One cheating husband, divorce, pain, litigation, single parenthood, multiple nights of tears and two small children later, I have learned something that I didn't know pre-marriage. Love that is healing can come in multiple packages -- more precisely, four.
Three years post-separation and divorce, here is what four best friends who are also divorced have taught me about moving on without ever involving any man:
1. Trust. It ain't easy. It's more difficult after you've been cheated on and deceived. When I need help, I need only reach out and one if not all four of these women will respond within minutes with, "How can we help? Tell us what you need." What has this taught me? Simply that I can reach out to others, be vulnerable and that others will have my back. When I am broken down on the highway and need help, the boyfriend who may or may not return my call or text and the ex-husband who lost this phone in the taxi cab no longer matters.
2. Laughter. It can heal all wounds. The nice part about being able to laugh at ourselves is that we really do find ourselves and our situations amusing. I have four single-parent friends to share those sad, funny, quirky moments with. They in turn provide an audience and a sounding board, and they are reciprocal with their own stories and struggles. By hearing how crazy their lives are, I am reminded that none of us have it perfect. At least we share a sense of humor -- sick as it may be -- and laughter really is the best medicine.
3. Advice. Four different friends with four different personalities means different advice on what to do next. And regardless of how different that advice is, it comes from a tender place with no motives. There's the all-insightful friend Hope who always seems to know how to give the perfect response and does. There's the practical, kind and empathetic Leia who is balanced in her opinions and fair. There's the tough, no-nonsense Catherine who tells it like it is; and finally there's Ingrid, a mom to two small children who rarely receives any child support, who is always available with practical, intelligent advice (and warm lasagna).
4. Growth. I have seen one of these friends deal with the loss of her ex-spouse to suicide only to handle it inspiringly; another deal with an extremely difficult former spouse yet who never becomes bitter. I have witnessed another deal with relationships and disappointments only to surface resilient and as someone who won't settle for less. I have seen one more fight to protect a daughter she loves and adores from a court system that doesn't seem to care enough. There is much growth in where they have been, how they have handled adversity and where they are going.
5. Inspiration. These are single moms. They do it everyday -- painstaking routines and most often without help. Those are the relationships I want in my life. Resilient women who have been through trials and tribulations. Women who I want to be like and emulate. Finally, I can lose myself in someone who won't take from my self-respect; instead, they add to it.
6. Empathy/sympathy. When I cry, my tears don't fall on deaf ears. Four friends, eight ears listening to me, my hurts, and my wants. These are kind and beautiful women who have been hurt many times themselves in divorce but life doesn't prevent them from being empathetic with others. The tougher life is, the more empathetic and sympathetic we are with each other.
7. Validation. I am enough, and they love me for who I am. And just like the Mr. Darcy character who states, "I like you, just as you are," my girlfriends love me just as I am. They are patient, they listen, they validate my feelings. I see me in them and them in me. And that's the validation I want in this life. They set the bar high for any man that will ever come along, any future partner or husband. They have taught me never to settle. I am enough.
8. Authenticity. I can be myself. My girlfriends have seen me dressed in high heels. They have also seen me in my dressing gown and in sweats. If I am depressed, I don't have to hide it. If I am happy I don't have to contain it for fear of jealousy. I'm not trying to woo them or date them. They're in the bag already.
9. Strength. Powerhouses in a storm. I have seen four women endure struggles and storms that nobody should have to struggle. I have seen them cry. And yet they have handled it all with grace and charm -- and the kicker is that it doesn't make them bitter or cynical. That's real strength.
10. Integrity. These are people who I trust will always do right by others. The quality of the people I have chosen to travel a difficult journey with is important since we do influence one another every day.
True, I'm into women. I didn't find healing running around chasing men and futile relationships. My healing came from solid friendships with solid women who are there for the long haul. Ours may be a sexless marriage but it's definitely intimate, fun, satisfying and fulfilling -- and it has paved the way for any future man I might date or remarry in the future.