As a married woman, I lived a comfortable middle-class wife type of life. Life, if not always great, was easy. I took comfort and some pride in the fact that I had a husband by my side. Awful as it is to admit now – I was a ‘smug married’. Being a wife was a balm to my somewhat fragile ego.
I assumed I’d be married forever. I had no reason to think otherwise. Suffice to say then I was completely blindsided when, during our seventeenth year of marriage, my husband announced that he wanted a divorce. I was paralysed with grief – grief not just for the loss of him, but for the life I’d so carefully and neatly constructed.
And the funny thing about grief? It has a way of clouding judgement – of telling us things that simply aren’t accurate. In my pain, I somehow convinced myself that every successful woman who had ever lived had been married, and remained married, for the course of their entire lives.
Truth is, being ‘abandoned’ was a massive blow to my ego. And, I eventually realised, taming said ego was key to my healing and moving on from divorce.
Here are three things I did to tame my ego and move on after my divorce:
1. I removed my wedding and engagement rings
This was a BIG deal for me.
I used to take comfort in the fact that I had two rings on my ring finger, and would often find myself gazing appreciatively at them. To me, they were badges of honour. They were a symbol, to all who cared to notice, that I had made it in the world. That I hadn’t been left on the shelf. That somebody had clearly thought that I was good enough to marry.
And when that somebody suddenly decided that he in fact didn’t want to be married to me anymore, the idea of losing those badges of honour damn near killed me. I didn’t want to take them off. Yet in my pain and heartache and grief I still somehow instinctively knew that I had to let go. That there was no chance of reconciliation, and therefore no need to keep those rings on.
So reluctantly, I removed them. And for a time I acted a little crazy because of it. On very bad days I would scan the ring fingers of everyone in my immediate vicinity (usually the local shops) to see if, like me, they were social rejects, or if they were lucky and whole and perfect enough to be married.
I would then construct ridiculous stories in my head about how happy and normal the marrieds must be, and how desperate and lonely the unmarrieds surely were. If a professional could have seen inside of my head during those moments, I am quite certain I would have been diagnosed with a disorder of some sort.
Eventually, I’m happy to report, I came to my senses and realised that I could not – and would not – be defined by a couple of pieces of jewellery. I accepted it was my EGO that had been telling me otherwise for years.
I eventually came to love the freedom of a bare ring finger. And I eventually moved on.
2. I reconnected with single friends
Let me be clear here – I never actually stopped being friends with my single counterparts. Over the years I guess I just fell into the routine or habit of hanging out more with other married people. It seemed that I had more in common with the marrieds – married since twenty-two, I actually had very little memory of what it was like to being single. And my ego liked it this way.
Suddenly single, I had no idea what to do with myself. I assumed that I probably just wouldn’t leave the house much. Then a single friend (actually my best friend since high school) suggested a night out with her. During the early part of the night, I was nervous. I just couldn’t shake the loneliness that came with the realisation there would be nobody waiting for me at home.
Yet as the night wore on, I could feel myself loosening up. I ordered drinks on my own, I talked, I laughed. I saw couples being cosy with each other – this didn’t kill me. I saw singles mingling – this gave me hope.
Over time, hanging out with a variety of people – single, married, divorced, widowed, whatever – helped me realised that essentially we are ALL single. We are all single souls just doing the best we can with the life that we have been given. I realised that there are plenty (plenty) of unhappy married people on the planet – and PLENTY of insanely happy single people.
I realised that happiness does not come as a result of our marital status – it truly comes from within.
3. I practiced calling myself a single mother
In my previous life, I very much felt sorry for single mothers. I guess I unknowingly bought into the stigma and assumed that these poor women were more often than not sad, down on their luck, low on money and lonely. The thought that I may one day join their camp seemed incomprehensible to me, a married mother.
Then, just like that, I did join. With the breakdown of my marriage, I was a single mother. Needless to say, I had to work pretty quickly at letting go of my (completely inaccurate) notions about single mums.
As with most mothers, I love my children more than anything – being single changed nothing in this respect. This realisation alone helped quell my fears and worries about single parenting. Yes, things got a little harder at home. Some days were a complete struggle – physically, mentally and emotionally. Some nights the loneliness was near debilitating.
But, it is in our struggles that we find our strengths and those early days of being a single mother taught me that I was a LOT stronger than I’d previously given myself credit for. In time, I came to relish my new status as ‘single mother’. Once I let go of both my ego and the stigma, I truly thrived. And now, I can’t imagine life any other way.
Have you struggled with your ego and moving on after divorce? Please, share your story in the comments.
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