The decision to divorce, especially when children are involved, is one of the most difficult choices a person can face. Having been divorced with children for more than eight years has given me the perspective that couples should not stay together for the sake of the children. Of course, I preface that with a strong belief that couples with children should try everything available to them to work out their differences for the sake of the children, but choosing to stay miserable “for the kids” doesn’t do anyone any favors.
Many people I have talked with regarding divorce, seem to believe that staying married for the sake of their children is the right thing to do. Some even believe that the best time to leave is when their youngest goes off to college. Interestingly, there is a term for this phenomena and it is called: Empty nest divorce.
But I have to wonder: Is this the right time to leave your marriage?
When I divorced my youngest was 12 and my next oldest was 20. The 12-year was in middle school and my 20-year old was in community college. My youngest, now a 20-year old young adult, has just completed her second year of college. She thankfully is past the fallout of divorce and instead is obsessed about her roommates; how to juggle her busy school workload with extracurricular activities; a part-time job; all while trying to sustain a social life. Other than the typical stress, she is quite adjusted to her life and has already undergone the pain that comes from divorce. Though I think that parents who decide to wait until their youngest ventures off to college are admirable in their thinking, I can’t help thinking they are just putting off the devastation their college students will feel at an extremely vulnerable point in their lives.
Let’s face it; there is no perfect time to divorce and there is no magic wand that the feelings of loss will be less felt because the children are living many miles from home. In fact, according to Dr. Conklin-Danao, a clinical psychologist, and divorce coach, “College-aged children often have a strong reaction to divorce that parents are unprepared to handle.”
We all want our children to be happy, and well-adjusted. In fact, a friend of mine a few years ago announced to her son that she and his father were divorcing when the young man was home for Christmas break. He had a difficult time adjusting. For him, it felt like a death and home was no longer home. He found out his father was having an affair, and he sided with his mother. After a lengthy legal battle, the father refused to pay for college. The young man ended up leaving his school and commuting to a college near his mother.
I think it would be wise for parents to remember that your college-aged child is adjusting to a lot at this stage of life, including living on their own for the first time, making new friends and living in a new community, which is a huge transition. Being thoughtful about when you make your announcement of the divorce will help them ease into the transition of their new life, allowing them to focus on themselves and not their parents.
Having read many books and articles on the subject, I would say there are as many variations of opinions of when to get divorced, or if you should get divorced as there are shades of colors. But one opinion shared by many that resonates with me is that it doesn’t make sense to stay together for the kids since no one benefits from living in an unhappy home. Over the course of day-in/day-out, year after year, the messages we send to our children accumulate; take root, increasing the likelihood that your kids will repeat the very same patterns they have seen in their home growing up.
One prevailing fear many parents have of divorce with children is that the act of divorce, in and of itself, will damage the children. Of course, any upheaval in our children's lives should not be taken lightly. Yet, very few people consider the consequences of children growing up in unhappy yet intact homes, as the children witness conflicted, unloving and uncooperative parental relations. Children tend to model what they see in their parents' relations. Certainly, as parents, we want better for our kids. Yet, the likelihood is that children will sway toward similar marriages.
Worse still, many parents claim their kids don’t know anything is wrong within their marriage, and that may or may not be true, but the irony with that is that they will, therefore, normalize what may be a mediocre, disappointing or conflicted marriage. I have always believed that to be the best we can be as parents; we need to model a level of authenticity in our lives. One in which we face our challenges and struggles and don't succumb to fear. Isn't that what we want for them? To stay true to themselves?
The good news is that although divorce is hard and often extremely painful for children, long-term harm is not inevitable. Most experts agree that although the breakup is usually painful, the majority adjust well over time. And, truthfully, unhappy parents do not tend to raise happy children, and unhealthy relationships that "stay together for the kids" when their marriage is destructive tend to produce children who have unhealthy relationships as adults.
The choice of staying for the children is naturally yours to make. Speaking for myself, I did not stay because staying was just too unbearable no matter how I tried to repair the relationship, and from my vantage point my children are happy and thriving after divorce. But, only you can answer that very personal, deeply troubling question as to should you stay or not?
This is a repost from Divorced Moms (Feb. 7,2017)
It had been many years coming, but it wasn’t until I actually took that first step to divorce my husband of 16 years, that I was hit with a paralyzing fear: everything I held dear and worked hard for could be taken away in a minute. Our children, home, retirement, and savings, at least what was left of it before he stole it, were all on the chopping block. Making the decision on whether to stay or not to stay in a marriage can be agonizing, even if you’re like me, and have been unhappy for more years than not.
Leaving is never easy, and giving up what we deem as stability, is even harder to let go of. But one of the things I have learned along the way is; security and certainty do not exist, except in our minds. Staying for security is staying for the known status quo, and that is being attached to the past. Divorcing is about moving forward with your life and only looking back to learn from your past.
