It hit me like a wave. Anger. And it was red hot.
It was a remnant from my divorce, and a feeling I thought I’d dispensed with.
No, I’m not the same person that I once was. And yes, divorce changed me.
The incident? Oh, it was a small thing, and an accidental occurrence of the sort that can pop up out of nowhere and smack you down.
In my case, it was more like a one-two punch when cleaning out a closet. First, I stumbled onto angst-inducing paperwork that dates back about five years. It was intended to document financial facts in preparation for what was positioned as a simple legal process.
Let’s just say – that isn’t how things turned out.
The second item? I happened across a photo taken by one of my kids. It reminded me of the dramatic lifestyle differences between my ex and myself for a number of years, the result of a long and contentious aftermath.
Ironically, one thing about my anger has changed. The fury I felt toward my ex for what he did and didn’t do has been replaced by outrage at the legal system that facilitated his behavior.
Oddly, I bear my ex no ill will. If he’s happy, he’ll be good to my kids, and if they’re doing okay, I’m doing great.
Dating After Divorce… Influenced by Our Ex-Hubbies?
In the same box of papers that contained old files, I also came across notes exchanged between myself and a boyfriend from two years earlier. That was my first “post-divorce love,” some two years after my ex had remarried.
And so I find myself reflecting on the man I chose to adore at that time. He wasn’t “right” for me in the long-term, but he was the polar opposite of the man I once married.
In fact, recognizing that my dating smarts improved as time went on, I see that every choice I’ve made in recent years is in some way influenced by the fact of my divorce.
- I had a controlling husband (many women could say the same); I do not allow myself to be “owned” in any way by a man.
- My ex kept everything close to the vest; I seek a man who appreciates the balance of privacy and transparency.
- My ex seemed to prefer socializing with his buddies, and he also traveled as a consequence of his job; I prefer men who remain close to home, and who wish to enjoy my company on a regular basis.
- My ex, at least with me, was not generous by nature. By that I mean with time and spirit. In recent years, I have gravitated toward men who are compassionate, community-minded, ethics-driven.
These are only a few examples.
Moods, Money, and Self-Knowledge
Recently, I’ve been restless, impatient, and feeling constrained. Some of this is situational – a matter of three of us living in close quarters for the summer. Some of this is financial – continued impacts from divorce. Both circumstances cause me stress: I have grown accustomed to alone time, which is essential to my work and my emotional well-being; money is always tighter when there are extra mouths to feed.
But there’s something more, as I’ve soul-searched to discover what I’m feeling and why I’m uneasy.
And here it is: I’ve changed, I continue to change, and in more ways than I realized. I recognize these changes as a consequence of my divorce.
- When it comes to an intimate relationship, I cannot seem to let another person in as I once did. That doesn’t mean I cannot be open or vulnerable. It does mean I retain certain walls. More to the point, I think I prefer it this way.
- When it comes to financial matters, I refuse to let anyone dictate or judge. Financial independence remains a vital goal to me, absolutely the result of the years of post-divorce money dramas and the terrible toll they can take.
- In my heart of hearts, sadly, I believe that men leave. I would like to be wrong. However, in our culture of “I deserve to be happy,” even absent high conflict, I see too many men (and women, too) who simply don’t honor their obligations.
And yes, I say “obligations.” Why has that become a dirty word?
No, I’m not the same.
Yes, divorce changed me.
I suspect I’m harder to love, and certainly harder to live with.
When our beliefs are broken, can we ever predict who we may become? This is neither bad nor good; it simply “is.”
And while these may sound like contradictions, they are not: I am steelier than I was 20 years ago and certainly more cynical; I am less trusting and yet more loving; I am less selfless and more generous; I am fiercely independent and yet, I feel less alone.
I have myself.
Has divorce changed you – irrevocably? For better, for worse, or is it a mixed bag?