After divorce, reclaim you, plate by plate.

Assorted Colorful Plates

By: Christy A. Zlatkus, Esquire

What it means to find your new normal after divorce depends on you. 

Like the vast majority of my clients, I have been through a Big Breakup. You know the kind. The soul wrenching, world crumbling kind. The trying not to hyperventilate as you figure out who gets the Crate and Barrel lamp and how to divvy up the checking account kind. Grief and self-doubt take your partner’s place in the bed with you, and nausea is just a chance selection on Pandora away.

Whether the courts are involved or not, all Big Breakups are excruciating, earth shattering events. You are left standing amongst the rubble of the life you thought you were building with someone else, assessing the fallout and trying to imagine how on earth you can start to rebuild.

After my Big Breakup, I tried so many things to feel like myself again: I moved to a different county, bought a new home, joined a stand-up comedy class, and spent lots and lots and lots of time with friends and family. The flurry of activity and change helped keep my head above the emotional waters, but didn’t really help me gain the feeling of being myself in a New Normal.

The distinct moment I felt like I had finally reclaimed my life was quiet, and was all my own.

My ex had always preferred (ahem, insisted) on white dishes. White dishes, he proclaimed, best showcased the culinary delights heaped upon them. Restaurants have white plates, thus, obviously, so should we.

I had always wanted blue plates. I loved the homey feel that always coursed through me when I caught a glimpse of sky blue dishes in a store or when dining with friends. After all, I don’t want my house to feel like a Michelin-star restaurant; I want it to feel like home.

One day, several months after my break-up, I found myself meandering through a home goods store and spotted a set of beautiful sky-blue dishes. The coordinating dinner plates, salad plates, bowls, and coffee mugs were the exact blend of comfy elegance I wanted my home to reflect; unpretentious in their refinement, timeless and welcoming and graceful all at the same time. If dishes could be a representation of your energy, these were mine.

As the clerk wrapped each piece, I could feel a renewed sense of self solidifying. By the time I had set each dish carefully in the cupboards in my new condo, I felt grounded in this new life I had worked furiously to forge amongst the wreckage of the one with my ex that I had imagined would be my ‘forever’.

Each time I pull down my blue plates to serve my guests or enjoy my morning coffee out of a serene sky-blue mug, it’s a quiet affirmation that I am strong enough to have traversed the painful, but ultimately joyful path to create a life—- plate by plate, career choice by career choice—- to reflect who I am, unmoored from the mitigating influence of someone else’s vision of what my life (and my dishes) should look like.

When you lose someone, whether it’s through a Big Breakup, after divorce, or even death, there comes a time when you start to pull yourself through the pain and reclaim your joy. Even the seemingly mundane, everyday choices we start to make solo eventually add up to a new life borne of self-discovery and independence.

Reclaiming ourselves looks different for everyone, because of the simple, beautiful truth that we are all quirky, wonderful, unique humans. Being uncoupled from the influence of trying to make your quirky-wonderfulness fit with another human’s means you can lob off the long-hair your husband preferred, and paint over the Pinterest-basic greige he liked in the bedroom with a distinctly feminine shade of purple. Sleep in the middle of the bed. Wrap up in ALL the covers he whined about you stealing. Spread your limbs to reach as far as possible to each corner of the bed, and love every minute of it. A client of mine began to eat goat cheese with every single meal (she loved it, and her former partner hated it). For me, it was those blue plates that made me finally feel like myself again. Be it purple paint or goat cheese or plates, your reclaiming is yours. Own it.

If you are going through the pain of separation, divorce, or death, trust that your plates are on the way. You will find that thing that makes you feel like yourself again. When you find it, celebrate that moment and look forward to your beautiful New Normal, filled with everything wonderful you choose to bring to it.


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