Why Does She Stay? Another Answer

 

The most talked about topic when it comes to Domestic Violence is ‘Why Does She Stay?’. My blog is no exception and I talked about it in several posts including:   Questions,   Enough is Enough and What Women Lose When They Leave.

I have had one more insight recently. As humans, we think on average 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day, and of those thoughts as many as 98% are the same as the day before. Wait. Think about that. How often do you run into someone you haven’t seen for months or years, and they ask you ‘What’s new?’ And you think, and you realize and honestly respond ‘Not much.’

Now here’s the thing, how many of those thoughts do you think are generational? What do I mean by generational? How many thoughts do you think are the same thoughts your parents had? And their parents before them? And so on? Come with me on this journey. We hear of family feuds, family business’s, genetic diseases, so many things passed on from one family member to the next. Now, many people know that this can include abuse. Children who are abused often become abusers, or end up in abusive relationships themselves when they become adults.

Keep all of that in the back of your mind, and think of it from this perspective: How long have women had Women’s Rights that allow them to hold jobs, vote, and own property without a man? This history lesson is based off of facts in the United States, however it is very similar in countries throughout the world. The 19th Amendment allowed women to vote in 1920, less than 100 years and 3 generations ago. The 1870 US Census revealed that women were 15% of the total workforce, largely filling teaching, dress making, and tailoring, with a few women also filling factory, mining, and laborer positions. In early 1900, women were expected to wait for the ‘right’ man to come along and start a family, while the man provided for the family. This began to change, and as such, woman began seeking further education. In 1900 four out of five colleges accepted female students. Both World War I and World War II opened up thousands of jobs for women in the workforce. Between the 1930’s and 1950’s, Marriage Bars, which forced women out of the work force after marriage, were eliminated. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that women began to regularly attend college, and work even while married, the notion that a woman has to find a man and be married in order to make a good income finally began to change. There are some laws to protect women in the workforce, like the Maternity Protection Convention, 2000, that were put into place as recently as 2002. On April 24, 2018, (the date this writing) New Jersey passed a law that bans women being paid less than their male counterparts. Equal Pay for women is a current issue, and still ongoing. In 1974 The Equal Credit Opportunity Act was passed. Before then single, divorced, or widowed women were required to bring a man to cosign any credit application, regardless of her income.

Why does she stay? Have you ever thought part of that reason is because only in the last forty years or so women have been able to even own property without the help of a man? And even still today women are working the same jobs as men, and getting paid less for doing that work in some states. Women have lived their lives for so long with no other option but to rely on a man. If we truly think 98% of the same thoughts day in and day out, is it little wonder that when a woman considers leaving an abuser, she thinks thoughts about how will she survive? How will she provide for herself and her children? Where will she live? How will the courts reward things like the marital property? Possessions? Even Custody?

The truth is the answer to the question, ‘Why does she stay?’ is varied, difficult to answer and understand, and complex. I invite you to be patient with her. Love her anyway, and change your question to ‘How can I help?’ Even if it simply is being a listening ear while she stays and navigates through her marriage and her life.

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Do Your Domestic Violence Survival Skills Measure Up?

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I sat on the stadium bleachers next to my boyfriend of six months on my birthday in the cool early November afternoon sun.  I had just finished performing the half time show with the color guard and marching band at our college football game. The week prior to my birthday had been amazing, it all started with me walking to my car after class, I opened the door to find a small stuffed story book bear dressed in a princess costume on the seat, along with a bottle of scented hand sanitizer, a skirt, and a note that said: “It is has been said that a birthday should be a week long affair. When you were born, you had a birthday suit on and after 20 years it has seen some wear and tear but it is still very young and beautiful. On your birthday you should receive something new to wear. Plus something to disinfect your hands after you touch me!!! This is the start of a week long birthday.”

