What the divorced won’t tell their married friends

I was sleeping in my son’s bed. I was not alone. I had a multitude of stuffed animals surrounding me, arranged in the protective circle within which he liked to sleep.stuffedanimals

He was at his father’s house with his brother for the weekend. And me?

I was a newbie to this whole divorce thing.

It was not sleeping alone in my bed that bothered me. In most divorces, that’s been happening for longer than anyone will admit.

It was missing my kids. Worrying about them. Trying to get out of mommy mode and into a mode that even vaguely remembered what I was and did before these two bouncing boys came into my life.

I was worried. I felt alone, as my friends were in their mommy modes for the weekend. My family was miles away and seemed wrapped up with their own issues.

I felt abandoned. I was floundering in a way I hadn’t since my twenties.

Things got better. Oh, so much better. But as I watch friends and family go through divorce in their own ways, it is brought back to me how very hard it is. Fresh pain is the worst pain. It’s raw and throbbing—almost a physical hurt.

Here’s what your divorced friends may not tell you.

They may not admit that the dark circles under their eyes come from lying awake at night, wondering if they’re going to lose the house because they can’t pay the mortgage. Worrying about how an ex’s rash actions might adversely affect the children. About how they’ll feel if they’re alone for the rest of their life—and how they’ll feel if someone wants to share that life again. Both can be scary prospects.

They may not mention that their kitchen cupboards have never been cleaner and more organized. That the people at Goodwill now call them by name because of the frequency of their every-other-weekend donations.

They definitely will not tell you that they are trying to find a way to love a body that looked entirely different last time it belonged to a single gal. And they’re wondering how someone else can love that body if they can’t.

Mum’s the word on the fact that they’ve prayed on their knees more in the past few months than they have in the past decade.

Many will refrain from sharing that they play tapes in their mind of old breakups, wondering if Sam, Jack, or Harry might have been the love of their life if things had worked out differently. Even though their wisest self knows for damn sure that she dodged a bullet when she dodged Sam, Jack and Harry.

And most won’t mention that they still leave one half of the bed empty, instead of sleeping in the middle. It’s a habit that’s hard to break. They will sometimes stare at that empty space and remember lazy family Sunday mornings in that bed. Late-night conversations in that bed. And yes, the inevitable arguments. But again, you won’t hear any of this.

After a bit, any divorced person realizes that reaching out just has to happen, even if it’s uncomfortable. Few of us have friends that magically drop by unannounced to share our weekend evenings. You have to schedule that movie with a friend, brunch with a cousin or dinner in the city.

You look for other people who have divorced, realizing it’s a tribe that understands the odd juxtaposition of soccer and karate one weekend, with a weekend in which the house is silent and you wonder how long it would take anyone to notice if you didn’t make it back from your run.

???????????????????????????????????If you’re wise and lucky—and you do your emotional homework—you come to love silence. You appreciate Sunday mornings with a cup of coffee, the New York Times and Lyle Lovett playing softly in the background.

You learn that reading for an hour on a rainy Sunday afternoon is one level of heaven—a level with which you’ve re-familiarized yourself.

And when you’re feeling steadier than you have in years, you realize the other things you won’t be sharing with your married friends.

You don’t admit that when they vent about the most recent argument, the same argument they’ve been having with their spouses for a decade or more, you secretly think, “Phew. Glad I’m not doing THAT anymore.”

You probably don’t tell them that you purposely choose the less-than-kid-friendly restaurants on your weekends alone. Because although you love your kids, your days of kiddie menus are fast coming to a close, especially now that you remember how much you love a good filet mignon and candlelight.

You do not flaunt the fact that spontaneity makes regular appearances in your life. Want to go to a movie in the middle of the afternoon? You do. Without thinking twice or asking permission.

You definitely refrain from mentioning the peace of mind that comes from cleaning up once on a Friday night and having the house remain that way for two entire days. Which makes having a glass of wine and some kickass aged cheddar on your sofa (where no one is supposed to eat) all the more enjoyable. That would put your friend right over the edge.

And suddenly, one day, your married friend may say to you, “You’re ok now, aren’t you?” Because she senses a shift but can’t quite name it. And what you won’t tell this friend is that all of the myriad things you’ve braved—from learning the ins and outs of tax deductions, to how to change your furnace filter or run your snow blower, to how to sleep in the middle of the bed peacefully—these are the sea change she senses.  In addition, of course, to the emotional heavy lifting you’ve done, quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) to bring your sweet self to this place.

You gratefully remember the people who have also helped to bring you to this place.

One of the kindest things a friend did for me before my first post-divorce cocktail party was to tell me she and her husband were picking me up. How did she know I was nervous about walking in solo? And then I remembered. Her parents were divorced.

With her, I didn’t have to say anything. She’d watched her mother live this transition.

Another friend has been wonderful about checking in to see what I have going on during my solo weekends. We’ve walked to the coffee shop on spring Sunday mornings, caught an early Happy Hour before her dinner with her husband on a Saturday night, headed into the city for a play.

These are small gestures but they mean so much to us. You have made room in a busy life—a life we used to have—for our friendship. And it has made a world of difference.

Now that’s something we should tell you. More often.


