Getting Real About Divorce with Kelly Collis

nina lorez collins
Worthy Staff

By Worthy Staff | May 21st, 2019

8 years after finalizing her divorce, Kelly digs deep into the realities of divorce. Her divorce wasn’t at all what she expected, but hey, the kids are alright!

Kelly joins us for a second time, since moderating our Worthy Women Thrive event this last October. This time, she gets personal and shares her own divorce journey.

Like many people, Kelly thought her divorce was going to be like in the movies – a decision is made, the husband moves out and the kids see him once or twice a week. Easy peasy, right?

The truth is, divorce is messy, expensive and a seemingly endless emotional rollercoaster. So how can we navigate and get through it? Will it ever end? Will the kids be ok? The short answer to all of those is yes, and here’s how Kelly got through it all:

About Kelly

Kelly Collis was formally a host of the Tommy Morning Show on 94.7 Fresh FM for 7 years and currently in the process of reinventing her career (yet again). A native of Washington, D.C., Kelly graduated with a BA in economics from Trinity College in Hartford, CT. She loves spending time with her 2 young children, following Washington sports teams especially the Washington Nationals, Capitals and is recently remarried and expanded her family with 2 daughters. She is a frequent writer and TV contributor on trends in fashion, shopping and dining around the DC area.

Episode Transcript

Jennifer: Welcome to Divorce & Other Things You Can Handle, a branded podcast by Worthy. I’m Jennifer Butler, and I’m your host. Sharing our stories with one another can be a powerful way for us to offer support and inspiration. We sometimes forget that simply voicing an experience we’ve had in our own lives holds the possibility to dramatically change, or affect another person’s life. Today, Kelly Collis from the Tommy Show is joining us to talk candidly about her divorce experience. In this conversation Kelly shares about dating as a divorced mom, financial challenges she faced, nesting and co parenting with her ex, and so much more. Kelly is a breath of fresh air as she talks about the topic of divorce in a passionate and honest way. We’re going to take a quick break, and then we will be back with Kelly Collis. When you sell a piece of jewelry, you can’t control how much it’s worth, but you can make it sure that you’re selling smart with a team of experts and advocates behind you at Worthy.

Your engagement ring can be a financial asset that allows you to embrace a new and fulfilling life after divorce. Let us help you get the best deal possible for the jewelry you’ve outgrown. Go to worthy.com/podcast to learn more. Kelly Collis is a native Washingtonian and has been working in the DC area for over 20 years. In 2011 after a tumultuous divorce, she decided to take a turn in her career after working over a decade in public relations and marketing when one of her best friends Tommy McFly told her about an opportunity to host a morning radio show. She has been the morning co-host of the Tommy show on 94.7 Fresh FM for eight years. Prior to her radio job she founded City Shop Girl, a subscription email publication delivering updates on lifestyle in the DC area, and was nominated for one of the best blogs by the Washingtonian magazine in 2010.

Washington Life named her one of the top 200 influencers under 40 in DC for three years in a row, and was on the cover of Washington Family magazine, and most recently named one of the women of style by DC Modern Luxury magazine. Today Kelly is a broadcaster and co creator in the only live morning show via an app. Launched in February 2019, the Tommy Show App is available at the Apple and Google Play stores and segments from the show are also available on iTunes, Spotify, iHeartRadio, and Stitcher. Kelly graduated with a BA in economics from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and began her career to work on Capitol Hill for several members of Congress. Recently remarried, she loves spending time with her husband, and children, her two dogs, shopping, yoga, following Washington sports teams, especially the Washington Nationals, and drinking wine at sporting events or any other time.

We are grateful to have Kelly as a part of our Worthy community. Kelly recently hosted in October, the Worthy Women Thrive event, and we were so honored to have her there with us. So thank you for being here with me today, I am so happy to welcome you to the podcast.

Kelly: Thank you, I’m so excited to be here and talk about a topic that is … it’s almost weird to say, but I’m pretty passionate about it. Because I think talking about it and sharing your experiences around divorce, and its many issues, and legs that it has can help people. It certainly helped me when I was going through it to be able to come out at the end of it and share my experiences. I think Worthy does an awesome job of making that happen and building that community. So thank you.

Jennifer: Yeah, no. I absolutely agree. I thought today, just like you said, being able to inspire others and having gone through it, and really just being passionate about a subject that you would never guess you would be, I just thought we’d have this candid conversation about really what it’s like to navigate through the very real challenges and situations that come along with divorce. Maybe we could just start with you just letting us into your life, and sharing your story, and go from there.

