Advice for my friends who are divorcing

My friends are starting to get divorced.  This week, one of my university friends contacted me to say that she and her husband are getting a divorce.  They have a two year old daughter.

We haven’t been in contact for years and I last saw her about five years ago. She’d heard that I am now a single mum having separated from my partner, Cygnet’s father, a couple of years ago. She wondered whether I would meet her for coffee. We are meeting in a couple of weeks’ time. 

When I first separated from my now ex, I was the only one among my friendship group whose long term relationship had broken down.  I was the only single mum.  I knew women at work who were single mums, but they were older and their kids are older.  I was an early adopter of the single mum badge. I was the only single mum in the village, so to speak. 

An estimated 42% of marriages end in divorce, so I shouldn’t be the least bit surprised that my friends’ relationships are now breaking down. Love doesn’t, I’m afraid, always last forever.  Neither should I be surprised that my friends contact me when their relationships are going through bumpy patches or they are getting divorced. I’ve been there, got the t-shirt, survived and, if they made single mum badges, I would wear my single mum badge with pride. 

Advice for my friends who are divorcing

It does make me sad though.  I have just re-read some of my old blog posts written at the time of my separation, or shortly after.  My blog posts tell you the truth about my relationship breakdown and about my first month as a single mum.  I wrote some dark words about some dark days, and I wrote quite a few posts about wanting to co-parent without a lawyer and about family mediation.  I also wrote a letter to give to my son on his 18th birthday.   

I’d forgotten how awful the experience was.  I’ve come a long way and my heart goes out to those now going through divorce and separation.  It can be tough, monumentally tough, but you will not only survive, you will thrive.  Trust me when I tell you that you are stronger than you look and you are braver than you could ever imagine. 

My observations and advice:

Recognise that divorce and separation can be unpredictable. 

It is a cruel truth that at a time when you can barely look at your ex, you have to make a load of joint decisions.  These decisions can be as small as what to do with those kitchen utensils you bought together in John Lewis, to as big as the custody of your children. 

Logic and rational behaviour would dictate that the big decisions would be more emotionally charged than the smaller ones.  I found that my ex’s reactions were unpredictable in the extreme.

My mum had been helping me pack up the kitchen in our jointly owned house before we sold it.  She accidentally packed a piece of Tupperware belonging to my ex.  His sister had lent it to him.  My ex went nuts, like totally nuts.  He ranted and raved.  I called my mum.  She found the offending piece of Tupperware in a box at her house and drove 45 minutes to deliver it back to him.  He was embarrassed and apologetic to my mother.  My family will forever refer to this incident as ‘Tupperwaregate’.  My point is that emotionally charged situations make for unpredictable behaviour 

Set yourself some goals. 

About six weeks after separating from my ex, I tried to visualise what I want the future to look like.  I refer back to this post once in a while to remind me of what I am aiming for with this co-parenting relationship.  Sometimes I feel we’re making progress.  More often, I am reminded of how much we’ve still got to work at this.  The vision has helped. 

It is also worth setting yourself some personal goals.  These needn’t be massive life changing goals, you are going through enough already.   I set myself goals like buying myself some flowers each week (I love the spring when daffodils are only £1!), going to the theatre once a month, going to art galleries and museums.  These were fun goals because theatre, art and flowers are all things I love.   They helped me recover because they helped me to re-find myself and who I am.   

Try not to feel guilty.

I spent hours, literally hours, lying on the floor sobbing because I felt that I was ruining my son’s life.  The guilt that he would be a child of a ‘broken home’ and that I couldn’t give him the childhood that I had with two parents who (still) love each other was overwhelming.   

Advice for my friends who are divorcing

It has taken me a while to realise that the home that I left, the home that my ex and I had created together, was the ‘broken home’.  The home that Cygnet has with me now is happy and joyful.  He sees his father regularly.  My parents are more involved than they would have been had I stayed with my ex.  Cygnet adores his Grandma and gets really excited when Grandpa is around.  Cygnet and I don’t spend as much time together as I would like, but our time is quality time. 

I have come to realise that I haven’t failed at all. Choosing to leave my ex, the father of my son, was the bravest and most courageous thing I’ve ever done. 

Divorce and separation are tough, but truly happy marriages don’t end in divorce.  My advice for my friends who are divorcing ?  When I meet my divorcing friend in a couple of weeks’ time I will reassure her that there is light at the end of the tunnel.  She will not only survive, she will thrive and so will her daughter. 

Reflections From Me

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Accidental Hipster Mum

22 Comments

  1. February 6, 2017 / 1:11 pm

    I’m glad that you’re now thriving and this sounds like good advice.
    I hope I’ll be one of the 58%, but if I’m not, I know where to come back and read. #mg

    • thesingleswan
      February 6, 2017 / 8:41 pm

      Thank you! I hope you never need my advice. 58% means the odds are still in your favour. Pen x

  2. February 7, 2017 / 7:12 am

    I think it’s great that you are wanting to support your friend and other people going through the awful experience of divorce and using your experience to help others. I’m sure your experience of going through dark times and how you came out the other side will help lots of people #sharethejoy
    Lizzie Roles recently posted…Share the JoyMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      February 7, 2017 / 11:03 pm

      Thanks Lizzie. Pen x

  3. February 7, 2017 / 4:20 pm

    Real happiness can begin when a bad situation is ended, then you can start living. Ok, maybe that isn’t everyone but once I got over the guilt of it all then I blossomed. Sleep deprived blossoming but still a celebration:)
    Mainy x
    #mg
    mainy recently posted…#guestpost week featuring Tracey at One Frazzled MumMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      February 7, 2017 / 11:03 pm

