There are different types of safety, but the most important one is the safe, secure feeling you can create within yourself. When coupled, whether due to two incomes, another breathing body next to yours, or the sense that someone is there for you, it is easier to feel supported and cared for. Once on your own you eventually face the reality of being solely responsible for yourself.
Of course, there may be friends and family; but, if you were part of a couple for years, you are now entering foreign territory. Even if you never really felt your mate had your back, you may still feel a loss of the illusion that someone was there. It’s not uncommon to deny what we don’t want to see, so if your partner was there in body only you may not have consciously acknowledged that until your actual separation or divorce.
At first, this seems like its own Shakespearean tragedy; but, in time, you’ll realize you can manage just fine. Many people have actually said they felt more secure after a divorce because they knew they could count on themselves and didn’t delude themselves with the fantasy that their mate would protect, soothe, or rescue them. In fact, there are countless people who had very scary experiences while partnered where their significant other was absent or useless. I know of women who underwent serious surgery and took care of themselves, people who were robbed while their mate slept soundly, or partners who secretly squandered the family’s money leaving no reserves. But even in those situations, the illusion of the mate as safety net dies hard.
Remarkably, in most cases, you will find friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family who will give you more support than you were actually getting from your partner. The trick here is to swallow your false pride and actually ask for help. That may be a radical departure from your typical M.O., but it will build a coterie of people on whom you can depend. Some may be paid, like a great plumber or electrician, and some may offer their help gratis. You’ll want both. Whether you were partnered with someone who helped shoulder life’s burdens or you were the major domo, the situation is different now. Be brave and ask for support. Paradoxically, it will make you stronger.
We’re all fed a mantra of independence that goes back to Pioneer days, when the truth is interdependence is far more satisfying; but, if you’re out of practice, asking for help can feel like a Herculean task. Bite the bullet and ask, anyway. Couples have a tendency to become so isolationist that potential support can seem as elusive as a mirage, but it’s there. You just have to reach out. In time, asking gets easier. Experiment. Request a favor from someone. See what happens. Undoubtedly, you will be happy to have the help and they will feel useful. You would help them if they needed it, so why not give them the opportunity to assist you? Let cooperation, rather than independence, be your new watchword.
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang