Divorce Anniversary: My Third Year of Being Imperfect but Free
It is common for divorced women to underestimate our achievements, our accomplishments, and who we’ve become as a result. After all, many of us are powering on, too busy looking ahead that we never pause to look back. Others of us might still view our divorce as a failure, too, so we refuse to really take stock of what things were truly won. As I approach my third-year divorce anniversary, I realize looking back on what I’ve managed to do since I signed those final divorce papers can be an empowering exercise. Let me share my personal experience and try to inspire you.
When I was getting divorced, I kept hearing that on average it takes three years to get over a divorce. To my ears, that sounded like a very long time. Surely, I could do it quicker if I really tried. And certainly, some of the months leading up to that big day of final signatures, if lived thoughtfully and healthily, would count as sand falling through the hourglass. No, I was going to defy any and all divorce statistics. Whether in my marriage or my divorce, I would not “be average.”.
What was I expecting? What would “being over the divorce” really look like?
I expected this new phase would mean “being over” my grief for my Ex and for my former, married life. What’s more, being “over it” would entail having found a replacement, a new, better, happier relationship. Maybe I’d even be on the way to having more kids. Which is probably what I would do if I had divorced at 30 after only a few years of marriage.
But I am 47, and have been married for over 15 years. With my divorce anniversary of 3 years just around the corner, what does it really look and feel like? Am I finally over my divorce?
Well, yes and no.
Check out Anna’s earlier piece — before this third year, divorce anniversary she celebrates today. Read “The Truth About Starting Over After Divorce at 45”.
While some of my achievements as a newly independent woman are amazing and will stay with me, part and parcel to my new foundation, some other aspects of my life need work. And still others are things I never planned for. I am realizing that it’s great to have resolved some issues and it is equally fine to not have a clue about others. Still.
Let’s consider the total.
Divorce Anniversary Achievements
I Have My Own Home
My biggest material accomplishment as I approach my divorce anniversary of 3 years is having my own new home. When my marriage ended, it was I who walked out while my Ex refused to vacate and sell our jointly-owned apartment. For a long time, I shared a one bedroom with my teenage son and often thought that I would never have my share of the marital money and never have my own stable home. I had to fight and work hard. But I recovered my share of the money and I bought an apartment in a leafy green neighborhood. I savored renovating it to my taste and comfort. And today, it’s a place I can see myself retiring in or renting out. It is a big check on the list of stability providers.
I Am a Good Mom
I have come a long way in my 3 years post-divorce and can now claim incontrovertibly – and with confidence — that I am a good mom. Back when I voiced my decision to divorce, I took the majority of responsibility for our marriage breaking up. I felt like a horrible selfish parent who destroyed the happy lives and childhoods of my two sons. This was compounded even more so when my elder son chose to live with his dad after our separation. I felt guilty for that and for making my younger son extend his travel time to school as we moved out of our family home to the apartment.
Why do I feel that I am a good mom now as I approach my divorce anniversary of three years? Have my criteria changed?
Yes. Once living together in a family of four in our old apartment was no longer an option, every member of the family had a choice and a responsibility. I stopped feeling like I am the one making all decisions or forcing choices on others. My Ex chose to remarry, my eldest son decided to live with them. My younger son chose to live with me and stay in his old school. It was his choice to travel longer to the old school rather than attend the one round the corner.
On my side, I worked hard on maintaining love, trust, and respect with each of my boys but also between them and their dad. I respect their interests, opinions, and privacy. In exchange, I have great companions for watching movies on Netflix, traveling, or sharing a meal in the house or out.
While we are not friends, my Ex and me, as coparents we can now talk constructively. We can discuss kids’ sports, tutors, and even (never thought I’d see the day — ) agree on a budget to split. That took almost 3 years and in itself is worthy of a celebration. So hurrah, Third Anniversary!
While our family unit changed, we still have extended family that our kids are close to. We have multi-generational Christmas celebrations and birthdays.
And I see that I have not deprived them of family life. If anything, I have shown them how important family support is in tough times.
I Am an Accomplished Single Woman
When I began my divorce journey, I came from a place of shame and social inadequacy. I used to believe, like a lot of people around me, that an accomplished woman must be married. So, to maintain dignity after divorce, I must remarry quickly — preferably someone better. So, I thought.
Three years into my divorce, I feel fine, socially and professionally accomplished while being single. My voice doesn’t shake anymore when I say in public, “I am divorced” or “my Ex-husband” or “my son lives with his father”.
While comfortable with being single socially and publicly, knowing myself better, I also became more comfortable at being on my own, in my own company and less lonely. In the past, my fear of loneliness was always an important driver for my relationships. I was scared of being on my own. That fear is gone now.
Feeling the call to grow and step into who you should be? Read “100 Must-Do’s for the Newly Divorced, Independent Woman.”
