Posts from the ‘starting over’ category

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Over the past few years of my life, I’ve learned to maneuver and grow post-divorce. Some days have been easy. Other days, not so much. Writing, reading, and focusing on myself has given me strength and opened doors for me that I never imagined possible. I’ve met wonderful people, received strength and support, and share my thoughts and life with others as inspiration or simply for an “I’ve been there.”

I did the work. I spoke to a counselor and was sure to look inside so I didn’t repeat the same mistakes moving forward that I did in my childhood and during my first marriage. I’ve read tons about narcissism and NPD personalities, and I’ve now learned how to stand up for myself.

As a child, I tried to please everyone around me. One of those people was my mother. As I grew, I noticed that she eventually began attaching herself to my life more and more. It wasn’t until after my divorce that I had the guts to let her know that I needed her to work on her own life rather than depend so deeply on me for happiness. I wasted many, many years trying to please her and do what I thought she wanted me to do. Dumb.

The concept of the parent who lives through his or her child is familiar to anyone who has stood on the sidelines of a youth soccer or baseball game. The narcissist’s reaction to her child’s life is qualitatively different. It’s not just annexation; it’s the redrawing of the borders to completely absorb the other life into her own. (Huffington Post)

This article from Psychology Today speaks volumes about narcissists and their victims. Sometimes you cannot even try to understand where their brains are, because it’s just not possible. How can a parent try to control her child so much that her child would rather be over at a friends’ house than be at home with her? Why is it that a narcissist tries to take-over and control everyone around them and squashes the real, deep development of the individual?

But, enter the condition of narcissism. What if you married a narcissist who is all about what is good for him or her, rather than what is in the best interest of the children? The narcissist makes unrealistic demands, is not emotionally connected to the children, may be emotionally abusive or worse, but will fight to the end to gain revenge or fight in the interest of his/her own needs. The fight may be economically based, or more likely what is known as a narcissistic injury. That person will never get over or forget that you filed for divorce or abandoned them, and will continue to make life difficult for you and the children. What do you do?

To reiterate, if you marry a narcissist and then divorce that person, the narcissist will not forgive and forget. They do not move on easily. They cling to “how could you abandon me or do this to me” and the anger lingers for long periods of time, sometimes years and years. To imagine that one could process through an amicable divorce with a narcissist and stay friends and co-parent in a reasonable manner is not realistic with narcissists. They do things such as excessively disparage the other parent, resort to making up unfair and untrue allegations, and do not want to financially support the children because that somehow means to them that they are giving money to their ex-spouse. Their entitlement needs get in the way of fairly dividing property and money and in the end they do not think of what is best for the child or children. They think about what is best for them! “It is my parenting time!” “You cannot have sporting events on my time!” “Your mother (or father) is taking all my money.” (Psychology Today)

If you are dealing with a high conflict individual in your life, don’t try to understand them. You won’t. But you can get educated! Spend time reading. Spend time learning. Surround yourself with support. Most of all, understand the disease. Because, as Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

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It’s amazing the vantage point you have when you carefully follow a path, one slight step after another, and reach high ground during a long journey.

If you look one direction, you see where you came from. Your eyes analyze the terrain and you may even be surprised at the progress you made to get to the sunlit spot where you stand.

As you turn your face to the sun, you can’t help but feel a sense of pride for all the miles you’ve covered, the danger you’ve faced, and the challenges you’ve overcome along the way.

Standing on this high ground, you can also see the path that is outstretched before you. What a glorious thing to look beyond and feel the adrenaline rush through you as you consider which direction to go, what experiences might lie ahead, and what obstacles may be in your way.

The thing about being on high ground, is only the people who have taken the high road, walked the walk, and put in the hard work along the way will be blessed enough to join you for the rest of the journey. For this, I am thankful. Because carrying someone along the path only to realize they didn’t belong there can be an exhausting thing.

Tonight I stand on high ground. I feel the sunshine, warm on my skin, and deep love surrounding me as I stand here with my husband and my kids. My journey has been long, my obstacles large, but those obstacles are very much desperate, insignificant, and left in our past.

Here’s to the journey. To loving along the way. To knowing that life is about people, emotions, caring and giving, because those things are what bring you love and happiness.

For those of you who are still on your journey through divorce, or for those of you trying to co-parent with someone who is a narcissist, remember this…high ground is safest in a storm. Your children can see the clouds and lightening around them, and you are their safe spot. Keep walking the high road. Your kids see who walks the journey with them because they see with their own eyes from their vantage point. Walk with them. Walk together. And enjoy the next phase in the journey!

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As a survivor of divorce, I often feel like there are two parts of me that make up the whole me. One part was developed during my childhood and first marriage–40 years made me who I was. The second part of me is the part of me that has evolved post-divorce. The stronger,more confident, survivor that I am.

