I am conducting a series of interviews about people who have or are going through divorce. In the coming months we will meet with each interviewee again and share with you how their lives and outlook has changed since our first interview with them. My hope is for every individual story to touch someone who is going through the journey of divorce so they may find a common thread that will help them take one step further into the light that awaits them.
Sherri Patterson: Sherri is a fifty five year old professional in the medical sales industry. She was married for fourteen years, had no children and her divorce became final in April of 2010. This was her second marriage and her husband's fourth. Their marriage suffered many infidelities early on by her husband but Sherri chose to stay in the marriage due to financial reasons and because her ailing mother was being cared for in their marital home. It was a promise she made to her mother that she will always care for her. In 2007 her mother passed away, two years later their marriage disintegrated completely.
Agi Smith (AS): What stage in the world of divorce are you in; denial, self-reflection, attack mode, acceptance and peace?
SP: I'm in the renaissance stage, beyond acceptance and peace, I not just rebuilding I'm in self-discovery mode. I'm in this wonderful positive place that I have never been in my life before.
AS: What have you found to be the most difficult part of divorce?
SP: A number of them; there is the personal level, it's learning to trust myself. I made a decision to marry this man, so I had to look inside to see what in me made me ignore the bright red flags. I chose to ignore them. The issue of trust is still an issue I have and on a more realistic, life level, its learning how to do things myself. Little things, things around the house, for example, I had a pipe burst in the middle of the night and I got up at three in the morning and ran outside and turned off the water main, called a plumber and solved the problem. In my past I would never have done this because I would have had my husband there to solve the problem. It was very liberating and empowering.
AS: Have any parts of divorce been unexpectedly easy?
SP: Most of it has been unexpectedly easy. I have never been one to reach out for help from others I have always been the one to be there for everyone else. This time I needed to reach out and the easy part was everyone was there for me. They were the safety net for me and I found it was easy for me to reach out to friends and I didn't think it was going to be.
AS: Do you believe in marriage?
SP: You know that's a tough one. Having been married twice now I think to myself, I do believe in marriage, but now I have this stigma, can I do it a third time? At fifty-five, I'm not sure I can. I believe in it for other people and I see wonderful and beautiful examples of it, but for myself I'm not sure that it's going to exist or if I will have another opportunity. I'm also not sure if I would recognize it.
AS: Are you the same person today as the day you were married?
SP: Oh, absolutely not. I'm happier, I'm calmer, I am more confident and I'm resilient. I found a resiliency in me that I didn't know I had and I'm more accepting. These were not traits I would have described myself with thirteen years ago. Back then I was more tense, anxious and right now I live every day of my life in joyful anticipation. I never felt this way during my marriage.
AS: What is your 'funny' in this process?
SP: I found great people who were going through divorce at the same time by joining a divorce support group. Out of that came four or five terrific friends and we continue to be friends. None of us have gotten married again yet, so this has been probably the most funny, fulfilling, unexpected event. The funny was finding a small group of people with whom we all resonated with by helping each other find the funny and joy in our lives again.
AS: Name one element you miss about being married.
SP: Oh, absolutely companionship. Just having someone to come home to every day and do a reality check when I've had a difficult day. It's nice to matter to somebody beyond your employer or your family, its nice to matter to one person in particular.
AS: What is your favorite part about being unmarried?
SP: A lot of parts. My favorite part is that I have this joyful anticipation that I never had before. Because I knew my husband was having affairs, I would always have indicators reminding me of his infidelities, like his cell phone or his computer or when he traveled for work some charge would show up on his credit card indicating that he purchased a gift that could only have been for a woman. Now, I have none of that and I live my life everyday joyfully not having to worry about who he is seeing. It's a relief.
AS: If you could do it all over again - your marriage - would you?
SP: No, absolutely not. No, because I compromised. We both brought out the worst in each other. We shared weaknesses and we didn't trust each other with our feelings. So, no I would never do it again.
AS: What is the 'take away' from your marriage?
SP: I've learned how to be a better partner. I definitely faded out of my marriage and pulled back. If I were to go into another relationship I would engage differently. When I got married our priest said to us; "You can always tell if people were married or dating by how they were sitting in the car driving." Typically, the husband drives and if the woman has her arm resting on the door and is gazing out the window and she is not engaged with him and he is doing the same, this is not a couple in love. They have lost something, their just spending time together. But he can always tell when a couple is just dating; they look at each other and they are talking or laughing. I've never forgotten that lesson. In the future I would try and stay more engaged and not let the communication fall off. That is the key to a relationship surviving.
AS: Do you remember when you first fell in love?
SP: I'm not sure I have ever fully been in love, because if you are you would be with the person your in love with. I remember the times I 'thought' I was in love. In retrospect I'm not sure I ever have been in love, because in order to be in love you have to fully abandon anything that is holding you back and I haven't been able to do that. I always have a part of me that holds back.
AS: Do you want love in your life again?
SP: Oh absolutely. I would like it for the first time. I would like it to be enduring and sort of consuming, but not in a way that it takes away your existence because I don't think one person can be everything to another person. I want the kind of love that I see others have. I want it to be a first date everyday of my life with my partner. That's what I want. I would love to have a relationship where it was a continuous first date.
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