A Divorced Girl’s Guide to Valentine’s Day

Written by:  Karen Jerabek and Michelle Joyce

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Valentine’s Day is known as a day for lovers. It’s epitomized by romance, flowers and candlelit dinners. Every time you flip on the television, you’re bombarded by 30 second commercials of couples walking hand in hand, gifts being exchanged and heartfelt proposals. It’s a day that could cause any divorced girl to have a nervous breakdown. There isn’t any other holiday that reminds you so dramatically that you are no longer part of a couple, you are no longer married, you are, in fact, divorced. Not only does Valentine’s Day bring up your emotions about your divorce, it also brings up your fears and anxieties about the thought of finding another relationship. So, what is a divorced girl to do?

It’s time for you to kick Cupid’s butt, that’s what! You don’t need to drown your sorrows or hide out in your bed. You just need to rethink what’s at the heart of this holiday. Toss aside the idea that this holiday is about cupid, his arrows and lovers. This is a day to celebrate love and the most important and often neglected love is the love that you have for yourself. It’s time to celebrate you and all your wonderfulness.

Every Valentine’s Day since my divorce, I’ve chosen to honor the day by celebrating me! In the past, I’ve sacrificed myself and my happiness in order to stay in relationships. Getting divorced freed me from living an unsatisfied, unhappy life. So, every year on Valentine’s Day, I celebrate my freedom. I’m living my life, my way. I won’t sacrifice that for anyone. Divorce has taught me that and I’m happier now than I ever thought possible, especially on Valentine’s Day.

No matter how brutal your divorce was, it’s time to get back to yourself and Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to reconnect with your soul. And I’m here to tell you exactly how to fall in love with yourself.

  1. Make a list of 10 things that make you special. They can be quirky or sincere. Think about what your friends and family have said to you over the years and think about what you enjoy about yourself. Is it your loyalty, your goofball sense of humor, or your uncanny ability to parallel park?

  2. Think about the times in your life when you’ve been really happy. Come up with 3 happy memories and use as many of your senses as you can to vividly relive that time. What is it about each of your memories that stand out? What do your memories have in common? The feelings that you are remembering show you where your center of joy exists. Just recalling these memories is getting you in touch with the part of you that you love the most. Katelyn’s favorite memory was the year she surprised her family for Christmas when they didn’t think she’d make it home. She loved seeing the look on her mom’s face and enjoyed the excitement of planning her secret surprise. At the heart of this memory is Katelyn’s joy for surprising people she cares about with a meaningful gift or gesture.

  3. Look for small ways you can share your happiness with others. When you share with others, you feel good about yourself. What’s the old adage? It’s better to give than to receive. It’s so true! We’re not talking about spending a lot of money on expensive gifts. We’re talking about sharing your love and happiness. How do you do that? That could mean putting together a small gift for a family member or friend or it could mean giving someone the gift of time. Spend time with a friend or family member. Help a friend or go bigger – volunteer. You will be amazed at how sharing your love with others can make you feel amazing!

  4. Take yourself on a date. Who needs a man these days to take them out and treat them like a princess? Not us! For most newly separated or divorced women, going out alone feels like something abnormal. When Michelle J. was first separated, she longed to go to the movies and forget about her problems. But it always seemed that when she was available her friends were not and when her friends could go she was busy. “I went by myself,” Michelle recalls, “I was scared at first. I was afraid everyone would stare at the poor, pathetic girl all alone at the movies. No one gave me a second look. I loved it and I didn’t have to share my popcorn!”

  5. Find a new hobby or rediscover an old one. Think back to the days before you got married. What made you – you? Did you love to hike or take walks? Did you love to read or do crosswords? Where you an adventurous person – always up for a road trip? A lot of times when two lives become one it means that the life you used to have goes by the wayside. When women enter relationships they tend to lose parts of their old life that made them happy. So think back to life before divorce and before marriage. What made you happy? Rediscover your love of old movies or riding horses. Better yet, jump start your new life by finding a new hobby. Take a class you’ve always wanted to or try rock climbing if it is something you think you might enjoy. It doesn’t matter what you do, just that you do it. So, get out there and do it!

Valentine’s Day is a day for LOVE. And, it’s high time you started to love yourself! Don’t hide out, fearing spending Valentine’s Day alone. Rejoice in the ability you have to create a brand new life for yourself. Relish this second chance you have. When you love yourself, you allow love to come into your life in a million different ways.

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Happy Un-Anniversary!

