Please don't give me that pitying look of horror.
August 20, 2012 12:46 PM   Subscribe

Anyone have any positive stories to share involving simultaneous end of marriage, job departure and moving?

I know it's very well documented and have heard lots of stress-filled stories citing the negative effects of people going through multiple life changes at a time, whether by choice or not. Somehow, though, I am currently in the midst of finalizing a (mostly amicable but still painful) divorce; leaving my job of six years; and moving across the country.

The snowflake details are as follows - I've lived in my current location for nine years, which is a solid seven years more than I ever intended (moved here to go back to college; fell in love with a local; got married and stayed). I've always wanted to return to the area of my country where I am from, and I've been generally dissatisfied with my job for the last couple of years, so when it became clear that my marriage was indeed ending, I decided to also take the opportunity to move back to my "roots."

I don't have a job officially lined up, but I'm in conversation with a couple different companies and have substantial savings to get through for a bit if needed.

It *does* feel very stressful and complicated right now, but I'm trying to operate under the assumption that it will get easier and that in time it will clearly feel like the best decision that I think it is now. However, a lot of reaction from the outside world is along the lines of, "Wow. How are you going to do it?"

So, can you share ideas of how you did it? Do you have any stories about multiple stressful events that turned out ok and didn't leave you a depleted, anxiety-riddled basket case for months or more?
posted by DuckGirl to Human Relations (24 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
I've done this once, and while it had its difficult moments, it always felt liberating, overall, like I was shedding a lot of weight and I was suddenly free and full of potential. This isn't to say that what you're leaving behind was bad or deserved to be ditched; it's more like just looking forward to all the possibilities that you now have the wherewithal to pursue: new job, new romance, new place...

If it helps you visualize the positives, make a list of TODOs. Things you want to try, see or experience. You're lucky to be going through this on your own terms, relatively. Make the most of it.
posted by fatbird at 1:01 PM on August 20, 2012

Best answer: Holy cow, this was exactly the position I found myself in late 1999/early 2000. I was 31 and living in Chicago, stuck in a frustrating job (though with some cool coworkers) and at the end of my marriage. I woke up feeling like every day was a small, disappointing death of the life I had always thought I'd live.

In January of 2000 I went to L.A. to visit my sister, who had just had her first child. I left behind a blizzard in Chicago and was greeted by the sun in California. By the time I returned to Chicago, I had decided to move out here.

Seven months later, I started my new life in L.A. That was just over 12 years ago. I have a great career and an even greater relationship, and at heart a basic sense of happiness and stability. It was absolutely the best decision of my life.

How did I do it? Well, the support of my immediate family was the first key -- I literally couldn't have done it without them. But the second thing was that I just put my head into the space that I was young and that I refused to believe that the final act of my life had been written. So yeah, it was scary, and there were tons of logistics and things that made me stress and worry at times. But really, I just believed that I have agency in my life, and that problems have solutions, and that the whole thing was ultimately liberating and exciting.

Good luck! It's OK that it feels daunting. It doesn't mean it's impossible.
posted by scody at 1:02 PM on August 20, 2012 [12 favorites]

Moved half way across the country to a city where I knew no one.
Gave up pining for relationship that was going nowhere.
Took a new job within my company.

I told myself over and over that I was fixing a ton of things at once instead of delaying happiness by dragging out changes over several years. It was very hard (and lonely!) for the first few months. I took really good care of myself, bought a house I loved and starting putting my life in order. (Both professionally and personally it's a total happy ending.)

The truth is my life would never have changed if I tried to do iterative, sequential steps. I needed the one big sweep.
posted by 26.2 at 1:04 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't have the moving part (although buying my ex out of my house had some flavours of that), but 4 years ago, I split up with a long-term (9 years) commonlaw partner with whom I owned property, and simultaneously switched jobs. It was super-stressful. To this day, I don't know how I made it through the first job interview, which took place the day after I found out my ex had cheated on me, and the second job interview, which took place the Monday after he and I decided to official break up and not try to fix it.

