30 Things I Could Have Only Achieved After My Divorce
There's no way I would have accomplished as much as I have if I'd stayed married.
Having my marriage end after 16 years was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. My husband and I had grown up together, but had grown apart after nearly two decades. We tried to find our way back to each other over and over again, but it wasn't working. Instead, the trying created even more distance between us.
Eventually, we both realized we'd fallen out of love and would be better going our separate ways. We also realized we deserved more than what we were bringing to each other. But ultimately, our split has pushed me to become a better version of myself. If I didn't go through it and didn't have to find out who I was without my ex-husband, there's no way I would have accomplished as much as I have. Here are the 30 things I've achieved as a result.
Learning how to be alone
When I was married, there were always four other people around. Now, with my ex out of the house and my kids only with me about 60 percent of the time, I'm alone more than ever. At first, the weekends without my kids were truly painful, but now I've learned to enjoy being alone. I've found having control of the remote, eating junk food without having to share, and walking around in my underwear to be truly blissful.
Relishing in the quiet time
Sure, I've had nights where the silence hurt my ears and I've sobbed about it. But I've made peace with my new life. I use my downtime to devour books, meditate, and I've even started writing the book I've been dreaming about my whole life.
Investing in my career
After my divorce, I wanted to stay in our family home, I wanted to have a successful career, and I wanted to show my children you can support a family on your own. So, I got organized, applied for tons of writing jobs, hustled like I never had before, and I wasn't afraid of rejection or of putting myself out there. I would have never pushed myself like that if I still had the luxury of sharing expenses with someone.
Being a better mom to my teenagers
My time with my kids is limited now. When I'm with them, I put everything I have into being a parent and it's deepened our relationships as a result. I ask more questions, I let them lead the way when it comes to outings and trips, and I make more of an effort to have special dates with each one of them.
Asking for help when I need it
When my kids need to be in three places at once or my faucet is leaking, I used to be able to depend on my ex-husband to help out. But parenting and home-owning by myself have taught me that I can either white-knuckle it and try doing everything myself, or I can ask for help in ways I've never had to before. And I've learned to go with the latter.
Turning off a water line myself
Two weeks after my ex moved out, the water line to my refrigerator was leaking and it flooded the basement. I panicked at first and thought I was going to have to move, but after I calmed down and researched how to do it, I felt empowered and capable to turn off the water line myself—and success! It's one of the many skills I've added to my arsenal post-divorce.
Changing a light fixture myself
My home is my hobby and I love making little changes like painting, adding in new throw pillows, and putting up a fresh light fixture. I used to leave the electrical up to my ex, but I realized I could either give up my love for a new light fixture or learn how to do it myself by asking the nice guy at the home improvement store. Again, I went with option two.
And snaking a drain
Gross, yes, but I can't describe how accomplished I felt the first time I fixed a clogged drain on my own. After Drano failed me, I bought one of those instant power drain snakes and pulled about five pounds of hair and grime from the drain. I felt unstoppable and went on to snake every drain in the house just because I could!
Learning how to save money like a pro
My future, my retirement, and everything I do in life is up to me now—and most of what I want to accomplish takes money. After my divorce, I realized that I was hardly willing to give up on my dreams because I thought I couldn't afford them. Ever since, saving money has become somewhat of an addiction and I've been putting away 30 percent of my earnings. I also refinanced my house and am aiming to pay it off in 10 years so I can be mortgage-free by the time I am in my mid-50s.
Putting myself first
I am on all the time when my kids are with me. If there is a problem with the house, it's up to me to figure how to fix it. There is no one to lean on. But I can't be my best if I keep putting myself at the bottom of the list. So I schedule massages regularly, go to bed when I'm tired instead of pushing it, and I have let go of toxic friendships bringing me down. I've learned that if I don't make myself No. 1, no one will.
Being comfortable with being uncomfortable
Not being married is uncomfortable. Online dating is uncomfortable. Hearing something outside late at night is uncomfortable. Seeing a family walking across the street on a holiday when I'm not with my kids is uncomfortable.
But I've had to deal with these things over and over and over again as I've settled into my new reality. I started telling myself it was okay to feel this way—and over time, I've gotten used to the discomfort. The truth is, I want to fall in love and find a life partner, and I am going to be seeing families crossing the road for the rest of my life. I can either learn to deal with feeling uncomfortable or let it keep me from moving forward. And in this case, option one is definitely best.
And being comfortable with failure
I've had a break up that really hurt. I've forgotten to pick my child up at an event. I've had jobs that didn't pan out in the end. These experiences are hard to deal with, of course, but they've made me resilient and have taught me that failing is a good thing because it means I'm trying something new. The fact they didn't work out the way I'd planned means I've had opportunities to learn and grow.
