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Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Co-Parenting Diaries: Crazy Train


I swear.

If you were to ask my ex-husband, he would tell you that I'm crazy.

Certifiably, why-have-they-not-committed-me-yet, crazy.

And in his defense, sometimes I am.

Yep. It's true.

This divorcee-who sometimes feels like I have at least 10,000 reasons as to why I am divorced from my ex-husband-isn't perfect and yes, even I have my moments.

I know! Shocking, right?!

I mean just the other day, while we were having an argument that was pretty much the direct result of me blowing something completely out of proportion, I completely lost it.

Another shocker, I know. 

And in the middle of that heated screaming match conversation, I told my ex-husband I was going to kill him.

Yep.

That happened.

Those words actually left my mouth.

Dear God, please help us. 

I, of course, didn't mean it and I could tell by his laughter-which was only adding fuel to the fire-that he also knew I didn't mean it.

But seriously, if he turns up dead in the next month or so, I'm gonna have some serious explaining to do.

So, let it be known that if that happens, I didn't do it.

I mean, I probably didn't do it. 

Just kidding.

I promise.

I digress.

Anyway, it's clear that we obviously still have our moments.

Despite our commitment to successful co-parenting and the HUGE strides we have made in that general direction, I would be straight up lying if I told you we had perfected it.

He is still the best person at pushing my buttons, and I am still the best person at completely over reacting about some of the stupidest crap.

I swear, we all turn into our mothers eventually. 

Trust me, when I encourage other divorced parents to "pick their battles", it's with full knowledge that I am not always the best at doing this.

And if we're telling the truth, the commitment to successful co-parenting is just straight up hard some days.

It's hard to find common ground with the one person you have so little in common with anymore.

It's hard to communicate with the last person on earth you really want to talk to today.

And it's hard to know sometimes where the line of respecting the other parent and allowing them to help you make parenting decisions ends and where the line of being able to make your own parenting decisions without them begins.

It's just hard.

Like super hard. 

But, thank God for wine and co-workers who overlook the scene you just made in the middle of work and let you take a break to cry it out.

Because tomorrow is a new day.

We may not always get it right, but the point is that we are trying.

Every. single. day.

And at the end of each day, no matter how mad he makes me or how crazy I act towards him, our daughter still knows how much she is loved and wanted by both parents

We're all just doing our best over here.

Most of the time.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

What I Wish I Would Have Known About Marriage in My Early 20's


I was 21 years old the first time I said, "I do".

I have written a lot about our journey from two crazy kids who were ready to take on the whole world to two grown ups trying to figure out our journey through divorce and co-parenting.

And as you all already know, it has been a struggle. 

Needless to say, I am a completely different person now than I was at the very young age of 21.

At almost 30, I am wiser, stronger, and so much more sure of who I am and what I want in this life.

I have life experiences I didn't have 8 years ago and all the scars to prove it.

The journey from naive little girl to lionhearted woman hasn't been an easy one, and while I don't regret the road that brought me here, I often wonder about the things I know now that I wish I would of known then.

The things that would of eased the heartache and turmoil of my journey to the place where I am now.

Over the past few months, I have compiled a list of all the things I wish I would of known about marriage in my early 20's. This list is composed of advice I received, but didn't take to heart, and advice that I would give now that I didn't even know existed during those early moments of my first marriage.

As wedding season approaches, I would hope that this post would encourage more than discourage.

While my child-bride fairytale didn't quite pan out, I know several couples who chose to get married very young and those couples are still going strong. I admire them and the hard work I watch them put into their marriages daily. It is no easy feat, but one that they choose over and over and over again every single day.

I would encourage any young person planning on getting married to find these couples who have withstood the test of time and learn all that you can from them. Their advice is indispensable and it comes from a place of deep understanding. Listen to their words carefully and absorb all that they have to offer.

Who knows? Maybe you will save yourself from all the hard lessons that I stubbornly chose to learn on my own.

*****

1. Marriage is HARD work. 

I am aware that this is the oldest piece of wedding day advice in the book, but I truly believe it is the most overlooked piece of advice by all newlyweds. Trust me, I know that marriage is hard work no matter what age you are when you get married, but I think it's even harder when you choose to marry young.

I believe this to be true, because you spend your first few years basically growing up together. I chose to get married when I was 21, and by the time I was 25, I had morphed into a completely different person than I was the day I got married. I had different dreams and goals for my life, and most of those things differed from what I had originally wanted at 21. This was really hard on my first marriage, and played a huge part in our downfall.

My encouragement to anyone who is choosing to get married very young would be to keep this in mind. Be open to how your spouse is going to mature and grow, and be willing to grow with them through it. It's not going to be easy and you will be tempted to hold them back by reminding them of what the had said they wanted in the beginning, but I believe the strongest marriages are the ones where both people can learn to love one another through every season of their lives. It's important to allow each other to grow and mature into the people God wants you to be in every aspect of your life together.

2. Your very first fight as a married couple will be about money. 

Let me paint a picture for you:

My ex-husband's parents are very financially sound people and they have worked very hard to be that way. My ex-husband wanted to follow in their footsteps.

