Tis the season for breakups, and every year I brace myself this time of year for some very difficult conversations about people’s worst fears. Whether it comes as a surprise, or is something that everyone could see was inevitable, the fact remains divorce is a difficult process– not legally actually, but emotionally. It is hard to untangle those ties that have kept you together all those years, and whenever I hear the stories, my only question is how did you last so long???
At first, I did not understand how people could live such unhappy lives for years before finally getting the courage to say enough is enough. And yet, over the years, I have come to see that what I may view as a simple reorganization of a family structure, is for many a very painful experience they have been dreading for quite some time because it means facing their greatest fears. Here are the top 5 fears I encounter most often:
1. The Scarlet Letter Syndrome. Many are afraid of what people will think. My response is who cares? If you need to get out of a dysfunctional situation, most rational people will be supportive and understanding. We are not living in the 1950’s anymore. Being divorced does not carry the same stigma that it had when we were kids. Today over 40% of kids are being born out of wedlock, and blended families are an accepted part of our cultural norm.
2. Fear of being alone. This is a common one, and all I can say is that this is your choice. If you choose to close yourself off from society, then yes this can truly become your reality, but if you don’t want to be alone, then you will find a way to motivate yourself to get back out there. Over 60% of once married people will remarry, so the odds are in your favor if that is what you want to do, and even if you don’t– that does not mean you are alone. My friends and family have rallied each and every year the last 8 years since I got divorced, and even though I have specifically made it a choice not to remarry, that doesn’t mean that I never will– actually it’s just that having options is a lot of fun.
3. Fear of being poor. I’m not going to lie, getting divorced and having to support two homes means that everyone is going to take a hit financially. Here, it is all about learning to mitigate your damages. You have to really strip unnecessary expenses and learn to live on a realistic budget. You have to do your best to maximize your income and minimize your spending. Friends and family may have to help you out, and I know this can be a very humbling experience, but then again isn’t that what friends and family are there for– to help in times of need? Those that love you are going to want to help you get through this difficult time, and you should let them. You can pay them back later, when they are the ones in need and you are in a better place.
4. Fear of becoming irrelevant with your kids. A lot of parents worry about being marginalized in their kids lives and missing out on major moments, and here is where I believe that where there is a will, there is a way. If you want to be involved in your children’s lives, our laws and the court system are actually set up to want to make that happen. We promote joint custody, and we believe in all the research that shows that regular and frequent contact with both parents is what will help kids be happy and healthy.
5. Fear of change. This is the toughest of all in my opinion– because if you have lost the ability to adapt, how can I help you understand that change is a normal part of life? Whether you want things to change or not, they will. Our babies will grow up, while our parents are getting old and will soon die. Meanwhile, technology is accelerating the changes that are occuring not just at work, but in our personal lives, and the way we view the world is transforming right before our very eyes. Case in point: it is not that long ago that we lived with segregation right here in the USA, and today we have our first black president– seriously, I never thought I would see that in my lifetime! So, to me this is a no brainer, change is constantly happening and you can either embrace it and learn to roll with it, or life is simply going to pass you by.
Divorce is scary, no doubt about it. It is not at all what I wanted for myself, and yet I didn’t just survive it- I actually learned to thrive. It turns out I am much stronger that I ever gave myself credit for, and while searching for answers as to why things unraveled, I finally took the time to dig up some buried issues and deal with them. This is a common experience among divorced individuals.
As for post-divorce dating, which initially seemed a bit daunting after years of being out of the game, it has actually not just turned out to be fun, but it’s been an incredible experience that has taught me so much about how men think, while at the same time being the best ego-booster ever. While passion is indeed one of the first things to die at the end of a marriage, it is also one of the first things to ramp up when your divorce is over. There are plenty that will be happy to help you light that fire–especially if you are strong, confident and ready for some adventure!
So, if you are not in a good situation, don’t let fear hold you back from making a change– there is an amazing world out there full of interesting characters and opportunties. Face your fears, conquer them, and set a new course for your life.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.