My only advice is to focus on one thing at a time and prioritize. You say you have money to tide you over. Focus on getting the break-up paperwork sorted out first, and finding a place to live. Then on getting a good job. Don't even think about dating until you have a steady routine, new friends and a start on a new life.

And it will totally get better. You're crafting a life based on things that are important to you, not just going with whatever seems "easiest".
posted by Kurichina at 1:05 PM on August 20, 2012

I went through an amicable divorce while too sick to work. I got divorced so I would have some hope of getting well. I did move cross country during the divorce. I was a homemaker for many years, so I ended up getting my first full-time paid job just before the divorce was finalized.

I took things one day at a time. I ditched most of my possessions, which made moving easier. It was hard, but life was easier the minute the ex physically moved out and it continued to gradually improve. Having the freedom to do as I preferred has been a wonderful experience. I married very young and went from living with my parents to living with my spouse. I never had this kind of freedom before, but I also think I would not have been ready for it. Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand. I don't think you can separate the two. So this has been a very positive experience for me, coming at a time when I was ready and did not feel burdened by the responsibility.

I made sure I had games and online support to help get me through some of the harder parts. Because I did that, my memory is more of the gradual unfolding of a life of my choosing and less of the daily grind of the work and hard choices that were sometimes necessary. Distraction and pleasant time fillers kept me from stewing during periods when I otherwise would have gone nuts.

I also made friends with people who had done very hard things in their life. These people could tell me to "smile" and help me count my blessings on days when I only wanted to complain about how hard it all was. I avoided folks who found it overwhelming to contemplate what I was doing. I did not need that. I was emotionally attached to a man who spent some time in prison for his political activism. He was very good about pushing aside my whining and insisting we have a pleasant time together. He never found my problems too much to take. He was really good at affirming that I had chosen to do this, that I should be proud of myself, that I needed to accept the good and bad together and at keeping me aware that the downside for the path I had chosen was better than the downside for the path I had walked away from.
posted by Michele in California at 1:10 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I did this, with kids and dog in tow even. I highly recommend Bruce Springsteen's 1975 album as a soundtrack for the cross-country drive.

Good luck.
posted by headnsouth at 1:20 PM on August 20, 2012

Best answer: I did almost this --- divorce, move to a new city, internal transfer at work instead of new job.

Really I felt like once I started making changes to my life it got easier. I had been in a period of stagnation (avoiding life due to various issues) and once I was forced to reassess everything (because of the divorce) there were a lot of changes I had been putting off that I started to do. It was a good kick/motivation. For example, I also quit smoking at that point.

So I'd say look at it as a good opportunity to take stock of your life and decide what is working for you and what you want to change. Since you have to change anyway, now is a good time to reinvent yourself.
posted by wildcrdj at 1:24 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

I can recommend to you the A Year And Change blog. It's completed now, and is kind of hard to read in reverse, but I think you can best start here. To summarize: author Lani Diane Rich (also uses the pen name Lucy March) left her husband and brought her two kids to Ohio to move in with her author friend Jennifer Crusie (Fake Aunt Jenny). For over a year, she chronicled her Divorce Crazy, her new life in Ohio, and eventually falling in love again.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:26 PM on August 20, 2012

Best answer: Left my fiance, quit my (stable, financially rewarding) job, gave away or sold almost everything I owned, moved 3000 miles away to a city where I only had a few acquaintences. Everybody in my life, including my family, thought I'd completely lost my mind, but I knew that for the first time in my life I was absolutely doing what I needed to do to put myself on a path to becoming happy and fulfilled.

I won't lie; it was stressful and difficult and there were lots of ups-and-downs that I wouldn't have had to deal with had I not decided to basically reboot my entire life.

However, that was a little over 10 years ago, and I am entirely certain I made the right decision. Doing what I needed to do in that situation gave me a lot of strength to keep making choices that give me what I need from life.
posted by erst at 1:27 PM on August 20, 2012

Best answer: I was in Florida, finishing my master's degree. We had moved there just after marrying, so I had the benefit of the entire three-and-a-half years of living in that city being equivalent to our three-and-a-half years of marriage. So leaving the area was a no-brainer for me.

