Elie Klein
Advocate for disability care, inclusion, equity and access

Conquering divorce and embracing life

I can’t believe that it’s only been 10 months since my last blog post. Honestly, it seems like a lifetime ago. And in a way, it was.

Over the last year, I got divorced, moved into a new home, found true love, maintained a long-distance relationship, and got remarried. Though many things remain unaltered, the most important elements of my life are entirely different, and I feel like a brand new person.

As I worked diligently over the last several months to solidify my new relationship, ease the numerous transitions for my kids, retain my important friendships and keep my clients happy, I realized that something had to give – all non-essential pursuits were shelved until further notice. Unfortunately, blogging was high atop that list.

Though I am still not ready to return to my regular blogging schedule, a few chance encounters over the last several weeks compelled me to write this important post. No less than three different individuals, all acquaintances who I haven’t seen for months, materialized out of the ether to wish me a hearty congratulations on my recent marriage…and commend me on my blog post from September.

Don’t bother looking for it – it no longer exists.

“Divorce: A Brave New Beginning” was online for a grand total of 36 hours before I had to pull the plug. In that time, the piece confused those who didn’t yet know about my divorce, enraged those who did, and inspired and comforted hundreds of divorced men and women around the globe (I know this to be true because I received no less than five Facebook messages every hour for four days straight).

Though that “controversial” post accurately reflected the thoughts and feelings of countless divorcees, it was the textbook definition of “too soon.”

Now that a healthy amount of time has passed (and everyone in my familial and social circles have acclimated to the new reality), I wanted to pick up where I left off with the international divorced community and make several suggestions for conquering divorce and moving beyond it to a new and better life:

Be Calm – Divorce is a powerful destructive force. It can shatter your confidence and throw your entire world into complete chaos. Everything you once knew will change in an instant. People you have known for years will see you as a stranger. Your finances will take a serious hit. Time with your children may be limited or dictated by someone else. And the list of things that you cannot control will grow longer by the day.

As a result, you may find yourself in a very angry place, and you may feel the need to speak your mind about every injustice that has befallen you. But you must break out of that dark place and fight those urges, because embracing your anger won’t help you at all. Not even a little bit.

Now, I’m not saying to deny those feelings entirely. Quite the opposite. The healthiest thing you can do is find a close friend or two (preferably other members of the divorced community) with whom to swap war stories and share your tales of woe…in the privacy of your own homes. But in public (which includes social media platforms), be sure to keep your cool.

In time, your situation will change and your feelings of anger will dissipate, and you won’t want to be shackled to an angry public persona when you are finally ready to move on.

Be Careful – In a similar vein, it is important to be incredibly mindful of how you act and what you say at all times. That means choosing your words carefully and keeping jokes and statements that can be misconstrued to yourself. Why? Because there is too much at stake (i.e. your reputation, your relationship with your children, your hard earned money, etc.) to allow an innocent remark to derail your forward progress.

Is it fair that you have to live a “restricted life”? No. But it is smart. The last thing you want to do is provide your detractors with extra ammunition.

Be Realistic – When speaking with my divorced friends, I often circle back to how thankful I am for my new lease on life, particularly my heightened sensitivity to the suffering of others. In my experience, entering the divorced world was like a release from the Matrix – having taken the “red pill,” I am reminded just “how deep the rabbit hole goes” on a daily basis, and I use this knowledge to assist and comfort others who feel as alone and confused as I once did.

That said, it is important to remember that while those of us who are divorced were forced to embrace the painful truths of reality (and were, hopefully, changed for the better), our non-divorced friends still live within the Matrix, blissfully unaware of the pain of this serious trauma. Please don’t take this the wrong way: this is not intended as an affront nor as an attack – there is no doubt that the members of your community mean well and have your best interest at heart. However, the fact remains that the large majority of them have not endured this particular trauma and are, therefore, not operating on the same wavelength.

My point (yes, I’m getting there) is that you should never forget just how lucky you are that your pain transformed you into an emotional superhuman (while everyone else stayed the same), and remember to be realistic in your expectations of others.

[I must acknowledge the many exceptional families who have gone above and beyond for me, my children and my new wife, showering us with warmth, hospitality, love and support throughout my ordeal…and who show no signs of stopping anytime soon. We cherish their friendship and stand in awe of their unparalleled benevolence.]

Be Brave – Along these lines, I had to come to terms with the fact that the individuals and families who reached out to me in my darkest hours were truly exceptional, and those who didn’t were…normal. Though it was hard to accept at first, I finally realized that everyone in my circles was busy living their lives and dealing with their own personal challenges. As such, I had to push myself far outside of my comfort zone and become the initiator of (virtually) all planned social interactions.

For example, I had to invite myself out for almost every Shabbat meal I attended over the last 10 months. While that might not seem like a big deal, it was, in fact, excruciating finding myself in that position week after week. But (being realistic) I found that the only way to quench my social thirst was with a tall glass of “do it yourself.” And while inviting myself out never got easier, the social interactions (the Shabbat meals themselves) became increasingly more enjoyable and rewarding with each passing month. I felt brave and confident, and I paved the way for a new and improved social identity.

This same bravery is essential when courting a new love interest. When my new wife came into the picture as a prospective love interest, my wounds were still very fresh. Still, I realized that I would have to leave myself exposed and vulnerable in order to prove that I was both genuine and genuinely interested in her. Remember that the highest form of bravery is allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Don’t view vulnerability as a set up for yet another painful episode, but as the key to deeper more meaningful relationships (of every variety).

Be Kind – Again, as an emotional superhuman it is your responsibility to seek out others who may be in pain: to lend them your ear, your shoulder or a seat at your table. A single compassionate act can set a powerful empathetic force in motion, a healing energy that may touch hundreds of other individuals grappling with divorce and other traumas.

Though it may prove difficult, it is also important to communicate with your ex-spouse in a kind and considerate manner. Although your feelings towards him/her may remain raw for months (perhaps years), it is essential that your interactions reflect the reality of the situation (ie that he/she is just as another individual suffering through the gauntlet of emotions caused by divorce). As such, always remember to be kind – for the sake of your children, your mutual friends, and your humanity.

Be Happy – As previously mentioned, it is critical to move beyond any feelings of anger, resentment or hate in order to build your life anew. But it is also important to realize that it’s not enough to simply escape the darkness – you must also embrace the light. Though it might not always feel like it, happiness is a choice.

Do you “deserve to be angry”? Probably. But more importantly, you deserve to be happy, and you always have the power to choose that path. Approach every situation with a smile and the universe will respond in kind.

Now that I’ve said my piece, I must admit that I learned most of the above the hard way. I stumbled a great deal more than I soared, and I have the scars to prove it. My hope is that you can learn from both my successes and my failures and skip the heartache on your way to a joyful and fulfilling new life.

Here’s to your happiness!

[A huge thank you to the new members of my family – my amazing wife, her children, parents and siblings – and the “old” members of my family – my parents, siblings and children – for helping me find my happiness by redefining family and support in the most wonderful and unexpected ways.  I love you all!]

About the Author
Elie Klein is a veteran nonprofit marketing professional and the Director of Development (USA & Canada) for ADI, Israel’s network of specialized rehabilitative care for those touched by and living with disability, and an international advocate for disability inclusion, equity and access.