The first year after divorce is definitely the hardest since you are re-analyzing your life and rediscovering yourself. Many, like me, have lost ourselves along the way in our marriages, and when freedom is finally granted, we may not know what to do with ourselves. Post-divorce is the perfect time to start learning new things you always wanted to do but didn’t have the time or the right partner to encourage you to do it. Learn a new language, take continuing education classes at your local community college on topics that interest you, start writing or painting again, learn meditation, do whatever you find interesting as you begin your journey of self-discovery.
After my divorce, I learned so much about myself and you will too.
1. I learned I am far more productive. Before my divorce, I wasted so much time and energy on trying to fix things in our broken marriage, that I had little energy for anything else. Afterward, I was renewed with a voracious desire to accomplish all the things I kept postponing for the right time. The right time was NOW!
2. I have learned that I can only control me. When you are part of a couple, even a dysfunctional couple, each party has some input as to how the household runs and the raising of the children. However after divorce, that all changes. You cannot control your ex’s house and rules. You can voice concerns, but that is all. Also, it’s important to learn how to safeguard your emotions from the ex who will push your buttons regularly, and realize that you are the boss of how you allow yourself to be treated and how you react.
3. I learned the true meaning of gratitude. The first day I awoke in my new place after the divorce, I cried. Not because I felt sad, but at that moment it felt like Christmas morning. I was so grateful that I was given my freedom from the nightmare of my marriage that I vowed I would show and acknowledge my gratitude every day.
4. The bond with my children became deeper and more meaningful. My children were always my priority, but after the divorce, I had more time to focus on them and our relationship instead of always having to fend off toxicity in the home from my ex. The existing bond became stronger and we were spending more time and quality time together than before.
5. I learned strength is defined in many ways. Strength is in all the little things we do day in and day out. It’s an amalgamation of all the sacrifices we make as parents and as humans. It’s about challenging old beliefs we hold dear, it’s about letting go of the anger that keeps us stuck in the past, and most of all it is about trusting yourself enough to explore the depths of love again.
6. I have less fear and know that I am truly a warrior. Before divorce I was so fearful of the unknown, it is one of the things that kept me in an emotionally abusive marriage. But taking that leap of faith has shown me that I am not only a survivor but a warrior. I tackle everything that comes my way with determination, and I realize my own self-worth. I’m happy to say that fear no longer resides here.
This article was previously published on divorcedmoms.com on January 26, 2016.
Dating, Sex & Relationships5 Telltale Signs You’ve Found Your Soulmate
by Christine Nanfra
Some of us have to kiss a lot of frogs until we find our prince. In my case, I had to wait to find the man of my dreams after having two failed marriages.
I remember sobbing nearly 20 years ago while watching Jerry McGuire when Tom Cruise’s character said, “You complete me.” I mean seriously, don’t we all want to hear that from the person we love? Don’t we all crave to feel that connection deep down in our soul? I recall feeling a sense of emptiness at the time since I didn’t feel it with my then husband. I had always believed it was possible to have that kind of love, but perhaps, I reasoned, it was not in the stars for me.
After my divorce, I was in my late forties and just figured perhaps I am not good at this relationship thing. I mean being divorced twice is a wake-up call to look long and hard at oneself and I did do that. I worked on me, since loving oneself is needed to truly open up to loving another intimately.
I am not sure how I was so fortunate, but on Facebook several years ago I became friends with a man I knew from my neighborhood growing up. We had been acquaintances, had some friends in common over the years, but had never been involved more than that. After several months of writing, talking, and just getting to know one another we went on a date. It was, without a doubt, the best date I had ever been on. We were in sync with one another, there was an unbelievably strong chemistry and I felt like I knew him in ways I couldn’t describe. I now realize that it was because we are soulmates. We traversed along for many years without each other only to finally come home.
Whether you believe in the kind of a soul mate born from fiction and fairy tales, or simply hope that there is someone out there who is meant just for you, there are some sure signs to tell if you’re on the right track to finding them. And if you’ve found the one who truly understands and loves you, don’t let them go — they only come around once in a lifetime!
Here are 5 signs that you are on the right track to finding your soulmate!
1. There’s a deep connection.
Soulmates are people you meet who for no explainable reason you share a connection with on a deeper level, much more than anyone else you’ve ever known. You can convey what you’re thinking by just looking at each other. It feels like you have known them forever and you are completely comfortable in their presence.
2. You can’t imagine your life without them.
It is kind of strange, but once you meet your soulmate all others before that person become background noise. You can’t even remember what is was like to be without them, and you don’t want to! It feels like they have always been there and that you have known them forever.
3. You will bond instantly.
When you meet your soulmate it’s a feeling in your gut that pulls you toward each other like magnets. You just know they are the one and there is a unique chemistry you can feel. You are mentally inseparable, often calling or texting each other at the same time and often finishing each other’s sentences. You hurt when they hurt, you smile when they smile, and you will both disagree about things of course, but are always on the same page when it really matters.
