Every now and again, I get questions from my friends and followers about divorce. I know it’s a hard topic, but it’s common, so I think we should feel okay talking about it so we don’t feel so alone in dealing with it. I think I give advice some don’t expect, and I wish that I would’ve had a friend or an older sister give me the same advice when I was going through it.
It’s funny to think about how some can view divorce as being glamorous, but some really do think that taking the leap to get divorced makes everything better. However, it’s still hard, and it’s not glamorous. Truthfully, what prompted this topic was a text I got months ago from an old friend of mine who I hadn’t heard from in years. Then I got a call from a close friend of mine shortly after and she said, “Natalie, I’m considering going through a divorce, and I need to talk to somebody who’s gone through it.” I probably get messages like this every two or three days from people I don’t know on the Internet that say, “Natalie, I’ve seen you go through divorce. I know you haven’t talked about it much publicly and I would love some advice from somebody who’s on the other side.” I think that the advice I’m going to give might be different than what you would expect from me, but I wholeheartedly wish that I would’ve heard this when I went through it. I also wish I would have been less stubborn so that I would have actually listened.
Thinking About Divorce
I’m going to read a text that I got from this old friend and I’ll sort of summarize the call that I got with my other friend. I won’t give anybody’s names, but maybe you’ll relate to some of these feelings that these women are experiencing. I know I certainly relate to those feelings and those situations. Then what I’m going to do is give you my insight and my experience and I’m going to tell you some things that I wish I would have thought about when I was going through my divorce. I’ll talk about some of the pros and cons and some resources that you can utilize.
The text that I got from this old friend, she said, “I feel guilty for feeling like I’m jealous of other divorced or separated moms my age like you. I see you going out with on the weekends with friends and then having kids the next weekend. For those of us who are still with our spouses, it looks like you get time for yourself and you look happier. And that’s what scares me. I see all these women on social media doing things they couldn’t do when they were tied down in marriages. I know you’ve been through a lot with your ex husband and sacrificed a ton and I don’t know why exactly you divorced, but I see you being strong, and making it all you’re on your own.” The text went on and on about this topic. The other friend who called me basically said, “I feel like we are stuck and that we never really had much of a connection. We don’t have any connection now, and our relationship is more of a roommate relationship. Maybe I’d be happier not being married. What’s your advice?”
I’m not going to go into the details of my own divorce. I do hope that at some point I feel brave enough to share my side of the story. However, I struggle with talking about my own divorce because really there’s two sides of this story. It also has a lot to do with my kids, and the fact that it’s not just my story to tell. What I will say is that my ex is a great dad and a good man. I wholeheartedly want the best for him. He’s remarried to a great woman and they have a baby together. We are both happy in our new normal as co-parents.
When the Grass Looks Greener
So, I get what my old friend was saying in that text. I get it. It looks like fun. I know what it feels like to wish I could have a break. I wish that I could have some time without my kids. I wish I could have some time for myself. It probably looks fun to go out and date and it looks fun to have time to work on your business.
I want to start off with a quote by Byron Katie. If you haven’t heard of her, go read Loving What Is, or watch her YouTube videos or even listen to her podcast. Her work changed everything for me. It’s still changing things for me. Her quote says, “As long as you think that the cause of your problem is out there, as long as you think that anyone or anything is responsible for your suffering, the situation is hopeless. It means that you are forever in the role of the victim, that you’re suffering in paradise.” That’s sort of going to be the theme of this whole topic. This might not be what you wanted to hear coming into this if you’re feeling like you’re in this situation.
“As long as you think that the cause of your problem is out there, as long as you think that anyone or anything is responsible for your suffering, the situation is hopeless. It means that you are forever in the role of the victim, that you’re suffering in paradise.”
My friend who texted me, I think maybe she wanted me to tell her that she should go through with the divorce. I support you in whatever decision you need to make, but I’m not necessarily the first person to jump in and say you should definitely get a divorce. What I like to do is show the unglamorous side. I show the good parts on social media and I try to be really authentic and not just show the highlight reels, but I’m also not going to show my kids crying. That’s not good for their well being and their long term mental health. I kind of have a rule. I don’t share my kids being upset often because so much of my life is public, and I don’t want those posts to come back to them.
