Category Archives: divorce

Never say never

One thing I said years ago after my separation and subsequent divorce, was that I would NEVER ever get married again. In fact, I said I was off men for good. All they do it bring heartache and pain and there was no way I was ever going to open myself up to that again. I had my boys – I didn’t want or need a man.

After a year or so on my own I started to revise that statement. I may not have wanted to get married at that point, but the idea of actually dating a MAN did not seem quite so terrifying. I eventually started to date. I dated the wrong men (oy, it hurts to look back), I dated the almost-right men – I have chronicled some of it here on this blog – but at some point I knew I wanted more.

At this point I was happy – happy from within myself, not dependent on anyone for that happiness. I had let go so much of the bitterness and resentment that had festered within. I was happy and content – on my own terms. I knew I didn’t need a man in order to be happy, however I wanted a partner to share in that happiness and expand upon it.

I wanted to feel that I was the center of someone’s universe, I wanted to feel loved, to feel warmth, to feel special. I wanted to be #1 on someone’s list. I wanted to be needed and cherished. I wanted to be loved. I wanted to share my life with an equal partner. I knew I was ready to love again, and take the marital plunge. It just became a question of finding Mr Right.

When I think back to how vehemently I had railed against marriage in those early dark times, I wince and chuckle a little wryly. THEN, that was how I felt. I was so sure that feeling would last forever. Thank the good Lord it didn’t. Time does heal, and I learnt that all men were not the same. All men were not the enemy. I was finally ready to give marriage another shot – but I was so cautious when dating. I made the KoD jump through hoops and practically pushed him away before I realized he was the one. (Yup, I almost let him go….)

Never say never – no one knows what’s around the corner.

Moving On

It’s always hard when other people move on with their life, and leave you in the dust. Sometimes it’s friends getting married first, having babies first, graduating first. Other times it’s a lot more painful – an ex spouse moving ahead with their life and settling down anew with someone else.

I remember the day clearly when I got the call that my ex was moving on. It was a while after our Get (a year probably), but extremely soon after our civil divorce was granted. Like, within hours.

We had both had time to grieve our marriage and I knew he was dating again – the kids kept no secrets no matter how much they were told to stay quiet. I had started to date, but I wasn’t fully invested in it. I just wasn’t ready.

He gave me the courtesy of calling me first to let me know that he would be telling the kids that night – he had them for dinnertime – that he was engaged and would be getting married. I wanted to wish him mazel tov, but the words stuck in my throat. I had an hour or two until he was going to pick the kids up from my apartment and I couldn’t say a word to them. I also couldn’t fall apart in front of them either.

The minute they left, I called up a friend to vent. I was in tears. It wasn’t about me still wanting to be with him – that ship had totally sailed. It was about the fact that how could he be ready to move on with his life, when I was still alone and, truthfully, still grieving for our 12-year marriage. And it was too soon. And who is she, will she be nice to my boys? Yes, there was also “what does she have that I didn’t?” – but even as I was thinking that, I knew it was irrational.

I am glad I heard the news from him, and not from the boys. He did the right thing by calling me first. When the KoD  and I got engaged, I did the same thing. It’s common courtesy and it should not be discounted.

The day they got married was a tough one. The boys were not at their wedding as it happened abroad. But they talked about it. It hurt. I hadn’t yet met my Mr Right and here he is all happily married and posting wedding pics on Facebook.

Looking back I wish I hadn’t wasted all those tears. Look who I found! I met my KoD a few months later and my life has been sunshine and roses ever since (well, apart from the immigration saga). But when you are not the first to move on it really does hurt. It isn’t necessarily logical, it’s visceral, it’s painful,  but it does pass.

WWYD? Letter from a reader

I received this letter from a reader, and it struck a huge chord with me. I don’t know what my answer would be as I can relate with this issue. Please weigh in with your thoughts.

My friend’s daughter is thinking about becoming engaged to a divorced father several years her senior. Like me, she was divorced with one small child, a four year old. The divorced father has a contentious relationship with his ex-wife and three out of his four children are exhibiting abnormal behavior. They have sought my advice – should she continue the relationship or break it off? For once, I am at a loss. My inner voice says “No matter how much you love this man, his life will drag you down. It will exhaust and frustrate you. Outside sources will control your daily life. Your needs will take a back seat to theirs. It cannot be helped. You deserve more and so does your child.” But how can I say this when I did the opposite? Or is that the point exactly? Can you ask your readers what they would answer? Thanks

There are so many of us divorcees in the same boat – we want another chance for happiness, but if that happiness comes at a potential cost to us – is it worth it?

In many of even the most civil divorces there is often strife and disagreement. Add a tempestuous relationship with an ex spouse – it could be like opening one’s home to dynamite.

I have much to say on this matter, but for reasons that I am sure you will understand, I am keeping my opinion to myself. But we want to hear from you.

Doing things differently

My ex-husband and his wife had a baby girl today. My boys all knew within minutes of her birth. They were in three different locations, but they all found out almost instantly. Within an hour they had all seen pictures of her – totally adorable.

