Life After Divorce . . . I Don’t Know What’s Strange Anymore

By Lindy Earl

          I’m sure you’ve heard the term, black and white. In the olden days, it seems that things were simply more clear – black and white.  Now there are so many shades of grey that I don’t always know what is normal, and what is strange.

          For instance, in my childhood, little girls going into the boys bathroom on a dare was strange.  Now it’s becoming a choice.  Life is changing!

          What caused the changes?  Age, for one.  Life is simple when you’re six years old because you have few responsibilities and few options. Maybe you had to make your bed and put your clothes away, but finances were nothing more than a question of whether you had money for candy and gum. As you aged you were responsible for getting yourself up and keeping up with your homework.  The older you got, the more responsibilities you had, and the more choices you had.

          When you got a job, you were in charge of at least some of your money.  You may have had to pay some bills, but in your teen years there may have been sufficient money for socializing.  That may not be true as you aged – the socializing money now went for groceries and diapers.  Oh my.  Even your time, which had once been your own, is now controlled by others – spouses, children, bosses, teachers.  Where is all your autonomy?

          Age brings changes. We embrace them, but adulting (not even a word when I was coming up) is a whole new world, with a lot of responsibilities and requirements.

          Another thing that affected change in my case was a divorce.  Wow!  I went from half of a couple to a single mom almost overnight.  We were a family – until we weren’t.  I had bills, responsibilities, house and lawn maintenance, insurance, vehicles – all kinds of things that, in my case, I had kind of handled, but there had always been another person for conversation and discussion. Now I was doing it all alone! 

          In my case I had the advantage of a later divorce, so my youngest was in his teens.  Even so, changes were scary.  What was normal anymore?

          It took me years (YEARS!) to understand that there is no “the way things ought to be.”  I mean, when I was growing up there were two parents and they sided together so if you were in trouble with one you were in trouble with both.  I watched my parents raise children, send us out on our own, and continue their lives together, doing the things, like traveling, that they had put on hold.  I can’t do that!  This isn’t how it’s supposed to be!  But wait . . . there is no “the way things ought to be.” Dang.

          So, while I couldn’t imagine dating at the age of 50-something, I’m finding myself in the middle of it.  It feels strange! The first time a man held my hand I dropped his like a hot potato.  I couldn’t hold a man’s hand – except that I could.  I was divorced – not quite the same as being single, but I was definitely allowed to hold a man’s hand, even if it felt strange.  I got used to it.

          So, in this world of post-divorce, what are the rules?  In my teens, guys called girls.  Is that still true?  We did not have cell phones or texting, so is it okay to text a guy? Is it okay when a guy chooses to text me instead of call? And what about all that online stuff?  Well, you can’t meet guys in Algebra class anymore!

          I actually learned that there are some norms to online dating, and when I took them out of turn, I lost.  I had a gent message me within the site, then we traded numbers so we could text. Fine.  Then I accepted a date before we chatted on the phone.  There was my mistake.  It turns out this guy was a giggler and getting through even a single meal with him was just shy of torture. If I had followed the protocol I was taught by an experienced friend, we would have chatted by phone first and I would have known to avoid meeting him.

          The last reason to be discussed here about what is strange is that society has simply changed.  Now, that’s part of life.  Life changed greatly for my grandmother, who went from a world without telephones, airplanes, radios, or televisions, to all of the above.  She had some drastic changes in her life, and probably felt, at some point, that she didn’t know what was normal and what was strange anymore.

          Society has changed, and dating changed because of it.  If I had been part of the dating culture for the past 25 years I probably could have changed with it without too many encumbrances.  But, when you step out of that world for 25 years, it’s a strange world when you return!

          You won’t know what is normal and what isn’t. The only way I could deal with all of it was by returning to some basic truths I’d been taught and held since my childhood.  Basically, I chose to treat others the way I wanted to be treated.  I wouldn’t want to be ghosted (a term I had to learn), so I chose to not ghost others.  I knew my manners and chose to use them, regardless of whether others did or not.  If I said I would be somewhere at a certain time, I did my best to get there at the appointed time.

          Okay, quick story: Living in Atlanta you can never know what traffic will bring.  It can take 45 minutes to get to the grocery store down the street. I was once running late for a meet up.  I called the gent at five minutes before the hour and explained that, due to traffic, I was ten minutes away.  I learned that he was already at the chosen location so I expected to see him when I arrived.  He wasn’t there.  I was confused so I called him again. He had left for a ten minute walk so that he wasn’t waiting for me.  I found that oddly amusing.  He was determined that he would not wait for a female, so intentionally left our meeting point for the sole purpose of making me wait.  I couldn’t believe it when he told me. You can imagine that there wasn’t a second date.  I really did my best to be on time, too!

          Not only in dating, but in all my new relationships – with colleagues, bosses, clients, etc., I do my best to be thoughtful and kind.  I do my best to put others first.  It is how I want to live, in a world where I truly don’t understand what is strange anymore.

          The last decision I made was that, despite this being a new world, I was too poor to buy cheap.  If I needed to invest in something for the house or myself, I would find the best deal of quality and price.  The same is true with time – there aren’t enough hours in the day to squander any, so I would use the time I have well.

          So, while I continue to be confused about what is and isn’t strange in this new world in which I find myself, I’m getting by.  Over time, I’ve also found contentment and happiness. It may not be what I expected, but I’m making it work.

          That’s Life After Divorce.

            Lindy is a Speaker, Columnist, Author, and Consultant.

* Contact her at to submit a question for her Advice Column or hire her as a Consultant or to speak at your next event.

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