When the judge struck the final gavel and your divorce was over, some of your best friends took out their cell phones and started to scroll through their contacts lists, wondering who would be a good match for you. Tall, short, blond, a sports nut, someone with kids of their own, maybe someone who would show you the kind of fun you had not experienced in years.
A recent survey out of England in 2014 showed that divorced parents have some regrets about getting divorced. These divorced parents often put on one face for their friends and family, but secretly harbor regrets and wonder if they made the right decision.
Although there are many things that a divorced parent thinks they should have done differently both before and after a divorce, here are 5 things that people often regret about getting divorced.
1. Regret not being more involved with family finances during the marriage.
For many divorced parents, the rude awakening during a divorce can be the true state of family finances. Instead of keeping in touch with the cash inflows and outflows that kept their families propped up for so many years, paid for summer camps and new cars every 3-4 years, many divorced parents never got their hands wet with the financial dirty work.
Then the divorce started, and financial statements started to trickle in. Only then did they discover the fuel that actually powered the three family cars was debt – too much credit card debt, too much mortgage debt, too much private debt, with a final balance sheet that could only really balance if good math and good sense were left out of the decision-making.
When the divorce was over, the only thing these divorced parents could change was how much of the debt they would be personally responsible for.
2. They miss the friendship and companionship of a spouse.
You had gotten used to the routine. Every night, you and your wife/husband put the children to bed, poured a single glass of wine, and then snuck into bed and watched Jimmy Kimmel. During the commercials, you asked your spouse if you should maybe change your hair color, or maybe start to expand your growing jewelry design business or, play more golf on the weekends.
After a divorce, that easy and available ear which was commonplace during better times is gone. Instead, you have friends that “are there for you” (but generally not late at night), relatives who will generally agree that it was “his/her fault,” and your children who are still blaming you and your spouse for getting divorced.
You don’t have someone at your side to bounce ideas off of, who is just as interested in your life and future as you are. You get used to having someone around who can provide another opinion, who might help you squirm out of a particularly narrow way of thinking, or might give you a perspective on child rearing that might not come naturally to you.
Should you give your secret desire to franchise your jewelry design business a real chance? Should you continue to speak with your youngest sister regularly, even if she uses you to avoid problems in her own marriage?
Are you dismissing her needs when you go out on the weekend with your friends?
These are all questions that in many marriages would be aired while sitting in bed late at night.
Now you have to look to your own counsel, and the pillow on the other side of the bed is just a pillow with no opinions – just a soft piece of comfortable bedding.
3. Your children will be affected.
Even if both parents get along well during and after a divorce, the kids will be affected. You can try as hard as you want, and promise the kids they will get double the presents, double the love, and double the affection, but kids know that there is one thing you cannot do – you can’t bring back their loving, united family.
And how can you prevent this? You really can’t. Different children react to divorce in different ways, but most resent the fact that their solid core of two parents is being taken away, at least at first.
Later, when the children see how happy their parents can be with new challenges, new friends, and even new romantic interests, they often change their minds. What once was a marital home filled with prolonged silence, occasional outbursts and arguing late into the night can be transformed into the wonder of new faces, meeting new friends and finally spending time with a smiling parent.
4. Regret giving up your careers.
When you make plans during a marriage, you don’t plan to fail. So when you and your spouse had those deep conversations late at night about having kids, all snuggled up in bed and toasty warm, you swore that it was right for you to be there for your children 24/7.
That’s what leads some to quit their jobs. Five years out of college and graduate school, you were headed right to the top in your law firm if you committed to the long hours and the sacrifice.
Instead, you chose to sacrifice your own career, and become a stay-at-home Mom/Dad. It worked great when the marriage was still in bloom, and you got to see the children each take their first steps and speak their first words.
Just before the divorce was finalized, you realized just how much you gave up, and how precarious your income potential is now. Yes, you are glad that it was your eyes and camera, and not the eyes and camera of a nanny, that saw your first child take her first steps in the nursery.
Maybe the first time around, you should have more closely examined the income potential of both spouses, without falling into the old clichés about which parent should work, and the importance of having a parent stay home to raise the children.
By the time the divorce was fully underway, and you were frantically calculating how you could pay the mortgage or rent, groceries, transportation and other costs of your own place, your law firm position that was smoking hot and could have led to a secure partnership income until retirement was years ago given to another.
5. You miss the convenience of an errand partner and permanent “companion.”
Many divorced parents find that they desperately miss not having an automatic companion to all events. Fundraisers, little league games, dance recitals, company picnics, even trips to the health club – a handy spouse can mean the difference between a quick drop-off in front of a busy Nordstroms at the mall and spending 15 minutes trying to find a parking spot within 100 yards of the Macy’s entrance with two kids yelling in your ear, adding half-an-hour to your trip.
Most parents that have been through this don’t recognize the loss at first. After the fifth time around the parking lot, peering around every turn and craning to catch a glimpse of a telltale backup light suggesting a soon to be available parking space, it becomes obvious. A spouse plays roles in your life that you don’t miss until the convenience is no longer available.
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