4. You stand eye to eye and toe to toe.
Soulmates often look into each others eyes when speaking, more so than ordinary couples. They also tend to stand squarely in front of each other. It is a part of the intensity of their bond. Their unbreakable bond makes them each feel secure and protected, and know that their partner always has their back.
5. The yin to your yang.
You are a dynamic duo; a perfect pair, a true team. You are better people together than apart and you are interconnected. Most importantly, you don’t feel the need to keep searching for more because you are so at peace with what you have. You know that together you are an invincible force. You know that home is in each others arms where you are one.
Finding your soulmate may not be easy, but once you do it will be worth it. You will move mountains to be with that person, that one person who will hold the other half of your heart forever.
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Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…Corinthians 13:4-8
I am sure most of you have heard this Bible verse, in fact, you probably had it read at your own wedding. While listening to these words recently, I thought that perhaps this is why so many of us are divorced--we heard the words but didn’t listen. We smiled, shed a tear, nodded in agreement, but we didn’t live by them. Even if you aren’t religious, the words themselves make sense. It’s about putting someone else before you. It’s about sacrifice. I know this is a foreign concept to many of us, especially today, but I think it’s worth taking a closer look. Because, if we are being honest, much of what this passage says, often stopped either just before or right after the wedding.
1. Love is patient. Sure, love is patient while we “are in love”. When we are in pleasing mode and when we think and believe that the person we love is just right for us. We can be patient when watching our guy play four hours of videos without a word to us, even if we don’t get it and think it’s a waste of time. Or when your lady love can shop for six straight hours without taking a break. If we can be patient with this behavior before marriage, then why does it become a problem after marriage? Because we never really accepted it, we only pretended to.
2. Love is kind. It’s odd, but it seems as though something happens to many of us after marriage: we forget how to be kind. According to the husband and wife team of John and Julie Gottman, psychologists of The Gottman Institute: Kindness is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in marriage. It makes each spouse feel loved, validated, understood and important. Were you kind in your marriage? Did you give your spouse the attention they deserved?
3. It does not envy. A good, solid marriage is based on “one for all and all for one”, meaning we always each have each other’s backs. When envy of any kind is in the picture, instead of being there for your spouse, you are against them. If you envy they’re more successful than you, your friends like him or her more, your children go to them first, and so on, than instead of rooting for them, you’re holding them back.
4. It does not boast, Of course we all toot our own horn on occasion, this is to be expected as we move up the ladder or had something wonderful happen. The boasting being referred to here, is when one of the spouses is more concerned with themselves and too occupied with their own accomplishments, that they do not notice their spouse’s successes and prefer to participate in one-upping. If you are married to a narcissist, this would be one of many, of your issues. True love is when love turns the perspective outward.
5. Love is not proud. I would think this has many meanings, one of which is similar to boasting. However, I believe that it has more to do with being humble. When we are in a marriage, or any relationship, we have to be open to forgiveness and able to admit when we are wrong. Many marriages fail because one or both are too proud to admit they have faults. There is nothing more frustrating than being the spouse who is “always at fault”. We all know, no one is always at fault.
6. Love does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking. Put simply—rude and self-seeking attitudes and behaviors have nothing to do with love! With a tone, nasty comment, or shaming our spouse, we dishonor them. When we only care about “What have you done for me lately?” we are stuck in self-seeking attitudes, which does not mesh with longevity of a marriage.
7. Love is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Wow! How many of us have lived this? Naturally, everyone gets angry, but in past marriage, anger was a constant presence. It should not be that way! In most dissolved marriages, anger was front and center. And, the participants were gatekeepers, tallying their spouses’ wrongs, while justifying their own wrongs.
8. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. I suppose evil can be many things and it means different things to each of us. Evil can simply be the absence of truth, or manipulation, infidelity, or a whole host of wrongdoings, But I think the focus here is about truth. Truth enables us to be truly known and when we are truly known, we feel loved and accepted for who we are.
9. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. This brings to mind when women are out with their friends and they partake in trashing their husbands. How does this protect them, build trust or hope? Or, when men are out with their buddies and they flirt with other women. How does this ensure the marriage will persevere? It doesn’t! If the marriage loses trust and hope for the future, it will surely end.
10. Love never fails. If love never fails, why is the divorce rate so high? After divorce, most divorced people feel as though their spouse failed them, or they failed each other. The truth is, none of us is perfect. Which means we can and do fail each other at times. And, failing each other at times can be okay and not be the end of a marriage, unless of course we are not adhering to the other qualities that show and honor our love. If we are not, then how can we expect love to last?
Has been writing most of her adult life on various topics important to women and children. If you are contemplating divorce, then you should check out her e-book.
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