Mighty Life List
Jul 5 2012

Divorce Field Guide: Best Advice


-via my Instagram stream.

Thanks everyone for your comments and emails last week (re: Divorce and Grief). I should preface this post by saying that I’m able to write about divorce now because the worst is over. I’m in a happy, productive place. As I mentioned last week, there are still flashes of grief, and I expect that to persist for a while, but overall I’m looking forward to what’s next.

I didn’t post much through the divorce, because I was too tender, but I’m here now because I’m hoping these notes and the comments can be helpful – especially to those of you who are going through the worst of it right now.

What follows are the three best pieces of advice I received from friends when I was at my unhappiest:

1. Lower the bar for a while.

A girlfriend said she had a kind, mild friend who went a little nuts during her divorce. She was enraged, destroying expensive common property, and behaving in other ways that were out of character. But after a year, she’d mostly returned to normal.

“Everyone gets at least a year of crazy,” my friend said. “Don’t expect to be yourself for a while.”

Whenever I felt overwhelmed, I remembered those words. I didn’t feel like myself, but temporarily setting a lower bar made me feel accomplished for not throwing a rock through anyone’s window. Small victories.

2. There’s good stuff waiting.

Shortly after my separation, I had lunch with an acquaintance whose parents had been divorced when she was around Hank’s age. She said both parents had found new mates who made them happier, and that she could see how hard things would have been if they’d stayed together.

“I’m so excited for you,” she said. “You get to have your own place, figure out who you are on your own, fall in love again, and have first kisses again.”

She knew I wasn’t there yet, but she’ was genuinely excited for me. She’d seen first hand that there could be a happier life on the other side of the hard part, and it gave me hope.

3. It takes a very good boyfriend to beat no boyfriend at all.

There’s no loneliness as deep as feeling alone in the company of someone you love.

A while after the separation, I was starting to feel better. I was listening to new music, enjoying time with my kiddo more, and having long chats with far-flung girlfriends.

On one of those calls with a friend who had also been through a divorce, we talked about how it’s scary to wonder whether you’ll ever be in a relationship again.

“Take your time,” she said. “It takes a damn good boyfriend to beat no boyfriend at all.”

There’s the wisdom that got me through to a happier place. What’s the most helpful breakup advice you’ve received?