Pen and Moon

from the writing nook of Theresa Jarosz Alberti

Divorce Lesson #4

The last several days have felt like something is calming down inside me. After many weeks of only a few days between waves of utter despair, this has been a nice, unexpected turn for me. Some of you may know from my Facebook post that I had a really rough day last Monday. Through all the support I received, more discussions with Bob, and my own journaling/processing, it all helped me to crawl up on another shore. I can’t predict where I’ll be next week, but for now, there is a softness and a relief.

One theme has been emerging for me, first poking its head up tentatively, and now becoming stronger as the weeks go by. When thinking about what I might write about next, this topic stood up, waving its hand wildly, and as I jotted down some notes, it practically wrote itself. So this brings me to the next lesson I’ve been learning in this process. As usual, I think it relates to more than just a divorce situation. I hope it can help others, as it has been helping me.

 

Divorce Lesson #4:  Do It Your Own Way

I know this is awful (and I’m sorry to subject you to it), but one of the first things that came to mind was an old Burger King commercial from the 70s, with the jingle “Have It Your Way.” If you want a refresher, or weren’t born yet, you can see its horribleness here, if you so desire.

One thing I do like about this silly commercial is that it introduced the idea that it’s okay for you, the customer, to decide and ask for what you want. At the time I think this was pretty revolutionary (in a small “r” way)– it was not just tolerated that you could make special requests, but encouraged. This was going to be your burger, so ask for what you want. It won’t upset us.

For me, I’ve found this whole process of breaking up a marriage to be a very confusing time. Beyond the impact of all the emotional stuff, I’m having an amazing amount of contact with a whole ton of people, which has been new for me. People have responded to me, offering support, hugs, love, Facebook comments and messages, emails, offers, gifts, phone conversations, in-person meetings, and more. I am so, so lucky, and it has helped me immensely, to survive and keep taking the next little step forward.

I’ve also been the recipient—and Bob as well—of a lot of empathy, advice, warnings, recommendations…people sharing their own experience, information, and resources. I have appreciated every bit of this, no matter what people have shared, because it helps me in my desire to know more about this Foreign Land of Divorce. I want to learn and be informed and take multiple ideas into consideration. So I thank everyone who has shared with me.

But what I’m also learning is that there is no One Right Way to do this. Everybody has a different story. And there seems to be an idea floating out there in society of how divorces typically go—mean, hurtful, contentious breakups that leave people resentful, wounded and scarred. I do know people who have had these kinds of divorces. And that seems to be the widely accepted stereotype. I’ve had so many people give me a rueful smile when I say we’re trying to do this in a positive, healing way– one doctor shook her head and she didn’t think it could be done. She’s not the only one.

13090378881428542770path-mdWhen Bob first mentioned divorce, he right away presented the idea of trying to do this our own way and make it a positive ending of our marriage. In my first few hours of devastation with this news, I couldn’t sleep at all and I started to do what I gravitate towards—researching and finding out about something. At first I didn’t even know what to research, but then, grasping at straws, I remembered hearing months ago about Gwyneth Paltrow and something about Conscious Uncoupling as she was breaking up with Chris Martin. She was raked over the coals for her statement about ending her marriage in a positive way, and I had shrugged when I’d heard this, thinking it surely didn’t apply to me. In my first hours of deep despair, this popped into my head as the only time I’d ever heard about a positive divorce. So I Googled it.

I came across therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas’ online workshop called “Conscious Uncoupling: a 5-Week Program to Release the Trauma of a Breakup, Reclaim Your Power and Reinvent Your Life.” After listening to the free introductory session and talking to Bob, I signed up for it—I was impressed with her method of taking the breakup as a time to deal with current feelings/issues and look back to the old core wounds and patterns that brought you to this place in your life. It’s an opportunity to learn about yourself and heal the ways that have kept you stuck, so you can move forward in life and not repeat it over again. It was a lifeline of hope to me, and Bob said he’d be willing to work through it too.

