1. Friends will flee.
Married friends, acquaintances, and couple-friends all run for the hills when they hear about your divorce. It’s contagious, you know. The minute one seemingly happy couple acknowledges their own deep, dark misery and actually decides to do something about it, everyone else starts to question their own marriages. “Can that happen to us?” Or more inquisitively, “Should that happen to us?” Either way, the other “wife” friends you used to occasionally hang with will suddenly become extremely busy. You will be kicked off the holiday “Happy Whatever” chat thread. (A blessing or a curse? You decide.) You may even awkwardly (mistakenly) by default be invited to a Baptism or birthday party or group dinner of your ex-partner’s friends. Gracefully and politely decline by saying you will be out of town that weekend. They don’t actually want you to go. The error just happened. There is probably a separate group chat saying something along the lines of “OMG I think I accidentally invited (insert your name) to our dinner. So awkward! What do I do?” And while this exodus of former associates can be hurtful and confusing, it is entirely their issue. Not everyone is able to look objectively at another couple without comparing their situation to one’s own. People are not ready to stare in the mirror and ask themselves tough questions. It’s perfectly okay. Let them go. People in your life are processing too.
2. You’ll be flying solo at weddings.
If you are not in a new relationship right away (and please God, for that person’s sake, don’t be in a new relationship right away), chances are you may be invited solo to a wedding. As in only your name on the invitation envelope. AKA they don’t want to spend money on a plate for whichever rando you may bring along, so instead they will just eliminate the “plus one”. It is my opinion that to invite any adult without a “plus one” is in poor taste, but you can decide that one for yourself. Be prepared and forewarned—your lack of a relevant significant other will render you highly favorable for a solo invite. You might feel your rank has slipped a few notches. The blow to your ego can be a shock. Your status has changed. You’re in the aftermath of a divorce. Bet no one told you this!
If, however, you are invited with a date and have to scramble to find a suitable person, may I recommend reaching out to your most handsome gay BFF and begging that he do you a solid?
3. Sleeping arrangements will change.
Speaking of getting the shaft, get used to the couch while you’re at it! Take family vacations and weekend group getaways for example. Being part of a couple means you always have priority and sometimes even your choice of bedroom. This “luxury” is not guaranteed after you enter Splitsville. As a newly single person, be prepared for your property value to decrease. Priority status on private bedrooms is reserved for married couples and families first. As for us new divorcées, you’ll sleep on the twin bed, porch futon, couch, share a room with your teenage nephew, share a bed with your mom, wherever. Guess if you wanted your own room, you should have stayed married, huh? (That was a joke.)
4. There is a great big Scarlet “D” on your chest.
You can’t see it, but there is. It’s there. Get used to it. Eventually, you will wear it with pride. For now, just know that it’s there and it informs how people treat you and relate to you. When someone you’ve known when you were a married person sees you now, there is a new look in their eyes. Is it sympathy? Concern? Are they trying to feel into your mental state? If you’re feeling the vibe that something in this exchange—one that you’ve likely had a thousand times—is somehow different since they found out about your divorce, it’s because something is different. It’s the invisible “D for Divorced” on your chest that throws people off their game when they’re trying to assess the situation and nosily read between the lines. This shift is subtle, imperceptible to most others, but when you experience it, you’ll know. (Was my dry cleaner acting strange this morning? Ah, it’s my Scarlet D!) Also know that it is perfectly okay to tell that person to fuck off in your mind or out loud. Either way, I’m with you.
5. You’re seen as a threat.
Don’t hurt me for this. Women will think you want their husbands. I know, I know, I’m stereotyping. I’m trapping women further inside the proverbial box we are trying to break out of by assuming we are pitting ourselves against one another. And as the strong female advocate I am, I wish I could say I was lying. The fact is, some women are threatened by strong, successful, happily single women. And why shouldn’t they be? Divorced women who own their own lives and create their own paths to happiness are forces to be reckoned with. Let’s be honest, getting a divorce is one of the most soul-crushing, earth-shaking experiences we can go through as emotional beings. To emerge on the other side with your grace, dignity, and mental health intact is superhero-level shit and deserves all the admiration. Hell, we deserve a parade. We don’t get one. But we do get heightened awareness from other women when you’re having a perfectly platonic conversation with a married man. Understand that these energies do exist and reveal a tremendous amount about the other person’s insecurities. It has nothing to do with you! You need not dim your light or hold back your fierceness for the sake of others. However, knowledge is power, and knowing that you might be seen as a “threat” will help you navigate sensitive moments with compassion and intelligence.
(But here’s what the lower-vibration-me has to say to all the married women who think we’re on the prowl for your lazy, balding husbands that don’t take out the trash: “He’s all yours, baby!!!”)
