I just recently divorced my high school sweetheart. Twenty one years together, and 15 years married, I made the most difficult decision of my life. It wasn’t easy.
We both tried so hard to make it work, but ultimately, it was just too hard. I was the one who asked him for a divorce, because he wouldn’t have otherwise.
‘Divorce’ was never a word either of us would have even fathomed. Breaking up our home, hurting the kids who were my absolute world, putting my Ex through a pain he didn’t deserve… how could I? I endured years of battling my heart and my mind. I tormented my friends and family with my heartache and inability to leave because ‘he’s a good man.’ But the truth is, he was a good man. Just not for me.
My Ex and I divorced because we honestly were horrible for one another. There was also no chemistry. We married for wrong reasons, and stuck it out because of insecurities. Both good people, just not for each other.
I sat down with a long time friend last weekend for dinner. He told me about his marriage, and his struggles staying with someone he doesn’t love. He discussed his fears with me, mostly for his kids, and I listened to him. I saw the pain in his face. Jude is trying to be a good husband and father by staying. Trying so hard for his marriage even though the years of hurt between him and his wife make him think it’s unrepairable. He wants out… but he is struggling so much to figure out how he can get there.
Here I was on the other side now. There was so much I wanted to say to him, but I just sat there listening to his hurt and sorrow. It pained me to see him like this. I came home that night, and wrote him a letter. But this letter is also for any one of you sitting on the fence, and perhaps need a few words of support and encouragement.
Let me preface by saying, I have always believed in trying to make things work. I stayed with my Ex for 8 years longer than I should have, because I always believed it would get better with time. I have never been an advocate for divorce, but I do know now that life doesn’t end when your marriage does. Trust me when I say, the sun does rise again after divorce. It could be the start of the life you were waiting for.
I know you are hurting. You are somewhere you don’t want to be. And you are scared out of your mind to leave, or to do anything that would hurt your family. You know me, and therefore you know that the strength I had to find to leave my situation was something I had to dig deep for. Something I did not take lightly.
I am NOT strong. I am NOT one who believes in giving up. I am NOT one who could possibly ruin their kids’ vision of ‘the perfect family.’ But I am also NOT one who can live a lie and not stay true to my core. I want to share with you what I have learned from this process, now being on the other side of things, and I hope it too gives you the strength to make the right decision for you, whatever that may be.
1. My main concern was my kids. I was petrified I would hurt them. But to be honest, they have handled this so incredibly well. Of course they ask questions. But I have never seen them flourish more than they are now. They are happier because their parents are no longer arguing. The house is more peaceful. I’ve tried to teach them that we can make changes in our life if it isn’t making us happy anymore, and that is okay. Yes, they will hurt. Any human being would. But they are far more resilient than you think. Have faith that your kids will understand and get through this as long as you are there for them.
2. Your Ex will not corrupt their minds with constant negative thoughts of you. She may insinuate things at times out of anger, but your kids are smarter than that. They think you are gold, because you ARE. They love you SO much. Your Ex will actually continue to corrupt their minds more if you stay in your marriage (just as she is doing now). Continue to love them as you do, and I promise you, they will not falter from thinking the world of their Dad. PROMISE.
3. Get support. Talk to those you trust. Know that there are people out there who genuinely love you and want what’s best for you. When you get different perspectives from people, they will undoubtably tell you the same thing; ‘Strive for happiness. Don’t stay in something because you are scared.’ Talking to different people encouraged me to see things from another view point. And only now do I realize how much they truly loved me and wanted me happy, as I want for you.
4. Inform yourself. Honestly, get as much information as you can to know you are okay in feeling the way you do. Before my divorce, I spoke with my sister, parents, friends, therapist… anyone who I knew would offer genuine support. I read 3 books about why relationships end, and how that’s ‘ok’ and part of life. I listened to TED talks over and over. I needed that validation that my actions and feelings, were acceptable.
5. Surround yourself with the people you want to be with. You know where I stand with this. In the past, I would develop more of a connection with people I spoke to in 20 minutes than I could have had with my Ex in 20 years. That spoke volumes. I preferred who ‘I’ was when I was with others, more than who I was when I was with my ex-husband. Don’t allow your fears to have you stay in something that doesn’t allow you to be the best version of yourself. Stay in the presence of those that bring out the best version of YOU.