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We celebrated our first anniversary with balloons, romantic cards, a lovely dinner and freezer burnt wedding cake. It had been a rough year with lots of adjustments but I thought that we’d hurdled the challenges and were ready to embark on our happily ever after. But, my life wasn’t a fairy tale and when my second anniversary rolled around, my husband didn’t come home with flowers. Instead, he came home to tell me that our marriage was over. I fought for my marriage but I was on a sinking ship and eventually my only option was to swim for shore. A year and a half later, I filed for divorce.
After my divorce, I started celebrating my un-anniversary. Every year, on the day I was married, I think back to the girl who was filled with hope as she said her wedding vows on a pier overlooking the ocean in the Bahamas. Then I think about the girl who collapsed on the floor of the shower two years later when her husband told her that their marriage was over yet he didn’t have the courage to truly end it. And then I think about the woman who emerged from her divorce with more strength and grace than she ever knew she possessed. And it’s that woman that I choose to celebrate. Happy Un-Anniversary to me!

How to Celebrate Your Divorce Anniversary

Written by: Karen Jerabek

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It was a chilly Friday morning when I drove myself to the court house. My stomach was in knots and I was trembling on the inside. I thought I might throw up but I held it together as I walked through the metal detectors and onto the elevator. I made chit chat with a man that seemed even more nervous than I was. We both got off on the same floor and realized we were headed to the same court room…the one that handles divorces. He asked to sit next to me while we waited for the judge and it was a welcomed relief to have a new friend to go through this with me. I wore dark clothes, like I was dressed for a funeral. It’s how I felt. My marriage had long been dead and I was here to lay it to rest.

Ironically, it was four years ago to the day that I had my first date with my husband. And now, it’s gone full circle and I’m getting divorced from him. The proceedings only take a couple minutes from when my name is called. The paperwork is signed and stamped and I’m free to go. It’s a little anticlimactic after the pain and anguish it took me to come to the decision to get divorced in the first place. But, the bottom line is, “It’s finally over.”

I head down a couple flights of stairs and change my name. I walk back out of the courthouse, as Miss Karen Jerabek. I finally feel like myself again. I’ve shed the pain and disappointment and all the trauma that a divorce creates. I’m free of all of that. I can now move forward and I can create the life that I had always envisioned for myself. I have a second chance.

Several years later, here I am celebrating another divorce anniversary. I can’t help but marvel at the young woman I was on that first date with my now ex-husband, who was so full of life, love and excitement about a new relationship that was about to bloom. And then I wistfully think of the woman that clenched her teeth and filed for divorce. She went through hell and back and yet she still had hope that she could have a second chance. And now, here I am. I’m living that second chance and I’m happier with my life than I ever thought possible. My life isn’t perfect, far from it. But it’s filled with joy and love and contentment. Getting divorced was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Each year, I toast all three of us – the woman that had the courage to love, the woman that had the courage to get divorced and the woman that continues to have the courage to embrace this second chance with all it’s bumps and curves and unexpected delights. Cheers to us and cheers to all of you that are embarking on your second chance. Be grateful for this opportunity to reinvent your life and embrace all of the twists and turns that will make it fabulous.

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If you enjoyed reading this article, please click the link to join our sisterhood and then pop over to Amazon and sample a chapter of our book, Young, Divorced and Fabulous: Four Women Share their Journeys, their Friendship and their Sisterly Advice on Embracing Second Chances   http://bit.ly/YDFbook

Marking the Divorce Box

Written by Karen Jerabek

 

Check_box

The day I started a new job, the first thing they had me do was sit down with a mountain of new hire paperwork I had to fill out. I was diligently going through it, printing my name, signing my name, writing the date over and over and over. Then I came to a piece that asked me for my marital status. I could check Single, Married, Divorced or Widowed. Why is it any of there business if I was married? Doesn’t it only matter if I’m currently married? I felt like my privacy was invaded and I was being branded as I checked off Divorced. That’s when I realized that there is a truly ugly segregation going on across America: The segregation of Singles!

I guess you’re only good enough to be considered single if you’ve never been married. If you are divorced or widowed, you have to continually be reminded of that painful experience every time you get a new job, new insurance or a new doctor.

I wonder what would happen if I refused to be segregated? What if i fought back against this division and checked single? If they found out that I had been divorced and didn’t disclose it, could I be fired for lying on my paperwork? Could I lose my insurance? What exactly are the consequences for rebelling against this form of segregation? Not wanting to take my chances with my income or my health, I dutifully got into the Divorced Line and checked the box indicating that I am divorced. My paperwork is probably being stamped with a Scarlet “D” as I type!

