An End is a Start – Life after Divorce

Images courtesy of mrpuen (new life old life), Ambro (sofa separation) and Simon Howden on freedigitalohoto.net.

DIVORCE.  It’s not what you planned on (until death do us part), but it’s where you’ve landed and in a way it signifies a death, the death of a once healthy relationship.  People are shocked; “What a nice couple you were”, “But you were so good together”.  And you were good together.  The place you are now doesn’t take away from your successful years or make your whole relationship null and void.  Time changes things and the two people you were when you met are not necessarily the same people now, even if they occupy the same space on the sofa.  Change is natural and positive if your grow together, but when you stop appreciating and challenging each other, you grow apart.

My relationship was good.  A generous, respectful and caring one.  We met at 22, married at 28 and ‘grew-up’ in Holland together.  However, by our mid-30s we were far from the twenty-something versions of ourselves, and unfortunately in a way that no longer gelled .  A distance built up from years of compromising my dreams for his job, finally took their toll.  Missed opportunities that I started to look back on with regret.

He was happy and comfortable, and why wouldn’t you be.  We had great careers, a beautiful house and money in the bank.  But a growing sense that something was missing was gnawing away at me, until I finally figured out what….. ME.  I’d been sucked along on the corporate train and life had become about long working weeks and weekends spent buying things to fill the house.  That was a far cry from who I was inside.  I longed for adventure and excitement and life had become dull and monotonous.  We’d embraced the rat-race big time.  The difference was, I wanted out and he didn’t.  He had  ambition to keep climbing that ladder and filling our house.  I wanted to take risks, move abroad, start something new together.

Out story isn’t special.  Many people get caught in the grind.  Many people don’t see it as a grind.  Where we let ourselves down was by not addressing it.  Neither of us have ever been great ‘confronters’ – in fact we’re both active ‘conflict avoiders’.  So for years, a catalogue of let-downs were added to the pot, until one day it overflowed.

In reality, at the point we laid our cards on the table, it was already too late for us, but we agreed to go to couples counselling to try to pull it back.  Couples counselling was one of the best decisions we made in our entire relationship.  No, it didn’t save our marriage, but it saved us as individuals.  For the first time, we spoke honestly and frankly about how we felt in a safe environment.  We learnt more about each other during those sessions than we had done in years and some of it was surprising.

The honesty and understanding that grew between us during this time is invaluable.  It gave us the courage to call time and walk away before things became toxic.  Yes, we walked away, but with complete awareness of what had gone wrong, why and without blame.  And that’s precious.

So what does life look like after divorce?

Divorce has changed me for the good and the bad, but I’ve learned some of the most important lessons of my life that I now take forward with me to my next chapter.  I understand myself and what I need in a relationship better than I ever did and I’ve learned that both compromise and conflict are healthy –  To avoid either is bad, to practice too much is also bad.  There’s a balance.

My biggest learning – COMMUNICATE!!  If you can’t do it together at home, seek someone who can help you.  There’s no shame in that and it might save things before they go to far.

Being divorced at 39 is by no means an easy ride and the two years since we have split have been bad, good and bloody awful.  Your identity stripped, feeling like a failure, dealing with upset family members and the practical stuff of lawyers, banks, houses etc is hard to deal with.  But through 99.9% of it, we have been able to remain friends, which has removed a layer of pain and eased the process.

I honestly thank counselling for that.

 

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Unemployment – It’s not you, it’s them.

 

Images courtesy of David Castillo Dominici (‘Stressed Man’), Stuart Miles (‘Job in Maze’) and Fantasista at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Unemployment – you’ve seen the statistics. Continual business re-organisations, global competition, a turbulent economy. That’s the business face of it. But what about the less discussed human face.

Having recently been made redundant from a successful 13-year career at a large international corporate, I find myself one of those ‘unemployed’. I say recent, but in June 2016 it will be coming up for a year. Don’t get me wrong, part of that ‘time out’ was my choice and I’m in the privileged position to have a good package to support me through a Masters study during this time.

Regardless of my privileged unemployment status, the uncomfortable and uncertain space of not having a job has had a psychological impact and can at times be soul-destroying. Continual job applications, updating CVs and motivation letters for multiples roles. A little bit of hope with each application that this might be ‘the one’, only to hear ‘Thanks, but no thanks. You’re not what we need’.

I consider myself to be intelligent, very capable and hard-working. I’m a good team player and have the ability to bring out the best in people and my communication skills are shit hot – minus the swearing. This is not my ego talking, I have a large network to vouch for these things (references can be provided, should you require proof..) and my career progression has shown I can turn my hand to pretty much anything I try.

However, competition is stiff and I also face the challenge of making a career ‘switch’.  I am being picky about what I apply for, but shouldn’t I be allowed to be picky?  I’m talented and have a lot to offer. I also have a huge drive to ensure my next job makes me ‘happy’.  But striking that balance between being true to the meaningful job my heart is seeking and not giving into the ‘shit I have no job’ panic is really hard. Having been through a burnout at work, I am extremely in tune with what fulfils me and what doesn’t.

So now you have two things to judge me on; one the fact that I burnout at work and two that I’m unemployed. I’m obviously a weak character right??  Well, despite these sometimes popular assumptions, being unemployed requires a drive and strength which laughs in the face of laziness. Motivating yourself to keep applying rejection after rejection, takes a huge amount of energy and keeping the faith that things will work out can be emotionally taxing and requires continuous resilience.

Unemployment has far-reaching psychological consequences. It strips you of your identity and self-worth. And just at the time you need your confidence to be at its highest to effectively ‘sell’ yourself, it’s actually at rock-bottom. From a social perspective, it can be a very lonely place. While the rest of the world is working, I find excuses to go and drink coffee just to be around people. As a ‘people person’, the days spent alone have been the hardest.

So amongst the doom and gloom of ‘jobless-ness’, how do we ‘hang in there’.  

KEEP HOPING, STAY POSITIVE, even rejection after rejection. After all, it’s not you, it’s them. Something will crop up at the right time, but as we don’t have time-lord powers we cannot control what that time-frame will be. Spend time with people that love you. Do things that feed your soul. Listen to your favourite songs on repeat (LOUDLY). Give your services to charity. There’s a whole heap of other clichés, but they are the things that sustain the good energy you need to keep you going during the process.  AND it is just a process. It’s not personal. Someone will take a punt on you and things will work out.

The very last and most important point of all is don’t be hard on yourself (and I need to practice what I preach). You didn’t create this situation.   And, if you do feel down, angry or despondent that’s ok too. In fact, it’s completely normal, there’s an unemployment bell curve to prove it.

And remember, if you’re lonely come find me. I’ll be drinking coffee getting a ‘people watching fix’ and you’re very welcome to join me.