Saturday, August 4, 2012

My Top 10 Post-Divorce Lessons

My teenage son bought me a Kavu bag for my birthday to complete my "hippie look." It was the perfect gift given only by someone who really gets you. I thought about how strong our relationship has become. Similar to many post-divorce occurrences, it's not that it couldn't have happened when I was married, it's just that it counts as one of many happy results emerging from an unhappy situation. These are lessons I learned from those happy results.

1.I try to be closer to my child. I'm not saying you can't be married and close to your children. But often there seems to be a unique bond between the divorced and their children. Not having to divide attention between spouse and child accounts for some of it. Maybe the rest comes from having to live together through something so difficult. I'm grateful for that closeness and work hard to cultivate it.
2. I spend more time doing things I enjoy. After the necessary period of wallowing, I started doing things that made me happy.  I ran more. I began studying life coaching. I started practicing yoga. I wasn't a slug before, but post-divorce there was no one to ask me what it would cost, how much time away from them would be involved, who would watch my kid, or how it would contribute to the family.  I made choices that made me happy. Not surprisingly, things that make me happy contribute to the well-being of those around me.
3. I can live without a man. Not only that, but discovered I really like living without a man. I spend more time with friends. I spend more time working. I eat when and what I want. I watch the movies I want.  Don't get me wrong. I love sharing and doing things for others. I love men. It’s just that I learned I do very well without having one around full-time.
4. I do things I never would have thought possible. Getting the wasp nest out of the mailbox, the bat out of the garage, and buying a car may not seem huge. I'm not saying I'm Wonderwoman, but each time I accomplished one of those things I felt absolutely fantastic. It’s empowering to manage things myself instead of relegating them to the honey do list. And the added benefit is that they actually get done!
5. I am not alone. Perhaps it was having more opportunity, perhaps more need, but I met a lot of people post-divorce and made a lot of friends. Support also comes from the legions of divorced people. They write and talk about divorce. You realize many post-divorce experiences are shared. It helps to be part of a community, even one I hadn't planned to join.
6. I have strengths I never knew about. Relationships can be stifling.  It was far too easy for me to subjugate my aspirations to those of my partner and child. It was easy to act out wife and mother roles I inherited from my family. Divorce was a release from all that. Using my creativity and strengths in new ways, like writing, entering races, cooking and tweaking my career, helps me flourish as a single person. Singledom helped me capitalize on my strengths.
7. I do not have to make anyone else happy. People tried to tell me when to date, when not to date, what to do about my kid, what not to do about my kid, what to do in new relationships, what not to do.  I'd spent quite a number of years trying to make someone else happy, and look how that turned out. I don't have to please others by living out their fantasy of what ought to happen in my life or following often unsolicited advice. That's allowed me to return to my hippie look, develop my own parenting style and create a modern relationship that works for me.
8. It gets better. I kept telling myself that it would get better if I kept plugging away. And it does. I kept moving ahead and trying new things until it began to dawn on me that “after” was starting to feel pretty good.  In fact, "after" began feeling a lot better than “before.”

9. Healthy thoughts about the divorce keep me positive. Initially there was the inevitable ex-bashing. Then I realized that the negative energy crept into the rest of my life. I started focusing on positives. This means getting others in my world to give up their own negativity about my divorce and ex, or at least to keep it to themselves. It means not feeling sorry for myself. It means spending more time around healthy people.

10. Divorce does not define me. Although it seemed so at first, I learned that being divorced is not my central defining characteristic. Being divorced is part of who I am, and I choose to define it as an experience contributing positively to my growth as a person. I am a healthy, whole, creative woman, who happens to not have a husband.

You don't have to be divorced to make your life more healthy, powerful and positive. But if you happen to be divorced, it's a great opportunity to use your creativity and strengths to make some exciting changes.  And who knows, you just might get a Kavu bag out of it.
Reprinted from YourTango.