I recently came across a picture taken about a year before my divorce. It is at my daughter’s fourth birthday party; smiling children, me cutting the cake and my husband to the side – removed and distant. How did I not see it at the time? He was there for the cake and the picture, but he was emotionally gone. He was never Charles Manson. He was just a young husband who had already moved past us to another life. If we are honest, really honest, with ourselves as women, then the hardest part of divorce is the loss of our hopes and dreams for a family together. So often you hear about people divorcing shortly after a new baby comes or a new home is finished, and you wonder why did they go ahead and do these things. The baby and the house are desperate attempts for two people to convince themselves that their hopes and dreams are still alive.
In my divorce adjustment classes I would frequently ask women who were mourning their divorce and wishing that things were “the way the used to be,” to describe exactly what they missed the most. Often they mourned the lifestyle, the safety of being a couple, the security of a partner in parenting, but not the man himself. For women who mourned the loss of the husband, lover, companion or the man himself, the divorce adjustment is much harder. For them it is the loss of a deep love and not just a lifestyle. In the end, the women all wanted to live out the marriage that they planned when they were young and for their husband to be the prince they had envisioned.
As we discussed in the first chapter ― under the Rose Garden Syndrome ― some of us believe that we deserve to have it all work out like Cinderella. Let’s think about this: all we know about the prince in Cinderella is that he was good looking and had a great horse. We’ll never know if he was from a dysfunctional family or if he has problems with intimacy. Remember that they only met once at a ball, for heaven’s sake! But we do know that Cinderella suffered at the hands of the wicked stepmother and two stepsisters, probably the most evil and unattractive trio ever to inhabit a fairy tale. So Cinderella, by virtue of all of these trials deserved the good-looking prince on the great horse and all future happiness. Other than that, all we know about her is that she had tiny feet. Too bad we can’t revisit the prince and Cinderella on their 10th anniversary.
If you have not conquered the Rose Garden Syndrome, then you are in real danger of coming down with the chronic and fatal disease of single mothers ― bitterness. Unfortunately, there is no shot to prevent this disease, just hard work and a willingness to look back at your marriage, extract the good, forgive yourself and your spouse for the painful loss of dreams and move on.
This is an excerpt from “You’re It! Successful Single Mothering after Divorce.” Chapter Two, Part Three
Excerpt by Jeanne L. Ward