How does one survive divorce with dignity?
Six years ago I had to tell the man I married I wanted out. With our two daughters. It hadn’t been a violent marriage and no one had cheated on anyone. I was just exhausted of giving and not getting anything back. I was lonelier in those last 2yrs of marriage, even dragged him through marriage counselling, and there just wasn’t anything left to fight for.
Upon separation and divorce life met me with an iron fist that walloped me from every angle. Not only was the ex-punishing me with anger and resentment, his entire family lashed out, friendships wobbled as no one knew who’s side to take (even though we never involved our friends), our daughters were confused hearing his family tear their mother apart, things were pretty intense as we sorted through our financial and legal agreements, court hearing were heart breaking (especially when you have to listen to everyone else’s horror stories and other women breaking down in court at their divorce hearings)… and then there was all the other emotional stuff as well. Your own guilt, the shame, the loss, the betrayal, your own anger, the fears…..
No one prepared me for the emotional onslaught. I did seek counselling a good year after divorcing, possibly out of desperation of my life reeling out of control and having no support network to catch me. I do often wonder how different and less traumatic life would have been if I’d sought that healing process a lot sooner! God knows there would have been way less espresso martinis involved!
Divorce vs Death
So why is it that after a death, friends, and family surge around you with flowers, letters, cards, hot meals and messages of love and comfort and yet the word divorce leaves your life emptier then a ghost town? Don’t both events end with the loss of dreams, hopes and desires? Doesn’t divorce also entail an entanglement of grief, anger, devastation, suffering and furthermore a loss of self? Don’t both events bring you to your knees and make you question your entire being and self-worth?
I’ve lost my father at 22yrs, a baby at 27yrs, my beloved step mother at 36yrs and the first boy I ever truly loved died 4 years ago (we both married other people but always kept in touch). I watched them all suffer. I grieved them as they passed. I was angry at being abandoned. I made my peace with death. I know death. I accept the process and the support and love that came from those experiences. I know death will come again, but I also know the trauma is short compared to divorce.
Divorce? Hell no, never again. There are divorced people who have sworn NEVER to marry again or date again after divorce. The trauma of divorce and the fall out and ramifications can last years or decades, constantly compounded by altercations and accelerations. It’s a roller coaster ride that can seriously mess not only with your heart but your head. My divorce wasn’t anywhere as messy as most peoples’ I know and yet I still say this.
So how do we survive divorce with dignity?
So how do we survive divorce? How do we get through the mind games, the attacks on our self-worth, the pure hate, the tug of war over finance and children that sometimes feels like it controls our entire world? Better still how do we come out unscathed and with our sense of self intact and thriving?
Return to your sisterhood:
Divorce will show pretty quickly who your true friends are. They won’t be the ones trying to tear your partner down either! Don’t go there and don’t sink to those levels. Your friends are the ones who keep you level headed, who help you keep your integrity intact and who offer you the support, shoulders, smiles, cocktails (and call you an Uber) and take you to see The Other Woman, Bad Moms, or How To Be Single. Ask for help form your friends, tell them you’re not coping or tell them what you’d like from them at the moment.
Feeling a little dis-connected form your friends? Then contact your local community groups or Meetups. Make new friends, join Fb support groups, and get a feel for any likeminded women out there and expand your social circle.
For the Wild times: Ok so after I separated I hit some wild times! Previously I would only go out twice a year and that was to my staff parties! I’d felt caged and trapped. The ex husband hated going out, so we never went out. And he also hated me going out without him. Coming home to his brooding moods and interrogations just wasn’t worth it. So, don’t be surprised if you find yourself acting like you’re 18yrs and carefree again on your kid-free time! Don’t beat yourself up. It’s ok to have fun and to let loose, just be open with your friends so they can keep any outrageous behaviour in check!
For the Hard times: Yes, there are days you will collapse on the floor in a heap, in total despair of how your life got here, who the hell you are meant to be and what the hell you are meant to be doing, or going to do! You’ll cry, scream, swear and probably refuse to ‘adult’ at times. Some days its rainbows and sunshine and other days its Netflix and Potato Gems (no judgement here!). Let it all out. Know that this is part of the process and you WILL pass through these times. Give yourself a good dose of compassion and get some good self-care rituals in place. Preferably more the aromatherapy massage type self-care then the Ben & Jerry’s self-care…. (Hindsight is a beautiful thing).
For the good times: Why would you need compassion for yourself during the good times? Well if you, like me, are the one that left there’s a heap of guilt that can creep in. You want to date, but you think it’d be easier if they dated first, you want to move forward and be happy but they’re still drowning in their sorrow, your kids are struggling and want you to get back together (but you’re singing in the rain and tap dancing in puddles with joy), or if you’ve left a narcissist you’re too scared to be open about your own happiness in case you get punished. Whatever the situation is it’s easy to feel guilty or scared about having a good time. But you can’t feel guilty for getting on with your life, for having fun, for dating again or for doing better than your ex. You have the right to be happy.
