By Jennifer Christy
No one hands you a “How To” book when you get divorced. You don’t even really think, “Gosh, I’m divorcing now, I think I’ll do some research about how to do it right.” And so, when you go about trying to get your life back together again dealing with the day-to-day challenges of just getting through the day emotionally, dealing with all the legal aspects of separating your life from your former-spouse and figuring out how to parent alone, you face a lot of hurtful and judgmental comments from well-meaning married people about how you should be rebuilding your life.
It’s a lot like those times when childless people tell you how to parent your child. To these childless people, it’s a simple matter as they define it in their limited experience – it doesn’t make sense to them otherwise. They can’t see the complexities of your relationship with your child and the things you’ve already tried and how you beat yourself up for making the mistakes your parents made that you swore you wouldn’t repeat with your child. These people are blinded by lack of experience, it’s not really their fault and you can’t let their words influence what your gut tells you to do. You know that as you bumble along the path of parenting your wonderful, innocent, patient, and long-suffering child that you will eventually get the hang of it. You realize that your child is actually the teacher in the relationship – the one which made you a parent biologically, but who grows with you along your journey to help you master the skills of parenting. Each child is unique as their parent and their relationship – just as each divorce and the couple going through it are unique.
We all bumble along the path of rebuilding our lives after a divorce and though others can’t see the lessons we have learned or recognize the painfully slow progress of laying one small “lesson” brick at a time to the foundation of our new lives, it doesn’t mean that what we’ve been through isn’t of worth. What we gained during the excruciating experience of divorce may not look like much to others and we may be scorned for not having the knowledge we needed to maybe make a different choice along the way, knowledge that others take for granted, but, again, even if we had that knowledge it may not have been applicable to the situation we went through, because we weren’t the only ones in the relationship. We can’t control the other person – we can only control ourselves. What works for one relationship – doesn’t work for another.
And so when I look back at my two marriages and the subsequent relationships that followed and the complexities of each, it’s overwhelming to think of the myriad of choices that led to the all the painful endings. I’ve spent innumerable hours reflecting on those relationships and analyzing all the variables that affected what happened that led to the endings. I’ve wondered unceasingly what I could have done differently that would have changed things, until one day it occurred to me that dwelling on the past was impeding my progress. I made choices and they can’t be changed. Regardless, good or bad, the choices produced a valuable experience. That experience influences my current and future choices. With that experience I know myself better and I know what works and what doesn’t work for me. With that experience I’ve learned to recognize the qualities and values in potential relationships that I want or don’t want. I’ve used logic and reasoning to govern my choices most of my life and didn’t trust the feelings of my heart. I’ve since become more sensitive to following my heart more than my head as I’ve delved deeper into practicing a level of spirituality that I never considered exploring before. It was ignoring the feelings of my heart that blinded me to the “red flags” in several relationships I entertained because, at the time it seemed like the right choice based on my expectations of that relationship which was corralled by a self-limiting belief system of who I was/am.
It wasn’t until I broke the limitations of my belief and surrendered to the divine to guide my life, that my “eyes” of understanding were opened to reveal that I really didn’t know or comprehend life-like I thought I did and I needed to develop more trust and faith in the Unknown that is my God, and trust that He will provide for my highest good.
I went through a phase where I was content to be alone in my search for spiritual enlightenment. For months I indulged in the joy of discovering things that I didn’t know or understand about life, the world, and universe. I marveled at the immensity of everything that I had yet to fully comprehend and master and I was joyful at the prospect of pursuing the activity of gaining these nuggets of wisdom. I was joyful in my recognition of my inadequacies, because I knew I could be better – I wasn’t doomed to being contained by my self-imposed and misconstrued beliefs that had imprisoned me for so long.
And then it dawned on me that I couldn’t even possibly hope to master the skills of attaining spiritual enlightenment on my own, just like I couldn’t hope to be a wise parent without a child to practice on. I would need someone in my life on a constant basis in which to practice the Universal Laws of which I had been studying alone for a while. I would need a partner who was as vested in growing spiritually as I was – a marriage partner for there was no other way I could explore the full spectrum of spirituality without one. But for me, the idea of marriage was daunting and I didn’t trust myself to make a good choice. Instead, I submitted myself to the “relationship” experts in my life to dictate to me what I should do. These experts were quick to tell me that I that statistics showed I would never have a happy marriage again, or that a subsequent marriage wouldn’t be based on love at all, but would be for companionship purposes only, or that I shouldn’t remarry at all until my children were grown and gone. With those assorted and varied opinions and beliefs from people who hadn’t walked in my shoes or understood what I knew – marriage wasn’t an appealing option at all for me, but what about my spiritual quest? Was love and marriage really only for the young? Were those whose first marriages failed doomed to less than ideal subsequent marriages or never to remarry? Never to feel the rush of passion and love again?
With the dismal facts of remarriage looming before me, I cast my heart into the universe and begged my God to take care of it for me. “Lead me to that path you want me to follow,” I prayed, “I trust you more than I trust those who think they know what’s best for me.” God led me along a path to help me understand marriage better by changing the way I reviewed my past relationships, seeing them in a new light so I could extract new lessons rather than be overcome with emotion about what I had lost. I knew from what I had studied about relationships and happiness that marriage offers an unbelievable world of possibilities where both partners could grow together, spiritually, intellectually, even physically. I wanted that now. I had a new and profound respect for marriage and a partner who also wanted what I wanted – if I could find such a man.
I found myself yearning for a connection with someone special and made myself available again to dating, but this time, being guided by spirit after having gotten to know myself well enough to be able to discern what would make me happy in a relationship. As in the past when I first turned my life over to being directed to spirit, I knew from experience that God can move swiftly when the need arises and in this matter of the heart, He made no exceptions when He brought into my life a man unlike any other who…well, the details are deeply personal and sacred to me, too sacred to share on this platform.
Suffice it to say, within a short time following a profound life-changing event, this man of great bearing and noble gentleness asked that we continue our life journey together. I agreed with much joy in my heart, (without the noise and confusion of my head this time) and with a simple, private ceremony, we pledged our hearts and souls to each other on the sacred altar of marriage.
It’s because of my new understanding and deep feelings of sacred love and respect for this man and the sacred entity of the marriage we have created, that I hold his identity close to my heart. I have learned from previous experience that the world can be cruel and harsh to relationships, especially on social media. Marriage is too sacred to be treated like common news on a platform viewed by strangers who are not privileged to the intricacies of one’s heart.
Though I am married now, my work with the single parent community continues, but now instead of being one, I’m now in a position where I can offer even greater support and encouragement to those just entering or having been stuck in the frustrating and unpredictable world of the single parent. I hope to be able to show through my experience as a single mom that happiness is possible on the other side of divorce.