I was married for four years. Two of those years of which we lived in Hong Kong due to my ex-husband’s work transfer. The marriage dissolved when I was there. My divorce was interesting, that on the surface, neither of us showed obvious signs of conflict. There weren’t many fights. There was no infidelity involved. However, that made the breakup very puzzling and made me question if there was something inherently wrong with me.
When my ex-husband asked for a divorce, fear and rage came over me. I thought I did nothing “wrong”. I was terrified of my future. What are people going to think of me? A divorced woman must mean she is broken. I moved to Hong Kong for him and now I go back to Canada telling everyone that my marriage failed? I was also dependent on his financial knowledge due to his profession, I wasn’t sure if I could learn how to take care of myself going forward.
After the anger subsided, the rollercoaster of emotions eventually turned into self blame. This every emotion triggered me to research on “how to fix myself”. One thing my ex taught me was the ability to find solutions to problems by researching. Google became my next best friend. This springboarded me to the reason why I am passionate about personal development.
Initially, I was googling how to overcome heartbreak, and Marie Forleo popped up. Many years ago I have read her book called “Make every man want you, how to be so irresistable that you’ll barely keep from dating yourself!” I dove right back into the book and also got introduced to her youtube channel that talks about all kinds of self help. I started working on myself and restored my self confidence tremendously. I was starting to have a great time, hanging out with friends I met in Hong Kong and even got promoted at work. I saw a bright future again. Self development has worked so much wonder to a point my ex asked me back two months later. We got back together again for two months and realized our irreconcilable difference and moved on with our separate lives.
A few months later, I met a guy. We hit it off but as I decided to move back to Canada, problems started to arise. Coming from my own parents being divorced, I had no role model of what an ideal relationship looks like or how I should behave as a woman in a relationship. To figure this out, again I turned to google. This time, it directed me to Matthew Hussey, a relationship guru that based his advice on being a high value woman. His advice are so practical and valuable that I joined his 5 days retreat in Florida. I even made a review video as my first youtube video. You can check it out here. I learned that at the core of all my “problems”, it stemmed from a lack of self love. This underlying shaky foundation creates the following cycle:
Lack of Self Love –> Low self esteem –> Insecurity –> Lack of assertiveness –> Lose respect from others –> Self blame/victimization –> Need Validation
This need of validation also contributes to the reason why I was constantly in a relationship. The need to feel wanted outweigh the importance of being in the right relationship. So I settled.
The core teachings from Matthew was actually also self development. Because you have to be complete yourself before you can give unconditional love to another. The romantic notion of “you complete me” is indeed very toxic. His model is 1+1 > 2. Therefore, we are there to lift each other up when we are ALREADY whole. We are our own saviour. We are there to give in a relationship and not expect anything back, that’s what unconditional means at the end of the day. But of course those rom coms taught us that backwards!
Therefore, having someone is a bonus. Our focus should be how to have the best life. To illustrate this point, on the last day of the retreat, we visualized our souls leaving our bodies and ultimately led to the emotional understanding that we HAVE to live life to the fullest, and cherish every moment we have got.
The only reason a woman would rush to be with a man though is our ticking biological clock. We explored the real reason why I wanted kids. Everyone would have different reasons, but for me, it was to pass on my legacy. But what if there is an alternative that would fulfill that need? My answer wasn’t clear then, but I can tell you now that is what this blog is about.
It is to leave something meaningful behind in this world by sharing my own messy journey. To inspire others to push past their comfort zones, so they can live to the fullest too.
Personal development has changed my life. I have since sold my condo to rent a room, solo travelled, visited 6 continents, hiked mountains, swam and scuba dove oceans and leaped off into the sky, adventurous activities that I wouldn’t have fathomed doing just a few short years ago. I have gotten outside of my shell to connect with people from all walks of life, instead of confining to the familiar bubble I knew. I became more interested in the world at large, contrasted with my previous indulgence in pure vanity.
Having said that, this was definitely not an overnight fix. It has been five years since I have been on this soul searching journey. A combination of varied experiences and pursuit of knowledge and wisdom brought me closer to fulfillment. Here are some of the lessons I have learned and hopefully will help those who are looking for the same:
On the surface, my ex and I looked like a dreamy couple. When our marriage broke down, people started to speculate the reasons behind it. To be honest with you, I can’t even pinpoint an exact reason why it didn’t work. Love is one of those things that can’t be explained clearly in words. There are so many factors in any given situation, throwing in different values and perspectives can make things even more complicated. Therefore, there is no point judging others or comparing ourselves. We are all on our own unique path and timeline. We can only live our own best lives.
Therefore, I no longer fall into the trap of labelling and judging others, such as “A divorced woman must be broken”, “Being in a relationship must be happier”. There are so much more than meets the eye. This has freed me from caring about what others think.
Since I don’t fit in the traditional mould of being married anymore, this has somehow miraculously freed me from needing to be “perfect”. I became more open with sharing my vulnerabilities and struggles with others, which has brought me deeper connections with people. Let’s be real, nobody is perfect and I stop pretending to be. If we can all open up and share our struggles, we can learn so much from each other.
I also decreased my need to fit in. This helped me with my decision to go against the herd to sell my condo to rent a room. I obsessed less about my appearance, the materials I owned, and purged a lot of my belongings to live a more minimalist lifestyle. (Not perfect, but progress!) Once I overcame the need to feel validated through external approval, living for others has lost its appeal. It also allowed me the courage to go travel solo and have the best time of my life in Hawaii, not feeling FOMO even among a whole group of honeymooners! This newfound peace within me has led to true self love.
