Friday, August 13, 2010

Divorce: 10 Lessons I've Learned

I was thinking about divorce today. Surprisingly it's not a topic I think about often. I think about being single all of the time, but not about divorce itself. Three years ago I chose to leave a very bad marriage. I've learned a lot of lessons since then and I thought I'd share a few of them with you. I am speaking to those of you going through or who are thinking about going through a divorce. This posting may seem like it's just for those of you going through a divorce, but it's not. There isn't a person out there who doesn't know SOMEONE who is getting divorced, is divorced or who is thinking about it. When you are informed you are a better friend.

Lesson #1: Your married friends scatter. This isn't a conscious decision on their part, but your world is changing and they were part of your old world. This is especially true if you used to do things as combined families. We all have (had) those awesome friends who you do everything with, you are friends with the wife, your hubby is friends with the hubby and your kids all play together... you know the ones. When your family is broken people don't like to be put in the middle or take sides (even if one side or the other is clearly in the right or wrong). It becomes awkward for them to be friends with you separately. You drift apart from them.

It doesn't happen all at once, but you'll gradually see most of your friends slipping away. If you and your friends were all stay at home moms and now you have to work you won't be home during the day anymore for phone chats and hanging out. You don't have as much in common anymore with your friends also as you enter the dating world and they're still in the wife world. This was one of the hardest things for me to deal with and I've seen it happen to many divorced friends (men deal with this as well) so I know I'm not alone. That doesn't mean you'll never talk to your friends again (although that happens often too) but your relationship with them changes, best friends become acquaintances. I still get sad when I think about friends I used to be close with. I miss them even though I still see and talk to them here and there.

Lesson #2:
That civil/friendly relationship you have with your ex most likely won't last. Some divorces are nasty from the start. This isn't the type of divorce I'm talking about. I'm talking about the friendly, no contest, we're friends for the children type divorces. I had one of those. My ex didn't like me, but we were able to remain friendly for the kids. All divorce arrangements were made quickly and without lawyers. We sat down together and worked out arrangements, we even went to the required parenting class together. We would talk on the phone and discuss the kids and when he'd pick up and drop off the kids we were very friendly. I had divorced friends tell me that this stage wouldn't last. I didn't believe them. They were right. A little over a year after our divorce was final all hell broke loose. Here we are now in one of the worst divorced relationships I've seen. I've been harassed, put down, called names, screamed at, sworn at, called a terrible mother, etc. on a very regular basis.

When I see friends who are recently divorced I warn them that their friendliness won't last. They laugh and don't believe me because they're "different"... hahaha One by one I see that friendliness wash away and the angry ex relationship develops. Oddly the exceptions I've seen is when the man leaves the woman (which is rare in divorce). I believe this is because women are naturally more forgiving and women can forgive being left. This isn't always true, but men seem to hold grudges longer. You may settle back into a "friendly" relationship again years down the line or you may not.

Lesson #3: People change. This seems like it's a given, but people REALLY change. As you go through a divorce you go through a "finding yourself" process. As moms we have to be strong and stable and steady for our kids. We may go through a "wild" stage, but it's usually pretty mild. We may cut our hair off (I cut 10" off mine after the divorce because he always liked my hair long), date guys we wouldn't usually date, get a tattoo, stay out all night when the kids are gone, etc. Often times for men it's a lot more drastic. My kids went from having a happy little church going family to having a dad who drank alcohol in front of them, swore in front of them, allowed them to watch whatever movies they wanted, had them sleep at his girlfriend's house (who smoked, drank, swore and wore "immodest" clothes), told them he didn't want anything to do with church, didn't have them brush their teeth or even change their clothes over the weekend, etc. All these things happened in a month's time. Their world turned upside down and so did mine as I heard them talk about things they were witnessing that seemed so "bad" in their minds. I'm not judging people who do these things; I'm just trying to show the night and day change that happened in my very sheltered (up until that point) children's lives.

You have these sweet precious children who you and your spouse guarded with your lives and protect them and teach them values and then you let them go. They're so young and you let them go. You have no say as to where they are, what they're doing or what they're hearing. That spouse who was your partner in raising your children now is his own separate person. Sometimes he will agree with you and your kids won't have drastic changes in the way they're being raised. Lucky you! But that often doesn't happen and as long as they aren't being abused or neglected it's out of your hands. To send my kids away every other weekend at such a young age to a place that went against everything I had taught them was like having my heart ripped out. I have had so many conversations with my kids at SUCH a young age that I never expected to... things like not getting into a car with someone who has been drinking, demanding that you change your clothes and brush your teeth, the importance of waiting until marriage for sex and making their own decisions about movies to watch are just a few of the conversations I have had with them. Remember, my kids were 10, 7 and 6 when I got divorced. Talking to a 6 year old about not getting into a car with someone who has been drinking is not what most parents expect to do.

Lesson #4: You will make unexpected friends. People who you would have never looked twice at in your previous life will become your best friends. There is something very bonding about being a single parent. You deal with so many of the same challenges and trials that you can't help but be friends. It may be hard to find other singles at first, but as you network and attend singles activities and such you will find them and you will love them. They understand you like married people never will.

Lesson #5: The loneliness is harder than you ever imagined. You may have people who love you and care about you and serve you, but it is not the same as having a spouse. Even if your marriage was terrible and you felt alone there is a difference when you are divorced. It is easy to get down. Be aware of the loneliness that will come so it doesn't engulf you. Expect to get sad and overwhelmed. Expect to grieve. When I left my marriage I was happier than I had ever been in my life. I was excited to date and to start over and to get away from a bad situation and I was right, it was pretty amazing. But the loneliness gets me down. It's so nice to be happy, but not so nice to not have someone to share that happiness with. Yes, I have kids and I love them and they are fantastic, but it's not the same thing.

