We all know that some of life's greatest gifts come from completely unexpected sources. While having my ex-husband leave me for another woman ripped my world apart and temporarily brought me to my knees, it also gave me the opportunity to unearth life skills I didn't even know I had. Apart from the obvious truths to be learned from divorce -- love can die, broken hearts can be mended and life goes on -- here are five invaluable lessons I wasn't expecting to discover.
I Can Cope With Humiliation.
There's no getting around the fact that being left for another woman is an extremely humiliating experience -- not least of all because the one being cheated on is often the last to know. My own humiliation peaked when I realized that many of my husband's colleagues knew what was going on long before I did. I felt like a complete and utter idiot. Thankfully, that sinking feeling subsided after I talked to plenty of other people who had been cheated on, read everything about affairs I could get my hands on and understood that I wasn't alone in my oblivion.
I'm an Ultra-Tough Negotiator.
When you share custody of young children, knowing how to negotiate is an absolute necessity. My ex and I separated when our two sons were aged seven and 16 months. With roughly 17 years of co-parenting ahead, I quickly determined that there would be a fair amount of negotiating along the way. By visiting a lawyer, I got clued up on my rights and from that point on I toughened up. In the nine years since, my ex and I have had to work our way through countless issues -- such as my decision to relocate over 100 kilometers away with our sons. Let's just say my negotiation skills have been honed, and I can definitely stand my ground when necessary.
I Know When to Compromise.
Seeing the big picture can be challenging when you're in emotional turmoil, but it's another crucial skill to have when you're doing grown-up stuff -- like settling property and entering into co-parenting arrangements. In the early days of my separation and subsequent divorce, I soon learned that being willing to compromise on some things would give me some bargaining power down the track. It's a skill my ex and I have both now mastered and graciously apply on a regular basis, especially when it comes to dividing up the school holidays and getting our sons from A to B on weekends.
I Have Zero Fear of Being Alone.
Seventeen years is a significant amount of time to be with one person, and it made the concept of being single fairly challenging -- especially as I was aged 41, was freelancing and had two young children in tow. I got used to it though, largely thanks to applying the one-day-at-a-time approach and being able to call on my amazing family and friends around the clock. Now, I think it should be mandatory to spend plenty of time alone post divorce, coupled with regular counseling sessions, particularly in the initial phase. Retreating into my shell for a year and seeking counsel from a woman much wiser than I am gave me the chance to shine the spotlight on my life and where it was headed... something I definitely hadn't done in a ridiculously long time.
I Am Resilient.
There's nothing quite like divorce to put your resilience levels to the test. But while resilience is something we all aspire to having, it can only be built by enduring something as personally devastating as the breakdown of a marriage. Even though it took me a long time to recover from my heartbreak, the experience has definitely given me inner reserves of strength and deepened my empathy. When the going gets tough, I know I'm capable of pushing through all obstacles. Plus, I love the fact that I never have to wonder if I can fend for myself and my children, recover from a relationship ending or find love again. These are things I unequivocally know I can do, which is profoundly comforting.
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