Every experience in life can shape us in either positive or negative ways. Many factors are out of our control, but oh-so-many are within our power to steer toward either being a good or bad situation based on our attitude and the way we receive them.
Divorce is one such experience.
No matter how you look at it or how broken or whole you emerge from a divorce, it is an awful and life-changing ordeal. I can’t imagine anyone getting a divorce and rating it as pleasant from start to finish. At least some, if not several, aspects of the process can be characterized as draining, emotionally-ravaging, frustrating, and plain sad.
This description of the end of the marriage is not to unnecessarily horrify or strike fear in anyone who may be preparing to go down this path, but it is meant to provide a dose of reality. I’m guessing that most people already know to expect that divorce sucks, so my wish here is to temper the propaganda that promotes the idea that divorce is some kind of party or cure all.
Some might even say that I am guilty of “promoting divorce.” No, no, no. That’s not what it’s all about! Promoting the growth, healing, and empowerment of people devastated by divorce to help them recover, find new meaning, and move on with their lives? YES! Suggesting that divorce will make all your blues go away, turn you into a badass, and turn into the best time ever? Maybe. Don’t count on it, but it could happen if you have the right frame of mind!
Don’t just dump your spouse or give up on marriage out of boredom or because you keep hearing that it’s the best opportunity for transformation ever. There’s no good excuse to end a marriage willy-nilly; but, there are many legitimate reasons to end a marriage if you need to. It’s not the next “cool thing”, a rite of passage that you should throw yourself at, or easy by any stretch of the imagination!
Divorce is a problem inside of a problem wrapped inside of another problem. Your family will be turned upside down, your bank account will be sucked dry, and every one of your relationships will be tested. Not fun.
My purpose in life, or at least the role I have adopted in the divorce arena is to say “hey, if you’re here (in Divorceland), on your way here, or recently been here, welcome! There is an amazing community of smart and inspirational people ready to receive you to guide, comfort, and help. I’m one such person, but there is literally a galaxy of like-minded people concerned with the issues of divorce.”
If you’re on your way here or already in residence, you may benefit from advice about every imaginable facet of the institution and kindred spirits to bond with.
If you detect a spirit of strength, positivity, and gratitude, it’s because those of us who feel that way have reason to see divorce as an improvement in our lives. Those of us in this boat previously lived in misery and have discovered newfound freedom and happiness by escaping the grips of our marriages. Rather than letting the gloom of splitting hold us down any longer, we chose to break our binds and use a truly horrendous situation to help us learn more about ourselves so that we can hopefully make better future choices and discover the happiness we have longed for.
Although the outcome for divorce may eventually become a new sense of self, new experiences, and a new lease on life, let’s not forget that divorce was not welcomed and won’t represent life improvements for many. Like everyone else enduring divorce, these people have to cope with lawyers, court hearings, arguments, publicly announcing their split, watching their children in a tailspin of pain and confusion, and seeing their lives turned upside down.
Some of these people were happy in their marriages and thought their spouse loved them. Many of these people were cheated on, betrayed, used, abused, or blindsided by a demand for divorce. For these folks, divorce represents the shattering end of the illusion of happiness, and ushers in a new era of financial devastation, estrangement from previous relationships, shame, and depression.
I am reminded of this discrepancy between the two camps of divorced or divorcing people after watching an episode of “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce” when the main character, Abby, made a pitch to a website she hoped to write for. She gushed on and on about how fun, sexy, and sassy divorce was to a panel of editors and staff, among who was her new prospective managing editor and recent divorcee’. Abby’s new boss had to excuse herself during her well-meaning sales pitch about the fabulosity of divorce because her own reality of divorce was that it was the most awful and devastating experience ever!
What Abby failed to see up to the time of her private conversation with her new editor is that divorce means something different to each person who experiences it, and while it may become a glorious phase of re-birth, dating, conquering fears, and checking off items on one’s bucket list, many in this position find themselves feeling lonely, abandoned, and more hopeless than ever before.
I would encourage everyone entering into divorce to try to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Even the worst of all divorces eventually calms down and becomes bearable again. I have witnessed some very high conflict situations finally settle down and the former spouses get on about the business of life in a very happy and productive way.
Of course there will always be the jerk exes who will go out of their way to make even the future miserable for their former spouses with continuous reappearances in court, parental alienation, abusive tactics, and shallow behavior. Some divorced people have to move forward with life without beloved friends and family and their existence in shambles.
These situations are in the minority. That is not to say that divorce won’t have lingering effects for years to come, but its grip gets looser and looser over time, allowing for room to breathe and begin to live again. Most people should expect that time will heal the wounds and there will be opportunities for new loves, new experiences, and returned happiness.
Divorce is not a magic cure for malaise or a middle-age jump start. It won’t instantly make you sexy, fabulous, or euphoric. If you’re in this spot, we can work together as a divorce community to get through it in one piece, make the best of a bad situation, find purpose in madness, and emerge healthy and whole. I have found peace, strength, and joy at the end of my divorce journey, and I think you can too!
It is important that we have realistic expectations of what divorce can bring to our lives without needlessly romanticizing or demonizing it. Expect pain. Expect change. Beyond that, you will write your own ticket, and your outcome will be influenced by the other people who share your life. You will not be the same person at the end.