This article first appeared on Divorced Moms and has been republished with permission.
It had been many years coming, but it wasn’t until I actually took that first step to divorce my husband of 16 years, that I was hit with a paralyzing fear: everything I held dear and worked hard for could be taken away in a minute. Our children, home, retirement, and savings, at least what was left of it before he stole it, were all on the chopping block. Making the decision on whether to stay or not to stay in a marriage can be agonizing, even if you’re like me, and have been unhappy for more years than not.
Leaving is never easy, and giving up what we deem as stability, is even harder to let go of. But one of the things I have learned along the way is this: security and certainty do not exist, except in our minds. Staying for security is staying for the known status quo, and that is being attached to the past. Divorcing is about moving forward with your life and only looking back to learn from your past.
The first year after divorce is definitely the hardest since you are re-analyzing your life and rediscovering yourself. Many, like me, have lost ourselves along the way in our marriages, and when freedom is finally granted, we may not know what to do with ourselves. Post-divorce is the perfect time to start learning new things you always wanted to do but didn’t have the time or the right partner to encourage you to do it. Learn a new language, take continuing education classes at your local community college on topics that interest you, start writing or painting again, learn meditation, do whatever you find interesting as you begin your journey of self-discovery.
After my divorce, I learned so much about myself and you will too.
1. I learned I am far more productive.
Before my divorce, I wasted so much time and energy on trying to fix things in our broken marriage, that I had little energy for anything else. Afterward, I was renewed with a voracious desire to accomplish all the things I kept postponing for the right time. The right time was NOW!
2. I have learned that I can only control me.
When you are part of a couple, even a dysfunctional couple, each party has some input as to how the household runs and the raising of the children. However after divorce, that all changes. You cannot control your ex’s house and rules. You can voice concerns, but that is all. Also, it’s important to learn how to safeguard your emotions from the ex who will push your buttons regularly, and realize that you are the boss of how you allow yourself to be treated and how you react.
3. I learned the true meaning of gratitude.
The first day I awoke in my new place after the divorce, I cried. Not because I felt sad, but at that moment it felt like Christmas morning. I was so grateful that I was given my freedom from the nightmare of my marriage that I vowed I would show and acknowledge my gratitude every day.
4. The bond with my children became deeper and more meaningful.
My children were always my priority, but after the divorce, I had more time to focus on them and our relationship instead of always having to fend off toxicity in the home from my ex. The existing bond became stronger and we were spending more time and quality time together than before.
5. I learned strength is defined in many ways.
Strength is in all the little things we do day in and day out. It’s an amalgamation of all the sacrifices we make as parents and as humans. It’s about challenging old beliefs we hold dear, it’s about letting go of the anger that keeps us stuck in the past, and most of all it is about trusting yourself enough to explore the depths of love again.
6. I have less fear and know that I am truly a warrior.
Before divorce I was so fearful of the unknown, it is one of the things that kept me in an emotionally abusive marriage. But taking that leap of faith has shown me that I am not only a survivor but a warrior. I tackle everything that comes my way with determination, and I realize my own self-worth. I’m happy to say that fear no longer resides here.
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