Posts from the ‘starting over’ category

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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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Marriage_Web

Here you are, healed, strong, and feeling ready for what life has to bring to you post-divorce. What a long road it’s been! You’ve spent some time in the dating pool, some days were more of a struggle than others, and now, after kissing multiple frogs, (perhaps a few toads, even) you’ve finally found your Mr. or Mrs. Right. The two of you are head-over-heels in love, ready to get married, join your families together, and say your I dos. Well, as a girl who’s marched along that road before, let me be the first to tell you, don’t ever be married again!

From the day my husband, Brandon, and I began dating seriously, I would explain to him that I didn’t want to be the “wife” or a “mother” to a husband ever again. “I want to be the sexy girlfriend!” I’d exclaim. What that means is that I want Brandon and I to put as much effort into our relationship, every day, as we did in the early-days of our dating. Back then we both had four kids (each!), full-time jobs, jam-packed schedules, and we bent over backwards to see each other. Each of us came into this partnership as individual people with confidence, strengths and responsibilities, and we want each of us to keep those areas intact throughout our marriage.

When you’re first dating, you’re wrapped up in blankets of love, lust, and there are butterflies in your stomach. You send sweet texts: I miss you baby! xoxo. At the grocery store, you stop in your tracks when you see his favorite snack food, and you pick it up for the Giants game on Sunday, because what’s a good football game without his favorite snacks? You shave your legs and rub on scented lotion after your shower because you want to feel beautiful when he sees you. He brings you flowers just because he wants to see your face light up when he walks in the door with something–just because. But then, after months and months of being married, the texts are fewer and fewer and you become just another family member to one another.

We humans have this terrible habit of getting “comfortable” once the rings are placed on our fingers. In first marriages, after saying “I do,” mortgages and kids come along, and couples tend to start living a parallel existence together. That’s definitely what my first marriage looked like in the later years. The same is true in second marriages; those mortgages and kids are usually still there, you end up discussing Jimmy’s practice schedule or Jane’s doctors appointments, and you leave little time for any real conversation. Add to that issues with ex wives or husbands, child support responsibilities, and various schedules for various family members, and it’s a wonder if you have money to go out or lie down in bed at the same time!

If a wedding ceremony is something the two of you want, great! Get married! But do your best to avoid “being married” to your partner. Instead, keep dating him or her, every day.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind to avoid “being married” and keep your relationship on the top of your list:

  1. Keep laughing! Near the end of my first marriage, I swear I hadn’t seen my first husband laugh in 5 years. He became so serious! I should have known there were bigger problems on the horizon. In my relationship with Brandon, he and I giggle over the stupidest things, constantly. With or without the kids involved. When I notice we are beginning to take life too seriously, and we aren’t snickering at something stupid, that’s when I know we need more “us” time on our schedule.
  2. Keep your grooming habits the same as when you first got together. Men, you didn’t look like Sasquatch’s relative when you lovingly kissed us goodnight at the doorstep on our third date (well, perhaps some of you did, because your women are into the disheveled, bearded look, but not me). And ladies, Alec Baldwin’s character may have been into a woman “going native” in the movie It’s Complicated, but it’s highly-unlinkely your man will appreciate the “forest” (men, this goes for you too–if you manscaped before, keep that shit up!).
  3. Dress to impress, still. Yoga pants are for working out…period. And sweats? Well, they’re for days when you’ve got the flu and can’t make it out of bed. Otherwise, they stay in the closet.
  4. Let the small things go. You didn’t snap his head off when he didn’t change the toilet paper roll when you were first together. And he overlooked your 50 bottles of lotion, scented lotion, deodorant, gel, mouuse, hairspray etc. you’d leave on the bathroom counter when you left for work, so don’t bicker about it now. Keep the respect levels high–always!
  5. Keep the affection coming. (Pun definitely intended here!) Keep up the heat! Sex should be a priority, but more than that, keep up the touchy-feeling things you did when you were first together: hold hands while you’re in the car, give him a hug and a kiss when he gets home from work, kiss her neck when she’s cooking dinner. When the sweet, contagious touches go away in a marriage, you may as well move into separate homes next door to each other and Skype about the kids and schedules at that point.

There’s this strange spin-doctoring and creative marketing that goes on out there, that we all buy into, that makes us think that marriage will solve all of our problems. Being married isn’t an answer to anything–the work still needs to take place. In life, we want someone to show love to and someone who shows us love. We want to know we’re special. We want to know that the person we’re with is proud they spend their nights with us. The best way to do that is to not be married at all. Be dating. Be in love. Be giving love. Always.

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I woke up with a severe pounding in my head. It was my first week home with my beautiful, newborn son. He was the first baby in our home, and even though his nights were mixed up with his days, I was thrilled he was finally here. He and I had figured out the nursing thing and we were have a so much fun getting to know each other.

It had been one week since delivery and I could tell I was fevered. My head was scorching hot and my eyes ached when I kept them open for too long. My infant son lay next to me in my bed, dark hair standing straight up, nuzzled in and breathing heavily in a deep sleep–it was 9:00 am, so of course now he decided to sleep.

As every good mother does when something feels wrong, I opened up my copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting and began to investigate the reasons for a fever after delivery. I knew it could be something as simple as a bladder infection or something more major following the birth. Without disturbing my beautiful son, I reached for the phone and placed a call to my doctor. It was a Saturday morning, so as I expected, I got his service. After explaining my symptoms, the woman on the other end of the line assured me the doctor would call me within the next 15 minutes.

Shortly after hanging up, the phone in the bedroom rang. It startled my son, waking him, and I quickly picked up the phone. The doctor and I talked and it was decided I should go to the emergency room for some tests–it was likely I had an infection or part of the placenta was missed post-delivery.

My son began to fuss, so I began to feed him. I could hear my husband downstairs in the kitchen. Calling down to him, I asked him to come upstairs so I could explain what was going on.

At this point, my fever was 104° and I was pretty miserable.

“I’ve got to go to the emergency room.” I told him

“Why?” he asked.

“I’ve got a temperature of 104°, and the doctor thinks I have an infection or something. They can do tests there to see what’s wrong.” I explained.

There was a slight pause, and he stared at me for a moment.

“But, I was going to mow the lawn today.”

He blankly stared at me–his wife. The mother of his son, the baby I was holding and nursing, who was dependent on me for everything in his small, fragile life.

20 minutes later I drove myself to my parents’ home, 20 miles away and 3 minutes from the hospital. My father took me to the emergency room and my mother cared for my week-old son back at her house to avoid all of the germs that hospitals are so happy to share.

I waited quite awhile in the emergency room with my father and stared outside at the beautiful sunshine and green grass. My chest was swelling and a bit painful, and I was aware that it was time to feed my son again. I hoped they would hurry.

A small nurse called my name and I stood up to walk to the door where a sign was posted: PATIENTS AND FAMILY ONLY.

I slowly walked through the door alone.

. . .

When looking back, I wonder: Why did I allow someone to treat me as if my needs didn’t matter? Why did I continually put his needs and happiness over my own? Why did I stay for so long and allow myself to be invisible?

Everyone deserves love. Everyone deserves a partner in their life who puts them first–above all.

I will never be invisible again.

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