While I often write about the grief journey of divorce, there are certainly blessings along the path as well. It is a well-worn paradox that great joy and great suffering coexist.
I feel immense gratitude for the few, good men who have captured my heart along the way. Besides the intoxicating feelings of new love and fresh possibilities, there is also the affirmation of experiencing a deeply satisfying emotional connection. Somehow it’s more meaningful at this age/stage of life. And for some, it’s a wholly new experience.
Another perk is the bi-monthly break from motherhood. It may not be politically correct to admit, but I really enjoy the personal freedom when my girls are with their father. I find it restorative.
Recently, I conducted some highly unscientific research with a group of divorced folks in their 40’s and 50’s. All parents, I asked them to reflect on (among other things) the silver linings in their life post divorce. With their permission and without identifiers, here are the words of a few others in my tribe.
What has been a silver lining or blessing in your life post divorce?
“A chance to grow up. This requires massive amounts of alone time and could not have happened while being married. A chance to directly relate to my kids. This could not have happened standing behind a dominant personality like my ex.”
“Simply the time and space to reconnect with myself to better understand my interests, needs and development work. I have also learned to stand strongly on my own, with my own identity.”
“I think that the main thing that I found is through all the pain and emptiness that you feel when you’re going through the first years, there also comes a time that you realize that you get a ‘do-over.’ You get a second chance to redefine yourself. If you had a dream you never pursued you now have the ability to go for it – without the negativity of an unsupportive partner.”
“The opportunity to start over and find love again. ‘Time off’ from the kids every other weekend – the free time being a very necessary ingredient when trying to start a new relationship the second time around.
Divorce gives us a chance to start over and possibly find the lasting and meaningful relationship that was missing in our marriage – there’s a lot of hope and possibility that comes from taking the brave step of going through a divorce.”
“Freedom/independence, no arguing/fighting (at least significantly reduced), and more one-on-one time with kids. I know my kids better now because I’m not deferring the parenting to my stay-at-home spouse.
I reunited with my family, who are a great source of support and encouragement. My ex did not get along with my family, so I seldom got to see them when we were together. We are now doing our best to make up for lost time.
Most significantly, my post-divorce life has given me the opportunity to experience ‘new love’ again. ‘New love’ is more passionate, intense, energetic, and explosive than ‘old love.’”
“Learning just how strong I am as a single mom; not just post divorce, but my child is such a blessing; meeting a wonderful new man and deciding that we want to embark on life together, which surprised us both at this stage. I think I am closer with my child than perhaps we would have been because it’s just the two of us.”
“For many years the unhappiness of my marriage affected so many other relationships in my life…friends, family, work. I found myself just angry at the world in general. I vividly remember standing in line at Starbucks and feeling hostile towards everyone in the place. I remember thinking, ‘what in the hell is wrong with me?’ The divorce process itself is awful but my unhappiness with the world around me disappeared very quickly after my separation.
Another silver lining is the blessing of discovering your true friends. Nothing like a crisis to shed light on who is there for you and who isn’t. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‘In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.’”
“I love myself better now and I don’t have stress in my household. I get to decide how I want my life to play out and I have freedom to travel when I want. I don’t have to answer to anyone. I get to think of myself and my needs when my kids are away. I have down time. I am creating a career and my kids are seeing me as more than a mother.
My faith in God has grown exponentially and I am very thankful for many blessings. I have peace and financial security, which makes a huge difference in my outlook on my future. Life is still challenging at times, but I get back to my equilibrium quickly. Overall, I am happy.”
“The biggest blessing is how I’ve been able to spend time with my daughter – limited as it has been. Being divorced I have been able to have the type of quality alone time with her that would not have been possible if her mom and I were still married.
I am a stronger, healthier person for myself and for my daughter because of the divorce. I have a bigger career, better friends and an amazing woman in my life. I have also had some terrific experiences dating some wonderful people. And I certainly have been able to grow in a way that would never have happened if I stayed married.”
“The blessings are many: I have found who I am – I now know EXACTLY who I am. Where I have been, exactly where I stand and where I am heading. I was only able to discover that when I was alone and on my own.
Another blessing is that I know I can take care of myself. I have learned completely to run a household, earn my own money and THAT is an extremely powerful feeling. I am my own woman, and I have choices.”
“The chance to come face to face with my shortcomings in relationship, admit to them, address them, in hope, not repeat them, and in practice being open to the continued unfolding of personal growth.”
“The clearest blessing of my life post divorce is the incredible bond I have with my daughters. We were already close but our experience as a family going through divorce gave me the opportunity to focus on them, spend more time with them and as a result of our experience become more honest and close as a new family.
Also I learned firsthand how loved and supported my family is. My family, friends and church wrapped themselves around us – providing support of all kinds. I know that we could not have made it through without the love and support we continue to receive. I am grateful and continue to be overwhelmed by the love. I personally will be committed to ‘paying it forward’ in every way I can and to help others down their own personal journey.”
“First was a recognition of how unhappy I was in my marriage given the time and space away from that relationship. This is not to bash. Rather, it is the recognition that one gets engrained in their day-to-day life and through little things over time doesn’t realize how much they have lost themselves. That was unexpected.
Gaining a sense of renewal in one’s life. It is the feeling of on the one hand having endured a tremendous life loss but on the other hand, given time, having a second chance at love, companionship and relationship happiness.
An opportunity to meet women and people I never would have crossed paths with in my marriage. People that have enriched my life for the better. Dating new women doesn’t come without its real challenges as there are definitely some different personalities out there. There are also some rare women that capture your heart and take you places in a relationship that you never knew existed.”
“I have found myself again! I had really lost sight of who I was, what I cared about and what I wanted my contribution to be. Being single again, I was able to work on myself, set goals, discover new talents, meet new people and point my life in the right direction. I also found true love – I met someone who gets me, challenges me, cherishes me and loves to laugh with me. I have never known such passion, intimacy and commitment.”
“More intentional relationship with my girls. If I wanted the real scoop on the girls in the past, my wife was the source. With that channel diminished (she still helps keep me dialed in), I’ve developed a deeper, broader connection with my daughters.
More meaningful relationships with my friends. In our marriage dance, my wife took the lead on our social calendar. When the marriage ended, so did the invites to couple-oriented dinner parties and other gatherings. Poof! I had to reach out to my largely clueless guy friends and schedule breakfasts, drinks, etc. I learned to be intentional about building and deepening relationships – something I almost had to learn. In a related blessing, my failure in my marriage made me a little more human and has allowed these guy friendships to go beyond the often-narrow range of topics of the past.
I’ve learned a lot about myself. It’s been hard work and it is ongoing, but I’m not sure I would have taken such a hard look inside if the marriage hadn’t ended.”
“In the midst of winter, I learned there was, within me, an invincible summer.”