6. Your freedom comes with a high emotional price tag.
The first thing I did after signing my divorce papers was sell my house. Side note: I had secured the home we owned together and lived in for 10 years in our divorce agreement, but I knew there was no way I wanted to continue living there. I chose to move to a new area where I knew NO ONE. It was the scariest and most thrilling thing I’d ever done. Though I kept my job and my child’s school consistent, I am so happy I chose to live my private life somewhere just that—private. Taking apart the home we had built together—stripping the closets of our clothing, removing furniture to reveal the old wall color that was there when we moved in as newlyweds, seeing my daughter’s room now empty where toys and laughter used to be, finding birthday cards that fell behind the nightstands, disassembling our life together piece by piece—ripped me apart and still does even as I type this years later. Leaving that home in an effort to take charge of my freedom was the most painful thing I ever had to do. It was a physical metaphor for the deconstruction of the hopes and dreams of my younger self and the dissolution of the vows we took when we first started out on our married journey. It was now time to let that go in an effort to step into my own womanhood. That home held me. While my marriage was a roller coaster, our house was a constant in my life. Our home journeyed with us and grew us into adults over the course of 10 years. And oh, if those walls could talk…
7. You will question every day if you made the right choice.
Make no mistake about it, your answer may always be a resounding FUCK YESSSS, but you will still question. Mostly during the quiet moments, like when you find yourself decorating for Christmas alone because your kids are with your ex. Or a lonely Saturday night when former couple friends are having dinner together and posting on Facebook. Would it have been easier to have just stayed married? Trust yourself. It’s okay to look back. We all need to reflect in order to learn and move forward. Trust that wherever you are is exactly where you need to be, even if you’re in the muck. Uncoupling is hard. Staying in a toxic marriage is even harder.
8. It’s not all their fault.
Whether or not the divorce was on your terms or your decision, rest assured you played a role in the demise of your marriage. Yikes! Harsh, I know. Truth be told, I would love to play the victim and wax poetically that I was the perfect wife and did everything right in my marriage, but I’m calling bullshit on myself. In order to move on and learn my lessons, I had to get real with where I fell short in my relationship. Yes, there are a million things I did “right,” and yes, I tried over and over and over again only to get the same outcome every time. (Isn’t that the definition of insanity?) But our lack of a more successful ending wasn’t only his fault. It was mine, too. I had given up on us long before I officially gave up on us. And whether or not I ever admit that out loud to anyone other than my therapist (and you reading this), I needed to understand the truth of our story and forgive myself for my part in it. Recognize your part. Forgive yourself. You were doing the best you could with what you knew at the time.
Speaking of forgiveness…
9. You will feel guilty for being happy.
When I finally separated from my husband of nearly 10 years, he was trying desperately to rekindle our fire. I had a conversation with a good friend who asked me, “How does it feel when you think about getting back with him?” I said, “It feels like I swam to the surface and I’m finally able to breathe, and he wants to pull me back under again.” To my ex-husband’s credit, my feelings were not his fault, but they were my true feelings and I felt guilty for them. (Talk about generational trauma and conditioning!) I felt guilty for loving my new freedom. I felt guilty for embracing the new parts of myself as a woman that were emerging. I felt guilty for seeing him suffer more than me. (I should mention that I suffered so much during our actual marriage that separation and divorce was a welcome change of pace.) I felt guilty for relishing the stillness. I felt guilty for enjoying the quiet. Mind you, I wasn’t blissful or over-the-moon or settled in a new life. I was a hot mess. But I could finally breathe on my own, and that made me happy.
10. You will think you’re ready for a new relationship, but you’re not!
First thing’s first: Everyone (not just your mother) will want to see you in a new relationship. (Again, it’s about them here, not you.) Undoing old patterns and learning someone new in your first relationship will be a mindfuck. An example: My ex-husband and I both love food. We have eaten at almost all of the top Michelin star rated restaurants around Manhattan and beyond. We spared no expense for a great piece of toro. My first new beau post-divorce was kind of broke but incredibly hot. We had a few sexy dates and I was floating on cloud nine. He invited me over to his apartment for dinner, and yes, we actually did eat. I thought I was going to die when he busted out the TV tray tables so we could eat take-out sushi while watching Office Christmas Party. In this moment, I learned dating would be tough to swallow. But snobbery aside, learning to love someone and open your heart again is an obvious challenge in the war zone of post-divorce life. There is always comparison. After a few failed attempts at relationships with great men, I came to the misguided conclusion that a part of my heart had closed up and shut down. I felt broken. Marred. Tainted. I worked my ass off on yoga mats across the globe, journaling nightly, meditating, and trying to figure out why my heart refused to allow itself to be loved. Finally, I came to the conclusion that nothing was wrong with me, I just wasn’t ready. My heart was not ready, and I had to honor that. The time will come when you will be fully ready to embrace all the ups and downs, highs and lows of a new relationship. Be patient with yourself. I’ll be ready to get back on the dating roller coaster again, but for now, I have learned to respect where my two feet want to be—on solid ground, leaving their marks and making tracks that belong to me. I am not ready to mold and shape my life based on another person’s desires when I have my own desires that need space to grow. When I am ready, love will be easy. When I choose to live authentically, the universe will open its arms and envelop me. This precious time as a happily divorced woman has taught me to honor what I need, my deepest knowing, and my truest self.