Don’t be mistaken that just because you want a divorce, ask for a divorce, or demand a divorce that your life automatically becomes better.
This is a death, and it must be grieved.
Divorce is also a rebirth, for those who choose to use it as such. No one walks before they crawl or runs before they walk. You will probably have to begin at the beginning before you get to a better, new life.
For me, my ex-husband was barely out of the house, and I began to wonder if I’d made the biggest mistake of my life. Regardless of all the problems in our marriage, and all the ways he didn’t contribute (and there were many), the reality is that I had never done it all by myself before. Sure, I thought I’d been the only one to worry about the big things (how are we going to afford a new roof) and the small things (which roofing company is best). But feeling alone is different than being alone.
And I was alone with two kids, broke as hell, and facing the reality of actually doing everything by myself. I spent more nights crying into a pillow than I did believing I was better off and would eventually do something big and different with my life. In order to move on and have the better life I’d believed in pre-divorce, I had to work for it. I had to earn it. And, ultimately, I had to go out and get it for myself.
Letting Go of the Guilt
The first step was letting go of the guilt I felt. In asking/requesting/demanding (pick a word) our divorce, I’d done something that felt right for me for the first time in my life. Looking back, I know it was the right decision for my children, too, but at the time, I was doing something to make me happy, not anyone else. (I found out later my family was happy, too.)
At the same time, my ex-husband was making some of the worst decisions I’ve ever seen. Violence, lying, stealing – and he blamed me for every awful thing that happened to him. For weeks, I let myself wallow in the guilt until my fingers were pruny with it. One day, out of nowhere (and plenty of soul-searching), I decided enough was enough. If I was responsible for my choices in life, he was responsible for his choices.
The moment I decided to let his poor decisions stop being a reflection of me and the decisions I was making, I could breathe again. A 50-pound weight lifted from my shoulders. Life immediately became better even though very little changed. A life lesson sorely needed was learned that day. I am responsible for me (and the little people I’m raising), and other people are responsible for themselves. I can help, I can guide, and I can suggest, but at the end of the day, he decides what path to take.
Once the guilt was gone, and I could hold my head higher, I began to look around at my life. I hated where I was. I drove a vehicle I’d never wanted to buy (previously his crappy little SUV). I lived in a home I no longer wanted or could take care of by myself. Money was hemorrhaging faster than I could earn it. And every single day I wondered if I was making the right decisions for my children.
By nature, I’m a solver of problems. When something isn’t right or at least the way I’d like it to be, I am compelled to make it right, to fix things. While I’d been gripped with guilt, I couldn’t see any way out. I was stuck. Once that ended, my fix-it mentality kicked in. I didn’t like my life? Time to fix it.
With plenty of help and guidance from family, I sold my crappy SUV and borrowed an older (but reliable) vehicle from my stepfather, put the house on the market and found a new place to live closer to work, and trimmed the budget until the money only bled out a little instead of gushing. As time went on, with my eyes wide open to search for solutions, I managed my money and my home until one day I looked up and realized I was doing it on my own, on my power, through my own will, without the crushing fear of screwing it all up.
Confidence is Sexy
There’s something about owning your own life (both good and bad), charting your own course, and feeling empowered. It’s just damn sexy. Here I was, age 32, and for the first time in my adult life, I was attracting the attention of men, the kind of attention I actually wanted from men I desired. At first, I was blown away by it. Then I realized it was a self-perpetuating cycle.
The more confident I felt, the more I could navigate relationships and sex (which don’t always require relationships, by the way). I had the strength to tell a man, “No, I’m not okay with this. No, I don’t want that. Yes, I do like that.” I had the ability to walk away from someone who didn’t lift me up, and the nerve to approach someone I desired.
I tried new things. I had new experiences. I loved and lost – and realized I could recover. I found out what I required and what I didn’t from any relationship. And ultimately, even after plenty of good sex and bad heartbreaks, I came across the man who was worthy of every part of me. He was the one person who I could confide in, admitting every mistake I’d ever made and every accomplishment, big or small.
In the end, my divorce was the catalyst for a new life but not the reason. I was the reason. My willingness to set aside guilt and grief and allow myself to be who I am – those are the things that changed my life. Along the way, I discovered sex, love, a new career path, and a whole new world I never imagined possible in my married life. The power to change my life was within me and was based on the decisions I made. I chose my path, allowed for stumbles along the way, and kept moving forward.
That’s all any of us can do, really. Keep moving forward towards the life you want, instead of stagnating in the life you think you’re supposed to have. It’s the only way anything gets better, especially after a divorce.
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