I was recently asked to write a piece for The Huffington Post/Divorce section (psyched!) and my topic choice, “How do you know when you’re over your divorce?” inspired me to write this post.
I am not suggesting that us divorcees are part of some special club, but we do have a unique experience that those who have not been through it can’t really understand. Fortunately for them, they just don’t get it. They attempt to guide us, when they have never been in our shoes. I suspect it’s no different in reverse. Should someone who has never been married give marital advice? Should someone who has never had children provide child-rearing tips? I guess they can, but whether you listen to it or not is your choice (or problem).
Three of my close girlfriends are divorced – we all split with our exes around the same time. Two of them are now in serious relationships, and like me, they have pretty much healed. They have put their divorces behind them.
The only difference is, I’m still single. To some people, single is a condition that needs fixing. People close to me want to “help” me. They want me to be happy (even though I think that most of the time, I am), and they think if I find my next husband, like my divorced girlfriends have, I will be.
I realize that their intentions come from a good place – love. I understand the ache, or the itch, to make a loved one’s burden lighter, and sometimes we can’t resist the urge to scratch it, even though it might not help.
With the input of some fellow divorcees, here are some examples:
Divorced: “I got a really nice email from my ex-husband…after all this time…”
Married: “Maybe you two should go on a date.”
Divorced, no kids: “I’m thinking about going to a fertility clinic to discuss my options of having a kid.”
Married with kids: “Oh, is that the place where you can get some eggs?”
Divorced: “I had a dream that I saw my ex husband and we made up. I woke up really sad.”
Married: “Wow, I can’t believe you’re not over it yet.”
Divorced: “This guy I met on Match.com told me his last girlfriend called the cops on him after they had a fight, but that she’s the one that started it.”
Married: “Give him a chance.”
Divorced, no kids: “Wow, I can’t believe I’m going to be 40 this year. When I was married, I thought I'd have at least two kids.
Married with kids: “My friends started having kids at 44. You can have three.”
Divorced: “Sometimes it still hurts that my husband cheated on me.”
Married: “Didn’t you know that was going to happen? You can’t just travel for work all the time and expect your husband to stay faithful.”
Divorced: "I really want a child and my divorce has delayed everything."
Married with Kids: "Just do it. Pick anyone. It doesn't matter who.”
Divorced: " I'm sorry I haven't seen you for a while. Our friendship is important to me but it’s been tough and I needed space to process my divorce."
Married: "It's ok. I'm just going to pretend you went on vacation."
It's true that on the surface, none of the above suggestions seem constructive, or applicable. If we wanted stock advice, we could pick up a self help book (or read "Eat Pray Love"). Maintaining a close friendship with people who have never been in your shoes can be tricky...if you let it. I try not to expect any magical pearls of wisdom. We are the sole surivivors of our own history and experiences - no one else wakes up in our own skin. And that's okay. That's how it's supposed to be.
So I guess the choice is ours. We can put up a wall between us and the people we care about who "just don't understand," and protect ourselves from frustration. Or- we can choose to share, in order to nurture and sustain that relationship.
And if that means that suggestions are going to be offered, so be it.
You may even be surprised that sometimes, if you stay open, a pearl of wisdom might sneak it's way in.