It was late 2009, and my marriage was over again. My wife of eight years and the stepmother to my five children had left. Once again, we were experiencing the pain and trauma of losing a wife and mother -- the same pain and trauma that we had already endured after my first wife and their birth mother left, and never returned, back in 1996.
I had allowed history to repeat itself 13 years later by marrying a woman with similar traits. My five children and I found ourselves hurt, confused, and angry -- again. I feared this would affect their future relationships, their ability to be successful or they even might become axe murderers.
For the second time, I was left heartbroken, lonely and overwhelmed. But this time, I was determined to follow a different path and not allow history to repeat itself -- for the third time. I had 13 years and a lot more life experience under my belt, which gave me the strength and wisdom to develop these 10 habits to direct me to happiness and success after divorce:
1. I Found My Spiritual Side: I wasn't very spiritual before my marriages, but faith provided a comforting voice that guided me through these adversities. It gave me the patience and strength to always be there for my children and myself, despite my pain.
2. I Learned that I am Worthy of Being Loved: Loving (and marrying) someone doesn't mean that you have to continually earn their love and respect. I deserve love and respect for just being the man that I am.
3. I Realized that Bad Treatment is Never Acceptable: Whether he or she is my acquaintance, friend, or lover, he or she has no right to treat me poorly. If you treat me badly, you do not deserve to be in my life.
4. I Learned to Recognize the Positive Things in My Life: After enduring two failed marriages, raising five children alone, and having incredibly strained financial circumstances, it became easy to be negative. I started listing the positive things in my life every day; eventually the positives started outnumbering the negatives by more and more.
5. I Made Time for Myself: I had developed the habit of giving everything I had and more to my kids, which took its toll on my mental and physical health. I realized that taking time for myself wasn't selfish, but smart; it made me happier, more productive, and more successful -- as a businessman and as a parent.
6. I Recognized that Anger is a Wasted Emotion: I accumulated a lot of rage and bitterness from my marriages and divorce proceedings, and some of it is still with me today. I am in a better place now because I took responsibility for my actions and how they contributed to what happened, as well as I accepted that what had happened is in the past - all I can do it work on my present and future. While this anger is not completely gone, I work every day to heal and recover. One way I do this is through writing articles, which both help others going through similar situations and help me heal.
7. I Stopped Overcompensating as a Parent: When my kid's birth mother left I felt guilty and pitied them, so I was over-protective, didn't discipline them enough, and didn't provide enough structure. After my second divorce, I was a tougher, more thoughtful parent, parenting them with the goal of doing what was best to make them successful.
8. I Made My Physical Health a Top Priority: Part of taking time for myself was also making sure I was staying healthy. As I get older, I work harder to keep myself in the good physical condition because physical strength has always been my foundation for emotional and mental strength.
9. I Realized Material Possessions Don't Provide Happiness: After I realized that happiness comes from within me, the people who are close to me, and the experiences I chose to have, I was able to look for happiness in the right places.
10. I Became Grateful for Everything I Already Have: I am grateful that I have five amazing kids in my life, who continually pay me back with their love and success. I am lucky to say that I have a long list of things I am grateful for, which I add to every week. When I am down, I read it and instantly cheer up.
My kids are now all in their twenties. All five are successful, happy, and kind people. Most importantly, we are all still close.
Funny enough, I am the happiest I have ever been. Throughout my hardships, I have discovered that I can't control everything, know everything, be the bravest, or always be perfect. Life is a process, and if I am open to it, I can improve every day.
Finding happiness and achieving success after divorce is a long process and is not for the faint of heart -- but so is life.