • Career changes that were difficult at the time, but have turned out to be beneficial.
  • More flexibility to grow in individual ways.
  • Lost 20 pounds.

No matter how difficult your divorce or severe your divorce hangover, it’s likely that something positive came out of the experience.

Step 2 Exercises

  • Answer each cornerstone question according to your reality at the time of the divorce, and then according to your present reality.
  • Make note of your feelings regarding these questions (helplessness, confusion, anger, loss of control, etc.). These are the trigger points of your hangover.


Divorce is devastating. It ranks as the #2 life crisis after the death of a spouse. Although divorced people experience enormous loss, they don’t get the support that society extends to people whose spouses have died.

The divorce hangover begins in response to the staggering losses and changes of divorce, and the fear of even greater losses to come. It’s important to understand exactly what you have lost. Remember, after divorce, loss, and change occur for everyone – whether male or female and regardless of who initiated the breakup or how amicable the proceedings may have seemed.

What you Lose

Divorce affects every area of your life: relationships, finances, physical surroundings, personal identity, home, health, family, and social situation. The losses strike at the very core of who you are, how you see yourself, and how others see you, and they seem to go on forever.

Everyone experiences his or her own specific, individual losses; here are some of the most common ones:

  • Loss of the relationship. No matter how bad it was, no matter who initiated the divorce, the loss is painful to both parties.
  • Loss of financial structure and security. For some people, this means reestablishing credit, or a change in lifestyle. But for others, the economic loss can be devastating and become a matter of sheer survival.
  • Loss of the children, or at least daily contact with the children. You may not get to kiss them goodnight every night. You may feel you have to work harder to make things perfect when you do see them. You miss out on the natural flow, the give-and-take that happens when families live together. Even if the children live with you, you must deal with loss when they go off for weekends, vacations, or holidays with the other parent.
  • Loss of self-esteem and self-confidence. In our society, divorce is often mistakenly perceived as a failure or even a sin. No one feels good about not making another person happy or not being able to make a relationship work. For many people, marriage is a way to define who they are and to feel likable, upright, lovable people with a place in their community. Divorce takes away that structure. Very few people have a strong enough sense of their intrinsic self-worth to say, “I’m still okay, I’m still me.”
  • Loss of sex with that person. Sexuality is a large part of who we are. If sex was an important part of the marriage or a part that escaped unscathed when the rest of the relationship fell apart, then this is a tremendous loss. If sex was only a habit or part of a destructive power struggle, there was some payoff in that for you, and you’ve lost whatever the payoff was.
  • Loss of someone with whom to share familiar daily routines, burdens, and experiences. After my divorce, I realized that it was always my turn to change light bulbs. Gardening had been my joy, but it became a chore when there was no one to help. There is no one with whom to share decisions, help with the kids if you’re sick, or talk about the day. You lose your date for social events, someone with whom to go places, eat dinner, and share a bed.
  • Loss of friends. Some people may have seen you as part of a couple and are not interested in you as a single friend. You may even seem threatening to married friends.
  • Loss of approval. As many divorces as there are and as much as attitudes have changed, a social stigma still exists. It doesn’t matter that in your efforts to grow, you simply discovered that you were in the wrong soil and were willing to go through the trauma of pulling yourself up and putting down roots in another, more nurturing place. Divorce is still against the social rules and, in a sense, you become an outlaw. It looks as if you can’t stick to your commitments, as if you have been a bad spouse and maybe even a bad parent.
  • Loss of identity as part of a couple. You are no longer Mr. and Mrs., Sally and Bill. You are just Sally or just Bill. In places where the world moves two-by-two, this can be particularly painful.
  • Loss of order, permanence, and predictability. Your world becomes ambiguous, unclear, uncertain, and you reflect these qualities. You don’t think you can count on anything and feel out of control.
  • Loss of possessions. Old photos, the rowing machine, the blender, the house, the end table, the dog. Often the monetary value has nothing to do with the depth of the loss.
  • Loss of “home.” Even if you get the house, it’s not the same home without the other person. This can be an especially difficult loss for men, who are not as likely to be “nesters” and to create another “home” wherever they are.
  • Loss of power. In some social environments, there is also a loss of power or status in not being part of a married couple. Invitations may not be extended because you are single or because your spouse is the preferred guest.
  • Loss of family – not just loss of being a family yourselves, but also the loss of the in-laws. Many people have strong attachments to their partners’ families. These relationships suffer in a divorce and are sometimes destroyed entirely.
  • Loss of traditional holidays. Whether or not you have the kids, and regardless of how you celebrate or don’t celebrate holidays, you have lost the way it used to be.

