Divorce is difficult. No matter how common, it is one of the most challenging of life’s experiences. It’s not just your marital status that changes — your entire life shifts. When divorce is personal, everything you’ve read, heard or seen takes on a new angle. Divorce for me was an alien concept, and the realities that came with it were not something I was prepared for. I had to re-identify myself, my role as a person, a woman, and a mother.
1) You will mourn — it is a huge loss. Even if you wanted to divorce, you will mourn. You have lost a significant relationship, as well as your status, identity, image, and more. The future you envisioned and strived for has ended, and you are left thinking, “Now what?” I could tell you to see this loss as a gain — you’ve gained power, freedom, autonomy, and a new identity. All true, and you can celebrate that in due time. But for now, slow down. It is essential that you go through the mourning process. If you move on as if nothing ever happened, it may come back to haunt you, sometimes in disguise. It is healthy to go through the stages of loss in divorce as you would with any other loss, such as the death of a loved one.
2) If you have children with your ex it is essential to accept that your ex will be a part of your life, and that you to learn to co-parent in a healthy manner. You have a responsibility to raise your children with your ex, keeping the children’s best interests in mind. Children of divorce have a proverbial stamp on their forehead, and statistical odds stacked against them, but if you and your ex can parent together for your children’s sake, the more likely your children are to be happy and grounded. Effective co-parenting, with no agenda (other than your children’s wellbeing), is crucial.
3) You won’t be “single” again. You will be “divorced.” Divorce doesn’t just mean that the ring comes off your finger, and you have to check the “divorced” box in government documents. Life does not simply revert to how it was before you got married. In my experience, people looked at me differently, with a “poor you” smile, along with a “you’ll make it” jovial punch in the arm. The men that sought me post-divorce were different from those of my single days. They seemed to know I was not ready for a meaningful relationship — and they strived to either “rescue” me, or push me into commitments I wasn’t ready for. I had to find out what I wanted in a relationship, and if and when I wanted one. It is now my choice, and the power can be immense.
4) Your social life will change. This aspect hit me out of left field. My ex and I had a lot of mutual friends, and the dynamics of those friendships shifted like nothing I had expected. Similarly to my relationships with men, it took time for me to learn who my true friends were as opposed to those who were acquaintances disguised as close friends (only around for the good times!). My priorities have changed drastically from being the perfect hostess and going to endless social engagements, to having a low-key social life with those whom I have genuine connections.
5) Anger will raise its ugly head — in both of you. No matter what the circumstances, there will be some anger, resentments and blame. In the aftermath of divorce, despite how far you’ve each moved on, there may be thoughts and even words such as “This is the thanks I get for all I did,” “I stood by you; you didn’t stand by me,” “I wasted [insert number of years] with you,” etc. You may both feel that way whether or not you express it. Again, divorce is a loss. It doesn’t matter if you’re happy or relieved about that loss. Loss is loss. And part of loss and the mourning process is feeling your anger. But for your own well-being, you have to deal with the stages, and move from anger into acceptance. Perhaps not overnight, but at some point, maybe even with professional help, you will be able to let it go.
6) People will talk; they will take sides; and it can get ugly. Nobody knows what really goes on in a marriage except the couple themselves. Gossip from people who heard or saw mere snippets of your situation can take its toll on you. It will be frustrating for both parties. It’s taken a lot of self-awareness to ignore the black-and-white accusations, to see the grey area that no one else does and accept the reality that only I know. We were two people who loved each other and tried, as best as we could at the time and the stage we were in, to make it work. Where other people are concerned, I let the chatter be background noise.
7) Your memories will be with your forever. Whether you were married for three years or 30, you spent a significant amount of time and made a lot of memories with your ex. I chose to look at the memories, both tangible and intangible, not as tainted ones, but as priceless experiences. I see my years with my ex as more than a decade filled with friendship, happy times, celebrations, milestones, and changes. They are a part of my life, a part of who I am. I am not the same woman I was; she has changed immensely; but she and everything she experienced in that marriage, both good and bad, are what made her into who I am today. And that is not something I wish to burn, cry about, get angry over, or rip up — it is a part of my life I choose to cherish.
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