The Advice One Woman Gave Me About Divorce Should Be A Warning To Everyone

I loved her like a mother, but I still didn’t listen.

Middle aged mother in law is embracing her daughter in law, comforting upset frustrated daughter in law with closed eyes, touching cheeks, sitting on couch at home. tsyhun | Shutterstock

I whistled for my chocolate lab Hazel and connected her leash.

We headed down our long driveway.

Hazel pulled with excitement. I took in the beauty that surrounded me. Our home was nestled deep within a two-acre wooded lot on an equally gorgeous rural street.

We made it only a few steps before I spotted my husband’s car coming toward us.

Knots consumed my stomach.


What was he doing there? What did he want? What was he going to do next?

It was nearly a year into what would become my abusively never-ending divorce. But I didn't know that yet.

I stopped in front of my neighbor’s house.

RELATED: 5 Divorce Lawyers Reveal Their Most Shocking Client Stories

My husband rolled down his car window.

He had his cell phone pressed to his ear.

"Hey," I said.

"Stella died," he casually said.

"What?," I screamed.

My body collapsed onto the pavement.

I wailed in agony. My grief was incoherently loud, and it provoked a question from the person on the other end of my husband’s cell phone.


"It’s Colleen," I heard my husband say.

It turns out it was a family member he was speaking with. Technically Stella was a member of my husband’s family. I inherited her with marriage. I have changed her name to protect her dangerously loyal love for me.

Hazel nervously circled me.

My husband stared down at me from his high Lincoln Navigator perch. He was completely unphased by the loss of someone in his family. He was equally disconnected from my devastation.

He had delivered this news as nonchalantly as ordering a cup of coffee.

I was still in a puddle on the pavement.

I watched as my husband drove off.

I had become accustomed to believing who this man was. But even in a divorce, the average person could show some human compassion. Some degree of emotion especially since it was a member of his own family.


But my soon-to-be ex-husband was not a typical man. He lacked empathy and this moment just drove home the severity of his disorder.

I thought of the warning Stella gave me a year before.

I called her the day I met with a divorce attorney.

"I’m finally leaving," I told her. "I’ve gotten a lawyer."

It was a very quick phone call. It was a relief that I had finally mustered the gumption to leave my husband. It was not one of the typical exchanges between Stella and me.

We could usually chat for hours.

It was something her husband whom I also love dearly would laugh about.

I was in my early twenties when I first meet Stella.

I bonded with her instantly.


When I moved to get married my Mother had a chance to spend time with Stella. My Mom didn’t want me to move even an hour away from her. It broke her heart because she knew I would be out of her day-to-day life.

"Now that I’ve met Stella," said my Mom. "I won’t have to worry about you."

RELATED: During Our Brutally Abusive Divorce, My Friend Asked If I Wanted My Husband Back

It was such a beautiful declaration of love.

A mother was happy there was someone she believed would love her daughter.

My Mom was right about Stella.

When I lost my Mother a few years later, Stella was there for me. I began to understand why I had bonded with her. She shared so many commonalities with the love I was raised with.


Stella lit up at the sight of me.

Just as my Mother always did.

I could barely make my way inside her home before she offered me tea and something to eat. Just as my Mother always did. She could chat for hours about nothing and everything and ease my worries. Just as my Mother always did.

When my children were born she lit up even more.

She loved them as if they were her own grandchildren.

When my marriage began to struggle she was still there for me. Despite it putting her in a relatively uncomfortable situation. Remember Stella was technically not mine.

I had inherited her.

But we agreed that I saw her as another mother.

And she saw me as another child.


She had gotten me through the agonizing years that led to the end of my marriage. The uncharacteristically traumatic and sporadic drinking behavior my unhappy husband had newly adopted.

She sat on the other end of the phone while I cried my eyes out.

Not once, not twice, but over and over again.

She patiently listened to a girl who couldn’t bring herself to leave a man.

I know it hurt her to see our suffering last for so many years. I know she must have been frustrated by my absolute inability to give up on a guy who was tearing our home apart.

She loved him because he was her family.

But she loved me too.

And she was devotedly in love with our children.


Stella only said one thing to me on that day. Or at least, so little that it’s the only thing I remember. Or maybe because it was so jarring that her words surprised me.

"Whatever you do," said Stella. "Don’t trust him."

But now Stella was gone.

RELATED: How To Have An Amicable Divorce In 8 Strategic Steps

I couldn’t ask her why she had uttered those words.

I couldn’t figure out why I had never followed up with her. Why hadn’t I taken the time to be more inquisitive? She had spoken these words many months before.

I had a multitude of opportunities.

I missed every one of them.

At the time, I thought Stella was being motherly.

I thought she was advising me to be self-protective. I thought it was the parenting advice of someone worried about their child going on a new and potentially upsetting journey.


I would discover how wrong I was.

As my divorce became more financially abusive and overly elongated, I knew Stella had not been sending a generic warning that day. I should have known by the tone of her voice.

It was uncharacteristically stern.

Stella was attempting to alert me to danger.

Stella knew something. But remember she had already been dangerously loyal to a girl she had inherited. She was trying to delicately walk both sides of the divorce fence.

When Stella tried to warn me, I was still a believing enabler.

I finally had the courage to leave my husband. But that didn’t mean I had given up on him. I wanted to believe he was a good man. I didn’t have any self-protective instincts or boundaries.


I foolishly believed divorce was the boundary.

I didn’t know divorce wouldn’t protect me.

I didn’t realize I shouldn’t trust a man I once loved.

I thought my husband would be sad about the demise of our marriage. I thought he would be fair once the dust settled. But with age, comes wisdom.

Stella had that degree of wisdom.

Divorce is the end of a marriage. It’s typically preceded by years of unresolved conflict or sudden relationship death caused by cheating or substance abuse. It’s predominantly a grief-inducing, ugly experience.

You must self-protect and not naively enter into it.

The advice one woman gave me about divorce should be a warning to everyone.


You shouldn’t trust your spouse in a divorce.

I loved Stella like a mother, but I still didn’t listen.

RELATED: 9 Things I'd Do Way Differently If I Got Divorced Again

Colleen Sheehy Orme is a national relationship columnist, journalist, and former business columnist. She writes about love, life, relationships, family, parenting, divorce, and narcissism.