Sure, I suppose that some of the qualities I’ve developed along the way could have taken shape during the first 40 years of my life–the confidence ebbing and flowing and retracting throughout my life is something I’ve seen come and go. But for the most part, the second part is the real me. It’s the me I fought hard to become. It’s the me I gave myself permission to believe in.

For those of you that are going through divorce, or are fresh out of the war of court hearings, I urge you to take a moment and look at yourself. ONLY yourself for a moment (not the kids, not the family as a whole…you).

Ask yourself this question:

Was I really happy in that marriage? Or was I just comfortable?

There is a huge difference between the two.

While you’re in the trenches, duking it out with your soon-to-be ex, you’re either in survival mode, kill mode, or eff him/her mode. Whichever mask you’re wearing to hide the pain, don’t fool yourself into thinking your “happy marriage” is coming to an end. If your marriage was a good one, it wouldn’t be ending, really, would it.

I used to think me and my ex were happy. I used to think we could have made it work. Even as recently as last week, when Brandon and I were having a particularly rough day, I wondered if my life would have been easier if I just would have never gotten divorced. Short answer to that question: um, hell no.

Choosing to be with someone and be in a relationship takes work. Getting married takes work. Getting married for a second time takes more work!

After a divorce, it’s easy to go into shell-shock mode and lose yourself. Don’t do it. The main reason you’re probably getting divorced in the first place is because part of you is probably already lost…at least to some degree.

Each day after divorce is a day to discover who you really are. My divorce has not been a smooth one. I still deal with abusive power struggles and I get bumped around a bit. I did not see this side of my ex until I blew the whistle on his misbehavior and ended our marriage. But rather than letting it make me who I am, I remember why I’m on this journey. To find the real me. Not the husband-pleasing me. Not the take care of everyone and forget about myself me. But the real me.

At times, that may feel like I’m selfish. That may make me sound like I don’t care about anyone. But really, what life is about is growing and loving people and growing into the you you are meant to be.

Divorce can be a blessing. Divorce can be hard as hell. Divorce can be both things all at once. But if you peel away all the masks you’ve worn along your path to divorce, and you take on each day as a new day to have a good day, you’re bound to go to bed each night and be thankful for the opportunity to live your life. And guess what? You may live that life on your own… Or maybe, you’ll find a “happy marriage” along the way.

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A dark cloud has rolled in tonight–it’s wrapped around me like a cloak I can’t break free from. I’m not sure why the sadness has hit me like it has, but I’m trying to allow myself to feel it. Trying to reach out, slowly touch it and examine what exactly it is and how I can move through it.

Some of what I’m feeling are emotions I’ve stuffed deep down inside me for the past 4 months. Almost like the way you smash the wrappers and cans into the kitchen garbage so you can crowd more junk and garbage into the container–cramming it all down so you don’t have to take a trip to the can outside, alone, in the dark.

The emotions I’ve avoided are unhappiness–both with my family life and my job. I was miserable for quite some time, but I trudged through the discomfort and went to work everyday and left my family and felt as though I was failing in all areas. I swaddled up the pain in chocolate, caffeine, sleep, and shutting people out–all typical coping tools that are unhealthy and irresponsible. I haven’t been working out. I haven’t been going out. I haven’t been laughing or exploring or challenging myself. At all. I’ve buried myself in being busy–ignoring myself and my pain.

It’s landed me in a familiar place. A place I know very well from my first marriage. I’ve given up things that make me happy: working out, going out with friends and being creative. I saw a photo of myself my son took last weekend and I didn’t like what I saw. I know that woman–that’s the woman who went on auto-pilot for years in her first marriage–numbing the pain and unhappiness.

Reaching out to my husband was my first step at finding happiness again. Quitting my job was the second. Now, as I write through my sadness, anger, and frustration tonight, I know the third step is to begin to love myself again. Eating healthy again. Working out again. Putting myself first on the list again and believing in the woman I am. I want to cry because I’ve allowed myself to get lost and veer so far from the path I found after my divorce. It makes me angry at myself and wonder how I lost my way. In one year, I’m disoriented in the forest again.

A friend of mine helped me to see that my job was a large reason for my unhappiness. My work situation had put me, once again, in a place where a man in my life wasn’t listening or validating me or my needs. I was “checking out” as a coping tool. At first I thought the idea was a bit “out there,” but it’s true. I was in a “relationship” (a work relationship) with a man who didn’t listen. He didn’t listen to my ideas. He wanted to always control the decisions and wanted to see everything I did (sound familiar?). Once I saw the unbalance in my life and the effects on my emotional health, I made my needs very clear–telling him I don’t work well at the last minute (working til 2:00 am multiple times to launch websites etc), and explaining that I had many initiatives on my plate and his lack of follow through on the items I needed from him were causing me frustration–the needs were ignored and disregarded and he continued to work the way he was used to.

