By Petro Thamm, owner and founder of Good Night Child and Sleep Consultancy.
In the first of three parts, Petro Thamm shares her insights about crossing the path of the great divide called divorce.
I was married at 21 after my husband and I had dated for three years. We were married for eight (mostly unhappy) years. After careful consideration and doing everything in my power to fix what was broken, I decided to exit the marriage.
It was one of the toughest decisions of my life, especially when I considered our sons who were then three-and-a-half years and eight months old respectively. Our beautiful blue-eyed boys are maybe the only two things my ex-husband and I did right during our time together.
“It’s important to give the ex-wife some grace; respect her as a woman and try to see that she is doing the best she can.”
I was 29 at the time of the divorce and during my time as a new divorcee, I grew at a rapid rate! I shed many tears and I spent a great deal of time with other divorced men and women. I became the ex-wife when my ex-husband started dating, and later I fell in love with a man going through a divorce. I watched him experience the agony of what men go through as fathers (first-hand) as well, all the while gaining insight into the role of the “new girlfriend”. These new roles meant I had to navigate through a whole new set of emotions.
To the divorced woman:
- Your kids are going to be okay 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, you have to let them go to receive time and love from their dads.
- 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.
- It is okay to cry. Often.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Don’t be the norm. I’ve seen too many well-intentioned women live the following out as a mantra that becomes laughable, unfair and downright pathetic:
- I am a victim.
- My ex-husband has no idea what I am going through.
- My ex-husband does not spend enough quality time with my kids.
- My ex-husband loves his new family more than my kids.
- My ex-husband is moving on too fast.
- My ex-husband does not pay enough maintenance.
- My ex-husband has no appreciation for what I am going through as a single parent.
- My life is over. How will I ever be able to live on my own?
- I need a man.
- 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 decisions and mistakes and stop blaming everyone and everything else.
- Your girl friends are going to feel incredibly threatened or jealous by your new single status. They may also feel like you don’t have 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.
- 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 all 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 and 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.