Interestingly, what sets out to fix myself turns out to learning to love myself. I realize that a failed marriage doesn’t define my self worth. Not to say that you can now let it all go, but it’s the realization that I am working on becoming a better person because I want to take care of me, not because I hate me. Same actions, different intentions, completely different results and feelings.
Results of this fundamental realization:
Resource: Matthew Hussey’s 5 days retreat, where you EMOTIONALLY understand self love. Click here for more info.
This “failure” has taught me that it is just another step closer to success. I wouldn’t have learned this much wisdom if my life was smooth sailing. By realizing that every experience can be a lesson, we can grow from it and not be confined to your past. You might be dealt a bad hand, but nobody says you have to stay there! Practicing this growth mindset becomes a life skill you can use to navigate the inevitable ups and downs of life.
Resource: A good book on Grit is by Angela Duckworth. Her TED talk can be viewed here. Fast forward to 4:52 when she talks about the growth mindset.
Life doesn’t happen in a linear curve. There will always be ups and downs. In every situation, you can look at the good or the bad. I chose to look at the lessons I can extract from this experience and put them in my experience toolbox, and make my life better for the future. Happiness is indeed a choice. How empowering is that to know you have control over your own happiness no matter what happens?
If it wasn’t for this painful experience, I wouldn’t be as motivated to completely re-evaluated my life. I have gained so much wisdom, learned so much about the world, met so many wonderful people, that my life has become more in lined with my truth. I am enjoying pushing outside my comfort zone so much that now I seek that challenge!
Not everyone can say: “The next time I get married, I will… insert whatever you desire.” Most of us were not taught how to be in a relationship. We might just marry the person because we are at the RIGHT age, or that we settle with someone because society says that’s what we should do. But we seldom look at what truly works for us. Figuring that out for ourselves is the most life altering. Afterall, you are going to spend the rest of your life with that one person, he/she better lights your heart and soul on fire! Once we find that person, we also need to learn how to maintain it and make it work. It’s not all unicorns and rainbows either.
Resource: Jay Shetty has a lot of useful youtube videos to guide us on how to navigate life and the relationship world.
Since I started to re-evaluate my own life, I started to reflect upon my behaviours, reactions and actions in different situations. Once I become more aware of my current pattern of thinking and actions, I can start to take the necessary steps to improve them.
Here are some things I was analyzing:
ACTION TIP: Journaling and mediation helped me tremendously to become more self aware of my thinking and behaviour pattern.
Nobody goes into a marriage thinking they would get divorced. I was no exception. This experience, however, taught me the important lesson that people can change. In fact everything can change. We have to work hard at life, but it’s a balance of enjoying the moment, and not get attached to the outcome.
Resource: Vipassana Meditation reinforced this idea of impermanence, which is based on Buddhist teachings. My 10 days silent mediation retreat shows you how to practice this technique.
My previous need to constantly be with somebody didn’t give me much opportunity to be alone. That transition was difficult at first when I no longer had somebody to talk to about the daily happenings of life. Nobody to vent my feelings to. Nobody to spend special holidays with. But after spending so much time alone, solo travelling, I became more introverted and my need to be with others diminished. I became really comfortable with myself to a point I prefer it!
Another fear is being alone when I grow old. However, I have made peace with living in a senior’s home to meet lots of other people in the same stage! If company and safety are my concerns, this will solve the problem. Nobody can guarantee a partner or kids taking care of you in old age. Previously I found this notion to be really sad, but now I see it as a backup plan, and it’s strangely comforting. Co-living in a senior home? Living on a cruise? I met a 76 year old lady who solo travels and swims a few kilometres a day! I met people who skydived in their 60s! Some retired and lived in an RV! The options are limitless!
When this fear of loneliness goes away, the need to settle also goes away. If I eventually find somebody, that relationship will be extraordinary. Otherwise, life will still be grand, either way!
I have to admit, one of the reasons why I felt I needed a partner was having a cushion of financial security. I wasn’t financially literate and couldn’t trust myself to take care of myself. But since I sold my condo to rent a room, I looked into the whole world of personal finance and discovered it wasn’t as hard as I thought! The financial industry just throws in those jargons to make it look super complicated to intimidate you so you won’t do it yourself. Check out my post on The Start of My Financial Independence Journey After Divorce.
Once you figure out how to make money work for you, you are no longer tied to a relationship because of money. Relationships would be about love and I think that’s a lot healthier!
Ta-da! Here are just some of the lessons I learned, there are so many I can write a book! In a nutshell, my divorce has led me to self discovery and development to a point where I have taken charge of my life and flipped it upside down! For the better of course! Although I have to say I am fortunate we didn’t have any kids to complicate the matter. It could also mean I wouldn’t have a chance to have any either. But hey, we make the most out of every situation!
For those of you who are going through heartbreak or recovering from one, I want to show you there is rainbows after the rain. Sometimes we are just re-directed to a better path we haven’t imagined before! It will take time, but hang in there. Read and watch uplifting messages, talk to people who care, and you will get through it!
I recently found this guy called That Charles Life who echoes my philosophy on seeing life as abundant. Check out his post on abundant vs. scarcity mindset and how that exact thinking got me out of the victim mindset after divorce.
Don’t be Afraid to Suck is also another good one to remind us that our ego is in the way, and maybe the divorce is not all about me sucking, there is more at play in life! We are all here to learn.
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