12/2/14

8 Years a Divorcee: 8 Things I've Learned Since My Divorce

The holiday season is a crazy one. Time seems to move faster, obligations pile up all around us and there are hundreds of things we think we should be doing at any given moment. It's hard to put the brakes on in November and December. But that's exactly what I've been doing.

You see, there are two dates that have special meaning to me during this rushed, exciting season. Not special like the birth of a child or a holiday, but things happened on those dates that have made indelible marks on my life. Kind of made me who I am today. And for those reasons, I acknowledge them. Not with any fanfare, mind you. There are no announcements made, no celebrations to be had. But still. I pause, momentarily on each of these days, and remember.

The first one hits in November. It's my now-defunct wedding anniversary. We got married on Thanksgiving. I was a blushing bride, 5 months pregnant and giddy with anticipation to begin a new phase in life. I have nothing but good memories of that day; despite the giddiness gradually giving way first to complacency and then to much darker emotions, the memories are nice.

Then, just around the corner, is the anniversary of my divorce. That one lands in the beginning of December. Thirteen years, a house and four kids later. The memories of this one aren't pretty or fun or dotted with sweet flashbacks. It was the final blow of a two-years-long beating, and in some ways it was a blessing. The date used to be a black mark on my calendar, THE DAY EVERYTHING ENDED. Now, I see it more as THE DAY EVERYTHING BEGAN.

It's 8 years now. There were times I didn't think I'd live through the first year, but I did. And each year after that as well. Some were harder to get through than others, but here I am: older, wiser and somehow...happier. I wish I could go back in time and let Newly Divorced Jenny know that things were going to be okay. I'd sit down with that terrified, sad woman, make her a dirty martini (which she didn't know would become our favorite cocktail) and tell her what I've learned:

1. You did the best you could. There will be people who are going to make you feel guilty about being divorced. Make you feel as if you didn't try hard enough, didn't make the right sacrifices. Your ex is going to do this, too. Head games and guilt trips and bizarre behavior that will make you question every single thing you've done to get to this point, this consciously-uncoupled state. Screw them. And screw the notion that you are to blame. You did try, you tried harder than most people would have. You showed more grace than necessary, more class than needed. You became the poster child for dignity, and you did all of that while solo-parenting four children. Own your part in this, my dear: you rocked it.

2. You should sell the house, right now. Sell it, give it to your ex, do whatever you can do to get this albatross off your neck. Yes, I know it's a box full 'o memories, but my friend...it's time to be done. The three mortgages will end up breaking your back, and your credit. You're going to discover, albeit a little bit late in the game, that home is indeed where the heart is. And you can move your heart somewhere better. You're hanging onto it for all the wrong reasons. To quote a movie that your kids will thankfully be too old to become obsessed with, "LET IT GO."

3. Don't rush into the dating thing. Honey, I know you're hellbent on getting back into the game, that you need to show yourself and everyone else that you can still do it, but slow down. Focus on repairing. There is brokenness all around you, and despite the nagging feeling that you're missing Mr. Right, you need to be in fixing mode for a while. Believe me...if Mr. Right is out there, he'll wait until you're ready. That's why he's Mr. Right. Oh, and FYI: when you see the Mullet guy on eHarmony, just say no. Dude did time for domestic assault. And he's still married. A married felon. You're welcome. And now please see #4.

4. You will have sex again. And again, and again. Remember that day, after some of the fog began clearing, and you realized your sole source of all things sex-related was gone? I do. You were getting the mail and actually said, out loud, "Oh my God. Who am I going to have sex with now that he's gone?". Fifteen years of being with just one person is kind of habit forming (well, at least it was for you). For a long time after he left, sex was the furthest thing from your mind. But then it wasn't. It was pretty damn close to your mind. Like, on top of it, in heat and quite possibly humping it. Know that the desire to have sex is natural and the fact that your Sexy Spidey Senses are tingling again is GOOD and NORMAL. But take this advice: choose wisely. Believe it or not, you will have several fellas to choose from. Some of them will be great for scratching that itch. Some will be fun to flirt with, and some will be best left alone. I will tell you that the guy who is remodeling your neighbor's kitchen is definitely one of the latter. I know you're lonely, girl, but do you not see his striking resemblance to Captain Caveman? PASS.