Each day after that I had been showered with three gifts and a note, jewelry, clothes, other members of the story book bear collection and even a beautiful crocheted blanket with my name stitched in all my favorite colors.  It had been beautiful.  My boyfriend and I were sitting holding hands, and I expected no other gifts from him that day when all of the sudden his best friend walked up to me, kissed me on the cheek, and handed me a huge colored bouquet of flowers with tickets to Disney on Ice tucked into the leaves and walked away. I was stunned. I had no words; I simply turned to my boyfriend with a goofy grin on my face, kissed him and reveled in the attention of such a spectacle as I thanked him and bounced up and down in my seat.

My boyfriend knew how to make me feel special, there was one time where he woke me with a kiss and a red rose and a sweet note tied to the stem, saying: “The red rose is to compare your beauty to. The rose is a weed compared to your beauty.” He left me in bed and when I opened the door and walked out, there was another rose of a different color with an accompanying note on the floor, I picked it up and read it, and as I walked down the hall, I found another, and then one on each stair as I walked downstairs, each rose a different color with a note relating that color to me.

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I still have those notes in a scrapbook and dozens of other hand written notes my boyfriend, turned husband had given me over the years we had been together. We used to lay in bed together and tell each other our dreams, the kinds of cars we wanted to drive, the kinds of jobs we wanted to have, how our home would look and the toys we would one day own. We became pregnant and prepared for the birth of our baby together, he would rub my feet and rush to fulfill my crazy pregnancy cravings.  He rubbed and talked to my belly and we looked forward to the day our son would be born.

*****One year later******

I pulled my small Ford Escort into the empty, frozen parking lot and slowed to a stop in the stall closest to the door. As I shifted into park, I looked behind me at my one year old son in the back seat. I sighed deeply as I turned off the car, and didn’t allow myself to think as I climbed out into the light snowfall and headed straight for the trunk. I pulled out my only possessions, a diaper bag and a duffel bag stuffed with three days worth of clothes for myself and my son. I slung the bags over my shoulder as I shut the trunk and opened the back door. With the bags not allowing me to fully enter the back seat, I strained to reach the clasps and unbuckle my son and lift him out from the car seat. I successfully got him out of the car seat, shut the door and, careful not to slip, headed toward the building. It was a late Friday evening and Christmas was just three days away, I wasn’t even sure the building would still be open.

I hugged my baby in close to my chest to keep him from the cold and opened the swinging glass door. I shook my head and stomped my feet in the entryway to clear the snow and opened the second set of doors. The building was old and poorly lit. I hardly paid attention to details as I walked up to the front desk. I couldn’t feel my feet touching the floor. My breath was suspended in my chest. My thoughts were frozen in my head. I felt like none of this was real. I felt like time had completely stopped. I couldn’t look the receptionist in the eye as I stammered. ‘I need shelter.’ Tears began pouring out of my eyes. I couldn’t hold them in any longer. I had no control over my sobbing. That’s when everything became a complete blur. I imagine she called for someone and asked me for details. A woman soon appeared to escort me into a locked down elevator with her key card. Four floors later the doors opened into a small reception area and I realized no one knew where I was.

I was all action. No thoughts. No emotions. The intake worker motioned for me to sit. I sat my son on the couch next to me and handed him the small elephant teething ring. I was handed paperwork and the receptionist ran down the rules of the shelter. Even though my thoughts were empty, my head felt full. I didn’t take in the words she was telling me. I just answered questions and signed papers. I had never operated from such a mechanical place before. I ignored my phone and tried my best to focus on what was going on. The receptionist showed me the small playroom, and offered to watch after my son while he played there. I spoke to the director. Answered more questions. I spoke to a male therapist. Filled out more paperwork. The receptionist gave me a tour of the small shelter and showed me my room. I was exhausted by this point. I put my son down in the strange crib, and crawled into the twin bed in my strange room.

