D-Day was over a year go and I have since filed for divorce. I am the mother of two young kids and am no contact with the ex except for communications regarding the kids and finances. I trust that he sucks and don’t want him back (although he has tried to reel me back in after I filed).
However, I still feel sad/envious at times when I see happy two-parent families walking about or even among my friends. I live in a neighborhood that just seems to be full of smiling young couples with kids in tow (it’s like stroller city here). I think I’m on the road to “meh”, but what do I do about my feelings of envy and sadness for a dream that will never be — a happy two-parent family with the father of my children?
I also do not currently have any potential suitors and I feel like my chances of finding a good man are pretty dim, given the fact that I’m in my mid-40s and have two young children, and, even if I did find someone, he would never be the father of my children. Chump Lady, how do I get over my envy and grieving over a dream that will never be? Thank you.
Envy isn’t very productive, or helpful for your healing. It’s human, I get it, but when you go there stop yourself. Measuring yourself against other people — especially people you don’t know — is a recipe for misery. You don’t control their life’s journey and you don’t know what they’ve suffered or are suffering now. That person whose happiness you envy may have lost a parent, or flunked his/her examinations, or have a cheating partner too. I’m not saying go with the schadenfreud, I’m saying recognize that you don’t know that person’s whole story. Yeah, even if you’re close to them. We all have struggles and hidden sorrows.
And let’s say by God, every strolling couple is deliriously happy — well, good for them. The world is a better place for every well-adjusted, happy family out there. If they’re smug about that? Okay, hate on. (No, not really… but I’ll allow you some snark.) But recognize that their happiness doesn’t take one whit of happiness from you. There isn’t a big happiness well and they’re drawing up more than their share, exhausting limited happiness resources. They’re happy. It’s zero reflection on you.
Unless you make it about you. Which is really what envy is, a kind of projection. I Want That. They Have That. I Hate That They Have That and I Don’t Have That.
So focus on what you can control here — YOU. Your path forward, your attitude, your resiliency.
Ever heard the expression “If first you don’t succeed, redefine success”? You need to redefine success. You’ve narrowed it to being partnered. Worse, even if you want to be partnered, you’ve excluded every potential man from your life because he’ll never be the father of your children. Way to give up there before you’ve even tried!
First off, fuck those definitions of success. That you have to be of some shiny, nuclear intact family. Most people don’t get that — moreover, they don’t get a CHOICE about it. So, how unfair is it to judge people by criteria they can’t even control? It’s like standards of beauty. I’m never going to be 6 feet tall and weigh 120. There will never be a gap between my thighs. My hair will never be straight and fall over my shoulders in a cascade of loveliness. So WHAT? Am I to never feel attractive because I cannot attain that standard? Fuck that. I do my best, take my squigdy middle-aged ass to the gym, eat pastries because I like them, and put a lot of conditioner in my hair on humid days.
I adapt. I overcome. I say, fuck your unrealistic standards of my worth, Society!
You need to do the same. Start redefining what happy is, what success looks like, and arrange your life to get some of your OWN defined happiness. When you do that — you’ll find the envy fades away, because you’re living your life on your terms. You’re not measuring yourself by some dumb one-size fits all standard.
You’re going to grieve what you lost. That takes time. You’re going to have to accept that you’re not going to get the life you thought you were going to have. The rewiring is a process. But don’t make this harder than it has to be, by measuring yourself against the neighborhood flotilla of baby strollers. We don’t get the life we thought we had, or prayed for — and trust me, that can be a GOOD thing. Thank God my reconciliation prayers were unanswered. Every day I spend married to a man who is not the father of my child — a guy I married at 43, being less than a perfect physical specimen — I feel like I won the lottery. Go ahead, hate my treacle. It’s insufferable. But that’s how I feel. So do I tell the universe, I’m sorry THIS WON’T DO. We didn’t meet at 18 and go on to have 50 years together, so I REJECT this as too little, too late?
I could’ve been happy many other ways than my husband. (But I’m glad for him, of course.) I had a job I loved, a terrific garden, good friends. Geez, there are many good ways to build a life. Be open, be grateful. Some days that’s so hard, but will yourself forward. Don’t let that cheater win. Don’t let him define your life’s success. You’re somebody without that nobody. Put THAT in your stroller and meditate on it.
This column ran previously.