5. You aren't going to hate him forever. No, not Kevin James. It's 2014 and we still can't stand that rotund actor. Seriously, must you pull out the 'dancing fat guy' shtick in every single movie, Paul Blart? The "him" I'm referring to is your ex-husband. Right now, there is nobody on earth you love less. Lucifer himself sounds like a fabulous companion compared to the man who broke your heart. But there will be a day when the hate is just gone. Poof. You will change his name in your phone from "A HOLE" to "HIS REAL NAME". Your lips won't purse and your nose won't wrinkle and your eyes won't scrunch when you speak of him. No, you will never be the president of his fan club, but you will be relieved of the back-breaking burden that is hate. And it will feel all kinds of amazing. In the meantime? Take advantage of that hatey energy. Clean the damn garage.

6. -Wait, what? Another dirty martini? Of course! Didn't I say you'd love them?

6. Your kids will survive. Oh sweet Jesus of Nazareth. The children. It's almost unbearable to look at them right now, isn't it? The pain is so fresh and so vivid in their faces. That's where most of the rage comes from, my dear. I mean, yeah, it sucks to be cheated on, but your kids? The dismemberment of your marriage has hurt your offspring, and that evokes something almost otherworldly from you. Know this, woman: each one of them hurts, that's true. They handle their pain in different ways. Four kids, four ways of dealing with it. None of them are easy, and a couple of them are downright horrifying. You're going to be tested, my friend. Your limits to what you can take are going to be pulled and stretched like taffy, until you think you cannot possibly handle anything else. And then you get more to handle.

Spoiler alert. You handle it like a goddamn boss. The two older ones? They are almost 21 and 19 now. Both in college. Both thriving and healthy and happy. One of them is in love! The two younger ones are your roommates for now, and spending time with them is like a salve on your soul. You have really, really wonderful relationships with all of the kids. Thick as thieves, you are. And you know why? Because you stuck it out with them. You were there for them when they needed you, and you never, ever gave up.

(P.S. For Christmas of 2012 Molly buys you a toaster. You hide in the kitchen so the kids can't see you bawling over a freaking toaster. Yeah, you are still a big crybaby. Sorry.)

7. This is going to feel like the worst thing ever. Until you realize it's not. Your middle name is going to be Woe Is Me for a while, and honey, that's okay. Woe is you, no question. But then you're going to notice that planet Earth has been merrily spinning away while you were embroiled in what felt like mortal combat. People's lives were changing, kids were growing, the economy was getting ready to take a massive dump. Things are going to happen, some bad things, some scary things. People you love are going to get sick. You and the kids are going to hit some hard bumps in the road.

You're going to discover that your divorce, as painful and exhausting and traumatic as it was, wasn't the end of the world. It sucked, no doubt about it. But it didn't kill you. You will learn the difference between "bad" and "awful", my friend. It's not a pretty lesson, but it's something you never forget.

8. There is no limit to what you can achieve. This one is the most important, so I'm going to repeat it: THERE IS NO LIMIT TO WHAT YOU CAN ACHIEVE. Oh, what's that? You say that getting out of bed these days takes all you have? I get it. And that's okay. It's to be expected. Your world was torn asunder, girl, it takes time to recover. Time to work everything out. And when you're living in the aftermath of a brutal divorce, everything doesn't always work out with ease. You're going to face obstacles that scare the crap out of you, challenges that make you feel like a tiny, trembling David staring up at a gnarly, giant Goliath.