It took me a month or two longer than her to really say, 'yes, divorcing is the proper thing to do,' so it was an amicable divorce. But those first few weeks in an apartment three miles down the road from the house I had bought for us were the most hellacious moments in my life. I had to stay in town from Sept. thru Dec. to finish my degree. I got up early every morning and exercised myself silly so that when my day was done I'd crash and sleep.

My employer tried to keep me there with an enticing job offer, and getting to ride my motorcycle to the beach every week for work was pretty damn nice, but I knew that I needed to leave it all at once to make a clean break and start fresh.

That day when I got to load up the u-haul and drive out of the state was the most anticipated and freeing day of my life.

I took half a year to travel and meet up with all my best friends all over the country. Everything was new and fresh and didn't remind me of where I had just been. I decided to give myself two full years to mourn the loss of love I thought and pledged would be forever. I did silly things like grow a big ole mustache to scare the ladies away and wore a bandana every day for a year as something of a grieving head-covering and didn't cut my hair during that time. Just little things to respect my loss. (This went so far as me trying to wear a tie-dyed bandanna into divorce court, but the bailiff made me remove my 'head-covering' so I folded it and tucked it into the breast pocket of my suit as a kerchief. This even got my ex to giggle in the courtroom.)

Then, after the randomly-chosen, allotted time of two years, I dove into internet dating. It took 6 months of one-off dates, but I found the woman that I love more than that old ex- of mine and I've moved across the country to follow her and my heart.

Best of luck to you!
posted by iurodivii at 1:37 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

That pitying look of horror? You're misreading it. I think those people are jealous as hell.

It is so hard and so scary to do what you're doing--but it is also so rewarding. A lot of people never really take a leap like that, and are envious that you have the inner (and perhaps external) resources and courage to make such a big change in your life.

You can do it. I did it. It's gonna be awesome. Sure, it might be scary sometimes, but 97% of the time it's gonna be awesome. Make a bunch of mix tapes, tell yourself haters gonna hate, and get a badass new haircut to celebrate starting fresh in your new city.
posted by stellaluna at 1:37 PM on August 20, 2012 [9 favorites]

Best answer: My flavor of this:

I was working at a Very Prestigious Law Firm in NYC (where all my friends and family are/were) but quit to move to Boston to rejoin my then-wife, who had just completed a year-long position that had become permanent. As did her affair with her (also married) co-worker, meaning we were through.

I found myself working at a new job, in a town where I knew no one other than my ex-wife, in a more or less empty bachelor apartment--all at the same time, and really all against my will. I would not have moved away from everything I knew, would not have quit my job, would not have gotten divorced if they hadn't been forced upon me.

Now, four years later, I've remarried to a lovely lady, live in a fantastic apartment in a lovely area of town (the nicest I've ever lived in), have a great job with cool co-workers, have many more friends than I did when I lived in NYC (and time to see them), and a much higher standard of living.

It certainly was miserable at the time, given that all those changes were thrust upon me, but it was livable, and well worth the payoff.

You'll get through. Good luck.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:50 PM on August 20, 2012

I relocated for a job, and that triggered the breakup of my marriage. Over the next little while I changed a lot of things: got my eyes lasered, traveled to places I hadn't been. I also got to know my mother, for the first time really. Like you, I was moving back to where I was from-- because the job was there in my case, but my Mom is dead now and I am so, so glad I got to spend that time with her. The divorce part of it was really hard for me and I didn't handle it that well, but it was definitely better to change things on other levels at the same time, even if I hadn't planned it that way.

I think it's really cool that you are seeing this as an opportunity and I agree with stellaluna, people are jealous!
posted by BibiRose at 2:10 PM on August 20, 2012

I just went through this. Left my job of six years, a relationship of nine, and then bolted out of my city of residence of 12 years with only what would fit in the backseat of my car to relocate to New York City. I'm still looking for work (coasting on savings), but I'm absolutely convinced it was the right thing to do. Starting over from scratch in an unfamiliar city may sound crazy, but for me it was the only way to assuage the nagging feeling that I was due for a clean break. Sometimes, it really is better to run away from your problems if that's what you need to get perspective on them.

