My A-Z of divorce…

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Break the routine with the 7daymeal plan

I wrote this for something else but thought it would be helpful to some who are maybe on the cusp of divorce to help them understand possible post-divorce reality. Obviously this is just my perspective from the lens of my personal experience (female, married 17 years, 2 teen children, self-employed) but when I was pre-divorce it was helpful for me to know what types of things to expect and how to possibly navigate the whole experience most effectively. I'd love any feedback! I moved out April 2018 and am still 100% convinced it was the best thing I could have done in the situation. So anyways, here it is:

TL:DR, 26 things you can expect or tips for survival post-divorce

Divorce A-Z

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A is for Aftermath. When you're curled up in some temporary rental apartment with popcorn ceilings, wildly screaming into a room full of unpacked boxes, clutching your head and sobbing like you've never sobbed before. Knowing you're doing something hard and accepting that you are going to feel any emotion at any time during this initial period. You could be laughing one second and sobbing the next. Things are going to pop up all around you and trigger intense emotions. It's wildly disruptive to finally be real and be moving into the unknown. Your tears have nothing to do with whether the divorce was "right or wrong" and everything to do with the huge change you've just experienced in your life. Let yourself feel whatever your heart needs to feel right now.

B is for Bravery. You are brave to know that just because there was a task or skill your ex was responsible for doing before, you can learn do it yourself now. Brave because you're now putting your faith in you more than anyone else in this world ever will. Brave because you allow yourself to feel the hurt, the pain, the release, all the feelings that make your head explode but explosion is what needs to happen right now. A total breakdown of the past to create space to paint a future. Brave because you don't know what they are saying about you but you don't care, they could never understand anyways so let them talk – you can face the world with an open gaze and have no need to explain.

C is for Cats. This could be a really lovely time for you to adopt a buddy to fill your space with you! There's a reason there's a huge stereotype about "crazy cat ladies." They really do make fabulous quirky surprising buddies! Okay, okay, so you're not a cat person. A dog, fish, gecko, any other living creature you can take care of, talk to, hold, be responsible for, they will serve the same purpose for you right now. Grounding you in the present. Having someone to talk to when you're feeling alone. Knowing that if you can manage to keep this little critter alive, you can stay afloat as well. Seeing how simple daily needs really can be. Food, water, a cozy space. Consider adopting an animal life into your world right now, the more potential the new life has for loving you back the more fulfilling! Not sure you're in a good place for the commitment? Contact a local shelter and see about taking in pets on a foster-care basis.

D is for Darling. You may hate each other, you may still talk, but for some reason you can't stop calling him "darling" or "babe" or "shitface" out of habit when you're on the phone or chatting briefly during a child custody exchange. Calling them by their name is one more new habit you haven't quite developed yet. It will come. But dammit, did you really just call him "honey" again when you saw him at the courthouse?

E is for Empty. It is only in empty spaces where there is room for growth. What else in your life can be swept aside to make room for the new? Was it just your marriage that was holding you back? Do you have any other relationships or commitments that are keeping you from really being in touch with your best self or draining your energy unnecessarily? Do you really need to be on that committee or are you just participating to please someone else? How much of your physical possessions do you really need to hold on to right now and what of your belongs actually just keep you busy maintaining them? This is a great time to take out the trash, cut out the extra people, activities and possessions that don't serve your ultimate goal of living a happy life. Delete the apps or social media that you're using to fill in those blank spaces of your day and are keeping you from being able to have the space to reflect on how you're feeling, and be present in your own life.

F is for Friends. You know who they are now. The ones who actually call. The ones who still want to go out even though your "one" doesn't match their "two" anymore. You weren't just a couples date to them. The ones who drag you out for lunch dates and allow you to have full mental breakdowns over something you saw on social media or a surprisingly poignant laundry soap commercial. You will have days when you don't want any friends, no witnesses to the chaos that is your life right gut now. But the days when you do let them in always feel better. The good friends don't want details, they don't want updates, they just want to see you alive for another day. You wonder if you'll ever be as good a friend as they are and hope you will.

G is for Gossip. You can't stop 'em, people are going to talk. And guess what, no matter what you do or don't say, everyone will have their own idea of what "went wrong" or who is to "blame" in your divorce. Rather than trying to manage the gossip, just release any idea that you need to and know that the only people who will really understand the situation are you and your ex and any attempt to try and relay an entire relationship and marriage worth of experiences will be futile. Relax, let them gossip, don't give them any additional fuel. Rise above and know that what people say has no relationship to the actual truth and you are under no obligation to react or respond to idle gossip of the masses. The silver lining of gossip is you know who you should and shouldn't confide in for the future. People tend to be self-sorting that way. Save your energy to deal with things you can actually control.

