Kate Meyers: Monnie N. is an editor at a Western newspaper. She was married for five years and went through a divorce when her two children were under 5. She has now been happily remarried for two years.
momlogic: Why did you get divorced?
Monnie N.: The hardest thing is, I really don't know. Literally, my husband never said we had a problem. I found things he had sent me a couple months before leaving, saying, "I'm so happy. You're the love of my life." So I really don't know. We had gone out on a date night, and the next morning, he said, "I want to talk to you about something. I don't want to be married anymore, and I've rented a place and I'm moving out." I sat there like a fish with my mouth open. I was speechless.
ml: How did you manage?
MN: I realized that the best thing that I could do was call on my emotional resources, and as long as I focused on the positive, I wouldn't fall off the tracks. I stayed as busy as I could while trying to get a job. I relied on my old friends, exercised .... I kept my nose to the grindstone. I just felt like the more I did that, the safer I would be.
ml: What helped you recover most?
MN: Without a doubt, it was getting my job. I was a single, unemployed parent, so my biggest threat was financial, and it was a huge relief to get work. I focused on my job and my new colleagues, and I realized that there was this big world out there. It was enlightening and really positive.
ml: What's the best advice that you were given at the time?
MN: I would say three things. One, focus on staying as productively busy as you can, because that changes your emotional state from day to day, and pretty soon you have a positive momentum. Two, exercise. And three, take care of yourself. Sometimes when I was at wit's end, I would turn the TV off, turn the phone off and read a book or go to bed early. Here's the kicker: I bought a hot tub. And having a glass of wine and looking at the stars made me feel better. I think you feel it in your body when you're upset like that; you feel the aches and pains physically. I know it was a luxury, but it really made me feel better.
ml: What is your split?
MN: Five years post-divorce, we went to 50/50, but before that it had been, like, 60/40, and early on, it was five days and two. We progressed that way because the kids were little when we divorced.
ml: What's the hardest part about getting divorced?
MN: If you do have a choice about getting divorced, don't underestimate how difficult it's going to be. Your life gets immeasurably more complicated when you're divorced and you have children. Your life gets complicated in ways that you can't even see. My advice to anyone with kids is to have a very specific ironclad contract or mediation agreement, so that if there ever comes a time when you're not amicable, you know what the rules are. If that's not in place, it can be emotionally difficult and prohibitively expensive.
ml: What's the biggest challenge of your co-parenting?
MN: I think that if you're amicable, it's just the logistics. But if you have different ideas about parenting, you have to realize that you've lost control in having a huge say in how your children are raised. And it's a real big deal for people who care. If you're not amicable, you have to let go. Don't cede your parenting role just because it's frustrating; just explain rationally and kindly, without being disparaging to the other parent, why you do things differently and hope the other parent is doing that, so your kids really learn there are different ways to live.
ml: When did you know everything would be OK?
MN: It took me about a year and a half. I got to a point where I came home from work and work was going well and the kids were happy and playful and being their normal selves. I remember this one weekend very clearly. They went to stay with their dad, and I didn't make any plans. And I felt really good, and I thought, "Wow! I can do this for the rest of my life!" I realized I would be OK by myself, just spending as much time with my kids as possible. I started getting better all at once. It seemed like the financial, emotional and physical all came together.
ml: What's the best thing to come out of the experience?
MN: I think I'm more compassionate about other people. Before my ex left, I used to think something was wrong with people if they got divorced, that they didn't try hard enough. Now I realize that things can really go wrong and people can change and I'm a lot less judgmental. When people tell me they're getting divorced, I tell them, "Don't rush your recovery. It's a process, but it does work out in the end."