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What to Expect When You're Divorcing

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MaritalMess: Here's one single mom's rough (very rough) timeline of year one. Just to be clear: This is based on no scientific data, statistics or polls; it's just some commonalities that were hashed out over glasses of wine with an ever-increasing circle of divorced friends. Enjoy! And if you see yourself in it -- or if I've forgotten a step -- please feel free to add ....

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Stage 1: Freedom! The intoxication of being appreciated by the opposite sex will undoubtedly give you a buzz, especially with the veritable smorgasbord of people you are now free to explore. One friend of mine lovingly called a certain dating site her "personal brothel." No judgment: From one-night stands to crushes you can now act upon to "friends with benefits," it's time to be a glutton at the buffet of orgasm.

Stage 2: Freedom burnout! You won't have found what you are really looking for in Stage 1, so you will journal, meditate, cry, lean on friends, make new friends and just chill out (which looks a lot like eating cheese and watching "Top Chef"). Spend some quality time getting to know yourself. Travel, read, do things that fill up your soul. (I found "Mad Men" DVDs particularly comforting, but to each her own ....)

Stage 3: The tribe of divorced friends. A very important step, and one that often overlaps with Stage 1. Just as mom friends are the only ones who can truly sympathize with the acute pangs of new motherhood, only divorced people can truly know the pain, grief and turmoil that divorce leaves in its wake. It helps to know that other people have been through this and survived, so hear their stories and share yours (preferably over a glass of wine).Bonus: Sometimes their saga is waaay more messed up than yours!

Stage 4: The mini relationship. After establishing some hard-won peace and finally feeling some love and forgiveness for yourself, you might be open to meeting someone. The result? A fledgling relationship of less than a few month's duration; one wherein you think you can do the couples thing, only to realize ... NO WAY. But the upside is, you will become ever clearer as to what it is that you do want in a partner.

Stage 5: See Stage 1.

Stage 6: Work, work, work. You will dive into work, motherhood and new endeavors with reckless abandon and a newly minted zeal. My nascent single-mom fire fortifies me to knock on doors and go after things that I NEVER would have done in my marriage. This is where you grow some cojones and really start to pursue new directions -- including a healthy and cooperative co-parenting relationship with the Ex. And this is exactly where my first year of separation has brought me.

The stages are all interchangeable, depending on the individual, but you get the gist of it. The good news? I know wines and cheeses so much more intimately now. I'm much less judgmental. I am like a warrior fighting for my own happiness, and I am able to look back and laugh at myself, having just survived one of the roughest years of my life. All in all, a pretty chock-full year, but one I wouldn't trade for anything ....


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