My marriage is over…..what now?
Is this a question that you would ever imagine asking yourself? It certainly wasn’t for me. I never imagined that it would be ME.
I had never thought that my marriage would end and that I would have to go through the steps to a divorce.
I knew this was something that happened regularly, too regularly, but not to me. I am someone who always believed that I would be in a long-term marriage – sure there are ups and downs in every marriage, but if you had ever asked me 5 years ago if I thought I would end up divorced, my answer would have been a strong and bold NO!
Boy was I mistaken! It came out of left field for me. I can truly say that I didn’t see it coming. Were there signs? I guess there must have been, but for me it was a complete and utter shock. I mean how stupid could I have been not to notice? Then again, I was kept in the dark, and when the moment came that my husband said he was leaving I sat there dazed and confused – huh? I remember feeling as though I must have heard wrong. I actually needed him to repeat it in order to process the words and to realize what was going on. Talk about true and utter shock!
Once the initial shock wore off, I knew that plans had to be made – specifically to protect my daughters from the scary and harsh reality that our family was breaking up. The day we told them that Daddy was leaving was the worst day ever. The nausea that I felt that day lasted for several weeks. My goal was to reinforce to them how much they were loved. My ex-husband and I promised each other that no matter what we were feeling towards one another we would keep an amicable relationship, and to our credit, we did and continue to do so.
Let’s be honest, divorce is no fun. Actually it is very scary.
There are so many steps to take, so many variables to consider, and so much information to process. And let’s not forget how expensive divorce can be! People have to be so careful not to get caught up in the anger of what is happening because decisions made in anger can end up costing a whole lot of money.
When my marriage ended, I remember feeling like a deer caught in the headlights. I tried hard to pretend that I was feeling fine, but the harsh reality was that I was scared to death. I knew deep down that all would end up fine, but the feelings of uncertainty, confusion, powerlessness and sadness were at times overwhelming. Thankfully I got through that time with the help of my family, friends, my ability to laugh at things, and a few trips to the MAC counter. (Never underestimate the power of some fresh make-up to help perk up your mood!)
Some of the lessons that I have learned along the way have helped me a great deal.
A few close friends of mine advised me in the early days after my husband left to consult a lawyer in order to learn my rights. I remember being very angry at the suggestion that I should go see a lawyer so early on, but that advice was invaluable, and I am thankful to those who advised me! Anyone who finds him or herself left suddenly, MUST consult someone in the legal domain and ask a million questions. The more informed you become, the less frightened you may be, and your decisions will probably be made with clarity and based in reality.
Another important thing to remember during the initial crisis of a marital break-up is that children NEED the adults in their lives to be strong, kind and fair.
I have worked very hard to keep the “adult issues” separate from the parenting issues. For me, there is no overlap! Children need their parents to fight privately and to act like adults. Parents need to remember that when they try to punish each other, it is most frequently the children who end up suffering. And let’s be clear, marriages that end in divorce are not the fault of the children! Kids need protection and care, and parents need to put their anger and desire for revenge aside and think of their children’s needs first. Maybe this isn’t always easy to do, especially when one member of the couple feels betrayed or terribly hurt, but for goodness sake, think of your kids! My daughters know that their parents can work together and spend time together when it comes to sharing in “parenting experiences.” Whether we are attending a school event, gymnastics competition, or a summer camp visiting day, our family is able to come together and act kindly and comfortably. For this, I feel grateful and proud.
My advice to any women going through a divorce is to hold on tight and take your time.
Ask questions, seek legal counsel, and make lots of withdrawals from your personal support bank.
Don’t be too proud to ask friends, family and neighbors for support. Keep your kids protected from the adult discussions – they are kids, and it’s truly none of their business if the adults are angry with one another! Allow yourself to grieve the end of your marriage. Endings can be hard and sad, and it is healthy and normal to feel the sadness – and when you are ready, start to take steps to move forward and to re-build.
I guess the bottom line is that divorce is an ongoing process. It takes time and patience. When I think back, I am amazed at how much has happened in the last four and a half years of my family’s life. I am proud of how far my kids and I have come. What started as a scary and uncertain time for the three of us has settled into our new normal. I am constantly in awe at the manner in which my daughters have learned to manage their new reality. They are resilient and strong, and they are truly my heroes!