By Molly Reynolds for Hope After Divorce
Months after my very messy divorce, I found myself sitting in a greasy diner with my friend Christi, and I was at a total stand still. I was staring across the table at her, trying not to cry into my grilled cheese sandwich as a million thoughts ran through my mind.
Christi had never been married before. In fact, she had been single since I’d known her. She is beautiful, funny, smart, a great friend — and one of the happiest people I know.
I finally opened my mouth.
“How do you do it?” I asked her.
“How do I do what?”
“How do you be single?”
She smiled. “You just do.”
I wanted to take notes. “No, tell me. What do you DO? Like, what does your typical day look like?”
I got married when I was twenty and was now pushing thirty. It didn’t seem like an odd question to me at the time; I had never been single as an adult. My marriage was isolating and highly emotionally abusive. My days were wrapped up working, spending time with my husband, cooking, cleaning, paying the bills, helping him with whatever he needed. I had so much free time now and didn’t know what to do with myself. More honestly, I didn’t know who I was as a single person.
Thank God for good friends. “You do whatever you want!” she said with a laugh. “If you want to stay out all night, you do it. If you want to spend the weekend watching Desperate Housewives on Netflix, you do it. If you want to eat a jar of olives for dinner, you do it. It’s actually pretty awesome.”
The thought of this absolutely terrified me. Battle lost. Soggy grilled cheese.
This story illustrates co-dependency at its finest. Unfortunately, co-dependent women often find themselves with a narcissistic husband. Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise are a prime example. A narcissist systematically makes his partner give up who she is in order to serve his own ideals and needs. If you are fortunate enough to break free from the abuse of a narcissist — as Katie was — you’re going to have to take a lot of time to rebuild yourself.
I hate labels, but a lot of us are co-dependent. If we’re partnered with the wrong person, the effects can be devastating. We think giving absolutely everything over to our marriage and forgetting ourselves makes us a better partner. It doesn’t. It doesn’t even make us a better person. Luckily for us, it’s a bad habit and not a life-threatening disease.
One of the hardest things about any kind of breakup (even if your spouse was a total loser) is that you have to learn how to relate to the world differently. There’s no partner to call and check-in with when you have to make a decision or if something good happens. You find yourself with a lot more alone time, and if you’re not careful, your mind can go to a very dark place…which is why it is imperative that you find yourself again — or find yourself period, whatever the case may be.
Fill those empty moments in your life with people and things that you love. And if you don’t know what you love, find out! A fun, cheap way to do that is sites like Groupon or Living Social. Maybe you’ve always wanted to take belly dancing class — do it! Or if you’ve always loved cooking or boxing, find a Meetup in your area. This is a also a great way to make new friends and remind yourself that this tough time in your life will absolutely pass.
Learn how to do you. Habits are tough to break but fight against co-dependency as hard as you can. You are a whole, perfect person on your own. You don’t need anyone else to be complete. Later on, if you choose to have another relationship, do it because you want to, not because you need to.
Be happy with who you are because life is too good to waste. Live as hard as you can.
Following her work as an actress, Molly Reynolds began her writing career covering scripts for film producers and working in commercials at Tombo Films, a boutique production company that created spots for the likes of Apple, Petco, and Coca Cola. Since then, she has written anything from ads to children’s books to musical theatre, with a special emphasis on socially conscious material. Her latest musical, Benny (book and lyrics), has been performed in Los Angeles and New York (most recently at the Fingerlakes Musical Theatre Festival). Molly is a contributing expert at HopeAfterDivorce.org, CupidsPulse.com, and LAFamily.com. She is currently the Director of Development at LUCID and a strong advocate for empowering women and minorities. The Gingerbread Pimp, Molly’s fearless new musical that takes a bite out of domestic abuse, was performed at the New York Musical Theatre Festival on July 18, 2013.