You're going to learn how to manage money and balance a checkbook and do your own taxes! You'll figure out how to change the bulbs in your car lights. You'll install a garbage disposal and hook up wireless routers and you'll talk to your teens about sex and love and condoms. You're going to become a fierce advocate for your children, you're going to ask for help when you need it and give help when asked. You're going to be stronger and smarter and tougher and more tender than you ever imagined you'd be. You're going to write like a mother-effer, and find so many friends and opportunities when you do.

You're going to love. You're going to be loved. You're going to adopt a dog who sheds so so much but who will own substantial real estate in your heart (and sadly, in your bed).

The day is going to come when getting out of bed is easy and you do it early every morning and work hard all day and then go home to be with your family at night. You're never going to master cooking much more than your curry chicken and a decent pot roast but that's okay. The kids still love pizza.

Eight years will pass in the blink of an eye even though some of the days and nights seem as if they will never end. Eight years, and look at all the good things that have happened. Look how much light and love and laughter there is in your life. I can't even begin to picture what the next eight will bring.

So, my younger, freshly divorced self (and anyone else who fits the bill), hang in there. You're in for one hell of a ride.

But...I'm here waiting for you at the end. Waiting with a hug and a spot on the couch next to me and an ice cold dirty martini. It's all going to be okay, and it's all going to be worth it.

I promise.






42 comments:

  1. Jenny ... you are the friggin' boss.

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  2. Wow... did this come at the perfect time for me... I really needed to read this! Thanks for the hope : )

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  3. Thank you... two years out, and things aren't as bad as they were, but still, it was lovely to read confirmation.

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  4. I LOVE YOU! Thank GAWD for this blog. Now if I could just get that time machine to take me eight years into the future…oh, wait, maybe I meant eight years into the past when I was single, a non regular at the courthouse, and NOT LIVING WITH MY MOTHER! Calgon take me away!!!

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    1. I feel you on every sentence!!

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  5. Can I get this whole article tattooed on my arm?? Thank you for the wisdom and hope in what has so far been a pretty dark time. I look forward to the future, and to getting laid again. ;)

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  6. In the early months of my seperation I took great solace in your words. You are awesome, and if we are ever in the same city/ country I would love to have a drink with you! Although I've yet to acquire the taste for martini a!

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  7. THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH FOR THIS!!!! I'm just nearing my first year divorce anniversary... and it sure feels like hell. You're my inspiration Jenny... I don't want to sound corny but really, you are. There are just days and nights when I don't want to go on anymore...But then I think of you... Then I begin to be hopeful again.

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  8. Amen! And for all your readers who feel extra guilt because they left their spouse because they had no other option, know that you are not alone. Jenny, your blog reaches out to all of us, thank you for eloquently stating what so many of us need to hear. In this year of focus on domestic abuse (physical, verbal and financial) no person should feel that he/she doesn't have options. It will get better, even if you are the one being raked over the coals because you were the successful "main breadwinner" in the marriage and the one who did everything "perfectly." Your family knows, your kids know and to hell with the haters. Own your success and be proud of your accomplishments! You have a wonderful future ahead of you! (On a side note and from personal experience with my fiancé's ex-spouse: parental alienation is devasting to children; long drawn court battles do not solve these issues, please, please read number 5. Again. And again. And again. Time heals a lot of wounds, but if you use your children as a pawn for your needs the scars last a lifetime. Read Jenny's prior blogs, she is a role model in civility. If your ex is truly evil, the kids will figure it out. If it it a moment in time, the hatred between you and your ex will pass and the kids get to keep both parents.)

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  9. Thanks for writing. This is my first Christmas as a divorcee, my ex is getting married to his 21 year old, pregnant girlfriend on Saturday so I have been feeling all kinds of sorry for myself. Thankfully, I have two wonderful kids (4 years and 16 months) to help me through. Reading your blog gives me hope that one day I will feel human again.

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  10. The universe has a way of giving you what you need in the moment. This article is what I needed today. I'm in the very beginning stages of going through a divorce and it is the hardest thing I've ever done. Thanks for reminding me that I'm not alone.

