Here's a part of divorce I didn't really think about when I started this chapter in life: how willing people are to share their opinion of my decisions. I mean, I guess, yes, I knew people would have opinions, and I even realized I might lose a few "friends" in the process, but I didn't anticipate the subtle shaming that would come with my decisions.
Let me back up a bit.
When the decision was made to part ways, I sought a full-time job. I am so very fortunate and forever grateful that I had a career in higher education to fall back on. I was able to obtain a job in the Denver area that I enjoy, supports me adequately, offers me great benefits, and surrounds me with smart and fun coworkers.
Fortunately, because I had dabbled in the writing world prior to moving, I knew a number of wonderfully talented writing folks in the Denver area. Phew! Connections! I "just happened" to guest write, every couple months, on the blog of one of these fun writers and had even profiled his book on my blog, without ever having met him. When I moved here, he offered his friendship and support as I made the transition, and like a good love story, the friendship slowly and patiently blossomed.
A year and a half later, he's now the carrots to my peas and we share living quarters. Sigh. I'm content-- for the first time in a long, long time, my heart is a peace. I laugh easily. I no longer feel alone or lonely. I like my career. I get to teach. I can make ends meet and even save a little. I like where I live. I'm making friends. I've even renewed and found peace with my faith and found a wonderful place to worship and connect. And I get to live with someone who I adore! I love a happy ending.
Then it happens. Like nails on a chalkboard, someone offers their well-meaning ideas about my life. I've honed my responses in hopes of cutting short the conversation I can predict will ensue:
...No, I'm not married, and for now that's not the direction we want to go.
...No, he's not particularly into church but we have more open conversations about our beliefs than I've ever had, and he supports me fully.
...No, I didn't "date around" and try men on like shoes.
...Yes, we've had to work hard at aspects of our relationship, unlearning habits, and I'm so very thankful he's the kind of man who will do that and still love me.
...No, I don't think God has abandoned me.
I even had one "friend" from Facebook (you know how those friendships go-- so many are not really friends but acquaintances of the past) send me a private message wanting to know why my ex and I broke up-- no thoughts of our well-being or inquiries about how we're doing-- just the dirt. Yuk. Needless to say, I cleaned out my friends' list shortly after that.
Worst-- and saddest--of all comments was from someone I formerly knew who told my daughter she thought "I just needed to come home, where I belong". While I find the other comments tedious and a product of personal perspective, and perhaps even well-meaning, this one made me angry. Her father and I never put the kids in the middle; why would someone else do that?
It's easy to say, "Don't worry about what they think...you're only accountable to you...it's your life...they won't have to answer for your decisions." I get all that. My cerebral processor understands.
But the heart struggles. I think what people may not understand--and certainly I didn't know pre-divorce-- is how little protective skin is left on the heart after a divorce. The healing takes a long time. These perhaps well-intended, but shaming remarks are already questions haunting me and ones I've wrestled with in my heart, and with God. So they are like well-aimed arrows that zing to the core of my own self-doubt.
I really don't want this to turn into a defensive rant, and I realize it's bordering on that. What I really wanted was to let anyone who may have gone through a divorce, be contemplating a divorce, or in the midst of the muck of one, know what I wish I had known: people might turn on you and use the very handle you are clinging to as a wordy weapon to try to convict you. It will happen. So many times it comes from a place of their own hurt or background-- maybe they are a child of divorce or in a painful relationship. I think sometimes it comes from a rigid place of legalism disguised as religion, or from their own convictions (they have a right to those, even if we don't agree!).
I'm not sure I have a lot of answers, and certainly thinking I can prevent those kinds of insensitive backlashes is foolish. But here is my list of...
Top Ten Post-Divorce Lessons
- Make healthy connections and new friends who aren't so curious about your past or determined to straighten out your future.
- Cling to the friends who love you, no matter your decisions.
- Nurture your interests and hobbies to remind yourself of your uniqueness and gifts.
- Be open to hearing the wisdom of others, even if it stings a bit; we all need to grow and learn.
- But keep taking the steps that are right for you.
- Trust the process. It is a process--sometimes harsh--but the personal growth and self-discovery are invaluable.
- Let it grow compassion and insight in you--you just may be the healing balm another heart desperately needs.
- Try to avoid resentment and anger.
- And remember, you're not alone.
- Most importantly: Cling to what you believe and talk privately to the One who feeds your soul and heart; let that Source guide you.
In the meantime, if you need a virtual hug or listening ear, send me an email. I'll read without judgment. I promise. I'll even celebrate with you as you travel a road to healing and wholeness.