Life after Divorce

Kelly collapsed on the steps, right alongside life as she knew it.

Her husband had been having an affair, and he was leaving her. Loneliness and despair crept in on her until her dog tethered her to reality and gave her the strength to call her mom.

“I couldn’t even get the words out I was crying so hysterically,” said Kelly. “Normally it takes 40 minutes for her to get to my house, but that night she was there in 20.”

Having a failed marriage started to make Kelly feel like a failure in general. She started to think she was a terrible nurse, a bad friend, a loser in life. But with every day that passed, she got more perspective and realized that with every end comes a new beginning.

“There’s a sadness, a grieving, but in some way it’s almost liberating, like this is my new starting point,” said Kelly. Here are some ways she got through her divorce.

  • Find a healthy distraction.

Kelly had just started a nursing job when she was going through the divorce process, and she credits that with not only pulling her out of a deep depression but also with helping rebuild her confidence.

  • Work it out.

Divorce creates a whirl of emotions – everything from intense sadness to anger to apathy to elation. To stabilize emotionally, head to the gym or go do something outside. Kelly took quick runs or did some yoga to work through her emotional swells and felt an immediate improvement in her overall mood.

  • Surround yourself with support.

Kelly took a vacation with her family right after she told them she was getting divorced. She was worried they were going to be disappointed in her because no one else in her family had ever divorced, but by spending time with them she learned that they’d have been more disappointed than if she’d stayed.

“That helped me build up my confidence,” she said. “They made me feel like I can do better and I can move on.”

  • Decide to be happy.

When you’re staying in your pajamas and going through a box of tissues every day, deciding to be happy seems impossible. It’s absolutely counter to what you’re feeling. But it’s important to choose that path ultimately or you will be consumed by bitterness, and that could affect your future relationships (yes, if you want them, you will have future relationships).

“It’s funny because I wanted to be angry, but I didn’t want to be angry,” said Kelly. “It’s really an inner battle. Do I want to be angry with him, and if I am, what does that do for me? It was a conscious decision for me – don’t be angry, don’t be jaded, and don’t be that miserable person because that will just consume you.”

  • Live your own life.

Kelly said she struggles sometimes with seeing her friends living the life she expected to have. They’ll have babies or celebrate anniversaries, moving full speed ahead with their lives while hers has come to a screeching halt. Those feelings will creep in, but, as Kelly said, “You really have to tell yourself that this is your life and you can’t compare it to other people.”

Divorce comes with depression, sadness, loss, grief. But it also comes with possibility, excitement and opportunity. Just like all the other tough things in life, divorce can help you be a better person if you let it.

“I learned I was strong, that I can support myself, that I don’t need anyone to help me,” said Kelly. “I learned me – re-learned me – because I went back to figuring out what I like to do, what I enjoyed. It was like a rebirth for me.”

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The biggest dating mistake women make

Wendy, author of the ultimate women’s dating guide The Boyfriend Test, readily admits that she sounds like an old mom from the ’50s by proclaiming the biggest dating mistake women make is sleeping with someone too soon.

But, nevertheless, she stands by it. Wendy says that women all too often have sex before there is a worthy amount of trust, and that is usually their tragic relationship flaw.

“I don’t mean trust that you’re going to get married, or that you’ll live together, or that this relationship will last forever,” she said. “But you should have some trust in your biology and in the fact that you have some type of emotional connection with this person.”

Wendy says we often fantasize about who a guy is and then find out the hard way that we’ve created a person who doesn’t match the guy standing in front of us. Rather than idealize him, Wendy says we need to let the guy reveal himself to us.

“There is only one rule about when you should sleep with somebody: when trust happens,” she says. “It takes some time for people’s personalities to unfold and for the connection you make to become trustful, but there’s no timeline for exactly when that will happen.”

Before you jump in the sack, ask yourself:

  • Should you really be sleeping with this man?
  • Are you ready? Why or why not?
  • Is he ready?
  • Have you thought about all the things that go into a sexual relationship?

“Consider what makes you feel safe, healthy and emotionally stable. Make rules for yourself and then stick to those rules,” Wendy advises. “The most damaging thing you can do to yourself as a woman is false advertising. Figure out who you are and be proud of it. I promise you that no matter what your sexual personal rule is, there’s a match out there for you.”