I-on the other hand-was a spoiled brat whose parents had always bought her EVERYTHING her little heart desired. I used to be notorious for spending every dime in my checking account the moment my paycheck hit the bank. This was because I had never had any real financial responsibility until I got married.

What happened next was absolute chaos!

My ex-husband's father told us in the weeks and months leading up to our wedding that our very first fight would most likely be about money. While we heard his warning, I don't think anything could of prepared us for the years of financial hardship that awaited us. Not only were we very young and absolutely stupid with our money most of the time, we also jumped headlong into two huge financial responsibilities within our first year of marriage: our first home and a brand new car.

We did all of this without completely understanding each others views on money which made our first "official" argument about money more than a fight, but a full on nuclear attack of our marriage!

Unfortunately, we were never able to get on the same page about money and finances, and this played a huge part in our ultimate demise.

If I could encourage any young couple to address one major issue before tying the knot: this would be it!

Money most certainly isn't everything, but if you aren't committed to being open and honest about it and you don't share the same views about how it should be spent, then it can definitely end up being a deal breaker.

3. You can't change people.

As the oldest of four girls, I have always been notorious for being bossy.

Like REALLY bossy.

My sisters can all attest to the fact that when we were growing up, it was always my way or the highway! In other words, if you didn't play what I wanted to play, you didn't get to play at all.

And at almost 30 years old, this hasn't changed much, except that I am far less selfish and I have finally figured out that I'm not always going to get my way.

I know. Shocking, right?! 

You want to know how I was able to learn this shocking truth? By choosing to get married at 21 to someone who was not intimidated by my bossy personality.

For years, I tried to "boss" my ex-husband into the mold I thought he should fit in to "make me happy" and "meet my needs".

But, instead of succeeding, I just screamed, cried, and pouted my way into a miserable existence.

I know now, many years later, that I should have listened to the whispers of those around me who just happened to know so much more than I did when they said,

"You can't change people, Ash." 

I can't even begin to describe how much heartache I would of saved my little, 21 year old self if I would of absorbed this advice the first time around.

You cannot force your spouse to be something their not. You just can't.

Yes, it's important to bend, to listen, and to understand each other.

Yes, it's important to be in tune to one another's love language, and to understand that meeting their needs may require you to do things that may not be a first instinct for you.

Yes, marriage is all about compromise. The give and take.

All of this is crucial to a successful marriage.

But, I'm here to tell you that if you're expecting your no bullsh*t country boy whose definition of romance is smacking your butt and remembering to put the toilet seat down to turn into Mr. McDreamy whose overtly romantic gestures are straight from the script of a romantic movie the moment you say, "I do", then girl, I'm here to tell you that you have another thing coming!

One of the most important things you could ever do is to learn how to love and accept your partner for who they are no matter where they are at in their life.

4. Communication is key. 

During my first year of college, I was incredibly homesick. I hated being away from my family. My ex-husband, who was my boyfriend at the time, would call me all of the time while I was away, and on particularly bad nights he would sleep with his phone still connected to mine until one of our phones died. We would literally spend HOURS on the phone with each other-talking about anything and nothing. If someone would of told my 21 year old self how important communication was after marriage, I would have rolled my eyes and assured them that we had the whole communication thing down to a science.

But, after we got married, we figured out that talking on the phone all the time and actually living together were two totally different things. Suddenly, I couldn't just hang up the phone when we had an argument or cut our conversation short if I was wanting some "alone time". Our "communication" became constant, and in the midst of it all, we forgot how to talk to each other.

I would get offended when he couln't "read my mind" and instead of talking to him about how his words or actions made me feel, I would get angry and bury it all inside. He would spend weeks completely oblivious that anything was wrong until I exploded and made the fight ten times worse than it had to be.

We would go round and round like this, and unfortunately, it played a huge part in the damage that we never could quite repair.

If you are choosing marriage young, I would urge you and your significant other to make sure that you know how to communicate effectively and how to fight fair. A great marriage counselor can help equip you with the tools you need to communicate effectively before you tie the knot, and I would highly recommend seeking marriage counseling now before it's too late.

Along the lines of communication, I would also encourage you to pick your battles. Life is too short to be constantly at war with each other over petty things. If you learn to accept now that you won't always be right and that yes, there really are two sides to every story, then that will also save you from a ton of fighting and heartache.

5. Always, always, ALWAYS have each others back. 

As I said earlier, I come from pretty good sized family of girls.

Girls who like to talk.

A lot.

During my first marriage, I developed a incredibly harmful pattern of telling my parents and my sisters EVERYTHING that went on inside my marriage.

Every fight. Every misunderstanding. Every disappointment.

It was ridiculous.

The way I was constantly choosing to involve my family made it extremely difficult for my ex-husband and I to present a united front when it was necessary that we do so.

This became a huge source of conflict in my first marriage!

 I also never-not one time in the whole 6 years we were married-felt like my ex-husband had my back, because in addition to me relying on my family instead of him, we would also disagree with each other in front of others. I have learned that this is a huge no-no.

While, we may not have always agreed with each other during a particular situation, we should have waited to openly disagree with each other in private when other people were not around.

I believe presenting a united front is one of the most important things every couple should strive to do not just in your marriage, but also in your parenting.

