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Starting Over by Anna Pasternak

For me, part of the thrill of getting married was the relief of never having to go on another date. Thank you, hubby, from the bottom of my heart that I do not have to fire up my married friends search engines for “eligible” or “available,” nor suffer the angst of “will he call or won’t he?” A trip to the altar in a family tiara put paid to that. Or so I thought. Yet three years after I threw my bouquet in the air, as if celebrating a win at sports day, I was poised to go frog kissing. Again.

I think that’s one of the most daunting things about Starting Over. Your belief that you had reached the cosy domestic destination of commitment and compatibility and had laid that anxious, unsettled, always-searching-for-him-or-something-better part of your life to rest. Then there is the sheer disbelief to surmount that it didn’t work out and you have to go out there all over again. Dating Groundhog Day, only this time you are older, wiser, cynical and tired.

Oh and emotionally you feel not just bruised but broken. Yes, divorce can literally break a woman’s heart. American research published in The Journal of Marriage and the Family has revealed that women who divorce are 60 per cent more likely to develop heart disease in later life. Men showed no increased risk. Maybe because men tend to boomerang into some grateful bints bed just to prove that they don’t have a problem, whereas women tend to take longer to break through the ice of our own shock and feel our feelings. And there is nothing like the end of a marriage or long relationship to unearth buried emotion with volcanic force.

When I left my husband after fifteen miserable months of marriage – I knew with gut-wrenching clarity on my honeymoon that I had not married my soul mate (aka the right man for me) – I went home to stay with my mother. For weeks I lay on the bathroom floor, literally too humiliated to move. I sobbed so much I broke tiny blood vessels beneath my eyes and some days I hyperventilated as I couldn’t breathe. I just couldn’t stomach my stupidity. That I had been so hung up on the wedding, that I had over-looked the marriage. I was more in love with my Italian crystal tiara, than the groom at the altar. How could I, the bright girl with the University degree and promising professional future, have got my personal life so wrong?

The sense of failure was all consuming. Marriage was the first thing I had ever failed at in my life and it hit me hard. But actually, it was the making of me. I didn’t settle for less than my heart’s desire – and wreck not only my life but my poor ex’s – I had the courage to get out. And with that move came a growing awareness of a stronger sense of self. Knowing what or whom you don’t want is not just part of discovering what and whom you do want but who you are. I know it’s a cliché that you tend only to grow through adversity but it’s true. Crippling disappointment and aching pain force you to grow up. To get real about life; that it isn’t some ruddy fairy tale and that happy ever afters aren’t inevitable.

Yes, Starting Over isn’t easy but nor is settling in an unhappy or suffocating situation. And the greatest gift of Starting Over is the burgeoning belief in your self that you can survive. Three years ago, I was left a single mother to a 2 year old. (My relationship after my marriage didn’t work out either despite the birth of our daughter. That’s not uncommon, apparently. Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that 39 per cent of all marriages are remarriages for one or both parties – and 60 per cent end in another divorce.) We weren’t married but we were in a committed relationship. Or so I thought. Anyway, after he left, I used to lie awake at night paralysed with fear about my new sense of responsibility. Not just caring for a child on my own but having to shoulder the running of the house alone. I live in an old cottage in the country and didn’t even know how to light a fire. Or re-set the central heating. Or pay the Council Tax. I was a domestic cripple. I remember when the boiler broke down, trying to find the oil tank in the garden in the night with a torch to read the oil levels to an emergency plumber on the phone and wanting to lie down on the damp ground in my nightie and scream. But I coped because I had to and along an arduous way, I acquired a whole new set of skills. Lighting a fire now? No problem. Surviving Starting Over makes one feel invincible. Fewer life scenarios hold fear because you’ve been to rock bottom and eventually climbed out and that is utterly liberating.

