As my friend Mary Nell said, "The best revenge is a good life."



Divorce Self Health Tip #1: Write Your Feelings Down

It's 2 a.m. and you are all alone. Your mate has left, telling you your marriage is over, and you are beside yourself with grief.Your chest feels like it is bursting and you can't sleep because of the thousands of thoughts and fears crowding your head.

Get up and write down your feelings. Set them down on paper! (I found that putting pen to paper felt more tactile and personal than using a computer.)

Here are the thoughts I wrote during my most turbulent times. Few are full sentences. Most are hastily written words.

I feel...

taken for granted
like a burden

I am surrounded by...

married couples
people with children
happy people

I am isolated from....

my husband
my creativity
my former social life

I yearn for ...

my mate
feeling loved
being wanted

I have lost my rudder
I feel isolated
I am refusing invitations
I am reneging on promises

And then I wrote the qualities I liked about myself, such as:

I am a decent loving person
I am talented
I am smart
I am loyal
etc. etc.

I am not saying that writing your thoughts down will give you an instant magic cure and that you will start to sleep better. But over time your need to write every fear down will lessen. As you tackle some seemingly insurmountable problems, the very act of writing down what you plan to do, and what you did and why, will empower you.

The important thing about jotting down your thoughts is that you are creating a dialogue with yourself. The terrified and sad person inside of you begins to communicate with the sane, decent, talented and loving side of you. Try to end your midnight ramblings with positive thoughts. Always allow the good, thinking, sensing person inside of you to have the last say.

I used this technique a lot, and over time it began to work in my favor. I jotted down my fears every day. Then I wrote down the nice things I did for people to counteract all the horrible things I was hearing from Bob during therapy.

I also wrote down my immediate goals and long terms goals; what would make me happy (keeping the house, finding a job with benefits, finding a new mate, becoming financially solvent, etc.); and the steps it would take to achieve those goals. The act of writing down my fears, and then tackling difficult problems by breaking them down into achievable goals turned my negative, self-defeating thoughts into positive action. Plus my daily affirmations gave me strength.

Six and a half years after my divorce I still encounter some of those sheets of paper filled with my grief-stricken thoughts, fears, and tentative plans, and I am amazed how far along I've come.


Maintaining Your House After Divorce

Good news. I kept the house after the divorce. Bad news. Maintenance costs are eating me alive.

Since my divorce I estimate I've put around $20,000 of maintenance costs into my house in cash. Notice I said maintenance, not improvements or redecorating. In the past 24 months I've replaced a worn out stove, refrigerator, washer, and dryer. I've had the ceilings fixed (cracks and water damage) and had the walls painted after 15 years of aging. A plumber has fixed old dripping faucets, and a handyman rescreened the porch and replaced rotting doors. I've had 4 dying, rotting trees removed (at $500 per tree), a driveway regraded so that rain pours away from the garage, and broken gutters mended. Tomorrow some men will come to replace my leaking roof. I estimate this will set me back around $5,000. I say estimate because the men always find something else that needs to be mended or done.

Future maintenance costs will include unclogging a drain pipe, fixing the phone line inside my house, and mending the water damage in my bedroom ceiling. Home improvement costs, such as tearing down walls of tiny rooms to create one large living space, adding built in shelves, and installing crown molding, have cost an additional $6,000.

In the six years since the house became mine, I have replaced almost all the 1950's electrical wiring and plugs, added sensor lights around my house, added kitchen lights in dark corners, added back up heating elements and a whole house fan, and created a practically maintenance free yard with fence and flower beds and large flagstoned areas. Realtors assure me that I will get my investment back in spades, but this is only after I sell my house!

I don't know how much the total renovations cost me - I think around $35,000. I paid cash because I cannot afford to pay interest on loans. I stash 25% of my earnings away in order to pay for taxes and upkeep. Having never seen the money, I don't miss it. I manage to do this on a salary that equals my niece's starting salary (she is 25 years old), and that represents 1/4 of the combined income I once enjoyed with my husband.

My next expenses? A new car to replace my '99 Ford Taurus (I want a Honda next) and a new whole house heat pump. It's time to start saving again! On top of the continual maintenance costs, I must save up for real estate and personal property taxes, not to mention insurance policies.

Whew. No wonder my wardrobe is skimpy and I no longer host great big parties. I can hardly afford my house! Look, I am not complaining. This is the reality of the situation. Just remember that as you divide your assets and fight for hearth and home, that you must account for these inevitable expenses. If you don't, your house will eat you alive.


Cleaning House: Getting Rid of the Last Vestiges of My Marriage

I spent this past weekend tripping down memory lane as I dismantled a bookshelf Bob put up in our guest room 18 years ago. It was a heavy piece of furniture made of oak that had yellowed. Every time I looked at it which was daily, for it sat in my office, I thought of him. We had bought this piece in 1983 just after he'd gotten his first 'real' job, as a tenure bound professor at a major university.

