I was filling out the required paperwork at a doctor’s office when I got to the question about marital status. Married? Divorced? Separated? Widowed? I’m definitely not separated and luckily not widowed, but which of the other two choices best describes my status? My answer: Both.
A young woman recently wrote this about the death of her first husband: “Even though I’m happily remarried, that doesn’t change the fact that I’m a widow — and always will be.”
I totally get that. And I could say the same about divorce: Even though I’m happily remarried, that doesn’t change the fact that I’m divorced.
Divorce doesn’t go away when you ink those papers or go in front of a judge. Time itself doesn’t blot it out. And, obvious technicalities aside, getting remarried has zero bearing on your divorce status. If you’re divorced, you’re divorced. It’s part of your life’s resume.
Divorce sticks. I know that because I married again — and I still couldn’t shake it. When you graduate high school, you’re still a graduate — doesn’t matter if you’re six months out or ten years. The experience shaped and informed you. It had an impact on the direction of your life. Same goes for divorce.
Divorce, always, is an ending that forces a new beginning and requires we find the energy to create it. It demands answers to two questions we need never have asked had we stayed married, which are, in a nutshell: How the f*ck did this happen? and Now what?
The Holmes-Rahe Life Stressor Inventory has divorce and marital separation taking up two of the top three spots for stressful life events. Number one? Death of a spouse. So, only the death of a spouse trumps a marriage going kaput. (Howboutdah, people?) Lesson? Give yourself a break. This is tough stuff.
One of the very hardest things about divorce is no one tells you where to put it, right? Where do we file something in our psyches that has shaken our lives to the very core? After divorce, everything looks and feels different. Yes, your family looks different and likely your bank account does, too. But even your kids look different when you see them through your new Divorced, Single Parent eyes. Even your job feels different when you realize it’s the only thing standing between take-out Chinese and food stamps.
Getting acclimated to all these changes takes work, it takes gumption. And most people don’t do it. Why? Divorce recovery work isn’t sexy. It doesn’t promise you Chrissy Teigen’s body or Kim Kardashian’s bank account. Divorce recovery work is quiet, inside work. It’s not splashy or glam. It’s the work of yeomen when all we really long for is a quick fix. That, and many of us just want others to think we’re fine, we’re over it, we’ve moved on.
You can’t hide (or hide from) your divorce label, but you can choose to wear it as a badge of survival: an emblem worthy of someone who went through something catastrophically crappy and came out the other side smiling. Yes, you can choose this.
My most favorite-est and sexiest bra I’ve ever owned I got at Target. Yes, Target. It was black and the center front gore (space between the boobs) was a cool, crisscross of silky material. When I wore it, I felt sexy and pretty. Point is, it didn’t matter what the label said, it was how I chose to feel when I wore it.
Countless times, I’ve heard people say, “Divorce is/was the biggest failure of my life.” This blanket statement always drives me wild. One of my sons — at his unknowing peril — once used the word failure when talking about my divorce from his dad. My response? “I don’t consider a 20-plus year marriage and three amazing kids a failure!” And I don’t. I never will. And that’s how I’ve chosen to think about my first marriage.
Now, first things first. If you want to change the way you feel about your divorce, you need to change the way feel about divorce. If you’re still beating yourself up/embarrassed/ashamed/bitter about your divorce, it’s time to change that up. Time to claim your membership in the club and be okay with it.
Second, you need to rewrite the story of your divorce. And it’s no simple exercise. Like you, I have my own tied-up-with-a-bow story about my divorce. And, guess what? In it, I’m the good guy! Aren’t you, in yours? Reality is, there’s a better, more healing version. Ask yourself: Is my divorce story one that is allowing me the freedom to live my best, most peaceful life?
Join me at She Did It on May 17th. Divorce recovery work may not be sexy, but it will never make promises it can’t keep. It can’t help you lose 30 pounds in 30 days, or get you 10,000 followers on Facebook, but it will help you tell a new divorce story that will make all the difference in the way you feel about yourself — while instilling lasting, positive change in your life. Actually, that is pretty sexy.
Whether you’re divorced one year or twenty, your better, post-divorce life begins with you. Let’s do this.