The decision to divorce puts you at a crossroads in your life. You need to figure out how to close the book on your old life, and begin your new life. I am a very firm believer that you need to learn from the past in order to shape your future. These are the eight things I learned from my divorce.
1) I am a strong, capable woman
I really don't think I had a good understanding of what I was capable of while I was married. My ex's regular put-downs, jealousy and his general lack of support left me feeling inadequate. My self confidence was at it's lowest point just before I left. But that moment, when I set things in motion and made the decision to change my life and the lives of my children irrevocably, I started to discover exactly how strong I was.
Since my divorce, my career has flourished. I've become a better mother, and I've become a fantastic wife.
2) I am a good mother
I'm not a perfect mother, but I do the best with what I have. I've worked so hard to learn how to be a good parent.
I try as much as possible to parent by democracy - giving my children the opportunity to have their voices heard. I try to be attentive to their needs, but work hard to ensure that they behave properly and follow the rules. And if the rules are broken, there are consequences. But similarly, if their behaviour is exemplary, I'm not averse to awarding them. And that doesn't always mean a gift. I'm completely against buying their love (their father prefers to follow that style of parenting). I ensure that their behaviour is reinforced with praise and encouragement.
Since my divorce, I have come to understand that it is easier to build strong children than it is to fix a broken man.
3) I am a good wife
I wasn't. I'm a firm believer in the old adage "it takes two to tango". I was a horrible wife when I was married to my first husband. I was passive aggressive, I lied, I hid things, I yelled, I got angry, I threw things, and more than once, I ran away from my problems. But I was a horrible wife because he was a horrible husband.
And truthfully, when I left, I didn't think I was a good wife or could ever be. It took me over a year to start dating again. And then, for the most part, it was mostly to satisfy my physical needs. There were a few men in my life who satisfied the intellectual side as well (and a number who didn't), but I kept them all at arms length and never let one of them get close enough to find out if there could be anything more.
Until I started dating my husband. Much to my surprise, less than two months later we talked about marriage. And I wasn't averse to the idea. And five months later, we had the ceremony. And I've never looked back.
I can't believe what a different person I am this time. A different wife. I'm open. We discuss, we talk. I don't hide. I don't avoid. I don't get angry. We disagree sometimes, but we discuss - and come to a mutual understanding. And it's wonderful.
4) Co-Parenting with my ex isn't any easier now we're divorced
One of the professionals we saw while our marriage was dissolving said to me - if he was that way when you were married and you couldn't change it, why do you think he's going to change now?
It took some more reflection, but eventually, I realized that she was right - I couldn't change him. The only thing about the situation that I could change was myself and my reactions to his behaviour. So I set about doing that. I worked with the professionals to define a strict parenting plan that specified parameters for our co-parenting of our children, but outside of that, I try my hardest to ensure that I don't let his dramas overtake my thoughts. I work to ensure that he adheres (for the most part) to his commitments, but acknowledge that I can't force him to understand - and I let it go.
5) My children are going to be just fine
It's taken some adjustment. I'm a worrier in general. My kids have put up with a lot. Their father is determined to make every single co-parenting decision difficult. He ensures that every interaction between us is as painful as possible. He argues every decision - even after we've made it together.
I guard them as much as possible from that. Do I slip sometimes? Yes. But I think the kids understand that I'm trying to make the best of a difficult situation. And I've come to believe that if I can be with them 100% during the 50% of the time that they're with me, they will learn what growing up in a "normal" two parent household is like. They will understand how to study and how to get to be on time and what foods they should be eating to be healthy. From my interactions with my husband, they'll learn how a man and a woman should treat each other. And, most important, they will learn that they are smart, confident people.
6) I need to live in the moment
I can't live in the past. It doesn't mean I can't learn from it - I'm still learning from it. But I can't live in the past any more than I can live in the future. I need to make the most of today, whatever surprises it brings my way.
7) Life goes on
There were points during my divorce where I thought it would never end. But it does. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. The grass is greener. The flowers are prettier. There is life after divorce. And it is good. No matter how dark it seems, it will end, and you can be happy again.
8) I am grateful
This is the one thing that I never, ever envisioned saying while I was going through our divorce. There were so many days when I wished my ex would just drop off the face of the planet.
I firmly believe though, that I wouldn't be the person that I am today without him. I wouldn't have discovered the full extent of my abilities if he hadn't challenged them to the extent he did (and does). I wouldn't have learned how to be a good wife by learning what a bad wife is. I wouldn't have learned how to give everything to my children. Without him, my children wouldn't exist.
I made the decision to close the book on my old life, and open a new one. I'm so grateful for the lessons I learned from the old book. But I'm determined to start a new story. And if I could do it over again, I wouldn't change a thing.