I’m sad I followed the pattern I’d learned in my first marriage–allowing myself to be unseen and unheard. I’m even more sad that the only way I new to cope was to detach from myself. I still have much to learn. And I still have more healing ahead.

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When it comes to the debate of working moms vs at-home-moms, I’ve always been an advocate of “Do what you feel comfortable with.” I’m not here to judge another woman for going to work every day, just like I wouldn’t judge a woman who chooses to stay home with her children. Each woman should know herself and know where she will be the most happy. I’ve danced the line of working mom/at-home-mom many, many times. I’ve worked at home, nights, weekends, part-time and full-time. I’ve done it all.

After 17 years of juggling, maneuvering and balancing, I know what works for me. I enjoy working. I enjoy creating something and sending it out into the world and making a difference in people’s lives. But I also know that my influence on my children is one of the most important gifts they’ll receive.

Once I got divorced, I went directly into survival mode: work hard, provide for my kids, get them into counseling, try not to change life too much. I quickly found full-time work and bought us our little home. There was hardly any time for adjustment, because when you’re in the middle of divorce, you just do what you have to so you get by. All of you single parents out there know exactly what I’m talking about.

The most difficult part about that phase in our lives is that I felt like my kids lost their dad AND their mom all at the same time. Their world as they new it was turned on it’s head, which wasn’t fair! Their dad moved out, and their mom was hardly home because she worked from 8:30-5:30, and after work she was the chauffeur. We burned that candle at both ends for quite some time.

I’ve now been married to Brandon for nearly a year. We’ve been playing hot-potato with schedules, carpooling kids, trying to keep all the trains running, keep the house clean, each working a full-time job, and nurturing a new marriage all at the same time. Life ain’t glamorous most days ’round these parts, but that’s not what life is about. There’s been many, many discussions about keeping our relationship fresh, parenting our kids, joining our lives together and trying to understand one another. And when we hit a bump in our road, we’ve learned to talk through it and figure it out.

The ground beneath us is starting to feel fairly solid now, and we’re on the back side of that all-too-familiar “difficult first year” of marriage. As I’ve said before, blending two families is a challenge, but it’s also a blessing. Brandon’s recently been promoted at work, which takes him away from home more than I’d like, but I’m so proud of him and his accomplishments. We’re settling in and seeing how the inner-workings of this family work, and it now makes sense for me to be home more to take care of our kids, our home and nurture all that goes on here while he’s at work. In a way, I’m thrilled. But in another, I’m terrified! The day I quit, I had to make myself not think and just feel with my heart. My heart is telling me the right thing to do and it’s holding the door closed so my mind doesn’t run in and ruin the whole thing!

To walk away from a full-time job by my own choice is a crazy thing. But to have the majority of my job description be about nurturing my children and supporting my husband and walk towards a personal goal to start my own business/adventure (or whatever it is I’m going to do) is exciting. I’ve never had someone who believed in me and my talents the way Brandon does. He knows it’s important to have home handled, and his goal when he took this job was for me to be home more to hold down our fort. I honestly believe that life is much easier when one parent is home a majority of the time keeping the peace and balance–especially when you have a large number of children. Some may disagree, but this is our gig, and we chose this route.

I’m not going to lie…I’ve been sick with worry in making this decision. It’s a moment of vulnerability for me–to depend on someone financially again. My ex had no problem controlling and stashing money, so I breathe deeply with this decision and try not to hyperventilate myself into a frenzy. To give up the “guaranteed” and bet on myself is a huge risk. In a way I feel selfish. Is that stupid? I feel lame because I’m not contributing as much to our income as I could. I doubt my talents. I fear the stress will be too much on Brandon.

But money does not drive me. Relationships do. At the end of my life, I won’t be asking someone to bring my Porche to the window so I can marvel at how clean it is. I’ll want my family near me. When my children are parents themselves, they will know that family is worth sacrificing for.

My oldest son came home the other day and told me that his father got mad at my daughter for resting her arm against his car’s window. He had yelled at her, “Get your arm off the window!” quite loudly. My son looked at me while telling me that story and said, “Sometimes I want to ask him, ‘Dad, why’d you even have kids?'”

Life with children is full of sacrifices, fingerprints, heartache and challenges. Some don’t have the choice whether or not they’ll stay home, and they go to work every day to give everything they can to their kids. I applaud you, because I know how hard that is. We do the best we can with what we have.

I’m looking forward to this new adventure, but even more, I’m looking forward to more quality time with my husband and kids.

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