LIFE AFTER DIVORCE
I won’t lie to you, divorce is hard as hell! However, the good news is, it is not the end of the world. It can be if you let it, let’s be real here. You are in control of how you allow it to affect you. You can move on with your life as if it was all just a god awful nightmare. It takes strength, determination, tons of love and support from your people and a serious amount of mental determination to get through it! You have to be prepared for the worst and be able to deal with the worst. You don’t have to do it alone, and I won’t suggest you try either. Cling to people who love and support you and also get yourself some professional counselling.
So legally, this is how divorce works (of course this is my experience with the legal system in Trinidad but I’m pretty sure the general jist is the same in most countries). You want out of the marriage (try to have a good reason please. Gosh! People are just getting divorced for no good reason these days!). So first you get separated. Usually if there are children involved the mother takes her babies and leaves. I would strongly suggest you calm down down before you make irrational decisions. Give yourself a grace period to reflect, think, and consider what you really want and what you seriously prepared to do and deal with. I gave myself one year and the amount of times I changed my mind in that one year shows that it was a good idea to take my time. By the time I made my decision I was never more sure about what I wanted. That gives you a significant amount of strength and confidence to start a really painful, emotionally damaging and draining process. It could break you if you not prepared, so take your time.
You go to a lawyer and explain why you want a divorce. The lawyer will write down everything you say so try to be as detailed and accurate as you can. With this information the lawyer writes up the “papers” saying why you want a divorce and that she supports your reasons. She would use lots lawyer words but generally that’s what that paper says. Your spouse gets filed with this document, it would inform him/her that you want a divorce and advises that he/she should get a lawyer.
Your spouse, in collaboration with his lawyer then drafts a response to your letter. Listen, you are in for the shock of your life when this paper gets served to you! But darling, don’t let it break you, it’s only just begun! Don’t call your spouse threatening to kill them, telling them they will go to hell for being such a nasty, disgusting liar! In other words don’t do what I did. It’s not worth it! You’re getting divorced because you probably think your spouse is an asshole anyway so this should not really surprise you. Save your energy, you will need it and really your spouse WANTS you to react badly. Some people read that and crack so bad they decide they don’t want to go any further and they try to reconcile. I even had a moment of stupidity when I thought the same but I’m glad I had my mother’s voice in my head telling me to not be so bloody insane.
After all the bullshit your spouse says in the response, you get a court date. You go to court (family court) which is just a little room where you, your lawyer, your spouse, their lawyer and the judge sit around a table. Not a big court room with judge and jury and an audience like on tv, nope, really private. Your lawyer does the talking, only if the judge asks you something you say yes SIR or no SIR. Remember the sir or madam as the case might be. The judge will ask if what you wrote is true and you say yes, of course. He will ask if what your spouse wrote is true and you say what you think (probably no!). If you say no the judge will ask if you want to reserve the right to defend yourself against what was said about you and you say – yes, Sir. The judge then asks your spouse the same and they respond.
Then he asks if you want to get divorced and you say yes. He signs some paper, keeps your marriage certificate (good riddance) and that’s it!! 15 mins and done!
It’s after this process when the drama starts. If you don’t have children or property (or any other assets to split) then I think that’s the end, but if you do then it’s a next process which takes a hell of a long time. Basically until maintenance, custody, selling the house etc is final – you don’t get your final divorce certificate. You are divorced but for some legal purposes (like if your ex spouse dies and has something to leave) you are still considered married. So if you are lucky enough for your spouse to drop dead at this point then you might inherit some money or simply just get back your sanity which they owed you. Apart from that you are divorced (but don’t quote me though, I am not a lawyer, I’m just stating what is my understanding).
If you have children, and your spouse contests custody then you have to write an affidavit stating why you should have custody and why your ex spouse should not. This is where it gets nasty because basically you have to explain why this person isn’t a fit parent. It’s hurtful and once again shocking but we are still fighting to keep strong, right? Either party can file the first affidavit but I suggest you file first. You file your affidavit, it gets served to your ex spouse and then they reply. The good part about filing first is you get to reply to their reply so you get to write two affidavits and they only get to write one. Let me give you some advice, get a damn good lawyer if it’s your babies you are fighting for! You are going to need the best in your side.