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  11. All of this. I am working on the courage to put the family home (all mine now) on the market. And I would add #9: Some days you think you are over it all and one little thing will trigger a memory (good or bad) and you will be temporarily set all the way back to the beginning. It's always temporary.

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  12. Hit the 2 year mark in October and it is the most amazing thing I have ever done for me and my children. Have an amazing boyfriend who loves all of us and have plans to marry. Great post - thank you!!

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  13. This is beautiful. And there's no way you could have pictured yourself writing it 8 years ago, I am sure!

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  14. Exactly!
    It's all true.
    Like Jenny said, you'll eventually get through it.
    In the meantime, keep coming back to her site for support.
    I'm confident that you'll be able to find that one blog entry that will somehow relate to you.
    More importantly though, by doing so, there's a good chance that you'll find an unexpected comfort that will embrace you. And over time, a healing will slowly start to fill in the spaces in your heart that were rendered broken and empty from the experiences that you'll be encountering while going through a divorce.


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  15. yep. All this is so relatable to me. I'm, gosh, 9 years away from my divorce and I've made a career, sold the big house for an awesome smaller condo, love, lost, loved, watched death smack me in the face, loved, lost, loved again---hopefully this is a keeper, gotten 2 into college, one more almost thru high school, made awesome friends, tossed 'not so much really my friends', had savings, have cash, have a new kitten... and thought heck, if I can do it... for the sake of my sanity and my kid's mental health.... It's a heck of a ride, one worth every moment. mostly just was ME. and I stopped having to apologize for being me. I'm pretty freaking fabulous.

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  16. Regarding number 5. - hate gives way to apathy.....you've moved on, and he just doesn't matter anymore. Enjoyed your blog Jenny!! I have 2 of my closest friends are divorced. One is 12 years out, remarried and really happy - I went through all 8 phases with her. The other is 1 year out, still going through it, but I know she'll be ok!

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  17. My divorce was finalized 4 years ago as of this last Sunday. I wish I'd had this list!! I wish I'd had you to drink dirty martinis with! You are absolutely amazing.

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  18. Loved this post! I am 12 years divorced, 4 kids, 2 adults now & 2 still at home, and I could totally relate to the freshly divorced Jenny and the Jenny today. This was a very enjoyable read!

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  19. Jenny this is such a good post. I shared it with a friend who is close to her first year of the end of her relationship. It really helped her. You have a gift thanks for sharing it with others and entertaining me.

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  20. Jenny, your blog has been such an inspiration to me. My husband left me and our three children for *gasp* his secretary 2 months ago. While I felt my life was completely over, I stumbled across your blog. I read the ENTIRE blog in one night. You have no idea how much your writing made me laugh (which I needed), cry, and most importantly, have HOPE that one day, I will be ok, and come out stronger on the other side. Please continue to blog. You have been such an inspiration to SO many women, who have unfortunately been placed in the same s#%^storm, that we never thought we would be in. Thank you for your candidness, honesty, and inspiration!!!

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    1. Agreed... this blog has DEFINITELY given me some HOPE as well!

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  21. So loved this..especially #8. Thanks for sharing!

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  22. I'm committing this to memory. Thanks.

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  23. I am a happily married grandma of nearly 50 years...but I found this post magnificent. You have found perspective and clarity...and I admire you for sharing your reality. The main gist I saw here was: hang in there...it is worth it. Life is worth it. Love to you and yours.

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  24. This was important for me to hear. It has been two years since my ex-husband came home from a work trip to tell me he wanted a divorce (when I was 35 weeks pregnant). Back and forth to court, lying, cheating, stealing, a horrible and difficult visitation schedule, unemployment, struggling to make ends meet- all have characterized te past two years. My ex has destroyed our family and there are some days where I can see no ending, no out, no light.

    I thank you for reminding me there is an end out there, and a good one.

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  25. I really needed this. Each day is seems hard and lonely; feeling like no one understands what I'm going through. Thank you.

