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I looked down at the paperwork… ‘Single, Married, Defacto, Divorced’. I didn’t think I’d ever be ticking the ‘divorced’ box. But there I was, at 26 years old I was DIVORCED. When you picture how your life is going to turn out, while you’re dreaming up your great love story, divorced doesn’t usually factor it. But for me it did. And there were some things I wish I knew before I got a divorce.
You don’t plan for this, you don’t go into a marriage assuming it’s going to end this way. But the reality is almost half of all marriages end in divorce. Half. That’s huge. And it’s not something we talk about a lot, because it still seems to conjure up this idea of shame and failure.
If I had known then what I know now, would I have avoided getting a divorce? No. Absolutely not. The path I have taken has led me to where I am now, and I’m pretty darn happy. But I would have handled things differently, I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself and I would have held my head high.
These are just some of the things I wish I knew before I got a divorce.
1 – The End Of Your Marriage Isn’t A Failure
I felt like I had failed.
We don’t get to the end of a book and say that it was a failure just because it ended. While we do believe marriage is for life, making a lifelong decision when we are young isn’t always going to work out.
If you get married when you’re 25, you may have been living life for 25 years, but how many of those years have you actually been an adult? 7? 5? Less? Making adult decisions, taking care of yourself, making choices and facing the consequences (both good and bad).
I was barely an adult when I got married. The end of my marriage wasn’t a failure, it was a lesson.
2 – Things Are Going To Be More Difficult Than You Imagine, But You Will Get Through
The elation I felt when I decided for sure that I was going to get a divorce is hard to describe. It felt like the biggest weight in the world had been lifted off my shoulders and it felt like I could breathe again. What I wasn’t prepared for was how difficult things were going to get afterwards.
Arguing, the division of assets, court orders, parenting arrangements plus adding high emotions to it all meant that my stress levels went through the roof. There were often times when I sat in the corner asking myself if it was all worth it. Would I have been better off just staying in an unhappy marriage to avoid all of this?
But it passes. You get through. You find your strength and you find that you are stronger than you ever imagined possible.
3 – Being Selfish Is A Good Thing
Often, when a marriage is ending, we are accused of being selfish. People throw around the word ‘selfish’ like it is something to be ashamed of. ‘How dare you do something for yourself’, ‘How dare you put yourself first’. Seems crazy when you write it out like that, but it happens. A lot.
Here’s the thing – I wish I knew that being selfish was a good thing. Putting myself first is a good thing. Being selfish means you take time to check in and make sure you’re okay. Being selfish means you value your own happiness. Being selfish means you value yourself.
Being selfish is perhaps one of the best things you can do. Because if you don’t look after yourself, you cannot possibly look after others, kids included. And you’re going to need to look after yourself, especially during such a turbulent time.
4 – You Don’t Have To Do What Other People Tell You
Remember how I said that almost half of marriages end up in divorce? That means there’s going to be a whole lot of people out there telling you what you should and shouldn’t be doing and chances are, their ‘advice’ is going to be based on their own highly emotional experiences and have literally nothing to do with your situation.
The only advice you should be taking is that of a lawyer, but even then, you don’t have to do what they tell you.
It can be easy to try and seek the shelter of someone else making all the decisions, of someone else dealing with things and you hiding out in the background. Oh gosh that would be nice at times. But this isn’t the time for it.
You don’t have to do anything anyone else says, unless you want to.
5 – Your Personal Life Is No One Else’s Business
Step away from Facebook, press delete on that status and just take a deep breath. You don’t need to go sharing every aspect of your divorce with everyone online. In fact, you shouldn’t be sharing the details of your divorce with everyone online. This is a highly emotional and turbulent time that should not be on display for everyone else.
Not only is it bad form, regardless of how your marriage is ending and the cause of it, you should show at least a little respect for your ex-husband by not talking about your private matters online.
Furthermore, the idea of ‘anything you say can and will be used against you’ is true of your Facebook status (and any other information you put online) too. And don’t think deleting it will stop it from being found – what goes on the internet stays there… always.
But this doesn’t just apply to what you voluntarily share either. If people are asking you questions and prying, you don’t have to answer them. You can deflect and change the topic, or you can be forward and simply say ‘that is none of your business’.
6 – Prepare Yourself
I knew I wanted a divorce a while before it actually happened. I think it took me a little while to actually admit it to myself. But I wished I had prepared myself more. We don’t tend to think of what happens after you say you want a divorce, there’s so much focus on actually getting those words out. But it’s the after that can be so incredibly turbulent.
Have a plan. Where are you going to stay? What’s going to happen with the kids? What happens if things get out of hand? Do you have an income source? Do you have money to get you through? Have you told anyone about your plans? Do you have support?
There are so many things I wish I had organised before my divorce, so I wouldn’t have been so stressed and so stuck afterwards.
7 – Document Everything
While a lot of people advise you to document everything for legal reasons, my thoughts are a little different. When you’re going through such an emotional time it can be difficult to keep track of everything. Grab a notepad that you record everything in as it happens. You may never look back on it again, and you may never need it, but keeping it all written down can help you keep your mind clear.
You should also spend some time journaling and free writing. This is where you just write out whatever it is you’re thinking or feeling. No one has to see this, you can type it or write it or whatever you need, but getting it all out of your head and onto a page can be so good for you.
It will also give you something to look back on in the months and years ahead so you can see just how much you have grown and how far you have come.
A divorce is one of the hardest things you’ll go through, and no matter how difficult it is at the time, you will get through it. I do look back at these things I wish I knew before I got a divorce and wonder how much they would have made a difference, mostly I believe they would have helped me have more confidence in myself, something that took a lot of work after my divorce.
Remember, each divorce is different, you’re going through something that is unique for you, but there is love and support out there for you too. And above all, be sure to take time to take care of yourself.