28 Comments Add yours

  1. We also don’t tell them that the 20 pounds we’ve lost is not intentional. Nor is it an attempt to attract a new suitor. It is not a result of new found energy or time to work out. It is the result of the inability to eat anything due to the constant ache in your stomach. It is a result of the burning of calories as you pace the floor late at night trying to figure out what the hell you are going to do.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh my goodness, I couldn’t have said it better myself! It is definitely like a death and we grieve it the same way if we’re smart.

  2. garym6059 says:

    I can so relate to this as a guy last year when I went through my divorce.

    1. candidkay says:

      I am sure you can. I think all of us, male or female, go through the transition alone and if you’ve not done it–you just don’t get it. Hope things are on the upswing for you.

  3. cindy says:

    Never been divorced – but still crave that alone time I had in my 20’s. Ha! You’ve always been a very independent person, Krisse. So I can understand both situations – missing them and yet savoring your alone time. However, you’ve come out of this situation an even better, stronger, confident person!! I’m so proud to have you as my friend. And thank God you made a great decision to move on! It takes a lot of courage and confidence for you to move on and you’ve done it with grace and style!!

  4. Leela says:

    Hoping you are holding up ok… Sounds very sad. I thought that a divorce, because it has a lot of reasons to make that desicion, would be much easier to deal with. :/

  5. I’m voicing support because I know all that a divorce means is difficult even when it’s for the best. I also feel that many of the feelings you’ve expressed are in shadow form in the lives of the married friends.

    1. candidkay says:

      Ah–and there you hit upon it. “In shadow form in the lives of the married friends.” But I think more denial when you’ve not already gone through the gut-wrenching divorce bit. Kind of like labor–you’ll never be quite so modest again:). It changes you.

  6. Kevin says:

    Just out of curiosity, before you were married, did you mind being by yourself or alone? I read through the comments and I know some people can handle being by themselves better than others. I think once you understand that part, the being alone and away from the kids might be easier to understand and deal with.

    Of course, I do have to agree with the comment: cleaning the house once on a Friday night and it staying clean for a whole weekend is an added bonus.

    1. candidkay says:

      Good question, Kevin. I did enjoy being alone–I think most creative types do. But I like to balance it with social activities. And in my 20s, I went from the youngest of six kids and a family party around every corner to a Lincoln Park Trixie living on my own. The gap was a hard one to bridge for awhile. But I learned:).

  7. I’ve never been divorced, but I have two boys as well and I can’t fathom being away from them in a situation like that. I got teary just reading about you lying in their bed with their stuffed animals. I’m so glad to hear you are through the worst of the storm:)

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you for the kind words. We all go through it in our own way, don’t we?

  8. markbialczak says:

    I want to pass along some good luck perhaps, as well as honor your sincere good work here, Kay. I nominate you for The Seven Awards. Have a good day.

  9. Ilene says:

    Divorced for 6 years. These are words we never hear , but I think these thoughts to myself all the time. Definitely wonder which is more frightening, the thought of being alone or the thought of recommitting again. I would agree 100% the hardest part , and maybe the only hard part is missing my kids. You so strongly identify with being a mom, that when they are gone, you feel alone regardless of how many plans you have. Had I known how hard this part would be, even 6 years later, I wonder if I would have chosen to stay.

  10. miraesto says:

    Divorced but lucky to have sole custody, I don’t know what I’d do if it were otherwise. I don’t even want to contemplate. But I can appreciate what you have written. I commend your progress.

  11. I’ve never been divorced, never been married, never had kids but I understand the worry of lying awake at night, wondering how you might ever find the courage to share your life with someone else. A brave and beautifully written post.

  12. Susy Walters Hisch says:

    Oh this is so good! I cannot relate but I know so many who can. You are awesome girl!

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! And I hope you never have to relate to this:).

  13. The reason you can’t tell them is because they don’t and just can’t understand. Just like with pregnancy and childbirth. 🙂

    This was beautifully written and so true. Thank you for sharing!

  14. NotAPunkRocker says:

    It’s still stressful, but it’s different, predictable stress vs. on-going relationship stress. That was something I was glad to realize, I can handle “normal” stress now.

    All these years later and I still sleep on “my”side of the bed. If I try to start out in the middle, I end up on the side by the end of the night.

  15. You must have been in my head when you wrote those words, as it has summed up how I feel about so many little things. Even though my children are older the loss of being mother / wife and those busy frenetic weekends was initially intolerable. My friends and some family members are moving into the next phase of life now (retirement) with the bliss of frequent travel and sitting back relaxing in financial comfort; whereas I am going to have to sell my home, find a new career (at sixty) and work for at least another 10 years. These words are not spoken. This is the gift of divorce. However, I am slowly seeing the advantages, as in so many ways it is exciting to begin again.
    (And I still sleep in one half of the bed, albeit that it is a different bed).

    1. candidkay says:

      The later in life, the harder it seems to be for anyone but the truly wealthy. Wishing you peace.

      1. Peace to you too on your ‘alone’ weekends (and for that matter, all the time). 🙂

  16. Amber Perea says:

    While I have never been divorced *knocks on wood* this was a spectacularly well written piece. Beautiful post.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! I hope you never have to know these things firsthand.

  17. Momz Happy Hour says:

    AMEEEEENNN!!! I just got divorced last year and it’s a beautiful thing in some ways, but as you said – hard in others.. when my kids are with him and I have to worry about his actions twords me, or if the kids are okay when with him, i think that’s the hardest… I totally loved this post!!!!!! well said ❤

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