      My sentiments exactly. Sleep deprived blossoming is the way forward. Pen x

  4. February 8, 2017 / 11:07 am

    My divorce is fairly civil (so far), but it’s still so draining. Plus the legal side of it takes forever. Who knew that even without solicitors divorce would cost more than my marriage and take about 8 months!
    It’s great that you have shared and can help others. #sharethejoy
    EssexKate recently posted…So It Turns Out I Should Be Taking Vitamin D Supplements…My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      February 8, 2017 / 8:51 pm

      Hi Kate,

      thanks for your message. Goodness me, I am so glad that I never actually got married. I broke off our engagement. I am glad that your divorce is civil so far – I hope it stays that way. good luck. Pen x

  5. February 9, 2017 / 7:52 pm

    I divorced my childhood sweetheart when my son was 2. It was the toughest decision of my life, we had been together for years. It was however the right decision. It is better for a child to be in a single parent happy home than an unhappy married one. It is a long journey but there is always light at the end of the tunnel. #mg

    • thesingleswan
      February 9, 2017 / 8:24 pm

      Hi Jo, Thanks for your comment. I totally agree with you that it is better for a child to be in a single parent happy home than an unhappy married one. Thank you for your comment and for your support. Pen x

  6. February 12, 2017 / 4:49 am

    This is a great post to get out there. Since becoming a mum to school age children and widening my friendship group I have had many close friends getting divorced. Like you say they have thrived! I think especially when the situations have been dark, it is best for all for the marriage to end even if it causes a lot of difficulty for a fair while, in the end they have all been happier. #mg
    Mackenzie Glanville recently posted…#MummyShot week 5 round upMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      February 12, 2017 / 9:35 pm

      Hi Mac,

      thanks for your comment. I hope your friends are all okay. It is always tough at first, but give it a couple of years and it is all just fine. Pen x

  7. February 14, 2017 / 11:35 pm

    This is such a powerful and important post and one great thing about blogging is how we can look back and reflect on just how far we have come. I am often unhappy in my marriage and not yet ready to throw in the towel but either way this post has given me ideas and strength and I thank you.

    • thesingleswan
      February 15, 2017 / 10:07 pm

      Hi Kate,

      thanks for your comment. I am glad you liked the post. Don’t throw in the towel yet. There were two key things that clinched it for me when I was deciding whether or not to leave my ex. 1) We’d had a big argument, my parents and his mum were there. My mum looked at my dad and said, “all relationships go through difficult times, there have been times when I didn’t love you, and there are times when I didn’t even like you, but I always knew that I could never live without you”. I knew, that I could live without my ex. 2) I did loads of bonkers google searches, like “what is love?” and “should I leave my fiancé?”. As if Google would have the answer! There was one blog post I found, where a woman advised that you shouldn’t leave a partner/husband (whatever) just because you’ve met someone else, or because you are going through a difficult time. Only leave your partner if you KNOW that you will be happier on your own even if it means being on your own for the rest of your life.

      I knew that I could live without my ex, and I knew that I would be happier on my own for the rest of my life. I left.

      That may, or may not be helpful. All relationships are shit sometimes. Keep trying.

      Pen x

  8. February 16, 2017 / 12:08 am

    Im a single mum too! its tough, very tough and often wonder what I will tell my 4 year old son when he is older!

    I try and stay positive, the only way really and keep pushing forward with my goals

    http://www.mycitymylondon.me

    • thesingleswan
      February 16, 2017 / 11:24 am

      Hi,

      I am sure you are doing a great job. I also wonder what I will tell my son. I wonder what my ex will tell my son too… Pen x

  9. February 16, 2017 / 6:15 am

    Fascinating reading this. I got divorced many years after a long relationship / short marriage. We had no kids but seeing what you wrote as you were going through it reminds me that somewhere I kept a diary of the break up, notes, things I wanted to say. I think I may have disposed of it by now but, wow, was I in an unhappy place. Was also intriguing reading about Tupperweargate. I’d like to think I did nothing like that but times were very emotionally charged, as you say. I only have the one school friend who I haven’t seen in almost 10 years who is divorced. It’s still an exclusive club for my peers.

    • thesingleswan
      February 16, 2017 / 11:26 am

      Hi John,

      thanks for sharing your story. You should try to find the diary. It would be a cathartic read to appreciate how far you have come. I’m impressed that you only have one school friend who is divorced. What a successive bunch of romantics your school mates are! Pen x

  10. February 20, 2017 / 1:45 am

    I’m not a single mother any more but I once was and for that reason I’m the go-to person for advice and emotional support when it happens to a friend. I don’t think I’ve very good at this bit, people beg me to tell them it gets better but all I remember feeling was very tired and very glad to be free. I can’t imagine losing someone I still loved, I hope that day never comes.

    Thanks for linking up.
    #RV&HT
    Jenny (Accidental Hipster Mum) recently posted…Views, Reviews & How-Tos Linky: Week 2My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      February 20, 2017 / 9:29 pm

      Hi Jenny,

      I am sure that day never will come for you. I know exactly how you felt. I cannot tell you the relief that I still feel to be free… Pen x

  11. February 20, 2017 / 7:45 pm

    Not easy and brilliant words of encouragement. I just can’t imagine going through this but think I’d try to seek out someone who’d been through it to discuss it too. Although my parents split when I was 14 so remember it really well. #RV&HT
    Karen | TwoTinyHands recently posted…Blogging: Is 12 Months The New 6 Months?My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      February 20, 2017 / 9:26 pm

      Hi Karen,

      Sorry to hear about your parents. 14 must have been a really difficult time for you. Pen x

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