6. Finances will suck… for now. Yes it will be hard. Child support. Splitting assets. Splitting debts. But I promise you over time, you will adjust as you need and it will get better. I have never been more on top of my finances than I am today. I am my own financial advisor!
7. You and your Ex can be friends. Yes. I realize this doesn’t work for everyone. The lucky few can actually remain amicable, and this clearly doesn’t happen after you hand your ex divorce papers. But it can happen. And going back to point 1 and 2 about the kids, as long as you show them that you want to remain amicable with their mother, they will truly respect and admire that.
8. Dating.. again? Yes. You will be fine. You have so much going for you, that any woman who comes into your life will be a flake to pass you by. You are a gem.
9. It’s not as scary as you think it will be. Our fears creep in, and we automatically assume the worst case scenario. (I know I did)! But I promise you, the other side of being separated/divorced is okay. Actually, better than okay. It’s liberating to know you are giving your Ex a chance at finding what he/she needs, giving yourself a chance at living life the way you truly need, and showing your kids that taking charge of your life is so empowering. Yes, there will be periods of absolute devastation putting an end to those years of memories and marriage. This goes without saying. But I PROMISE you, happier days will allow that pain to lessen with each passing day.
10. You will second guess your decision, and that’s okay. It’s normal. You’ve spent years with this person, and it’s normal to have days when you think you have made a huge mistake. Charge through ahead with your choice once you’ve finally made it (obviously after careful consideration of all factors). That’s the advice a friend gave me, and I did just that. It’s the scariest thing when your mind is playing the ‘what if ‘ game, but you will get through it, and each day you will get stronger.
11. You will become a new you. I am doing things now, I never thought I could or would do. I feel stronger. Taking charge of my life, and becoming a better version of myself with each passing day. Each struggle we face in our life, we inevitiably become stronger from it. This process is no exception.
12. Everyone divorces/separates for different reasons. I spent night after night searching for validation on why I didn’t want to be married to my Ex anymore. I read various accounts on cheating. Abuse. Neglect. Financial woes. But my reasoning just didn’t add up to everyone else’s. Probably why it took me so long to accept that my reasoning was still valid. Is this who you want to grown old with? If the answer is NO, then that might be proof enough.
13. ‘True happiness in this world of sorrows is being content of what you are and what you have’ – Philippians 4:12-13. There are many people in this situation that have the belief that divorce is immoral. That the word of the Lord will guide them to strengthen their marriage, no matter what the circumstances. We can interpret the above quote in one of two ways. One, that we should be content with what we have and who we are in our current situation, and happiness will come. Or two, BE content with who you are and what you have, BY finding and being, the happiness you need. It’s really up to you how you want to view it, and that goes for everything religion offers you.
14. Only YOU can decide when you are ready. For years, people would tell me to leave. That if I wasn’t happy in my marriage, and I didn’t even like being around my Ex, that this was not a way of living. I tried. I really tried to force myself to enjoy time with my Ex. But nothing worked. It took me 8 years from first realizing something was wrong with my marriage, until now, to make the decision to leave. It may take you more, it may take you less. You may stay in the end. But take the time to make the decision for YOU.
15. Don’t be scared. I promise you, it’s a lot less scary than you anticipate it will be, should you end up there. And when you are scared, support is all around. You aren’t alone.
You’ve got this Jude, and you will smile again.
‘M’ lives in Montreal, and is a proud mom to 3 zany kids, and a proud business owner since 2008. She has a passion for life, and making all those around her smile.
When I started this blog, I promised you that my mandate would be to present all sides to every issue. When M emailed me her post this week, I was hesitant to publish it… not one to believe in divorce unless you are being abused or TRULY so devastatingly unhappy, I didn’t know how you, my readers, would react to this. Is this letter just a green light to throwing in the towel on a marriage if you’re feeling unhappy? Where is the fight? I am old fashioned, what can I say, and I think you have to fight really, really hard before you walk away. But then I do understand that we live in a society where divorce happens– we know it’s a reality for almost one in two marriages, so I decided I would publish it as support to anyone going through a dark period. Maybe M’s words could provide comfort that happiness can exist on the other side of divorce.
I would love to know your thoughts here. Happy Weekend, lovely ladies.