How Great Thou Part

A few weeks ago one of my boys and I went out to dinner.

“Mom,” he said. “I understand divorce but dad made a promise to you all of those years ago.”

I looked across the table with a lump in my throat. Not for the reason you think. And not because of the confusion divorce has caused in his mind but instead for the love which is still present in his heart – despite it.

I couldn’t have been more proud of my son.


He was speaking in terms of the values he was raised with. That we honor our responsibilities and the commitments we make. That we treat people with kindness and respect. That we are honest and accountable and more. So much more when you live a life of passionate purpose fueled by God.

My son was speaking of the implied promises we make to one another when we marry. 

The vows.

And more importantly, how meaningful those vows are.

After all, when my son did something wrong, he knew he had to go and face the consequences and do the right thing. So how confusing is it to a child when a parent doesn’t follow the same rules they preached? When a parent tries to get away with bad behavior and out of a situation without doing the honorable thing?

I’ve worried a lot over the past few years. 

Worried that my children will be confused by these troubling times and they have been. How could they not? It’s been unpredictable, chaotic, and disillusioning to see what should have been a divorce turn into a battle of destruction. They have held in their feelings and acted out at times. I have shouted and begged and pleaded for them to talk to me. In quiet and loud voices.

They have taken different paths because of this divorce and made choices which at times hurt themselves and in turn, hurt me. Because no mother wants to see her child struggle especially because of the choices SHE made. So I tried desperately to fix things but I couldn’t make my husband divorce me and I couldn’t control the fact that money was the biggest reason he wasn’t and in turn meant I couldn’t.

I have cried and cried because I did this to them. I chose their father. I stayed too long. I didn’t make a financial plan because I didn’t think I needed to. I foolishly believed I would have several years to rebuild.

And at times, I will admit I have told them I am disappointed in their behavior. That as a child of divorce myself I didn’t act out this way but the truth is my father didn’t do these things to my mother and us. And I was a girl. My boys are watching their primary male role model.

And the divorce was through their teenage and college years, an already confusing time.

I have always been proud of my boys but as we near this finish line in divorce I am proud of the survivors they have proven to be.

Even as I write this, that lump is finding its way back up my throat.

While tears threaten to ruin my mascara.

It’s a lump I can live with and mascara I will happily reapply…

I don’t have to worry about my sons.

They may have endured more than any child should have to but…

Though bruised and bumped their hearts remain intact and their foundation strong. 

They will be men who keep their promises or make right those that are broken.


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I have known numerous individuals who just wanted a divorce and to move on.

The problem?

Their spouse was not ready to. Even more interesting? Some of these spouses had cheated, yet still could not let go of the marriage which they had sabotaged.

The common denominator?


The individual ready to move forward invested heavily in themselves and their heartache via counseling. Their spouse had not.

Adults who have not done the hard work of healing can’t put their children first. 

They are too busy using emotion, finances and other tools to level the playing field – or should I say in their mind level the playing field.

I have said many times, good counselors teach a person to be accountable for the choices they made which led them to their destination. Additionally, they teach them to learn things about their own personality. This diffuses the anger at their Significant Other. You can only be so mad at someone when you stayed and stayed. This places the responsibility back on you. Regardless of the SO’s behavior. Even if they cheated. If you stayed or tried to repair the relationship it was your decision.

Once your spouse showed you who they were it was time to move on. That is if they had no desire to show true remorse and repair the damage and irrefutable heartache they had caused.

This doesn’t take away from the pain caused. Instead, it empowers and squashes any feelings of victimization.

I think this may have been one of the greatest gifts I received from marriage counseling.

My pain was so immense that bitterness had woven itself tightly within me.

And a counselor looking at me and saying, “You made all these choices over the years to ignore certain behaviors and you stayed,” well, it restored me. It empowered me.

You might say, “Well, then why does she still speak of her husband and divorce?”

Because I can’t free myself.

Because he never chose to do the hard work of counseling.

(And as a caveat – staying home for so many years simply made me vulnerable – if not, I could have left quickly with enough to support my children and I and without the worry of retirement money).

I remember my husband refusing to go back to marriage counseling. I chose to continue alone. Why? I have children. If I couldn’t save my marriage with two people I would try alone or at least learn enough about myself to determine how to put my children first.

When you become a parent, you no longer have the luxury of being a child. 

And instead of thinking it’s normal to keep going back to court, hiding money, seeking revenge or hurting innocent children…

Someone should turn to these spouses and say –

Have you been in counseling and done the hard work of healing?

Because you are a parent and you no longer have the luxury of being a child.

You got your turn already.

