A Family Divided.
Lessons & Pain.
Growth & Healing.
Life & Thriving.
Unless you've been through a divorce it can be quite hard to relate to what others have experienced. I can say there is much to be learned from the divorce process and though the lessons can be painful they are worth sharing with others so their path is a little easier to navigate.
Here are 10 things I've learned about divorce…
1. It takes a whole heck of a lot longer to get one complete than what one might think. In Texas we have a 60 day waiting period before a divorce can be completed at it's earliest. I only wish that was all the time it took. For many it takes a year, for some even longer, two years. It seems so backward… we can say "I do" on a whim but trying to undo that knot takes oh so much longer.
2. It takes longer than you expect to get your life put back together. If you've been a stay at home mother you might find yourself scrambling to find a job, a sitter or some form of daycare and keep the lights on. It can seem overwhelming at first now that everything rests on your shoulders but deep breaths… take it one day at a time and try not to look at the big picture if all it does is serve to stress you out. It truly does get better in small steps and one day you will look back in awe at how far you've come with God's grace, power and strength.
3. We may go through our divorce process regarding the kids with the mental outlook of: "Okay, we have a plan in place. Done, let's move on." And really… if it's working why shouldn't that be expected? But often times our ex can have other ideas… constantly changing ideas and chronically wanting to change up the parenting schedule, possession, etc. It will mean being served with papers, attorneys being served on your behalf and having to re-write what you have in place, often with negotiations that are not what I'd really call negotiations but more like the other side bullying his (or her) way into what he (or she) wants.
4. Mediation can be a lifesaver or an absolute waste of time and money. The mediators job is to get both parties to agree and they could care less about whether you like the results as you will be who lives with them. I would never pay for an attorney to be present at mediation again. The fee for a mediator is a grand give or take so paying an attorney to simply sit and hold your hand seems pointless. The process can be undeniably intimidating if you've never done it before but really having been through it twice now… I can safely say that it's not that big a deal. You know what issues you're willing to agree on or not. If you can reach an agreement, great. If not, reply "no" to everything and head to court, it's pretty simple. Mediation may be used by your ex as a tactic to find out what you're willing to agree to and not… so then they can then be better prepared for a court battle.
5. Divorce won't "fix" your spouse. Your ex-spouse is likely still cheap, still stubborn, still conniving, still making poor choices, late, disorganized, super punctual, anal, abusive, ocd, insensitive, inept, lacking parenting skills, etc… guess what? Just because you're divorcing them doesn't equate to all their ways now changing. You will realize (if you hadn't already) you cannot change your ex. You will realize that your attorney can't change your ex. And then you may realize that the therapist can't change your ex into the parent they need to be. That is why sometimes judges have to get involved and change the possession schedule accordingly. Because unless folks want to change often times it's the children who end up suffering.
6. The person you divorce… divorce tends to reveal their true character… whether it's for better or for worse.
7. You will cross paths with people who you don't even know personally but that think they know you… that believe they know who you are based purely on what your ex has said about you… and they dismiss your existence or even sneer at you in public. Keep your chin up, a smile on your face and move on… they are not worth your time or energy (read that again if needed). It's a lesson you've learned from the receiving end… never base your view of someone on a third person's opinion… get to know them yourself.
8. Folks will naturally be curious as to why your marriage ended… they may attempt to ask in a roundabout way or outright. It's up to you how you handle it… it's your call. You can either be direct or just gloss over it as "there were unresolvable issues"… it's about whatever you're comfortable with.
9. Your ex may try to bribe your children with gifts and freedom. He or she may even be bad mouthing you and causing alienation between you and your children. Your ex spouse has zero right to speak negatively about you or your home to the kids. Recently my daughter told me that her Dad told her: "Well, if Mommy would ever allow you to have a phone in her house I'd buy you one." The fact is, it's your house and your rules; you have every right to decide what comes in your home. He is overstepping boundaries and is in fact dismissing your choices to your child. Document, document, document.
10. He or she who has the house typically has more control. If the photo albums and scrapbooks (that you lovingly made by hand) are important to you… either get control of the house and have your soon to be ex kicked out or stash those valuables at a relatives for safe keeping. People can often be misinformed that everything is "frozen" when a divorce begins… when in fact for many divorces it's really more comparable to a free for all. The morning my ex was served I was at the bank removing half our funds in the savings account. That money came in handy to pay the attorneys more fees. If I hadn't taken my half would he have been so generous and left me anything? Once it was gone would the attorneys have been able to successfully retrieve half those funds that were rightfully mine? Highly doubtful. The smartest thing anyone can do is have a nest egg your spouse knows nothing about. Be smart. Be prepared and don't think just because your marriage is fine right now it always will be.