Another step on the path to doing it my own way has been for me to learn to stand in my own defense. As a person who struggled with low self-esteem for a lot of my life, I am happy to say that through much self-exploration and effort (you can ask me how someday), I have really started to notice a shift in the last 6 months. The negative voice in my head that was always berating me has shifted to a kind, strong and encouraging one most of the time. My great worries about what other people think of me have slowly lessened as I care more about what I think. I really noticed this when recently when I had a series of very upsetting and hurtful conversations with a professional I’ve worked with for 15 years. Ever since the divorce was announced, she said things about me and portrayed my behavior and actions in a way that felt attacking, and I completely disagreed. I know myself, and this portrayal did not fit. Something inside me stood up and said “NO!” I defended myself and decided to end the relationship. I felt strong and empowered in doing this.

I am coming a long way around to it, but all this is to say that I really feel strong enough to start making decisions based on what’s good for me, what’s good for Bob, what’s good for our family, and our future relationship. I’m not trying to be arrogant and think I know everything. This is new and confusing territory, and I am trying to be as full of awareness and honesty with myself as I can. I’m examining choices and decisions I’m making, and really trying to think through my motives, needs, and desires to determine if I’m heading toward healing, hurting myself, or in denial. I’m really in touch with my feelings and using them as a guide, more than I’ve ever been able to before in my life. And I may not always be making the best decision concerning this or that, but I’m trusting that if I’ve taken a wrong move, I can figure it out and correct.

Road in Iceland

Road in Iceland

Bob and I are working through this together, and while we’re listening to what we’re hearing from others (be it professionals or friends), we’re choosing what we think is best for us—actually, a series of smaller choices that keep leading us forward. We aren’t perfect, we may be wrong, and we may end up regretting some aspects of how we’ve handled things. Right now we can’t know. We’re doing our best, and trying to be true to ourselves as individuals and with each other in this new, more-independent togetherness.

So, our process may look strange to you. We’ve already had some of that kind of feedback, and that’s okay. We can’t afford to worry about displeasing anyone else outside of our own close little family, because the stakes are pretty high for us. We need to do our best for us, and we need to Do It Our Own Way.

We both hope to come through this whole process better than we were before in so many ways, though that’s sometimes still hard for me to see. It often still hurts. But I’m seeing a lot of growth and strength in myself. I have hope. We are a work in progress. I sincerely hope you will be a part of the crowd that is rooting for us to succeed in the best way possible. Somehow, I know you already are.

 

**Want to catch up? You can read Divorce Lesson #1, Lesson #2, and Lesson #3 by clicking on the titles.

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{Photos not credited are in the public domain.}

20 Comments

  1. Though there were rough patches and some deep potholes, D. and I managed to divorce relatively amicably. We felt we had to for the kids, and we were both committed to that. So while I read horror books and “Endurance,” and it was not all rosy, it was polite and decent. I am interested in your process and am rooting for you!

  2. I’m glad you’re coming to see what those of us around you already know–you are a strong woman, a thinking woman, and a smart woman. Take all the time you need to grow in this YOUR way, the way that works for you. You are surrounded with virtual hugs from all your Betsy friends.

  3. Kathleen Waldron

    November 16, 2014 at 8:53 pm

    I know of several marriages that ended VERY positively for everyone. It CAN be done! Having one lawyer (not two) is one way. Hiring a (one) paralegal is another. Putting the kids first helps if the kids are still at home (though it won’t hurt with kids who are out of the house, either). Remembering that this is a person you once loved and probably still like (this applies more to other people, not you) also helps. Hurting others, seeking revenge, etc. are not the way to happiness for anyone. (That doesn’t apply to you either.) The point is that with some care and thought, this can be a positive process. You know I am rooting for you!

    • I just realized I made it sound like you and Bob don’t like each other! I meant that for other people, remembering that you did once love this person, and probably still like many things about them, is important to keep in mind. YOU are already doing that! (So in that sense it does apply to you — because you don’t have to remember those things.)

    • So good to hear! And yes, all that negative stuff wouldn’t lead to happiness, I can tell that. Even though there are urges sometime to act out– I know I have a choice to make in that moment and I know how I don’t want to be. Thanks for rooting for me!