It’s their time to be princesses…fairies…and superheroes.

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I am watching the Steve Harvey Show.

It’s a rerun highlighting the Girls Who Rule the World Program which the Harvey’s founded.

A sweet teenage girl says something which catches me off guard.

“I’m going through a divorce with my parents.”

pexels-photo (1)

I am struck by the poignancy of her words.

Most children simply say, “My parents are getting a divorce.”

Just that slight shift in verbiage amps up the reality children of divorce live.

It’s true.

Children do go through a divorce with their parents.

This young girl speaks of the difficulty.

Of course, we know this but somehow grown adults get lost in their own childish emotion.

And of course, there is a reason the marriage ended, to begin with. There was either conflict or bad behavior which could not be resolved. And while we altruistically believe divorce will provide the healing, this often does not occur until quite some time after the divorce.

Every divorcing parent should repeat the innocent words of this child to themselves.

“I’m going through a divorce with my parents.”





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I am in my car listening to the Garth Brooks song If Tomorrow Never Comes.

A tear jerker of a song but on this day one verse catches my attention.

“So I made a promise to myself.”

It’s funny how you can hear words over and over again yet simultaneously feel as if you are hearing them for the first time.

All because emotion in some form has shifted in our lives. 

And therefore, on this day I listen to these words as if I have never heard them before.

We all make promises to ourselves.

And they are often the youthful pledges we made to our young selves.

We are going to live in houses with white picket fences. We will have the same wonderful marriage our parents experienced or we will swear to do the opposite of what they did.

We will have two kids or maybe five children. We will provide them more opportunities than we had. We will make sure they have a great college experience like we did or perhaps because we never did.

We will be better communicators. We will save more for retirement.

We will work outside of the house or be a stay at home mom because our mothers did or never did.

And on and on and on and on.

We will either duplicate our past or right the wrongs of it.

We made promises to ourselves.

And they didn’t include lost jobs, relocations, financial struggles, sick parents or divorce. They didn’t include anything except perfection – our personalized version of utopia.

Because (as I once heard on a television show) we were ‘wise young fools.’

We would have the perfect job, the best marriage, plenty of money, and parents who lived forever.

We made promises to ourselves. And we can’t let them go.


We carry them and hold onto them like fancy colored balloons which travel just above us – seemingly within our reach.

We hold on tightly because if not they will be popped or swept away by the wind.  

Yet it does not matter how firm our grip for balloons are fragile.

As delicate as youthful pledges.

Made during a time when we had not experienced enough of life to understand perfection is for the foolhardy and imperfection is for the wise.

And that our parents had made promises to themselves too.

Some they were able to keep and some they had to release.

We can’t let go when our lives take an imperfect turn because it means rewriting our own master plan. One we have carried forward with us. And of course, we knew how best to live our lives.

We knew the promises we made to ourselves. 

We knew how important each and every one was.

Accepting an interruption of life or a less than perfect path is akin to losing a portion of our youthful selves. The lens we continue to view ourselves through. And therefore, it is accompanied by adult tantrums and sullen brooding. Grown people symbolically stomping our feet.

Demanding a new balloon for the one the wind swept out of our hands.

The same childhood scene enacted when we spied a bouncing balloon we promised ourselves slither out of our hands and up towards the sky. Only back then we recovered quickly as our parents promised us another helium-laden ball of magic.

We must release some of our self-made promises.

To grasp that colorful air-filled ball of magic which God is promising to send us next.


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Last week I was watching NBC’s First Dates (which I SO want to be on by the way). It’s a new show produced by Ellen DeGeneres and narrated by Drew Barrymore.

They teased the upcoming clips and right before I flipped the channel, I heard a guy say, “I just want to be important to someone.”

So simple isn’t it?

pexels-photo-38865If someone loves you doesn’t that logically mean you will be important to that person?

But it’s just not that simple.

I never felt important to my husband.

In the counseling world, you learn to never use absolutes like ‘always’ and ‘never’  when communicating with your SO.

So perhaps I should retract my ‘never.’ However, I would still be hard-pressed to come up with multiple examples of times where I felt genuinely valued.

It was generally understood that his schedule took precedence in our lives.

It seemed to make sense to me when I was younger because he was self-employed. Somehow I listened to his words rather than comprehend no one works all of the time and there was still time for golf and card games and other things and there was most of the summer when he was off.

The thing is…I can’t blame my husband entirely.

I was never really comfortable with guys who paid too much attention to me. I liked hanging out with my girlfriends and doing my own thing. I liked walking into a party and talking to everyone there. After all, we were always together.

And that would have been okay if there had been a balance.