You then get a preliminary hearing where the judge basically encourages you to settle out of court. If your ex is stubborn, this won’t happen so the judge sends you on your way to try again. This could go on for some time until the judge finally decides that it needs to go to trial.
In the meantime, while all the back and forth is happening this is what you should do:
- Tell your lawyer every piece of shit the ex does in relation to the children. EVERYTHING!!! Don’t feel ashamed and think you are sounding petty. This is your baby(ies) we are talking about here.
- Record everything you weren’t pleased with, dates times and all that.
- Try to be as civil as you can with the ex for the sake of the kids. It’s tough, especially after you have read all the hurtful things they had to say but this time it’s not about you.
- Maintain your dignity; don’t engage in pettiness, especially if it’s in writing. You want to sound sane and rational and level headed (took me years to take my own advice!). It isn’t easy, I really struggled to do that because when someone upsets your babies you could rip their heads off without caring about the consequences. But do try, or if you really need to vent, call and cuss their bitch ass, don’t write it!
- Ignore, ignore, ignore!!!!! They will try all sorts to upset you, get to you, make you go crazy and make sure your life is difficult and unhappy. Don’t fall for it. Only contact them if really necessary and keep it short and sweet. If you are lucky enough to have a good relationship then obviously this does not apply. There are some men or women out there who can work through this in a manner which is commendable but this isn’t common.
So after about 2 years of your life in and out of court the judge makes a ruling. The options (as far as I know) are sole custody or joint (shared) custody.
Sole custody, in most cases, means the parent with sole custody makes decisions about the child without having to involve the other party. It does NOT mean the other party has no relationship with the child, unless of course the court thinks that is best, for whatever reason. But unless the other parent is a crack head or a paedophile or a child abuser then some sort of visitation arrangement is made and the parent with sole custody has to obey this order. This arrangement makes perfect sense if the parties simply have no relationship and therefore cannot communicate efficiently in order to make joint decisions.
Joint custody means you make joint decisions. As far as I know that’s the only difference. People who watch too much tv think you only get visitation under joint or if you have sole you have the power to stop your ex from seeing the child – false!
Well I was really going to talk about life AFTER divorce, I haven’t forgotten!
I like to look at this in stages, because it’s really stages or phases you will go through before you are back to normal again.
Initial reaction? FREEDOM!!!!!! Yes, celebrate!
I am going to assume you have gotten divorced for a damn good reason, I’m not promoting this modern day shit where people feel marriage is fun and flippin games and just as fast and easy and stupid as you walk in, the same way you walk out without respecting the sacredness and sanctity of marriage. No, I am not of that! I am talking to people who leave for good reasons –
Abuse of any kind; physical, emotional, verbal, mental, economical (yes, that is a thing!).
Infidelity; I don’t mean YOU leave for another next person, OK!
You get my drift. You’ve taken a hell of a lot of shit and you just rightfully had enough.
So you have a right to celebrate! You know how many people live their whole lives ruining their own and their children’s just because they are scared to do the big D? Many times people go a little bit crazy on the celebrating, more power to you. Spend about a month (at least) getting it all out of your system. Your friends and family are going to worry about you and harass you all the damn time but don’t worry about that, give yourself however long you need. Remember this is YOUR life.
Travel, meet people, party, go to the spa once a week, buy shoes. Whatever tickles your fancy. What I’m trying to say is do what you feel will make you feel better, even for a day. Do what you always wanted to do but just didn’t because you threw yourself into your ungrateful spouse and forgot yourself. Do YOU!
The classic thing to do is go and start having casual, random sex! Sex is always a great distraction so go ahead but please protect yourself. Keep it safe and on the low, remember you may be in a custody battle for your child so you don’t want to give the ex any files that may screw your case.