H is for Hobbies. Time to dig up the ones one or create some new ones. Does your day now start by practicing that new song you like on the piano? Ever wanted to try rock climbing but your partner didn't approve of the risk? There are no old dogs and there are always new tricks! Look for community classes, meetup groups, youtube tutorials, discover how amazing it is to work hard at learning something new just for the hell of it! Finally mastered folding that origami crane? Of course you did! Now what else can you do? One of the great benefits of a good hobby is that you'll be able to connect in person or online with hundreds or even thousands of other people who share the same hobby. So break out that D&D board, your snow shoes, that box of yarn, your unicycle and have some fun!

I is for I. You are an "I" now. Actually the big secret is you were an "I" all along but somewhere along the way you forgot this and let yourself be a "We." A "They." An "us." Did you forget that you had that "I" inside of you? Take a moment and tell yourself five reasons you are an incredible person. List five things you have accomplished in life that you're proud of. Give yourself a hug, a huge smile in the mirror. A night out to the movies and the rotating sushi bar with yourself. You're one hot date! Try saying "I love you" to yourself first thing in the morning or when you're having a hard moment. "I" is enough. It always has been and always will be.

J is for Jogging. Fuck that. Even divorce won't make jogging easier. Let's make J for Joking instead. Look up a daily joke online. Something to put a smile on your face, a laugh in your throat. You might not run into anything funny today unless you intentionally set out looking for it. Find a joke website or forum that you check in with frequently. Just find something to laugh about! Knock knock jokes, blonde jokes, math jokes, whatever. Find something to make you laugh today.

K is for Kisses. Did you know you can experience that "first kiss" again? When you're ready, and when the sparks are right, you'll experience the meeting of your lips on new ones. You'll get to feel those schoolyard butterflies in your stomach. It might be awkward. Your lips might be dryer than you'd like. You might say something dorky right afterwards. Laugh it off, soak up the new, weird energy, be in that moment and let yourself take a chance again. After all you took at chance by leaving. Take a chance on that kiss. This is the fun part!

L is for Loneliness. Those inside jokes you'd built up with your ex are useless know. You have an entire vocabulary that was developed for the two of you and you find yourself sometimes referencing your inside jokes with outsiders. In these moments the loneliness will hit you with intensity. In these moments you'll realize it will be a long time if ever that you develop another unique language with another human. It might feel like you're going to die from the loneliness some days but at these moments place your hand on your heart and feel it beating in there. Yep, everything is still ticking. You will go on.

M is for Money. Why can't you stop thinking about this? With everything else going on now you have to worry as well about which brand of jelly at the store fits best with your new smaller budget. You have to announce to your extended family at holidays that your "presence will be the present" as you can't afford to shower everyone with gifts this year. You want to create space from your ex but the money issue looms seemingly indefinitely. Is there child support? Alimony? Joint investments that you've been unable to liquidate? Enough already! But yes, I suppose I can keep the house at 78 degrees in the summer instead of 72 to save on the electric bill… Ugh! Was it worth walking away from dual income to live this life? You suspect it was but God do you miss that joint bank account. Time to prove what you're worth. And guess what? You're worth a lot so get that hustle on and get to work.

N is for Noise. You can't manage all the noise in your head some days. You're just trying to fill the car with gas but your thoughts are running a mile a minute. Replaying a conversation. Imagining the what-ifs. Wondering if it's too soon for you to get involved with that cute guy from the party. Thinking of ways to show the world on social media that you're okay. You're thinking of anything but the task at hand. When you drive off with the gas cap still open you don't even notice till your next fill-up because your brain is so full of chatter, static and wild ideas that current reality barely registers. Deep breath. Ground yourself. When you hear the noise this is a reminder to find something in the moment to ground yourself in the present. Take those ten deep breaths. Look at that pretty tree outside the window. Sing your favorite song. Turn off the devices. Connect with your current reality.

O is for Oasis. Make yourself one. Whether your space is on someone else's couch or you've got your own place, do what you need to create one tiny spot of this universe that's uniquely yours and provides you ultimate comfort. Shop for a new blanket or pillow that makes you feel decadent. Buy or stream music in your space that speaks to your soul. Have an air freshener with your favorite scent that makes you feel and lovely and pampered. But some silly useless piece of decoration that your soul understands. Create a piece of art that represents you and hang it where you can see it daily. Create your very space YOU place, you'll find comfort coming back to this space after a day that is full of unknown and the needs and dreams of others.

P is for Pacing. Yes, you've got big dreams. You know what you want to move towards. You want to skip to the happy ending. But every amazing movie plot takes time, development, nemesis, snags. You wouldn't want to watch a movie that just skipped to the last scene where to hero finally vanquishes their foe and gets the girl. So ease into the pace of this. Know it's going to be a few rough years, expect to face all the snags that the hero faces. Know that everything you overcome brings your one step closer but the journey to get there will be slow. Know that you'll feel like you've been kicking forever and your breath is about to give out but someday you'll finally break through the surface of the water with a gasp and feel that sweet sunlight on your wet cheeks. There will be sunlight and oxygen in abundance. It's coming but for now breath, pace yourself. This will take time but yes, it will be worth it.