Lesson #6: Be very careful about what's in your divorce decree. This is the decree forever. It's costly and not very likely a judge will change it later. Be so cautious about every word. Don't be too giving, but also don't be too greedy. I was so happy to be out of bad relationship that I didn't fight for anything and now I regret certain things that weren't put into our decree. This warning is not just for women, but men too... make sure that all is fair.

Lesson #7: The second time is easier. This is another caution. Second marriages are often rushed and they don't last. Divorce is so much easier the second time around. Be careful and be sure it's right.

Lesson #8: This is mostly (but not all) for my LDS friends. Obeying the Law of Chastity is not easy. AT ALL! I thought it would be simple. Being married to a sex/porn addict meant that sex was a terrible part of our marriage... really sexual issues are what broke up our family. I hated sex because of him... so you'd think it would be easy to stay away from all things sexual, right? Wrong! I hear so many newly divorced people who are strong in their verbalizing of how they'll stay away from anything more than kissing... WOW! The first chance they have their values are left in the dirt. It is NOT easy to be good! You will be so shocked at how tough it is! This is nothing like the first time around!

And for you non-LDS people. You may not believe in abstaining from all sexual acts until marriage, but you need to be cautious as well... it's very easy to become, well, easy! When you have men who shower you with compliments and affection you feel amazing and your self esteem sky-rockets and it's hard to not give in. Figure out where your physical boundaries are and stick with them!

Lesson #9: Confidence is everything when dating! Everyone dates differently. Some people are ready right away and some people need time. Some want to date around and some want a relationship right away. But when you are ready to date remember that confidence is HUGE! Even if you have to fake it until you feel it, be confident! Dating takes a toll on confidence sometimes, you get rejected, you get twitterpated with men who don't feel the same way about you, sometimes you deal with cruel men who will put you down and it makes you feel like they're confirming all the doubts you have about yourself, but STAY CONFIDENT. If you are not in an emotional state to handle rejection then you probably aren't quite ready to date yet.

Confidence is more than just knowing how amazing you are, although that is important. You have to be confident in your looks. That is much tougher for most women. We can often be pep-talked into what a good catch we are, what a great mom was are and how many awesome qualities we have, but it's a lot hard to talk ourselves into being happy with our bodies. I'll be brutally honest with you. If you don't have any bait to catch the fish you aren't going to hook them. You need the bait and the hook. The bait is physical appearance in the dating world and the hook is all those amazing things about you that let you hold on to that fishy you want! It's a myth that all men want a size 2 blond Barbie doll. If you are a size 2 blond Barbie then good for you, but you probably still aren't totally confident because that's how women work.

I have talked to thousands (literally thousands) of single men. Very few of them are looking for Miss. Skinny-Minny. Play up your favorite physical qualities, dress to flatter your figure, do your makeup and hair and be CONFIDENT! I am not tiny by any means, but I get a lot of attention from my looks. I can be sexy without being immodest, I can be beautiful without being skinny. Wanna know how? I'm confident and confidence pulls men in like a magnet.

Lesson #10: Welcome back to high school. I have never seen so much game-playing, back-stabbing, mind games and raging hormones in all my adult life! Welcome to the world of single adult dating... hope you don't have to stay long! It's not just in the dating world. I think many single people don't have a spouse to keep them occupied so they fill up their time with other people's business. It can be a big stress when you already have enough stresses. Choose your friends and who you confide in carefully. I have learned this the hard way.


Valerie said...

Angie, one of your followers (Sondra) sent me to your blog post since I am very recently divorced. I'm not sure I was ready to hear all this, but I know it's all real and I gotta know about it.

You mentioned hanging out with your single friends. I have a few single lady friends and none of them seem to have a network of single friends to hang out with so I have no idea how to find them. (I'm in Spanish Fork.) I guess it'll come little by little.
I wanna try!!!
I LOVE all your yummy recipes on your blog. I used to do recipes all the time before all this divorce junk, but I'll be getting back into it soon. I spotted a few of your recipes

Sally said...

Angie, thank you for sharing this! Finally someone who says it like it is!!! Before I was divorced I judged divorced people harshly. I always wondered what really happened. Now I know.

I know everyone's experience is unique and different in divorce but a lot of what you said rang true for me. Some of it was not what I experienced and I am glad to understand other experiences better.

Confidence is my biggest barrier, but I work on it every day. Some days are better than others but it helps to know that all of us single mothers are going through similar experiences.

I really hope some married people read this too and begin to understand what it is like for divorced women. People who were as judgmental as I was need to understand and not pass blame or guess what happened.

kumar said...

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Janay Stiles said...

Everything happens for a reason; whether good or bad, each will leave a lesson meant to teach us to become a stronger. Divorce is never easy, but you still have to face the reality, and put an end to a marriage that’s no longer healthy for the both of you – as individuals and as family. Go on with your life and make the most out of it. Live life to the fullest; you deserve to be happy!

-Janay Stiles

MsDeby said...

I believe EVERY word you are saying.
I would not have until the past 10-15 years. He knew our boys had been my life, my world but not before Dear Darling EX and he always referred to them as "your boys'. The day he told me HE would turn my boys against me; He would stop me from helping take care of my parents, and He would get everything. Eighteen months later I woke up in hospital. I had had a stroke and lost my memory and even told my cousin he was only staying until I could take care of myself. So after 35 totally faithful years, I sit here SO LONELY it is unbearable and everything he said he would do ...HE DID. I am so lonely; no one calls, no knock on my door. Me, God and my little dog. I'll never understand how a spouse of 35 years could turn so coldhearted, cruel and perfect. I refuse to go down that road. I just hope he is happy and let God help me thru the rest. But just how does a 58 yr old move on??