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    1. You're welcome. It is so hard and lonely, my friend. But it gets easier! You're not alone.

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  26. I wrote my own piece sort of like this awhile ago: http://theindigorabbit.blogspot.com/2014/09/extraordinary-life-aka-things-i-learned.html But I still worry about my kids.

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    1. Thanks for sharing, Angela :) I still worry too, but not nearly as much as I used to. Hang in there!

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  27. The best part of going through a bad experience is learning from your losses and mistakes. You're right, going through a divorce is not how anybody pictured how their marriage will be, but everyone who is strong enough to pick themselves up will do it like a boss. It's going to hurt like hell, but it's going to be a brighter day after you've managed to move on. Anyway, thanks for sharing that! All the best to you! :)

    Clifford Wheeler @ Powell Spencer & Partners

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  28. What about the guy you've left behind? What about *his* soul - the one you've crushed. Have you ever bothered to think about the sadness you've brought to his life?

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    1. Reading comprehension: it's a beautiful thing. I didn't leave anyone behind, Einstein.

      Happy Holidays!

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  29. What a wonderful read! It's been 2 years now for me since the husband I adored, and who I thought adored me, told me he didn't. Its been a slog for a lot of it, but the light is coming through. So many of your 1 through 8 resonate with me, but unfortunately 5 just isn't there, and I cannot imagine it! I still have imaginary conversations where I slay him with words; its tiring. Bring on #5. I may check in with you in 6 years to let you know!

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  30. Thank u. More than words can say.

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  31. Thank you for this. Thank you!! It was 8 years Nov. 30 since the divorce. I cried at a friend's party about the baby I lost and about my ex moving in with his current girlfriend. We ended up having a discussion turned counseling from a couple. We shared stories as well as they. I said I would be devastated if he got her pregnant and the baby goes to term. I've been mad about him having steady relationships and me none but I was told I never know really what kind of relationships he's having. He said he would always be stepdad to my daughter so they see each other.

    Reading your article had me crying at first but the more I read, I reflected on the positive changes: my credit rating is now great, I was able trade in my 13 year old car for a new one, I went back to school for my masters, I've been back teaching and tenured now after being laid off for two tears, my daughter is an outstanding nurse on her floor, we have a good relationship, and I am finding out what it means to live on my own. My daughter is in her own place now and so am I. She's 28 and I'm 41.

    The rocky parts I am realizing was also a path to growth in terms of how to handle situations. I lost my job, wasn't sure how rent was going get paid, my daughter working more hours to help but cost her much tonlose her place in the nursing program, sitting with her as she wrote her petition letter and plan to reenter and sitting in the meeting then waiting 3 months to get an acceptance letter, my mom and daughter getting back in church even though I felt I failed God and was unworthy to serve him, credit taking a big hit, losing insurance and not being able to pay for meds, and a few other things.

    I could go on but typing on a cell phone is a lot of work. I'm stronger, wiser, and becoming a little more confident each day.

    I will say that I love my space in my apartment. This is my selfish moment.

    Amy

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  32. I forgot to write- just the "cried' part with the laughing, crying while laughing etc.
    xo

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  33. Thank you for sharing your story, Jenny. My husband and I are in the military and he deploed to Korea for a year while I took care of our two kids 2 and 5 and worked full time. Then when he came home we moved to Japan, once we settled in he told me he "fell for someone over there and he lives he and wants to be with her." I'm heart broken for myself and my kids ( even though he says he wants to be part of their life). I have no support here so I resorted to looking on line. Please continue your blogs because they let me know that I will eventually get through this mess, cause I hurting so much right now. God Bless!

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  34. Thank you for this! I'm 4 months in and still in my robe after sleeping for 12 hours last night. 22 years of marriage, 3 kids, 3 pets and 1 devastating affair. I know I'll survive but right now it doesn't feel so great. I appreciate your perspective.

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    1. Sleep is GOOD, my friend. It will get better, I promise. Hang in there.

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