To The Divorced Woman

  1. Your kids are going to be ok when they’re not in your sole care. Even if you feel that nobody can ever love them as much as you, or care for them as well as you can (nobody probably will), you have to let them go to receive time and love from their dads.
  2. Handing them over never gets easier. It is a pain that you will have to learn to deal with. Remember, they’ll come back for mommy cuddles soon! Try to see the glass half full and not half empty.
  3. It is ok to cry. Often.
  4. You are going to be tempted to use your children as a weapon. Have people in your life who you can share and reflect with and who will keep you accountable. There is NO excuse for using your vulnerable kids to hurt your ex-husband. Just. Don’t. Do. It.
  5. When your ex-husband moves on, you are going to want to “protect” your children from this “new” influence. Don’t. Believe in the possibility that this person can teach your children something that you can’t. If your ex-husband is happier, your kids will be too. And a woman who can provide an environment where your ex-husband can nurture along with her can be a wonderfully positive thing.
  6. Make peace with the fact that your “new” life will feel unbalanced. You might eat or drink too much, sleep too much or too little, cry too much, feel euphoric at being on our own, or depressed – all these opposing and larger-than-life feelings and experiences will normalise with time until you find a “new” balance. …
  7. Don’t be the norm. The norm for a newly divorced woman are this and I’ve seen too many good-intentioned women live it out as a mantra that becomes laughable, unfair and downright pathetic:
    1. I am a victim.
    2. My ex-husband has no idea what I am going through
    3. My ex-husband does not spend enough quality time with my kids
    4. My ex-husband loves his new family more than my kids
    5. My ex-husband is moving on too fast
    6. My ex-husband does not pay enough maintenance
    7. My ex-husband has no appreciation for what I am going through as a single parent
    8. My life is over. How will I ever be able to live on my own.
    9. I need a man.
  8. Stop feeling threatened and insecure. Really. Just stop it. Work on your issues – yes you do have issues. Everyone has issues. Just because one man couldn’t love you madly does not mean you are unlovable. Admit that you are not perfect. Own up to your decision and mistakes and stop blaming everyone and everything else.
  9. Your girl friends are going to feel incredibly threatened or jealous by your new single status. They may also feel like there’s not much in common anymore. Accept that friendships are often determined by environment and when the environment changes, the person changes. You might receive less invitations to dinner parties, you might receive less messages or phone calls. Accept the fact that your circle of friends will change. Change can be good. It is during this time that you will find loyal, true friendships from a few core people, and try to move on gracefully from the friendships that no longer serve the people involved.  Loyal friends will provide you with support, keep you accountable and help you maintain perspective about your decisions to start a new life.  Loyal friends will show up to help you pack. Loyal friends will have your back.
  10. Don’t expect Fathers to be Mothers. If your ex-husband is providing for you and your family, be incredibly grateful and respect the fact that he has a job. This comes with pressure. You can’t have your bread buttered on 8 different sides; receive a huge amount of maintenance and at the same time expect him to be YOU when the kids are with him. Men show their children love in different ways, they have different priorities regarding diet and bath times… but believe that he loves your children. Imagine how it would be if you only had limited time with your kids? You might push bedtime back too to have extra awake and fun time with those you love the most? Have some empathy that not having his kids with him all the time might be rough.

 

To The Ex-Husband

  1. Your ex-wife, no matter how timid or weak she might seem, will become a roaring lioness if you try to stand between her and her children.
  2. Give her some credit at times. She is (most likely) being a single parent, having to either get a job or work hard(er) at the one she has. She’s building a new life too, figuring out how tax works… A single sentence uttered along the lines of “thank you for being a good mother to our kids” will be deeply appreciated.
  3. Forgive her emotions. We are women. We have PMS. We cry and scream. You probably knew and experienced this during your marriage anyway…. Simply accept the fact that we are not always going to be logical and level-headed and forgive us our emotional outbursts. (Consider that your actions may have something to do with it, and learn from this to help you in both future relationships, and in trying to keep the relationship between you and your children’s mother as kind as possible).
  4. You didn’t agree with everything while you were married so accept the fact that you will not agree with everything now that you’re divorced. It is possibly why you are now divorced. It’s important to allow her to have her own opinion. Hear her out. Respect her role as primary caregiver of your children and stop competing for “parent of the year”. There is no such thing as a perfect parent.
  5. Allow her space when they kids are with you. She probably wants to phone them because she is missing them. Don’t always assume she is trying to pry or badmouth you. Give her the benefit of the doubt. Communicate. She is not trying to be controlling; in most cases her intentions come from having a deep love for your children.