And that’s how it started. That’s the story of the first few hours after I left my abuser. So many people ask all the time ‘Why doesn’t she just leave?’ My question for those people is are you willing and ready to walk away from everything in your life? Your home? All of your possessions? Your comfort zone? Your life as you know it? That’s what it takes. Not only do you have to walk away from the things (which of course are replaceable), you have to figure out how you’re going to make it on your own. This is perhaps the biggest reason women don’t leave. Trying to figure out how to afford a place to stay, how you’re going to take care of your children yourself. The divorce process. The courts. The visitation schedule. Trusting a court professional who you have never met and knows nothing about you or your family to make decisions about your life like how often you get to see your own children, what possessions you get to keep, and has the power to order things like custody evaluations and court ordered therapy. To them you are just another number, and just another case. They don’t know you or your life, and yet they make decisions that will affect the rest of it. And there is the abusers family to take into consideration as well.

Often times the abusers family stands behind the abuser. This is hard for a couple of reasons. Often times the abusers family does whatever they can to support and back up the abuser. For me, my ex husband’s family had much more money and social influence than myself or my family. This lead to fear of the unknown, and fear of their influence. It lead to standing up to people I once loved and doing what I felt was the right thing for my son even when they disagreed. I remember one of the first exchanges I had with my ex husband. Emotions were high and we agreed to exchange our son in a neutral location. This meant I had no support system. We met in the parking lot of the local Child Protective Services location. I pulled into the parking lot to find, not only my ex husband, but his father and brother. I found myself confronted by three men who were all much larger and more powerful than me. I kept my composure and exchanged our 13 month old son in the frozen parking lot. And on the other hand, I lost the relationships I had with his entire family. Over the past four years I had gotten to know and built up beautiful relationships with his family, and walking away from my ex, not only did I loose my home, my husband, and my possessions, but I also lost an entire family. Why doesn’t she just leave? The question is ridiculously simple as compared to the complexity of the actual situation.

Leaving is an act of faith.

 

Hashtags to a Better World

I sat in the conference room with my peer managers. We had just finished discussing our workload and plans for the day and started talking about what was going on in our outside lives. This may seem like a waste of time to some, however it’s a great way to cultivate team building and creativity. Two of my peer managers had recently moved and were sharing similar stories of their moving experience. The old me would have sat in the corner and listened, saying nothing, afterall, my story isn’t just like ‘everyone else’.

When I moved into my home, I had practically nothing. I had a bed for my 10 year old, a dresser for myself, and our clothes. No other furniture, no kitchen supplies, no bed for myself, no couch, no kitchen table and chairs, no TV. All I had was a belief and hope that it would all work out. I posted on Facebook asking for things, and they came, some for free, and others at a cheap price, within a week, I had everything I needed for my house. For a full year after moving in to my home as I would walk around, I would feel an overwhelming gratitude and awe for all the things I now own. I have so much compared to what I had for the first seven years after I had left my abuser.

I spoke up. I shared my story. I shared it from a healed space. I wasn’t asking for pity or compliments. I was matter of fact and the conversation moved on. These are the stories those of us who have experienced abuse need to share. The more we share our stories of survival and perseverance, the more we stand up to stopping abuse.

#whyistayed

That is what is so beautiful about the hashtag movements that are happening in the domestic violence world. #whyistayed began in 2014 and it is still being used in tweets as recent as 3 days ago, #whyistayed is a way for those who have experienced abuse to help answer the most common question asked in the Domestic Violence world.

#metoo

The most recent domestic violence friendly hashtag #metoo has received a lot of attention. It is a simple and quick way for those of us who have experienced sexual abuse to stand together and speak up. It has reached 85 countries with over 1.7 million tweets (cbsnew.com).

#maybehedoesnthityou

This is a fantastic hashtag that brings to light other forms of abuse besides just physical. So many people think that just because they aren’t being hit, that it isn’t abuse. There are dozens of forms of abuse, and this hashtag which started in 2016 opens up the door to talk about it.