The Things You’ll Miss
I’m going to talk about some of the things you don’t see on social media. The unglamorous side of divorce. A while ago, my son started crying saying he didn’t want to go to his dad’s because I had a friend at my house with like six boys for him to play with. He loves his dad, it’s just that his dad’s neighborhood doesn’t have a ton of kids. Sometimes Phoenix knows she can play her parents, so she will cling to me the second I drop her off. She starts bawling. She won’t let me let her go, and her dad has to pull her off of me. It’s awful and it’s not fun. Those are emotional things that you don’t think about when you’re in that moment. All you’re thinking about is the pain you’re in right then and you don’t really think about what it’s going to look like down the road.
You don’t think about all the moments that you’re going to miss. Like getting ready for prom. Guess what? That’s only gonna happen at one parent’s house. Like losing teeth. There are going to be times where that doesn’t happen at your house. When their period starts, when they learn to play catch, when they want to shave their legs, when they make a layup, when they start getting calls from boyfriends, when they have social media. There’s a lot that you won’t have control over.
It’s so different than it was when I was growing up. All of the stuff that they deal with online, you’re only gonna see 50% of that. You’ll have to watch your ex fall in love with another person. I’m very lucky, because Sheridan married a really great woman. At first, because of my jealous tendencies, I wanted to hate her, but she’s really wonderful. I have nothing bad to say about her. She loves my kids. She treats them wonderful. But the truth is, the situation could have been the opposite. I’ve had plenty of friends who watched their ex get remarried, and their new spouse wasn’t nice to their kids. That’s something that you have to think about. You have to think, are you okay with somebody else raising your kids 50% of the time? Are you okay with that, or are you okay with your kids maybe calling somebody else Mom when they’re at their dad’s house? Is that something that you’re okay with?
The truth is that there are good moments, and I know that it can look fun to decide to get divorced, to get out of an unhappy situation, and to have free time for yourself. You get to go out with your friends, you get to have alone time. But the truth is, I would say 85% of the time that I don’t have my kids is just actually really lonely. I remember feeling like I would rather have nobody than the person I’m with. I guess a lot of the time that I spend now is wishing I just had a person, you know? I just wish I had a person where even if they’re not perfect, they’re my person.
When you go through divorce, you don’t have a person, you might start dating right away and you might think it’s super fun. But unless you rush into something, the truth is that it takes a long time to find the right person. So unless you’re willing to just jump into something really quickly, or unless you’re lucky enough to find somebody really fast, you end up spending a lot of your time alone. That’s truthfully probably why I work so much. A lot of the time at night when I don’t have my kids, I work a lot. It’s nice because I can crank out a ton of work, but after work my house is still empty.
There’s just a lot to consider, the good and the bad. If you’re in that space where you’re wondering if you should leave or not, it’s important to know it’s not all great, and it’s not all bad. I’m not trying to talk you out of it. I’m just saying, let’s look at all aspects of this. You’re going to have a lot of lonely moments. Byron Katie would say that you can feel lonely when you’re in a marriage. You can feel lonely when you’re divorced. You can feel lonely when you’re dating, and you have to learn to not be lonely with yourself. That’s the space where I’ve been as I tried to figure out how to be happy enough and comfortable enough with myself so that I don’t necessarily need somebody else to make me feel like I’m not alone. I still struggle with it. I don’t have it totally dialed yet.
Everything is Up to You Now
I think it would be great to be 100% comfortable with myself. But it’s also nice to have somebody that supports you, loves you, and cares about you. It’s important to be okay with being alone, because you’ll do many things alone. You’ll do bedtime alone, homework alone. Cooking dinner, cleaning up dinner, cleaning the house at the end of the night, dealing with finances, paying the bills. It’s all up to you. I know that right now you might be thinking, “Well, I do everything myself anyways. Like my husband is just another child.” That might be true. But the truth is is that there are things that he helps with. Whether it’s financially, whether it’s emotionally, whether it’s things around the house, whether it’s the yard, whether he’s handy… I mean, just to give you an idea right now, I pay somebody to come and do the handyman work around my house. I pay somebody to help me with my lawn. There’s things that I just don’t have the time or the ability to do because I’m a single mom — it’s all on me.
