Rediscovering My Voice And Finding The Joy After Our Divorce

by Kate Buckholz Berrio
Joy After Divorce

We had several tense months of continuing to cohabitate after our decision to split. He was in the guest room, I was in our room, and it just felt so icky. It was hard for the kids to understand this new sleeping arrangement — and I constantly listened for his movements around the house.

Was he online? Was he on the phone? Was he listening for me too?

We communicated only about the essentials and kept all other life business separate. Tense whispered conversations were the norm and chocolate, wine, and extra Zumba classes were my happy place. Then came the rather un-ceremonial day when my ex moved out — it was a Wednesday and happened while I was at work. I came home and he was gone. Obvious missing pieces of our marital puzzle were everywhere: a nightstand, a toothbrush, his sock bin. But something else was missing, too.

The weight of the tension that had hung over our home for months was gone.

There was a palpable shift, and I started to get my mojo back. I lit candles and watched a favorite movie; I was fully in control of the remote. It was heaven. What I am discovering is that there are upsides to separation and divorce — bright spots among the muck of working through sadness, resentment, and paperwork.

Ever disagree with your spouse over where to eat on vacation? For some reason, this was a huge issue in my growing up home and in my marriage. I don’t know what it is about choosing Luau Bob’s vs. Salty Pete’s, but there’s something about the push/pull of marriage that can make decisions like this feel bigger than they should.

The first time I went away solo with the kids for a long beach weekend was heaven. I made the choices on where we ate; I set the bedtime routine; I lazed by the pool while they splashed in the kiddie area. It was great to just go with my own flow instead of trying to anticipate the argument and then most likely give in to his plan, as had happened for years of vacations prior.

One of the biggest things I needed to reclaim after our marriage ended was my physical space — namely, redecorating the master bedroom. I chose a beautiful, deep purple that was way more feminine than he would have been comfortable with, and went to town. I bought matching curtains, rugs, throw pillows, and a duvet. Investing in decorating was not his thing, but is so mine. I also hung up my running medals and beautiful quotes that speak to me, painted on canvas by a friend. I made my nightstand a kid-free zone and stacked books from my favorite authors there, inspiration all around from sleeping to waking.

The point is, I took back my space by making my preferences a priority.

My closest cousins and I have a thing about ABBA. I don’t know where it came from or why, but we are all big into ABBA dance parties — usually after a serving or two of vino. My husband just didn’t get it. It was a sign of our mismatched relationship that he saw this as more a nuisance than yet another quirky, adorable part of my being; and my ABBA dance parties were relegated to special occasions or girls-only weekend trips.

Once he moved out? You better believe that household chores are performed on the regular to ABBA, with loud singing along included. The kids think it’s hilarious, and they now see a sillier side of their mama than before. We dance together and sing like there’s nobody watching — because no one is.

As I continue to work through where it all went wrong and what I want to learn from the end of my marriage, I am looking for moments of light — joy when we were together and joy now that we’re apart. Darkness and light will always be present, and I’m trying to glean wisdom from each in identifying what are the things that make me me. Dance parties, feeling like my voice and choices are heard, and moments when I finally feel like I am the decision maker are all a good start.