Being alone was one of the harder pills to swallow during divorce. As I learned to challenge myself to overcome my fears and embrace being alone, I found it built my independence. I began to feel like a stronger and more confident woman, which made me a better person - and a better parent.
Before my divorce, I never knew how much I hated having alone time. Just lying in bed at night alone in my apartment on nights that my ex-husband had the boys were so hard. I would either watch TV or read until I couldn't bear to keep my eyes open any longer.
I felt scared. Every bump in the night was a serial rapist in my over-active imagination. When I did have the boys, I would let them take turns sleeping in my bed because I knew they felt protected. But really, it was they who were protecting me from the loneliness I was feeling.
I was also afraid of spiders. There was at least one per day in my basement apartment that needed squashing. If I came across one by surprise, I would scream out loud like a frightened little school girl. Soon my boys, ages five and seven at the time, were often heard screaming at the sight of spiders.
This made me think of how my fear affected my kids, and at a deeper level, I was starting to worry how other things affected them as well. I decided to no longer kill the spiders. I was on a "no-kill" mission to free them back into the garden, as far away from the house as possible.
Overcoming Irrational Thoughts and Fears
I soon learned to quiet the voices in my head that created the irrational thoughts that made me scared to be alone. I even challenged myself to eat out at a restaurant alone, and go to a movie alone. I took art classes and had girlfriends over for beading parties. Sometimes I stayed home and watched Jane Austen movies that I never got to watch due to the "compromise" couples always had to come to when it came to movie selection.
I began to like it. I still sought out activities with friends, but I no longer needed that connection on a daily basis. My relationship with myself began to grow. My confidence increased as an independent woman. I started to do things that I knew would make me a more rounded person, like managing my money better, keeping a tidier apartment, and cooking healthy meals that I could also take to work. I dressed with care and felt good about how I looked.
I even got the boys into downhill ski lessons so that I could have a winter activity that I did with them as they grew. That first selfie photo of the three of us on the chairlift is one of my all-time favorites.
Moving Outside My Comfort Zone
Building my independence did not happen overnight. There were many times I would have loved to call someone to rescue me from trying to figure out where the battery fluid needed to go. But I did it, thanks to YouTube. Learning how to fix things myself or tackle a small challenge on my own gave me the confidence to do other things that were just outside of my comfort zone.
I realized that every challenge I faced became a small opportunity to grow. Dating was fun and I was able to decline a second date if I just wasn't feeling it. I listened to my intuition and I learned from each experience some of the traits that I wanted or did not want in a man.
By the time I met my second husband, I was an independent woman. I had hobbies and friends, and I traveled often. I didn't need a man in my life in order for my life to work. This is how it should be when you meet someone: they should complement your life, not save it.
I happily let him rescue me from spiders now and again, as long as he promises not to kill them.
More from Divorce Magazine