2003 was the most challenging year of my life.
I had married a wonderful man in 2000 – someone I’d met at university a few years before. I meant my wedding vows; in my mind, this relationship was for life. But by 2003 I felt trapped. However, I was determined not to give up. So I didn’t.
By autumn 2004 it was clear that ‘not giving up’ was killing me internally. I felt like my soul was dying. I knew that I could choose to stay in the marriage and that my zest for life would shrivel up, or I could get a divorce.
The first made me feel numb. The second made my heart pound, my mouth go dry and my palms sweat. I chose the second – it felt stressful but a pounding heart at least told me I was alive.
Numbness was deadness. Before taking any action I took the time to take wise counsel from a couple of professionals, and to talk with my husband. Over the course of a few months my next step became clear.
At the end of February 2005 I moved out of my marital home. So began the most rollercoaster year of my life. There was exhilaration, grief, uncertainty, freedom, new adventures and the unknown territory of the divorce process. All of this made for full, bittersweet, exhausting and deeply fulfilling year.
The thing about divorce is that the deep, emotional upheaval is accompanied by disruption of your daily life. There were moments when it felt like I had nothing to hold on to. I remember one day walking down the street to my new home and suddenly everything felt surreal. For a moment I wasn’t sure whether I really lived there – I wasn’t sure if I was awake or dreaming.
To keep myself grounded and put these surreal moments into perspective I put in place a few ‘anchors’ – small things that brought stability to my daily reality.
This was my favourite. I had a colourful, luxurious shawl that was a gift from a dear friend. The first night that I slept in my new home I draped the shawl on my pillow. I did this with the express intention that when my head touched the pillow each night I would sink into a feeling of warm, indulged security. It worked. I suggest you do something similar to create an anchor for yourself at this time of transition.
When you’re married you share household responsibilities. Suddenly being solo, you have to learn or re-learn the things that your ex-partner used to look after.
Household responsibilities are the boring but essential details of life – such as paying council tax or taking out the recycling. I remember feeling annoyed at this aspect of being single.
It was an added irritation at a time when I could have done without yet another thing to learn. I remember calling a friend and asking her to help me by talking me through some of these dull but important mechanics of the daily running of a household.
When I coach people who are newly separated I notice that many of them feel embarrassed to ask for this sort of help.
Don’t be embarrassed. Ask for help from trusted friends. Divorce is a big deal and getting help with these details will lighten the load on your mind and heart, as well as saving you time and energy you would waste trying to figure it all out yourself.
Telling Friends and Family
I told friends and family in my own time. I told some straightaway, and I waited months to tell others. I had an experience very early on that taught me an important lesson. I called a friend – someone who I felt very close to – to say that I was splitting up with my husband and was looking for somewhere to live.
Her response was disapproving and distant. This took me completely by surprise.
I was in ‘fast learning’ mode and decided there and then to pace myself in sharing my news. I realised that I just didn’t have the emotional bandwidth to deal with everyone’s response to my divorce. My own emotions were taking up most of my energy. I let go of any sense of obligation to tell people about my relationship status before I was ready to do so. I was pretty sure that some people would react negatively so I waited until I was settled in my new life before I told them. The result was that I was able to handle their reaction constructively.
Whether it was you or your partner who initiated the divorce, you won’t always be able to predict how people will respond. Remember that people often have strong feelings about divorce because the ‘happily ever after’ fairytale is so embedded in our social psyche. If you’re caught off guard and get a negative response when you were expecting a supportive one, close the conversation quickly and politely. Avoid getting defensive or explaining yourself.
One of the best things about 2005 was dating. I had a fantastic time.
I was unapologetic in my no-strings-attached, I-want-to-have-fun approach to dating. I relished the heartful messiness of romance and sex. Each connection glimmered with soulful sensuality and playfulness.
I know that my unabashed ‘I want to have fun’ approach won’t suit everyone. The point is that you should be unapologetically yourself in dating after divorce. Date in a style that suits you, whatever anyone else thinks.
Committing to my own happiness
When I embarked on my new single life I came home to myself in a way that I never had before. Having tasted the misery of feeling trapped as I did in the last two years of my marriage, I was determined to settle for nothing less than happiness in all aspects of my life.
So, as well as negotiating the territory of divorce I also decided to shake things up in my work life. I had enjoyed a wonderful career as a classical Indian dancer and choreographer. But it was time for something new, although I didn’t know what that was. So I decided to enter a transition period, continuing to work in the world of dance while I explored new possibilities. That exploration and retraining lasted a couple of years and gave rise to my new career as a relationship coach and mentor.
Its not unusual for newly separated or divorced people to feel the desire for new things and new freedoms – to express themselves in new ways. This is a good time to commit – or re-commit – to your own happiness.
Vena Ramphal is THE Passion Coach specialising in romance and erotic pleasure.
She facilitates people to make choices that bring them more fulfilling love lives, whether its ending a partnership, creating a new relationship, or cultivating a deeper experience of erotic pleasure.
Vena’s work draws on the erotic wisdom of the kama sutra traditions and classical Indian philosophy.
As a coach she brings warmth, clarity, a sense of play and a deep belief that life should be delicious.