For the Divorcing Person
I’ve only been divorced once. It was enough. Here’s what I learned.
- Life goes on. The grass grows. The children grow. Bills are due. Holidays happen. The year passes. Then another one. Nothing goes on pause while you figure it out.
- You will be damaged. You will live as an amputee for a fair amount of time. This is true whether you wanted the divorce or you didn’t. And you will hurt. Your hurt won’t be private, either, even though you think it is.
- Euphoria dissipates. The great relief that comes from ending the sniping and arguments, the excitement about what new might await, the extraordinary sense of freedom that comes, all of that fades within days.
- Single parenthood is no picnic. The day to day of single parenting is exhausting beyond words. And because it is exhausting, you will not be great at it all the time. Moreover, there will be no one there to check your frustration, no second pair of hands.
- Your kids will be affected. They will be confused, sad, protective of you, wishing you and your spouse would reconcile, and sadder than you ever imagined when you remarry. You won’t know all this because they’ll hide a lot of it from you. Because, well, they love you and don’t want you to feel worse than you already do.
- Life will seem half-assed for a long while. Everything takes on an ‘ad hoc’ feel, life in a state of chronic emergency. Emotional pain gives way to cutting ourselves so many breaks that eventually the routines of family life exist only in caricature. You’ll see this but hope your children don’t notice.
- New normal is a real place. A new, good equilibrium will be established. The routines of life will serve as buoys for your daily life and, if you are wise, you will navigate using those buoys, steering your family’s boat from one to the other, everyday the same route until it is automatic. And a comfort.
- Love awaits. Unless you divorced to be with another person, you will have a long dry period. And then, boom, someone will appear and you will be in it again. All, total, everything. You will be astonished because you figured you were done for. But you weren’t.
- Starting over is wonderful but hard. Stepdads, stepmoms, there are reasons why there are movies and books about them. You can love a person but not love how he/she is acting as a step-parent to your kids. But if you don’t quit on them, it will work out.
- Kids will survive and thrive. Children are resilient. Thank God. But that doesn’t mean they won’t have scars.They will mourn the lives they think other children whose parents haven’t divorced have. But eventually the grieving will end and the great draw of being healthy and happy will kick in, especially if you give them a consistent, positive example.
- You will be richer. In the treasure trove of your life will be pain. This makes you one hundred times the person you were before. Everything about you will be heavier, thicker, more beautiful, more golden. Pain makes us real in the world.
That’s what I know about divorce. For what it’s worth.