Dear Elin Nordegren:
I am writing because we have a few things in common. For starters, I, like you, am a blonde, single mother of two biracial children. Though my ex did not leave me with the financial security that yours presumably did, I am sure we have other things in common, too. Like the fact that we both held huge hopes for having an intact nuclear family over the long haul. And the fact that the tears we both shed during our respective breakups could fill swimming pools.
But there is one way in which we are different, and that is: time. I am four years post-separation, and am finally starting to find my footing. So I thought I'd share some words of wisdom, one single mother to another.
Even though you told People Magazine that you "feel stronger than ever," please go slowly. In every way. In licking your wounds. In trusting others. And in giving your children time to adjust. Take time to sit with your sorrow and your tears. Running to people and places to find pretend happiness will only delay your healing.
Probably the hardest part of breaking up with a guy you have children with is that you don't get to avoid him entirely. I like to say that divorce with kids is as challenging as overcoming an eating disorder: You still have to go to the fridge and "walk the tiger" every day. Similarly, you and your ex will have to see and talk to each other as you arrange child visitation.
I want to warn you that in the first couple of years, there will be bittersweet moments when you look into his eyes at child-exchange meetings. You will both remember the good times -- the emotionally intimate births of your children, the family holiday celebrations and the wonderful family vacations. When that happened to me, when I pined away for a rose-colored past relationship, I had to remind myself that those memories were just the trailer to a movie that didn't deliver. False advertising, if you will.
On dating, I have one thing to say: It's complicated. I have met seemingly wonderful men without children who made valiant efforts to embrace mine yet ultimately never got the kid thing. I have met great single dads so entwined with their own kids (and exes!) that there was no room for me and mine. I've met plenty of never-married older men who seem to excel in serial monogamy, even when their mouths promise that marriage is in their future. And I have met sweet, loving guys who were too intimidated by me to hold their own as strong partners.
In the end, I have learned that my notions of what kind of relationship I dream of runs counter to our current "hook-up" culture. Times have changed, and the only advice I can give you is to create a supportive network of female friends and family that will always be your secure base. Men may come and go, but female friends are forever.
Finally, I wish you luck and happiness in your future. I have enough wealthy friends who have endured divorce to know that money doesn't help one bit to heal your emotional pain. But close relationships with your children are a wonderful salve. Teach them to love and feel loved by being the best mother possible. Those kids are the gift of your marriage.
Dr. Wendy Walsh