I was young and not very worldly when I first got married. I was 21, just out of college - and I had the world at my feet. But I wasn't aware of it. As a result, I lived through a very difficult marriage to a very difficult man. But the marriage taught me so much about living with others, taking responsibility for my own actions and about being at peace with myself. The marriage (and the divorce) taught me:
I didn't realize how much I sacrificed to get married until after my divorce. I compromised on decisions about where we would live and where I would work, and it took me a lot longer to establish my career as a result.
But I didn't truly understand the concept of sacrifice until the divorce. I wanted to fight. I believed I was on the side of right. I still do. But I came to the realization that life is not fair. The courts are not fair. Despite everything I saw and my lawyer saw, there was a chance I might not win. That if I was one of the less than 5% of cases that ends up in court, it might not go my way. In continuing to fight, I was sacrificing my own and my children's well-being, and our financial future. And I wasn't willing to potentially sacrifice those things just to prove I was right.
I compromised. I acquiesced to what eventually became a 50/50 share of custody. For my children's sake, instead of fighting, I tried and continue to try to make peace. At first, I felt like I was sacrificing a piece of my soul every time I pasted on a fake smile and compromised in order to maintain a peaceful existence for my children. And then I learned:
I learned to be at peace with my decisions. My decisions have brought me to where I am today. And I am happy with who I am and where I am today. I'm still learning this lesson as I continue to struggle with management of my co-parenting relationship. I am working towards accepting that there will always be compromises that I have to make. In concert with acceptance, I had to learn about:
As I became more familiar with my ex and his triggers and episodes, I also learned to be tolerant of them. In the marriage, my level of tolerance of increasingly more bizarre levels of mental health episodes got higher and higher - until I was at the point where I was contributing to his mental illness. I did attempt to convince him to get help - but on some level, my increasing tolerance and my methods of coping with his illness was actually making it worse.
Now that I'm out of the marriage though - I have learned that there are limits. There are limits to what I am willing to tolerate or accept or sacrifice. I learned that I am capable of setting and maintaining those boundaries. Whether they are part of my co-parenting relationship, or within myself. And with tolerance and setting boundaries comes:
In all things - between waiting for my daughter to finish her dinner, to allowing time for my ex to provide an important document - I have learned to accept the reality that I am not in control. I am not always successful. But I try to be mindful. I try to take intentional and deliberate steps instead of reacting with anger and dismay. Patience is not intuitive - that's why it takes practice. The practice of patience has taught me:
More from the divorce than the marriage - I have learned that it isn't always about who is right - rather about what is right. I try to maintain that focus in my co-parenting relationship. It's hard, as my ego struggles for control. My ego struggles not just to be "right," but to "win." I strive to be humble. To keep my ego in check. To remember that in co-parenting, it's not about me. Not at all. It's about my children. And if I have to eat some humble pie to keep peace, I am willing to do that. Because now that I'm out of the marriage, I have also learned:
While in my marriage, I actually learned to loathe myself. Intensely. I hated my body because I viewed it through my ex husband's mirror. I hated the daily sacrifices and compromises I made of my own self worth in order to keep things peaceful.
But from that self-loathing, after my bad marriage, I learned to love myself again. I learned that I am worth so much more than I had given myself credit for while married. As I figured out that others appreciated my post-baby body, I developed not only acceptance - but my own love for it. Now I view it through my own mirror. And I am at peace in my head as well. As I feel I am approaching my life with integrity and a sense of self worth that I didn't feel while I was married. I am now free to be me.
Practicing sacrifice, acceptance, tolerance, patience and humility are who I want to be - and who I want to emulate for my children. While I practice these things - I am not a doormat. There are things that I do not tolerate or accept. There are sacrifices I will not make. There are times when I cannot be patient and humble. There are things that I will fight for. But I have learned to choose my battles wisely. And in doing so, I can be at peace with myself.