Some people, particularly women, believe they’ve failed because they’ve been divorced. But I don’t think of it that way.
Yes, it’s painful and heartbreaking and can take people and families years to truly recover. But if you’ve done the work of extricating yourself from a relationship that wasn’t right for you then you should be proud of yourself, not ashamed.
I got married at the young age of 25. I met my husband at a time of personal and familial turmoil and was very vulnerable and fragile. He was a kind and good man who made me feel seen and safe.
But in a long-term relationship between two committed people there can be many moments that are make-or-break. Over our 18 years together we hit rough patches around many common trouble areas for young couples—having kids, navigating families, moves, careers.
We tried our best with therapy; changing up communication styles and self-work. Fundamentally, the trade-off came for me when I realized I was losing core parts of myself in order to simply maintain the status quo in my marriage, to not rock the boat.
It took me years to leave after that because we were both so committed to making it work for ourselves and we wanted to give it our sincerest effort for our children.
In many ways, we live in a time in which it’s great to be a divorced woman—there are fewer cultural stigmas, resources abound, and many templates for non-traditional families that are genuinely happy.
On the other hand, it is a huge transition, and you must give yourself space to feel the feelings. I coped by leaning heavily on my friend circle. I was specific about when I needed help.
“I am feeling lonely without the kids, can you come be with me? I am looking to grow my business, will you brainstorm with me? Can you watch the dog while the ex and I Iearn how to reallocate chores and tasks?”
I tapped into my spiritual practice, which includes prayer, meditation, yoga and simply being in nature. I made a conscious effort to be around things that felt nourishing—my work, good people, music and my family. I cried a lot, and for many days, I just let those tears flow.
In the years following my separation, I learned that no matter how brave and independent you think you are, being uncoupled is a terrifying thing—especially when you’ve been married as long as I had.
I believe there are also a number of specific negative narratives that accompany divorces for women. That you will get screwed over in the finances. That your ex will end up with someone younger and hotter, while you age and die alone. That your kids will never forgive you. That society will shun you.
These things can, and have, been true in the past. But I learned that if you swallow every fear-based pill that people offer—even well-intentioned ones—then you will ultimately choke.
I had to do the hard work of deciding which stories, negative or otherwise, were true for me and which weren’t. I had to be strong for my own interests but I was eager to lead with compassion and love. My story was going to have its own narrative and in the end, I was going to be neither victim, nor completely embittered.
Since my separation, I have had people try to matchmake me like crazy. After all, as a sexuality researcher, I talk about sex for a living.
But the honest truth is that I am not entertaining the idea of another partner at this stage in my life. I believe that anyone after the end of a long-term relationship should be with themselves, reconnecting with lost parts and recalibrating.
My priority is to spend the most present and fulfilling time that I can with my kids, with my family, on my work and with my incredible friend circle that resides around the world.
Because dating is not a priority for me, I haven’t been putting much energy into it. I tried one dating app and had the most hilarious experience of not knowing how to swipe sideways. I was scrolling down and wondering why all these men looked alike. Dating Apps for Divorced Dummies is a company I’d happily invest in.
I’m a true extrovert. I adore people and meet wonderful people everywhere I go, but I am just very honest about where I am in my life when it comes to dating.
I know this is the right thing for me now. My work around sexuality really anchors on knowing and honoring your true self and I think you get to explore who you are if you can resist the urge to jump into a new relationship after a break-up.
Withstanding the discomfort a little bit, the result can be deeply rewarding. I love the freedom and the independence and the control I have over my own life and decisions and I don’t miss the feeling that I am making someone else unhappy, which is what can happen when a partnered relationship starts to fall apart. And if you’re a deeply empathetic person like me, that’s a nauseating feeling to withstand.
Of course, I would consider another relationship in the future—I’m a lover, not a fighter. I don’t imagine being single forever. But not for now, and in what form that relationship will be—I don’t know. Will it be a monogamous relationship, a civil partnership, an open marriage? I’m open to it all.
But If I don’t do the work of getting to know who this woman is now, outside of the context of a relationship, then I am sure to fail myself, my children, and future partners.
I think women who are divorced have a much better sense of what they don’t want, and the compromises they will not make. And for many of us in 2023, the bar for a new relationship is high—can you add to a life that is full and fulfilled?
Mind you, as a divorced woman you don’t get to this place of unassailable power without doing the work of self-reflection and inquiry, understanding what went wrong in your relationship and your role in it.
Otherwise, you’ll find yourself back to square one in another relationship repeating those patterns.
Kaamna Bhojwani is a sexuality researcher with a specialization in shame and spirituality. You can follow her on Instagram at @kaamnalive.
All views expressed in this article are the author’s own.
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