These are little things you have to think about that really do add up. It’s easy to criticize your spouse or downgrade them, but what are the things that they actually really help with? Maybe they don’t do anything around the house, but they bring in the income. That’s one thing that you have to think about. Are you comfortable and ready to live on one income? Just to be very clear, I’m not trying to talk you out of a decision. I’m just trying to shed some light and give some insight into what it looks like on the other side.
Finances are Hard
When I went through my divorce, I literally had almost no income coming in, and I had to work my way out of that. It was one of the aspects that were really hard for me, and made me realize it’s not always so great on this side. It’s not all relaxing bubble baths and nights out with my girlfriends. The advice I would give is to take your time and really consider the impact a divorce will have. I don’t think that my decision would have changed if I would’ve gone through all of these things. I do believe that my ex husband is happier now than he was with me, and I know I’m happier now too. I think I couldn’t give him what he wanted and he couldn’t give me what I wanted.
What you don’t want to live with is regret. I get it, in the moment it feels so urgent. You feel like you’re done, just done. But the truth is if you look at your life, you probably have a lot more life to live. I don’t know how old you are reading this, but in my case I was young. I was about 30 years old when I went through my divorce. You have so much of your life to live still. It’s okay to take a minute to put your ego aside and really think through this decision.
Some practical tips I would give you is to maybe practice being separated. I’m not saying that means seeing other people at all. I would say practice being separated. Practice the kids being with you for a while and then with him with awhile and see how that feels emotionally to you. Actually think about what these scenarios would feel like to you if you were in them. I would encourage you to talk to a lawyer and have a good understanding of what a fiasco this might be for a while. It’s different in every state, but where I lived, half of everything we owned was split. That meant our assets as well. Think about that. If you own a company, it might not be worth much right now, but if he wants half of it and and you decide to grow that company, when you’re done he gets half of all of those profits. You need to think about retirement, debt, and all of that.
In my case, we didn’t do child support or alimony, everything was split 50/50. Think about the time. Our divorce took a year and a half, and it was almost $20,000 for the divorce to happen. It was messy. Before I went through it I thought, “Yeah I know, divorces are hard.” But I didn’t really think through the logistics of how long it was going to take. The emotional toll it’s going to take on us. The first year was awful and I will tell you, it gets better. We have a great co-parenting relationship now, but the first year was terrible. Some of our family took sides, which was not fun. The kids saw us screaming at each other, which really wasn’t something that happened often in our marriage. But divorce just causes people to act differently, and I still have guilt over that.
You May Have Regrets
I hope my kids don’t really remember because they were young when it happened. But I do wish somebody would’ve told me to think about these things. Like I said, I still think it was for the best, but I had no idea what it was really going to be like. Out of all the women that have come to me, 80% of them have said their husband didn’t know they’re thinking this. Their husbands didn’t know they were feeling this way. The number one thing I can say is that you need to be brave. You need to talk to your spouse about how you’re feeling. That is 100% the braver action than just blindsiding them with the decision. It’s harder to talk to them, but it’s braver and more courageous to have the discussion. Even if you just tell them you don’t want them to agree, or to talk you out of it, but you just want to share your feelings, you won’t regret it.
The other thing is that just to realize the grass is not always greener on the other side. Dating when you’re divorced, you have kids, and you’re a little bit older is so different. I got married when I was super young, and the dating game is so different. You have to ask yourself if you’re okay raising someone else’s kids if you get married again. Because most of the people in the dating field at this age after divorce have kids. Are you okay dating people who have baggage and have a story and have a background? Because now you’ll probably have baggage and a story and a background too. These are just things to think about that you might not be thinking about.
Lastly, just realize you are all on your own financially. Maybe not all the time, some people might get child support or alimony. But in my case, it was super scary because my back was up against the wall. I had to figure it out. I had to make this happen. Ultimately when I look back at my divorce, I don’t think anything would have changed if I would have done things a little bit different, but I do wish I would have been a little bit less stubborn. I wish I would have taken my time.