I chucked the unit out yesterday, giving it to my special male friend. He was delighted to receive it and I was ecstatic to get rid of it. However, I had no idea how much stuff this unit held. Out came the books (all 500 of them), and photos I had stashed in the drawers below. Out tumbled a photo a friend had taken of Bob and me when we just got engaged. You could feel the heat and see the love in our eyes. Out tumbled another photo of Bob's graduation from High School, which was the way he looked when we first met.

Having to deal with those reminders was the bad news. The good news is that I felt no pangs of regret. I choose to remember those early good days, the love we felt for each other and the fondness I held for his parents, and in doing so I've reclaimed over half my life.

Still, I have new plans for my office, which will soon have an entirely different, more modern look. The next piece of furniture to go is the file cabinet, also made of oak. First I will have to delve into files that were labeled by Bob and still contain much of his memorabilia. But one step at a time. The day is coming closer when I will be completely over the divorce - and him.

The photo above is not of the two of us.


Dealing with anger during your divorce

I recall once during the most stressful time of my divorce talking to my dear Aunt. She called me once a week to support me. In this instance, I was not receptive. My head was full of the noise of fear and anger crowding in on me, and I could only live, literally, moment to moment. I could not think straight.

She was talking about the future and things I should do, but I could not hear her. In fact, she was increasing my stress. Finally, I cut her short and told her I would be ready to talk another time.

I would call my mother every day, sometimes three times a day, for support. At the beginning she would tell me how much better off I was than other women in my position, and how I was better off without a husband who didn't want me. Did her statements help? No. They devalued my anguish and pain. I would beg her to stop and just listen. I needed to vent. I needed a way to release my pain in a safe environment. I needed - RELIEF!

After weeks of begging she finally understood me and began to listen - just listen. And I was able to let my anger out. I had a safe way to let off steam and say the most ridiculous and hateful things, and still be in the presence of a loving person.

Letting go of all my anger and rage helped me to move on. It was a vital and crucial step in my healing. Mom would remind me, "Five minutes on your pity pot and then you must get off." Those daily five minutes prevented me from saying harmful things to Bob as we negotiated the divorce settlement. Those daily five minutes saved my ASS.

Dealing with your anger during the pain of separating is crucial. Hiding your feelings and soldiering on with your chin up are self-defeating measures. At some point your attempts to hide your hurt and anger will come back to bite you. So get your rage out early. Get it out with someone you can trust. Deal with it.

But I caution you: Though letting go of your anger is crucial, you have only a limited window of time. There is nothing less attractive than a divorced person who bashes their ex spouse for years and years after the papers have been signed. Always bringing up your divorce and spewing vitriol is a sure fire way to lose friends and supporters. Let it go. Don't allow your ex to have such power over you that your life is filled with thoughts of hate and revenge. Move on. Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger should take my advice.

Here are a few other resources that will help you re-emerge from your divorce relatively unscathed:


Post Divorce Romance Cynic

Before my divorce I read romance novels. I even wrote a few and had signed a contract with a New York agent. She peddled my manuscript to editors who said sweetly that for a first effort the novel was fine, but that I should keep trying. As I completed proofreading my second book my husband left. He said he didn't want me to blame him for not finishing the edits, so he thought he'd wait and drop the D-bomb after I was done.

Wasn't that sweet of him?

That was the end of my budding career as a romance novelist. Back in those days I read a ton of romance novels, and I still have about 200-300 to dispose of. A girlfriend of mine is reading them as fast as she can, and each time she finishes a batch, I dump another couple of grocery bags filled with bodice rippers and chick lit at her doorstep.

I cannot stomach reading them any more. In fact, when I attended a wedding shortly after my divorce, it took all my willpower not to snort out loud and say, "Huh! How long will this marriage last?"
Why have I become so cynical? Because even though I believed in love ever after and in romance; even though my husband plied me with gifts and frequent romantic surprises; and even though we would walk in public holding hands, and sit on the couch in our den and smooch, and talk and laugh every time we went out to dinner, rarely getting bored of each others' thoughts, ideas, and conversation, my so called prince left.

As he dragged half of the furniture out of our house, he told me he would miss our conversations and cozy trips together, "But not much else, Vic."

That's when I turned from a hopeless romantic into a world class cynic. I did not smooch with my new beau. I didn't attempt to hold hands with hot date #3. And I no longer give surprise gifts or believe in any of the trappings of romance. I'm ready for a grown up relationship now - one of mutual respect, deep and loyal love, and promises that will be kept. I know I possess those qualities in spades, but the question is: "Will I ever trust a man enough to find out if he does?"

See more Ann Telnaes cartoons here.

Well, the situation could have been worse. We could have been living in the limbo of non divorce, and then I would have had to put up with his non interest.
Click here for the story.


Dating After 50

Dating. Uggh. I hate the term. The whole concept is new to me, even though I have been divorced for six and a half years. I met my last significant boyfriend (another term I hate) shortly after Bob and I separated. My new beau and I began a four-year relationship soon after my divorce.

Since my break up with my post-divorce beau, I have had two "pure" dates. The first was magical and it led to a short intense 3-month relationship. The second date was a disaster. The fellow met me at a strip mall Mexican Restaurant and only ordered an appetizer. Needless to say, I did not order an entree over $9.95. Since he ordered beer, I stuck with cheap wine. This gentleman had been married three times, worked the night shift at a local cigarette factory, and was living with his mother. The date lasted two hours as he nursed his one beer and I my one wine. Afterwards this man told me that I was special and that he would like to see me a second time. No thanks.

