Getting divorced ranks as one of the worst things that could ever happen to you. And unfortunately, if the statistics are correct, it will happen at some point to around 50 percent of us. I've found that many women do some or all of the following when they get divorced: 1. They fall apart, 2. They find a therapist, 3. They are miserable, 4. They are poor, 5. They feel like a failure, 6. They are alone, and 7. They talk ad nauseum about how their ex-husband wronged them to anyone who will listen.
Admittedly, when you get divorced, you feel like this:
But in my opinion, when you get divorced, you should look like this:
Why? Because divorce doesn't mean you are a failure. What it means is that you failed at one thing. Everyone fails at something, and most of us have had a bunch of failures. So what? There are a thousand other things that you are good at, so why let this one matter -- a divorce -- define you?
I'm not diminishing how hard it is to get divorced. When my marriage ended, I was under a tremendous amount of pressure. My legal career had been waylaid by years of child rearing and housekeeping and I didn't have a job. What I did have was a kid, two cats and a dog, all of whom depended on me to take care of them. I had serious responsibilities, and I was very scared as to how I would meet them.
So what did I do? Well, I decided that I had to be tough (even though I felt quite fragile), and I attacked life head on. I sent my resume everywhere, reconnected with former colleagues, and eventually landed a good job working with lovely, smart people. I took very careful care of my health and appearance. I read self-help and religious inspiration books to keep myself motivated. And in short order, I met and married a wonderful man who continues to treat me beautifully and tells me regularly that I am the best thing that ever happened to him.
My journey after divorce wasn't easy, and I didn't do everything perfectly. But I did learn a lot along the way, so here are my five rules for getting through your divorce:
Rule #1: Develop an "F You" Attitude
Throughout the whole process, be responsible, be kind, be gracious, and then ignore and distance yourself from everyone who can't keep their opinions to themselves. When you are getting divorced, people think that you want their advice (or criticism), when you simply need encouragement. Getting divorced doesn't suddenly turn you into a small child who needs the guidance of others. You continue to be an adult, and only you can make the best decisions for your life. This is a critical time to simply say "F you" to anyone who can't stop putting in their two cents.
Rule #2: Be Beautiful
This is not the time to stop washing your hair and put on 50 pounds. Shortly after I separated from my husband, I went to get my hair cut. The stress of the situation had taken its toll, and my previously completely dark brown hair was now peppered with grays. Even though I had never colored my hair before, my hair dresser informed me, "I am coloring your hair." It wasn't a question. She simply was telling me what she was going to do. It was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. During that time, I ended up buying myself an inexpensive exercise bike and worked out every morning before going to the office. I got my hair cut regularly and never left the house without makeup. Every day, I said to the world through my appearance, "I am at the top of my game," even though I didn't always feel that way. Staying beautiful is part of faking it until you make it.
Rule #3: Get a Good Job
One of the most stressful aspects of divorce for women is financial insecurity. If both you and your husband were working, you now are living on only your paycheck. If you were staying home and raising kids, you now have lost your spouse's income. Relying on child support and spousal maintenance as a financial plan is a recipe for disaster. That is not a reliable source of money. Your ex-husband could decide not to pay the support, or he could be unable to pay due to a job loss or illness. Finding a solid job not only provides you with financial security, but doing good work is a source of self-esteem. Moreover, workplaces can provide wonderful friendships.
Rule #4: Start Dating When You Are Ready
There is no right or wrong time to start dating. And let's face it. No one is going to be happy for you to start dating. Ever. The only way to make your children, ex-husband and family happy is to join a convent. So, if you are no longer in love with your ex-husband, and you are emotionally ready to move on, then do so! Life is short. You have just been through one of the most stressful experiences imaginable. Now is your time to have fun, meet people and enjoy life. There are lots of wonderful people out there, and your staying home on Saturday nights is not going to bring about world peace or cure cancer.
Rule #5: Don't Worry
This is the most important piece of advice I can give. If life is hard now, it will get better. I promise. There is a wonderful Conan O'Brien quote in which he says, "If you work really hard, and you're kind, amazing things will happen." That is all you have to do! You aren't expected to solve every problem in your life or in the lives of your children or family. You just need to show up, do your best and good things will happen.
Divorce is heartbreaking, and it is an ending. But it isn't the end of your life. It is a beginning, and it is your job to make it the beginning of something wonderful.