I didn’t do this one, much to alot of people’s shock; although some people seemed to be so shocked they thought I was probably just so good at hiding it that they told lots of people I was bonking every man! I could live with that because really do those people matter? Nope, I didn’t think so!
I got a tattoo, yeah because I am a real goody two shoes and that’s my version of WILD! Don’t laugh! The tattoo artist asked me where I have my other tattoos and I shamefully said at 27 it was my first. Remember ALWAYS that you have to be careful, have fun without ruining your damn life all over again. Clean fun, fun is good. All in all I had a good time, but at some point you have to stop looking for distractions and really make an effort to sort your life out. This can’t go on forever, no man, not at all, that is not a way to live. That is running away and I agree you need to run away for a short time but at some point you will reach the valley of the mountain and you can’t run no more, you now have to climb.
When you hit that point you go through a really long period of anger, resentment and hate. You call your ex frequently telling them they ruined your life and how small their dick is so only you could love that. You have visions of them exploding in a fire after their car crashes into a truck full of gas. You cry everyday for hours wishing the ex would just spontaneously combust because you have convinced yourself that the only way you will ever feel happy again is if they just disappear. That’s ok, that’s normal, you are human after all. You have been through a lot and you have been hurt. A relationship, any kind, is an investment of your emotions, your patience, your time and your energy. When it breaks down it must be painful! You will spend many, many hours talking about the ex, never good things, just bad, all bad. People start to wonder why you got married to such an asshole, and so do you. That anger consumes you, ripping you to pieces and destroying your insides. Your heart grows cold and you build a shield over it, it’s never to be exposed again.
Getting over the disappointment, hurt, rejection and anger isn’t easy. The strongest, most emotionally dunce individual would find this difficult. The first thing you need to know is, it’s ok to cry and cuss and scream, just try to do it when the babies aren’t looking. At some point you have to stop, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move to fuck on!
I would recommend therapy. Therapy is not for mad people! Many people think so, but that’s not true. When I first went for therapy I was ashamed about telling people. In one session my therapist told me “Girl, everybody crazy yuh know, everybody should go for therapy, you are one of the smart ones and you are also completely normal”. Boy oh boy IF I love that man! He spoke to much sense and he let me be myself – cuss and cry and vent how much I wanted to. He even told me I was normal to feel like I would only feel happy again if one day I read on the newspapers that my ex had died in a car crash. He told me I was normal to have dreams of plotting ways I could kill him but get away with it. He however urged me not to actually go out and try any of the psycho visions I was having, and of course I wasn’t planning to *cough*.
The best thing he ever told me is that we don’t get angry with other people, we get angry with ourselves. Releasing this anger liberates US and it’s the first step to being happy again. Forgiveness is the other step, let go. You got divorced which means you no longer have to hold on to any of it, you legally liberated yourself so do it emotionally too. This is the biggest challenge and please trust me when I say, therapy is your best friend!
Then comes the rebound. Let’s face it, almost 90% of the time, the next man you date after a divorce is a rebound! The next man you date after any break up is a damn rebound. People tend to use relationships as a way of getting over the ex. Who could say they were desperate to get over the ex so they remained single and tried really really hard? Ha! No, we seek the love of someone else to make us feel like we really are better off without the ex.
This is how the rebound works. In the beginning it’s new and exciting and you feel sexy and happy and normal for the first time since the ordeal started. The rebound becomes your saviour; he hears all your secrets, sees all your tears and hates the ex right along with you. And that’s exactly what you need. Someone who supports you 100% and is there when you need to vent! What more do we need? Anything that will take your mind off the anger and pain is welcomed. This is easily, so easily confused with love. Think about it though, do you love them or is what you love the fact that they love you so much. A feeling you craved from your ex but was disappointed. Is it that you love them simply because they are NOT your ex? Ever notice the rebound never has anything in common with the ex? You probably do love them but if you are dating someone to help you get over your ex it doesn’t work; either you get over the ex with their help and so you have no more use for them OR you realise they are not working because you are just not getting over the ex so you give up on that idea. Either way I would say, as tempting as this is, try to stay away. Don’t involve people into your drama; don’t distribute the pain and hurt you are trying to get rid of. That’s not fair, take it from me. You end up feeling so worried that you really cannot ever love again, you start to panic that you really have no damn clue what love is and that makes you revert to convincing yourself the ex ruined your life.
