When people come to me asking about divorce, one underlying question always remains: "What does divorce really look like?" In other words, what will life look like when my marriage is finally over?
As a child of divorce and, once upon a time a divorcée myself, I think I have a pretty good understanding.
I was only 11 years old when my parents split up but even as a child, I had a sense that I would be better off if both my mother and father remained active in my life. So I made my first court appearance and "stated" my case. A little bit of foreshadowing for the rest of my life, I like to think.
I told the judge I wanted my parents to live nearby so they could share custody of me. And that's what they did, choosing to reside within a three-mile radius of each other. Having each of my parents involved in my day-to-day life was important to me, especially since we didn't have much family around, my parents having emigrated from South Africa to the United States before I was born. It was just the three of us, and of course my cat, or as I always say, my private therapist.
Obviously, every divorce is unique and what specifically worked for my family may not exactly work for yours. The point is if both parents make a genuine effort to get along, at least where the kids are concerned, divorce doesn't have to be a negative experience for parents or their children. Even though it may not seem like it at the time, life does go on, and situations do change.
I should know. Like so many of my clients and the people who come to me for counsel and advice, my first marriage also ended in divorce. According to the American Psychological Association, despite 90 percent of people in Western cultures marrying before the age of 50, approximately 40 to 50 percent of marriages in the U.S. dissolve. Looking back, I realize I made a mistake. But even at the time, I knew it wasn't the end of the road for me either.
After my divorce I took stock, not only of my marriage and why it ended but also of how I could apply those insights to help others who were struggling just as I was. I looked for the patterns that led me to where I was. And then I changed them.
Good thing I did because if I hadn't, I wouldn't have met my husband, Bill, my opposite in so many ways. I can honestly say if I could have created my next husband to spec, it... wouldn't have been him! That's because, at the time, I didn't know what I wanted and, even more so, what or who would be right for me. The only thing I did know was that I had to keep an open mind and my options open.
It's hard to believe Bill and I are married more than four years now, and that our little princess, Sofie, just celebrated her first birthday last month. She's recently begun teething, which has been tough considering we haven't been getting much sleep lately. But like everything else, I know this too shall pass and that I'll probably miss this time when it does.
So what does divorce really look like? Whatever you want it to! You're in charge. I'm in charge. Although these days I think Sofie may have some of her own ideas about that.
Vikki Ziegler is the star of Bravo TV's Untying the Knot, the founder and CEO of DivorceDating, Author of The Pre-Marital Planner: Your Complete Legal Guide to a Perfect Marriage, and a co-founder of and partner at Ziegler & Zemsky, LLC. To learn more about Vikki, visit www.vikkiziegler.com or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.