Financial Independence & Independence of Mind
Her divorce happened three months after her husband found messages we sent each other. She had been miserable for a couple years and became aware of it in the months preceding. I visited her in May and she told me about their problems. Three days after I returned home she texted to say he saw our messages to one another and wanted to end the marriage. He wasn’t interested in getting counseling or trying to fix the problems. She said okay and started her journey of ending her marriage.
She moved back home for a couple months while she figured out what to do next. The perfect opportunity came up that gave her a great paying job, in a great location, and with an uncle not too far away who could provide emotional support if needed. She texted me complaining about how everything wasn’t perfect. About the forms she had to sign at work, the rules she had to follow, how the life she wanted wasn’t completely set up there.
Through her complaints I could hear the voice of her ex-husband. Someone who feigned responsibility, unless it was his idea. Shove anything on him he didn’t like and he labeled you a hater. He was known to get mad about bills he owed and simply ignored them. He was angry because employers wouldn’t hire him so he deemed “working for the man” a cardinal sin.
I could hear him talking through her. I could hear him getting upset and threatening to leave a great situation. So I gently, but clearly, advised my daughter, the following:
“Independence requires two things. Being financially independent and independence of mind. Right now you are working on the first one, but you need time to help you achieve the second one.”
Financial Independence (or the capability of)
Divorced women pride themselves on being able to take care of themselves. Something many of us married women should take note of. I think we do secretly and silently count our blessings. Not enough to be conscious of it, which is a shame. We think wow good for them. They got through their divorce and are making it on their own. We stop there, but should go on. We should wonder how we would make it. We should ask ourselves what would happen if our husband’s nice income went away. I’ll get some job. Uh huh. How much does that job make? Are you qualified for such a job? Have you ever taken care of yourself financially?
Financial independence is something we need to become healthy adults. Our adult children need it. Yeah, rethink paying for that cell phone and insurance like I am. We need to stop helping. The process of paying for our own lives does everything towards helping us mature. We need the weight of that responsibility. We need it to be grateful and understanding of what it takes to survive in the world. We need it to force us to gain the skills and knowledge needed to work. Why try to excel in a career if we don’t need the money. We need to know what it took for our parents to raise us. Living on our own accomplishes that.
Divorced women who stay single are forced to figure out how to do it on their own. They have to face life based on their earning power, or lack of. Something many of us married women do not take seriously. Something we should take seriously for two reasons. We live in a chaotic and uncertain world and our current way of life can change at any moment. Are we ready when it does? We also need to feel the weight of responsibility for our livelihood as it will make us healthier humans, healthier women. It gets easy to think that because we shoulder a lot of the responsibility raising children that we deserve to spend our husband’s income. We plan our vacations, purchases, and future based off what he can earn, not what we can earn. Now what does that teach our daughters?
I woke up to this fact a few years ago when my husband announced he wasn’t going to last at his six figure job. He wanted to start to change our lives so that he could leave that job and find work he loved doing whether that paid great or not. Suddenly my nonprofit job that I loved, didn’t get paid much for, and that worked great with the kids, wasn’t going to work if we didn’t have his money. Well it wouldn’t work if I wanted to maintain our way of life. I made a career transition that included going back to college and getting my MBA, a Lean Six Sigma certificate, and transitioning to government work. I now make enough money to care of myself (I didn’t before) and to boost our income well enough that when he does change jobs we won’t be affected as much, if at all.
I learned through this process that I had based our vacations, size of our home, cars, and my future on his income. He has earning potential. He can go get another six figure job. I didn’t and I was living off his income as if it were mine. Something I am embarrassed to admit. Now, however, I am on a path to earn what he can and doing so has given me a new sense of freedom and enjoyment for life. I now feel good about planning for the future as I look at building my own retirement. I feel better about suggesting vacations, homes, and car purchases as I am a major financial contributor. We need to feel the weight of responsibility for financially taking care of ourselves. It makes us better people.
Independence of Mind
Divorced women are free to think and act as they want. Something we feel like we can’t do when we are married. I think this deserves a lot of writing, but for now let’s think about my daughter. She was beginning to make decisions as if she was still married to her husband. She was thinking irresponsibly like him. I explained to her that this time of healing and transition is as much about establishing financial independence as it is independence of mind. She needs to establish what her way of thinking is and act on that. Not on his ideals. He wouldn’t take the job because they asked him to follow a rule. She would. She is responsible and she understands work has rules. She agreed.
Independence of mind means looking at life in your own frame of mind and making decisions based off that. It means developing our own values and beliefs separate from our parents, a spouse, a child, a friend, or other person. It doesn’t mean we have to be rebellious and go against the status quo just for the sake of saying we are independent. It means developing our own line of thought.
My daughter needs this before she enters into a new relationship with someone. She needs to know who she is and what she is about before she can combine herself with someone new. If she doesn’t establish independence of mind she will adopt the mind of others and won’t even be aware of it. She will threaten to not take a well-paying job because she doesn’t like a simple rule that most employers require. She will follow the irresponsible thought life of her ex-husband.
If we want to be independent women we can be that whether we are married or not. We can ensure we have the earning potential to take care of ourselves. We need to feel the weight of responsibility of our own finances so that we can better appreciate life when our husband carries the entire load. Our husband might be able to afford nice vacations, new homes, and fast cars, but can we even afford an apartment?
We need to be independent of mind. We need to know exactly who we are and what we are about. That way when we come in contact with others we will understand what we are changing in order to be in a relationship with them. What we are changing in order to be one unit with this person. If we do not we put ourselves in a risky situation. We condemn ourselves to a life that we may not want. Divorced women get it. They get they can do things and that they do have their own mind. We married women need to get that too. We need to get it before life comes along and changes things and we are left without the means to take care of ourselves. We need to get it before we too want to divorce because we are so sick of not having our own identity and not being able to be us.