If on the non-golf, card, girlfriend and party days there was a feeling that nothing and no one else mattered. 

But there wasn’t.

You need to matter to someone.

You need to feel important to someone.

My husband never liked the women he felt ‘nagged’ their husbands. Of course, how could I not feel proud to not be one of the ‘non-naggers?’

In truth, no one should have to nag anyone to make them a priority. If you are then you are with someone who either is too selfish to step outside of their own world or too immature to realize they have to grow up.

Therefore, as much as I wanted to feel important to my husband – I did a pretty good job of showing him I could get it all done without nagging I mean asking for any help or for what was important to me.

I was an extreme. He was an extreme.

Good relationships don’t nag.

In good relationships, you don’t need to nag.

You just matter to someone.

You just feel important to someone.

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Long before my divorce, I first had to face the demise of my marriage.

I have a great girlfriend who fortunately was there at the time to set me straight.

In true victim fashion, I bemoaned my loss. Why me? Why my marriage? Why my husband? Why my children? Why my family?


Why?! Why?! Why?!

Was God doing this to me?

After all, I had already been a child of divorce myself. Why would I have to experience this a second time on the other side of it? Why did my children have to experience the situation I had worked desperately to avoid?

There seemed to be no end to my ‘Why’s.’

And clearly on the other end of that was God. Why did God choose this for me a second time? 

I vividly remember the day I was speaking with my friend “Lucy.” My voice laden in deepest victimization mode. I was stuck. I couldn’t rescue or fix my marriage. Even the expert rescuer and fixer that I was. AND I wasn’t ready to let go either.

SO therefore, again – ‘Why God? Why Me?

“Colleen!” I hear on the other end of the phone.

I know this voice. It rings with the distinct signature of my mother when she was making certain to get my attention, slightly horrified at my behavior or determined to remind me where I came from.

Lucy is channeling Rosemarie AND it gets my attention.

“God is NOT doing this,” says Lucy. “Your husband has free will and your husband is responsible for the choices he is making.”

And just like that – my Catholic girlfriend sets me as straight as Sister Agnese in the fourth grade.

I am  sitting up straight, adjusting my plaid uniform and crossing my hands on the imaginary desk in front of me while focusing on the crucifix hanging over the chalkboard of life.

“Oh that’s right,” I think to myself.

Sister Agnese did chat about something called Free Will.

I must have been talking.

No matter.

Lucy has God’s back and with Rosemarie’s authoritative tone she is going to remind me to have God’s back as well.

Lucy is loyal.

It’s one of the qualities we bond over.

God didn’t do any of this. 

God didn’t end my marriage. I made the choice to marry someone. That person made choices in his life and ultimately the deciding choice that our relationship and family were not a big enough priority to humble himself over.

God couldn’t save my marriage and neither could I because only one person is responsible for their own individual free will.

I had no control over that and neither did God.

Add also that I used my free will to keep giving additional chances. 

And well, it seems Lucy was right.

God was not doing this.

Every choice we make leads us towards our destinations.

And the truth be told my counselor reminded me my husband was who he was but I had made every choice along the way.

I overlooked and dismissed and forgave and made excuses and chose this person.

Every year at St. Luke’s Elementary School my mom would receive my report card. It always said the same thing.

“Colleen is a lovely girl BUT she talks too much.”

“Colleen is a beautiful girl BUT she talks too much.”

“Colleen is a sweet girl BUT she talks too much.”

“Colleen is kind girl BUT she talks too much.”

It stopped somewhere after fourth grade. I’m pretty sure it’s not because I stopped talking but because they ran out of pleasant descriptives to put in front of it.

In elementary school when I was sitting up straight, adjusting my plaid uniform, and crossing my hands while focusing on the crucifix hanging over the chalkboard…

I should have shut up long enough to learn about free will instead of talking to the girl next to me.

Hopefully, I didn’t distract her so much that she’s out there somewhere blaming God too.

If so, I’m sure God will send her a “Lucy” to set her straight.




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Every once in a while, someone asks me if writing about divorce keeps me stuck.

On the contrary, it is the one place I feel free.

Where he can’t control me.

It’s cathartic –  and when I hear from divorcing individuals who say they have found a safe haven it makes me happy. It was the safe haven I was searching for when I began to write about this forbidden topic.

I have missed a few columns this past week as my divorce leads towards a finalization. Or at least I can dream it’s heading in that direction.

There are days in life we just have a difficult time getting it together – doing our best in everyday life.

When we are pregnant and dragging ourselves to work while exhausted and sick. When we have our babies and have to go back to work but our minds are still at home. When we lose a parent and the rest of society systematically moves forward while we sit suspended.