#likeagirl

This is a personal favorite of mine that started as an Always campaign in 2014. #likeagirl brings to light that we as a society have spoken down on the ability girls have to complete things, usual physical.  The more we use like a girl negatively, the more we continue to raise our daughters to see it as such. Changing the way we speak about ourselves, changes the way we view ourselves.

The more we speak out about domestic violence, the more light we shed on something that can only thrive so long as it stays hidden. Speak up and speak out. Change our conversations. Let’s end domestic violence together.

 

What Women Lose When They Leave 

“Why doesn’t she just leave”?
“If it were me, I would have kicked his ass to the curb and left a long time ago”. 

“Why does she stay? I’ve raised her better than that”. 

“I would never let someone treat me like that”.

Whenever the subject of abuse comes up, these phrases inevitability come up in one form or another. To many, these phrases are harsh, judgemental, rude, and ignorant. To me, these phrases indicate that there is more work to be done to educate society on what leaving is actually like. 

When a woman leaves an abusive marriage, she leaves far more than the abuse behind. Let’s explore what leaving actually looks like. Here’s a list of some of what a woman leaves behind. I’m sure this isn’t a full list or an all inclusive list, however it is a good glimpse into what one loses when they leave an abuser. 

Her Spouse

Obviously. Right? Out of everyone who says why doesn’t she just leave, how many of them do you think are willing to walk away from their spouse? Here’s the crazy thing about abusive relationships, they aren’t 100% bad or riddled with abuse. In fact, most of them start off as a fairytale. How else do you think they get together in the first place? And, the abuse doesn’t happen all the time. Yes, couples argue, yes, couples don’t agree, yes, people make mistakes and treat each other poorly from time to time. No one is perfect. So not only can it be confusing to make the determination if your spouse is abusive or having a bad day (strange thought, I know), but, the thought of leaving someone you love and losing that partnership, that lover, that confidant, can be hard to process for anyone whether or not abuse is involved. 

Her Financial Stability 

When the man is the income source, it is obvious why a woman would fear financially for the wellbeing of herself and her children. Add that some of these women haven’t worked in years due to staying home with the children so don’t feel competitive in the workforce. And the fact that there is still childcare to consider when she does start working and it paints a better picture. 

According to Current Population Survey BLS 2010, in 2016, 66% of American households are dual income households. So even if she is currently working, the task of maintaining a household under one income can be daunting for anyone. Again, ask someone who says why doesn’t she just leave if they would be willing to modify and most likely downgrade their lifestyle and see if they still feel it is just that easy. 

Her Home

A home should be a safe haven for all family members. While living in a home with abuse may not feel like a safe haven, leaving your home behind completely and living in a shelter, or living in fear that your abuser could show up at any time and violate a protective order (if you were able to get one in place) is terrifying. 

Human beings as a general rule are more comfortable with what they are familiar with, including a familiar threat. Afterall, being in the home with an abuser and able to keep a thumb on the pulse of their abusive cycle is much more predictable then living apart from an abuser making it so you have no clue when they may reach the explode phase. 

And, most people aren’t willing to just walk away from their home and all their possessions, especially when they may have to drag kids along, just to become homeless. 

Her Children 

I was terrified that my ex would take my son away from me and flee the state and that I would never see him again. The idea wasn’t so far removed when I grew up with a great aunt who experienced just that. My ex fought for it too. He filled a protective order on behalf of my 12 month old son against me. Child Protective Services and the courts got involved and all of the sudden I had no control over when I would get to see my son. 

Even though I was awarded custody and didn’t lose my son completely, I still am required by law to send my son to stay with his dad and step mom at regular intervals  (one night a week and every other weekend plus holidays). While this is great for my son (I fully believe in kids having a good relationship with both parents so long as they are safe) and even though it can be a blessing to have some kid free time especially when you’re a single parent, I still miss out on so many moments in my son’s life. I miss out on scouting events and lost teeth. His first plane ride and his first trip to Disneyland. Every other Thanksgiving, birthday, and Christmas morning belong to his dad. How many people who say she should just leave would willingly give up that much time with their children? 

