Posts Tagged ‘Divorce Dayz Survival Tip #6’

Divorce Dayz: Survival Tip #6-Taking Care of Your Dayz

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

The trees in our condo parking lot turn at different times giving us a rainbow of fall colors.

Tragedies are when we put off living. (Author Unknown)
From JOY, Complied by Kobi Yamada, Published by Compendium, Inc. 2008

Taking Care of Your Dayz

I have often heard the saying, “Marriage is sacred. In the movie Chocolat, based on the book by the same name, Juliette Binoche (playing Vianne) and Gina Olin (playing Josephine) have starring roles. Vianne gives Josephine a safe place to live after she finds out about the physical abuse between Josephine and her husband. When the mayor of their little town comes to protest, claiming the “sacredness”of marriage, Vianne asks Josephine to show the side of her face where she was hit. There is no sacredness in abuse, either mentally or physically. If you have tried repeatedly to reconcile your differences and finally come to the realization that your efforts are not working, you can choose to stay in misery or leave and start your life again. Neither choice is easy.

One of my friends chooses to stay in her unhappy marriage because she sees that many of her divorced friends, including me, struggled for years to put their lives back together.  Each woman has to make that decision for herself. But when the pain of staying together becomes unbearable, and is greater than the fear of being on your own, separation may be the lesser of the two pains.

Mums are still in bloom, even as the leaves of trees wane.

About nine months after my divorce proceedings began, I went out with my high school sweetheart, Harvey.  I was still in too much emotional pain to start dating men I did not know. Harvey was safe. In one of our conversations, I asked him what was easier: staying in a bad marriage or leaving the marriage, especially after 15 or 20 years as a couple. He said staying together was easier, but for him, the choice was clear. He could not survive emotionally if he had stayed, and I felt the same way. Making the decision to separate is probably the hardest decision you’ll make in the string of decisions that follow. While you are still married, there is that ray of hope that things can be worked out. But once separated, that hope dims to a dull ache.

If your marriage is one peppered with physical abuse, then for sure you need to get to a shelter or other safe place. Years ago, there were no such shelters or agencies, and women stayed in their abusive relationships for many reasons, not the least of which was that they had no place to go and/or no money to leave.  Sometimes an order of protection may be necessary, or just going to a friend’s house until you can figure out your next move. This can be a very scary time, and no one can tell you what is right for you.  Just listen to your gut and take all the necessary physical and financial precautions you can. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Just a tip of red on this tree; more changes to come soon.

These survival tips do not address all these issues surrounding divorce, especially those involving husbands beating their wives, marital rape, or other forms of physical or mental abuse. These are beyond the scope of my own experiences and expertise. If you are in one of these categories, you need to get help right away so that your life is not in danger. You may need the help of domestic relations; the police; a therapist, your minister, priest, rabbi, etc.; good friends and trusted family members. Do not wait if you feel your life and/or that of your children are at risk!

Whatever the circumstances surrounding the divorce, eventually you will need/want to take back your life and rebuild it for you and your children—not just to show your ex-husband you can survive without him, but because for your own feelings of self-worth. You must! The longer you have been married, especially when the marriage seemed better than most you observed, the harder the process of “reintegration. This is a term I use to express how divorce is like a disintegration of everything you believed in and followed as a wife, and no longer works. The identity as “wife” had become part of your personal profile, and when that part begins to disappear or disintegrate, you need to replace it and rebuild it with positive factors that will help you reintegrate the different, and probably new, aspects of yourself.

Many of the remaining trees are gold and red.

In the 2008-2009 TV series, Starter Wife, Debra Messing writes a movie plot entitle “Wife Goes On! Good title for life after divorce, except you will no longer have the title of “wife, but the play on words works for me. One of the ways I did this was to hire a lawyer to change my name to Spicer, my grandmother’s maiden name. This process cost me $500 and took me two years to pay it off, and it was worth every dollar! Also, my good friend Jo, a therapist, kept telling me to take care of myself.  In simple terms, this means:

  • Eat well
  • Get enough sleep
  • Exercise
  • Treat yourself to dinner and a movie once each week
  • Indulge in getting you hair or nails done once in awhile, so you keep yourself attractive to yourself.
  • Make social plans with family and fiends
  • Find time to be by yourself for meditation, prayer, hobbies, journal writing, or whatever you like to do that makes you feel better about yourself

In short, be good to yourself!

This was taken in full sunlight, with the leaves seeming to be on fire!

Feeling sorry for yourself is easy to do. Looking at your tired, drawn face in the mirror, tapping into your feelings of being emotionally and physically abandoned, financially fleeced, and all the other issues surrounding divorce would make anyone depressed or despondent. But take it from one who gave into those feelings and knows that this doesn’t work in your favor.

More empowering, more useful, more exciting is to wake up one morning to discover you have the freedom to be who you want without anyone telling you your ideas are foolish, that your hair is too long or too short, your job is too demanding, or just ignoring you.  Your ex may be criticizing you as a way to feel less guilty about his own actions.  He may be ignoring you, because he already has another person in his life he prefers to be with.

I love the ginko tree!

My experience with my divorced friends whose husbands have left is that they have to justify their leaving by blaming their wives. If you are the one that is leaving, do not fall into the blame trap. Take responsibility for your actions and do your best to maintain your integrity throughout the ordeal of divorce. That way, later on you won’tfeel guilty or regretful for actions you could have done to maintain your ability to complete the divorce process with minimal “collateral damage” to your mind, body, and assets.

During the period while my divorce was pending, I returned to college for a (second) bachelor’s degree in nutrition education. It was the best pick-me-upper I could have done for myself. I had always been a good student, and this was an area in which I could shine, get a degree, and shore up my self-esteem all at the same time. No one says this step will be easy. But you may be surprised it’s easier than you thought.As my mentor from my program mentioned at one of our sessions, “Getting my Ph.D. was easier than getting divorced. Fortunately, I qualified for financial aid, so the cost was minimal, making that part easy to handle.

If school is not your quicker-picker-upper, find something that is: playing a musical instrument, either for the first time or picking up a former instrument you learned; singing or dancing lessons; yoga or tai chi classes; real estate training, or learn to be a travel agent. They are all out there for the picking, choosing, and learning. I and some women I met worked three different part-time jobs to explore what we eventually needed and wanted. At one point, my kids asked me to get a beeper, because I was never in the same place at the same time each day. (This was not too long before cell phones became available and affordable.)

Another sunlit tree!

All this new information can be both scary and exciting.  In one of my favorite movies, Shirley Valentine, the main character, Shirley, runs off with a friend to Greece to find the girl/woman she used to be before her marriage became a mockery.Go find your Greece! You are still you under all the pain and rubble of your broken marriage. Get out from under and start to rebuild your life to be better than you would ever have imagined! (The movie Under the Tuscan Sun was also a good one that demonstrates you can pick up the pieces.)

Having a loving partner to share the wonders of life is wonderful. But if that partner is no longer loving, supportive, and caring, then you need to create a wonderful life without him. In reading one of the many books on relationships, I came across a statement about the sanctity of marriage, which I mentioned in the beginning of this tip. The author noted that while marriage is sacred, there is nothing sacred about a marriage filled with anger, hate, and misery.

If the sanctity of your marriage has been violated beyond repair, take time to mourn. But then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again. As the quote above implies, don’t put off living! My own experiences and my observations of divorce friends has convinced me that it is never too late to have the life you want. Do it before you live to regret not being your authentic self!

I love the deep red of this huge tree, mingled with the green & gold.