I was just reading something online someone wrote about divorce and how they were trying to reconcile it as a big fat failure.
I remember feeling that way.
Before the divorce, I spent months and money on therapy, countless tears and sleepless nights trying to figure out whether or not I should leave my marriage. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt my husband, so much so, that for years I wasn’t truthful about my feelings with him. I pushed down my doubts about us and powered on, pretending that everything was fine. But, no matter how hard you push it down or run from it, the truth bubbles up to the surface eventually. I felt so trapped by the illusions I had created of my life and I was terrified of what people would think, but I was hitting a point where I could no longer pretend or escape the truth. A product of divorced parents myself, “failing” at marriage meant that I was going to continue the cycle of a broken home for my own children and I berated myself for not being happy with what I had. The decision to exit the marriage was the most difficult decision I’ve ever made.
Now, 5 years later, I have grown to understand that when you weren’t shown what healthy love is, it isn’t surprising when you don’t know how to give or receive it. My ex and I grew up in dysfunction and we had no way to know what marriage was truly about as the examples we were given were far from ideal. Neither of us had grown up emotionally supported, yet we thought we were entirely capable of doing this for each other. We both came from abusive households; he had an alcoholic mother and I had an emotionally abusive and narcissistic stepfather and an absent father. We grew up surviving and taking care of ourselves. When our relationship started, we immediately felt a huge sense of solace, safety, comfort and understanding for one another. For one of the first times in either of our lives, we could be vulnerable and share openly about our childhoods. We validated each other’s experiences. Both of us were fucked up, but together we could conquer anything. We thought that our love would ultimately heal us. All you need is love, right? But the truth is, no one can heal you. It is not your partner’s responsibility to heal you. I went into marriage expecting him to make me happy and heal me. Now I know, no one can do that for you. You have to do that for yourself and you can only love someone as well as you love yourself, and neither of us knew how to love ourselves.
Somewhere along the way, we stopped growing together. And what’s worse, we lost the ability to inspire growth in each other. I believe that relationships intentionally trigger what we need to heal. We unconsciously seek the pain we recognize so we can heal it. We are mirrors for each other. At some point, him and I were no longer reflecting back what either of us needed to grow and heal. Yet we kept going, losing the connection but pretending, stuffing all of it down, telling ourselves it would get better, not talking about it and convincing ourselves we needed to stay in it for the kids.
Until the day came when it couldn’t be left unsaid one single minute longer. Where the words forced their way to the surface and there was no other choice for us to make.
Divorce rocked us both to our core and honestly, I cannot find the words to articulate how incredibly painful it is. It is a death. It is a loss of innocence. It is a loss of belief. It is disappointment. It is tragedy. It is never feeling more alone. And it is a choice.
BUT IT IS NO FAILURE.
It was huge lessons and gaping wounds. It was thousands of memories and moments of laughter. It was breaking poverty cycles and accomplishing amazing goals together. It was discovering so many firsts together. It was losing the two most important people in our lives together. It was bringing the two most amazing creatures we have ever known into this world together. It was withstanding some of the most stressful situations in life together. It was breathtaking and beautiful and devastating and traumatic. It was incredibly good for a long time until it wasn’t. Had it not all happened, I wouldn’t be here in this place where I’ve never been more whole by myself, able to find joy and gratitude in everything and softened into a more authentic, vulnerable and compassionate person. Like a rock from a tumbler. You are permanently changed after a divorce, but like a death, time does its thing and the pain softens.
And, I would choose all of it, over and over again. Even knowing how it would end.
It was necessary.
It brought me here.
It broke me down and cracked me wipe open. My heart needed to be opened.
It helped me heal myself.
I’ve come out the other side better in every way.
To those whose are walking (or stumbling) along that path now and struggling…feel the feelings. Learn from the grief. Do the work to heal yourself. Ask for help. Process your emotions. Give yourself grace and love and patience. Know that this pain doesn’t last forever and someday you will look back and know that everything happened FOR you and your growth.
Take this from someone who said she would make all the same choices again, because here and now is so incredibly good. Not perfect, because there is no such thing. But pretty damn close.
I see you, I’m holding space for you in my heart and I’m sending you love.