Her Pride

Sure, losing your pride doesn’t seem like that big of sacrifice right? Except it is. It can be a hard thing for people to let go of. We live in a society of social media and publicizing our lives. It’s a weird thing, the ways your pride can be hurt when leaving an abuser. You don’t want people to think poorly of you. That you didn’t try hard enough. That you picked the wrong partner. That you waited too long to leave. Even though failure is an essential part of life, and is often what brings us to success, it is still painful and hard to go through. 

So often those people who sing the ideology of leaving an abuser are too prideful to see the hardship and pain that causes. They think they know better. 

Her Ego

Our ego is often synanomous with our self esteem. When someone leaves an abuser, often times all they have id their self esteem. I for one left behind everything, my home, my furniture, my clothes, my belongings. All I took with me was 3 days worth of clothes for myself and my son and (thankfully) my car. That type of scenario is frighteningly common when leaving an abuser. 

Having to start over, from scratch, on your own, while being a parent and fighting a court battle isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a lot of work and there are lots of tear-filled lonely nights reflecting on perceived failures of the day and anxiety riddled thoughts of what is to come. 

Not many people willingly take that sort of a beating to their self esteem.

Her Family

I have seen this go so many ways. Making the choice to leave is a tough one and it affects more people than just who’s leaving and who’s being left. We often spend years with the person we are leaving. We get to know and love their family.  And our family gets to know our abuser. 

Leaving can bring out unpredictable responses from family. The abusers family can blame you for leaving and make things difficult for you. They can agree with you and support you (this is rare) which often makes things difficult as it can make the abuser more angry and resentful. Your own family could be blinded by the abuser and not understand or support your choice. Your family may question your dedication to marriage or what’s the right thing for your kids. There are several possibilities of how those closest to you may react and you have no way of knowing what that will look like until you make that choice.

Losing family members and those you love is a hard choice for anyone. 

In Conclusion 

There are so many things a person considering leaving can possibly lose. So how do you do it? How do you make that choice? You don’t overthink it. You just follow your gut. Leave when you know it’s right. You will know suddenly and unexpectedly. Take that leap of faith. 

3 Laws (& Assignments) for Successful Dating After Domestic Violence

Law 1: Individuality

Let’s face it. After experiencing living in an abusive relationship, you most likely don’t know who you are or what you want. You were probably told many times over the past few years who you are, what you should be and do and what you shouldn’t be and do.

I highly recommend staying out of serious relationships for at least a year. I know it’s hard. I know you long for that companionship and you may even have kids and would love for them to have a positive influence in their life, all of that will come, in time, when it is meant to.

The first three and a half years after leaving my ex were spent going through my divorce, dedicating my time to my then toddler and socializing. Yes, I went out. Yes, I spent time with men and with women. No, I did not date. Once I began to date, it was a year and a half of nothing serious with a lot of first dates with a lot of different guys. These dates were wonderful because I learned about myself and about what I want and don’t want. You can do it.

Now I am in a relationship with an amazing man who I met almost three years ago. I get to experience what a  healthy relationship looks like, feels like, smells like, tastes like and sounds like. It’s wonderful.

Assignment:
Guess what? Now is the time to discover who you are. Take time for yourself. Seriously. Date yourself. Go out to dinner and a movie. Go for a walk. Go bowling. Do fun things just for you.

Law 2: Vulnerability

Telling a person who’s been surviving most of their life by being guarded out of necessity for their safety is like telling them you have removed all the mines from a mine field and it’s safe to run through a mine field they have navigated for years. They know where each hidden mine had been placed and they still instinctively avoid stepping in those places, even with the knowledge that the mine field is clear. For them it’s a matter of life or death.

The tragic part in all this, is that in order for a person to have the happy, thriving, and successful healthy relationship they want, that vulnerability and trust needs to be there.