 

To The New Girlfriends

  1. For the love of all things good and proper have bucket loads of empathy for this situation you’ve decided to part of. You are dating the man who was married to someone else. It’s possible that you’re sleeping in her old bed and on her sheets, drinking from cups she probably bought, and hearing stories she’s probably heard many times before.
  2. Remember that the love you are feeling for Mr. Right at this moment, was the same love she felt for your Mr. Right in another moment in the past. She also had “romance” in the first year. Everything also (obviously) seemed perfect for her in the beginning. Remember this old saying: his poop also stinks (just saying)!
  3. If you are not a mother or divorcee yourself do not ever think you know how it feels. You don’t. Period. It’s important to give the ex-wife some grace. However crazy she is acting, respect her as a woman and try to see that she is doing the best she can.
  4. The ex-wife does not want to hear how you are one. She’ll likely tolerate comments that sound like this: “What a great time we had!” and “I’m fitting in well with the family!”, but try to remain objective in communication with the ex-wife by not crossing too many emotional boundaries too soon. The ex-wife does not need to see soppy heart eyes for your husband, she needs to see a smart, savvy, respectful individual who does not want to make the divorce any more difficult than it already is.
  5. Remember that every story has two sides. There is Mr. Right’s version of the divorce, and there’s the ex-wife’s version, and somewhere in the middle is the truth. Due to the hormones rushing through your brain, you will choose the side of Mr. Right. But try to keep perspective that no woman puts herself through the ordeals of divorce for no reason…
  6. Show some respect if you are in a position where you need to provide care for her children. There is nothing more threatening to a woman than her position as mother. Allow her the space to have the authority over her kids, and ask useful questions about diet, bedtimes, likes and dislikes, school and after school activities if the opportunity arises.
  7. Watch closely when Mr. Right is communicating with or in proximity to his ex-wife. Ultimately, over time, this is the way he will treat you. If he is a less than respectful or a bad communicator with his ex-wife but a great one with you – this should tell you something. If he is treating her with respect, grace, and forgiveness it’s a good sign of character, which bodes well for you.
  8. The ex-wife is going through a major life change too. If she is kind to you – appreciate it. She is likely grinding her teeth while doing it and is spending a great deal of energy to not hate you (we are all human at the end of the day). Try to get know her whilst keeping solid boundaries. If you are able to have a good relationship, the kids will thrive – and this is the main priority for both Mr. Right and the ex-wife.
  9. Make sure that Mr. Right’s kids know that you respect their mother. This message will get back to the ex-wife and believe me, you want her respect as you move along in your relationship with Mr. Right and his children.
  10. Don’t think you will ever understand or love Mr. Right’s children as your own. You won’t. It is different to care and love for other people’s children. And that is ok.

 

