Zsa Zsa Gabor once famously quipped, “You never really know a man until you have divorced him.” She wasn’t wrong, but I’ll go a step further and add that you never really know yourself until you get a divorce. Let’s face it, if you knew yourself well enough in the first place you’d probably still be married or maybe not married to someone so clearly wrong for you. Ah, divorce, it’s a veritable cornucopia of psychological insights.
I’m currently one year in to my divorce journey and I’ve been largely quiet about it on social media because I’ve heard that bashing your ex in a public forum is poor etiquette, and despite my public facing living, I’m actually a very private person. Case in point, my best friend had no idea I was even contemplating the demise of my marriage until one week prior to my explosive departure. I am, or at least was, bottled up tighter than Dom Perignon.
I’m learning a lot now, about myself, why I am the way I am, what shaped me, and about creating healthy boundaries. It’s not a pretty process by any stretch but if you are either thinking about divorce or newly divorced there a few things I’d like to share with you. Think of me as your divorce doula, not medically licensed, but ready to hand you some hard truths with a warm hug.
You’re Not Divorcing Wrong
According to some, there is no reason why in 2019 you shouldn’t be able to Google how to do this. After all, everything you need to know is right there on the interwebs. Look at me adding to the collection. All around us we are presented with examples of “conscious uncoupling” and “positive co-parenting” and while I think these are ideals we should all strive for, it’s not always possible.
Google does not account for your response to stress, let alone your ex-spouse, your children, your friends, and your family. Trust me when I say, your divorce will affect all of them and you can expect a lot of raw, unfiltered emotion to be thrust at you. The only thing you can do is create boundaries that allow you to process in a healthy way, which brings me to my next point.
Get Into Therapy STAT
Repeat after me, “I am not fine”. For months following my leaving I kept saying I was fine. Spoiler alert, I was not. One year later, I’m just starting to peel away the layers of why I harbour feelings of guilt laid on me by others so intensely, why I rush to fix everything before someone gets even a little upset, and why I put forth a tough cookie façade. The reality is I have a soft, chewy centre you guys, once you get past the rock hard exterior.
I wish I had started therapy the day after I left, so I wish this for you instead. Find a good one, and don’t settle for the first one you meet. My therapist is exactly what I need, gentle but 100% not afraid to call me on my bullshit. “What’s your point?” she often says impatiently to me when I start to get a little whiny, and I appreciate and love that about her. It’s what I need, but that may not be what you need, so ask for referrals and test trial a few. No therapy is wasted.
Divorce Takes Forever
I naively thought I’d be divorced by now. Lawyers are slow, the courts are slow, and if your ex is slow, then expect your frustration levels to rise in what is still a largely flawed system. No one should be allowed to not give full disclosure, but it happens every single day. No one should be allowed to hold on to half your assets while you wait for them to get it together, but it happens every single day.
I am in a Facebook divorce group with over 5000 people in it, and I can tell you it happens every single day because I see the status updates. This brings me back to point number one, you are not doing your divorce wrong. You are doing you, with all the emotion that comes with it. You will make missteps but then make a course correction. Just know that, the course is slow, agonizingly slow.
One Foot in Front of the Other
This is often the hardest thing to do. It’s too easy to pull the covers over your head, and curl up in the fetal position but trust me when I say, you have to dig deep and move forward. Sometimes that will mean looking no further than an hour ahead, and other times you’ll be in a better head space and can plan a month or two into the future.
You are in a time of great uncertainty and it’s hard to make plans when the plot changes daily, but as long as you have your priorities straight, you’ll get there. I worry about my children non-stop, but as my therapist pointed out, they will be okay if they see that I’m okay. So I keep my eyes forward and don’t beat myself up about the past. I’m aware this is easier said than done, believe me when I say, I have to constantly remind myself of this.
Allow for the Crazy
Like people who have no children who share their wisdom on parenting, there are a ton of people out there with opinions on divorce who have never actually done it. Step 1, ignore them.
Step 2. It’s okay to act a bit erratic and crazy. You are literally going through the second most stressful life event ever. You are permitted to have moments where you’re less than perfect. If no one else will forgive you of that, then forgive yourself for fuck’s sake and move on. You’re human. Full stop.
Left unchecked the stress of divorce can mess with your brain in some pretty surreal ways. In the past year, I have learned how to meditate and break the loop that sometimes starts to autoplay when I least expect it. While I’ll likely never be a yogi, there is great comfort in meditation and even if you think you can’t do it, at least give it a try.
Know Why You Left
I could list a million reasons why I left my marriage but those are best left in the past because they are a) no longer relevant and b) poor etiquette (see above). Ultimately there was only one reason I left, and that was to be happier. With every a-ha moment, small tweak, course correction, and moment of meditation I am getting there, and you will too.