7 Things I Discovered About Myself After I Got A Divorce 

woman in art studio
Elize Strydom/Getty

My ex-husband and I agreed to divorce over three and a half years ago. Back then, I was in survival mode living minute to minute. I had no idea of the emotional hills I’d have to climb. As soon as thoughts about how much my life would change would creep in, I’d shut them all down. Then something would come up to make me face them.

Those experiences were (and still are) the catalyst of me getting to know me, in a way I never would have if I were still with my ex-husband. I now know things about myself I didn’t before, and they have all been gifts.

1. I am capable of doing this on my own.

For a long time, the idea of being married and having a partner to share a home and raise children with was what I really wanted. But I also believed I needed another person’s help because I didn’t think I was strong enough to handle it on my own — not emotionally or financially.

You know what? I totally am.

I’ve been tested, scared, and made lots of mistakes, but I keep going. The true meaning of doing something on your own doesn’t mean there aren’t speed bumps in your way that set you back. It means you handle the speed bumps and keep going.

2. I have a lot of work to do in the relationship department.

All of my relationships with men have been pretty healthy. Not perfect, but nothing traumatic. I always thought it was because I was confident and had my emotional shit together. Now, I’m not sure if having your emotional shit together is even a thing. I have a lot of work to do when it comes to being in a relationship with someone.

I felt really strong when I wasn’t dating. Then when I meet someone, all my insecurities, anxiety, and self-sabotaging thoughts come out to play.

I’ve realized that I tend to shut down when I’m upset or hurt, and I can do things to make my partner feel insignificant. I’m not the best communicator and can be selfish because I think about how I am being affected in situations without taking the time to look at their side.

I can be very immature when it comes to love. For decades, I thought if my partner would just meet my needs, all would be well because I was stable, I was the voice of reason. Wrong. I’m learning to drop a lot of the expectations and realize I need to work on how I handle myself when I’m not okay, because it can make or break a relationship.

3. I am allowed to be more than “just” a mom.

I put so much of myself into being a mother, it was all I identified with. My ex-husband saw it way before I did and I ignored his concerns (see #2). It was damaging to say the least. My parents divorced, and I tried to make up for all I I’d lost when I had kids by investing in them so much, there wasn’t time for anything else.

It wasn’t until I only saw them part-time that I realized I needed to build myself up more by doing other things.

I am allowed to learn a new sport or hobby. I am allowed to be a sexual person. I am allowed to let loose a little bit with my friends. Being a mother isn’t a parallel universe, and I’m glad I stepped out of it because it’s been better for me and my children.

4. I put others’ needs before my own for too long.

It was as if I didn’t even know who I was or what I wanted in my life because it was taken off the table for so long. My ex-husband is not to blame for this; I am. I wanted to be married and have a family so badly. I stopped looking for other things in my life that made me evolve and grow. I thought being a mom was the end-all-be-all, and I wasn’t willing to budge on making anyone else uncomfortable to say what I needed or wanted.

I shoved dreams of mine under the table and ignored myself for too long just to stay in the everyday demands of making my family happy. Then I couldn’t do it anymore. That’s when my life started.

5. I need to have more compassion for others.

Before signing my divorce papers, people would vent about their lives or say they felt too overwhelmed to do this or that. I didn’t vocalize this much, but I sometimes wondered whether they were contributing to their own problems.

Now I know when someone can’t fulfill an obligation, it may mean they can’t emotionally be there and they need to take care of themselves. They may have a zillion other things going on in their life they just don’t want to explain. Or they may be so overwhelmed by anxiety because of a shift in their life that the only way they know how to get through the day is to be still, and they don’t have to explain that to anyone.

6. Screwing up doesn’t mean I am a screw up.

I got really tired of saving face or acting like I was fine. It used to be, if I made a mistake, I would put myself through the ringer and obsess over it. If I felt I’d said or done something wrong, it would be stuck on my forehead for the rest of my life, and no one would forget it.

This is the very thing that makes us human. People screwing up and making mistakes doesn’t mean they are a screw up. It means they tried something that didn’t work. It doesn’t mean their life is falling apart.

7. Just because I know how to do something, doesn’t mean I have to.

I’ve run myself ragged a time or two trying to do things I have the ability to do regardless of whether I have time to do them or not. I’ve baked cookies for a school event instead of buying them because I let my ego do the talking. I’ve looked up videos on YouTube on how to change a broken shower head instead of asking for help or hiring someone.

Most of my life, I’ve felt that if I knew how to do something, or if I could figure it out for myself, then I had zero excuse not to just fucking do it. Then my moods would head south and I’d be so irritable the tiniest duty would send me into a tailspin, or I’d cancel something that would actually be just the thing I needed like a girls’ night or having the energy to stay up a little late and read.

When you are the solo parent, you learn pretty quickly that you are better off if you are able to say no or ask for help. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

Oftentimes, we have to go through something that sucks to get to know ourselves a little better. When my ex-husband moved out over three years ago, I thought I knew myself pretty well. After all, I was 41 and a mother to three. I felt I had enough life experience under my belt and could keep living my life the same way I had been.

I’m glad I decided to pay attention to what my emotions were trying to tell me every time something I was doing or thinking felt off. Because if I hadn’t closed that side of my brain down and continued to plow through like I wanted to, I wouldn’t have gotten to know myself the way I do now. And I have to say, I like myself more than I ever have.