Coping with Divorce: the expensive way

When my 19 year marriage finally came to the point that a divorce was imminent, the emotional turmoil I did not expect began to flare up.  If you’ve been through it, this may resonate with you.  When you are in the marriage that isn’t working divorce seems like the best option.  Maybe you’ve tried to work it out a few times and you end up back in the same place, so divorce seems like the only saving grace.

The idea of the freedom from the person that seems to be driving you mad, doesn’t understand you, is manipulative, selfish, etc seems promising…but I can tell you that when the day comes the divorce is final, it is a whole other feeling, and one I did not expect.  I thought I would be happy for it to be over so that I could move on.  But honestly it is a grieving process that takes time.  I did not realize this right off, so I also did not recognize the signs I was grieving.

I only drink socially and I don’t smoke or partake in any recreational drugs, unless you consider shopping a drug.  After these past two years I can honestly now admit that shopping became my drug.

When my ex and I were married (for 19 years) I never enjoyed going shopping because it usually meant we were going to spend money we didn’t have and then I would be the one left to “figure it out”.  The anxiety alone that came with shopping made the experience stomach wrenching.

When the divorce was final and I would have time to myself because the kids were with their dad, I would make myself get out of the house.  I would go to TJ Maxx or Target, but what I found was that I literally had Sheldon style intestinal distress that would send me right to the bathroom!  I could not understand it; why was I so anxious to be in a store when I had to answer to no one but myself?!

I was already in counseling to help work through the identity change from married to single, so I brought this issue up to my therapist.  In his opinion, the reaction came down to “anticipatory anxiety”.  I had so many strong and deep feelings related to old issues with any sort of shopping and spending money that the idea alone sparked IBS.  No joke.

Once we identified it was most likely anxiety related, I began to go back to those two stores and as soon as I began to feel like I might have an “episode” (sorry, TMI) I would tell myself to calm my breathing and relax.  That it was all in my head, and that I did not need to buy anything.  I was just looking and enjoying time out of the house.  This is where the “Cart of Possibility” originated.

After several weeks of actual retail therapy (making myself go and not have to use the bathroom) I began to understand my anxiety more and work on ways to get through it.

Soon a friend of mine told me about a weekly-ish tour she makes through Home Goods, so one day I decided to check it out…and it changed my whole world!  Some for the good and some for the bad.  I began to instantly see why my friend went weekly, as the inventory changes all the time.

After the divorce I had retained the house (I could afford it on my own thankfully) so I wanted to do some things to make it mine vs. ours, in an effort to try and move forward.  Remodeling is expensive and I didn’t think I had the skillset for it, but turns out I did! (more on that later).  Redecorating became the plan and little by little I made changes in the main living areas and in my bedroom.

Unfortunately, that little by little became an all the time addiction.  Not to the point I would miss work or other important events to go shopping, but it was clearly my number one hobby.  This did not become apparent to me until I had racked up mega debt.  Being transparent, it was around $15k, from shopping.

I guess when I got over the anxiety I found I actually enjoyed it.  It has taken me almost 2.5 years to figure out this little hobby is just as bad for me as coping with other substances.

Now I have the joy of figuring out how to get myself out of this mess.  One way I am trying to pay it all off is with a side hustle.  Have one of those?  If not, I recommend it.  The kids are almost grown and I’m finished with my Master’s, so I need a new hobby.  Why not have it be making money instead of spending it?

The moral of the story is this- if you are getting divorced, even if you think it will be the best thing in the world, give yourself time to grieve when it is final.  Recognize you are saying goodbye to what was “us” and any goodbye should have time to be processed.

It’s ok to be sad.  It’s ok to be mad.  It’s ok to wish things would have been different.  Let yourself walk through the pain; in the long run that is how you get to the healing.  Sure, channel your emotions into something productive, but don’t ignore, don’t avoid (I’m really good at this).

Maybe pick a topic you are interested in and start researching it, reading books on the topic, even listening to books about it on your commute.  I found this very helpful- and since I was alone in the car I could be as vulnerable as I wanted while working to be more introspective.

Find you again.  Know that it will take time and be ok with that.  “It’s a process” (lol- my ex and I used to say that) which means it is not going to be all better in a matter of minutes.  The heart and the head need time to sync up again.  Be patient with yourself.

Wishing you love and peace,

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