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2014
December 24th, 2012
names have been omitted in this post
Thanksgiving is around the corner and Christmas will soon be upon us. And in that busy "I've got one more thing to buy and do" season and when our social lives are often heightened it's easy to be surrounded with people and yet ironically feel completely alone. Especially if you're a single parent.
I remember the first Christmas in the two month aftermath of my filing for divorce... I had to drop my children off at my soon to be ex mother in law's home Christmas Eve around eight that night. Our schedule stated I had Christmas Eve and my soon to be ex had Christmas Day. One would think that would mean I'd have the children the entire night and we'd exchange the children early Christmas morning… but apparently that is not how the court system works here. As baffling and frustrating their interruptive schedule was, I was also angry. Angry that for the first time I wasn't allowed to tuck my children in bed Christmas Eve night, kiss their foreheads and tip toe out of their rooms as they sleepily asked when Santa would be there. I was angry that they didn't have the idyllic vision we had always had… that instead visions of sugar plums were going to be on his watch instead of mine. I may have appeared to have it together on the outside but inside my heart was breaking into a million pieces each shard sharply named "disappointment" and "hurt".
It was after numerous hugs and whispered "I love you's" I sent them forth on their grandmother's driveway toward my ex… it was a cold December Texas night and he stood there in his cream sweater and jeans staring at me. I watched as the kids bundled in their jackets, slowly made their way to her front door graced with a Christmas wreath and tears sprang to my eyes in the dark night. They looked back warily at us like they weren't sure if we should be left alone to our own devices or else we might kill each other. His gaze stayed on me and he spoke…
"Hey, are you okay?" He asked "Would you like to come in for awhile? Or join us tomorrow morning?"
AM I OKAY????? NO I'M NOT OKAY!!!! HOW DARE YOU ASK ME THAT!!!!
I instantly thought to myself…
"No" I replied stiffly to him and walked away to my SUV. My mother sat in the front seat waiting for me, watching this dismal scene play out.
My babies had gone in.
In that awful house. With him.
And with her.
She had known he'd wanted out. She had known and hid it. She had hugged me like a friend while stabbing me in the back. I had found emails between them to prove it. She was a co-hort to his secret life.
They were victims in this disaster stamped with his name on it in lustful blazing red.
No one tells you how hard it will be…
it's like this alternate universe you are thrust into…
that no one knows about unless they've lived it.
I got in the SUV, slammed the door shut, roared the engine and took off. I drove and drove. It was all I knew to do. We saw every Christmas light in town that night… while Bing Crosby sang every song I drowned in tears that wet my jacket… I drowned in Crosby's words and sweet melodies of bittersweetness… we saw every twinkling light, every inflatable fat Santa and every Christmas tree in every lit window where intact families read 'Twas The Night Before Christmas, put out cookies and scampered to bed with warm kisses on their cold noses. But not me. And maybe this year not you.
And what I'm writing to tell you is that you are not alone.
It may feel like every family is intact as you go through this darkness of tears and disappointment.
But that is not truth.
There are many variations of family. I know… we want ideal, we want what we want, we want "perfect" we want what were "supposed" to have, we want what we were "supposed" to get.
But it's been through someone's actions… maybe his, maybe hers, maybe yours… it's been re-written and changed.
And I want to tell you again you aren't alone.
In this post are a few tips to help ease you through the holiday as a single parent.
1. Don't Compare
It is hard, I know. But it will literally drive you mad comparing your changing world to someone's who appears intact. It will drive you to the brink. It will make you feel all the more isolated. If you need to call friends and force yourself to make plans, do it. If you need to take a temporary hiatus off Facebook because quite frankly "Mr. or Mrs. Perfectly Poised Facebook Family's" posts are going to send you into a psychological meltdown then just take the break you need.