Kelly: Yeah, sure. I’m trying to think of a way to start with it. I was just thinking and reflecting the other day, as I approached the nine year anniversary of when my husband and I split up and almost eight years since our divorce was finalized. So much has changed especially with my children now being teenagers. And being remarried, I was trying to figure out if the time that I’ve spent away from my husband is equivalent to the time that I was with him, and is that a time for reflection. We’re not quite there yet, but it’s almost nearly that. When my husband and I first split up, I had two little kids. I mean, they were three and five. I just … I don’t know what I thought. I just thought we had been having some issues for a while, and I thought I always had been taking care of the kids, and the traditional motherly role and I would get custody of the kids.

He would see them maybe for dinner on a Wednesday because I saw it in a hallmark movie that that’s how divorce is supposed to go, and we would divide up our finances evenly. Someone would get the house, someone would get the car, and we’d be on our way. That was not the case at all, and it quickly spiraled out of control into a very expensive divorce and something I never imagined I would be spending my life savings on doing. I think that was the shocking thing, financially. And then of course, the other thing was this whole notion of joint custody and getting comfortable with that idea when it started looking like it was going to get nasty, and it did get nasty. I think if I were to look back on it, there’s so many things I would have done differently. That’s where I try to help other people. I just had a friend of mine call me the other day, who’s friends with my son. I know both of them, and known them for many years.

She called me and it’s the beginning stages of divorce, and I found that I had so much to say because it was looking and smelling a lot like my divorce. I wanted to help steer her away from the rabbit hole of nastiness, if you will, that looked like it was going to bubble up. I don’t know which piece would be the most helpful to share except that when the kids are little, and when you’re going through it, everyone says it and it is so true. You truly have to think of the kids first. It’s really hard to do when someone’s attacking you and judging your character as it was in my case with my ex, and questioning your motherly capabilities, and how you care for the children. But at the end of the day … and I just had a lot of therapy and yoga to get to this point, I want my ex to be healthy, have a job, and be present for my kids.

As much as I would love to have full custody of them and have them every single holiday, that’s an unrealistic expectation in the day and age that we live in. Day and age of when my parents … my parents are together. But when my parents’ generation were getting divorced, the mom always got custody. That doesn’t happen anymore unless they’re extreme circumstances on either side. So I guess getting comfortable with that idea that when you do enter this divorce, you are going to spend a Christmas, or a birthday, or whatever the tradition in your household is that you used to do, that’s gone. You just have to mourn it, and start over again with your traditions.

Jennifer: Yeah, and let’s talk about that a little bit. Because I’ve gone through it as well, and I think that is probably one of the most heart wrenching moments when you really wrap your head around the idea that you don’t get to have your kids all the time anymore. I remember saying I didn’t have my children to be a mom half time. And so I think that’s a really hard hurdle, or challenge, or whatever you want to call it for people going through this to accept.

Kelly: Yes, it is. And I will tell you nine years of almost doing it, my kids are teenagers. As much as I want to be around them all the time, it’s still will sting when if there’s something that comes up that I think would be really fun for the kids to do and it’s the weekend that I don’t have the kids. And I mean, the holidays have gotten a little bit easier because we’ve developed new traditions around those. But it never will go away. But I think the quicker you can find a way to get used to that, the better off, first off, you’re going to be as a parent. You’re just going to be mentally more connected, you’re going to mentally be there. You’re not going to be crying on your couch on Christmas Day, or whatever it is that you want your kids. You’re figuring out how you’re taking care of yourself so when you do have your kids the next week, or the next holiday, that you’re really present and there for that.

It’s such an easy thing to say, but I really just beg parents, both moms and dads who are going through it, the sooner you can get, just accept that. And maybe that takes therapy, maybe that takes your circle of friends, maybe it takes your religion, or you meditating. Whatever it is, just saying that to yourself over and over again. “It’s not going to be the same. It’s never going to be the same.”

Jennifer: Yeah, really finding that thing that’s going to help you find that route to acceptance. I think it is different for everybody. But like you said too then you’re taking care of yourself in this way that not only you can be there for your kids, but I think your kids benefit when they see that you’re weathering this okay.

Kelly: Yes.

Jennifer: That you’re not freaking out, it gives them space to create their own journey with this process.

