If you have already experienced Mr. Toad’s wild ride of a divorce, you may look back over your shoulder and see behind you some regrets with wishes that you had done things differently. I know I do.
Regret and Guilt after Divorce
I don’t look back all those years ago with debilitating regret or guilt. That would be counterproductive and minimize the things I was able to achieve through what I viewed to be an unnatural event in my life. But it is there, and I do still find myself thinking about how I could have handled things better.
My regrets are not related to the divorce agreement line items as much as they are related to the incomprehension of the experience. And by that, I mean the whole ridiculous journey. The real infidelity of it all. Being silenced and accepting the absurdity of the reindeer games played. This is one of my biggest regrets.
I was trained in my marriage to minimize my feelings. My, “ I don’t feel good today” was always met with his, “Oh your fine!” I took that encrypted code that was embedded in my brain throughout my marriage, and which was brought with me to my divorce as though it was normal. What I now see is that my ex-husband trained me to always put his comfort levels first. And so I did.
I shouldered everything. Even in divorce. I allowed him to treat leaving his family like he was just another ex-boyfriend from high school wanting to be with the new girl at school. In his mind, it was just a breakup for God’s sake get over it! But it wasn’t just a breakup. He was the father of my two children. And one child was only weeks old. It wasn’t ever going to be that easy.
Minimizing what Happened
I regret allowing myself to minimize what happened and how it affected me. My instructions once again assured me that my feelings didn’t matter. My regret was not understanding that my feelings did matter. And this really was a big deal buddy! I had a voice and I deserved to be heard. And it wasn’t just my voice I was representing either. It was mine and our two children’s voices, and we all mattered.
Another regret I have is how I reacted to finding out about his affair. I went from shock to disbelief, thinking that my eyes were playing tricks on me as I read the email between them.
From Zero to Sixty in Ten Seconds
As the light shined on my confused state of mind, my emotions went from zero to sixty in ten seconds, and I was swimming in rage. Rage because this wasn’t the first time he had done this to our family. The only difference from before was that I forgave him then. Looking back now I wish I had actually played it cool and led the horse to water so he could explain to me how in the world this happened. Again.
My rage never once thought about the 4-week-old baby in the bassinet in our room and the 4-year-old boy playing in the front yard with his toys. I had just given birth weeks earlier and I was exhausted from being up all night feeding her. And I needed to calm down and get to the bottom of his core reasons for the need to cheat.
But nothing flows from an empty vessel. What I have learned about myself over the years is how important sleep is in shaping my state of mind. In all honesty, I don’t recall ever feeling rested since that fateful day he was found out. My life changed forever in that split second. If I had known the hardships I was about to face as a single mother, I may have handled it better.
Perhaps even helping him find the moral compass he seemed to keep losing. Maybe it would have resulted in a more mature discourse between us. Maybe we could have come to an understanding that what decisions we make will leave a forever imprint on our children’s lives. And they have. But I was offered no information and accepted his leave with no reasons given. I just shake my head at the absurdity of it.
Blame Turned Inward
As I walk up my stairs I look at the gallery of pictures on the walls of my stairwell and I see a really beautiful family. A newly formed family of 3. I even see a really pretty woman who is holding two adorable children.
The funny thing you are left holding after your husband leaves you for another woman is this strange sense of blame you have for yourself. You no longer see yourself as pretty, desirable, smart, even lovable. No wonder he left. When my baby daughter was 6 weeks old and my son was 4 years old, I declared that the three of us were now “the family”! I had our portrait taken as a testimony to our new state of order.
I now walk past that portrait several times a day as it hangs in my bedroom. When I had it taken all I could see were my flaws. I wasn’t pretty. I wasn’t skinny. I looked tired. That’s all I saw. I now see a beautiful woman. I see a strong woman. I see a lovable woman. I see a warrior. I regret not recognizing her sooner. I regret not cheering her on sooner. Now that portrait fills me up with courage every time I look at it. That woman was extraordinary. And you know what? She still is!
So though I do have some regrets and I do feel some guilt for decisions I made or actions I did or didn’t do all those years ago, I do know that I did the best I could with the information I had.
I think the real regrets should be his. Because I’m the type of person you should regret losing.
Stay strong warrior divorced moms and try not to live with any regret or guilt. Trust in your strength. Divorced moms are a special population made up of extraordinary superhero stuff! We got this!