For those of you who have ever contemplated or gone through with a divorce, you may have heard yourself or someone else utter the phrase “the grass isn’t always greener.” I recently heard myself share with a client, “the grass isn’t greener with divorce, but it is a different yard,” and I realized it might be helpful to expand this conversation.
For some of you, the above statement may be exciting and reassuring. For some, the thought of moving your life to a new location and beginning a new chapter is so daunting and overwhelming, you either find yourself paralyzed with fear or realize that the issues going on in your marriage may not be so insurmountable after all. Leaving a marriage is not about making your life easier or less complicated. It will continue to be complicated and maybe even more so, but for different reasons. However, saving yourself from a limited, going-no-where, soul-draining or damaging marriage is worth the complications and extra work when you are ready to do whatever it takes to reclaim your life. Emotional preparation is helpful and what I hope to provide for you with this message today.
By moving over to a new yard, you still have to water the grass, you may still have pest or weed problems, and you may find that it takes a bit more strategy or forethought to keep plants growing or to re-landscape what was there before. The good news about having a new yard is that it is a chance to start fresh, to rebuild, replant, renew, and design it exactly as you wish. Maybe you even decide that you don’t want much grass after all. Maybe it is simpler to just build a patio or create low-maintenance landscaping. This yard is all yours and you can do with it whatever you would like. This yard represents your new life, on your own. To fully explore this concept, lets take a look at some pros and cons of having a new “yard.” Remember, that each one of these points is an opportunity to learn about yourself and to grow through this process.
Some Cons of having a new yard:
1) Your own life maintenance falls completely on your shoulders:
Its all on you – paying bills, planning for retirement, taking care of your home, grocery shopping, laundry, working, etc. For some of you, depending on how much your partner took care of in your life, this may be overwhelming at first. This creates a need to build a village of support around you, which can eventually turn into an amazing learning experience, but asking for help doesn’t always come easy and can create challenges to moving forward.
2) If you have children, you are now the only adult in charge when they are with you:
Maintaining life with your children takes up a lot of time, energy, and responsibility. Even if you frequently heard yourself saying, “I do everything around here anyway, I might as well be single,” once you end up on your own, you realize that some things were taken care of by your partner that now fall on your shoulders. The flip side to this is that when you do get a break for yourself, it means not having your children around at all for one or several days, depending on your parenting agreement. This all or nothing interaction can create periods of intense emptiness and loneliness and the guilt that often arises when you begin to look forward to the time when your kids are out of the house, simply because you need a break.
3) It’s lonely:
This is the part many of you will resist and try to fill up what feels like a void with online dating, obsession with work, leaning too heavily on your children, or using substances or other addictive behaviors to numb out. It is not easy to live on your own and to be out of a partnership, especially if you were married for a long time. However, it is a great time to get to know yourself better and get very clear about what you really want in your life and in relationships moving forward.
4) You may need to manage new girlfriends/boyfriends; navigate awkward or uncomfortable situations:
Again, children create more opportunities for discomfort in divorce as you have to continue to interact with your ex-spouse. When new partners come on the scene it can be very awkward and uncomfortable and forces you to have to deal with the reality that life does move forward. You may also hear from your kids how wonderful this other person is. Resisting a reaction and supporting your children’s new reality (rather than trying to ignore it or not wanting to see it and putting your children in a very destructive loyalty bind) can be difficult, but in the end, matures you in a way you would never have imagined.
Some Pros of having a new yard:
1) You have a unique opportunity to develop a solid relationship with yourself:
This is an excellent time to ask yourself, “Who am I? What do I like to do? If I could participate or do anything just for me, what would I pick? What is truly important to me? What do I value most in life?” This begins a path for you of strengthening your trust and relationship with yourself, one of the most important foundations of rebuilding your life into something that reflects authenticity and integrity.
2) Your children, friends, and family members have a unique opportunity to love and support a healthier, happier, stronger, and more authentic you:
For many of you, your loved ones have been dealing with a very unhappy, stressed, depressed/anxious, angry, and withdrawn version of yourself. Oftentimes, once you let go of the relationship, there is relief mixed in with a myriad of other emotions. As you begin to move through the grief process and build your life into what you want it to be, your loved ones benefit from being able to finally release their attempts to support a relationship that was clearly not working. Their energy can now help support your moving forward and building a new life, rather than trying to help you hold a life together on a permanently broken foundation.
3) You come to realize how strong you truly are:
Through the process of divorce, you will access resources within yourself you never knew existed. You will discover support in friends, family, and/or other supportive players (ie. therapists, healthcare professionals, personal trainers, etc.) that you didn’t pay much attention to before. When you have come through the fire, you will look back and see how far you have come. You don’t stay stuck in the myre forever (unless you choose to), life DOES move forward.
4) All aspects of your life come to reflect you, no longer is there a need to compromise any aspect of yourself: your home, furniture, clothing choices, car, vacations, sexuality, music selection, friends, work, even how your money is invested:
When I work with clients in divorce recovery, this part is the most fun. When you have the opportunity to ask yourself what it is that you want in your life, and then set out to make it happen, you are truly empowered and you have the opportunity to feel celebrated. The options are endless!
Divorce is inherently transformative. So as you survey your new yard, prepare yourself for hard work, challenging moments, and unlimited celebrations as you give birth to your own creation. May these considerations help to ease the transition and validate your experience. Go forth with a spirit of enthusiasm and expectancy – you WILL make it through!