3 Things I Learned from Divorce

Most divorces are not mutual understandings between two mature and rational adults that have simply decided their relationship had run its course. More times than not, there is an array of hurt, frustration, anger, resentment, bitterness, and general pissed off-ness. The reality of unmet expectations are a key source of these. After all, no one goes into a marriage believing or expecting their relationship will end. Rather things happen, people change, and sometimes spouses become toxic to each other and the relationship dies.

One day I looked up and despite my best laid plans, I was in a marriage alone. When he did come home, there was no communication and whether we think they cannot hear or understand, the arguments between mommy and daddy were changing my little girl. It had to end and it did. Going through a divorce, yes, I learned a lot about the legal process. But it was what I learned about myself that has been most valuable.

I learned how to separate my needs from my wants.  During my divorce process I wanted my ex never to part his lips to me again. However, I needed him to communicate with me for the sake of our child and for my own emotional closure. I wanted him to just leave me alone. But I needed our child to feel loved and have access to her father and mother together in the same room, at the same time. I wanted to pack up everything, move and live a new life as though the previous ten years never happened. I needed to stay near my support system and be mentally present so I could respond effectively to the constant changes of my new reality.

Spousal support, child support, visitation, property division – there can be a mound of items pulling for your attention. Keep your focus. There are certain things that need to be primary on your to-do-lists to ensure you and your child(ren)’s well-being. Do not be distracted by hurt feelings and your personal desires until you compromise those needs. Control your emotions. Stay rational and remain clear. Necessities first.

I learned how to manage my time and resources. Through the separation then divorce process, I was thrown into single parenthood. Single moms doing it and doing it well are definitely to be commended. But if I wanted to be a single mom, I would not have waited until I was married to have my daughter. The expectation was that the duties, challenges, and successes of one of the greatest jobs on earth (parenthood) would be shared with my husband. Simply because my marriage ended did not mean the responsibilities of parenthood ended. For that matter, neither did the responsibilities of maintaining a household and running a business.

Doctor and parent-teacher appointments still need to be attended. A landlord still needs to be paid. Food and clothing still needs to be purchased. Summer camps still need to be secured and you are only one person. If you stretch yourself too thin giving all of you personally and financially to the lawyers, the ex, the children, and the job, you will have nothing left for yourself. Manage your time wisely to include “me time” and quality bonding time with your child. Utilize your resources. Trusted family and proven friends that make up your personal community are there to support you. Drop the pride and allow them to help. You would be surprised how far a ride from school, a recital attendance, or a playdate with cousins will go in reminding your child they are loved and giving you a much needed hand.

I learned that I am tougher than I thought. When my marriage ended I jumped into survival mode. I had to step up as the head of my household. I had taken care of myself before but there is not as much at risk when you are a grad students living in a one room efficiency, sleeping on a futon, and eating pizza every night as when you have a child. Failure was not an option. I had one chance to give this child what she needed to be successful and productive in life and I was not about to let that be compromised because her father did not want to be a constant and active part of the process. But it was hard…real hard.

I cried alone in the dark while she slept. I apologized often and made up excuses for the void of her other parent. When the weight became overwhelming I even considered how I could end my life. I thought how much better she would be without me. But despite the challenges, the hard times, or toxic thoughts, I woke up every morning and did my best. I looked in my child’s face and saw my purpose for pressing through each day.

Divorce can be hard. Some processes are more tumultuous than others. Some are quick and easy legally but the emotional wounds aim to destroy your spirit. Know that no matter how dark it may get, you are tougher than you think. There are lessons you can learn and apply to other areas of your life and to your next relationship. There is some self-love that went untapped because your focus was your spouse and your child. Tap into it and remember you are important and worthy of love. The conclusion of your marriage does not define who you are or what you have to offer. At the end of the tunnel is a chance for you to look back and share with someone else going through what you learned from divorce.

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