I started this post almost a year ago – I found it today in the dredges of my laptop – a stark reminder of how things can change so drastically yet, in many ways, remain poignantly the same. The lesson in humility is not lost here.
By all accounts I have had a good year; a lot has changed. I am learning, and settling in to my new life – I’ve started dating again and am in a fun, new relationship. My kids are doing well – we’re doing life together in a magnificent way.
My BF stayed the weekend at my house and no one died – so, there’s that.
It was awkward, but not lethal.
In the making of my new life, I’ve taken my time to decide what I want and lay down its foundation. I’ve come to the harsh reality that a new relationship, and inviting someone else in, needs to be a part.
We’re not meant to do life alone, even though there are places in me that scream it would be much easier that way.
My post-divorce checklist looks something like this:
The room was dark, and my head spinning as I listened to the clock silently tick its way toward dawn. Why did I feel the way I did? I was confused all the time. A constant struggle to attain ‘rightness’ with the people and the world around me, a fight that was pointless, and failing with each attempt. It was keeping me up at night and it was slowly killing me.
Dysfunction, addiction, and codependent relationships are all a part of my story – they are a part of many of our stories.
When I die, I hope no one ever says, ‘he was such a nice guy.’
I had reconnected with an old friend and we were discussing the complexity of relationships over plates of tacos (so essentially, it was a perfect night for me).
The hearts of men have been on my mind quite a bit recently. As this thing grows and expands and it’s reach becomes out of my grasp, I’m getting more feedback. About half of that comes from men. The men are sending me ideas for guest posts, they are sharing my work with their peers and private Facebook groups. They want more and they want to talk about their hearts and relationships.
Last week, I wrote about Why Your Wife is So Mad. I’ll be honest, it irritated some people (and it wasn’t your wife). It was called feminist BS, among other things. Funny, as I’ve never really considered myself a feminist necessarily. Meaning, I’m not pro-female as much as I’m pro-people and pro- healthy relationships. And pro- deal with your stuff so you can be a better human -kind of gal. So, if that makes me a feminist bullshitter, then um, ok I guess.
But I digress:
Ok guys, this one’s for you.
I get a lot of mail and comments from men who struggle in their marriages or have recently gotten divorced. These guys are looking for material, groups, and the like focusing on their needs during relational turmoil. I tell them I can’t really speak to all of that, because I’m not a guy. They express severe lack of resource, both online and in a general understanding within our population – I can’t disagree.
Universal truths about relationship are essentially gender neutral. I can see thier point. But still, I’m not a guy.
So…Let’s unpack this and get real.
How do you know you’re ready to date after divorce? What steps should you take to overcome fear? What can be done to prevent past mistakes and set you up for future success? This week I sat down with certified life coach, Suzy Garber to discuss how to thrive during (and after) life’s transitions.
Life coaching can benefit many. Suzy is offering 1 free coaching sessions for any readers of Unchained who are curious about the differences life coaching can make.
Some days in life -- some moments in time are forever etched in your memory, stamped on your brain like a polaroid set there to revisit time and time again … sometimes, those moment are centered around unique experiences and fun. But more often than not, they come as defining moments – the ones that aren’t triggered necessarily by a joyous occasion, but instead a drop of life that hits you and changes you forever.
There is no question that divorce is an emotional process. Sometimes it feels like your emotions can change in an instant from anger to pain to even brief moments of joy. While it is important to experience and acknowledge all of our feelings, we must remember the importance of how we choose to act based on those feelings.
I once was taught that most anger is a cover of raw pain. Think about that for a moment… Sometimes anger is easier to feel than pain. To me, anger lulls shame, invokes control, and ultimately makes me feel as if I'm coming from a place of power instead of falling victim to my circumstances and feelings.
I am writing a book, Divorcing Well. I've gotten a good ways in, but would like your feedback and input before going further. Below, you'll find the first page. Take a look and tell me: Would you read this? What parts (of my story) would you like to know more about? (I've enabled the comments section below.)
AND - I'm sending the first chapter to those who subscribe to my emails - so sign up if you haven't already! (That's below too)
Happy reading -
(From my book, Divorcing Well - A Story About Relationships)
I woke to the familiar scratching at the door. I am lucky enough to own the world’s most amazing dog (I know your dog is cool, but sorry, mine gets the prize) – I am her person. She wants to be close to me, but sometimes she finds a closed door between her sweet self and the one she seeks.
