My name is Nicky, I’m 35 years old, recently single after ending a 9-year relationship (two of which I was married), and have just moved back into my parents’ home after living abroad for 4 years. That sentence is the surest thing I’ve said about myself in the last few weeks.
I’ve learnt a lot about life over the last few years, but the last few weeks have been an eye-opener. My strength, patience and ability to cope have been tested and re-tested as I find myself trying to blindly navigate this brand new world I find myself in. I can tell you for free they don’t hand out guidebooks for this shit, nobody knows what the hell they’re doing. If they say that they do, they’re either lying to themselves or everyone else.
The end of a serious relationship is always hard. Anyone who has been heavily invested in trying to make something work doesn’t arrive at the decision to end it overnight. And while a mutual agreement is always first-prize, you still go through the emotions that come with it. I’ve sat in enough therapy sessions over the course of the last 20 years which have taught me to name and deal with my feelings — doesn’t mean they don’t still fuck with me when I least expect them to.
Besides trying to figure out how to deal with my new-found single self, I also have people around me who are trying to figure it out, too. The family are a great place to start, parents in particular:
My mom, for example, was married at 23 and divorced with two small kids by 29. Her experience differs hugely from mine. For a start, I’m in my mid-30’s and I don’t have kids, but her marriage ultimately ended because her husband (my biological father) was having an affair with a woman he worked with. With the risk of digressing but in the hope of keeping this piece uplifting and hopeful, I will add that he married that woman and they are still together to this day.
My mom met her second husband (my father) before her divorce was finalised and they are also still together to this day. A classic case of marrying the wrong people but ending up with the right ones. You see? Uplifting. Back to my original point: My mom moved on relatively quickly. Yes, she moved on in the sense of meeting someone new, but she got on with life without much in the way of workshopping it. This brings me to what I’m really trying to say here — my mom doesn’t know how to deal with my divorce.
After losing my temper with her for the second time about how she’s positioning the narrative of my situation (I’ve requested that phrases like “shaaaame, Nicky’s moved back home because she’s getting divorced” be replaced with something along the lines of “Nicky’s back, she’s getting divorced and she’s doing really well”), I took a moment to step away from my anger, decided to approach this particular issue from another angle and asked her calmly how my gran dealt with being the parent of a divorced daughter. “She didn’t. She started madly knitting jerseys for you and Ash. We all just moved on”. Bingo.
While there’s a lot to be said about how much we overthink and discuss our feelings with reckless abandon in 2019, the way people dealt with these types of things prior to the enlightened years we find ourselves in now is pretty scary.
After my lightbulb moment realising the full extent of what I was dealing with in terms of my mom not having the tools I need her to have to be able to deal with my divorce, I suggested she do some online reading. Whilst I haven’t yet actually looked this up myself, I’m sure there’s something somewhere on the world wide web that offers parents like mine the advice they need. If all else fails, I’ll just write it myself.
My dad remains practical and rational in his approach, only offering advice he knows I really need from a place that is less emotional than that of my mom’s, but that hits home. This is consistent with his silent approach that you take very seriously when he decides to break it.
Regardless of the issues I might or might not have with my folks’ way of dealing, what’s become glaringly obvious is the fact that no matter how old you are, your parents will still find ways of taking the piss out of you and make you feel like a teenager — especially if you want to live under their roof and hang out with them.
Despite the fact that I’m currently going through a serious transition from long-time partner to singleton, I’m still able to see the funny side of things and am thankful each day that my sense of humour remains firmly intact. Retaining the ability to laugh is probably up there with one of the most important pieces of advice I’d give anyone going through something like this. That, the age-old cliché of time and surrounding yourself with people who are able to talk to you about it, are crucial.
I have multiple circles of friends which I’ve made over many years through junior and high school, studying, work, exes, mutual friends and moving around a fair amount. Those who I speak to on a daily basis keep me sane and aren’t afraid to ask questions, offer advice or call me out on my BS. I don’t have many friends who have been through divorces themselves, so I don’t expect them to have all the answers, but the mere fact that they are there means a lot to me. I also understand that the friends who haven’t really reached out either don’t know what’s been going on (if you’re one of them and reading this, surprise / sorry) or very simply don’t know how to deal with it. This is also totally okay and something I’ve had to make peace with.
It’s still early days in the grander scheme of things, and while I still have a very big task ahead of myself, the only thing I can really do is forge on. It’s the only thing any of us really can do, whatever situation we find ourselves in. At the end of the day, we’re all just trying our best. It takes a huge amount of bravery to walk away from something that isn’t working, but that’s just the first of many steps…