I am a 43-year-old divorcée.
Whew, admitting that is tough.
For a long time, I couldn’t say those words much less type them.
For about a year after my divorce, I couldn’t say the literal word ‘divorce‘. I felt ashamed….still do in some ways.
Even though the divorce rate in America is somewhere between thirty percent and fifty percent, there’s still a stigma attached to it. There’s still guilt, and shame around not being married.
But the pain of my divorce has taught me SO much. Most of the things I learned from it I would have never learned otherwise.
No one to blame but myself.
One of the biggest takeaways from my divorce is how I blamed my ex when I should’ve focused on owning my stuff.
In the book Single On Purpose by author John Kim, he talks about the concept of radical ownership. Radical ownership of “our stuff” is important because by owning our pasts it helps us move forward in the process of healing and becoming emotionally healthy.
In talking with people who’ve gone through a divorce, the one common denominator was how much they blamed their ex-spouse when refusing to see how THEY contributed to the demise of their marriages.
Very few people take radical ownership of their actions and even less are accountable in owning their stuff. (Thank you to author John Kim)
They refuse to verbally admit, “I feel that I contributed to the fall of my marriage because of….”
And, “I don’t blame my ex because I feel like I equally contributed to the fall of our marriage relationship.”
Saying things out loud can be liberating and few I’ve talked with are willing to do this. (I’ve struggled with this, too)
Because you and I refuse to heal and constructively work through the hurt and pain associated with divorce, we become angry, bitter, and cynical.
There’s a LOT of bitter, angry women who are in survival mode because of their failed marriages.
Conversely, there’s a lot of lazy, selfish guys who are failing to see how their own limiting, negative mindsets contributed to the issues that destroyed a once beautiful relationship.
Now, there’s an exception to every rule and I’ve certainly met with and talked to a few who were REALLY emotionally healthy, owning the broken pieces from their OWN actions.
But the VAST majority did not.
In getting honest with myself, here’s what I discovered: Deep down, in my most vulnerable moments, I felt most angry with myself.
I was my OWN worst critic and felt stuck to move past this dynamic. And because I didn’t own my stuff, I became the byproduct of my thoughts and unforgiveness.
It was like living in a small, exclusive prison inside my mind.
THINGS WERE GREAT UNTIL THEY WEREN’T.
Here’s what I also discovered – somewhere along the lines, I’d lost my edge.
I stopped caring.
I stopped showing up as the man she fell in love with.
I stopped showing up as a man I admired.
I got complacent. I got lazy. I even got boring and fat.
Towards the end of my marriage, I FINALLY realized that I HAD to do better and HAD to change. Because the truth was, I knew I couldn’t solely blame my ex any longer for things that weren’t her fault.
I was the problem.
In fact, I’d spent the past few years of our relationship practically placing bets inside my mind on when my divorce would happen.
I’ve been asked MANY times, what was the ONE event that caused my divorce. The answer is simple: It wasn’t ONLY one thing.
The fade to the end was a slow one. It wasn’t one catastrophic event that caused a violent end, rather it was a culmination of many small things over 21 years.
It was LOTS of little things.
It was speaking in harsh tones. It was compounding resentment. It was unforgiveness.
It was me not caring, not cherishing, and working too much to avoid talking about how I was feeling. Instead, I buried my feelings and emotions. It wasn’t pretty. It was ugly, painful, and messy. And despite the great start, the ending took WAY longer to produce than the beginning.
Towards the end, I wanted to crawl inside a hole instead of facing the hard facts about my life and the way I HADN’T shown up.
YOU LEARN WHO YOUR FRIEND AREN’T.
One of the most eye-opening aspects of divorce was experiencing how much it hurt when those closest to me pulled away.
It’s no secret that I’m a man of faith, so naturally many of my friends are Christians. But I found that faith doesn’t necessarily equal healthy.
Most of my faith-based friends weren’t there. The so-called church, the body of Christ, failed.
And that’s the definition of a tragedy, isn’t it? – when the body of Christ fails to care about one another when there’s SUCH a magnificent opportunity to show love in action.
I can count on one hand how many faith-based friends reached out, knowing the pain I was going through. There were few calls, messages, and little empathy.
And that’s not an indictment on Christians, only truth as I experienced. I’m not trying to say Christians suck because they don’t.
But when the shepherd of the flock sees a sheep that’s injured, he tends to it. The shepherd doesn’t let it die. If a sheep, or member of the flock has a broken bone or is wounded, the shepherd cares for it and works to get the sheep healthy.
They love that sheep well.
I firmly believe that the best time to walk next to someone and love them is when they’re in intense pain. I feel it’s a privilege to come along side someone and help them simply get through the day when they’re reeling from the discouragement of a life event such as a divorce.
But that’s rarely reality.
Those closest to you will often back away when they don’t know how to respond to something that scares them. It’s not necessarily their fault – they haven’t addressed things in their own lives to learn how to communicate with someone who’s profoundly hurting. Most people (Not all) are terrible empathizers.
So, if or when you experience a divorce, do your best to NOT become angry towards those who appear to abandon you because they really aren’t.
Some will, but most just don’t know how to respond.
YOU LEARN WHO YOUR FRIENDS ARE.
One of the best parts of my divorce was the community I chose to surround myself with.
The healthy, new people that helped me grieve and then grow.
They walked WITH me through the grief, pain, and fire.
They sat WITH me because they’d experienced the same pain. They listened and extended empathy.
They walked WITH me because they knew from experience how hurtful it was when THEIR loved ones didn’t extend this same emotional support.
Because of these new relationships, this new “team”, my life is better than it’s ever been.
I went from broken to unbreakable because of the work I put into myself and because of the love, grace, gratitude, and encouragement that I received.
The healing that’s taken place has been transformative.