Kelly: Yeah, absolutely. And as a moment of pause of reflection, I was just having this conversation with my 13 year old daughter, she’s the youngest, and probably had the hardest time with the divorce when she was so little because she just didn’t understand the back and forth. Pulling a three year old away from either parent is traumatic. There were those moments where she was not happy about going off with her dad, or she cried herself to sleep at my house because she missed her dad. I mean, it was just a confusing time for her. Last night we were talking about it, I said, “Do you remember those first couple years were really hard for you?” And she says that she remembers them, but she’s doing great. As a 13 year old girl, as we know, you have your own set of stuff and the things that you like to wear to school. And now she’s figured out a way to manipulate both houses that she can bring it back and forth. And she packs up her little bag, and she’s she’s doing great.

So I guess I use her as an example, especially as I talk to parents that have young kids. My kids are doing great. They’re healthy, they’re happy, they have loving homes, and they’re doing great. So whatever you’re going through now, especially when you have little kids, they come out okay, if you are doing okay.

Jennifer: I completely agree. I like to think of it as we all overcome challenges, right? That’s how we build our character and our personality. Not that I would wish it on anyone, but whatever your daughter and my son has learned from this challenge, that’s preparing them for whatever they’ve been created to be. These are lessons that are going to propel them, and help them and their adult life.

Kelly: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, if this is the worst thing that they ever have to go through, then that’s a good thing. I mean being organized, and thinking ahead, and planning ahead. Also, now that my son is 15, and the 15 years olds, they have cell phones, and we have FaceTime, and texting, and a way to share photos and videos. They were just on spring break with their dad in another country, and I was able to experience with them what they were going through, as they were sending stuff from their trip over the phone. We’re lucky that we have that technology to stay connected, and to stay close to each other too.

Jennifer: Right. It really is just finding a way to make the best of the situation at hand, and find a way that everyone can thrive. So you were co parenting then obviously, because you said you had to adapt to the shared custody. How about just some wisdom around that? Because if the divorce is ugly, as a lot of times it is, there’s some conflict, it can be really hard for two parents to come together to parent their children.

Kelly: I wouldn’t say I’m a role model at that because it … I mean, an ideal co parenting world you want like what Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow have. We want to go on vacation together, have [inaudible 00:13:24] holidays. And isn’t life wonderful? We’re all getting along. That is the extreme. I don’t think I’m in the worst case scenario, but it’s not a great situation. So without getting into all those details, the ways that I have found in a situation that it’s very stressful, even to this day is we use a third party service that manages the calendar and our shared expenses with the kids. I also set up a separate email account that he is the only one that has that email address, and everything has to be sent through there. I first set it up because I would be at work, and this email would come in, and it would just set me off. It would distract me from work, or just distract me from me, if I was out with my friends or whatever. I needed a separate place that wasn’t going to populate.

He wouldn’t listen to me sending to the email, and I just stopped responding to his emails when he sent it to my other email. So I really stuck to like, “This is the only way you can contact me unless there’s an emergency, you can text me.” But I just felt calls with him just were not productive. So those were the two ways I was able to manage it, and also having that second email account. If you’re like, “Oh gosh, I can’t remember. Did we agree, April 2 did we agree he’s picking them up, or I’m picking them up?” Because the kids have a half day of school. That’s a really easy way to search and find. Search “April 2” and it pops right up. All my correspondence is archived rather than it being mixed up with all the other things that we get. I found that really helpful and a great way to manage it. He has since remarried, and that has another dynamic to it because I’m now dealing with his wife as well. But just logistically.

And again, that’s a great way. She can contact me there, she knows where to find me. I check that email, sometimes once a day, sometimes once a week. It just depends on what’s going on.

Jennifer: You know what I’m hearing in that is just the creativity, right? It’s you were willing to give up the idea of what it’s supposed to look like, and how it’s all supposed to happen, and how you’re supposed to be. And instead you got creative, and really took care of yourself, and figured out a way that you could do this with self preservation, self love, and yet still be an effective parent. I think that’s brilliant.

Kelly: Thank you. Again, it was a journey. And I will say I also remarried and my husband, my current husband, was also divorced, and had been divorced a lot longer than I had when he remarried. He was very helpful in helping me navigate and find solutions that were, not only taking care of me, but of our relationship. I mean, there’s nothing worse when you’re out on a date, and you get a terrible email from your ex husband. It can ruin everything.

Jennifer: Right. Right. Right. Well, that’s the perfect segue into dating with kids. I know there’s a lot of us out there who are single with children, and I hear a lot, “Well, I don’t have time. I don’t know how to date with children, I’m just going to wait until my child is out of the house.” So any tips? Or how’d you navigate that?