Of course to get to the safe place of feeling secure within oneself as a single person and not part of a couple takes time. So much more time than you initially imagine. According to some sources, it takes half the length of the time the marriage lasted to recover. Grief, shame and regret aren’t linear. They tend to erupt when you least expect them. Two months after my daughter’s father left, our sixteen year old dog died and I didn’t stop crying for three weeks. The sense of loss and the intense heavy pain in my stomach wouldn’t lessen, whereas for the month after my ex left, I never shed a tear.

Finding your separate identity is a lonely business. Your friends get compassion fatigue as their lives move on. And so must yours. Then, one day, when you least expect it, you realise that you, too, are sick to death of your sad story. When you’re bored by your own drama, you know that you’ve taken a quantum leap in healing. You’re not obsessed (as I was for years) by what you see as the failures of your past and you suddenly see the promise of a fresh future. You start living for today, as opposed to regretting your past. You forgive the most important person in all of this – your self – for the part you played, the decisions you took – and you realise that how people treat you is their karma. How you react is yours.

Starting Over is about realising that the clouds will pass if you don’t try and chase them away. And the silver lining is that along the way you discover who you really are. Not who you were. I’ve left and I’ve been left, so I’ve Started Over twice and I feel twice the woman that I was for it. I’ve learned that empowering strategic spiritual tension whereby you hold on to yourself and let go at the same time because we can’t predict the future. But endings can only mean one thing; new beginnings.

(Anna has based her popular novel ‘Daisy Dooley Does Divorce’ on her own life experiences. Read about the book on our book review page, or click this link to buy the book now:)

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  1. BRAVO Anna!!! This is so well written and as someone who has never married but who has endured Dating Groundhog Day (brilliant!) for many, many years, I am here to say that I too feel that I am older, wiser (although admittedly cynical and tired sometimes) but I have never totally given up and I do believe that if you do forgive yourself for the part you played in the decisions you made about who you chose to get involved with that you DO realize, “that how people treat you is their karma. How you react is yours.” I couldn’t have said that better myself. I sure wish I could be at this workshop because I’m sure it would be incredibly empowering!! Best of luck to you always!

  2. ANNA IS AN AWSOME Surce of wisodm and advice andhumor for other going through the unexpected losses in love. HEr book DAISY DOOLEY DOES DIVORCE is A HOT must read and a VERY QUICK and humourous reraqd that will leave you wanting more!!!! And as she said starting over is a chance to grow and learnand have new beginnings!!!! God bless ANna for her ability tonot only help others through her sharing about her life but to entertain and inspire along the way!!! GO TO THIS EVENT if you can!!!! You wont be sorry!!!

  3. This article mirrors my experience of finding my own power through adversity. Would I trade who I am today for an easier past? NO WAY! This tells me I am right where I need to be at each and every turn, even when the going is tough and more than likely especially when this is the case.
    “….how people treat you is their karma. How you react is yours.”
    AMEN to that!
    My thanks to SOS and Anna Pasternak for a brilliant affirming article I shan’t forget any time soon!

  4. my husband left me feb 08…….after 15 years of being together…you know the feelings of when it happens, the heartache, the desperation, the tears, need i go on ?

    Daisys are my fave flowers, always have been, i have a little tattoo hidden away of a daisyflower….

    whilst out 1 day shortly after hubby left me i walked into a book shop, there staring right at me was Daisy Dooley does divorce…..i burst into tears…it was as if the book had my name written all over it !!

    so i bought it and read it in a matter of days…i couldnt put it down !! i think in the end i read it 3 times over that same month..

    hubby sorry ex was still living with me at the time and he saw the book out many times but didnt say anything..

    that book gave me strenght when i was in such a bad place and i thank you for that….truely.

    i gave the book away to a friend who was going through a similar experience – i wrote in the front pages and wished her well..

    she said the same as me that the book was truely amazing !!

    so from me and her thank you anna….

    best wishes

  5. Anna, you are a star and inspiration to all women around the world. Not only have you survived divorce you also withstood all those ghastly rumours that eventuated on publication of the Love Rat’s tales of luuurve.

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