About six years ago, I was strolling along the beach with my three kids, who were 6 and under. I overheard a woman talking to her friends. She was shielding her face from the sun as she talked to them under her magazine.
“I just feel like I am doing great. I have my friends, I have work, I really like being alone right now,” she said.
She went on to say how her mother told her she would be fine, as long as she took the time to go through all the stages of divorce and grieve properly. She then told her friends how her ex had been dating several women but had recently started coming back around to her, wanting forgiveness and to start over.
“I’m in a different place, and I know if we got back together it would just backfire. He doesn’t want me. He just doesn’t want to be alone,” she said.
I needed to hear the rest of her story, so I stopped and distracted my kids with some shells a few feet next to them so I could listen. Not because I am a nosy person, but because my husband was acting so strange lately, that I’d asked my best friend and sisters for advice. After they gently alluded to the fact his behavior seemed to be that of a man who was having an affair, my world turned inside out.
I think deep down I knew, but I didn’t want to face that truth — no one does when pelted with horrible news.
They were right. The person I had married, loved, and trusted was sleeping with another woman. I wanted to leave my marriage. I was scared. I was hoping that woman could fix me that day. And she kind of did. While it took me six years to leave, I will always remember her, and the story she was telling.
Her words left an impression on me, and through the years before I ended my marriage, I often thought, I will take time to heal and not ignore my feelings when I leave, so it doesn’t haunt me the rest of my life.
I’ve done my best. And while it is extremely difficult to be alone sometimes, and to turn away men I know will distract me, I’ve stayed true to myself. If I don’t mourn my marriage properly, I’ll never move on in a healthy, positive way. But damn, there have been times I’ve felt like settling. No one likes to feel this kind of loneliness.
My ex admitted he signed up for Tinder the night he moved out. He was dating three different women within a week, and after a month, got very serious with one of those women. He is still with her now, and while I am happy he has found someone because it makes me feel less guilty, everyone keeps telling me he is making a mistake and just using this woman to mask his emotions.
Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. I don’t have all the answers. I just know I truly want my ex to take the time he needs to get over the damage divorce leaves — because no matter who you are, you have scars from this. He’s the father of my children, and it means a great deal to me for them to have a happy, healthy father.
I recently read a story in Dad’s Divorce written by Shawn Garrison, about how divorce can be harder on men because of the different ways they handle breakups. One of the reasons is that more often than not, women have the children more than their ex.
“Dads are often dealt the additional blow of losing access to their children. This can cause an enormous identity crisis. They’re no longer a husband and they’re also told they’re a secondary parent,” says Garrison.
Garrison goes on to say how it’s much harder for men to reach out for the help and support they need because of “social norms.” In turn, “rather than reaching out to family and friends for help, many men attempt to move on from their problems on their own. Some try to cope with alcohol or by immediately jumping into new relationships. These tendencies often prolong the healing process and can put men at risk for serious health problems,” he says.
I’ve talked to not only a few single women about their ex-husbands, but a few divorced men as well — some of whom have been divorced for over 30 years.
“I’m deeply sad I wasn’t able to make things okay with my kids’ mother. I moved on too fast,” said, Jim, a 65-year-old divorced grandfather.
“My ex wanted to go to therapy to save our marriage, I didn’t want to go. I remarried 9-months after we divorced. That ended in divorce, too. I never took the time to deal with what had happened. I’m still not over my ex,” said Michael who divorced his first wife in 1987.
“It is my biggest regret that my marriage did not work out and I’m the one who left,” said Travis, a single father with two boys who admits he thought he fell out of love with his wife.
“My ex started dating right away. He would go out with anyone and all his ‘encounters’ have ended horribly. He told me he didn’t take time for himself, and he jumped high for the first woman that would have him,” says Cindy a single mother of three.
I’ve been on a few dates with two different men since my divorce — both who are in their 40s and have gone through a divorce themselves within the past few years. I’m not a psychologist, nor am I a relationship expert, but they all still seemed so hurt, which came off as being angry.
Our conversations always led to them blaming their ex-wife for all that went wrong in their marriage. One even seemed to get high off the fact their kids would rather spend time with them than their mother.
Needless to say, all these men sent me running for the hills. Those are red flags — signs they have not taken the time to heal and work through their feelings. But they aren’t bad guys at all. In fact, they are amazing men who are still hurting and deserve to find peace and happiness within themselves before jumping into another relationship, thinking it will be different.
We all want to find a meaningful connection, regardless of what we say. And there does seem to be a difference in the way most men and women deal with pain and the issue of getting on with their life after divorce. This post-divorce business is tough to navigate; we are all just trying to do our best.
As for me, I am ready to meet someone to make special memories with, but I don’t want to try and move forward with a man who is not ready — because then, no one will win.