Life After Your Forever Ends


By:  Sharen Wendy Robertson

I first met my ex-husband when I was 14 years old, October 19, 1974. We were married about four years later on March 19, 1978. The marriage endured for 28 years, but ended in divorce on February 14, 2006 (yes, Valentine’s Day). What happens when your life with a life-long partner comes to an abrupt end? How do you pick yourself up and build a new life? How will you find the strength to go on? How do you say good-bye with your heart? Will it ever get easier? These were just a few of the questions that haunted me after my divorce.

My relationship with my ex-husband was a roller-coaster ride from the get-go, forged with a lifetime of chaos, drama, tears, laughter, loving, frustration, arguing, attraction, intimacy, hurt, etc; but we were two strong souls, committed to each other, our marriage, and our children. Our lives were intricately woven together with very little distinction as two separate individuals. We were one, wrapped up in a relationship that took decades to mold. We relied on each other, and so did everyone else around us, including family and friends. We made a life, which included raising four children and running a successful business together for 25 years. We were supposed to be together forever, but I guess sometimes forever isn’t really as long as, well…..forever.

The 5 year anniversary of my divorce just passed on February 14, 2011. I wish I could say that the divorce was amicable and peaceful but it wasn’t, in fact, it was probably one of the worst divorces ever! I could probably write a book titled “Everything NOT To Do When You Get Divorced” and make a million dollars, that’s how bad it was. I had no idea “how” to get divorced and was basically just going through the motions. On top of all that I hadn’t stopped loving my husband and could not imagine living my life without him. Fear was my constant companion, as well as prayers and tears (oh yes, lots and lots of tears). My heart was utterly and completely shattered in a way that is difficult to describe, I guess “grief-stricken” would be the correct word. The physical pain of not being around him was so excruciating I liken it to withdrawing from heroin or something (although I’ve never gone through drug withdrawal). Besides the despair and grief I felt, I also had to get used to sleeping alone at night after sleeping with someone for over 28 years. I also had to get used to waking up alone and starting the day without anyone asking if I was okay. No more phone calls throughout the day. His voice was gone. I was completely alone, feeling abandoned by my friends, family, and children.

Finances and Lifestyle

My finances and the lifestyle I’d worked so hard to build also came to an abrupt end. I wasn’t living in my home anymore, just an apartment. I had no income, alimony or child support. The job I’d had for 25 years in our family business was gone. There was no cash to split in the divorce, just a few pieces of real estate we’d worked hard to acquire in our 28 years together. I got those (and the bills that came with them) while he kept the business and our marital home (and the bills that went with those). The day after my divorce I went to my banker and remortgaged my properties for the down payment to begin building a new home of my own. I moved into my new house less than seven months later. This was a home my ex-husband and I were supposed to build together, one we’d planned for, and even though I was on my own now I decided to follow through with the plan anyway. I look back and think of why I did this, and I understand my motives. I ask myself would I have done things differently if I knew what I know now, the answer is……probably not. First of all, this was a dream house that my ex and I were planning on building before the marriage fell apart. Secondly, I subconsciously thought that maybe, just maybe if I hurried up and built the house everything would go back the way it was “supposed” to be. Thirdly, I also thought that the economy would hold up and if my finances got bad I could just sell the house and make a profit. Lastly, I thought my kids would move in with me if I had a nice, new, big house for them to live in instead of the apartment I was living in at the time. Sadly, none of these reasons ever came true. But, I still own and live in my house, even though the bills and the mortgage are sky high. There is one shining reason why I would still build this house today though, and it is because I am proud of myself for having accomplished this on my own. I set my mind to the task, didn’t let fear rule me, and I went ahead and was even the contractor for the project. I did it all by myself, and to be perfectly honest, it was a lot easier only having to answer to myself. Although, I admit I definitely missed having someone around to trust, to talk to, and to share ideas with. Sure, I was afraid every day, but I did it anyway.

Regarding my finances, well, this has been an ongoing struggle for me on my own. I was a stay- at- home mom running a family business out of my house for 28 years. In the divorce, my ex-husband didn’t want to pay alimony, and I would have had to argue with him for it, which I didn’t have the strength to do so I didn’t press him on that. Thankfully, all the years of juggling finances in my marriage and our business taught me the skills to manage on my own. I will say I’m more at ease and able to accept the ups and downs of this struggle than I was five years ago. I just continue on like I always have, plodding along one foot in front of the other. I strive, hope, and pray each day that I’m able to hang on financially for just another 6 months, but I can’t project long term. I don’t have a financial plan for my future anymore like I did for all the years I was married because losing my job in our family business and the downturn in the housing market has taken away any security I had. I used to worry and cry about it a lot after my divorce, but now I’m resigned to the fact that I can only hope to get through each new day, one day at a time. I can’t worry about not having a plan anymore. I don’t have any Social Security either because I worked all those years in the family business without taking a paycheck. I have to accept this and relinquish my worry to faith.