Everything Changes

All of these losses have corresponding and equally devastating changes. The blank spot on a wall where a picture used to hang can be a daily (or hourly) reminder of the way things used to be. Changes in your schedule, a change in your name, changes in the way bills are paid – even these kinds of relatively minor alterations can be enormously upsetting. The larger changes can be devastating: a move to a new house or city, life without the children, massive financial upheaval, etc.

Not all the changes around divorce are negative, but all of them are hard. Human beings have a natural resistance to change. We almost always prefer the familiar to the unfamiliar, even if the familiar isn’t so great. A new job can be difficult and uncomfortable for the first few weeks, even if it’s a big promotion. A new house can seem strange, even if we needed and wanted to make the change.

It’s natural to feel disoriented, out of control, helpless, angry, or guilty in the midst of change. This is a time of grasping at straws. Your instinct is to try and get everything back the way it was as quickly as possible. When you can’t do this, when the losses and changes won’t go away, the frustration and pain are almost unbearable. Your very survival seems threatened, and this calls up a natural, primitive instinct to protect yourself. It feels as if the world has been turned upside down, and it has.

Taking Stock

In order to face your losses, you have to know exactly what they are. I asked Stan in a counseling session to make a list of how his life had been before the divorce and how it was now, after the divorce. His “Before” list included “house, yard, neighbors.” His “After” list read, “apartment in concrete complex, no yard, loss of financial equity and security.”

Then I asked him to make lists of how he felt before and after the divorce. The “Before” list was upbeat and optimistic: “self-confident, secure, emotionally supported, good sense of humor, future bright, part of a family and social group, intelligent, alert, strong.” The “After” list was a stark contrast: “scared, a failure, angry, hopeless, anxious, uncertain, bitter, alone, confused, unequipped to cope, helpless.”

Very few people have an accurate idea of what their losses and changes actually are until they sit down and start making lists.

Step 3 Exercises

  • Make a list in a workbook of all the losses discussed in this article.
  • Highlight the ones that have affected you most.
  • For each loss, describe what you felt.
  • List the changes caused by your divorce and your emotional response to each one.
  • What were you most afraid would happen as a result of the divorce?
  • Which of these fears were eliminated in the divorce settlement? Which are still present?
  • How would you describe yourself and your life before the divorce?
  • How would you describe yourself now?

Take the First Step

This hangover can be healed: divorce doesn’t have to be a permanent state of being, a condition that keeps you trapped in chronic pain or numbness. It’s the end of one phase of your life, and regardless of whether it was by choice or not, it can be the beginning of a happier, more satisfying one. By deciding to heal your divorce hangover, you’ll make a courageous commitment to yourself and your future. That’s the first step – and the most important one. The healing process can be a springboard to a whole new way of relating to yourself, to other people, and to life. Your success will give you the skills and confidence to handle anything that comes up. Some of the steps will be easy for you, and some will be more difficult and require more attention. Stay flexible, and stay vigilant.

curing your divorce hangoverThis article has been edited and excerpted from Divorce Hangover: A Successful Strategy to End the Emotional Aftermath of Divorce by Anne Newton Walther, M.S. (Tapestries Publishing, 2001). As an outgrowth of her counseling practice, Walther identified the “divorce hangover” syndrome and developed a strategy for ending it. This book will enable you to put down your emotional baggage and move into new, healthy relationships – with yourself and others.

The post Book Excerpt: Are You Suffering From Divorce Hangover Syndrome? appeared first on Divorced Moms.


finding yourself after divorce

Suffering An Identity Crisis? How To Find Yourself After Divorce

finding yourself after divorce

With a little imagination and some self-love as a foundation, divorce can be the gateway to living your best life and find your self after divorce.


When I had my children all those years ago, I was shocked to learn some hard truths about pregnancy, birth, and motherhood.

Some of the surprising facts no-one thought to tell me about include: there are consequences to natural vaginal deliveries, you can still look five months pregnant after giving birth, having children can lead to marital discontent, and the biggest shock of them all, many women lose themselves in motherhood.

Although it’s not widely discussed, identity loss is a real and devastating side effect of raising children.

I for one was secretly harboring a depressed state of low self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth, behind a calm and collected façade. It took a divorce for me to recognize this truth and eventually restore my sense of self. And now, as a Life Coach to moms, and a friend to many women with children, “motherhood, as an identity theft”, is an issue I see emerging again, and again.

