Choose To Change After Divorce … Into What?
Will The Real Me Please Stand Up?
Some change we get to choose and plan for. Some change comes blasting into our life … unexpected and unwanted. Divorce is usually a change of the second sort. Occasionally, marriages can disintegrate slowly over time, but more often in my midlife divorce recovery work, I am hearing that phrase “out of the blue” to describe a divorce that happens without warning. Our whole sense of self changes almost overnight. We are left to wonder, who am I now?
Change From An Unexpected Divorce
Recently, I heard a story of a woman who had been making 20-year anniversary plans when her husband sent her a text message saying “I want a divorce and I want it to be done by April 26th.” This message was sent on February 14th. That’s the definition of a coward in my book!
Or a guy will tell me his wife suddenly wants a divorce to “find himself” after 30 years together.
What’s Causing An Increase in Divorces
The number of divorces had been declining in recent years … except for the baby boomer generation. And now, divorces for all ages and stages of life have shot up again! Divorce filings from March to June in 2020 were up 34% from filings during March to June in 2019.
Lots of things seem to be driving divorce in 2020. Coronavirus, job loss, financial insecurity, substance abuse, overall depression about everything. Regardless of what’s causing it, divorce is still creating havoc for families all over the world, and devastation and disruption for parents and kids and extended families and friends. Divorces are forcing more and more individuals to ask themselves, “Who am I now?”
The Changes Of A Midlife Divorce
No matter when it happens in your life, divorce makes us reevaluate who we are. In midlife divorce especially, other stressors are also happening … our bodies are changing, children are becoming more independent and moving on, parents may be declining or dying, we may be retiring.
All of these life changes make us seriously question, “Who am I?” My whole world was defined by being someone’s spouse, being someone’s parent, being someone’s child and being a productive member of society. Suddenly, all of that changes. All of those roles I had been actively playing every day are gone!
What’s worse, one of those changes happens mostly without our permission! I, for one, went through divorce sobbing and screaming every step of the way! “I don’t want to be divorced! I don’t want our kids to be part of a broken home! I want us to grow old together and have the big family gatherings at our house! I want to celebrate grandkids together! I don’t want to be divorced!”
What Happens When We Can’t Save Our Marriage?
After three agonizing years of trying everything I could think of to save the marriage, I finally realized that all those things I wanted didn’t matter to my spouse and that the divorce was going to happen no matter how much praying and kicking and screaming I did.
On that sunny day in October, standing on the courthouse steps after the final divorce papers were signed, I realized I had only one choice: Get over my divorce or not. I could either be bitter and angry and miserable the rest of my life, or I could figure out what God wanted to do with me going forward. I realized I could either continue being flung around in that tornado of pain and hurt and anger and fear, or I could choose to change. But the big question was: “Into What?”
Change After Divorce … Into What?
Most human beings don’t like change. Our bodies, themselves, try to stay in constant equilibrium. And we especially don’t like change that has been forced on us, like many divorces. But the truth is, change has the seeds of positive transformation in it! A seed buried in the dark mud and dirt transforms into a tender shoot and then into a beautiful flower. A caterpillar has to be wound up in a scary, dusty, ugly cocoon before it emerges as an amazing butterfly.
Heartache and pain can teach us amazing lessons about what is truly important in life. When we lose everything we thought was solid ground, we have to rethink what solid ground is. It’s not stuff. It’s not our roles. It’s not ease and safety or even predictability. It’s who we are deep down and what we do with this one wild and crazy, but very precious life we have been given!
Who Am I After Divorce?
I am still me after divorce! For three long agonizing years, I experienced the despair and the loss of so much. But that time of pain (finally!) also brought wisdom with it and peace with it and a realization that I am in charge of the choices I make every single minute of every single day. Pain and suffering makes us grab hold of “the precious ticking moment” and transform it into something beautiful. Something good for me or good for someone else.
I now realize that after divorce (or debt or disease or doubt) or after any other challenge in our life, we can always choose to be our best self. The Real Me can choose joy instead of bitterness. I can choose to encourage someone else instead of feeling sorry for myself. I can choose optimism and hope instead of anxiety and fear. I always have a choice about who I am and how I face the challenge of life.
We Get To Choose Our Path After Divorce
After getting through the pain of divorce, and realizing I was still alive and walking around and able to make my own choices, I could always choose the good. No matter what adversity we have to face, we can always choose to be our best and most adventurous, purposeful, joyful, playful self! Even if it sometimes takes some sobbing and screaming to realize that.