As a Divorce Coach and Consultant, by the time people find me, they are well beyond marital bliss and about to embark on one of life’s major life changing events, we know as divorce.

There are woman that sit in my chair and as I listen to their stories and the history of their marriage, I often see myself in them. I listen intently. I nod my head so that they can see that I am hearing them (and I am) and that I understand their pain and angst. What they don’t know, is that much of the time, many of the details they share mirror my own experiences from my own two divorces. And I want so badly to shout out “I get it” “I know how that feels”, “don’t do it”, but I have to stay neutral as a coach and not allow any projection to occur. Coaching is about asking the deeper questions that allow the client to come to their own decisions. This creates empowerment within them in knowing that they are able to make these tough decisions on their own with some help and guidance. They are paying me to help them come to terms with the end of their marriage and hold their hand through the divorce process. And I am thankful that my own experience can provide hope, insight and empower them to arrive at a healthy place of acceptance in the demise of their own marriage.

The hardest part is hearing all of the regret, the self blame, the “should of’s”, the time “lost” in being in a relationship that simply had a shelf life. All the red flags they ignored in the beginning, the “I can change him”, “I love him so I will overlook this flag”. Because I too once thought all those things. And after each divorce I experienced, I had many of those same regrets. It took time for me to see them as growth opportunities and to learn what was broken wihtin me, that caused me to make the choices I made in choosing a partner. And because I was able to acknowledge what was broken, it sent me down the path of self discovery, making amends with my past, and facilitated in my ability to become more “whole” as a person.

How many times have we asked ourselves “if only I knew everything in my 20’s that I know now”?

And today, even though my work is directed at women that have already made these choices and now seek divorce, I realize that although there is a lot of value I bring to this demographic, there is probably just as much value if not more, that I can bring to those woman in their 20’s to a place that with some real insight and perspective, may allow them to marry right, the first time around. And if I could somehow reach them and help prepare them for a future healthy marriage with the right partner, it could be the most important work I have done to date.

My adversity in life became my gift. My gift allowed me to find my life’s purpose. My life’s purpose has allowed me to become “whole”, it has allowed me the ability to contribute to another live’s wholeness”. And to me, that helps fill my “purpose” tank.

We all have a story. Whether it’s a dysfunctional childhood or parents, a bad choice with steep consequences, a tragic loss, an addiction, an unhealthy relationship, wayward children and the list goes on. But I strongly believe that our formative years will precede judgement and that they contribute greatly to the decisions we will make as adults. There is a disconnect and and unconscious overlooked importance of early childhood development.The emotional, social and physical development of young children has a direct effect on their overall development and on the adult they will become. That is why as a parent, understanding the need to invest in very young children is so important, so as to maximize their future well-being. A lesson I myself learned later than I had hoped.

The sad reality is, many parents are not educated in this nor have they experienced themselves, a healthy upbringing to be able to raise children in a way that will allow them to find success in their own lives... easily. From the drug addicted parent, to the abusive parent, to the “checked out” parent, broken homes with absent’s often about co-existing with their children and providing just enough energy and resources for that kid to make it to their 18th birthday and keep social services out of their homes. And then they can wash their hands of them. I know that sounds harsh and this is not directed to the truly involved parents that put forth true effort and love. This is directed to the dysfunctioning parents that cannot take care of themselves let alone their own child out of selfishness or their own inadequacies and brokenness.

This is directed also to young teens and young adults that are not prepared for the consequences of unprotected sex who bring children into the world when they themselves are not equipped to navigate nor have the experience to provide the level of responsibility of healthy parenting. And the child is raised in an unhealthy environment or in a broken home. We must find a way to break this cycle for future generations. And I am passionate about being a part of that change.

So back to the formative years in an unhealthy environment, these children grow up and the ride is often bumpy. The impact of their earlier years follow them like ghosts and they are oblivious to the ways in which these ghosts haunt and contribute to their present life, their thoughts, their fears, their insecurities and their sense of “wholeness”. So they feel “different”. There is a huge void. Many suffer from a form of depression or other mental disorder including but certainly not limited to, narcissism and borderline personality disorder. Often they are broken, rarely do they have the capacity to find the link between how they feel and who they are as a result of their upbringing. It is a sad, sad story and all to common.