Most recently I came across an interview featuring actress, Jada Pinkett-Smith, who bravely revealed that motherhood had caused her to “lose her groove”. Even as a star, in the throes of raising her children, she too found herself asking “Oh my gosh, where did I go?”.

It does seem to happen that way. You throw everything into raising your children, helping them build their own identities that you lose sight of your own. You wake up one day and realize you’re a distant shadow of the person you once were.

So, here I share my personal story about how I was able to piece together my identity and how you can do the same. 

Art has always been my passion. I’ve loved art since I was a kid.

The most memorable picture I created was that of a bird. An Eastern Rosella, with its fluorescent yellows, bright greens, and deep hues of red and blue. This drawing, at the age of 10, ignited my love for creating beautiful things.

As I got older, I continued to dabble in small pieces of art, mostly paintings I gave to family and friends. But as life got busier with the need to work and the arrival of children, art became something that I only did with my kids. Whilst I focused on helping my children build their creative muscles, my own desire for personal expression was put on hold.

It wasn’t until more than a decade later, during the early stages of my separation, that I reconnected with this part of me.

In the quest to “find myself”, I decided to take up painting lessons under the guise of an accomplished artist. I created artwork that I was proud of and felt myself come alive. As I left the studio each day with paint on my hands and clothes, I also wore a permanent smile on my face that I just couldn’t wash off.

But sadly, financial constraints and altered childcare arrangements meant that I could no longer continue the classes. What started as the equivalent of writer’s block for an aspiring painter.

I lost my inspiration and flow.

Everything I did outside of those classes, felt below par.

Frustration started to build as I was no longer enjoying the process. I bought into the ideals of our productivity-obsessed culture. The guilt of wasting time and money on fruitless activity weighed heavily on me. I felt a need to make my works of art “saleable”.

To that end, I continued with my mission to create big pieces of art. I was stuck on the notion that “large paintings made a bigger impact”. Consequently, I started focusing too much on the end result. I lost sight of why I was painting in the first place – for the love of creating beautiful things.

One after another, half-finished paintings piled up into the corner of a room. Nothing was good enough. It was only a matter of time before I gave up.

Several seasons passed by before I found myself contemplating art again. I moved into a new house and came across my old, boxed up, paints and brushes. So, I decided to give it another go. This time I would ease myself back into painting and only paint for leisure.

Like reacquainting with an old friend, I started to relive the joys of painting again. I chose to do something for myself and it felt great.

From there I started finding more opportunities to do more of what I loved. With each act of self-love, I continued to discover other parts of me that I had left behind or long forgotten.

A beautiful quote by a soulful writer, Beau Taplin, comes to mind, which I believe rings true: “Self-love is an ocean and your heart a vessel. Make it full and any excess will spill over into the lives of the people you hold dear. But you must come first.”

As self-indulgent as it may seem, doing things that bring joy to your heart during divorce is not a self-fish act.

When you do things to look after and love yourself, you become the best version of yourself. Only then, can you give your children all of you and more.

So, what is it that you love or would love to do?

Were there things you wanted to do while married, but couldn’t for some reason (e.g. learn a new hobby, spend more time with family and friends, volunteer, bungee jump, etc.)?

Instead of making excuses about why you can’t do those things, research, make time, plan, find support to care for the kids, and do those things.

If money is a factor then that’s an opportunity to be creative. Brainstorm ways you in which you can engage in similar activities that will bring you joy.

In my case, I traded in big expensive canvases for small sheets of watercolor paper. I also swapped acrylics and oils to watercolor paint. Not only did this make painting more affordable, but less messy too.

Another example is my substitute for a trip to a Day Spa. A full afternoon of professional pampering may be out of reach, but soaking in a hot bath (uninterrupted), donning a face mask, with added bath salts, a good book, and a cup of tea, can make a world of difference to the hamster wheel of life.

There’s also plenty of resources and ideas online that show you how to make pampering products with ingredients straight from the pantry. Who knows, you could enjoy the DIY process more than the pampering session itself.

The possibilities are endless!

You, resilient mom, can now make your own decisions, try new things, make new friends, and eventually find someone to love you the way you deserve to be loved.

With a little imagination and some self-love as a foundation, divorce can be the gateway to living your best life and finding your best self.

