Thank God for Girlfriends and Family
Some things came much easier following my divorce. I found it a relief to be living authentically – no more pretending that everything was fine; no more struggles and resentment at home. I was able to talk with my girlfriends with a freedom and honesty that had been somewhat strained before. And they welcomed my stories and sobbing and even my loving support of Jon. Yes, they thought it was odd, but no one judged me or called me crazy – to my face, anyway.
How to tell my family was a little harder to figure out. I am the only person who has ever gotten a divorce in the entire history of my genealogy. I didn’t think they’d understand. I thought they would tell me to try harder. But when I told my sisters and brothers and my mom and dad, I received unconditional love and emotional support. Well, to be perfectly honest, my dad was not happy. He wanted someone to blame, and it’s taken many years for me to convince him that there’s really no one to be mad at. He still thinks it’s weird to be friends with your ex. That’s okay; it is. But all in all, everyone dealt with our divorce with care and kindness, and extended that to Jon as well.
A Child’s View
How to tell our son became the overpowering question. Jon and I spoke for hours about the best way to tell him (together), the choice of words to use, where and when … and how to explain his “why?” It’s worth spending a lot of time on this … after five years, my son still remembers the exact moment of the telling, the exact place he was sitting, his own perception of what we said, how we looked, how he felt. I wish I had a video camera to see how close to reality his version is! We also paid very close attention to see how our separation would affect his mood, his conversation, his schoolwork. We didn’t know if he needed a professional to talk to – hey, we’d been doing it for years! – so we took him for a session and learned that he was adjusting really well, but that he might feel the impact now and then, years from now, at different points in his life, and we should continue to check in with a therapist. We do.
The Evolution of Divorce
Like a marriage, a divorce evolves, too. It’s been five years, and What’s Next has turned into What’s Now. Jon is an involved, empathetic, loving parent, and a helpful and compassionate co-parent with me. And believe me, I’ve needed that during the teenage years! I am a strong presence and partner in Jon’s life, too. I believe I am a better person for knowing Jon, for having been married to him, and I feel honored to have created with him the kind of relationship we have … out of the divorce, a real friendship.
What I Know Now:
…that divorce is not always a tragedy. It does not mean that your child will automatically have a more difficult life. Sometimes it is the best, healthiest path for a family to take, especially when the marriage itself is unhealthy.
…that love does not conquer all. It is powerful, but no one can change another person; they have to do that for themselves.
…that you can disagree with – and even fire – your lawyer if you are not on the same page philosophically. Interview several lawyers, and find one whose practice matches the way you want to proceed with your divorce.
…that the people who love you will support your decision with kindness.
…that anger, resentment and hurt suck the energy out of you. The sooner we let those emotions go the healthier and more vibrant we feel.
…that divorce is one of those rare opportunities to use the highest character traits God has given you — the power to really forgive your ex and yourself – and the compassion to accept your ex for who he is.
…that if you have children, it will be SO MUCH EASIER if you can have an amicable relationship with your ex, for schedules, carpools, expenses, adolescent issues, graduations, weddings, grandchildren… in some ways, it’s still forever. Let go of the blame. No one person is responsible for what has happened.
….that I had everything I needed to be a good mother and co-parent in a divorced situation.
…that happily-ever-after looks different than Disney. Create the life you want; it’s your story.