My ex husband and I may have struggled with maintaining a united front during our marriage, but that is something we have prioritized in our co-parenting. I may not always agree with him, but our daughter would never know that and I think it has made our co-parenting relationship better and stronger.

The same is true in marriage.

When your spouse knows and trusts that you will always have their back, even if you don't agree with them, it will make your marriage stronger because of it.

*****

As I have said before at least ten thousand times, I am NOT an expert! 

But, I think that those of us who have failed at marriage before and learned from our mistakes have some of the best advice.

We have seen first hand what it takes to destroy a marriage and we know that it's not always something that happens over night.

While I know that every marriage is different and I'm sure my next marriage will be nothing like my first, I do know that the advice I shared above is advice that I should of listened to or wished that I would have received long before I said "I do" the first time. 

My heart still breaks for that young, naive 21 year old girl from time to time, but I know with out a shadow of a doubt, that even though the journey was hard, I am better because of it. 

If you are considering getting married in your early 20's, I hope you know that I am not trying to discourage you, BUT encourage you. This commitment is one of the most important commitment you will ever make and the best thing you could ever do is enter your marriage with an open mind and an open heart. Who knows where the years to come will take you, but you will go alot farther if you listen to the warnings and advice of those around you whose own stories could save you from even the silliest mistakes. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Dear Brave Heart


My dear brave heart,

Yes, you.

The one reading this blog post over a cup of coffee while Bubble Guppies plays in the background, or while you pretend to work at your desk on this typical Thursday-why-are-you-not Friday morning, or right before you turn off the light on another long, hard day of being someone's mother, wife, sister, daughter, or girlfriend.

Listen up!

I just want to tell you that no matter where you are in your life.

I think you're brave. 

No matter what kind of storm you might be walking through.

I think you're brave.

No matter what hard choices you have to make every single day-whether it's telling your toddler "no" just one more time without yelling or taking that life changing job offer even though it's pushing you out of your comfort zone.

I think you're brave.

No matter what your life calling is-whether it's the full-time job of mothering your littles or to own that conference room every time you set foot in it or to do both.

I think you're brave.

I really do.

I think you're brave when you get up every morning and make breakfast even though you're running on only 2 hours of sleep.

When you do one more load of laundry even though the piles never seem to grow any smaller.

When you haven't worn your "nice" clothes in who knows how long, because they just don't stand up to the spit up, and spilled juice, and sticky fingers like your leggings do.

When your signature hair style is a pony tail that's going on day #4 of dry shampoo.

When you sing, and sway, and rock, and kiss, and cuddle, and fix, and find, and then sing some more.

When you put your children above everything else.

I think you're brave. 

When you work long hours, and send just one more email.

When you take that last phone call, and you live on caffeine and the hidden snacks in your desk-like the Tic-Tacs you've been saving for another late night.

When you choose to lock up even though it's Friday and everyone else left hours ago.

When you do all of this just to earn an ounce of the respect that you deserve in this "man's" world we're all trying to make in.

I think you're brave.

You're brave when you hold your sister's hand through a scary diagnosis, or when you make time for your family in the midst of this crazy thing we call life.

You're brave in those moments when life asks you to decide to put your parent in the nursing home or to bury your child.

You're brave when you take your best friend's phone call at 3:00 a.m. even though you have to be at work at 8:00 a.m.

You're brave when you talk to your daughter about how to deal with the "mean girl" in her grade or you cheer your son on at his soccer game.

You're brave when you work 2 jobs just provide for your children, and you take all the judgemental glances and comments straight on the chin. Never backing down once.

You're brave when you take that chance to give love just one more shot on a date with a boy you only met three days ago.

You're brave when you sing in the car with the windows down and you ignore the dirty looks from all the other people sitting at the stoplight.

You're brave when you take time for just you even when you feel like you shouldn't-whether it's an hour at the nail salon or 15 minutes locked in the bathroom by yourself with tiny fingers reaching under the door.

No matter where you are or what your doing in this very minute.

From one brave girl to another.

I want you to know that I see your bravery and I admire it.

I am encouraged by your perserverance.

Your strength.

Your grace in the midst of adversity.

I see this bravery in the eyes of every single woman that I meet, and I am intrigued by her story.

Because we all have stories.

Every single one of us-whether they are good or bad or ugly.

They are our stories.

The truths that make us who we are.

And at the end of the day, we should never, ever be ashamed of our story.

Instead, we should be using our stories to join our hearts to the women around us-women with stories all their own.

We should be using our stories to empower women.

To take their faces in our hands and say, "Sweet, sister. I see your bravery."

Because it's up to us to encourage each other-in the way that only we as women know how to reach each other.

It's up to us to build each other up and make a stand for the women all around us.

No matter where we are at in our lives.

So, this is my encouragement to you.

This is my acknowledgement of your bravery that fills you with so much power.

What will you do with your power?

Will you use it to encourage the women around you, or will you use it to compete with them and tear them down?

Will you use it to see their individual beauty, or to focus on their scars that may seem uglier than yours?

What will you do, dear brave heart?

Because I don't know about you, but I'm tired of feeling like this is a competition even though it's not.

I'm tired of the back stabbing, the judgemental glances, the hateful gossip, and the lies we tell in an effort to appear like we're the one coming out on top.

