I had the pleasure of speaking to women contemplating or going through divorce this morning. Second Saturday is a workshop that provides financial, legal and emotional resources for women. The local Austin, Texas chapter was founded in 2006 by Melanie Johnson, one of the few certified divorce financial analysts in this area.
As I sat through the legal information that was presented before my talk, I felt my body tensing and my shoulders tighten. I remembered my own experience of divorce. Even though my divorce was relatively amicable, it was an emotionally disturbing time. It took me a good two years to find myself again and feel emotionally secure. I experienced a lot of emotional ups and down.
As I looked at the 7 or 8 women in the small room, I wondered what they were experiencing. A few took notes. A few looked worried. A couple dabbed their eyes with kleenex. I felt a great sense of compassion and companionship with these women, most of whom were just beginning the journey I feel has finally ended for me.
As we began to talk, I recognized their worry over the future; the thoughts like “I am not good enough,” “what should/could I have done differently?” During divorce there can seem to be endless questions over the unknown. And many women struggle with the desire to know the unknowable.
When it was my turn to talk, I encouraged the group to take care of themselves emotionally and physically, to surround themselves with positive and uplifting people, and to make friends with the concept of “not knowing.” I asked them to remember that hindsight is 20/20 and that we can’t know how some decisions will impact us in the future. I also told them that most folks who divorce eventually return to their previous levels of happiness, if not become happier than before.
I said that their children, whatever their ages, would be impacted by divorce, no question. Children may have a hard time accepting divorce, or they may wonder what took their fighting parents so long to finally split. Here is the advice I gave: Keeping an open channel of communication is important. Let them know you will always love them and always be their parent. Reinforce to them that the decision to divorce is about Mom and Dad, not about anything a child has or hasn’t done, said, or been. They may not understand, but they will be watching how their parents interact with each other; you, the divorcing parent, are modeling behvavior that they may unconsiously adopt themselves. For example, use of neutral or ugly words, consistency, moral high ground, and other behaviors you may or may not want your child to see or adopt.
Most importantly, I reminded them that they are responsible only for their own actions and words. (See my earlier post on this topic). No one elses. Not their ex-spouse, former in-laws, adult children, longtime friends who abandon the friendship. When I was divorcing, letting go of the need to control others’ behaviors kept me sane when they didn’t behave how I wanted them to.
Divorce is never easy, whether you have been married two years or 20. But divorce does not have to be devastating. As one woman in the workshop stated, it’s about the legacy you want to leave your children. What will yours be?
If you would like a compassionate and knowledgeable professional to walk with you through your divorce journey, write me an email or give me a call at 512-593-0583.