It’s no secret. Divorce is hard. Nobody in their right mind goes into a relationship plotting its demise. You fall in love, decide to partner with that person and go on to mesh lives. When it ends unexpectedly, both parties are left feeling hurt. The next steps are typically pretty tough, but what about everything that happens AFTER that? You might be shocked to learn how life after divorce surprised me in so many ways.

You’ll Be Happy Again, I Promise

For many, the process of divorcing is anything but pleasant. There are days when you both absolutely hate each other, and the split can’t come soon enough. It can be hard to see the peace that exists on the other side of it all. One of the biggest surprises was that life after divorce left me happier than I’ve ever been. It sounds odd to say that some of the greatest joy I’ve experienced came out of some of the darkest days, but it’s true.

Listen, I won’t sugarcoat things. If you’ve been through it, you understand the anguish that colors the entire situation. I made an incredibly difficult decision to end my marriage with worries about the challenges I would face or possible regret I’d have to live with dancing in my head. I doubted myself at every turn. Even with those concerns, I remembered all the reasons our relationship didn’t and couldn’t work. I reflected on the pain that I endured because I was trying to remain in something that wasn’t meant to be. I made the choice because I knew the future held ten times more happiness than what I was experiencing at that moment. It may not feel likely while you’re in the process, but trust me: happiness really does exist in your life after divorce. Hold onto that, and persevere.

The Scarlet Letter

Perhaps one of the most unfortunate surprises about life after divorce is the way society views single moms. Maybe I should have expected it, but my focus was more geared towards an internal charge to change that label into something positive. Turns out, other women in similar positions felt the same way. I asked a recently divorced friend if she was ready to be a single mom. Her answer?

“I’m not really going to be a single mom. We will co-parent!”

I listened before explaining that if you are a mom, and you get divorced, you are a single mom. No amount of co-parenting, money or support will change that. Gwyneth Paltrow, as successful in business and Hollywood as she is, is still a single mom. Society has placed an ugly stigma on being a single mother. After my divorce I became keenly aware of it. I thought I would somehow be able to change that before realizing that the societal view I was attempting to change…was also who I was now.

It’s me. I am a single mom.

While that may sound obvious and even a bit strange to my readers, let me explain what I mean. When you find out you’re pregnant, excitement becomes you, and all the planning begins. You quickly decide that you’re going to do everything right. Your child will eat only organic, preservative-free foods, and he will never watch a minute of television. As times passes, reality kicks in. Next thing you know, you’re handing him a french fry from a happy meal and downloading his favorite show on his iPad.

Every woman thinks to herself, I won’t be THAT mom. The truth is, you might! Life after divorce made it clear that I would walk around with a big scarlet letter ‘S’ on my chest that signifies single mommyhood. I would be lying if I told you it hasn’t been a journey in self-reflection and identity defining. But it gets easier each day. I think we’re redefining what it means to parent as divorcees bit by bit.

Life After Divorce: An Eternal Connection

You know what I find funny? Despite getting divorced to end a relationship with someone, you will forever be connected to the person. Life’s sense of humor is a dark one, huh? My life after divorce quickly taught me that my husband is never truly going away. While we’re in a different place currently, in the beginning things weren’t as smooth. Upon first meeting people I would hear, “Oh I know your husband!” It became the norm. I learned that every momentous occasion would be shared with my ex. Birthday parties, weddings of our mutual friends and everything in between would mean showing up with him. Even our public perceptions are tied to each other.

Is it challenging? Absolutely. This part of life after divorce can breed resentment if you’re not careful. Having to share so many of your special moments can feel like somebody let the air out of your balloon. A change in perspective helps greatly with that. Because our lives and images are linked, it really helped me to see the good in both my ex and the situation. I’m no longer fighting the attachment, and we’re all better for it.

Friendship Potential

Feuding is all too common in most divorces. There are days when you look at the person and don’t recognize them at all. In those instances the idea of ever being anything slightly more than cordial for the kids’ sake seems impossible. I’ll be honest with you: it takes a while, but one day you’ll laugh again. I remember the first time we were together after my new life after divorce began, and our kids did something silly that made us both giggle. It was so unexpected that we both just kind of looked up at each other at the same time. It felt…strange.

Think about it. Laughter is usually an audible expression of enjoying someone’s company. When it happened between us, I felt pure shock! Wait a minute. Was that just a little bit of cheerfulness peeking in? Could it be? The answer was yes! It won’t happen overnight, and the road to peace is often a long and winding one, but a friendly relationship with your ex really  is possible.

This life after divorce surprised me in so many ways, and if i’m honest, I get more revelations regularly even now. My divorce journey will certainly differ from yours. But if I’ve learned anything at all, it’s this: what happens when everything is said and done is definitely worth the trials. Hang in there. The next chapter requires you to, after all.

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