Learning to live alone after divorce

In my last post, I introduced you to Carolyn, who stayed in her marriage for almost a year knowing her husband was having an affair. Losing your husband to your best friend is devastating and apart from trying to sort out whether a ploy-amorous arrangement was right for her, Carolyn faced another huge hurdle – she had never lived on her own. When I asked her what she had learned since her divorce, she said she’d learned how to take care of herself. Here’s  how she described it.

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I was 27 when I moved out and I had never lived on my own before. I’d never paid a bill in my life, I had no bank account or credit card. I’d never had any accounts with anyone, ever. Not even a cell phone account. So I had no credit history. It was really difficult to get anything set up because I didn’t exist, except as an adjunct to my ex-husband.

We’d been sharing a car with this friend of ours who we were living with so we hadn’t had a car. Then around that time, my mother had received a settlement from a car accident she was in and she bought a car for us. That was very, very lucky and probably gave me the little bit of motivation I needed to leave.

The settlement also meant my mother could afford to help me move out. She helped me secure an apartment which with no credit history was difficult. I had to pay a $400 deposit to the cable company to get TV because I had no credit. Because we’d been living with friends, we didn’t own a sofa or a bed or anything so when I moved out, I literally had nothing. That may have been blessing because with help from my mother, I got some furniture and it nice to start fresh.

I had to learn all sorts of things about living alone. I live in northern New England and it gets very cold here. My first winter alone, my pipes froze. I didn’t know you had to be careful about that. I didn’t know I was supposed to leave the cabinets open and the water running a little.

I had to get my car started once or twice because of silly mistakes I’d made. Previously, if my car battery died I got my husband to take care of it.

It was a trial by fire!

Every time something happened, I was knocked back because I didn’t know how to handle it.

I opened a bank account the week I moved out and I discovered Mint.com which helps you track all your purchases. It categorizes them so I can see how much I spend on gasoline, childcare, groceries. etc. That’s been helpful but I’m still learning about budgeting.

I’m in school full-time now and I get by with substantial student loans. They both help and don’t help because I get a big lump sum and it’s difficult to budget month-to-month. It’s too easy to write myself a check at the end of the month because I’m running low and then run out completely towards the end of the semester.

I still have no credit simply because nobody gives a credit to somebody who hasn’t got credit and you can’t get credit unless you have a credit card. I’m still not quite sure how people do that!

The most valuable lesson I’ve learned though is that I can find out how to do these things. I am not a dimwit for not knowing how to do them, I just haven’t had the experience. I’ve learned to ask questions and to just figure it out. That’s given me a lot of confidence to handle things.

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It’s easy to forget how much there is to learn about our daily living.

The closest experience I have that relates to Carolyn’s was when I first moved to the U.S and I was about 27 at the time. I was working for a start-up, knew nobody other than two work colleagues who had also transferred here. There were so many words and phrases I didn’t know and nobody wanted to look at my credit history from England. I was trying to buy a car and I’d been turned down by three banks for a loan. With the third bank, I pleaded and begged with bank manager and he finally agreed. I was so happy. By then I’d decided that if he turned me down I was going to go to bank, sit on the floor of the lobby and cry until he took pity on me!

Those first few months here for me were tough and tiring and I wasn’t dealing with divorce and two small children! When Carolyn detailed what she had to learn about living on her own, it was easy for me to understand how difficult it was for her to leave her marriage and the courage it took.

Did/Is fear of living alone keep you from leaving your marriage?

Carolyn blogs about her journey at Leap and the Net Will Appear – hope you’ll visit with her.

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  • gues

    RE: the not getting credit without having credit thing – I had no credit history when I bought my house, I just got letters from everyone I paid monthly – utility companies, my landlord, etc., and was able to get a mortgage with those references. Of course, that was before the current economic situation.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/SinceMyDivorce SinceMyDivorce

      That's a good suggestion although as you say, getting credit is a lot harder now.

  • http://littleskoolgirl.blogspot.com/ StudentMama

    This is a very similar tale to me. Everyone has to learn these skills, however, and I take refuge in knowing that I'm not the first one to make mistakes!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/SinceMyDivorce SinceMyDivorce

      That's a great way to look at it. Another way is to think about how many millions of people have managed to it figure out and they can't all be smarter than you! I did that when I was learning to drive way back when :)

  • http://tsquest.blogspot.com tsquest

    I love how things fell into place for her to move out. She called it "lucky". I call it… perfect.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/SinceMyDivorce SinceMyDivorce

      It was perfect … I think you've said on your blog, if you open yourself up, the opportunity will present itself. How much luck do we make ourselves?