In the year and half since my divorce, I have learned more about myself than I did during the previous 10 years. Someone I met right after my divorce asked me what has been the most valuable thing I’ve learned.
I can tell you, it’s been a year of discovery. Do you remember when your toddler discovered how to crawl, how to walk, or discovered a new flower? Everything was new and exciting and wonderful. Do you remember that look of pure joy on their faces.
That has been my life during these 18 months of freedom. Just like a toddler, I’ve stumbled, I’ve fallen and I’ve gotten back up to explore some more, all with eyes wide open at the world before me.
Resilience I’m more resilient than I thought. I’ve learned that my kids are too.
Patience Some things do indeed take time. Although I’m typically extremely patient with kids and most people, I prefer quick solutions to problems. I tend to see problematic situations and conflicts as something that needs immediate attention and problem-solving. But some situations just don’t work that way.
My faults I have several and I’ve become keenly aware of my short-comings and what I need to work on.
Independence Growing up, I was fiercely independent and strong-willed. I lost that somewhere during my marriage, but I have found it again.
Family is my core That sounds like a no-brainer. My kids have always been my first priority. But staying in an abusive marriage where you are disrespected in front of your kids is not, in my opinion, putting your kids first. I thought it was for a long time. Instead, it gave my boys the idea that I was weak. They don’t think that anymore. I also allowed myself to be separated from my family. Getting back to my roots has given me stability and strength.
I don’t care what other people think This is something that has been rather constant during non-stressful times. But when things got tough and the person I trusted broke me down, I suddenly cared what everyone thought. I was concerned about what people were saying. It was stupid and will drive you crazy. Don’t get me wrong, I do listen to my friends and take their advice and constructive criticism into consideration, but I no longer allow what others think to dictate my own self image.
Communication style I prefer direct, honest communication. It doesn’t always mean it has to be delivered harshly, but I prefer to let people know where they stand with me and expect the same from them.
Weed the garden Not everyone is invited into my circle and I’m not always invited into someone else’s. And I’m good with that.
Kindness and compassion is the key to my happiness: I make mistakes. So do others. I think everyone deserves second chances, sometimes multiple chances. I care more about a person’s heart and intentions. I love to love. Happiness is a daily, hourly choice. I’m kinder toward myself and allow myself to learn, grow and make mistakes. I’ve stopped beating myself up when I make a mistake. I learn and move on.
Different Loves I learned what it was to actually be in love with someone. I learned how I feel when I am in love and more about what I’m looking for in that special relationship. I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work for me. More importantly, I’ve learned that I’m truly happy with waiting for the right person at the right time. I’ve learned that I can still love someone’s essence and how I feel around them even if I don’t love how they treated me.
Conflict avoidance I do not like conflict. I want everyone to hold hands and sing kumbaya. I read books on conflict resolution. Can’t we all just get along? But sometimes in my effort to fix something, I make it worse. Sometimes, the better choice is to simply walk away from people I will never see eye-to-eye with and who have vastly different values than I do. Sometimes, the choice to be kind to myself means not engaging with people who make me anxious or uncomfortable. Learning when to work toward a resolution and when to walk away has been a big discovery.
Reflection I need time to reflect on my thoughts, feelings and emotions. I need time to reflect on big decisions, to weigh the pros and cons, to figure out why some things work and some things don’t. I do a lot of that through writing. I do some of it by reading. I do some of it when I’m running, working out, driving in my car or talking to friends. It’s part of my self-care and something I’ve learned to respect. When I push that time aside for a busy social, work and single-parent calendar, my body revolts, tells me to sit down, pause and just be. AND, I love to vacation by myself!
Reality is a mind-set Success is a mind-set. Happiness is a mind-set. What you focus on is what you will become and what your reality will be. If you have sad thoughts, you will be sad. If you believe the world is your oyster and you should seize every opportunity, then you do. Just like the music you listen to can alter your mood, the thoughts in your head will direct your actions.
When one door closes another one opens. I know it’s a cliche. But sometimes, it’s a cliche because it’s so true. When things are taken away, you have the opportunity to fill it with something even better.
The one thing that has been constant since I was a little girl is that time is precious. Time with my children, time with my friends, time to myself. My mother’s death taught me that in spades. Nothing is guaranteed. I tell my friends and family how I feel about them. I hug, I laugh and I choose happiness every day. Life is too short to hold onto grudges or to be around people who bring you down or create a toxicity in your life.
After my divorce, I heard about the book, “Five Love Languages.” I was intrigued by the thought that you could speak to someone and possibly fill up their cup if you knew what love language they spoke. I was also curious to know what mine would be. But as I was reading the book, I saw that not only can it apply to your romantic relationships, but also to your friendships and your kids too.
Realizing that my thought was probably not an original one, I looked to see if author Gary Chapman had written any books about children and found “The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers.” I stopped reading “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts” and picked up a book that would actually make a difference in my life.
The divorce, the aftermath of the divorce and my children’s father’s impending criminal trial have taken a toll on my boys. Although we do a lot to focus on healing, resilience and that our thoughts have more control on our mood than external forces, I wanted to see if there was something I could do to help them get through it.
When you hear the five love languages (words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch) you can kinda guess which ones mean the most to your loved ones. I think most people give love the way they want to receive it.
However, reading the book increased my understanding of each, the subsections of each and how to go about filling their love tanks and giving them the emotional support they need in the way they need it. The book also provides ideas on how to go about fulfilling those needs.
Honestly, a lot of the tips are things you pick up intuitively about your children, but it focused my attention on what means the most to them. So, if your child tends to readily do things for you, their primary love language may be acts of service.
It’s also helped me identify what my primary love language is as well. When you identify what it is and how you can speak their language, it helps strengthen those connections and bonds with your children.
Quality time is one of my boy’s languages and part of that is quality conversation. He has always loved to have long, deep conversations at bedtime. For a long time, I thought he just wanted to delay going to sleep. I enjoyed them so much that we would usually talk for 30 minutes before I’d cut it off and make him go to sleep.
Thankfully, those bedtime conversations have extended to talking in the car and just randomly throughout the day. I’ve learned that he prefers to have them when it’s just the two of us so I ensure he and I get that one-on-one time together. But it also includes sharing funny videos, singing loudly and off-key together and doing a number of other silly things.
One of the most important things I did while reading the book was to talk to my boys about the different love languages. I wanted them to guess which is their primary love language. (They LOVE these kind of conversations and getting in touch with their emotions and feelings btw. Doesn’t every teenage boy? They humor me. They’re sweet.) But, it helped confirm my guesses.
Chapman’s website also offers a free test you can take to determine yours and your children’s. I scored high on a few of them which is not uncommon. What was the most interesting is that my boys primary love languages ended up being my top two as well. I probably would’ve said that physical touch was one of my top, because there are times when a hug just makes everything better, but it ended up as fourth on my list.
My other son’s love language is the one I grew up with, how I was raised and how I’ve raised him. Acts of service isn’t just about doing things for others. For me, it’s also about teaching them independence so they can be successful. It’s about family and helping out the family to take care of all of the things we need to take care of so that we are all fulfilled and our responsibilities are met.
In the end, it has been a focused learning experience on how I can best communicate with my boys and provide them the support they need in the most effective way.
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I'm single and loving it. Two kids and a busy job. Life is an adventure. Being single is liberating. Life is short, spread joy.