It has been said that there is no better (or clearer) teacher than hindsight. It's the "coulda, woulda, shoulda" that all of us loathe. Man, if only I would have known that before I -- fill in the blank -- bought that skirt, agreed to marry him, cut my own bangs...asked for a divorce. Once you're on that train, it's mighty hard to get off. In the interest of helping other girlfriends out, I've asked my fellow divorced girlfriends what the top three things were that they wish they would have known before asking for a divorce.
1. How long it would take. We've all heard the urban myths about how so-and-so's divorce only ended up taking six months. And we convince ourselves that we will be the same. Ours will go smoothly. We won't try and destroy each other. We will be adults. Won't we? Someone once said that there's a reason divorces don't happen in church. I'm not telling you that your husband will now become the demon from Living Dead 5. But I'm also telling you not to expect things to go smoothly. You will hit roadblocks on money, custody, property division and support. Nothing in the legal world -- and I mean this literally -- goes quickly. (Except for getting your lawyer's bills. Those seem to come like clockwork every time you turn around.) Be prepared for an emotional roller coaster for at least a year. Many stretch into two, and the very odd case can take longer. I have girlfriends who are still trying to hammer out custody and support after five years. It's not common, but it does happen. If you know going into this what to expect, it won't come as such a shock when your lawyer says, "Eighteen months." In the old days, you'd bite down on a piece of leather for the pain, but there's not enough rawhide in a Country Western bar to help you through what's coming.
2. How lonely you will be. In the initial stages of my divorce, I had my posse of girlfriends surrounding me -- as if I was a wounded bird. Friends and family called "just to check in and see how I was doing." Sweet, and it wasn't overpowering enough to make me wonder if they half expected me to be tying a noose to my showerhead. However, as time wore on and the divorce finalized, their lives resumed a normal cadence and mine... didn't. Saturdays that were normally full to overflowing with activities became every other Saturday... which meant time spent alone. Yes, there's always something to do for a single mom; laundry, bills, yard work... the list is endless. But filling the void left by the absence of your husband and your children can be more difficult than you imagine. The house will seem quieter. Emptier. After years spent with someone; sharing every little moment, sound and nuance with them -- it will be difficult to fill that silence, that void. I'm not recommending this, but I bought a teacup Yorkie a few months after my separation. And now my house -- regardless of whether my children are home or not -- is never quiet.
3. How the label will alienate you. Like it or not, you're about to be discriminated against. A lot. And it isn't pretty. We are talking everything from women whom you've known for years suddenly and inexplicably turning their backs on you (happened to me at a Back to School night!) to friends who are suddenly too busy to have coffee or just get together after work. I could go onto a diatribe about how they feel threatened by your decision, how you represent most married women's waking nightmares or finally how they so want to distance themselves from a "messy divorce" that they'll abandon you like a puppy in a gunny sack on the side of the road. But I will simply say this; no matter when or where it happens to you after you split -- it hurts. You will feel judged by everyone and everything for a little while. You are now labeled as 'broken' because the divorce involves the splitting of what was once whole. There is no easy way to deal with this except to know that this is what really separates the girls from the women. The friends who stick with you through divorce are the ones you can trust with your life; they will see you at your worst and still be the ones to step on the toilet paper trailing behind you (and not say a word).
Before you step aboard the divorce train, know that it's got a few bumps ahead. Better to go in with eyes wide open than get stuck under the wheels. But don't worry, though it's a rough ride to the top, it's worth the trip.