Kelly: I started dating out of boredom, I got to be honest. When my kids were gone, and I had this freedom to do whatever I wanted to do. I was like, “Okay, well I’ll just go on dates.” And I was in the best shape of my life, which I noticed that lot of women after their divorce, either they, their appetites go down a lot, or they just rediscover themselves through exercise, or get the new haircut, and try to find themselves again. I think that was part of it for me. It wasn’t so much like, “I’m going to find the perfect guy for me because I’m divorced.” It was more like, “Hey, I’ve got some time, I’m in good shape. I’m still in my 30s. Let’s try to find …” And so it was that, and not taking it too seriously. So I did date a lot. And obviously when the kids were with their dad, I was online dating at the time. And sometimes I would line up where I’d meet three or four new people. By nature I’m a very social person, so it was pretty easy for me.

I do hear a lot that it’s sometimes hard to get out there and do it. It’s a numbers game. The people that I know that have found their spouses online, like I did. We met on Match. You get to a point like, “This is what I want in life. And if this person doesn’t have it, then on to the next person.” I mean, I probably went on over 100 dates. I don’t even know. It was a lot. But only when my kids were gone, and it was over a course of time where I could do that and afford to do that. I think everyone has their own way and own timeline of when to do it. I’ve had friends of mine that have been divorced for several years, and they may maybe have gone on two or three dates. That was not what I wanted. I did want to find a partner.

I didn’t know I wanted to get remarried, but I did want to find a partner to help me continue building my family. And I was very blessed that I found someone that is a great role model for my kids, but also brought along with him his two daughters. So expanded my family, which has just been such a blessing.

Jennifer: Yeah, I know. That’s beautiful. I love that you said not taking it so seriously. Just giving yourself permission to just have fun with it.

Kelly: Yes.

Jennifer: And go out on 100 dates, if that’s what it takes. Or go out on 50, or whatever it is, but not to take it so seriously each one. Because I think it gets disheartening for a lot of people when they come home and it’s like, “Oh, here’s another date, didn’t work out.” And you start thinking about it that way, it’s like, “Ah.” Just have fun with it. I love that.

Jennifer: Your engagement rings can be a symbol of your freedom, your journey, and the choices you have made to live your life on your terms, and create the future you desire. Let us help you get the best possible for the jewelry you’ve outgrown. Go to worthy.com/podcast to learn more. So what would you say your biggest challenges and struggles were throughout the process?

Kelly: I should go back to that time. We did something interesting that we didn’t really address here, and some people are doing it. We nested, which means we kept the family home, and we would rotate out whoever had custody would stay in the house. That was really hard, that was probably the hardest time because I mean, without sharing like all the intimacy you’re basically the person that you just despise the most in my case, and that you’re going through this terrible legal battle, you’re sharing a home with them. You’re sharing your bed there, your is stuff is there. I mean, it’s just … but then you look at, okay the kids are comfortable. The kids are not going back and forth during this thing, they’re they’re staying at home, the transition is at a place that they’re familiar with. And they were so little. But that was really, really hard.

Jennifer: You don’t see each other? Or you do?

Kelly: We would minimize seeing each other because the transition would always happen at school pickup or school drop off. But obviously like I would come home and the house would be a disaster, or we would be all out of milk, or the sheets weren’t taken off the bed and we had like rules that you had to follow. But there’s no one there doing enforce them whether or not you decide to do them. And then there’s always the, I just didn’t like that when I was home with the kids, he had a key to the house. And in the beginning he would just show up because there’s no reason to stop him from doing that. So that that was really hard. That was really hard. And then I would say Secondly, financially I was done. I was depleted. I mean towards the end I was over $100,000 in a divorce that was … we’re not a high asset family. To spend my savings, I took out a loan for 50,000, and I spent my $50,000 on the divorce. So that was really a low point.

It’s amazing, because I didn’t realize when I started my new job, and I started building my money back up. When it was behind me I was like, “God, how the hell did I get through it?” And to go back to what I like to tell people who are right in the middle of it. And maybe you experienced this to Jennifer, if you’re in the middle of it, you never ever think it’s going to end. You’re just like, “How am I going to get to that next step.?” And you just cannot see it. Whether you’re in a legal lock jam, or something’s going on with the kids, or whatever. And then all of a sudden, it does resolve itself. It does come together, but you just got to keep on holding tight. Because the light at the end of the tunnel does show up.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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