I write so many articles for people going through a divorce; newly separated men and women who are just trying to navigate the process and get the best outcome possible. Their thought process is usually (and understandably) short-term—just trying to get through the divorce, just trying to get through the week, or sometimes even just trying to get through the day.
But what happens after divorce? When the stress and anxiety of the divorce process is in the rearview mirror, where does someone go from there? Now that we have this huge weight lifted, the rules are in place, and we no longer have to wonder when we’ll see our kids or how much money we’ll end up with, what’s next?
I’m going to assume everyone want happiness. Even a happily ever after, right? But what exactly is happily ever after after divorce?
The idea for this post stemmed from a reader who asked this question:
Do you have any stories of people ending up happy after divorce?
Many people (including myself at a time in my life) thought that happily ever after after divorce meant that you met an amazing guy, got remarried, maybe had more kids, and got the chance for a re-take—a marriage that is actually blissful.
While I think that kind of a happy ending is beautiful, and I’ve heard stories like that, I’ve come to learn that happily ever after can be very very different than the above scenario, and that it can mean a million different things to different people.
I just got an email today from a reader who wanted to share her story with me. She is a divorced woman with three kids and a full-time job. She has had some health issues, and a few months ago she found out her ex is living with someone. She was shocked. After feeling like she hit, in her words “rock bottom,” she said she got it together by weening herself off of anti-depressants, losing a lot of weight, seeing a therapist, and joining a divorce support group. She said she never looked back. She has since gotten on good terms with her ex for co-parenting purposes, and she is happily dating.
She made a comment to me that alluded to the fact that she got her happily ever after. Huh? While I think she is doing phenomenally well, I would not describe her as having a happily ever after. But maybe to her, being in a good place and out of a bad marriage is enough to call it a happily ever after.
Like this woman, I too think I got my happily ever after. Let me explain. I have been divorced for 10 years. My ex is remarried. I have never remarried but I’m truly in love. About a year ago, I was out with a group of women. A few of them were remarried. After a couple drinks I said to one of the women, “I wish I was remarried.” She asked me why I said that.
“Because I want the happily ever after,” I said.
“But don’t you already have it?” she asked.
It really made me think, and that’s when I realized that I am living my happily ever after. I have everything I want. Seriously. Doesn’t that equate to happily ever after?
Here’s the thing. Happily ever after means forever, and in reality, that is impossible. Life and relationships are continually changing, and obviously we are not going to live forever. So, I think happily ever after after divorce means living your life with as much happiness as you possible can.
That can mean so many things: pursuing hobbies you love, giving back, traveling, being the best parent you know how to be, dating, being in a relationship that makes you happy, spending time with your best friends, treating your body with love and appreciating it, having passion for your work, having fun, and just enjoying simple, basic things that we all tend to take for granted: the beauty of the sky, a love for animals and pets, really good laughter, great sex, delicious food, sound sleep, and the ability to love and be loved in a deep, meaningful way.
So, my answer to “What exactly is happily ever after after divorce?” is that it is what you want it to be and it might keep changing. What it doesn’t mean is that you have to get married or even be in a relationship to say you ended up happily ever after. When fairytales end with “They lived happily ever after,” the operative word is LIVED. So if you want to live happily ever after, stop worrying about happily ever after and just LIVE.
Like this post? Check out my blog, “The Newly Separated Get Unexpected Gifts”