When we divorce and our bodies walk out into the world while our minds trail far behind.


These are the times in life we want to shout for a hall pass.

A trip to the clinic to cut class.

A sneaky break we aren’t allowed to take but crave because the hallway is far less scary than what lurks in the classroom.

The test we aren’t prepared for or the homework we failed to do.

If only we had studied and not procrastinated. If we had just taken thirty minutes to complete that worksheet.

If only…

This sums up divorce. 

If only spouses didn’t take their anger out in divorce – if only they didn’t turn children and money into dangerous weapons – if only the legal system had a way to deal with emotional sabotage – if only it were illegal to be abusive in divorce.

We could get through the ‘day to day’ far better.

We wouldn’t occupy space in one location while our mind takes up residence elsewhere.

We could be present for this beautiful thing called life.

And this great miraculous gift called children.

Like the occasional teacher who doesn’t belong in school – there are adults who don’t belong in parenthood.

When our marital problems began I grew frustrated with my husband. 

I would tell him “I have children to raise. They deserve my attention. Not a grown man who has chosen to not face life and his own problems to the point where he is absorbing all of my focus. I am a mother.”

I would follow that by saying, “We don’t have real problems so confront whatever is bothering you.”

All these years later even in divorce he still demands my attention.

I’m tired of feeling like there are days I want to cut class because of it.

I love life.

I love my children.

I love everything about being a mother.

If only…

The entire world knew what it was like to experience divorce.

There might be changes.

If only…

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I chat with women who say they have aged due to the stress of divorce, moving, caregiving, and other mid-life challenges. 

This is a reminder to look for inspiration during these difficult and transitional times.

And to seek to take better care of ourselves in order to counter the intensity and stress which can accompany age. Not to mention the sleep deprivation.

The following three celebrities have dedicated themselves to holistic living in all areas of their lives: nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness. A gift to both themselves and their families.

These women are properly motivating when it comes to the importance and sanctity of caring for one’s self.


3 Celebrities Who Defy Age and What We Can Learn from Them:

Elle Macpherson:

Elle Macpherson defies age and beauty at 53 years old. 

She is committed to a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle which you can read about in the articles below.

Macpherson is quoted as saying:

“I feel beautiful when I’m at peace with myself. When I’m serene when I’m a good person when I’ve been considerate of others.”

Cameron Diaz:
At 44 years of age, Cameron Diaz continues to inspire a healthy and active lifestyle. She has written the following books which are worth the read.

Her latest work is entitled, The Longevity Book: The Science of Aging, the Biology of Strength, and the Privilege of Time by Cameron Diaz

This is a follow-up to her New York Times bestseller The Body Book: The Law of Hunger, the Science of Strength, and Other Ways to Love Your Amazing Body.

In essence, both of these books describe Cameron Diaz’s personal self-discovery of nutrition, exercise, health, and caring for our bodies.

Diaz is quoted as having said:

“What we women need to do, instead of worrying about what we don’t have, is just love what we do have.”

Gwenyth Paltrow:

Gwenyth Paltrow is known for her trademark youthful glow.

At 44 she has continued to extol the virtues of healthy living via her lifestyle website Goop.

Paltrow is also well known for having authored several cookbooks. The most recent and somewhat controversial to a few because it promotes an elimination diet is entitled It’s All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great. Gwenyth continues to dedicate herself to her love of nutrition and health while inspiring others to do the same.

Paltrow is quoted as having said:

“Beauty, to me, is about being comfortable in your own skin. That, or a kick-ass red lipstick.”

 (Photos courtesy of Pexels)

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I like to joke that I have switched from nightmares to what I call ‘Divorcemares.’

And they have run the gammet from the mortgage company knocking at my door to claim my house to remarrying my soon to be ex-husband. Dreams are complicated AND therefore, ‘Divorcemares’ are SUPER complicated.

On a good night, I no longer sleep well.

When these scenarios break through my slumber I wake up especially traumatized…Did I say that? I mean tired. 


The good news?

My ‘Divorcemares’ are making way for ‘Futuremares.’

In my very first ‘Futuremare’ I was out having a great time with my girlfriend I like to call ‘Oprah.’ It was like old times. All we were doing was laughing. We couldn’t stop and we couldn’t help ourselves.

Then in walked my soon to be ex with his new girlfriend.

I turn to ‘Oprah’ and joyfully explain this is “Ashley.”

‘Oprah’ tells me if he is dating I better get on it. Who are my prospects? If you knew ‘Oprah’ you would understand. She’s on top of things.

