What 11 Women Wish They’d Known Before Getting Divorced

Divorce is complicated, painful and messy. But it can also teach us huge life lessons about ourselves, others and relationships. Below, 11 women — some remarried, some single — open up about going through divorces (some more than once) and the things they wish they’d known before getting their splits.

Divorce isn’t shameful

“I didn’t want to tell my friends, my family and most of all my neighbors because I felt so much shame. Marriage ‘until death do us part’ was invented when people lived to be 40. With people now living more than twice that long, I now believe we had a good long run, and a successful marriage that sadly ended after 22 years. This is not a failure; it is life.” — Karen Bate got divorced after a 22-year marriage and three daughters

You learn what you’re really looking for

“I know more now about what I am and am not looking for in a person and in a relationship. I defined what I will and will not tolerate, and I was able to take a hard look at attitudes, behaviors and patterns that I needed to change within myself as well. There are lessons to be learned, no matter how hard they are to see at the time.” — Psychologist and licensed clinical professional counselor Nikki Martinez has been divorced and remarried

Hold out for real love

“Know that you have more time and more choices; you don’t have to settle for less than soul-inspiring love. I now hold workshops to inspire women to listen to their strong inner voice to live an amazing life — maybe so they won’t have to learn lessons the hard way.” — Bridget Cooper was in an eight-year marriage and has two daughters

Everything happens for a reason

“Had I known what I know now about myself and how the universe works, I think I wouldn’t have spent so much time in the denial stage. I believe wholeheartedly that the sooner we accept that life is about constant change and life is about adjusting to change, the sooner we will accept when a relationship fails us. It’s also important that we understand to not lose ourselves in relationships, so when the sudden change such as a divorce occurs, your life still has meaning.” — Tawanna L. Myles, author of Get Over Your Ex: Thank Him for Leaving You, was cheated on and ended up divorcing her spouse

You are not flawed in love

“The ‘failure’ of this relationship doesn’t mean that you’re bad at attracting great relationships. It is just as important to know through real experience what you don’t want as it is to know what you do want. It isn’t in spite of life’s stumbles that we find happiness, it’s precisely thanks to our stumbles that [we] find deep happiness.” — After years of dating and trying to find the “right guy”, Meridith Hankenson found herself engaged in an abusive relationship, but it was her son who really helped her come to her senses.

Consider a prenup

“I never considered the possibility that I would need one until my ex-husband sought alimony and won. As more women crack the glass ceiling and become breadwinners, we are becoming the ones paying alimony. This will happen even more as we are the ones graduating from college and many male-dominated industries are suffering in the new economy.” — Alison, a 42-year old divorcee and blogger, is currently paying alimony to her ex-husband because she made over $30,000 more a year than he did

It’s going to hurt and you’re going to be OK

“During my divorce, no one told me that I was going to grieve or how bad it would hurt even though I knew I was doing the right thing. I felt ashamed to grieve something so ugly and toxic and I did not know that was going to happen. No matter how good or bad the divorce, there will be a grieving process and there is no shame in that.” — Amber Malcom, an entrepreneur, went through what she felt was the world’s nastiest divorce from an abusive husband

More: Women Don’t Want More Sex, They Want Better Sex

Trust your gut

“I had a sinking feeling my marriage wouldn’t work, but went through with it anyway thinking my partner might change. Recognize red flags and listen to yourself; you know what’s best for your heart.” — Julie Nashawaty, an entrepreneur, is 36, single and divorced

Don’t be the ‘Better Half’

“It might be a cute cliché, but the truth is, being half of anything is not good enough. Both people need to be two whole individuals to have the best chance of a successful relationship.” — Author & blogger Tawana Lowery calls herself “The Serial Overcomer” and is recently divorced for the second time

Realize that the marriage is over

“You can end things quickly and save a lot of money and emotion or you can hold onto every single petty detail and the try to ‘win’ every battle. You will end up wasting precious months or years of your life not being free of each other, and your lawyers will smile all the way to the bank as you fight over silly things that in the end, really don’t change the outcome.” — Alison Blackman has been happily married to her second husband for more than 26 years

Don’t give up who you are to make someone happy

“You will be resentful. Divorce is OK, as long as you know that you have tried to find a common ground. Don’t worry about social issues from knowing that you’re divorced. Don’t have kids just to have kids. You need to be loved for who you are before you expand your family. When you’re a strong woman, men can be intimidated, and that is just not healthy. Focus on what makes a healthy relationship for you and do regular check-ins with yourself and your partner.” — MoniQue Hoffman, 30, has been divorced twice

More: 19 Signs You’re In a Strong Relationship

What 11 Women Wish They'd Known Before Getting Divorced
Image: Liz Smith/SheKnows


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