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  • Zelena van der Leeden, MC, CDC®

A Millennial Divorce Story: It’s OK to Put Yourself First.

My divorce journey was a roller-coaster of emotions to say the least: I had my ups and my downs, my moments of absolute bliss and also of terrible despair. Luckily, I was surrounded by an incredible support network: friends, family, therapist, doctors and my yoga community.


I got married because I grew up in a time and in a culture where marriage and having children was seen as the highlight of a woman’s life. I looked forward to my wedding day since I was 15 years old. When I was 21, my teen dream came true and I left Venezuela to live my happily ever after in Canada.

After the birth of my second baby, I started to feel off. I was 29 years old and I had two kids under the age of two. I thought I had the baby blues because I was sleep deprived, but looking back, I was going through a major existential crisis. It turns out, I had grown to become a very independent woman who who wanted to explore and travel the world. Marriage and two babies did not fit my new found dream.


I struggled with guilt for close to two years. I did not want to hurt my husband and I did not want my children to grow up in a "broken" family. I wanted to make it work for everyone's sake, but eventually I realized I wanted my children to grow up with happy parents, so their dad and I decided to part ways a few months before our 10th anniversary.

What happened in the coming years is something that I do not feel comfortable sharing. I went from being a social butterfly (loud Latina), to a very private person (mindful yogi). Mistakes and assumptions were made that ended up affecting my co-parenting relationship with my ex-husband, but I traveled the world and my young adult dream came true.


I spent a lot of time by myself and it was very hard at first. I started "masturdating": I took myself on fun outings and had amazing experiences. I quickly embraced my solitude as an opportunity to get to know myself and grow.

I learned a lot about myself: values, likes, pet peeves, kinks and priorities. I accepted myself with kindness and compassion and despite feeling selfish at times, I put myself first. I took care of my mind, body and spirit. I spoiled myself when I could and for the first time as I was present and seizing the day.


Funny enough, this "selfish" act made me a better parent, a better partner and a better friend. By acknowledging loving my true self, I became less judgmental about others. I volunteered more, gave more, created more and laughed more. I learned about having perspective and my emotional intelligence increased a point or two.

Whenever I meet new people, I find myself saying: I am a divorce coach and I hope you never need my services. Even though divorce helped me fall in love with myself, I am not pro-divorce. Relationships require hard work, love, trust, patience and good communication.


Many clients come to us because they are thinking about divorce, but it is not always the magical solution to life's problems. If you end a long-term relationship and move on to the next one without understanding what went wrong and healing, chances are the relationship will fail again.

My advice is: if you are going through a separation, take the time to fall in love with yourself and to pursue your dreams. Believe me: when my marriage ended and I said I was going to travel, people said I would never be able to pull it off as a single mom and a full-time job. I worked two jobs, rented my place on Airbnb when I didn't have the kids and saved every penny to go on my journey (my very own Eat, Pray, Love). You are in the only one with the power to change your life (assuming you want to make some changes, that is).


Get in touch with your essence and take care of yourself. If money is tight, take an evening or afternoon off, ask a family member or a friend to watch the kids and go do something that brings you joy. Connect with people who value you and stay true to yourself…


You are stronger than you think.


Dare to dream, but remember that dreams tend to change as you grow.


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