It's been tough, but the confidence I've gained from making and following through on that choice has been invaluable. Having to strike out on your own in a new place can make your senses sharper, help you prioritize your life, and expose you to opportunities you might not recognize in a familiar setting. I was also surprised at how friendly my new neighbors are - the people you meet may be thrilled you chose their town as your new home, and extend help accordingly.

The best suggestions I can offer are based on what's worked for me so far - go, explore, and be cautious with your money until you find work. Good luck!
posted by gyges at 2:12 PM on August 20, 2012

I did this in 2005: quit a stable but dull job I was well past burnt out on, split up with my partner of five years, and drove cross country (East to West Coast) with just the belongings I could fit in my truck. I didn't know a damn soul in my new city, other having an email introduction to a friend of a friend. It was the first time in my life that *I* got to decide where I was going to live. That in itself was empowering. Changing up everything was exactly what I needed to do at that time in my life. I only wish I'd done it sooner.
posted by medeine at 2:39 PM on August 20, 2012

One of my BFF did this. She ended a six-year relationship and packed up her stuff and drove herself and her cat from California to Massachusetts to crash on our couch.

That was 10 years ago this month. Today, she has an interesting and well-paying job with great colleagues, a completely darling husband, an adorable four-month-old baby, and a spiffy house in a groovy suburb.

Her secret, I think, was being fearless. She took a bunch of part-time work until a good job came her way, and she applied for everything. She threw herself into online dating and speed dating. She said "yes" to lots of invitations, fixups, you name it.

I am still in awe of how daring she was in making all these changes at 36. But her daring absolutely paid off.

Best of luck to you!
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:37 PM on August 20, 2012 [8 favorites]

I just did this in February at 33 years old.

Initially, I had all these visions of a great new life in a new city, new job, with a fab new apartment, and dreams of all the cool people I'd meet and new things I would do. Those thoughts got me through the horror that was my divorce, and I moved with the highest of hopes.

It worked out that way...mostly. Starting over in a new city can be HARD. Meeting people is SO much harder than I thought it would be at this age, and so now I find myself, 6 months later, in a new city with the fab new apartment and the same old job, and no friends within 1000 miles. That can be rough.

That being said, the move was exciting, and I certainly have enjoyed the experience. But if I could do it all again, I'd probably wait a year or so. Going through the pains of being single for the first time in a while was extra hard with nobody around for support.
posted by tryniti at 4:31 PM on August 20, 2012

A few years ago my mother got divorced, diagnosed with cancer, lost her own mother to cancer, and had her house fall down in an earthquake all within the same year. Yes, she was a stressed ball of anxiety for a few months, but now out the other side, I think she is happier and more at peace with her life than she has ever been. I don't know that she had any "secrets" to it, although she did take antidepressants for most of that year. She said her social networks really came through for her, and seeing how good her friends were was one of the positive outcomes of it all. And knowing that she could cope and overcome all sorts of things also made her stronger.
posted by lollusc at 10:46 PM on August 20, 2012

Been there, done that! Short story: Husband was unhappy, wanted to move closer to family, so I job searched and found a job in a place closer to family (but I wasn't that excited about the job). Accepted the job, husband said "I'm not going with you" and off I went on my own.

The divorce was painful, and took me some time and therapy to reconcile with myself, but I did it. The moving and new job was stressful, but I embraced the fact that I got to start over and focus on myself. Buying a new couch and chair for my living room felt absolutely amazing! Also, buying new towels and sheets felt great too...I likened it to getting the negative energy out of my apartment. So I enjoyed rearranging the furniture to my likeing, and living on my own schedule, and just being single for a while. And I did my best to take care of myself. I thought I was ready to date after a year, but quickly found out I was still hauling around a lot of baggage. That part took some time...and I'm still not dating tons of people. YMMV, but definitely give yourself some patience and time!

