I got divorced four years ago. The marriage only lasted three years, but it hurt as much as it would, had the marriage lasted 50 years, I imagine.
It was a blow to me when my ex-husband told me that he didn’t want to continue being married to me anymore because he had fallen out of love with me. I had not seen it coming. I thought our marriage was perfect, that we were meant for each other and that we would remain together until the end of our lives. I believed at the time that it was a good thing that we were never getting into arguments. I see now that the lack of communication between us was only a small part of what was not going well.
During my separation with my ex-husband, there was a lot of crying involved, a lot of self-pity, of thinking that my life had ended and that I would never be happy again. Because I am someone who likes to find answers on the Internet and in books, that was exactly what I did. I spent hours and hours on the web trying to find the solution to my marriage problems, or to give me the right coping mechanisms or the right things to say to my then 3-year old child about why his parents were separating.
The Internet provides a myriad of self-help columns and advice from experts. Unfortunately, they were all coming from abroad. What I realized then was that there was not one book available in local bookstores in Indonesia to help people deal with a divorce. The only useful advice I found on the Internet was a website from the Justice Department explaining the steps you had to take in order to ask for a divorce.
One day, while searching on the web, I fell upon an article written by Kristin Armstrong, Lance Armstrong’s ex-wife. What she wrote opened my eyes to something I had completely forgotten to look after during my three years of marriage: Me.
I had somehow succeeded to put myself aside and become another person whose main identity was being a wife and a mother. I so wished that someone had told me how much I had changed back then. It was only then that I started to make some decisions in my life, decisions that I feel have greatly helped me in dealing with what I was going through.
Here are the things that helped me get through my divorce:
- Find an occupation; if possible, one where you are earning money
Women tend to press the “pause” button on our lives in order to take care of their husband and children. I’ve heard many stories of women getting a divorce after 20-30 years, having only stayed at home with the kids and discovering that they had to find a job in order to pay the bills. I urge you to find your passion and earn a living from it.
- Find out the things that define you as a person
When I was still married, I listened to the same music and liked the same movies as my husband. And I was always more interested in what was going on in his life than he was in mine. In a nutshell, I disappeared. It was only after I was on my own that I gradually realized what kind of music I actually liked, and other things that made me happy and defined me. Finding myself again was such a relief.
- Surround yourself with girlfriends
There’s no denying it. I could not have survived if I didn’t have girlfriends to whom I could pour my heart out. Women have such a need to communicate our feelings. I found new friends who were open to hear my stories, and sometimes all they needed to do was just that: Hear me out.
- Do sports
Without really thinking about it, I joined a gym a few months after my ex-husband and I separated. At first, it was because I felt unhappy about my figure and wanted to do something about it. After a few months, however, I realized I was feeling happy every time I was working out and refreshed when I had finished my session. Later I found out that working out releases oxytocin, which is a hormone in our body that generates a “blissful sense of contentment”. In other words, it makes you feel happy.
- Find your “me time”
All mothers out there will probably agree with me that after having a child, making time for yourself is not easy at all, especially if you’re a working mother. However, part of finding yourself again and defining yourself as a person needs to be done on your own, or with friends, not while cooking or taking care of your kids. When I looked back, during my three years of marriage, I had no social life and I didn’t even realize it! I had to force myself to go out, meet my old friends and start organizing outings again in order to find myself.
- Don’t stay bitter
The last thing I would say, and this is probably the most important part, is: Don’t be bitter, don’t have regrets, learn from what’s happening and move on. It’s so easy to stay mad but it takes courage to think about the future and try to be happy again.
About Vanessa Reksodipoetro
Vanessa is a single working mom living in Jakarta with her son Amal. Half French, she grew up and lived in many countries, but can't imagine being anywhere else than in Indonesia. Vanessa is passionate about her work at local NGO Yayasan Usaha Mulia, and about promoting social good in general. In her spare time, she enjoys watching TED talks and writing in her personal blog Et Voila.