Here’s the one thing, my close friend who I spoke on the phone with was ready to leave. I said, “Look, it’s okay to feel that way because I remember feeling that way. But it’s also okay to put your ego aside for a second because you’re going to come to a point where one of you or both of you are going to ask if it’s really what you want to do.” In my case, I was so fricking stubborn and I just decided I’d made my decision. I’d made my bed. I was going to lay in it. I don’t think the end result would have been different. I really don’t. I think that the divorce would have happened, but I wish I would’ve at least entertained the idea of trying harder, making another effort to work through it. Instead I was like, “Nope, my mind is made up. We’re going to go through this.”
Honestly, I have regret over that. It’s hard for me to even say that out loud. I wish I didn’t, but that’s the one piece of advice I would give. If you can set your ego aside for a second and just listen to others who have gone through it, or others who were a little bit older, it may help you to make an informed decision and not an emotional one. I remember my aunt wanted to fly me down to California and spend a week with her. She had been through a similar situation, but I was so stubborn that I didn’t even want to do that. Now those are things I regret. I wish I would’ve listened to people who had been in similar situations. Do I think the end result would have been the same? Yes. But I just wish I would have been less stubborn and more open to hearing advice from other people.
But There Are Positives
With that being said, I am going to talk about the other side of divorce. I talked about the stuff you probably didn’t want to hear, but I think it’s important to just give it to you straight. To give the good and the bad. Well, there’s also good. I wholeheartedly believe that it’s better for your kids to see healthy relationships than it is to see dysfunctional ones. If you can go on to have a good relationship later, I wholeheartedly believe that that’s better for your kids growing up. Most counselors I think would agree.
If you do go through a divorce, I think it takes a year or two to really get to the place where you’re really ready to commit to somebody again. Don’t be too prideful or too ashamed to see a therapist or a counselor. I have an amazing counselor that I’ve started going to that follows the work of Byron Katie. She really helped me recognize that for me, so much of my self worth was tied into other people. I had to learn to be comfortable and happy with myself before I could give that love to anybody else.
Also, we have 50/50 custody. My kids’ dad is a great dad, and when they go with him, I crank out all of my work. That’s why I’m able to work so much. I really try to stay focused on my kids on the weeks that I have them, and then when they are with their dad, I get all my work stuff done. Or that’s when I am able to travel, or that’s when I am able to go out with girlfriends, or go on some dates. Dating can be fun, but it can also be awful, I won’t lie about that! It’s fun to feel the newness of a relationship again, but it’s scary too. I’ve been divorced for four-ish years now, obviously I’m not married again, so I’ve had ups and downs with dating.
Another pro is that you really get time to get a clear picture of what you really want for the rest of your life. Can you do that when you’re married? 100%! Please don’t misconstrue my words here and think I’m saying you need to get divorced to get a clear view of what you want in life. However, sometimes being in a pressure cooker can force you to make decisions. For me, it forced me to really think about what I wanted to do with my life. If forced me to really think about what I want in a partner and how to make that happen.
Just Take Time to Decide
My goal is that this would just be food for thought, and that maybe I would talk about some things that you hadn’t thought about before, that maybe some of your friends hadn’t told you. What I want you to know is that regardless, if you read this and then you think, “I heard what you said, but I’m still going to get a divorce.” Or if you decide to stay, or you decide you still don’t know what to do, I love all of you regardless! I have no ability to judge you, to understand where you’re at, or to see your story or your situation. My hope is that all of us can just open up about these topics. Let’s talk about what we’ve learned, how we are feeling, what was scary, what made you feel ashamed, and what was embarrassing.
“It’s not your job to like me, it’s mine.”
My hope is that we can just open up these conversations and start talking about the things that nobody talks about. Then we can make the most wholehearted, positive decisions moving forward. The last quote I want to leave you with is another one by Byron Katie. She says, “It’s not your job to like me, it’s mine.” I want you to really think about that because at the end of the day, you can be unhappy with your marriage. You could be unhappy with your kids, you may be unhappy with your job, you can be unhappy with your mom, your in-laws, your siblings, your friends, anybody. But at the end of the day, it’s not your job to like me, it’s mine. And that was one of the toughest lessons for me to learn.
Read more blog posts like this here:
Tips for Successful Co-parenting After Divorce
I love you guys. I appreciate you. If you have specific questions or comments about this topic, leave a comment on social media!
Talk to you soon!
P.S. I also talk about this topic on my podcast! To listen, click HERE!