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.