Assignment:
The best way to get through this is to be patient with yourself and allow yourself to experience the emotions. Grab a piece of paper and a pen, play some good instrumental music, and write (for at least 10 minutes) ‘I am afraid to be vulnerable because…’ and see what comes out. You’d be amazed at the insight this will give you into yourself.

Law 3: Love Yourself

This may be the most important thing you can do to help yourself. Often times people who experience abuse have fought a daily battle with their partner. And the daily message they give you that you are not good enough, not worthy, no one else will want you, takes a toll on even the strongest self esteem. Especially because it comes from someone you love and someone who should be lifting you up every chance they get.

The ironic thing about loving yourself is, once you truly get there, then the right person will just meander unexpectedly into your life at just the right time. The more you do to help prepare yourself for that time, the better off you’ll be.

Sure I can say ‘love yourself’ all day long, but how do you actually do that? It actually takes a little work and a little effort on your part.

Assignment:
For the next 30 days write down five amazing things about you each day. The best part? It gets to be something different each time. So at the end of 30 days, you’ll have 150 amazing things about yourself written down. These can be things about you as a person, a friend, in your work, your body, as a parent, as a romantic partner, anything you like. Just make sure you do it. And make sure you stay positive.

Reprogramming your brain is a lot of hard work. Don’t let that scare you though, you’ve already allowed it to be programmed the way it is currently if you want a better life, it’s your responsibility to take ownership and create it. You got this.

3 Simple Tips For Loving Your New Normal Now

Were you like me? Did you daydream about how your life would turn out? Would you marry your prince charming and raise beautiful children together? Be present for your children as they progress though all the stages of life? Be a stay at home mom? Be totally spontaneous and decide last minute to go on some fun mini family vacation out of state? Have one of those wooden signs hanging above your door with your last name and the words ‘established 20??’ via Pintrest style? Would you be pregnant at the same time as your sister or cousin or best friend and really bond together over that shared experience?

These are some of the dreams I had growing up and especially after I was proposed to. I used to daydream of the life I wanted to have, everything being so perfect. That is not how things turned out for me. Instead I married an abuser, we are divorced and have one child whom we co-parent (sometimes well, sometimes not). Since my son was one year old I have sent him to his dads house for visitation and I haven’t had the privilege of being involved in every facet of him growing up. I have missed out on loosing teeth, boy scouts ceremonies, caring for him during illnesses, being the first to take him to a movie he was looking forward to in the movie theater (sounds silly, but ask other single parents, it’s kind of a big deal), and many, many things that I don’t even know I missed. I work a full time job while I grow my business and I have taken on a second job here and there as needed. Per the divorce decree, I have to inform my ex 30 days before I take our son out of state. I have no ‘established’ wooden sign hanging above my door. I had one pregnancy and never got to experience it at the same time as a sister or friend.

I have spent many nights crying over these lost dreams, things I always wanted and never got. There are some things I have since let go as never going to happen and there are some that I still hope and pray for. A few weeks ago I was talking to a woman who was asking for help for her sister who had recently left an abusive situation, and she said one of the hardest things for this sister was learning to live in a new normal, and I instantly knew exactly what she was talking about. In the years since my divorce I have found some things to help navigate the new normal.

Trust In The Greater Good

Whatever it is you believe in, God, Buddha, the Universe, Karma, what ever your higher power is, trust that if you keep believing in a better life, keeping dreaming for the life you want, keeping speaking words of growth and encouragement, what it is you have lost will in fact be restored. There is truth in the fact that whatever it is we concentrate on, focus on, dream about, and think about is what will happen for us in our life. So why didn’t things work out for me the way I thought? I look at this two fold.

