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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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Z-at bat

The last few weeks have brought so much reward to me and hopefully to my kids as well. Now that I’m working from home, we’ve spent time together. We’ve talked. We’ve been busy with sports and other things, but we’ve also had some downtime, which has been great for all of us. Last night, my oldest son had a softball game and he asked me if I would go watch him. Last year, he played on a team with Brandon and I and we all had a great time. Brandon and I are much too busy this year to play, but his dad asked him to play on a team he’s played on for a couple years and my son wanted our whole family to go and watch.

“Sure,” I told him. There was only a small part of me that didn’t want to go, and that’s because my ex has been pretty difficult with me (again) lately. But I’m not one to let my ex separate me from what my kids want, so of course we went. Our family sat out on the grass, and I was respectful to give my ex and his wife their space. My son wanted us to sit closer, but I was fine out on the grass having a picnic with Brandon and the kids.

My son had a great game, and it was so great to see him out playing ball again. And ya know, I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all watching my ex husband play in the same game my son was playing in. Some people would think I’m crazy to go and sit there watching my ex play–with all of the drama that man has brought to my life–but I was really there only to support my son, so it wasn’t strange at all. If anything, I watched with an appreciation that he and my son could play ball together. Now, I’m sure it could have been strange for my ex and his wife to have me on “their turf” but again, I wasn’t there for them.

The sun was setting just as the game was ending, and Brandon and I piled all the kids into the car to drive home. We all sang Flo Rida songs at the top of our lungs while we were all squished into the car, and it really was a memorable night.

The emotions started rolling in for me once we got home–after I replayed the evening in my mind. My heart began to break as I thought about how my son has to live his life with a gap as wide as the Grand Canyon right down the middle. Dad on one side. Mom on the other. Why does it have to be like that? I really don’t understand why it needs to be that way. Brandon and his ex’s are friendly with each other when they’re at the kids things. Why can’t my kids have the same?

I have longed for a “normal” co-parenting situation for so long. One where my son’s family goes to his games and support him and parents can be friendly and the animosity is void. But I know that will never happen for my kids. I’ve tried to be friendly with my ex. I’ve tried to speak to him as a respectful adult. He insists on acting childish and still won’t make eye contact–4 years later he still refuses to make eye contact with me. It’s almost as if he’s on a pedastal and he can’t bring himself to “stoop so low” to even look at me, the mother of his 4 children.

A few weeks ago, my daughter played ball on a Friday night during our “drop off time.” I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to pick up our older daughter from soccer that night or if he was going to so I walked over to her father to ask if he would be picking her up. He and his wife sat there staring off into the distance and wouldn’t acknowledge me standing next to their seats. He continued to stare off into the distance and replied, “it’s my parent time–I’ll handle it.” My response was calm and clear, “I just need you to communicate that with me so I know what’s going on.” His eyes rolled and he formed his hand into a puppet mouth pointed at my face and opened and closed his fingers and thumb to mimic my talking, and he didn’t respond again to me. This man is so mature.

I don’t want “normal” co-parenting as much for myself (but Jesus, that would be nice) as much as I want it for my kids. Imagine the love my son could have felt last night if BOTH of his parents were talking and communicating and cheering for him at his game. Imagine how safe he would feel if his mother could walk up to him and his team after the game and speak to his father about how well he played. Imagine if we acted as if we were two old friends who shared a child and the anger and insecurity was gone. Imagine if the two of us could stand with our son and tell him how amazing we thought he was–together–as his parents. But then I remember that my ex is a narcissist, and he cannot put the needs of his 4 kids above himself. And his insecurities, anger, and immaturity will always take center stage.

My ex’s lack of compassion and respect towards me doesn’t really affect me, but it DOES affect his children. They feel the discomfort. They have been told that during “his time” they sit with him and he has drawn the line in the sand. He has painted parameters and boundaries around their relationships with each parent and they are expected to stay within each boundary, seperately. My heart breaks for the way he has changed their lives. They are four innocent people who are trying to love and repair, and they won’t ever be able to fully heal until their father does. And I’m not sure that will ever happen.

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Vegas-Pic_web

 

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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Fly

Years.

Decades.

If I were to add up the time I spent playing “dress up”–living and working in a body that didn’t seem like my own–the number would shock you. On the outside, I seemed to know what I wanted, I took care of my children and family and home, and I went to work and helped support the dreams and goals my husband and I had as a couple. Were they my dreams? I look back, and sure, a few of them were. But for the most part, my marriage consisted of me saying yes a lot to his goals and dreams. He always wanted me to work–even when I didn’t have to. He wanted the extra income. He wanted the big rock exterior home, the boat, the big truck, and on and on.

Me? What did I want? I wanted to be an amazing mother to my kids and support my husband. I wanted to create memories with our families–extended included–and teach our children what love truly was. Other than that, I didn’t even know how to dream up something I wanted. I spent so many years kind of “giving in” that I forgot to ask myself what would make me happy.

The events that led up to my divorce sent a shock through my system like an electromagnetic wave. My gift to myself, prior to realizing that our marriage was crumbling beneath my feet, was taking a job working at a creative magazine. I began seeing my talents, believing in myself again, and once I found out my ex was carrying on with a woman in New York rather than engaging at home and with me, I had the confidence to put my foot down rather than melt away into nothingness. Then, one year later when I asked my ex husband to leave our home because he was now carrying on with a neighbor, it was like someone breathed the air into my lungs and I opened my eyes again. Yes, it was painful, but I started to become me again.

Nearly three years later, when I began dating Brandon, I had settled in to who I am–the single Lori. Sarcastic, free, colorful, creative. And now, almost two years after falling in love, I see the woman I am and the woman I want to be. Brandon sees it, too. He supports my dreams and my goals and for the very first time in my life, I feel like I have the love I need to push myself to dig deeper and finally become the wife and mother I always wanted to be.

And now, the bigger question: Where do I go from here? How the freak should I know?!

I do know I want to be home more to care for my children and my husband and our home. I want to feel “settled in” and for our kids to have a “real home” again. I want to write. Desperately. I want to create. Something! I want to inspire and empower and engage.

Today is the beginning of an authentic life I’ve longed for that I know is out there.

I’m taking risks I wouldn’t dare try on my own. I have this feeling of terror channeling through me today, because it’s go time. But I also feel a rush of excitement to see what the next chapter will bring. And, after discussing this with my sweet husband, I finally have the from-the-heart support that I’ve longed for, really, for my entire life.

It’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown. I will either fall onto solid ground, or better yet, I just may learn to fly.

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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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