Dating

There really isn’t much to share as far as the dating scene goes. The last time I was single I was 17 years old, and then even before that, before I started dating my ex in high school, that would be when I was 13 years old! I haven’t dated much since my divorce, even though I’ve made lots of friends, male and female. Now, and I can only speak from my perspective, but the singles scene is nothing like what I thought it would be like when I was married. I naively assumed that there would be plenty of eligible single, healthy men my age available for a committed relationship. Wrong. Of the men my age I meet, most either drink too much, smoke too much, gamble too much, work too much, don’t work enough, are still raising young children, are not divorced yet, are looking for a gal a lot younger than I am, are way too old for me, way too young for me, are overweight, underweight, not in shape, not looking to commit, and number #1…..only looking for a “casual” relationship (if you know what I mean). It’s hard to know who to trust and unless you have a huge network to tap into, it’s slim pickins’ as far as dating goes. The reality is that even after five years of being divorced, I am still single. I’ll admit this is a disappointment to me. Part of the problem I know is that it’s been a lot harder to detach emotionally from my ex than I thought it would be. He was my “first and only” in so many ways. I see now, and I wish I knew then, that detaching in my heart from being his “wife” was going to take years. I hope one day to meet someone and open my heart just enough to fall in love again, but as the years creep on by I have learned to accept the fact that maybe that won’t happen, but the thought of this probability does not fill me with anxiety the way it used to.

A down side to not being in a relationship is the fact that I am minus the intimacy and physical contact I knew for more than 30 years. Not just in the most intimate way of “being” with someone (which I miss) but my life also lacks the simple element of touch, which includes little things like holding hands, hugging, reaching out and touching someone’s face or arm, having a shoulder to rest my head on, having arms around me sometimes when I’m washing dishes, having someone to slow dance with, and of being close enough physically to look deep into someone’s eyes, not only to see their eyes, but to know and completely trust the person who is looking back.

All the while, and through all the negative and difficult things I’ve had to adjust to in the five years since my divorce (which sadly also includes the tragic loss of my 20 year old son in a car accident, the death of my father, my step-father, and my dog) a part of me has been and continues to be moving forward. I’ve been taking baby steps all along, so small I’ve not really paid much attention until right now while I’m writing this essay. There were some days when the only step forward I had the strength to take was simply getting out of bed (and honestly, sometimes I didn’t stay out of bed very long). This is the part of me that never gives up or gives in, never sits around feeling sorry for myself, and always has hope that tomorrow will be better than today. I have a life now that does not resemble anything of the life I had while I was married, except for the fact that my integrity is intact, and also that I still don’t smoke or drink alcohol or take drugs. This new life I’ve created is overflowing with a fullness and sense of vibrancy which is unlike anything I’ve ever known.

Back five years ago, going through my divorce, I thought my life was over….really. I could not imagine my life without my husband. I’d been “his” for ¾ of my life, and I had no experience or memory of being in the adult world without him. I had no idea what to expect, and I was terrified and alone. I didn’t even have a routine I could continue to follow because I’d lost my job, my income, my home, my marriage, and my kids (they were old enough to decide and they decided to stay with their father) all at the same time. The only thing I could rely on in my life was the absolute knowledge that I would absolutely get out of bed every day even if it killed me, and I guess I built my new life from that small piece of truth and stability.

The Present

My life finally has order and a sense of peacefulness. I have charted a new career as a singer/songwriter and connected with thousands of new people through Facebook, You Tube and my website, www.sharenwendy.com none of which would have happened if I were still married. I have been on a quest to fill the emptiness I feel by finding and connecting with people who I can relate to and who can relate to me, especially since my son has died. Part of my first name is the word “share” and that is exactly what I am doing. I am now free to express myself in any way I choose, from the way I dress to the songs I write. However, this freedom is about more than being able to wear what I want or write whatever I want; no, it’s much more powerful than that. It’s something I feel in my soul and down to the core of who I am. It’s about being free to live an authentic life, which means being free to be who I always dreamed I could be. I am making my own dreams come true, something which was next to impossible when I was taking care of a husband, children, and a business. I wrote a song last year called Free and Clear which describes this inspiring, fulfilling freedom I have now. Even though I still have days when I am sad and reminisce and long for the life I had and the comfort of being “someone’s” wife, the reality is that I’m not even the same person who lived in the life I miss. I’ve grown and blossomed into this new person or better yet into the person I was always meant to be.

FREE and CLEAR

By: Sharen Wendy Robertson

I couldn’t get to the place, that I always dreamed about,
Because my mind, was haunted with so much doubt.
Then one day I looked to see, the child inside of me,
Waiting for a chance to fly, into who I always dreamed I’d be.
Now I’m standing, standing free and clear,
Step to better days, with truth to light my way.
Mmmm, mmmm, standing, standing free and clear,
Move to higher ground, with peace I’ve finally found.
With one small step I stood and walked,
Turned my back away from fear,
Truth poured from my soul, held back for many years.
And then the clouds all went away, the sun warmed the sky,
I walked through my fear, and then stood tall, free and clear.
Now I’m standing, standing free and clear,
Step to better days, with truth to light my way.
Mmmm, mmmm, standing, standing free and clear,
Move to higher ground, with peace I’ve finally found.

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Christina Rasmussen

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