Five benefits of divorce

Please know the decision to divorce was a last resort, after we had exhausted every other option.  I was married for eleven years and we went to marriage counseling for the last two years in an effort to keep our family together. I was willing to do anything to preserve the union for the kids, even if it meant sacrificing my own happiness. But there came a point when I realized that despite a lot of love, commitment and our best efforts, the marriage was irreparably broken. For those of you who are considering divorce, in the middle of a separation, or facing divorce proceedings, I offer you this light at the end of the tunnel.

1.       You won’t be mad all the time.

A bad marriage takes over your life. When a marriage starts to go south, everything that happens becomes fuel to the fire. Your whole life becomes a series of hurt feelings, anger and worse. The marriage becomes a cold war, where any action or word, no matter how small, can destabilize the whole system. Living with constant anger in your marriage is a lot like being sick. You don’t realize how bad it has become until you start to get better. When I was in our declining marriage, I knew it was hard on us.  But it wasn’t until months after the divorce that I truly began to appreciate that my anger was like a wet blanket that I carried all the time. It was exhausting for me and toxic for the kids.

2.       Your kids get two happy parents.

My friend actually divorced her husband and then got back with him a few days after everything was finalized. As you can imagine, after the initial “we can work it out” phase things began to slowly return to how they had been. A year later, it was clear that it wasn’t working and she decided to move out and resume the divorce. As I was helping her move, I had some time to talk to her fifth grade son.  Trying to cheer him up, I said “The up-side is that eventually, you will get two happy parents. I know the last year has been hard on everyone.” He responded, “Yeah, the fighting has been bad. Every time we want to do something we have to wait because they are fighting.” When I told my friend about the conversation, it cut her to the core. She really believed, like we all do, that they were keeping it from the kids.

I’m not going to lie, the first six months of divorce will be the hardest thing you have ever faced. But slowly, you will start to reclaim your life and rediscover yourself. You get to shape a new life based on your values and priorities. I never wished for a fresh start, but it has been a wonderful gift. I realized that so much of my married life was the result of passively going along with my husband. It wasn’t even about saying yes, it was the result of never saying no- a life of defaults. I don’t live that life anymore. Everything in my life now is a conscious choice and I’ve never been happier. The same has been true for my ex.  I can see how much better he is doing now and happy parents make happy kids.

3.       You get some free time. 

As a child of divorce, I understand the importance of giving kids unlimited access to both parents. As mad as I was at my soon-to-be ex, I never denied him access to the kids. Our custody agreement is almost 50/50 which means I have loads of time without kids. At first, I felt giddy with freedom. To have every other weekend without kids felt like I was back in my twenties again. A year later, the newness has worn off, but I continue to cherish the time for resting, regrouping and feeding my spirit. Being a single parent is intense, it’s nice to know you will have some much needed time-off soon enough.

4.       The quality of your time with the kids improves exponentially.

This is the corollary to the previous statement. When your time with the kids is limited and you know you have a break coming, you make the most of it. This has allowed me to be truly present with the kids in a way I never was before. I have discovered that pretty much anything that is good for your kids is also good for you- walks, trips to the library, a family swim, or church. So the more good I do for them, the more good I do for us all. And it feels great to be the mom I want to be: present, active and quick to laugh.

5.       You can be civil co-parents.

My parents’ divorce was painful and bitter, that’s one reason I fought so hard to keep my own marriage together. I think a lot of people in their thirties have had similar experiences. Back when I was in school, really good co-parenting between exes was the exception, not the norm. But we don’t have to pass that sad legacy to our kids, you can choose otherwise. I did and amazingly, it has worked.

I was given some great advice early on: The best way to get through a divorce is to always focus on the best interests of the kids. That advice has been golden. I’m not saying we had an easy divorce. We did not. It got very ugly fast, but luckily it didn’t stay ugly long. And even in my worst moments of anger, hurt and bitterness, I kept my eye on the prize: A long-term, healthy co-parenting relationship with my kids’ father. I’m proud to say, we have achieved that. We help each other out on sick days, we stand shoulder to shoulder at their soccer games and we communicate constantly so our kids can’t play us against each other.

 Divorce can be the right decision

For a long time, I believed that divorce was the worst thing that could happen to our family. I kept trying to fix it and make it work, despite how toxic the situation had become. Everything changed when a friend asked me one question: Would you want this marriage for your daughter? In that moment, I knew that if my daughter was in my marriage, I would do everything I could to help her get out. That’s when I put on my big-girl pants and did what had to be done. And I can say with 100% certainty, it has been the right decision for my family.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Evelyn
    Apr 23, 2012 @ 09:23:20

    wow, amazing words that I know will help so many. I have a few friends who I am sharing this with right now!


  2. 36 Holes
    Apr 25, 2012 @ 05:34:04

    E-lation, Another very reflective piece, especially valuable in offering experience and perspective over two full years. You have an exceptional ability to offer sound advice and convey common sense. May you and your family continue to work hard and advance in harmony.


  3. Adrianna Szymkowski
    May 02, 2012 @ 14:45:44

    Thank you for this gift! I am in the throes of regret, sadness and anger and needed to read this. Still grieving but appreciate reading this insight from your experience.


    • Bonita Applebum
      May 02, 2012 @ 16:55:38

      I am so glad to bring you some comfort, sister. It will get better. Just keep moving in the right direction and you will be in a much better place before you know it. xo


  4. Trackback: Should I File for Divorce? « Honestgoodadvice's Blog

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