Guest blogger Kate Meyers: Julie Smith was married for almost ten years. Her husband moved out for a year when the kids were 4 and 2. The following year they split for good, but it took almost two years for the divorce to become final. They've now been divorced for ten years.
momlogic: Why did you get divorced?
Julie Smith: Basically, he had given up on the marriage. He started having these thoughts and focusing on the negative and had been keeping it to himself for a long time, and I think that he was ready to be done by the time he even said anything. It was presented to me as "I'm not happy," and my response was, "What's the problem? Let's work on it." I was a stay-at-home mom with two young kids; we didn't have resources of babysitters or family. We tried to go to some counseling, but it didn't really help us because we didn't care for the counselor. We tried counseling with somebody else, but [my husband] showed up in body only. He was just done and didn't really participate. After a few months, he just said, "I can't do this anymore." What I learned going through therapy and recovery is that you have to realize your part. Because of my parent's divorce I had developed this lifeboat of protecting myself and not allowing myself to feel. I always felt like I had to be strong and handle things. It became that self-fulfilling prophecy. My dad had been unfaithful, so the message I took was "You can't trust men and you never know when they're going to leave." Subconsciously, I was never fully revealing of myself to my ex. I was always holding back, thinking, You never know when he's going to leave.
ml: What was the hardest part of the process?
JS: There's so much that was hard. But having such young children and the fear of the future and wondering, Are we going to be OK? Are we going to make it? Are we going to be able to do this financially? Being in a new place -- we had recently relocated -- and not having the relationships and support base to help me .... And then there's giving up your dream, the dream that a lot of girls have: You get married and you live happily ever after. The death of the dream and the fear of the future -- those were really tough.
ml: What was the parenting arrangement?
JS: In our state, we were required to go to mediation, so we went to a child mediator and we had to come up with a parenting plan. Because the kids were so young, my daughter didn't have to do overnights. I had them two-thirds of the time and he'd have them every other weekend and maybe one night during the week. It evolved as they got older, so that it's now closer to a fifty-fifty split.
ml: Was there a time when you realized everything was going to be OK?
JS: Yeah, but I don't know if I could pinpoint it. As I really accepted that this was the way it was going to be and focused on the recovery and having the freedom to be who I was and not who I thought he wanted me to be, I started just enjoying my life -- laughing and really being OK with who I am. It probably took a year or so, going through a 10-week divorce recovery workshop at our church, going to a therapist and joining a single-mom support group. Just being with those people and having that support really helped.
ml: How about the kids?
JS: I think that as they got a little bit older, probably mid-elementary school, as I watched them and watched other kids, I just realized they were going to be OK. When we split up, part of me was so afraid because they were so young, but in some ways, it was a blessing because this is all they've ever known.
ml: What's the best thing to come out of it for you?
JS: Divorce is not ideal, but you can find the good in it and make the best of it. Me being able to be true to who I am and being able to share that with my kids and for me to be able to raise my kids as Christians and give them that foundation. I think really being able to pursue that and develop spiritually and to grow in my faith and instill that in my children. I learned through therapy that my approach to relationships was about trying to please and be who the other person wanted me to be. The kids now see us as who we are and take the best from both. The divorce was so humbling, but it made me become a better person and realize what's important in life.