If you have children whether you like it or not you are still a family. You just look different from other families. So, it’s important to try and keep good communication going. Even if you are the only one trying. Know your level of integrity and stick to it, not just for you but for your children. Try and keep the ex-informed about the kid’s activities, dates of swap overs, birthday parties, school events etc. Whether the other parent turns up or not is not your responsibility but keeping communication open is.
Keep your emotions out of it too as much as possible. One year I gave my ex money to ensure he had a present for our daughter’s birthday. Don’t ever let your kids suffer where you can. This is your baggage to deal with, don’t make it theirs.
If you need to avoid them physically use email.
Also, be aware that both parties need to move forward financially and both parties need to provide for your children. Stay away from the “seek and destroy” mentality. Don’t comment on your partner’s bad behaviour to your kids. As their parent, it’s your responsibility to try and support their relationship unless it is emotionally and physically detrimental to their wellbeing and safety. For most of us, their dads may have been shit husbands but they’re still good dads. And most children need their good dads.
If you need support and don’t have much family, then seek support of other single mamas. 4 years after divorce I met another single mama and we hit it off. We organise “family nights” together and get the kids together for sleep overs and movies while we stuff our faces with gourmet pizza (cooking is forbidden) and dissect our lives in fits of laughter over a bottle of red. One pro of the single mama is you get to create your new ‘family’.
Keep your kids lives as normal as possible. Encourage play dates, keep them on top of their homework where possible, and keep them engaged in their favourite activities. In 2005 after Hurricane Katrina hit in USA, psychologists reported that the kids whose parents had kept their kids’ lives as normal as possible were more resilient and bounced back physically and emotionally better than the parents who wrapped their kids up in cotton wool. Divorce sucks but it’s an opportunity to teach your children how to cope in a crisis. Those are serious life skills!
Anglicare also have some great support groups for kids going through divorce. Parents aren’t allowed in and it gives the kids a free space to express themselves and share their feelings with other kids going through the same thing. They’re facilitated by counsellors too which makes it a definite safe and supportive space.
Talk to teachers and ensure their school is aware and supportive of the pressures and emotional disturbances your kids may be going through. Watch out for any lapses in their grades or changes in friendships. Keep conversations with them open, which will be easier to do if you’re not bad mouthing the other parent!
Trust in your kids! Most kids are more resilient and stronger then you think. It’s careful balance of protecting them from the fall out and yet not disabling them. Let them know they are loved, but don’t wrap them up in cotton wool or over compensate by buying them toys and treats to make up for the guilt of having “a broken family”.
Divorce = change. On mass. Parenting schedules change, careers change, there’s emotional changes, family structures are changing, housing changes, there’s financial changes… you’re going to have to learn to be flexible and roll with the punches til it calms down. Considering you have to wait in in Australia for 12 months from separation to file for divorce, you’ll have to be open to the possibility of it taking well over a year for the ride to smooth out. Get flexible!
You too, are going to go through changes and trust me, in 3 years’ time you will not be the same person you were when you first separated (but if you work with me, I’ll ensure you will come out the best possible version you can be!)
Marriages break up because there was something amiss in the first place. Whether there was clashing values, mis-communication, emotional or psychical abuse, lack of boundaries, power plays, betrayal, neglect…. No one gets divorced because everyone was happy. And no one gets divorced without a good bruising. Get the help and support you need to clear out the emotional closets. For me, my journey post-divorce enabled me to redefine who I was, what I wanted and what I wanted to create in this world. But I had to clear out a whole lot of pus and stuff first! I also had to face some truths about myself and take ownership of my own part in my marriage.
Nowadays I love using the lessons from my own journey to assist other women to re-define themselves and re-create their lives post-divorce! The basics we cover are;
- Dealing with anger, blame, sadness, despair, guilt, shame, and fear that release you from the past.
- Shifting limiting beliefs that keep you attracting the same circumstances and relationships, that you just walked away from.
- Increasing your self-confidence and creating better boundaries with yourself and others.
- Working on communication, how you meet your needs and how to respond to the needs of others in a healthy manner.
- Digging deep to learn about who you really are, what you really want and how you can unearth your unlimited potential to create the beautiful life you actually desire for you and your children.
And there’s a whole lot of self-love stuff in there too!
You can find out more about my services here.
Divorce is a huge and lonely emotional roller-coaster ride, but it’s also a new beginning of understanding who you truly are and another chance to create the life you were always dreaming of.
With the right support and guidance, you can come sailing through with much more grace and dignity then you thought possible. There’s nothing more exciting than watching my clients come through the other end full of passion and hope, and hearing the amazing inspiring stories of lives they’ve created further down the track! Some of my clients are now even more successful than me – and I LOVE that!!
If you are going through divorce or know someone who is, don’t be afraid to reach out and connect. I’m always more than happy to chat and see if my services suit your needs or if I can point you in the right direction.
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This is only the beginning…. xx