You really don’t think they are a rebound, you really think this is it. You really have a normal relationship until the feelings you ignored come out to play again. The rebound no longer seems as useful as they did before. When they say they love you you want to tap them in their head. The thought of having sex with them makes you feel to run and hide. You start to find the world of things that are just wrong with them and everything they do annoys you.
That shit is so confusing! How could you love someone one day can’t stand them the next? What did I do, how did I get myself into this? Basic principle, don’t fool yourself. Another relationship when you not over the last one, will NOT magically make you get over the ex.
If you are interested in one day having a proper loving relationship again this is my advice:
• Take your time. Learn to know yourself and love yourself before you think you can love anyone else.
• Be very selective and picky. This is your time to start over, don’t go making the same mistakes. Mistakes are made for you to learn from, not repeat them.
• Make sure you are properly healed. You don’t want to go toting your baggage from your failed marriage into another relationship. That is not fair and a total disaster.
• Don’t pick up a man or a woman simply because you want to make your ex jealous or because your ex is dating again. Do it for you, if you are still living your life paying some sort of consideration to your ex, you have not moved on.
• If you are not prepared to open up yourself and give your all to someone else, then you are not ready.
So how do you know when you ready?
Well it’s easier to talk about how you know when you NOT ready. These are a few points I learnt:
• If the thought of your ex being with someone else makes you feel like the world is crashing down on you, you are not ready.
• If you still hold on to all the pain and hurt you were put through to the point where you close yourself up and feel terrified that it is repeated, you are not ready.
• If you constantly compare other people to your ex, you are not ready.
• If you only feel good when you are distracted but you crumble when you are alone, you are not ready.
• If you wonder “have I done the right thing” at least once a day, you are not ready.
• If you still believe every man is an evil prick who is just going to hurt you and every woman is a damn witch, then you definitely not ready!
When you are ready you will know. You must know what it feels like to feel normal and back to your old self again. This may take some time and please use all the time you need.
When you are ready to really be honest with yourself and move on, is when we reach where we are going. Find hobbies and meet new people. Surround yourself with love and support from the good people in your life. Get rid of negative energy and hypocrites and fill your life with positivity and joy. Consume yourself with the love of your babies; there is no other love as pure and generous as theirs.
Sugar plum, you will get there. Liberate yourself; free yourself from all that foolishness you are holding on to. The ex will never change, even if they pretend to for everyone else they never will. Stop wishing they would be unhappy for the rest of their lives because the truth is – they aren’t happy. Even if they are, so what? What does that have to do with you? You can be happy too you know.
Be the best parent you can be, always remember they didn’t ask to be born into your blasted drama, so protect them as much as you can from any bitterness that exists between you and the ex. Don’t educate them about how much of an ass you think their father is or how much of a old hoe you think their mother is. Don’t use the children to hurt your ex because news flash people, the only people who suffer for that kinda shit, are your babies!! As far as your children should be concerned, you and their other parent are friends (especially if they too young to fully understand what is happening). If your ex is doing shit where your babies are concerned, have nothing to say to him, simply make up for his/her short falls. Be the bigger person and be the rock your kids need to stand on. Forget how much foolishness the ex is doing, that isn’t your concern. Save your energy to always reassure and remind your babies that they are safe, loved and everything will be just fine. You will learn to always be grateful to your ex for giving you your babies. If you want to think about the ex, dwell on that.
Hold on to your life and let go of the hate.
Live your life after divorce and live a fulfilling and happy one.