When she stood at the altar with him and they recited their vows through smiles and tears, she did not imagine that a few years later he would be hiding alcohol bottles in the garage out of reach of their two year old and calling her fat and lazy. She did not anticipate that she would feel unsafe in the home that should have served as sanctuary.
The more abusive and drunk he became, the more she tried to “obey” his rules. She developed unrealistic standards of herself and her children. She was a slave to her own rigidity born out of attempts to control all circumstances. She would feel the urge to cry if her children were not in bed at the precise bedtime minute. She was on edge, frustrated, and grumpy when her toddlers made messes rather than delighting in their first attempts at finding creativity.
She came to my office the first time with barely a voice through her tears. A divorce did not meet up with her standards. But she loved her children more than she loved the appearance of a perfect family. A few months later, she was ready to file the paperwork. It had taken as long for her courage to match her conviction. She was terrified at what reaction she may face and how to protect her children in the midst of it.
On the day she filed she sent me the picture of this rainbow and said “I thought you might enjoy this picture. While I was sitting in my car talking to him for the first time after he had seen the papers, I saw this rainbow. It came out during our call and was directly in front of me through a break in the trees. The pictures below were taken while I was on the phone with him. Here is to new beginnings!”
For the first time, she was seeing hope instead of heartbreak. She was seeing a future path that finally felt freeing. Now a few more months down her divorce journey, he has moved out of the home and a parenting schedule has been established. She called me last week and told me she had made it through her first weekend without her children and she was on a high facing the weekend ahead with the first “errand free” weekend with her children. She could not wait to play with them. To be present to them absent the long-standing pins and needles that had been pressuring her.
She bemused: “So what if they are going to bed ten minutes late. So what if the house isn’t spotless. Who cares if we eat out for dinner.” She contemplated her carefree conclusions and remarked “It is so strange. But in all of this I am finding freedom from my own self-imposed restraints.” She sees herself unwinding out of her old mindset and she is open to the freedom that she now faces.
This. This is one of the many reasons that I so enjoy traversing the divorce journey with my clients. In dismantling her beliefs under a divorce, she is gaining new perspectives. What intrigues me most about her reflection is that she is not interested in focusing on the terrible history he created for her, but she is focused more on her hopefulness toward the future. And she spotted it only when she was looking up.