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A Good Dose of Wendy
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Interplanetary Conflict
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Making it Work
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LuvemOrLeavem
Visit the LuvemOrLeavem Relationship blog covering dating, marriage, and other popular topics.

I’ve lost a breast, not my sexuality!

With all of the scars, dents, weight gain, and hot flashes, is it possible for a breast cancer survivor to ever feel sexy again? Four breast cancer survivors are here to tell you: Oh, baby yes she can!

Take Paula Holland De Long. At age 37, she lost her left breast to cancer. She also lost her marriage.

“After I recovered from the surgery and from chemo, I was not the same person I used to be,” she says. “I was no longer driven by work and by money. My husband would look at me and ask, ‘Who are you and what have you done with Paula?’ One day I sat down to tell him that I wanted to quit my job. Instead I said that I didn’t think we should be together anymore.”

The divorce was amicable. Then Paula found herself dating again.

“At first I was really hesitant. I didn’t even want to tell people I’d had breast cancer until they got to know me better. Eventually, I learned to just say, ‘Hey, I’ve had breast cancer and if you have problems with scars, you probably will not want to go out with me.’”

Eventually Paula met Charles. When she told him her pat line about the scars, he took her hand, put it next to his heart, and said, “I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. You are beautiful to me.” They eventually married.

Like Paula, Stefanie LaRue worried what men would think of her disfigured right breast. After dating a few men, she eventually found herself in the shower with one. She’d never shown her breast to anyone in daylight before.

She said, “I don’t really have a breast on this side.”

He looked down and said, “Look at me. I only have one testicle! We’re a perfect pair.” It had been removed when he was 3 because it had never descended.

“I was so relieved,” LaRue says. “And now that I’ve gotten past that, I’m so much more confident.”

Veronica Gliatti had a similar experience. Before her treatment, she equated her sexuality with how she looked. After treatment, when chemo thrust her into early menopause and caused her to gain weight, she at first felt less attractive, despite the fact that her husband continually told her that she still was.

Eventually, however, she realized that, if the situation were reversed, she would not think of her husband as less attractive or desirable. She learned to feel sexy based on how she felt about herself and her partner.

“I feel more confident about myself than I did before because I’ve overcome a great battle,” she says. “I also feel more at ease with my husband than I did before because we’ve walked this journey together. I want to share all of myself with him. I do not want to take what time I have left for granted. There may be no tomorrow to express myself sexually. Why not express it today?”

Use this advice—from the breast cancer survivors who have been there and so done that—to get your groove back after treatment:

  • Take your time. It’s normal and natural to be embarrassed and to worry about what others will think. Tread slowly.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of acceptance. Most people are more accepting and more forgiving than most of us expect. “Don’t assume just because he is a male that he cannot understand,” says Gliatti.
  • Be sexy and feel sexy, says Gail Baker, survivor and author of Cancer is a Bitch. “My breasts had always been one of my best assets. The first time I saw my breasts after surgery, I burst into tears. It wasn’t until a few months later, when I ran a half marathon in New York with two girlfriends that I came to a place of acceptance. I told them that the scars made me feel less sexy. They begged me to show them. I inched my top down and one said, ‘scars are hot!’ It made me feel so much better. Flaws are hot. I can say that with great confidence now!”
  • Try something new, in any area of your life. “Confidence is the sexiest quality someone can display. It’s a magnet that attracts others to you, but you have to feel it so the other person will feel it, too,” says LaRue.
  • Have sex. Make yourself. Just do it. Remind yourself that you are still beautiful and still a woman. “Nobody can take away your vital passionate essence. It’s still there,” says Baker.
  • Evolve. “Do not approach sex the same way you did before. You are a new person now,” says Gliatti. “You are a new and better you.”