Q is for Questions. Your kids want to know what went wrong. Your parents want to know if you need money. Your friends want to know who you're dating. Your cat wants to know why you've forgotten to scoop his litterbox for the past week. So many questions. And guess what? You don't have to answer any of them. Just like that. A smile, a hug, a "thank you for caring, it means a lot and I'm going to be fine" will suffice. People want you to know that they care about you and sometimes the only way they know to do this is to ask personal questions. Return their love but don't be their puppet. You have a right to your privacy. And you probably don't know the answers to many of their questions anyways so why waste your breath pretending you do?

R is for Restraint. Knowing that you're going to mash out that text to your ex in the heat of the moment then decide to read it over three times, edit a few times and still wait a few minutes before deciding whether or not to send it. You usually won't. You know better now than to fight battles that can only be lost. You'll find yourself picking up the phone and about to hit the speed dial for their cell phone but taking that deep breath, putting down the phone and putting on your boxing gloves and taking it out on the punching bag instead. Restraint in saying anything negative to your kids about your ex – knowing that they are a part of him and letting them form their own opinions. When he knocks on the door to pick up a signed form from you, taking that pause before opening the door, inhale deeply, and breath that bitter look off your face. Greeting him with calm restraint. The hard part is over, you're gone. Now you get to learn patience. It will serve you well.

S is for Single!! The grass may always be greener on the other side but heavens, there are so many perks to this single thing! Do you want to fart under the bedroom blanket? Use up all the hot water during your shower? Make microwave smores for dinner? Do you want to go to the jazz club that none of your other friends like and just find a dark seat in the back with your favorite cocktail and feet tapping? Even if you're trying not to be single, look for those silver linings while you are! Do you get to implement a rule in your home that it will never be a space where a beer or a sports game inhabit? Want to decorate your walls with crayons/butterflies/NASCAR posters? Guess what, champ? Go for it! There's no such thing as bad style right now, just your style!

T is for Tinder. Be smart, don't start. Yes, it's great to meet some new people and Tinder might appear to be a tantalizingly simple and quick way to do this. But it's a trap and trust me, less than a day after you start swiping you'll start seeing humanity in a much different way and start to feel gross about not just the people around you but yourself. You're more than a swipe. They are more than a height or a gym selfie. Now is not the time to minimize yourself or the amazing people around you you haven't met yet. So instead of installing Tinder try Meetup or join an adult sports league. Find hobby groups, join a baking class. Go to a wine and paint night. Allow people with similar interests or passions to start filtering into your life. You can't fuck away the pain.

U is for Underwear. Get some new ones! Spend a little extra money on styles or colors that you wouldn't have splurged for in the past. You need all the support you can get right now so why not have some that makes you feel sexy and young again? Thongs? Lace? Something to show off your ample cheeks? Hell yeah! You've got one sexy ass, check yourself out in the mirror after you put them on each morning. Damn girl! Looking fine!

V is for Victories. Keep a victory list if you need one because baby, you're going to start racking these up left and right! Finally agreed on custody arrangements? Victory! Finally had the divorce decree approved by the court? Victory! Finally figured out how the hell to put the Christmas tree together on your own? Victory! Finally made it one whole day without looking your ex up on social media? Victory! Good grief, you're just one huge sack of wins, aren't you! Everybody loves a winner and baby, you are on fire!

W is for Wishing. No amount of wishing will go back in time and change how things went with your ex. No amount of wishing will deposit 10K into your bank account. You can wish you were in your 20's again and had a do-over all day long, it won't make it happen. You know what wishes lead to? Nothing. Goals, plans however…that's the shit that is going to help you right now. So if you have that wish in your heart of what you want your life to look like right now, sit down with a piece of paper, your calendar and make a plan. Set deadlines. Write out action steps. Make the phone calls and set the appointments. Soon what started as an empty wish starts actually happening. Beware of a wish that you can't make a plan for. That's the wish that's holding you back from the life you could be creating.

X is for Xanex. It's okay. You might need a little extra help to cope right now. Be honest with how your head is right now. Needing it today doesn't mean you'll need it forever but it's a miracle that there's pills out there these days that really can help you get back to just being able to smile. Smiling feels really good. You deserve to smile. Talk to a health professional and hopefully that therapist you hired when you moved out and find out if something as simple as a daily pill will help you move forward if you feel like your brain is stuck in a massive rut of recurring thoughts, panic attacks and self-destructive thoughts.

Y is for "Yes." What can you say yes to today? Can you take that road trip with a friend this weekend? Yes! Can you indulge in an hour of self-care in the tub? Yes! Can you spend a little extra money on the "good" steak at the grocery store? Yes! Yes you can. Yes, my friend, you deserve this. You deserve to try those things you've always been nervous about trying. You deserve to discover what you're really made of. What freedom really feels like. You deserve to say "yes" to following your passion. Changing your career. Asking for that raise. Growth and change happens in the world of "yes."

Z is for Zero. Zero fucks given about how anyone else suggests you should be living your life right now. Zero tolerance for letting yourself getting sucked back into old bad habits. Zero desire to compromise who you are as a person for the sake of other's comforts. Zero fucks my friends. This is your time.

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