If divorce is the easy way out, then I must be doing something wrong. I guess I just don’t catch on as quickly as other people, or I just have a knack for making things difficult, because I have not seen even a hint of the easy way out that people speak of. I knew it would be hard leaving my marriage of 15 years, but never did I expect this level of difficulty. I used to think that I was pretty amazing when I could get up every couple of hours to nurse my baby and still manage to put on matching clothes in the morning (ok, maybe not every morning). I used to think that making sure the kids got to the dentist every 6 months and to the doctor once a year was a pretty cool trick. I guess I was pretty naïve back then.
Just like most everyone else on this planet, I “did not believe in divorce”. I believed in working through the tough stuff, in staying together until the end, in raising kids in a 2 parent home. Never did I aspire to be a single mom, trying to fight through the everyday battles of life on my own. I don’t recall every once saying that if this marriage thing didn’t work out, I would be just fine on my own. I was never going to be “that woman”, you know, the one who has kids and then decides to get divorced and make her kids switch houses every few days. The one who just seems to get tired of her husband and trade him in for another one. I admit it, I had a lot of judgments about people who got divorced. I too thought that people just didn’t work hard enough, or they gave up too easily, or they just didn’t value marriage and family enough. If they just had stronger values, then they could make it work. I openly and freely apologize for my ignorant and narrow-minded judgments to everyone who might have gotten stuck in their net.
Not only is divorce not the easy way out, it is one of the hardest things I have done in my adult life, if not the hardest. There is hardly a day that goes by that I don’t wonder if there wasn’t some way I could have tried harder, sucked it up more, been a little tougher, anything to have kept the marriage together. It’s not that I want to get back together with my former husband, it’s just that I want my family to be whole again, I want to not face the challenges that I face as a single mom now, I want my kids to have just 1 home, I don’t want them to have to worry about which house they left their P.E. clothes at, I wish they never had to ask again which house they would be at for Christmas. There is always that lovely little voice in my head that says “if you had worked harder at your marriage, then you wouldn’t have to wonder how much longer you will be able to put a decent roof over your kids’ heads. You wouldn’t have to panic when a warning light comes on in your car. You had such an easy life, why couldn’t you have just made it work?” I admit it, the financial piece is one of the hardest pieces. Just because you get divorced doesn’t mean your expensed get cut in half. If you are lucky, your income gets cut in half, if you are like the rest of us, your income is more like ¼ of its former size. Emotionally it’s no picnic either. No one to laugh with about something that happened that day, no one to just sit with and say nothing to, no one to go to those obligatory events with anymore, no shared history to feel grounded with anymore. No one could beat me up more than I beat up on myself.
I try the dating thing off and on, but there is always a doubt in the back of my head as to what my intentions really are. Am I really just looking for someone to make my life easier because living this way is so hard? Am I really just looking for a second income, or for someone to help take the kids to school? Mostly the answer is no, but I would not be honest if I said those thoughts never crossed my mind.
So where’s the silver lining? First of all, you are not alone if you are finding divorced life beyond difficult. Even though this divorce rate is somewhere over 50% in this country, it is amazingly easy to think that you are the only pathetic divorced person on the planet. And even if you do happen to run across someone else in the same boat, unlike you, they probably have it all together and even have their nails done! Chances are it’s all a front, they are no more together than you are, they just pretend really well (and I’m sure they would say the same about you). It’s a good idea to hang onto a friend or two who remembers more clearly why you got divorced. I found that I was so shut down and in a fog by the time the marriage ended, that it is hard for me to articulate now what exactly happened and why I couldn’t stay married. It helps to have a live person outside of yourself to combat that inner critic you have inside.
Keep a small stash of chocolate somewhere. Have some hot french bread, or some ice cream every now and then. I am not advocating compulsive overeating or becoming an alcoholic. Those things won’t make anything better. But be kind to yourself, and every once in a while indulge in something that just feels good, like chocolate. Stop reading all those magazines that tell you how to have the perfect body and hair and make-up so that you can attract a partner. Eat reasonably healthy most of the time, fit some exercise in once in a while, and eat chocolate occasionally. This is not medical advice. Consult your doctor for that. This is just old fashioned common sense.
The thing that I cling to the most, is not clinging. Makes no sense right? When I am depressed, or frustrated, or at the bottom of the well, I try to look at those feelings as if they are encased in a bubble. I still feel them, but they are a tiny step removed from me, and it helps me not be consumed by them. I let it be ok to feel like I am at the bottom of the well, because I know that what arises, can also pass away. That feeling came, which means it can also go. It still feels pretty shitty, but it’s not permanent. Every once in a while imagine yourself 10 years from now. What will you say about this stage in your life? I usually imagine that I will be saying something like “wow that was awful, I am so glad that I am not there anymore.” Or “dang I’m pretty tough! Look how far I’ve come!” Somehow changing perspective helps, looking at things from a distance instead of from the underside of an ocean wave.
There is no happy ending, there is only today. And today had some tears, it had some laughter, it had some desperation, and it had some relief. I don’t even like to think “things will only get better”, because maybe they will and maybe they won’t. There is only today. I didn’t want to get out of bed today, it seemed like more than I could handle. I had lunch with a beautiful friend today, and she made me feel loved. I wanted to strangle my dogs today when they wouldn’t stop racing around the house. I felt my shoulders relax today when I took time to focus on my breath. Breathing in, I know that there are other people who feel the same way I do, and breathing out, I wish you all light and peace.
Note: I am a couple’s therapist, and work toward helping couples save their relationship if that is what they want to do. I am a realist also, and I know that divorce happens. If you need help working through divorce issues please call for an appointment. You don’t have to struggle alone. Counseling can help.