Part of being alive on this planet right now is learning the lessons we want to learn and are meant to learn. In order for us to learn something as divine as forgiveness, someone has to do something to us to be forgiven for. How can you forgive if you have never experienced something that needs forgiving for? Why did I have to experience a domestic violence marriage and following, a divorce? Maybe so I could create an even better marriage after. Maybe so I could know how to help others who experience it. Maybe so I could learn forgiveness, understanding and love. Maybe because I am the person who could help stop the cycle of abuse from my ex husbands family from continuing forward in my sons life. It could be any of these reasons, all of these reasons or reasons I am not yet wise enough to know. I trust that there is a divine reason.

Before I did marry my ex, I had this nagging feeling that maybe I shouldn’t do it, but he seemed so great and I couldn’t actually place my finger on any reason why not. I talked to my mom about it, and she agreed that he was a great guy and that I probably just had cold feet. I think that it really was my subconscious seeing the truth about my ex and trying to give me a warning signal, maybe it was even a small whisper from my higher power saying ‘this one isn’t the one.’ But I was 20 and thinking that since I had lived in seven states across the country, I was preparing to graduate with my associates degree, and that I was a mature 20 year old, I was ready for marriage and all would be well. Even on my wedding day I had doubts on the way to and during the ceremony. Clues I should have listened to. After my divorce, I thought of my divorce as the end to my life. Who would want to date someone who had a failed marriage? Who would want to date someone with a kid? All these other people I knew (family and friends) had long successful marriages, what was wrong with me? Now I look at my divorce as a gift of freedom and life from the uniformed decision of a naive 20 year old. I am grateful I am no longer married to the man who treated me with little respect and more like an object than a person. I now have the gift to move forward in my life with love and respect, love and respect that I now give to myself.

The bonus? Universe, God, Life, has a knack for knowing what is better for us than we do, and the gift of restoration. Yes, I miss out on the children I could have had, I am sad for the companionship I lost. When I look at my life now, I find in addition to my son from my ex husband, I am blessed with the two sweet children my boyfriend brings into our relationship, and I am blessed with a healthy relationship in which I feel encouraged and safe to be myself. I was blessed with time to enjoy my 20’s and make and meet wonderful friends. Not bad for messing up in choosing my spouse the first time around.

 Mourn and Let It Go

Go ahead and go there. Imagine what might have been. Imagine what could have been acknowledge what you feel you have lost. Even when leaving a relationship for your own safety or the safety of your children, there is still a loss and still a reason to mourn. Allow yourself that time and space and don’t feel guilty for your grief, Write a list of all the things you feel you will never experience and all the things you have lost because of your divorce. Maybe it’s your house, maybe it’s having to share the kids, maybe it’s having to work now to support your family. As you write feel the emotions that come with each item on your list. Feel the loss, the anger, the sorrow, allow yourself to cry, allow yourself to yell. And then in a safe, controlled environment, (like in a grill or a coffee tin) burn that page. The burning is symbolic of you letting go of that life and starting fresh, anew.

Find New Dreams

Part of the process of buying a new car or a new home, is giving the other one up. You may love that old car, maybe it was your first car and you have been through a lot together, you’ve got memories and nostalgia built up with this car. Buying a new one is scary and exciting at the same time. The new one has new features, it drives differently, it breaks differently, you have a lot to get used to, including the unknown. Same thing with your new dreams, once you let the old dreams or life go, you get to create new ones. These new dreams can be frightening and feel different, you have a lot to get used to. But you get to create them however you like. You have the power. Dream big dreams. Create a vision board with all the amazing things and goals you want. Remember with a vision board, make things quantifiable, you need to have a measurable goal for yourself. Something like ‘Be a better mom’ could be replaced with ‘complete a parenting course’ and once one vision is achieved, you get to replace it with a new one. You are the author of your future, go out and make it amazing.

Changing Your Clothes Will Change Your Life

One of the most important things women who have experienced domestic violence can do is to build up their own self-esteem and start loving themselves. In my very first guest blog post, Kami Woodward, Wardrobe Mentor (kamiwoodward.com) explains how to give yourself permission to be you and love yourself!