  4. Oh, Theresa, keep your commitment to each other and to yourselves to do it the way you both need to do it. As long as in your heart of hearts you feel it is your (and yours collectively) path, that is the path you need to take. I know that I felt skeptical when I first read your announcement, but I divorced my 1st husband almost 24 years ago, and we continued to raise our 2 kids, and stay if not close friends, then civil and open with each other in ways that we needed to even as we both went on to new partnerships and lives of our own. I think that the hardest thing for me was figuring out how to be angry (and I needed to be angry, with him, with myself and with the situation) in a way that wasn’t destructive. But it can be done. Be your own best friend, but feel free to reach out as well. Take care!

  5. You know, I didn’t tell many people about my divorce until after it had happened. There was a part of me that felt like it was failure, so I didn’t like talking about it. After reading this, I’m glad I didn’t share much, because I AM still friends with my ex husband, and no one tried to talk me out of it. There will always be a part of me that loves him for what we went through together for a decade. I know I can talk to him, message him, or call him and he is open to chatting about life. We respectfully parted ways, and we can look back fondly at what we used to have together and know that it wasn’t wasted, that we grew a lot as humans during that time. I wouldn’t change being married, and I certainly wouldn’t change being his friend now. Don’t let others try to define you; you need to find your own path my dear, and it certainly sounds like that’s your intent! I’m proud of you, and if anything, I just wanted to share with you that IT CAN BE DONE. Keep trying to do what is best for you and your heart, and I am sure you will see tremendous growth. Much love.

    • Thank you, Molly– that is all so hopeful for me. I am so glad to hear about others for whom it worked. There are too many of the “other” stories. I’m happy you’re proud of me. Thanks for the encouragement.

  6. First off, good for you for doing it your way. I think in people’s efforts to empathize, they sometimes have expectations on how you should feel or what’s really feasible. I remember friends almost trying to make me more angry because, at the time I talked to them, they didn’t think I seemed angry enough, and a lawyer even trying to do the same. While everyone may mean well, they just don’t know what works for you, and good for you for realizing that.

    This reminded me of a book I read during my divorce. At that time, my daughter was about to turn 2, so it wasn’t just the two of us breaking up, it was figuring out how we were going to still be a family in a new way and support our daughter. The book I found was called Mom’s House, Dad’s House (http://www.amazon.com/Moms-House-Dads-Making-homes/dp/0684830787) and it helped a lot. One thing the book focused on was the language used to describe things. Rob is Wynn’s Dad, I’m Wynn’s Mom. There is no ex anyone. The marriage did not fail, it ended. Now, several years later, we just finished having Wynn’s 11th birthday party with Wynn’s mom, dad, step-mom and step-dad all in attendance and helping manage the children at a skating rink.

    Good luck in your continuing journey.

    • I’ve had some of that too– people not understand why I’m not just kicking hinm out. You and Rob are good examples, Brenda. That sounds like a neat book, and language is so important. Thanks for sharing!

  7. You must do what is right for you. It doesn’t matter what anyone says. Do what is right and true for you and the kids. Then you can’t go wrong. We are here for you. And send much love.

  8. I echo what everyone here has said: I really admire your determination to work through this awful experience on your own terms. You are stronger than you know — and I’m so happy that you are finally “seeing” all those wonderful parts of yourself that the rest of us have always seen. We arel holding you in a circle of love.

    But mostly I wanted to say a huge THANK YOU for the link to the old Burger King ad! You say horribleness, I say AWESOMESAUCE!!!!! What fun trippy trip down Memory Lane. My girlfriends and I used to sing all those old jingles, lustily, as we rode our bikes to school. Good times!

    xx

    • Thank you, Jen… it is always a treat to hear from you. Thanks for the kind words, and I’m glad you loved the BK commercial! It’s weird how those old jingles stick in your head! XX

  9. I remember that Burger King song and it is an excellent reminder that we can have it our own way. When it comes to divorce, there is no “one size fits all” solution. It has to be your way so it works for everyone involved, especially the kids.

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