I got up and groggily opened the door to ensure I didn’t fully awaken, it wasn’t time to get up. I value my sleep. In that blissful state between sleep and awake, I gently thought to myself, ‘she is counting on me – she’s depending on me.’ To love her, to provide for her, to care for her. Same goes for those sweet souls sleeping down the hall and the other one who is away at school.
Feeling crazy in a relationship? The problem might not be you - you might be experiencing gaslighting. Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse where the victim is left questioning and doubting their own feelings and sanity. Gaslighting is a power play for the perpetrator to gain control over the victim.
It had been weeks – months even, since I had known - since I had made the final decision in my heart and my head I guess – but I just couldn’t seem to pull the trigger.
I am highly intuitive – and, even though she wasn’t supposed to have an official opinion, I could tell my therapist’s patience was growing thin. This was the 3rd – 4th – 5th? time we’d had the same discussion in as many weeks.
My kids, what about my kids?
I didn’t want them to be a product of divorce – this was my top priority – or maybe it was an excuse. An excuse to avoid making the hard decision – the difficult circumstance – it would take me out of my sacred avoidance cycle. The avoidance cycle that was as comfortable as my favorite pair of sweatpants.
It was the end of the line. She found herself in an impossible situation and everything had to change. All of it. Every single bit. Some caused by her own mistakes some by the mistakes of others but it didn’t matter because it was all impacting her; and now she was the one who had to make the tough decisions.
One -by- one her friends began to fade away, distancing themselves from a nasty situation for fear that some of her misfortune rub off.
I couldn’t do it anymore.
What do you want to do?
I don’t want to pick up his pieces any longer – I don’t want to continue to clean up the mess from his bad decisions. But I also don’t want to hurt him – and I know he’ll be very hurt (and angry) if I stop.
I didn’t think I should knowingly do things that would disappoint my husband, but instead go along to get along. Values that were taught in my family – they were taught in my church, taught in my community. Peacekeeping was valued over peacemaking and real, authentic relationship.
Yes, he will be hurt – and he’ll feel like you’re abandoning him.
Well, aren’t I?
Yes, you will be essentially.
But the real crime was that I abandoned myself many years prior.
There was a knock at the door.
‘Um, Sara. What is going on?’ – I am making a shift in my life and I hadn’t discussed it with him yet. If I’m being honest, I’ve been avoiding discussing it with him. Avoiding is my thing and it’s easy to justify when you have kids and a life and a big shift that steals your attention.
My dad likes to tell me what to do and I’m not the kind of person who particularly likes being told what to do. We’re both stubborn that way. When he is unsure of the soundness of my decisions, he’s been known to invite me for a friendly lunch or dinner, ‘let’s have dinner at the club tonight…’ where half way through the meal he’ll gently mention, ‘well, you know I’m a little concerned….’ Ah, there it is…
“Smoke and mirrors, baby. Smmmoke and mirrors.” We were discussing the art of keeping up appearances and those who contrive to live the perfect life.
Huge houses, new cars, extravagant vacations with no real money in the bank. Picture perfect holiday cards while chaos, abuse, and broken relationships dominate the family dynamic. Obtaining the latest gadget for the sake of acquisition without consideration of its actual need and usefulness.
Bigger, newer, faster – often digs another layer in the hole of our discontent. Because everybody knows these things can’t make you happy. Yet, we all try and see if they will.
I get it, I am that person – or I was that person. To some extent, we are all that person.
The Holidays are upon us and I don’t have my sh*t together.
I’m not talking about tree trimming and gift wrapping – all of that is appropriately behind schedule, yes. It’s the bigger things – the stuff of life that makes us who we are, the stuff that shapes our stories that’s got me worried. Expectations, hopes, desires. Things that happened that I wish had not happened. Things that didn’t happen that I wish had. The struggle to accept where I am in this beautiful thing we call life. It’s this stuff that’s got me perplexed right now.
It was a night of intimate gathering. The holidays are filled with nights of intimate gatherings. Within the span of my 90-minute appearance the group had made fun of handicapped people, questioned Obama’s birth heritage and ridiculed and minimized a community member on the autism spectrum. I stood as an outsider in the conversation, simply watching. Nervous laughter came and went as we waited for the buzz of the second, third, fourth (?) drink to kick in and take the sting off the social anxiety hovering slightly above eye level. It seems we all need a drink to take the edge off – I stopped drinking a long time ago.