Perfect Pink High Heel
They were the perfect pink high heels. I was 11 years old and they were the most beautiful shoes I had ever seen in my life. My mom and I were shopping to replace my worn-out scuffed-up black church shoes and I spotted the pink ones. There were only two obstacles: 1) they weren’t on sale and 2) my mom thought they were ridiculous.

I grew up in a family where you didn’t ask for things because the answer was always “no” for money reasons. But I wanted these shoes. I didn’t want another pair of boring black flats – I wanted grown-up fancy pink high heels! I begged. I pleaded. I promised the moon and more…and finally my mom said “yes”. She also said, “You’ll end up not wearing them because they won’t match anything – they are bright pink!”

I love my mom but she was wrong. I LOVED those shoes! I felt beautiful, feminine, and all grown up. They were my “power shoes” that I wore when I needed extra confidence. And as a nerdy pre-adolescent? I needed extra confidence a lot! I wore those shoes over and over and over until the bottoms fell off and the heels cracked SIX YEARS later. Like I said; they were the perfect pink high heels!

Do you remember your first piece of clothing that you LOVED? That went beyond function and practicality and transformed the way you felt about yourself? Think for a moment.

I’m a wardrobe mentor specializing in the emotional and energetic side of fashion and I often ask my clients this same question. Do you remember the feelings that piece of clothing (or accessory) sparked inside of you?

Confident. Beautiful. Powerful. Happy. Courageous. Joy. Strong. Giddy. Feminine. Sexy. Fun. Comfortable. Like YOU.

What you wear is powerful. Everything we put on our bodies has an emotional energy to it. This is the difference between that first piece of clothing that you LOVED and the old t-shirt your ex-boyfriend left at your house. The difference between your wedding dress and the sweater you had on when you found out your mother passed away. Fashion is emotional and what we choose to wear perpetuates those emotions in our lives.

When you get dressed in the morning, do the clothes in your closet make you smile? Do they make you feel as amazing as I did in my pink high heels? Why not? What the heck happened?!

There are 4 levels of wearing clothing:

1) It covers your naked bits
2) It is practical (coats in wintertime) and functional (pants to ride a bike)
3) It is what you like and in your unique style
4) It is 100% perfect energy, emotion, style, ideal for the occasion, and makes you look like a million dollars

The vast majority of people have achieved level 1 (they aren’t naked) and level 2 (what they are wearing allows them to function in their lives). Your wardrobe transitions from logical to emotional when you take it to level 3. Whether it’s your whole wardrobe or just a few outfits, this is where changing your clothes will change your life.

Those feelings you had with your first piece of LOVED clothing? Those are level 3 feelings. You can decide to feel that same confident, beautiful, powerful, happy energy each day when you get dressed. That’s a level 3 wardrobe. Imagine getting dressed into something you enjoy wearing and that’s your unique style. You are feeling powerful! There’s a smile that’s big and permanent on your face, shoulders are back, and you’re walking tall. You’ll go downstairs to breakfast and interact with your family differently because today, you are powerful! Then you’ll go to work and your relationships with your coworkers will be better because today, you are powerful! Throughout your whole day, you are successful, accomplished, and respected because you physically put on power that morning in the form of an outfit you love.

Remember: what you wear is powerful. Changing your clothes will change your life. And if you ever get off track, just remember your most LOVED piece of clothing and the feeling it gave you.

I challenge you to pick an emotion from your memory of most LOVED clothing and apply it to your wardrobe today. For example, if your emotion is “powerful”, then ask yourself when you get dressed: “Does this make me feel powerful? Why or why not?” Then make the adjustments necessary to move towards a more “powerful” personal style. You can do this! Find YOUR “perfect pink high heels”!

(If this is all a little overwhelming but sounds good and you’re ready to make a change, reach out to me at kamiwoodward.com for a free 30 minute wardrobe consultation.)