I'm tired of the way we give into the world, and the whispers that tell us that we will never be good enough.

Because trust me, dear brave heart, you ARE good enough.

I promise.

No matter who we are or where we are at in this life, we're all in the same boat here.

And we are all just looking for someone to see our bravery.

And remind us that we are not alone.

Monday, April 20, 2015

An Open Letter To My Blog Snitch


Dear Person Who Reads My Blog for the Sole Purpose of Starting Drama,

I have been wanting to write to you for a very long time.

First of all, thank you for being such a "loyal" follower of this blog. The speed with which you spread the news of my latest and greatest posts is astounding! I hope you will use that speed to do me a solid and help this post go viral as well! I would greatly appreciate it, and so would all the other people just like you.

To show my appreciation, I wanted to write and share some very key details about blogging with you that you may or may not be aware of as such a loyal reader. So pull up a chair, lean in close, and get that mass text ready to send out. This is going to be good.

*****

1. Blogging is a deeply personal way of writing. 

In my opinion, blogging is very different from most styles of writing. For the most part most bloggers utilize their blogs to share their stories. We share these stories as a way to connect with other people who might be walking in the same pair of shoes we are. Some bloggers write through a personal struggle with an illness; some bloggers write to connect with other parents: single or married; and some bloggers write because they share a common experience with their readers like military spouses who blog. In our overtly connected world, you can find a blog on anything your little heart desires! There are food blogs, fashion blogs, movie blogs, and blogs solely devouted to couponing. You name it there is probably someone out there blogging about it from their own unique experiences and point of view.

In my case, I blog about divorce and co-parenting: two things that have deeply affected and changed my life in a thousand different ways. I write about these things not out of spite or malic, but because I know from personal experience, there is not alot of information out there regarding these issues. There is such a stigma attached to divorce and coparenting in our society and I want to show people that it doesn't have to be that way. I want to offer encouragement and hope to anyone out there who may be walking through their own divorce/coparenting journey. Are we perfect? No. Do we struggle? Yes. And I think it's important for the people who are going through similar things to know and understand that it's okay and just like me, they too can survive this. One day at a time.

This blog is my way to tell my story. Over and over and over again. It's my way of living out the call that has been placed on my life to help other people-esepcially women-who are struggling with this reality every single day.

And you know what? It's working. I have a folder full of all the emails I have received from women who have been truly touched by what I have to say, and for that reason and that reason alone, I will never stop telling my story.

2. Anonymity isn't alway possible.

I know several bloggers who have these fantastic blogs where they blog about their families and their daily lives using only psuedo names. I know they do it to protect their families and their privacy and I respect that. I try really hard not to use real names in my blog anymore, but in my crusade for honesty and transparency, sometimes that gets overlooked. But, please note that I do try.

3. There are two sides to every story. 

As I mentioned in #1, blogging is my way to tell MY story-my own personal experience and thoughts on a particular event or situation. I write 100% from my point of view and only my point of view, because the last time I checked, I am only one person and my personal point of view is what I know the most about.

Do I sometimes misinterpret actions and conversations? Abso-freaking-lutely!

I am woman. Hear me roar. 

Do I often have to apologize for those misinterpretations? More than you know.

Most of the people who read my blog, do not know me personally, and the people who do happen to know me personally, but who are not close to me, also know where to find the other side of the story if they really want to hear it.

As for those who are closest to me, they know and they can testify to the fact that I have always been beyond fair with my situation and the experiences that I write about in this blog. Period

I'm pretty sure you won't find any tire tracks on anyone's back anytime soon.

As I have pointed out numerous times in numerous posts, I am not perfect. My divorce and my coparenting situation is a constant work in progress, and that's why I share and talk about our mistakes-my mistakes-because that's what the people I am writing for need to hear. They need to know that they aren't alone. That there really is this crazy girl out there who understands what they are going through and who is trying to find her way through her own mess just like them.

But, I'm sure you already knew all of this as such a loyal follower of my blog.

I digress. 

4. Most posts are longer than one or two paragraphs. 

I find it hard to believe that you don't already know this since you are such an avid follower of ALL my posts, but were you aware that I'm a little long-winded as a writer?

Because I really am.

When I get started on something, I tend to just go on and on and on!

So, sometimes to get the whole point of the whole story, you have to read the WHOLE ENTIRE blog post to put everything into context, because if you don't, sometimes things get a little confusing.

I know! Crazy, right?

Just a little tip for you.

5. Freedom of speech is a real thing. 

Here's a little fun fact for you: did you know that there is a whole part of the constitution that protects one's right to freedom of speech? Yep. It's really in there! Good old, Thomas Jefferson penned it almost 240 years ago. 

Isn't that crazy?!?!

 Weird, right?

*****

I want you to know that there are not words to truly express my gratitude to you! You have people stopping by to read my blog who never had an interest in my posts until you started pointing them my way! You have really aided in the increase of my blog traffic with the few, select people you are sure to make aware when I've posted something new.

I may have to put out a few fires every now and then, but it's no big deal! Because like you, people aren't often aware of tip #4. I don't mind to take one for the team every now and then, because of all the "good" you are doing and the people you are "helping". 

Why aren't there more people like you in the world? Seriously.