This little girl has SIX older half-brothers to watch over her and drive away potential boyfriends. She is probably going to be spoiled rotten (and if I know him well, the apple of her father’s eye).

When my two half-siblings were born I had no idea. I did not even know they were on the way, let alone that they had been born. I found out when I arrived in the US on vacation from the UK. We came every summer to visit my dad and grandparents. One summer, my dad got married before we came. We didn’t know about that in advance either. The next summer there was a newborn baby. A few years later, another one came along.

I fell deeply in love with both of my half-siblings. I don’t recall there being any weird feelings on my part. These were my little brothers and I loved them dearly. I changed diapers, I rocked them, I hugged them tight – my time with them was so short, yet I cherished every minute of it. Unfortunately times change, and people grow up and grow apart, and families being what they are, estrangements happen. We’re no longer close with either of them. Sad.

I want my boys to be close with their sister. There is a big age discrepancy. Lenny is 16, Squiggy turns 15 tomorrow (wow), HockeyFan is 13 and the Chatterbox is 9 (and no longer the baby. Important to him that that’s noted). However, even though the boys have yet to meet her, they are already besotted with her and have promised between themselves to always look out for her.

This is harder that I thought it would be. I always wanted a daughter. Growing up I was sure I would be the mother of daughters. Hardly any girls on my father’s side of the family tree, but I had my dreams. However, I seemed destined to only have sons.  I was so sure our second child was a girl…. But Squiggy came along instead. The pinkitude was not meant to be. I thought I had made my peace with it.

This baby is not mine to love, yet my boys love her with a fierce passion already – what kind of room do I have to make for her in my life? One of the boys asked me today what she will call me. Will I be Auntie H like I am to so many of my friends’ kids…. Or will just “Hadassah” do? We have a while until she starts talking…. But the kids assumed she would have a place not just in their life, but in OUR life – and that kind of threw me.

There have been some tears tonight (from me too, privately) – even though the boys know 100% that they can be happy and talk about the baby in front of me, I am sure it feels a little strange for them to do so. I am still in the process of sorting out my own feelings – how can I help them with theirs if I am still confused?

I posted an update on my Facebook wall and the mazel tovs felt uncomfortable. Would I be feeling different if this baby would have been a boy?

Deep thoughts.

Thankfully the baby is healthy and has already brought much joy. May she continue to bring nachat to her parents and grandparents and allllll her brothers.

Changes – not mine….

My kids’ lives are about to change. My youngest will no longer perceive himself as the baby of the family, yet he always will be my baby. My oldest will soon be the oldest of five, not four – but not in my house.  See, the boys’ father and stepmother are eagerly awaiting the birth of their first child together.

It’s taken me a long time to be able to sit down and type this post – and even after so many months many of my emotions still make no sense to me.

Months ago, my ex called me to let me know they were expecting, and that he was going to be calling the boys later that day to tell them. He wanted to give me a heads up.  I so appreciated hearing it from him – even though I was totally knocked for a loop. I managed to wish them both well before ending the conversation.

I went up to the KoD’s office to tell him, and I burst into tears. Actually, I sobbed my heart out. As KoD held me, and mopped my tears, he asked why I was so upset, and even to this day, I cannot verbalize it. My ex and I have moved on with our lives. While we may not exactly be friends, we are civil and friendly and I was happy for them. But still – my children were going to have a new sibling that would have absolutely no biological tie to me whatsoever. This baby will be their brother (or sister – I hadn’t considered that!) yet have no connection to me. That sounds so tremendously selfish.

But the tears were for more than that – and I am still not sure why it hit me so hard. I guess part of me didn’t consider the possibility that they would have a baby – it just didn’t occur to me. Not that it would have been my business either way. Was it a type of jealousy? I don’t think so – My baby making days are over, and I am beyond blessed with the children that I have. I love the independence that the KoD and I have these days with the kids being older and becoming more self-sufficient as time progresses.

Maybe part of me felt insulted that our 4 boys were not enough for him? (As I write that I know it isn’t true. He loves his boys more than anything – but feelings don’t always make sense).

Even as I write this I know that the real reason for the tears is just not explainable. My reaction was a purely visceral one – as if I had been punched in the stomach. And after months of soul searching I still don’t get it.

Now months later I am excited for them. The boys talk about the baby a lot. And I encourage this chatter. I have half siblings myself, and I know that there could be a great bond formed if all the parents are on the same page. But I wonder. When he calls to tell me the good news, how will I take it? Will I be able to wish him congratulations with a full heart, or will it reopen this old wound? I want to just be happy for them.

Have you been in a similar situation? Can you identify with anything I am feeling?

Children come first

I have many divorced friends and acquaintances, and readers, and I am constantly shocked that are those parents who do not put their children first. Maybe because I am a mama bear, but it is so hard for me to understand how mothers / fathers can ignore the best interests of the kids, in order to punish or hurt their ex. How they use their kids as pawns to exact their revenge.

Where does that get anyone? It just piles more stress on the kids – and makes them even more conflicted about who they are “allowed” to love.

A child, any child, has the right to be able to love both parents equally without prejudice or judgment. No adult has the right to tell a child not to love the other parent. That the other parent is evil or bad. If you tell a child that the donor of half of their genetic material is inferior – what does that tell a child about himself / herself? That they are no good?