So these kids, not all but many, go on to pursue unhealthy relationships, sometimes they resort to drugs and alcohol to help fill the hole within. They have difficulty in making healthy decisions and trusting their instincts. Choosing healthy partners and lifestyles. Often, they end up codependent in relationships with people that prey on their brokenness. And they marry them and the cycle continues with the children born out of that relationship.

So where the heck am I going with all of this you’re probably asking?

To the headline of this article, this is mainly directed to those in relationships in which they know deep in their gut are not healthy. To those that have chosen to overlook the “red flags” and lack the foresight to see life with their partner in 5+ years. And often we do this because of the biological clock ticking in our ear, we see our friends begin to marry, we feel that “maybe this is as good as it gets”. We tire of the wait. We long for the fairytale. The excitement of a proposal, the planning of the wedding we dreamt about from the time we were a young girl. We envision the beautiful wedding dress, the flowers, the bavarian raspberry three tiered cake. A day where the focus is on us and we are whisked away...often into a life that sours in comparison to the fairy tale in the end.

And many of us make this decision because of our past. The brokenness that was never addressed and healed.

If I could have talked to my younger self in earlier years, knowing what I know now, I’d tell her that she was not “whole” enough for marriage. That she had work to do to put her own ghosts to rest first so that she would find a healthy, compatible partner. I would pull her close, wrap my arms around her little body and tell her that she’s strong, lovable, capable, deserving and that she’s here to fulfill a big purpose. I would tell her that the emotional, verbal and often physical abuse in her past, the sexual molestation, the attempted rape in college, the absence of her father in her life, her inability to meet up to her mother's expectations,her husbands cheating and abandonment, did not define her. Nor could she use it as an excuse not to excel in her life. I would tell her that while she was strong and courageous, it was okay to show vulnerability and not remain so quiet and compliant. That her feelings and her voice mattered. That she had a big voice and it needed to be heard... by the very people she feared most.

But the reality is, I did not have the wisdom from my older self, so for pretty much four decades, it was bumpy ride. And those bumps left deep wounds and shattered lives around me. From an unhealthy marriage that led to raising three kids alone from the time I was 6 months pregnant with 13 month old twin babies. I was abandoned for another woman. Years later, a second marriage, a fourth child with a good man, but too many outside influences and circumstances that caused the relationship to deteriorate. And so after 10 years of marriage and one that was falling apart, and multiple surgeries (one that almost claimed my life) along with the stress in my life, I developed an opiate addiction that temporarily filled a void, and I found myself once again contemplating a second divorce as the environment in our home became toxic and unhealthy. The guilt in the possibility of breaking up the family, took a huge toll on me and for two years I sat on fence afraid to jump over either side. The opiates not only helped my surgical pain, but they allowed me to “numb out”, “check out”, tolerate and remain in my marriage so as not to hurt my family. That lasted for a few years until my addiction and drug tolerance increased to dangerous levels that often times, would slow my breathing to dangerous levels. The opiates wiped out my brains neurotransmitters, I developed adrenal fatigue syndrome and fell into such a deep depression that I attempted to take my life on two occasions.

Both times, the faces of my children would appear and the thought of leaving them behind, three without a stable involved father made me pick up the phone and get to the hospital to save me from myself. My kids very existence saved my life, two times. If it were not for them, I would not be here. My love for them was greater than my pain, as deep as it was. I was not in my right mind, it was chemically altered, but a mother’s love can endure a lot. That love allowed me to live my life intended.

Shortly after, I really hit my rock bottom. I will not go into details here but it was the necessary “god moment” that rocked my world and set me on the path of healing all the demons of my past. I took time away from my family to ascertain if once I was clean and free of my addiction, I still felt divorce was the right thing. It ate me up, a second failure. Kids that would be affected, limited financial resources as our 4th child was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes so I shelved my real estate career to care for him as he was a baby. Our home was heavily leveraged as my husband has started a company years earlier. After my detoxing and months of being clean and away from home, I knew I could no longer let fear and obligation dictate my future or that of my children’s. They needed me to model for them a healthy relationship and tenacity in the face of adversity.