2. Change It Up
This may be the time to shake things up… do something you don't normally do… so you don't wallow in an empty house or apartment focusing on what is no longer. Maybe volunteer with a local organization that feeds hungry folks on Christmas. Ask your local church if they know of anyone elderly who is alone and housebound and would like some company. Maybe you have a friend who is also single and you can go do some Christmas activities together. If finances allow take a trip somewhere, or check into a hotel and have some pampering done. There are many alternatives to what you've always known… we just have to think outside the box.
3. Get Back To What Is Important
It's easy, especially when things are sailing smoothly to just focus on what we need to do... the groceries that need to be bought, the presents that need to be wrapped, when the biggest issue at hand is "What am I going to buy Aunt Meredith?" but now life has taken quite a turn and those items to be done are minuscule in the grand scheme of things. So it's about getting back to what is important. Peace. Family. Jesus. Gratitude. At the end of the day we know gifts are great but not fulfilling… they are like flotsam… here today then gone tomorrow, not providing infinite joy. But our relationship with Christ is stable… He is always there for you. Maybe you've put Him on the back burner… or maybe not. But He sees your pain, He walks beside you, He wipes your tears.
I will be your God throughout your lifetime
— until your hair is white with age.
I made you, and I will care for you.
I will carry you along and save you.
He is your refuge during this time of distraught upheaval. He is who will lead you throughout… He is who will hold your hand while you kiss your kids goodbye and tears escape your tear ducts.
He is your Savior, who listens to every yearn-full plea of your heart for this to all just stop being so painful and offers peace and healing to you in the form of unlimited resources and love.
He is your pillar of strength empowering you as you drive away not alone but with the most loving companion there is, speaking words of life into your ear and heart.
Lord, I don't understand why life has taken this road but I know You walk it with me… I know your ways are better than mine and I will lean on You… I praise You! I know this storm is not forever and I trust in You to lead me through. I know you will restore, strengthen and establish me with your great unyielding love. Amen.
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2014
names have been omitted in this post
The wipers glide across the windshield, each glide clearing away the tiny drops of rain speckling the glass. The sky overhead is dark and even though it's a quarter to eight in the morning it feels much earlier. Driving my daughter to school I access the freeway, accelerating to gain a spot in the busy morning line up of cars. Everything around us appears gray and dreary like the world has been ensconced in a gray shroud. Red tail lights light up ahead as blurry red warnings and I begin applying the brakes. I crack the driver's side window to let some fresh cool air in because the interior is stuffy.
"Mommy, did you know you can have a baby without getting married?" My daughters voice asked from the backseat. We had some of our best conversations while riding in the car. But this question made my insides momentarily panic and my hand gripped the leather steering wheel a bit harder like a reflexive reaction.
What the…. ? My mind automatically thought and I wondered what this was about. I inhaled and tried to use my breezy calm I'm not a freaked out mommy at all voice but simultaneously my mind raced.
"Oh, really? Hmm… you can?" I asked her, flicking my right blinker on so I could exit.
"Uh, huh… you can…" She affirmed "You can go to the doctor and order a baby."
Shock and a huge sigh of relief ensued. Apparently she had found out about insemination, sperm donors or the like… and wasn't referring to pre-marital sex… thank the good Lord.
"Yes, you're right… you can do that. You can also adopt a baby." I told her as I made the right turn into the residential area the school was near. We had just enough time to get through the car pool line and pull curbside.
"Yeah… so that's what I'm going to do I think. I think I'm going to order a baby." She replied very matter of fact like she was telling me she was going to have cookies with milk for an afternoon snack while doing her homework that afternoon.
I smiled to myself, tickled at her words… "Well, you can certainly do that, sweet pea. I don't see anything wrong with that." I replied and after some thought added… "Just always remember you have choices. You don't have to fit into a mold, you don't have to be limited by what you see other people doing. You can get married, you can stay single, you can adopt, you can order a baby, you can do any of those things… okay?"
She yawned and nodded, already bored with the subject and ready to move on. "Okay…" she said.
I knew if her dad had heard that conversation he'd be ready to glare daggers at me for giving her the green light in having a choice… in choosing to have a baby minus a husband… my agreeing she could just order a baby like a ham at the local delicatessen. He would say he wants her to get married. To find a nice guy. He would say he wants her to find someone better than him.
