There I was newly divorced, tears streaming down my cheeks, watching my children drive away with their father, wondering how did this happen? Me, a new aged Alice in Wonderland.
How did we get to this point? Why is she better for him than me? I found myself asking these questions as if they were part of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Well to me, at that time, they were. I think anyone recently dumped for someone else knows what I am talking about here.
You know the hurt, the confusion, and the overwhelming feeling of just getting through the day. You know what it feels like to wake up in the middle of the night and know something isn’t right, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. And then it hits you like a Mac truck leaving the tread marks of reality across your flattened body.
For a long time, that was me. I tried to answer the “why” question at least a million times a day and I always came right back to square one begging the question why, again.
I questioned my childhood. I questioned my upbringing. I questioned my career choice, my schooling, my taste in clothes, my cooking skills, my personality. I questioned everything about me and about why I wasn’t good enough!
But after several months of self-reflection on where I went wrong, I began to see that it was no wonder at all that we had ended up this way.
Did you catch that?
Let me repeat what I just said. I said, “after several months of self-reflection on where I went wrong.” I know what you are thinking. He left you, so why was it your fault?
Don’t get me wrong. Anyone who cheats has a huge character flaw. There is nothing to debate about that.
But here’s the secret to moving on. And no one tells you this stuff. You usually have to figure it out on your own. But what I’m going to tell you right now may change your thinking from here on out. It may change your thinking so drastically that you will hate me at first, then later you will thank me.
Want to know what the secret is? I’ll tell you right now. If you want to move on from the hurt, you have to ask yourself, “How did I contribute to my own divorce?” You have to hold yourself culpable to some degree, in due time of course.
Hate me yet?
If you’re still reading this and haven’t deleted my email, bare with me as I make my point, because if you are at all like me, I’d be cussing me out right now and would be using this article to line my hamster cage! I don’t even have a hamster, but I might buy one just so that I could.
After realizing that perhaps I was guilty of ignoring the red flags in the beginning or that quite possibly I had jumped into something too fast at too young an age, I began to see that it was no wonder I was at this spot in my life. You know the spot I’m talking about—the center of the target waiting to take the next bullet.
There I stood alone with twenty bucks to last me two weeks. I had two mouths to feed with one still in diapers.
I saw the warning signs before the wedding, but chose to ignore them. If you really think about it, maybe you did too. Maybe you ignored the excessive drinking, the drug use, the dead end job, the violent temper, the controlling behavior, the insatiable need for new toys, or the wandering eye.
The hardest part to getting a divorce, isn’t actually the divorce, which is hard on its own merit. No. The hardest part about getting a divorce is getting back to happy—finding your new normal. The other hard thing is admitting to yourself that perhaps you were wrong about this person when everyone else was right.
Did I touch a nerve?
The divorce bull’s eye is no place to hang out, it’s like Deadman’s Land. But Deadman’s Land is where you will be after a divorce. At least temporarily. It’s the spot where all the sole providers stand when they are barely scraping by financially. It’s the spot where all those who are overwhelmed stand contemplating what just happened? It’s the spot where the walls are caving in and everything around you is broken. In short, it’s the spot where you are stretched, pulled, striped, and tapped of time, money, and energy. It’s the spot where you stand alone.
And just so you know, you’re going to stand there for awhile, if you are like me.
Having a poor picker is only part of the problem. Sometimes a person’s character traits don’t manifest until later in life and you never could have predicted a divorce in a million years. Not knowing enough about who you are before you get married is the other part of this equation.
How I got more out of my breakup
For about the first year after my divorce I was in survival mode. My sister told me to always have a plan B. I didn’t have one at first, but then later when I got one, I kicked it into overdrive. I filed bankruptcy and called it a “B-K” because it sounded better. I slashed all my expenses, cut services, and had a garage sale. I staggered my purchases, and stocked up on discounted food. I shopped at thrift stores, worked out like a fiend, and hung out at the country club looking for a rich dude. I was always getting stood up by the good ones and stampeded by the bad ones.
Then humor found me and told me to slow down.
After all the crazies of the first year, I got reacquainted with a childhood friend, Jim. We were both going through our divorces at the same time. We’d go on separate dates and recount the misery of the date the night before. We’d laugh hard—belly laugh hard. The kind you had to cross your legs and hope your urinary tract muscles didn’t fail you, hard.
Do you understand how precious that is? To find a friend going through what you’re going through and be able to laugh as if you didn’t have a care in the world?
We’d get to talking about Dr. Phil and how we should write a book. One bad date after another, Jim would call and say, “Hey, I’ve got another chapter for the book!” We’d laugh at his tragic evening and glean a few new principles to apply to the post divorce guidebook we were some day going to write.
Then opportunity knocked.
The state agency I was working for had a massive layoff. My position would be saved, but I was redeployed to another line of work. Until that time, I had nothing to do. I was an analyst and there were no projects, so to at least appear busy I started writing “the book.” Pretty soon I had my first chapter. I’d work on it at home and when the kids were asleep or with their dad.
I didn’t want anyone to discourage me and tell me I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t a writer. I was an accountant. So I didn’t tell anyone I was writing a book, except Jim. My parents didn’t even know until thirteen months later when I was done writing it.
When I finally told my parents that I had written a book it felt as if I had hidden a pregnancy. You know the kind where the young girl moves to Europe before she starts to show and comes home with a huge, but risky surprise nine months later. That’s what I felt like.
I made sure I had an agent before I told anyone. That way I knew people would take me seriously. And even if they didn’t, at least I did.
Shortly after I released my book, 101 Things I Learned AFTER My Divorce, I was called to give interviews and make guest appearances on live television and radio on the lessons I had learned after my divorce. It was finally my chance to help others navigate the divorce process—and it is a process.
My book became an Amazon bestseller.
But I’m not telling you this to brag. I want to help every single person struggling through the ups and downs of divorce get more out of their breakup than just heartache. And to do this it comes back to that one secret. That one thing you must strive for before your next serious relationship.
Remember what I told you about self-reflection and about figuring out where I went wrong? Well that’s what you have to do if you want to get the most out of your breakup. Figure out where you went wrong. Because you see, there are lessons during this time in your life that can change you forever, if you are paying attention.
Spend time getting to know yourself before you jump back into the fire. If marriage taught you nothing else, it at least taught you this: Marriage will teach you what you don’t want. So learn from that and know this: in order to find your soul mate, you must first be in touch with your own soul.
You divorced for a reason and though you might like to believe this untrue, it wasn’t because you were 100% perfect and they were 100% flawed. Unfortunately, many people rush back into the security of a relationship before they have done the hard work that is required from being alone. Spend the time self-reflecting. It is essential to making a change within.
Everyone knows the divorce rate for first time marriages is 50%, but it is no wonder the divorce rate for second time marriages is even higher at 60%. People just don’t do this simple little thing. They don’t take the time to learn from this experience.
So where’s the map to Wonderland?
How do you get there from here when all you can do is think about them and how sucky your life is because of your ex? Don’t despair. This map is within you. It’s buried beneath the surface, just past the anger. It is a treasure hunt to find it, but you must seek the treasure! The riches will reveal themselves from your struggles, that is, if you chose to learn from them.
You can do it.
I believe in you.
So get started.
Right freaking now.
Tomi Tuel is the author of 101 Things I Learned AFTER My Divorce. If you’d like to learn more about what it really takes to get more out of your breakup than just heartache, check out her blog on www.tomituel.net.