After the papers are signed, the lawyers are paid and the wounds begin to heal, everyone who has been through a divorce asks that inevitable question: Now what? For most divorcees, myself included, we continue on – one day at a time – hoping that our scars will fade and one day we will awaken and feel whole. Healed. Normal. We go through the motions; drive to work, attend business meetings, sports events for our kids and fundraisers for school. But after we go through this process of divorce – the destruction of our old life and the emergence of a new one – are we able to retain the fearlessness that we had before? Does ‘working without a net’ make us too careful on decisions that require our pre-divorce verve? I can’t help but wonder, do we allow our divorces to hold us back?
I recently lunched with a friend of mine who is a successful lawyer. He’d been unhappy at his firm for quite a while and had been contemplating other offers. That is, until his wife slept with her twenty-six-year-old executive assistant. Twice. Once his divorce was final, he told me he couldn’t even consider changing firms. He cited the security of how long he’d been with his current firm and the established rapport with his senior partners. What he didn’t say – the white elephant in the room – was that he was scared to leave. A new firm might require a lot more hours, and a lack of flexibility that he had at his current job. Although he wanted a change; needed a change – he had to hold off until his children were older and the proverbial dust had settled from his divorce.
A few weeks later, I met friends in Los Angeles for dinner. At the table next to us, two thirty-something women weighed the pros and cons of a promotion. Although one clearly wanted the promotion, she had failed to ask to be considered. When pressed for an explanation why, she finally admitted that she was worried that trying for a job in another department might make her appear ‘unstable’ to her boss, and that might not put her in good light for a raise – something she needed to save for a house for her and her children. She admitted that three years ago, when she was married, she never would have thought twice about trying for it – and probably would have gotten it.
In post-divorce dating, we naturally guard our hearts from being hurt once again. But we throw in extra firewalls that weren’t there before. He’s not going to meet the kids until we’ve been together for a few months. She’s not going to know how much money I make until I’ve known her a year. I don’t intend on putting him on the deed to my house – ever. If I ever get married again, I’m getting a pre-nup. Does the broken heart – and trust – from a divorce mean more than just ‘cautious’?
Our post-divorce selves are hyper concerned with stability. We’re forcing ourselves to be risk managers, thinking of every possible scenario that could go wrong now that we’re working without the net of another person beside us. What if we need to work more hours? How will more stress affect me at home or with my kids? What if the new position fails or I hate it? What he breaks my heart or cheats on me? What if the new company isn’t economically viable and I get laid off? As all of these questions roll through our mind (if you’re like me, they’re on a replay loop as you’re trying to sleep), we try to find a way to combat these feelings of fear, doubt and vulnerability.
If you’re not fortunate enough to have parents that are rolling in cash to help you out (or bail you out if you fail), then befriending our post-divorce selves is the best thing we can do. I’m a big fan of the pro/con list. However, don’t do it while drinking, or your subconscious might write the list for you, and it’s all downhill from there. Many times, the things we fear are simply our brain’s way of making noise. It means nothing, and many times the ‘worst-case’ scenarios will never come to fruition. Do your due diligence. If the company checks out and appears financially stable, there is little else you can do before making the decision to come on board.
Don’t allow your divorce – the pain, resentment, fear and instability – hold you back from taking risks. After all, isn’t that what life is all about?
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