 

Stripped Naked – Redefining Yourself After a Divorce

Written by Karen Jerabek

legs on the beach

I had always dreamed of the white picket fence lifestyle. I thought I’d meet the right man in college or shortly thereafter and then we’d get married, buy a house, get a dog and then add a couple kids to the house. And my dream started off just fine. I met a great man when I was 24, we had a whirlwind romance and he asked me to marry him. I loved him and despite it being fast-paced, I thought as long as we had love, we could conquer anything together. Several of my friends who had been in relationships for varying lengths were also on the cusp of getting engaged and getting married. We were deliriously excited planning our happily ever afters.

 

What I never considered was the idea of divorce. That thought never factored into my dream. So, on our 2nd anniversary, when my husband came home to tell me our marriage was over, I felt like my life was over. And in fact it was. The life that I had planned, the life that I had dreamed, it was over, completely over. My identity was stripped naked and I was left wondering who I was and what kind of life I was going to have.

 

As often is the case, when you’re stripped naked, you’re left feeling completely vulnerable and overwhelmed. I fought the idea for a year and tried more strategies to save my marriage than I can count. But at the end of a year, I was exhausted and no closer to having my husband back. When I fully accepted that I was clinging to a dream that had long died away, I made a choice. I chose to embrace this new opportunity and all the scary, wonderfully delicious things it had to offer.

 

Moving into my own apartment with barely more than our two dogs; I left behind my husband, most of our stuff and walked deliberately and passionately toward a brand new beginning. I hadn’t focused on myself in years so I relished this time in my life where I could totally do whatever it was that I wanted to do, if I could only figure out what that was.

 

Luckily, I had made some online friends who had also been stripped naked and were going through their own divorces and self discovery so we were able to support and encourage each other. We actually decided to write a book together, Young, Divorced and Fabulous, about our experiences and how we created our new lives, so we could offer a light at the end of the tunnel for women going through a divorce. Even though it was a heartbreaking time of my life, it was also a great time of exploration. Sure it was scary, terrifying in fact, but it was also thrilling to answer to no one and to do whatever the hell I wanted. I found that I love to write, hike with my dogs, make fruit smoothies and spend more time with my mom. I found that I didn’t like the level of isolation I felt while married and I began to rebuild friendships and start new ones. One of my friends who was also divorcing, didn’t even know what kind of food she liked as she had only bought her husband’s favorite foods for years. She had a blast at the grocery store buying all kinds of new things. It was evident that the more our marriages had crumbled, the more we lost track of who we were. The road to self discovery wasn’t just in the couple months after our marriages ended, it still goes on today. Learning to take time for ourselves and to give ourselves the ability to grow was one of the most valuable lessons that came out of our divorces.

 

I would have to say that getting stripped naked has been one of the hardest but also the best things to ever happen to me. It let everything that wasn’t working in my life fall away and gave me a chance to create a life that actually fit me instead of one that I was trying to fit into. And, it showed me a side of myself I would have never known, and I really like the new me. So, if you feel like your life is upside down and you’re stripped naked, embrace it, run with it, throw your arms around it. Try new things, take a class, read a different type of book, make a new friend – all of these things will help you get back to the core of who you are. One day, you’ll look back at this time of self discovery as one of the best times of your life.

 

Dating While Healing from Divorce

Written by Karen Jerabek

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“Should you wait until you’ve healed from your divorce before you start dating?”  Several years ago, as I was going through my divorce, I would have irrevocably said yes!  You should let yourself fully heal before trying to move forward.  And that’s exactly what I tried to do.  I cocooned myself in my one bedroom apartment.  I focused on my job and spent a lot of time with my dogs hiking and pursued my passion for writing.  It was very solitary and I felt proud of my dedication to fully focus inward.  I didn’t date.  And I was smug about it.  Several of my newly divorced friends were pursuing relationships while they were rediscovering themselves.  I didn’t want the distraction.  I wanted to be fully focused on myself so that when I was ready to date, I was fully healed.

When I felt ready and whole, I ventured back into the dating world.  And my smugness went right out the window as well as my view that you should be fully healed from your divorce before you start dating…because now I realize that’s impossible.