Are you struggling with physical and/or emotional intimacy and sexuality issues due to cancer? Breast cancer survivor and life coach Paula Holland De Long’s “Intimacy, Passion & Cancer” guided exploration group course might help you regain your confidence. This six-week telecourse begins on Tuesday January 14th and will meet weekly through February 17, 2009 from 1:00 – 2:30 pm EST. Cost $375. Contact Paula to register at 954-565-6894 or visit www.CoachForLivingOnline.com.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Rediscover Intimacy
A workshop for survivors

Stay connected during treatment
Free websites for survivors

Cancer is a Bitch
Where to Get Baker’s Memoir

Learning to recognize psychological abuse

An episode of Oprah during a quick at-home lunch break introduced Yolantha to a thing called psychological abuse. Just days later, she experienced first-hand how it can turn into physical abuse when her husband wrapped his hands around her neck.

1. Psychological abuse is abuse.

His favorite color became her favorite color. She decorated the house the way he wanted it decorated. Her friends couldn’t call when he was home. She had to change clothes before she could go out. This is psychological abuse.

2. Walk away the first time he loses control.

“I didn’t even realize that it was abusive until he tried to kill me in front of my daughter.”

She thought his anger as proof that he was a man’s man, but she learned the hard way that a man who hits the wall is a man who hits… and it’s just a matter of time until he hits you. It took her a long time to learn that she was confusing passion with control and abuse.

3. Realize you’ve got choices.

Yolantha thought that finding a man who paid attention to her and wanted her made her lucky. She became so caught up in the relationship that she risked everything to keep that relationship. Sometimes we love a person so much that we allow ourselves to fall in the trap of letting them control us. But we have a choice to break the chain.
Instead of, “I made my bed, now I have to lay in it,” we can say “I made my bed, but I can sleep somewhere else.” Our choices in life are not permanent; we have the ability to change. Yolantha said, “I made this choice, but I think I can make a better choice.”

4. Do something positive.

After everything falls apart, go back to the things that inspired you from the past. What do you want to do with your life?

5. To be a survivor, all you have to do is make it through, instead, be a victor.

Not only is it important to stop the abuse, stop being just a survivor and come to the full glory of who you are as a woman. Be victorious.

Yolantha’s victory has come in helping other women with their domestic violence issues. She has written pamphlets to make other women realize that when they are in an abusive relationship, they need to get out.

When she works with women she asks them to tell her in their own words what the abuse was like so that she can tell other people what it actually feels like–not what clinicians say, not what doctors say, not what the lawyers say, not what the legal system says–but what the women say.

Even though it was terrifying and life shattering, Yolantha said she wouldn’t trade her experience for the world because it’s made her the woman she is today. Without her past of abuse, Yolantha said, “I wouldn’t be able to talk to other people about it. I wouldn’t have the same heart and compassion. I never would’ve been able share so much of my life with young children.”

From the hurt of the abuse, Yolantha was able to make something good, lasting and positive. You can too.

Visit the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence to join the fight to raise societal awareness about violence against women and children.

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Survivor, Mother, Artist, Poet, Activist
Yolantha’s full of surprises and talents, mastering everything from the written word to fancy footwork. See more at the Kentucky Arts Council.

Love Is Respect
If you are a victim of domestic abuse, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for crisis intervention, safety information and referrals 24 hours a day—no matter where you are.

Yolantha’s Wisdom
Get it straight from the horse’s mouth with Yolantha’s books “Wing Plucked Butterfly” and “Where the Thunder Hides,” available on Amazon.

Real women, real romance

Real women share the most romantic thing someone’s ever done for them… And you’d be surprised at how much of an impression the little things make.

How to get the man of your dreams

Alissa is a beautiful and successful massage therapist–complete with her own podcast! This woman has done a stunning job at composing her life. However, when it came to finding Mr. Right, Alissa needed a bit of assistance.

After a string of heart wrenching breakups, Alissa opened herself up to the idea that she might need some professional help. She signed up for a course called “Celebrating Men, Satisfying Women,” which centered on the ideas of understanding men, knowing what you want and knowing what it takes to create a great partnership.

So what did she learn?

Check out these four tips for preparing yourself for a healthy relationship.

1. Get yourself together.

Remember those airline instructions from that last flight you took? You can’t do anything for anybody else until you’ve put on your own air mask. Be the grownup in your life, help yourself get it together first, then you’ll be better equipped when a the right person comes along.