You truly are the sum of the people you surround yourself with.
If you choose to hang out with those who enable your poor thought processes, then you’ll stay stuck. If you choose to surround yourself with people who don’t challenge your thinking or give you a push in the small of the back occasionally, then you’ll fail to grow.
FAILING TO GROW BECAUSE OF MY MISPLACED ENERGY WASN’T AN OPTION.
Here’s what I mean by that: I wasn’t willing to trade my energy with those who didn’t deserve it anymore.
For me to grow and heal, I need to surround myself with those who would build me up AND admonish me. For me to get (And stay) out of my funk, this was EXACTLY what I needed.
When you’re in grieving mode and a season of healing, the last thing I need is friends who are going to enable me to make all kinds of crappy choices. (I’m already great at that on my own)
You want a support network of family and friends who will guide you spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
When enduring a trial, you want support from those who will encourage you to feel your feelings, and ones who will help you get up when you need it.
Be careful and wise with whom you give your energy to.
FEEL YOUR FEELINGS. (This is for the men reading this)
Most men I know struggle to be emotionally available.
Not all, but most.
They feel that sharing their feelings is some sort of indictment against them, attacking their manhood.
They feel that by sharing their feelings, it’ll lessen the bravado of “being a man.” As if it’s somehow bad because having a penis is an excuse to act like a caveman, only grunting instead of learning to use words and share our emotions with our spouses.
One of the most valuable lessons I learned over the last year was learning to share my feelings.
I’m obviously not sharing with complete strangers, rather with my small, strong support team – including other guys that are in my circle.
I’m not perfect, but I’m definitely not shy about sharing my feelings anymore. I’m not hesitant in talking about my emotions or how I’m struggling inside.
That said, I think most men (And women, too) should guard their hearts to a certain extent. It’s not okay to share everything.
But, once you are in a trusting, safe and loving relationship, there shouldn’t be any issues with sharing feelings in the right context.
To the men reading this: It’s OKAY to feel your feelings.
When I was in the middle of my worst emotional agony, the wisdom I received was this: feel your feels.
It’s okay to be emotional. It’s okay to feel sad and depressed. It’s okay to not be okay.
What you’re feeling is only a season, then it WILL get better.
It’s okay to sit in your agony and cry and feel your emotions.
The WORST wisdom I got was when someone close to me told me to “stop wallowing and get over it.”
It’s OKAY to have feelings, feel them, and grieve. I know I did and I’m now better because of it.
And if you’re a guy reading this, then you should know that it’s OKAY to cry and get emotional.
LOVE YOURSELF WELL.
One of my best friends used to tell me “You need to love yourself well.”
More about what loving yourself well means in a minute….
You see, I didn’t JUST go through a divorce. My divorce wasn’t the ONLY part of my pain that I endured over the last two years.
- My best friend passed away a couple weeks before my divorce was finalized.
- My relationship with my daughters was VERY fractured. (NOT their fault, they were innocent bystanders)
- My first holiday season was a lonely one.
- My weight dropped to around 165 lbs., which is NOT physically healthy for me.
- I went through a gnarly bout of depression.
I couldn’t see the forest through the trees because I was SO consumed by the details of my grief. I NEVER thought I would get through it all.
Part of what kept me from choosing to love myself, and generally feeling stuck, was the struggle with my overall mindset.
My brain was holding me captive in a mess of insecurities, pain, remorse, and regret.
- I struggled with imagining if ANYONE wanted to love me.
- I struggled with a self-defeating attitude.
- I struggled with feeling like I was a victim. (Which I wasn’t)
- I struggled with feeling like I disappointed my, like a failure.
- I struggled with feelings of doubt and fear with my business, wondering if my budding consulting firm would make it. (Pandemic + 40% revenue loss + divorce = nasty recipe)
- I wondered if I’d ever fall in love again where someone would accept me for me.
- I wondered (Still do) if a woman will ever love me enough to see past my insecurities.
- I questioned God’s purpose for my life.
Until I didn’t.
About a year after my divorce, I began to see that I didn’t HAVE to stay stuck.
I didn’t HAVE to wonder if someone was going to love me for me, if someone wanted to be a part of my life, and what my purpose was.
Looking back, it was like watching a butterfly hatch from a cocoon.
I’m still learning, growing, and focusing on getting emotionally healthy but the last couple of years have been transformative because I’ve learned to love myself well.
Learning to love myself well means learning to surrender my fears, shed old habits, and get rid of unconstructive relationships.
I’ve learned to be more honest than ever before, more vulnerable, while at the same time being prudent in my conversations by using discretion. Not everyone deserves my energy or yours. Loving yourself well means knowing when to share and when not to share.
It means recognizing that it’s OKAY to have different feelings, giving yourself a break, and extend grace to yourself.
Loving myself well means that I MUST recognize that I’m not going through ANY of this alone. It means I need to take care of myself emotionally and physically while exploring new interests.
Interests like skydiving, traveling, and cooking. (I’ve become a pretty good cook)
Hardship prepares an ordinary person for an extraordinary destiny.
Choosing to love myself has made me aware to how my own thought process was working AGAINST me.
Through this hardship, I finally learned to love myself well and explore an adventure that the best classic novels are made of. Struggles of a divorce don’t HAVE to define us even though many of us let it.
So, own your stuff, be careful who you associate with and put your energy into, learn to become emotionally healthy by embracing your feelings, and love yourself well.
Lastly, no matter what you’re going through I want you to say this out loud to yourself.
Right now – say this out loud.
I am charming, talented, smart, funny, strong, wise, and loved and valued. I am a masterpiece.
Repeat it please.
I am charming, talented, smart, funny, strong, wise, and loved and valued. I am a masterpiece.
I am, too.
You’re seriously rocking life.
Keep going. You are lovable, important, and valuable.