By Beverly Willett
Hardship is the raw material for learning how to navigate life after divorce. What I’ve learned from my pitfalls has allowed me to help others through volunteerism and writing about my experiences.
All that anguish wasn’t for naught.
I’d been a faithful wife, loving mother, and financially prudent partner. What lessons did I need to learn? And why the hard way? I’d cry out to God, the universe, or whoever might be out there listening. Life was hard and heavy, and early on I was too mired in suffering to see past it.
Hindsight eventually revealed some answers.
Hard experience transformed into wisdom, powerful, little showers of healing. These blessings became more than lessons. I call them “Blessons.”
Blesson #1: Don’t forget the past
There was a time when all I wanted to do was forget. Sometimes I’d wake up, still groggy, and momentarily forget my husband had left. That second of amnesia was the best moment of my day.
But now that my pain is no longer raw, memories of how I got through so many difficulties remind me of my strength. I’m a proud survivor.
While my husband was having an affair, I was also too busy juggling a house, kids and recovering from knee surgery to notice the signs, or at least I didn’t want to. Looking back, I vividly recall his late nights at the office when I couldn’t reach him; the way he guarded his cell phone; his anger that seemed to come out of nowhere; the way he happily paid bills, possibly so I couldn’t see the statements.
Although I haven’t dated much since the divorce, I more easily notice lies, inconsistencies, and insincerity in the men who ask me out. Vigilance spares me heartache and pretense, and saves me precious time with relationships that are doomed to fail.
Blesson #2: Life after divorce is easier if you meditate
I started meditation classes before my husband left. Still, I wish I’d been further along in the beginning. Perhaps I wouldn’t have spent so long overwhelmed by despair.
But thank God, even when things seemed hopeless, I kept attending my weekly classes. I learned how to stop and breathe. In moments of calm and clarity, I hired an attorney, took inventory of our assets in case something went missing, opened a separate bank account with funds for an emergency, and stashed evidence with a friend. I also took care of my children.
Now, I don’t sit on the meditation cushion every day. But mindfulness has become a steady, daily practice. Life will always bring challenges, but mindful living helps me ride life’s waves and avoid drowning again.
Blesson #3: Try to avoid divorce court
For me and many people, divorce court can be an expensive, unexpected horror show. I don’t ever want to find myself inside one again.
If I’d known before what I know now, I might have dated my ex longer instead of tying the knot nine months after we met. Although I’m not a big fan of pre-nuptial agreements, I’d probably consider signing one if I ever married again, too. I’d insist on three terms:
- Mediation instead of divorce court
- Agreed-on property division in the event of divorce
- A meaningful period of couples counseling with a marriage-friendly therapist before either of us could call it quits. Sites like Regain.us can help tremendously.
Blesson #4: Trust your motherly intuition
I told my children the truth about their father’s leaving. That doesn’t mean they needed to hear all the details. But if I’d lied to them how could I teach them the value of honesty, trust, and promises?
My husband wanted out; I didn’t. “I still love your father, and he loves you, but he has a girlfriend.” That was the truth and that’s what I told my kids. I also allowed them to see me cry.
Grief is natural, and seeing me unload mine told them it was okay to express theirs. Sometimes I wondered whether I was doing the right thing when it came to raising my children. Thankfully, I learned that I could trust myself and my intuition.
Blesson #5: Let people help
Like many women, I didn’t bargain for instant single-motherhood. My post-life after divorce to-do list grew longer day by day. I needed help. But, as a perfectionist, I had little practice asking for it.
I spent days working up my courage before the first time I timidly knocked on a neighbor’s door to ask a small favor. After she said “of course,” I walked home in tears, flabbergasted. Once I accepted my inability to do it all wasn’t a personal failure, kindness from others flooded my life.
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Blesson #6: Be grateful for everything
“I’m so sorry,” another mom said to me at pick-up time in the schoolyard one day. (She’d heard about my divorce and was going through one herself.) “It’s fine,” I said. “It’s all material for writing.” I needed to laugh, and those words had just tumbled out. But my off-the-cuff fib turned out to be true.
Blesson #7: Forgive yourself
Of all the people who were hard on me—my ex, his lawyer, the judges—I was hardest on myself. How had I, a smart woman and ex-lawyer, not seen betrayal coming? And why had I fallen apart? Self-criticism ate away at me.
My parents taught me two golden rules I tried to follow— love God and love your neighbor. Reclaiming my life required a third — to love and forgive thyself.
It’s hard to envision a happy future in the midst of suffering. But I’ve come to trust that silver linings will eventually reveal themselves. Lessons can ripe into blessings—or blessons—for us all.