To family and friends who has loved one’s going through a divorce

  1. Don’t ever think that you know what your loved one is going through. If you’ve not lived it, it is incredibly difficult to explain the trauma of a divorce to someone. The worst thing you can ask is “Are you sure?”. I wish I could have a R100 note for every time someone asked me that question! It’s like they expect you to answer: “No. I’m not really sure. I’m just having an off day”. Silent support, a nod, a hug, a squeeze of the hand… anything is better than that question!
  2. There is no such thing as “not choosing sides”. As much as you’d like to be impartial, you are going to have to decide on which fence you’re standing in. There’s no neutrality in divorce, everyone chooses sides. Be kind, be honest, and realise that for the divorced couple every friend, place, item, and emotion is part of the “war”.
  3. As much as you think your divorced friends wants to know about what their exes are posting on social media and doing with their lives, they really don’t. Resist the urge to be the gossip.
  4. Refrain from saying “Please let me know if there is anything I can do”, because few people call out in times of hardship. Stop being a mediocre friend – your friend/family member needs you. These are ways that you can show your love (practically):
    1. They won’t be cooking. Show up with healthy dinners.
    2. Help packing/moving/hanging things on the wall.
    3. Don’t always talk about the divorce. Distraction is good. Sport, politics, baking, new activities, fashion, anything is better than talking about “it” all the time.
    4. Offer to take the kids for a while and take them to a play area to give the divorced friend some space.
    5. Show up during suicide hour with a new toy for kids’ bath time or offer to make dinner. Any time between 4pm and 7pm is the most lonely time in and amongst the hustle and bustle of the children’s routine.
    6. Loneliness is real. Text them. Phone them. Often.
    7. Take them to gym, invite them to dance class, help them move on by filling time with them. It’s a great idea to go to church with them.
    8. Help financially, even if it’s a packet of groceries once a month.
    9. Keep them busy. Period. Introduce them to new people. Involve them in activities and outings.
    10. Allow them to rant about their ex and know this will pass, but step in with kind, soft words and help them gain perspective.
    11. Forgive them. For a while they are going to be a bad friend and be very self-consumed. They will get through this morbid phase and hopefully be a happier version of themselves in time.
    12. Show up. If they phone and ask for help, this is the time to drop what you are doing and SHOW UP.
    13. Tell them how amazing they are. Talk about their good qualities. Don’t try and fix them/their relationship/their situation. You can’t. Going through a divorce is a very vulnerable time for people. Divorced people question their value and often feel like failures.
  5. Blood is thicker than water. Family should stick together. Love your family unconditionally and be on their “side”. BUT, treat the ex with grace. In all fairness, this was your adopted family for a while and probably the mother of your grandchildren or your niece’s/nephews. I PROMISE you that your family members’ side of the story is not the whole truth. It is not your job to determine what is right or wrong, but it is cowardly to abandon the son or daughter that was your son and daughter for a few years without a goodbye or explanation. In my (humble) opinion, over time, you should say goodbye to this adopted family and break ties with old relations to be fully present and supportive for your blood family member. I understand that all situations are different but there are a few basic principles to live by. Grace. Forgiveness. Empathy. Kindness. Just accept the fact that you have (and had) no idea about what goes on in people’s lives and marriage. Closure is a good thing. Say goodbye. Say thank you. No wife or husband has ever been “only bad”.
  6. Have a voice. It is very difficult for divorced people to always keep perspective. If your friend/family member is using her children to get back at her ex, have the guts to call her out on it. If she is playing the victim game too long, give some perspective by telling her to stop feeling sorry for herself. Keep the divorcees accountable. If your son is spending too much energy blaming his ex-wife for all his misery tell him to move on. It takes a village to raise a divorcee back to being a “whole” person. They will thank you for it later.
  7. Mourn. You have also lost a friend. A son. A neighbour. It’s a loss for you too, and it is important that you also mourn your losses.
  8. Forgive. I can’t say this enough. If there is one thing lacking most with all parties involved in divorce, it’s forgiveness. Let’s sing kumbaya people! Life is too short!
  9. Don’t forget about your friends and family. It takes a great deal of time for people to process trauma, divorce and pain. Sometimes in the thick of things we remember to be there for our friends but know that the divorce will be  a wound your divorcee friend or family member will carry with them for the rest of their lives. It might not define them, but don’t forget to remember to ask: “How are you doing?”

Do your best not to judge. Honestly. You might think you have a perfect marriage, perfect life and a perfect relationship but if there is one thing I’ve learned it is that we all fall short of perfection, and we all need grace and forgiveness. We all make mistakes. We all have stories to tell. Nobody gets married with the idea of getting divorced. Yours is not purer than mine. Yours is not worse than mine. We are human. And with that comes a whole lot of mistakes.