I spend quite a bit of time in the Carolina mountains.
There is a simple hike to the top of the mountain that is a great way to start the day. It’s about 3 miles with a gradual and steady incline – perfect for the girl from Florida who is more accustomed to a flat surface and an altitude that runs right at sea level. At the top of this hike, there is a gate – and a stern warning not to go any further. Under penalty of law and possibly even death… the warning is pinned to a tree about 10 feet in, and pinned to the next tree is a message stating clearly, no bicycles. The point being, you better stay out of here, but if you do come through, it damn better not be on a bike. It’s hard to take that warning too seriously. The message cracks me up every time.
Ah – the holidays are upon us; and on the heels of a nerve-wrecking and completely divisive election non-the-less… should make for interesting fodder over the next several weeks as we come together to celebrate our respective faiths and each other. Oh, the stories we will tell…
The people are protesting. The people are pissed – except for half the people. Half the people are elated. Half the people feel justified. The other half feel scorned. Half the people didn’t even show up.
Sometimes in life, you’re lucky if half the people even show up.
I hate politics. Holding firm to a personal belief that the only way to effect real change is not through government, but through the hearts of the people.
I know you are worried, and I know you are scared. When we met the other day, you told me you were considering divorce - you and your spouse have fallen out of love. Yesterday, I wrote part 1 of an open letter describing my own experience of divorce and shared some insight I thought might help you. Today, I promised a deeper look at some of the specifics that often contribute to the end of partnership. I hope it helps.
It was great seeing you last night, I love it when we get together – with our busy lives, those opportunities are few and far between. You have come to me, as many do, to ask about my divorce, to see how I’m doing. You say it is something you’re considering for yourself. You say you and your spouse have ‘fallen out of love’ and are merely co-existing.
I’m worried, I say – I’m concerned because we’ve been on antidepressants for over a year now and she’s still depressed.
“Of course she’s depressed.”
We’d found a new therapist, one who is working with new techniques. These techniques have worked with other kids – we are hopeful.
“Every day is hard for her – everything she does, everywhere she goes it is too bright or too loud or not loud enough. It takes all she’s got to just get through the day. She has a right to be a little depressed. I would be worried if she was not a little depressed.”
Her boss was angry. He wanted her to begin planting the seeds to a co-worker about the eventual phasing out of her job. When she refused to do so, the treatment was harsh and his abuse became focused on her. Suddenly, she could do no right.
His wife was angry. It seemed like he could do nothing to please her. Most days she blew up his phone with angry texts in order to get him to do what she wanted. ‘If you were worth anything.. .’ ‘If you cared at all.. .’ ‘If you ever leave me, I’ll make your life a living hell.’ All the while, they served on the local church council and were members of the best clubs in town – they were modeling the perfect family. This was going to be a long life.
She had been in a loveless marriage for years – decades maybe. If asked, she talked about it openly, and even those who didn’t know somehow knew. A mutual friend approached me, “it’s become the elephant in the room,” she said. “She can’t see how much this is impacting her.” Over the years, this relationship had stolen her joy, her beauty. It was making her bitter and angry – her sense of self was seeping out at the seams. There is nothing quite as lonely as being in a lonely marriage.
Orlando has had a tough week. There’s a general malaise right now around the city. It’s a mixture of shock and grief, and sadness, a lot of sadness – but I think mostly we’re just trying to make sense of the senseless. And come to terms with all the terrible things that have just happened in our own backyard.
It is hard to accept tragedy.
“Wow! I loved that Christina Grimmie.” My daughter was giving me her take of the evening’s events as we made our way to the car. “I want her to be my new best friend.”
We all agreed there was something quite special about the talented 22 year old. She had a presence on stage that was open and inviting. I wanted her to be my new best friend too.
I have a friend whose nephews make up the band, Before you Exit – BYE was touring with Christina Grimmie and had a stop at a small venue in Orlando – which made for a great opportunity to support them.
I love hearing people’s stories. For whatever reason, people seem to open up to me – from the girl in the check-out lane to strangers in airports, I’ve come to accept this as part of my life - listening to people’s stories. I can affirm fact is stranger than fiction. There is a beauty in the human condition as it shows its resilience.
We long for connection – with ourselves, with the world around us, with those we love. As connection doesn’t happen, we begin to contrive a story to help make sense of it all. This story creates our grid for understanding. The story represents our reality, but not necessarily the truth.