I’ve been divorced for almost four years now. In that time I’ve done a lot of soul-searching, reviewing my choices, and thinking about my life then and now. Every story has a few authors. My failed marriage will be authored by him, the kids and me. Since this is my blog and I hold the pen, you will receive my version. Now, this post is not about my marriage per se but more about the lessons I’ve learned. I’m a contemplator so I’ve thought about this, I’m a woman so I’ve discussed this, I’m a believer so I’ve prayed about this and I’m a student so I’ve studied this.
I try my best to speak well of my ex in front of our children. He is the father of our four beautiful children. If I can’t think of anything positive to say, I revert back to the old teaching and say nothing at all. If out of anger or frustration I say something and the kids are around, I apologize to them. They love their dad and I want to provide an environment where respect, love and honor are encouraged (insert required). Vent to your journal, counselor, friends, coworkers, bartenders, clergy or even the person sitting next to you on your commute but not your children. Besides, the more time you spend talking about people you are mad at, the less time you have to do something positive. There are only 24 hours in a day. How many will you spend on negativity? That was my first lesson.
Respect is not earned it’s given. I’m reading a book titled, Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. A couple of months after my divorce was final I attended a marriage conference at my church. I truly believe that if we had attended this conference or read this book before we got married or early on then a lot of the decisions, thoughts and actions would have been different. When you know better you do better, right? Society has taught us that love is the key to relationships. We freely provide all the love one needs. However, we are also taught that respect is earned. That is simply not true. Respect should be given as freely as love. Men want and need to be respected. I know some of the women reading this are about to tune me out. Keep reading! Don’t start listing all the reasons he doesn’t deserve your respect. Think about this, what if in the heat of a discussion with your man he turns to you and says, I respect you but you will have to earn my love. Pump the breaks! What? Think about the number of times you’ve used the opposite phrase, I love you but you will have to earn my respect. It has the same devastating affect on them. Respect is not earned just like love is not earned. I didn’t know. I was having a discussion (argument) with the ex one day and he said the first time he called me a horrible name was right after I told him he was not a good provider. When he called me that name that was the ultimate in disrespect and zero love in my mind. It was the same for him only I couldn’t see that. He worked long hours so I could stay home with the kids. We struggled financially at times but he was trying. When I told him he was a terrible provider I’m sure he saw me as ungrateful and disrespecting. I didn’t know better at the time but now I do. I’m very conscientious to acknowledge anything anybody does for me. I’ve shared these principles with women who have come my way wanting to discuss divorce. I always ask, are you showing him respect? If not, try this…and I provide examples of what respect looks like, according to the book, to a man. That was lesson two.
I am not superwoman or every woman. I love the songs but in real life, I need help. I don’t allow my pride or ego to keep me from receiving or asking for help. A few months ago I was taking the Stud Muffin and Little Dude to their athletic games. I drove two blocks and realized I had a flat tire. I turned around and went back home. Apparently a neighbor saw the flat and pointed it out to her husband. He jumped in his truck came to my house and filled my tire with enough air so I could get the tire repaired. In the mean time I called their dad who met me at the tire repair shop so he could take the boys to their games. I have roadside assistance because I, quite frankly, don’t know how to change a tire. I could have told the neighbor I didn’t need his assistance and the boys could have missed their games so I could keep my independence or pride. Whatever! Those action do not bear good fruit. Asking for and accepting help takes more inner strength than not. The boys saw this neighbor helping their mother, they saw their mother receiving assistance and they saw their dad and mom working together for their benefit. That’s good fruit and lesson three.
Dating post divorce with young kids is doable but should be done with caution and wisdom. I’ve mentioned online dating in some previous posts. I met and dated another guy but that didn’t work out either. I realize that I want a relationship. After all, we were created for relationship. But I don’t want to date a lot of men. When I say date I really mean date as in go to a location such as movie, restaurant or hear a band play. I don’t bring strangers to my house and they don’t get to meet my children. I am a mother bear when it comes to my children and our home. When I created a profile for the online dating site, I used a completely different city in a different county. I also always meet at a crowded place and made sure to never drive straight home. I would stop and park at several places and take a back road home to ensure I was not being followed. A healthy amount of paranoia is okay. I have a friend that would only date her now husband if they had a chaperone. They were both divorced and had children but they were determined to have a courtship and keep to themselves until they were married. Determine your dating requirements and stick to them. That concludes lesson four.
I have also come to realize I have the capacity to trust again. Do not take that lightly. Trust is difficult when you have experienced heartbreak and when people have disappointed you. I have a cousin who taught me a valuable lesson years ago about trust. It was Mother’s Day and right after church service the family members were all discussing where they wanted to eat. I looked over and this cousin was standing to the side not voicing her opinion. Her husband was a part of the discussion. I walked over and asked her why she wasn’t giving her input. She said, “I trust my husband. He’s not going to take me anywhere I don’t want to go.” Whoa… what?!? I was reminding her of that conversation yesterday and she said, “where ever he goes is where I want to be.” Hhhhmmm. I like it! There is nothing wrong with having an opinion and there is nothing wrong with expressing your preference. The topic here is about trust. Focus on the trust she was exhibiting in him. One couple I know, when they first started dating, would order dinner for each other. This was their way of getting to know each other and building a foundation of trust. Trust is a small word but has a huge impact. Lesson five.
I have lots of other lessons that I’ve learned along this journey to healing but I will save those for another day. Spend some time contemplating these five.
Be well, healthy and whole.