2. Be honest about what you want.

One really great way to make knowing what you want into getting what you want is to say it out loud. Even write it all down and tell other people, keeping our wants and needs to ourselves doesn’t get us anywhere.

We have to have enough self-confidence and self-love to walk away from the things that we don’t want and be brave and bold enough to ask for what we do want without reservation. Practice authenticity, practice truth and practice getting what you want by saying it out loud every day.

3. Learn to speak their language.

Men speak in layers and in time they will reveal more of themselves to you if you give them the space and silence to uncover those layers. When you ask questions, wait, sit quietly and listen. Alissa found that it’s in that quiet that a man reveals the depth of who he is. He’ll give you the superficial, then a little deeper and then the juicy stuff. It takes practice but in the end it works.

When it’s your turn, keep it focused and figure out exactly what you want insight on. When a man is listening to a woman, he’s taking it all in. He’s going to wait until you’re finished before he gives you an answer.

4. Don’t turn yourself into a pretzel.

Alissa discovered that her relationships were failing because she was constantly contorting herself. She would find men who were the basic molds of what she wanted but then instead of remaining solid in the woman that she is, she would begin to meld into what she thought they wanted of her. Alissa wasn’t able change her ways until she realized that twisting herself into something she wasn’t would never allow someone get to know the real her.

After taking time to learn more about communication, Alissa is in a more confident, clearly open space. “I’m going to try to understand who the man sitting across from me is. If this man is a square, I am not going to try so hard to fit him into a triangle of what I want. I can take my triangle and move on, and that’s okay. It’s a whole new world for me now, it’s a whole new way of dating and relating with men. And it’s a lot more fun.”

Click here to tune in to Alissa’s weekly podcast for insight on understanding your man and more importantly, yourself.

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When breast cancer becomes a family affair

Jean had been planning the trip of a lifetime for more than a year.

Ever since her husband had passed away, she and her three daughters had been daydreaming about their vacation in Hawaii. They wanted a chance to create new memories and to solidify their family bond. They planned for months, and in the midst of all the excitement, Jean was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I was the first person in my family to have breast cancer, and it was devastating,” said Jean. “I found out from having a mammogram, and from there it was really fast. I had surgery and then I went through chemo for about 8 months.”

Not wanting to let her girls down, Jean decided to go ahead with the trip. She hadn’t even finished treatment yet.

“I never saw her get sick,” said Jean’s daughter Tina. “She would never tell me. I would say, ‘How are you feeling?’ and she’d say, ‘A little tired.'”

After completing her treatment and getting a clean bill of health, Jean felt like breast cancer was out of her life for good. But 5 years later, on the anniversary of her last treatment, her daughter Tina got the same fateful call.

“That was even worse for me,” Jean said. “When something happens to your kids, you’re going to blame yourself. That is just being a mother.”

Since both Jean and Tina knew exactly what breast cancer was like, since their family had felt so deeply its impact, Tina admits that she was afraid it might be genetic.

She put off testing for a while, afraid that if it was genetic she’d have to admit it wasn’t over. Her sister, who was concerned for all the women in their family, eventually convinced her to get it done.

“It took me awhile to get the results because they test something like 16,000 different points in your blood,” said Tina. “Finally my doctor called and she said it was all negative. There is an 85% chance that I will not have a reoccurrence and 75% chance that no other female in my family will get it. I didn’t think that I was that worried about it, but after she told me everything was negative I was really relieved. I could tell all the girls it isn’t going to be our fault.”

Getting a clean bill of health made Tina realize just how important it is to find a cure. She decided to take the positive outlook she depended on through her treatment and put it toward throwing a benefit to raise money for breast cancer research.

Using her sense of humor and enlisting the help of the women in her life, Tina set out to get donations and plan a silent auction.

“I was scared to death,” she said. “Basically, I learned how to beg!”

Friends and Families for a Cure has become an annual event, and Tina makes sure that the benefit celebrates all the survivors it benefits.

“We have a DVD that shows survivors pictures playing during the event, and we have a memory board shaped like a ribbon for people who didn’t make it through,” she said. “I can’t believe that there isn’t someone out there who hasn’t been touched by breast cancer. Either they know someone, or they’re related to somebody. I think if you put a name and a face with it, it makes it a lot more real for people.”