Parents – please, put your children first. Always. It shouldn’t even be a discussion.

WWYD – gift from ex spouse

I received this email from a reader.

Dear Mama H,

I hope you can help me out. I recently celebrated a significant birthday and my ex husband sent me a sizable gift card to an online store. We have been divorced for a number of years and I have since remarried. Our children live with me, and their father constantly gives me a hard time about his duty to provide child support. No matter that it has been years and that I have obviously moved on, he still feels emotionally tied to me.

I just want him to support my children, not send me gifts. My new husband said I should spend the money on stuff for the children, but another friend said that keeping it sends the message that it is appropriate. She says I should send it back.

WWYD – please help me do the right thing!

Rachel

Hi Rachel.

If we were talking about my own ex husband I am not sure what I would do. We have both moved on emotionally, remarried and are living our lives peaceably and are not fighting about anything. Our issues are dead and buried. Yet, still, on some level, such a gift from him would make me feel awkward. What is the message behind it?

I am not sure what I would do in your situation – I like the idea of spending it on the children BUT as your friend said, that doesn’t get the message across to your ex that this was inappropriate.

Let me open it up to my readership – WWYD in this situation, readers? Has this happened? How did it make you feel? What did you do?

Divorcees shifting to the left

Oh How I love Hashkafa.com – usually I just roll my eyes and move on. But this is one of their posts this week and it does ring a bell.

I have noticed that many friends and acquaintances of mine (sadly there are many) who get divorced tend to shift to the left, halachically and hashkafically. Some of them are very gradual, some are immediate.

One friend started showing more hair, then removed her shaitel, then lowered her neckline, raised her hemline (mid-thigh length, for example), and now looks completely irreligious. She has not put on pants, yet, interestingly. She keeps shabbos, kosher, and stuff like that though.

Another friend took off her shaitel, put on pants, gave up her son to her husband without a fight, and is not religious AFAIK.

Another friend didn’t really move to the left, just *chilled* a bit and became slightly less stringent on certain halachos or chumros.

Is there something about a marriage gone wrong that pushes women to do this? Do other negative life changes cause this as well? Do widows act like this?

It seems like tznius is the first and major thing to go.

Has anyone noticed this? I find it really interesting.

I have found in my own personal experience that this is indeed the case. Many of the divorcees I know have had somewhat of a crisis of faith and have re examined where they want to be Jewishly. I know I did, I have written about it in the past. For me a lot of it was mourning – but I wonder what other women’s attitudes are towards religion after divorce, and why it seems to suffer afterwards.

Thoughts?

The Gift of Light

Yesterday we lit five candles to celebrate the fifth night of Chanukah. At our house we had an interesting assortment of people. See, the boys’ Abba was in town to visit them, with his family, and they hung out with us for a bit in the afternoon, the kids watching a movie and the grown ups chatting. After all the male folk had come back from mincha and maariv we all lit candles together. Myself and the KoD, my ex and his wife, her kids, my/our kids and the KoD’s kids. All together under one roof, with no drama.

A few years ago I would have sworn that there was no way such a thing could happen. I could not see a time where we could all get along without past history intruding. But we have all moved on, we all have put the children’s needs way ahead of our own. It’s what mature parents do. Stirring up old wounds helps no one. Was it weird? Sure it was – but the kids were happy – and that is all I want for them.

Imagine – years ago the kids would never have thought that they would be able to light Chanukah candles again with both their parents present. Last night this was our gift to them – and I am sure it is something that they will remember.

I am glad that my children don’t have to have the stress of worrying what’s going to happen when they have both parents in the same place at the same time – that they have peace of mind knowing there will be no fighting or drama or snide comments. My ex and I have both worked very hard to be able to provide this kind of atmosphere for the children. But it takes commitment and hard work from both parents (and new spouses too).

More than anything, tolerance of and civility toward the other parent is the best gift a divorced parent can give their child.

Children of Divorce: Bill of Rights

1. The right not to be asked to “choose sides” or be put in a situation where I would have to take sides between my parents.

2. The right to be treated as a person and not as a pawn, possession or a negotiating chip.

3. The right to freely and privately communicate with both parents.

4. The right not to be asked questions by one parent about the other.

5. The right not to be a messenger.

6. The right to express my feelings.

7. The right to adequate visitation with the non-custodial parent which will best serve my needs and wishes.

8. The right to love and have a relationship with both parents without being made to feel guilty.

9. The right not to hear either parent say anything bad about the other.

10. The right to the same educational opportunities and economic support that I would have had if my parents did not divorce.

11. The right to have what is in my best interest protected at all times.

12. The right to maintain my status as a child and not to take on adult responsibilities for the sake of the parent’s well being.

13. The right to request my parents seek appropriate emotional and social support when needed.

14. The right to expect consistent parenting at a time when little in my life seems constant or secure.

15. The right to expect healthy relationship modeling, despite the recent events.

16. The right to expect the utmost support when taking the time and steps needed to secure a healthy adjustment to the current situation.

Copied from The Wicked StepMom.