Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Shared Post-Divorce Experience

One of the things I loved about Theo Pauline Nestor’s How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed was the interweaving of life-story and divorce-fact. It’s summarized here:

It’s weird to think of all this activity as a recognizable phase of human development like the ones children go through…Apparently I’m not really an individual woman starring in her own never-been-told-before-drama. I’m one of thousands, and I’m on a well-trodden path, one with well-mapped crests and valleys and milestones as predictable as the appearance of molars and the onset of puberty.”

Of course we all want to be unique with our own unique stories. Good for us. But the idea that certain aspects of our pain are shared, well that’s just priceless as I’ve reflected on before

So here are some of the commonalities of experience, courtesy of Nestor and me, with a few of my suggestions for handling them:
* Rearranging our space – Damn right…I’m gonna make it mine.

* Being treated like a freak (the maitre de asking: just one?) - This may be our distortion. Indeed, an informal study I conducted found that even when I’m with someone the maitre de may ask, just two?

* People exclude you because of your singledom – it’s hell for the hostess at a dinner party to handle singles.

* Feeling like your former other cannot disengage, making it difficult for you to do so – You’ve got to do it anyway. Just go ahead and cut the cord. It’ll feel better.

* Sleeping with the former spouse and feeling guilty – Just don’t keep doing it. But certainly don’t feel guilty. The desire for intimacy is normal.

* People complain you date too soon, or not soon enough - Everyone’s an expert. You know what's right for you.

* Meeting the ex-spouses’ significant other is painful and confusing, even if you have a significant other yourself - Of course it is.  It’s evidence that part of your life has been usurped by someone else, even if you no longer want it. It’s painful in anticipation, before it ever happens. It just has to be accepted as a part of life.

* The institution of marriage itself has become confusing – Just table that for now. See how you feel about it in a year or two.

* Thinking the ex-spouse is going to be a better person with better judgment than they were when you were married –They probably are not going to change for your benefit. And I mean this in the kindest way: get over it.

* Others don’t always understand your choices, and are delighted to let you know it – Give them your best Buddha smile and nod understandingly. Then do what you want.

There are many more commonalities. I hear them from clients all the time. These are just a few of the highlights I offer to encourage you to view yourself as part of a community. You’re not alone.

How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed: A Memoir of Starting Over, Theo Pauline Nestor.