The Disillusionment of Divorce
The Picture Changed
I love this picture of my ex-husband and my daughter walking down this beautiful sidewalk with a flower that she picked for me. They didn't know that I was taking the picture but it was one of those shots that I couldn't resist. It was the year we called it quits, but at the time, I truly believed we could make the family work the way I had visualized. In the early stages of our separation, as I looked at this picture, I felt as though I was just the photographer that day. I was only looking through a lens, unable to touch that moment of happiness. And the truth is, none of us will touch that moment again, but I had hope to create something different with our family after the divorce. The answers came with time and healing.
I survived an unhealthy marriage and an extremely sad divorce, but I refused to let my daughter become a casualty in our war. And I would not allow either myself or my daughter to have a damaged relationship with him. We met when we were in our 20's and had much history together, too much to ignore, or at least I didn't think it should be ignored. Although I knew I was up against the statistics of divorce, I was equally determined to redefine this family that I had committed to before we lost our selves in a broken marriage. I was not interested in becoming disillusioned by the facts or how the world said a divorced family should behave. I had a goal to keep this family steady and not fill our hearts with hate and anger. Wow, that was not going to be easy!
I was running weddings for a living at the beginning of my relationship with my ex, during the marriage and most importantly, during the divorce. So I am more than aware of how much effort goes into pre-marriage vows and celebration.
Depending on your religion, you will have to go through a series of classes to prepare you for marriage so that you don’t get divorced, right? But where are the experts when it goes down the tubes and who prepares you for the divorce? I don’t mean the marriage guru who tries to help you save the union, or the mediator who tries to make you civil to one another before court, I mean who is there to guide you through the pain and the agony of what is to come. What do you do for peace as your family is ripped apart and new people enter in to everyone’s life ~ posing as a “mom/dad/significant other/boyfriend/girlfriend” figure. It is a phase of life that dismantles the very thing you tried so hard to preserve with your wedding vows. Words, compiled into a beautiful speech to be recited in front of your entire family and closest friends. Professing your love for one another until death do you part. Then later, while it's failing, your profession is only to all your best friends over coffee or a drink. No thoughtful scripted vows, just uncontrolled cries of pain and misery as your world unravels and your visions melt into the ground.
It sounds like the end of the world and at that time it certainly feels that way, but the sky is not falling ~ chicken little ~ and the sun will rise again in all its glory the next morning!
The key for me was to keep some simple virtues alive in my home and my heart. Of course it came with incredible challenge and battles with bitterness and loss of hope. But as I persisted and prayed for guidance, the challenges became less and my goal was looking more obtainable.
I did not always manage these virtues properly (my friends and family can attest to that!) and there were absolutely times when I reacted poorly to his behavior. But I always went back to the fact that my daughter did not sign up for the heartache. I couldn't put the pieces of my life back together before I put her pieces back in order. If that meant years, then it meant years, it had to get done. My ex-husband hated me at times because I left him and he couldn't come to grips with the reason why I had to leave him. The wonderful news was that I had no idea I was working on putting my pieces back together in the meantime. The virtues brought me healing and restored my faith without even realizing it. As for my ex, I am not sure why he came around, I can only speculate that as I stopped nagging and pushing ~ he had time to breathe and discover his own challenges. That would be his story, not mine.
Here are some of those virtues that I held very high for many years.....
Faith ~ I relied on God all the time and spoke to him regularly ~ he always knew my heart's desire.
Tradition ~ My daughter and I camped every year with other mom's and their kids ~ and went to the cape every year with family ~ affordable vacations that gave her really good memories.
Persistence ~ I never stopped praying for unity in one way or another ~ kept up with all my responsibilities no matter what life tossed at me.
Prudence ~ I did not date at all while she was small ~ waited until she was ok with it ~ I felt that it would bring her comfort in the fact I wouldn't replace her dad so soon or put my needs before hers.
Patience ~ I struggled with promotions and money ~ became aggravated with his problems and attitude ~ felt the challenge with my daughter's pain and tears. I kept it together as best as I could by calming myself and listening to God.
Humility ~ I never blamed him 100% although I could ~ I let him know I appreciated things he did for us even though it wasn't always enough ~ and I leaned on friends and family when I felt like it was all too much.
Forgiveness ~ I eventually forgave him for breaking up our family because of his addiction and continued to love him as a friend and as my daughter's father.
Courage ~ I developed the strength to keep going day after day and smiling, especially when I just wanted to crawl back into bed many times.
I am 50 this year and can say with some certainty that the worse part is behind me. Neither one of us has found love again but our daughter is traveling smoothly through her teen years as we raise her together. I raised her alone for too many years in the beginning as he would phase in and out with out any consistency. I pray that it continues and rely on my faith to carry me through the next phase. As for my career, I was promoted consistently from the bottom up throughout the 16 years I put into the company, all while dealing with my divorce. Ironically enough, I was just let go from a high paying GM's role in that same company and am bewildered by the sudden change in my life. But my daughter is able to accept the change as she enters into her senior year in high school and her Dad is supportive and compassionate towards the news. I suppose it's time for another huge change in my life. I went back to school while I was running weddings (years ago) and dealing with my divorce. I persisted until I got my degree in writing! Hence my blog ;) perhaps its time for a cool change.
I encourage or challenge you to consider life after divorce as an opportunity to change statistics and give the word a new meaning by your own standards. It doesn't have to be the virtues that helped me overcome my pain, it can be your own. Just don't be disillusioned by thinking the answers are in a new marriage or a seemingly better relationship. Take some time to listen to your soul and be guided by your faith. If you don't have faith then I suppose that would be step one! From there the new road and new picture will fall into place. One last thing, there is no room on this new road for anger and hatred, it just doesn't work.
Stating the obvious.
The United States Census Bureau tells us that ~
41% of first marriages fail
60% of second marriages fail
73% of third marriages fail
Nice try America, but doesn't that say something?
43% of children in the U.S. grow up with out fathers.
75% of children live with their mothers.
1 couple gets divorced every 36 seconds in the U.S.
Which calculates to 2400/day ~ 16,800/week and slides in at ~ 876,00/year.
Are we surprised? I am not, but I do believe we can change some of those statistics with a little bit of good old fashioned virtue. I am looking forward to seeing what you think.
Can the road change?
Do you believe that your family can be re-routed after divorce and become healthy?
Best of Luck
I look forward to hearing your comments! Good, Bad or Indifferent. These are true story opinions and advice that I was excited to share with you and look forward to feedback or questions.