The Rollercoaster: Stages of Divorce

Picture this; my first summer back in sunny San Diego in my early 30’s. Life should be full of sunsets, brunches, cocktails, and the beach. But not for me. Instead, I was riding a rollercoaster of emotions. One day I was balling my eyes out; the next day, I was on cloud nine with relief. What was wrong with me? How could I be so up and down? Welcome to the divorce rollercoaster. A mentor shared some words of wisdom that changed the trajectory of my divorce. He said…

 “Divorce is like a rollercoaster, some days are up, some days are down, and some days you don’t know where you are. One thing is true, you either stay on the rollercoaster for the whole ride and lean into each twist and turn, or you get off early and keep riding it your entire life.” 

I was now faced with a choice. I could stop denying my ‘hot mess’ periods- aka the ups and downs of the rollercoaster- and simply honor my feelings, or be stuck in chaos forever. It’s never been easy for me to be vulnerable and not appear to have it all together. One of my nicknames was Martha, as in Martha Stewart. If history has taught us anything, even the most seemingly perfect people have their bad days too. Martha did end up in jail for a few years.

After scouring the internet for every ‘how to divorce’ resource I could get my hands on, slim pickings for my particular situation, I decided to face the music. I bought my ticket and rode that rollercoaster, screaming the entire way, and then got off. No matter how your divorce is going, buy the ticket. Ride the ride. Acknowledge the pain and loss, even if it was amicable. Your future happiness is dependent on you setting time aside for yourself, figuring out what you wan and what you patterns you may be repeating.

As I blindly went through the divorce stages, I started to outline them to help create a resource for other women. Your divorce may not follow this exact pattern, so I encourage you to lay out what you have already been through and remember the rollercoaster quote. Go easy on yourself and be kind. Change is hard, but you, my friend, can do hard things. 

Stage One: Denial 

In my particular situation, I thought I could rectify the break up by transforming into the best version of myself, which meant being 100% perfect. That is completely absurd and, of course, just led me to failure. Perfection is an illusion and unattainable. Let’s just put that out there. 

Stage Two: Pissed Off And Self-Destructive

Why did this happen to me? Why didn’t it work out? I tried hard and look at what I got. Let’s go to the bar and have shots.

Stage Three: Depression/Funk

Damnit, I’m 30+ and don’t have my life together. I’m never getting married again, and I am going to end up living with 100 cats, which, of course, means 50 litter boxes.

*Note this usually came after a few boozy nights in a row

Stage Four: A Slight Pep In My Step

Something happens to turn the situation around or expose you to new perspectives. These questions may surface: Who am I without _______ (insert name of ex)? What do I really want out of life?

Stage Five: My Life Is MY Life

Take a deep dive into what your feeling and do the work. Acknowledge your feelings, no matter how fleeting they are. You will soon discover that the world is your oyster, and you can completely change your life direction.

Stage Six: Oh Shit, This Is MY Life

The training wheels are off, and life without a partner may be harder than you think. You may find yourself dipping back into stage 1, 2, or 3. That’s ok. You are NOT going backward. It often takes two steps forward and one step back to build momentum. 

Stage Seven: You’re Doing The Thing

You are living your life. You have an authentic truth of what happened in your relationship that you can share without any discomfort. You may still be scared about dating and what comes next, but you are confident that you are in a better place.

Stage Eight: Dipping Your Toes in the Dating Pool

People only meet online? What? No matter what dating experience you had before your divorce, things have changed, even if it’s only been a short time. Experiment, try a few apps, and when you get discouraged, take a break. Don’t get salty. There will be more on this in future blog posts. That’s a different rollercoaster. 

Stage Nine: There Are No Datable Men/Women In ________ (Insert City)

Ok, you’re salty. You stayed on the dating app too long without a break. You might have a short period where you spiral back at this point, but I encourage you to have faith in yourself, your value, and the fact that there is a match for everyone. It will take time, courage, dedication, and the right attitude. Your date can smell desperation before you even say hello. So take a break, do something good for yourself, and then carry on.

Stage Ten: New Love

This stage may not mean marriage, it may just mean fun, but no matter what, you have your stride back. I believe each person you date moves you closer to a partner if you continue to drill down on what you want and be truthful and vulnerable in who you are. Don’t be the ‘cool girl’ who pretends to like sports and then hates when their spouse only wants to watch football. Be true to yourself and clear on what you want. You won’t attract the masses, but you will start attracting people you are interested in. 

Stage Eleven: Looking Back And Smiling

You went through a significant life event. Whether it was harrowing, mutual, or the best thing that ever happened to you, you still went through something. Acknowledge it and reflect on how the change has helped to shape your life. When you see other women in any of the stages, be patient, kind, and listen. If they are open to it, share what you went through and mention the stages. It’s always nice to know that someone else has been there too.

It’s taken me a long time to move through each stage. Probably two to three times longer than I anticipated, but I have learned so much along the way. Did any stage resonate with you? Did you experience a different stage? I would love to hear your input. As always, thank you for sharing your story. 

Sending love,

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