A friend of mine is going through a divorce, so she often reaches out to me for advice. When I'm not fielding her legal questions I receive plenty of links to articles about post-divorce relationships, plus the occasional question about online dating. It's nice to have a support system after a divorce, but no one can truly prepare you for everything. While my friend seemed to be adjusting well, I thought she might need a reality check. That's why I decided to send her an article I found on CafeMom.com. This one wasn't about dating or legal issues, but rather a realistic rundown of those post-divorce "surprises."
When I first read the article, "17 Surprising Things You Learn After a Divorce," I found the author's advice so dead-on I was convinced they had read my mind. Was my experience after divorce so universal as to become a cliché? This realization was both alarming and reassuring at the same time. It was alarming because I thought I had "discovered" these truths on my own, and reassuring because I realized I was normal after all.
Many recent divorcees step off the cliff into a world that is completely unknown to them, or at least they deal with a really steep learning curve. Mine was more of a cliff-like experience, and I continue to learn 12 years later. Like the author of "17 Surprising Things..." I wish I had known more about what to expect after a divorce. Not that this would have changed the outcome, but it would have been nice to be forewarned.
Here are some of the things about life after divorce that you might not expect:
- No matter how hard you try, you will never feel like a "normal" family again. This is true even if you remarry and work hard to blend your two families.
- Friends and family members will rarely remain close to both you and your ex; they will forever take sides, even in divorces where abuse or adultery was involved.
- People will always look at you differently when they find out you're divorced; even people you meet years later.
- Money will always be an issue between you and your ex, not matter how much or how little you have of it.
- You and your ex will still have frequent disagreements, and you will have much less say in parenting your children. This will frustrate you.
- No matter how heartbroken you may be, you will eventually want to date again. Don't push for it to happen too soon, just take your time.
- If you share custody, you will miss some of your kids' lives. This is sad, but do what you can to minimize it.
- Your children may seem to adjust quickly to the divorce, especially if they are very young. Don't be surprised if they have a delayed, almost traumatic reaction to it as they enter their teen years.
While many of these things may not surprise you, they hold a bit more emotion when you actually experience them. Everyone reacts differently to a divorce, depending on the length of the marriage, the age of the children and the reason for divorce. Eventually you may come to like your post-divorce lifestyle.
Of all the "17 Surprising Things" mentioned in the article, this was my favorite:
"Over time, you will tell your friends about the perks of divorce. The Thursday night date nights, the extended childless vacations, lazy weekend mornings. But deep down, you'll always be saddened by being away from your children. Until they're teenagers."
Unfortunately, this statement is very true. Being a single parent of teenagers is a lot harder than you may expect. It is almost impossible to be both "nurturer" and "disciplinarian" and some kids figure this out early, learning exactly how to push your buttons. Don't be surprised if they call the other parent to complain about your rules and plead their case. Don't back down or let this intimidate you. If you are firm and follow through on consequences they will soon figure out who is boss.
The lesson here is simple. As much as you may be eager to move on to your "new life" after divorce, remember that you are leaving a life you built with someone you loved very much. Despite the pain of staying with this person, don't expect the road to be smooth in the other direction. Divorce is never simple and rarely painless, but it does get easier over time.
A Colorado Springs family lawyer can help you understand the legal issues surrounding your divorce and recommend a post-divorce support group. Even if you're already divorced, you will need to have a family attorney who can help you with post-decree issues such as child support, revised parenting plans and the enforcement of your divorce settlement.
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