The morning after the night I binged on chocolate mousse cakes, olives, and vermouth and woke up with raccoon eyes and a mother of a headache I realized it was time to revert to my trusted habit of list-making. I decided after a shower, a hearty "please cure this hangover" breakfast, some aspirin and three glasses of OJ, that I needed to identify what I did that kept me from moving forward. At this point, it had been more than two years since my divorce so clearly I was not "dealing" as some of my girlfriends would often tell me.
One of my closest friends compared my behavior to that of a bunch of cars stuck in peak hour traffic, everyone eventually after a long and painful meander reaching their destination and me...still stuck in the slow lane waiting for the lights to signal that I may "go". I never really understood what she meant - until that fateful morning after my "deconstructed martini" night.
I am not going to list the typical textbook behaviours for you but rather what I perceived to be the feelings and emotions of what kept me from moving on in spite of the fact that every day I told myself I would put one foot in front of the other (and these are listed in no particular order):
5 Things That Keep Women From Moving on After Divorce
1. Over-romanticizing your failed marriage:
Yes the marriage had good times, wonderful times in fact, perhaps he was your first love, perhaps he was your first real love after your heart was broken by your first love. You had a wonderful life together at one stage. Perhaps you are the proud parents of beautiful intelligent smart kids...BUT the marriage ended for a reason. The reason being that somewhere somehow it was just not working, someone stopped loving the other, one of you broke the deal and ultimately the vows. So before you dwell day after day after day on the wonderful times: STOP and remember that you decided on divorce for a reason. No matter how painful that reason was: remember it, acknowledge it, learn from it and move forward.
2. Wondering about the "what ifs":
This I had a real struggle with. "What if I'd pushed harder for counselling?", "What if I'd fought harder for his love?", "What if I'd been a better wife?". Perhaps you were not a perfect mother, or a perfect wife, perhaps there were times that you two gave up, but know that it took two to tango. Whether you were the party that perhaps transgressed or party who suffered the pain of being transgressed against...the coin has two sides. Again: STOP. Acknowledge what went wrong, remember that you tried to fix it, know that you did your best with the hand you got dealt, embrace and cherish yourself as being the best that you can be, learn from it and move forward.
3. Wondering about how your ex is doing:
Perhaps the two of you get along well, just because of who you are or maybe for the sake of the kids. Appreciate this and be grateful for it. Do not dwell on it, do not let it consume you and DO NOT get stuck on pondering what he is up to. Accept the fact that his social comings and goings are no longer your business, the clothes that he wears no longer concerns you and his relationships are definitely not something that needs to keep you awake at night.
That bond is definitely gone and even if you are raising kids together it will never be the same again. Expressing concern and having an opinion about the type of partner he may or may not expose your kids to is, of course, something you can have thoughts about...but know where this is coming from. If it's not coming from a place of genuine concern for your kids and their well-being then it's not worth entertaining. Move forward.
4. Stress and Worry:
The ugly stepsister of any breakup, any divorce, in fact of all things in life is stress. I am not going to tell you to stop stressing and worrying, how can I? The future is unknown, its bleak, it's scary and unsure. You do not even know how you are going to juggle custody arrangements, bills, unforeseen expenses in your now smaller-income household, and all those other mammoth tasks. So no - do not stop worrying, do not stop fretting, but manage your stress.
It will do you no good to have preemptive nightmares about facing the ex and his newer younger bride or girlfriend at a school function, it will do you no good to worry about whether your daughter will survive her first acne breakout while she is with her dad and not with her trusty mom who is dependable and always wise. Stress and worry will leave you tired and depleted and stuck. What will do you good is choosing your battles...worrying about today ...today and being in the moment. Yes, plan for the future but do what you can do now. And move forward.
Lastly and this is a big one:
5. Start loving yourself and stop (I repeat STOP) the self-loathing:
Self-loathing is the number one thing that kept me from moving forward after divorce. It encompassed so many other negative feelings; inadequacy, feeling rejected, self-doubt and second guessing my every decision, feeling incompetent and at times even utterly stupid, despising the way I looked, spoke, thought. It caused me to question my beliefs, what I stood for, what I thought was acceptable, I at times did not even respect myself. I enjoyed wallowing in that pool of pity. The murky waters of dissecting my every flaw: my C-section scars were hideous, my stretch marks were visible to all, the scars on my legs from childhood operations would turn many a man away from me.
Those were the thoughts that constantly mulled around in my mind. No one would ever love me the way my ex did. I lost sight of the fact that those C-section scars are my reminders of the two awesome souls whom I gave birth to; I forgot that the scars on my legs bore testimony to my strength, my will and determination to undergo more than ten operations that ultimately result in me being able to drive a car, run, kick a ball, wear normal girlie shoes. Self-loathing lulled me into becoming even more miserable at times, and worst of all, I invited self-loathing into my life day after day. It was as if I wanted to punish myself, remind myself that I am unlovable, that the divorce was my fault. I could not move forward when I did not love and honor myself and all that I am.
So on this glorious morning after the night before, while suffering from a massive hangover and making the above list; I promised myself that I would take two deep breaths and MOVE FOWARD. I would look back often sine then, but only to remind myself of how far I have come and to propel myself into going even further.