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Spouse Is Suffering a Midlife Crisis

7 Signs Your Spouse Is Suffering a Midlife Crisis


Spouse Is Suffering a Midlife Crisis


Midlife crisis is an emotionally uncomfortable period that some men and women go through between the age of 35 and 65. For most, it is a time of question priorities and adjusting their lifestyle to fit better with their emotional needs.

For others, midlife can bring about a true “crisis,” one that causes them to stray outside the marriage for the affections and attention of a member of the opposite sex. They can question every choice they’ve made during the first half of their life. It is these folks who usually destroy their families and seem to completely change their character and belief system.

Signs Your Spouse Is Suffering a Midlife Crisis

Feeling a Need for Adventure and Change

He goes out and buys a new sports car or Harley. She becomes a bar-fly who comes in at 3:00 am every morning. It’s all about having fun and re-capturing their youth. If your spouse is neglecting things that were once important to him/her in favor of skydiving…something they have never expressed an interest in, they are probably experiencing a midlife crisis.

You have choices in such a situation. Skydiving and hanging out in biker bars is better than sitting home alone wondering what your spouse is up to. Participating a bit in their new found need for adventure can bring you closer together instead of creating the distance that can cause the midlife crisis spouse to start questioning whether or not to stay in the marriage.

Feelings of Depression

Some who go through a midlife crisis will experience depression that affects their mood and to the point that activities and relationships are negatively affected. Friends, family, and work may all be neglected. If you think your spouse is suffering from depression watch for the following symptoms:

  • Sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, pessimism
  • Loss of interest in once enjoyable activities
  • Lack of energy
  • Inability to focus or make decisions
  • Unusual sleep patterns
  • Unusual appetite, weight loss or gain

A Loss of Interest in Things That Used to be Important

I received a letter from Jason who was concerned about changes he was seeing in his wife. After 23 years in a career as a nurse, she quit her job. According to Jason, she wanted to go back to school full-time and major in philosophy. His wife had gone for a “straight-laced   Christian” to a woman who questioned whether or not there was a God.

Jason said he no longer knew the woman he had been married to for 18 years and was concerned she might be going through a midlife crisis. One thing is sure, she is questioning her values and beliefs and no one knows where these questions will lead her.

Anger and Blame of The Spouse

You are the problem! If it weren’t for you, life would be grand for the midlife crisis spouse. If he trips on a banana peel at work, you will get blamed. The spouse who is in a midlife crisis never looks internally and examines why he/she is feeling discontent.

They look outward and blame others and since you are the main relationship in their life it makes sense that you will bare most of the blame for their bad feelings. Expect your spouse to be short tempered and angry. Do not respond when your buttons are pushed. A response is what they want and you don’t want to play into their need for conflict.

Unable to Make Decisions About Their Future

Joan’s husband found a new woman and wanted a divorce. He refused to file for divorce, though. He left Joan telling her that he had never been in love with her, that marrying her had been a mistake. Joan was devastated!

Over a period of eighteen months, Joan’s husband changed his mind about his feelings for Joan on a regular basis. He would pack his bags and leave out the door spewing verbal abuse. A month later he would call in tears wanting to come home. Before long he was out the door again and moving back in with the other woman.

Joan eventually filed for a divorce and helped him make the decision he seemed unable to make. They are both now living with the painful consequences of his indecision.

Doubt Over The Choice to Marry

You may have just celebrated your 29th anniversary. You may have lived with a spouse who, from all outward appearances, seemed to have been happy in the marriage. It isn’t uncommon for a husband or wife who has never complained about being married to suddenly tell you that they have “lived in hell” from the very beginning.

The spouse in midlife crisis will question whether the marriage was ever legitimate. They will demonize you, accuse you of forcing them into marriage all in an attempt to make the marriage illegitimate. You will be painted as the evil spouse who never met their emotional or physical needs so the midlife crisis spouse can justify their feelings of discomfort with the marriage. If this is the case in your situation you should believe nothing you are told and very little of what you see.

A Desire For a New and More Passionate Intimate Relationship

The husband/wife who is going through a midlife crisis may become tired of the “same old, same old” in the bedroom. It isn’t uncommon for someone married to a spouse who is going through a midlife crisis to suffer the negative consequences of their infidelity.

If your spouse is spending more time in chat lines on the computer, working strange hours or on his/her cell phone more than usual you are seeing signs of a cheating spouse. These are only signs but coupled with the other symptoms of midlife crisis you should consider the possibility that your spouse has found someone to fulfill the need for a more passionate, intimate relationship.

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