People tend to think that divorce means ending your relationship with your spouse. To some extent that’s true but if you have children together and certainly in long term marriages, that “ending” is more like “changing.” Your relationship shifts.
My interviewee Judy has done a lot in the seven years since her husband left: she got her teaching certificate, traveled to Alaska with the Girl Scouts and participated in many outdoor trips. I asked Judy to reflect on her divorce – how does she see all the years she was married and how does she feel about the time she spent with her ex. Here’s Judy:
What I tell people about my life is, the first twenty-five years I grew up, the second twenty-five years was for my family, the third twenty-five years is for me and the fourth, well my youngest says she’s going to lock me in a closet!
As women we grow up, we take care of people. Women are caretakers and you get to a certain point where you say,
“You know what? I’m tired of always putting somebody else first”
I think that’s what happened to me. My husband and I got married when I was nineteen and he was twenty, we did grow up together. I went from having two daughters at home and a husband, then my eldest went off to college, then my youngest went to college and then he left me. I went down to an empty house and it was like,
“I don’t have anybody I have to take care of anymore.”
They say the younger you are when you get married, the more chance of being divorced but twenty-eight years is not nothing. We raised two wonderful daughters. They’re both independent and I’m proud of where they’re at.
I think we set good examples for many things. I can’t have regrets. He wasn’t abusive, maybe a little bit mentally towards the end but I think it was more hormones. He never drank, doesn’t smoke. He was a good man, just went a little crazy. It’s like when you have a good friend in college and as you get older your paths separate. A friend is still there in your heart but you know that it’s not ever the same.
I’ve still got pictures of him up around the house because it’s like an old friend, my family, his family. It was a part of my life but life has changed.
I think he taught me to be adventurous because he was always the one to say, ‘let’s go try something.’ Nothing drastic but just always wanting to get out.
I haven’t tried dating – I have looked on eHarmony and some of those sites but I don’t know what men want anymore. I’m not the slim little twenty-year-old chick that I think some of these guys want and I’m not arm candy. I am very independent. To get married again … I don’t know. I would have to do a lot of thinking about that but to have somebody that I could say, ‘let’s go to a movie tonight or let’s go to eat,’ would be fine. That would be great!
I’ve tried over the years to make myself have a social life besides girl scouting. I’m not afraid to take a chance. I did branch out last weekend and tried contra dancing – it’s kind of a cross between country dancing and square dancing. You stay with a partner but work your way up and down a line. Great fun.
I don’t know if he will ever be content with what he’s done, but for me, that was a stage of my life and it’s gone, past. I’ve got another stage I’m busy with now and I tell my girls I plan to live to be a hundred! Sometimes, I think I should thank my ex because I would not have gone back and got my degree if he hadn’t of left me, and I would not be traveling like I have. I have no regrets.
The Divorce Coach Says
I think our culture’s emphasis on ‘marriage is forever’ makes it hard to not see divorce as a failure and when seen like that, we tend to remember all the bad, the things that went wrong. I don’t think that’s a very healthy or realistic perspective in most cases. I know I do have a tendency to be the eternal optimist but wouldn’t it be better to direct that energy to remembering the fun times, the laughter, the joy?
That’s why I love how Judy sees her ex – ‘a friend still there in your heart.’ I hadn’t thought about equating your ex to a college friend but I think it’s a helpful strategy. I have dear old college friends some of whom I’m in touch with and others who I haven’t heard from in years. I remember them all with great fondness. I would love to feel the same way about my ex.
Judy and I are close in age and I can really relate to how she’s chunked her life up into twenty-five phases. I was five months shy of my fiftieth birthday when my divorce was final and by then I really felt I had given up so much of my needs that I was lost. Part of my thinking was that I couldn’t/didn’t want to live the rest of my life like that. (I’m guest posting at The Single Mother Chronicles about this on Monday – I’ll post the link as soon as it’s up). April over at It’s All About Balance has also just posted not feeling guilty for making her needs a priority – Something Else I Learned in 2010.
A big thanks to Judy for sharing her story. Coming up next is Megan who is twenty-seven and recently divorced. She was married for six years and has three children. She’s still trying to figure out life as a single mom but doesn’t regret her decision to end her marriage because she wanted more for herself.