You know? It's too bad that more blogs don't have loyal followers who are just like you. They're really missing out. 

Sincerely,

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

An Open Letter To My Daughter On The Last Day of Being 5


My Dear Emma,

Today we went to the swing set at the park near our apartment.

It's probably you're most favorite thing in the whole world.

As I pushed you, I was amazed at how a year ago you used to be so afraid of the "big swings". I would try and try to coax you onto them, but the baby swings were always more up your alley, and you have always blossomed in the "safe".

Until you turned 5.

This past year, I have watched you evolve from the sweet, timid baby you once were to the independent little girl you have become. You have traded in your Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for Frozen, your blankies for American Girl dolls and their endless clothing choices, and the days of allowing me to dress you like a child straight out of Baby Gap have been replaced by your own keen fashion sense that reminds me daily that skirts, your Super Girl costume, or tiaras are acceptable attire for every occasion.

Your vocabulary has grown so much in the last year, and I find myself being able to have real conversations with you that are full of your incredible sense of humor. I can't even begin to count the number of times you have made me laugh out loud! You are silly and playful just like your Dad, and I love watching that side of you mold your personality. I hope you keep that part of you always and that because of it you will always remember to never take life too seriously unlike your Mom.

Your heart has seemed to grow bigger over the last year. Your compassion and sensitivity to others never fails to amaze me. You are always quick to tell me when someone at school got hurt or to save you Subway bags and McDonald's toys for Grandma's shoe boxes that she send to kids in other countries who don't have anything. You are gentle with everyone around you, and you try to always be the peacemaker. Your heart has been able to weather all the changes you have been subjected too over the last three years, and you have walked away from all of it with your pure and forgiving spirit still intact. This year, your heart also made room for your new stepmother in the most beautiful way. I have loved watching you come to love her as she becomes your soft place to land when you are at your Daddy's. It has been the answer to one of my most fervent prayers, and I have learned so much from you and your gentle acceptance of her place in your life. May I always follow your lead when it comes to understanding how to love people.

Your horizon has widened over the past year. I have watched you try out your wings as you tackle the adventures of kindergarten, sleepovers, making new friends, and finally being tall enough to ride most of the rides. It saddens me to know that as the years go by your wings will take you farther and farther from me towards the woman that God is molding you to be and the future I know that He has for you, but something tells me that no matter where He takes you that you will always find a way to return home to place where you began.

I can hear the adventure of 6 calling your name, and I am thrilled for everyday that God allows me to be apart of it. I hope that you continue to explore and grow, but that you know that no matter where this life takes you, I will always be here loving you, cheering for you, and ready to be your haven from every storm or bad day.

I want you to know that being your mother is and always will be my greatest accomplishment and my most outstanding achievement.

You are my "well done, good and faithful servant". The biggest jewel in my crown.

And for that I am grateful.

So incredibly grateful.

Happy early birthday, sweet girl.

Today is the last day you will ever be 5, and so far, I think 5 has been my absolute favorite.

But in my heart, I am ready for 6, and I know you are too.

So, here's my hand. We will go there together.

Love always, Mommy

Monday, March 30, 2015

Life After Divorce: Meet Alyssa


The next brave soul to participate in my interview series is one of my best friends, Alyssa. I have known Alyssa for almost 4 years, and we have been inseparable from the moment her dad set us up on a "blind lunch date". She played a huge role in my support system after my divorce as she guided me through the process with her strength and her wisdom. I honestly don't know what I would of done without her.

When I got ready to do this interview series, she was the first person who came to mind. While Alyssa does not have any children, she still has plenty of advice about how to find yourself after your divorce and how to seek out your forward. I am so excited for you to meet her today, and for her to share her story.