Learning to admit I don't have all the answers
I thought my marriage would last forever, but I was wrong. I thought I could fix it when it was broken, but I was wrong. And I thought I could always put on a happy face for my kids throughout my divorce, but I was wrong.
Through this journey, I've learned that I don't always know how to figure something out, and it's actually been freeing. I've realized it's best for me to just be human and figure it out as I go, instead of trying to fix everything for my family's sake.
Calming my own fears
Starting a new, uncertain chapter is scary. I knew I was afraid of the unknown, yet as soon as I realized the unknown was out of my control, I was able to let go of the fear about my future and let it unfold as it would.
Deepening existing friendships
After my divorce, I have more time, and bandwidth, to invest in friends. Turns out, they are some of the greatest loves of my life. I've reconnected with a high school friend who went through a divorce too and we get together often when we aren't with our kids. And now, I have more time to take weekends away with my best friend who lives a few states away.
And being brave enough to make new ones
Divorce means you will lose friends; it's inevitable. I let those friendships that didn't feel right any longer go—and it made a lot of room for some incredible women to come into my life. If I knew someone near me went through a divorce, I'd reach out to her. I spoke about my situation openly through my writing and on Instagram and made multiple new divorced friends this way. That wouldn't have happened if I was still married.
Supporting friends in ways I never would have before
I now have more time to invest in friendships and understand what others are going through because I have been through something really hard. And lending an ear and supporting my friends has also been a gift to me as it's helped me get my head out of my own problems. After all, there are people who have been through much worse things than a divorce.
Knowing when to say no
I don't have a partner to pick up any slack, so I can't sign up for everything at my kids' school—and that's okay! I also know I don't have to go out with family or friends just because I have a kid-free night. I can do what's best for me when I'm on my own time.
And when to say yes
Divorce is a fantastic time to say "yes" and try things you never thought you would. I've become addicted to spin class and realized how much I love listening to self-help podcasts, things that I never would've found if I'd stayed married.
Investing in my physical fitness
I'd be lost without running and spin class. When I'm doing something really good for my body and mind, it alleviates my distress so I keep doing it, even if I'd rather be in bed.
Being able to sit with the pain
During the grieving period when I missed our old family dynamic so much, it was tempting to try to buffer my pain. I sat with it though, and little by little, I evolved past it. Of course, it still hurts, just in a more manageable way.
And taking bigger risks
Taking risks—whether it's getting my book I've wanted to write done and out to publishers, or putting up a dating profile online—doesn't feel so scary in comparison to what I've been through.
Finding out how tough I am
A divorce can leave you paralyzed with fear. After taking it in small bits at a time, I now know I can get through anything life throws at me, so long as I don't try and do it in one fell swoop.
Realizing I am not what has happened to me
I refuse to sit and wallow in self-pity. The time is going to pass whether I embrace my future or stay stuck in the past. When I feel down, I remind myself how thankful I am my kids are healthy and well-adjusted, and I have many years ahead of me to create the life I want.
Believing in love again
When your marriage ends, it's easy to look at that as a failure and think you can't have a loving relationship with anyone, as if love is a one-shot deal. But I refuse to believe I can't find my person. He's out there and I can't wait to meet him.
Opening myself up to people
Talking with people who have been through the same experience has been a lifesaver, whether it's been on a date, or a chat with another divorced mom. When you are sitting across from someone who's reminding you that you aren't alone, the connection you create is deep.
And empathizing with everyone
By connecting with more people and working on my friendships in a way I wouldn't have if I were still married, I've realized everyone is struggling with something—and showing compassion goes a long way.
Living with intent
These days, I take nothing for granted. Every morning I run because I can. I work on myself so I can be a better person for my own good and for the good of my children. I refuse to go through the motions. My divorce was a wakeup call, reminding me how fast something can be taken away.
Understanding that being vulnerable isn't a weakness
I'm not afraid to be the first to say, "I'm sorry" or "I love you." The worst that can happen is it won't work out. And I'm no longer afraid of that.
And realizing I am the key to my own happiness
When I met my husband, I looked to him to make me happy. Then, we wanted a family and I thought that would make me happy. While my family, of course, added to my happiness, I've learned I am the only one responsible for making me happy. I will never depend on another to fill that job description because I know I am capable, and really, I'd never want anyone's happiness to depend on me, either.
Katie Bingham-Smith is a freelance writer living in Maine with her three kids. Her work has been published on Family Circle, Scary Mommy, The Girlfriend, Grown and Flown, Mom.me, and is currently working on her first novel.
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