I like to be around people and I do get lonely but I don’t fear loneliness or see shame in it anymore. The energy that I would have spent on learning about the needs and character of a new partner I now spend on studying myself, my likes and my motivations. It’s fascinating, because having spent 15+ years in a marriage, I realize coordinating my behavior and tastes to accommodate my spouse was truly more important than ever knowing my own taste or even, myself.
More Money, Less Drama
I am happy to share and inspire others with the fact that as I approach my third year, divorce anniversary, I have a lot more stability in my life – financially and emotionally. This is much more than I ever had in my marriage, and certainly more than what I had during my divorce. So, ladies, it’s something to expect and look forward to. I am much more in control of my family finances than I used to be. My spending is more predictable, with less spending splurges or overindulgences. And generally, my life is more stable with less drama.
Divorce Anniversary: Works in Progress
We tend to measure our results compared to our own expectations and particularly, the progress of our peers in our social groups. My expectations for my work and career for when I am over 45 was to have a good work-life balance, stability, light labors and plentiful rewards. But my career was anything but stable. Since getting divorced three years ago, I was made redundant in one job, left another one, had my permanent contract changed to a temporary one, was relocated to another country for work, worked in corporations and as a freelance copywriter and consultant, and lectured in a university.
Such instability is probably reflective of the times we live in. But I have more of it than anyone in my social circle. And, having survived a divorce and lived 3 years after it, I am probably better equipped for drastic change because of these things.
I take big life alterations easier, because I have experience with surviving. I know there is life after drama.
I no longer think that taking solo vacations is undignified or shameful or a sign that no one needs me. But I still struggle to find a format that I wholeheartedly enjoy. That is also due to the changes that took place in the whole world with international travel becoming more expensive and restricted. I really like my trips with my boys, my girly vacations, and my solo ventures.
Can you imagine being a single woman, alone and traveling? Read Anna’s piece “Table for One: My First Trip as a Single Woman” to get a taste of it yourself.
But when I think of positive sides to a potential boyfriend, I always think of how nice a romantic trip can be. Will be.
Grieving, Forgiving, Accepting, and Letting Go
Going back to that statistic, it takes three years to get over a divorce. I imagined there would be a time of grieving, but then, I’d get over that and move on. This is far from the truth. As I go through life, as I continue to stay committed to therapy, I see my past life experiences in a new light. It is a big process to not only consider the divorce and what happened, but what brought me to even choosing the spouse I did and investing in a certain way of being.
I am still uncovering truths about myself, why I failed to understand my need for boundaries, why I was hurt and chose to hide it. This has caused me to consider my Ex and his responsibility for the downfall of our marriage differently. Some situations I have let go of but with others, I realize I need to accept my heart was broken and that I need more time to heal. In my experience, understanding the grief of divorce is a long process that can take over three years. And that’s fine too.
If you wonder too, when can you expect to feel better, take a moment to read “How Long Does It Take to Get Over a Divorce?”
There’s nothing to do about this, Aging, but to come to a place of being compassionate with ourselves. It sounds self-evident, but it’s important to remember that as we go through divorce, time moves with us. We become older, as do our kids and parents. As we navigate our lives as divorced women, things happen – epidemics, floods, wars. We can’t put reality on pause, and focus on getting over our divorces, and return to reality. No life keeps clicking and there’s no controlling it. We have to stay adaptable and take comfort in our adaptability – it’s the only constant. And maybe facing the cruel realities of divorce have caused us to savor the small and sweet and the presence of today?
Divorce Anniversary: Not There Yet
Dating, Partner, Sex
As I approach another divorce anniversary, I have no achievements to report in the area of dating and sex. I think it comes from a combination of factors. First, I don’t feel I need a man to feel accomplished. Second, I already have kids so I don’t need to reproduce further. (Maybe, because I have kids, I also hesitate to take on a third adult kid, too?) Third, I still have trust issues and am scared of having my heart broken, or getting into a relationship with abuse, or one that has no focus on my needs. Fourth, and quite simply, it is not easy to find a date at 47. I think that if I were told when getting divorced that I would not have sex for over 3 years, I’d be shocked and in disbelief.
But I am not shocked now, nor miserable. I am fine. But maybe, being fine with having sex would be another achievement, too? To consider.
As I reflect on my milestones, and my work to do, I want to encourage all of you divorced or divorcing women to look at your lives, too, and give yourself a pat on the shoulder, a heartfelt, round of applause. Because like myself, you have not only gone through a lot in your private life, but also, in your social life, dealing with your friends, family, and societal expectations. When it’s right for you, make sure to take time to consider your journey, your steps, your wins, and your blessings. Perspective is an amazing thing. Understanding your story and the dragons you have slayed will make you a prouder, happier woman. And feeling those things are an accomplishment, too. Try it.
Anna Ivanova-Galitsina is an international communications expert. She helps companies and people understand and express themselves in our ever changing world. Her big calling is in helping women get the respect they deserve.
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*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”