*****

  1. Before your first marriage, what red flags were you most likely ignoring? I was so blinded by thinking I was “in love” I didn’t think about the forever part or the part of really getting to know someone. I didn’t think about how old I really was or that I had all the time in the world to just date and figure out who I really was. We didn’t even talk about what our dreams and goals were for the future.
  2. During your first marriage, what were some things that your relationship lacked? COMMUNICATION. I didn’t realize it at the time, but we didn’t know how to really talk to each other. Since we got married so young, we started growing farther and farther apart as we got older. 
  3. Do you think that placed unrealistic expectations on your first spouse? If so, in what way?  Yes it did. As we got older, we started having different dreams and we didn’t talk about them because we didn’t want to fight. 
  4. In hindsight, what did that teach you about realistic expectations from another person?No one is perfect. Finding the imperfections in your partner and loving that person anyway is a real partnership. I believe that loving everything about your other half and learning how to communicate and compromise with that person is what makes up a healthy relationship.
  5. What kind of unrealistic expectations were placed on you by your first spouse?   First of all, as a young girl growing up in the South, the expectations of getting married and planning a big wedding is something you spend your whole life dreaming about. You don't really think about how it will affect the rest of your life. It’s not all romantic fairy tale after marriage and that puts a lot of stress on a couple who expects it to be that way.
  6. When you and your first spouse finally separated, what was your first thought? I think I was in shock. We both made mistakes and our marriage was over so quickly. We gave up without a fight which was the easy way out. Marriage is not easy, but we never communicated about anything, so by the time the divorce was mentioned in our minds there was nothing left worth fighting for. 
  7. What was the hardest thing about being on your own for the first time in years? The hardest thing was not knowing HOW to become independent, because I had NEVER been out on my own. I went through a really hard time, and wasted a lot of time trying to find who I was as a person. I was not only suffering from the depression of going through a divorce, but I was also struggling with the emotional part of being alone and not knowing what to do next.
  8. Who made up your primary support system? How did those people help you the most? I was actually all over the place. I didn’t live near my family, so I decided partying and staying busy all the time was the answer. I felt lost and depressed for a year. After moving to Missouri, I was still going through the motions of trying to find who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. After a while, I slowly started going back to school and trying to figure out who I was.
  9. What are your thoughts on dating after divorce? I don’t think anyone should date for at least a year after their divorce. I know that sometimes it doesn’t work out that way, but I wish I would of waited. I was so lonely and looking for any kind of attention I could get. I dated way too much. I either ended up hurting people or allowing myself to get hurt. I believe that the first year should be about being alone, and getting some counseling that will heal you to heal properly. Since you are already an emotional wreck from my divorce, when you try to add dating to the mix it usually turns out not being a good way to start to your new beginning.
  10. How did that change in the months and years to come?  I didn’t actually feel happy and content with who I was, or where I was headed in my life until about 4 years later. I was looking for happiness and closure in all the wrong places. In the beginning, I wasn’t looking to God or accepting proper guidance from my family. If I would of done those things, I think I would have been happier a lot sooner. 
  11. Tell me about the moment you meant your current spouse/fiancĂ© for the first time? Meeting Jonathan was at the perfect time, but it was also the wrong time. God put him in my life right when I needed him the most. We went through so many struggles in the beginning of our relationship. We were both trying to find ourselves as individuals, but at the same time we knew that the love we had was real. I wouldn’t want to change those struggles, because they made us the stronger, Christian couple we were meant to be. God made him for me, and I have no doubt in that. The struggles that I endured before him were baggage in our relationship, but they also made me a stronger partner. I don’t take the little things for granted. I cherish every moment, and I have come to respect the value we place on faithfulness and communication in our relationship.
  12. When did you know that they were the right one for you? I honestly knew that Jonathan was the one for me during the first month we met. I've never met someone like him shares the same values, dreams, and religious beliefs as I do and who respects the way we were both raised as much as he does. 
  13. What is something you admire most about your current spouse/fiancĂ©? I admire so much about Jonathan. I admire his compassion, the love he has for me and his family, his outlook on life, and how positive he is in every situation. He is so outgoing, and laid back about things. He always puts other first and loves to learn new things.
  14. How did your previous marriage help to prepare you for your current marriage? I am not even close to the same person I use to be. It prepared me to be more cautious, more selective, and rely more on God. It's helped me to open up and communicate with my partner. It has taught me how to appreciate the small things, and to compromise with the wants and needs that my partner has. 
  15. If you have children, let’s talk co-parenting. How do you feel the transition has affected your children the most?  We don’t have kids, but we have talked a lot about it. We know it will change our whole world, and becoming a team instead of enemies is so important. We have the same family values and Christian values, and we want the same things for our kids.
  16. If you could define your life after your divorce in one word what would it be and why? STRONGER. The struggles become a part of the person you are today. It affects your personality, your dreams, your outlook in life, and even the choices you make with your current partner.
  17. If you could go back to the first time and tell your young newly engaged self one thing, what would it be? WAIT. Find yourself first. Go to school, have fun, date around, and figure out the things you like and don’t like.

*****

Both Alyssa and I come from areas where society teaches us to get married and have babies very young. If you aren't married, and have at least two kids by the time you are 21, you are living outside the "norm". There is very little encouragement to wait, finish college, and figure out who you really are before you make such a huge commitment.

According to divorce statistics:

  • 27.6% of divorced women are under 20 years old. 
  • 36.6% of divorced women are between the ages of 20 to 24 years old.
  • 16.4% of divorced women are between the ages of 25 to 29 years old. 
  • The numbers greatly reduce after 30 years old. 

Now before you get your panties in a wad, I'm not saying that every young marriage is doomed for divorce. However, I am saying that I know a lot of women in my generation who have signed up for marriage, because they got caught up in the wedding dreams without considering how that decision would affect the rest of their lives-just like Alyssa and I.

If you are young and newly engaged, I hope that you will consider Alyssa's wisdom and take her words to heart. Marriage is HARD work, and it's something that you have to be committed to fight for long after the beauty and excitement of your wedding day fades away.

To all of my young friends who are under age 25 and feel like they need to be in a hurry to get married and have children: Stop and take a breath. You're life is not escaping you, and you have plenty of time for all of that. Embrace your journey. Take some time to discover who you truly are and what you truly want in the person you are going to spend the rest of your life with. Trust me, you don't find out who you truly are until your late 20's and from what I hear, your 30's are the best years yet.