So when I came back home, sober and still healing, I told my husband I could not stay. It was difficult beyond words but I was determined to live the life I believed was intended for me. I craved peace and happiness. So nine months later and with $15,000 to my name, and a move into a rental home, I started my new life. It was 2011. It took two full years to heal from the damage of my addiction and the depression it created. I sought counseling, read a ton of books on self growth, saw nutritionists and started working out again. I bounced back full speed ahead.

The choice to leave came with hardship. For myself and my children. But the dust settled, my real estate career in full swing again and the juggle as a single parent with four kids became more doable as I finally found some semblance of balance, regained my health and happiness again.

I am a Realtor and a Divorce Coach and Consultant. The latter came out of a desire and passion to help others in a dark place realize that the journey through the tunnel of despair does lead to light. You just have to keep walking through the darkness to get there. And when you do, life as you knew it will look a lot different. A very good different!

Many of you might question my transparency and admission of my past demons and why I would publicly share such intimate details about my life.

Especially in a world where we generally want people to envy the lives we lead, showcase our best moments, post to Facebook only our successes and wins. We desire for others only to see our good side and feel the need to hide are weaknesses and our vulnerabilities.

I share my story, the good, the bad and the ugly because I have come to a place of acceptance. I have made amends with my past and I have risen from the ashes into the woman I am today. I have no shame for my past. I have respect and appreciation for the woman I am today. I have healed those wounds and reached a place of self love with a promise to show up authentically every day. I don’t fear judgement as I have grown to become a not only a secure woman, but a woman with a mission to pay forward the growth I have experienced, to share the lessons albeit some difficult, that I have learned and to help empower others to believe they can fix their own “brokenness” with admission, help, determination and hard work.

How much comfort and hope could we give others if we could all arrive at a place of self love and acceptance that enable us to share all of us, not just the good parts, so that others would not feel so alone, so “different”, so lost. Imagine the level of intimacy we could experience within all of our relationships. We reside in a country with hundreds of thousands of medicated people that bandaid there pain to conform with society's expectations and to merely be able to exist in their own lives. They don’t know another way. And really, if they could see that they are not alone in their brokenness and that others have walked in their shoes and found a truly healing solution to their misery and self loathing, they could experience hope. Hope in seeking to understand their pain’s true source, addressing it and making peace with the past and hope that they too are capable of living their life intended. It is all of our birthright and this is when the healing begins. And for those of us that have walked their path and risen above, it is our obligation as human beings to help our fellow humans understand that there is imperfection in us all and that they are not alone in it.

I am a former broken woman. I have made some poor choices in my life. I have experienced many “failures” and I have experienced the feeling of success. My suffering led to me finding my gift. My fight, my determination, and my need for “more” has propelled me into a strong woman that refuses to accept mediocrity and to demand more for myself and my life and those around me.

It has contributed to my success in showing up in all areas of my life, as my best self. I am a stronger person, Realtor and Coach for it. Sure I slip, I have less than perfect days and moments. I have not reached perfection and that bar is no longer my desire. I know now there is no “perfect”. I am imperfect as a mother, a partner, an entrepreneur and a friend. But I love deeply. I am real and I am passionate... and I am flawed. That said, there is a level of balance one can achieve that can be not just enough, but highly gratifying. And from where I have been, I am grateful for that discovery and revelation.

I hope in revealing my story, I am able to help others see ‘Beyond the White Dress” and do the necessary healing, to be true to themselves so that they can avoid the pain and heartache of divorce. To sign up only for a loving healthy marriage that their one day children, will thrive in, before putting that dress on. And so that that lovely white dress, is a one time wear.

Author's Bio: 

Dominique Nicole is a Realtor and Divorce Coach and Consultant. She is a two time divorce survivor and helps woman gain the Clarity, Courage and Confidence to thrive during and after divorce.

Her mission is to contribute in lowering the divorce rate and for those divorcing, help walk them through the emotional process of divorce and prepare them for the business aspect of their divorce saving them thousands of dollars in legal fees, in the process.