by Lauren Hawekotte, CFP ®
In very simple terms, my story is the classic tale. Girl meets boy. They “fall in love”. Get married. Have kids. Buy a house. Develop careers. Grow apart. Discover they got married too young, before they truly knew who they were. Despite attempts to reconvene, their paths permanently diverge.
It’s the classic tale of young love that was far too young to really appreciate what marriage was all about. What commitment was all about. An immature relationship that lasted as long as it did, because I (and he) really, truly wanted to live up to the vows we made at a mere 23 and 21 years old.
Truthfully, I was terrified to make the decision to leave. There was so much fear of judgement, fear of failure, fear of harming my children, of shattering the image of our “perfect little family” – an image that “perfectionist me” didn’t want to shatter. Not just for me, but for everyone involved. I rode the roller coaster of “in good times and in bad” until I simply couldn’t do it any more.
When the fear of losing myself, losing self-respect, and setting a bad example for my children finally overshadowed the other fears the surrounded divorce, I gathered the strength to make the decision I knew for a long time that I needed to make – the decision to make a graceful exit.
For me, this path was not a straight line. First, we separated for about five months while we sought therapy – both individually and together. We did was was called “nesting”. In order to maintain as much normalcy for the kids as possible, the children remained in our family home 100% of the time while we took turns going in and out. We reached a point where the end was clearly inevitable, and I filed for divorce.
Mediation was our chosen path. I was hesitant at first, as I wasn’t sure we’d be able to work together through all of the hurt and pain to arrive at terms that we both agreed on – specifically with regard to custody of our two children who, at that time, were 10 and 8 years old. Fortunately, in an act of true grace on both our parts, and the help of our mediator, we were able to navigate the process quickly and smoothly.
Even with as relatively painless as my situation was, it was still one of the most trying times of my life – financially, emotionally, physically, in all ways, really. I was fortunate enough to have very supportive friends and family, and, as a Certified Financial Planner, the financial part of divorce, while stressful in any case, was not as overwhelming to me as it was for most women who go through this process.
In the 15 years I was married, I did not talk openly and honestly with anyone about the challenges and struggles I faced. I did this for many reasons, not the least of which was I wanted to protect my family, or at least the image of my family. It was only in becoming completely vulnerable and open in being truthful and asking for help through this process that I realized there are more people than I knew facing the same challenges and struggles. And I realized the freedom and beauty that comes with admitting I am flawed, and it is truly the flaws that make me who I am.
It’s my hope that The Graceful Exit is a place where Kim and I can use our professional and personal experience to make a positive difference in the lives of other women who are going through or contemplating divorce. We want to make the process as smooth as possible and help minimize the stress that can come with feeling as though you are navigating this process alone – remember you are not alone! We want to shed light on the hope and joy that comes with being true to yourself in making a graceful exit, in embracing yourself fully, flaws and all, to become the best version of yourself that you can be, to live the life you were meant to live.