To all my lady friends who have been there and walked the well worn valley of divorce: may we remember what is was like and be a beacon to all those young women who look up to us. May we encourage them to wait and to take the time to find themselves before they make a mistake, and endure a lesson that is incredibly painful and hard to learn. May we encourage all the young married ladies around us. May we lift them up in prayer, and point them to the Truth. May we help them find their strength to fight for their commitments when the going gets tough and they feel like they don't have any fight left in them. May we never promote divorce as an option or a "way out". May we never sing the "praises" of divorce, but use the lessons we have learned for good-never harm.

You know? I adore the maturity you can hear in Alyssa's voice in this interview. She is a woman who has walked a difficult road, endured the fires, and walked away from them purer, stronger, and ready for the future.

What about you?

What's your story?

(If you are divorced and you would like to be considered for an interview in my Life After Divorce series, please feel free to email me at mymotherhoodinterrupted@gmail.com.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Life After Divorce: Meet Bethany


Divorce is one of the most devastating things you could ever put yourself or your family through. The devastating effects and the toll it takes on you and the people closest to you leaves you emotionally, financially, and physically drained and grasping for what your next move should be.

In the beginning, starting a new life can seem hopeless-futile. You know you should pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move forward, but most of the time you are left wondering what exactly does forward look like?

I have been blessed to be surrounded with some of the most amazing people on my journey. People who have loved and supported me from day 1. Some of the greatest support I have received has come from a few women who are just like me, and whom I have the joy of calling some of my best friends. These women have walked through the fire of divorce and lived to tell about it. I am constantly inspired by their strength, their wisdom, and their willingness to help me find my forward.

Today I am starting a new blog series entitled Life After Divorce. Through this series, I will introduce these amazing women to you and share their stories through a series of interview questions. These questions reflect questions I think anyone who is going or who has gone through a divorce has asked.

My goal is to encourage any woman out their who may have just started a journey through divorce, or who may have reached a place in her life where she can't seem to find which direction is her forward. I hope you hear each one of the stories of these women, and I hope that you take some of their wisdom from their well-worn journey with you just as I have.

There is life after divorce. There is a forward. Trust us.

*****

Meet my dear friend, Bethany*. 

Bethany is a beautiful, amazing single mom to an adorable vibrant, outgoing second grade boy. When I think of the word "survivor", a picture of her always forms in my mind. I have known Bethany for many years, and when I first began my divorce journey she was the number one person from whom I drew strength and encouragement. Bethany and I have both walked in very similar shoes, and on my really, really bad co-parenting days she is the one I turn to and say things like, "Please tell me I'm not being crazy!". She is an incredible human being who has overcome so much, and I am so excited to share her wisdom with you today. 

