When I decided to divorce my husband of 20 years, all I knew was I couldn’t keep living the way I was living. I wasn’t thinking about making a better life for myself or having more fun. I had no idea that I could actually like my life, or that I could look forward to anything.
But life after divorce has turned out to be full of surprises – most good, a few not so much. Here are 10 ways life after divorce surprised me:
1. Silence was soothing to my soul. My former husband is a musician and sound junkie. There were radios, TVs, or stereos playing in every room, sometimes more than one. Talk radio was particularly bothersome to me, but if I would turn things off when I was around, there was a lot of pushback. After divorce, being able to walk into a silent room was surprisingly calming. I breathed deeper, and I didn’t have to work so hard to avoid becoming agitated. Ahhhh, silence.
2. I had money fears. This was one of the not so good surprises. Although I’d been the breadwinner for much of our marriage, and self-employed for the last six years we were together, I was surprised to find fear of not having enough money popping up after divorce. I guess it was the certainty that there was no Plan B, and that our family’s financial health was all up to me that brought this one to the forefront. On the plus side, facing these fears, learning more about managing my own finances, and learning to trust in a benevolent Universe for support helped me grow and gave me a lot more compassion for others who struggle to make ends meet.
3. I got better, and my kids’ health improved. I was never in poor health, but there always seemed to be some issue, ache, pain or problem that required a doctor visit, physical therapy, massage, etc. And several of my kids had seemingly significant health problems at the time of my divorce. The improvements in both my health and my kids’ health was a pleasant surprise. As the tension in the house left, many of the symptoms and issues diminished or disappeared. I was able to find appropriate help for those issues that remained. And in the years since divorce, I’ve had the time and energy to change my diet and exercise habits and establish a consistent meditation practice, all of which have improved my health and well-being so that I rarely see the doctor except for well visits and screenings.
4. I was capable of handling home improvements and car care. My former husband had always dealt with the contractors and service personnel for home- and auto-related updates and repairs. I knew very little about these areas, but I couldn’t ignore them once there was no one else around to carry the ball. A neighbor gave me a referral to a local mechanic, and I’ve been taking my cars there ever since. These guys are trustworthy and now know who I am. Just last week they gave me a free tire repair (after I spent a large amount on some other repairs last month, but it’s still nice to be known and well-treated). I’ve also managed a large-scale home improvement project and both emergency and routine repairs and maintenance successfully since my divorce. I’ve been surprised to find that I’m capable of asking the right kinds of questions, trusting my instincts about who to work with, speaking up for what I want, asking for help and support when I needed it, and being able to fund these projects as well.
5. We had less fighting in the house – across the board. Two of my three kids are boys (actually young men now, but they weren’t when we divorced). They fought regularly no matter what I did or didn’t do. My daughter didn’t fight like the boys, but she was often upset with their behavior. And they all had regular frustrations with their dad (especially when he was drinking). I expected some improvements once active alcoholism was removed from our home, but I was surprised to find that over time the squabbling among the siblings decreased, too. Though there are still some fights, there is a lot more joy and fun in life after divorce – not just for me, but for the kids as well.
6. No one was surprised about my divorce – except me. That “till death do us part” promise was something I wanted to honor. I thought my family and friends would judge me negatively for deciding to divorce, but I was wrong. Most wondered why it took me so long to leave, and almost everyone was supportive – even my Catholic family members. That was an unexpected surprise.
7. I could appreciate my former husband’s good qualities. I could see them more clearly from a distance, for one thing. But also, I watched the effort he made to stay in touch with the kids, especially when his work took him around the world. And he’s been cooperative since the divorce, which has allowed us to maintain a cordial relationship. That’s a bonus I didn’t count on.
8. We formed stronger connections to family and friends. Our family had slowly become isolated over the years as alcoholism progressed, especially once we moved to Colorado. The kids didn’t have friends over, and we rarely participated in family gatherings. After divorce, more kids hung out at the house, and we reconnected with my extended family nearby. I’ve relied heavily on my family for holiday traditions when I wasn’t up to it on my own. And I’ve love the energy that the young people bring to our home.
9. I discovered new interests and had the freedom to explore and develop them at my own pace. At the time I got divorced about the only things I knew about myself were that I was a good worker and made a decent living, and I was a good mom who cared deeply about her kids. I didn’t know what I liked, who I liked, or what I wanted to do with my time (mainly because if I wasn’t working or parenting, I was sleeping!). Slowly and gradually I’ve begun to try new activities and make friends, and to do so at a pace that feels comfortable to me. I’ve been surprised by the joy I feel when climbing mountains, for example, and the fact that I’m physically capable to do so. Before divorce, who knew?
10. Peace of mind is a priceless gift I’ve given myself. I wasn’t looking for happiness when I got divorced. I just wanted to feel like life was more than endless drudgery, and I knew I wanted to give my kids something better. The surprise has been to discover peace of mind as I’ve learned to be gentle with myself and trust my inner guidance. This is the best surprise of all because no one can take it away. And I wouldn’t have learned that without divorce.