While I usually poo-poo New Year's resolutions (each year, the gym is always crowded in January and then conspicuously bare in March — hm . . .), I have to say that when you're newly divorced, or still recovering emotionally and financially from the beast known as divorce, it can't hurt to put out a few lights for your life path on the brink of a new year.
You may have already noticed that some of your friends don't ask you to hang out anymore. You may notice that it's mostly "couple friends" or people who know your ex as well as you and aren't texting or asking you for playdates, nights out, etc. Worse still, it may be your regular group of girlfriends who either are too self-occupied to care about what you're going through or are too uncomfortable with this "unsavory" part of your life to be a friend. Whatever the case may be, take some inventory first. You just shed a marriage because, for whatever reason, it wasn't working out for you. If some of your friends aren't up to snuff, you've got two choices: address the issue with them or just set them free.
If you're like me, you may already have a core group of friends . . . who are all married. Finding people to go out with when I have the time can be difficult. If you're sociable, join a meet-up group for divorced people, or if you're gun-shy about such things, try an online support group. I tend to shy away from such groups, but I do lean toward activities. New hobbies and any type of new exercise could lead you to meet new people. Be open to making new friends. It's crucial to have a support system!
This is often the most difficult part of divorce. For some women who have been working a long time or perhaps are getting significant amounts of alimony and support, this may not feel like such a sledgehammer to the gut, but for many of the women I have spoken with, as well as myself, it's earth-shattering and scary. I was a mostly SAHM who taught at night and freelanced. My ex was the breadwinner and managed the bills, and while I lived on my own before I got married, I felt I needed some advice in terms of making a budget and sticking with it. Savvy Ladies is a nonprofit organization that provides personal-finance education and resources for women to inspire them to plan for the future. I hit up its financial helpline and got free advice on budgeting from an expert who didn't push me to sign up for any services. I highly recommend it, even if you're already established in a career.
What if you're stuck with an ex who is a nightmare to deal with when it comes to money? While my process has been fairly smooth, with both my ex and I hashing it out on our own for now (not always fun, but we do the best we can!), I know many others who don't have it as easy. Support Pay is a great tool to help you manage household expenses and child support. It also "does all the work of organizing, calculating, storing, and notifying both parents of child support and shared expenses in an easy-to-use system."
The Partner Myth
The other day someone told me to "find someone so you'll be happy." Don't get me wrong: I love a good romantic story any day of the week. Bring me your handsome, kind intellectuals, Cupid. Who doesn't want someone to cuddle with and, hey, get a little rough with?
But try to shake yourself free of The Partner Myth. You know how this myth goes: you'll be happy once Prince Charming or Princess Charming comes in to save you. As hard as it is looking at negative numbers, bills, housework, chores, and little things like 'who do I call now in an emergency?", a romantic partner is not the solution to life's problems. You can be happy on your own — believe that. Once you believe it, you will be, and then once you're "still standing, better than you ever did," it's most likely the time when the right person will walk into Target, the gym, or wherever else you frequent. And guess what? If mister or missus right doesn't show up, you'll still be fine because you choose to be happy in 2018 and thereafter!
*Bonus Round: If you're a newly divorced person, what do you think should be the most important thing, anyway: getting your head and house together, or finding "the one"?
If you answered "finding 'the one,'" reread this section again as homework!
It's All About You
There are some days when I think all is merry in Disneyland, when suddenly something happens, like my kid has a meltdown. For example, on Christmas Day, my kid didn't want to leave to go to her dad's, which was surprising since she's 3 1/2 and in her daddy stage. She just wanted us all to be together for the damned day and not apart. She ended up having a lovely time with him once she left, but it was a reminder that she, like myself, is still adjusting. When she left, I felt mentally drained from her tantrum and sad. It's hard to manage your kids' emotions and your own in a divorce, but one of the best pieces of advice I have gotten since enduring Operation Divorce was from a play therapist:
"If you're on a plane, the parent puts the mask on first and then the child's mask. If you can't breathe, you can't help her. Put on your mask."
Taking care of yourself — however that needs to happen — is not an alternative; it's a must. If you are a mess, your kids will be too, and yep, it's hard to be all sunshine and kittens when the bomb of divorce leaves a mess in your life. If this means watching bad television, taking a run in the park, or setting up some time alone for even half an hour, do whatever it takes to make this happen. You run the ship, Captain: make sure you're driving it sober.