As many of you know, I have been working on a project interviewing women about their divorce story. My project is not about bad-mouthing former spouses, but about bringing forward the wisdom and lessons in each woman’s story to provide hope and strength to others currently going through the trauma and drama of divorce.
We have been discussing fear lately on the blog, and fear is a fairly common theme woven into many divorce stories. Interestingly, many women say that most of the fears they held before, during, and after their divorces never really manifest. The perceived fears are pushed through and handled and the women learn that they are stronger and more capable than they thought.
The two most popular fears from my interviews are financial fears and the fear of doing it alone.
Growing up in the 1980s, I was told that I could do and be anything. And I did, until I got married. The predominant fears in my interviews truly make me question what we are teaching our daughters, and I wonder if societal messaging isn’t as clear as I had originally believed.
If women are mostly fearful of providing for themselves and being able to do life alone, the message of the “independent woman” seems to have some strings attached. This illustrates an unhealthy dependence on others, rather than dependence in a mutually supportive way.
Personally, when leaving my marriage I felt the financial fear much more than the fear of being alone. I had completely removed myself from the finances within my marriage because I didn’t want to deal with financial stress. In doing so, I gave away my power which would later increase my fears. Except for the finances, I pretty much did everything else around the house, so I felt self sufficient in that regard.
For some, financial fears stem from women like myself who gave up their careers as they felt it was best for their family. Or, they change to part-time work to have better work-family balance. This creates a disparity in income-generating potential if they decide or need to return to the traditional work force.
In a divorce between a ‘provider’ father and ‘stay at home’ mother, not every father chooses to support the mother and children afterwards. Some decide they are not going to to support their kids at all, which puts the mother in a hard place and creates a battle within the court, often taking a long time to resolve.
However, every mother I have spoken to in this situation used the experience to become empowered. They pushed through to provide for their children. They get creative. They take multiple jobs. They start entrepreneurial businesses on the side.
In hard times, moms go the extra mile to bring joy and happy moments to their children. One woman recalls a period when her financial situation was quite dire. Her credit cards were maxed out, she had $100 in the bank and $20 in her pocket. She took odd jobs such as mowing lawns and washing boats to generate extra funds. This enabled the mother to rent a movie and get ice cream for her kids. The mother was proud knowing she could provide this simple pleasure to sustain some normalcy in her children’s lives.
Another woman left a luxurious life in Europe and came to America with just her children. She had to figure out her finances on her own. She had a deep seated belief that “God will never let you be poor, homeless, and hungry.” Having this mindset allowed her to continuously push forward.
For others, the fear of being alone can manifest in several ways. Often it comes in the form of, “How am I going to do the stereotypical male jobs around the house?” When you are dealing with the trauma of divorce, the seemingly simple tasks of changing a tire or hanging a picture can create anxiety or fear.
In the age of YouTube with its zillions of tutorials and HGTV and the DIY network on TV, why is this still happening? Is it really because us women in our 30s and 40s did not see our mothers doing these types of tasks?
In my interviews, I have found that most women overcome these fears by proving to themselves that they can through taking action. Once on their own, and settled in a new home, women become empowered. They find that they can do the things their ex husband might have done such as painting, hanging pictures, and even simple renovations.
Doing something yourself is empowering.
The fear of truly being alone without a partner is a real concern for many women, particularly for mothers. There is a sense of, “I have kids, I’m divorced, what if no one wants to date me?” Despite a 50% divorce rate today, this belief or mentality seems to perpetrate many of our stories.
While initially they might think that they won’t find love again, most have either met their soul mate or are actively dating. Somewhere along the way they changed their belief and opened themselves to love again, proving the initial fear wrong.
From the many stories that have been shared with me, I am learning that most of our fears do not manifest and that we can use them to become empowered. When we work through our fears we learn that we are strong and capable women with unlimited potential.
Your fears can be your biggest teacher if you allow it.
What have you learned by working through your fears?