I focus on the fact she has choices
instead of trying to persuade
her one choice is the way to go
Maybe it's being a mother… maybe to be more accurate it's just being a woman. But as women we know the limits the world often tries to place on us in general… the whole list of "you should" do this, "you should" be that etc… expectations of women being demure and walking around with a smile pasted on their faces merely for the enjoyment of men's ogling eyes. Expectations that when I had a man tell me once "You would be so pretty if you smiled!" I retorted "You'd be so smart if you'd shut up!" I let my own ugly honesty hang out in that moment and even though it wasn't pretty, and I'd let my impulsive tongue loose (!) there was truth to it… as women we aren't put on this earth to caress men's lustful eyeballs with our outer beauty.
It seemed there was always someone ready to tell you what to do… in the male sense… and how to be… once when I was in my twenties I worked for a chiropractor. I didn't believe in it. I simply needed a job. I have since learned that staying true to yourself, actually believing in what you do is kind of important. But this chiropractor believed I needed my back adjusted. And no matter how many times I told him no he continued, he pushed, he wouldn't let up. Finally one day I snapped, told him exactly how unprofessional he was, called him an a**, grabbed my purse and walked out… him with his mouth gaping open to the floor and about a dozen seventy plus seniors sitting in the waiting room witnessing the entire scene play out with their mouths hanging open as well. I received a screaming language laced voicemail from him later for the lurch I'd put him in… as there was no one to answer the phone and check in patients all afternoon… yet no apology for the way he had behaved… in his eyes his behavior was irrelevant. I don't want my daughter to be at the mercy of any man who believes she needs to be pretty for him… that believes he can harass her, that her needs are less important than his, that she needs to hold back when she needs to speak up, that she has to do what is considered the "norm" in society's eyes and have two kids, a hubby and the picket fence, as there are so many more possibilities out there not just for her but for all girls.
What I want for my daughter is not feeling like she has to have a man if she so chooses not to. I want her to realize that although love is essential in life a spouse isn't. I want her to know that she can order up any kind of life she so chooses just like a pizza… she can make it custom to her liking and no one else's. Is that selfish? It could certainly be argued so. But I didn't have her so she could produce a life to my liking and give me grand babies. I gave her the gift of life so she could create one to her liking one day. If there is any gift I give her I want it to be the knowledge she always has choices… so far she's making pretty good ones and although that may not always be the case… I'm proud of her. She prays, she loves Jesus with all her heart, she's kind and thoughtful and she's beginning to be assertive… she has a way to go… sometimes it doesn't happen when it should, sometimes it's right on point and other times it comes out snarky with a sting … there is undeniably a difference between being assertive and having a loose and reckless tongue as this has been my own battle of plain old rebellion mixed with a case of ADHD impulsivity… but she will get there… bit by bit and in that bit by bit is God… with His guidance, His teaching, His lessons… namely His conviction and grace…
Maybe I don't just want her to know she can make choices… but that she can make good ones… I've made so many choices I regret… that I wish I had a re-do on… we all have something… I don't believe in that "denial-filled have no regrets" philosophy… I believe our regrets tell much about us… they show the point of where we've been and where we are now… and in between is a dusty road filled with growth and change albeit painful as heck… there in regret is me in a foggy cloud, lying on a bed with wheels covered under a white sheet and hearing the murmur of another girl behind the curtain beside me say "This is my fifth abortion…" and thinking to myself instantaneously how horrible she was… how I was better than her… even in my gross state of ugly wretched sin… and yet then feeling numbly convicted because I had screwed up too… I had chosen death over life and I would spend forever regretting that choice… during that trek on a dusty road doubting if God ever really forgave me… how many times can you ask for forgiveness? And what is worse is wanting forgiveness from your baby while not deserving it… and now I wonder if the girl behind the curtain regrets too… I have never forgotten her, a face I never saw… and I never will…
Like that girl I want my daughter to know that God may not love your choices but He loves you… He has the final say… the final verdict on our lives, He is who brings beauty from the bad choices we make… He is who makes our flesh whole… who brings vibrant color to where deathly gray hung. He is who we go to in our tears of bad choices, our weaknesses, our frailties and our sore spots.
So, yes, dear daughter and girls of the world… make good choices… will you have regrets? That's like asking if you'll ever have grey hair… you will. But cling to God in the good and bad… take one day at a time… order the life you want with God's blessing, do your thing, start a business, travel the world, run a marathon, write a novel, volunteer…
And if you find someone who you love and you make the choice to include them in the life you built with God by your side…
Consider him a beautiful bonus to an already very blessed life…
Illuminated by Christ's love shown for you on the cross.
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2014