Divorce is an unfortunate setback in life that many of us will have to learn to overcome. In the throws of it, it is so hard to see things clearly, but thankfully once the storm passes, from a much calmer perspective most of us do come to understand exactly why things had to end, and we learn to appreciate the opportunity to move forward forging a new and very different path.
Looking back at the past several years, I have so much to be grateful for, and among all the beautiful post-divorce life lessons there are to experience, here are my top 5:
1. It’s Okay to Ask for Help– I could not have weathered all the transitions over the past 9 years without my life coach, who not only helped me get past the guilt, anger and sorrow I felt upon ending my marriage, but also guided me through many difficult life decisions, including major shifts at work and home in order to create an environment that reflected my true values. In addition, there is simply no way a single parent can manage (and maintain his/her sanity) without the assistance of family and friends. Each little act of kindness might not seem like a big deal in and of itself, but at least when I look back at how much my loved ones, and sometimes complete strangers like the school personnel and other parents have contributed throughout the years to help me raise a healthy, happy and well adjusted child, I am filled with nothing but immense gratitude. Whenever I thought I was about to falter, somehow and in some way, a good samaritan came along and saved me. From the stories I have been collecting, this is a common experience among divorced individuals, and if for some reason we cannot pay back the favors done for us, at least we can do our best to pay it forward.
2. Keep It Simple– After my divorce, I streamlined my expenses and moved to a much smaller apartment, which I could clean on my own within hours. By carefully thinking through needs versus wants, I was able to cut out a lot of excess, and by not being so over-extended, I was able to reduce a tremendous amount of stress in my life and be more available to family and friends. The calmness I feel within is obvious to all those I now encounter, and many ask me what is my secret. Funny thing is it’s not a secret at all– it is quite public knowledge that I gave up the crazy hours of law firm life, got rid of the ridiculous luxury car payments and the mortgage that would make most people vomit, and then eliminated tons of people from my personal payroll, and yes this means I live very differently from when I was married, but sadly it took this humbling experience to help me figure out my core values and recognize what is simply b.s.
3. Find Balance– Learning to live on my own for so many years, without a ton of distractions or counting on anyone else to entertain me, I was able decipher what really makes me happy, and then I just had to make time to do those things. As much as I enjoy being a lawyer and a mother, I realized after my marriage fell apart that I could not just focus on those two things 24/7. I have since carved out a lot of “me time” to meet my needs, e.g. I need time to exercise; I need quiet time to read and write; I need time to be silly with friends; and yes, I need time to simply be appreciated by a man as a beautiful woman. When your needs are met, you will feel incredibly balanced, and people will see you glow with pure joy. I promise, it can be achieved.
4. Pick Your Battles– I guess by nature I became a litigator because I’m not afraid of going to battle, especially not a battle of wits, but after years of fighting other people’s battles, I’ve grown tired of all the wars, especially the senseless ones. After 20 years in the legal industry in one of the world’s most litigious nations, if there is one lesson I wish more people would take to heart is that not every argument needs to be won; every slight does not need to be addressed– somethings are worth letting go– particularly if your opponent is irrational. You cannot expect an irrational person to be rational, and all wars have a price tag, so you have to consider the emotional toll to everyone involved in addition to the financial implications.
5. Stay Hopeful– Things really do have a funny way of working out if you just let time do its thing. While we all need to mourn the loss of our marriage and the dreams we had of happily ever after, sooner or later it will be time to end the pity party and go have some fun. Life does go on– even in your 40s, 50s, and 60s. So many of my clients have initially said they will never marry again, and yet months or years later they call back with an update that they have met someone incredibly special and that despite their past belief that all was lost, they’ve now managed to find a second chance at love and a far, far happier life. The key to finding love again of course is to never lose hope. You have to keep putting yourself out there, allow someone to see your vulnerable side, and give them the opportunity to prove to you that a secure relationship built on trust and respect with incredibly tender exchanges remains a real possibility for all of us at any age.
If I could only have gotten all this knowledge without the pain, how awesome would that be… but of course, I get that I would not be the person I am today without the experiences I had to go through, and now I get to share them publicly so that others can realize they are not alone. Divorce sucks, plain and simple– but there is a wonderful life that awaits if you can find the courage to create a new reality and continue to love.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.