*****
  1. Before your first marriage, what red flags were you most likely ignoring? The way he would hide everything. He had lots of secrets, and he was very controlling. There were always other girls around and things that were left from these other girls. There was also the warnings from my family and friends.
  2. During your first marriage, what were some things that your relationship lacked? Compassion and trust
  3. Do you think that you placed unrealistic expectations on your first spouse? If so, in what way? No, I don't. 
  4. What kind of unrealistic expectations were placed on you by your first spouse? To be accepting of him being with other girls, his partying, the lies, and allowing him have control of everything. In his mind, I was to be left at home and I was expected be the perfect wife who kept the perfect home and who raised the perfect child. I was not to say a word when he came home smelling of another girls perfume, otherwise there would be hell to pay and the screaming, yelling, and name calling would commence. To him, I was always the bitch that ruined his life. In fact, I still hear that, but I just don't let it get to me now. 
  5. When you and your first spouse finally separated, what was your first thought?  I thought my life would end. I felt like it was all my fault, because that was what I was being told by him, and at that point I was still allowing him have control over me. I got very depressed and had thoughts of suicide. I even wrote a separate note to all of my loved ones. As I finished the letter to my little boy, I was in full out tears. I couldn't bring myself to consider what his life would be like without me there, and in that moment, I decided I had to pull myself together and make things the best I could for him. I ripped up all letters and sat there weeping until the early morning hours. I knew in my heart that I could not leave him alone. 
  6. What was the hardest thing about being on your own for the first time in years? The hardest thing for me about being by myself for the first time in years was the public perception of my life.  I hated to watch all the whispers and knowing that people were talking behind my back. I knew what they were talking about and who they were talking about, and it just killed me that I was at the center of their gossip. All I wanted was to be the perfect, normal me that I was before, and having people talk about me was not something I had ever experienced up until that point. 
  7. Who made up your primary support system? How did those people help you the most? My mom, my sister, and all of my friends including all of my girlfriends. There were also those friends that I was not allowed to have contact with throughout my marriage. After my separation, I went and found those people again. They were really kind, and proved to be a rock for me to lean against during my separation and divorce.  
  8. What was your initial thought about dating after your divorce? I did not want to date again afterwards. I was so worried about being played again, and my whole goal was to not let anyone into my life.  In my mind, I wanted to be the person to play or hurt someone else, and it was so weird to me that I felt that way. Plus I also thought that no guy would ever want to be with me. My self-esteem was so far down, and I didn't think there would ever be another person for me in this world who would think I was pretty. 
  9. How did that change in the months and years to come? I ended up meeting the man who is now going to become my husband. He had also married young, and was going through a rough time too. We were able to talk to each other about what was going on in our lives. He made me feel very loved and wanted. It was like I had finally found someone who would actually like me for who I am and who truly cared about me. 
  10. Tell me about the moment you met your current spouse/fiance for the first time?  I'd actually known him for a long time because we went to school together. But the moment I really noticed him was when we had some friends that were leaving and we were both there to tell them goodbye. It was like even though we had always been acquaintances, we suddenly had an instant connection and it seems like from that moment on we were inseparable.
  11. When did you know that they were the right one for you?  I knew that he was right for me because of how completely in sync we are together, and how we like to do the same things and we want to do them together. I could also tell that everything was going to be the way it should be when I saw how he is with my son. He treats him like he is his own, and that means the world to me. 
  12. What is something you admire most about your current spouse/fiance? I probably love his compassion, love, and understanding for other people the most. He is totally the type of person who gives 100% to others, and always puts everyone else first. 
  13. How did your previous marriage help to prepare you for your current marriage? Basically the way my previous marriage prepared me for my upcoming re-marriage, is that it taught me how I did not want to be treated, and it made me want to wait until I found the perfect person to treat me the way I had learned that I deserved to be treated.
  14.  If you have children, let’s talk co-parenting. How do you feel the transition has affected your children the most? I sometimes feel that the transition has affected my child negatively. He is very worried about what everybody else thinks/ feels. He has come to the point where he lives from one side to the other, so that he can make everyone happy. I feel like he has reached the point where he does this instead of worrying about himself and what makes him happy. An example of this is that at his dad's house they expect him to call his new stepmother, "Mom", and they expect him to call me by my first name. I find this to be crazy and very disrespectful. However, I also don't want to put him in the position where he feels like he has to chose sides by either upsetting me or upsetting them. I hate that he feels like he needs to call me by my real name when he is over there-in fact I think this is really over the top. I feel that this should be controlled, but his dad and his new wife don't seem to think so. It really wears very heavily on him, and it's a hard thing for us to deal with, especially when I'm trying to co-parent him with them, and teach him what I think is respectful and right, and how to be a good person. I hate to see the way his father is controlling him, but unfortunately I know that this is not something I can control. 
  15. What are some things you do every day to effectively co-parent your child with your ex-spouse? I try to be very open with my ex about everything that is going on with our child, and tell him about all the events that are coming up and what he is going to be doing. I try to respect what he wants for him. We have very different views on things such as extracurricular activities. He believes that he really shouldn't do any extracurricular activities, but I believe that he should. I believe he should do whatever he wants, as long as he's not overloaded. I also want him to follow through with those commitments and I expect him to finish them. There are lots of things he wants to do, but when I ask his Dad the answer is always a, "No.". I feel really bad for him sometimes, and I struggle with how to respect what his Dad wants, but still give him the life that I think he should have.  In my opinion, I don't think his Dad should be able have all the control over everything in his life, so a lot of times I just let him do things on my days. This is very frustrating, because then all the days he is with me, he is always busy doing something and I don't want it to be that way, but I also want to give him the best childhood I can. It's hard to find that balance.  
  16. What is one piece of advice you would give anyone who is just beginning their co-parenting journey after divorce? To remember that it is not about the two of you-it is about the children or the child. Try to always love and respect that person as the other parent to your child even though they may say that they hate you and you are tortured by that.
  17.  No matter what, I hope that my child ____________________________(Fill in the blank). I hope that my child knows how much I love him and how I would do anything in this world for him to make it the best it can be. He's an amazing little boy and he deserves nothing, but the best from everyone. I hope he always reaches for the stars, but that he knows that if he falls, mom will be right here. 
  18. If you could define your life after your divorce in one word what would it be and why?  Struggle. Co-parenting is the hardest thing, and sometimes I think it would just be so much easier if I just had full custody of him and his Dad wasn't around, or that I was from a divorce where there were no children involved. But then I sit back and remind myself that he is the most amazing thing that ever happened to me, and if that means that I have to have the struggle and put up with his father then it is worth it. That boy deserves everything in the world, and I believe that every child deserves to have both parents active in their life. 
  19. If you could go back to the first time and tell your young newly engaged self one thing, what would it be?  Listen to the people around you. Listen to those who care about you, and who love you the most. Your family is only telling you these things because they love you, and they want what's best for you. Trust me, they aren't giving you the advice just to be jerks. They're giving it to you, because they're worried about you and they want what's best for you. I have a lot of days that I wish I would've listened to my sister when she was sitting there with me on my wedding day making a plan for me to escape, so that I did not have to get married. I was so mad at her that day, and I couldn't believe she was doing it, but now I wish I would've listened and just ran like the wind right out the door.

I think we can all take something away from Bethany's interview and learn from her daily struggle no matter where we are in our lives. I admire the way that she strives to give her son the best life possible-a life that is filled with so many opportunities to learn and grow as human being-despite the adversity she faces. I believe this is something that any of us who are divorced with kids should strive towards, no matter what obstacles might be in our way. Bethany inspires me daily as a mother, and I hope she inspires you too. 

Stay tuned for more Life After Divorce posts that will be coming your way soon!

Happy Wednesday!

(If you are divorced and you would like to be considered for an interview in my Life After Divorce series, please feel free to email me at mymotherhoodinterrupted@gmail.com.)

*All names have been changed
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