The job generally was stressful and I didn't necessarily agree with how things were being run. I just moved again and started my PhD program and feel better than ever (4 years after the gigantic life change). It's doable, it will teach you a ton about yourself, and I suggest use this time to focus on yourself and do some "work" on whatever you feel needs work. Give yourself time, and realize that some days will just be shitty. Acknowledge and embrace the fact that it's a shitty day knowing the next day will be better. Sometimes you just have to lay in bed all afternoon if that's what you need (but don't make a habit of it).
posted by MultiFaceted at 12:20 AM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can't talk about divorce, but just over three and a half years ago moved across the world (Australia to UK) for my partner to take up a new job. Left behind all of my family except said partner and our son. Went from being full time work in well paying job to stay at home mother with no job, and about 18 months in became home educating mother as well. Oh, and move also ended up being the end of me trying to do my PhD.

Has it been hard? Hell yes - the no job thing was not planned, and even now I am sorting out what I am going to do. But the big thing is to own your choice - make your decision, stick with it, and try your darnedest to make the most of it. See the upside of it. Make it all about opportunities and having 'another go' at shaping the life you want.

Of course, the flipside of that is to also not be too proud if you made a mistake and need to take another course! Just remember, there is no fixed rule saying you have to stick to one or two courses only on your way through life.
posted by Megami at 2:24 AM on August 21, 2012

I cannot offer you step-by-step instructions, but I can reassure you of the possibility of long-term stability: my parents spilt up when I was seven and my mom (with custody of me) moved as her marriage ended. Within a couple of months she had changed jobs as well. She stayed at the new home for twenty-one years and at the new job for twenty-five or more and is now a happy outgoing retiree.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:56 AM on August 21, 2012

No specific advice, but it can be freeing to reach the end of a relationship that's gone nowhere for a long time. Remember that returning is a nice combination of new and nostalgia. Good luck!
posted by cnc at 11:08 AM on August 21, 2012

Well, I can't say that I'm a success story, at least not yet. I'm probably closer to the anxiety riddled basket case that you mention in the beginning of the post, but be that as it may...

I changed just about everything in my life about a year ago, when I left the country I'd been living in for most of the last 6 years, the city (which I love deeply) that I'd been living in for the last 3 years, the best job I'd had to date, and the most serious relationship I've ever been in. We weren't married, but we lived together and I assumed that things were heading in that direction. The problem was that I didn't see much of a future in my current job and felt like I'd be settling for less than I was capable of if I didn't try to make some changes. I was almost 30 when I did all of this, if that matters.

Anyway, I left all of that to go to grad school. I didn't intend for the relationship to end, but everything else, I left intentionally, knowing I might never be able to move back to the place I loved, and that the job I was leaving wasn't going to available to me afterwards either. Since then, life has been a bit rough... grad school has been both more difficult and less useful than I'd expected, my relationship ended, and I'm not sure that the job prospects when I finish school next year will be anywhere near as lucrative or rewarding as I'd assumed when I made this decision to go. I don't particularly like the place I moved to, and will certainly have to move again in a year, all of which has contributed to me being a bit of an anxiety riddled basket case at the moment.

However... even given all of that, this was probably the right decision. I wasn't satisfied with where my life was or where it seemed to be heading, and even though the steps I've taken to change that haven't really worked out at the moment, it's been pointed out to me here and elsewhere that sticking around in a situation where you're unsatisfied just because the prospect of big changes is daunting is not a very good idea. All you get by sticking around in that situation is more dissatisfaction. So regardless, whether or not the move you made works out, the very act of making a move to try and improve on a situation that wasn't working for you was a good idea, I think.

(and, as it sounds like you went back to a place you want to be in, and have several job prospects in the works, I'd say that in a year's time, you'll indeed realize that this was a good decision. Hope everything works out for you.)
posted by tokaidanshi at 7:06 PM on August 21, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. Tomorrow is my last day of work and Friday is the divorce hearing, so I'm pretty caught up in those logistics but very appreciative of the answers shared here and will return to this page again and again in the weeks to come, for certain.
posted by DuckGirl at 7:07 PM on August 22, 2012

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