Reality breaks through my ‘Futuremare.’

Wow! Turns out I am super ‘dream generous!’ I mean do you know an ‘Ashley’ over the age of thirty??!!

I have gifted my soon to be ex a young girlfriend in my ‘Futuremare.’

What’s up with that?

Am I hoping she will be around long enough to definitely take care of him or am I just much nicer in my dream world?

It’s like the remarrying my ex ‘Divorcemare’ – just better to not put too much thought into it.

That is, except for ‘Oprah’s’ advice. 

I better get on it – the soon to be dating world.

At least in the hemisphere of ‘Futuremares.’

Do you know any under thirty men’s names?

After all, it only seems fair.


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In the beginning of my divorce, I remember having lunch with two of my girlfriends. 

“Why does this always happen to the kindest women?” One asked while the other agreed.

“It’s not kindness,” I replied. “There are plenty of kind women who are happily married. It is kindness with zero boundaries and a lack of self-protection.”

This is something my marriage counselor tried to instill in me from the beginning.

He would tell me I needed boundaries and to self-protect.

It took a long time for me to comprehend this. I confused these two healthy things with selfishness.  If I could help someone why wouldn’t I? And of course, we should help others. My problem was I didn’t know where to set limits.


I was attempting to rescue the world.

By the way…very unhealthy. Much healthier to have some healthy limits.

And in my marital relationship, I made little to no demands.

Remember, as the child of a strong single mother who did it all so did I. It appeared we had a traditional relationship but nothing could have been further from the truth. It was I who paid the bills the first nearly twenty years of our marriage, I built the business with him, I took care of home repairs, I mulched the yard, I handled the purchases of cars, buying or refinancing of homes, investments, etc. I did all of the home care and management. He went to work.

That was his responsibility.

In the typical traditional marriage, the husband is handling the maintenance, bill paying, yard, etc.

It was difficult for me to see the imbalance because he was very successful. I felt I had a great life and was grateful. The truth is the relationship should have been more balanced especially with the amount of time he had off in a year. I was more like a mother than a wife. I handled everything except for his job (oh wait, I did that for a time as well). And he handled only his job.

Of course, my husband would disagree especially since it was my attempt to set boundaries which made everything turn upside down. Therefore, his most recent memories are when I finally said enough was enough and asked for help with the children and the house something his traditional mindset found appalling. 

And when I set the most significant boundary which he never forgave me for. 

I told my husband it was lonely being married to him and I thought about what it would be like to be with someone who actually cared about me and my interests.

It never worked out setting limits of self-protection and boundaries within my relationship. Hence, why my marriage led to divorce.

But as an enabler, I have garnered many benefits from divorce.

1. Renewed Strength:

My friend “Rosalita” gave me a wooden sign with a quote on it in the beginning of my divorce. “You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.”

I had no idea how strong I truly could be.

In fact, I never believed I was strong as my mother. She was tougher than I am and not at all a worrier. I used to believe I could not overcome the type of obstacles she faced.

But it turns out the quote is on point – “You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.”

2. Increased Boundaries and Self-Protection:

I have graduated to a point where I understand it is okay to put your needs first sometimes and walk away from repeatedly unacceptable behavior.

Honestly, it’s a relief. 

It was exhausting as I got older to try and be all things and frustrating to not be heard when something mattered to me.

3. A Greater Understanding of Kindness:

Kindness and respect are paramount to me.

I now understand I can be kind without being taken advantage of.

This is along the lines of boundaries but it is important enough for me to list it as another benefit because kindness was the goal which confused my intentions. It confused me. I had just one definition of kindness.

I realize I can be very kind while still having some boundaries and self-protection.

4. Increased Moxie:

I have gotten my inner moxie back.

I was in fact, the pleaser and fixer, and rescuer my marriage counselor has said I am. However, I am also the strong and capable leader he has described. During my marital difficulties one just temporarily toppled over the other.

Taking my power back was one of the first steps in disconnecting my inner enabler.

I never put up with certain behaviors from a man when I was younger and just because I was trying to save my family did not mean I had to today.

5. Abandoning the Role of Rescuer:

Being a rescuer though satisfying in many ways was exhausting.

It’s not my job to fix another adult and a healthy adult would not put me in that position.

It’s their responsibility to be self-accountable and self-responsible. It’s their job to grow up and address their own bad behavior.

The other benefit of no longer attempting to rescue another individual? They can no longer turn their bad behavior back around on you to justify their actions.


Divorce is not all bad. 

Once you get through the bad.

You see the good.

You see the growth.

And you recognize the benefits of getting yourself out of an unhealthy situation.


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