Yesterday I held a 4th of July party and invited 14 people for a cook out. One of my guests was my ex beau, the one I met shortly after my separation from Bob. We broke up two and a half years ago. He, his son, and his son's girlfriend arrived, and it was like the years fell away. My old beau stoked up the grill, his son helped to entertain the guests, and I cooked the meal. The day was so cozy and comfortable, with them moving about my house easily and interacting familiarly with my other guests. But as the day came to a close, I found myself alone with my dog.

Last night, bittersweet nostalgia swept over me. My old beau and I truly care for each other. In fact, I can honestly say I love him and miss him. He loves me too and he obviously wanted to stay. So what was the problem?


Not that I necessarily want to get married, but if I am going to sleep with a man, I expect exclusivity. And that loyalty just wasn't there. My sweet, wonderful friend is eye candy to women and he, like the Warren Beatty of old, loves them all. And that was the problem. My wonderful handsome friend is a serial monogamist. He flits from woman to woman, and is committed to one at a time, usually for two or three months or so. The fact that I lasted four years astounded our acquaintances. Oh, he's slowing down as he gets older, but he is still open to the possibilities of exploring a relationship with women he has yet to meet.

And I am too proud and fastidious to put up with that.

Because of my old beau's good looks and his sweet ways, women are drawn to him like monarch butterflies to a butterfly bush. He is irresistible. And so he has no trouble flitting. So, sadly and with regret, even though I received the invitation to, ahem, spend a splendid night of passion, I let him go home. He received my gentle no as a gentleman, not begging or playing games. Then he simply hugged me and walked away.

I let him go with only a slight pang.

We are friends. That is all. Deep, loving, mutual friends. I cannot tell you the number of times we have come to each others' rescue since our break up. This kind of friendship IS possible between a man and a woman. Don't let all the naysayers tell you it isn't. Oh, sure there are sexual overtones, and when we are seeing others (more about this later) we don't interact. But when we both are free with no significant others lurking in the background, our friendship reverts to the easy old ways. It took us a year to arrive at this juncture, and it took some mental gymnastics on my part. But when a friend of mine wisely counseled me that life is too short to lose someone you truly love and respect, her words freed me.

At this stage of my life I would rather spend time with a dear friend than with a stranger who is a lousy date. It is that simple. Oh, and lest you think I am a fool for love, we rarely communicate with or see each other. Only when it counts.

So, as you begin to date again, remember that not all the men you meet are going to be potential spouses. Some are a lousy date. Some are potential mate material. And some will simply make the best friend you will ever have.


Take sound advice from friends ...

... and leave the word "but" out of your vocabulary.

It's unfortunate that during one of the most stressful periods of your life you are forced to make life altering decisions. Unless you prepared for this event coolly and dispassionately ahead of time, you will find yourself forced to make one bewildering decision after another. Yet, if you are anything like I was, you are hard pressed to think straight, much less make sound and thoughtful choices.

Enter your family and friends. As I have discussed in previous posts, do not indiscriminately share all your feelings with everyone. Choose your listeners wisely. Click here on what I have written about this topic.

Once you have solicited your friends for advice, LISTEN. Do not interrupt. Do not use the word, "but." And here is why:

1. The friends you have chosen have your best interest at heart.
2. They are talking logically.
3. They are offering you a different perspective.
4. Closing off other options will leave you with fewer choices.
5. Brainstorming even the silliest ideas will sometimes take you to a different, better path.
6. Sometimes it takes weeks for their advice to sink in or for you to understand it.

If, on the other hand, you immediately say "but", this is what happens

1. You are closing your mind off and aren't actively listening.
2. Your friends will feel devalued.
3. After hearing "but" too many times, their sound advice will dry off.

This is what happened to me last year: An old friend turned to me for advice, which I gave her. The situation was dire. Her significant other, whom she had kicked out of her house the year before, had come back and moved in with her again. He had shown symptoms of violence before, and she was afraid to kick him out again. I solicited the advice of a mutual friend, a lawyer, found her a "safe" house to live in (my parents), and, along with the lawyer, created a time line of how to get rid of the bum, including notifying the police, changing the locks in her house, and moving into the safe house for the duration. I spent hours talking to her, assuring her we would back her up and help her when the time came.

Guess what happened. "But, but, but, but ..." She is still living with him. Worse, when she began to talk the same talk in April, I remained quiet. What was the point? I knew that for whatever reason she decided to stay with him, all she needed from me this time was the ability to vent. Why waste my breath again? To be fair to her, she has told me over and over that just knowing I care had lifted a burden from her heart.

So, as you solicit your friends for ideas, use your active listening skills and listen closely,asking questions only to clarify. Thank your friends for their advice, then tell them the truth: That you will take what they said to heart and mull their ideas over. Then, after the dust has settled, invite them over for dinner and let them know what a difference they've made in your life. When you need them again, believe me, they'll be there.