Browsing through the activities in Playdate, I find myself calculating whether I will be able to attend a certain event when it happens. I’m sure I’ll be in town. I’m sure my child would be interested.
What I don’t know right off hand is whether on the day of the event my child will be living with me. This is the predictable quandary of many a divorced parent.
It’s a common enough situation. Half or more of all marriages end in divorce. In my experience, it’s because being married was much more difficult than being single, and in a bad relationship, the rewards of being bound in a legal marriage are nil. Divorce has been mostly a relief to me. Nevertheless, the upheaval of changing from one marital status to the other has its stresses.
So how can you feel so alone when you know that your situation is anything but rare? It’s easy to let that feeling go unattended when you have children with more immediate needs than your own emotional pain. But your own emotions ARE important, and need tending. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation of your lives. And as soon as you can, you must heal enough to provide that.
The way to heal is easier than it might appear. A good therapist or a good book can help you get to a healing place, but ultimately the cure is the same, no matter where you find it, and it’s the same thing you need to give your children. The cure is love and truth.
You need love, and after a divorce it becomes your sole responsibility to love yourself, to heal from the wounds received by the ended marriage. No matter whose shoulder may be there to cry on, in a sense you will always cry alone. And when you do, it is your duty to be kind to yourself. Your former spouse may not have been able to love you, but you can love yourself. You are the only one, in fact, who can do it properly.
And it is no kindness to tell yourself or your children any less than the truth. Not the truths where you spend time blaming yourself, either. Concentrate on the truths that lift you up.
I can only share my own truth, some of which I trust is universal for the divorced. I was almost 30 when I first married. My childhood, teen years and early 20s had prepared me to tolerate a high degree of disappointment, emotional pain and hardship. Marriage had no rude awakenings for me that life had not already delivered.
I knew life could be hard, but still retained the romantic notion that a marriage based on true love would make my burdens easier, would feed my heart with a well-spring of joy, would make me feel strong and better able to deal with life’s dragons. I still think a good marriage with a compatible, caring partner can do that, or what would be the point? But a marriage is much like the Holy Grail from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: while the true grail brings life, a false one takes it FROM you.
So, as it turns out, divorce for me was like removing the False Grail from my lips ... or like cutting the strap that tied me to a bobcat in a three-legged race (er, five-legged race?). Forgive my fast-forwarding to the happy ending, but I escaped that race, and I want everyone in that situation to survive as well or better than I did.
So here’s the truth. If you’ve been through a divorce, then you are a survivor, and you deserve a trophy, an awards ceremony and a parade in your honor. You may not get them (I didn’t, at least not two out of the three), but you deserve them. If you’ve divorced and also kept your children fed, clothed and protected from kidnapping, then you are a hero. And if you’ve done it all and never hissed when you heard your former spouse’s name like a vampire at a garlic crucifix, then you are a saint, and I’ll acknowledge you if the Vatican won’t.
The truth is that the marriage, for you, wasn’t a good thing, and divorce is not in and of itself a bad thing, a “broken home.” It also means peace, relief, freedom and empowerment, or chances are you wouldn’t have gone through it.
First notice, and then enjoy those things. Keep your eyes open to what you’ve gained, though the losses seem glaring. You’ve gained so much: the peace that comes from an end to warfare, and an end to a troubled home that didn’t feel right to you, nor to your children. After some time has passed, you will gain certainty, self-reliance, and strength. You’ve gained time that can pass without frequent crises. The life you will lead without an adversary in your home is priceless.
So take heart. You’re here reading Playdate, aren’t you, checking out some fun activities for your kids? And even knowing that you will encounter those happy, intact families, you seek out these things? What a trooper. You want them not only fed and clothed, but laughing and loving life, playing and learning? You’re not only a trooper. You’re not only a survivor. You’re a good parent, honey.