I met my first husband when I was 18. We married when I was 20. Our first daughter was born two years later and our second daughter was born five years after that. We were young, inexperienced with life, and had very little clue how to deal with the roller coaster ride of marriage. After 16.5 years we parted ways, not on bad terms, and we have remained friends even after the divorce going on six years now.
Stage 1 of post divorce for me was to figure out who I was again. For so many years I had been someone’s wife, someone’s mother, someone’s daughter, someone’s something. But who was I to me? I had lost myself along the way and I needed very badly to find and establish my place in my own world again. The first step was to reassure everyone around me that I was not going to turn into a depressed and lifeless hermit. Actually it was the opposite. I felt a new freedom not having to answer to anyone but myself. I took some time to work on myself and recreate the woman I truly wanted to be. I started working out, having girls night outs with friends, spending time with my daughter’s just hanging out. It was rejuvenating.
I was able to redecorate my house and it could be totally in my style with no thought of having to incorporate touches of masculinity into it. I could cook things that were not favorites on the menu before. I could talk on the phone for as long as I wanted without feeling guilty that I was taking time away from someone else!! It’s not that my marriage was constrictive, but as women we tend to take the role of “mothers” and “managers” when we get married. Everything we do is for the sole benefit of everyone else in the house. I was finally able to take a step back and do things for myself that I enjoyed and that benefited only me.
Along with my new sense of freedom came a new sense of panic. I had to figure out how to manage on one income instead of two now. I had to cut luxuries, clip coupons, budget every single penny, take on extra work hours, and learn how to tell my children NO. That was the hardest part because none of this was their fault but they had to feel the brunt of the divorce along with mom and dad. Unfortunately, kids become casualties of war, so to speak, and that is never fair. The girls didn’t seem to mind as much as I did though so all in all they were still pretty content.
While in stage 1, I realized how it felt to be fresh meat. It’s like as soon as the divorce was final, the word got out and all of a sudden every man over the age of 35 that was single was concerned about how I was doing. Really? Maybe I’m a different breed but I hadn’t been divorced for very long yet. I really don’t think that jumping from a failed marriage right back into a dating scenario would be the best idea at this moment. It was flattering, no doubt, but also not very genuine, especially after I told them I wasn’t really ready to start dating again, I never heard from them again. Which is actually a good thing. It saved me from the headache of figuring out what a giant mess I could have walked into. No thanks!
Part of stage 1 for me was trying to deal with the hit to my spirituality. I had devoted my life to God in 2007 and had taken it very serious. Divorce was frowned upon in my church. I had to come to terms with that and I was concerned for the well being of my soul now. I had some serious late night prayer sessions with the Man Himself, asking for forgiveness and guidance. But no matter what I did to try to hold onto my relationship, I could still feel it slipping away. It was my own fears and doubts that caused it. I couldn’t get past the thought that my soul was damned and I couldn’t change that. I was ashamed to go to my church and face my church family. It was a constant battle inside my head. I never lost my faith in God, just myself. It’s a good thing that God never lost faith in me though, you will hear more about that later.
If I were to offer advice to newly divorced women, especially those with kids, I would say first and foremost take time to recreate yourself. Find out who you are and who you want to be now. Make sure you are taking care of yourself first because otherwise you won’t be any good to those precious children who now depend on you even more. Reconnect with old friends and build those relationships, you will need them to get you through the rough times. Plan, plan, plan, and then plan some more. The more you plan things, especially your budget, the less surprised you will be when things happen. And last but not least, spend as much time with your kids during this stage as possible. Reassure them that you are still a family, you are still their champion, and you are going to work together to create a life that everyone will enjoy. You will be glad that you did!
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