When I finally started dating, I was a complete mess.  I didn’t know how to date or what to do or what to think.  I felt pretty neurotic most of the time.  Thinking that I was already healed, only made me more of a mess.  During the year I spent with D, I thought I was fine and I was healed because I had spent months on my own.  I didn’t realize till later that there are some aspects of healing that can’t be done alone.  They can only be done while you’re dating another person.  And it’s in that relationship or relationships that true healing takes place.  And so, I’d like to thank D now for all the healing he helped me do even while I was denying that it was happening.  Your patience is immeasurable.  I know we were too different to ever have a successful relationship, but I will always value what I learned while we were together.

So, how do you date while healing from divorce?

1. Don’t allow your fears to keep you from dating.

2. Do take your time in forging a new relationship.

3. Do take time for yourself in order to reconnect to the core of who you are.

4. Do focus on what buttons you feel are being pushed – this is exactly the area you need to work through to heal.

5. Do have fun and lighten up.  Whether you marry him or just date him, I promise it will teach you some things you didn’t know about yourself.

Does dating and healing really work together?

Our very own Michelle J. started dating someone soon after her separation.  He’s the first and only guy she dated because she married him!  She took time for herself and didn’t jump in too quickly into a relationship with him.  But, she also recognized a great guy and wasn’t going to let him go.  He was patient and kind and supportive while she worked through some of her issues from her marriage.  When insecurities would get triggered, he’d gently remind her and reassure her that he wasn’t like her exhusband.  As she was healing, they were building a strong, solid relationship.  Today, they’re happily married with two children.

I didn’t find success with trying to heal on my own.  I found that it came in waves as I started dating.  Michelle J. found healing and great relationships when they took a more moderate approach.  And, let me caution you, I know a couple people who have boomeranged into getting remarried without even taking a breath and I can report that they’re now on their second divorces so I don’t advocate taking that extreme of an approach either.  As is true in most of life, moderation is the key.  My advice is that taking time for yourself is great and needed in order to heal but you won’t be able to heal completely until you’re willing to open yourself up to dating.

Happy Dating!

When Does the Pain of Divorce Stop?

Written by Karen Jerabek

flower in sidewalk crack

People going through divorce ask me all the time, when does the pain stop? My pain was so intense that I thought I could die but somehow didn’t. It seemed unrealistic to ever think of a time when I wouldn’t carry this pain with me. But, as the days and weeks and months went by, the pain lifted slowly, piece by piece. Then one day I realized, there was none left. It took me by surprise and the new found liberation was something I rejoiced. So, as I was thinking about how to answer this question, I came across this beautifully written piece by an unknown author that sums it up perfectly. I can’t tell you the specific how, why or when the pain stops, but I can tell you that it does. The pain does stop. And if you allow it, you will find happiness and joy again.

The Pain Stops: when you stop looking at the person you love as the person you love, and you begin to see them, not as a partner, a lover, or a best friend, but as a human being with the strengths and weaknesses and even the core of a child.

The Pain Stops: when you begin to accept that what you would do in a circumstance is not what they would do, and that no matter how much you try, they have to learn their own lessons, and they have to touch the stove when it’s hot, just as you did, to learn that it is much better when it is cold.

The Pain Stops: when your longing for them gets slowly replaced by a desire to get away, when making love to them no longer makes you feel cherished, when you find yourself tired of waiting for the moments where the good will truly outweigh the bad, and when at the end of the day you can’t count on their arms for comfort.

The Pain Stops: when you start to look inward and decide whether their presence is a gift or a curse, and whether when you need them, they cause more heartache than bliss.

The Pain Stops: when you realize that you deserve more than they offer and stop blaming them for being less than you wish. When the smile of a stranger seems more inviting and kind, and you remember what it’s like to feel beautiful, and you remember how long it has been since your lover whispered something in your ear that only the two of you would know.

The Pain Stops: when you forgive them for their faults and forgive yourself for staying so long. When you know that you tried harder than you ever tried before, and you know in your heart that love should not be so much work.

The Pain Stops: when you start to look in the mirror and like who you see, and know that leaving them or losing them is no reflection of your beauty or your worth.

The Pain Stops: when the promise of a new tomorrow is just enough to start replacing the emptiness in your heart, and you start dreaming again of who you used to be and who you will become.

The Pain Stops: when you say goodbye to what never really was, and accept that somewhere in the fog you may or may not have been loved back. And you promise yourself never again to lay in arms that don’t know how to cherish the kindness in your heart.

The Pain Stops: When you are ready