SURPRISE! I was divorced at 41, remarried the same man, then divorced again at 50, from the same man… (yep, I did that). It sucked, it was scary, my “dream life” had turned into a nightmare and I had to start over, again. I realized; this wasn’t my dress rehearsal, this was real life, and it was about to change completely. I had to find myself, find my passion if there was any left, and maybe even love again! There was work to do in the meantime, I tried not to make too many mistakes… and I held on to the idea that when I came out “the other side” I would be wiser and maybe even happier.
1. I did not… put the kids in the middle… never, ever! You will be the “bad guy” some day if you disparage, degrade, torture, humiliate or ruin your ex. Remember, the kids are a part of both of you, they don’t want to pick sides, and they shouldn’t have to. You are a grown up, so act like one.
2. When it came to a settlement… I didn’t want negotiations to drag on, because I didn’t want the kids or myself to be in limbo. Be generous if you are the primary breadwinner. Your soon to be ex is someone you loved enough to marry and possibly have children with. What life do you want your kids to be living when they aren’t with you? I now had a new lifestyle for myself and two boys. The best thing is, it wasn’t a long, drawn out divorce blood bath. My ex and I maintained respect and kindness for each other, which is priceless.
3. I wish I had not… made ANY major decisions the first two years after being divorced. I moved, and then I moved again for emotional reasons. It caused upheaval with the boys and with my bank account. I bought a Mustang convertible… fun, but silly, and a time share in Hawaii, which was just plain stupid. When the first two years were over, I had less money and was still an emotional mess. The new house and car did not help at all! I wish I sat tight and waited until the emotional “crazy time” had settled down and I could have made smart, conscience choices.
4. One smart thing I did… After being divorced, I did not date for over a year. I wasn’t emotionally ready to give another man my time or love. I also didn’t want to bring a stranger into the mix. We were all trying to find our equilibrium. I am glad I gave myself time to mourn the loss of the marriage and the family unit. I’m proud I took the time to watch Oprah and Dr. Phil, cry my eyes out, read self-help books, watch “Overboard” and “Dirty Dancing” 100 times, and figure out who I was. I believe getting into a new relationship too soon is like alcohol, it may mask the pain, but it’s still there. It takes time to heal a broken home and heart, so do yourself a favor, and take the time. The kids certainly don’t need another character in this drama.
5. I tried not to… bad mouth my ex, but what a jerk! The thing is, no one wanted to hear it, and no one really cared. Don’t make your friends pick “sides.” Your real friends will be there, and others won’t. I called it “skimming off the scum.” It showed me who my loyal friends were, and I didn’t have to waste time and energy on the artificial ones. So, don’t get down in the gutter. I know you want to lash out, but hold your head high. Make YOURSELF proud. You are always teaching your kids and the people around you who you are and what you believe. Adversity doesn’t build character; it reveals it. The respect you garner during this time will make a big impact on the rest of your life and the people you have in it.
HINDSIGHT... Unless it’s an unbearable situation, it may be worth “toughing it out.” The kids do suffer when you get divorced. Remember, no matter what parent they are spending time with, they are always missing the other one. If your soon to be ex is the mother or father of your children, you both share a bond that is life long, you share a love for your children that no one else will.
Most of us end up in “different” relationships, but not “better” relationships. The happiest couples I know today were not more satisfied when they were younger, they just hung in there. Now in mid-life they are enjoying their kids and grandkids together as a family unit. The holidays aren’t split between two separate households. So, maybe it’s worth putting some time and effort into the relationship instead of giving up… as Dr. Phil would say you have to “earn your way out” of a marriage, and KNOW you did everything possible to make it work. If divorce is the only option, take care of you, make your children your number ONE priority, and know, there is light at the end of the tunnel, but you have to go through the dark to get there.